June 21 – Make Music Day

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About the Holiday

Make Music Day first rang out in 1982 in France as the Fête de la Musique. Celebrated by young and old, professional musicians and amateurs, the day invites all to make and share their music. People in more than 750 cities and towns in over 120 countries participate in this creative holiday.

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Written by Susan Hood | Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

 

Ada Ríos is growing up in Cateura, a town built of trash as the main garbage dump for the capital city of Paraguay. Every morning the refuse trucks rumble into town to deposit their loads—1,500 tons of trash every day. The citizens of Cateura—gancheros or recyclers—go to work sifting through the mounds and tearing into bags looking for anything valuable enough to recycle or sell. Cardboard is worth 5 cents a pound, plastic 10 cents a pound.

Ada knows the landfill can hold surprises—“Her father, a ganchero, had found appliances, toys, perfumes, and antique watches.”—but she can never imagine what it holds for her. When Ada and her sister were little, their grandmother watched them while their parents worked. They loved to listen to music, to sing, and to learn stories of musicians and the sounds of different instruments. Ada fell in love with the violin.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ada's-violin-making-singing

Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

As the girls grow older and go to school, they venture farther into town, but there is little to fill their time. Many kids join gangs or get into fights. When Ada is 11 her grandmother signs her and her sister up for music lessons being offered by a new man in town named Favio Chávez. “Ada’s heart sang out” when she hears the news. On the first day ten children show up to play the five instruments available. But a bigger problem looms: the three guitars and two violins cannot be taken home for practicing as they are magnets for thieves. In Cateura a violin is worth more than a house.

But Favio Chávez has an idea. With help from Nicolás Gómez, a ganchero and carpenter, they pull bits and pieces from the landfill. An old broken drum and an X-ray film become a workable drum, water pipes become flutes, packing crates become guitars and violins, and oil drums become cellos. “Ada chose a violin made from an old paint can, an aluminum baking tray, a fork, and pieces of wooden crates. Worthless to thieves, it was invaluable to her. It was a violin of her very own.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ada's-violin-making-instruments

Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The children practice tirelessly outside in 100-degree heat until the initial “screeches, twangs, and tweets hit all the right notes. Their class became ‘a small island’ where Chávez taught them to respect themselves and one another.” They become known as The Recycled Orchestra. Music now fills the air, adding a soundtrack of beauty to the grueling work. The orchestra is soon invited to play concerts in Cateura and the capital city of Asunción. When word spreads of their talent, the children receive offers to play from other cities and even other countries.

When Ada is 16 The Recycled Orchestra is invited to tour with a world-famous rock band. As Ada takes the stage in front of 35,000 people in Bogotá, Colombia, she is afraid, but the audience cheers for them and sings along as they play. On that night the children discover a new life. “Buried in the trash was music. And buried in themselves was something to be proud of.”

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

An extensive author’s note plus a photograph of The Recycled Orchestra, lists of websites, videos and sources follow the text.

Ada’s Violin is also available in a Spanish edition—El violín de Ada: La Historia de la Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados del Paraguay.

Susan Hood has brought to light an incredible story of perseverance, hope, and the ability of music and other arts to provide opportunities and self-confidence that change lives. Told with unstinting honesty and sensitivity, Hood’s biography of Ada Ríos, Favio Chávez, and The Recycled Orchestra will inspire all who read it. The well-paced text offers revealing details on every page and flows with a lyrical quality that enhances the effect of the story and its impact. From the first sentence to the last, both children and adults will be riveted to The Recycled Orchestra.

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Sally Wern Comport’s paintings beautifully capture the human spirit that shines through and drives people to astonishing achievements even in the most adverse conditions. With intricately created collages of rich hues, Comport depicts the town of Cateura and the mountains of trash the citizens work and play on. Warm lighting illuminates faces full of dreams and love. Readers will linger over depictions of the instruments workshop and cheer along with the concert audience as the children receive recognition. The full-bleed, two-page spreads echo the expanded world music gave to the children in the orchestra and the adults who heard them as music score confetti flutters throughout.

Both school classrooms and home libraries will benefit from the stirring message of Ada’s Violin.

Ages 4 and up

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481430951 (English edition); 978-1481466578 (Spanish edition)

Discover more about Susan Hood and her books, plus fun activities for kids and information for teachers and parents on her website!

View a gallery of Sally Wern Comport’s artwork on her website!

Make Music Day Activity

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Make Your Own Musical Instrument

 

Inspiration for sound can come from almost any object! Look around your house or classroom and discover the music in boxes, cans, blocks of wood, plastic egg cartons or deli containers, and more. Add string or wire for plucking, sticks for drumming, or beans for shaking. With a little glue, tape, or hardware and some creativity, you’ll be making your own rhythms in no time!

