December 30 – It’s Cat Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

As 2018 gives way to 2019, we give one last bow to those friends that keep us smiling, whether at home or in cute pics and videos online. Who are they? Cats! With their “who me?” looks, disregard for privacy, and utter confidence that they rule the house, cats and kittens make life better in so many ways. If you’re thinking about adding a furry family member to your home this coming year, check out the sweet cats at your local animal shelter.

Quackers

By Liz Wong

 

Quackers, a little orange tabby, wants to say hello! “Meow.” Quackers is a duck. “He knows he’s a duck because he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks.” Not only that, but all of his friends are ducks. Sometimes, though, when he looks around at all the white feathers and orange beaks, he feels a bit out of place, and communicating is sometimes difficult. There’s also the issue of food—some of the things he’s given to eat are pretty slimy or tiny or hard to chew, and duckweed seems to be on the menu all the time. The worst, though? Getting wet.

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Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

One day, Quackers meets another duck who looks like him and sounds like him. In his joy, Quackers blurts out, “‘I’ve never met a duck who understands me!’” The gray kitten, Mittens, is confused at first and then understands and then laughs. At last, she invites Quackers to follow her. They end up at a farm where Mittens lives with “a whole flock of strange ducks. Ducks just like Quackers.”

Mittens shows Quackers how they “chase mice,” which Quackers prefers to swimming; “drink milk,” which is more delicious than duckweed; and clean themselves, which Quackers is a bit iffy on. Soon, Quackers is napping with his new friends. As much as he enjoys being a cat, Quackers starts to miss the duck pond. He even finds that he has a craving for duckweed. He scampers back and discovers that “most of all, he missed his friends.”

Now Quackers splits his time at the pond and the farm. Sometimes he’s a duck, and sometimes he’s a cat. But all the time “he’s just Quackers, and that makes him completely happy.”

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Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

As mom to a cat who thinks he’s part person and possibly part dog, I fell in love with Liz Wong’s little Quackers and little readers will too. Kids will giggle as Quackers sits contentedly on a lily pad, accepts slugs and snails as snacks with a meow-nimum of fuss, and explains to Mittens that he’s a duck.  Readers, who are beginning to develop their own identity, will be cheered when Quackers embraces both his duck and cat sides. They’ll understand that it’s what’s inside a person that matters and that being yourself is the best thing you can be. Wong’s adorable kittens and ducks will charm kids, and her simple hand-lettered text and speech bubbles create a cozy reading experience that’s like a sweet hug in a book.

Full of humor, self-acceptance, and inclusion, Quackers should find a home on any child’s and classroom’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553511543

Discover more about Liz Wong, her books, and her art on her website.

Cat Lovers Month Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These adorable kittens all have a twin, but they’ve gotten mixed up while playing. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

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You can find Quackers at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 11 – International Mountain Day

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About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored holiday aims to raise awareness of the crucial importance of mountains to the livelihood and even survival of the world’s population. Covering nearly one-fourth of the earth’s land mass, mountain areas are home to almost one billion people, and over half of the human population relies on mountains for clean energy, food, and water, including 60 to 80 percent of the world’s freshwater supply. Today, mountains are under threat from land degradation, over exploitation, natural disasters, and climate change. This year’s International Mountain Day theme is Mountains Matter, and scientists, activists, and others involved in protecting these unique ecosystems will be advocating for recognition and protection on social media and directly to politicians who can enact change. To celebrate, learn more about the importance of mountains and consider getting involved locally or with national organizations.

A Chip Off the Old Block

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

Rocky had an impressive family. There was Aunt Etna, Uncle Gibraltar, and his Great-Grandma Half Dome. His cousins were pretty well-known too. In fact, “tons of his relatives were rock stars.” Rocky loved hearing his parents’ stories about his family. Rocky wanted to be important too, but his parents thought he was too little. He may have been “just a chip off the old block” like his dad said, “but inside, Rocky was a boulder!”

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Rocky made a plan, and in the morning he hopped on a pickup truck headed for Arizona to join his cousin The Wave. As soon as he got there, though, a gust of wind blew him away. He landed hard and “noticed that a piece of him had broken off.” Undeterred, he caught a flight with an eagle out to Wyoming and another cousin, The Tower. Rocky was almost settled in when a rainstorm washed him over the side.

