January 23 – National Handwriting Day & Multicultural Children’s Book Day Review

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About the Holiday

Established in 1977, National Handwriting Day commemorates the act of putting thoughts to paper with a pen or pencil. In this age of computer writing programs, email, and texting, the art and joy of penmanship is waning. Handwriting, though, is unique to each individual and should be celebrated and encouraged! One of the best ways for kids to develop handwriting skills is by writing letters to friends and family. Finding a pen pal either close to home or from another country is another fantastic way to make new friends that can bring joy, broaden horizons, build empathy and respect for others, and promote a lifetime love of learning about our world—just as today’s book that celebrates the ideals of Multicultural Children’s Book Day shows!

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

 

Teachers know that when their students get to know other kids from nearby or far away, they gain an understanding of different traditions and cultures and develop the kinds of caring, empathy, and kindness that make the world a better place for all. Add in some poetry and the fun of sending—and receiving—letters, and you’ve got…Dear Dragon: A Pen Pale Tale—a clever tribute to creative communication and friendship.

As the story opens, George and his classmates are learning about their new project. Elsewhere, Dragomir and his classmates are getting the details on their new project. And what is this new assignment? This year in each classroom the poetry and pen pal projects are being combined, so all correspondence must be written in rhyme.

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Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

On each student’s desk is an envelope with the name of the pen pal they’ve been given. George Slair opens his envelope to discover that he’s been matched with Blaise Dragomir, and Blaise pulls George’s name from his envelope. What George doesn’t know—but readers do—is that Blaise is a dragon; and what Blaise doesn’t know—but readers do—is that George is a boy.

In his first letter, George begins with honesty and a bit about himself: “Dear Blaise Dragomir, / We haven’t met each other, and I don’t know what to say. / I really don’t like writing, but I’ll do it anyway. / Yesterday my dad and I designed a giant fort. / I like playing catch and soccer. What’s your favorite sport? / Sincerely, George Slair.”

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Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

 

As Blaise reads the letter he pictures George’s fort as a medieval stone fortress with an iron gate and whittled-to-a-point log fencing instead of the cardboard box, blanket, and umbrella that it actually was. Blaise writes back: “Dear George Slair, / I also don’t like writing, but I’ll try it, I suppose. / A fort is like a castle, right? I love attacking those. / My favorite sport is skydiving. I jump near Falcor Peak. / Tomorrow is my birthday, but my party is next week. / Sincerely, Blaise Dragomir.”

In his next letter, dated October 31, more earth-bound George tells Blaise that parachuting is awesome, that his dog destroyed his fort, and that he is trick-or-treating as a knight—a revelation to which Blaise has a visceral response. But what is scary to one pal is tame to the other. On November 14th Blaise relates: “Knights are super scary! I don’t like trick-or-treat. / Brushing teeth is such a pain, I rarely eat a sweet. / My pet’s a Bengal Kitten and tonight she needs a bath. / What’s your favorite class in school? I’m really into math!”

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Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Reading December’s letter, Blaise learns that George likes art and imagines the table-top volcano science project George writes about as a roaring, lava-spewing mountain. In January George is impressed to learn that Blaise’s father is a fire-breather. He conjures up images of a dad in a fancy, caped costume creating fire out of nothing, but the truth is a lot more explosive. February brings word that George’s mom and dad are teachers and that a pen-pal picnic is planned for June.

When Blaise writes back in March, he reveals that his dad’s into learning too: “…every night we read a book / or pick a game to play.” Then he tells George about a special outing he’s looking forward to with his dad: “Soon he’s gonna take me flying, once it’s really spring. / It’s such a rush to ride the air that flows from wing to wing.”

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Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

On April 11th George expresses his wonder at Blaise’s parents: “Hi, Blaise! / Skydiving and flying? Wow, your parents rock! / I’m lucky if my father lets me bike around the block.” Then George asks a question that shows this project’s worth: “Once the school year’s over and this project is complete, / should we continue writing? ‘Cause it could be kind of neat….” Signing off, George abandons the formal “Sincerely, George” for “Your friend.” 

