August 10 – World Lion Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by Big Cat Rescue, the world’s largest sanctuary dedicated to Big Cats, to raise awareness of the dwindling number of lions and promote action to save them. Because of hunting, habitat destruction, and other environmental and manmade dangers, the lion has been placed on the endangered species list. To observe World Lion Day, visit a preserve or sanctuary if you live near one or read up on lions and consider donating to their protection.

The Lion Inside

Written by Rachel Bright | Illustrated by Jim Field

 

“In a dry, dusty place where / the sand sparkled gold, / Stood a mighty flat rock / all craggy and old.” Way down below in a chink in the rock a little brown mouse lived in the tiniest house. He was so small and meek that no one noticed him—Ever. The other animals stepped on him and sat on him and forgot all about him when they got together.

On top of the rock sat a fierce lion. He had very sharp teeth and a very loud roar that made sure everyone knew how important he was. “Yes, ALL were impressed / by this mighty King Cat. / ‘If only,’ thought mouse, / ‘I could be more like that.’” Then one night it hit him—he should have his own roar. “With a little more Grrrr / and a little less meek” he’d make lots of friends, the mouse thought.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-lion-inside-lion-mouse-house

Image copyright Jim Field, 2015, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2015. Courtesy of Scholastic.

The mouse determined right then to learn how to roar, but he knew that the only one who could teach him might gobble him up. He decided it was time to be brave. As he began his long climb to the top of the rock, he was nervous and scared, but he knew that “if you want things to change, / you first have to change you.” When he got to the top. he found the lion sleeping. Standing nose-to-nose with the big cat, he squeaked out his request. The lion woke up, took a long look, and then “opened his mouth and let out an Eeeeak!” The lion shook with fear and begged the mouse not to hurt him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-lion-inside-lion-mouse-changes

Image copyright Jim Field, 2015, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2015. Courtesy of Scholastic.

The mouse told the lion he didn’t need to be scared. They could work together and have some fun. In that moment the mouse found his true voice. He discovered he didn’t need to roar or shout to be heard. And the lion learned that it was okay to be friends with the other animals. Now the mouse and the lion share the big rock, and when the lion roars it’s “with laughter instead.”

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2105, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2015. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Rachel Bright’s jaunty rhyming story about embracing your true nature is sure to enchant kids who are learning to find their place within various groups. As the mouse and the lion discover, size and volumn don’t define importance or influence. Kindness, friendship, and self-confidence are what matter most. Sprinkled with squeaks, grrrrs, gulps, and roars, the story will have little ones giggling and reading along.

Jim Field’s tiny mouse with elephantine ears is adorable and sweetly determined as he decides to bravely confront the lion. Young readers will laugh as the once strutting and roaring lion is left quivering at the sight of the mouse. Kids will also enjoy pointing out that the rock the mouse and lion share is itself shaped like a lion. Field’s palette of golds and browns reflects the sun-drenched savannah while the mouse’s house, painted in vibrant red and yellow, hints at the individualistic creature who lives inside.

The Lion Inside is a great book to share within a classroom at the beginning of the year or anytime. It also makes a fine addition to home bookshelves to remind kids to celebrate what they’re made of.

Ages 3 – 6

Scholastic, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545873505

View a gallery of books and artwork by Rachel Bright on her website!

World Lion Day Activity

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Spoon Lion Puppet 

 

With a round, wooden spoon, you can make a ROARingly cute lion puppet or decoration!

Supplies

  • Wooden mixing spoon
  • Yellow Fleece
  • Brown felt
  • Colorful Fleece or felt
  • Fabric glue
  • Light brown marker
  • Dark brown marker
  • Hot glue gun or super glue

CPB - Spoon Lion with stuff

Directions

To make the lion’s face

  1. Draw a nose, mouth, and eyes on the front/bowl of the spoon

To make the mane

  1. Measure the rim of the spoon from one side of the handle to the other
  2. Cut a strip of yellow fleece as long as rim measurement and 4 inches wide
  3. Fold the piece of fleece in half long-ways
  4. Glue the open edges of the fleece together
  5. Along the folded side cut a fringe, leaving the loops intact

