September 7 – Buy a Book Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2012 Buy a Book Day promotes an appreciation for physical paperback and hardbound books. Whether you’re cracking open a brand new release or gently turning the pages in a well-worn volume, holding an actual book in your hands is an unforgettable connection between you, the author, and another world—real or imaginary. Today, drop into your local bookstore and peruse the shelves—you’ll be sure to find a fascinating book to buy.

A Child of Books

By Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

 

A little girl sits on a log raft with a parchment sail, dangling her feet into the water that swirls around her legs in an eddy made of words that read: “Once upon a time there was a child who loved to read…,” while the rest of the words disperse and float away. In fact, the girl is reading now—a book with a keyhole in the middle. “I am a child of books,” she reveals. “I come from a world of stories.” The wind catches the sail of her raft and the girl is off on an adventure, rising and dipping with the cresting letters that make up waves coming from the deeper sea of straight lines of excerpted text from classics including The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and Kidnapped.

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

The waves bring her to shore, where riding atop one she towers over a small boy. The girl asks if he will sail away with her. He peers into the window of his house where his father sits reading the newspaper. Headlines announce “Serious Stuff,” “Facts,” “Important Things,” and “Business.” And indeed just a glance at the articles will inform readers that “A group of serious people passed on concerns about a serious document that has been lost by a serious organization….”; that “Scientists have discovered a new fact. In one test, nearly half the subjects proved the fact, it was revealed….”; and that “an important company is to stop producing some important stuff by later this year. It said no one wanted this particular bit of important stuff.” The father’s glasses glint with numbers that rim the frames like tears.

The girl says that “some people have forgotten” where she lives, but that she can lead him on the way. The two follow a path of words from Alice in Wonderland, and the boy watches worriedly as the girl confidently climbs down a hole in the lines. There is more climbing to be done, however, and the girl, in her blue and white sailor dress, holds the boys hand as they traverse mountains made of Peter Pan that reach into the sky. By the time the friends row their dinghy into a dark cave created from the story of Treasure Island and discover a wooden chest, the boy is eager and excited for the journey.

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

The girl and boy play hide-and-seek among tall trees made of books, where titles and lines of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red-Cap, The Golden Goose, Tom Thumb, and more jut out as leaf-covered branches. They leave the woods and come to a haunted castle that is being attacked by a monster made dark and hairy with the words of Frankenstein and Dracula. This time the boy holds a line of Rapunzel as the girl deftly shimmies to the top of a turret.

Tuckered out, the pair of friends ascend ladders to clouds of lullabies and drift into dreamland where they stand on the moon so they can “shout as loud as we like in space.” But perhaps it is not the moon but, instead, their own imaginary world made of color and characters, palaces and possibilities where stories may end but creativity lives on because “we’re made from stories…” and “our house is a home of invention.”

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

If any book invites readers to linger over the intricacies of its pages, A Child of Books is it. A perfect combination of Oliver Jeffers’ homage to the power of storytelling and Sam Winston’s artistry with typography, A Child of Books summons readers of all ages to leave the weariness of the “serious” world and enter the realm of the imagination.

The lilting lines of Oliver Jeffers’ prose poem flow with the stream of consciousness that allows thinkers to journey to nooks and crannies, participate in majestic vistas, and create the unknown of their own fancies. In Sam Winston’s hands sentences and paragraphs describing classic sea voyages swell into waves; lines from other classics crowd in upon each other, solidifying into a hidden inlet or forming a horned creature; and soft yellowed pages return to replicate the trees they once were. In the end a rainbow of characters spin out from a revolving globe, depicting our full color world.

Maps laid out by the storytellers of the past may show us routes to take but as A Child of Books reveals, there is so much white space yet to be discovered. For bibliophiles young and old, A Child of Books makes a beautiful gift and will be a welcome addition to personal library shelves.

Ages 4 and up

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763690779

Visit Oliver Jeffers’ website to view his wide-ranging work in picture books, paintings, film, and more. You can follow a paper airplane to fun games based on his picture books in Oliver Jeffers’ World.

To see the unique perspective of Sam Winston, view his books, projects, and archives on his website!

Watch the Child of Books book trailer!

 

Buy a Book Day Activity

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I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy List

 

Do you love to read? Do you have a wish list of books you want to read next? Me too! Use this printable I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy sheet to keep track of those great book ideas.