Blaise is all in for continuing this friendship. In his May letter, he writes, “Hey, George! / I’m psyched about the picnic and I can’t wait to attend. / Who’d have thought this pen pal thing would make me a new friend? / Writing more sounds awesome. I was gonna ask you, too! / I’ve never liked to write as much as when I write to you.”

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Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

With a growing sense of anticipation, readers know that with a turn of the page June will come, and that June brings the long-awaited picnic. How will George and Blaise react when they see each other? As the children approach the Pen Pal Picnic spot and see the friends they’ve been writing to all year, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide. And as the dragons peek out from behind the trees to see the friends they’ve been writing to all year, their mouths hang open and their eyes grow wide.

“‘Blaise?’” a surprised George ventures, as a slice of tomato drops from his hamburger. “‘George?’” an astonished Blaise guesses, while nervously holding his tail. “‘My pen pal is a dragon?’” says George. “‘My pen pal is a human?’” echoes Blaise.

For a moment the celebration stops, but with the turn of the page, huge grins burst out on both George and Blaise as they exchange high fives (and fours). The other kid-and-dragon pals are having a blast too! And what do the teachers have to say? “‘Our plan was a success, my friend, or so it would appear!’ / ‘The Poetry and Pen Pal Project! Once again next year?’”

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Image copyright Montalvo Rodalfo, 2016, text copyright Josh Funk, 2016. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

In his inventive story that celebrates friendship, diversity, and the joy of discovering different viewpoints, Josh Funk shows the power of writing and communication to unite people of all backgrounds. Through the alternating letters from George and Blaise, Funk deftly demonstrates that many experiences are universal—like pets, school, hobbies, and parents—while others are just waiting to be shared.  Blaise Dagomir and George Slair’s names are inspired, and may introduce kids to the ancient legends of Saint George and the Dragon and the poem St George and the Dragon by Alfred Noyes. This shout out to this well-known poem of the past further highlights the importance of reading all types of literature for both children and adults in connecting us as global citizens.

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Following the alternating sequence of the letters, Rodolfo Montalvo depicts each pen pal’s perception of the message—along with the reality—in his illustrations that are, as George exclaims, “as awesome as it gets.” There is a special delight in seeing how sweet, earnest, and happily supportive of each other’s lifestyle Blaise and George are as they react to every letter. The full-bleed pages and vibrant colors dazzle with excitement, humor, and ingenious details. The final spreads build suspense as to how George and Blaise will react to each other, and the resolution is cheerfully satisfying.

One striking aspect of both the text and the illustrations is the similarity between the two pen pals. While their activities and experiences may be on different scales, they are comparable and understandable to each child. Likewise, in each painting Montalvo uses complementary colors to unite George and Blaise. This cohesiveness in both words and pictures beautifully represents the theme of inclusiveness.

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale is a fantastic read-aloud with multiple applications for fun and discussion at home and during classroom and library story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0451472304

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find plenty of fun activities to enjoy on his website.

Learn more about Rodolfo Montalvo and his artwork on his website

National Handwriting Day Activity

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Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle

 

Friends say and write “hello” to each other all over the world. You can learn how to say “hello” in twenty-five languages as you look for them in this printable Hello, Friends Word Search Puzzle!

Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle | Hello, Friends! Word Search Solution

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About Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. View our 2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors here: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/2106-sponsors/mcbd2018-medallion-level-sponsors/

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/about/co-hosts/

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.

Join the conversation and win one of 12 5-book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party! http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party-great-conversations-fun-prizes-chance-readyourworld-1-27-18/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Social Media

Don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Be sure and look for and use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Picture Book Review

 

January 9 – Poetry at Work Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to consider their jobs, their office environment, their coworkers, and maybe even that snack in the desk drawer through the lens of poetry. You may find inspiration in today’s book about William Carlos Williams, who wrote many of his famous and well-loved poems while working as a physician. Whether you find poignancy or humor in your workplace, take a moment to jot down a few thoughts in free verse or rhyme and share your poem with your friends!  