To make the ears

  1. Cut round ears from the brown felt.

Assembling the lion

  1. Glue the ears to the back of the spoon
  2. Glue the mane to the back of the spoon

To make the bow

  1. Cut a 3-inch x 1 ½-inch piece of colorful fleece or felt
  2. Cut a long thin strip of fleece or felt
  3. Pinch the bow in the middle and tie with the longer piece of cloth. Trim as necessary
  4. Glue the bow to the handle

To make the tail

  1. Cut three thin 4-inch-long strips of yellow fleece
  2. With fabric glue, glue the tops of the strips together
  3. Braid the strips
  4. At the bottom, glue the strips together, leaving the ends free
  5. Fold the top of the tail and push it into the hole in the handle of the spoon

Picture Book Review

June 19 – It’s National Zoo and Aquarium Month

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About the Holiday

This month’s observance pays tribute to the role of zoos and aquariums and the work they do for education, conservation, and research to protect the world’s animals. As zoos and aquariums build exhibits that more closely resemble the animals’ natural habitats and offer interactive and hands-on programs, more visitors can learn about the environments and science of each amazing creature. These institutions are also reaching out with personal and online visits to schools by zoologists and other experts, increasing the interest in biology and animal science to students. Nearly 175 million people—50 million of which are children—visit zoos and aquariums each year. To celebrate today, visit your local zoo or aquarium!

Goldfish Ghost

Written by Lemony Snicket | Illustrated by Lisa Brown

 

In a big round bowl in a certain boy’s room in a seaside town, “Goldfish Ghost was born.” For a while, Goldfish Ghost just hung out looking at the ceiling, but he got lonely, “so Goldfish Ghost floated out of the bowl and drifted toward the window to find some company.” He drifted over the compact little town nestled near the ocean and watched over by a lighthouse that “everyone said was haunted.”

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Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the pier seagulls screeched, waiting for a snack. They weren’t interested in talking to Goldfish Ghost, so he caught the breeze into town. The sidewalks and shops were busy with locals and tourists “buying sweaters and postcards and pets and groceries, but everybody there was with somebody else, so no one was looking for company.” Goldfish Ghost kept drifting and soon reached the beach. No one there noticed him either.

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Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The swimmers and sunbathers also didn’t seem to notice the “ghosts of creatures who had lived in the sea” that were now floating in the air just above the surface of the ocean. Goldfish Ghost might have joined them, but he didn’t feel comfortable among these wild fish. “It can be hard to find the company you are looking for.” Goldfish Ghost stopped for a moment “atop a beach umbrella and wondered what to do.” Finally, he returned home to his bowl.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldfish-ghost-above-the-ocean

Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When he got there, however, he found a new goldfish swimming happily in the bowl. While she seemed okay, Goldfish Ghost thought they wouldn’t have much in common, so he continued his search for the right companion. In the still night air, he heard a voice say, “‘I’ve been looking for company.’” Goldfish Ghost followed the sound to the lighthouse, where he found the ghost of the old keeper. She was also lonely and looking for someone to talk to.

She held Goldfish ghost gently “and placed him where the light had once shone for sailors at sea.” Then in silent happiness, the two ghosts gazed out at the world together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldfish-ghost-lighthouse-keeper

Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Lemony Snicket, most fortunately, interprets the world through a singular lens. In Goldfish Ghost he gives quirky, yet comforting, meaning to the sad reality of aquarium ownership while connecting Goldfish Ghost to the world’s natural lifecycle. Inherent in the story is also the idea of friendship and the idea that while some kids (and adults) may feel invisible to others at times, there is someone out there who will make a perfect companion, if you just keep looking.

Lisa Brown’s soft-hued, matte watercolor illustrations set a snug, soothing atmosphere as young readers follow Goldfish Ghost on his journey. From the little boy’s room and its seascape décor to the inviting lighthouse on the edge of the shore, Brown gives kids plenty to discover on every page. Alert readers will notice other ghosts on the pier and on the beach, find the little boy leaving the pet store holding a familiar plastic bag, and may want to name the ghostly creatures floating above the ocean. When Goldfish Ghost finally finds a friend in the lighthouse keeper (whose reading runs to the same interests as the little boy’s), kids will be cheered to see that he gets new “life” in the golden glow of the Fresnel lens.

