About the Holiday
Get Caught Reading Month was established in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers to encourage people of all ages to read more. Authors, illustrators, celebrities, athletes, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues hold special programs throughout the month. For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.
Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Ester Garay
Albie Newton was something of a prodigy. As a tyke, he retrofitted his stroller into a racecar, tried counting to infinity, and “learned to speak a language almost every week: / English, Spanish, Hindi, Klingon, Gibberish, then Greek.” When he moves to a new town and a new school, his classmates are excited to meet him. Albie is also revved up to start making friends, and he has a plan he thinks the other kids will love.
But as they all settle in to work, “the students noticed Albie was a whiz. / Albie wrote a sonnet while they took a spelling quiz.” During art class, the kids were likewise astounded (and a little dismayed) when, while they scribbled, drew swirls, and made handprints, Albie painted like Van Gogh. When free time rolled around, and some kids played dress up, Albie “sifted through the trash,” to build a science lab, leaving a mess for Arjun to clean up.
Then things began to disappear. “Hamilton the hamster tried to run but had no wheel. / Albie needed extra sprockets made of stainless steel.” While Sona and Shirley created paper masks, the glue went missing, and Albie “didn’t even ask.” The wings from Dave’s propeller plane were suddenly broken off, and reading time became impossible when “booming pandemonium descended on the school.” Albie, though, intent on his invention, didn’t notice the trouble he was causing or the crowd of angry kids rushing to complain.
Before they could reach Albie, though, Shirley stopped them, saying “‘maybe Albie didn’t know. Let’s look at what he made.’ Curious, the children headed straight to where he played.” When they say all the inventions Albie had made, they stopped and stared. Albie had made the class a gift—a spaceship, and with the push of a button, an amazing time machine!
With his inimitable style, Josh Funk creates a rambunctious tale of invention and creativity, but one that also has a deeper message about the way some kids see the world and communicate with peers and others. In the first pages, readers are introduced to the precocious Albie, who from birth has demonstrated a talent for learning and doing. When he enters a new school, however, his single focus doesn’t translate into the kinds of social interactions his classmates are used to. Albie gathers materials for his present unaware of the mayhem he’s causing, just as the other kids are unaware of Albie’s real goal. Only Shirley is sensitive to the idea that Albie may not be causing havoc on purpose but for a purpose. Her calming defense of Albie allows the other kids to see Albie in a new light and appreciate his gift—and his gifts.
While Funk’s rhyming verses are focusing on Albie and his actions, Ester Garay’s bright illustrations depict the other kids’ reactions to his talents and also his disruptions. A first hint at how Albie fits in with his new class comes as the kids welcome him with cheer and smiles. Instead of facing them to accept the welcome, Albie is faced away from them, happily imagining the gift he will make for them.
Throughout the day, Shirley follows Albie, and as she watches and wonders, her facial expressions demonstrate dismay at some of Albie’s antics but also a growing understanding and acceptance. Garay captures the close camaraderie of a preschool or kindergarten classroom, and her close-up view of Albie toiling away on his invention will have readers eager to see the result. The reveal of Albie’s spaceship time machine and the final spread of the kids frolicking on a distant planet with the likes of Freda Kahlo, William Shakespeare, Amelia Earhart, and a helpful dino, are sure to produce some oohs and ahhhs.
Albie Newton is a doubly impactful story that would be a welcome addition to home and, most especially, classroom bookshelves. It can be read as a boisterous story of innovation for lively story times, but it also provides adults and children an opportunity to discuss the ideas of social interaction and various personalities. Most children know someone like Albie who as naturally quiet, on the spectrum, or singularly focused on one area or another, communicates and socializes differently than others. Reading Albie Newton can help kids better understand different behaviors and, like Shirley, become more sensitive to all their classmates and friends.
Ages 5 – 9
Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922582
Discover more about Josh Funk and his books as well as find fun activities and lots of resources on his website.
To learn more about Ester Garay, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Check out the Albie Newton book trailer!
Get Caught Reading Month Activity
You can keep your books neat and tidy on the shelf with this easy-to-make bookend that displays your talents and personality!
- Wooden letter block in the child’s first initial or both initials
- Chalkboard paint
- Paint brush
- Paint the wooden letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
- With the chalk, write words that your think best describe you on the letter
- Display your letter on your bookshelf!
