February 8 – It’s Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week

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About the Holiday

This week was established to raise awareness and promote literacy and the joys and benefits of reading. During the week, children’s authors and illustrators attend special events at schools, bookstores, libraries, and other community centers to share their books and get kids excited about reading. To learn more about how you can instill a lifelong love of learning, visit ChildrensAuthorsNetwork!

Where Are the Words?

Written by Jodi McKay | Illustrated by Denise Holmes

 

A little purple period feels like writing a story. He goes to visit Pencil and Paper and tells them his plan. They want to help, but Pencil says, “We are at a loss for words.” So the three set off to find some. Question Mark sees Period searching here and there and asks what he’s doing. When he finds out about Period’s plan, Question Mark has, well… lots of questions and joins the hunt.

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Image copyright Denise Holmes, 2016, text copyright Jodi McKay. Courtesy of Albert Whitman and Company.

Exclamation Point is excited to learn about the story writing idea and is eager to help. “What do you know about words?” Question Mark wonders. “Lots!” Exclamation Point answers as he heads off the page. “Let me get them for you!” While Exclamation Point is gone, Question Mark and Period meet up with Quotation Marks, who have sage advice for these two. “‘Seek and ye shall find,’” they offer. Just then Exclamation Point comes back with an armload of words: Once, Upon, A, and Time. Just as he’s about to pass them over, though, he trips and the words scatter in a jumble of letters. Undeterred, Exclamation Point hurries off to get more words.

Then Parentheses meanders by. Question Mark thinks maybe they know where words hang out. “I might,” one says, raising everyone’s hopes. But then she adds, “(although I doubt it).” Period is disappointed and even a little miffed when he sees Exclamation Point rushing around waving a net. But Exclamation Point’s just trying to corral some rather active words who would rather “run, jump, skip, hop” freely. Colon offers aid as long as there are peanuts, but Period thinks the whole thing is getting out of hand.

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Image copyright Denise Holmes, 2016, text copyright Jodi McKay. Courtesy of Albert Whitman and Company.

In fact, Period decides to quit. But not so fast! Exclamation Point has something to show everyone. “Look!” Exclamation Point says, and they all gaze upward to find all the words they’ve said hanging in the air. “They were here all along,” Period says. Now Period has everything to write a story—except an idea. Exclamation Point suggests they all write the story together.

And so each one contributes a little bit to the story while Pencil writes it all down on Paper. Their own hunt for words and a little imagination inspires them to write a story that they all think is… “Wonderful?” offers Question Mark. “Incredible!” says Exclamation Point.  But Parentheses thinks something is missing. What is it? Pictures! But where will they find them? Everyone agrees when Period says, “Pencil could draw us the perfect pictures.”

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Image copyright Denise Holmes, 2016, text copyright Jodi McKay. Courtesy of Albert Whitman and Company.

Jodi McKay’s adorable set of punctuation marks take kids on a whirlwind ride to find words that Period can use to write a story. As each punctuation mark joins the search, McKay gives them personalities and conversation to match their grammatical uses. Readers will giggle at the mishaps and setbacks that beset Period’s creative process but empathize with him as his dream of writing a story seems to slip away. When the friends discover that the words they’re searching for are right at hand, children will see that they too have the words they need to express themselves creatively and even in social situations.

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Punctuation has never been so cute! With their sweet smiles and expressive stick arms and legs, Denise Holmes’s colorful, ready-to-help punctuation marks, pencil, and paper are true friends as they take on Period’s wish and make it their own. Dialogue bubbles make it easy for kids to understand how the various punctuation marks are used in a sentence, and dynamic typography sprinkled throughout the pages show action and add to the humor. Readers will also have fun guessing why Colon is so fond of peanuts in a clever running joke.

A charming way for children to engage with writing and punctuation, Where Are the Words is a grammatical mystery that would make its mark on home, classroom, and library bookshelves for fun story times and composition lessons.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman and Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807587331

Discover more about Jodi McKay and her books on her website.

To learn more about Denise Holmes, her books, and her art, visit her website

Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week Activity

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Pick Out the Punctuation Word Search

 

Can you find the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle?

Pick Out the Punctuation Word Search | Pick Out the Punctuation Word Search Solution

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You can find Where Are the Words? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

February 6 – It’s Black History Month

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About the Holiday

Black History Month, also known as National African American History Month, celebrates the achievements and contributions of African Americans in United States History. Originally a week-long observance commemorating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and Frederick Douglass on February 14,  Black History Month was officially established in 1976 by then president Gerald Ford. The holiday is now celebrated across the country with special events and commemorations in schools, churches, and community centers.

