December 11 – It’s Write a Friend Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of December people like to reach out to friends near and far and share the events of the past year. Write a Friend Month commemorates such communication and encourages writers to pick up a pen and paper and send a “real letter” full of intriguing details that inspire a response. Finding a letter or card in the mailbox still makes people smile. So, why not take a little time this month to write a letter to your friends?

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

 

In a bit of cross-curriculum creativity, the teachers in two distinct school districts have combined the annual poetry units and pen pal projects. Not only do the kids get to make new friends, they must write their letters in rhyme. George Slair has been matched up with Blaise Dragomir. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first missive, George begins boldly and honestly: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair”

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Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

As Blaise reads the letter he interprets George’s cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”

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Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

Reading December’s letter Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines George’s table-top volcano science project as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain. In January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing while the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that there is a pen pal picnic planned for June, and in March Blaise tells George about a special outing with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”

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Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

Springtime also sees the two becoming better friends. The formal “Sincerely, George” or “Sincerely, Blaise” sign-off of the first letters has evolved into “Your friend”  as George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then it appears that this project has been a success in all areas as George asks, “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….”

Blaise is all in. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”

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Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the kids approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has his hands to his face. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. One even has her hand to her face.

“‘Blaise?’” George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” Blaise presumes, although he wrings his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’”… “‘My pen pal is a human?’”

These two-page spreads say it all—or do they? Well, not quite…

Huge grins burst out as George and Blaise exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid- and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And the teachers? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”

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Image copyright Rodolfo Montalvo, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young People.

With his usual aplomb, Josh Funk charms with rhyme and reason in this clever tribute to friendship, diversity, and writing (on paper!). The letters between the two pen pals are endearingly kid-like, full of the subjects that are important in a child’s life, including pets, school, hobbies, and parents, which can be brilliantly open to interpretation—or misinterpretation. Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are similarly inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem by Alfred Noyes, St George and the Dragon. Kids will enjoy seeing how George and Blaise’s friendship grows over the school year, evidenced in the openings and closings of their letters. The letters are a joy to read aloud as the rhymes swoop and flow as easily as Blaise soars through the air.

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Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message along with the reality in his illustrations that are—as George exclaims—“as awesome as it gets.” Both characters are sweet and earnest, and while surprised by what they think the other’s life is like, happily supportive. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement and humor and ingenious details. Kids will love the juxtaposition of George’s idea of Blaise’s Bengal “kitten” and the reality of a nearly full-grown tiger. The two views of fire-breathing will also bring a laugh, and readers will enjoy picking out features of the two homes. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is a delight.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, everywhere in the paintings, Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

The fun dual-meaning rhymes and endearing illustrations make Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale a must for kids’ (and dragon’s) bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

From more books to activities for kids, there’s so much to see and do on Josh Funk’s website!

Discover the world of Rodolfo Montalvo’s books and artwork on his website!

Dear Reader, check out this blazing hot Dear Dragon book trailer!

Write a Friend Month Activity

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Dependable Dragon Pencil Case

 

U-knight-ing all your pens, pencils, and other supplies in this Dependable Dragon Pencil Case will fire up your imagination! Have a blast making this fun craft!

Supplies      

  • Printable Dragon Pencil Case Template – Wings | Face
  • Sheets of felt, 8 ½-inch by 11-inch
  • 2 Dark green
  • 1 Light green
  • 1 white
  • 1 black
  • 1 yellow
  • 1 purple
  • Fabric Glue
  • Glitter glue or Fabric paint (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Velcro
  • Green Thread (optional if you would like to sew instead of glue your case)
  • Needle (optional, needed if sewing)

Directions

  1. Print the Dragon Templates
  2. Cut out alternating rows of scales from the dark and light green felt (7 each). For one row, cut a rounded top (instead of straight across) to make the top of the head (see picture). (One row of scales is longer so you can tile them. You will trim them later: see the double row of scales on the template for how the scales should look)
  3. Cut the eyes from the white felt, pupils and nostrils from the black felt, horns from the yellow felt, and wings from the purple felt. Set aside.