August 31 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Double Happiness by Nancy Tupper Ling Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Summer is coming to a close and school is starting again. It’s a great time to reflect on the fun you’ve had in the warmer weather and all the memories that are about to be made as another year of activities, education, new friendships, and excitement unfolds. Happiness really does happen if you let it!

Double Happiness

Written by Nancy Tupper Ling | Illustrated by Alina Chau

 

This quiet, thoughtful picture book tells the story of a family’s move from China to America in a series of unrhymed verses that reveal the experience honestly from alternating viewpoints of a brother, Jake, and his sister, Gracie. Each page is dedicated to one sibling or the other with the Jake’s poems written in blue and Gracie’s in purple. In several poems the children interact with each other, the blue and purple lines acting as dialog tags.

In the first poem, The Move, Gracie stands on her doorstep surrounded by boxes and suitcases and thinks, “I won’t go! / I won’t move / away / from our city house / by the trolley tracks….” But Jake is more adventurous and in the second poem, Train, is already imagining his new room. After considering different décor, he decides what he really wants is something familiar, something outside—“just one long train / that rocks and wobbles / my bed each night. / I can’t fall asleep until the train passes by.”

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Image copyright Alina Chau, courtesy of Chronicle Books

In Grandmother, the siblings are each given a happiness box by their Nai Nai, who wisely challenges her grandchildren to “Find four treasures each, / leading from this home / to your new.” Gracie takes this to heart, and readers see in Panda that even before leaving Nai Nai’s Gracie has added a favorite keepsake to her box: “Nai Nai’s panda sits / by the window / like always. / “I’ll miss you,” I say. / Nai Nai leans over me. / She places Panda / inside my box. / “He has a new home / now.”

Too soon moving day comes, and in Goodbye Gracie and Jake give hugs and kisses to beloved relatives. The search for items to fill Nai Nai’s boxes is taken up in the next three poems. In Treasure, Jake becomes a dragon keeping his “dragon eyes / wide open for stuff / along the way.” He is rewarded in Lucky, in which he discovers an old penny on the bus ride to the airport. In Leaf Gracie receives a surprising gift for her happiness box: “One stray leaf / flutters down / onto my box— / Eucalyptus! / If I had a koala I’d feed / her this minty meal all / day long— / the perfect treasure / to remind me of home.” 

In keeping with the long hours of travel from China to the United States, the next six poems chronicle the brother and sister’s experiences in the airport, waiting for their plane, and during the flight. Airport sees the children running, hopping, waiting, and navigating their way through the crowds of people to their gate. Dad is already tuckered out in Quiet, but Jake is wrangling to look for treasure: “’Huff puff. Puff huff.’” / Dragon blows fire. / Dragon stomps his feet. / “’Ssshhh, you’ll wake Daddy. / I giggle. / Gracie giggles. / “’Daddy can sleep / anywhere.’” Jake finally discovers gum in his backpack and creates a treasure. “I stretch it / and roll it / and ooze it / into one slinky snake / Sssssee, his penny pillow. / Sssssee, he’s kai xin— / so happy—in his brown box. / I’m tied with Gracie now— / two treasures each.”

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Image copyright Alina Chau, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Adventures at the airport continue in Cat and Wings, and as the plane takes off Gracie draws pictures of the day’s events in Picture. In Here the children wake up to see their new city far below them and wonder, “can I find our house / from the sky?” Marble and Sadness juxtapose Jake’s happiness at finding another treasure for his box with the apprehension of Gracie as the plane lands and the family makes its way into their new country.

At last in Home the family reaches their new house by taxi. Gracie seems only to see the “piles of snow,” but Jake likes the “windy roads, lots of trees, and the curvy driveway.” In Explore Gracie and Jake walk around the countryside, and while Gracie still determines that she won’t like it, Jake hears a train and is happy. My Room and Dinner see the kids settling in, with a photograph of the family they’ve left behind accompanying them on the table while they eat. In A Surprise, Gracie finds that her grandmother is still with her through a special scarf, and in Paints Jake and Gracie accept the move as they paint their happiness boxes: Jake decorates his with a dragon and a train, while Gracie depicts herself and her brother walking in the snow and “they look very, / very / happy.”

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Image copyright Alina Chau, courtesy of Chronicle Books

While Double Happiness tells the story of a family’s distant move, Nancy Tupper Ling’s gentle verses are appropriate for any situation involving change or uncertainty. She reminds children that happiness can be found wherever they are and all around them if they look for it. The poems flow as freely as thoughts, fears, and unguarded moments. As Gracie and Jake resolve their feeling, readers or listeners will also see that feelings of apprehension are common, and that happiness is waiting for them.

