December 10 – Jane Addams Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2007 and commemorates the day in 1931 when Jane Addams became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to bring about social change, equality, and peace. Each year the Jane Addams Peace Association presents awards to outstanding children’s books that promote peace and justice. To learn more about Jane Addams and the Jane Addams Peace Association, visit janeaddamspeace.org.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams

Written by Tanya Lee Stone | Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

 

On a busy street stands a very special house where anyone is welcome and some find a home. In 1889 Jane Addams, a wealthy young woman, bought an elegant house in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Why? At just six years old on a trip with her father, Jane “noticed that not everyone lived like her family did.” Right then she vowed that when she grew older, she would live in a poor community and “find a way to fix the world.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane was brave and strong. Sometimes she and her stepbrother George would “sneak away at night to explore in nearby caves.” Jane was also smart and “read and read her father’s book collection,” which also served as the town library. Unlike most women at the time, Jane went to college. She attended Rockford Female Seminary and “graduated at the top of her class.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

After graduation, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, and when her father died that same summer, “Jane felt lost.” Two years later some friends invited her to travel to Europe with them. Although they went to the opera, museums, and many beautiful places, it was an experience in London that stuck with her. There she saw many “people in ragged clothes with outstretched hands, begging a cart vendor to buy his rotten fruits and vegetables that hadn’t sold at the market.” 

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When Jane returned home, the question of how she could help nagged at her. She returned to London to learn about Toynbee Hall, where poor and wealthy people lived together and learned from each other. Here, skills, such as cooking, were taught to provide people with the education to find jobs. Toynbee Hall was called a settlement house, because the rich people who worked there lived there as well.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane now knew what she wanted to do. In 1889 Chicago was a diverse city with a large immigrant population. Many didn’t speak English, which made it hard for them to find jobs. “Large families were crammed into ramshackle houses with no running water.” Garbage lay in the street, and tough kids ran wild with nothing else to do.

Jane found a large house in the middle of one of these areas that had once belonged to Charles J. Hull and upon his death had been given to his cousin, Helen Culver.  When Helen discovered what Jane wanted to do, she donated the house for free. Jane left the house unlocked, letting people know that they could come there whenever they needed. In time, people did find their way to Hull House when they were hungry or out of work. Jane also had her own way of dealing with unruly children or those who didn’t understand her generosity. Once when a man broke into Hull House twice because he had no job and no money, Jane gave him a job.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane helped the neighborhood in other ways too. She built a public bath so that people could stay clean and avoid illness. She convinced “public officials to build more public baths.” Because children had nowhere to play, Jane convinced a neighbor to give her his unused lot near Hull House. She tore down the buildings and built Chicago’s first playground. For kids whose parents worked long hours, she started a morning kindergarten and after school clubs. She also began offering evening classes for children who worked during the day.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane had help with her endeavors. Her friend “Ellen Gates Starr was her partner from the start.” Many other people also helped. They moved into Hull House and “taught literature, art, English, math, science, and cooking.” Hull House continued to grow, and by 1907 Jane oversaw thirteen buildings, including “a gymnasium, coffee house, theater, music school, community kitchen, and an art gallery.”

By the early 1920’s more than 9,000 people visited Hull House every week. Jane’s work “changed a bad neighborhood into a great and strong community.” Today, you can still see Jane Addams’ commitment to others in the community centers that bring people together in nearly every city and town.

An Author’s Note with more information on Jane Addams follows the text.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Tanya Lee Stone brings the story of Jane Addams’ work in Chicago to children in a compelling biography that gives readers a fully developed portrait of this most amazing woman. Stone’s active and evocative language puts children in the Hull House neighborhood, allowing them to get a feeling for and understanding of the issues of the time. Stone’s excellent examples of how Jane Addams responded to a variety of problems facing her community and even Hull House itself, demonstrate how generosity, empathy, and kindness can make positive changes in people’s lives. Depictions of Jane’s early compassion and commitment give children a sense that they too can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Kathryn Brown’s riveting illustrations capture Jane’s early moments of concern for others, bravery, and study that informed her adult life; times of decision and cooperation that led to the establishment of Hull House; scenes of poverty, upheaval, and need that touched Jane’s heart; and images of her successes in Chicago that inspired others around the country. Brown’s softly hued watercolors are beautifully infused with realistic period details and honest emotion that provide readers with a strong foundation for understanding and appreciating the life of Jane Addams.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams is an inspiring choice for children with a philanthropic heart and to open discussions on how one person can make a difference. The book would be a welcome addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0805090499

To learn more about Tanya Lee Stone and her books, visit her website.