At the bottom of the long slide down, Rocky hitched a ride on a car bound for Texas. There, he thought he could watch over the sauropod tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park. But it didn’t take long for an armadillo to dig him out and send him back on the road again. this time he was determined to go to South Dakota. When he arrived, tinier than when he’d begun his trip, he decided that he’d make a terrific souvenir of his cousin Rushmore.

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Just then he heard the news. The park was closing because a crack had been discovered in Abraham Lincoln’s nose. “Rocky was crushed.” His dreams of being important would never come true now. But looking up at his cousin, he realized that maybe he could help. A passing lizard gave him a ride to the top, and Rocky jumped. He tumbled down, down and right into the crack in Lincoln’s nose. “He was a perfect fit! I did it! I did something important! I saved Abraham Lincoln!” Rocky exaulted, excited and proud.

Down below, visitors and park employees cheered. Reporters relayed the news, and photographers took pictures. The park was saved, and it was “all thanks to Rocky, the little pebble that wouldn’t be taken for granite.”

A guide to igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks, illustrated descriptions of some of the world’s most majestic rock formations, and an Author’s Note about Mount Rushmore follow the story.

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

There’s so much to love about Jody Jensen Shaffer’s A Chip Off the Old Block! Part adventure, part educational travelogue, and completely inspirational—with lots of funny wordplay to boot—Shaffer’s story will charm kids. Little Rocky is a sweetie of a go-getter who has big dreams and sets out to achieve them. He overcomes obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments and adjusts to changes with optimism while never losing heart and building up his self-confidence. Kids will cheer when Rocky finally finds the place where he can make the most monumental difference.

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Daniel Miyares’ gorgeous illustrations depict the splendor of Rocky’s magnificent cousins and the landscape they dominate while cleverly tracing his journey from state to state, carried along by a truck and a car, in a backpack, and with the help of some animal friends. Rocky is full of personality and childlike expressions that will endear him to readers. Miyares’ full-color, full-bleed pages will get kids excited to learn more about geology and each rock formation, and will no doubt inspire some vacation wish lists.

A Chip Off the Old Block is a smart and witty book that will excite a child’s imagination. It would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and should be included in classroom libraries to accompany STEM, STEAM, and English Language Arts lessons and well as fun story times.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399173882

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and find teachers’ resources and activities on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books and his art, visit his website.

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You can find A Chip Off the Old Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

International Mountain Day Activity

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Marvelous Mountains! Word Search

 

If you love mountains, you’ll want to find the names of the nineteen mountains in this printable word search puzzle – no climbing necessary!

Marvelous Mountains! Word Search Puzzle | Marvelous Mountains! Word Search Solution

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You can find A Chip Off the Old Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound 

 

 

Picture Book Review

November 5 – Job Action Day

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About the Holiday

Job Action Day was created in 2008 as a day for job seekers and employees to assess their career goals and take action to make them a reality. Today, experts across the web and in participating companies offer special seminars and training sessions to provide the latest in career advice. Today’s holiday, which is sponsored by LiveCareer, gives people a chance to reflect on what is most important in their life. Are you doing the job you’re passionate about? Are you bringing your passions to the job you are doing? If you are unhappy or dissatisfied with your position, take another look at your job and where it leads. It’s possible that new opportunities lie within your current job—you never know where a particular job will lead you until you put all your creativity, knowledge, and—most importantly—unique personality—into it. If your current job doesn’t offer these kinds of opportunities, today is a good day to polish that resume and begin a search for a better fit.

Business Pig

By Andrea Zuill

 

When Jelly Bean gave birth to five piglets at the Sunshine Sanctuary for Farm Animals, one was a standout. Dressed in a pinstripe suit and tie and drinking from a mug, he smiled at the farmer and two volunteers. “What kind of pig is that?” one volunteer asked. “Well, I believe what we have here is a gen-u-wine Business Pig,” the farmer answered. The little girl volunteer named him Jasper.

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Right from the start, Jasper didn’t like playing in the mud, and instead of rooting for grubs with his snout, he used a shovel. “Everyone at the sanctuary loved little Jasper. But that didn’t keep him from feeling out of place.” So the volunteers made him an office in the corner of the barn with a hay bale desk, a comfortable chair, and a computer. They gave him a job helping with the bookkeeping. When Jasper held a meeting, everyone came “to show their support.”