Alina Chau’s soft, lovely watercolor illustrations are beautiful representations of Gracie and Jake’s move from the familiar surroundings of their home in China to a new home in a snowy countryside.  The children’s emotions resonate as they alternate between sadness and happiness and between the concrete places of Nai Nai’s house, the airport, and their new city and their own imaginations of dragons, drawings, and dreams.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1452129181

Discover more books for children and adults by Nancy Tupper Ling on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Alina Chau and more on her website!

**Note: As I take some personal days in the next few weeks, I will rerun updated posts published earlier in the year, including new interior art and links.

Happiness Happens Activity

CPB - Happiness typography

Happiness Is…Game

 

Happiness is all around you! Grab one or more friends to play a game that reveals what things make you happy. Here are two ways to play:

  1. Like the “Geography” game: the first player names something that makes them happy, the next player must think of something that starts with the last letter of the word the previous player said. The game continues with each player continuing the pattern. Players drop out as they cannot think of a word. The last player left is
  2. Within a certain time limit (depending on age), players must think of something that makes them happy. Players drop out if they cannot think of a word within the time limit. The last player left is the winner.

Picture Book Review

August 26 – Women’s Equality Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday commemorates the day in 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, giving  women the right to vote. Over the years women all over the world have fought and are still striving to gain equal footing with men in areas such as employment, salary, and education and to be free from fears of violence and discrimination. Empowering women across the globe and ensuring their voices are heard is an issue for all people to be involved in.

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story

Written by Rebecca Langston-George | Illustrated by Janna Bock

 

Malala Yousafzai lived in the Swat Valley of Pakistan, where her father, Ziauddin, ran a school in the town of Mingora. Malala loved school and even when she was tiny visited classes with her father often. Not all Pakistani children could go to school—some families couldn’t afford it and some believed girls should stay home to clean, cook, and keep house. But Malala’s father believed his daughter had the same right to an education as his sons. Malala thrived at school. She learned multiple languages and won many academic awards.

“But Taliban leaders who controlled the area were against letting girls go to school. They declared that females should be separated from males. They wanted to outlaw education for girls.” The Taliban leaders even tried to intimidate Malala’s father. “One ordered Ziauddin to close his school because girls and boys used the same entrance.” Ziauddin refused.

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Image copyright Janna Bock, courtesy of Capstone Press

While her father was worried, Malala’s determination grew stronger. She studied harder at school, and during the school holidays while most Pakistani women covered their hands with henna flowers and vines, Malala painted science formulas on hers. The Taliban continued to exert a tight grip on the Swat Valley, and instituted new rules: men could not shave, women had to cover their faces, movies were banned. And the radio “crackled with the sound of the Taliban preaching: No education for girls! Girls who attend school bring shame to their families!”

The Taliban frightened many, and empty seats in school classrooms began to be more frequent. Ziauddan and Malala appeared on TV to express the importance of education. In response the Taliban threatened Ziauddan and his school. Despite the threats Malala and her father continued to speak and write, “demanding equal education for girls.” The Taliban began patrolling the streets, perpetrating violence and destruction on anyone who didn’t obey their rules.

In December 2008, the Taliban announced that all girls’ schools would close by January 15. “Even before the deadline, bombs started to rain down on nearby schools as warnings.” The British Broadcasting Corporation wanted to reveal to the world what was happening. They wanted a girl to write a blog about her experience and “how it felt to be denied an education. Malala volunteered.

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Image copyright Janna Bock, courtesy of Capstone Press

She took the pen name Gul Makai and related her blog by phone to a reporter who typed and published her words for two months. The first post appeared on January 3, 2009. On January 14 Malala wrote: “‘They can stop us from going to school, but they can’t stop us learning!’” Because activists were growing angry, the Taliban let girls ages 10 and younger go to school. Malala and her friends were 11. They began dressing to look younger and hid school books in their clothes. If they had been caught lying about their ages, they and their teachers could have been beaten or executed.

In May 2009 the Pakistani army began battling the Taliban and ordered everyone to evacuate. Malala and her family had to pack their belongings and leave. Malala wanted to take her books along, but there wasn’t room. She could only hope that they—and her home—would survive the fighting. Three months later, the people of Mingora were allowed to come home, but the town was not the same as they had left it. Shops and buildings were destroyed, burned frames of cars were strewn across the roads. The school’s walls were riddle with bullet holes. But the Taliban was gone. Ziauddin reopened his school for boys and girls.