With a splash of humor and a lot of heart, Goldfish Ghost makes a tender choice for story times as well as for children who have lost a pet or are navigating the world of friendships.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626725072

You’ll discover the world of Lisa Brown, her books, comics, and illustrations, on her website!

National Zoo and Aquarium Month Activity

Fill a Fishbowl Coloring Page

 

With these printable pages you can color your favorite fish and fill a bowl to decorate your room!

Fish Bowl | Friendly Fish

Picture Book Review

June 12 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Cats make wonderful pets! They can be cuddly or completely independent, but their playful personalities make for lots of laughs and love. If you own a cat, spend some extra time with your pet and ensure that all of your feline friend’s health needs are being met and are up-to-date. If you think you might like to adopt a cat into your family, visit your local animal shelter for cats and kittens who are looking for a forever home.

Lily’s Cat Mask

By Julie Fortenberry

 

Lily was starting school so her dad took her shopping. “Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to get new things for school, but her father said it would be fun.” After buying some clothes and meeting a woman they knew who gushed at how much Lily had grown, Lily was tired and wanted to go home. “But then she saw the cat mask.” It was the only one on the shelf, and Lily’s dad surprised her by buying it for her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-shopping-with-dad

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Lily put it on immediately and wore it on the way home. She wore it to tea parties with her toys, to family parties “when she wanted to be invisible. And when she wanted to be noticed.” When she wore it to her doctor’s appointment, the doctor spoke in meows. One day she lost her mask. Her dad made her a rabbit costume, and while that was fun for a while, Lily was happy to finally find her cat mask.

Lily wore her cat mask for many occasions. She wore it when she didn’t want to talk—like when she met her new teacher. “She liked to hide her face when she felt mean and couldn’t get nice.” She even blew out her birthday candles and made a wish wearing the mask. When school started, Lily was only allowed to wear her mask on the playground, but once in a while she put it on, hoping no one would notice. Then it was sometimes put in the teacher’s desk drawer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-making-a-wish

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

One day, the teacher made a very exciting announcement. The class was going to have a costume party, and everyone could wear a mask or dress up however they wanted. On the day of the party, there were characters, animals, and bugs of all kinds. But then Lily looked across the room and saw the best costume of all—another cat! During recess the new friends played on the swings and meowed happily together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-lily-at-school

Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Julie Fortenberry’s story of a quiet, hesitant child who discovers a unique way of interacting with the world around her offers openhearted acceptance and understanding for children who are observant and thoughtful integrators. The reaction of Lily’s father, teacher, doctor, and family members to her cat mask is uplifting and provides excellent modeling. The straightforward storytelling highlights Lily’s sweet personality as well as the empathetic responses her costume elicits.

Fotenberry’s illustrations of adorable Lily and her experiences at home, at school, at the doctor’s office, and at the mall are full of joy. The colors are fresh and vibrant, but also calm and peaceful, mirroring Lily’s feelings when wearing her cat mask. The images demonstrate and validate Lily’s preference to watch and participate in events from her own distance.

Lily’s Cat Mask provides the opportunity for much discussion with children, especially about meeting people, Lily’s birthday wish, where Lily sits and plays at parties and at school, and when Lily makes a friend. The book is highly recommended for classroom and school libraries and would make a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0425287996

Discover more about Julie Fortenberry and view a gallery of her books and artwork on her website!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-The-Cat's-Meow-Word-Search

The Cat’s Meow Word Search

 

There are so many beautiful types of cats! Can you find the names of twenty-one breeds in this printable The Cat’s Meow Word Search puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

June 4 – Tailors Day

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About the Holiday

On Tailors Day we honor those who design and manufacture one-of-a-kind dresses, suits, and other outfits to precise specifications. With their vision and talents, tailors make the world a more beautiful place!

Green Pants

By Kenneth Kraegal

 

Jameson loved green pants—in fact, they were the only kinds of pants he wore. “When he wore green pants, he could do anything.” He flew to the basketball hoop for spectacular dunks; made Olympic gold-medal-deserving dives; and he could dance.” Sometimes Jameson’s mom and dad gave him different colored pants to wear, but somehow they ended up hanging from trees or flying from flagpoles, or even clothing neighborhood dogs.

