January 17 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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About the Holiday

Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrates the life and legacy of the man who dedicated his life and work to teaching—as Coretta Scott King stated—“the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service” and led a non-violent Civil Rights movement to enact racial equality and justice throughout state and federal law. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, setting it on the third Monday of January to coincide with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on January 15. The holiday was officially observed in all 50 states in 2000. Today, learn more about the life and work of Martin Luther King and how you can help promote justice and equality for all. Consider volunteering in your community where help is needed

I’d like to sincerely thank Alice Faye Duncan for sharing a digital copy of Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968

Written by Alice Faye Duncan | Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

 

Informed by the memories of Dr. Almella Starks-Umoja, a teacher who as a child participated in the sanitation strike and told through the eyes of fictional nine-year-old Lorraine, Alice Faye Duncan relates the story of the 1968 sanitation strike in Memphis, Tennessee and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King just a day after giving his final sermon “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” at Mason Temple Church in support of the strike.

Through thirteen titled vignettes composed of lyrical and powerful language, Duncan reveals the detailed facts and emotions of those days that changed lives, altered the Civil Rights movement, and still resonate today. Duncan begins with “Memphis—1968” in which Lorraine describes a Memphis roiled by “the stinking sanitation strike” when “Black men marched for honor” and she also marched “with red ribbon in [her] hair.” She entreats the reader: “You must tell the story—so that no one will forget it.”

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Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, 2018, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2018. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

“Mud Puddles” tells of the moment in January when Lorraine’s father comes home so “distressed and out of breath” that Lorraine’s muddy shoeprints are forgotten by her mama as he tells them about his two fellow sanitation workers and friends—Echol Cole and Robert Walker—who were killed when a truck’s packer blade malfunctioned. “Daddy told Mama, ‘It ain’t right to die like that.’ / Mama shook her head, and I saw a new storm rising up. / I saw it in their eyes.”

In “Marching Orders” Lorraine lays out the ugly conditions sanitation workers like her father toiled under and introduces readers to Mayor Loeb, who refused to increase their wages from $1.70 an hour. She states, “When they could take the abuse no more, 1,300 men deserted their garbage barrels. They organized a labor strike on February 12, 1968. In the morning and afternoon, for sixty-five days, sanitation workers marched fourteen blocks through the streets of downtown Memphis.”

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Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, 2018, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2018. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

As the strike continued through the winter, “[crippling] garbage collection with terrific success,” “Winter Blues” depicts the sacrifices Lorraine’s family made, from going without electricity to missing bill payments to skipping treats or getting anything new. But Lorraine also “learned what the grown folks knew. Trouble visits every life. But as strikers marched through sun and rain, help came in many forms.” Two of these were a group of Memphis preachers who helped strikers pay bills and the NAACP.

Winter turns to spring with no concessions from Mayor Loeb and no end to the strike in sight. But then in “Martin” Lorraine learns in the newspapers her mama’s boss gave her that Martin Luther King Jr. would be coming to support the striking workers. “Silver Rights” recounts Lorraine’s memories of listening to Dr. King, his voice “loud and stirring” when he said, “‘All labor has dignity.’” He set the date of March 22nd when he would march with the striking workers. Lorraine’s daddy and mama vowed to be there. And as she recalled, “then Mama patted my hand and said, ‘We will take Lorraine. She can march with us.’” A haiku “Omen” reveals the cancellation of the march.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memphis-martin-and-the-mountaintop-mud-puddles

Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, 2018, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2018. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

In “Beale Street,” Lorraine explains more about Dr. King’s dreams and work and his crusade he named “the ‘Poor People’s Campaign.’” The march was rescheduled for March 28, and on that day “Six thousand people—blacks, whites, men, women, and children—gathered in downtown Memphis. / Police stood guard with tear gas, billy clubs, and guns.” When looters shattered storefront windows, the police moved in, spraying tear gas and beating people.” Lorraine became separated from her mother but was swept to safety by her father. Following the riot, the National Guard was called in and a curfew put in place.

In the aftermath of the riot, Dr. King left Memphis, Lorraine tells readers in “Dreamers.” But he had promised to return despite death threats, and on April 3 he flew from his home in Atlanta to Memphis. It was a stormy night, but Lorraine and her family along with many others packed Mason Temple Church to hear Dr. King preach. But when they got there, Dr. King’s friend Ralph Abernathy told the crowd that Dr. King was too sick to appear.

