June 27 – It’s Effective Communications Month

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About the Holiday

Sure, body language can say a lot, but effectively expressing yourself in words and writing helps decrease misunderstandings, misinterpretations, hurt feelings, and conflict. Learning to handle important relationships and work obligations with thoughtful care, consideration, and empathy can take patience and practice. This month people are invited to work on their communications skills to enhance their life with family, friends, co-workers, and others.

The Bear Who Stared

By Duncan Beedie

 

Bear loves to stare…and stare…and stare. One morning he emerges from his den to find a family of ladybugs having a picnic breakfast. He can’t help but gaze at them intently. “‘What are you staring at?’” the daddy ladybug demands before he and his family pack up to find a more private leaf. Bear continues on his way. In a bit he climbs a tree and stares at a bird feeding her chicks. “‘Can I help you?’” the mother bird asks, but Bear remains silent. The chicks don’t like Bear interfering with their meal, so the mother bird angrily tells him to “‘sshhhooooo!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-interior-art-ladybugs

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

At the bottom of the tree Bear spies a badger hole and sticks his head inside. The badger, particularly irritated at Bear’s badgering stare while he is shaving, bites poor bear on the nose. Sore and dejected, Bear wanders through the forest to a large pond. He sits down on a log to ponder his situation. He doesn’t mean to be annoying, he’s “just curious but too shy to say anything.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-ladybugs-yelling

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

A little frog floating on a lily pad in the middle of the pond pipes up, “‘I’ve seen that look before.’” Bear stares at the frog and the frog stares back. “‘Not much fun being stared at, is it?’” he says. Bear confesses that he just doesn’t know what to say to anyone. Just then Bear catches a glimpse of another bear staring back at him from the mossy water of the pond. This bear looks exactly like Bear, except that he is green and wavy. Suddenly, the green bear smiles. “‘You see?’” says the frog. “‘Sometimes a smile is all you need.’” The frog dives off his lily pad into the pond, and the green bear disappears too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-interior-art-staring

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The next day Bear leaves his den and discovers the ladybug family breakfasting again. As soon as they spot Bear, they begin to gather their things. “‘Hello!’” Bear says with a big smile on his face. The ladybugs are surprised and happy. “‘Oh, hello!’” replies the dad, smiling back. With renewed confidence Bear wanders into the forest. He smiles at the birds and smiles at the badger, and they smile at him in return. Bear makes a lot of new friends that day. And there’s even that friend down at the pond who likes to stare as much as he does!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-frog

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Duncan Beedie highlights the awkward feeling many kids—and even adults—often feel in social situations. Nothing pops immediately to mind to say and yet there’s a desire for connection. As Bear discovers, staring is not the answer—so what is? In The Bear Who Stared, Beedie offers a simple, but universal solution through an engaging and humorous story. Bear, sporting a bemused expression that aptly depicts his predicament, is such an endearing character that readers will wish they could give him a hug as he suffers slights from the woodland creatures.

The full-bleed, oversized pages put readers at eye level with bear and his subjects, and the very up-close look into Bear’s staring eyes will make kids laugh. The green, rust, and blue palette on matte paper is bold, but muted, giving the pages an organic, environmental feel that is perfect to carry the story.

The Bear Who Stared is a funny story time read with a heart that kids will ask for again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802856

Check out more of Duncan Beedie’s illustration and animation work on his website!

Take a good looong look at this The Bear Who Stared book trailer!

Effective Communications Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-craft

Expressive Bear Craft

 

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say or how to express your emotions and thoughts. With this easy-to-make felt (or paper) set, you can give the bear different emotions and talk about them, make up stories to go with each facial expression, or play a fun game. Below, you’ll find a couple of ideas!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print templates
  2. Cut bear head from light felt or fleece
  3. Cut eyes from white felt or fleece
  4. Cut nose and inner ears from dark brown felt or fleece
  5. Cut pupils from black felt or fleece
  6. Glue pupils onto white eyes

Alternately: Color and play with the paper set

To Play a Game

Roll the die to collect parts of the bear’s face. The first player to create a full face is the winner.

