February 19 – XXIII Olympic Games

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate all the athletes around the world participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. While competing against each other and for different countries, each athlete knows the same hard work, determination, courage, and spirit it takes to be a champion. Most of the athletes have dedicated their lives to practicing and perfecting their skills. As today’s book shows, learning a new sport starts with the first step.

Mice Skating

Written by Annie Silvestro | Illustrated by Teagan White

 

“During the cold winter months, most field mice take cover…tunneling deep underground, burrowing into farmhouse walls, nesting in hollow logs.” Lucy was different. She loved to scamper in the snow and feel the frost on her whiskers. Most of all Lucy loved her “fluffy wool hat with the pink pom-pom on top.” Wearing this hat, Lucy was brave and bold. “It made her bloom!” But while Lucy loved everything about winter, her friends only saw Lucy’s freezing fur, dripping nose, and “chedder-ing” teeth.

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Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When Lucy invited her friends to go outside with her, they declined, preferring to stay “warm and toasty till spring.” Lucy enjoyed catching snowflakes and making snow angels and snowmice, but she wished she could share the fun with her friends. She tried bringing winter inside, but her snow cones and giant icicles melted, and the indoor snowball fight “was a soggy flop.”

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Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day while playing outside, Lucy slipped on an icy puddle. She slid and then “she…soared!” Lucy was hooked. She made ice skates from pine needles and went back to the pond. “At first she wobbled. She fell more than once. But with practice, soon she was ice-skating.” Lucy couldn’t wait to tell her friends, and she had an idea. She gathered supplies,went back home, and got to work. 

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Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Every day Lucy went skating. When she returned, she went to her room and worked quietly with yarn, thread, and pine needles. Her friends couldn’t help but be curious. They peeked through her door and peppered her with questions. At last Lucy was ready. “She placed a new hat on each mouse’s head. ‘These will keep you warm,’ she said, ‘inside and out.’” Mona, Millie, and Marcello “marveled at their new hats.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mice-skating-friends-outside

Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Then, with a bag slung over her shoulder, Lucy led her friends outside and to the pond. In front of her dazzled friends, Lucy “spiraled and swirled, swizzled and twizzled, loop-de-looped.” “‘Marvelous!’ cried Mona. ‘Spectacular!’ called Millie. ‘Brie-vissimo!’ cheered Marcello. Suddenly,  they all wanted to try. Lucy opened her bag and handed each one their own pair of skates.

Gingerly, they slid onto the ice. They wobbled and fell. “But with practice, soon they were mice skating.” They squealed and squeaked with joy, and Marcello said, ‘”Who knew winter could be so goud-a?’” “‘I did,’ said Lucy, beaming. And together they bloomed like spring.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mice-skating-lucy-skating (2)

Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

For one reason or another, it’s sometimes hard to get friends, family, or others to try something new. Sometimes, it’s us that balk a bit at getting out and exploring different opportunities. Annie Silvestro’s cheery story is a sweet and gentle reminder that often fun, exhilaration, and wider horizons are just a few steps away. Silvestro offers some sage advice along with her delightful friendship story as Lucy makes hats and skates for her friends to show them what they’re missing. Readers will love her charming and sprightly adjectives that beautifully depict the cozy home comforts and refreshing outdoor atmosphere of winter, and will giggle at Marcello’s creative cheese—but not cheesy—puns.

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Image copyright Teagan White, 2017, text copyright Annie Silvestro, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Readers cannot be faulted for maybe wanting to spend winter underground, too, in the homey den Teagan White has fashioned for Lucy and her friends. The penchant of mice to gather bits and bobs here and there is reflected in the thread-spool table, the clothespin shelf for displaying cheese, and the half-pencil rung on a ladder. The mice also use button plates and acorn-top mugs. The fire in the fireplace crackles as acorns and herbs dry on a line above it. Outdoors is just as magical with sparking snowflakes, snowy fields, and red berry accents. White’s full-page illustrations interspersed with pages of circular insets are rendered in muted greens, browns, and pinks that enhance this snug wintertime story.

A sweet friendship story for any time of the year, Mice Skating would be a lovely addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Book, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454916321

Discover more about Annie Silvestro and her books on her website.

Learn more about Teagan White and view a portfolio of her art on her website.

IIXXX Olympic Games Activity

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We’re Skating! Coloring Page

 

Ice skating is one of winter’s most enjoyable activities! Here’s a printable We’re Skating! Coloring Page to enjoy too!

