May 11 – It’s National Photography Month

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About the Holiday

We all know what joy photography brings. Whether you’re looking at professional fine art photos in a gallery or your own vacation pics, those film and digital images can make you see the world in a different way or just as you remember it. The oldest surviving photograph of nature dates back to 1827, when it took days for film to develop properly. Of course, today’s smart phones have changed forever the way we take photos, but the fun of capturing a moment in time will never go out of style.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph

Written by Roxane Orgill | Illustrated by Francis Vallejo

 

In a marvelously conceived and unique book, Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph tells the story of how the iconic photograph Harlem, 1958 came together. Through a series of poems, Roxane Orgill reveals the action when fifty-seven jazz musicians posed for Art Kane on an August afternoon in front of an ‘absolutely typical brownstone.’ Over the space of a day, Kane borrowed a camera, blocked off the street, and worked with the musicians who answered the call that went out to the local musicians’ union, recording studios, composers, nightclub owners, and others inviting “all jazz musicians: a photo shoot, no instruments required.”

The day’s beginning is captured in Early: Art Kane, photographer. Art Kane stands in the middle of the deserted street, wondering if his idea to capture The Golden Age of Jazz will become reality: “nobody here yet / it’s only nine / look right / where they come from the train / look left / where they exit a taxi…what if only four come / or five / ‘The Golden Age of Jazz’ / with five guys… / a crazy request / what if nobody shows… / a group from the train / Lester Young cigarette dangling / that funny squashed hat / man with an umbrella rolled tight… / guy in a striped tie / it’s happening.”

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Image copyright Francis Vallejo, text copyright Roxanne Orgill. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

As the musicians begin to arrive, they talk and laugh among themselves, not listening to Art Kane as he tries to organize them into Some Kind of Formation. But Kane isn’t the only one with a camera today. In So Glad: Milt “Fump” Hinton, bassist and amateur photographer, Hinton is awed by the talent around him and “Glad I brought my Leica / And the Canon 35 / My little Keystone eight-millimeter too / Gave it to Mona, my wife / ‘Honey, just aim and press the button’” There’s “Chubby, Oscar, Wilbur…” then “Here come the big dogs / Coleman Monk Dizzy Roy / And the beauteous Marian McP… / They’re all here / For some magazine / Me I’m snapping pictures / Lots and lots of pictures / To remember / Later / Forever / So glad”

There are boys, too, sitting on the curb, getting into mischief as Hat: Alfred, a boy reveals: “Nice wool felt / Two-inch snap / Brim / Count’s too beat / to give chase / When / Nelson nabs / His bonnet / I’m / On it quick / Down the block / ‘Hand it over, Nelson, before I—’ / Buff the felt / Set the snap / Brim / ‘Your hat, Count Basie.’”

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Image copyright Francis Vallejo, text copyright Roxanne Orgill. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Even though The Invitation Said No Instruments, Rex Stewart, cornetist couldn’t help but bring his silver cornet. And once he saw it, Leroy couldn’t help but run up in his short pants and untied shoes to ask “‘Can I try?’ / Lips to mouthpiece / Nothing.” But Rex shows him how it’s done and all heads turn his way. “Leroy again / ‘Can I try?’ / Rex passed the cornet / ‘Make like you’re going to kiss a girl’ / Lips to mouthpiece / Squeak / (Leroy’s too young for girls) / Rex tucked his horn under his arm / The invitation said no instruments.”

Excitement mounts as everyone realizes She’s Here! Maxine Sullivan, singer who “snagged Your Hit Parade at twenty-six / ‘Loch Lomond’ put her on the high road… / got in with a good band / warbling on the radio / chantoosing in the clubs / all that was years ago” before she became a nurse and married and had a daughter. “but she’s here! / come to hang with the cats / reminding all us bass players / and pianists who kept time / on all her records, tours… / reminding us all / how much we miss her.”

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Image copyright Francis Vallejo, text copyright Roxanne Orgill. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

People look out their windows at all the commotion as Eddie Locke strolls up and Thelonious Monk (late as usual) arrives in a taxi. Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Eldridge, J. C. Heard and Gerry Mulligan make an unlikely quartet, and Willie “the Lion” Smith sits on the stoop holding onto his elephant-head cane. Finally, Art Kane calls out Some Kind of Formation, Please! “A plea so desperate / it’s melodic / shuffle / climb the stoop / fan   out   on   the   sidewalk / talk-laugh-roar / smoke-slap-turn / little by little / fifty-seven musicians form an upside-down T / underlined / by twelve boys / just happen to be sitting on the curb… / click / it has to be perfect / for Esquire / Dizzy sticks out his tongue.”

