September 27 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Even though we’re saying goodbye to Read a New Book Month, families don’t have to stop seeking out new books at their local bookstore or library. In fact, fall and the lead-in to the holidays is one of the busiest times of the year for publishers as they release wonderful books that share traditions and take readers through the winter in thoughtful, funny, and always surprising ways. Maybe that’s why December is also tagged as Read a New Book Month! Really, there’s never a time when you don’t want to celebrate new books—like today’s!

Thanks go to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a digital copy of Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Debby Rahmalia

 

Gracie always loves when Bubbe comes to visit, but this time Bubbe was too sad to do the things she and Gracie usually did together because her husband had died. She didn’t feel like doing yoga or making jokes. “She hardly even smiled.” Gracie missed all the things she used to do with Zayde too—talks about science and sharing inside jokes.

Gracie tried different things to make Bubbe happy again. She asked if she’d like to sing while Gracie played the guitar, if she’d like to come to her soccer game, or help her draw a picture. But each time, Bubbe just said “‘No thank you, Bubala.'” This answer got Gracie thinking. “She knew bubbe meant ‘grandma’ in Yiddish. And zayde meant ‘grandpa.'” But she didn’t know what bubala meant. When Gracie asked Bubbe, she explained that “‘it means “little grandmother. …But you call someone you love “bubala.”‘”

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Then Bubbe sighed and told Gracie how much she and Zayde “‘loved using Yiddish words together.'” Gracie wanted to learn Yiddish words too, and asked Bubbe to teach her. They went into the kitchen, and while Bubbe cut up an apple, she taught Gracie the word nosh. “‘It means “eat a snack.”‘” As Gracie noshed on her apple, she thought she saw Bubbe smile just a little.

That night Bubbe taught Gracie how to say “good night” in Yiddish, and the next day when Gracie came home from school she wanted to walk around the neighborhood like they used to, but Bubbe said she didn’t feel like it. Gracie persisted, pulling on her hand and telling her how beautiful it was outside. Bubbe had to admit that it was sheyn. Gracie was excited to understand this Yiddish word for “beautiful” because Zayde often called her sheyna meidala or “pretty girl.” Bubbe conceded and put on her sneakers.

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Once outside, Bubbe even started jogging a little and taught Gracie another Yiddish word when Gracie asked her to slow down. As the week went on, Gracie and Bubbe began talking about their memories of Zayde. Bubbe even decided to go to Gracie’s next soccer game. At the game Bubbe smiled and even cheered when Gracie scored a goal, and back home they laughed together when Bubbe told Gracie her socks were “‘… so farshtunken, my nose might explode!'”

“‘Bubbe! You’re laughing!'” Gracie cried. And Bubbe had to agree and told Gracie it was for a very special reason. “‘Because you give me naches. That means ‘joy.'”

Back matter includes a short Author’s Note about the Yiddish language as well as a glossary of Yiddish words that includes and expands on the words found in the story, their meaning in English, and a pronunciation for each of them.

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Jane Sutton’s poignant story will touch readers’ hearts on many levels, from a child and grandmother overcoming grief to the passing on of family heritage to the way children bring a healing kind of joy through their exuberance, empathy, and love. Sutton’s storytelling hits all the right notes as she depicts Bubbe’s transition from mourning to joy over superbly paced scenes and seamlessly introduces Yiddish words through Gracie and Bubbe’s authentic conversations while also demonstrating the family’s strong bond of love and trust. Dialogue rich, the story makes a perfect read aloud that will excite kids about learning the Yiddish words along with Gracie and prompt families to talk about their own history.

In her vibrant illustrations, Debby Rahmalia lets young readers see through Gracie’s viewpoint how Bubbe’s sadness affects her and how much she wants to help her grandmother find happiness again. As Gracie does yoga while Bubbe stands by and shares a silent dinner with her usually talkative grandmother, Gracie’s expressions register concern and disappointment. In Gracie’s attempts to enlist Bubbe in doing their usual activities, Rahmalia portrays not only Gracie’s strong connection with Bubbe, but also a realistic look at how loss can affect emotions and physical energy. When Gracie hits on learning Yiddish as a way to interact with Bubbe, Rahmalia effectively shows how Bubbe’s smile, enthusiasm, and laughter return as she and Gracie share the language and memories of Zayde.