About the Holiday
Today we celebrate all of those inventors who think creatively to devise new products, different ways of performing tasks, better methods of communication, and even innovative ways of viewing the world. Begun in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine, this month’s holiday encourages people to embrace their creativity and also to support those who work to make their own vision a reality for themselves and to make the world a better place.
Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe
Written by Katey Howes | Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti
Every Friday, Magnolia’s favorite adult—her uncle Jamie—visited and spent time inventing with her. He always encouraged Magnolia to think big. One day, Magnolia and her uncle Jamie created their “greatest invention—the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe,” which ran on Mudd Power. But after one experimental launching, Magnolia had to retrieve all the parts to build it again. When she called her uncle to help her repair it, he said she would have to wait. Instead, he was bringing Miss Emily over because they “had ‘something to talk about.’”
Magnolia didn’t want her time with Uncle Jamie taken up by Miss Emily. As far as Magnolia was concerned Uncle Jamie and Miss Emily had nothing in common, so on Friday when they told her they were getting married, Magnolia was surprised. When Miss Emily asked Magnolia to be their flower girl and showed her the fancy dress she’d wear, Magnolia thought, “no way!” Later, Uncle Jamie said maybe they could find a different way for her to be involved in the wedding.
Magnolia researched all the different things she could do, and experimented with some of them. She read that in India women decorate their hands with henna tattoos. She devised a henna tattoo-painting machine, but it went a little haywire. In Sweden, she learned, guests scared off trolls by bringing bouquets of stink weed. Magnolia built a troll trap, but only caught herself. And in a German tradition, guests throw plates at the couple’s door for good luck, but when Magnolia retooled her “Fantastic Frisbee Flinger,” she only caused a mess of broken pottery.
Magnolia resigned herself to being “doomed to ruffles and roses.” She was just wishing she could launch the rose petals instead of scattering them when she had an idea. She showed Miss Emily her brainstorm for a bouquet-launcher that worked on Mudd Power. Miss Emily loved it. Together they began to invent. On the day of the wedding, they revealed their “new-and-improved Dual-Directional Super-Jumptastic Flower Launcher Deluxe (with Confetti Blaster),” and as Magnolia and Miss Emily jumped on the launch pad together, Magnolia realized that with Aunt Emily in the family, there was “way more Mudd Power” for inventing.
Katey Howes’ humorous and clever story is as dual-purpose as Magnolia’s super launcher deluxe. Young readers will love seeing Magnolia’s gizmos that fire rockets, squirt paint, capture trolls, fling plates, and toss the bouquet (maybe a little too far!) while learning about some wedding traditions around the world. The heart of Howe’s story, however, lies in the ideas of family, relationships, communication, and acceptance. Readers will understand that Magnolia’s initial dislike of Miss Emily has more to do with her fear of a changing relationship with Uncle Jamie than with Emily’s dangly earrings or preference for sushi over pizza.
When Magnolia balks at being a flower girl, the adults allow her to be herself and work with her to find a job that makes everyone happy. As Magnolia gets to know Emily better, she takes a chance in suggesting a bouquet launcher and is rewarded when Emily (literally) jumps in with both feet (the fact that Miss Emily works at an art gallery hints at her ability to think creatively too). The final image of Magnolia, Uncle Jamie, and Aunt Emily hard at work in their lab reminds kids of the adage, “the more (Mudd Power) the merrier.”
Valerio Fabbretti’s bright, cartoon-style artwork is ideally suited to bring out the humor and emotions in Howes’ action-packed story. Magnolia’s and Uncle Jamie’s love of science is on display in both Jamie’s office and Magnolia’s room, where diagrams, chemical equations, test tubes and beakers, and retrofitted home appliances create an eclectic décor. Kids will laugh as Magnolia’s inventions go awry, and cheer when Magnolia and Miss Emily discover the perfect wedding job for Magnolia and complete it together. The interracial relationship of Uncle Jamie and Miss Emily is a welcome representation of family.
An entertaining and endearing story, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe is an inventive book to launch fun story times as well as discussions on individuality, inclusion, change, and family.
Ages 3 and up
Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454921745
Discover more about Katey Howes and her books on her website.
To learn more about Valerio Fabbretti, his books, and his art, visit his website.