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Willie Williams was just like the other boys in his neighborhood—well, almost. When the other boys went home after a day of playing, Willie took off for the woods and fields behind his house. “As he walked through the high grasses and along the soft dirt paths, Willie watched everything.” He liked to sit next to the Passaic River and listen to the rhythm of the water as it “went slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks, then poured in a torrent over the falls, then quieted again below.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

But as Willie grew older, he didn’t have time for these leisurely pursuits. In high school, he was on the track team, attended lots of classes, and had even more homework. His was a rushed and hurried life. Except for in English class. There, when his teacher read poetry, he was taken back to the flow of the river. Each line created pictures in Willie’s mind.

One night, Willie began writing his own poems. He copied the English poets he had learned about in school, using structured beats and rhyming endings. But soon these rules began to frustrate Willie; they didn’t give him the freedom to fully express his thoughts. He wanted to write about what he saw nearby, the things he was familiar with. Things, he said, like “plums, wheelbarrows, and weeds, / fire engines, children, and trees— / things I see when I walk down my street / or look out my window.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Willie began writing poems the way they came to him, with their own shape and sound. Writing this way made Willie feel free, and he filled notebook after notebook with poems. While Willie wished he could make a living as a poet, writing did not pay much, and he needed to be self-sufficient. Willie’s uncle had been a doctor, and Willie liked the idea of healing people. He wondered, though, if he could be a doctor and still write poetry.

When Willie graduated from high school, he went off to the university to study medicine. There he met the writers Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle and the artist Charles Demuth. Spending time with his new friends made his difficult studying easier. After college, Willie returned to his home town of Rutherford and opened his practice. He had so many patients that some people said he was “the busiest man in town.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

No matter how busy he was, however, he found time to write. Sometimes he jotted lines and ideas on his prescription pads. Then, after his long days at work, Willie climbed to his attic room where he studied the notes he’d made and wrote poems late into the night.

A Timeline, Author’s Note, and Illustrators Note about William Carlos Williams follow the text. The endpapers present a selection of Williams’ poetry.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams is an inspirational book for children who have creative ideas of their own and would make an excellent addition to classroom and home libraries.

From the title through to the end of her lyrical biography, Jen Bryant captures the flow of William Carlos Williams’ creative and scientific life, which was as purposeful and free as the river that inspired him. Young readers and would-be writers will find much encouragement and insight in Bryant’s story, which reveals that talent and day-to-day life not only can co-exist but can enrich each other. By showing how Williams broke free from the structures of the poetry he copied, Bryant also motivates children to find their own voice.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet lends her distinctive collage style of illustration to this story, bringing to life the lines of and natural world reflected in Williams’ poetry. The busy-ness and business of Williams’ days are depicted in vibrant images of winding streets, classrooms, offices, and the outside world where he composed his uniquely revealing poems.

Ages 6 and up

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0802853028

Learn more about Jen Bryant and her books on her website!

Discover more about Melissa Sweet, her books, and her art on her website!

Poetry at Work Day Activity

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Grow Your Own Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also a piece of art!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

January 7 – Tempura Day

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About the Holiday

Tempura is a delectable dish that originated in Japan when Portuguese Jesuits introduced the recipe in the 16th century. Traditionally, seafood and vegetables are breaded and fried, but other ingredients, including broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, chicken, and some cheeses, are also cooked tempura style around the world. The word tempura derives from the Latin word tempora, which means “times” and refers to Lenten times or Ember Days. To celebrate today’s holiday, enjoy a meal of tempura! You can also learn more about the Japanese culture with your child with today’s book!

My First Book of Japanese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book of Japanese Language and Culture

Written by Michelle Haney Brown | Illustrated by Aya Padron

 

Upon opening My First Book of Japanese Words, readers are immersed in the beauty of Japan—it’s homes, cities, natural environment, and cuisine. The first page introduces the alphabet with “A is for ari. / A teeny weeny / ant crawls / with teeny / weeny legs on / the bamboo plant.” Moving from the bamboo grove to the city, D takes children on a ride. A “densha—a train in Japan—goes choo choo down / the track as fast as it can.” They disembark at “E…for eki where trains come and go. / An eki in English is station, you know.”