While Malala returned to school, her life was not the same. Because of her blog, speeches, and interviews, she was internationally famous. Everyone wanted to hear what she had to say—everyone but the Taliban. “Talban leaders began to threaten her on the Internet. Saying she was working for the West, they announced Malala was on their hit list. The police warned the Yousafzai family to leave, but Malala refused to hide. She refused to be silenced.”

Because of the danger, Malala’s mother wanted her to ride the bus to school instead of walk. On October 9, 2012 as Malala and her classmates rode the bus home after school, the bus was stopped and a man boarded, demanding to know which girl was Malala. While no one spoke, the girls couldn’t stop their eyes from flashing quickly toward Malala. That was all the man needed. He “pointed a gun at Malala. Three shots shattered the silence.”

The bus driver rushed Malala and two of her friends to the hospital. Word spread quickly about the shooting through the town and around the world. Malala lay unconscious for days as the Taliban threatened her again should she live. As determinedly as Malala fought for equal education, she fought for survival. Finally, she was flown to a hospital in England for more surgery and to keep her safe. Gifts and wished poured in from all over the world. Malala stayed in the hospital for three months and underwent many procedures to correct the damage done by the Taliban’s bullets.

When she had recovered, Malala returned to her family and to her place on the world stage where she continues to speak out for the rights of all. On July 12, 2013 in a speech at the United Nations, Malala “declared, ‘One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.’” On December 10, 2014 Malala became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her “strength, power, and courage” to “lift her voice for children everywhere.”

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Image copyright Janna Bock, courtesy of Capstone Press

Malala. Those three syllables have become synonymous with bravery, freedom, and education. Rebecca Langston-George tells Malala’s remarkable story with the same unstinting vision that fuels Malala’s mission. Told sensitively, but candidly, this compelling biography reveals the harrowing evolution of the Taliban’s reach that, far from intimidating young Malala, only served to make her more determined. Langston-George’s excellent command over her well-chosen details and gripping pacing enhances the power of this important true story. Readers should come away inspired—not only by Malala’s life, but the fact that they too can make a difference.

Janna Bock depicts the changing landscape of Malala’s hometown both physically and philosophically with illustrations that help readers clearly envision and understand Malala’s life and environment. The faces of the townspeople and the Yousefzai family register distress and fear, but also determination, courage, and optimism as schools close, Mingora comes under fire, and the citizens become refugees. Malala’s shooting, and recovery are portrayed with thoughtful consideration of the readers, and the ending takes children inside the United Nations to witness Malala’s ultimate triumph.

An Author’s Note detailing more about Malala’s story then and now as well as a glossary and index follow the text.

For the Right to Learn: Malala Yousafzai’s Story is an important biography of current events and people shaping the world and our children’s future and is a must read for all.

Ages 8 – 12

Capstone Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1623704261

Discover more fascinating books by Rebecca Langston-George on her website!

View a gallery of art by Janna Bock on Tumblr!

Women’s Equality Day Activity

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Be a Star! Letter to Your Teacher

 

The school year is about to begin! Do you feel excited? Nervous? Ready to learn? Your teachers are looking forward to meeting you! With the printable Be a Star! Letter to Your Teacher Template, tell your teacher something funny about yourself, something serious, and something you’d like to learn about this year. Add a thank you for all their work and dedication and give it to your teacher on the first day of school! If you’ve already started school, give it to your teacher this week!

Picture Book Review

August 14 – It’s Family Fun Month

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About the Holiday

August is a perfect time to have fun with the family! The days are long and warm, and there are so many activities to discover. Get away from the heat at a pool, the beach, or on the cool shade of a forest path. Explore your adventurous side while camping or traveling to an unfamiliar town, or increase your knowledge by visiting a science, art, history, or other museum. Before school starts up for another year, get out there and have fun!

Rosie the Raven

By Helga Bansch | Translated by Shelley Tanaka

 

In a nest high in a tree, a little pink egg among the blue speckled ones hatches a little girl. As soon as all five babies are out of their shells, the hatchling says “Mama and Papa took us under their wings. It was nice and warm there.” The babies are hungry and the little girl, following the example of her brothers and sisters, opens her mouth wide to enjoy the “worms, flies, maggots, and snails.”