National Inventors Month Activity
Sparkle Test Tubes
Kids love inventing and experimenting, and these sparkle test tubes give children a fun way to be creative while making a cool way to relax and on those hectic days.
- Plastic test tubes with tight-fitting screw cap, available at craft or science supply stores. Having two or three will allow for more experimentation
- Glitter glue
- Hot water
- Fine glitter
- Chunky glitter
- Small glass beads (optional)
- Neon food coloring (optional)
- Test tube stand (optional)
- Mixing bowl
- Fill a test tube 1/3 full of hot water and pour the water into the mixing bowl
- Add 1 – 2 teaspoons of glitter glue (the more glitter glue that is added the thicker the liquid will be and the more the objects will be suspended in the liquid. To allow the objects to flow more freely when the test tube is shaken, add less glue
- Whisk the water and glitter glue together
- Add chunky glitter, glass beads, or try other small objects
- Pour into test tube
- Add more water to within a ½ – 1 inch of the top to allow for shaking
- Experiment with amount of glitter glue, glitter, and colors
Picture book review
About the Holiday
Today’s holiday recognizes the spirit of inventors—those women and men, girls and boys who look at life just a little bit differently and not only imagine the “what if?” but make it happen. Inventors come from all backgrounds and with all different kinds of experience. Today, we celebrate those pioneers of the past, present, and future! If you have a creative mind, today’s the day to tinker around with your idea. Inventions don’t always haave to change the world. Have a better way of organizing your closets, a new game to play with your pet, or a new recipe to use the leftovers in the fridge? Go for it—and be proud of yourself!
Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
By Rachel Ignotofsky
“Nothing says trouble like a woman in pants.” With this revealing attitude from the 1930s, Rachel Ignotofsky introduces her scintillating biographies of 50 intelligent, self-confident, persevering, and inspiring women working in engineering, math, medicine, psychology, geology, physics, astronomy, and more sciences from ancient history through today. The book begins with Hypatia who lived in Greece in the late 300s to early 400s CE and became an expert in astronomy, philosophy,and mathematics, making “contributions to geometry and number theory.” She became one of Alexandria’s first female teachers, “invented a new version of the hydrometer,” and can be found among the intellects in Raphael’s painting “The School of Athens.”
Zipping ahead to 1647 readers find Maria Sibylla Merian, considered one of the “greatest scientific illustrators of all time.” Her specialty was entomology. By carefully documenting the lifespan of butterflies, she taught people about the science of metamorphosis, publishing a book on the subject filled with notes and illustrations in 1679. Later she scoured the rainforests of South America, gathering information on never-before-seen insects from that region. Her book, The Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname “was published in 1705 and became a hit all over Europe.” Maria was so famous, her picture appeared on German money and stamps.
Other women in the nature sciences include Mary Anning, who as a child discovered the first complete ichthyosaur skeleton and went on to become a paleontologist; Mary Agnes Chase, a botanist and expert on grasses; Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, who as a conservationist helped save the Florida Everglades; and Joan Beauchamp Procter, a zoologist specializing in reptiles who discovered the Peninsula Dragon Lizard in 1923; and more.
One of the earliest women astronomers and mathematicians was Wang Zhenyi, born in China in 1768. Creating her own eclipse model, she proved her advanced “theories about how the moon blocks our view of the sun—or the earth blocks the sun’s light from reaching the moon—during an eclipse.” She also measured the stars and explained the rotation of the solar system. At the age of 24 she published the 5-volume Simple Principles of Calculation. Zhenyi died at the age of 29, but in her short life she published many books on math and astronomy as well as books of poetry.
Women in Science includes many other women who have looked to the stars and mathematics for their careers. Some of these are: Ada Lovelace, the first person to write a computer program; Emmy Noether, who helped Albert Einstein develop his theory relativity, created the field of abstract algebra, and “made new connections between energy and time, and angular momentum”; Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin a quantum physicist in 1900s England who “discovered that the sun is made mostly of hydrogen and helium gas” and in 1956 became Harvard University’s first astronomy professor; Mae Jemison, who in 1992 became the first African-American woman in space and later started her own technology consulting firm as well as founding BioSentient Corporation, and a science camp for kids; plus many others.