You can view a gallery of illustration work by Kathryn Brown on her website

Jane Addams Day Activity

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Jane Addams Coloring Page Poster

 

Jane Addams is an inspiration to all! Print this Jane Addams Coloring Page and hang it in your room or locker to inspire you to make a difference and be a positive influence in your community!

Picture Book Review

November 2 – It’s National Gratitude Month

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About the Holiday

November has been designated as a time for reflecting on our lives and being grateful for our family, friends, opportunities, and the things we have. Often—as today’s book emphasizes—it’s good to look closely at the Now and not worry so much about the future in order to truly appreciate our particular gifts and the positive things in our lives. To celebrate Gratitude Month, take time to count your blessings and thank those who are important in you life.

Now

By Antoinette Portis

 

A girl, barefoot and with her arms raised high, runs through a field, feeling the exhilaration of the wind on her face. “This is my favorite breeze,” she says. She finds an apple-red maple leaf, which, at this moment, is her favorite. At the beach, she has dug hole after hole, but her favorite is the one she is making right now.

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Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In the mud that has splattered her ankles, she finds a pink, wriggly worm that tickles her palms when she picks it up. As the girl stretches out on a hill to watch the clouds float by, she decides that her favorite is “the one I am watching.” The best rain is one that creates a river in the street for her paper boat—the one that was her favorite until it sailed into the grate

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Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The most marvelous tree has sturdy branches for the girl to swing from, and a delicate, bell-shaped flower produces her “favorite smell.” There are many birds to feed at the park, but the one she likes the best is the one that comes close enough to eat out of her hand. Her favorite song is the one that swells inside her heart and bursts out with joy, and the most delicious gulp and bite are those that quench her thirst and calm her hunger.

Her favorite tooth leaves a gap in her smile “because it’s the one that is missing.” She and her squeezed-tight cat may differ on the best hug, but they probably agree that their favorite moon is the crescent outside the window tonight. But what is her favorite “Now?” It is this moment, because she is having it with you.”

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Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Antoinette Portis lends her unique perspective to this uplifting book that encourages kids—and, as readers see in the final image, adults—to live in the moment and become fully conscious of the present object, feeling, experience, or sensation. As the little girl’s favorites build on each other, readers become aware of a growing appreciation for all the small joys that make up a day. The theme of the book is revealed on the first page as the girl welcomes the refreshing breeze. The simply drawn, unencumbered illustrations mirror the simple pleasures that she finds everywhere. But look closer and there is more profound meaning in each.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-elephants

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The veins in the maple leaf become the girl’s smile as she holds it to her face; her song radiates from her in a golden sun-shaped swirl; and the girl’s clothing changes through a year’s worth of experiences as it also matches the color of her feeling or activity, allowing her to become one with it. As readers reach the end of Now, they see two hands holding a book open to an image of an elephant and her calf, animals known for their strong family ties. This illustration leads into and strengthens the final page, where the girl and her mother sit reading that book together. The text and picture work in tandem to embrace the reader while letting both children and adults interpret the previous images in their own way.

Now is a beautiful, quiet book that reminds children and adults to slow down and truly enjoy the fleeting moments of life. It is a wonderful book to share and will open discussions of “favorite things” for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626721371

To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her books, visit her website.

National Gratitude Month Activity

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Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game

 

Things to be thankful for are all around you! What do you see? Find an entire alphabet of favorite things with this printable Alphabet I Spy Gratitude Game Page!