Touching, reassuring, and joyful, Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile comforts and restores while celebrating family love and generational ties. The book would be a meaningful addition to home bookshelves for all families and one school and public librarians will want in their picture book or family issues collection.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2022 | ISBN 978-0807510230

You can discover more about Jane Sutton and her books on her website and connect with her on Instagram.

You can view a portfolio of work by Debby Rahmalia here and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile Matching Puzzle

 

Gracie loved learning Yiddish words from Bubbe! With this puzzle you can learn the Yiddish words from the book too. Just print the puzzle and match each word with its definition to get started using these words yourself!

Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile Matching Puzzle

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You can find Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 7 – Buy a Book Day

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About the Holiday

Today is one of the best days of the year! Anyone who loves books will want to take the opportunity of the holiday to visit their favorite bookstore and buy one of those books you’ve been hearing and reading about. And why stop at just one? Winter is coming—that time when there’s nothing more cozy than snuggling in with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and reading late into the night. As the school year begins, children – even the youngest readers – benefit from having new books in their home libraries that reflect their changing interests and maturing thoughts. Take a little time to look through the offerings of your local bookstore and let your kids pick out some new favorites! 

The Thank You Book

Written by Danna Smith | Illustrated by Juliana Perdomo

 

For little ones, “Thank you” may be one of the first phrases they learn when they begin getting out into the world. Thanking grandparents and other relatives, friends, teachers, librarians, store employees, and others becomes a part of every day. But for kids just learning manners and communication skills, prompts to say “thank you” may seem kind of random, confusing, and maybe even a bit intimidating.

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

This is where Danna Smith’s delightfully cheery story about sharing your appreciation comes in. With charming rhymes, Smith answers the questions of why, when, and to whom thanks are appropriate while infusing her story with the positive feelings that thanking someone for their kindness instills in the thanker and the one being thanked.

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Smith begins with an inviting and easy-to-understand definition of thankfulness that will resonate with young children: “When someone is thoughtful or kind in some way, ‘thank you’ are two very nice words to say.” She then goes on to provide specific examples of times that gratitude is warranted as well as language to help kids express their feelings for specific acts of kindness. As illustrations show children engaged in various activities, readers discover they can say, “‘Thank you for helping.’ ‘Thank you for sharing.’ / ‘Thank you for teaching.’ ‘Thank you for caring.’”

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

But is saying those types of words the only way to show your gratitude? Children (and especially those who are reluctant to talk with people they don’t know well or feel shy about speaking up) learn that there are other ways to show gratitude, including giving hugs, drawings, and tasty treats.

Smith then reveals a well-known secret about saying thank you that will make today’s inclusive kids happy to be part of an appreciative community: “If you start with one thank-you, you’ll find it will grow.” And, indeed, Smith finishes her story by assuring readers that kids all over the world are thanking others for their friendship and kindness.

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Image copyright Juliana Perdomo, 2022, text copyright Danna Smith. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Danna Smith’s sweet board book, with its jaunty rhymes and enthusiasm for sharing gratitude is just the kind of story parents, teachers, and other adults will want to read with their little ones and little ones will want to hear again and again. Her open-ended phrasing allows adults and kids to discuss the types of people who are helpers, sharers, teachers, and care-ers, as well as those within their family and friends who are deserving of thanks and on which occasions. Smith also gives kids ideas for a wide range of ways to say thank you that may use their talents and mean more to them than words. These examples can also spark talks between parents, teachers, and other caregivers on other ways to show thanks. And what if you have a child who just feels appreciation deep inside? They are represented in these pages too.

Juliana Perdomo’s vibrant illustrations of kind acts by friends, parents, teachers, veterinarians, bus drivers, activity instructors, and others will enchant little ones and get them talking about all the times someone has done something nice for them. Readers of all ages can’t help but be filled with gratitude and good feelings when they’re greeted by Perdomo’s smiling and enthusiastic characters. Perdomo mirrors Smith’s text to give kids a concrete understanding of the concepts while filling her pages with cheer and heartfelt gratitude. The idea that saying thank-you can bring people together in a community and around the world is one that will excite kids and encourage them to show their appreciation.

Joyful and inspiring, The Thank You Book would be a favorite read aloud in any young child’s home library and is a must for all daycare, school, and public library board book collections.