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Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

They may be on their way to G “for gakkō, / the word for school, / where we make lots of friends and / learning is cool.” At lunch time kids discover that “H is for hashi. / Chopsticks are nice / for picking up goodies / like veggies and rice.” After lunch there are games like Janken for J, “a game played in / Japan. It’s Rock, / Paper, Scissors / (make those with your hand.)”

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Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

“N is for neko / a kitty so sweet. / She says ‘nyah’ / when she wants / a treat.” If kitty is having a snack, kids want one too! “O is for onigiri / a Japanse / treat— / a rice ball / that’s yummy / and fun to eat!” Good manners are found when “R is for rei. / We bow when we say / ‘Good morning’ and / ‘Thank you’ and / ‘Have a good day.’”

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Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

A child’s learning begins with S for sensei, a teacher from whom students learn aboutT for tanuki…a raccoon dog / with a twinkly eye” and U for uma, “a beautiful horse.” Learning new things is exciting and makes you want to cheer. Learn how with “W is for Waa! / which is how we say Wow!” “Y is for Yatta! / ‘I did it!’ ‘Yay!’ / This is a word / I like to say.” The alphabet ends with “Z is for zō, / an elephant BIG— / but if he sees a mouse / he might dance a jig.”

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Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

With language that invites readers to discover the connections between cultures, Michelle Haney Brown’s charming rhymes entice children to learn these Japanese words and will spark an interest in learning more. The verses on each page are accompanied by paragraphs that expand a reader’s knowledge of the object or idea presented. In some cases, Brown discusses the absence of particular letters or sounds in the Japanese language.

Aya Padron’s paintings transport children to Japan where they can experience life at home, school, and in nature. Whimsical, tranquil, and lively scenes help young learners absorb the full meaning of the words presented while also teaching them about the culture, sights, sounds, and games of Japan. Each word is also written in Kanji (when applicable) and Kana. Padron’s illustrations glow with a love of this lyrical language and will enchant children. 

My First Book of Japanese Words is a superb book for young language learners and transcends its alphabet book roots to become a book of poetry that would be a fine addition to any child’s bookshelf or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 8

Tuttle Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-0804849531

Discover more books for children and adults about Japan and a host of other countries  on the Tuttle Publishing website.

Tempura Day Activity

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Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle

 

Learning the Japanese words for some of your favorite foods is fun! Can you find the names of twenty Japanese words you’d use while eating in this printable Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle?

Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle | Dining in Japanese Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

November 28 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

Picture books are one of a child’s best gifts! As this month’s literary holiday draws to a close and the gift-giving season opens, consider giving books to the young children and even babies on your shopping list.  Head to your local bookstore to find plenty of exciting and inspiring titles for any child. Not quite sure what to get? Ask your bookseller for a recommendation!

My First Book of Patterns

Written by Bobby and June George | Illustrated by Boyoun Kim

 

Patterns are part of learning from day one. As babies begin navigating and becoming alert to their world, they see, hear, and react to visual and linguistic patterns that inform and form their perceptions of their surroundings and their language. Sharing and making shapes and patterns with children also help them develop an early awareness and understanding of math concepts which translates into future success in school.

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Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and Jane George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

My First Book of Patterns introduces the youngest readers to nine types of shapes and patterns.. As the book progresses, the text follows its own pattern, allowing children to anticipate what words are coming and giving older listeners the opportunity to read along.

The eye-popping color and dynamic scenes will keep any child enthralled, whether you are sharing the book all at once or just dipping in for a page or two at a time. Speaking of which… let’s check it out! First up is that fundamental shape, the line! A single white line on a pink background is pretty neat, but “a lot of lines make… Stripes!” And stripes can be found all over the underwater landscape—on the turtle’s shell, marking the various rocks, decorating the jellyfish, and coloring the fish and coral.

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Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and June George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

When that thin line is joined by a thick line and the pattern is repeated, they make plaid. And…Wow! A whole town made of plaid! Blue and purple plaid shirts; green, red, and yellow plaid skirts; plaid backpacks; plaid bags; plaid awnings; and even plaid buildings! This is one city that loooves plaid! Next, is a zig-zag. “A lot of zig-zags make…Chevron!” Look at all the toys decorated in chevron! Little cars, little trains, books, a jack-in-the-box, and blocks too! Hmmm…it seems there are also some lines in this toy shop. Do you think so, too?

