June 27 – It’s Pride Month

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About the Holiday

To commemorate the Stonewall Riots, which took place in Manhattan on June 28, 1969 as a protest demanding the establishment of places where LGBTQ+ people could go and be open about their sexual orientation without fear of arrest, Brenda Howard instituted Gay Pride Week and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Parade in 1970. These events later inspired the New York City Pride March, which became a catalyst for the formation of similar parades and marches across the world. Pride Month was officially recognized in 1999 by President Bill Clinton. During the month of June the LGBTQ+ community celebrates diversity, cultural accomplishments and influence, and the strides that have been made politically and socially.

The month also highlights the need for renewed vigilance to protect hard-won rights while moving forward to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community achieves full equality and acceptance. Globally, activists work year-round to end abuses and advocate for laws and policies to protect all. Around the world, the rainbow flag, designed in 1978 by American artist, gay rights activist, and U.S. Army veteran Gilbert Baker, flies proudly over a variety of events, including parades, marches, concerts, book readings, parties, and workshops.

Sam Is My Sister

Written by Ashley Rhodes-Courter | Illustrated by MacKenzie Haley

 

All summer long, brothers Evan, Sam, and Finn “played with trains, climbed trees, and fished in the river behind Grandpa’s house.” They made a rocket from a cardboard box and shot into outer space. “‘Zoom! Zoom! Brothers to the moon!’ Evan cheered.” When they went to the library, they gathered all the books about space they could find and headed to the check-out desk. But on the way, Sam spied a “glittery book that had a long-haired princess on the cover.” He took it from the shelf and checked that one out too.

Outside the library, Evan wanted to know why Sam wanted “‘a girl book instead of a space book.'” Their mom said “‘Books are for everyone to enjoy,'” and Sam said that girls could go to space too, but Evan still didn’t understand why Sam wanted that book. Soon it was time to get haircuts before school began. Evan and Finn had their hair cut short, like dad’s, but Sam was happy with long hair. Mom and Dad said okay. Evan quietly asked Dad why Sam didn’t want to look like them anymore. Dad told him that was up to Sam. Evan did see how happy Sam looked.

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Image copyright MacKenzie Haley, 2021, text copyright Ashley Rhodes-Courter, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

On the first day of school, Sam asked to wear a dress instead of shorts. Evan protested, saying “‘Dresses are for girls…. Why do you want to dress all wrong?'” Sam answered, “‘I want to wear what I like.'” Instead of a dress, Mom brought Sam a hair bow to wear. Sam loved it. But at school some of the older kids made fun of Sam and tried to grab the bow. One boy asked why Sam was wearing it and another said “‘Boys don’t put stuff in their hair.'” Sam shouted back, “‘Well, I do!'” and went to sit under the climbing dome. Evan chased after Sam and suggested they play spaceship, but Sam didn’t want to.

“Mom and Dad started letting Sam wear dresses after school and on the weekends. … Evan had never seen Sam so happy.” One day while drawing, Evan asked Sam about wanting to look like a girl. Sam explained, “‘Because I am a girl…. On the inside.'” Evan still didn’t understand, so Sam explained that it was like trying to draw with the wrong hand. When Evan tried it, he grew frustrated and understood that it just didn’t feel right. He was glad he didn’t have to do that all the time.

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Image copyright MacKenzie Haley, 2021, text copyright Ashley Rhodes-Courter, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

That night Mom and Dad sat down with Evan, Sam, and Finn and said they had talked with some doctors and experts. They explained what they had learned about how even though called a boy at birth, Sam identified as a girl. “‘The word for that is transgender,'” Mom said. “‘Yes, that’s me!’ said Sam.” Dad affirmed Sam’s right to choose what was best for her, and Mom said their job was making sure Sam, Evan, and Finn were “‘happy and healthy.'”

Later, while the kids were playing, Evan asked if they’d still be able to do all the same things they had always done together, and Sam said, “‘of course!'” When Sam began wearing dresses to school, neither the boys nor the girls wanted to play with her. Evan stood up for Sam, telling the kids, “‘Hey, don’t talk like that to my sister!'” Sam was happy to hear Evan call her his sister. That night as the three watched the moon rise, Finn and Evan wondered if Sam would still want to come with them. “‘Princesses can go to the moon,’ Sam whispered back. ‘Yes they can,’ Evan said. ‘Zoom! Zoom! Family to the moon!'”