Ages 3 and up

Little Simon, 2022 | ISBN 978-1665902922

Discover more about Danna Smith, her books, poetry, and paintings on her website.

You can connect with Juliana Perdomo on Instagram and Twitter.

Buy a Book Day Activities

 

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Thank You! Postcard

 

Do your kids have someone they’d like to thank for a kind act, a gift, or just for being a loved family member or friend? This cheery Thank You postcard makes it easy for kids to show their gratitude and share their love to people close by or far away. This card is also perfect to share for the upcoming holidays!

Thank You! Postcard

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Thankfulness Jar

 

It’s good to remind yourself periodically – or even every day – of all the things you have to be thankful for and all the acts of kindness you’ve received. This activity sheet gives children (and adults who want to participate with their kids) a place to collect all these “thank-you”–worthy experiences. Just write a word or short description inside the jar each time you feel thankful. You might even want to share your appreciation with the people whose names appear in your jar with a note, a picture, a hug, or a homemade craft to show how much they mean to you. 

This Thankfulness Jar also makes a meaningful activity for Thanksgiving Day! Why not print a copy for each guest at your table, provide a pencil, and get everyone sharing what they’re thankful for this year!

Thankfulness Jar Activity Sheet

 

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You can find The Thank You Book at these booksellers

Amazon  | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review 

May 24 – National Brothers Day

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About the Holiday

Today we take time to celebrate brothers! Whether you grew up with one brother or a few or have a friend you love like a brother, today’s holiday gives you a terrific reason to spend time together or get in touch and make some new memories! This year, as we’re spending more time working and playing with family, today’s book is certainly a home run!

Calvin Gets the Last Word

Written by Margo Sorenson | Illustrated by Mike Deas

 

Calvin’s dictionary is well-positioned to know all about (and describe) Calvin’s life because from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to bed, that dictionary is in his hands. “Why? Because Calvin loves words—I mean REALLY loves words,” the dictionary says. And Calvin won’t rest until he’s found the perfect “word for everything—especially his rascally brother.” Take this morning, for example. Calvin grabs his dictionary, as usual, and heads to the kitchen for breakfast. At the table, Calvin takes a big gulp of milk. It’s just the moment his brother’s been waiting for to tell his super funny, nose-snorting joke. You can imagine what happens—and that’s why the dictionary’s page that contains the word revenge is soaked.

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

But is revenge the right word for Calvin’s brother? Not quite. On the school bus as the kids are tossing a backpack, talking, laughing, and hanging over the seats, Calvin’s dictionary offers up mayhem, but that doesn’t completely describe his brother either. As Calvin struggles in geography class and passes notes during library story time, his dictionary helps describe the mood, but the words it comes up with don’t really apply to his brother. Calvin does discover a good word for himself, though, when, on the way home from school, he stands up to a bully and helps a kindergartener.

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

At Little League practice, the dictionary tells readers, Calvin “loves to crush the ball during batting practice, sending it over the fence. That’s why the page that reads pulverize has grass stains on it.” Could pulverize be the right word for his brother? While Calvin thinks it could be fun, it’s not exactly right.

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

That night dinner turns into a repeat of breakfast—only in broccoli green. When Calvin goes to bed, he sits for a while, thinking. Then he grabs his exhausted dictionary and a glass of water and sneaks into his brother’s room. The dictionary thinks it knows what’s going to happen and riffles through its pages to find the right word, unconcerned whether it stays dry or not. And then, there on the page, is the perfect word! But wait, what’s going on? The word the dictionary offered no longer fits because now the brothers are laughing. The dictionary tries flipping to another page and a better word, but Calvin has it beat as he turns the pages and discovers the exact right word to describe his brother. What are all of the words the dictionary and Calvin have found? Come flip through Calvin Gets the Last Word yourself to find out!

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Image copyright Mike Deas, 2020, text copyright Margo Sorenson, 2020. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishers.

In her funny and unique mashup of sibling rivalry and vocabulary, Margo Sorenson offers kids an engaging story of the singular type of love brothers share uncovered little by little through word-building. Calvin’s dictionary makes a sincere and charming guide through high-interest words that lend panache and nuance to events throughout Calvin’s day even if they don’t quite describe his brother. Astute kids may notice that the words the dictionary chooses for Calvin’s brother proves his loyalty to his favorite reader. Calvin’s spewed milk, whispered secrets, and home run batting add up to a real kid that readers will love. The words that the dictionary finds are fun to learn and say and will spark an enthusiasm in readers to do their own flipping through the dictionary and thesaurus. Sorenson’s endearing ending rings true with a word kids are sure to embrace.