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To make the head

  1. Fold one dark piece of felt in half lengthwise
  2. Cut a wavy line along the bottom of the felt to make lips (see picture)
  3. Glue a ½-inch-wide strip along open side and along bottom (or you can sew it)

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To add the scales

  1. Starting at the bottom, lay on row of scales a little above the wavy bottom. Glue the top to the base.
  2. Overlap an alternating green row of scales on the first row, glue the top
  3. Continue alternating dark and light green scales until you reach 9 inches
  4. Use the rounded row of scales for the top of the head (see how to insert horns before attaching top of head)

To insert the horns

  1. On the rounded row of scales, mark where you want the horns to be
  2. Cut two small slices in the felt where the horns will go
  3. Insert the bottoms of the horns into the slits

To finish the head

  1. Glue the top of the head to the base
  2. Trim any longer rows of scales to meet the edges of the base
  3. Add the eyes and nostrils to the face

To make the closure for the case

  1. Cut the base following the line of the rounded row of scales
  2. Glue or sew strips of Velcro along the inside edges

To attach the wings

  1. Turn the dragon case to the back
  2. Glue or sew the wings to the center of the back, attaching them at the center edge
  3. Outline the wings in glitter glue (optional)

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Picture Book Review

December 8 – Lost and Found Day

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About the Holiday

Doncha hate when you lose something? You know…you just had it and now it’s nowhere to be seen. Where is it? The last place you look, of course! But what if you never find it? Perhaps someone else found it and turned it in to a lost and found department. Oh, it’s all very disconcerting. Don’t give up hope! Today’s holiday was established just to give people an opportunity to really stop what they’re doing and look for that long-lost object. Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte was the mastermind behind the idea of a Lost and Found? In 1805 he opened the world’s first Lost and Found Office in Paris and encouraged people to bring in items they found in the street. From there the idea spread! So if you’ve lost something, take a bit of time today to find it!

Hooray for Books!

By Brian Won

 

Turtle was looking everywhere for his favorite book. He took off his shell and searched it through and through. He found a pile of toys, games, hats, and puzzle pieces. There was one swim fin, a red wagon, an apple core, and even a wrapped gift box, but no book. Turtle thought hard, then remembered. “Aha! Maybe I shared it with…Zebra!” After imagining how much Zebra probably enjoyed the book, Turtle couldn’t wait to read it again himself. He dashed off to Zebra’s house, shouting, “‘Hooray for Books!’”

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Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

But Zebra didn’t have Turtle’s book. Instead, while munching on a carrot, Zebra offered him two others about unicorns. Turtle wanted his book, though. He thought some more and decided that maybe Zebra had shared it with…Owl! The two friends marched off to find out, cheering, “‘Hooray for Books!’” Owl was busy reading…but not Turtle’s book. Owl was paging through a book about eagles. While Turtle thought it might be interesting, it was not as interesting as his own book “‘I like my book!’” he said. “Maybe you shared it with…Giraffe!”

So Turtle and Zebra and Owl took off with their books in tow to find Giraffe. Giraffe had a stack of books, but had already passed on Turtle’s book to someone else. Giraffe did have a rollicking roller skating book, however, if Turtle was interested in that one. Turtle was having none of it, and suggested that maybe Giraffe had “shared it with…Elephant!” With Owl carrying the tall stack of books with a little help from Giraffe, and Zebra happily reading the roller skating book, Turtle led the way to Elephant’s house.

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Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

Elephant did not have Turtle’s book either. “‘It was a very good story,’ Elephant said. ‘Now I can share these with you.’” Elephant held up a book about juggling. Turtle was growing dejected. He wondered if Elephant could possibly have shared it with Lion. Just then Lion approached carrying a very, very tall stack of books. Turtle was so excited to see his own book at the bottom of the pile. He rushed over and pulled it out, sending the rest of the books flying.

“Turtle cheered, ‘I finally found my favorite! Hooray for Books!’” He went to a quiet spot and read his book three times. Meanwhile Owl, Zebra, Elephant, and Giraffe were sharing all of their books. Turtle heard them talking and laughing. Then he heard Lion say, “‘I bet Turtle would love this one.’” Intrigued, “Turtle came closer” and asked if everyone would like to read his book again because it was about friends. Then he asked, “‘Will you share your favorites with me?’”  

