October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future. From business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment, Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the holiday was expanded to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. learn more about the holiday, find resources for classrooms and homeschooling, videos, and more to use not only this month but throughout the year, visit the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Ańo Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Albert Whitman & Company in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela, written by Alexandra Alessandri | illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Reply with a holiday tradition for extra entry. Each response gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 7 through October 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 14.

Prizing provided by Albert Whitman

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

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We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped word search puzzle.

We Are All Family Word Search PuzzleWe Are All Family Word Search Solution!

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You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

February 26 – National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the long tradition of oral and written stories that have captivated both children and adults since earliest times. While many of the fairy tales we love began as lessons in good manners or avoiding danger, they have remained popular and a part of our culture that we pass down to children through the generations. These tales stand up to traditional treatments as well as variations that turn the familiar plots on their heads.

Twinderella, A Fractioned Fairy Tale

Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz | Illustrated by Deborah Marcero

 

You, of course, know the story of Cinderella, but did you know that she had a twin named Tinderella? Here’s how the whole story goes…. When the two girls were given their long list of chores by their wicked stepmother, “Tinderella split each task / exactly down the middle. / Twelve to fix? / That’s six and six. / She’d solve it like a riddle.” And, thus, Cinderella and Tinderella went to work on fixing the household’s clocks.

The girls also split the mopping, shopping, baking, mending, and “the mean stepsister tending.” Left with only leftovers to eat at the end of the day, the two even shared half a piece of bread and half the scraps before collapsing into their half of the bed. In their  dreams, Cinderella kept her eye on marriage while Tinderella calculated what having twice the room would be.

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Image Copyright Deborah Marcero, 2017, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Then one day, the sisters saw an open invitation by the prince to a ball where he hoped to find his princess. Cinderella was excited that her dream could come true, but her stepmother told them they had to stay home to clean. “So Cinderella grabbed a broom, / but as she started sweeping, / she felt her dreams all turn to dust / and couldn’t keep from weeping.” But suddenly their fairy godmother appeared, and with her magic wand she created two beautiful gowns, two pairs of slippers, and lots of other bling. Tinderella split all of this between them, and as they each climbed into their half of a fabulous car, they listened to the fairy godmother’s warning to be back by midnight.

As soon as the prince saw Cinderella and Tinderella, he was enchanted. “No other girl stood half a chance—he danced with them all night.” Taking turns with the Prince, the girls danced the night away until they heard the clock begin to chime. They ran away from the ball, leaving the saddened prince—and a shoe—behind. He tried the shoe on all the girls in the village until he found that it fit Cinderella and Tinderella.

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Image Copyright Deborah Marcero, 2017, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

The prince didn’t know what to do and told the girls they had to choose. But Tinderella had a brilliant idea. She summoned their fairy godmother and asked if she could make the prince a twin. Before she did, though, Cinderella reminded the prince that he’d have to share his kingdom and all its wealth. “Prince Charming crossed his heart and swore / to split things even steven. / ‘I’d gladly give up all my stuff. / It’s love that I believe in.’”

With that the fairy godmother waved her wand and Whoosh! an exact double of the prince appeared. It turned out that he was just as much a whiz at math as Tinderella, and within moments he had neatly “divvied up the royal wealth” and won Tinderella’s heart. While Cinderella and Prince Charming ruled the kingdom, Tinderella and her prince ruled the math world. Later, Cinderella had a baby boy. And Tinderella? Well, “against all odds” she “delivered quads,” and everyone lived “happ’ly ever half-ter.”

An included poster allows kids and teachers to extend the math learning with entertaining activities on the back.