Mike Deas’ glasses-wearing and sweat suit-clad Calvin, whose dictionary is always at the ready to define his experiences, is a character readers will respond to. Images of the sprayed milk and broccoli, rockin’ school bus, library story rug, and baseball field are full of familiar details and plenty of action. As Calvin prepares to play his trick on his brother Deas gives kids a cutaway view of the house from above, letting them tiptoe through the maze of rooms with Calvin. The final scenes of the brothers checking out the dictionary together in the light of a bedside lamp is sibling devotion at its best.

A delightful family story that can stir a love of language, Calvin Gets the Last Word would be a favorite addition to home libraries. The book is highly recommended for school and classroom bookshelves to enhance language arts, writing, grammar, and vocabulary lessons and for public library collections as well.

Ages 6 – 8

Tilbury House Publishers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0884488224

Discover more about Margo Sorenson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mike Deas, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Brother’s Day Activity

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Best Brother Award Certificate

 

Today is all about how great your brother is! Print and fill out this Best Brother Award Certificate and give it to your brother—or brothers! And if you’d like an activity to do with your brother (or sister, Mom, and/or Dad), today, here’s a puzzle to do together! 

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“Big Words” Word Search

 

Knowing and using a wide range of words allows you to express yourself in exact—and often—fun ways. Find the 26 “big” words—one for each letter of the alphabet—in this printable word search puzzle.

“Big Words” Word Search Puzzle“Big Words” Puzzle Solution!

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You can find Calvin Gets the Last Word at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

P

March 7 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

In February we show our love with valentines, candy, and flowers. How can we continue to prove our love through the month of March? With books! National Reading Month is the perfect time to say “I love you,” by buying your family members and/or friends a special book they’ll cherish. Reading with your kids also gives you time to relax, giggle, talk, and enjoy some precious moments together. Why not start with today’s book, which is all about family love! 

I’d like to thank Tammi Sauer for sharing a copy of Lovebird Lou with me for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

Lovebird Lou

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

 

“Lou came from a long line of lovebirds.” His relatives all loved sharing the love, and Lou loved being a lovebird “until his flock visited the other side of the island.” There he saw pelicans who could fly in figure eights, flamingos who could stand on one leg, and nightingales who sang beautiful songs. Lou looked at his ordinary family and decided he wanted to be a pelican.

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Not wanting to quash his dreams, his mom said, “‘Okay, cupcake.'” Lou took off from the branch and flew through the air, doing intricate patterns just like the pelicans. His family members were all supportive. “‘We love you, Lou!'” they shouted, and when Lou bonked into a tree, his mom and dad caught him before he fell.

Lou thought maybe he’d make a better flamingo, so he joined the big pink birds in the shallow water and adopted the pose while his family cheered him on. “‘We love you, Lou!'” they all squawked. He was doing great until he lost his footing and splashed down. His parents were right there to dry him off and encourage his next dream to become a nightingale.

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

When Lou joined the ethereal chorus, he opened his beak and… well… his family members were his only fans. Back with his parents, Lou was disappointed that he couldn’t be a pelican, flamingo, or nightingale. “‘Maybe I’ll just be a rock.'” Lou said. His parents were all in and they even found a perfect place for him to sit and made him a “#1 Rock” sign to accompany him.

All day, Lou excelled at sitting in his spot until darkness and then rain fell. Lou was downhearted, wet, and scared. Lou knew the pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales couldn’t help him. He hurried his tail feathers back to his lovebird family, who welcomed him with lots of reassurances and “‘We love you, Lou!'” “‘I love you too!’ said Lou.”

The pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales thought that was so sweet. In fact, the next day they all shared their love in their own way too. As for Lou, he now understood that “lovebirds were good at the most important thing of all.”

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Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2022, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Tammi Sauer’s sweet story shows kids that every family has their own traditions and talents that are just right for them. When Lou is dazzled by the pelicans, flamingos, and nightingales – who all seem more exciting than his one-note family – and wants to emulate them, his parents’ hilarious support of his endeavors are spot on and will make both kids and adults laugh with recognition. Sauer’s quick pace, silly endearments, and frequent choruses of “‘We love you, Lou!'” will have kids wanting to hear the story over and over to chime in on each expression of love.