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But when it came right down to it, some of the animals didn’t understand him. The chickens ignored his flow charts, “and the goat ate his business card.” And no one seemed to want him as a pet. Jasper decided to be proactive. He wrote articles for the newspaper touting the benefits of pigs as pets, he hung out billboards, and he tacked signs with pull-off tabs onto electrical posts. Then he waited.

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Soon a little girl carrying a briefcase visited the sanctuary. She studied Jasper’s flow charts, “wanted to exchange business cards with him,” and carefully read his résumé. Jasper was pleased with the interview, “but upper management had to be consulted.” Fortunately, the little girl’s mother was also impressed, and Jasper went home with his “perfect fit.”

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, 2018, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Andrea Zuill’s Jasper will make you swoon. Adorable doesn’t go far enough to describe the absolute perfect expressions on this piglet’s face as he meets the volunteers, sees his office for the first time, reacts to having his business card devoured, and with hope hands out his résumé. Jasper’s gestures are equally as endearing and will make readers’—kids and adults—hearts swell. Zuill’s story is humorous in its use of business jargon (Jasper is “smart, outgoing, proactive,” and enlists the help of his contacts), uplifting in the way the sanctuary’s volunteers and animals support the little pig, and emotionally resonant when this diminutive businessman is passed over for adoption. Kids will feel good all over when the piglet finally meets his perfect match and gets the “job” he’s been searching for.

With both laugh-out-loud and heartwarming moments, Business Pig would make a much-loved gift and addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves that will be asked for again and again. 

Ages 3 – 7

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454926849

Discover more about Andrea Zuill, her books, and her art on her website.

Job Action Day Activity

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Briefcase Craft

 

Every business kid needs a briefcase! With this easy-to-make craft and printable Dream Job Application, young talents will be taking the world by storm in no time!

Supplies

Directions

To Make the Body of the Briefcase

  1. Cut a rectangle of poster board in proportion to child’s size. Leave ½ inch on either side of the shorter cut to glue the briefcase together. The longer side should be double the height you’d like the finished briefcase to be. (My example was made from a 12-inch by 20-inch strip.)
  2. Fold the poster board in half
  3. Glue the side edges together

To Make the Handle

  1. Cut a narrow strip of poster board
  2. Fold the right side of the strip toward you and down, pinching it tight; repeat on the left side

Print out the Dream Job Application and fill it in!

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You can find Business Pig at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 20 – International Chef Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2004 by chef Dr. Bill Gallagher, International Chefs Day celebrates the profession while also promoting the time-honored tradition of passing down culinary skills and knowledge to chefs on their way to working in the field and even perhaps owning their own restaurant. Sponsored by WorldChefs, which was created in 1928 in Sorbonne, Paris with August Escoffier as the organization’s first honorary president, the holiday emphasized eating healthy. Partnering with Nestlé Professional, WorldChefs has chosen Healthy Foods for Growing Up as year’s theme. The mission is to prompt kids to think about the profession they would like to have in the future and consider how eating healthy foods will help them reach their full potential. The holiday is celebrated with fun workshops and events across the globe. At home, parents and kids can discuss healthy diets, menu planning, and cooking together. When kids are involved in shopping for and preparing food, they develop a good and healthy relationship with what they eat. For more information about International Chefs Day as well as to find recipes, a toolkit, and interviews with chefs around the world, plus many more resources, visit the WorldChefs website.

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

Written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee | Illustrated by Man One

 

“Chef Roy Choi can chop an onion in an instant, carve a mouse out of a mushroom. He’s cooked in fancy restaurants, for rock stars and royalty. But he’d rather cook on a truck.” Roy considers himself a “‘street cook,’” and he creates food with love and care—and especially sohn-maash—for anyone who stops by. What’s sohn-maash? “It is the love and cooking talent that Korean mothers and grandmothers mix into their handmade foods.”

When Roy was two his family moved from Seoul, Korea to Los Angeles, California. His mother made kimchi that was so delicious friends bought it from the trunk of her car. Eventually, Roy’s parents “opened a restaurant—Silver Garden.” Roy loved exploring the various ethnic foods in his neighborhood, but always liked his mom’s food the best.

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Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Roy loved hanging out in the bustling kitchen of the Silver Garden. And when 3:00 rolled around “everyone gathered at booth #1 for Dumpling Time.” While they filled dumpling wrappers, they told stories, shared news, and laughed. “Family together, making food. Roy’s best good time.” In time his neighborhood changed, and the Silver Garden closed. His parents then opened a jewelry store, and the family moved to the suburbs. But Roy was not happy. He wasn’t like the other kids in the neighborhood.

