April 20 – National Adopt a Greyhound Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-greyhound-a-groundhog-cover

About the Holiday

Established eight years ago by The Greyhound Project, National Adopt a Greyhound Month aims to promote the adoption of retired racing greyhounds. These smart and gentle animals make wonderful family companions. To learn more about adoption or how you might volunteer or help out, visit The Greyhound Project website.

A Greyhound, a Groundhog

Written by Emily Jenkins | Illustrated by Chris Appelhans

“A hound. A round hound” sleeps curled into itself like a smooth stone. He wakes and pokes his head in the air. “A greyhound.” Nearby is a hole, small and dark. A furry creature pokes his head in the air. “A groundhog.” The greyhound stretches and bows— his head down, his tail up. The groundhog also stretches—his arms lifted, his teeth exposed by a yawn.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-greyhound-a-groundhog-surprised

Image copyright Chris Appelhans, text copyright Emily Jenkins. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

“A groundhog, a greyhound, a grey little round hound. / A greyhound, a groundhog, a found little roundhog.” Round and round they run. They chase and lope and leap. “Around and around and around and around. The ground and a hog and some grey and a dog.” Like a whirlpool they spin and twirl and race and swirl, over and under.

The greyhound and groundhog pull up short from “around and around” to watch a butterfly that astounds. Then myriads astound, fluttering like confetti on the air. The greyhound and groundhog dash after them to “a bog and a sound / and a log on the ground”—an obstacle course and a playground for rolling “around and around and around and around!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-greyhound-a-groundhog-playing

Image copyright Chris Appelhans, text copyright Emily Jenkins. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Emily Jenkins’ twisting, twirling rollercoaster of a story is a euphoric celebration of carefree capering with a friend. Playing off the springy, bouncing sound of “ound” and the sharp, squat staccato “og,” Jenkins’ perfect read-aloud transports readers and listeners into the midst of an alliterative maelstrom that will leave them breathless and giggling. The momentary pause to marvel at the beauty of nature is superb suspension, leading to renewed exuberance and finally contented repose.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-greyhound-a-groundhog-swirling

Image copyright Chris Appelhans, text copyright Emily Jenkins. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The gorgeous mottled watercolors of Chris Appelhans’ sleek grayhound and perky groundhog meld and contrast on the page as the two frolic and tumble together then run and chase. Combined with the curved text, the images create the sense that the very pages are engaged in the swirling, spirited play of the greyhound and groundhog. The pair’s happy faces reveal the joy of being together, and the pastel backdrop of flowers, butterflies, and a mirror-still bog enhance the beauty of this joyful book.

A Greyhound, a Groundhog is a can’t-miss gift for any occasion and a wonderful addition to any child’s bookshelf for cheery, energetic story times.

Ages 3 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2017 | ISNB 978-0553498059

Discover more about Emily Jenkins and her books as well as book-related resources and activities on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Chris Appelhans on his website!

National Adopt a Greyhound Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-greyhound-coloring-page

Graceful Greyhound Coloring Page

Greyhounds are one of the fastest animals on the planet, but don’t rush through coloring this printable Graceful Greyhound Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

March 21 – World Poetry Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-cover

About the Holiday

Sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), World Poetry Day celebrates one of the world’s oldest and most treasured forms of linguistic expression. On this day we honor the poets who translate physical beauty into words, expose social injustice in heartrending verse, and make us laugh with quirky juxtapositions. To celebrate the holiday, attend a poetry reading, revisit poems from your favorite author or discover a new writer, or pen a poem yourself!

enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings

Written by Matthew Burgess | Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

 

Hello! Welcome to 4 Patchin Place, the home of poet E. E. Cummings! This is where he wrote his poetry on a clackety typewriter, stopping only for tea poured out by the love of his life, Marion Moorehouse. How did he become a poet? That is an interesting story! E. E. was born Edward Estlin Cummings on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His house was full of extended family, a handyman, a maid, and several pets. From an early age he loved to translate the things he saw into words. “His first poem flew out of his mouth when he was only three: “‘Oh, my little / birdie, Oh / with his little / toe, toe, toe!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-welcome

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Estlin’s mother wrote down all the poems he told her and made a little book of them, titled “‘Estlin’s Original Poems.’” When he was six, he expressed his love of nature in a poem about trees, and when his mother asked him what else he saw, he “looked around as if his eyes were on tiptoes and when his heart jumped he said another poem: “‘On the chair is sitting / Daddy with his book. / Took it from the bookcase / Beaming in his look.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-elephant