Picture Book Review

February 18 – It’s Boost Your Self-Esteem Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate self-esteem—that inner knowledge of and appreciation for all the things that make you unique! Having a good self-image is important for living a full and happy life. Taking time now and then to evaluate your feelings, your achievements, and your goals is a worthy exercise. When you believe in yourself you can accomplish more, and like the friends in today’s book you’ll feel like a superhero!

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt

By Ben Clanton

 

In A Super Start, Narwhal and Jelly are hanging out. Narwhal’s excited because after a swim and a waffle he’s “going to become a superhero!” Jelly is surprised that Narwhal thinks it would be so easy, after you need the “super outfits” (Narwhal’s got that covered with a snazzy yellow cape); the “super names” (“Super Narwhal” sounds pretty super to Narwhal): and the secret identities (let me introduce you to the dapper mustachioed and bespectacled Clark Parker Wayne, wealthy and eccentric trillionaire).

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-cape

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Super Narwhal is also going to need a sidekick. Jelly kicks around a few names—Shark, Octopus, and Turtle—but Narwhal has someone else in mind. Jelly, of course! Jelly’s eyes widen with the possibilities. Sting or Blue Lightening might be cool monikers, but no!— “Jelly Jolt the Super Sidekick” has an electrifying ring to it. Suddenly, Jelly remembers they’ll need superpowers. Narwhal has trouble being invisible or strong, flying or breathing fire, but there’s something even more important than powers—lunch! Yum, yum! Jelly says, “I think waffles are my super weakness.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-super-sidekick

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

In Narwhal, You’re a Superstar, Super Narwhal has come to the rescue of Star. While Star likes the ocean she thinks that maybe she belongs in the sky. “Maybe I am a real star, but I fell to earth and hit my head or something and now I don’t remember!” she says. Narwhal’s up for helping out, but without super strength he can only toss Star back into the sea. Even with Octopus’s cannon, Narwhal is no more successful. They think about building a rocket ship, but neither is exactly a rocket scientist. Then Narwhal has a super idea. Star wishes on…herself…and “Poof!” Star is back where she belongs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-eat-lunch

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Super Narwhal vs Blue Jelly a.k.a. the Super Superpower finds Clark Parker Wayne, wealthy and eccentric trillionaire discovering a very blue (as in sad) Jelly. In a jiff Super Narwhal appears to save the day! He asks Jelly “What’s wrong? Did someone steal your mustache?” But Jelly’s too blue to join in the repartee. Then Super Narwhal wonders if Jelly’s upset because he set his hair on fire. Jelly seems a bit perturbed at that suggestion—they are underwater, after all. But maybe Super Narwhal is onto something.

Maybe, just maybe, Jelly’s down because a bubble called him “a blue-footed booby,” or because a pirate pig poked him, or because he “got stuck in a tuba!” With a “hee” and a “heehee!” and a “heeheehee!” Jelly is beginning to smile. And when Super Narwhal puts them all together, Jelly can’t help but jiggle with a laugh at how ridiculous the whole thing is. But Super Narwhal is there to help—right? So he somberly asks “what is wrong?” By now, though, Jelly can’t remember.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-kapow

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Jelly gives his Super Friend a super hug. But then he does recall the problem. It seems crab was dissing his superhero outfit and calling him “Jelly Dolt.” “This is a job for Jelly Jolt and Super Narwhal!”, exclaims Narwhal. Jelly’s intrigued, but thinks they ought to leave crab alone. Guided by advice from his “great, great, great, great grandpa Nautilus,” which went something like “Do unto otters,” however, Narwhal reveals that they are off to make crab a superhero.

When they get their, though, Crab isn’t feeling it and lets off some steam, but Super Narwhal is undeterred. “Ahoy Crab! Prepare to be super-fied!” he announces. And with a KAPOW! Crab has become “The Claw! a.k.a. Super Snap!” At last, Super Narwhal has discovered his superpower—the ability to “bring out the super in others.” And with that, Super Narwhal, Jelly Jolt, and Super Snap swim off to Superfy the ocean.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-super-narwhal-and-jelly-jolt-superfy

Excerpted from Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton. Text and Illustrations Copyright © 2017 Ben Clanton. Published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

Two more short and funny stories make an appearance between the continuing saga of Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt. Super Sea Creatures is loaded with facts on several types of ocean creatures, and Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick is a delectable comic written by Narwhal and Jelly that’s full danger, heroics, and puns.