Back matter includes an Author’s Note about her own family, on whom the story is based. as well as resources for adults looking for more information on organizations that support the LGBTQ community.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sam-is-my-sister-school

Image copyright MacKenzie Haley, 2021, text copyright Ashley Rhodes-Courter, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In her sweet and thoughtful story, Ashley Rhodes-Courter offers validation and acceptance for transgender children and their families. Through realistic dialogue and Evan’s often pointed questions and observations, Rhodes-Courter invites siblings and other family members, friends, and readers to engage in thinking, discussing, and understanding the feelings and experiences of a transgender child. She also depicts the types of hurtful comments and ostracizing that transgender children experience at school and in their communities. Rhodes-Courter uses these occurrences, however, to also demonstrate how supportive siblings can stand up for their sister or brother. Sam’s family’s strong and loving acceptance is a highlight of the story. As Sam begins to show a preference for long hair, princess books, and dresses, Rhodes-Courter demonstrates the steps, through language and actions, that parents and other adults can take to affirm a child’s autonomy and ultimately build a happy and inclusive family with unbreakable bonds.

MacKenzie Haley’s expressive illustrations will draw readers in with her depictions of imaginative play and the consistency of the siblings’ relationship throughout the changes taking place for Sam and within the family. Portrayals of Evan’s confusion lead into welcome images of his conversations with Mom and/or Dad as well as his unstinting embrace of and support for his sister. Images of the courage that Sam and Evan display in responding to the playground taunts will tug at readers’ hearts, and the family’s unity is inspiring.

An uplifting and heartwarming story that resonates with understanding for transgender children and beautifully depicts the acceptance all children should receive from family and their community. Sam Is My Sister is a must for inclusive family bookshelves and for all school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807506516

Discover more about Ashley Rhodes-Courter and her books and her advocacy work on the behalf of children on her website.

To learn more about MacKenzie Haley, her books, and her art on her website.

Pride Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-magnet-craft

Rainbow Magnet

 

If you’re stuck on rainbows, you can make this mini rainbow to stick on your fridge or locker!

Supplies

  • 7 mini popsicle sticks
  • Paint in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, Indigo, violet (ROYGBIV)
  • Adhesive magnet
  • A little bit of polyfill
  • Paint brush
  • Glue or hot glue gun

Directions

  1. Paint one popsicle stick in each color, let dry
  2. Glue the popsicle sticks together side by side in the ROYGBIV order, let dry
  3. Roll a bit of polyfill into a cloud shape and glue to the top of the row of popsicle sticks
  4. Attach the magnet to the back of the rainbow

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sam-is-my-sister-cover

You can find Sam Is My Sister at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 22 – It’s National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month

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About the Holiday

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month ushers in a full summer of delicious and nutritious eating with bushels of scrumptious strawberries, blueberries, peppers, squash, lettuce, tomatoes, and so much more. Whether you enjoy the season’s delicacies in a smoothie, as dessert, or as the highlight of a main course, the flavor of locally grown produce can’t be beat. June is also a perfect time to get kids involved in gardening and learning about the growth cycle of plants, fruit, and vegetables from the tiniest seed to ready to pick. Today’s book cleverly combines children’s fascination with this wonder of nature with their own beginnings. 

How You Came to Be

Written by Carole Gerber | Illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi

 

Little ones are always interested in where they came from and how they were born, and parents fondly remember all those months of anticipation and love that led up to the birth of their child. But how can a mom (or dad) relay those special feelings and extraordinary changes in a way that a toddler or preschooler can understand?

In How You Came to Be, a mother talks lovingly to her baby using sweet, conversational language that is straightforward and sure to make both adult and child smile. Carole Gerber begins with the moment of conception when “…a wiggly little cell from another / joined a round little cell from me. … Together these two tiny cells formed / one brand-new cell that would become YOU.” Then with each month, Gerber offers size comparisons to a fruit or a vegetable to help little ones visualize their growth and the developmental changes that came with it, from a pea in the first month to a melon in the ninth.

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Image copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2022, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2022. Courtesy of Rise x Penguin Workshop.

Along the way, kids discover that in the second month they were the “size of a kidney bean. / Your head was really big, / with lots of room inside / for your brain to grow.” They also learn about how their face was taking shape and the umbilical cord that nourished them. In the fifth month, little ones find out that while they were now the size of a banana, their bones were beginning to develop, their legs were getting longer, and they were able to kick. “Sometimes when I rubbed my belly, / I felt you thump back. / Was that your way of saying hello?” What a wonderful line for a mom to read to show a little one how strong their bond is and how long they’ve been communicating.

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Image copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2022, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2022. Courtesy of Rise x Penguin Workshop.

“In the ninth month,” the mother narrator says, “you were large enough and strong enough to come out into the world.” She recalls all of the preceding months and ends with this message that every child will want to hear: “I loved you from the beginning / and I always will.”