  • Die dots correspond to:
  • 1—one eyebrow
  • 2—second eyebrow
  • 3—one eye
  • 4—second eye
  • 5—nose
  • 6—inner ears

For a Fun Story Time

Give the bear different faces and make up stories of why he looks that way!

Picture Book Review

June 20 – World Refugee Day

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About the Holiday

On World Refugee Day, first celebrated in 2001, we commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees. The annual commemoration is marked by a variety of events in more than 100 countries, involving government officials, humanitarian aid workers, celebrities, civilians and the forcibly displaced themselves.

The Journey

By Francesca Sanna 

 

A child begins the story with a place—the family’s home in a city by the sea. The family used to visit the beach often, but not anymore, “because last year our lives changed forever,” the child reveals. “The war began,” the narrator says, turning their once-peaceful life into “chaos.” Not only was their city torn apart, the family was also, as “one day the war took [their] father.”

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

The child’s mother is afraid of the darkness that has descended on them. One of her friends told her that many people are leaving, escaping to another country with high mountains. The two children ask their mother where and what this place is. She answers that “‘it is a safe place’” an then shows them pictures that contain unfamiliar trees and animals. She sighs and tells her son and daughter, “‘We will go there and not be frightened anymore.’”

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

Even though the children don’t want to leave, they pack up all their belongings and say goodbye to their friends. They leave at night so they won’t be caught. They travel for many days, taking various modes of transportation. With each change the family must leave more and more of their things behind.

When they reach the border, they are met by an enormous wall that they must climb over. But before they can, a guard stops them and tells them they cannot cross, that they must go back. The family has nowhere else to go, however, and they are very tired. They find a spot in the woods to sleep, but the strange noises keep the children awake. Their mother tells them not to be afraid, and in her arms they finally fall asleep as she cries silent tears.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-journey-leaving-things-behind

Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

Suddenly, they hear shouting and see that the guards are looking for them. They run and run until they meet a man who takes them over the border. They come to the shores of a huge body of water that stretches far into the distance. The family must cross this water to be safe. They board a ferry loaded with other families and sail for days. On the way, they tell stories of the creatures who lurk in the waters below, “ready to gobble [them] up if the boat capsizes.” Other times they tell stories about magic fairies who live in the land they are going to—ones who have “magic spells to end the war.”

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

In the dawn light, the children and their mother finally see land. They are close to the place where they will be safe, the mother says, but it requires many more days of train travel across many more borders. On the journey the child watches birds migrating just as they are and hopes that one day, like the birds, they will find a new home where they “can be safe and begin our story again.”

Francesca Sanna’s moving compilation of true immigrant stories into a powerful narrative that speaks for so many provides a compelling and sensitive way to discuss the world’s refugee crisis with children. Sanna’s straightforward storytelling allows children to understand the cause and effect relationship of the war on those it displaces. Her focus on the length and difficulty of the family’s journey gives young children—for whom even short times and distances can seem long—a starting point for deeper comprehension. Sanna tempers frightening aspects of the story with her calm delivery and peppering of courage on the part of the mother and children along the way.

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Copyright Francesca Sanna, 2016. Courtesy of Flying Eye Books.

Sanna’s stunning and emotionally resonant artwork deftly presents the experiences of loss and love the story contains. Her use of the amorphous, seeping black images demonstrate the movement of the war and the ravages it imposes. Collage-like aspects to the illustrations gives readers much to talk about at varying age-appropriate levels. As the family’s journey begins, their suitcases and trunks filled with belongings are piled high, but as it continues, their luggage dwindles until only the most precious valuables remain—the two children and their mother. Sanna’s color pallet of oranges, reds, yellows, and greens are eye-catching and convey the urgency of the family’s plight. The final image of the mother, son, and daughter carried on the wind by a majestic bird offers the opportunity to talk about hope with young readers.

Ages 3 – 8

Flying Eye Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1909263994

Learn more about Francesca Sanna and her work on her website!

World Refugee Day Activity

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Learn to Say “Welcome” in Different Languages

 

With this printable Welcome sign, you can learn how to greet others in their native language!

