December 23 – National Roots Day

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About the Holiday

As families gather for holidays this month, National Roots Day encourages people to talk about their collective histories, look at old photographs, and tell family stories. Sharing laughs, traditions, and those “remember when…?” stories with children helps give them a sense of connection and belonging and ensures that important events, customs, and relationships aren’t lost to time.

Sing, Don’t Cry

By Angela Dominguez

 

Once a year, Abuelo came from Mexico to visit his family in America. “He always brought his guitar,” and he sang to his granddaughter and grandson every night. Abuelo would talk about his life, and if the children were sad, his advice was “‘Sing, don’t cry. Because singing gladdens the heart.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-abuelo-arrives

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

One of the stories Abuelo told was about a time when he was very young and his family “had to travel a long way to find a new home.” Just like his granddaughter and grandson’s family. He said that “singing made the distance seem smaller.” He also knew that when bad things happen, singing can make them better. “‘Some things may be lost forever,’” he said, “‘but maybe that makes room for new and wonderful things to be found.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-playing-guitar

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When you feel alone, Abuelo said, singing can attract friends. When there are days that are hard or when people are mean, singing—“even if it is only in your soul”—can cheer you. As Abuelo strummed his guitar and sang to his precious grandchildren, he reminded them that “‘I will always be singing with you.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-singing-uplifts

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Angela Dominguez pairs her heartwarming text with illustrations that are at once simple and complex as they hold images that span the generations while also bringing them together. As Abuelo arrives as his daughter’s house, his grandchildren greet him enthusiastically with signs and balloons. The children are excited to see Abuelo get out his guitar, and as he sings, readers see that each child is comforted in different ways by their interactions with their grandfather.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-singing-attracts-friends

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A sepia-hued portrait on the wall of Abuelo as a young man as well as clothing choices offer color-coded clues to Abuelo’s history and reassurance for events in the lives of his grandkids. As Abuelo reveals the restorative power of singing, Dominguez portrays examples of three situations on a tri-paneled page. The top, sepia-colored image depicts a boy sick in bed as a worried mother looks on; the second image is rose-colored and shows a single teddy bear; and in the aqua-toned third, a boy sits forlornly on the sidelines of an American football game.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-young-abuela

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of angeladominguezstudio.com.

Turning the page, these three panels are more fully developed, letting young readers experience each characters’ disappointment in events that will resonate with them. Turn the page again, and children see that Abuelo’s assurance of brighter days comes true for all. Abuelo’s positive outlook is further revealed in cherished framed photographs, and the final image of the whole family gathered around Abuelo and his guitar is joyful.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-family

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of angeladominguezstudio.com.

An Author’s Note includes the lyrics from Cielito lindo that inspired the story as well as a brief biography of Angela Dominguez’s grandfather, Apolinar Navarrete Diaz, that provides a deeper understanding of the story and the significance of Abuelo’s guitar.

An inspiring and uplifting story, Sing, Don’t Cry would be a welcome read for those times when encouragement is needed both at home and in a classroom setting.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627798396

Learn more about Angela Dominguez, her books, and her art on her website.

National Roots Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandpa-fill-in-sheet

I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages

 

What are some of the favorite things you love about your grandmother and grandfather? Fill out, draw your and your grandparents’ faces, and color these printable I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages. They even make nice gifts that your grandparents’ will appreciate!

I Love Grandma | I Love Grandpa

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-cover

You can find Sing, Don’t Cry at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review

March 15 – It’s National Craft Month

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About the Holiday

Does just walking through the door of Michael’s or A.C. Moore make your heart beat faster? Do your cabinets overflow with bottles of paint, glitter, ribbon, lace, and empty bottles and boxes? If so, then March is the month for you! This month we celebrate the creative energy and unique perspectives that result in beautiful, one-of-a-kind decor or clothing, fun group projects for kids and adults, and successful home-based businesses. Homemade love is also one of the best ways to show friends or family members how you feel—as you’ll see in today’s book. There are so  many reasons and ways to indulge your love of all things crafty this month—so what are you waiting for?!  