After he graduated, Roy was at a loss; he didn’t know what he wanted to do. No matter what, though, he always went home, “where his mom helped him get strong with kimchi, rice, tofu, stew.” One day as Roy watched a cooking show, he realized his heart was in the kitchen. He went to cooking school and learned about recipes and preparing food. When he graduated, he got jobs in fancy restaurants where he cooked for a thousand diners a night and ran the kitchen crew. He knew that this was where he belonged.

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Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

“Roy was a success—until he wasn’t.” There came a time when he couldn’t keep up with the frantic pace, couldn’t remember recipes. He lost his job. A friend suggested they open a food truck together—putting Korean barbecue in a taco. Roy jumped at the idea of remixing “the tastes he loved on the streets that were his home. He used mad chef’s skills to build flavor and cooked with care, with sohn-maash.” They called their truck Kogi BBQ, and they hit the road, looking for hungry customers.

At first the idea of a Korean taco didn’t fly, but once people tried them, they lined up to buy them. “Roy saw that Kogi food was like good music, bringing people together and making smiles. Strangers talked and laughed as they waited in line—Koreans with Latinos, kids with elders, taggers with geeks.”

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Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Roy felt at home in his truck, and his Kogi tacos made him famous. He opened cafes in older neighborhoods, and called his chef friends, saying “Let’s feed those we aren’t reaching.” Chef DP joined up. Together they opened fast-food places for kids and others skateboarding, playing, or just hanging out.

In the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, across the street from an elementary school, they opened Locol. The two chefs wondered if people would “care about soulful fast food.” But he needn’t have worried. Before the doors even opened, a line formed down the street and around the corner. Now, Roy wants to bring the remixed flavors of Locol to other neighborhoods. He dreams of “‘feeding goodness to the world’” and says you can do that too. All it takes is to “cook with sohn-maash, cook with love.”

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Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Extensive Authors’ and Illustrator’s Notes offering more information about Roy Choi, his work, and the making of the book follow the text.

For kids who love cooking—and eating—Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee have written a compelling biography of one of the culinary world’s stars. Beginning with Roy Choi’s childhood, Martin and Lee show young readers the family and social events that influenced not only his choice of career but his dedication to underserved neighborhoods. Scattered throughout the pages are poems that read like recipes and satisfy like comfort food. Full of care and love, the story will encourage readers to follow their heart, try out different ideas, and find the mission that’s important to them.

Graffiti artist and illustrator Man One infuses Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix with the vibrancy of the Los Angeles neighborhoods that nurtured Choi’s talent. Readers get to gather with the family during dumpling time and see the vast array of ingredients enveloped in the tasty wrappers, watch Choi finesse a lamb dish in his fancy restaurant, and feel the vibe as he remixes tacos with a Korean tang. Along the way, kids also meet the customers from all walks of life who line up to experience Choi’s food.

Ages 5 – 12

Readers to Eaters, 2017 | ISBN 978-0983661597

Discover more about Jacqueline Briggs Martin and her books on her website.

You can read more about June Jo Lee on the Readers to Eaters website.

View a gallery of art, murals, prints, and more by Man One on his website.

International Chefs Day Activity

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French Butter Cookies – Lemon and Chocolate

 

Whip up a batch of these delicious cookies to eat yourself or share with others! There are two distinct flavors to satisfy any palate!

Ingredients for Lemon Cookies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (or to taste)

For Chocolate Cookies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  1. In a bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix the dough. **For Chocolate Cookies use 1 ½ cups flour and add cocoa powder, cinnamon, and ground ginger before mixing.**
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half.
  5. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven.
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  8. Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick.
  9. Using a lightly floured 2 inch (5 cm) round, fluted cookie cutter (or other cookie cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
  10. Put the baking sheet of cut-out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough.
  11. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water for the egg wash. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the egg wash.
  12. Then, with the tines of a fork or a toothpick, make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie.
  13. Bake cookies for about 12-14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
  14. Cool cookies on wire rack.