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

As he grew, Estlin was fascinated by the animals he saw at the circus and in the zoo. He drew pictures of them and wrote about them, using the words he loved so well—and even making up his own words. Estlin had a zest for life and for making life fun for himself and his little sister. During the summers, the family traveled to Joy Farm in New Hampshire, where Estlin swam, milked the cow, rode a donkey, and wandered through the fields and forest. His father had built him a little log cabin in the woods, and in the afternoons Estlin went there to draw and write. At home he also had a special place all his own. In an enormous tree his father built a tree house, complete with stove to keep him warm on cold days.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-tree-house

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Estlin had support for his writing at school too. His favorite teacher encouraged him saying, “anything is possible, / as long as you are true to yourself / and never give up, even when the world / seems to say, stop!” From his Uncle George, Estlin received a guide to writing poems. Estlin followed the rules in the book, penning poems nearly every day. When Estlin was 17 he attended Harvard College and began publishing his poems in the school’s magazines. While at Harvard, Estlin realized he had to follow his heart to be happy. He wanted to be like the new artists who were shaping the world—people like Gertrude Stein, Paul Cezanne, and Igor Stravinsky, “artists who were,” he once said, “challenging the way we think and see.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-paris

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

After he graduated, Estlin returned home, but when he had saved enough money he moved to New York and fell in love with the city immediately. He and his friends took in everything new the city had to offer. Soon, however, the United States entered World War II. On April 17, 1917 Estlin volunteered to be an ambulance driver in France. Before he received his assignment, though, he had time to explore Paris. He was “bowled over by the museums, the ballet, and the colorful, crowded streets.” He enjoyed the city so much he returned often during his lifetime.

During the war, Estlin was mistaken for a spy and sent to prison for several months. After the war he wrote a book about his experiences titled The Enormous Room by E. E. Cummings. “The book was published and praised! Estlin was becoming E. E.!” A year later he published his first book of poetry—Tulips & Chimneys. In his poems he experimented with punctuation and using lower case letters instead of capitals.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-yes

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Through his fanciful typography, E. E. “wanted his reader’s eyes to be on tiptoes too, seeing and reading poetry (inaway) that was new.” But some people didn’t understand or like his poetry; it was too strange and too small, they said. But E. E. knew he had to stay true to himself. He believed that “his poems were new and true” and “were his way of saying YES” to everything he loved. As time went on more and more people began to “see the beauty of E. E.’s poetry, and he became one of the most beloved poets in America.”

E. E. Cummings lived and worked at 4 Patchin Place for almost 40 years, but in his mind he would often return to his childhood home. He “could still see himself as a boy gazing out at the sunset”—a memory that he put into words: who are you,little i / (five or six years old) / peering from some high / window;at the gold / of November sunset / (and feeling:that if day has to become night / this is a beautiful way)”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-patchin-place

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, text copyright Matthew Burgess. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Simply put, Matthew Burgess’s enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is a biography that will make you smile. Upbeat and full of the wonder and whimsy that influenced Estlin Cummings’ prodigious talent, the story encourages readers to always follow their heart. Burgess’s easy-going, conversational style invites kids along on the journey of Cumming’s life, stopping off at points that resonate with kids—early imaginary play, school, family vacations, home life, college, travel, and ultimate success. Seeing the support Cummings received throughout his life will inspire young readers just starting out on their own roads of discovery.

Kris Di Giacomo’s enchanting illustrations will immediately capture the imagination of readers. The playful quality of Cummings’ personality and poems is mirrored in each spread as a variety of children’s drawings and typography are sprinkled throughout. As six-year-old Estlin composes poems for his mother, he stands on tiptoe in his nightshirt surrounded by toys; he experiences life from rooftop and treetop and gazes into the night from his tree house; New York lights up with fireworks and the lights of Broadway; and his poems spring from the pages in their own inimitable way.

For children interested in writing, biographies, history, the arts, and the life of the imagination, enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is a perfect choice for their home bookshelves.

A chronology of E. E. Cummings’ life, five poems, and an Author’s Note follow the text.

Ages 4 – 9

Enchanted Lion Publishing, 2015 | ISBN 978-1592701711

To learn more about Matthew Burgess, his books, and his poetry, visit his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Kris Di Giacomo on her website!

World Poetry Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grow-a-poem-craft

 

 

Grow a Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

March 2 – Read Across America Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-unexpected-love-story-of-alfred-fiddleducling-cover

About the Holiday

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Read Across America Day, which is sponsored by the National Education Association and promotes the joy and discovery that reading provides. Not only is reading fun, studies show that reading to a child from birth improves literacy and language development and leads to a lifelong love for books. Today, visit your local bookstore or library and find some new books to share—or grab some favorites off your shelf and enjoy them again!