Sister Day!

Written by Lisa Mantchev | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

As Lizzie and her big sister, Jane, sit on a quilt watching the clouds, Lizzie tells how she loves that Jane has “the best imagination” and “can make up all kinds of things in her very own head.” Lizzie wants to play dress up, but Jane says, “not now.” How about telling a story? Jane can’t do that either because she’s going to her friend Emma’s house soon. “‘Maybe when you get home?’” Lizzie asks. “‘Maybe,’” says Jane.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-picnic

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Jane is gone all day. Night falls and still Jane isn’t home. Lizzie waits in the window seat and watches and watches. Finally, Jane is home! Lizzie shows her the fort she made using all the blankets. It will be perfect for telling stories under, but now Jane has to do her homework. “‘You’re always busy.’” Lizzie says. The next day the sisters look at the calendar. It’s almost full except for one Saturday. Suddenly, Lizzie has an idea for a wonderful surprise. She takes the pink crayon and “circles, circles, circles that Saturday.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-waiting

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

On Monday while Jane has soccer practice, Lizzie works on a dragon referee. On Tuesday instead of copying Jane’s jumps and twirls at ballet, Lizzie puts “tutus on sugarplum fairies.” On Wednesday during Jane’s piano lesson, Lizzie tunes up her imaginary orchestra. Thursday is karate day, and while Jane does her moves, Lizzie “sneaks, sneaks, sneaks to a quiet corner to finish up [her] surprise.” On Friday Jane goes to Emma’s again after school, and Lizzie gets help from Mom baking Jane’s favorite treat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-soccer

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Early Saturday morning, Lizzie grabs her sketchbook, her scissors, and some tape. It takes an hour and the whole roll of tape to make the surprise. Then Lizzie goes to Jane’s room. She knocks on the door. When there’s no answer, Lizzie opens the door. Jane’s room is empty. Lizzie runs “downstairs, yelling, ‘Mom, have you seen Jane?’” When Lizzie enters the kitchen, she finds Jane “wearing a T-shirt covered in glittery glue.” She made them at Emma’s house, Jane says as she hands one to Lizzie. 

Lizzie puts it on and pulls Jane into the living room. Pictures and decorations cover the walls, and delicious cupcakes and drinks are on the table. “‘Surprise! I wrote you a story!’” Lizzie says. “‘Happy Sister Day!’” As Jane looks around, she tells Lizzie, “‘You didn’t just draw a story, Lizzie. You made a whole lot of magic.’” Lizzie hugs her big sister. “‘It runs in the family,’” she says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-surprise

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Lisa Mantchev captures the happiness and disappointments of sibling relationships in her sweet story. In today’s busy family life, sisters—and brothers—don’t always get to spend as much time together as they might like. Mantchev reveals, however, that close bonds remain in the heart. Young readers will be enchanted by this loving sister duo and the surprise ending that shows a shared understanding and devotion between them. Sister Day! may inspire families to hold special sister and or brother days to let siblings connect and develop their unique relationship.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sister-day-calendar

Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2017, text copyright Lisa Mantchev, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

In her beautiful, light illustrations, Sonia Sánchez replicates the positive, happy relationship between Lizzie and Jane. As each day brings a new activity for Jane, readers will recognize the reality of a younger sibling waiting for the older one to finish. As Lizzie uses this time to draw her story, children will see that even though Lizzie and Jane aren’t together, they are thinking of each other. Lizzie’s imagination is creatively shown through transparent fantasy creatures who keep Lizzie company during Jane’s absence. Sánchez’s lovely color palette and delicate, detailed drawings invite children to spend time with these best-friend sisters.

Sister Day! would make a wonderful gift and a charming addition to sisters’ home libraries

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481437950

Discover more about Lisa Mantchev and her books for children, young adults, and adults on her website!