Other people gave speeches about the strike, and Lorraine had fallen asleep in her mother’s arms when “KABOOM! A voice like the evening thunder shook me from my sleep.” In his booming voice, Dr. King “charged men, women, and children to make the world a promised land flowing with freedom and justice” and “encouraged Memphis strikers and strike supporters to march, boycott, and raise their voices for worker rights until victory was won.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memphis-martin-and-the-mountaintop-marching-orders

Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, 2018, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2018. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

In “Lorraine” the narrator reveals that her name is the same as the Memphis motel where Dr. King lost his life. She recounts his last hour spent with friends and the moment when he steps out onto the balcony and James Earl Ray shot him from a boarding house nearby. In other cities across the country grief-fueled protests broke out, but Memphis was relatively quiet. As Lorraine listened to the radio that night, she wrote a poem “The King is Dead” that her mama hung on the wall of their rented house.

“Black Widow” relates the events of April 8, when Coretta Scott King fulfilled her husband’s promise to march for the Memphis sanitation workers. Along with 40,000 other people—“ministers, labor leaders, political figures, entertainers, and everyday people”—from Memphis and around the country, Lorraine and her parents marched. In “Victory on a Blue Note,” the Memphis Sanitation Strike comes to an end when president Lyndon B. Johnson sent a labor official to negotiate a settlement. The men received a pay increase and promotions based on merit, not race. As Lorraine’s daddy and mama celebrate, Lorraine reveals what she has learned: “So much was won. / So much was lost. / Freedom is never free.”

An inspirational poem for all readers, “Mountaintop” closes the book. Back matter includes an extensive and detailed timeline as well as information on the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel and a list of sources.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memphis-martin-and-the-mountaintop-martin-luther-king-jr

Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, 2018, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2018. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

In Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop, Alice Faye Duncan’s use of a nine-year-old narrator makes her book even more powerful for today’s children in telling the story of the Memphis sanitation strike and the world-changing events surrounding it. Duncan intertwines conviction, pride, activism, and heartbreak together in her compelling and lyrical snapshots that reveal the facts and emotions behind this pivotal Civil Rights and economic rights protest for a living wage for all Americans. Children’s hearts will be filled with empathy for Lorraine as she supports her father, accepts the sacrifices her family must make during the strike, joins her mother in marches, and fears for the safety of the strikers and Martin Luther King Jr.

The life and work of Dr. King, his influence, and the hope he embodied as well as his shocking assassination are all encapsulated in Duncan’s concise paragraphs, allowing readers to understand his enduring inspiration to all who fight injustice. By overlaying the text with descriptions of the volatile weather experienced during the winter and spring of 1968, Duncan amplifies the fearful atmosphere of the times in a metaphorical way that will resonate with readers. Lorraine’s growth and insight gleaned from her experiences will stay with readers long after they read the story.

R. Gregory Christie’s dramatic collage-style gouache paintings set off Duncan’s vignettes with bold blocks of color while inviting readers to experience the determination, community, and dignity of the workers fighting for the universal desire for and right to recognition, safety, and a living wage. Christie’s illustrations are all the more evocative for their varied use of perspective, subtle glimpses of hope and support, and moving portraits of Lorraine’s father, strikers, Martin Luther King Jr., and Lorraine herself. The death of Dr. King is depicted in a tiny image of the Lorraine motel balcony on which three men pointing upward, a kneeling figure, and the fallen Dr. King are all portrayed in silhouette. The intense focus the reader puts on this image increases its effect on the heart and mind.

Compelling, moving, and inspirational, Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 is a must-read for all children. The book is a first-rate choice for home libraries and belongs in every school and public library.

Ages 7 and up

Calkins Creek, 2018 | ISBN 978-1629797182

Discover more about Alice Faye Duncan and her books on her website.

To learn more about R. Gregory Christie, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-martin-luther-king-jr-coloring-page

Martin Luther King Jr. Portrait

 

To inspire your dreams of a better future for all, color this printable page and hang it in your room!

Martin Luther King Jr. Portrait 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-memphis-martin-and-the-mountaintop-cover

You can find Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 7 – Old Rock Day

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About the Holiday

Do you love rocks—the history they tell, their versatility, intricate patterns, and glorious colors? Today’s holiday celebrates these wonders of nature and encourages geologists—both professionals and amateurs—to indulge their passion. You can learn a bit more about the history of the study of rocks, the first use of the term “geology,” and on to more modern times at NationalToday. To celebrate today’s holiday, take a walk in your backyard or neighborhood, pick up a few rocks, and research a little more about them. Then have fun with today’s craft.