At last the copy of Esquire lands on newsstands, and Alfred pays for a copy with money he’s saved by missing “a month of matinees.” He thinks it was worth it, though, because “…jeez / I’m in a magazine.”

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Image copyright Francis Vallejo, text copyright Roxanne Orgill. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

A fold-out page of the original photograph lets children and adults see the final product of the photo shoot. Children and adults will also have fun matching the portraits that accompany the poems to their real counterparts. Short biographies of each person in the photograph as well as an Author’s Note, an introduction, and further resources for study add to the comprehensive and loving treatment of its subject that Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph provides for readers.

For children (and adults) who love photography, jazz, biographies, history, and/or poetry, Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph is a marvelous choice for home libraries and is highly recommended for school and public libraries.

Roxane Orgill recreates the syncopation of jazz and the exhilaration of the photo shoot in twenty poems that capture the sights, sounds, conversations, horseplay, and vibe of that special day that forever commemorated the Golden Age of Jazz. The smooth, cool lines of Orgill’s free verse poetry are a joy to read aloud. Full of personality, captivating details, history, and nostalgia, the poems reawaken the past for a new generation.

Working from the actual black-and-white photograph, Francis Vallejo vividly reimagines the scene on 126th Street as well-known and lesser-known jazz musicians came together to represent themselves and their art for Esquire magazine. Vallejo’s acrylic and pastel illustrations bring to life the surprise, camaraderie, and expressions of the men, women, and boys as they mingle, rest, and pass the time until the pose and lighting is right for the shot. As the book opens, readers get a bird’s-eye view of the street and quiet neighborhood, but as the musicians begin arriving the illustrations move in, allowing readers to rub shoulders with the greats of jazz.

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Candlewick, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763669546

Learn more about Roxane Orgill and her books on her website!

National Photography Month Activity

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Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for your favorite pictures of friends and family!

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1 ½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. Wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness
  3. Glue down the end of the twine to keep it from unraveling
  4. With the needle-nose pliers, roll down one end of the wire to create a small coil
  5. Repeat with two other lengths of wire
  6. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  7. Fit the three wires into the center hole on the top of the spool
  8. Push the wires into the clay until they are held securely
  9. Clip photographs into the coils
  10. Display your pictures!

Picture Book Review

February 8 – Kite Flying Day

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About the Holiday

If you live in a cold climate and cabin fever has set in or if you live in a warm climate and want to get out and enjoy the day, why not take the opportunity of today’s holiday and go fly a kite? Whether you’re steering a simple diamond or a fancy dragon, watching a kite dip and soar through the sky is an exhilarating experience!

Red Kite, Blue Kite

Written by Ji-li Jiang | Illustrated by Greg Ruth

 

“I love to fly kites,” young Tai Shan relates, but not he’s while standing on the ground. Instead, because his city is so crowded, his Baba and he climb to the peak of their triangular roof where they are “above but still under, neither here nor there. We are free, like the kites.” While they fly their kites—red for Tai Shan and blue for Baba—Baba tells stories, and Tai Shan feels as if he is soaring through the clouds, “looking down at the dotted houses” and wanting to stay up there forever.

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copyright Greg Ruth, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

But one day dark times descend. Tai Shan’s school and many others are shuttered. Baba is taken away by men in red arm bands and sent to work in a labor camp. Tai Shan is sent to live with Granny Wang, a farmer who lives in a village next to the labor camp. A thick forest separates Tai Shan and Baba. During the day Granny Wang teaches Tai Shan how to make straw grasshoppers and spin cotton and lets him ride her buffalo. At night Tai Shan dreams of flying kites from the rooftop with his father.

On Sundays Baba walks for hours to visit Tai Shan. He spends time telling stories and playing with his son and his friends. Then they climb the hill and fly kites, Tai Shan’s red one following Baba’s blue. “The kites hop and giggle as they rise and dive, soaring and lunging together.” At the end of the day, Baba returns to the labor camp for another week. In the autumn Baba tells Tai Shan that he won’t be able to visit for a long time. But he has a clever plan—a way that he and Tai Shan can see each other.

Baba gives his son a new red kite and tells him to fly it from the hill each morning. He will see it from his camp. In the evening Baba will fly his blue kite so that Tai Shan can see it. Tai Shan likes the idea of this “secret signal.” The next morning Tai Shan runs to the hill and launches his kite, knowing that “Baba is smiling as he watches the red kite dancing.” In the evening he returns to the hill, and after a long wait “Baba’s blue kite sways into the white clouds.”