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Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Ah, the square! “A lot of squares make…Checks!” Out on the ocean it’s a checkerboard extravaganza with sails, boats, and even the lighthouse all made out of checks. After the square comes the circle, and lots of circles are called polka dots. Polka dots make everything look cute—from placemats to bowls to vases to…fruit? You bet! Hey! Some of that fruit looks like an individual circle—pretty cool!

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Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Now the shapes are getting a little more complex. Repeating diamond shapes make harlequin; patterns of diamonds and lines make argyle; connected hexagons form honeycomb; and topsy-turvy teardrops become paisley. And what do you get with a field of flowers? Floral, of course—which makes everything look like springtime!

Ready to go through them again? Open the gate-fold pages and find an ice-cream shop full of your favorite pattern flavor ready to enjoy again!

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Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and Jane George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Bobby and June George, Montessori educators, present a book that is both straightforward and creative—inviting all children to interact with it in whatever way most resonates with them. Boyoun Kim’s stylistic illustrations add vitality and enthusiasm to each shape and pattern as the introductory pages allow children to see the basic shape or pattern and then give way to a two-page spread where the pattern can be found on a variety of objects.

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Image copyright Boyoun Kim, 2017, text copyright Bobby and June George, 2017. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Like a scavenger hunt, these scenes also let little ones find the shapes, such as squares, circles, lines, rectangles, and triangles along the way or on repeated readings. There are also plenty of opportunities for adults to point out or allow their children to find other examples of patterns within the scenes.

My First Book of Patterns is a sturdy board book that makes it a great choice for babies and very young children and also for taking along on outdoor jaunts or for waiting times.

Ages 1 – 6

Phaidon, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714872490

To learn more about Bobby George and his work, visit his website.

Read more about June George and her Montessori school on the baan dek website.

Discover more about Boyoun Kim and view a gallery of her art work on her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Book Worm Bookmark

 

If you love books print and color this Book Worm Bookmark. This avid reader will help you keep your place in your favorite books!

Picture Book Review

October 16 – Dictionary Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the birthday of Noah Webster who published his first dictionary—A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language—in 1806 and went on to create the first truly comprehensive American dictionary in 1828. Along the way in completing his life’s work, he learned twenty-six languages, reformed the spelling of many words from the British form to an American spelling, and introduced new American words never before published. To commemorate the holiday, take a little trip through the dictionary or play a word-based game like Scrabble, Boggle, or Balderdash. If you’re interested in lexicography—the making of a dictionary—or just love words, you’ll find Webster’s 1828 Dictionary fascinating reading!

Lexie the Word Wrangler

Written by Rebecca Van Slyke | Illustrated by Jessie Hartland

 

With just one look at Lexie in her cowboy hat, boots, and bandana, or a peek at her talent for riding a horse, twirling a lariat, and rounding up cattle, you could tell she was a wrangler. But Lexie was no ordinary wrangler; she was a “word wrangler.” With her lariat she could rope together separate words and make entirely new stuff. She could tie up “an ear of corn and a loaf of bread and make some tasty cornbread.” A “stick of butter and a pesky fly” became a “butterfly.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

In the spring, Lexie tended little letters until they grew into big words. She could also be found in the chuck wagon each morning stirring up big pots of new words from old ingredients. In the blink of an eye, she could transform “an annoying P-E-S-T…into some fine P-E-T-S. And that “S-P-O-T?” With a swirl of the spoon, it became a handy “P-O-S-T.”

Since there were so many words roaming around her ranch, Lexie herded them into sentences, long letters home to Ma, and even fascinating stories. But one day Lexie noticed that something was wrong. When she went to put on her bandana, the d was missing, and tying the banana was impossible. The problem didn’t just involve missing letters, either. Words were disappearing too, creating some pretty strange results. Once after a storm, a big red bow appeared in the sky instead of a rainbow.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

Lexie’s work around the ranch became harder too. Once day, instead of rounding up a neighbor’s calves, she discovered that someone had “released a whole passel of baby g’s into the calf pen” and now “all the little dogies” were “doggies.” Later, when Lexie rolled out her sleeping bag, she discovered that the usually S-T-A-R – speckled sky was full of  “R-A-T-S.”