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Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of kennethkraegel.com

One day Jameson’s cousin Armando and his fiancée Jo dropped by with a very important question. Jameson loved Jo. She “had the nicest smile Jameson had ever seen, and her eyes seemed to sparkle like the autumn sun shining upon a running river.” And when she asked if Jameson would like to be in their wedding, Jameson said, “‘Absolutely.’” Later, Jameson’s mom sat him down and explained the requirements: lots of standing, smiling nicely for photographs, using his best manners. “‘No problem,’” Jameson replied. “‘And one more thing,’ his mother said slowly. ‘You will have to wear a tuxedo.’” That sounded okay to Jameson too, until he learned the pants would be black. Jameson gasped.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-pants-asked-to-be-in-wedding

Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of candlewick.com

At the tuxedo fitting, Jameson tried on pair after pair of black pants, but none were as handsome as his own green pants. His mother put down her foot, though. If he wanted to be in the wedding, he had to wear black pants. On the day of the wedding, Jameson still didn’t know what to do. Even moments before the ceremony was to begin, Jameson had not made up his mind. His mother kissed him on the forehead and left him to figure it out.

“Jameson sank in despair. ‘But how? HOW? How do I make such a decision? AAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!’” At that moment Jo poked her head out the door. “Her hair played happily in the sunny breeze, her eyes shone like the summer stars, and her smile warmed his very soul. ‘Hey,, Jameson! I’m so glad you’re here! I’ll see you inside!’” she said and then she was gone. Suddenly, Jameson’s decision was made.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-pants-wedding-picture

Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of kennethkraegel.com

Following the bridesmaids down the aisle, Jameson looked “quite dashing in his tuxedo!” He remembered all of his mother’s words, too. He stood still, smiled for the camera, and used his best manners. But then the music began. With a leap, a flip, and a whoosh, Jameson’s black pants came off to reveal his green pants underneath, “and Jameson danced like no one has ever danced before.”

Kenneth Kraegel’s at-once funny and sweet story of obsessive love will resonate with young readers and adults as well. Kids often go through stages where one outfit, food, drink, or activity becomes synonymous with their identity and only that thing will fit the bill. Kraegel’s straightforward and tender storytelling wonderfully portrays opportunities for Jameson’s independent thought while showing how love overcame and became personal preference when it mattered. The dialogue among the characters rings true and is inspirational modeling. Jameson’s ultimate solution to his dilemma is all-kid and will make his reading peers nod in appreciation.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-pants-dancing

Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of kennethkraegel.com

Jameson, with a shock of curly hair and his ever-present green pants, is an adorable protagonist. Ready with a smile for Jo or when accomplishing daring feats, he also registers amusing alarm at the idea of wearing black pants. Children will laugh to see where Jamison’s non-green pants end up and will empathize with his agonizing indecision—and they may just want to try some of his pretty sweet dance moves too!

Ages 3 – 8 (great as a read-aloud for younger kids and also as an independent book for early and transitional readers)

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763688400

You’ll find books, art, coloring pages, and more by Kenneth Kraegel on his website!

Dance with Green Pants in this toe-tapping book trailer!

Tailors Day Activity

Sew Much Dress-Up Fun!

 

If you like playing dress-up, why not be your own tailor and make a one-of-a-kind outfit from your imagination. With only a few materials and supplies, you can be anything or anyone you want!

For the Knight’s Tunic

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Supplies

  • Tee shirt with the sleeves cut off
  • Thin cardboard (a cereal or other food box works well)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Paper or foam
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Markers
  • Play jewels (optional)
  • Fabric glue
  • Belt, rope, or twine
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Cut the sleeves off of the T-shirt
  2. Use the cardboard to create a crest shape
  3. Cover the cardboard with aluminum foil
  4. Tape the aluminum foil if necessary
  5. With the markers, color a design with various shapes
  6. Alternately: glue play jewels to the crest
  7. On the paper draw a fleur de lis or other design
  8. Color the fleur de lis or other design
  9. Cut out the fleur de lis or other design
  10. Glue the fleur de lis to the crest
  11. Attach the finished crest to the tunic with fabric glue
  12. Tie a belt with the rope, twine, or belt