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copyright Greg Ruth, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Every day Tai Shan sends his father a silent message—“‘How are you, Baba? I miss you.’” and “Baba’s blue kite swirls and circles, replying, ‘I miss you, too, little Tai Shan.’” Autumn is coming to a close, but still Baba does not visit. One day no blue kite appears in the sky. The next day and the next no kite appears either. Tai Shan asks Granny Wang to take him to the camp to see Baba. If there is no kite on the fourth day they will go, Granny Wang promises.

That night Tai Shan dreams about the thick forest and hears Baba whisper, “‘Tai Shan, I saw your red kite fly so high.’” But these words are not in a dream, Baba is there. But Baba is not home to stay. Hurriedly, he gives Tai Shan his blue kite, telling him that he will not be able to fly it for a while. He asks Tai Shan to fly both kites and know that he is looking up and thinking about his son. Suddenly, men with red armbands rush in and take Baba away. Tai Shan tries to run after him, but Granny Wang holds him back.

Tai Shan cries and does not understand. Granny Wang explains that Baba is being sent to another labor camp far away because the authorities don’t agree with his ideas. During the three days when he didn’t fly his blue kite, Granny Wang says, Baba had been imprisoned. He had escaped and run all the way to see Tai Shan before he was taken away. Now Tai Shan flies the two kites every day and thinks of being together with Baba.

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copyright Greg Ruth, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

One summer afternoon, Tai Shan dozes while he allows his red kite to dip and soar in the clouds. When he opens his eyes, he sees dozens of red and blue kites in the sky. Tai Shan jumps up. He sees Baba smiling at him and “holding the string of a huge blue kite dancing in the sky.” Tai Shan’s friends are also smiling and flying their new kites. Tai Shan runs to Baba, and Baba runs toward Tai Shan. The sky “is filled with kites—red and blue. They hop and giggle and cheer as they rise and dive, soaring and lunging together. They are free, flying everywhere.”

An Author’s Note about the Chinese Cultural Revolution follows the text.

Inspired by the story of a family friend whose father was sent to a labor camp during the Chinese Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, Ji-li Jiang wrote Red Kite, Blue Kite “for the many fathers and sons who suffered during that turmoil.” Jiang’s story is a universal and relevant reminder of the precious freedoms of thought and speech that need constant and vigilant protection. Through her sensitive storytelling and lyrical language, Jiang offers a story of understanding, hope, and infinite love that will fill readers’ hearts.

Greg Ruth’s stunning paintings show all the emotion of Jiang’s story through exquisite, realistic portraits of Tai Shan, Baba, and Granny Wang. The distinctive landscapes of China are rendered in colorful foregrounds set on gauzy backgrounds of rising hills. Smoky images of the followers of the Cultural Revolution mirrors the darkness and destruction of the time in a way that is understandable for the young audience. The final two-page spread of Tai Shan and Baba’s reunion amid dozens of red and blue kites is inspiring and full of the strength of the human spirit.

Red Kite, Blue Kite is a must for school and public libraries and makes an excellent addition to home libraries as well.

Ages 5 – 9

Disney-Hyperion, 2013 | ISBN 978-1423127536

For a downloadable Educator’s Guide click here.

Learn more about Ji-li Jiang and her books on her website!

Find galleries of books and illustration for children and adults plus lots more on Greg Ruth’s website!

Kite Flying Day Activity

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Soaring Kite Maze

 

The dips and rises your pencil takes through this maze is a little like the way a kite flies through the sky! Print your Soaring Kite Maze and enjoy!

Picture Book Review

February 4 – Take Your Child to the Library Day

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About the Holiday

What better way to spend a Saturday than by stopping by your local library and picking up a few books to while away the hours on a cold winter day? While you’re there thank the librarians for all they do to keep libraries open and books accessible to all. Consider donating to your local library today!

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

By Jeanette Winter

 

Alia Muhammad Baker, oversees the library of Basra in Iraq, where all those who love books and learning come to “discuss matters of the world and matters of the spirit.” Now, though, their talk is full of the war around them. Alia is afraid for her books, worried that the fires of war will destroy them, so she petitions the government for permission to move them to a safe place. Her request is denied, so Alia secretly fills her car each night with as many books as it can carry and takes them home.

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Image copyright Jeanette Winter, courtesy of post-gazette.com

As rumors of war continue to swirl, the library becomes a shelter for government offices. When the battles reach Basra, “the city is lit with a firestorm of bombs and gunfire.” The government officials, soldiers, and library workers abandon the library, leaving Alia alone to protect the books. She summons help from Anis Muhammad, the restaurant owner on the other side of the library wall, and together they remove the rest of the books in crates and sacks and wrapped in curtains. Other shopkeepers and neighbors join in, removing the books and hiding them in Anis’s restaurant.