Thank you to G. P. Putnam’s Sons for sharing a copy of Old Rock (is not boring) with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Old Rock (is not boring)

By Deb Pilutti

 

It seemed that Old Rock had been sitting in the same spot forever. Tall Pine and Spotted Beetle thought being a rock must be pretty boring. Hummingbird wondered, “‘Don’t you ever want to go anywhere?’” She knew she would be if she couldn’t fly all over the world and taste exotic nectars. But Old Rock had flown once, and he began to tell his story.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

It was during the time when he was surrounded by darkness, but then the volcano erupted and Old Rock “‘soared through a fiery sky into the bright light of a new world.’” Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird weren’t very impressed. They still thought Old Rock must be bored. Spotted Beetle told him how much he might see if he climbed to Tall Pine’s very highest branch.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Old Rock countered that he had seen a lot. He’d watched dinosaurs pass by and had even hidden a spinosaurus from a hungry T. rex. He’d traveled in a glacier and been left teetering on a ridge overlooking a vast desert, where he “could see the place where the sky touches the earth.” Spotted Beetle and Hummingbird were intrigued, but Tall Pine dismissed these experiences as “ages ago.” He wanted to know about now. Didn’t Old Rock feel like moving? Tall Pine showed Old Rock how his limbs could dance in the wind.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

While Old Rock couldn’t dance, he did recall how he’d turned somersaults off the ridge, landing in a prairie where mastodons grazed near a lake. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird were mesmerized by Old Rock’s story and wanted to know what had happened next. Out of the prairie, sprang a pine forest, Old Rock revealed. And from one of the pine trees a pinecone fell and a seed was released. That seed grew “to be the tall pine who dances in the wind and keeps me company.” Sometimes, he continued, a spotted beetle and a hummingbird meander by. Old Rock was very pleased with his spot, and the others had to agree that it was “very nice” and “not boring at all.”

An illustrated timeline of Old Rock’s life from 18 billion years ago to the present day follows the text.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

So much clever thought went into Deb Pilutti’s Old Rock as she reveals to kids what a fascinating and active life the rocks and boulders we see every day have had. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird’s skepticism keeps the suspense building as Old Rock rolls out stories of his various travels and talents. Once he has them hooked, they—like young readers—want to hear more, leading to the just-right ending that sweetly encompasses shared history, happiness with one’s place in life, and friendship. The trio’s questions to Old Rock and their related experiences also engage children to think about issues and opinions from a variety of perspectives.

Pilutti’s mixed-media illustrations are nicely textured to bring out Old Rock’s grainy surface while highlighting nature’s vivid colors. Her vignettes from the dinosaur eras, the ice age (where the skeletons of dinosaurs are also swept up and away in the same glacier as Old Rock), and beyond impress upon readers the long time-frame involved, how the earth has changed, and even the fascinating science of the fossil record.

A multi-layered story, perfect for general story times or as a lead in to science lessons and to promote discussion and research in the classroom, Old Rock (is not boring) would be an original and exciting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518181

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Old Rock Day Activity

CPB - Nasty Bugs magnet II (2)

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give you a natural canvas for your creativity! With a little bit of paint, pins or magnets, and some imagination, you can make refrigerator magnets, jewelry, paper weights, and more!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

To make magnets

  1. Design and paint an image on a light-weight stone
  2. Attach a magnet to the back with strong glue, let dry
  3. Use to hang pictures, notes, or other bits of important stuff on your refrigerator or magnetic board

To make jewelry

  1. Using a smaller, flatter stone, design and paint an image on the stone
  2. Attach a jewelry pin to the back with the strong glue, let dry
  3. Wear your pin proudly

CPB - rock painting craft

To make a paper weight or kindness stone

  1. Using a large stone, design and paint an image on the stone, let dry
  2. Display and use on your desk to keep those papers in place or find a spot around town to leave your rock for someone to find and enjoy

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You can find Old Rock (is not boring) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

October 12 – National Savings Day

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About the Holiday

National Savings Day was established by Capitol One to educate people on saving money and taking control of their finances in ways that empower them now and in the future. Simple steps such as opening a savings account, saving a portion of each paycheck, and setting short-term and long-term goals can help people feel more confident about their relationship with money. Teaching children the value of money through their allowance or while shopping can help them learn important lessons they will take with them into adulthood.

She’s on the Money (She Made History series)

Written by Andrea Hall | Illustrated by Li Zhang

 

If you’re looking for a fascinating and inclusive way to introduce profiles of influential women from different cultures and time periods in your classroom, homeschool, or family reading time, you’ll find lots to love in She’s on the Money. The lives, work, and impact of thirteen woman involved in politics, science, the arts, education, and activism from ancient Egypt to modern times are presented in short biographies that include interesting facts about how the women changed their country, community, or the world and why each was chosen to represent her country on its currency. The beliefs, customs, atmosphere, and conditions of the historical periods are revealed in appealing captions that are accompanied by illustrations that help readers visualize the concepts. Beautifully detailed images of each country’s currency also graces the pages.