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling

By Timothy Basil Ering

 

Captain Alfred was sailing home with his boat filled with ducks for his farm. “Nestled safe inside his fiddle case” was one nearly ready-to-hatch egg—a surprise present for his wife. Captain Alfred already had a name picked out for the little one—Alfred Fiddleduckling—and he knew this baby would be very special. But suddenly a “mighty gale whipped the seas into a raging fury” and tossed the little boat and its occupants to and fro. When the storm had blown itself out, a thick, impenetrable fog descended over the ocean.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-unexpected-love-story-of-alfred-fiddleducling-egg

Image and text copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

From the porch of a small cottage on the shore’s edge, a woman looked out to sea as “tears of worry dropped from her cheeks, into the mist.” Baby Alfred, however, unaware of these events and hidden by the fog, hatched as the fiddle case floated on the now-calm water. The little duckling looked around and saw something in the water nearby. He paddled out to it and even though it took no notice of him, Alfred “embraced the object with all of his heart.” He “caressed it so that it would not feel as lonely as he did ” and was surprised to hear a most beautiful and unexpected sound.

Alfred immediately fell in love—and imagined that his love was reciprocated. The two drifted along, buoyed by the waves until Alfred’s feet touched ground in a spooky swamp. In a moment, however, the comforting music began again. The sounds, so unexpected in this mist-shrouded swamp, reached the ears of “a beast that was lurking in the tall grasses.” The Beast bounded in the direction of the sound and found Alfred and his love. With drool dripping from its jaws, the beast came closer. Alfred shook, and in his fear “his music became fast and wild!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-unexpected-love-story-of-alfred-fiddleducling-finds-fiddle

Image and text copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

The beast stood on his hind two legs, rising high and menacing above tiny Alfred and…began to dance. The dog had missed his master’s fiddle playing and he now found a best friend in Alfred. The two trekked through the swamp, searching for home and becoming cold, wet, and helpless as the hours stretched on. The fiddle quivered with music that was as sad and helpless as the two wanderers.

But someone heard those quiet strains—the woman on the porch of the little cottage. “She ran through the fog, straight toward the sound of Alfred’s fiddle. She wrapped her arms around her dog and marveled at the special duckling and his music. “‘Don’t ever stop playing your wonderful music,’” she told Alfred. Alfred played with abandon, pouring out all the happiness in his heart. Out on the sea a raft of ducks and one very surprised captain heard the music…and you can guess what happened next!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-unexpected-love-story-of-alfred-fiddleducling-captain-plays-fiddle

Image copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Timothy Basil Ering’s wonderfully unique tale of a ship-wrecked duckling and a fiddle who together make beautiful music that reunites a family is captivating. The story holds just the right amount of surprise, suspense, and heart to keep young children riveted to what happens next. Ering’s lyrical phrasing is music to readers’ ears and conveys the various melodies—sweet, quivering, poignant, tempestuous, and finally joyful—that carry the story from one event to another.

Ering’s full-bleed illustrations begin with bright vibrancy that gives way to gauzy grays as the fog rolls in. Despite the weather or ominous surroundings, Alfred remains a bright spot, his yellow fuzz and the multi-colored notes a glowing beacon in the dark. Little readers will love following the confetti notes of Alfred’s playing and guessing the next twist in the plot. The star of the story, plucky little Alfred, is a cutie as  with empathy he embraces the fiddle and bravely ventures through sea and swamp to find home.

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling is joyful, mysterious, and humorous tribute to friendship, love, and the unexpected that would make a great gift and an often-read addition to children’s home libraries.

Ages 2 – 6

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763664329

Read Across America Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mug-cookie

Snuggle-in Mug Cookie Treat

 

Snuggling up and reading is made even better with a quick and tasty treat! Make this warm mug cookie that takes only minutes to put together and then settle in for some favorite or new stories! Here’s a delicious recipe from Food.com for you to try!

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • ½ Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 Tablespoons dark or milk chocolate chips
  • 1 Pinch salt

Directions

  1. Place butter and milk in a microwavable mug. Microwave for 30 seconds to melt the butter and warm the milk.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla extract.
  3. Mix in flour, chocolate chips, and salt.
  4. Microwave for about 1 minute on High. (Cooking time is based on the texture of cookie you like)
  5. Cool for 5 minutes before serving
  6. Add toppings such as ice cream, whipped cream, or hot fudge or chocolate sauce

Picture Book Review

January 10 – It’s International Quality of Life Month and Q & A with Deborah Sosin

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-charlotte-and-the-quiet-place-noisy-neighborhood

About the Holiday

How one achieves their definition of a good quality of life may differ for every person, but in general it encompasses being happy and satisfied with one’s relationships, work, living conditions, and self. Whether you find happiness and quality of life in outdoor or indoor pursuits, with others or alone, at work or at home, this month’s holiday gives you time to get in touch with your inner quiet place and reflect on changes or improvements to bring you more peace and happiness in life.