National Craft Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-heart-jar

I Love You Jar

 

Show your friends or family members how much they mean to you with this jar full of love!

Supplies

  • Small to medium size decorative jar or a recycled jar
  • Red felt or heavy paper
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Cut enough small hearts from the red felt or paper to fill the jar one-half to three-fourths full
  2. Fill the jar with the hearts
  3. Give it to your friend, sister, brother, mom, dad—anyone you love—and watch them smile!

Picture Book Review

January 16 – Nothing Day

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About the Holiday

Newspaper columnist Harold Coffin established Nothing Day in 1973 to satirize the proliferation of daily holidays. His purpose was to give people a day to do absolutely nothing. Sounds good to me! Still, does celebrating this holiday constitute doing something? This may be the most baffling holiday on the calendar! Why not find something—or nothing—to do with today’s book?

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna

 

A little girl and her mom are “back again” at the cottage—even trudging up the walk in “the same rain”—while Dad is working back at home in the city. While Mom works at her computer, the girl destroys Martians, but she says, “Actually, I was just pressing the same button over and over.” She wishes that her dad were there.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-cabin

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Mom turns away from her writing and watches her daughter playing her video game. “Is this going to be another day of doing nothing?” she growls. Mom takes the device and hides it—“as usual”—and the little girl finds it—“as usual.” But this time she takes it outside. As the rain pelts down from gloomy skies it looked as if everything in the “garden was hiding from the sun.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-playing-video-games

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

In the pond at the bottom of the hill she finds a line of flat stones. She hops from one to another, crushing them like the Martians in her game. While jumping, though, her game falls out of her pocket and into the pond. The water is so icy cold that she can’t grab it before it sinks out of sight. Oh no! she thinks, “Without my game, I have nothing to do.” The rain strikes her “like rocks,” and she feels “like a small tree trapped outside in a hurricane.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day--jumping-on-rocks

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Just then she spies four giant snails slithering by. She asks them if there is anything to do around there, and they tell her yes. She gently feels one of the snail’s antennae. It is “as soft as jello” and makes her smile. She follows the snails and discovers a field filled with mushrooms. Their damp musky smell reminds her of her grandparents’ basement—her “cave of treasures.” She walks on and finds a spot in the earth where she digs her hand into the ground. She feels “thousands of seeds and pellets and kernals, grains and roots and berries touch “her fingers and hand.” When she looks up the sun is shining “through a giant strainer” and blinds her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-snails

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

Her heart starts beating fast with energy. She takes off running and runs so quickly that she tumbles down the hill. She lands on her back with a flop, and when she opens her eyes, the world is topsy-turvy new. Energized, she climbs a tree and gazes out at the horizon, breaths deeply in the fresh air, drinks raindrops as they fall from a leaf, and notices bugs she’s never seen before. She talks to a bird, splashes in a puddle, and watches the world through stones as clear as glass.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-tumbling

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

She hurries home and takes off her raincoat. When she glances in the mirror, for a moment she thinks she “sees her dad smiling at [her].” Her mom is still writing, but now she looks different to the little girl—“like one of the creatures outside.” Her mom notices how soaked she is and takes her to the kitchen to dry her off in a big, soft towel. The little girl feels like giving her mom a big hug. For a moment she wants to tell her about all the things she saw and did, but she doesn’t.