The book also features Engineers, such as Hertha Ayrton who improved electric lights by inventing “a new rod that made a clean and quiet bright light” and the Ayrton fan that blew away mustard gas during World War I; and Lillian Gilbreth, who used her theories of “organizational psychology” in inventing the foot pedal for garbage cans, shelving for refrigerators, and even the “work triangle” for kitchens “that determines the distance from the sink to the stove” and saves time. There are Geneticists such as Nettie Stevens who discovered the “X” and “Y” chromosomes, and Barbara McClintock—the pants wearer from the beginning of the post—and the first person “to make a complete genetic map of corn” and discover jumping genes, or “transposons.”
The field of Medicine has benefited from women such as Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman doctor; Alice Ball, a chemist and the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Hawaii, who helped cure leprosy with her chemical work; and Gerty Cori who discovered how our bodies covert glucose, helping us better understand diabetes. In 1947 she became the first American woman to win a Nobel Prize.
And this list only begins to scratch the surface of all the fascinating stories of women who overcame social, political, and personal obstacles to follow where their intelligence took them. Inspirational, entertaining, and undeniably eye-catching Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science presents expertly written, one-page biographies that hit all the high (and sometimes unfortunate low) points in these scientist’s lives. The striking layout of both the text and illustrations keep readers riveted to the page, The left-hand side contains a representational drawing of the scientist surrounded by the subjects and materials of her work as well as trivia about her and a quotation. On the right-hand page, small illustrated facts frame the woman’s life story.
Interspersed between the biographies are pages offering a timeline of women’s milestones, depicting lab tools, and graphing statistics of women in STEM. The back matter is impressive, with two more pages presenting 15 more scientists, a four-page, illustrated glossary, resources including films, websites, and books, and an index. Rachel Ignotofsky concludes her book by saying, “Let us celebrate these trailblazers so we can inspire the next generation. Together, we can pick up where they left off and continue the search for knowledge. So go out and tackle new problems, find your answers and learn everything you can to make your own discoveries!”
Ages 7 and up
Ten Speed Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-160774976
To discover more books by Rachel Ignotofsky, visit her website!
National Inventors’ Day Activity
What Kind of Scientist Would You Be? Word Search
Scientists like the women in today’s book make inventions for every area of life! In the future you might become a scientist and develop something new or different. If so, what kind of scientist would you like to be? Find the names of eighteen scientists in this printable puzzle! Then pick one and write why you would like to be that type of scientist!
Picture Book Review
About the Holiday
National Disc Jockey Day commemorates the death of Albert James Freed, or Moondog, who was an influential disc jockey in the 1950s and is credited with popularizing the term “rock-and-roll.” The idea of using recorded music instead of live performances over the airwaves was tested in 1909, when sixteen-year-old Ray Newby, a student of Charles “Doc” Herrold at Herrold College of Engineering and Wireless in San Fernando, California, became the first to play records on the radio. The idea took off and soon radio broadcasters across the country followed suit. The term Disc Jockey was the brainstorm of radio commentator Walter Winchell in 1934. The 1970s and 1980s saw the rise of Hip-Hop DJs who began using multiple turntables and turntables as instruments to change the music.
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc & the Creation of Hip Hop
Written by Laban Carrick Hill | Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III
Even as a child “Clive loved music”—all kinds of music. He loved the way it made him feel inside and “the way it made his feet go hip hip hop, hippity hop.” Clive lived on Somerset Lane in Kingston, Jamaica. One of his neighbors was a DJ nicknamed “King George,” who threw the “biggest and baddest” house parties every Saturday night. Clive was too young for parties, but he liked to watch King George and his crew setting up. Clive had never seen so many records in one place.
“Clive imagined himself as a DJ surrounded by all those records.” He longed to choose just the right one to get the party started. He pictured himself toasting—rapping over the instrumental B side of records and getting people’s feet going hip hip hop, hippity hop, like his did. When Clive was thirteen he moved to Brooklyn, New York with his mom. At first he wasn’t sure he liked his new neighborhood, but then he discovered sports—track, weightlifting, and especially basketball. Clive grew to be six feet, 5 inches tall.
He took to calling “himself ‘cool as Clyde’ after his favorite basketball player, Walt Clyde Frazier.” But to the other kids, Clive was “Hercules.” Clive shortened it to Herc and added “‘Kool’ to make it just right. Kool Herc.” Because of his size, he was able to go to house parties with his mother and listen to the music. One day Kool Herc’s father bought a “giant sound system” with six-foot-tall speakers. But when it was turned on, the sound was puny. Kool Herc worked on it until the sound came blasting out.