Charlotte and the Quiet Place

Written by Deborah Sosin | Illustrated by Sara Woolley

 

Charlotte is a girl who likes quiet who lives in a noisy world. Everywhere she goes, it seems, it’s impossible to escape from sounds that disturb her peace. At home the hallway creaks where “the floorboards groan,” the living room is like an arcade where the “TV bellows and blares,” and the kitchen is filled with Otto’s barks for his dinner. Even in Charlotte’s bedroom, “which is supposed to be a quiet place, the old steam radiator hisses, whistles, and whines. Where can Charlotte find a quiet place?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-charlotte-and-the-quiet-place-noisy-home

Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

When Charlotte goes to school, things are no better. In the classroom kids are boisterous and bells ring; the lunchroom echoes with clattering trays and scuffing chairs; and the playground blares with big voices and stomping feet but also with the little squeaks and rattle of the swings. “Even in the library, which is supposed to be a quiet place, the children giggle, yammer, and yell. Where can Charlotte find a quiet place?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-charlotte-and-the-quiet-place-noisy-subway

Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

The outside world resounds with the din of jackhammers, horns, sirens, shouts, cars, music, and the “screeches, rumbles, and roars” of the subway. “Even in the park, which is supposed to be a quiet place, the leaf blower buzzes, blusters, and hums.” Charlotte puts her hands to her ears. “‘Nooo!’” she cries, “‘I have to find a quiet place!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-charlotte-and-the-quiet-place-nooo!-charlotte-cries

Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

On Saturday Charlotte takes her dog for a walk in the park. Suddenly, Otto spies a squirrel and takes off running, wrenching his leash out of Charlotte’s hand. She chases after him down a hill, over a bridge, into the middle of a grove of trees. Out of breath, Charlotte and Otto sit beneath a tree. Gasping, Charlotte’s “belly rises up and down, up and down. Her breath goes in and out, in and out. Hooooo ahhhhh. Hooo ahhh.”

Slowly, Charlotte’s breath comes easier and “her mind slows down.” In this state, she discovers another, even quieter place. It is a place deep inside where her breath is soft and her “thoughts are hushed and low.” It is “a place as quiet as the small silence on the very last page of her favorite book, the silence right after ‘The End.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-charlotte-and-the-quiet-place-quiet-woods

Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

In a little while, Charlotte and Otto leave the grove, but now whenever home or school or the neighborhood is too loud, Charlotte remembers where she can find a quiet place. She simply closes her eyes and pays attention to that place deep in her belly and deep in her mind—“that quiet place inside.”

For so many children the world is a blaring, clattering place where their thoughts are drowned out by the noises around them. Deborah Sosin’s award-winning Charlotte and the Quiet Place validates these feelings and offers children a way to discover inner peace wherever they are. As a tonic to today’s hyper-stimulated environment, kids and adults alike will benefit from the method of mindful reflection Sosin presents. Sosin’s combination of evocative verbs and repetition makes the story fresh and an excellent read-aloud while also mirroring the sounds that are a part of our everyday life.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-charlotte-and-the-quiet-place-noisy-neighborhood

Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

Sara Woolley’s beautiful watercolor illustrations vividly depict not only Charlotte’s world but the sounds that disturb her peace. Amid the fully realized home, school, and neighborhood environments, complete with realistic details kids will recognize, sharp cracks of equipment, blaring bells and whistles, high-pitched voices, and other noises spark the page. Portrayals of Charlotte, her hands over her ears and her eyes sad, express her distress in a way kids will understand. When Charlotte finds the grove of trees in which she first experiences inner peace, Woolley’s color palette turns softer, with peaceful tones of green, blue, and yellow where, previously, “louder” purples, reds, and golds predominated.

Charlotte and the Quiet Place is a very welcomed book for those times when peace seems elusive and will give comfort to children who prefer quiet places and have more introverted natures. The book would make a wonderful addition to all children’s book shelves as well as to school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Parallax Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1941529027

Visit Charlotte and the Quiet Place on her own webstite! You’ll find resources, images and videos, news about events, and more!

Discover more about Deborah Sosin, her writing for children and adults, writing workshops, mindfulness services, and more on her website!

View a gallery of artwork for books, comics,  and other illustration work by Sara Woolley on her website!

International Quality of Life Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-smile-cards-craft

Share a Smile Cards

 

Life is better when you share smiles with those you know—and those you don’t! Try it! When you’re out today at school or other places, look someone in the eye and smile. You’ll probably get a smile back—and you can be sure that you will have made the other person’s and your day better!

Here are some Smile Cards that you can share. Why not slip one into your dad’s pocket or your mom’s purse, put one in your friend’s backpack, or sneak one onto your teacher’s desk? You can even leave one somewhere for a stranger to find! Have fun sharing your smiles, and see how much better you and the others around you feel!