Ben Clanton’s adorable Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt, the second in the Narwhal and Jelly series, is a sweet, laugh-inducing romp that is a marvelous take-off on the superhero genre and a perfect way to spend free time with two worthy ocean friends. Clanton fills his comics-style story with plenty of suspense, witty repartee, good advice, and even a bit of science to satisfy any young reader. Narwhal and Jelly, with their eager, inviting smiles, enthusiasm to tackle whatever obstacles get in their way and their ready inclusiveness, are truly superheroes to applauded

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt would make a sunny addition to summer reading and a splash on any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 6 – 9

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1101918296

Discover more about Ben Clanton, his books, and his artwork on his website!

Play along with Narwhal and Jelly on their own website!

Boost Your Self-Esteem Month Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-all-about-me-robot-sheet

All about Me!

 

The more you know about yourself, the better you’ll be able to share your talents and friendship with others. Fill out one of these printable All about Me! sheets and hang it in your room or school locker to remind yourself how awesome you are!

All about Me! Robot Sheet | All about Me! Stars and Balloons Sheet

Picture Book Review

February 10 – National Umbrella Day

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About the Holiday

When you grab your umbrella and open it (not indoors of course!), do you ever think about what an ancient device it is? The umbrella was invented over four thousand years ago and appears in art from ancient Greece, Egypt, China, and Assyria. The Chinese developed waterproof umbrellas to use in the rain by waxing and lacquering paper umbrellas. One of the first umbrella shops opened in London in 1830 and is still open for business there today. If it’s raining or snowing where you are today, celebrate the holiday by taking your umbrella for a spin. If you’re having fair weather, why not get yourself a new umbrella? After all, spring is coming!

The Green Umbrella

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Maral Sassouni

 

On a gray and rainy day, Elephant went out walking with his green umbrella. He met a hedgehog who hailed him and said, “‘Excuse me. I believe you have my boat.’” Elephant was perplexed, so Hedgehog expounded on his theory. “‘I crossed deep oceans on my boat and faced the crash of icy waves. I saw dolphins leap two by two and tasted the salty spray of whales. The stars were my guide and my boat a faithful friend.”

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Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This poetic travelogue did not convince Elephant of the umbrella’s provenance, but he offered to let Hedgehog ride along and share in its protection. The two came upon a Cat, who took one look at the green umbrella and recognized it as her tent. Hmmm…said Elephant and Hedgehog. It was true replied Cat, and she related how when she visited the woods to study plants and flowers, she would rest in its shade and drink a cup of tea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-bear

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This story seemed no more plausible than Hedgehog’s, but Elephant invited Cat to ride along and share in the umbrella’s protection. As they continued on, the Bear approached, sure that they had his flying machine. “‘Your what?’ asked the Elephant, the Hedgehog, and the Cat.” The Bear got a faraway look in his eyes as he said, “‘I soared through clouds high up in the air and saw Northern Lights glimmer above rolling hills. I floated on wings free and far from the noise of busy towns below.’”

Well, Elephant could play this game too. The umbrella was his and his alone. When he was a child, Elephant said, the umbrella was his pirate sword, his tightrope balance, and his baseball bat. By this time the rain had stopped. Elephant rolled up his umbrella and said good-bye to the Hedgehog, the Cat, and the Bear. The three couldn’t stand to see their boat/tent/flying machine taken away, so they clung to the Elephant.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-tea-party

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moment later they met an old Rabbit. “‘I believe you have my cane,’” he said. The others thought he was wrong. But this handy stick, the Rabbit explained, had helped him climb pyramids, hike mountains to ancient ruins, and navigate dark caves full of treasure. Again the Elephant objected, but seeing the old Rabbit mopping his forehead, he opened it and shaded the Rabbit from the sun. The Cat offered to make a pot of tea, and the Bear and the Hedgehog helped lay out a picnic lunch.

Under the cool umbrella, the five “shared their stories, drank tea, planned adventures, and became fast friends.” From then on when it was sunny, they went “Sailing, Camping, Flying, and Hiking” together. “And when it rained they stayed dry under the green umbrella.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-friends

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Jackie Azúa Kramer’s multi-layered story delves into the large points and small nuances of relationships old and new. The Elephant’s green umbrella is both a subject of envy and a uniting object. It also serves to demonstrate Elephant’s ability to stick up for himself as well as his willingness to share. As each animal presents an imaginative and compelling reason why the green umbrella belongs to them, the Elephant rejects the story while accepting the friend. In each animal’s lushly described imagination, Kramer does a beautiful job of showing readers how each of these friends are similar. She reveals that while friends can have different opinions, they can still find common ground.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-followers

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Maral Sassouni’s dream-like illustrations are both exotic and homey. Village houses give way to turreted and domed towers, and the imaginative stories the animals tell are accompanied by details as free, cozy, or eccentric as their tales. The Elephant’s account is cleverly rendered in sepia tones, showing the age of the memories and who the original owner of the coveted umbrella really is. The final images of the five new friends sharing adventures in the green umbrella are sure to delight little ones.