The war rages, but the books’ whereabouts remain a secret. “Then, nine days later, a fire burns the library to the ground.” “At last, the beast of war moves on,” but the books are still in danger. While the city is quiet, Alia “hires a truck to bring all thirty thousand books to her house and to the houses of friends.” Alia’s house is stacked floor to ceiling with the books she loves. They fill every cabinet, teeter on every shelf, and sit in piles under tables, chairs, and Alia’s bed. There’s hardly room for Alia herself.

But Alia is patient. She waits and “dreams of peace” and a time when a new library will be built to replace what has been lost.

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Image copyright Jeanette Winter, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Jeanette Winter’s story of one woman who risked her own safety to protect the books she loved, including an ancient biography of Muhammad, reminds all readers of the importance of these storehouses of our collective history, culture, imagination, and knowledge. The gripping true-life story abounds with suspense as war grows closer but also with hope as friends and neighbors make Alia’s mission theirs too. In these days when so many libraries are threatened with closure, The Librarian of Basra, asks the question: what would we do to protect our books?

In square framed acrylic paintings on solid colored backgrounds, Winter reveals the day-to-day wartime events and the actions Alia takes to save the library’s collection. She is seen visiting a government official, sneaking books into her car by night, and watching as soldiers are stationed on the library roof. When the battle comes to Basra, silhouetted jets fly in a rust-colored sky as orange flames dwarf the buildings and people below. Under the threat of bombs, Alia and her neighbors are portrayed packing up the books and carrying them over the wall to safety. Readers will marvel at the image of Alia’s house stacked with books and may wonder how many their own homes could hold.

Ages 4 – 8

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2005 | ISBN 978-0152054458

Take Your Child to the Library Day Activity

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I Love the Library! Coloring Page

 

If the library is one of your favorite places, print out this I Love the Library! Coloring Page and enjoy!

Picture Book Review

February 1 – National Freedom Day

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About the Holiday

National Freedom Day commemorates the February 1, 1865 signing by President Abraham Lincoln of a joint United States House of Representatives and Senate resolution that outlawed slavery and later became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., a former slave, called on local and national leaders to meet in Philadelphia and formalize a national day of remembrance. In 1947, a year after Wright’s death, the U.S. Congress passed a bill marking February 1 as National Freedom Day. The proclamation was signed into law on June 30, 1948 by President Harry S Truman. The holiday led to Black History Day, which was later expanded to Black History Month.

Freedom in Congo Square

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford | Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

 

From sunup to sundown slaves brought to the state of Louisiana from their homelands in Africa and the West Indies toiled on plantations six days a week. The seventh day, Sunday, was set aside as a day of rest and worship, and in the afternoon people of African descent gathered in Congo Square in the heart of New Orleans to dance, play instruments, and talk. On Monday morning the long week began anew, but the rhythms of Congo Square sustained the men, women, and children through “hogs to slop, / mules to train, and logs to chop. / Slavery was no ways fair. / Six more days to Congo Square.

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Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, text Carole Boston Weatherford. Courtesy simonandschuster.com

On Tuesdays, with “cows to feed, / fields to plow, and rows to seed,” five more days stretched out in endless labor. “Wednesdays, there were beds to make, / silver to shine, and bread to bake. / The dreaded lash, too much to bear. / Four more days to Congo Square.” Thursdays came with wash tubs and drying lines, scrub brushes, and brooms. “Spirituals rose from the despair. / Three more days to Congo Square.”

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Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, text Carole Boston Weatherford. Courtesy simonandschuster.com

Fridays were spent in back-breaking work and though some brave souls dared to run, most were counting “Two more days to Congo Square.” Saturdays brought no more relief, but the days had whittled down to hours and “Freedom was slaves’ ardent prayer. / One more day to Congo Square.” At last came Sunday afternoon, and slaves and free rushed to Congo Square—“…a market and a gathering ground / where African music could resound.”

They met their kinsmen by nation, tribe, or language and revived their own stories and music played on drums, fiddles, shells, flutes, gourds, and bells that led to chants and dancing. “This piece of earth was a world apart. / Congo Square was freedom’s heart.”

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Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, text Carole Boston Weatherford. Courtesy simonandschuster.com

Through powerful rhythmic couplets, as spare and austere as the work they describe yet ending in a focal point of hope, Carole Boston Weatherford recreates the steady thrum that resonated in the hearts of slave and free men and women as they anticipated each afternoon in Congo Square.  As the days remaining until Congo Square are counted off, Weatherford’s predominantly one-syllable words form a staccato beat, the pounding of hard, physical work. When Sunday comes and people find joy in their shared music and dance, Weatherford’s phrasing within the same structured couplets rises, employing multi-syllable words that give the verses a pulsing flow that echoes the freedom they find in Congo Square.

