April 23 – It’s National Dance Week and Interview with Author/Illustrator Anne Lambelet

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maria-the-matador

About the Holiday

The National Dance Federation wants everyone to fall in love with dance, and National Dance Week is just the time to do it! With so many types of dance, there are ways to enjoy this activity throughout one’s life. This week has been established to introduce the fun and benefits of dance in schools, community centers, dance studios, and through special performances. If you—or your kids—feel your toes tapping or a desire to get up and move as soon as the music starts, why not check out the opportunities for learning your favorite dance styles in your community?

Maria the Matador

By Anne Lambelet

 

Even more than “tea parties and dancing and wearing her hair in pigtails…Maria loved churros.” So when she saw that a lifetime supply of churros went to the matador who could remain in the arena with the bull the longest, she knew she had to enter the contest. But as “one of the smallest girls in all of Spain,” could Maria pull it off? She knew she couldn’t outrun the bull, intimidate him, or overpower him. So, what could she do?

Maria wandered through the streets of town, gazing at the posters on the walls advertising the brave matadors who would challenge the bull as well as the Feria de Mayo, with its beautiful dance performances, looking for inspiration. When the big day came and Maria walked into the room where the other matadors had gathered, they burst out laughing. “‘You should just give up now,’ they all agreed. ‘There is no way such a little girl could ever fight such an enormous bull.’”

Maria kept her mind on the grand prize even though she was growing worried. Soon the bullfight began. The fastest matador was quickly run out of the arena, the strongest matador was soon lying on the ground, and the biggest matador was nothing but a plaything for the big bull. At last it was Maria’s turn.

She entered the ring and saw “the most ferocious-looking bull she had ever seen, but she marched up to him anyway…and asked the bull to dance.” The bull was charmed by the little girl’s kind request and offered his hoof to her outstretched hand. The bull, it turned out, was a very good dancer. Around and around the ring they danced, and when the men carrying trays of churros entered the arena, “the crowd burst into thunderous applause.” And Maria and the bull? They enjoyed a churros tea party!

Anne Lambelet’s highly original story shows young readers that with motivation, confidence, and creative thinking they can accomplish their heart’s desires. With a pragmatic take on her situation, Maria realizes she’s not fast enough, strong enough, or big enough to best the bull the usual way, and lacking anyone to ask for advice, she comes up with her own solution. Lambelet’s storytelling is rich with examples of Maria’s courage in the face of adversity and her own misgivings, allowing kids to see that bravery comes in many forms. And Lambelet’s clever solution to Maria’s dilemma demonstrates that kindness wins out. The humorous frame of Maria’s churros obsession will resonate with kids, who all seem to have their own favorite motivators to rely on.

Lambelet’s stylized illustrations combine the texture of wood etchings with the colors and feeling of a small Spanish village. The brown, maroon, and purple palette sprinkled with bits of blue is striking and lends depth, light, and shadow to the tale. Kids will love the expressive crowd as they “ooh,” “ahh,” and gasp at the formidable bull. (One mother even shields her son’s eyes with her hand.) When tiny Maria marches out into the ring the crowd’s disbelief brings pointing and shocked faces, but cheers and celebration erupt as Maria and the bull take their bows.

Maria the Matador is a story that kids will embrace as it sparks ideas for creative problem solving with more than a dash of kindness thrown in. The book will be asked for again and again and would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146565

To learn more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Anne Lambelet

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-anne-lambelet-headshot

I’m excited to be chatting with Anne Lambelet about art, influences, inspiration and what she might do to get her favorite treat!

What was the inspiration behind Maria the Matador?

Maria the Matador, as crazy as it might sound, actually started out as a dream I had about having to fight a bull! I woke up and instantly felt like that was the sort of silly idea that could, just possibly, be perfect for a children’s book. From there though, it had to go through a lot of development. I had to return to my roots and really examine my original picture book influences…The Story of Ferdinand, World-famous Muriel, Madeline, etc. Using those as inspiration, I figured out what it was that had made me love them as a child (silliness, whimsy, problem-solving, getting paid in food), and tried to combine that with what made them stick with me now that I’m an adult…(peaceful, fun solutions in situations where it seems like violence is the only answer, indictments of toxic masculinity, female empowerment, culturally immersive settings). Maria was a long road of editing and re-writing to try and get my favorite elements to co-exist in the same story.

You’ve enjoyed success as an illustrator since your college days. Can you talk a little about how you developed your style and how it’s changed over the years?

In high school I’d say my artistic style leaned more towards photo-realism. Like most high school students, I accepted a sort of un-original, generic idea of what it means to make a “good drawing,” and, although I wasn’t terrible at hitting that mark, I wasn’t making anything very special either. Without a real sense of artistic individuality and purpose, I shied away from going to college for art and instead chose to major in computer science after graduating. I was, perhaps unsurprisingly, miserable during most of those four years, and I ended up pouring all my free time into discovering new artistic outlets to assuage that misery. What I discovered (online t-shirt design competitions, lowbrow pop surrealism, street art, artists like Gris Grimly, Brandi Milne, Lori Early, Mark Ryden, etc.) gave me a new, darkly humorous and whimsical artistic voice as well as newfound confidence in my skills. 