Stephanie Laberis’s vibrant lovebirds – first introduced in pairs of cuddly closeness and with Lou sandwiched between mom and dad – are charming and, in one funny image, look comically clueless as they watch the other birds demonstrate their special abilities. Little Lou is adorable as he tries his best to keep up with the other birds, tumbling with the pelicans, balancing with the much bigger flamingos, and scaring the nightingales with his raucous squawk. Despite his setbacks, Lou is always ready to try again, which makes both his dejected and his hopeful expressions touching. And hearts will be full when Lou – and the other birds – learn that all-important lesson about love.

A humorous and moving book about family togetherness, Lovebird Lou will be a well-loved addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Union Square Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1454941880

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stephanie Laberis, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

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Lovebirds Coloring Page

 

Get cozy with your loved ones and color these adorable lovebirds!

Lovebirds Coloring Page

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You can find Lovebird Lou at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 3 – Celebrating the Lunar New Year

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About the Holiday

The Lunar New Year began on February 1—ushering in the Year of the Tiger, which is known for bravery, wisdom, and leadership—and celebrations take place until February 15. Also known as the Chinese New Year and, in China, as the Spring Festival, the New Year is a time for festivities that include lion and dragon dances, fireworks, visiting friends and relatives, family meals, and special decorations. The Lunar New Year is the busiest travel season of the year as family members return home to spend the holiday with loved ones. Lunar New Year celebrations end each year with the Lantern Festival. To learn more about the history of the Lunar New Year, how to celebrate, and the signs of the zodiac, click here.

Amah Faraway

Written by Margaret Chiu Greanias | Illustrated by Tracy Subisak

 

Walking through the airport, Kylie’s stomach was full of butterflies. She and her mom were about to get on a plane from their home in San Francisco to visit Kylie’s Amah in Taiwan. Kylie’s mother was excited – and trying to get Kylie excited too. “We can…eat yummy new foods. We can… go to pretty new places. We can…have an adventure! And, we get to see Amah. It’ll be so fun.”

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Image copyright Tracy Subisak, 2022, text copyright Margaret Chiu Greanias, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Kylie connected with Amah every Saturday on the computer, and Amah told stories, sand songs, and showed Kylie snacks. She always spoke simple and slowly. But thinking about actually seeing Amah again, “Kylie jittered and jiggled in her seat.” She wished they didn’t have to go so far away, but when they got to the airport in Taiwan, Amah was waiting and holding a sign with Kylie’s name on it.

Kylie was excited to see her, but, still, she stayed close to Mama. When Amah talked she kind of understood, and when they got to “Amah’s apartment, everything seemed strange.” Except the faces in the photographs “were happily familiar.” Kylie got to meet her aunts, uncles, and cousins at a banquet just for her and Mama. There were ten, twelve-person tables full of family “(actual…or not?)” and food, but Kylie ate only the rice.

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Image copyright Tracy Subisak, 2022, text copyright Margaret Chiu Greanias, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Amah showed Kylie Taipei – “the city she loved” – and treated them to her favorite Chinese donuts, yóutiáo. They were different than the ones Kylie ate – “no frosting,  no filling, no CHOCOLATE.” At the park, Amah played like a child. “Lái wán,” she said. “Come play!” And they went to the night market. “Everywhere they went, Kylie trailed behind Amah and Mama.” Until the day they visited the hot springs.

Kylie dipped her toe in the warm water. It was so inviting, and Amah beckoned to her from the pool. “Kylie loved splashing,” and she jumped in. Suddenly, “it was a brand-new day.” Now Kylie led Amah and Mama through the night market, she shouted for them to play at the park, and she loved the Chinese donuts. She saw all the beauty in Taipei and enjoyed all of the food at another family “(actual or not)” banquet.

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Image copyright Tracy Subisak, 2022, text copyright Margaret Chiu Greanias, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

As Kylie and Mama got ready to go home, Amah’s apartment looked strange with their folded clothes and suitcases out. At the airport, “Kylie held tight to Amah” and asked why they had to go. Back home, Kylie and Amah resumed their Saturday video chats. Now Kyle spoke “simply and slowly,” showed Amah snacks, sang songs, and told stories. While they didn’t get to see each other in person often, a day did come when Kylie and Mama happily returned to the San Francisco airport – to welcome Amah for a visit!