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…’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-polar-bears-relaxing

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-polar-bears-adrift

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
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Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Picture Book Review

June 12 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Cats make wonderful pets! They can be cuddly or completely independent, but their playful personalities make for lots of laughs and love. If you own a cat, spend some extra time with your pet and ensure that all of your feline friend’s health needs are being met and are up-to-date. If you think you might like to adopt a cat into your family, visit your local animal shelter for cats and kittens who are looking for a forever home.

Lily’s Cat Mask

By Julie Fortenberry

 

Lily was starting school so her dad took her shopping. “Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to get new things for school, but her father said it would be fun.” After buying some clothes and meeting a woman they knew who gushed at how much Lily had grown, Lily was tired and wanted to go home. “But then she saw the cat mask.” It was the only one on the shelf, and Lily’s dad surprised her by buying it for her.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Lily put it on immediately and wore it on the way home. She wore it to tea parties with her toys, to family parties “when she wanted to be invisible. And when she wanted to be noticed.” When she wore it to her doctor’s appointment, the doctor spoke in meows. One day she lost her mask. Her dad made her a rabbit costume, and while that was fun for a while, Lily was happy to finally find her cat mask.

Lily wore her cat mask for many occasions. She wore it when she didn’t want to talk—like when she met her new teacher. “She liked to hide her face when she felt mean and couldn’t get nice.” She even blew out her birthday candles and made a wish wearing the mask. When school started, Lily was only allowed to wear her mask on the playground, but once in a while she put it on, hoping no one would notice. Then it was sometimes put in the teacher’s desk drawer.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

One day, the teacher made a very exciting announcement. The class was going to have a costume party, and everyone could wear a mask or dress up however they wanted. On the day of the party, there were characters, animals, and bugs of all kinds. But then Lily looked across the room and saw the best costume of all—another cat! During recess the new friends played on the swings and meowed happily together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-lily-at-school

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Julie Fortenberry’s story of a quiet, hesitant child who discovers a unique way of interacting with the world around her offers openhearted acceptance and understanding for children who are observant and thoughtful integrators. The reaction of Lily’s father, teacher, doctor, and family members to her cat mask is uplifting and provides excellent modeling. The straightforward storytelling highlights Lily’s sweet personality as well as the empathetic responses her costume elicits.

Fotenberry’s illustrations of adorable Lily and her experiences at home, at school, at the doctor’s office, and at the mall are full of joy. The colors are fresh and vibrant, but also calm and peaceful, mirroring Lily’s feelings when wearing her cat mask. The images demonstrate and validate Lily’s preference to watch and participate in events from her own distance.

Lily’s Cat Mask provides the opportunity for much discussion with children, especially about meeting people, Lily’s birthday wish, where Lily sits and plays at parties and at school, and when Lily makes a friend. The book is highly recommended for classroom and school libraries and would make a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0425287996

Discover more about Julie Fortenberry and view a gallery of her books and artwork on her website!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-The-Cat's-Meow-Word-Search

The Cat’s Meow Word Search

 

There are so many beautiful types of cats! Can you find the names of twenty-one breeds in this printable The Cat’s Meow Word Search puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

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

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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.”

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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 17 – World Baking Day

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About the Holiday

This may be the most delicious day of the year! Established to share the enjoyment—and scrumptious results—of homemade breads, cookies, cakes, pies…. (Yum! I’m getting hungry just typing this sentence!) …World Baking Day encourages people to try their hand at mixing up a new or favorite recipe. As this is a worldwide holiday, you may consider baking something from another country or from your heritage. With so many cookbooks and online recipe sites available, it’s easy to find—and make—the perfect treat!