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Image Copyright Deborah Marcero, 2017, text copyright Corey Rosen Schwartz, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Fans of Corey Rosen Schwartz and her fractured fairy tales know all about her awesome storytelling and rhyming abilities. In Twinderella, A Fractioned Fairy Tale, she uses her multiple talents to give a favorite fairy tale a double dose of magic while engaging kids in a bit of math fun. Her always-clever verses shine with evocative vocabulary that gives the two girls distinct personalities while also ingeniously introducing the concept of one half and division. Schwartz doesn’t stop at a purely mathematical definition of these ideas, though. When Tinderella suggests making a double of the prince, Cinderella ensures Prince Charming is up to splitting his kingdom, in this way passing on her well-earned sense of empathy and sharing to readers. The sweet ending offers quadruple the delight of the original tale and prompts readers to dip into the story again to see how the girls’ fancy dress accessories and the princes’ kingdom along with other items in the story could be divided into fourths.

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Deborah Marcero’s mixed media illustrations are as charming as the prince himself. As red-haired Cinderella and Tinderella go about their copious chores, thumbnail portraits of the girls splitting the work demonstrate the idea of one half. A larger image of the girls baking reveals the opportunities for math learning in this everyday activity. A pie chart that Tinderella draws on a chalkboard is clearly labeled and corresponds to the clocks on the table, introducing kids to this graphing system and allowing them to make connections. Similarly, the concept of area is portrayed as Tinderella dreams of a bigger bed. A careful look on every page will reward readers with many chances for counting and dividing at various levels depending on the age of the reader. Marcero’s color palette is fresh and vibrant while infusing the pages with a royal ambience that hints at the girls’ enriched future.

A joy to read aloud, Twinderella, A Fractioned Fairy Tale is an enchanting story that doubles as inspired math learning. The book would be a favorite addition to any home, classroom, and public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399176333

You’ll discover more about Corey Rosen Schwartz and her books plus Twinderella activities to download on her website.

To learn more about Deborah Marcero, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Tell a Fairy Tale Day Activity

CPB - Fairy Tale box

Treasure Box of Imagination

 

Fairy tales are treasure troves of imagination and dreams. With this craft, kids can make a treasure box to save the ideas and tidbits that spark their own imaginations.

Supplies

  • 1 small wooden box, available at craft stores
  • Gold acrylic craft paint
  • Craft gems
  • Paint brush
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint your wooden box with the gold paint
  2. Let the box dry
  3. Decorate your Treasure Box of Imagination with gems

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You can find Twinderella: A Fractioned Fairy Tale at these booksellers

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

 

October 10 – It’s National Book Month

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About the Holiday

During National Book Month readers give special thought to the authors and illustrators who share their creativity and insight in books for all ages. Children especially benefit from learning about all the wonders of their world, from familiar people, places, and events to those from different cultures. Being introduced to world languages, festivals, traditions, and more through books gives children a sense of belonging and community. There are so many voices to be heard! This month visit your local bookstore or library and discover some of the amazing new books on the shelves! 

This week I’m happy to be sharing five new board books from Little Simon and to be partnering with them in an amazing giveaway of all five books. Simon & Schuster sent me the books to check out. All opinions are my own. You’ll find details about the giveaway below. Watch every day this week for another terrific title!

Día de los Muertos (Celebrate the World)

Written by Hannah Eliot | Illustrated. By Jorge Gutierrez

 

At the end of October, the holiday Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, takes place, the narrator tells readers. “Día de los Muertos is an ancient tradition celebrated in Mexico and other places around the world.” It’s a time to remember family and friends who have passed away and to celebrate their lives. Preparations for the holiday include baking delicious “sweet rolls called pan de muertos, or bread of the dead.” Atole, a hot sweet and spicy drink goes with it too.

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Flor de muertos, or the flower of the dead, is picked to add to decorations and to our altares. On the altars there are also pictures of loved ones, items that they liked, and candles. “The light of the candles and the smell of the flowers help guide the spirits back to us.” There are a lot of colorful skeletons too. Some are huge while others are tiny. They’re painted and even dressed up. Then they’re posed “doing silly things, like playing the guitar or dancing or even taking a bath!”