Instead, they enjoy their hot chocolate quietly together. “That’s it,” she says. “That’s all we did. On this magical do-nothing day.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-hot-chocolate

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

While the protagonist of A Magical Do-Nothing Day may never have looked at the world outside closely, Beatrice Alemagna certainly has. Alemagna’s exquisite illustrations portray the beauty of our environment—both indoors and out—and our connections to it with novel descriptions and stunning color and perspectives. As the girl ventures outside, video game clutched tightly, her face registers sadness and wariness. The Martians from the game crawl over and surround her, even when the game is off, seeming to fill any space that might be open to exploration, and, indeed, her first forays into the wild are taken game-style, hopping from platform to platform, rock to rock.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-mirror

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

When the gaming device sinks into frigid water (as cold and impersonal as the gaming experience itself?), the child quickly comes out of her shell with the help of snails that lead her to greater discovery. The story gives readers much to ponder in the relationships between the child and parents and the child’s newfound appreciation for the natural world.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day is a fantastic book to add to home and classroom libraries to spur children’s exploration—both in the natural world and within. While I used the feminine pronoun in my review, the story is told from the first person point of view and the child is drawn with gender neutral clothing and hairstyle, making this a book with universal appeal.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062657602

Discover more about Beatrice Alemanga, her books, and her art on her website.

Nothing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainy-day-with-mushroom-and-cricket-coloring-pageNothing To Do Coloring Pages

 

Rainy days are perfect “do-nothing” days. The next time you have an indoor day, grab your crayons or colored pencils and enjoy these printable coloring pages

Splashing in the Rain Coloring Page | Cricket Hiding from the Rain Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

September 26 – Love Note Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-wolf's-first-howling-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to communicate how they feel about each other by writing a note of affection to their special someone, child, or friend. Sure, you can always text your note, but why not get creative? Leave your note on the bathroom mirror, tuck a written message into a lunch bag, hide a post-it in your loved-one’s shoe, or drop a letter off in person and share a cup of tea. Of course, you may choose to send a different kind of love note—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Little Wolf’s First Howling

Written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky | Illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee

 

The day had come for a big step in Little Wolf’s education. As Big Wolf led his son to the top of the hill, Little Wolf hung back, exploring every plant and rock formation. “‘Tonight’s the night,’ said Big Wolf, “‘Your first howling.’ Little Wolf’s ears shivered with excitement. ‘I’m ready,’ he said. ‘I’m ready to howl!’” They sat on the hill watching the stars and the moon appear. Little Wolf was eager to start.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

First, however, Big Wolf needed to “demonstrate proper howling form.” He stood up, breathed deeply, and lifted his face to the dark sky. “AAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” he howled, letting the last notes fade into the night air. The sound thrilled Little Wolf. He leaped on a fallen tree, raised his head and let out an “aaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooo I’m hoooowling, ‘oooowling, ‘ooooowling!”

Big Wolf gazed at his son with amusement and surprise and gently told him that he did not use proper finishing form. Again he demonstrated. Little Wolf was sure he knew how to do it now. He raised his head high and gave it all his might. “aaaaaaaaaaoooooooo…dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-wooooooooooo.” Little Wolf enthusiastically waited for his father’s opinion.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf wanted to be supportive; he wanted to be a good dad. “‘Son, I am proud of your nose, which has led to many new trails. I admire your strength when you tumble with the other pups. Most of all, I love how your ears express your thoughts. But your howling? It is not proper howling form.’”

Little Wolf felt listened carefully one more time as his father showed him again how to howl. The call was beautiful as it echoed over the hills. Then it was Little Wolf’s turn. Inside, his “heart swelled with wildness and joy,” and even though he knew what was welling up inside of him was not correct form, he opened his muzzle and let it out: “skiddily skoddily beep bop, a booobooo booooooooo…boppita boppita wheeee bop, a diddily daddily doooooooooooooo…”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-wolf's-first-howling-big-wolf-demonstrating

Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf cocked his head and perked up his hears and listened closely. As the notes floated past him, “his tail started wagging. His ears started twitching. His paws started tapping.” Then, before he knew it, he joined in with a “yip-yip a dibby, dibby, do-wop a dooooooooo!,” and Little Wolf repeated it back. As the sky grew darker and the moon rose high, the two voiced filled the valley with jazzy music.