Everyone was excited and cheered, “‘Let’s read together!’” So they sat down surrounded by all of their favorite books and celebrated, “‘Hooray for Story Time!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-books-bookshelf

Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

Brian Won’s sweet group of friends return in a story of togetherness and the joys of sharing favorite books. Won’s dialogue-rich text makes this a perfect read-aloud that allows little ones to join in on the repeated phrases, are full of the emotions that children will recognize. The gentle suspense that propels the story is delightfully cheerful with “Hoorays” and smiles and humor as the friends’ pile of books grows with each stop. Won’s ending is comforting and satisfying, allowing young readers to see that they can enjoy their own favorites and share in the favorites of others as friends build strong bonds.

Children will be happy to see Won’s familiar characters in another adventure. The enthusiasm of Zebra, Owl, Giraffe, Elephant, and Lion to help Turtle is infectious, and readers will giggle at the precarious pile of books that grows and grows. Kids will love predicting what will happen to that stack. As Turtle searches his home for his book, kids will recognize and be happy to point out items from Won’s Hooray for Hat! and Hooray for Today! The final two-page vertical spread is an adorable celebration of story time and friendship.

Hooray for Books! is a joyful addition to any home or classroom bookshelf and would make a fun gift for inspiring many story times to come.

Ages 4 – 7 

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0544748026

Discover more about Brian Won, his books, and his art on his website.

Lost and Found Day Activity

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I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate

 

Books are great to share with friends, but sometimes it’s hard to remember who you’ve lent them to or who you’ve borrowed them from. With this printable personalized I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate, you can make sure your books never get lost!

Picture Book Review

December 2 – National Mutt Day

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About the Holiday

Today we honor mutts—those sweet-natured, mixed-breed dogs that make wonderful pets and companions. Did you know that mixed-breed dogs tend to be healthier, are better behaved, and live longer than pure-bred dogs? Unfortunately, mutts make up the largest percentage of dogs found at shelters and are often passed over in favor of their pure-bred counterparts. Today’s holiday was established in 2005 and is also celebrated on July 31 to raise awareness of the wonderful characteristics of mixed-breed dogs and the benefits of adopting a mutt into your family. If you are considering adding a dog or puppy to your household, check out the mutts at your local shelter. You may just end up with a friend as adorable and unique as the sweetie in today’s book!

Shark Dog!

By Ged Adamson

 

When you have a dad who’s an explorer, life can be full of adventures. There are fabulous trips to far-flung places where you see “beautiful butterflies and strange plants, tortoises as big as cars, and colorful birds in huge trees.” Yes, the days can be magical, but they can be mysterious too. How? Well, listen to this amazing story…

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, courtesy of gedadamson.com.

Hi! You heard about the incredible trip with the butterflies and tortoises, right? Great! But what you didn’t hear is how on that same trip “I had a strange feeling I was being followed.” I even heard a strange noise toward the back of our boat, but I was so tired I didn’t investigate. In the middle of the night, though, “something woke me from a deep, peaceful sleep. Something slobbery!” You’ll never in a million years guess what it was. Next to my bunk was the oddest creature I ever saw—a little guy that was “half dog and half shark.”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, courtesy of gedadamson.com.

Dad was as surprised as I was. But the best part was that he said I could keep him. As soon as we landed on shore, Shark Dog was off like a shot, checking out the surroundings…in his own special way. Let’s just say when Shark Dog dove into the fountain, all the other creatures dove out, and at the park, while other dogs retrieved sticks, Shark Dog retrieved a whole tree.

Sometimes Shark Dog seemed to get his sharkiness and his doginess a little mixed up, but at all times he “was a fun friend to have around.” As you might imagine, Shark Dog loved the beach even though there could be a lot of screaming and panicked paddling when his fin popped up among the waves. One day, the beach was extra exciting. Shark Dog spied another shark dog and was super happy—until he saw that it was just a rubber floaty.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, courtesy of gedadamson.com.

“For the first time, my Shark Dog was sad,” and he stayed sad. When he saw a travel poster of a far-flung ocean paradise, he even shed a tear. Dad thought we should take him home. This time we traveled by plane, and it was like the other shark dogs knew he was coming because as soon as we landed he “got the most wonderful welcome.” We spent a fantastic day with Shark Dog and his friends. The next morning, I gave Shark Dog a hug goodbye, and Dad and I started home.

But before we got too far, we saw Shark Dog following our raft. Then when we transferred aboard ship, so did Shark Dog—with one flying leap. It seemed that Shark Dog made a choice. “And that was just fine with me.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shark-dog-beach-fun

Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, courtesy of gedadamson.com.