For the Dress

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Supplies

  • Plastic tablecloth
  • Belt or scarf
  • Permanent Markers
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper or old sheeting to protect the floor or table from the permanent markers

Directions

  1. With the table cloth folded along one edge, cut a rectangle the appropriate size
  2. In the middle of the folded edge cut a V-shaped or rounded opening for the child’s head. Begin with a small opening and enlarge it as needed
  3. Lay the dress on newspaper or other material to protect the floor or table
  4. Draw and color shapes, lines, figures, or other designs on the dress
  5. Add a belt with a ribbon, a scarf, a piece of crepe paper garland, or other material

Picture Book Review

May 31 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

As we say goodbye to Get Caught Reading Month, let’s remember all of the great stories we’ve read and eagerly anticipate those that still await us in the days and months ahead! The long, relaxing hours of summer vacation are nearing, giving readers even more time to enjoy their favorite pursuit. So why not make a list of titles you’d like to explore this summer, and lead it off with today’s book that tells the true story of a very original teenager!

The Original Cowgirl: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Suzanne Beaky

 

Unlike most girls in the 1890s, Lucille didn’t skip rope “with her mama’s clothesline, she twirled it like a lasso. Whoosh…whoosh…snap!” While Lucille’s papa thought his daughter would be a great help around the ranch, her mother considered riding horses and roping steers unladylike. Lucille wasn’t interested in the regular pursuits of becoming a lady, however. Sewing and cooking were boring, and “riding sidesaddle was slower than a snail climbing a greased log.”

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Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

By the age of ten, Lucille was well versed in “mending fences, training racehorses, and herding cattle.” When she asked her father for her own herd of cattle, he told her that she could have one when she was old enough to rope and brand her own—something she could already do. Lucille’s mother worried about her when she patrolled the pastures where her cows grazed. They were threatened by “longhorns, wolves, and coyotes so mean they could turn the strongest cowboy into buzzard food,” but Lucille could snatch those varmints with her lasso in no time flat. The only thing Lucille was afraid of was not being allowed to work on the ranch, so she hid her bumps and bruises.

When Lucille was thirteen, her papa took her along on some rough-riding and roping competitions he had organized. When people saw how talented she was, word got around. Newspapers called her a “daring young girl who ‘held the audience in a breathless spell’” and said she was “‘the envy of half the men.’” But now that she was a teenager, Lucille’s mama sent her to a boarding school where she was to learn how to be a lady.

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Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of albertwhitman.com

When she returned home at the end of the year, her papa presented her with a gift—a “beautiful sixteen-hand chestnut horse named Governor. Right off, Lucille could see that he would make a perfect trick horse. That summer Lucille, her papa, and the other cowboys were invited to perform for Vice Presidential candidate Teddy Roosevelt. At first Lucille’s mother said no, but she later relented, with the stipulation that “it would be Lucille’s last appearance.”

Lucille was a star, demonstrating her riding and roping skills for 25,000 people. Teddy Roosevelt was so impressed, he suggested Lucille have her own show. Soon, Lucille was traveling around the country, thrilling audiences by breaking broncos, lassoing and branding steers, and performing tricks like roping “five galloping cowboys all at once.”

Lucille entered her first professional steer-roping competition when she was just fifteen. She was the first women ever to compete in this kind of event. Some cowboys laughed at her, but she didn’t care. When the steer was released from the pen, Lucille took off after him. Her first throw of the lasso landed but broke. Quickly she tossed another and “flipped him up like a flapjack.” She jumped off her horse and in 29 ½ seconds tied the steer’s feet. Her time was “faster than all the men!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-original-cowgirl-roping-five-cowboys

Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

Lucille went on to break the world record for steer roping. Plenty of people still thought Lucille belonged in the home instead of on horseback. “But her home was always on a horse with the sun on her cheeks a lariat coiled in her hand, and the boundless Oklahoma prairie rolling out in front of her.”

More information on and a timeline of Lucille Mulhall’s life follow the text.