I received a copy of A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

Written by Alice Faye Duncan | Illustrated by Xia Gordon

 

“SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks. / Sing it loud—a Chicago blues.” This remarkable biography of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet opens with these soaring lines which introduce eight-year-old Gwendolyn who, seeing a flower in the midst of the city, wonders how it will grow. Already she was observing the world with insight and originality.  “Her head is filled with snappy rhymes. / She writes her poems in dime store journals.” Even something as “simple” as a clock does not escape Gwendolyn’s consideration. In The Busy Clock she writes, in part: “Clock, clock tell the time, / Tell the time to me. / Magic, patient instrument, / That is never free.”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Out in the neighborhood, she stands quietly and watches the other kids laughing and playing—girls jumping rope and boys playing basketball. Gwendolyn’s father is a janitor and her mother stays at home with her and her brother, who is also her best friend. Gwen spends her time sitting on her porch, looking and listening to the sounds and the conversations of the neighborhood women and men. The “children call Gwen—‘ol’ stuck-up heifer!’”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

“SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks. / Her mother believes. / Her father believes. / But sometimes—Gwendolyn doubts her radiance, / When jarring, crashing, discordant words, / Splotch and splatter her notebook paper.” And what does Gwen do with these poems that just don’t work? She buries them under the snowball bush in the backyard. Once, unbelieving, a teacher accuses Gwendolyn of plagiarism. Her mother takes her daughter back to school, and there on the spot, she composes a poetic answer to the charges: Forgive and Forget. It makes Gwen feel proud, she believes in herself and feels the sun shining on her.

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

During the Great Depression, when jobs and money are scarce, Gwendolyn’s “parents are wise and see her light.” They give her time to write and she hones her words and her craft through draft after draft. With each completed poem, Gwen’s confidence grows. The Chicago Defender publishes some of Gwendolyn’s poems, and now she has an audience. Her parents believe that one day their daughter will be a famous poet.

Soon, Gwendolyn finds her way to a group of poets who meet in a South Side community center. She studies under Inez Stark and meets Henry Blakely, who will become her husband. She enters her poems in contests and wins first place over and over. When she and Henry move into their own two-room apartment, Henry goes to work, leaving Gwendolyn to translate the neighborhood into poetry that she types “in a crowded corner.”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Readers swarm to buy her books. “Gwen paints poems with paintbrush words, / And Gwen takes home a Pulitzer Prize.” Henry and their son celebrate, and Gwen’s parents “…cry tears of joy. / They praise her shine.” For they had always known and had “…Planted love and watered it. / Gwendolyn believed. / She found her light. / And— / A furious flower / GREW!”

An extensive Author’s Note detailing more about the life of Gwendolyn Brooks and her work as well as a timeline and suggested readings follow the text.

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With her own sterling verses, Alice Faye Duncan celebrates the life of Gwendolyn Brooks—the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature—taking readers to the Chicago neighborhoods that informed and inspired Brooks’ ideas and the words and rhythms with which she defined them. Along an arc that takes Gwendolyn from a child contemplating the potential of a flower to becoming that blossom herself, Duncan pays tribute to those who recognized Gwen’s genius and helped her fulfill her talent. For readers who themselves may be poets, writers, or other types of artists, Duncan’s beautifully crafted phrases about the artistic process of revision are inspirational and welcome. Standing side-by-side with Duncan’s storytelling are four of Brooks’ poems—The Busy Clock, Forgive and Forget, Ambition, and the children of the poor—Sonnet #2. From cover to cover, Duncan’s book sings with Gwendolyn Brooks’ positivity, confidence, uniqueness, and love for life that made her a unique voice for her time and always.

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From the portrait of Gwendolyn Brooks that graces the title page and throughout the book, Xia Gordon’s distinctive artwork creates a masterpiece of motion and stillness that mirrors Brooks’ penchant for watching and listening to the sounds and sights that filled her mind and ultimately her notebooks. Downy swoops of violets, pinks, browns, and grays provide backdrops to images of Gwendolyn as a young girl and an adult rendered in lines that show her as down to earth but soaring in her thoughts. Her intelligence and spark shine through on every page. Gwendolyn’s parents appear often, always watchful and supportive. Her friends, her husband, her son, and her readers also populate the pages, giving the book an embracing warmth.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks is a must for school, classroom, and public library collections, and for children who are discovering their talents and the parents who nurture them, the book would be an inspirational and invaluable addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454930884

Discover more about Alice Faye Duncan and her books on her website.