So, I put together a portfolio of monsters and creepy, big-eyed women and returned to college to give illustration an honest shot. The classes I took at the University of the Arts exposed me to so many new influences. Each one opened my mind to new, fascinating approaches to illustration, and my style fluctuated dramatically in relation to whatever artist was my latest craze. As a result, most of my sophomore/junior work just looks like one bad rip-off after another. The more influences I accumulated though, the more I began to figure out what about each “rip-off” had worked with my own identity and what didn’t. I started cherry-picking little bits of each style I’d loved and mushing them together into an amalgam of aesthetics and techniques that could begin to be called a “unique style.” Instead of stealing everything from one artist I liked, I stole one thing from every artist I liked, and, by the end of my senior year, that resulted in basically what you see now!  Style takes a lot of failing and soul-searching and figuring yourself out. I feel like I’m still evolving and changing to this day, but the increments of change get smaller and smaller every time. 

What were your favorite books growing up? Who were your artistic influences when you were a child and now?

Oh wow, picking favorite books is so hard. There are so many to love, and it’s a struggle to narrow them down! I’ll try though! For picture books some favorites were World Famous Muriel by Sue Alexander, The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, Santa Calls by William Joyce, and The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base.  I also adored almost all Dr. Seuss books, but especially McElligot’s Pool and Happy Birthday to You. I liked picture books that were whimsical and imaginative while being infused with a sense of humor as well as emotional poignancy. Interactive elements like the letters in The Jolly Postman or the hidden picture puzzles in The Eleventh Hour were always great too.  

Then, as I grew out of picture books, I began a love affair with middle grade fantasy that has persisted to this day. Favorites then became Harry Potter, Brian Jacque’s Redwall series, Dinotopia by James Gurney, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce.  Also, although it’s not fantasy per se, I think Holes by Louis Sachar is one of the greatest kid’s books of all time. 

Because of my love for fantasy, I spent most of my childhood drawing dragons and fairies and other mythical creatures. As such, major artistic influences back then were Brian Froud, John Howe, Jan Brett and James C. Christensen. I also loved looking at my older brother’s Magic: The Gathering cards and watching Jim Henson movies like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, I lost sight of that important self-defining nerdy-ness in my high school art. I guess I was trying to be “too cool” or something, haha.  I re-discovered them again later, though, and incorporated them into new influences I’d found that also dealt with whimsy and nostalgia. My current greatest influences are Eyvind Earl, Carson Ellis, Julia Sarda, Rankin/Bass’s The Last Unicorn and Cartoon Saloon’s Song of the Sea

In Maria the Matador, Maria will do anything—even get in the ring with a bull—for lifetime supply of churros. What’s your favorite treat and what would you do for an endless supply?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think my greatest food weakness is doughnuts. If a doughnut enters my field of vision, I just can’t not be immediately hungry for doughnuts. I don’t know what I would do for them. Right now, I feel like the struggle is to stop myself from eating them, not to get more. I do really dislike public speaking and cleaning the toilet, but I think I’d probably clean the toilet while reciting the Gettysburg Address in front of a very large audience if I was promised a bunch of doughnuts afterwards! 

When did you become interested in writing and illustrating picture books? Can you describe your journey to publication?

Since before I can remember, I’ve always been making up stories and characters and illustrating them, but, like I said, I didn’t always believe in my ability to leverage those skills into a viable career. I think what really changed my mind was being introduced to online t-shirt design competitions where I got hooked on having to design around certain prompts and parameters, meet deadlines, and then sometimes (miraculously) even get paid for my work! I realized the potential to build a career on doing that professionally and that’s when I officially decided to go back to school for illustration.  

Then, throughout all that soul-searching for style I previously mentioned, I discovered that a key, defining aspect of my art is nostalgia. I realized that, all along, every drawing had been an attempt to re-open the floodgates of imagination that had flown so freely in my childhood games of pretend. At some point in my time at the University of the Arts, I figured that if childhood was where my heart was, then the people that I should make illustrations for were children!

After that I joined SCBWI which provided me with a ton of essential resources for embarking on the journey to publication. I got an agent through a local SCBWI pitch day and we workshopped Maria a little bit but ultimately made the mutual decision to go our separate ways. I regrouped after that setback, used the SCBWI handbook to create a small list of dream agents, and sent my portfolio out to all of them. A little while later, I got an email from Stephanie Fretwell-Hill at Red Fox Literary and immediately felt like she was a great fit. Stephanie helped me re-visit Maria and while we were polishing that up together, I attended the SCBWI winter conference in New York where I went to a breakout session hosted by Kristen Nobles of Page Street Kids.  She said she was on the hunt for new manuscripts so almost as soon as I got back, Stephanie and I made sure to get Maria in front of her. Luckily, she liked it, and within a few months, we’d signed a contract for my very first author-illustrated picture book!

You have another book coming soon from Page Street called Dogs and Their People. Can you give readers a sneak peek? In your bio you mention that you have a dog Eevee (that’s such a cute name!). What kind of dog is she, and is she like you or anyone in your family? If so, how?

Dogs and Their People is basically an anthology of different types of people-dog relationships tied together by who the narrator sees on her walk home from school. There are small people with tall dogs, people and dogs who share ice cream, and even pairs with matching mustachios. Some people are just like their dogs and some are very different, but no matter what, each person and each dog is clearly with their very best friend.  When the girl finally makes it home, the best friend that she has waiting for her provides a surprising comedic twist to the story’s end.

My dog, Eevee is a chowbrador (a mix between a labrador and a chow-chow). I definitely think she and I have a lot in common. She’s a little aloof for a dog, and it takes her a little while to warm up to new places and new people. However, once you’re “in” her enthusiasm to hang out with you will verge on embarrassing. She’s completely comfortable spending time alone, but she’s still very excited when she gets to have all her favorite people in one place. And lastly, like me (and Maria for that matter), she is highly food motivated and loves her snacks!