Picture Book Review

October 23 – Mole Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday has a very strict time structure. From 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m. we celebrate Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x  10 to the 23rd), a basic measuring unit in chemistry. This measurement states that for a given molecule one mole is a mass (measured in grams) that is equal to the molar mass of the molecule. Take the water molecule: since its molar mass is 18, one mole of water weighs 18 grams. How many molecules are in that mole? Ah! This is where Avogadro’s Number comes in. One mole of any substance contains Avogadro’s Number of molecules. The association of the chemistry mole and the animal mole came about as a fun way to get kids interested in this area of discovery.  For more information on Mole Day and this year’s theme: MOLEvengers visit Moleday.orgMoleday.org. Today’s book also surprises with a little mole making her own discoveries.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney Mole

Written by Jane Yolen | Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

 

Down at the bottom of a deep hole in the ground, three sisters—Eeny, Meeny, and Miney Mole kept house. “In that hole, dark was light, day was night, and summer and winter seemed the same.” Sometimes the sisters went to bed during the day and got up at sunset, or they played all day and night and never slept at all. Even the seasons seemed the same down in their cozy home. Eeny, the youngest sister, liked to explore, burrowing here and there away from their house. Once, “she met a worm who told her the most astonishing thing.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

Eeny hurried back to tell her sisters what she had learned about the “Up Above—which is what they called the world on top of the ground.” The worm had told her that up there “‘things are both dark and light.” Meeny didn’t believe it. Miney laughed it off. And both told Eeny that worms were unreliable. They went to bed early and covered up their heads “because they didn’t want to even think about light.”

But Eeny did want to think about it. She wondered about light’s size and shape. She thought about whether light “spread from corner to corner Up Above like a blanket or if it just touched in and out like the thread in the hem of a dress. She thought about light all that night until her sisters woke up. Another day, Eeny burrowed to the right of her home and met a centipede who told her another astonishing thing.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

When Meeny and Miney heard that Up Above had both day and night, they told Eeny that centipedes were just “addlepated” and to pay no attention. Then they went off to have dinner and “dipped their noses into their soup bowls and snuffled up tubers so they didn’t have to think about day.” But Eeny wasn’t hungry. Instead, she wondered about day’s length and sound and whether it was “sharp like hunger or soft like sleep.”

One day Eeny burrowed underneath her hole and came upon a snake, who served her tea and related “the most astonishing thing.” Meeny and Miney were aghast to hear that Up Above there was both winter and summer and told Eeny never to talk to snakes. But while Meeny and Miney went off to play checkers, Eeny thought and thought about whether summer and winter were “low or high…young or old.” She wondered if they were damp or dry, clumpy or crumbly.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

The next time Eeny went exploring, she decided to find out about the Up Above for herself. When she got there she discovered that all of her thoughts had been right in some way. Light was like a blanket, but it was also like the hem of a dress. While the sun was sharp, shadows were soft. There was moisture in the air that was “sometimes warm and sometimes cold.” All around her Eeny heard the “murmur…of bees and trees, of showers and flowers, of tadpoles and tidepools and crinkly grass”—the sounds of Spring. Eeny was happy to have visited the Up Above and promised herself that she would go back someday to meet Summer and Winter. But for now, as she carried a bright yellow flower back home, she couldn’t wait to tell Meeny and Miney about Sprng.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

Jane Yolen’s stirring story of opening oneself to new possibilities, people, and experiences is gentle and sweet and full of wonder. As Eeny ponders the astonishing things she hears, her sisters prefer to remain in the dark, offering their advice in shocked expressions and reverting to diversions that little ones will find humorous. Yolan’s tale is rich in words that are wonderful to hear and read. The sisters snuffle up tubers, the centipede is addlepated, seasons are clumpy and crumbly, and grass is crinkly. The repeated words, astonishing, complicated, burrowing are lyrical and invite imaginative thinking. And, of course, Yolen’s metaphors are precise and novel. The moving ending is uplifting in its reassurance of the family unit while still promising an astonishing future.