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Image copyright Helga Bansch, courtesy of annickpress.com

As they grow, the little ones “slept, had cawing contests and goofed around.” Because the little girl is always cold, her papa got her a red dress and hat. “‘Our little Rosie,’” Mama called me,” the girl says. Although Rosie and her nest mates are a happy family, Rosie says that “every day others would come and stare at us” as well as offer unsolicited advice: “‘It needs to exercise its wings” or, because they considered Rosie ugly without feathers, “Rub it with birch leaves. That will make its feathers grow.”

Under the critical gaze of these outsiders, Rosie looks at herself and notices for the first time that she is different than her Mama and Papa, her brothers and sisters. Her siblings are already learning how to fly, their caws are wild and resonant, and their feathers are fluffy and soft. In comparison, when Rosie flaps nothing happens, her voice sounds “pitiful,” and she has no fluff.

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Image copyright Helga Bansch, courtesy of annickpress.com

Rosie “so wanted to be like them” that she beats her “wings over and over.” She caws until she is hoarse and rubs herself with birch leaves until her skin glows green. Soon she decides that “all this was just silly.” “‘I’m just different. And if the others talk about me, what do I care,’” she thinks. Besides, she learns that her “kind of wings are quite useful for other things.”

When Rosie’s siblings fly away from the nest after several weeks, the nest seems quiet. As the weeks progress and “the air began to smell like autumn, it was time to set out for the south.” Rosie’s parents practice flying with Rosie on their back until she can ride safely. Finally the day comes when they make the trip, and they find a new home in a tree that is perfect for Rosie to climb. Now it is her job to gather food for the family—which will soon include four new babies.

In her new home Rosie meets a frog who is going to teach her to swim. After their first meeting, the frog asks, “‘So, what are you really?’” “‘I am Rosie the Raven!’” Rosie squawks loudly. Then she goes home and climbs up to her nest in the tree, looking forward to tomorrow.

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Image copyright Helga Bansch, courtesy of annickpress.com

Helga Bansch’s Rosie the Raven, bathed in tones of beige and black and punctuated with the red of Rosie’s cap and dress, is a quiet, but powerful book of what it means to be different and who defines that difference. The story of the Raven family is all the more eloquent and compelling for its being told through straight narration and not as a fairy tale or fable. The moment when Rosie looks at herself through others’ eyes, but quickly rejects the notion that her identity as a Raven is based on her having wings or feathers as well as her decision to stay with Mama and Papa affirms the idea that the true self is found within.

Bansch’s little Ravens are endearing as they frolic in the nest under the watchful and loving eyes of Mama and Papa. Rosie exudes a strong sense of confidence and happiness that readers will respond to. Bansch’s pages are a mix of panels, collages, and beautiful two-page spreads that give the book a distinctive look and feel. Fields and mountains are created from maps and bits of printed material in a variety of languages that emphasizes the book’s theme. Rosie the Raven could easily become a child’s favorite for bedtime or quiet story time and would be a wonderful addition to home as well as school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

annick press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1554518340 (Austrian edition Die Rabenrosa: 978-3702658748)

To view more books and artwork by Helga Bansch, visit her website!

Check out more books for children and young adults at annick press!

Family Fun Day Activity

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Home is Where Your Heart Is Coloring Pages

Apartments Coloring Page

Bungalow Coloring Page

August 13 – Garage Sale Day

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About the Holiday

Isn’t every nice-weather Saturday garage sale day for someone? Nevertheless, the second Saturday in August has officially been designated with this special shopping moniker. Garage sales aka yard sales are fun to explore—you never know what treasures you might find. Hosting your own can free up space in your house to start fresh or, as in today’s book, reaffirm the most important things in life.

Yard Sale

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

 

From the first words—“Almost everything we own is spread out in our front yard”—readers realize that this is no ordinary yard sale. A little girl sits on the front porch of her tidy house gazing out sadly at the family’s furniture, toys, books, and knick-knacks that are all for sale. The family is moving to a small apartment: “‘Small but nice,’ my mom told me.” The apartment has a secret bed that opens down from the wall “right in the living room.”

When the yard sale opens people stop by to look, “picking up things, asking the price, though Mom and Dad already put prices on them.” Even though the items are priced low, people haggle over how much they want to pay. A woman complains that ten dollars is too much for the little girl’s bed because the headboard has crayon marks on it. Watching, Callie now wishes she hadn’t made the marks to show how often she had read Goodnight Moon. Her mother settles for five dollars for the bed.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Suddenly, Callie sees a man loading her bike into a truck and runs to grab it. The man is confused, sorry for taking it, but tells her he has just bought it. Callie’s dad runs over and explains again that the apartment has no place for the bike or sidewalks nearby to ride it on. Callie looks at her dad who seems to have tears in his eyes, “but probably not,” she says. “My dad doesn’t cry.” She relinquishes the bike, but asks the man, “‘Will you give it back to me when we get our house back?’”