Supplies for the stringed instrument shown in the picture above

  • Tin can
  • Two small L brackets
  • Piece of wooden molding, 2 1/2 feet by 1 1/2 inches by 3/4 inches
  • Five small strips of wood to raise the wire off the neck of the instrument. I used long wooden fireplace matches cut into 1 1/2″ sections 
  • Thin wire
  • Small circular hook screw or regular screw
  • Two tacks
  • A nail, screw, or piece of wood that will fit horizontally in the mouth of the can
  • a small nail to make a hole in the can
  • Hammer
  • Strong Glue
  • Paint
  • Foam decorative dots

Directions

  1. Paint the wood and let dry
  2. Paint the small strips of wood and let dry
  3. Decorate the can with paint, sticker, duct tape, or paper
  4. With the hammer and small nail, make a hole in the center of the bottom of the can
  5. Wrap one end of the wire around the nail and glue so it is firmly in place
  6. Feed the other end of the wire through the hole in the bottom of the can
  7. Screw or glue two L brackets to one end of the wood molding so that the bottom of the L is flush with the bottom of the wood molding and there is space between the brackets. This makes the neck of the instrument
  8. Screw the circular or regular screw into the top, center of the wooden molding
  9. When the wooden match strips are dry, glue three match strips side-by-side 3 inches from the top of the molding. Glue two more match strips, one on top of the other on the center strip.
  10. When the L brackets are dry, glue them (and the neck of the instrument) to the can, making sure the brackets are on either side of the hole in the can. Make sure the wire is out of the hole. 
  11. When the brackets are firmly attached to the can, pull the wire to the top of the neck. Settle it in the center of the small pieces of wood, so that the wire is not touching the neck.
  12. Wrap the wire around the screw at the top of the molding until it is firmly in place and the wire is taut. 
  13. Secure the wire to the neck with the tacks
  14. Mark the “frets” with the foam dots

Picture Book Review

 

June 15 – Smile Power Day

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About the Holiday

We smile at people all day long, don’t we? I mean there’s 🙂  😀  🙂  😉  and so many more! But how about the real kind? Giving a warm smile to a friend, a stranger, or—especially—someone who looks as if they need one, makes everyone feel better! Today, be happy and welcome all with a smile!

Welcome

By Barroux

 

A polar bear is sitting on the edge of an ice floe enjoying some relaxing time with his friends when he hears an ominous noise. “CRACK! The ice breaks! ‘We’re drifting away!’” his friends cry. In no time at all the three polar bears are adrift in the middle of the sea in need of a new home. They float and float, but “the water goes on forever!” To pass the time the friends play games: “‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with W…’”

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

Perhaps days go by. The bears ride out a storm with dark skies and huge waves that threaten to sink them. It’s scary and the trio wants “to find a new home right now!” At last, their ice floe—smaller now—approaches a sandy shore. “Land! We’re saved,” cheer the polar bears. They ask the cows on the beach if they can live there, but the cows take exception. The bears are “too furry…too tall…and too bear-ish.” And with a “Sorry!” the cows turn the weary travelers away.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-ice-breaks-away

Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

Once again on their own, the bears have no choice but to let the current steer them. With standing room for only one on their icy raft, they near another beach where a single panda relaxes on pillows in the midst of expansive land. “Yes! This could be our new home,” the polar bears shout. The panda ponders the situation for only a moment before stating, “‘…you are too many. Look around, there’s just not enough room! You can’t live here.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-polar-bears-meet-cows

Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

As the polar bears continue on their journey, their “little ice boat has almost melted,” and they are running out of time. They bob next to a tall sea wall. “‘Help us!’” they plead. Behind the wall two giraffes lounge on the beach, too lazy to investigate the noise they hear. The ice floe has melted to a thin disk. The bears are hanging on and about to give up hope when they find an empty island. They jump to shore just in the nick of time and begin enjoying their new home.

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

It’s not long before a dinghy floats into view with three monkeys on board. “‘Excuse me, we’re looking for a new home. Can you help us please?’” they ask. The polar bears stop their game of badminton and step forward. “‘Hmmm,’” they think. “‘You are…

Welcome!’”

With vibrant blue, full-bleed pages as wide open as the sea itself and three endearing long-nosed polar bears, Barroux has crafted a poignant tale with depth and far-reaching applications for readers of all ages. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, Welcome stands on its own as an uplifting story of friendship and inclusiveness, but also offers an excellent means for beginning a discussion on the world events that children see and have questions about. Employing a bear’s first person point of view and incorporating a child-centric perspective on travel—from the humor of the I Spy game to the perseverance of the bears—Barroux sets just the right tone for his audience.