With her folksy storytelling, Heather Lang transports readers to the prairies of the Wild West, where a girl with phenomenal riding skills captured the attention and hearts of Americans. Young readers will be fascinated by Lucille Mulhall’s development from a 10-year-old prodigy to the star of her own stage show in only a few short years. Lang’s expressive period-perfect vocabulary allows all kids to ride the range while they learn about this young woman who broke stereotypes, championed the cause of women, and still serves as a role model for all who wish to live life on their own terms.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-original-cowgirl-roping-five-cowboys

Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

With her downhome, action-packed illustrations, Suzanne Beaky lets kids watch as Lucille lassos a wolf, ropes a steer, preforms tricks, and celebrates her record-breaking performance. Lucille is a wide-eyed force of nature in her split skirt and braids as she twirls her rope for serious ranch business and for entertaining the crowds, whose stunned expressions reveal just how original Lucille was. Clothing, hair, and mustache styles, as well as depictions of horses, steers, and the vast green prairie make The Original Cowgirl as fun as it is informative.

For kids interested in the Wild West, early American history, biographies, or a story about true individuality, The Original Cowgirl: the Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall is a great addition to home bookshelves and public and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman, 2015 | ISBN 978-0807529317

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website!

To find out more about Lucille Mulhall through videos, photographs, and fun activities, click here!

Learn more about Suzanne Beaky and view a gallery of her artwork on her website!

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Yee-haw-word-search

Yee-haw! Word Search

 

Can you lasso the eighteen Wild West-inspired words in this printable Yee-haw! Word Search? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

May 21 – “I Need A Patch for That” Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stitchin'-and-pullin'-a-gee's-bend-quilt-cover

About the Holiday

Celebrated annually on May 21, “I Need a Patch for That” Day gives a little love to patches of all kinds. Have you been out working in your garden patch? Fabulous! Did you just finish all the requirements for a scouting patch? Good job! Waiting on a fix for the latest software kerfuffle? Who isn’t? Are you a pirate keeping one eye ready for the dark? Argghh! Do you need to patch up a misunderstanding? Good luck! Or maybe you’re a quilter like the amazing women in today’s book who create a patch to remember each of life’s important, inspirational, and formative events. 

Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt

Written by Patricia C. McKissack | Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

 

In this story told through poems, a little girl begins telling readers about her life, starting with a recitation on Gee’s Bend Women: “Gee’s Bend women are / Mothers and Grandmothers / Wives / Sisters and Daughters / Widows.” They are every kind of woman you know, doing every type of work and activity. “Gee’s Bend women are / Talented and Creative / Capable / Makers of artful quilts / Unmatched. / Gee’s Bend women are / Relatives / Neighbors / Friends— / Same as me.”

In Who Would Have Thought, the girl muses on how perceptions change. “For as long as anyone can remember,” she says, the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have created quilts that were slept under, sat on, and wrapped around the sick or cold. But now those same quilts are “…hanging on museum walls, / their makers famous….”

When she was just a tot “Baby Girl” reveals in Beneath the Quilting Frame, she played under the quilting frame, listening to her “mama, grandma, and great-gran / as they sewed, talked, sang, and laughed / above my tented playground.” She remembers the “steady fingers  /[that] pieced together colorful scraps of familiar cloth / into something / more lovely / than anything they had been before” as her mother sang her a lullaby.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stitchin'-and-pullin'-a-gee's-bend-quilt-puzzling-the-pieces

Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Something Else, “Baby Girl” is growing too big to play underneath the frame. Her legs are becoming longer and her mind is full of “recipes for eleven kinds of jelly…how to get rid of mold…and the words to a hundred hymns and gospel songs” while she waits for her turn at the frame. At last, her time does come, and in Where to Start?, the girl asks her mama how to begin. Her mother answers, “‘Look for the heart. / When you find the heart, / your work will leap to life… / strong, beautiful, and… / independent.’”

In Remembering, the girl thinks about how her mama has told her that “cloth has a memory.” As she chooses the cloth that will become her quilt she recounts the life and the history in each. 