The Green Umbrella is a perfect book to share on rainy days or sunny days. With humor and creativity, the book provides an opportunity to talk about the nature of friendship and sharing with children. It would make an often-read addition to public, classroom, and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

NorthSouth Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735842182

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer, her books, and a fun book-related activity on her website!

Learn more about Maral Sassouni and her artwork on her website!

Don’t wait for a rainy day to watch The Green Umbrella book trailer!

National Umbrella Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rain-stick-craft

Rain Stick Craft

 

The steady sssshhhhhh of gentle rain is a sound that never fails to relax. With this easy craft, you can create your own rainfall for whenever you need  to de-stress.

Supplies

  • Heavy cardboard tube
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wrapping paper or other paper 
  • Rice or popcorn – 1/3 to 1/2 cup
  • Paint (optional)
  • Paint brushes (optional)
  • Rubber bands – 2

Directions

  1. Paint the cardboard tube, let dry (optional)
  2. Cut the paper into 3-inch or 4-inch squares
  3. Cover one end of the tube with paper and secure with a rubber band
  4. Crumple and twist two or three long pieces of foil 
  5. Put the foil strips into the tube
  6. Add the rice or popcorn to the tube
  7. Cover the open end of the tube with paper and a rubberband
  8. Turn the tube end-to-end and listen to the rain

Picture Book Review

February 9 – National Bagel Day

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About the Holiday

With its deliciously soft, doughy inside and crusty outside, the boiled-then-baked bagel is a favorite for breakfast and lunch! Coming in all sorts of flavors and varieties, there’s a bagel for every taste, and whether you like yours toasted or not, with cream cheese or plain, it’s hard to deny that the bagel is comfort food at its best. To celebrate today’s holiday, visit your favorite bakery and enjoy!

Bagel in Love

Written by Natasha Wing | Illustrated by Helen Dardik

 

Bagel was one talented bread! He loved to dance because “he never felt plain when he was spinning and swirling, tapping and twirling. When he read the advertisement for the dance contest at the Cherry Jubilee that night, Bagel really wanted to enter, but he didn’t have a partner. He went to the best dancer he knew—another bagel named Poppy—but she refused, saying that “his dance steps were half-baked.”

Next, he tracked down Pretzel at the spa, but as she enjoyed her salt rub, she told Bagel that his dancing just “didn’t cut the mustard.” And Matzo, primping with a manicure and facial, “flat out told him no.” Bagel was determined to find a partner and left Bakersville for Sweet City. There he “waltzed up to a table at a busy café. ‘I bet you’re all fabulous dancers,’” he said to the pastries enjoying coffee at an outdoor table. He then launched into a bit of a tap dance and asked if any of them would like to be his partner for the contest.

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Image copyright Helen Dardik, 2018, text copyright Natasha Wing, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake scowled at his stale moves. Not to be deterred, Bagel hopped onto a cake display pedestal and shouted out a dance challenge he thought couldn’t miss. Anyone who could match him tap for tap would win a date to the contest with him. But no one took Bagel up on his offer, and worse, Croissant, Doughnut, and Cake just laughed at him as they joined everyone heading to the Cherry Jubilee to watch the contestants.

In the empty café, Bagel felt sad. Maybe he’d be able to compete next year, he signed. He could hear the music begin at the Cherry Jubilee and his feet automatically started tapping. This time, though, he heard an answer back. “He tapped again. Tap-tippity-tippity-tap-tap-tap. Tap-tippity-tippity-tap-tap-tap came the response.” Bagel didn’t know where the tapping was coming from.

Suddenly, he saw the cutest cupcake he had ever seen. Her pink frosting was swirled into a bouffant, and “she smelled oh so sweet.” Bagel asked her if she was the one who had answered his tapping. She admitted she was, but said she wasn’t a very good dancer. Bagel disagreed then asked her to dance. In the empty street outside the café, they twirled around and around. Bagel even tossed her in the air and caught her ever so gently.