Kool Herc and his younger sister Cindy were ready to put on a party. They rented a rec room in their housing project, posted invitations, and set up the huge sound system. The night of the party, “everybody who was anybody made their way to Sedgewick Avenue for Kool Herc’s hot dance party. That’s when Kool Herc became DJ Kool Herc.”
DJ Kool Herc noticed that people danced harder during the instrumental breaks. Kool Herc set up another turntable and put the same record on this turntable too. This way, when one record ended its break, he could play it again on the other. He was able to stretch a ten-second break into 20 minutes or more. Remembering how DJs toasted in Jamaica, DJ Kool Herc began shouting out the names of his friends, compliments about the dancers, and rhymes over the beat.
Over the next year, DJ Kool Herc moved his dance parties into the street. When he plugged the sound system into the street lamps, it pulled so much power, the lights dimmed. DJ Kool Herc’s music even turned some of the city’s gang members into the smoothest break dancers in the neighborhood. Kool Herc then invited friends to rap behind the DJ-ing. He called these friends the “Master of Ceremonies” or MCs.
Soon kids were coming from all over New York city to attend DJ Kool Herc’s “biggest, baddest dance parties.” Many “wanted to be DJs just like Kool Herc. Herc didn’t just rock the block. He put the hip hip hop, hippity hop into the world’s heartbeat.”
Laben Carrick Hill’s modern biography of a Hip Hop pioneer invites young readers to discover the early years of and influences on the music they love today. Hill superbly structures his story so through the formative details of DJ Kool Herc’s life from childhood into adulthood, readers understand that they too can follow their hearts to achieve their dreams. When the Beat Was Born is inspirational in its depiction of an “ordinary kid” with ingenuity and self-confidence who changed the face of music by combining his multicultural experiences, being open to experimentation, including his friends, and sharing his vision. Straightforward storytelling is punctuated with verses of rap that make reading aloud fun and will engage listeners.
In his bold, vibrant illustrations, Theodore Tayler III lets kids in on the not-so-distant past that saw the rise of Hip Hop music, celebrity DJs, and new dance styles. Keeping the focus on DJ Kool Herc—just as Clive kept his eye on his future goals—Taylor reinforces the theme of the book. Scenes of kids lining up to attend DJ Kool Herc’s parties and dancing in the street give the book an inclusive feel. Images of skyscraper-tall stacks of records mirrors Kool Herc’s ambitions, and depictions of breakdancing moves will get kids wanting to try them for themselves.
When the Beat Was Born is a terrific biography for all children, whether they like music and dancing or quieter pursuits. In the classroom, the book would be a great addition to music, history, or biography units.
Ages 6 – 10
Roaring Brook Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-1596435407
Discover more about Laben Carrick Hill and his books on his website
To view a portfolio of artwork, book illustration, videos and more by Theodore Taylor III, visit his website.
National Disc Jockey Day Activity
Groovy Record Chalkboard & Bulletin Board
Do you play the piano or another instrument? Would you like to make a record some day? Why wait? In this fun craft you can create your own record bulletin board—and even create your own label art! While this record may not spin on turntables around the world, it will drop in a more important place—your very own room!
- Printable Record Label for you to design
- Foam board, or a corkboard at least 12-inches x 12-inches square
- Adhesive cork
- A 12-inch round plate, record, or other round object to trace OR a compass
- Chalkboard paint, black
- X-acto knife
- Paint brush or foam paint brush
- Mounting squares
- Cut a section from the adhesive cork a little larger than 12 inches by 12 inches
- Affix the cork to the foam board
- Trace the 12-inch round object onto the cork/foam board OR use the compass to make a 12-inch circle
- With the x-acto knife, carefully cut out the circle (adult help needed for children)
- Cut out a ¼ -inch circle in the center of the record bulletin board
- Paint the cork, sides and inside the spindle hole with the black chalkboard paint. Let dry
- Print the label template and design your own record label
- When the paint is dry, glue your label to the center of the bulletin board
- Hang your bulletin board with the mounting squares
Picture Book Review
About the Holiday
Discovering a new book is one of the joys of life! Right now bookstores everywhere are filled with books waiting for you to take them home, open the cover, and start reading. Whether you find a new book published just this year or one that’s older but new to you, take the opportunity of this month’s holiday to add to your home library. Children especially benefit from reading new and classic books—and thanks to the subject of today’s book, they have plenty to choose from!
Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books
Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter
With a hearty “Welcome!” readers are invited to explore—and appreciate—the pages, pictures, words, and even individual letters that make up the book they’re holding. Back in time, a book like this didn’t exist. How far back? Well, let’s return to 1726…. “In those days of powdered wigs and petticoats, England was brimming with books.” There were exciting tales about imaginary places, sailing voyages, mysterious happenings, “pirates, monsters and miniature people”—for adults. What did kids read? Their books were all about teaching them how to have good manners and how to live a good life because death was always near. Scary stuff and not much fun at all!
One of the children reading these books was John Newbery who, despite the dreariness, loved to read more than he liked to do his chores. When he grew up, he left the family farm and went to work for a printer. After he learned the business, he became a publisher himself. He moved from his small town to “London, center of the bookselling trade.”
Soon, he found the perfect storefront on a busy street and opened his shop. He had a dream of publishing books for every taste—and for children too. “He knew the youngsters were hungry for stories. Many boys and girls handed coppers to street hawkers for ugly chapbooks of fairy tales, or for chopped-up versions of grown-up books.” When John Newbery tried to offer good books for children, however, the adults balked. They were afraid “that if their little nippers read fun books, they’d turn wild as beasts!”
“Balderdash!” John Newbery said. And others agreed. Two publishers issued books of alphabet rhymes and stories, and another published some books of nonfiction. But “John wanted his first book for children to be irresistible.” The books he created included pictures of fun children’s games, enjoyable ways to learn ABCs and other subjects, and fantasy stories. He even wrote a note to moms and dads to alleviate any fears.
The covers of his books were colorful and attractive and carried the title “A Pretty Little Pocket-Book.” To further entice kids and their parents, John offered to sell books along with a toy for a very good price. John wondered if his books would look “too cheerful,” but “the children gobbled them up like plum cakes.”
As customers bought books in the front of his shop, John created new books in the back. In addition to fiction books, he began printing books on math, science, and other subjects. With the books a success, John Newbery turned his thoughts and his press towards creating a magazine for children, and, finally, a novel. The novel was titled The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes and was a rags-to-riches story about a little girl who succeeded through “study, hard work, and kindness.” It showed children that they too could achieve their dreams. The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes was a hit in England and America.
While the authors of John Newbery’s books were all anonymous or had “silly, made-up names,” it wasn’t hard for people to figure out who was really creating the books that brought their children so much joy and made their lives better.
An Author’s Note about John Newbery as well as a resources page follow the text.
Kids will love Michelle Markel’s entertainingly informative book that takes them back to a time when the unthinkable was reality. Markel’s charming text is as infectious as John Newbery’s love of books, and readers will laugh at how kids’ books were once perceived. Her conversational tone and bemusement at the state of publishing at the time creates a warm reading experience—like a secret shared between friends.
Nancy Carpenter infuses Balderdash! with the sights, dress, activities, and flavor of the time period in her pen-and-ink illustrations. Humor abounds, from the little boy overflowing with tears in the corner of the first page to a young John Newbery relishing the feel and smell of newly printed pages to parents pulling their children away from “dangerous” books. Along the way, kids will want to scope out all the details on each page. A variety of typefaces and sizes further enhances the humor and ambience of the book.
Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books would make a great addition to home libraries for kids interested in books, history, and innovation. Teachers will also find the book to be a perfect beginning for language arts or history units.
Ages 4 – 8
Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0811879224
Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website!
Read a New Book Month Activity
I Have the Reading Bug! Bookplate and Bookmark
Do you have the reading bug like John Newbery? If so, here’s a bookplate and bookmark for you to print to show your love of books!
Picture Book Review
About the Holiday
Plastic bags are everywhere! Used by supermarkets, department stores, discount stores, and just about anywhere goods are sold, plastic bags are a take-home-then-throw-away item that never quite goes away. These bags may seem lightweight, but they do heavy damage to the environment, taking hundreds of years to fully decompose. Many shops encourage patrons to bring their own bags and offer cloth and paper bags as well. These are great alternatives that benefit the earth. Today’s holiday was established to promote awareness around the world to the dangers of plastic bags and spur people to use reusable containers.