The time grew late, and father and son headed back home. Little Wolf couldn’t wait to tell the others about his first howling. “‘Big Wolf smiled. ‘Oh, I expect they already know,’” he said.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-wolf's-first-howling-howling-together

Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Laura McGee Kvasnosky’s father and son story is heartening in many ways. Big Wolf’s gentle and patient teaching style shows the love he has for his child while Little Wolf’s eagerness to please his dad is equally warm, but also overflowing with his own personality. In Big Wolf, Kvasnosky has created a wonderful adult character. By prefacing his instructions with Little Wolf’s strengths, Big Wolf demonstrates not only proper howling form, but also a beautiful understanding of how to build Little Wolf’s self-confidence and self-image. His willingness to really listen to Little Wolf’s howling and allow his son to take the lead is a lesson that is enriching for both children and adult readers. Kids will adore howling like Little Wolf, and adults will smile at the last line, which is full of humor and love.

Kate Harvey McGee’s gorgeous nighttime scenery provides the perfect backdrop to this sweet story. As the night grows darker, her blues become lush and deep, highlighting Big and Little Wolf as they raise their voices to the bright full moon. Yellow accents in the flowers, typography, and tiny owlets create a cozy glow that reflects the love between father and son. Stippling of the wolves fur coats brings these beautiful animals to life. Images of the father and son, both close together and a bit farther apart, mirror their relationship and the pup’s growing independence.

Little Wolf’s First Howling is a fantastic read aloud and a cozy book to snuggle up with at bedtime. It would be a much-asked for favorite for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763689711

You can learn more about Laura McGee Kvasnosky and her books—and find cool projects to do too—on her website!

Love Note Day Activity

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

Love Notes to Share

 

Today’s a perfect time to share your feelings with those you love! Print out these cute Love Notes and give them to your favorite people!

Picture Book Review

August 4 – It’s Family Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

When families form, each person comes with their own history, which is then blended to create an entirely new story. Some families know all about great, great, great grandma or grandpa, while for some the distant past is a bit hazy. No matter how much you know about your family, though, you know that each step along the way for each person has brought you to the place you are now—together! This month encourages people to research their genealogy and discover more about their ancestors. It can be fun to draw a family tree or put together a scrapbook of photos, old and new. But whatever you do, don’t forget to celebrate your family!

One Family

Written by George Shannon | Illustrated by Blanca Gomez

 

It’s 6:00 and “one is one”: a little lady with a cotton-candy swirl of white hair is reading one book in the light of her one lamp. In the bedroom “one is two”: a boy and a girl have changed into pajamas, leaving one pair of shoes—two shoes with yellow laces—and a shirt on the floor. They’ve grabbed their team of horses—two stick ponies—and are galloping around the room. They make one family.

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Outside, “one is three”: a little girl is out with her mom and dad. As they pass a window, she points to one bowl of fruit holding three pears. In the toyshop window, the girl sees one house of three bears. The one family walks by happily. On another street “one is four”: two kids sit in their grandpa and grandma’s car. Grandpa has one ring of four keys. Grandma is carrying a basket with one pile of four puppies. Where is this one family going?

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2016, text copyright George Shannon, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the zoo “one is five”: a family of three kids and two adults watch one monkey hold one bunch of five bananas while another plays with one hand of five cards. In a busy house “one is six”: While a woman hangs out one line of six wet shirts, a girl paints one butterfly with six legs. The six people are one family working together.

In another neighborhood “one is seven”: one flock of seven birds flies over the tall apartment houses as one family of four adults, a child, and twin babies talk. Who is the “one bouquet of seven blooms” for? A door opens to a home where “one is eight”: one picture of eight ducks hangs on the wall above a child coloring with one box of eight crayons. The room is getting full as eight people from one family find places to gather.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-one-family-seven

Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the seaside “one is nine”: a group of nine men, women, and children sit on one bench near one staircase of nine steps. One of the children has built one cairn of nine rocks. In a bustling kitchen “one is ten”: sitting at the table and standing near the stove are ten members of one family. A girl has baked one batch of ten cookies. On the wall is one shelf of ten books.