What advice would you give a young person who would like to pursue art as a career?

Never be ashamed of what you love even if—actually especially if—it’s something that you feel like no one else loves. Your personal combination of unique interests is going to be what makes your artistic style something the world has never seen before. Also, understanding why you love that thing that no one else loves will be a big clue to figuring out your ultimate purpose as an illustrator and/or author and the types of messages you want to convey. 

What’s up next for you?

After Dogs and their People, I illustrated another picture book called The Traveler’s Gift by Danielle Davison. That’s set to hit shelves in October of this year. I’ve also just begun work on two new picture books, How to Build an Insect by Roberta Gibson for Millbrook Press and The Poisoned Apple, my third author/illustrated book with Page Street Kids. Both of those are set to come out fall of 2020. I’m super excited about both of them!

What’s your favorite holiday

Oh boy…another hard choice to make.  It might be cliché, but I’ve always loved Christmas. I love the decorations and the lights and the food, and I love spending time with my family and re-visiting all the good memories and traditions we’ve built since I was small. I also consider myself a champion gift-giver and getting to see other people open gifts from me is way more fun (in my opinion), than getting to open my own.

A close second, though, would be Halloween. Once I’ve thought of a costume idea I really like, I feel giddy anticipation about it for weeks to months in advance. 

Do you have any anecdote from a holiday that you’d like to share? (Alternately, has a holiday ever influenced your work?)

I remember one Christmas Eve when I was very little, my mom was reading me a bedtime story. Meanwhile, my dad went outside, stood under my bedroom window and shook a set of sleigh bells. My mom convinced me that it was the sound of Santa’s sleigh flying by overhead.  It was probably one of the most magical moments of my life, and I love that my parents were so enthusiastic about making the magic of Christmas seem real for me. One of my favorite things about both Christmas and Halloween is that, as a kid, they made me feel like there was actually magic tucked away in the unseen corners of the world…whether that be toy-making elves at the North Pole or a ghost in an old, abandoned house or just the promise that if you put on a mask, you can become whoever you want. I think the best children’s books bring that same promise of magic to the world, and that will always be something that motivates what I create.

Thanks, Anne for this amazing talk and the reminder that people should always embrace their uniqueness and be true to themselves. I wish you all the best with Maria the Matador and all of your upcoming projects!

National Dance Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dance-word-search-puzzle-with-art

Get up and Dance! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are so many different kinds of dances to learn and enjoy! Can you find the sixteen styles in this printable puzzle?

Get up and Dance! Word Search Puzzle | Get up and Dance! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maria-the-matador

You can find Maria the Matador at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 17 – It’s National Better Breakfast Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-in-love-cover

About the Holiday

With its deliciously soft, doughy inside and crusty outside, the boiled-then-baked bagel is a favorite for breakfast! Coming in all sorts of flavors and varieties, there’s a bagel for every taste, and whether you like yours toasted or not, with cream cheese or plain, it’s hard to deny that the bagel is comfort food at its best. To celebrate today’s holiday, visit your favorite bakery and enjoy!

Bagel in Love

Written by Natasha Wing | Illustrated by Helen Dardik

 

Bagel was one talented bread! He loved to dance because “he never felt plain when he was spinning and swirling, tapping and twirling. When he read the advertisement for the dance contest at the Cherry Jubilee that night, Bagel really wanted to enter, but he didn’t have a partner. He went to the best dancer he knew—another bagel named Poppy—but she refused, saying that “his dance steps were half-baked.”

Next, he tracked down Pretzel at the spa, but as she enjoyed her salt rub, she told Bagel that his dancing just “didn’t cut the mustard.” And Matzo, primping with a manicure and facial, “flat out told him no.” Bagel was determined to find a partner and left Bakersville for Sweet City. There he “waltzed up to a table at a busy café. ‘I bet you’re all fabulous dancers,’” he said to the pastries enjoying coffee at an outdoor table. He then launched into a bit of a tap dance and asked if any of them would like to be his partner for the contest.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-in-love-loves-to-dance

Image copyright Helen Dardik, 2018, text copyright Natasha Wing, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake scowled at his stale moves. Not to be deterred, Bagel hopped onto a cake display pedestal and shouted out a dance challenge he thought couldn’t miss. Anyone who could match him tap for tap would win a date to the contest with him. But no one took Bagel up on his offer, and worse, Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake just laughed at him as they joined everyone heading to the Cherry Jubilee to watch the contestants.

In the empty café, Bagel felt sad. Maybe he’d be able to compete next year, he signed. He could hear the music begin at the Cherry Jubilee and his feet automatically started tapping. This time, though, he heard an answer back. “He tapped again. Tap-tippity-tippity-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tippity-tippity-tap-tap-tap came the response.” Bagel didn’t know where the tapping was coming from.

Suddenly, he saw the cutest cupcake he had ever seen. Her pink frosting was swirled into a bouffant, and “she smelled oh so sweet.” Bagel asked her if she was the one who had answered his tapping. She admitted she was, but said she wasn’t a very good dancer. Bagel disagreed then asked her to dance. In the empty street outside the café, they twirled around and around. Bagel even tossed her in the air and caught her ever so gently.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-in-love-upper-crust

Image copyright Helen Dardik, 2018, text copyright Natasha Wing, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Cupcake told Bagel he was an incredible dancer, and Bagel, feeling “all toasty inside” returned the compliment. Once more, Bagel asked, “‘would you be my partner at the dance contest?’” Cupcake said yes, and they hurried off to the Cherry Jubilee. Their dance moves were a hit with the judges, who all gave them 10s. Bagel and Cupcake won the grand prize trophy, but for these two who had found true love, that “was just the icing on the cake.”