The beauty and detail of Kathryn Brown’s watercolor illustrations are awe-inspiring and create a luxuriant underground world where a pink-wrapped and -capped worm reads by following the words with the tip of his tail while a green-coated cricket turns pages; a colorfully socked centipede watches the outside world through a daffodil bulb periscope hanging like a chandelier in her den; a snake wears a seashell cap and smokes a pipe near his crackling fireplace; and the Up Above is sunny and breezy, expansive and inviting. Tiny Eeny is adorably thoughtful as she wanders through the tunnels of her cozy hole and reports her findings to her older sisters. Readers may notice that Eeny carries with her a lantern that lights her way even as she becomes enlightened and will be delighted with Eeny’s favorite toy—an acorn carriage and itty-bitty doll.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney Mole is sweetly superb and perfect to snuggle up with for quiet story times. Look for this classic story in your local library or used bookstore.

Ages 3 and up

Harcourt Children’s Books, 1992 | ISBN 978-0152253509

There is so much to discover about Jane Yolen and her books on her website.

View a portfolio of books and illustration work by Kathryn Brown on her website.

Mole Day Activity

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Mole Tunnels Maze

 

Can you find your way through the underground pathways to visit Mole in this printable Mole Tunnel Maze?

Picture Book Review

October 5 – World Teachers’ Day

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About the Holiday

World Teacher’s Day, sponsored by the United Nations, was established to celebrate the role teachers play in providing quality education from preschool through college and beyond. Teachers guide students to find their best selves, whether they’re children just starting their journey or adults going back to school. To celebrate today’s holiday, thank a teacher for everything they’ve done or do for you.

Because I Had a Teacher

Written by Kobi Yamada | Illustrated by Natalie Russell

 

A little bear has lots to say about his or her teacher. It may come as no surprise that this teacher has instilled in the bear a love of learning. But it goes beyond that. The little one reveals that “because I had a teacher, I discovered that I could do much more than I thought I could.” If one thing is harder than the rest, that’s okay too, the bear realizes.

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Copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

 

Because of having such a wonderful teacher, the child is ready for any challenges that come and understands that there are lots of ways of being smart”. Mistakes are not a big deal either, because they just happen when you’re trying to get things right. And those things that are the hardest? They bring the bear the most satisfaction to achieve.

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

“Because I had a teacher,” the little bear says, “I know how good it feels when someone is happy to see me.” Not only that, but the child knows a friend is always near and that there is always someone who can help out. The bear’s teacher has introduced vast new worlds to explore and has fostered the little learner’s imagination. In fact, the bear feels that nothing is impossible. Then the little bear gives the best compliment of all: “Because I had you, I learned to believe in me.”

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Kobi Yamada’s heartwarming love letter from student to teacher is a touching tribute to one of the most important relationships in life. One of the wonderful aspects of the story is its fluidity, which allows for multiple interpretations on the student and teacher dynamic. The lyrical prose is appropriate for a traditional teacher/student pair, but the bond could also easily be between a parent and child, a grandparent and grandchild, or any caregiver and their small charge. The book could also be read the other way ‘round with the endearing sentiments coming from an adult to a child, as children often teach adults much about life as well.

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Natalie Russell’s softly hued illustrations masterfully do double duty as well. Quiet in their yellow background, line drawings, and adorable bears, Russell’s soy-ink drawings are also full of action and excitement. The teacher is just as engaged in the learning as the student—doing experiments, climbing trees, launching boats, and helping to paint masterpieces—making their relationship balanced and one of equal sharing. Gender neutrality is found throughout the book, making it appropriate for all children and adults.

Because I Had a Teacher would make a much-loved gift for any teacher, parent, or caregiver. It would also be a cozy read together for bedtime or any story time.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Compendium, Inc., 2017 | ISBN  978-1943200085

To learn more about Kobi Yamada visit the Compendium, Inc. website.

View a portfolio of illustration work and sketches by Natalie Russell on her website.

World Teacher’s Day Activity

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Thank You, Teacher Certificate

 

If you have a favorite teacher, here’s a printable Thank You, Teacher Certificate for you to color, fill out, and give to them today or any day.

Picture Book Review

October 2 – World Day of Bullying Prevention

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to raise awareness of the pervasive and growing societal problem of bullying and to bring people together to change the culture that allows for it to exist. It’s up to every individual to speak out against bullying in all its forms and for kindness and acceptance. For more information on what you can do or how you can find help, visit the STOMP Out Bullying website.