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Image copyright Li Zhang, 2021, text copyright Andrea Hall, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Cleopatra remains as intriguing today as she was centuries ago, so it’s fitting that she appears first in this book—just as she was the first woman to appear on currency. Why was her profile there? “Cleopatra appears on currency because she put herself on it. As ruler of Egypt, she had her own coins minted, or made.” In fact, “Unlike many women who came after them, Egyptian woman of Cleopatra’s time could buy property, divorce and remarry, and serve on juries. And like Cleopatra, they could be rulers.” Children will also learn how clever, fashionable, and “modern” Cleopatra really was. They’ll also discover facts about mummification.

Another leader represented is Queen Sālote Tupou III, the first queen of Tonga, who was the first Tongan chief to unite the 172 Pacific islands that make up the country. She appears on banknotes issued from 1967 – 1974. These intricately designed two-pa’anga bills feature Queen Tupou’s portrait on the front and an image of four women making tapa cloth on the back. Readers learn about and see an example of tapa cloth as well as information on the country’s produce and clothing.

Other politicians include Indira Gandhi, the first—and so far only—female prime minister of India, who appears on a specially minted five-rupee coin that was issued in 1985 to commemorate of her birthday on November 19; and Eva Perón, the former first lady of Argentina, whose profile appears on a colorful one-hundred-peso banknote, “unveiled on the sixtieth anniversary of her death, in July of 2012.”

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Image copyright Li Zhang, 2021, text copyright Andrea Hall, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Kids will be inspired by entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who at a time when insects were believed to be “‘evil spirits’ because they came out of the ground, captured and studied insects in order to understand and draw them. She appears on the German “500-deutsche-mark banknote from October 27, 1992 to the end of 2001, when Germany began using he euro.”

Educators include Maria Montessori, who developed Montessori schools and is featured on Italy’s elaborate 1,000-lira note, and Helen Keller, who is featured on the Alabama state quarter first released on March 17, 2003 as part of the program begun in 1999 to honor each American state. Her quarter also includes her name in both English and braille.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-she's-on-the-money-montessori

Image copyright Li Zhang, 2021, text copyright Andrea Hall, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Readers also learn about the crucial role Sacagawea, a member of the Lemhi Shoshone tribe, played in the success of the Lewis and Clark’s expedition to explore and map the country from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Sacagawea appears on the dollar coin, which was issued in 2000. The coin is also distinctive for its gold color and smooth edge, which make it easier for visually impaired people to identify.

Seamstress and revolutionary Catherine Flon of Haiti, opera singer Jenny Lind from Sweden, and revolutionaries and sisters Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal of the Dominican Republic as well as writers Ichiyō Higuchi from Japan and Kate Shepard from New Zealand are also profiled.

An Introduction reveals information on the beginnings of the monetary system’s coins and paper bills and the choices governments make on who will appear on them. Discussions of the changing images of Britannia and Lady Liberty follow the biographies as well as an Author’s Note and a Glossary of words found in the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-she's-on-the-money-perón

Image copyright Li Zhang, 2021, text copyright Andrea Hall, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Andrea Hall’s engaging, conversational style gives readers a wealth of knowledge on their way to learning about the money we use every day. Her well-chosen details provide kids with plenty of sparks for further research about the women and their work, how money is minted and protected from counterfeiters, and pivotal periods in world history.

Li Zhang’s textured and realistic reproductions of world currency are visually stunning, showing kids that much of the world’s coins and paper bills qualify as art in addition to their purchasing value. Her images of stamps, cultural fashions, iconic products, and more are equally beautiful, while her snapshots of insects, jewelry, flags, coats of arms, and other symbols provide readers with tangible views that set the women in their time period and further inform children’s reading.

Absorbing for anyone interested in money, history, art, and biographies, She’s on the Money is highly recommended as an addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 9

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807573426

Discover more about Andrea Hall and her books on her website.

To learn more about Li Zhang, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Savings Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-penny-matching-puzzle

Count Your Pennies! Matching Game

 

Counting pennies can be so much fun! Saving them can be even better! Collect enough pennies and you can buy something special or donate to your favorite cause! In this printable matching game, draw a line from the stack of pennies to the object they will buy.

Counting Your Pennies! Matching Game

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-she's-on-the-money-cover

You can find She’s on the Money at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 31 – It’s National Inventor’s Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-cover

About the Holiday

Established in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine, this month-long holiday celebrates the imagination and talent of individuals who dare to think differently and create new products, services, and ways of doing things that make a positive contribution to the world. To join in, enjoy your favorite new inventions, and if you harbor dreams of being an inventor—on a large or small scale—look for opportunities to share your ideas.

Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas

Written by Anne Ameri-Siemens | Illustrated by Becky Thorns

 

When you jump in the car or turn on a lamp, the idea that these were someone’s inventions (and even the names Henry Ford and Thomas Edison) may flash through your mind. But what about when you slurp up delicious Raman noodles, watch your pet fish through the aquarium glass, or squeeze out the last bit of toothpaste in the tube? In Who Invented This? Anne Ameri-Siemens introduces young readers to the brilliant minds behind some of the things we use every day.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Take bicycles, for instance. You’ve probably seen pictures of those old bikes with a huge front wheel and a tiny back wheel. Was this the first bike? Not at all! Ameri-Siemens reveals that the first bicycle—called a “running machine”—had two wheels but didn’t have pedals. Invented by Karl von Drais in 1817, it had a steering bar in the front and was powered by the rider sitting on the seat and “running along the ground.” It may seem comical, but this invention led to more and more improvements until Pierre Michaux designed the first bike with pedals in the 1860s. You can read about all of the advancements in bikes and the other products it inspired too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-frequency-hopping

Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

As long as we’re talking about things that transport people here and there, have you ever thought about what drivers did before there were modern traffic lights? While the idea of indicating “stop” and “go” in red and green is universal across the world, the use of yellow for the transition came later from American policeman William Potts. “The first traffic lights in the world were built in London in 1868.” But they weren’t automatic. A policeman standing in the road had to move arms up and down to regulate the flow of traffic. “At night the arms were lit up in red and green.” Readers will find out more about how traffic lights progressed as well as how the timing of stop and go is controlled.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-fizz

Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Sometimes inventors get their ideas from nature—this is called bionics—and kids will learn how George de Mestral was ingeniously inspired by those sticky burrs that cling to socks to create a product most of them use all the time. There are other everyday products that are so important that they were invented long, long, long ago. One of these? Toothpaste! While Washington Sheffield invented the first smooth paste in 1850 by adding glycerin to the powder then used—“a mixture of pumice stone, powdered marble, grated oyster shells, ashes, peppermint oil or sage, and some soap power”—and his son realized the toothpaste could be packed in tubes like artists’ paints instead of sold in foil bags, prehistoric humans also brushed their teeth. Kids will be fascinated to learn more about the history of this morning and nighttime routine and even examples from the animal kingdom.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-plastic

Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Readers will be excited to learn about these inventions and many more that make up the fabric of our everyday lives and were conceived by talented inventors, scientists, and engineers. Some are the result of teamwork while some are the product of many years spent alone in a laboratory or even simply chance. In all, kids learn about 34 inventions that fall into diverse categories from transportation to communications, clothing to food, music to science and high-tech marvels.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Anne Ameri-Siemens’ conversational and engaging text will captivate readers interested in learning about how the world they know came to be. Ameri-Siemen’s storytelling beautifully balances the scientific and personal details of each invention to deliver compelling profiles. Interesting asides on each page reveal more about the inventions and the people who created them.

Accompanying each subject are Becky Thorns’ eye-catching illustrations that depict not only the invention but its creator or creators as well as how it is used or where it can be found. Thorns also employs clever ways to connect images on a page-spread that reinforcing their purpose and history. Each page spread offers plenty of ideas to spur research projects or extended lessons for classrooms and homeschoolers.

Packed with information on products, ideas, world-changing inventions, and the brilliant minds behind them, Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas will fascinate kids and spark an interest in further research, science, engineering, and technical studies. The book is highly recommended for young inventors, history buffs, and other creative thinkers as well as for classrooms and school and public library collections.

Ages 9 – 12 and up

Little Gestalten, 2021 | ISBN 978-3899551334

To learn more about Becky Thorns, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Inventor’s Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-share-your-bright-idea-activity

Share Your Bright Idea! Page

 

Do you sometimes have a lightbulb moment when an idea seems just right? Use this printable Share Your Bright Idea! Page to write about or draw your idea!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-who-invented-this-cover

You can find Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 20 – Celebrating Park and Recreation Month with Chana Stiefel

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-one-question-interview-chana-stiefel-in-front-of-statue-of-liberty

Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 25 books for children, both fiction and nonfiction. Her most recent picture book is LET LIBERTY RISE (illustrated by Chuck Groenink, Scholastic, 2021), the true story of how children helped build the Statue of Liberty. Her next nonfiction picture book, THE TOWER OF LIFE, is the biography of Yaffa Eliach, a Jewish historian and survivor of the Holocaust who rebuilt her village in stories and photos to create the Tower of Faces in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC (illustrations by Susan Gal, Scholastic, 2022). Other picture books by Chana include MY NAME IS WAKAWAKALOCH!, illustrated by Mary Sullivan (HMH, 2019) and DADDY DEPOT, illustrated by Andy Snair (Feiwel & Friends, 2017).