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You can find Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

October 1 – World Architecture Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 1986 by the International Union of Architects, World Architecture Day is celebrated on the first Monday in October to coincide with the United Nations-sponsored World Habitat Day. Each year a different theme highlights the important aspects of architecture in our lives. This year’s theme is “Architecture…for a Better World” and emphasizes the issues, challenges, and rewards of housing the world’s citizens. To celebrate today take a walk around your town or city with your kids and study the buildings and how they fit into history or new construction in your area. You can also research a famous building and the architect who designed it!

Brick, Who Found Herself in Architecture

Written by Joshua David Stein | Illustrated by Julia Rothman

 

When Brick was a baby, she marveled at all the tall buildings and “wondered how anything could grow so big.” Her mother told her that “‘great things begin with small bricks.’” And Brick saw that it was true. When she looked closely, she saw that all the buildings she admired were made of bricks just like her. Brick wondered if there were buildings like this in all towns and even in other countries.

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Pretty soon, Brick was old enough to satisfy her curiosity on her own and “find her place in the world.” Brick bravely set sail and landed at Malbork Castle, which had high walls with slits for shooting arrows through. Next, she visited The Ark, which was in the desert. Brick saw that both of these castles had suffered from years of fighting. “Brick did not want to fight. So she moved on.”

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

She saw churches, mosques, synagogues, and a Buddhist temple. She thought they were beautiful, “but they did not call out to her. And so she kept going.” She walked on walls and looked down both sides, but she did not want to divide places and people, so she kept going. She visited apartment houses, houses in the suburbs, and even a country house with a “chimney billowing smoke.” But Brick knew that “homes eventually empty and hearths grow cold.” This was not the future she wanted. Where did she belong? Brick wondered.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brick-who-found-herself-in-architecture-churches

Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Brick considered all the buildings she had seen, and she remembered the words her mother had told her long ago about great things. She sat at the end of her path and pondered into the night. When the sun rose, Brick saw the answer right in front of her. She settled herself in and “became part of a wide and lovely path” that would guide other bricks to find where they belonged too.

An Afterword presents a description, complete with photograph, of the various buildings Brick encounters in her travels.

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Full of lovely metaphors and deeply considered thoughts on the way architecture models the human heart as well as how people design their buildings and structures for purposes both positive and negative, Joshua David Stein’s story is a unique look at growing up. The brick makes a particularly compelling character, for in any building each brick holds a crucial place in the design while also joining with others to create a durable whole—just as it is for any individual in a strong, vibrant community.

As the little brick is exposed to the various roles she could dedicate her life to, she thinks not only of the immediate reward of “having a job” but of what her philosophies are and what she wants her future to be. In a perhaps surprising—but welcome—choice, Brick decides that instead of being part of a grand edifice, becoming a step along the path and guiding others is her calling. This recognition of teachers, parents, caregivers, and other such role models is inspired and uplifting.

Julia Rothman’s light touch, variety of reds, and whimsical black-and-white line drawings of foliage, ancillary elements, and toy-strewn backyards beautifully showcase a world of sturdy brick buildings while giving readers a sense of the soaring awe with which Brick views her city and the landmarks she visits. Rothman’s use of perspective juxtaposes tiny Brick against towering structures mirroring a feeling that young readers may know well. The path Brick travels is ever-present, running from edge to edge of the pages. The final two-page spread of Brick happily fitted into a path that meanders through a lushly landscaped park, which is being crossed by a young brick on his way to the city in the distance will delight readers.

Brick, Who Found Herself in Architecture is an original and lyrical look at individuality, growing up, and finding one’s place in the world. The book would be a strong addition to school, classroom, and public libraries and an encouraging and reassuring choice for home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 8

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714876313

To learn more about Julia Rothman, her books and her art, visit her website.

World Architecture Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brick-craft

Build Your Identity 

 

Sometimes it’s good for kids to remind themselves of all the things that they like, stops along their path, and even words that describe them. With this craft, kids can make a “brick” that stands strong with all of their unique qualities. While a wooden block can be used to make a brick, if you have a real brick that can be used too!

Supplies

  • Wooden rectangular block, available at craft stores
  • Brick red craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. Paint the block with the craft paint, let dry
  2. Write words about yourself, things you like to do, inspirational places you’ve been, even places and things you’d like to do in the future.
  3. Display your brick on a shelf, hang on a wall, or use it as a book end

Classroom Idea

As a story extension for the classroom, cut one brick-sized rectangle from red construction paper, heavy-stock paper, or poster board for each student. Have them write about themselves, about what they think they would like to do in the future, or about some other topic pertinent to your class. Let students display their bricks by working together to “build” their own path in the classroom.