Come With Me

Written by Holly M. McGhee | Illustrated by Pascal Lemaître

 

A little girl watches the television news, taking in all the “anger and hatred—people against people.” She was “frightened by everything she heard and saw and felt.” She wanted to make “the world a better place,” and asked her papa what she could do. He told her, “‘Come with me.’” They went outside and down the stairs to the subway platform. There, as they waited for the train, her father tipped his hat to those passing by. Seeing this, the little girl did it too.

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

As they rode the train they were kind to the people around them. The little girl felt brave as she and her papa “won a tiny battle over fear for themselves and for the people of the world.” But the little girl continued to see stories of hatred on the news, so she asked her mother for advice. Her mama said, “Come with me.”

They walked down to the international grocery store on the corner with its bins full of fresh fruit and vegetables. There they met people from all over the world buying food for their meals and products for their homes. The little girl understood that “one person doesn’t represent a family or a race or the people of a land.” At home, while her mother cooked dinner, the little girl set the table as she always did.

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

As they ate, the girl scratched her puppy behind the ears and thought about what she had seen and done with her parents. She wanted to do something by herself and asked if she could walk the dog. Her parents looked at each other and decided to let her go to show their child and the world that “they would not live in fear.”

Just as the little girl was leaving her apartment, the boy across the hall opened his door. He wondered where she was going. “‘Come with me,’” she said. The two children were happy to be outside, and they began to understand that if they were “brave, gentle, strong—and kind…to one another and all living things,” the world would be a better place.

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They smiled at a mother and her young son as the little boy pet her dog. Then the boy shared his box of chalk, and the three kids drew pictures on the sidewalk. The single flowers and hearts became a garden as more and more children joined in. From all around, doors opened and children and adults approached. They took a piece of chalk and bent down to add their own flowers to the growing picture.

What you do matters too—even if your part seems small, it makes a difference. Listen! The little girl is calling, “‘Come with me.’”

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Amid all the noise and fear that children are exposed to comes Holly McGhee’s quiet and powerful book that shows them that even small gestures have great reach and make a big impact. Like self-seeding gardens, one small act can take root and grow, displacing the weeds of fear, anger, and misunderstanding. McGhee’s honest, lyrical text is refreshing as it demonstrates the role of adults as well as children in changing not only outward behavior but inner feelings as well. Young readers will want to accept the little girl’s invitation to change the world they live in.

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Pascal Lemaître’s colorful line drawings on white backgrounds provide a sense of openness and clarity that is the perfect accompaniment to McGhee’s story. Lemaître’s city is vibrant and diverse, and as people go about their business, they smile at one another, happily interact, and are excited to join in the fun of chalk drawing. At home, members of the family watch TV, cook and eat dinner, and take care of their pet, just as families do around the world. Careful observers will note that as the little girl sets the table, she studies the fork—a single utensil made up of many tines that work together. Each of Lemaître’s pages likewise invites readers to take another look at their own homes and neighborhoods to see the goodness there and to work with others to make the world a better place.

Come With Me is a moving story that can comfort and inspire children who have questions and want to help. The book would be a welcome addition to classroom and home libraries.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1524739058

Discover the world of Holly M. McGhee and her children’s and middle-grade books on her website

View a portfolio of illustration work for children and adults by Pascal Lemaître on his website.

View a portfolio of illustration work for children and adults on his website.

World Day of Bullying Prevention Activity

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Friendship Chalk Garden

 

Just like the little girl in today’s book, you can make a positive change in the world through simple acts of kindness and cheer. Drawing a Friendship Chalk Garden is a great way to show your love, compassion, and courage—and to make your home, neighborhood, or school a better place!

Adults and kids, join in making a positive change! Draw a garden—or even just one flower— and post a picture on Twitter using the hashtag #FriendshipChalkGarden. Adults can help children post their pictures.