Click here to print your Share a Smile Cards.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-author-deborah-sosin

Photo by Kevin Day Photography

Q&A with Author Deborah Sosin

 

Today, I’m thrilled to talk with Debbie Sosin, a writer, editor, and clinical social worker who specializes in mindfulness-based psychotherapy, about her first picture book, her choral singing, and how kids respond to her presentations.

In your career you write for adults and children, work within the publishing industry, provide publicity services, and teach. How did you get started? Did you always want to write?

I kept a diary starting at around age ten and always loved writing for school or for fun. I started getting more serious about writing for publication in the past ten years, studied at GrubStreet, attended the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and eventually went back to school to get an MFA in Creative Writing. I wish I had started earlier, but it’s been rewarding to finally follow my true passion.

What influenced you to write Charlotte and the Quiet Place?

I wrote the book as an independent project as part of my MFA studies at Lesley University. They say “write what you know,” so I thought about my childhood growing up in kind of a noisy house, where my brother played the piano, my father had a radio and TV on simultaneously, and my mother was on the phone a lot. And then I thought about my longtime meditation practice and how tuning in to my breathing has helped me find a quiet place inside. So I wanted to write a story about children finding their own quiet place inside themselves.

You give school presentations on mindfulness and your picture book Charlotte and the Quiet Place for various ages. Is there an experience from any of these that you would like to share?

School visits are my favorite part of being an author! No matter what age the students are, they love to help me tell the story by repeating the “noisy” sounds and the “hoo ahh” breathing sounds. We usually do a few calming/breathing exercises together and, without fail, even the squirmiest group will settle into a beautiful, shared, often profound silence. Once, when asked where Charlotte finds her quiet place, one kindergarten girl said, “In her belly and in her brain, where it’s calm.” Many kids get that idea. What could be better? I also love showing them my early scribbles and illustrator Sara Woolley’s wonderful sketches and storyboards, and sharing the step-by-step process of publishing the book, from concept to completion

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-author-deborah-sosin-visits-Newton-Monetssori-School

Deborah Sosin reads Charlotte and the Quiet Place to students at Newton Montessori School. Photo courtesy of Newton Montessori School.

Can you talk a little about mindfulness and how it can benefit children?

Mindfulness has become a catchword these days, but my favorite definition is from Dr. Amy Saltzman: “Noticing what’s happening right here and now, with a friendly, curious attitude, then choosing what to do next.” Many top-notch scientific studies show that mindfulness can help kids with concentration, attention, self-soothing, anxiety, depression, sleep, mood, compassion, confidence…I could go on. Compared with adults, most kids are naturally mindful, that is “in the moment,” but kids do get stressed out and worried about the past or the future, so mindfulness helps. I sometimes worry that parents and teachers might use it for disciplinary reasons (“Enough! Go be mindful in the corner!”), which is not the point. It’s a whole-life practice, not a technique or intervention. And, as the book shows, mindfulness can lead us to a quiet place inside that we can access whenever we want.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-deborah-sosin-debbie-at-cottage-montessori-school

Students at the Cottage Montessori School in Arlington, Massachusetts play the Silence Game with director Karen Wagner, watching the sand in the hourglass. Photo courtesy of Stacey Moriarty.

Can you tell me a little about your work with Grub Street, a creative writing center in Boston?

I started taking classes at GrubStreet in 2008; my first class was “Six Weeks, Six Essays,” and from that class, I helped form a longtime regular writing group. I started blogging soon after and then submitted personal essays for publication, with some good luck. GrubStreet is a fantastic, inclusive community, with excellent faculty and a huge range of motivated, smart, and enthusiastic students, from beginners to veterans. After a few years, I applied to teach classes there and am proud to be on their instructor and consultant rosters now.

You are an accomplished choral singer, having performed at Lincoln Center, the United Nations, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and on an international tour. When did you begin choral singing? Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share from any of your experiences?

I’ve been singing my whole life and have been in choruses since elementary school. Singing with other people is extremely gratifying and, after all the “verbal”-type things I do, including my work as a psychotherapist, it’s a lovely change of pace. I spent about 15 years in the Zamir Chorale of Boston, which specializes in Jewish choral music. Our tours to Eastern Europe, Italy, and Israel were extraordinary. In 1999, when we sang at Auschwitz and Terezin, the sites of former concentration camps, it was hard to keep our emotions in check, but it felt important to revive the voices of the Jewish people that the Nazis had attempted to quell. A PBS documentary film, “Zamir: Jewish Voices Return to Poland,” chronicled our tour that summer. I think it’s still available through the Zamir Chorale website.

What’s the best part about writing for children?