Natasha Wing bakes up plenty of kid-pleasing puns in her culinary/dance-off mashup that will have readers laughing on every page even as they empathize with Bagel and learn some valuable ingredients for the best kind of friendship. Pretzel, Matzo, and the pastries may appear sweet with their salt rubs, manicures, and fancy fillings, but their sour personalities are on full display as they laugh and scoff at Bagel and his dancing. Cupcake, on the other hand, has everything it takes to be a good friend. She’s sweet through and through from her stylish updo to her humble and complimentary conversation. Through Bagel and Cupcake, children see that true friends can be found and are those who appreciate each other for who they are.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-in-love-dancing

Who wouldn’t want to visit Helen Dardik’s baked-goods world with its delectable delights around every corner? Jelly-roll, cupcake, and fruit-tart homes line the street, special culinary spas cater to every detail, and the Upper Crust Café can’t be beat. Bagel is a cutie, and Cupcake is a-dough-able from her pink frosting hair to her aqua and pink paper-liner dress. A colorful, glitter-textured two-page spread shimmers with the love and joy that Bagel and Cupcake have in winning the trophy and each other’s hearts.

Bagel in Love is a fun and funny book—with a little life lesson mixed in—for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922391

Discover more about Natasha Wing and her books on her website.

National Better Breakfast Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-avocado-bagel-finished

Avocado Bagel

 

A creamy avocado makes a delicious spread for bagels or toast to have with breakfast, lunch, or dinner! The mild flavor will please little ones while the essential vitamins and oils will please health-conscious parents.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper, or to taste

Directions

  1. Cut the avocado open, remove pit, and scoop out the meat
  2. In a bowl mash the avocado until it is smooth
  3. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper
  4. Mix well
  5. Spread on a toasted bagel or bread

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-in-love-cover

You can find Bagel in Love at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 8 – World Fencing Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brianna-bright-ballerina-knight-cover

About the Holiday

In its second year as a recognized holiday, World Fencing Day promotes this action-packed Olympic sport and encourages kids and adults to get involved. Fencing is enjoyed worldwide and is a popular sport offered in schools and at community venues. To celebrate the day, Olympic and world champion fencers hold demonstrations at malls, public squares, beaches, and other places, and fencing clubs offer free trials to would-be fencers. To celebrate, check out a demonstration held near you and try your hand at this fun and rewarding sport!

Two Lions sent me a copy of Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight to check out. All opinions are my own.

Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight

Written by Pam Calvert | Illustrated by Liana Hee

 

Princess Brianna Bright’s dreams of dancing ballet always seemed to go poof! whenever she actually tried to do the steps. “When practicing, she pranced and piquéd and pivoted…right into the palace pool. Ploink!” On the day when she tipped over her father’s throne with a grand jeté, the king suggested that maybe dancing wasn’t her talent.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brianna-bright-ballerina-knight-discovers-into-pool

Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

As Brianna sadly took off her ballet shoes, even her puppy Pixie was sympathetic. But Brianna was determined to find her true talent. During the week she tried ice-skating and baking, but those really weren’t for her either. Then on Saturday she saw two knights fencing, and “Brianna’s stomach fluttered.” Here was something that she could do, she thought, but the king and queen took one look at the pointy swords and worried.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brianna-bright-ballerina-knight-discovers-topples-throne

Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

So Brianna continued her search. Skateboarding in the castle resulted in a frosting fiasco, and while playing soccer she caused a team pileup. Brianna feared she’d never find her talent. “Then she heard the click. And the clack. And the clickety, clackity, clack” that sends “her tiny heart swelling with anticipation.” One of the knights had left a fencing blade on the ground, and Brianna picked it up. She liked the way it felt in her hand.

All day she watched the knights parry and feint and shout, “‘en garde!’” That night she crept into the forest to practice on her own. But fencing wasn’t as easy as it looked. Brianna “tumbled and stumbled and bumbled.” After a few weeks of bumps and bruises, Brianna told Pixie that she didn’t think she had a talent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brianna-bright-ballerina-knight-discovers-fencing

Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

One night, Brianna and Pixie heard a suspicious sound outside the castle. She looked out her window just in time to see two thieves running off with some of the royal gems. Quickly, she grabbed her fencing blade and leaped in front of them. As “she parried and pirouetted…tiptoed and touchéd…dodged and dégagéd” she used the fencing blade for balance, executing each move just right. With a final feint and lunge, Brianna rescued the jewels. The king and queen and the knights were proud of their little princess, and Brianna was happiest of all because instead of having just one talent, she had discovered  she had two. She was no longer just the princess or even just Brianna. “She was Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight.”

A dictionary of ballet and fencing moves follows the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brianna-bright-ballerina-knight-dreaming

Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Kids searching for their special talent will find much to admire in Pam Calvert’s Princess Brianna. Despite bumps and bruises, missteps and mishaps, Brianna shows patience and perseverance as she tries a variety of activities. While some of Brianna’s slapstick blunders may raise a giggle, readers will also empathize with her grit as well as her sadness when the activities don’t work out. Declarations from Brianna, such as “I’ll find a new talent!” and especially the repeated “I’ll do it!” give young readers mantras that they can embrace. Highlighted ballet and fencing terms within the story will spark an interest in these two graceful and athletic pursuits.