Here are some ideas:

  • Create your garden by yourself
  • Gather your friends
  • Invite other kids and adults in the area to draw with you
  • Ask your teacher to make it a class—or school—project

Places to Draw

Outside:

  • Find a spot in your driveway
  • Draw on the sidewalk outside your home or school
  • Use the school playground
  • Go to the park

Inside:

  • Use black or white poster board attached to the wall
  • Draw on the school blackboard or white board
  • Make flowers for a classroom or hall bulletin board

Picture Book Review

September 16 – It’s Classical Music Month

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About the Holiday

Classical music has been an inspiration since the earliest instruments were created. The talent and imagination of great composers of the past has been passed down from generation to generation of music lovers, influencing new music all along the journey. To celebrate this month’s holiday, take in a classical music concert or performance or listen to your favorite (or a new) classical music station. If you’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano, violin, or other instrument, take the opportunity this month to sign up for lessons!

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Written by Chieri Uegaki | Illustrated by Qin Leng

 

When Hana Hashimoto told her brothers that she had signed up to play her violin in the talent show, they laughed.  “‘That’s just loopy,’” Kenji said, and Koji added ‘‘You can barely play a note.’” They reminded her that it was a talent show and that she was just a beginner. But Hana didn’t listen. “It was true that she was still a beginner. She had only been to three lessons.” But playing the violin was in her blood. Her grandfather, Ojiichan, had once been Second Violin in a symphony orchestra in Kyoto, Japan and had even played for the Imperial Family.

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Hana had visited her grandfather that summer, and the sweet notes of his playing had coaxed “her awake as gently as sunshine” every morning. In the evenings her grandfather would take requests from Hana and her brothers. “Hana always asked for a song about a crow cawing for her seven chicks. Whenever Ojiichan played it, Hana would feel a shiver of happy-sadness ripple through her.”

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Ojiichan’s playing was like magic. He could make the violin chirp like crickets, plink like falling raindrops, and send fireflies dancing. At the end of the summer, Hana had decided she also wanted to play the violin and her parents agreed. Hana practiced every day even though her brothers ran away with their hands over their ears. She played for her parents, for her dog, JoJo, and for a photograph of Ojiichan. Sometimes she pretended to play for “an audience so appreciative they called for encore after encore.”

On the night of the talent show, Hana waited backstage for her turn “with a walloping heart.” Five other violinists had already gone before her. Finally, she heard her name. As she strode across the stage as wide as a desert, she had a fleeting feeling that her brothers had been right—that her performance was going to be a disaster. But when she reached her spot near the microphone and gazed out at the audience, she saw her best friend and her parents smiling at her.

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Hana took a deep breath and let it out. Suddenly, “everyone seemed to disappear beyond the light shining down on her like a moonbeam” and she remembered her grandfather’s words: “‘Gambarunoyo, Hana-chan.’ Do your best.” Hana told the audience, “‘This is the sound of a mother crow calling her chicks.’” She “played three raw, squawky notes.” Then she played the yowl of her neighbor’s cat at night and the plucky droplets of rain on a paper umbrella. Hana played a world of special sounds, from buzzing bees to squeaking mice to croaking frogs. When she had finished, she said, “‘And that is how I play the violin.’” Then she took a bow.

Later that night Kenji asked Hana for an encore, and she happily played her piece again. Next year, Hana thought, she might be able to play one of her grandfather’s melodies. Before she went to sleep, Hana played another piece she had been practicing. “She imagined that the notes would drift out through the window, past the bright rabbit moon and beyond, and Ojiichan would hear them and smile.”

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Chieri Uegaki’s gorgeously told story of a little girl’s first performance with her new violin rings true on every page, from her being inspired by her grandfather to her own inspirational performance. Uegaki’s descriptions of the melodies that capture Hana’s heart are as beautiful as the music itself and are a joy to read. Hana’s continued self-confidence in the face of her brothers’ teasing and her own fear is a wonderful lesson for all children. The brothers’ support of Hana after the talent show is a welcome show of familial love, and the touching ending offers encouragement and happiness.