To learn more about Xia Gordon, her books, and her art, visit her website.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in this Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks written by Alice Faye Duncan | illustrated by Xia Gordon

It takes just these two steps to enter:

A winner will be chosen on February 12.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books.

Black History Month Activity

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My Writing Journal

 

With this easy craft, kids can make a journal that will reflect their personality and inspire them to jot down ideas for poems or stories. 

Supplies

  • Two 9-inch by 6-inch pieces of foam or heavy paper
  • Plain or lined 8½ by 11 paper, as many pieces as you’d like
  • Twine or ribbon
  • Foam letters and objects, stickers, play jewels, or other decorations
  • Small scissor, paper hole puncher, or other instrument to make a hole through the foam and paper

Directions

  1. Fold the plain or lined 8½ by 11 paper in half
  2. Place the paper between the sheets of foam
  3. Make a hole through the foam covers and paper near the top and bottom for the twine to tie the journal together
  4. Slip the twine or ribbon through the holes and tie the journal together
  5. Decorate the cover
  6. Start writing!

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You can find A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 18 – National Thesaurus Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that most marvelous, stupendous, spectacular, cool, awe-inspiring, remarkableand—one from my early youth—groovy book, the thesaurus! Without its incredible cross-referenced lists of synonyms and antonyms, the world would be much more boring, dull, lackluster, monotonous place. Today, spice up your speech and writing with the perfect word to express all the nuances of life!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

While just a young child, Peter, along with his mother, his uncle, and his baby sister Annette, travel to their new home following the death of his father. It would not be his first move, and in the absence of long-time friends, Peter found companionship in books. When he was eight years old, he began writing his own book titled: Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. But this was not a book of stories or even one story; it was a book of lists. The first list was divided in two. On one side were the Latin words he knew; on the other were their definitions.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Peter’s mother hovered and worried over her son, and he always told her he was “fine.” “Although, to be honest, Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.” As the years went by, Peter added lists to his book, prompting his mother to complain about his constant “scribbling.” But Peter looked at his lists differently. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them in long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.”

As a teenager Peter was shy, preferring to wander the London gardens alone, “making lists of all the plants and insects,” as in one of his favorite science books by Linnaeus. His “mother didn’t approve, and Peter told her not to worry—but “perhaps worry wasn’t quite the right word. What was the right word? Peter began a new list: Worry, fret, grieve, despair, intrude, badger, annoy, plague, provoke, harass. Enough to drive one mad. How wonderful it felt to find just the right word.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

An idea crept into Peter’s mind for a book where “all the ideas in the world could be found in one place,” and people could “find the best word, the one that really fit.” When Peter was 14 he entered medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon graduation at 19, his uncle told him that patients would be wary of a doctor so young. To gain a bit of experience and maturity, Peter became a tutor to two teenage boys.

At last Peter set up his medical practice in Manchester, England, where he took care of the factory workers, who “were poor and often sick.” At night Peter worked on his book of lists, and in 1805 he declared it finished. “It had about one hundred pages, one thousand ideas, and listed more than fifteen thousand words!” Eventually, Peter moved back to London where he joined science societies and attended lectures. “Before long, he was asked to give lectures too,” and once-shy Peter astonished his audiences with his knowledge of math, magnetism, and other scientific subjects. He even invented a portable chess set.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

When Peter was 45 years old, he married Mary Hobson, and they had two children, Kate and John. As he grew older, he visited fewer patients, but he continued to take walks and work on his lists. While some other writers had published their own word lists to help people “to speak and to write more politely,” Kate and John “thought their father’s book was much better. Peter agreed.” For three years he rewrote his book. “He made it larger, more organized, and easier to use. Long ago Peter had discovered the power of words. Now he believed that everyone should have this power—everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

“In 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus, a word that means ‘treasure house’ in Greek.” It was an instant best seller, and Peter became a popular author. But he never stopped making lists.

Following the text, a timeline of principal events in Peter’s life as well as world events allow readers to better understand the historical period in which Peter worked. Extensive Author’s and Illustrator’ Notes also expand on Roget’s biography, and resources for further reading and research are included.