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Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, text Carole Boston Weatherford. Courtesy simonandschuster.com

Gregory Christie’s vivid folk-art illustrations are a perfect complement to Weatherford’s verses. The elongated figures stand tall and proud amidst the fields and workrooms of the plantation. In some scenes the slaves’ angled bodies, leaning over to pick cotton, wash floors, or lift baskets may be bent, but they are not broken, and while two men work on building a wall, they seem to kneel prayerfully as they add another brick. In a moving two-page spread set at night, brown wood-grain houses superimposed with rows of sleeping slaves float on a blue-toned ground below a red sky, reminiscent of ships laden with Africans sailing the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade. As the men and women congregate in Congo Square, Christie’s lithe figures raise their arms and kick their legs in dance. The fiery backgrounds swirl with color as the celebrants jump, stretch, play instruments and move with exultation.

A detailed Forward by historian and Congo Square scholar, Freddi Williams Evans and an Author’s Note following the text reveal more information on the history of Congo Square and its significance to Jazz music.

Freedom in Congo Square is both a heartrending and jubilant book that would make a wonderful and meaningful addition to any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801033

Learn more about Carole Boston Weatherford and her books and discover book-related resources on her website!

If you’re lucky enough to live in Decatur, Illinois, you can visit R. Gregory Christie’s unique art studio, art school, and bookstore Gas-Art Gifts Autographed Children’s Bookstore. If you don’t live near Decatur, you can check out all the books, art, and items for sale on the website!

National Freedom Day Activity

Freedom Stone

 

Freedom is a precious right—one that can be represented in different ways by each person. For today’s activity use a brick, paving stone, large stone, or molded plaster of Paris and decorate it with a picture or design that means freedom to you. Then put it in a special place—in a garden, near your front or back door, in your room, or in another spot—where it will remind you of freedom’s gifts.

Supplies

  • Brick, paving stone, large stone, plaster of Paris
  • Paint
  • Plastic gems, bead, or other small objects
  • Strong glue or other adhesive
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Create a design that shows what freedom means to you or an object that represents freedom to you
  2. Paint your stone with the design, let dry
  3. Add gems, beads, or other objects
  4. Display your Freedom Stone

Picture Book Review

January 4 – World Hypnotism Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2006 to honor Dr. Jack Gibson, an Irish hypnotherapist who used hypnosis extensively in his practice. Its purpose is to dispel the myths surrounding hypnosis as “mind control,” which is a popular misconception perpetuated by movies and other types of entertainment. To celebrate, learn more about hypnotism and check out local special events, including free hypnotherapy sessions.

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France

Written by Mara Rockliff | Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

 

During the colonists’ war with England, the rag-tag American army needed France’s help. Who better to send than Benjamin Franklin, the charming and experienced statesman? Ben hoped to convince King Louis the Sixteenth and Queen Marie Antoinette to send money and soldiers to America, “but it turned out that they needed Ben’s help too….” At the time, Paris was enthralled by Science. This “new” discipline was introducing new materials, new inventions, and new ideas into society.

One of these notions was Ben Franklin’s own—and when the people of Paris saw him “they went absolutely gaga over the American in the peculiar fur hat. Because everyone had heard about Ben Franklin’s famous kite experiment, which showed that lightning was the same as electricity.” Soon, however, even Ben couldn’t hold a candle to Dr. Mesmer—the “elegant and mysterious” man who wielded “an astonishing new force.” “Dr. Mesmer said this force streamed from the stars and flowed into his wand. When he stared into his patients’ eyes and waved the wand, things happened. Women swooned. Men sobbed. Children fell down in fits.”

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Image copyright Iacopo Bruno, text copyright Mara Rockliff. Courtesy Candlewick Press

Dr. Mesmer seemed to do the impossible. He could make the same glass of water taste like strawberries or vinegar just by telling his patient what to taste. He said he could use this force to help people who were sick, and indeed, after a session with Dr. Mesmer “in a room hidden behind heavy drapes covered with signs and symbols” many people emerged saying they had been cured. Those rich enough paid 100 gold louis to learn his secrets, and everyone considered Dr. Mesmer’s force the “most remarkable thing that science had discovered yet!”