Liana Hee’s Brianna shows excitement, wistfulness, good humor, and triumph in her expressive doe eyes. Vivid full-page illustrations depict Brianna’s mishaps with a comedic flair and her ballet and fencing moves with the kind of precision that makes these disciplines both beautiful and “cool” to watch. Brianna’s tiny pink poodle Pixie is a cutie as she keeps her princess company through it all—even the suspenseful late-night duel with the jewel thieves. Brianna’s celebration when she discovers her two talents is infectious and will encourage readers to search for their own.

Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight is a reassuring read for children trying out various activities in that search for the one that excites and inspires them. Brianna’s persistence and self-confidence makes this a book to keep on hand at home and in the classroom for encouraging story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503951013

Discover more about Pam Calvert and her books on her website.

To learn more about Liana Hee and her art, visit her on tumblr.

World Fencing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-fencing-words-wordsearch

Fencing is Fantastic Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

The sport of fencing uses its own unique vocabulary to describe the equipment and actions of the participants. Can you find all of the fencing terms in the puzzle?

Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search Puzzle (20 words) | Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search Solution (20 words)

Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search (15 words, no diagonals) | Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search (15 words, no diagonals) Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brianna-bright-ballerina-knight-cover

You can find Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 29 – International Dance Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feel-the-beat-cover

About the Holiday

International Dance Day was founded in 1982 by the Dance Committee of the International Theater Institute. This date was chosen to commemorate the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, who was born in 1727 and is credited with creating modern ballet. Today’s holiday encourages people to celebrate dance and “revel in the universality of this art form.” There are so many styles of dance to watch and participate in. Today, enjoy a performance or find a venue where you can kick up your heals in your favorite kind of dance!

Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing

Written by Marilyn Singer | Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

 

The rhythms of dance and the cadence of poetry create a natural pairing as these seventeen poems that celebrate the moves, music, and thrill of dances from around the world demonstrate with toe-tapping joy.

In Cha-Cha a boy attending his Uncle Nate’s birthday party learns the cha-cha from his grandma. At first he says “I don’t / know these moves. / My fee / feel like hooves.” But then “something clicks! / Okay, it’s old school. / I say, / cha-cha’s cool!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feel-the-beat-hip-hop

Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

While the kids at school brag about their parents’ jobs, one boy has them beat in Hip-Hop: “No fumbling, no bumbling, / my pops is tops at tumbling. / He’s elastic, so fantastic. / Papa’s so gymnastic!” But while Dad “will swipe and windmill” and “slide on his knees, / do lots of flares and coin-drops” and “boomerang and freeze,” the boy adds “…wait / until you see my mom!”

Is it meringue or Merengue? Maybe a bit of both…because doing it right means “Moving sideways, / turning wrists, / while we do / our pretzel twists. / We sway our hips, we shift our legs, like we’re whipping / lots of eggs.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feel-the-beat-swing-dance

Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, text courtesy of Marilyn Singer. Courtesy of kristivaliant.com

It’s fun to let go when learning the Salsa. All you need is to “Feel the beat / in your feet, / in your heart. / Then you start.” So “Don’t be shy. / Come on try. / In this class, / show some sass.” If only shopping could be so entertaining…. But, wait! Maybe Conga is the solution. “We’re at the MALL. / I’m very BORED. / I hate the STORES, / I hate the HORDE…. / ‘Just one more SHOP’ / turns into FOUR. / I’m gonna SCREAM, / I’m gonna ROAR.” Then music starts and a line grows long—“Uh uh uh, KICK! / You cannot WHINE / when you are ON / a conga LINE! / Uh uh uh, KICK! / A flash mob BALL! / Keep shopping, MOM! / I love the MALL!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feel-the-beat-hora

Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

The library may be a quiet, staid place most of the time, but Swing Dance takes over one special library. “On the plaza in July, / underneath the summer sky / where you can get to hear good bands, / kick your feet, wave your hands, / we’re gonna swing. / That’s our new thing / We’re gonna swing!” A boy and his mom have joined lots of other dancers having fun on the square— “We step…step… / rock step. / we’re full… / of pep. / We Lindy hop. / Bibbidy-bop! / We Lindy hop!”

And for those kids who look at the Square Dance unit in PE with trepidation, this girl feels the same: “Got a partner, lost my shoe. / Allemande left? I haven’t a clue….Did that caller give a cue? / Don’t promenade me. Shoo, boy, shoo!…Bow to Francisco, bow to Sue. / One more swing. It’s over! Whew! / I tried real hard, but alas, it’s true. / I’m flunking out of square dance!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feel-the-beat-wedding

Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

Other poems introduce the Foxtrot, Hora, Samba, Two-Step, Argentine Tango, Waltz, Bhangra, and Polka. Notes about each dance, giving a description, a bit of history, and basic rhythms and steps, follow the text. A CD of dance music is also included.

Marilyn Singer begins her exuberant celebration of dances from around the world with a pair of the reverso poems for which she is well known: All Over the World, Dancing is Joy and Joy is Dancing All Over the World. With this start, Singer invites readers to put on their dancing shoes and enter ballrooms, classrooms, and outdoor spaces filled with music. From birthdays to bar mitzvahs to weddings to spontaneous parties, Singer imbues each experience with the beats, steps, and sometimes missteps of dance with expressive vocabulary and humorous asides. Reading the poems aloud offers its own special treat as the meter of each poem reflects the rhythm of the dance described.

Kristi Valiant’s vibrant two-page spreads put kids in the center of the action where individuals, couples, and groups enjoy groovin’ to the music in their own style. Dancers swirl, stomp, hop, twirl, sway, dip, and kick up their heels on sunny days and under glowing nighttime light. So join in—no experience or partner necessary!