After having focused almost exclusively on nonfiction for most of my writing career, it’s been wonderful to work in the very precise and rich world of picture-book writing with so many lovely, funny, imaginative, and supportive fellow writers I’ve met through SCBWI and the amazing Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, Mass.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-interview-with-deborah-sosin-debbie-at-The-Oblong-Bookstore-event

Debbie’s niece Mollie and a friend draw a noisy thing at The Oblong Bookstore event. Photo courtesy of AM Media Group

What’s up next for you?

I have a couple of Picture Book manuscripts in progress and I’m participating in Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo) this month, so I hope to generate more ideas and get some new work out there soon.

Since this is a holiday-themed blog, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you at least one question about holidays, so…

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite, as it means getting together with my family, which is now spread far and wide, and having an opportunity to express our gratitude.

Thanks, Debbie, for stopping by and chatting! I wish you all the best with Charlotte and the Quiet Place and all of your future endeavors!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-charlotte-and-the-quiet-place-noisy-neighborhood

You can find Charlotte and the Quiet Place at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Parallax Press |Porter Square Books (signed copies available)

Connect with Deborah Sosin on

Her Website | charlotteandthequietplace.com | Facebook | Twitter

Picture Book Review

December 7 – Letter Writing Day

celebrate-picture-books-book-review-exclamation-mark-cover

About the Holiday

With all the letter writing going on during December by young wishers, it should be no surprise that a letter-writing day be included in this month’s calendar. Today’s holiday celebrates all forms of personal communication written by hand and remembers the correspondence of the past that has given us such insight into our favorite poets, novelists, historical figures, and more. Sure email might be faster, but there’s a certain luxury in taking the time to write your thoughts and an unexplainable excitement in holding a heartfelt letter in your hands. The punctuation marks in today’s reviewed book not only help correspondents write more dramatically, but they remind us that we all have unique things to say!

Exclamation Mark

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 

! “stood out from the very beginning.” When he was standing in a row of ……, it didn’t matter if he was in the middle or at the end—he still stuck out. The only time he wasn’t so noticeable was when he laid down to go to sleep. Sometimes he twisted himself into coils and did somersaults to be like the others, but nothing worked. “He just wasn’t like everyone else. Period.” This left him feeling “confused, flummoxed, and deflated.”

celebrate-picture-books-book-review-exclamation-mark-stands-out

Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

He was just about to run away from all his problems when he met ?. ? rushed right up to him and wanted to know everything. “Who are you?…What’s your favorite color? Do you like frogs?…Do you wanna race to the corner? Is there an echo in here? Is there an echo in here?…Why do you look so surprised?….” The list went on and on.

celebrate-picture-books-book-review-exclamation-mark-lots-of-questions

Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

“STOP!” ! shouted. The sound stunned him. ? smiled and wanted him to do it again. ! didn’t know if he could, so he tried a small “Hi!” “That felt right, so he tried something bigger. Howdy!” And then he said, “Wow!” After that there was no stopping him: “You’re it!…Home run!…Yum!…Look out!…Thanks!…Boo!…Go!”

He rushed off to show everyone what he could do. The …… were delighted and “there was much exclaiming.” Now feeling happy and confident, ! “went off to make his mark.”

celebrate-picture-books-book-review-exclamation-mark-yippee

Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s clever story of an exclamation point searching for self expression is as moving as it is original. Kids will recognize his feelings of sticking out in a crowd and uncertainty of purpose and applaude when ? comes on the scene to befriend !. Readers will giggle knowingly at the barrage of questions, and feel emboldened themselves as ! finds his voice and his own unique contribution.

Tom Lichtenheld’s adorable punctuation marks hanging out on kid-ruled paper demonstrate all the expression and expressions of this well-crafted story. With simple dot eyes and small streak mouths, Lichtenheld animates the various emotions of the periods, exclamation mark, and question mark as they discover !’s special talent with individuality for each. The unbridled exuberance of ?‘s and !’s meeting makes this a terrific book about friendship as well.

! deftly points out “What would we do without exclamation points?” Likewise it asks, “What would we do without each one of us?” The positive message, creatively and humorously presented, makes this book a terrific addition to any child’s library.

Scholastic Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-054543679

You’ll find more about Amy Krouse Rosenthal, her books for children and adults, videos, other projects, and so much more on her website!

Discover a portfolio of books by Tom Lichtenheld as well as fun book-related activities and resources for teachers on his website!

!!!! for this ! book trailer!

National Letter Writing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil-riding-kids-find-the-differencesLetter-Writing Kids Find the Differences Puzzle

 

Sometimes writing a letter is a flight of fancy through the thoughts and stories you want to tell someone else. Can you find the 12 differences in this printable Letter-Writing Kids Find the Differences Puzzle?