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Image copyright Helen Dardik, 2018, text copyright Natasha Wing, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Cupcake told Bagel he was an incredible dancer, and Bagel, feeling “all toasty inside” returned the compliment. Once more, Bagel asked, “‘would you be my partner at the dance contest?’” Cupcake said yes, and they hurried off to the Cherry Jubilee. Their dance moves were a hit with the judges, who all gave them 10s. Bagel and Cupcake won the grand prize trophy, but for these two who had found true love, that “was just the icing on the cake.”

Natasha Wing bakes up plenty of kid-pleasing puns in her culinary/dance-off mashup that will have readers laughing on every page even as they empathize with Bagel and learn some valuable ingredients for the best kind of friendship. Pretzel, Matzo, and the pastries may appear sweet with their salt rubs, manicures, and fancy fillings, but their sour personalities are on full display as they laugh and scoff at Bagel and his dancing. Cupcake, on the other hand, has everything it takes to be a good friend. She’s sweet through and through from her stylish updo to her humble and complimentary conversation. Through Bagel and Cupcake, children see that true friends can be found and are those who appreciate each other for who they are.

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Who wouldn’t want to visit Helen Dardik’s baked-goods world with its delectable delights around every corner? Jelly-roll, cupcake, and fruit-tart homes line the street, special culinary spas cater to every detail, and the Upper Crust Café can’t be beat. Bagel is a cutie, and Cupcake is a-dough-able from her pink frosting hair to her aqua and pink paper-liner dress. A colorful, glitter-textured two-page spread shimmers with the love and joy that Bagel and Cupcake have in winning the trophy and each other’s hearts.

Bagel in Love is a fun and funny book—with a little life lesson mixed in—for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922391

Discover more about Natasha Wing and her books on her website.

National Bagel Day Activity

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There’s Snowtime Like Now for a Bagel Snack

 

You can make a snowman even when there’s no snow outside with this simple bagel treat!

Ingredients

  • Your favorite kind of bagel
  • Cream cheese
  • Baby carrot
  • Raisins, currents, or chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Spread bagel with cream cheese
  2. Place carrot in the hole (prop up with more cream cheese if needed)
  3. Add raisins, currents, or chocolate chips as eyes and a smile

Picture Book Review

 

 

February 4 – National Sweater Day

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About the Holiday

Do you live in a place where winter means cold temperatures, snow, and sleet? Then you know how much comfort a cozy sweater can provide! But have you ever thought that sweaters can lower your heat bill? Today’s holiday reminds us that when we put on a sweater, we can turn down the thermostat, saving on fuel, which is beneficial for the environment. Knowing that you’re making a difference as you pull on your favorite sweater and lower that thermostat (even one degree can make a big difference) will make you feel warm inside and out!

Extra Yarn

Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Jon Klassen

 

In the dulled world of winter, “Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.” With it she knit herself a sweater, and because she had not run out of yarn, she knit a sweater for her dog, Mars, too. Afterwards, the two went for a walk, and Annabelle carried her box of yarn with her. They happened on Nate and his dog—dreary smudges against the monochrome landscape. “‘You two look ridiculous,’” Nate taunted. “‘You’re just jealous,’ said Annabelle.” Nate denied it, but after Annabelle knit him and his dog their own sweaters, they discovered she was right.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2012. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

These four sweaters hardly put a dent in the yarn in the box, so Annabelle took it to school. There, the kids in their dark, winter clothes couldn’t stop staring at and whispering about Annabelle. Their teacher, Mr. Norman, shouted for quiet. “‘Annabelle, that sweater of yours is a terrible distraction. I cannot teach with everyone turning around to look at you!’” Annabelle knew just what to do. The class—and even Mr. Norman—looked brighter with their new sweaters. “And when she was done, Annabelle still had extra yarn.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-extra-yarn-mr-crabtree

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2012. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

She began knitting sweaters for everyone in town. Mr. Crabtree was the only exception. Since he wore shorts and a t-shirt in even the snowiest weather, Annabelle knit him a cap to keep his bald head warm. When all the people were snug, Annabelle fashioned sweaters for all the animals—from the tiniest birds to the biggest bears. “Soon, people thought, soon Annabelle will run out of yarn. But she didn’t. So Annabelle made sweaters for things that didn’t even wear sweaters.” Suddenly, the town was no longer drab and lifeless.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-extra-yarn-annabelle-knits-animals-sweaters

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2012. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

 

Word spread about Annabelle and her endless box of yarn. People came from all over to meet her and see her sweaters. The news even reached a clotheshorse of an archduke, who sailed his ship into port and demanded to see Annabelle. He offered her one million dollars for her box of yarn, but Annabelle turned him down. He raised his offer to two million, but Annabelle shook her head. “‘Ten million!’ shouted the archduke. ‘Take it or leave it!’” “‘Leave it,’ said Annabelle. ‘I won’t sell the yarn.’”