Nothing Wasted sees Grandma pulling apart a red-and-white gingham dress stitch by stitch. Suddenly, the girl knows that this cloth will become the patch that “will be the heart of my quilt.” In Puzzling the Pieces the girl and her grandma stand over the quilting frame fitting the squares together in the perfect way to tell the girl’s story. Her quilt comes together piece by piece to tell the history of Gee’s Bend in The River Island. The brown strips along three sides mirror the muddy waters surrounding her town. The fourth side is a green strip—“a symbol of the fields where my ancestors / worked cotton from can to can’t— / can see in the morning until / can’t see at night.” Lined up next to the green strip are six squares representing the small communities “where families with / the same name / are not kin by blood / but by plantation.”

Being Discovered is portrayed with “a large smoke-gray square”—the color of the Great Depression and the 15 minutes of fame Gee’s Bend garnered when discovered “by sociologists, historians, / educators, and journalists” who came and went, leaving Gee’s Bend “the way it had been / before being discovered.”

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Colors, the girl’s grandma explains the meanings and feelings behind each colored cloth. “Blue cools. / Red is loud and hard to control, / like fire and a gossiping tongue.” Green, orange, yellow, white, pink, and all the others have their own personalities. “Grandma says, / ‘Colors show how you / feel deep down inside.’”

In Dr. King Brings Hope, the little girl adds “a spotless white patch for the hope Dr. Martin Luther King / brought to the Bend” and goes on to tell how her grandma saw Dr. King at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and what it meant to her. By and By follows the girl as she adds “golden thank-yous, for James Reeb,” a “bright blue piece of velvet for Viola Liuzzo,” and a “big plaid people circle of white, black, brown, yellow, and red for Reverend Dr. King, all “killed for believing in justice.”

In the 1960s, The Sewing Bee tells, Gee’s Bend quilters were once again discovered. Joining the Bee provided buyers for the handmade quilts, but there were stipulations on the types of quilts that could be made and sold. The girl asks her grandma if she was part of the Bee, to which she replies, “‘more money. Less freedom. I chose to stay free.’”

At last all of the patches are laid out and the time comes to stitch the girl’s quilt. Five women stand at the frame “all stitchin’ and pullin.’” They work “in a slow and steady rhythm” relaxing and enjoying being together until the quilt is finished. In Finished, the last stitch is sewn, and the thread bitten and knotted. The girl has hundreds of ideas for future quilts. “Quilts that are about me, / the place where I live, / and the people / who have been here for generations.”

Further poems unite the history of “Baby Girl,” her family, and neighbors, and an Author’s Note about quilting and the women of Gee’s Bend follow the text.

Patricia McKessack’s free verse poems capture the close relationships and camaraderie of the generations of women who join around the quilting frame to share and pass down their art and their heart. McKessack’s conversational verses, connected page after page like the patches of a quilt, reveal the complexity of this handmade art form in the way intimate talks between friends unveil a life. Readers learn not only about the little girl and her own thoughts, but the history and influence of her immediate family, world events, inspirational figures, and deeply held beliefs that make her who she is and ties her to the other Gee’s Bend women.

Cozbi A. Cabrera’s stunning acrylic paintings take readers inside the heart of the Gee’s Bend women, depicting the girl’s home, the table-sized quilting frame where the women collectively work, the plantations, the protests, and the changes that came but did not unravel the convictions, values, and love of the little girl’s family. Readers can almost hear the talking and singing of the Gee’s Bend women as they stitch their quilts, and the comforting, embracing environment is evident on every page. Cabrera’s portraits of the little girl, her mama, and her grandma are particularly moving. For What Changed, Cabrera depicts a yellow school bus appearing on the dirt road from the right hand corner of the page. In the  driver’s side mirror, a dot of a house is reflected, reminding readers that no matter how far these women are from home, Gee’s Bend is always with them.

Children—and adults—will find Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt inspirational and uplifting. This volume of poetry can be read at one sitting or delved into again and again, making it a wonderful choice for home libraries and a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 12

Dragonfly Books, Random House, 2016 (paperback edition) | ISBN 978-0399549502

View a gallery  of fashion designs, dolls, and other handmade art work by Cozbi A. Cabrera on her website!