Young readers will love Qin Leng’s evocative illustrations that follow Hana on her musical journey. Notes from the violin pieces Hana admires float from page to page—from her grandfather’s home in Japan to her own room—tying together not only Hana’s fondness for the violin but her love for her grandfather. Beautiful touches, such as an image of Hana reflected in a pastel blue rain puddle and a night sky twinkling with fireflies, mirror the wonder of childhood, when everything is new and possible.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin is refreshing encouragement for any child engaging in new experiences or activities. The book’s warmth and inventiveness make it a wonderful gift or addition to home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1894786331

Enjoy this Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin book trailer!

Classical Music Month Activity

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Musical Kids Find the Differences

 

These two kids are performing a duet! Can you find all of the differences in the second picture on this printable Musical Kids Find the Differences?

Picture Book Review

September 15 – International Dot Day

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About the Holiday

Usually, I match books to existing holidays. Today, though, I have the pleasure of posting a review of a book that established a holiday. On September 15, 2009 teacher Terry Shay introduced his class to Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. From that one event grew a national and then an international celebration of creativity and the freedom to make art with your heart. All around the world, school children and adults are inspired on this day to make their mark and celebrate creativity, courage, and collaboration.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

At the end of art class, Vashti looked at her paper. It was still as blank as it was at the beginning of art class. Her teacher came over and took a peek. She saw right away that Vashti had drawn “‘a polar bear in a snowstorm.’” Vashti wasn’t fooled by the joke. “‘I just CAN’T draw,’” she said. But her teacher had a suggestion. “‘Just make a mark and see where it takes you.’”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti jabbed at the paper with a marker, making a dot right in the center. Her teacher studied her drawing carefully then told Vashti to sign it. That, at least, was something Vashti could do. She signed her name and gave the paper to her teacher. At the next week’s art class, Vashti was stunned to see her dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. She looked at the tiny mark and decided that she could do better than that.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti opened her watercolor set and began. She “painted and painted. A red dot. A purple dot. A yellow dot. A blue dot.” Then she discovered that blue mixed with yellow made a green dot. Vashti went to the easel and began painting lots of little dots in all sorts of colors. She realized if she could make little dots, she could make big dots. She knelt down on the floor with a big piece of paper and a big brush and created a huge dot.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Then on an enormous canvas Vashti “made a dot by not making a dot.” At the school art show, Vashti’s dot paintings covered two walls and were quite a hit. Coming around the corner a little boy spied Vashti. He came close and told her, “‘You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.’” Vashti was encouraging, but the little boy said he couldn’t even “‘draw a straight line with a ruler.’”

Vashti wanted to see. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. With a quivering pencil, he drew a line and handed the paper back to her. Vashti studied the wavy line for a minute, and then gave the paper back. “‘Please…sign it,’” she said.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynold’s classic story of a little girl who believes she can’t draw is inspirational for anyone at any age who listens too closely to that voice in their head that stops them from letting go and doing. Whether it’s painting, writing, changing the décor of one’s house, updating a wardrobe, getting healthy, or even taking a class, the project often seems insurmountable. But what if you could start with a YouTube video, one step, a pair of earrings, a pillow, a word, or…a dot? Reynolds says you can! With his straightforward storytelling, Reynolds gives readers permission to play, experiment, and feel free.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Reynold’s familiar line drawings that sketch out adorable Vashti and her wise teacher are punctuated by the colorful dots that Vashti draws in profusion. Even Vashti, herself, is surrounded by circular auras of color throughout the story, reflecting her talent and creative spirit. The final scene of the art show gallery is a revelation, showing readers that one’s work or life work adds up to an impressive display of the self.

Through and through The Dot is charming, moving, and encouraging. It is a must addition to home libraries, public libraries, and classrooms.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2003 | 978-0763619619

Discover more about International Dot Day, download an Educator’s Guide, and see a gallery of projects on thedotclub.org.

You’ll learn more about Peter H, Reynolds, his books, and his art as well as find lots of inspiration and creative tips on his website!

International Dot Day Activity

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Decorate the Dots Coloring Page

 

How would you color these dots? Grab your favorite paints, markers, or crayons and let your imagination fly with this printable Decorate the Dots Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review