You can connect with Chana Stiefel on Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Welcome, Chana! I’m really glad to have you joining me for a one-question interview this summer! As the Statue of Liberty National Monument is part of the National Park System, Let Liberty Rise! is a perfect book for celebrating Park and Recreation month, which encourages people to get out and enjoy America’s beautiful national parks and all they have to offer. 

I know how much you love to connect with your readers. Can you talk about a poignant thing that happened during one of your visits this year?

My newest picture book Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty (illustrated by Chuck Groenink) launched from Scholastic on March 2nd. Soon afterward, I received a phone call from the youth director at a local synagogue asking if I’d be interested in doing an in-person reading to children on a Circle Line Cruise to the Statue of Liberty.

I nearly dropped the phone. 

“It will be socially distanced and everyone will be masked,” she said. “The event will be on Passover [the holiday of freedom]. Maybe you can talk to the kids about the meaning of liberty?”

“So let me get this straight,” I replied. “You’re asking if I would like to read my book about the history of the Statue of Liberty to children in front of the statue herself?” Having received my second vaccine, my answer was an emphatic, “YES! OMG, YES!” 

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On April 1st, anchors away! My family and I joined over 100 people on the Circle Line’s maiden cruise in the wake of the Coronavirus, including Jim Morgan, owner of the Curious Reader bookshop, who helped me with a book signing. For the first time since the pandemic began, I shared with children (real, live children!) the story of how, in 1885, school children contributed their hard-earned pennies to build the pedestal of America’s most beloved statue. 

And then, there we were! Floating on a boat at the base of the Statue of Liberty. It was magical.

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On our return to dock, I shared with the children the story of my late mother-in-law, Hannelore Guthof Stiefel, who escaped Nazi Germany as a young child. She arrived with her parents in New York City in 1941. One of our family’s most cherished possessions is a full page of the Journal American newspaper from October 24, 1943. It shows 11-year-old Hannelore in a red and white striped dress as a new immigrant standing with her classmates in front of the Statue of Liberty! Hannelore grew up and married my father-in-law Arnold Stiefel, also a German Jewish immigrant, who then returned to Germany as an American soldier. They moved to Bergenfield, NJ, where they became the 18th family to join Congregation Bnai Yeshurun (CBY)—the very same synagogue that invited me on the boat cruise. CBY, by the way, now has over 600 families! 

So there you have it: At the tail end of this terrible pandemic, a live reading to children at the base of the Statue of Liberty with my family’s immigration story.

Talk about liberty!

What a fabulous, unforgettable experience – for you and the kids! Thanks so much for sharing it and your wonderful pictures! 

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Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty

Written by Chana Stiefel | Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

 

When Lady Liberty arrived in New York after a long voyage from France, her unassembled parts sat in crates instead of standing tall over the harbor. Why? No one wanted to pay for the pedestal needed to give her a strong foundation. Upset about people’s disinterest, Joseph Pulitzer announced that he would publish the names of every person who donated to the cause – no matter how much or how little they gave. Children answered the call, and their pennies, nickels, and dimes rolled in, eventually adding up to the $100,000 needed to build the pedestal.

Now everyone could see America’s monument to “freedom and hope,” and the Statue of Liberty welcomed the immigrants who sailed to our shores in steamships from around the world. Today, Lady Liberty still stands “thanks to the contributions of people all across America — and children just like you.” 

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2021, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2021. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Chana Stiefel raises children’s empowerment, excitement, and pride in what they can achieve in her uplifting true story of how children were instrumental in building the foundation for the Statue of Liberty. Her straightforward, conversational storytelling shines and the inclusion of quotes from children’s letters at the time will impress and charm today’s kids. 

Chuck Groenink’s delightful mixed-media illustrations inform readers on every page about the time period surrounding, the personalities involved in, and the scale of the project to build the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Images of kids donating their hard-earned change, knitting socks to sell, sacrificing candy and trips to the circus, and creating special clubs to raise money will remind today’s charitable readers that they are carrying on a proud tradition to make a difference to their community and their country. 

Ages 6 – 9

Scholastic Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1338225884

Discover more about Chana Steifel and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Chuck Groenink, his books, and his art on his website.

Check out these other picture books and middle grade books by Chana!