Everyone that is, except the city’s doctors, who “griped, and groused, and fussed, and fumed” because their patients only wanted to be treated by Dr. Mesmer. The doctors went to the King to complain. They even suggested that Dr. Mesmer’s force didn’t exist at all. Louis didn’t know what to think, but he did know who to consult—Ben Franklin! Ben wanted to observe this force in action for himself. As he watched, Dr. Mesmer’s helper, Charles, made a group of patients gasp, groan, twitch, and tremble. Some even fainted.

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Image copyright Iacopo Bruno, text copyright Mara Rockliff. Courtesy Candlewick Press

When it came time for Ben Franklin’s turn, “He didn’t gasp and groan or twitch and tremble. And he didn’t faint. In fact…he didn’t feel a thing.” Dr. Mesmer said that Ben must be “special” and that’s why the force didn’t work on him. Ben hypothesized a different reason. He said that instead of the force being “in Dr. Mesmer’s wand…it was in the patient’s mind.” They acted and felt the way they did because they expected to.

To test his theory, Ben had Charles wave his fingers near a woman’s face. She screamed and “said she felt a burning flame.” Next Ben told Charles to perform the same routine, but with the woman blindfolded. This time when Charles waved his fingers near her stomach, “she said she felt the heat—IN HER EAR. When he “moved behind her back, the woman shrieked that she felt burning—IN HER LEG!” Ben brought in another patient, blindfolded him, and told him he was being mesmerized. He said he could feel it—even though “Charles was not even in the room.” When Charles came back and waved his fingers and wand, the patient felt nothing.

“Ben tested patient after patient, but it was always the same. If the patient believed something would happen, something did—even without the force! If the patient did not expect anything to happen, nothing did—even with the force!” He revealed his observations to the king, and soon all of Paris was talking—and laughing. And Dr. Mesmer? He took his wand and ran. Ben Franklin soon returned to America—with the help from France he had sought and to his scientific work.

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Image copyright Iacopo Bruno, text copyright Mara Rockliff. Courtesy Candlewick Press

The world benefited greatly from the meeting between Ben Franklin and Dr. Mesmer. Ben’s blind test is still used today when new medicines are being developed, and Dr. Mesmer’s force brought to light what we call the placebo effect and also the state of hypnosis, two powerful abilities of the brain that scientists are still studying.

Throughout Mesmerized Ben Franklin studies Dr. Mesmer and his force, using the scientific method. As Franklin observes, hypothesizes, tests, and finds his theory supported, each particular step of the scientific method applied appears highlighted and explained on the page. An extensive Author’s Note about the events of the story also follows the text

Mara Rockliff’s—dare I say it?—mesmerizing true tale of a meeting between two of the most fascinating figures of the late 1770s is the type of nonfiction that can get kids excited about science and history. Intrigue, mystery, charismatic personalities, wit, and a familiar topic are blended together to reveal the uses and steps of the scientific method and to highlight one event in time that still resonates today. Rockliff’s story crackles with fabulous vocbulary—doctors gripe, grouse, fume, are peeved; the king is in a quandary; patients twitch and tremble; plain Ben Franklin is an “apple pie” while elegant Dr. Mesmer a “layered torte.” Rockliff’s story flows at an enthralling pace, keeping readers riveted to discover Dr. Mesmer’s secret.

Iacopo Bruno’s sumptuous illustrations are nothing short of astounding. If the Oscars gave out awards to books, Bruno would certainly win for best costume and set. Every page is gilded with the opulence of the French court as gold buttons, collars, candle sticks, and drawing rooms glint with a polished sheen. Period dress is depicted in the women’s full flowing gowns of red, purple, and green, and in men’s top coats, breeches, lace cuffs, and high buckle shoes. Powdered wigs curl at men’s ears and climb high above women’s heads, festooned with flowers, ribbons, and pearls while Ben’s white, wavy locks fall naturally on his shoulders. In addition to setting the historical scene, Bruno depicts the effects of Dr. Mesmer’s force and the scientific methods Franklin used to debunk it with just the right amount of humor to entice kids and allow them to fully understand and appreciate Dr. Mesmer’s impact on society.

Ages 6 – 10

Candlewick, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763663513

To learn more about Mara Rockliff and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of book jacket and other illustration work by Iacopo Bruno on his blog!

World Hypnotism Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hypnosis-maze

 

You Are Getting Sleeeepy Maze

 

The roundabout pattern of this printable You’re Getting Sleeeepy Maze may make you feel as if you’re in a trance, but don’t zone out before you solve it! Quick! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

December 29 – Tick Tock Day

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About the Holiday

As the year winds down Tick Tock Day reminds us of the passage of time and encourages us to examine our life and find opportunities to accomplish the things we really want to. While the day only has 24 hours, a little creative scheduling, letting go of those tasks that aren’t so important, and even saying “no,” can help us achieve the things that matter.