With sparse text and repetition of the bears’ simple request, the subject matter is handled with sensitivity, not fright, which allows children to understand that the theme of the story is relevant on many levels. Whether the “traveler” comes from near or far, is a classmate, teammate or neighbor, or is even the reader or someone else feeling adrift in a certain situation, children will see that all deserve welcome.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499804447

You can view a gallery of illustration work for children, adults, and more by Barroux on his website!

Smile Power Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another.

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Picture Book Review

June 14 – International Bath Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encompasses so much more than keeping clean. Sure, a soaking in a tub of warm water is necessary and relaxing, but did you know that a bath is responsible for a mathematical and a linguistic discovery? The story goes that on or around June 14 in the year 287 BCE, the Greek mathematician, scientist, and scholar Archimedes realized that an object’s volume could accurately be measured when submerged in water. Archimedes was so excited about his revelation that he jumped from the tub shouting, “Eureka! Eureka!” as he ran through the streets of Syracuse. Thus both a scientific principle and a new word were born! To celebrate today, take some time for yourself and indulge in a nice long soak!

Around the World in a Bathtub: Bathing All Over the Globe

Written by Wade Bradford | Illustrated by Micha Archer

 

Even as you’re reading this, in some house somewhere in the world “water is filling up a bathtub, steam is fogging up a mirror, washcloths and rubber duckies are waiting…” They are waiting for the little boy who is running away, not wanting to stop playing to take a bath. “No, no!” he giggles as he scampers away. But maybe he can find a way to combine both. He leads his mom on a chase that ends up with a cannonball splash into the tub. Taking a bath is something that happens everywhere in the world, but in different ways.

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Image copyright Micha Archer, text copyright Wade Bradford. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

In Japan a grandmother washes her granddaughter’s face and hair before she climbs into the deep, square tub, called an ofuro. Baths are taken in an orderly fashion, with the oldest family member going first and the youngest going last.

“In Turkey, families visit an enormous bathhouse called a hammam. Attendants scrub the bathers with rough cloths and strong soap. After the scrubbing, the children are given slippers and towels.” Afterward, they relax in the sauna, where they can wear mud masks to soothe their skin. In India families “honor their ancestors by bathing in the Ganges River.” The water may be too cold for little ones, who resist—“Nahi, Nahi!”—as they dip their toes in.

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Image copyright Micha Archer, text copyright Wade Bradford. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

On the snowy tundra in Alaska a Yup’ik family braves the weather to go to the makii—a wooden cabin. Inside, a young brother and sister wait while their grandfather lights a fire to heat the stones. When they are hot, steam fills the room and sweat drips, cleaning them. But the cabin is too hot now, and the little boy protests, “Qang-a, qang-a!”

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Image copyright Micha Archer, text copyright Wade Bradford. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

It’s true that for thousands of years, children have run away from taking a bath—whether they washed up in natural waterfalls or with oils and perfumes in ancient Egypt—and in the future they will continue to “say no to bath time as they float around in a space station.”  So it doesn’t matter if kids are washing in Australian bogey holes, Himalayan hot springs, South African lakes, or even atop a South American volcano, they will always say, “No, no!” when getting in but “Yes, yes!” to staying in longer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-around-the-world-in-a-bathtub-volcano

Image copyright Micha Archer, text copyright Wade Bradford. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

More descriptions of bathing customs as well as bathtubs and bathhouses around the world follow the text.

With humor and heart, Wade Bradford invites kids to jump in and learn about a customary activity that unites us all. Listening in as children first protest taking a bath and then beg for a little more time, readers will understand that people are the same around the globe. Including ancient history as well as a peek into the future extends the connection we all have to this basic need and may begin a discussion of what bathing could be like in years to come—both more immediate and farther afield. The variety of bathing spots will captivate children and make them wish they could take the plunge in these places themselves. The introduction of the words Yes and No in eight languages provides another wonderful way to interact with the book and with multicultural learning.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-around-the-world-in-a-bathtub-japan

Image copyright Micha Archer, text copyright Wade Bradford. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

Micha Archer’s gorgeous and distinctive illustrations made from oils and custom made paper collages are stunning representations of outdoor and indoor bathing spots. The lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and volcano are surrounded by vibrant foliage, majestic buildings, and wind-whipped waves. The tubs, saunas, bathhouses and cabins have their own particular charms as children relax and get clean as the steam rises.

Around the World in a Bathtub is an excellent introduction for young readers to their peers and the world around them in both traditions and language. A great addition to classroom, school, and public libraries, the book may also inspire kids to try a different custom.

Ages 3 – 7

Charlesbridge, 2017 | ISBN 978-1580895446

Learn more about Wade Bradford, his books, and plays on his website

View a gallery of art and books by Micha Archer on her wesite!

International Bath Day Activity

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Homemade Bathtub Clings

Instead of buying bathtub clings for your kids to play with, make some yourself! It’s easy with regular foam sheets, cookie cutters or stencils, and scissors! Make it a family activity and watch the shower of creativity that results!