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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-animal-zombies-cover celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tsunamis-cover

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You can find Let Liberty Rise! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 18 – It’s National Mystery Month

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About the Holiday

Have you felt something odd, eerie, or just plain puzzling in the air lately? That’s to be expected as May is all about mysteries! Established in 2009 by Booklist, which is part of the American Library Association, Mystery Month highlights all things mysterious and offers webinars, articles, awards, recommendations, and more! Mysteries, with their unusual situations, puzzling clues, usual suspects, and plenty of unexplained phenomena, are great for getting kids—even reluctant readers—to fall in love with books. With so many classic and new mysteries to investigate, this month’s celebration may just last all summer! And if you like your mysteries fun and educational, you’ll love today’s book!

Thanks to Chronicle Books for sending me a copy of Sleuth & Solve History for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Sleuth & Solve History: 20+ Mind-Twisting Mysteries

By Victor Escandell 

 

Historical fiction allows us to revisit real-life events in the past through characters and stories that resonate with today’s readers. The mysteries presented in this clever book do just that! Inspired by actual civilizations, people, inventions, and circumstances, each mystery asks you to tackle a perplexing or thought-provoking question and come up with an answer. The puzzlers are divided into two types: those that require a bit of logical thinking, and those that prompt you to use your imagination. They’re also graded on a point system from very easy to very difficult to give your brain a good workout. Each difficulty level is worth a different number of points from 10 to 60.

You can read this book or use it in various ways too, from solving each puzzle by yourself or making a game out of it for family fun night or in teams with friends or in a classroom. You’ll find mysteries old and new from Prehistoric times (200,000 – 4000 B.C.), the Old Ages (4000 B.C. – A.D. 476), the Middle Ages (A.D. 500 – 1400), the Modern Era (A.D. 1400 – 1800), and the Contemporary Era (1800 – Today).

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Copyright Victor Escandell, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Each two-page mystery is introduced with a snippet of nonfiction information about a tradition, event, person, ideology, or innovation. The problem to be solved is then told as a story in numbered steps that contain clues and are easy to follow. The mysteries are also accompanied by Victor Escandell’s humorous cartoon illustrations that readers will want to study carefully, because they also contain cunning hints that will help readers find the answer. Have you read the historical paragraph? Digested the story? Scoured the illustrations? Devised an answer? Then it’s time to divulge your thoughts and see if you’re right! Each answer is revealed under a pull-down flap on the second page.

Younger kids will enjoy solving the Stone Age case of the missing meat, discovering the Mona Lisa’s real name, and showing off their good sense of direction by helping out Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men. Older kids and adults will want to match wits with an Egyptian pharaoh, the great Athenian statesman Pericles, and even Sherlock Holmes. They can also decipher a secret code from World War II and discover a Space Station astronauts new password.

Future detectives can mull over the trickiest conundrums that occur during a Mesolithic Era hunting expedition, a Babylonian bargaining, a Barbarian chase, and a Parisian jewel robbery. They can even conjure up solutions to challenges from Thomas Edison and Harry Houdini.

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Copyright Victor Escandell, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Victor Escandell’s easy-going storytelling will spark kids’ interest in learning more about long-ago times which still influence our lives today. Sleuth & Solve History would be a fun and engaging way to start off classroom or homeschool lessons in history, science, and logic. The book’s appeal to a wide age range of readers, makes it a perfect addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves. You’ll also want to check out the original Sleuth & Solve: 20+ Mind-Twisting Mysteries for more fun!

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452180076

Discover more about Victor Escandell, his books, and his art on his website.

Mystery Month Activity

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Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle

 

Do a little sleuthing to find the twenty mystery-related words in this printable Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Sleuth & Solve History at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 27 – National Tell a Story Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to celebrate the art of storytelling. Historically, oral storytelling was the way people handed down knowledge, philosophies, and experiences from one generation to the next. Today, while National Storytelling Day highlights oral storytelling, the day also encourages families to get together and have fun remembering and sharing family tales, traditions, history, and events. Reading together is another wonderful way to discover your own stories and those of others around the world. Today’s book reveals a story every reader should know – the story of what perhaps is America’s most recognized symbol and the children who saved her.  

Thanks to Scholastic Press and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Let Liberty Rise! for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. 

Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty

Written by Chana Stiefel | Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

 

America was about to celebrate her 100th birthday and the people of France were creating a huge gift to commemorate the two countries’ friendship. “It was an enormous statue — one of the largest the world was yet to see! Her name was Liberty” and she symbolized freedom. To be shipped across the ocean, Liberty had to be disassembled and packed into 214 crates. In the spring of 1885 the ship Isère began her voyage with her precious cargo.