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Not only are the altars festive, but the whole town is decorated  with cut paper designs called papel picado and calaveras, or skulls, many of which are made of sugar and icing. “We do all this to celebrate the beauty of life and death rather than mourn it.” At the end of the holiday, people visit the cemetery to clean tombstones of family and friends, play music, and tell stories about their lives. At the end of the holiday all the decorations are put away, but our memories of loved ones “stay in our hearts forever.”

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Through Hannah Eliot’s engaging story, children learn the meaning and traditions of Día de los Muertos from a child narrator who is excited to share the holiday with readers. Eliot clearly explains the various parts of the celebrations, emphasizing the uplifting remembrance of loved ones who have passed away. Descriptions of the preparations, food, decorations, and skeletons will entice kids who don’t celebrate the holiday to learn more while also helping them to understand the significance of these holiday elements when they see them in their community, at stores, and elsewhere. For children looking forward to the holiday, Día de los Muertos is a magical and warm-hearted look at this spirit-filled tradition.

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Image copyright Jorge Gutierrez, 2018, text copyright Hannah Eliot, 2018. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Each of Jorge Gutierrez’s vibrant illustrations is a feast for little eyes as children eagerly collect decorations and make special dishes for the holiday. Calaveras and skeletons, sporting mustaches, hats, colorful painted designs, and wide, toothy smiles dot the pages. Portraits of loved ones who have passed away hang on walls while their spirits, smiling and rimmed in a blue glow, stand nearby. Similarly, spirits hover over children as they decorate skeletons, happy to check out the likenesses the kids are creating. The fun and poignancy of this holiday are especially demonstrated on double-page spreads of a candlelit altar and a festive town center, where the whole community has come to celebrate, as well as in images of families spending time in the cemetery and finally saying goodbye to the visiting spirits as they float upward and away for another year.

Día de los Muertos is a dazzling book for youngest and older readers. An informative and enchanting introduction to a popular holiday, the book would be an excellent addition to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 2 – 4 and up

Little Simon, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534415157

Discover more about Jorge Gutierrez, his art, and his animation on his website.

The Gift of Story Time Giveaway

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Little Simon board books make the perfect gift for all of the young readers in your life! With cute and creative illustrations, accessible and engaging stories, and the perfect size and durability, these books are great for new parents and for reading aloud. These fun series teach important lessons and concepts through adorable characters, interesting stories, and hilarious creatures!

One (1) winner receives this collection of five sweet stories from Little Simon

  • The Itsy Bitsy School Bus, written by Jeffrey Burton | illustrated by Sanja Rešček
  • Roary the Lion Roars Too Loud, written by Ame Dyckman |illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths
  • Día de los Muertos, written by Hannah Eliot | illustrated by Jorge Gutierrez
  • This Little Scientist: A Discovery Primer, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Daniel Roode
  • Hello Knights!, written by Joan Holub | illustrated by Chris Dickason

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, October 8 – 14. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 15.

 Giveaway open to US addresses only | Prizing and samples provided by Little Simon.

National Book Month Activity

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Día de los Muertos Coloring Pages

 

Día de los Muertos is vibrant and fun! Celebrate the holiday with these two coloring pages thanks to Topeka Día de los Muertos!

Día de los Muertos Coloring Page 1 | Día de los Muertos Coloring Page 2

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You can find Día de los Muertos at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

November 1 – Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

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About the Holiday

Originating in Mexico, but celebrated throughout Latin America, Dia de los Muertos commemorates the lives of deceased loved ones with music, food, parties, and activities the person enjoyed in life. Dia de los Muertos revolves around the belief that death is just a natural part of the life cycle, and the dead are awakened from their eternal rest to once more join their community for this special day.

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras

By Duncan Tonatiuh

 

José Guadalupe Posada was born in 1852 in the Mexican city of Aguascalientes. His older brother, a teacher, taught Lupe how to read and write, and seeing how well he drew, helped him enroll in art classes. When Lupe was 18, he went to work in a print shop where he learned lithography and engraving. During working hours Lupe created labels, invitations, flyers, and other documents.