“I Need a Patch for That” Day Activity

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Design a Quilt Coloring Pages

 

Quilts are so much more than pieces of material sewn together—they’re life stories! Here are two quilt coloring pages for you to design and color. What does each piece mean to you? As you color each section, write a sentence about an event or thought that is important to you.

Quilt Template 1 | Quilt Template 2

Picture Book Review

May 20 – Learn to Swim Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-splatypus-coverAbout the Holiday

Established by Swimways in 2012, today’s holiday is dedicated to educating parents, caregivers, and children about water safety and the importance of learning to swim. With summer officially beginning this weekend, kids will be soon be cooling off at beaches, lakes, rivers, and pools. Knowing how to swim and learning to recognize dangers and water hazards are crucial skills for swimmers of all ages. To learn more about education programs and fun ways to celebrate Learn to Swim Day, visit the Swimways website!

SPLATypus

Written by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen | Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic

 

Platypus is feeling lonely as he walks along the shore looking for someone to play with. When a couple of kangaroos hop by, Platypus is happy to see them. “‘I’ll jump too!’” he shouts. He takes off on his blue, webbed feet “skipping, hopping, dipping, dropping.” But he loses control and falls flat on his bill—“Splatypus!” Platypus waves goodbye to the kangaroos, sure that he’ll soon find his place.

Next, two dingoes chase / and run with grace. / Platypus says, ‘I’ll go race!’” But where the dogs leap easily over a fallen log, Platypus struggles and strains to pull himself on top. Then—whoa!—he wobbles and teeters and tumbles and rolls—“Splatypus!” Although trying to be as agile as a dingo didn’t work out, Playpus isn’t giving up on finding where he belongs.

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Image copyright Jackie Urbanovic, text copyright Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Courtesy of Two Lions

Up in a tree, Platypus watches a group of possums playing in the branches. He scrambles to join them, but his hands and feet slip and slide on the smooth trunk and he lands bonk on his head. Suddenly, he sees “fruit bats fly / across the sky. / Platypus says, / ‘I’ll soar high!’” He runs up a cliff to launch himself into the air, but the rocky path trips him up. When he finally reaches the edge, he leaps, flapping his arms and legs. But instead of soaring he goes “Splatypus!”

Poor Platypus! “Nothing’s easy. / Tummy’s queasy. / So discouraged, / lost his courage.” He decides to give up on flying, climbing, and jumping. The day is almost over and still Platypus hasn’t found any friends. He goes to sleep in the shade of a palm tree. The next morning, still feeling dejected, Platypus worries that the day will be no fun. As he strolls near the edge of the bay, however, he spots some swans swimming by and then two “penguins cry / a soggy ‘Hi!’”

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Image copyright Jackie Urbanovic, text copyright Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Courtesy of Two Lions

They look as if they are having so much fun that Platypus decides to try one more time to join in. He wades into the water and dives in. With a “ker-sploosh, ker-splash!” Platypus finds that he’s a natural! Now, “water wiggling, all are giggling.” As he floats and paddles with the penguins, swans, fish, and turtles, he “looks around, / at last he’s found / the perfect place for Splatypus.”

Little ones will giggle from beginning to end of this funny story that shows that sometimes you have to try a lot of different things before you find your perfect niche. Platypus’s can-do attitude and perseverance are great lessons for children beginning to navigate school, activities, and friendships. Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s rollicking rhythm and easy-to-repeat rhymes will have kids reading—and most likely moving—along with the story.

Jackie Urbanovic takes kids to the coast of Australia to meet kangaroos, dingoes, possums, fruit bats, and even a sea dragon in her sunny illustrations. Little Platypus, with his blue feet, hands, and bill, is adorable as he tries activity after activity with little success. When he finally finds some swimming buddies, kids will cheer to see the satisfied smile on his face.  The large type face will invite beginning readers to try reading for themselves—and persistent Platypus is a good role model along the journey.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1503939202

Discover more about Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen and her books as well as downloadable teacher’s guides on her website!

You’ll find books, a portfolio of art, coloring pages and more by Jackie Urbanovic on her website!

Learn to Swim Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-the-swim-maze

In the Swim! Maze

 

One little boy would like to join his friends in the pool. Can you help him by finding a path through this printable In the Swim maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review