Back matter includes notes from Margaret Chiu Greanias and Tracy Subisak about their relationships with their grandmothers who, like Kylie’s amah, lived in Taiwan; a discussion about the structure of the story; and short descriptions of the Taipei sights Kylie visits in the story as well as the meanings of certain Taiwanese foods.

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Image copyright Tracy Subisak, 2022, text copyright Margaret Chiu Greanias, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

In her heartwarming story, Margaret Chiu Greanias realistically depicts the emotions children often feel when visiting relatives after a long absence or in new surroundings. Her mirrored storytelling effectively demonstrates how, often, one familiar event can open children’s eyes to common bonds and traditions that help families bridge long distances and to help them appreciate cultural differences while developing strong relationships despite their separation. Speech bubbles incorporating Taiwanese and English, and also written with traditional Chinese characters, can teach nonChinese-speaking kids some simple words and will be a welcome addition for those children who do speak Chinese or Taiwanese.

Tracy Subisak’s mixed media illustrations create absorbing snapshots of Kylie’s interactions with Amah both at home in San Francisco and in Teipei. Rich colors and charming abstract depictions of the landmarks the family visits invite kids to linger over each page spread. More detailed and realistic portrayals of the family banquet, the donut shop, and the hot springs accentuate these places where Kylie and Amah share a bond over food and friendship. The mirror theme of the story is effectively portrayed throughout the story as in the first pages Kylie is led by Amah through the city while after the visit to the hot springs, Kylie does the leading. The weekly video chats also give readers a chance to see the growth of their relationship and how similar this grandmother and grandchild are.

A lovely and loving story for those with family faraway or nearby, Amah Faraway is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1547607211

Discover more about Margaret Chiu Greanias and her books on her website

To learn more about Tracy Subisak, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Celebrating the Lunar New Year Activity

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Year of the Tiger Coloring Page

 

Celebrate the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Tiger with this printable coloring sheet!

Year of the Tiger Coloring Sheet

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amah-faraway-cover

You can find Amah Faraway at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 6 – Blog Tour Stop for My Grandma’s Photos

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My Grandma’s Photos

Written by Özge Bahar Sunar | Illustrated by Senta Urgan | Translated by Amy Marie Spangler

 

Ali and his mother are visiting his grandmother, who cannot see or hear very well anymore and often does not recognize Ali or his sister. Today, they have brought old black-and-white photographs to share, but Grandma doesn’t look at them, instead falling asleep as she holds them. Overcome with emotion, Ali’s mother leaves the room, but Ali stays. When Grandma awakens, she notices the photos in her hand and asks if they are of one of Ali’s friends.

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

At first Ali doesn’t recognize the person in the picture, but then he notices a beauty mark on the person’s cheek and realizes that it’s a photo of his grandma when she was a young girl. When he tells her, his grandma suddenly remembers the day it was taken and the garden in which it was taken. She begins to look at the other photographs and recognizes a family picnic and her wedding day. Suddenly, Ali’s grandma becomes very animated and invites him to see her world.

“At that moment I felt as if I were being pulled into the photo,” Ali says. “Together with Grandma, I traveled into the past.” Ali sees his grandma as a child his own age, climbing a tree and leaping from branch to branch. When Ali joins her, his grandma whispers to him, ‘”It can’t really be taught with words. You have to find yourself a tree and climb it every day.'”

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Grandma jumps down and runs into another photo with Ali right behind her. Here, Grandma is a teenager riding a ferry, feeding seagulls, and dreaming of her future. Another photo takes them to the shop where she worked as a master seamstress. “A young woman tried on the skit Grandma had made for her. She twirled and laughed, and said she loved it. Grandma’s face beamed proudly, and mine did too,” Ali says.