Picture Book Review 

December 1 – Antarctica Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-problems-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday marks a milestone in the search for peaceful and productive cooperation among nations. Commemorating the 1959 signing of the Antarctic Treaty, which was signed by 12 countries and set aside nearly 10% of Earth “forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes….” Antarctica Day was established in 2010 and is now an annual event, with activities held within schools, science organizations, governmental organizations, and other institutions across more than 25 participating countries. According to the Foundation for the Good Governance of International Spaces, Antarctica Day is “an opportunity to demonstrate how diverse nations can work together peacefully, continuously using science as a global language of cooperation for decision making beyond national boundaries.”

Penguin Problems

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Lane Smith

 

A little penguin lies flat out on a snow bank. It’s morning, which is “way too early.” To top it off his “beak is cold” and there’s a bunch of squawking coming from a hoard of other penguins nearby. As the penguin starts his day, he trudges through snow that’s deeper than it was yesterday, and the little guy doesn’t “even like the snow.” Ugh! The sun is too sunny, and the fish don’t even have the courtesy to jump out of the water into his beak! He has to wade into the freezing water where he just sinks like a stone.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-problems-snowed-last-night

Image copyright Lane Smith, text copyright Jory John, Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

Down in the darkest depths he comes face to teeth with an orca. “Oh, great.” A leopard seal nips at his feet (“Oh, great.”), and a shark has his sharpened fangs ready to chomp (“Oh, great.”)! All that swimming around has left the poor penguin hungry and his flippers exhausted. He waddles up an iceberg to safety, but, ya know, that brings up something else—the penguin decides he waddles too much and thinks he looks “silly when he waddles.” What do you think? Look! He wobbles to the left; he wibbles to the right; he rocks back into place. “See?” Really, it would be so much better if he could fly—but those tiny wings just flap up and down ridiculously. Look! “See?”

And another thing: every other penguin looks exactly like him! And he looks just like every other penguin! Don’t think so? Watch—he thinks he sees someone he knows over there. “Mum?” Awww! That’s so sweet. I’ll bet he gets a big hug. Here it comes…: “I literally have no idea who you are.” Ouch! That does hurt! Wait! There’s his dad. Phew! This time he’ll get a chuck on the…umm…shoulder for sure. “I literally have no idea what you’re talking about. My name is Mortimer.” Yikes!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-problems-mom-and-dad

Image copyright Lane Smith, text copyright Jory John, Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

The little penguin gives vent to his feelings: “I have so many problems! And nobody even cares!” The penguin stands dejectedly under the full weight of his loneliness when he feels a tap on the…umm…shoulder. He turns to see a walrus behind him. “Good afternoon,” the walrus greets him. It seems that he has been watching, and he has a message, “I sense today has been difficult, but lo! Look around you, Penguin. Have you noticed the way the mountains are reflected in the ocean like a painting? Have you gazed up on the blue of that cloudless winter sky, my friend?”

The wise walrus goes on to point out the warmth of the sun and his adoring penguin brothers, sisters, and elders. He admits that there are challenges, and that all creatures face difficult times. “But hear me now, my new friend: I wouldn’t trade my life for any other, and I am quite sure you wouldn’t, either.” In fact, he suggests “you are exactly where you need to be.” With an abrupt goodbye the walrus flops his way back home across the snow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penguin-problems-diving-into-ocean

Image copyright Lane Smith, text copyright Jory John, Courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

The penguin is flabbergasted by the audacity of a walrus trying to explain penguin problems. “Who the heck was that guy?! He exclaims to some nearby brothers, sisters, and elders. But he sighs and sits down in the shadow of the mountain and thinks. He does actually “love the mountains. And the ocean. And the sky.” He agrees that he has family and friends and has only one home. He sits on the top of a high snowbank and reflects on his life until night falls and the stars appear. But really…his “beak is cold.” And ya know? “It gets dark way too early.”

Jory John impeccably captures those days (weeks? months? …?) when the grumbles take over, and even the sun seems “too bright.” As one quibble builds on another, the wry grousing of the disgruntled penguin adds up to a sardonic comic routine that will make kids laugh out loud. The intervention of the walrus is likewise hilarious as he lectures the penguin at length like some old-age guru holding court. With perfect pitch John lets the penguin revel in life’s gifts for an hour or two before returning to his true nature.

Lane Smith’s penguin, at turns dumbfounded, resigned, self-conscious, rejected, flummoxed, and reflective, is so adorable readers cannot help but empathize. The small black-and-white figure of the penguin set against the pages of white snowdrifts highlights his singular dissatisfaction, while the softly mottled depictions of his underwater misadventure and escape, meeting with the garrulous walrus, and moment of contemplation enhance the humor.