The Case of the Stinky Stench

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

The fridge is full and the denizens happy. Even former rivals Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are enjoying a sweet vacation together at the Marshmallow Coast. But wait! Who is that strange, half-moon shape rushing “past Trifle Tower” and “across Taco Bridge”? It’s none other than Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, with a disturbing message. “‘Uncle,’ Croissant said, ‘the fridge is in trouble! / A horrible stench turned a whole shelf to rubble! / I’m the last hope, or the fridge will be lost! / Help me, or else we’ll be cooked, served, and sauced.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-marshmallow-coast

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Just as he says this, the facts begin to stink for themselves, and French Toast pledges his help. It’s a do or die case for Croissant it seems, as he’s “solved zero cases since getting this job.” Lady Pancake decides the perp is Baron von Waffle and suggests the three pay him a visit. They quietly enter Onion Ring Cave, and Croissant confronts von Waffle. “‘What do you know about smells that are vicious?’ / ‘Nothing!’ said Waffle. ‘My home smells delicious.’” And he’s right; there’s nothing nose-worthy here. Lady Pancake, Sir French Toast and Inspector Croissant leave the cave only to find that the odor has worsened. They follow some tater tots playing nearby to a red curry dish, where an okra divulges an intriguing clue about “a stinky red fish / who lurks at the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake,’” but in his rush to investigate, Croissant trips “by Miss Steak” and goes flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-von-waffle

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Back on his feet, the intrepid detective and his side-kicks find a sardine-can boat and row across Corn Chowder Lake until they find the “red herring.” They’re convinced that they’ve “unraveled this stinky affair,” but rowing closer, they catch a tantalizing scent instead of a treacherous one. Lady Pancake is ready to give up, but not Inspector Croissant. He sticks his nose in the air and concludes that the smell hails from Casserole Cliff.

When they get to the cliff, they discover a shriveled up mess. The veggies are soft and the fruit a bit rotten, but Inspector Croissant sees the cause of the trouble—“a moldy old fruitcake from eight months ago!” The three are mulling how to get rid of this putrid pest when the fruitcake shares his story, which is all too familiar. The cake confesses that he came to the fridge as a fresh, yummy treat but was left there uneaten to mold and to reek.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-tater-tots

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

The inspector understands a few things about food, and as he leads the sad culprit away from the cliff, he explains, “Everyone knows fruitcakes never go stale.” With careful trimming they clean up the cake. Soon the fruitcake is back to his delectable self and has attracted the attention of softhearted Miss Brie while the other foods welcome him back with good cheer and a party to boot.

With the case solved, kids are invited to join the swingingest party in town. As “Spuddy Holly and the Croquettes,” fill the fridge with music, the residents jiggle, wiggle, and dance with abandon across a two-page spread. A fold-down page presents a map that lets readers follow the action from Taco Bridge to Onion Ring Cave to Casserole Cliff and all the stops in between.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-case-of-the-stinky-stench-onion-cave

Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Just reading the first line of The Case of the Stinky Stench with its familiar, exuberant rhythm, I caught a smile creeping across my face as I anticipated the story to come. This sequel to Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast is a cool, fresh take on the mystery genre for little detectives in the—dare I say?—baking. The most delicious part of The Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series is Funk’s freewheeling imagination that comes to fruition in the expanse of that well-stocked refrigerator’s shelves. Clever rhymes, laugh-inducing puns, a whole stew—I mean slew—of fantastic words, and even a red herring await readers. Of course, old nemesis Baron von Waffle makes an appearance, and the introduction of the forgotten fruitcake shows kids that everyone deserves a second chance.

Brendan Kearney recreates the magic of this chef’s-delight of a refrigerator in full, vivid color and with the most adorable foods ever. Pink and white marshmallows, half-moon tacos, muffins, candy, cookies, and gummy bears all wear cute smiles, as they help Inspector Croissant. Even when the odor becomes overwhelming, the bottles, jars, fruit, and veggies sport endearing frowns. Rambunctious tater tots, hot chili peppers, and a steak-and-fries combo, join the fun. Kids will find ingenious details and visual jokes on every page, and will wish their refrigerators were half as exciting as the home of Lady Pancake and French Toast.

Ages 5 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454919605

Discover the world of Josh Funk, his books, and activities for kids on his website!

View a gallery of illustration work and books by Brendan Kearney on his website!

It’s no mystery that you’ll enjoy The Case of the Stinky Stench book trailer!

World Baking Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cinnamon-croissants

Bite-size Cinnamon Croissants

 

These mini cinnamon croissants are the perfect accompaniment to cup of tea and a great story! And they’re so easy that kids will love making them as much as they enjoy eating them!