The last photograph takes them to Grandma’s wedding. ‘”Let me show you how much you look like your grandpa,'” Ali’s grandma tells him. Grandma is wearing a “gorgeous wedding gown she’d made herself” and Grandpa looked so handsome as they dance together. At last, Ali’s grandma tells him it’s time for him to go home. When Ali asks if she’s coming too, she replies that she’s happy there. “‘I’m going to dance with y our grandpa a little longer. … Your grandpa and I have been apart for such a long time, you know.'”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-grandma's-photos-seamstress

Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Ali protests and says he wants to stay there with her, but Grandma tells him that he must go “‘to collect memories and photos of your own.'” She reminds him that if he misses her, she will always be there in the photos and that she “‘won’t forget anyone or anything ever again.'” Tears spring to Ali’s eyes. He hugs and kisses his grandma one last time. When he opened his eyes, Ali was back in the present. Now his family has hung most of Grandma’s photographs on the walls of Ali’s room. “Whenever I miss her,” he says, “I look at her photos. I’m sure she’s still there, at peace, dancing away….”

Note: While the male pronoun is used on the book’s jacket flap and in this review, the story contains no pronouns associated with Ali and the illustrations depict a child with short hair and wearing overalls.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-grandma's-photos-wedding

Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Özge Bahar Sunar’s beautiful tribute to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, first published in Turkey, offers an emotional bond between generations as Ali joins his grandma in formative moments during her life and discovers that they share many of the same experiences and dreams. Readers will be captivated by Sunar’s conversational storytelling and empathize with Ali’s gentle acceptance of his grandma’s failing memory.

As Ali’s recognition of his grandmother as a young girl in one of the photos and her recollection of the picnic it portrays leads to a magical trip back in time, readers will likewise become interested in learning more about their own grandparents and other relatives. For Ali and readers, his grandma’s passing takes place in the world of the photographs as Grandma chooses to remain dancing with her husband. Ali’s sweet and comforting hugs and final kiss for his grandmother before returning to the present reassures children that the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren continue endlessly through time.

Senta Urgan’s wispy pastel pencil illustrations, sprinkled with collage fabrics and sewing items, flowers, coins, and other elements as well as photographs of the author’s and illustrator’s families combine to create a moving, dreamlike feel that immerses readers in the story’s enchanting travel through time. As Ali’s grandma tells him that he must go while she stays behind, she is shown in a loving embrace with her husband on their wedding day, reinforcing the idea that for her, death is a comforting coming home to a place where she will be forever young. Flowers, vines, and trees that surround and support the characters create a motif that death is a natural part of life and that one’s love for another nurtures and grows.

A beautiful and tender way to talk about the life and death of a grandparent, family member, or beloved friend, My Grandma’s Photos is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542031158

Özge Bahar Sunar is a former teacher turned children’s author. She has written multiple picture books, including the bestselling The Hedgehog and the Exhibit, illustrated by Ceyhun Şen, which was translated into seven languages. Sunar lives with her two children in Antalya, Turkey, where she loves to think up new stories while hiking in the wild. You can find her on Instagram @ozgebaharsnr.

Senta Urgan is a graduate of Mimar Sinan University, where she studied sculpture. Since 2010 she has been illustrating books for children, including picture books and novels, and also works as a graphic designer. She is the founder of the brand Mala Hermana Handmade, where she exhibits her illustrations and ceramic art. You can connect with her Instagram @toporulkesindekikes.

Amy Marie Spangler is a cofounder of Istanbul-based AnatoliaLit Agency, and a commercial and literary translator with numerous books and short stories to her credit. You can connect with Amy on Twitter @Amy_Spangler.

Thank you to Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of My Grandma’s Photos with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

My Grandma’s Photos Blog Tour Activity

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Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for your favorite pictures of friends and family!

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1 ½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. If using your own twine or yarn: wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness and glue the end down to keep it from unraveling
  3. With the needle-nose pliers, roll one end of each wire to create a small coil
  4. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  5. Fit wires into the center hole on the top of the spool and push them into the clay until they are secure
  6. Clip photographs into the coils

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You can find My Grandma’s Photos at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 20 – Get Ready to Celebrate New Year’s Eve

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About the Holiday

As we get ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve and the beginning of a new year, adults and kids often look for opportunities to reflect and grow while sharing the traditions that keep our families and friendships strong. Today’s book embraces all three of these parts of New Year’s Eve and is a reassuring and uplifting read aloud for the holiday and throughout the year.

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Año Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Get Ready for New Year’s Eve Activity

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New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

 

Celebrate the New Year with this printable coloring page! You might even want to add some glitter to make the fireworks even more spectacular!

New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review