Jen Bryant’s biography of a brilliant boy who grew up to give the world its most fascinating and comprehensive collection of word lists, is a spritely telling of Roget’s life and revelation into his personality, which was perfectly suited to his scientific and written accomplishments. Children will appreciate Roget’s reactions to his mother’s worries as well as the message in his well-rounded pursuit of science and writing. Through Bryant’s captivating and lyrical storytelling, children will be inspired by Roget’s journey from shy child to much-accomplished adult.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet beguiles readers with her mixed media, collage, and watercolor illustrations that are as jam-packed with ideas, images, portraits, and typography as Roget’s thesaurus is full of words. In the early pages describing Peter’s childhood, the pages contain simple framed pictures of Roget and his family. As he grows, however, his lists of words are transformed into vibrant artwork that jostles for position from corner to corner of the pages. In the midst of these, delicate watercolors portray Peter as he strolls through a garden, takes his young charges to Paris, treats his patients, lectures, marries, and finally publishes his thesaurus. A special mention must be made of the typography, which at times in the text runs down the center of the page in one- or two-word lines, mirroring Roget’s love of lists, and in the illustrations presents the myriad synonyms in a mixture of colorful block letters, fine print, and calligraphy.

For bibliophiles, wordsmiths, scientists, and history buffs, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is just the right book for home libraries.

Ages 6 – 18

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0802853851

Discover more about Jen Bryant and her books as well as news, contests, and events, visit her website!

Learn more about Melissa Sweet and her books and have fun with the downloadable activities you’ll find on her website!

Watch this The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus book trailer!

Thesaurus Day Activity

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Word Words Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re looking for just the right word, where do you go? To the thesaurus of course! Can you find the 25 synonyms for “Word” in this printable Word Words Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 24 – Small Business Saturday

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About the Holiday

Sure, you could buy all of your gifts online or join the throngs at some big box store, but where’s the fun in that? Instead, head out to the independently owned shops in your area and see what kinds of unique items you can pick up for the people on your list. Not only will you find gifts that will surprise and delight your friends and family, you’ll be helping your local economy. More and more people every year are enjoying the camaraderie and atmosphere of Small Business Saturday. With friendly shop owners and a relaxed shopping experience, it’s no mystery why.  Why don’t you join in this year? 

Betty’s Burgled Bakery: An Alliterative Adventure

By Travis Nichols

 

“Ahoy!” Antoine hails the caller to the control center when the red alert button lights up. He listens carefully as Betty the Panda describes the crime. “A bread bandit burgled by bakery before breakfast!” It seemed her “counters and cupboards were completely cleared of carrot cake, cornbread, and crackers. This is a considerable crummy crime,” she sums up with aptly punny indignation.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine is immediately on the case, calling in his detectives from their various pursuits to “dutifully deal with [the] distressing dilemma.” When they arrive at Betty’s Bakery, she shows them the empty shelves and is assured that they will “find the fully fed, fiendish foe.” The detectives fan out across the store and are surprised that anyone could have broken in without tripping the powerful security system.

Josie believes the “key to catching this kitchen crook” is in examining what they left behind—namely the “kale crumpets” and a cash register full of money. The gumshoes have been so hard at work trying to crack the case that Quentin has gone to the market next door and brought back snacks to sustain them. Everyone digs in, except Betty who’s “in need of nary a nibble.” When Morgan the chicken is finished with his snack, he inquires whether perhaps Betty didn’t hear something since she lives right above the bakery. But Betty, it seems, is a deep sleeper and heard nothing.  

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Antoine looks around and has a quick question for Quentin about how long he thinks it would take to “acquire this quantity of baked goods.” Josie notices that the racks are so high that “no runt could ransack this room.” Meanwhile, Steve the monkey has discovered a clue. He thinks they could track the tooth marks in a tasty tart.

Steve is just about to match the distinctive notch in the half-eaten cookie to one sharp tooth in a snoozing Betty’s lower jaw when…swipe!…Betty grabs the cookie and gobbles it up. The detectives look on in astonishment. “Sleepwalking?” suggests Mike the bull. “Sleep eating,” corrects Josie. Just then Betty wakes up to see all the detectives staring at her, ready to solve the case.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“You yearn for sleep, yes?” asks Steve. Sharon, the duck reminds Betty that she last ate yesterday, yet she wanted no snack, and Quentin reveals, “you ate your yield of yummies yourself.” Betty’s surprised… astounded… asleep! But the Gumshoe Zoo has a bit of celebrating to do since they “zipped this zany, zigzagging zinger with zeal! The press celebrates them too with an article in the 1000% True News. But what’s this on Page 2? A valuable painting has been stolen! It seems there’s a new case for the Gumshoe Zoo to solve!