For kids who love music and dance and for those who love poetry of all kinds, Feel the Beat; Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing is a fun addition to home libraries—and may spark an interest in learning how to perform these dances.

Ages 5 – 9

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0803740211

Discover more about Marilyn Singer and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Kristi Valiant on her website!

International Dance Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dance-word-search

Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle

 

People all around the world love to dance! Can you find the names of twenty types of dances in this printable Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

 

March 27 – National Joe Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-groovy-joe-dance-party-countdown-cover

About the Holiday

Are you just a regular Joe? Well, not today! Today you’re special! Today, we’re honoring all those regular Joes, cups of Joe, and people named or nicknamed Joe—or Jo. Why? Just because! So celebrate today by indulging in your favorite coffee, getting in touch with any friends or family named Joe—or Jo—or even changing your name to Joe for this particular day.

Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown

Written by Eric Litwin | Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 

“Groovy Joe is totally fun. / He’s a song-singing, / tail-wagging / party of one.” And how does he rock? Wow! Like this: “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!” But just as Joe is feeling the beat, there’s a knock on the door. Who is it?  One tuba-playing dog who wants to join in. Now there are two dogs and a big ol’ tuba taking up space, but does Joe mind? Not at all! He just keeps groovin’ with a “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-groovy-joe-dance-party-countdown-rocking

Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin, 2017. Courtesy of tomlichtenheld.com.

They’re soon interrupted by another knock at the door. Two more dogs come in, so now there are four! Four dogs mean there’s even less room for Joe. “Does Joe get upset? Goodness no!” So the four set to rockin’ ‘til there’s another knock at the door. “Who’s there?” asks Joe, and the answer is four. “Four who? Four more dogs are going to disco with you.” These dogs bring a flute, a cello, a violin, and a guitar. With eight in the room it’s getting pretty crowded, but does Joe care? Not a bit! They just “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!”

A pretty cool squirrel has danced onto the scene, and pretty soon he’s joined the band with his tambourine. Is eight dogs and one squirrel all the room can hold? No! Even though “This party is rocking” and “they’re packed on the floor… Groovy Joe says there’s always room for one more!” Do you know who that is? You’re about to find out because there’s a knock at the door. “Knock! Knock! / Who’s there? / Joe invited. / Joe invited who?” Just look! “Joe invited YOU to come to the party!”

So put on your dancing shoes and get your voice ready to sing because “there’s always room for more” at this “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-groovy-joe-dance-party-countdown-four-more

Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin, 2017. Courtesy of tomlichtenheld.com.

What little one can resist the upbeat beat of a dance party—especially one as inviting as Eric Litwin and Tom Lichtenheld’s disco bash at Groovy Joe’s? With a little math and a lot of inclusiveness, Litwin shows how adding more friends multiplies the fun. His infectious rhythm and repeated phrasing will have listeners memorizing and reading along with the knock-knock jokes and the call to party. Joe’s final invitation to kids to join in will have them up and dancing along joyfully.

Tom Lichtenheld’s shaggy Joe’s not worried about how much room he has. He’s only got smiles for the other dogs who come knocking at his door. As each new musician joins the band, readers will love watching the various dogs play their instruments and boogie to their own music. With each knock, the dogs stop their playing and turn their eager eyes to the door anticipating the fun repartee to come and the appearance of more friends. Presented addition problems, clearly drawn instruments, and a crew of recognizable dog breeds also give adults and kids lots to talk about during the party.

With playful, action-packed fun for energetic story times, Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown would be a terrific and favorite choice for preschool, kindergarten, and home libraries. The story would even be fun to act out for added learning opportunities.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0545883795

Discover more about Eric Litwin, his books, music, and more plus find free downloads on his website

To learn more about Tom Lichtenheld, view a portfolio of his books, and find fun activities, visit his website.

Dance along with Joe and Eric in this Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown book trailer!

National Joe Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-build-a-band-game

Build a Band Game 

 

Play this fun game to gather all the instruments you need to create a band. The first person to collect all six instrument cards is the winner!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Paper Die Template, cut it out and assemble the cube die.
  2. Print the Musical Instruments cards, cut out cards, and separate the instruments into piles
  3. Players take turns rolling the die to collect musical instrument cards
  4. The first player to collect all 6 instrument cards is the winner

Picture Book Review

February 9 – National Bagel Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-in-love-cover

About the Holiday

With its deliciously soft, doughy inside and crusty outside, the boiled-then-baked bagel is a favorite for breakfast and lunch! Coming in all sorts of flavors and varieties, there’s a bagel for every taste, and whether you like yours toasted or not, with cream cheese or plain, it’s hard to deny that the bagel is comfort food at its best. To celebrate today’s holiday, visit your favorite bakery and enjoy!

Bagel in Love

Written by Natasha Wing | Illustrated by Helen Dardik

 

Bagel was one talented bread! He loved to dance because “he never felt plain when he was spinning and swirling, tapping and twirling. When he read the advertisement for the dance contest at the Cherry Jubilee that night, Bagel really wanted to enter, but he didn’t have a partner. He went to the best dancer he knew—another bagel named Poppy—but she refused, saying that “his dance steps were half-baked.”