Supplies

  • Foam sheets in various colors
  • Cookie cutters or stencils
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Trace cookie cutter shapes or stencils onto the foam 
  2. And/Or cut squares, triangles, rectangles, circles, and other shapes from the foam in a variety of sizes
  3. Cut out the shapes
  4. Wet the backs of the shapes with water and stick them to the tub or tiled or lined wall. Shapes will also stick with a little shaving gel or cream applied

Picture Book Review

June 9 – It’s National Family Month

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About the Holiday

The weeks between Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June have been designated as National Family Month. This time gives us the opportunity to honor everything that makes a group of people a family. Shared experiences and memories—and especially love—create that unique feeling in the heart that defines family. To celebrate, get the family together for some fun!

It’s Great Being a Dad

Written by Dan Bar-el | Illustrated by Gina Perry

 

A lovely pink unicorn with a sparkling rainbow horn clip-clops over a grassy hill, a golden castle and a candy forest in the background. The playful animal believes it’s “great being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” What makes them so special? Well…as she says, “We’re terrific at prancing and we’re very pretty and, best of all, we have an adorable horn just above our eyebrows.” It’s hard to argue with those reasons!

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Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But it seems there are some downsides to this whole unicorn thing. Grazing might be at the top of the list. That shiny horn just always seems to get in the way. There’s no way for teeth to touch the ground, and trying to grab a snack off a table just results in the table stuck on the “adorable horn.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

How about Bigfoot? What’s it like for him? Let’s ask—here comes Bigfoot now! “It’s great being Bigfoot. I love being Bigfoot. Who wouldn’t want to be Bigfoot?” What’s so great about being…you know…. Well…he’s warm in his furry coat, he’s well camouflaged among the trees, and his super strength “can help unicorns get tables off their heads.” Sounds great! What could go wrong? Hmmm…. It seems those big feet get themselves into some sticky situations—like ending up with a tree truck lodged around your leg.

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Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maybe being a Robot is better. Indeed! In fact, Robot says, “If I had feelings, I would love being a robot.” Pretty compelling stuff there. Robot is very flashy and has lots of memory and has an arm that can convert into a saw just in time to help “unicorns and Bigfoot with their wood problems.” So what’s not to like? Rain can really mess with the mo(tor)-jo.

Poor Loch Ness Monster! She’s not even going to try being positive. It kind of stinks being a monster—especially when you don’t feel like one. But maybe things aren’t all bad. Unicorn, Bigfoot, and Robot hitch a ride on Nessie’s back across the lake to the hospital. There they meet a “fairy queen ballerina doctor” who loves being a fairy queen ballerina doctor. Who wouldn’t?

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Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

This Jill-of-all-trades can prescribe medicine for the sick, “perform a happy dance” for the sad, and wave her magic wand “if you have trouble with your saw arm…or your head horn or your big foot.” Sounds perfect…until a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” swoops in and swipes the magic wand just as the fairy queen ballerina doctor is about the save the day. “Dad!”

Ha! Ha! This little guy is super excited to be a sneaky flying alligator pirate. “I’m sneaky, so you never see me coming. I can fly, so you can never catch me. And… And…that’s enough reasons. So what’s not to like about being a sneaky flying alligator pirate?” Ooof! “Dads, that’s what!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-great-being-a-dad

Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

But how does Dad feel about being a dad? Let’s see: “It’s great being a dad. I love being a dad.” It does look pretty fun! Dad gets to remove pizza box “tables” from hobby horse unicorns; remove stepped-on drums from a brown-fuzzy-hoodied-and-hiking-booted Bigfoot; fix cardboard saw arms; give medals to super swimmers; and “return magic wands to… to… ‘Fairy queen ballerina doctors. I told you a million times already.’ Right. What she said.” Plus Dad can help little brothers play nicely.

So you must be wondering… “what’s not to like about being a dad? Sudden makeovers, that’s what.”

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Image copyright Gina Perry, text copyright Dan Bar-el. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Dan Bar-el’s laugh-out-loud romp through an afternoon of play hits the perfect tone to entertain kids and adults as well. Bar-el’s wry delivery and repetition of the appealing—and not-so—traits of each fantasy character will have readers giggling and eagerly anticipating the next page. The revelation that the characters are kids with big imaginations offers multiple payouts in creativity, personalities, friendship, and family.

Gina Perry’s vibrant, whimsical illustrations riff on all the fantasy clichés to ramp up the humor in this vivacious story. When happily-ever-after turns into happily-never-after for each character, Perry amusingly depicts their dismay, but the next page finds them cheerfully adjusted to their new circumstance and weaving it into a revised storyline. As the story wraps up, readers will enjoy pointing out aspects of the kids’ interests and parts of their backyard that spurred their imagination in earlier pages. The diverse group of friends is welcome, and good-natured Dad doesn’t really seem to mind his impromptu makeover.