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You can find Brick, Who Found Herself in Architecture at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 8 – World Fencing Day

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About the Holiday

In its second year as a recognized holiday, World Fencing Day promotes this action-packed Olympic sport and encourages kids and adults to get involved. Fencing is enjoyed worldwide and is a popular sport offered in schools and at community venues. To celebrate the day, Olympic and world champion fencers hold demonstrations at malls, public squares, beaches, and other places, and fencing clubs offer free trials to would-be fencers. To celebrate, check out a demonstration held near you and try your hand at this fun and rewarding sport!

Two Lions sent me a copy of Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight to check out. All opinions are my own.

Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight

Written by Pam Calvert | Illustrated by Liana Hee

 

Princess Brianna Bright’s dreams of dancing ballet always seemed to go poof! whenever she actually tried to do the steps. “When practicing, she pranced and piquéd and pivoted…right into the palace pool. Ploink!” On the day when she tipped over her father’s throne with a grand jeté, the king suggested that maybe dancing wasn’t her talent.”

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

As Brianna sadly took off her ballet shoes, even her puppy Pixie was sympathetic. But Brianna was determined to find her true talent. During the week she tried ice-skating and baking, but those really weren’t for her either. Then on Saturday she saw two knights fencing, and “Brianna’s stomach fluttered.” Here was something that she could do, she thought, but the king and queen took one look at the pointy swords and worried.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

So Brianna continued her search. Skateboarding in the castle resulted in a frosting fiasco, and while playing soccer she caused a team pileup. Brianna feared she’d never find her talent. “Then she heard the click. And the clack. And the clickety, clackity, clack” that sends “her tiny heart swelling with anticipation.” One of the knights had left a fencing blade on the ground, and Brianna picked it up. She liked the way it felt in her hand.

All day she watched the knights parry and feint and shout, “‘en garde!’” That night she crept into the forest to practice on her own. But fencing wasn’t as easy as it looked. Brianna “tumbled and stumbled and bumbled.” After a few weeks of bumps and bruises, Brianna told Pixie that she didn’t think she had a talent.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

One night, Brianna and Pixie heard a suspicious sound outside the castle. She looked out her window just in time to see two thieves running off with some of the royal gems. Quickly, she grabbed her fencing blade and leaped in front of them. As “she parried and pirouetted…tiptoed and touchéd…dodged and dégagéd” she used the fencing blade for balance, executing each move just right. With a final feint and lunge, Brianna rescued the jewels. The king and queen and the knights were proud of their little princess, and Brianna was happiest of all because instead of having just one talent, she had discovered  she had two. She was no longer just the princess or even just Brianna. “She was Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight.”

A dictionary of ballet and fencing moves follows the story.

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Image copyright Liana Hee, 2018, text copyright Pam Calvert, 2018. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Kids searching for their special talent will find much to admire in Pam Calvert’s Princess Brianna. Despite bumps and bruises, missteps and mishaps, Brianna shows patience and perseverance as she tries a variety of activities. While some of Brianna’s slapstick blunders may raise a giggle, readers will also empathize with her grit as well as her sadness when the activities don’t work out. Declarations from Brianna, such as “I’ll find a new talent!” and especially the repeated “I’ll do it!” give young readers mantras that they can embrace. Highlighted ballet and fencing terms within the story will spark an interest in these two graceful and athletic pursuits.

Liana Hee’s Brianna shows excitement, wistfulness, good humor, and triumph in her expressive doe eyes. Vivid full-page illustrations depict Brianna’s mishaps with a comedic flair and her ballet and fencing moves with the kind of precision that makes these disciplines both beautiful and “cool” to watch. Brianna’s tiny pink poodle Pixie is a cutie as she keeps her princess company through it all—even the suspenseful late-night duel with the jewel thieves. Brianna’s celebration when she discovers her two talents is infectious and will encourage readers to search for their own.

Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight is a reassuring read for children trying out various activities in that search for the one that excites and inspires them. Brianna’s persistence and self-confidence makes this a book to keep on hand at home and in the classroom for encouraging story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503951013

Discover more about Pam Calvert and her books on her website.

To learn more about Liana Hee and her art, visit her on tumblr.