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock

Written by Shana Keller | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

With winter approaching Benjamin Banneker has finished up his autumn chores and is looking forward to time to indulge his creative dreams. He finds his favorite spot under the chestnut tree—the place where during the summer he plays his violin and flute, “blending his soft music with the bird’s songs”—and pulls out a pocket watch he has borrowed from a gentleman. Benjamin is fascinated by the ticking and the movement of the small hands. He carefully opens the back of the watch and discovers “a world of wonderful whirls. There were gears of all shapes and sizes. Such a tiny maze!”

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

The miniature timepiece is mesmerizing, but Benjamin’s mind holds a challenge—a big challenge. He envisions a large clock, one that chimes to tell the time. Remembering his math skills, Benjamin mulls over the scale needed to turn “something small into something big.” As the snow falls, Benjamin goes to work. First, he dismantles the pocket watch and draws careful diagrams of the gears and workings. Then he begins transposing these into larger drawings.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

With the coming of spring and his drawings finished, Benjamin plans how he will build his clock. While the little pocket watch is made of metal, that material is much too expensive for a large version. As he ponders the problem under his favorite tree, Benjamin looks around him. Suddenly he knows! The answer is “right in front of him, even in his hands! The very instrument he played was made of wood!” There is a forest of trees on his farm, and this material is free.

During the summer between farm chores, Benjamin uses “every spare moment he had to find the perfect pieces of wood.” Once he has enough he begins to convert his drawings into carvings, whittling the gears and other pieces he will need. Soon, however, he becomes discouraged. The wood begins to split and come apart. Benjamin thinks about how his family cures tobacco leaves—drying them out until all the moisture evaporates. Perhaps, he thinks, he can do the same with wood to make it stronger. The process would take months, but Benjamin is patient.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

Winter has come around again, and the wood is finally ready. In his warm house Benjamin sets about carving again. During the day he carves near the sunny window, and at night he works by candlelight. At last he has all the parts he needs to build his clock. Gears, wheels, tiny pins, and the boards that will become the case are scattered across Benjamin’s work table. There is only one piece missing. A piece that cannot be made of wood—the bell!

Benjamin buys a bell from a metalsmith, and back home begins to build his clock. With his drawings to guide him, he fits the gears together and then sets the hands to “match up perfectly with the second, minute, and hour of each day. It took more than one try, but Benjamin had learned to be patient.” Using the sun to determine the correct time, Benjamin positions the hands and steps back. His clock works! “The little iron bell chimed every hour, on the dot, for the next forty years.” Benjamin becomes famous, and neighbors from near and far come “to see his amazing invention.”  

An Author’s Note expanding on Benjamin Banneker’s life and work follows the text.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

With lyrical language that glides as smoothly as a well-oiled timepiece, Shana Keller reveals the remarkable story of Benjamin Banneker, born free during the time of slavery, who possessed exceptional math and scientific skills and used them to help his friends and neighbors and to make real his vision of a striking clock. Keller’s detailed and descriptive storytelling animates this life story, allowing readers to take the journey with Banneker as he experiences excitement, setbacks, and ultimately success. Banneker, embodying determination, persistence, and creativity, is an excellent role model for kids with big dreams of their own.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

David C. Gardner’s lovely full-page and two-page-spread illustrations gloriously portray Benjamin Banneker’s farm and home as well as his dedicated commitment to building a striking clock despite—or perhaps spurred on by—the challenges he faced. Gardner’s detailed images set the biography firmly in its time period, letting children experience farm and home life in the 1750s. Banneker carries wooden buckets to feed the animals, tobacco leaves hang in a dry shed, a fire blazes in a large, open fireplace, and a candle flickers as Banneker whittles wheels and gears with his pocket knife. The realistic paintings that depict Banneker’s emotions as he imagines creating a large clock, overcomes obstacles, and studiously works on his drawings and carvings will inspire readers to attempt their own inventions—whatever they may be.

For any would-be inventors, history lovers, tinkerers, and science buffs, Ticktock Banneker’s Clock is a stirring biography that would make a wonderful addition to school and home libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369560

Learn more about Shana Keller and her work on her website!

Discover a portfolio of picture book art, fine art, animation, and videos by David C. Gardner on his website!

Tick Tock Day Activity

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Cuckoo Clock Coloring Page

 

The chirp of a cuckoo clock keeps you on time—or at least aware of the passing of time! Here’s a printable Cuckoo Clock Coloring Page for you to enjoy!