It’s Great Being a Dad is a perfect book for young readers to share with their own dads and would be an often-read addition to children’s home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1770496057

Discover more about Dan Bar-el and his books on his website!

You find a gallery of illustration work and books by Gina Perry on her website!

National Family Month Activity

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Family Charades

 

Getting together to play charades is a fun way to spend family time with a little bit of thought, a little bit of action, and lots of laughs. You can find lots of charades cards, ideas, and rules at funstufftodo.com.

June 8 – Upsy-Daisy Day

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About the Holiday

Do you wake up before the alarm or do you hit the snooze button a couple of times? Do you bound out of bed or do you pull the covers up tighter? Do you greet your family with a cheery “Good Morning” or do you mumble an incoherent “gmmmphngg?” If you’re more the latter type of person, then today’s holiday encourages you to be a happy “upsy-daisy” who starts the day with enthusiasm and an optimistic outlook. Beginning the day fresh as a daisy helps the whole day go better!

A Crow of His Own

Written by Megan Dowd Lambert | Illustrated by David Hyde Costello

 

When fame and fortune came calling for Larry, the charismatic rooster of Sunrise Farm, the daily routine turned upside down. “The animals overslept and no one knew what to do.” But while the cow, horse, sheep, chickens, and goose fretted, Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin had a plan. One day they gathered all the animals and introduced Clyde, the new rooster. Looking at the “scrawny little guy” as he stammered his hello, the cow, horse, and sheep expressed doubt in his abilities, already comparing him to their beloved Larry.

Roberta, the goose, stepped forward, however, and reassured him that “they just miss Larry.” When Clyde asked who Larry was, the animals gasped. “Only the best rooster ever,” claimed the sheep. “Take it straight from my mouth: he was more than that,” said the horse. “He was a genius,” the cow chimed in.” And the chickens? In the dirt they scratched a heart with Larry and XOX in the center.

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Clyde was worried—how could he ever live up to Larry? Roberta tried to soothe him. “‘Larry wasn’t a genius…he just made quite a show of it.” Emboldened and with an inkling of what he needed to do, Clyde thanked Roberta and dashed off. “Clyde spent the whole day gathering props, designing his costume, and choreographing a sublime two-step.” As Clyde gave himself one last look in the mirror in his top hat and cloak, he had misgivings. “Could he put on a show of a crow?” He went to bed, but hardly slept at all.

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

In the morning…well…Clyde overslept. The animals were not happy. “Who ever heard of a rooster sleeping in?” baaad mouthed the sheep. “What a worthless chicken,” complained the horse. And the cow had issues of her own. Once again Roberta came to Clyde’s defense. With a wagon full of new props and material, Clyde rushed away to prepare for the next day. Up bright and early and balanced on a unicycle atop the coop while surrounded by promotional signs, Clyde “opened his beak, and…promptly fell to the ground with an undignified croak.”

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Poor Clyde! Humiliated and hurt he once again had to endure the slights of the farmyard animals, but their comments only spurred him on. Vowing to go bigger and better, Clyde built himself a ramp, ordered roller skates for birds and a parachute, and designed a colorful Western-themed set. “‘Oh, my!’” remarked Farmer Jay as he walked by. “‘Try, try again,’ encouraged Farmer Kevin.” But in the morning Clyde’s spectacular trick left him hanging upside down from the chicken coop, and the animals more “disgruntled and dismayed” than before.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-ramp

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Clyde was distraught. “‘Forget about Larry.’” Roberta said. “‘Just crow your own crow.’” Clyde considered her advice. The next morning as the sky turned pink and orange with the rising sun, Clyde stood tall atop the chicken coop. He quietly cleared his throat and then—“COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!” The newly awakened animals came running. Even Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin came to see this new Clyde. The horse summed up their collective feeling: “It’s not so much like crowing, but crooning.” Roberta agreed. “‘Enough to give you goose bumps!’” she exclaimed. As an encore, “Clyde took a deep breath, gave a shake of his comb, and called out another crow of his own.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-sunrise

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

These days it’s nearly impossible for kids not to compare themselves or be compared to others—even those they’ve never met. All they need to do is jump on the Internet and discover that so-and-so has double, triple, or more friends and/or followers than they do; go to class and get their grade on that assignment they worked so hard on; or simply stand by their locker, go to lunch, or head out to gym and overhear the comments of other students. Avoidance isn’t the answer, but a good base of self-confidence and personal identity is. In A Crow of His Own Megan Dowd Lambert offers readers such a base in her entertaining and meaningful tribute to self-acceptance and love that hits all the right notes.