Back matter includes a glossary of five words that adults can use for extended discussions with their child, a list of stages as a fetus develops the ability to move and the five senses. Two paragraphs also describe a vaginal birth and a C-section birth in language that is age accessible.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-you-came-to-be-baby

Image copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2022, text copyright Carole Gerber, 2022. Courtesy of Rise x Penguin Workshop.

It’s easy to imagine a parent and child reading How You Came to Be while snuggling, giggling, and being amazed together. Carole Gerber’s scientifically sound and charming storytelling will make this book a family favorite, and offers a fun way to revitalize grocery shopping as well!

Sawsan Chalabi’s gorgeous illustrations, which juxtapose lush depictions of fruit and vegetables entwined with vines or growing on trees or in gardens with images of mothers thinking about and preparing for their baby’s arrival and are placed on velvety black backgrounds, draw readers of all ages into the marvels of birth. Her two-page spread of a mother cradling her newborn surrounded by wildflowers is as simply beautiful as the expression of love the page’s verse contains.

A tender and evocative way for parents and children to share their exquisite bond and unending love, How You Came to Be will make a much-appreciated baby shower or new baby gift and a favorite addition to family bookshelves as well as public library collections.

Ages 2 – 4

Rise x Penguin Workshop, 2022 | ISBN 978-0593225738

Discover more about Carole Gerber and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sawsan Chalabi, her books, and her artwork, visit her website.

National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month Activity

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Play with Your Food Games

 

Young children will have fun testing their memory and matching these fruits and vegetables from today’s book.

To Play a Memory Game

  1. Print two copies of this Play with Your Food Memory Game Template
  2. Cut the cards apart
  3. Place the cards randomly face down on a table 
  4. Turn over one card and try to find it’s match. If the images on the card match, put them aside. If the cards don’t match put them back on the table and try again until a match is made. Continue playing until all the cards are matched.

To Play a Matching Game

  1. Print two copies of this Play with Your Food Matching Game Board Template
  2. Cut one template into individual fruit and vegetable cards
  3. Let toddlers or preschoolers match the individual cards to the fruit and vegetables on the game board

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-you-came-to-be-cover

You can find How You Came to Be at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 27 – National Road Trip Day

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About the Holiday

In 2019 Pilot Flying J, the country’s largest travel center operator, established National Road Trip Day to mark the start of the summer travel period from Memorial Day weekend through the beginning of September. If you’re traveling to see family or friends you haven’t seen in awhile or setting your sights on new adventures near or far, remember to pack a few great books to take along – like today’s book, which takes readers on a long, cross-country road trip, with a best buddy, of course!

Carson Crosses Canada

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Kass Reich

 

Annie Magruder and her little dog, Carson, had a pretty great life living along the shore of the Pacific Ocean. One day a letter arrived for Annie from her sister Elsie. Elsie was sick and needed cheering up so Annie packed her bags, loaded up her camping gear, and “filled a cooler with baloney sandwiches.” For Carson she brought along dog food and of course Squeaky Chicken. They pulled away from their house and headed east.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

“All morning they drove in the rattlebang car.” Were they there yet? Carson wanted to know. But they were on a loooong trip—all across Canada, Annie told him. She also said there’d be a surprise for him at the end. “Carson loved surprises. Squeaky Chicken had been a surprise. Every time Carson chewed, he got a brand-new noise. Skreeeee! Wheeeee! Iiiiiy!”

Twisty roads took them into the Rocky Mountains, where Annie pitched her tent for the night. Carson stood guard, watching for bears. The next day they rolled into dinosaur country. Carson could hardly control his excitement at seeing the enormous bones. Could this be his surprise? But Carson didn’t get to take a single bite—not even a little lick.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

On day three they came to flat farmland, where “grain grew in carpets—yellow, blue, gold.” While Annie admired the wide-open sky during a picnic lunch, Carson chased after grasshoppers, finally snatching one for his dessert. On the next day, the sun was so hot that as Annie and Carson drove past Lake Winnipeg, they stopped to take a dip.

After that there were more days and even more days spent in the car passing forests of trees and boulders. Carson passed the time barking and wondering about his surprise. At night, when he and Annie camped, they listened to the loons calling, “Ooo-wooooo. Ooo-hoo-hoo.” When they reached Niagara Falls, they stopped to watch the thundering water and got soaked with its spray.

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Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

In Quebec City, Annie and Carson enjoyed French delights, including a pork pie called tourtière, which Carson gobbled up in two bites. Was this their destination? Oh, no—they still had a ways to go! Once, while Carson was napping, he heard Annie shout, “‘Look! The Atlantic Ocean!’” Carson was so thrilled to see an ocean once more that he ran to the edge and rolled in the mud until he was covered.