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
Written by Miranda Paul | Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
In Njau, Gambia Isatou walks home carrying a basket of fruit on her head. As raindrops begin to fall, the basket shields her, but suddenly the basket tips and falls. The fruit inside tumble to the ground. The basket is in shreds; how will Isatou carry her load? “Something silky dances past her eyes, softening her anger. It moves like a flag, flapping in the wind, and settles under a tamarind tree.” Isatou picks it up and finds that it can hold things. She gathers her fruit and puts them in the bag. She leaves her basket behind, “knowing it will crumble and mix back in with the dirt.”
At home Grandmother Mbombeh has a dinner of spicy rice and fish ready. When Isatou tells her about the broken basket and shows her the bag, Grandmother frowns. She has seen more in the city. Now, Isatou notices plastic bags everywhere. They are as colorful as a rainbow. As Isatou swings her bag full of papers, the handle breaks, sending the papers inside flying. She finds another plastic bag lying nearby and transfers her papers. She leaves the torn bag in the dirt as everyone else does.
As she passes the spot day after day, she spies her old black bag. It has been joined by others, and the pile grows bigger and bigger. Isatou chooses another path to take and forgets about the bags. “Years pass and Isatou grows into a woman. She barely notices the ugliness growing around her…until the ugliness finds its way to her. One day when coming to Grandmother’s house, she hears one of her goats crying. It’s tied up and there is no sign of her Grandmother’s other goats.
Inside, the butcher is talking to Grandmother Mbombeh. He says that the goats have eaten the plastic bags they find lying around. The bags get twisted around their insides, killing the goats. Three of Grandmother’s goats and many more in the village have died. Something must be done. Isatou goes to the road piled with bags. Insects, rotting food, and dirty water mingle with the bags. Goats “forage through the trash for food.”
Isatou retrieves bag after bag from the pile. She and other women wash the bags. While they dry Isatou asks her sister to teach her how to crochet. Isatou has an idea. From a broomstick she carves crochet needles. Then she and her friends cut the bags into strips of thread. The women teach themselves how to crochet with the plastic thread. The work is slow, and some villagers laugh at them. Long into the nights the women continue crocheting by candlelight.
At last a day comes when the women can show what they have been working on. “Fingers sore and blistered, Isatou hauls the recycled purses to the city.” People laugh at her until “one woman lays dalasi coins on the table. She chooses a purse and shows it to one friend. The two. Then ten. Soon everyone wants one!” Later that day Isatou puts the money she has made into her own zippered purse. She can’t wait to show Grandmother that she has earned enough to buy a goat. The trash pile is smaller now. Isatou is determined that one day it will be gone. “And one day…it was.”
An Author’s Note provides more details about this true story as well as a Wolof language glossary and pronunciation guide.
Miranda Paul tells this true story of ingenuity and hope with honesty and evocative language. Young readers will learn how one woman’s concern for her community and courage in the face of opposition changed the lives of the people in her village. Paul’s descriptive text interspersed with native Wolof words allows children to discover details about the customs and daily lives of the citizens of Gambia. Paul’s use of the present tense, makes this a universal story that shows the continuing need for answers to ongoing environmental problems. Isatou’s creative solution to a world-wide problem may spur young readers to develop helpful ideas of their own.
Through her collage illustrations, Elizabeth Zunon brings the vibrant colors and patterns of Africa to readers. The textured papers she uses add depth and details to the women’s clothing, homes, foliage, and the plastic bags that Isotau and her friends transform. Children sit in on the candlelit nighttime crocheting sessions and view the beautiful, finished purses—each one unique.
Ages 6 – 9
Millbrook Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1467716086
Discover more about Miranda Paul and her books and find resources, videos, photos, and more on her website!
Learn more about Elizabeth Zunon and her books and view a portfolio of her artwork on her website!
International Plastic Bag Free Day Activity
Books to Love, Books to Read Reusable Book Bag
True booklovers can’t go anywhere without a book (or two or three) to read along the way. With this easy craft you can turn a cloth bag into a kid-size book bag!
- Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
- Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
- Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
- Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
- Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
- Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
- Fabric glue
- Thread (optional)
- Needle (optional)
- Print the sayings and cut out the letters
- Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
- Cut out cloth letters
- Iron cloth bag if necessary
- Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
- Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
- Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
- Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag
Picture Book Review