As soon as scrawny Clyde walks out of his crate to the scorn of his farm mates, kids will root for this underchicken. With a light touch and plenty of wordplay, Dowd deftly presents honest portrayals of the opposition Clyde is up against as well as Clyde’s distressed reactions. Clyde’s three attempts to act like Larry humorously demonstrate the difficulties of trying to be someone you’re not. When Clyde finally musters the courage to “crow his own crow” and is met with praise, readers will see that their own unique talents will find an appreciative audience.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-sunrise-farm

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

David Hyde Costello knows how to put on a show! His Sunrise Farm is a gentle, bucolic spread still under the thrall of Larry. Humorous details, such as the valentines to Larry the chickens draw in the dirt, the movie house-style posters on the side of the barn, and the surprised and exasperated expressions of the animals, testify to Larry’s enduring legacy. But careful observers will notice that while Larry is a rather bland white rooster with some black tail feathers, Clyde is distinctively colorful from his comb to his feet. Kids will giggle at Clyde’s increasingly complex morning shenanigans even as they sympathize with his plight. When Clyde finally reveals his magnificent crow, readers will cheer.

A Crow of His Own is a winner on so many levels. It offers parents and children a way to discuss and begin building the strong sense of self so important to a happy and successful life. The book also presents a positive visual representation of diversity, and in Roberta and Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin it shows that finding support helps. And it does all of this in a story that stands on its own as a funny, laugh-inducing romp. Because kids will want to hear this story over and over, A Crow of His Own would be a wonderful addition to libraries and home book collections.

Ages 4 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2015 | ISBN 978-1580894470

To learn more about Megan Dowd Lambert, her picture books, her Whole Book Approach to Reading, and more visit her website!

On David Hyde Costellos website you’ll find a gallery of artwork, a portfolio of picture books, videos, and more!

Upsy-Daisy Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-craft

A Chicken to Wake Up To

 

A long-handled wooden turner makes a plucky decoration for your room or kitchen—and a great reminder to bring your passions to every job! In a few simple steps, you’ll have a cute companion you’ll want to crow about!

Supplies

  • Printable Comb and Scarf Template
  • Long-handled wooded turner, available in kitchen supply stores
  • Red felt, 2 inches by 2 inches
  • Yellow bakable clay
  • Fabric, 12 inches square
  • A small piece of white felt or fleece (optional)
  • White paint (or any color you would like)
  • Black marker
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun
  • Paint brush

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-craft

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden turner, let dry
  2. Cut the scarf from the piece of fabric
  3. Make a beak from the yellow clay and bake it according to package directions

To make the comb

  1. Fold the felt in half and glue the end together with the fabric glue
  2. Cut short strips from the folded top of the felt, about ½-inch to ¾ -inch in length
  3. Round the corners of the strips slightly

To make the scarf

  1. Fold the fabric in half
  2. With the long, straight edge of the scarf template along the fold, cut out the scarf
  3. With the fabric glue, glue the two sides of the scarf together so that you have two “right” sides
  4. Let dry

To assemble the chicken

  1. Pinch the bottom of the comb together so that the strips open and the felt pleats a little
  2. With the glue gun attach the comb to the back of the painted turner, keeping the bottom pinched together
  3. Attach the beak to the front of the turner
  4. Draw eyes on the chicken with the black marker
  5. Tie the scarf around the neck of the handle, hold in place with a drop of glue in the back if necessary
  6. To make tail feathers in a turner with a hole in the handle, pinch together a small folded piece of white felt or fleece and push it through the hole in the handle of the turner.
  7. Cut or arrange to look like feathers

Picture Book Review

May 21 – “I Need A Patch for That” Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stitchin'-and-pullin'-a-gee's-bend-quilt-cover

About the Holiday

Celebrated annually on May 21, “I Need a Patch for That” Day gives a little love to patches of all kinds. Have you been out working in your garden patch? Fabulous! Did you just finish all the requirements for a scouting patch? Good job! Waiting on a fix for the latest software kerfuffle? Who isn’t? Are you a pirate keeping one eye ready for the dark? Argghh! Do you need to patch up a misunderstanding? Good luck! Or maybe you’re a quilter like the amazing women in today’s book who create a patch to remember each of life’s important, inspirational, and formative events. 

Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt

Written by Patricia C. McKissack | Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

 

In this story told through poems, a little girl begins telling readers about her life, starting with a recitation on Gee’s Bend Women: “Gee’s Bend women are / Mothers and Grandmothers / Wives / Sisters and Daughters / Widows.” They are every kind of woman you know, doing every type of work and activity. “Gee’s Bend women are / Talented and Creative / Capable / Makers of artful quilts / Unmatched. / Gee’s Bend women are / Relatives / Neighbors / Friends— / Same as me.”

In Who Would Have Thought, the girl muses on how perceptions change. “For as long as anyone can remember,” she says, the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have created quilts that were slept under, sat on, and wrapped around the sick or cold. But now those same quilts are “…hanging on museum walls, / their makers famous….”