Ged Adamson’s unique and funny story will delight pet owners, pet dreamers, and dog and shark aficionados alike. The little shark-dog hybrid, with his long snout, sturdy body, and sweet expression, is everything a friend should be as he plays along no matter what the escapade. Infused with lots of heart, Adamson’s story is also a reassuring choice for kids facing a move, a new school, or other new experiences. Just like Shark Dog, young readers will see that old friends remain true, new friends can be pretty great too, and exploring outside one’s comfort zone can open up a whole world of adventure.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017, courtesy of gedadamson.com.

Adamson’s artwork is loaded with personality, humor, and emotion highlighted with the vibrant palette and chalked-in details that make his illustrations so distinctive. Those familiar with Adamson’s picture books may notice winks to his other characters among the pages. Kids will love Dad, all decked out in retro gear and sporting wavy, red hair and a handlebar mustache. Both boys and girls will identify with the child narrator, who is dressed in gender-neutral clothing and tells the story from the first-person point of view without gender-specific pronouns.

Shark Dog! is a jaunty exploration of friendship that kids will love to take again and again. The book would make a fun addition to any home library.

Discover more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his artwork on his website!

This beachy Shark Dog! book trailer is fin-tastic! Take a look!

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062457134

National Mutt Day Activity

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Adopt a New Friend Maze

 

This detective and her mutt are looking for another puppy to join the team! Can you help them find their way to a new friend in this Adopt a New Friend Maze

Picture Book Review

December 1 – Eat a Red Apple Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is steeped in the history of the apple industry in America, beginning with the work of John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, who planted apple trees on his travels across the country in the early 1800s. Due to the popularity of apples and their ease of transportation, a variety of apples were being developed during the mid-to-late 1800s. While the “Ben Davis” apple was at the top of the list in 1880 for its resilience in tough growing climates and long shelf life, it wasn’t the tastiest of apples. As transportation from farm to store became easier and shorter, the Red Delicious emerged as the favorite. It held that position into the 1980s, comprising 75% of all apples grown in Washington state—one of the largest apple producers in the world. While other apple varieties have taken a bite out of the popularity of the Red Delicious, it is still the iconic apple—and the star of today’s holiday!

Little Elliot, Fall Friends

By Mike Curato

 

Little Elliot the elephant and his best friend Mouse loved the lights, action, and feel of the big city. Sometimes though “the city was too dirty, too loud, and too busy.” Mouse decided they needed a vacation, so they took a bus ride to the country. As they left the buildings and traffic of the city behind for the autumn leaves, rolling hills, and fresh air of the countryside, Elliot and Mouse felt refreshed.

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Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

When the bus dropped them off, Elliot exclaimed, “‘Wow…the country is even bigger than the city!’” They ran up a hill and relaxed under a tree feeling “the breeze and the sunshine and the soft grass.” Soon, they began to get hungry. Down in an orchard below, they found some juicy red apples to eat. Taking a bite, Elliot thought, “‘The country is delicious!’” Mouse thought the piles of fallen leaves were pretty fun too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-eating-apples

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The two played hide-and-seek in the woods, in a pumpkin patch, and in a corn field, where tall brown stalks still stood. Elliot thought the corn field was the perfect hiding spot, but as the sun began to go down and no Mouse appeared to find him, he wondered where Mouse was. “Suddenly, Elliot smelled something delicious.” He followed the aroma out of the corn stalks and to a farm house, where he found a an apple pie cooling on a windowsill.

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Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Elliot came closer, close enough to peek in the window. Just then Mouse jumped out from behind the pie. “‘I found you!’” he said. Elliot was excited to see his friend. It seemed that Mouse had been busy. When he couldn’t find Elliot, he knew just what to do. He made friends with the farm animals, and then they made a pie because Mouse knew that Elliot would follow his nose and come out of his hiding place. “‘Nobody knows me better,’ said Elliot.”

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Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Later, the pig, cow, horse, dog, and chicken gathered with Elliot and Mouse around the big picnic table “for a fall feast.” With apple cider served in mason jars, Mouse gave a toast: “‘To new friends!’” and Elliot added “‘And to new treats!’” They fell asleep on the soft hay in the barn, naming the stars that twinkled in the dark sky.