Lexie realized there was a word rustler on the loose and set out to find him. She headed into the desert, but discovered that the sandy ground had turned into a messy, gooey dessert. After cleaning out her horse’s hooves, she was more determined than ever to find the culprit. She climbed a tall tree and kept a lookout for the word rustler. Soon enough she spied him sneaking toward her front gate and the sign that announced Lexie’s Longhorn Ranch. He was just about to lasso the word “long” when Lexie lassoed him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lexie-the-word-wrangler-herd-cattle

Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

The word rustler protested that he was just having a bit of fun, but Lexie didn’t like the idea of being left with a corral full of horns. All he wanted, Russell admitted, was to work with words like Lexie did. Lexie could see that Russell had talent, so she made him promise to use his skills in a positive way. Then she released him and told him from now on he would be known as “Russell the Word Wrestler.”

Now Russell works alongside Lexie doing jobs like keeping the place free of rattlesnakes by wrestling them into “a baby’s rattle and a harmless snake.” Lexie and Russell are happy to raise baby letters, help words grow, and even teach young cowpokes how to rope and tie words together, so they can join the word-wrangling circuit in the future themselves.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lexie-the-word-wrangler-herd-sagebrush

Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2017, text copyright Rebecca Van Slyke. Courtesy of Nancy Paulsen Books.

If Lexie got her lariat around Rebecca Van Slyke’s name and separated the S-L-Y from the K-E, she’d have the perfect description for this nifty story. Deconstructing words can be a fascinating way to get kids interacting with and researching words and spelling as they really think about what they are reading. Van Slyke’s ranch setting serves up an ingenious metaphor for the word wrangling that students are doing at this stage of their education. Her quick wit and smart word choices provide plenty of “ah-ha!” moments, laughs, and opportunities for visual humor. The introduction of Russell allows Van Slyke to increase her stable of puns, which will delight readers.

Jessie Hartland’s vibrant, folk-style illustrations are a rip-roaring accompaniment to the story, providing visual clues and humor as words change due to missing or jumbled letters. Kids will laugh when one of Lexie’s bandanas turns into bananas and may shudder to think how easy it might be for rats to fill the night sky instead of stars. Hartland’s cleverly designed typography lets readers easily see how small words grow into bigger new ones with the addition of one, two, three, or more letters. Likewise, as “wild” words are tamed into a sentence, young writers can begin to understand the mechanics of grammar.

A Dictionary of Wrangler Words follows the text.

Lexie the Word Wrangler is an entertaining and educational choice for kids who love words, puns, and the West. It would be a welcome gift and imaginative addition to home libraries. The book would also be an inspiring starter for writing, spelling, and other language arts units.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulson Books, 2017 |ISBN 978-0399169571

To learn more about Rebecca Van Slyke, visit her website.

View a gallery of illustration work by Jessie Harland on her website.

Dictionary Day Activity

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What a Difference a Letter Makes Word Search Puzzle

 

Each of the word pairs in this puzzle are close in spelling but not in meaning. Take a look and find the twenty words in this printable What a Difference a Letter Makes Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

October 7 – Random Acts of Poetry Day

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About the Holiday

Today is set aside for all of those professional and private poets to unleash their imaginations and create poetry! As the name of the holiday suggests, these poems can be random – random subjects, random format, written or spoken in a random place. If writing isn’t really your thing but reading is, take a little time to read a favorite poem or poet or discover a new one! 

enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings

Written by Matthew Burgess | Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

 