The next day brought “an island of red and green” as pretty as a postcard plus lobster rolls for two. Here, Annie told Carson, they were getting close. There was still one night’s stop, however. “In the campground that night, there was fiddle music—so friendly and fast, it made everyone dance. Annie clapped and jigged. Carson chased his tail.” With the promise of “‘tomorrow’” whispered in his ear, Carson fell asleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-carson-crosses-canada-quebec

Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

A ferry ride took them to Elsie’s. Her “house stood waiting beside the ocean. It was red like the house back home. Out came a woman who looked like Annie. Her steps were slow, but her smile was as wide as the sea.” Annie and her sister hugged for a long time until Carson yipped, looking for his surprise. Bounding toward him came a dog that looked “so much like Carson, it was like looking into a mirror.” It was his brother, Digby! They hadn’t seen each other since they were puppies. Spending time with Annie and Carson was just what Elsie needed. The four “loved the salt air. They loved the red house. And they loved their sweet time together.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-carson-crosses-canada-elsie's-house

Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Kass Reich. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

For young armchair travelers, Linda Bailey has crafted a wonderful story that combines the best of sightseeing with an emotional tug that is warm and uplifting. The love between Annie and Carson is evident from the first page and swells as they reunite with Elsie and Digby, taking readers along for the rewarding ride. Bailey’s lyrical and humorous view of Canada’s expansive beauty through the eyes of both Annie and Carson will delight kids and leave them wanting to learn more. The reaffirmation that family stays strong even across many miles will cheer children and adult readers alike.

Kass Reich’s gorgeous hand-painted gouache illustrations put children in the back seat of the little, well-packed “rattlebang” car with sweet Carson on a tour of Canada. They’ll view awesome redwood trees, majestic mountains, the bone yards of Dinosaur Provincial Park, Quebec City, fields, lakes, and clear nights. Reich’s vivid colors and rich details invite kids to linger over the pages and learn even more about Canada. Little ones will also like pointing out Squeaky Chicken, who is happily enjoying the trip as well.

The book’s endpapers provide a colorful map of Canada with Carson and Annie’s route clearly marked along with their sightseeing stops.

Carson Crosses Canada is a sweet, beautiful book that kids will want to read again and again. It would be a wonderful addition to home and library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101918838  

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website!

You can learn more about Kass Reich and her books as well as view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

National Road Trip Day Activity

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Road Trip Race Game

 

Here’s a racing game that kids will love! With poster board, paper, and chalk or other art supplies, kids can place their track in a city, the country, the desert, or even in outer space! Once the scene is ready, get out your own toy cars or trucks to play with or use the printable car or truck game pieces included below. Use a traditional playing die or the included printable 8-sided playing die. The first player to the finish line wins—or shake it up a bit and make the last person to the line the winner.

The track can be laid out on the floor and taped in place or created on poster board or paper with the supplies below:

Supplies

  • Poster board or tri-fold display board. I used a 12-inch by 4-foot section of a tri-fold board in my example. This allows you to fold up the board for easier storing.
  • White paper
  • Chalk, crayons, or colored pencils
  • Glue or tape
  • Scissors
  • Toy trucks or cars
  • Printable Cars Game Pieces | Trucks Game Pieces (optional)
  • Printable 8-sided Playing Die

Directions

  1. Cut 30 4- or 5-inch by 1½-inch strips from the white paper (or more for a longer track)
  2. Have kids lay out a track on the board using the white paper strips (each strip is one space) leaving room in between the rows for scenery
  3. Glue or tape the strips in place
  4. Draw scenery around the track OR cut trees, buildings, landmarks, or other scenery from paper and color. Glue or tape to board. 
  5. Print and assemble 8-sided playing die with tape (optional)
  6. Give each player a toy truck or car. Alternately, print and cut out included Truck Game Pieces. (To make them sturdier, print on heavy paper or glue them to cardboard)
  7. Choose a player to go first
  8. Players take turns rolling the die and moving the appropriate number of spaces
  9. The first (or last) player to the finish line is the winner

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-carson-crosses-canada-cover

You can find Carson Crosses Canada at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | 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!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-calvin-gets-the-last-word-cover

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lovebird-lou-family

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lovebird-lou-pelicans

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 17 – It’s Black History Month

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About the Holiday

Black History Month celebrates the achievements and contributions of African Americans in United States History. Originally a week-long observance initiated by writer and educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson in1926 and occurring during the second week in February to commemorate the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, Black History Month was officially established in 1976 by then president Gerald Ford. The holiday is now celebrated across the country with special events in schools, churches, and community centers.