It took a month for Isère to reach New York’s Bedloe Island, and soon the crates were waiting to be unloaded. “But a colossal problem had been brewing.” To hold the weight of the statue, the Americans were building a pedestal for Liberty to stand on, and it was only half built. To finish it would “cost more than $100,000 to complete. (That’s $2.6 million today…)” and no one, it seemed, wanted to help. “Without a pedestal, Lady Liberty would never rise.” Lady Liberty needed a champion.

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2021, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2021. Courtesy of Scholastic.

When Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the New York World newspaper and an immigrant himself, heard about the problem, he was furious. He wrote a small article for the newspaper appealing  not to the millionaires of America but to the common people and asking them to give money to finish the pedestal. He also offered to print the name of every person who contributed, no matter how much they gave. “The next day pennies, nickels, dimes, and dollars poured in.”

Even schoolchildren sent what they could. Kids donated money they had saved to go to special events or for special treats, they made up Pedestal Fund clubs, and wrote letters saying how proud they were to give. Schools from around the country raised as much as they could—and whether it was $105.07 from New Jersey, $10.00 from a charity group, or $1.35 from a kindergarten class in Iowa, every bit helped.

“Finally, on August 11, 1885, the World’s headline read: ‘One Hundred Thousand Dollars!’” From across the nation, 120,000 people had donated money to make sure Lady Liberty had a pedestal to stand on. As soon as the pedestal was finished, work began on constructing Lady Liberty piece by piece. On October 28, 1886 the inauguration of Lady Liberty was celebrated with festivities and a parade. Now everyone could see America’s monument to “freedom and hope,” and the Statue of Liberty welcomed the immigrants who sailed to our shores in steamships from around the world. Today, Lady Liberty still stands “thanks to the contributions of people all across America — and children just like you.”

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2021, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2021. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Extensive back matter includes a timeline of Lady Liberty’s history from 1865 to 2020, more facts about the Statue of Liberty, resources for further reading and research, and photographs from the original construction of Lady Liberty and the pedestal as well as the inauguration celebration and photographs of sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi and Joseph Pulitzer.

Chana Stiefel raises children’s empowerment, excitement, and pride in what they can achieve in her uplifting true story of how children were instrumental in building the foundation for the Statue of Liberty. Her straightforward storytelling shines with her conversational style and size and monetary comparisons that clearly demonstrate the enormity of the fundraising accomplishment. The inclusion of quotes from children’s letters at the time will impress and charm today’s kids. As children today become the champions of so many causes they care about, this connection to their historical peers will bring cheer, satisfaction, and inspiration.

Chuck Groenink’s delightful mixed media illustrations inform readers on every page about the time period surrounding, the personalities involved in, and the scale of the project to build the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. As Groenink portrays the creation of the statue in France, children can see the size of the sculpture in proportion to the men working on it. His depiction of the French harbor town from which the Isère launches is charming, and the process of offloading the crates onto barges that deliver them to the island reveals the meticulous procedures necessary to ensure the statue’s safe arrival.

So when readers turn the pages to discover the scowling faces of adults who didn’t want to pay for the pedestal—and even wanted to send the statue back—they may be shocked. The images of kids donating their hard-earned change, knitting socks to sell, sacrificing candy and trips to the circus, and creating special clubs to raise money will remind charitable readers that they are carrying on a proud tradition to make a difference to their community and their country. A vertical two-page spread of the Statue of Liberty standing over the harbor with fireworks flashing behind her, followed by a view of Lady Liberty as seen through the eyes of immigrants coming to America’s shores are two illustrations that are as inspirational as they get.

A noble, inspiring story about the hope and charity offered by our country, our symbol of freedom, and our children, Let Liberty Rise! is a must-read for all children and should be included in every home, classroom, and public library collection.

Ages 6 – 9

Scholastic Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1338225884

Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 25 books for kids. She hails from sunny South Florida and now lives in New Jersey, just a ferry ride away from the Statue of Liberty. Chana loves visiting schools and libraries as well as sharing her passion for reading and writing with children. She earned a master’s degree in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting from New York University. To learn more, visit Chana at chanastiefel.com. You can connect with Chana on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Chuck hails from an overgrown village among the peat bogs in the north of the Netherlands, where he spent his formative years climbing trees, drawing, reading, and cycling. He attended the Artez Institute of Visual Arts in Kampen, graduating from the Department of Illustration in 2004. He now resides in Valatie, New York, with his wife, dog, and two cats. Visit Chuck at chuckgroenink.com and on Instagram.

Watch the Let Liberty Rise! Book Trailer!

Tell a Story Day Activity

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Let Liberty Rise! Educator’s Guide

 

Download this six-page educator’s guide and enjoy the cross-curricular activities that are great for classrooms, homeschoolers, or just having family fun.

Let Liberty Rise! Educator’s Guide

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You can find Let Liberty Rise! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review