Notes about alliteration and some very hungry animals follow the text.

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Copyright Travis Nichols, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Travis Nichols’ witty alliterative alphabetic mystery will have little ones giggling at the zany language and big words that trip off the Gumshoe Zoo detectives’ tongues, while adults will laugh along and shake their head in appreciation of the clever construction of the story. Detective-story tropes, including the round-up of detectives caught in the middle of chores or play, a clueless member of the team, and the locked-room mystery, add to the fun. The panel illustrations set a quick pace for the investigation and clearly show the objects or ideas being alliteratively alluded to to boost younger readers’ understanding.

Betty’s Burgled Bakery will be a favorite of little linguists-in-the-making as well as for mystery lovers. It’s a book that will be asked for again and again. It makes a fun and unique addition to home bookshelves and a terrific English or writing lesson lead-in for classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452131832

Learn more about Travis Nichols, his books, and his art on his website

Small Business Saturday Activity

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Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Before this pan goes into the oven, can you find the eighteen baking-related words in this printable word search puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-betty's-burgled-bakery-cover

Betty’s Burgled Bakery can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 16 – National Dictionary Day

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About the Holiday

Dictionary Day honors Noah Webster, who wrote the first American dictionary. He was born in 1758 to a family that loved learning and knew the importance of a good education. Even as a boy Noah Webster loved words. He went on to become a lawyer, newspaper editor, Connecticut and Massachusetts legislator, and he helped found Amherst College in Massachusetts. He is most well-known, however, for compiling the first American dictionary that is synonymous with his name and still the most popular dictionary in use. His work, first published in 1828, revolutionized the way language and words were presented and remains always current by every year adding new words that come into common use through new products, fads, and slang. Today, celebrate by taking a walk through the dictionary—either in book form or online—to learn a few new words!

W is for Webster: Noah Webster and His American Dictionary

Witten by Tracey Fern | Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

 

Noah Webster was always different. Tall and thin with bright red hair, he liked to use big words when he spoke and wanted to do homework instead of goof around in school. Unfortunately for him school was in session for only a few months a year and goofing around seemed to be the major course of study. Of course, Noah didn’t call it “goofing around,” he called it “‘playing roguish tricks.’”

Noah begged to go to a harder school. “His pa knew Noah would make a terrible farmer. Noah spooked the cows by reciting Latin and spent too much time reading Ames’ Almanack under the apple trees.” His pa agreed, and in 1774 at the age of 16 Noah went off to study at nearby Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale had strict rules. Students had to rise at 5:30 a.m. and study for two hours before class. They were also fined “two shillings for making ‘tumult, noise, hallooing,’ or otherwise goofing around. Noah thought Yale was wonderful.”

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, 2015, text copyright Tracey Fern, 2015 . Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Noah hadn’t been at Yale long before the American Revolutionary War broke out. Although Noah signed up to fight, he recognized that he was “‘ill able to bear the fatigues of a soldier,’” which was “Noah’s big way of saying he was a lousy soldier.” He returned to Yale and graduated in 1778, but he left the school with no job and no prospects. Even his pa told him to leave home to find work.

Noah became a teacher, but he found the British textbooks “‘defective and erroneous.’” He believed the students should have American textbooks that better reflected their diverse experiences. With the Revolutionary War at an end and America victorious, Noah wanted to help “hold his new, complicated nation together.” He believed that America needed a language different than the English spoked in Britain. “‘A national language is a national tie,’ Noah insisted to all who would listen, and to many who wouldn’t.”

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

He began the work himself with a speller. Right from the start Noah’s speller was different than the British books. It included everyday words “like scab, grub, and mop.” He also simplified the spelling by taking out unpronounced letters or spelling words phonetically. He also added pictures to every page and presented lists of rhyming words. He also priced his book so almost anyone could afford it. Noah’s speller became a bestseller.

Still, Noah had bigger ideas. He wanted to write a patriotic dictionary with uniquely American words. He took his idea on the road to make money for the venture, lecturing wherever he could. But Noah’s know-it-all tone of delivery, his “prickly personality,” even his “‘porcupine hair’” put people off. And what’s more, they didn’t like the idea of his dictionary. People thought he was a “lunatic” for wanting to replace British words with American ones.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, 2015, text copyright Tracey Fern, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

In 1806 Noah went ahead and published “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. It was a flop, but Noah wasn’t discouraged.” The next year he started working on a bigger dictionary. He copied words out of British dictionaries and added American words and he traced the roots of all the words and wrote definitions, sometimes including quotes from famous people to show differences in meaning. He figured the whole dictionary would take 5 years to finish—eight to ten, tops.