Next, he tracked down Pretzel at the spa, but as she enjoyed her salt rub, she told Bagel that his dancing just “didn’t cut the mustard.” And Matzo, primping with a manicure and facial, “flat out told him no.” Bagel was determined to find a partner and left Bakersville for Sweet City. There he “waltzed up to a table at a busy café. ‘I bet you’re all fabulous dancers,’” he said to the pastries enjoying coffee at an outdoor table. He then launched into a bit of a tap dance and asked if any of them would like to be his partner for the contest.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-in-love-loves-to-dance

Image copyright Helen Dardik, 2018, text copyright Natasha Wing, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake scowled at his stale moves. Not to be deterred, Bagel hopped onto a cake display pedestal and shouted out a dance challenge he thought couldn’t miss. Anyone who could match him tap for tap would win a date to the contest with him. But no one took Bagel up on his offer, and worse, Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake just laughed at him as they joined everyone heading to the Cherry Jubilee to watch the contestants.

In the empty café, Bagel felt sad. Maybe he’d be able to compete next year, he signed. He could hear the music begin at the Cherry Jubilee and his feet automatically started tapping. This time, though, he heard an answer back. “He tapped again. Tap-tippity-tippity-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tippity-tippity-tap-tap-tap came the response.” Bagel didn’t know where the tapping was coming from.

Suddenly, he saw the cutest cupcake he had ever seen. Her pink frosting was swirled into a bouffant, and “she smelled oh so sweet.” Bagel asked her if she was the one who had answered his tapping. She admitted she was, but said she wasn’t a very good dancer. Bagel disagreed then asked her to dance. In the empty street outside the café, they twirled around and around. Bagel even tossed her in the air and caught her ever so gently.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-in-love-upper-crust

Image copyright Helen Dardik, 2018, text copyright Natasha Wing, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Cupcake told Bagel he was an incredible dancer, and Bagel, feeling “all toasty inside” returned the compliment. Once more, Bagel asked, “‘would you be my partner at the dance contest?’” Cupcake said yes, and they hurried off to the Cherry Jubilee. Their dance moves were a hit with the judges, who all gave them 10s. Bagel and Cupcake won the grand prize trophy, but for these two who had found true love, that “was just the icing on the cake.”

Natasha Wing bakes up plenty of kid-pleasing puns in her culinary/dance-off mashup that will have readers laughing on every page even as they empathize with Bagel and learn some valuable ingredients for the best kind of friendship. Pretzel, Matzo, and the pastries may appear sweet with their salt rubs, manicures, and fancy fillings, but their sour personalities are on full display as they laugh and scoff at Bagel and his dancing. Cupcake, on the other hand, has everything it takes to be a good friend. She’s sweet through and through from her stylish updo to her humble and complimentary conversation. Through Bagel and Cupcake, children see that true friends can be found and are those who appreciate each other for who they are.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-in-love-dancing

Who wouldn’t want to visit Helen Dardik’s baked-goods world with its delectable delights around every corner? Jelly-roll, cupcake, and fruit-tart homes line the street, special culinary spas cater to every detail, and the Upper Crust Café can’t be beat. Bagel is a cutie, and Cupcake is a-dough-able from her pink frosting hair to her aqua and pink paper-liner dress. A colorful, glitter-textured two-page spread shimmers with the love and joy that Bagel and Cupcake have in winning the trophy and each other’s hearts.

Bagel in Love is a fun and funny book—with a little life lesson mixed in—for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922391

Discover more about Natasha Wing and her books on her website.

National Bagel Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-snowman

There’s Snowtime Like Now for a Bagel Snack

 

You can make a snowman even when there’s no snow outside with this simple bagel treat!

Ingredients

  • Your favorite kind of bagel
  • Cream cheese
  • Baby carrot
  • Raisins, currents, or chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Spread bagel with cream cheese
  2. Place carrot in the hole (prop up with more cream cheese if needed)
  3. Add raisins, currents, or chocolate chips as eyes and a smile

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bagel-in-love-cover

You can find Bagel in Love at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

January 20 – National Disc Jockey Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-beat-was-born-cover

About the Holiday

National Disc Jockey Day commemorates the death of Albert James Freed, or Moondog, who was an influential disc jockey in the 1950s and is credited with popularizing the term “rock-and-roll.” The idea of using recorded music instead of live performances over the airwaves was tested in 1909, when sixteen-year-old Ray Newby, a student of Charles “Doc” Herrold at Herrold College of Engineering and Wireless in San Fernando, California, became the first to play records on the radio. The idea took off and soon radio broadcasters across the country followed suit. The term Disc Jockey was the brainstorm of radio commentator Walter Winchell in 1934. The 1970s and 1980s saw the rise of Hip-Hop DJs who began using multiple turntables and turntables as instruments to change the music.

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc & the Creation of Hip Hop

Written by Laban Carrick Hill | Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

 

Even as a child “Clive loved music”—all kinds of music. He loved the way it made him feel inside and “the way it made his feet go hip hip hop, hippity hop.” Clive lived on Somerset Lane in Kingston, Jamaica. One of his neighbors was a DJ nicknamed “King George,” who threw the “biggest and baddest” house parties every Saturday night. Clive was too young for parties, but he liked to watch King George and his crew setting up. Clive had never seen so many records in one place.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-beat-was-born-clive-loved-music

Image copyright Theodore Tayler III, 2013, text copyright Laban Carrik Hill, 2013. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

“Clive imagined himself as a DJ surrounded by all those records.” He longed to choose just the right one to get the party started. He pictured himself toasting—rapping over the instrumental B side of records and getting people’s feet going hip hip hop, hippity hop, like his did. When Clive was thirteen he moved to Brooklyn, New York with his mom. At first he wasn’t sure he liked his new neighborhood, but then he discovered sports—track, weightlifting, and especially basketball. Clive grew to be six feet, 5 inches tall.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-beat-was-born-stacks-of-records