World Fencing Day Activity

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Fencing is Fantastic Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

The sport of fencing uses its own unique vocabulary to describe the equipment and actions of the participants. Can you find all of the fencing terms in the puzzle?

Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search Puzzle (20 words) | Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search Solution (20 words)

Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search (15 words, no diagonals) | Fencing is Fantastic Fun Word Search (15 words, no diagonals) Solution

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You can find Brianna Bright, Ballerina Knight at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 12 – New Conversations Day

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About the Holiday

This brand-new holiday extols the virtues of a really good conversation. Too often our exchanges with others fall into the realm of small talk where the weather, the score of the latest game, or a cursory “how are you?” is as deep as it gets. But there are so many more interesting topics to discuss that would lead to better connections with and understanding of family, friends, and acquaintances. Take the opportunity of today’s holiday to get together with your friends and talk about the funniest thing that ever happened to you, the best meal you ever had, or your favorite work of art. Of course a perfect topic of conversation is your favorite book or character and why! You’ll find out a lot about your friends as well as about yourself!

The Blue Songbird

By Vern Kousky

 

There once was a little blue songbird who loved to listen to her sisters singing in the morning, but when she tried to join in, the notes always fell flat. Sadly, she told her mother that she thought there were no songs for her, but her mother gently told her, “‘not just any notes will do. You must go and find a special song that only you can sing.’” So the little songbird began a journey to “find her special song.”

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

When she was far from home, she met a great crane and asked if he knew of any song made especially for her. The crane said he couldn’t help her, but pointed her in the direction of the mountains, where a wise bird lived. When she reached the pine forest on the other side of the mountains, the songbird explained to Mr. Wise Old Bird his quest for a song. But the owl could only ask, “‘Whoooo? Whoooo?’” so the songbird went on her way.

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

She stopped here and there to talk to a buzzard, a group of pigeons, and a family of penguins, but “no bird ever had the answer.” Then one snowy day the songbird saw “a bird who looked a little bit mean and more than a little hungry. Even so the songbird bravely chirped: ‘Please don’t eat me, Mr. Scary Bird. I was just wondering if you’ve ever heard of a very special thing—a song that only I can sing.’” The crow did know of such a thing and told the songbird about an island filled with enchanting music.

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

The songbird grew weary searching for the island, and then one day he saw a glow on the horizon and knew she had found it. She could hear the faint strains of beautiful music, and she flew faster and faster to get there. When she neared the island, though, she knew this place. It was home. “The songbird’s heart fell.” After all that time and all the conversations with other birds, “her quest had failed.”

When she saw her mother, however, her mood brightened. She wanted to tell her mother all about her travels and the other birds she’d met. When she opened her beak to tell her stories, though, “what came out was not words at all…but a song!” She sang about Crane and Owl and Crow, “of cities and of stormy seas and mountains capped with snow.” She told of warm days and cold days and most of all “of the love the songbird felt for her family and her home.”

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Copyright Vern Kousky, 2017, courtesy of vernkousky.com.

Vern Kousky gently nudges little ones out of the nest to begin exploring the world on their own, to test their wings, meet others, and discover their talents. Along the way young readers learn that they can trust their instincts, be brave, and that perseverance pays off. Kousky’s lyrical story also reassures children that home is always waiting and that no matter where they go or what they do, family will always welcome them.

Kousky’s tiny blue smudge of a bird is adorable as she cuddles with her mother to reveal her doubts and then demonstrates hopeful pluck as she talks with much larger birds on her way to self-discovery. Kousky’s settings delight with muted hues of blues, yellows, and reds and angled mountains, skyscrapers, and glaciers that point the little songbird—as well as readers—skyward. The image of the little songbird’s mother welcoming her home with outstretched wings is heartwarming, and the songbird’s elation at having found her song will fill readers with joy.

A joyful story for inspiring self-confidence, interactions with others, and personal growth, The Blue Songbird is a beautiful book for home and classroom libraries that will be asked for again and again.

Ages 4 –  8

Running Press Kids, 2017 | ISBN 978-0762460663

To learn more about Vern Kousky, his books, and his art, visit his website.

New Conversations Day Activity

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Family Conversation Starters

 

Because children have such fertile imaginations, great conversations can start from just one intriguing question. Put these printable conversation starters on the dinner table and let the fun and serious talk begin!

Conversation Starters Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6

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You can find The Blue Songbird at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review