When she was just a tot “Baby Girl” reveals in Beneath the Quilting Frame, she played under the quilting frame, listening to her “mama, grandma, and great-gran / as they sewed, talked, sang, and laughed / above my tented playground.” She remembers the “steady fingers  /[that] pieced together colorful scraps of familiar cloth / into something / more lovely / than anything they had been before” as her mother sang her a lullaby.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Something Else, “Baby Girl” is growing too big to play underneath the frame. Her legs are becoming longer and her mind is full of “recipes for eleven kinds of jelly…how to get rid of mold…and the words to a hundred hymns and gospel songs” while she waits for her turn at the frame. At last, her time does come, and in Where to Start?, the girl asks her mama how to begin. Her mother answers, “‘Look for the heart. / When you find the heart, / your work will leap to life… / strong, beautiful, and… / independent.’”

In Remembering, the girl thinks about how her mama has told her that “cloth has a memory.” As she chooses the cloth that will become her quilt she recounts the life and the history in each. 

Nothing Wasted sees Grandma pulling apart a red-and-white gingham dress stitch by stitch. Suddenly, the girl knows that this cloth will become the patch that “will be the heart of my quilt.” In Puzzling the Pieces the girl and her grandma stand over the quilting frame fitting the squares together in the perfect way to tell the girl’s story. Her quilt comes together piece by piece to tell the history of Gee’s Bend in The River Island. The brown strips along three sides mirror the muddy waters surrounding her town. The fourth side is a green strip—“a symbol of the fields where my ancestors / worked cotton from can to can’t— / can see in the morning until / can’t see at night.” Lined up next to the green strip are six squares representing the small communities “where families with / the same name / are not kin by blood / but by plantation.”

Being Discovered is portrayed with “a large smoke-gray square”—the color of the Great Depression and the 15 minutes of fame Gee’s Bend garnered when discovered “by sociologists, historians, / educators, and journalists” who came and went, leaving Gee’s Bend “the way it had been / before being discovered.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stitchin'-and-pullin'-a-gee's-bend-quilt-understanding-comes-later

Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Colors, the girl’s grandma explains the meanings and feelings behind each colored cloth. “Blue cools. / Red is loud and hard to control, / like fire and a gossiping tongue.” Green, orange, yellow, white, pink, and all the others have their own personalities. “Grandma says, / ‘Colors show how you / feel deep down inside.’”

In Dr. King Brings Hope, the little girl adds “a spotless white patch for the hope Dr. Martin Luther King / brought to the Bend” and goes on to tell how her grandma saw Dr. King at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and what it meant to her. By and By follows the girl as she adds “golden thank-yous, for James Reeb,” a “bright blue piece of velvet for Viola Liuzzo,” and a “big plaid people circle of white, black, brown, yellow, and red for Reverend Dr. King, all “killed for believing in justice.”

In the 1960s, The Sewing Bee tells, Gee’s Bend quilters were once again discovered. Joining the Bee provided buyers for the handmade quilts, but there were stipulations on the types of quilts that could be made and sold. The girl asks her grandma if she was part of the Bee, to which she replies, “‘more money. Less freedom. I chose to stay free.’”

At last all of the patches are laid out and the time comes to stitch the girl’s quilt. Five women stand at the frame “all stitchin’ and pullin.’” They work “in a slow and steady rhythm” relaxing and enjoying being together until the quilt is finished. In Finished, the last stitch is sewn, and the thread bitten and knotted. The girl has hundreds of ideas for future quilts. “Quilts that are about me, / the place where I live, / and the people / who have been here for generations.”

Further poems unite the history of “Baby Girl,” her family, and neighbors, and an Author’s Note about quilting and the women of Gee’s Bend follow the text.

Patricia McKessack’s free verse poems capture the close relationships and camaraderie of the generations of women who join around the quilting frame to share and pass down their art and their heart. McKessack’s conversational verses, connected page after page like the patches of a quilt, reveal the complexity of this handmade art form in the way intimate talks between friends unveil a life. Readers learn not only about the little girl and her own thoughts, but the history and influence of her immediate family, world events, inspirational figures, and deeply held beliefs that make her who she is and ties her to the other Gee’s Bend women.

Cozbi A. Cabrera’s stunning acrylic paintings take readers inside the heart of the Gee’s Bend women, depicting the girl’s home, the table-sized quilting frame where the women collectively work, the plantations, the protests, and the changes that came but did not unravel the convictions, values, and love of the little girl’s family. Readers can almost hear the talking and singing of the Gee’s Bend women as they stitch their quilts, and the comforting, embracing environment is evident on every page. Cabrera’s portraits of the little girl, her mama, and her grandma are particularly moving. For What Changed, Cabrera depicts a yellow school bus appearing on the dirt road from the right hand corner of the page. In the  driver’s side mirror, a dot of a house is reflected, reminding readers that no matter how far these women are from home, Gee’s Bend is always with them.