Callie’s best friend, Sara, is waiting for her. The two friends hug and talk about why Callie has to move. “‘I wish you didn’t have to go,’” Sara mutters. “‘Why do you, anyway?’” Callie shrugs. “‘I don’t know. It’s something to do with money.’” They don’t understand what has happened, and Sara offers, “‘I could ask my parents if you could stay with us.’” But Callie’s heart tells her where she belongs. “‘My parents would be lonely,’” she says. “‘…I’d miss my mom and dad.’”

The sale continues and people drive away with tables, chairs, and clothing. For a moment, Callie feels important when a man asks her if their large potted geranium is for sale and she directs him to her dad. By the end of the day almost everything is gone. Callie’s mom “looks droopy” and her dad is comforting her. Callie sits dejectedly watching the final things being carried away and thinking that she will give Sara her red heart necklace and invite her to visit their new apartment.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, courtesy of laurencastillo.com

At that moment a woman comes up to Callie and says, “‘Aren’t you just the cutest thing? Are you for sale?’” Callie has a visceral reaction: “A shiver runs through me, from my toes to my head.” She runs to her parents, crying. “‘I’m not for sale, am I? You wouldn’t sell me, would you?’” Her parents drop what they are doing to hug and reassure Callie that they would “‘not ever ever, ever’” sell her. “‘Not for a million, trillion dollars.’”

With everything gone, Callie and her parents go back inside their “almost empty house.” It’s okay, Callie thinks. None of the stuff is important, and it wouldn’t fit in their new place anyway. “But we will fit in our new place. And we are taking us.”

For so many children frequent relocations or sudden moves from a home they know is a reality. Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale treats this subject with sensitivity and honest emotion through the eyes of a little girl for whom the change is confusing but ultimately reassuring. Bunting does not stint on either the setting of the yard sale itself, where people quibble over a couple of dollars, or the toll the day takes on the family. Her dialogue always rings true, and her straightforward delivery allows for understanding and for the moments of humor to shine through.

Lauren Castillo’s ink-and-watercolor paintings anchor this emotional story in a homey, loving environment even as they realistically portray the atmosphere of the yard sale. The full range of feelings are apparent in the characters’ faces from sadness and doubt to kindness and acceptance. Children will respond to Callie with her earnest attempts to understand and feel the comfort and encouragement Callie receives as her parents bend down to talk to her, hold her hand, and give her hugs.

Yard Sale is a poignant story that offers assurance and insight both for children who are facing a move and the friends and classmates who will miss them. The book’s theme is applicable to other daunting circumstances and would be a welcome addition to classroom and local libraries as well as for individuals encountering change.

Ages 4 – 9

Candlewick Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763665425

To view more books and artwork by Lauren Castillo, visit her website!

Garage Sale Day Activity

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Garage Sale Maze

 

A garage sale is a bit like a treasure hunt. Can you find your way through this printable Garage Sale Maze from the roadside sign to the items for sale? Here’s the Solution!

August 12 – International Youth Day

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Image copyright Christine Davenier, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co.

About the Holiday

In so many ways children and young adults are not only our future but they lead the world forward now. In recognition of this, the United Nations established International Youth Day to work toward ensuring that all children have access to resources to make positive and progressive choices. The theme for this year’s International Youth Day revolves around sustainable consumption, an important topic for the world our young people are inheriting.

It’s fitting that today’s holiday comes during the Olympic Games, a showcase of the best determination, hope, and spirit of today’s youth and tomorrow’s promise. A “perfect” reminder of that is the subject of today’s book!

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Christine Davenier

 

“In the village of Oneşti, Romania, a country rich with forests and mountains” Nadia Comaneci could often be seen swinging from tree branch to tree branch. She was a little girl who loved to play. She was “feisty and fearless,” attempting new things on a whim and always with a sense of adventure. Once she tried on a pair of roller skates and skated right out of the store! Another time she was so impatient to ride her new bike that she pedaled off before her father could even tighten the screws. The bike “fell apart as she rode away.” And one year her love of climbing trees extended to the family Christmas tree, which toppled over on her, pinning her to the ground.