Image copyright Theodore Tayler III, 2013, text copyright Laban Carrik Hill, 2013. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

He took to calling “himself ‘cool as Clyde’ after his favorite basketball player, Walt Clyde Frazier.” But to the other kids, Clive was “Hercules.” Clive shortened it to Herc and added “‘Kool’ to make it just right. Kool Herc.” Because of his size, he was able to go to house parties with his mother and listen to the music. One day Kool Herc’s father bought a “giant sound system” with six-foot-tall speakers. But when it was turned on, the sound was puny. Kool Herc worked on it until the sound came blasting out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-beat-was-born-sound-system

Image copyright Theodore Tayler III, 2013, text copyright Laban Carrik Hill, 2013. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Kool Herc and his younger sister Cindy were ready to put on a party. They rented a rec room in their housing project, posted invitations, and set up the huge sound system. The night of the party, “everybody who was anybody made their way to Sedgewick Avenue for Kool Herc’s hot dance party. That’s when Kool Herc became DJ Kool Herc.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-beat-was-born-DJ-Kool-Herc

Image copyright Theodore Tayler III, 2013, text copyright Laban Carrik Hill, 2013. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

DJ Kool Herc noticed that people danced harder during the instrumental breaks. Kool Herc set up another turntable and put the same record on this turntable too. This way, when one record ended its break, he could play it again on the other. He was able to stretch a ten-second break into 20 minutes or more. Remembering how DJs toasted in Jamaica, DJ Kool Herc began shouting out the names of his friends, compliments about the dancers, and rhymes over the beat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-beat-was-born-dance-party

Image copyright Theodore Tayler III, 2013, text copyright Laban Carrik Hill, 2013. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Over the next year, DJ Kool Herc moved his dance parties into the street. When he plugged the sound system into the street lamps, it pulled so much power, the lights dimmed. DJ Kool Herc’s music even turned some of the city’s gang members into the smoothest break dancers in the neighborhood. Kool Herc then invited friends to rap behind the DJ-ing. He called these friends the “Master of Ceremonies” or MCs.

Soon kids were coming from all over New York city to attend DJ Kool Herc’s “biggest, baddest dance parties.” Many “wanted to be DJs just like Kool Herc. Herc didn’t just rock the block. He put the hip hip hop, hippity hop into the world’s heartbeat.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-beat-was-born-the-turtle

Image copyright Theodore Tayler III, 2013, text copyright Laban Carrik Hill, 2013. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Laben Carrick Hill’s modern biography of a Hip Hop pioneer invites young readers to discover the early years of and influences on the music they love today. Hill superbly structures his story so through the formative details of DJ Kool Herc’s life from childhood into adulthood, readers understand that they too can follow their hearts to achieve their dreams. When the Beat Was Born is inspirational in its depiction of an “ordinary kid” with ingenuity and self-confidence who changed the face of music by combining his multicultural experiences, being open to experimentation, including his friends, and sharing his vision. Straightforward storytelling is punctuated with verses of rap that make reading aloud fun and will engage listeners.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-beat-was-born-friends

Image copyright Theodore Tayler III, 2013, text copyright Laban Carrik Hill, 2013. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

In his bold, vibrant illustrations, Theodore Tayler III lets kids in on the not-so-distant past that saw the rise of Hip Hop music, celebrity DJs, and new dance styles. Keeping the focus on DJ Kool Herc—just as Clive kept his eye on his future goals—Taylor reinforces the theme of the book. Scenes of kids lining up to attend DJ Kool Herc’s parties and dancing in the street give the book an inclusive feel. Images of skyscraper-tall stacks of records mirrors Kool Herc’s ambitions, and depictions of breakdancing moves will get kids wanting to try them for themselves.

When the Beat Was Born is a terrific biography for all children, whether they like music and dancing or quieter pursuits. In the classroom, the book would be a great addition to music, history, or biography units.

Ages 6 – 10

Roaring Brook Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1596435407

Discover more about Laben Carrick Hill and his books on his website

To view a portfolio of artwork, book illustration, videos and more by Theodore Taylor III, visit his website.

National Disc Jockey Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-groovy-record-chalkboard-blackboard-craft

Groovy Record Chalkboard & Bulletin Board 

 

Do you play the piano or another instrument? Would you like to make a record some day? Why wait? In this fun craft you can create your own record bulletin board—and even create your own label art! While this record may not spin on turntables around the world, it will drop in a more important place—your very own room!

Supplies

  • Printable Record Label for you to design
  • Foam board, or a corkboard at least 12-inches x 12-inches square
  • Adhesive cork
  • A 12-inch round plate, record, or other round object to trace OR a compass
  • Chalkboard paint, black
  • X-acto knife
  • Paint brush or foam paint brush
  • Mounting squares

Directions

  1. Cut a section from the adhesive cork a little larger than 12 inches by 12 inches
  2. Affix the cork to the foam board
  3. Trace the 12-inch round object onto the cork/foam board OR use the compass to make a 12-inch circle
  4. With the x-acto knife, carefully cut out the circle (adult help needed for children)
  5. Cut out a ¼ -inch circle in the center of the record bulletin board
  6. Paint the cork, sides and inside the spindle hole with the black chalkboard paint. Let dry
  7. Print the label template and design your own record label
  8. When the paint is dry, glue your label to the center of the bulletin board
  9. Hang your bulletin board with the mounting squares
  10. Decorate!

Picture Book Review