Supplies

  • Tube of refrigerated crescent rolls
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon
  • Butter
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, or to the temperature on the package of crescent rolls
  2. Open the tube of crescent rolls and lay them on a cutting board. Do Not separate the rolls
  3. With the rolling pin, roll the dough until it makes one sheet
  4. Measure ¼ cup sugar into the mixing bowl
  5. Add 1 teaspoon cinnamon (or desired amount) to the sugar and stir together until well mixed
  6. Spread a layer of butter over the surface of the dough
  7. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar across the dough. Use more or less depending on how much cinnamon flavor you like
  8. Cut the dough into triangles about two to three inches wide at the base
  9. Roll the triangles up, starting at the base. Looser rolls make flakier croissants
  10. Place the croissants on a baking sheet and curve them into a crescent shape
  11. Bake the croissants at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until golden on top
  12. Let cool
  13. Enjoy!

Picture Book Review

May 15 – Straw Hat Day

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About the Holiday

Straw hats are found in nearly every culture in the world and have been used since ancient times. Made from local materials, some are unique to and even iconic of the country in which they’re made. Woven loosely, straw hats can protect a person from the hot sun while also keeping their head cool. In rainy climates, tightly woven hats are good for staying dry. Of course, straw hats are a staple of women’s fashion and can be found in nearly every color and decorated with ribbon, flowers, feathers, beads, and more.

Miss Fannie’s Hat

Written by Jan Karon | Illustrated by Toni Goffe

 

“Miss Fannie has lots of hats. And each one is her favorite.” Miss Fannie is ninety-nine years old and has a closet full of hats that she has worn on special occasions throughout her life. When she tries on her “red felt with the big feather, she looks in the mirror and says ‘I just love this hat!’” It’s the same with her green velour hat that’s decorated with a fancy pin. She’s not the only one who loves her hats. When she wears them to church, people always tell her, “‘Miss Fannie, I sure do love that hat!’” But Miss Fannie has a favorite among her many hats: the pink straw with silk roses. Everyone else loves this hat too.

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Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

Miss Fannie is a tiny woman who now lives with her daughter, Wanda. Wanda takes good care of her mother. She makes her big breakfasts, and even though Miss Fannie always says its “way too much,” she always clears her plate. Every Saturday, Wanda helps her mother wash her hair in the bathroom sink. Miss Fannie is so small that she has to stand on a stool to reach. Afterward, Wanda rolls her mother’s hair in curlers, and on Sunday morning she “combs out her mama’s hair, which is all nice and soft and gray, like the feathers of a dove.”

Then Miss Fannie puts on make-up, dresses in her best clothes, and chooses a hat. Choosing can be difficult because “Miss Fannie has three black hats, two red hats, one green hat, two white hats, two navy hats, three beige hats, one brown hat, and the famous pink straw with roses. Because she never wears the same one twice in a row, some people think she has a whole closet full of hats. Which, of course, she does.”

One Sunday, Miss Fannie’s preacher comes to her with an earnest request. He asks her to donate one of her hats to the auction that will raise money to fix up the church for Easter. Miss Fannie wants to help, but how can she choose among her beautiful hats? When they get home, Miss Wanda helps her mother lay out all of her hats on the bed and dresser. Alone in her room, Miss Fannie looks over all her hats. As she holds each in her hand she remembers her past. “The green velour with the fancy pin was very, very old, and still very beautiful.” She had worn it during the great flood of 1916 when she “crossed the swollen river on a ferry to visit her mother and father. As she stood at the rail…a house had floated by, almost close enough to touch.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-fannie's-hat-breakfast

Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

Next, she considers the red, wide-brimmed felt. The feather on this hat came from a hawk Miss Fannie had caught trying to nab one of her chickens. Then she picks up the brown velvet hat that “always reminded her of Flower, her grandmother’s cow.” She had begun milking Flower when she was seven years old and had learned to churn butter that was better than any found in a store. “Finally, Miss Fannie came to her most favorite hat of all: the pick straw with silk roses.” She had worn it every Easter for thirty-five years and it never failed to make her feel brand new. It was a tradition everyone else enjoyed too, “just as they looked for the tulips and daffodils to bloom in the spring.”