That night the archduke sent robbers to steal Annabelle’s box of yarn, and when they had it, the archduke sailed away under the dark cover of night. In his shadowy castle, the shady archduke opened the box. It was empty. In a fit of rage, he flung the box out the window into the sea, cursing Annabelle with eternal unhappiness. But the box found its way onto an ice floe, and it rode the current back to Annabelle, who was forever after happy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-extra-yarn-archduke

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

Mac Barnett’s extraordinary story of a box of yarn and a little girl that keeps giving despite teasing, challenges, and attempts to strip her of her gift is an uplifting reminder that even the simplest of gestures can create profound change. With the lilt of a fairy tale but the anchors of reality, Barnett’s tale offers a universal lesson that children and adults can use their individual talents to improve their own lives and those of others. The title of the book may be Extra Yarn, but the question remains: is it the yarn or Annabelle who is special? The final scene proves that goodness and kindness always win out and will find its way back to the giver.

Jon Klassen’s brown, stolid town seems poised to suck readers in to its close, silent emptiness until Annabelle discovers the box of yarn and knits herself a rainbow to wear. With Mars similarly outfitted, they return to the somber outside. Annabelle, at first the only bright spot in the town and school, quickly transforms her classmates and neighbors into colorful individuals with sweaters as unique as they are. After the homes, buildings, mailboxes, and birdhouses acquire their own cozies, the town looks open and inviting. Once the archduke arrives on the scene, the pages turn dusky and gray, but there is one point of light: in the black, nighttime sea the little box floats on an icy raft that shines in the full moonlight.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, courtesy of macbarnett.com

Klassen adds plenty of visual humor here too, as when Mars tangles his yarn leash around a grove of trees, and the archduke demonstrates a penchant for monogramming all of his possessions. Kids will be delighted to see some of their favorite Klassen characters so dandily dressed, and the images of the students and townspeople connected by a leading thread of yarn may help them see that Annabelle not only knit them sweaters but made them a much closer-knit community as well.

Ages 3 – 8

Balzar + Bray, HarperCollins Childrens, 2012 | ISBN 978-0061953385

Want to see what other books Mac Barnett has written? Visit his website and find out!

You can find a gallery of picture books and other artwork by Jon Klassen on tumblr!

National Sweater Day Activity

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Design Your Own Sweater

 

If you could design your own sweater, what would it look like? Would it have stripes? Polka dots? A picture of a puppy, kitten, train, truck, or the logo of your favorite sports team? Use this printable Design Your Own Sweater template and have a bit of fashionable fun!

Picture Book Reviews

January 26 – It’s National Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

If you like to take a break from the routine or pressures of the work day and sew, garden, or read, play music, dance, or draw, or if you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill or develop a talent, then this month is for you! During National Hobby Month take some time to research a skill, art, or discipline that strikes your fancy and get started!

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love

Written by Michelle Edwards | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

One of the first gifts Sophia received when she was a baby was a knitted hat from her neighbor Mrs. Goldman. Now that Sophia is more grown up, she helps Mrs. Goldman make pom-poms for the hats she knits for other babies, friends, and neighbors. “‘Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,’ says Mrs. Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. ‘This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.’”

One day in late autumn Sophia and Mrs. Goldman walk Mrs. Goldman’s dog Fifi. While Fifi is kept warm in a dinosaur sweater and Sophia is cozy in the fuzzy kitten hat and mittens that Mrs. Goldman made them, Mrs. Goldman’s head and ears are unprotected in the icy wind. When Sophia asks her friend why she doesn’t have a hat, Mrs. Goldman tells her “‘I gave it to Mrs. Chen.’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Michelle Edwards. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Sophia begins to worry about Mrs. Goldman. Who will knit a hat for her? “Not Mrs. Goldman. She’s too busy knitting for everyone else.’” Last year Mrs. Goldman had tried to teach Sophia to knit, but it was too hard and took too long, so she decided to stick with making pom-poms. But Sophia thinks maybe it’s time to try again. She goes to her knitting bag and pulls out the hat they had started together. “The stiches are straight and even. The soft wool smells like Mrs. Goldman’s chicken soup.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holding the needles, Sophia thinks about what she was taught. Even though she drops stitches, she continues to knit. “She wants to make Mrs. Goldman the most special hat in the world.” The next day snow falls on Mrs. Goldman’s head as they walk Fifi. Sophia frets, and at home she begins knitting morning, noon, and night to finish her hat. Winter has set in and one day when the pair walk Fifi, “Mrs. Goldman wraps Mr. Goldman’s scarf around her head like she’s a mummy.” But the wind grabs it and rips it away. Sophia catches it, but shivers at the thought of how cold Mrs. Goldman must be.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Michelle Edwards. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