But five years later, Noah was still on the letter A. With no money coming in and a growing family, Noah took a variety of jobs, but he always seemed to rub someone the wrong way, and he lost job after job. He decided to sell his fancy house and bought a farm. Here he was able to gather books, books, and more books around his unusual donut-shaped desk. Standing inside the center of the desk, he spun around and around reading the books and finding words to include in his dictionary.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov. 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

By 1822 Noah had exhausted all the books in his study. He took to traveling to other American libraries, moved his family to New Haven to use the Yale library, and in 1824 even sailed to Europe to explore books found in the National Library in Paris and at the University of Cambridge in England.

Finally, in 1825 Noah finished his dictionary.  With more than 70,000 words, An American Dictionary of the English Language was the largest English dictionary ever written. “Many people thought it was the best English dictionary ever written.” Why the change of heart? Well, one reason might have been that the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, “was a common man and a bad speller.” Another might have been that the timing was just right.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-w-is-for-webster-finished-dictionary

Image copyright Boris Kulikov, 2015, text copyright Tracey Fern, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

However it came to be, Noah was now lauded as a hero by states and newspapers. Congress even adopted the dictionary as its standard reference book. Noah had not only succeeded in writing an American dictionary, he had “created a new American language for a new American nation.” One that is still beloved today.

An Author’s note as well as a list of resources follow the text.

Webster’s dictionary is intrinsically woven into every American child’s life through language and vocabulary development. Tracey Fern’s captivating story reveals the charm and foibles of its author, a man with just the right temperament and perseverance to tackle and complete such an overwhelming task. Fern’s exceptional storytelling skills and deft turns of phrase allow for a comprehensive review of Webster’s life that is full of exhilaration, empathy, and a good dose of the “big” words Webster loved. Fern builds suspense and tension while offering an insightful look at early American history by including details of the staggering research required and the adverse reactions to Webster and his work.

Boris Kulikov’s expressive illustrations perfectly capture the complex personality of Noah Webster, late-1700s-to-early-1800s American society, and the obstacles Webster faced in writing his dictionary. Fittingly, words, books, or ink blots abound on every page, pouring from the air, sprouting from the ground, stacked like the skyscrapers that would come, and surrounding Noah Webster the way they must have swarmed through his brain. Kulikov infuses humor into his paintings, as when Noah tears at his hair wondering how he will support himself after college, shrugs nonplussed at his students’ shenanigans, and buys himself quiet work time by handing out sweets to his kids. Visual metaphors for the hard, backbreaking and mind bending work also enhance this beautiful biography.

Ages 5 – 10 (adult’s will also enjoy this biography)

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015 | ISBN 978-0374382407

Visit Tracey Fern’s website to learn more about her and her books!

Discover a gallery of artwork by Boris Kulikov on his website!

National Dictionary Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-words-vocabulary-word-search-puzzle

“Big Words” Word Search

 

Knowing and using a wide range of words allows you to express yourself in exact—and often—fun ways. Find the 26 “big” words—one for each letter of the alphabet—in this printable “Big Words” Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-w-is-for-webster-cover-image

You can find is for Webster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 25 – National Math Storytelling Day

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About the Holiday

National Math Storytelling Day was established on today’s date in 2009 by Maria Droujkova, founder of The Natural Math Community at Naturalmath.com, and her daughter to encourage people to share the joys of math with children through stories and games. Having fun with math is one of the best ways to get kids excited about learning and working with this most important subject. Celebrate today with math stories that involve patterns, spatial relations, quantities, logic, puzzles, and numbers. You can even sing math songs and tell math jokes!

Clean Up, Up, Up!