In this one town, all these people come together walking dogs, playing with balls, visiting neighbors, waving from windows, strolling babies, and having fun. Here “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-one-family-one-world

Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In his unique take on a counting book, George Shannon challenges readers to consider the way we think about the number and the idea of “one,” both mathematically and linguistically. Along the way the story also invites readers to think about the nature of family. As each family unit grows larger from page to page, children see that no matter how many people are included, the group is one family. The sequential building on the idea of family organically leads to the insight that our one world is made up of many people—and even many families—but that we are all connected as one family on earth.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-one-family-ten

Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, text copyright George Shannon, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In her vibrant and inclusive illustrations, Blanca Gomez celebrates what it means to be a family and even invites readers to perhaps make up their own stories about how each family came together. Every page offers welcome views of multigenerational, interracial, and multiethnic families. Three examples of the featured number on each two-page spread are just the right amount for kids to count and discuss how we use collective nouns to denote ideas such as “one pair” for two or “one batch” and “one bunch” for any number of cookies or flowers. A final spread gives readers another chance to count the items they found in the book, and the endpapers tell a story of their own.

With so much to see, talk about, and count, on every page, One Family is a fantastic book to add to school, classroom, and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015 | ISBN 978-0374300036

Find a gallery of illustration and other artwork by Blanca Gomez on her website!

Family Heritage Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-family-tree-coloring-page

I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page

 

Filling in a family tree is a fun way to learn more about grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and where your family came from. Print this I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page then write the names or draw pictures of your family members in the hearts, and color the picture.

Picture Book Review

May 24 – National Brother’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we honor the brothers in our lives who spend time with us, share our memories, lend a helping hand, and are best lifelong friends. To celebrate, spend time with your brother or brothers. If you don’t live close, give your brother a call and reminisce!

I Am a Big Brother!

By Caroline Jayne Church

 

A little boy gazes at the new tiny bundle that’s come home today. He smiles at the sparkling eyes and itty-bitty fingers. “I’m a big brother now, hooray!” he says. He remembers when he was as small as the new baby, but now he’s big enough to help push the stroller and give the baby a bottle. And he can “always find what baby needs”–even a clean diaper when the old one is dirty.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-am-a-big-brother-new-baby

Copyright Caroline Jayne Church, courtesy of Cartwheel Books

His mom and dad tell him he’s so clever when he entertains the baby with his teddy bear and toys. He knows that he’s “the best big brother ever!” He cuddles with his new baby and gives tickles until the air is filled with giggles. When it’s bath time, the little boy holds the sponge and splashes in the bubbles.

He helps put the baby to bed for naptime and then plays quietly with his toys nearby, watching over his little charge. “But if baby wakes with cranky cries,” he says, “I softly sing sweet lullabies.” He’s looking forward to his baby getting bigger and a time when they can play together because he knows that he is “a big brother forever” and that he, the baby, Mommy, and Daddy are a family who love each other.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-am-a-big-brother-toys

Copyright Caroline Jayne Church, courtesy of Cartwheel Books

Caroline Jayne Church’s new big brother is a cutie full of joy and the excitement of responsibility when a baby joins the family. The bubbly and cozy rhymes and fun vocabulary will engage little ones as they make this life-changing transition. Young readers will see that they can help with the new baby and will be reassured that they are always an important and loved part of the family.

Church’s adorable brother and baby will charm little ones who already are or are about to become a brother. Their sweet expressions, cuddly toys, and comfy, colorful jammies will make any child smile.

Ages 1 – 4

Cartwheel Books, 2015

Discover more about Caroline Jayne Church, her books, and her artwork on her website!

National Brother’s Day Activity

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Best Big Brother Certificate

 

Being a great big brother is something to be celebrated! Here’s a printable Best Big Brother Certificate for the brothers in your life!

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.”

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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.”

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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

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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