Children—and adults—will find Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt inspirational and uplifting. This volume of poetry can be read at one sitting or delved into again and again, making it a wonderful choice for home libraries and a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 12

Dragonfly Books, Random House, 2016 (paperback edition) | ISBN 978-0399549502

View a gallery  of fashion designs, dolls, and other handmade art work by Cozbi A. Cabrera on her website!

“I Need a Patch for That” Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stars-quilt-coloring-page

Design a Quilt Coloring Pages

 

Quilts are so much more than pieces of material sewn together—they’re life stories! Here are two quilt coloring pages for you to design and color. What does each piece mean to you? As you color each section, write a sentence about an event or thought that is important to you.

Quilt Template 1 | Quilt Template 2

Picture Book Review

May 4 – Petite and Proud Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-grade-coverAbout the Holiday

Life’s not about how tall you are but about how big your heart is! Today we celebrate people who are 5’4” and under—the petite! There are many advantages to being on the smaller side—it’s easier to fit into tight spaces; airline, train, and other transportation seats are more comfortable; and we can blend into the crowd more easily when we’re having a bad hair day. All-in-all being petite is pretty perfect!

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Written by Justin Roberts | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

Sally McCabe was so small that she was mostly overlooked. “She was the smallest girl in the smallest grade.” The other kids heard her name called every morning along with theirs, and they passed her in the hall on the way to class, but no one knew that “Sally was paying super extra special attention” to what went on around her. For instance, she noticed the kite someone had lost in the tree and had counted twenty-seven keys on the janitor’s ring.  She watched as the leaves turned “green to gold in the fall” and when “Tommy Torino was tripped in the hall.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-grade-classroom

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

She saw wildflowers turn their face toward the sun and “was there when the stray cats who normally fought / conducted a meeting in the church parking lot.” On the playground she saw Kevin McKuen get shoved down the slide and knew of the “tears that he wanted to hide.” On Parent-Teacher day, too, she watched kids pulled down the hall by parents upset at what they had heard. But during all this, no one happened to see Sally watching or knew what that could mean.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-grade-slide

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Sally understood that these slights, mean words, and cruel actions kept building and building without any stop, and she finally decided that something must change. So one day during lunch she stepped out of line, stuck her hand in the air, and announced very loud, “‘I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. / Stop hurting each other! This is enough!’”

Some kids just giggled and ignored what she’d said, but many others joined in with their hands in the air. “Like waves rolling in, one after another— / first Molly rose up, then Michael’s twin brother. / It was Tyrone and Terence, then Amanda and Paul, / who pushed out their chairs and stretched their arms tall.” And they all felt connected “like the janitor’s keys. Fastened together with a heavy steel ring / that held all the secrets to unlock everything.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-jump-rope

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

After that day, things went back to normal—but with much welcomed kindness in small doses and places. Spaces were made for strangers to sit, doors held wide open, and many such “moments that get taken for granted—a wildflower appearing that no one had planted.” And so the world changed for this school and this town all because Sally was courageous and kind and paying attention.

Justin Roberts’ rhyming tribute to the empathy and bravery of one little girl who takes notice and makes a difference shows kids and adults that anyone can create change no matter who they are. Readers of all ages will recognize the hurts that Roberts chooses to include, good examples of the small and large acts that cause physical and emotional pain. The infectious rhythm and the inspirations of kindness—from the alley cats’ truce to wildflowers to keys (objects that at once have familiarity and deeper meanings)—give the book resonance far beyond the immediate reading.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-grade-bulldozer

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Christian Robinson’s bright, wide-lens drawings of Sally’s schoolroom, cafeteria, and playground give young readers the same view Sally has, allowing them to also find the examples of arguing, pushing, whispering, and other slights that she reacts to. An illustration of Sally and her classmates sitting at their desks shows exactly how small she is in comparison to the other children; the rest of the pages demonstrate just how big her heart is. Each page offers opportunities for kids and adults to discuss the problems of bullying and options for how they can make a difference.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade is a wonderful reminder of how important each person is in making the world a happier place and would make an excellent addition to home libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014 | ISBN 978-0399257438

Visit Christian Robinson’s website, where books and art are always fun!

Check out all the music, videos, activities, and other stuff by Justin Roberts on his website!

Petite and Proud Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-books-review-kindness-cards

Kindness Cards

 

Being kind to someone can be as easy as slipping a friendly note into someone’s locker or backpack or leaving a card for a favorite teacher, bus driver, or librarian. If you notice someone who could use a pick-me-up, you could give them one of these cards too! Print out your Kindness Cards and start spreading some good cheer!

Picture Book Review