The theme for 2022 is “Black Health and Wellness” and focuses on the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also on alternate ways of practicing medicine throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals, and initiatives that Black communities engage in to live healthy lives.

To learn more about Black History Month, find information on this year’s events, access resources for more research, and find content for teachers, visit the BlackHistoryMonth.gov

The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

During the summer of 1962, when Elijah Cummings was eleven years old, he and other African American children marched for the integration of a Baltimore city pool. They were met with a white mob who shouted at them to “‘Go back where you came from!'” and threw rocks and bottles at them. This protest, organized by civil rights lawyer Juanita Jackson Mitchell, inspired Elijah to consider becoming a lawyer also.

Elijah’s parents had moved to Maryland from South Carolina in the 1940s, where they had worked the land where their parents had once been enslaved and where “Blacks were beaten for seeking voting rights. Elijah, his parents, and his six siblings lived in a four-room row house, where his mother and father – having only a fourth-grade education – stressed the importance of schooling. But for inquisitive Elijah, the nuts and bolts of reading and writing were elusive. Because of the cramped conditions at home, Elijah took to studying at the library, where the librarians tutored him after their shifts and made it possible for Elijah to succeed.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2022, text copyright Carole Boston Weatherford, 2022. Courtesy of Random House Studio.

Through hard work, scrimping, and saving, Elijah’s parents were able to buy a house with more room and a yard. Here, Elijah’s mother became a preacher and grew her small group of women who met in their home’s basement into a small church, the Victory Prayer Chapel. In addition to leading services, Elijah’s mother lived what she believed by helping those in need. Elijah’s father inspired him to become all that he could be. 

Even as a young boy, Elijah worked hard and, on Sundays after church, he listened to Rev. Martin Luther King’s speeches by transistor radio. He watched as African American boys were put into reform school, and he vowed to become a lawyer, but his high school guidance counselor tried to dissuade him. With the help of his parents and the pharmacist at the drug store where he worked, Elijah attended Howard University, where he was a standout student and leader. He became a lawyer and in 1983 was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2022, text copyright Carole Boston Weatherford, 2022. Courtesy of Random House Studio.

“In 1996, Elijah Cummings was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives,” and later became the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “He spoke out to ensure that everyone was treated fairly and equally.” Even though he was a leader in Washington DC, Elijah continued to live in his inner-city Baltimore neighborhood, and during the protests against police brutality in 2015, he appealed for calm as he walked “with residents singing an African American spiritual: ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.'” Before his death in 2019, Elijah Cummings was named chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, where, as he had for his entire career, he advocated for change now and for the future our children will inherit.

Quotes by Elijah Cummings on his inspirations, work, and beliefs included throughout the story allow readers to hear in Cummings’ own words his passion and dedication to creating a more equitable and caring America for all. 

A Foreword reprints remarks given by Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi at Elijah Cummings’ funeral on October 25, 2019. Back matter includes an excerpt of the statement from the Congressional Black Caucus upon Cummings’ death on October 17, a Timeline of his life and work, a Bibliography, and Source Notes for the Cummings’ quotes found throughout the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-faith-of-elijah-cummings-house-of-representatives

Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2022, text copyright Carole Boston Weatherford, 2022. Courtesy of Random House Studio.

Carole Boston Weatherford’s moving biography of Elijah Cummings highlights the strong and supportive family unit that inspired and sustained Elijah as he grew from a thoughtful and hardworking boy into an empathetic and influential leader. Her focus on formative events in Cummings’ life depict how early experiences often shape the person children become while continuing to inform their opinions, beliefs, and occupations. Through his own words, Weatherford reveals Cummings’ commitment to the children who will read this biography as well as to all young people who will benefit from and carry on his work.

In her rich and expressive illustrations, Laura Freeman recreates pivotal events, touching examples of the Cummings’ family solidarity, and community-based actions inspired by the family’s religious faith to paint a portrait of Elijah’s youth and young adulthood. As he rises to the highest levels within the US Congress, while never losing touch with the neighborhood and people he loved, Freeman’s striking images will entice readers to learn more about Elijah Cummings’ legislative legacy and the workings of Congress and to, perhaps, become involved in their own community.

A masterful biography of Elijah Cummings that deftly interweaves the internal and external influences of his youth with their lifelong effects on his principles, his work, and his lasting influence, The Faith of Elijah Cummings is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Random House Studio, 2022 | ISBN 978-0593306505

Discover more about Carole Boston Weatherford and her books on her website.

To learn more about Laura Freeman, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-faith-of-elijah-cummings-cover

You can find The Faith of Elijah Cummings 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