To channel all that energy, Nadia’s mother enrolled her in gymnastics lessons. Nadia’s eyes lit up when she saw the room full of ropes, ladders, bars, mats, and trampolines to discover, but she didn’t leave her new skills at the gym. Nadia and a friend cartwheeled around the school playground, capturing the attention of Bela and Marta Karolyi, who owned a gymnastics school. They invited the girls to join.

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Image copyright Christine Davenier, courtesy of karlingray.com

Nadia was only 6 when she began studying with Bela and Marta. Immediately, she discovered that she liked gymnastics better than her school subjects. She progressed quickly from performing “a straight cartwheel on a line painted on the floor” to doing it on a low balance beam and finally on the high balance beam. She began learning harder and harder moves, “flying from bar to bar, from floor to vault, and high above the beam.”

At 9 years old, Nadia competed in her first National Junior Championship. Despite her skill and hard work, she fell from the high beam during a leap not once but three times. Nadia finished the competition in 13th place. Her disappointment only strengthened her resolve. She went back to the gym and continued to practice many hours every day. Her determination paid off, “and at the next National Junior Championship games, she won first place.”

The ultimate recognition of her skill came when she was chosen to be part of the 1976 Romanian Olympic team. The games were held in Montreal, Canada, and all eyes were on the returning gold medalists from Russia, Olga Korbut and Lyudmila Turischeva. But excitement soon filled the venue as Nadia performed on the beam, the floor, and the vault where she scored 9.9, 9.75, and 9.7 on a scale of 1 (the lowest score) to 10 (a perfect score). The next event was the uneven parallel bars on which Olga Korbut had just scored a 9.9. “Nadia mounted the bars. Now fourteen years old, she was a long way from the forests in Romania. But she swung around as easily as she had jumped from branch to branch as a little girl. The audience gasped as she twirled and whipped and flipped.”

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Image copyright Christine Davenier, courtesy of karlingray.com

Nadia dismounted and landed perfectly on the mat below as the audience “exploded with applause.” Nadia returned to her team to wait for her score. And wait…and wait. Finally, the score appeared on the board—1.00. The worst score. How could that be? “‘What is Nadia’s score?’” Bela asked the judges. “One of the officials held up ten fingers as a voice announced over the loudspeaker: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, for the very first time in Olympic history, Nadia Comaneci has received the score of a perfect ten!’”

Because no one had ever achieved a 10 before, the scoreboards were programmed only for a high of 9.9. Nadia couldn’t bask in her accomplishment for long, however. She moved on to her next event—and her next perfect 10! “When the competition ended, she had earned seven perfect 10s.” At the medal ceremony both Olga and Lyudmila congratulated their competitor as the new Olympic champion. In all Nadia won five medals and became the youngest ever Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics.

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Image copyright Christine Davenier, courtesy of karlingray.com

Nadia became a darling of the press. They surrounded her, asking “how it felt to have the world’s attention, if she had been confident she would win, and when she would retire.” She answered each reporter with enthusiasm and confidence, and promising that she was a long way from retiring. When she returned home, it seemed that all of Romania had come out to welcome her and her teammates—even the country’s president.

Now Nadia was famous all over the world. She returned to practicing and inventing new routines, preparing for other competitions and the 1980 Olympic Games. She had come far from swinging branch to branch in the trees of Oneşti, but she would always be that little girl who couldn’t sit still.

Karlin Gray’s compelling biography captures all the spunk and spirit of Nadia Comaneci that made the world fall in love with her at the 1976 Olympic Games. Adults of a certain age well remember watching her in astonishment as she seemed to effortlessly swirl, twirl, and flip through her routines, flashing her sweet smile as she waved to fans. In the first pages Gray reveals anecdotes of Nadia’s adventurous nature that will captivate readers even as they giggle at her predicaments.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nadia-the-girl-who-couldn't-sit-still-mishaps

Image copyright Christine Davenier, courtesy of karlingray.com

The straightforward narration of Nadia’s trajectory from playground cartwheeler to Olympic champion enhances both the gritty determination of her studies with her coaches as well as the suspense of her competitions. All children—no matter what their talent—will draw inspiration from Nadia’s story, which includes disappointments as well as unbounded accomplishments. Gray’s lyrical language flows as smoothly as Nadia flew through the air and will land in readers’ hearts as a perfect 10.

From the cover, which sports Nadia in her iconic floor exercise pose, to the last page, Christine Davenier depicts the world of gymnastics with beauty and the kind of realistic details that create a classic. The two-page spread of the gym where 6-year-old Nadia learns to love gymnastics portrays the enormity of the space and the equipment for a small girl—as well as the enormity of her achievement.