Hello! Welcome to 4 Patchin Place, the home of poet E. E. Cummings! This is where he wrote his poetry on a clackety typewriter, stopping only for tea poured out by the love of his life, Marion Moorehouse. How did he become a poet? That is an interesting story! E. E. was born Edward Estlin Cummings on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His house was full of extended family, a handyman, a maid, and several pets. From an early age he loved to translate the things he saw into words. “His first poem flew out of his mouth when he was only three: “‘Oh, my little / birdie, Oh / with his little / toe, toe, toe!’”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Estlin’s mother wrote down all the poems he told her and made a little book of them titled “‘Estlin’s Original Poems.’” When he was six, he expressed his love of nature in a poem about trees, and when his mother asked him what else he saw, he “looked around as if his eyes were on tiptoes and when his heart jumped he said another poem: ‘On the chair is sitting / Daddy with his book. / Took it from the bookcase / Beaming in his look.’”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

As he grew, Estlin was fascinated by the animals he saw at the circus and in the zoo. He drew pictures of them and wrote about them, using the words he loved so well—and even making up his own words. Estlin had a zest for life and for making life fun for himself and his little sister. During the summers the family traveled to Joy Farm in New Hampshire, where Estlin swam, milked the cow, rode a donkey, and wandered through the fields and forest. His father had built him a little log cabin in the woods, and in the afternoons Estlin went there to draw and write. At home he also had a special place all his own. In an enormous tree his father built a tree house, complete with stove to keep him warm on cold days.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-tree-house

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Estlin had support for his writing at school too. His favorite teacher encouraged him saying, “anything is possible, / as long as you are true to yourself / and never give up, even when the world / seems to say, stop!” From his Uncle George, Estlin received a guide to writing poems. Estlin followed the rules in the book, penning poems nearly every day. When Estlin was 17 he attended Harvard College and began publishing his poems in the school’s magazines. While at Harvard, Estlin realized he had to follow his heart to be happy. He wanted to be like the new artists who were shaping the world—people like Gertrude Stein, Paul Cezanne, and Igor Stravinsky, “artists who were,” he once said, “challenging the way we think and see.”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

After he graduated, Estlin returned home, but when he had saved enough money he moved to New York and fell in love with the city immediately. He and his friends took in everything new the city had to offer. Soon, however, the United States entered World War II. On April 17, 1917 Estlin volunteered to be an ambulance driver in France. Before he received his assignment, though, he had time to explore Paris. He was “bowled over by the museums, the ballet, and the colorful, crowded streets.” He enjoyed the city so much he returned often during his lifetime.

During the war, Estlin was mistaken for a spy and sent to prison for several months. After the war he wrote a book about his experiences titled The Enormous Room by E. E. Cummings. “The book was published and praised! Estlin was becoming E. E.!” A year later he published his first book of poetry—Tulips & Chimneys. In his poems he experimented with punctuation and using lower case letters instead of capitals.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Through his fanciful typography, E. E. “wanted his reader’s eyes to be on tiptoes too, seeing and reading poetry (inaway) that was new.” But some people didn’t understand or like his poetry; it was too strange and too small, they said. But E. E. knew he had to stay true to himself. He believed that “his poems were new and true” and “were his way of saying YES” to everything he loved. As time went on more and more people began to “see the beauty of E. E.’s poetry, and he became one of the most beloved poets in America.”

E. E. Cummings lived and worked at 4 Patchin Place for almost 40 years, but in his mind he would often return to his childhood home. He “could still see himself as a boy gazing out at the sunset”—a memory that he put into words: who are you,little i / (five or six years old) / peering from some high / window;at the gold / of November sunset / (and feeling:that if day has to become night / this is a beautiful way).”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-patchin-place

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Simply put, Matthew Burgess’s enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is a biography that will make you smile. Upbeat and full of the wonder and whimsy that influenced Estlin Cummings’ prodigious talent, the story encourages readers to always follow their heart. Burgess’s easy-going, conversational style invites kids along on the journey of Cumming’s life, stopping off at points that resonate with kids—early imaginary play, school, family vacations, home life, college, travel, and ultimate success. Seeing the support Cummings received throughout his life will inspire young readers just starting out on their own roads of discovery.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books.