At home Sophia knits in a frenzy, adding row after row of stitches until the hat is finished. When Sophia looks at it, though, she finds holes where they shouldn’t be and lumpy and bumpy areas. She thinks what she has made looks more like a monster than a hat. Sophia takes out the box containing all the hats Mrs. Goldman has made for her, but they are much too small for Mrs. Goldman to wear. While Sophia’s mama and papa have hats made by Mrs. Goldman, she knows she can’t give those away.

Sophia imagines all the hats she makes with her neighbor and how Mrs. Goldman always tells her that her pom-poms add beauty, and that “‘that’s a mitzvah too.’” Sophia’s heart swells. She finds red yarn—Mrs. Goldman’s favorite color—and her pom-pom making supplies and goes to work. When she is finished and the pom-poms are attached, “Mrs. Goldman’s hat is the most special hat in the world.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Sophia runs next door and surprises Mrs. Goldman with her gift. Mrs. Goldman hugs Sophia and tears come to her eyes. “‘Don’t you like it?’” Sophia asks, but she needn’t worry. “‘I more than like it, I love it,’ declares Mrs. Goldman. ‘Gorgeous. Like Mr. Goldman’s rosebushes. And you know how I love his roses.’” With a kiss for Sophia, Mrs. Goldman begins counting the twenty pom-poms on her hat—“each one made with love.” Mrs. Goldman slips the hat on her head. Now when she and Sophia take Fifi for a walk, Fifi wears her dinosaur sweater, Sophia wears her kitty hat and mittens, and “Mrs. Goldman wears her Sophia hat. Her keppie is toasty warm. And that’s a mitzvah.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Michelle Edwards’ heartwarming story of a little girl who sees that her friend is in need and determines to help draws on children’s natural generosity and shows readers that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Edward’s gentle and well-paced storytelling allows readers to understand the events and thoughts that bring Sophia to once again attempt knitting. Sophia’s solution to use the pom-poms she knows she makes well (and with love) to cover the holes demonstrates not only the ingenious creativity of kids, but also the idea that love can fill the voids in life.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Brian Karas imbues the story of Sophia and Mrs. Goldman with a magical wonder that floats from page to page like the fluffy snowflakes that are the catalyst for Sophia’s mitzvah. A combination of full-page illustrations and snapshot images show days spent with Mrs. Goldman as well as the moments, hours, and days that adorable Sophia spends knitting her special hat. Sophia, tongue sticking out in determination, wields her knitting needs; she ponders her holey hat while imagining a frightened Fifi; and scraps of red yarn dot the floor and even sit atop Sophia’s head as she creates pom-pom after pom-pom. When Mrs. Goldman pulls the hat over her own head, kids will feel cheered, while adults may feel a small lump in their throat.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman is a gem. Its tender portrayal of kindness, love, and close personal relationships makes it an outstanding choice for any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497106

Discover more about Michelle Edwards and her books, plus activities, recipes, and information on knitting on her website!

Enter a gallery of books, sketches, blog essays, and more by G. Brian Karas on his website!

National Hobby Month Activity

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Winter Hat Match Puzzle

 

These kids have all lost their hats! Can you follow the paths in this printable Winter Hat Match Puzzle to reunite each child with the right hat?

Picture Book Review

January 24 – Global Belly Laugh Day

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About the Holiday

If there’s one thing that unites us all, it’s laughter. A good belly laugh is good for your soul and your health! Today’s holiday encourages and celebrates smile, laughs, and all the things that bring us joy. It’s also a day to think about and thank those who share their funny stories, fun times, and laughter with us. So spend a happy day being with friends, watching a funny movie or show, and reading a laugh-out-loud book like…

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

Written by Drew Daywalt |Illustrated by Adam Rex

 

“Long ago in an ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of Backyard,” Rock ruled. There was just one problem. There was no one left who could challenge this mighty warrior. Rock traveled far and wide, even to the “Forest of Over by the Tire Swing.” Here, on a line strung between two trees, he spied a tiny opponent with super strength “holding a giant’s underwear.” The trash talking began as Rock called out Clip Man to fight him. Clip Man was not intimidated and threatened to pinch Rock until he cried. The battle was on! With a smash and a crack, Rock easily defeated Clip Man.