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Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Mike Curato’s Little Elliot books enchant little ones, and it’s easy to see why as Elliot and Mouse’s adventure into the countryside offers young readers all the comfort and camaraderie that best friends provide each other. The quietly simple and tender story is highlighted by Curato’s spectacular illustrations that combine the clear precision and details of photography with the playful softness of a favorite stuffed toy. Here and there clever designs in the images reflect the sunny tone and foreshadow the special treat Mouse uses to reunite with his best friend. The final nighttime spreads will fill children with wonder.

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Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Little Elliot, Fall Friends is a sweet, sophisticated book that fans of the series will want to add to their collection and new readers will embrace, while also eager to discover the other Little Elliot books: Big City, Big Family, and Big Fun. It’s a “can’t miss” for any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627796408

Discover more about Mike Curato and his books plus downloadable Little Elliot activity sheets on his website.

Eat a Red Apple Day Activity

CPB - Cinnamon Apples (2)

Cinnamon Apples Recipe

 

Cinnamon apples are a delicious side dish to any meal! This tasty recipe is fun for kids and adults to make together.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of apples, Macintosh or Granny Smith apples are good choices
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

CPB - Cinnamon Apples ingredients (2)

Directions

  1. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon
  2. Peel and core 2 large apples
  3. Thinly slice apples
  4. Combine apples and cinnamon sugar/brown sugar mixture
  5. Stir until well combined
  6. Drizzle with lemon juice and stir again
  7. Cook apples on the stove at medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until desired texture

Picture Book Review

November 26 – It’s Historic Bridge Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the bridges across the world who have stood the test of time as they connect roads, highways, and even walking paths over expanses of water or other gaps to convey travelers from one side to the other. Many old bridges are in danger of destruction through neglect or rebuilding. The founders of this month’s holiday ask that these structures be preserved for their beauty and history. There is another kind of bridge that also needs careful tending—as seen in today’s book! 

A Book of Bridges: Here to There and Me to You

Written by Cheryl Keely | Illustrated by Celia Krampien

 

“Bridges do more than connect one place to another. They bring the whole world together.” There are so many types of bridges—each just right for their place or function. Some of the most charming bridges are wooden-covered, like Canada’s Hartland-to-Somerville span in New Brunswick, which is the longest covered bridge in the world at 1282 feet (as long as 32 school buses end to end). Some are colorful like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, which is distinctively orange, a beautiful beacon against the blue sky and sea.

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In London the bridge isn’t really falling down even though that makes for a fun game! The London Bridge, which crosses the River Thames, was the first stone multi-arch bridge built in Britain.” Over the years the bridge has been renovated many times, and it’s now made of concrete and steel. Drawbridges might be the coolest kind of bridge! It’s fun to watch them split in the middle and rise up, up, up before coming back down after a ship passes. These bridges “date to medieval times when knights in armor—and dragons?!—fought for their castles.”

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Sometimes bridges don’t have to be fancy to work. Some “bridges can be as simple as a few stones placed across a shallow stream” that give crossers a place to step all along the way. This is known as a clapper bridge. People aren’t the only ones who use bridges either. Places that are home to roaming wildlife—like Banff National Park in Canada—build bridges so animals “such as bears, wolves, moose, and lynx” can cross roads and highways safely.

Trains can also “use bridges to clickity-clack along, carrying people to people. Family together again.” But what if you want to travel from country to country? There are even bridges for that, and they make “a big world seem smaller.” While these types of bridges are strong and sturdy, there are other spans made only of rope and boards that are “rickety, ratchety, swinging and swaying their way to beautiful hid away places.”

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

People can become bridges too! Just try bending backward to touch the ground. Or if you don’t like feeling upside down, there is a simple way that “isn’t so grand. It connects me to you and you to me…through the simple holding of hands.”

Cheryl Keely’s enchanting tour of some of the world’s most beautiful and unusual bridges is sure to engage readers who love architecture, travel, and transportation—or who just have the wanderlust. Keely’s story, punctuated with facts and trivia about different types of bridges, is a lyrical frame for her theme of interconnectedness and friendship, making this a book that resonates on many levels and is a treat to dip into again and again.

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Celia Krampien’s charming artwork takes readers to the towns and cities, the shores and cliffs that host the world’s bridges. Her realistic depictions show the grandeur of the majestic spans millions of people use every day as well as the rustic simplicity of rope and clapper bridges. Kids will love picking out details of the scenery surrounding each structure as well as recognizing familiar settings they have learned about or, perhaps, traveled to.