Kris Di Giacomo’s enchanting illustrations will immediately capture the imagination of readers. The playful quality of Cummings’ personality and poems is mirrored in each spread as a variety of children’s drawings and  eye-catching typography are sprinkled throughout. As six-year-old Estlin composes poems for his mother, he stands on tiptoe in his nightshirt surrounded by toys; he experiences life from rooftop and treetop and gazes into the night from his tree house; New York lights up with fireworks and the lights of Broadway; and his poems spring from the pages in their own inimitable way.

A chronology of E. E. Cummings’ life, five poems, and an Author’s Note follow the text.

For children interested in writing, biographies, history, the arts, and the life of the imagination, enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is an inspiring choice for their home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Enchanted Lion Publishing, 2015 | ISBN 978-1592701711

To learn more about Matthew Burgess, his books, and his poetry, visit his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Kris Di Giacomo on her website!

Random Acts of Poetry Day Activity

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Grow a Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

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About the Holiday

What’s so great about punctuation? Everything! Using correct punctuation allows you to express exactly what you mean. You’ve seen—and no doubt laughed at—examples of misplaced or misused punctuation: “Let’s eat John” versus “Let’s eat, John” and the random placement of quotation marks when no one’s talking or referencing another source. And while in the grand scheme of things the series comma may not make that much difference in some cases, but lawsuits have been won and lost on just this detail. Texting has changed the way punctuation is used—or not, and while a smiley face may be a substitute for the exclamation mark or a frowny face an emotive period in casual communications, knowing the rules of punctuation for school and business is still important. Today, why not pay more attention to the way punctuation is used to make formal communications as well as books clearer and more meaningful.

Exclamation Mark

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 

! “stood out from the very beginning.” When he was standing in a row of ……, it didn’t matter if he was in the middle or at the end—he still stuck out. The only time he wasn’t so noticeable was when he laid down to go to sleep. Sometimes he twisted himself into coils and did somersaults to be like the others, but nothing worked. “He just wasn’t like everyone else. Period.” This left him feeling “confused, flummoxed, and deflated.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

He was just about to run away from all his problems when he met ?. ? rushed right up to him and wanted to know everything. “Who are you?…What’s your favorite color? Do you like frogs?…Do you wanna race to the corner? Is there an echo in here? Is there an echo in here?…Why do you look so surprised?….” The list went on and on.

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

“STOP!” ! shouted. The sound stunned him. ? smiled and wanted him to do it again. ! didn’t know if he could, so he tried a small “Hi!” “That felt right, so he tried something bigger. Howdy!” And then he said, “Wow!” After that there was no stopping him: “You’re it!…Home run!…Yum!…Look out!…Thanks!…Boo!…Go!”

He rushed off to show everyone what he could do. The …… were delighted and “there was much exclaiming.” Now feeling happy and confident, ! “went off to make his mark.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s clever story of an exclamation point searching for self expression is as moving as it is original. Kids will recognize his feelings of sticking out in a crowd and uncertainty of purpose and applaude when ? comes on the scene to befriend !. Readers will giggle knowingly at the barrage of questions, and feel emboldened themselves as ! finds his voice and his own unique contribution.

Tom Lichtenheld’s adorable punctuation marks hanging out on kid-ruled paper demonstrate all the expression and expressions of this well-crafted story. With simple dot eyes and small streak mouths, Lichtenheld animates the various emotions of the periods, exclamation mark, and question mark as they discover !’s special talent with individuality for each. The unbridled exuberance of ?‘s and !’s meeting makes this a terrific book about friendship as well.

! deftly points out “What would we do without exclamation points?” Likewise it asks, “What would we do without each one of us?” The positive message, creatively and humorously presented, makes this book a terrific addition to any child’s library.

Scholastic Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-054543679

You’ll find more about Amy Krouse Rosenthal, her books for children and adults, videos, other projects, and so much more on her website!

Discover a portfolio of books by Tom Lichtenheld as well as fun book-related activities and resources for teachers on his website!

!!!! for this ! book trailer!

National Punctuation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil-riding-kids-find-the-differencesExcellent Writers Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These kids love to write and know their punctuation! Can you find the twelve differences in this printable Excellent Writers Find the Differences Puzzle?

Picture Book Review