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Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Rock’s win just whet his appetite for victory, so he moseyed over to “the Mystical Tower of Grandma’s Favorite Apricot Tree.” There he encountered a small, orange fruit. Rock told the Apricot exactly what he thought of him. Apricot couldn’t let the dis go unchallenged, so the battle was on! Although Apricot gave it his all, his “tart and tangy sweetness” was no match for Rock’s smooshing power. While Rock took some pleasure in his win, it did not bring him the joy he sought. He decided to leave the Kingdom of Backyard in search of a worthy opponent.

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Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

“Meanwhile, in the Empire of Mom’s Home Office, on lonely and windswept Desk Mountain, a second great warrior sought the glory of battle.” Paper was smart and so clever that “no one could outwit him.” As he roamed across the vast desk, Paper met up with Computer Printer, who vowed to gobble him up and spit him out. The battle was on! But within seconds Computer Printer realized he was in a jam—a Paper jam! Flush with victory Paper rappelled over the side into the “Pit of Office Trash Bin,” where the menacing “Half-Eaten Bag of Trail Mix” awaited him. Paper leapt! Paper blocked the light! The Trail Mix fled! Disheartened by this easy win, Paper also left his kingdom in search of a worthy opponent.

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Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Back in “the Kitchen Realm in the tiny village of Junk Drawer, there lived a third great warrior. They called her Scissors.” She too was looking for a challenging adversary. She was happy to take on the “tacky and vaguely round monstrosity” who confronted her, but Roll of Tape’s “adhesive and tangling powers” were no match for Scissors’ sharp blades. She sauntered across her kingdom to Refrigerator/Freezer, where the breaded-chicken dinosaurs lived. They were ready to fight, and the battle is on! At first it looks as if the “kid-pleasing shapes and flavors” will vanquish Scissors, but it’s just a plot twist! Scissors is victorious again!

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Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Scissors knew it was time to move on, so she left the Kitchen Realm for the “Great Cavern of Two-Car Garage.” There she came face-to-face with Rock. They sized each other up, and Scissors threw down the gauntlet: “I hope you’re wearing your battle pants, rock warrior.” Rock answered: “If by ‘battle pants’ you mean ‘no pants but I’m willing to fight you,’ then yes…yes, I am wearing my battle pants, weird scissory one.” The battle was on!

Rock versus Scissors! The battle raged, until…Rock defeated Scissors. Suddenly, Scissors knew the happiness of having a worthy opponent, but Rock was still unsatisfied. Just then Paper floated onto the scene, and with the well-known fighting words, “Hi there,” the battle was on! Brought down and wrapped up by Paper’s flexible forces, Rock was joyful. But what about Paper? Who could defeat him?

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Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Scissors stood on her tippy toes and faced Paper. With one smooth slice, she cut a hole in his win record. Now Paper knew the thrill of defeat. The three warriors became fast friends and battled each other over and over. Their story became legend and their legend became the stuff of “backyards, playgrounds, and yes, even classrooms” as kids around the world play Rock, Paper, Scissors!

Get ready for plenty of dramatic reading, out loud laughs, and ringing cheers the moment you open Drew Daywalt’s The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors. This worthy spoof on the warrior genre from Medieval knights to the wrestling ring is a hilarious take down of challenges, trash talking, and bravado with a good bit of truth about the nature of competition and friendship: true friends are open to challenges and supportive when the other guy wins. Daywalt’s freewheeling conversational tone, inspired kingdoms, and cunning choices of opponents will have readers looking at their homes in a whole new light.

Employing the same thrilling spectacle as action movies, Adam Rex brings to life the adrenaline-pumping swagger of three brave warriors. Bold typefaces invite spirited reading, and the details of the realms overseen by Rock, Paper, and Scissors will enthrall kids. Both young and adult readers will want to linger and laugh over every page to check out all the anthropomorphized items that populate these kingdoms.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors is sure to be a champion in any child’s home library. It would make a perfect gift and a much-asked-for book for exuberant story times.

Ages 4 – 9

Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN  978-0062438898

Check out books, art, and other fun stuff by Adam Rex on his website!

Global Belly Laugh Day Activity

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Rock Paper Scissors Extravaganza

 

Come on! You know that a few rounds of Rock Paper Scissors will make you laugh! Find someone or many someones and challenge them to the battle of all rock, paper, scissors battles just like the two kids in this printable Laugh Along with Rock Paper Scissors Coloring Page!

 

Picture Book Review