Keeping Penguin Problems on any child’s bookshelf is the perfect remedy for days when the doldrums hit, a charm for days that are giggly, and a delight for any day in between.

Ages 3 – 8

Random House Books for Young People, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553513370

Discover more books by Jory John and what’s coming next on his website!

View a gallery of picture book illustration and other artwork by Lane Smith on his website!

Antarctica Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-orca-coloring-page

Antarctic Animals Coloring Sheets

 

Antarctica is home to some of the world’s cutest and best-loved animals. Here are three printable coloring sheets for you to have fun with!

Emperor Penguin | Orca | Walrus and Pup

Picture Book Review

October 19 – Global Dignity Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wherever-you-go-cover-image

About the Holiday

Established in 2008, Global Dignity Day aspires to inspire and educate young people to understand their self-worth and achieve their goals. Events take place in schools in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Oceania. On this day speakers from all walks of life speak to children, revealing experiences from their life and work as it relates to dignity and a sense of self-respect, accomplishment, and interconnectedness.

Students then talk among themselves about what dignity means to them, and many speak their thoughts in front of the class. Following this they write letters to themselves outlining their feelings and aspirations. The letters are collected and handed back to them on the next Global Dignity Day so each child can assess how their life has changed and whether they have achieved their goals or are working toward them.

Today take some time to measure your own sense of dignity and to set goals. Discuss the issue with your child or children and make sure they know that whatever road they choose, they deserve dignity and the opportunities to achieve their full potential.

Wherever You Go

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

 

“When it’s time for a journey, to learn and to grow, / roads guide your footsteps wherever you go. / Roads give you chances to seek and explore. / Want an adventure? / Just open your door.”

So opens this lovely, inspirational picture book that looks at life through the metaphor of those sometimes straightforward, sometime winding, but always intriguing roads. In these pages “Roads…go” over hills, under bridges, and through valleys. They can take you past vast seas and small streams. “Roads…zoom” through brightly lit cities, and “bend,” taking you on detours “you wouldn’t expect, / showing you various ways to connect.”

Roads can bring you closer to your dreams, but also veer away, giving you choices “To go? / Or to stay?” “Roads…reach” from shore to shore or mountain to mountain, “attaching two places that once were apart.” You can “choose to cross over. Follow your heart.” Some roads are small—only built with one lane, but they merge with another “and the two become one.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wherever-you-go-roads-reach

Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of hachettebookgroup.com

With time and change “Roads…grow,” becoming longer and wider and more populated with people you know and those you don’t—yet. Often “Roads…wait. For click-clacking trains / and boats with tall sails. / Slow-going hay wagons carrying bales. / Stoplights and crosswalks, a deer with a friend. / Roads sometimes pause, or just come to an end.”

Roads also rise to dizzying heights and the sense of accomplishment is well worth the climb. From on top “Roads…remember. Every life landmark, the big and the small. / The moments you tripped, the times you stood tall.” At last when you’re ready there are roads that will help you find your way home. So… “Which path should you choose? / That’s easy to see. / The one that will take you / where you wish to be.”

Pat Zietlow Miller’s lyrical journey down the paths life presents is an enchanting quiet-time and story-time read. Wherever You Go also offers parents, caregivers, and teachers a wonderful opportunity to discuss the concepts of self-confidence and self-respect and also the idea that life is made up of many different experiences that can be accepted or rejected like alternate routes on a map. Miller’s rhymes flow as smoothly as an wide open country road, soaring and winding on her exquisite descriptions and word choice. Adult readers may well find a catch in their throat as they read the last line to their children.

Eliza Wheeler captures not only the literal meanings of the lines in Wherever You Go, but also the heart and thoughts of life’s travels. Her softly hued watercolor-and-ink illustrations glow with the promise and possibilities encountered on life’s roads. Intricate details fill every page to show readers that their journeys are shared. Children will enjoy following the main character, a rabbit who rides a bike along a chosen path, but they will also love keeping track of traveling companions met along the way.

Wherever You Go is a fabulous book for all children and makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new babies, and graduations. The gender-neutral text offers inclusiveness for all.

Ages 4 – 9 (and up)

Little Brown and Company, 2015 | ISBN 978-0316400022

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller, her books, and her writing life on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork and a gallery of books by Eliza Wheeler on her website!

Before taking off on your journey, watch this Wherever You Go book trailer!

 Global Dignity Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-heart-shaped-letter-template

I Love Myself! Heart-Shaped Letter Tempate

 

Before you start life’s journey and while you travel the roads you choose, it’s important to believe and remember that you are unique, wonderful, talented, and valuable. Children and adults can use this printable heart-shaped I Love Myself! Letter Template to write a letter to themselves or their children about what makes them such a fantastic person and the goals they want to achieve.

Picture Book Review