A Book of Bridges: Here to There and Me to You is a fresh, uplifting story that will appeal to fiction as well as nonfiction lovers. In addition to being a great addition to any story time, the book has many cross-curricular applications for classrooms and libraries, and would be a welcome find on any bookshelf.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369966

To learn more about Cheryl Keely and her work as well as to find a fun bridge game, visit her website!

Find a portfolio of illustration by Celia Krampien on her website!

Historic Bridge Awareness Month Activity

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Build a Remarkable Recycled Bridge

 

You don’t need fancy blocks and construction materials to build a bridge! Little ones will be fascinated to put together a bridge made out of items you already have at home or that may even be slated for the recycle bin. Spaghetti boxes make great roadways, and cut-up egg cartons can be used as supports.

Want to build a whole town? Cereal boxes and pasta boxes make skyscrapers, apartment buildings, fire stations, and more. Need a farm silo? Grab a peanut butter jar or aluminum can. You can use them as is or—if your kids are sticklers for a little more detail—add a little paint! So look around, use your imagination, and get creative!

Picture Book Review

November 22 – Go for a Ride Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the joy of going for a ride to explore the unknown, revisit a favorite place, or spend time with friends or family. Whether you choose to go by bike, car, train, or plane, getting away can broaden your horizons and provide a much-needed dose of relaxation. November 22, coming close to the holiday season and commemorating several vehicle-related patents, is the perfect opportunity to go for that ride you’ve been wanting to take. Children, especially, love the excitement of and benefit from the new experience of travel.

Molly & Mae: A Friendship Journey

Written by Danny Parker | Illustrated by Freya Blackwood

 

Waiting on the platform at the little train station, “Molly found Mae beneath a bench” then “Mae found Molly in the newspaper shop.” They spent their coins in the bubblegum machine and sat on a bench blowing big pink bubbles. “After that, Molly and Mae were stuck.” To pass the time they took pictures in the photo booth, walked a tightrope line on the floor, twirled like ballerinas, shared sherbet and secrets, and vowed to be friends forever.

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Image copyright Freya Blackwood, 2017, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

On the train they played with their dolls, got hungry, bounced on the seats and hung from the backs, skipped up the aisle, crawled under the seats, lounged in the seats, and played I Spy. But then Molly and Mae had an argument. Molly thought her younger friend was “silly,” and “Mae was tired of being bossed around.” They sat in silence watching the rain splatter the windows and the gray, misty world pass by.

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Image copyright Freya Blackwood, 2017, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

“Drawing on the glass, Molly and Mae missed each other.” Molly glanced at Mae and snuck under the seat and peeked at Mae. “Then she took the words she should have said and started to build a bridge.” Mae apologized and explained too “until the bridge was strong enough to hold them both.” As the train traveled on, the sky cleared and the girls saw hills, lakes, and bridges and zipped through dark tunnels. At night they watched the twinkling stars as the train passed through crossings in small towns until it reached their destination. Molly and Mae packed up their things and jumped onto the platform holding hands. Then they left the station together.

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Image copyright Freya Blackwood, 2017, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Danny Parker wonderfully captures the capacity for children to form deeply felt friendships that may only last a day or, under the right circumstances, can last a lifetime. As Molly and Mae bond over their common boredom in waiting for the train, they enjoy common jokes, treats, and games. But as the day wears on, they become short with each other, and their friendship is threatened. Molly’s willingness to apologize, and Mae’s eager reciprocation are welcome examples of how to mend hurt feelings. Parker’s simple, yet lyrical storytelling allows children to read between the lines and fill in their own similar experiences that makes Molly and Mae a beautiful universal story about the journey of life.

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Image copyright Freya Blackwood, 2017, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Freya Blackwood’s lovely illustrations give readers so much to see and talk about as Molly and Mae meet and spend the day together in the station and on the train. Rendered in quiet sepia tones, the images of the train station and the interior of the train cars could depict any trains anywhere in the world. The girls, in their colorful clothing and horsing around with the excitement of the journey and a new-found playmate, are the focal point of each spread. When their argument occurs, the pastel green fields and blue sky out the windows turn grey as rain pours down.