Kids will love the almost “play-by-play” illustrations of how Nadia learned to perform her feats, from starting with a line on the floor to perfecting the high beam and more. Nadia is shown leaping, somersaulting, doing handstands, and even wavering and falling as she practices and competes. The thrill of the Olympic Games, from the opening ceremonies, to the rapt and cheering audiences to the awards ceremony are drawn with stirring action, color, and attention to the specifics of that very special 1976 summer in Montreal.

An Afterword expands on Nadia Comaneci’s courageous life choices and career post-gymnastics and includes a timeline, notes, a selected bibliography, and websites for further study.

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still will fascinate kids and would be a very welcome addition to school classroom—as well as home—libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544319608

Visit Karlin Gray‘s website to learn more about her and to download fun activities!

View a gallery of artwork by Christine Davenier on her website!

Discover more about Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still on the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt website!

International Youth Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhythmic-gymnastics-ribbon-craft

Rhythmic Gymnastics Ribbon

 

You can recreate the grace of rhythmic gymnastics with this easy craft! The swirling beauty of the ribbon makes any movement fun!

Supplies

  • 12-inch dowel
  • 6-foot length of ribbon
  • Paint the same color as the ribbon
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel and let dry
  2. Glue the edge of the ribbon to one end of the dowel. Wrap the ribbon about ½ inch around the dowel and secure with glue. Let glue dry.

Picture Book Review

August 11 – Son and Daughter Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the special relationship between parents and their sons and daughters. The lifelong bond takes work, dedication, and most importantly unconditional love, and its rewards are innumerable. Whether your child or children are still small, have moved away, or are somewhere in between, spend some time with them, tell them why they are unique, and tell them that you love them.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be

By Emily Winfield Martin

 

“When I look at you / and you look at me, / I wonder what wonderful / things you will be.” This opening sentence simply and beautifully expresses the emotions of parents and caregivers when first bringing a child home—and every subsequent day as they watch their kids grow and acquire their own talents, experiences, and opinions. From the first moments of a child’s life, the adults around them can’t wait to discover what is behind that sly smile, infectious laugh, even the pained cries. “When you were too small / to tell me hello, / I knew you were someone / I wanted to know.”

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Image copyright Emily Winfield Martin, courtesy of theblackapple.typepad.com

Martin reveals what caregivers know but children don’t yet realize—that the size of their heart, their wisdom, and their spirit is evident even when they are tiny, and because each child is unique the world holds a special place for them. Martin then opens that world to readers: “Will you stand up for good / By saving the day? / Or play a song only you / know how to play?” Perhaps the child will tell stories, help things to grow, or learn how to fly. Or will they “take care of things / Much smaller than you?” Whatever the child grows up to choose, parents or caregivers know that “they’ll be kind, and clever, and bold.” And when hard days come, being “brave” and “bright” will vanquish the “shadows.”

As each child matures and chooses a path in life, Martin leaves the reader of the book with these reassuring words any child needs to hear: “And then I’ll look at you / And you’ll look at me / And I’ll love you, / Whoever you’ve grown up to be.”

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Image copyright Emily Winfield Martin, courtesy of emilywinfieldmartin.com

When a child first comes into a home, parents or caregivers once again see the world in a new way—fresh and holding unlimited possibilities. Emily Winfield Martin captures that feeling with her lyrical words and delicate paintings. The vintage/retro illustrations populated with adorable children of various ethnicities, faithful pets, and favorite toys, give the book a universal feel. Throughout the book the children go about their tasks with confidence, thoughtfulness, and creativity—embodying the hopes and wishes adult readers have for their own children.

A gate-fold page toward the end of the book is a joy to explore as the illustrated children line up with costumes on as if for a school play or Halloween night. The different costumes invite readers to image what the children may grow up to be.

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Image copyright Emily Winfield Martin, courtesy of emilywinfieldmartin.com

The Wonderful Things You Will Be is a perfect gift for new babies or for older children graduating from high school or college. The book invites multiple readings and makes a wonderful addition to anyone’s library.

Ages Birth and up

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0385376716

Discover more distinctive artwork and books by Emily Winfield Martin on her website!

Son and Daughter Day Activity

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I Love You Because…

 

Children love to hear why you think they’re special and why you love them. With this printable I Love You Because…template, you can tell the children in your life what makes them so loveable and unique.

Picture Book Review