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

It’s clean up time for Daddy and his toddler! As they put the books back on the shelf, Daddy says, “‘Let’s reach up high—your books go up on the top shelf.’” He then prompts, “‘What goes down below?’” With the blocks all stacked on the bottom shelf, the pair move on to putting away the train engine, which has its own special place next to the little station. “‘Choo-choo!’” says the child.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clean-up-up-up-books

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Playing with Daddy makes cleaning up even more fun, and the little one pretends to take a nap with the teddy bears when they’re put inside the cardboard playhouse. The tot giggles and jumps up with a “‘Wake up-up-up!’” just in time to find the train’s caboose hiding behind the chair.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clean-up-up-up-nap

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

With everything “put away up, down, inside, and under,” it’s time to get ready for dinner. The little one knows just what to do—“‘Wash up-up-up!’” Hands clean, the toddler sits at the table eager to help some more. “‘Would you like to help set the table too?’” Mommy asks. The child happily agrees and is excited to show some new understanding. “‘Spoon DOWN…,’” the little one says, and then with a big scoop of dinner. “‘…and spoon UP!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clean-up-up-up-dinner

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

A note for parents, grandparents, and caregivers from childhood education expert Susan C. Levine on how they can find opportunities to talk about spatial relations during everyday activities is included.  Gender neutral clothing and hairstyle as well as an absence of pronouns makes this a universal story.

Clean Up, Up, Up! is also available in a bilingual Spanish/English edition: ¡Arriba, arriba, arriba a limpiar!/Clean Up, Up, Up! translated byAudrey Martinez-Gudapakkam and Dr. Sabrina De Los Santos

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clean-up-up-up-train-spanish/english-edition

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, 2018, text copyright Ellen Mayer, 2018. Translation by Audrey Martinez-Gudapakkam and Dr. Sabrina De Los Santos. Courtesy of Star Bright Books.

Ellen Mayer continues to add to her sweet and joyful series of books for little ones and the adults in their lives that model ways parents, grandparents, and caregivers can talk with children to help them develop language and math literacy at the youngest ages. In Clean Up Up Up!, the concept of spatial relations is organically introduced to toddlers through the motions and words used while putting items in their proper place, stepping up on a stool to use something out of the child’s reach, and even when eating. Research shows that talking with children at all ages about math concepts such as positions and locations improves their understanding and leads to better success in school and beyond.

The loving relationship between father and child in Mayer’s early language development book A Fish to Feed, is expanded on here as the same interracial family enjoys clean-up and dinner time. The engaging dialogue between Daddy, Mommy, and their toddler will captivate young readers and inspire adults to continue the story in their own daily lives.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s adorable toddler giggles and plays while soaking up the rich language of positions and locations that the father clearly points to while cleaning up. Little readers will be charmed by the enthusiastic child and the little puppy that follows along. Images of books, toys, washing up, and dinnertime all demonstrate the positions and locations referred to in the story, while other details provide an opportunity for adults and children to expand on the text (the fish from A Fish to Feed swims inside its bowl and balls sit inside a bin, for example). Hu’s vivid colors as well as the smiles and enthusiasm with which Daddy, Mommy, and their child interact make Clean Up, Up, Up! a feel-great educational read.

Clean Up, Up, Up! would make a wonderful gift and would be an excellent addition to home, daycare and preschool classrooms to spark playful learning experiences.

Ages 1 – 3

Star Bright Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1595728012

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Ying-Hwa Hu, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Storytelling Math Day Activity

CPB - Playhouse craft

Come Inside! Playhouse

 

Kids love pretending with their toys and little playhouses. With this craft you and your child can make a playhouse with recycled items and lots of imagination. While making the house, talk with your child about the building process using spatial relation words and ask for their ideas on what it should look like.

Once finished, you and your child can make up stories using words that use spatial relations as characters come in the house, go out of the house, peek in or out of a window, sit on the roof, wait under the window, sit next to a friend while having tea, and so much more!

Supplies

Cardboard box

Recycled items, such as:

  • Bottle caps for door knobs,
  • Small boxes for a chimney
  • Use the cardboard cut from the windows to make shutters
  • Scraps of cloth for curtains

Craft paint

Markers

Gluecelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-clean-up-up-up-cover

You can find Clean Up, Up, Up! at these booksellers

English edition

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

Spanish/English edition

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

Picture Book Review

 

Picture Book Review

 

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

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About the Holiday

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day promotes the correct usage of all those little marks that make reading clearer and more meaningful. Do you ever wonder just how to use the ; and what’s the real difference between – and —? It can all get a little confusing. But misplaced or misused punctuation can result in some pretty funny mistakes—or some serious misinterpretations. Whether you love punctuation, would like to understand it better, or just use it to make emojis, today’s holiday will make you : – ). To find information on the day, resources for using punctuation correctly, and a fun contest to enter, visit Jeff Rubin’s National Punctuation Day website.