As Molly and Mae find words to rebuild their friendship, the train traverses a stone bridge, and as the girls make up, the sky once again turns sunny. Clever split pages give cut-away views of the train’s interior on top and bottom while the progress of the trip is shown in the middle, and the rectangular shape of the book allows for long two-page spreads that mirror the length of the train and also, perhaps, the long future friendship to come.

Molly and Mae: A Friendship Journey is a gorgeous quiet book for reflective children. With its detailed illustrations, it is also a wonderful book to share before a train trip or to take along on the journey.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1328715432

Discover more about Danny Parker and his books on his website

To learn more about Freya Blackwood, her art, and her books, visit her website

Go for a Ride Day Activity

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Let’s Go for a Ride! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are so many ways to go for a ride! Find the twenty types of transportation in this printable Let’s Go for a Ride! Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

November 21 – National Entrepreneurs’ Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2010, today’s holiday celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit that is alive and well in so many people and that helps advance knowledge and technology, solve problems, and make life better. The third Tuesday of November has been set aside to honor those thinkers and inventors of the past as well as to encourage those now working to see their ideas come to fruition. With their supple minds and unique way of looking at the world, children are natural entrepreneurs, as today’s book shows!

Norton and Alpha

By Kristyna Litten

 

Norton was a very particular kind of collector. He loved finding the kinds of things most people threw away. “Battered wheels, rusty cogs, broken springs…and best of all were the things Norton didn’t have a name for.” Nearly everywhere he went, Norton found useful things. He took them all home and “made the most amazing inventions.”

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day Norton found a little springy thing that he added “to his latest project.” It was the perfect final touch, and Norton named his invention Alpha. Alpha accompanied Norton on all of his hunts, following “his little robot nose down unknown paths.” He was small enough to get into all those places Norton couldn’t reach—ones where amazing items lurked.

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day “Alpha’s nose felt slightly odd. It tickled and tingled and led him to something very unusual.” Norton had no idea what it was, but he took it along home. In his workshop he tested it in all of his usual ways, but this object didn’t react in any way familiar. In fact, the longer Norton had it, the less useful it appeared to be until Norton finally threw it out the window. As it fell it scattered bits of itself all over the ground.

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

As Norton and Alpha cleaned up, “they found a little round something their mysterious discovery had left behind.” Norton placed it in a jar just in case. The next day rain kept Norton and Alpha indoors, and the next day after that it was too hot to go out. Friday turned out to be just right, so Norton “oiled their joints and got everything ready for a long day’s collecting.”

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When they opened the doors they were greeted by the most beautiful, colorful sight. Norton and Alpha ran and played in the field and collected samples of all “the blue, pink, and orange things.” At home Norton didn’t experiment on them or even try to figure out what they were. Instead, he just used them to decorate his shelves, pipes, boxes, and bins because they “made him smile.”

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Kristyna Litten’s inventive story of a little robot who loves to tinker and collect odd objects and his constant companion, Alpha, will charm children who are always intrigued by the unknown and ready to incorporate found objects into their world. The idea that industrious efforts can coexist with the simple enjoyment of the earth’s beauty may inspire kids and adults to also appreciate those special “found moments” that can bring much happiness to life.

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Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Litten’s Norton and Alpha are adorable friends, inviting little readers into their lab, where kids will love lingering over the gears, dials, machines, and shelves stacked with recognizable springs, tacks, nails, washers, hooks, hinges and other items. Readers will “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” when Norton and Alpha open their doors—accomplished through a marvelous double gate-fold spread—and the once-bleak landscape has been transformed into a gorgeous field by the flowers Norton has helped to grow. Children will also enjoy following what happens to the little seed Norton has saved as it is watered by an undetected leak in a nearby bottle and germinated on that very hot day.

With its cute illustrations and inspiring story, Norton and Alpha would be a much-asked-for book on any child’s home bookshelf and a terrific lead-in to inventive classroom playtimes or units.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454924999

Discover more about Kristyna Litten, her art, and her books on her blog.

National Entrepreneur’s Day Activity

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Inventor’s Box

 

For young inventors or tinkerers, having bits and pieces and some tools to work with all stored in one place encourages creative thinking. Filling the drawers of a tool case, a tool box, or a tackle box with items like springs, brads, wheels, hinges, plastic piping, pieces of wood, glue, tape, and simple tools can spark a child’s imagination. Take your child along to the craft or hardware store and choose items together!

Picture Book Review