She puts the pink straw hat on, looks in the mirror, and sighs. “In her heart she did not want to giver her hat away. Not at all.” But as she places it back in its box and ties the ribbon, she discovers “she was very, very excited” about all the things it might be able to do. The old pipe organ needed fixing, there was a crack in the church bell, and the roof really needed to be replaced.

At the auction, when the preacher holds up Miss Fannie’s pink straw hat with the silk roses, “the bidding took off lickety-split.” With the bang of the gavel, the hat goes to a woman in the front row. The check she gives the preacher is “enough to really get things fixed,” Miss Fannie knows. She also knows “that she would not miss her favorite hat one bit.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-fannie's-hat-outside

Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

On Easter morning Miss Fannie rises and fixes her hair. She looks at her hats—none of which seemed right. As she meets Wanda at the front door in her best dress, her best jewelry, her best gloves, and a white corsage, “Miss Wanda couldn’t believe her eyes. Her mama was going out the door without wearing any hat at all!” When they arrive at the freshly painted church, Miss Fannie and Miss Wanda are surprised and delighted to see pink roses planted everywhere around the building. “‘Oh, Mama!’ said Miss Wanda. ‘It looks just like your pink hat!’”

With tears in her eyes, Miss Fannie learns that they were able to fix the organ and the bell as well as planting all the roses. As the congregation looks on “they didn’t see an old woman at all. What they saw was a young girl with hair as soft as the feathers of a dove.” And now when people pass the church, they don’t see gardens of roses. Instead, they see Miss Fannie’s hat. “And it will always be her favorite.”

Jan Karon’s story of selfless love was a favorite in our house when my daughter was young. Not only is the well-paced narrative full of evocative sensory details, bits of history, and realistic dialogue, it centers around a unique plot involving the types of soul-searching decisions that are hard to make. No matter how many times we read the book, Miss Fannie’s choice to auction her favorite hat to benefit her church seemed to come as a surprise that both inspired and heartened. While the tale is primarily Miss Fannie’s, it is Wanda’s story of benevolence too as Karon affectionately describes the ways in which Wanda lovingly attends to her mother’s physical and emotional needs. Throughout Miss Fannie’s Hat, Karon demonstrates that a life well-lived is one abounding in joyous giving.

Toni Goffe takes readers into Miss Wanda’s home—and Miss Fannie’s memory—with his bright, delicate illustrations that fully satisfy little one’s love of realistic detail. My daughter enjoyed the textured feel to the images, where steam rises from a cup of tea and from the bathroom sink, Miss Wanda brushes out her mother’s soft hair, and the hats—made of velvet, velour, and straw and sporting feathers, flowers, nets, and ribbon—beg to be touched. In fact, with the first page and its tantalizing peek into Miss Fannie’s closet, readers will find themselves riveted to her hats and life story. Vignettes from Miss Fannie’s younger years as well as scenes of her now demonstrate her enduring courage and strength of character.

For kids who like to count, sort, and compare, a one-page illustration and a glorious two-page spread allow them to match the list of hats in the text with the contents of Miss Fannie’s closet. They are also invited to choose their favorite from among Miss Fannie’s hats.

Miss Fannie’s Hats is a wonderful story to share with young readers for its ideas of giving, multigenerational relationships, and friendship.

Ages 3 – 6

Puffin Books, 2001 | ISBN 978-0140568127

Discover more about Jan Karon and her books for children and adults on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Toni Goffe on his website!

Straw Hat Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hat-matching-game

Hat Matching Game

 

These hats come in pairs—or maybe even triplets—but somehow they’ve been mixed up! Can you find all the matching sets? Just put on your thinking caps and play this printable game!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two or more sets of cards
  2. Cut the hat cards apart
  3. Mix them up and lay them face down on the floor or table
  4. Choosing one card at a time, turn them over to try and find a match
  5. If the cards do not match, replace them face down and try again
  6. Continue play until all the hats have been matched

Picture Book Review