Boyds Mills Press sent me a copy of A Bunch of Punctuation to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also excited to partner with Boyds Mills Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

A Bunch of Punctuation

Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins | Illustrated by Serge Bloch

 

In the world of writing and reading, the letters of the alphabet seem to get all the acclaim as they create cool words and form captivating sentences. But what about those little marks of punctuation that separate clauses, slow readers down, add mystery and excitement, and even tell readers when they should stop? They’d like a little attention too! In this enchanting collection of poetry, they get it as commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, and all the rest are put center stage—as you will see!

We all know about commas and the quandaries they pose: Is one needed here? Is one needed there? Should I use the Oxford comma? What is an Oxford comma, anyway? Lee Bennett Hopkins offers a lyrical example of a comma’s power in Comma:

“A comma / lets you stop, / pause, / enjoy the weather, / unlike a period, / which puts an end / to any / cloudy, / rainy, / snowy, / or sunny day, / at once, / immediately, / forever.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-bunch-of-punctuation-comma

Image copyright Serge Bloch, 2018, Comma by Lee Bennett Hopkins, 2018. Courtesy of WordSong.

While a comma is a gentle reminder to take a break, in The Dash Charles Ghigna reveals that the little line is—among other things:

“A subdued dude / in tweet and text, / he signals what / is coming next. / The daring dash— / an interruption— / is cause for pause / a clear disruption.”

In Alice Schertle’s five-stanza Forgotten: A Colon’s Complaint, these two little stacked dots just want some respect:

“The comma, incredibly common / butts right into line after line. / Couldn’t there be a small place for me: / just one little sentence that’s mine?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-bunch-of-punctuation-apostrophe

Image copyright Serge Bloch, 2018, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, 2018. From Apostrophe by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. Courtesy of WordSong.

Julie Larios counts up from 1 to 10 and down from 10 to 1 with the most dynamic of punctuation marks in !!!!!!!!—Superhero Kaboom—!!!!!!!!. Just a peek gives us:

“1 big boom! / 2 kapows!! / 3 in a row of wow, wow, wows!!! / 4 kahblooies!!!! / 5 bops and bams!!!!! / 6 gee whizzes!!!!!! / 7 whops and whams!!!!!!!” And what’s at the end of all this excitement? “1 more kaboom, then it’s off to bed!”

Twelve more rhyming and free-verse poems from Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Allan Wolf, J. Patrick Lewis, Michele Krueger, Jane Yolen, Prince Redcloud, Joan Bransfield Graham, and Betsy Franco will have kids looking at punctuation in new and creative ways. A final poem by Lee Bennett Hopkins invites children (and adults) to write their own poems based on four thought-provoking prompts, such as:

“Can you write poems posing questions / like who, what, where, / when, how, and why?” and “Can you write poems causing / words such as: / Whoopee! / Whee! / Wha-hoo! / to look as if they are / leaping off pages?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-bunch-of-punctuation-a-punctuation-tale

Image copyright Serge Bloch, 2018, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, 2018. From A Punctuation Tale by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Courtesy of WordSong.

Lee Hopkins Bennett gathers a group of the most inventive and popular poets for children in this collection that turns learning about punctuation into a flight of fancy, a comical romp, and an all-around engaging way to learn how these tiny show-stoppers work on a page. Each poem will spark discussions and “Ah-ha” moments about the function of punctuation and will make a grammar lesson one of the most eagerly anticipated classes of the day.

With his signature line drawings and humorous flair, Serge Bloch gives each type of punctuation mark a unique personality and purpose whether it’s creating a contraction, crying a puddle of lonely tears, lassoing words, or linking clauses in a train of thought. Bloch’s bold colors and action-packed pages bring the punctuation to life and will delight readers.

For young and older grammarians and poetry lovers, A Bunch of Punctuation is a bunch of fun to add to home, school, and classroom libraries.

Ages 8 – 12

WordSong, 2018 | ISBN 978-1590789940

To learn more about Lee Bennet Hopkins, his books, and his poetry, visit his website.

To learn more about Serge Bloch, his books, and his art, visit his website.

A Bunch of Punctuation Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Boyds Mills Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of A Bunch of Punctuation with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins  | illustrated by Serge Bloch

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 24 – 30. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 1.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Boyds Mills Press.

National Punctuation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Punctuation-Word-Search

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search

 

Have fun finding the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle!

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search Puzzle | Pick Out the Punctuation! Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-bunch-of-punctuation-cover

You can find A Bunch of Punctuation at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review