Picture Book Review

December 18 – Bake Cookies Day

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About the Holiday

Winter and the holiday season just doesn’t seem right without cookies. Baking those traditional morsels passed down from generation to generation makes the house smell yummy, creates family bonds, and provides delicious gifts for parties, neighbors, friends, and even you! To celebrate, bake up a batch or two of your favorite cookies, and discover fascinating facts in today’s book!

The Way the Cookie Crumbled

Written by Jody Jenson Shaffer | Illustrated by Kelly Kennedy

 

You might love lemon cookies, chomp chocolate chip cookies, and munch macaroons, but do you know where cookies came from or their perhaps less-than-delicious beginnings? Well, one of our fav snacks most likely got its start on a hot rock around 10,000 years ago. Ingenious farmers created a paste of wheat and water and baked this concoction by the heat of the sun. Convenient? Sure! Tasty? Maybe not so much.

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Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

Fast forward to the 600s and the Persians began making improvements to the recipe. “They added things like eggs, butter, cream, fruit, honey, and eventually sugar. By this time hot rocks had been replaced by clay ovens. But the temperature was hard to determine, so “bakers dropped a bit of batter in them as a test.” While the batter went on to be used for cakes, these “tiny test cakes became treats themselves—what we would now call cookies.”

As time went by and people began traveling more, new ingredients, such as ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and powdered deer horns were introduced. Wait!…What? That’s right…ground up deer horns were used like baking powder and baking soda are used today to make baked goods rise. It wasn’t until 1850 that those conveniences came around; and not until the early 1900s that ovens and refrigerators made baking and storing foods easier.

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Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

English and Dutch immigrants brought these hand-held treats to America, and while everyone enjoyed them, during the Revolutionary War Americans didn’t want anything to do with British things. This might have been when we adopted the word “cookie” instead of the English “biscuit.” Whatever they were called, though, they were still mostly made in home kitchens. That changed when a New York company imported machines to make crackers in factories and cookie companies followed suit.

But why are cookies so popular at this time of year? It seems that long, long ago, fruit and nuts were considered party food. I know, right? As time went on people rethought their party platters, and cookies won out. Even Queen Elizabeth I got in on the fun, having “gingerbread men made in the shape of her favorite advisors. Sweet!” Of course, she’s not the only famous person to get special cookies—how about that jolly old elf in the red suit? You’ll have to read the book to see how that tradition got started. Let’s just say that around the same time, another tradition took off—that of putting chocolate chips in cookie batter.

Of course cookies kept evolving by adding different flavors, changing shapes, including filling and in other ways. Today, stores shelves and bakeries are loaded with a vast variety of cookies, and home bakers are inventing new recipes all the time. Cookies are favorites the world over, and lucky for us they have a very bright future!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-way-the-cookie-crumbled-vendors

Image copyright Kelly Kennedy, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer. Courtesy of Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster

After becoming a “history of fun stuff expert on cookies,” readers can learn even more with pages dedicated to traditional cookies from around the world, the science behind baking cookies, and of course a recipe. There’s even a quiz so kids can test their newly acquired knowledge.

In her History of Fun Stuff: The Way the Cookie Crumbled early reader, Jody Jensen Shaffer introduces kids to the fascinating origins of one of their favorite snack foods. With tidbits sure to amaze and even raise giggles, Shaffer reveals not only the history of cookies, but facts on the development of cooking, the changes in baking methods, and the beginnings of automation. Her breezy, conversational style is perfectly aimed at her young audience, and the inclusion of facts on well-known favorites makes history relatable, relevant, and entertaining.

Kelly Kennedy infuses her cartoon-inspired illustrations with humor and realism to creatively depict the concepts in the text. Her full and half-page vibrant and dynamic scenes of people baking in various types of ovens, shopping for ingredients, selling cookies, and more excellently bridge the transition from picture books to chapter books for developing readers. Images of clay ovens, Colonial homes, early-model refrigerators, factory assembly lines, and others bring the text to life is ways that kids respond to.

For developing independent readers or as a read-to for kids interested in history, baking, and the origins of one of their favorite snacks, The Way the Cookie Crumbled dishes up a winning gift or addition to a child’s library.

Ages 6 – 8

Simon Spotlight, Simon & Schuster, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481461801

To learn more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her other books, visit her blog!

A gallery of illustration work for kids and adults as well as video awaits at Kelly Kennedy’s website!

Bake Cookies Day Activity

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Bake up Fun! Coloring Pages

 

It’s fun to whip up a recipe together and then enjoy the results! With these two printable Bake up Fun! Coloring Pages, you can do both!

Boy and girl baking together | Delicious baked cookies

Picture Book Review