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, courtesy of abramsbooks.com

After work, he gathered with other artists and talked about the government. They didn’t like how their government officials ran things. Lupe’s boss, Don Trinidad Pedroza, at the print shop also published a newspaper, and he invited Lupe to create editorial drawings to be included in the paper. Lupe’s drawings were humorous, but also highlighted the officials’ bad traits. After the elections some of these politicians remained in power and were angry with Lupe and his boss. Lupe and Don Trinidad decided to move to the city of León.

In León Lupe opened his own print shop, he got married, and had a son. He became well known not only for his printing work but also for book and pamphlet illustrations. People began to call him Don Lupe as a sign of respect. “But in 1888 a terrible flood destroyed a large part of the city, including Don Lupe’s shop.” He and his family moved to Mexico City, where in time he was able to open another print shop.

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, courtesy of abramsbooks.com

He worked with Antonio Vanegas, a writer, who published his stories on large sheets of paper called ‘broadsides.’ “The tales were about a wide range of topics, including scary creatures, fires, miracles, violent crimes, heroes, bandits, cockfights, and bullfights.” Don Lupe drew illustrations for many of these stories. Even people who couldn’t read began buying the broadsides because they were fascinated by Don Lupe’s art.

Every November first and second, during the Dia de Muertos celebrations venders sold special “pan de muerto (bread), cempasúchil (marigold flowers), alfeñiques (sugar skulls), and papel picado (paper cutouts). People bought these and other items to decorate the ofrendas (offerings) they made for their loved ones who had died.” Don Antonio and other editors published “literary Calaveras, which were “short rhyming poems that featured a skeleton and made jokes about him or her. People thought they were very funny. Soon Don Lupe began drawing illustrations for these poems.

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, courtesy of abramsbooks.com

Over time Don Lupe began using the technique of etching, and his illustrations grew more complex. In his calaveras drawings Don Lupe interpreted and commented on what he saw not only on Dia de Muertos, but every day. For example, he watched families gather at loved ones’ graves with food, stories, and music then “drew skeletons dancing and partying. Was he saying that…El Dia de Muertos is not only a celebration of death but also a celebration of life? A day when the dead become alive?”

In another drawing a skeleton wears a large hat covered with lace, feathers, and flowers. This illustration accompanied a poem about a woman who wore expensive clothes and thought she was better than others and ignored them when they needed help. “Was Don Lupe saying that…no matter how fancy your clothes are on the outside, on the inside we are all the same? That we are all calaveras?

Don Lupe also commented on the ever increasing hustle and bustle of society, the Mexican Revolution of 1910, revolutionary leaders and government officials, and just common people and events. Perhaps the main idea Don Lupe was trying to communicate was that “calaveras are all around us. That we are all calaveras, whether we are rich or poor, famous or not.”

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, courtesy of abramsbooks.com

While many people loved and looked forward to Don Lupe’s artwork, they did not know the artist who drew them. It wasn’t until many years after his death in 1913 that “historians and artists such as Jean Charlot and Diego Rivera began to wonder who had drawn such wonderful images.” Today, we know Don Lupe by his last name—Posada—which is how he signed his work, and he and his work is still beloved around the world.

An extensive Author’s Note about El Dia de Muertos and Posada’s influence on other artists. A glossary, bibliography, art credits, and places where Posada’s work is displayed follow the text.

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, courtesy of abramsbooks.com

In Funny Bones Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, Duncan Tonatiuh accomplishes many things. First, his book is a fascinating look at the life of the man who entertained and enlightened the world with his distinctive talent and ideas. Tonatiuh’s straightforward storytelling reveals the personal and historical events that influenced Posada from childhood through adulthood, clearly explaining and highlighting each concept for his young audience. Second, Tonatiuh provides readers with brief primers on the printing processes of lithography, engraving, and etching with step-by-step descriptions of these interesting art forms.

Third, his own vibrant and expressive stylized illustrations both contrast with and complement the depictions of Posada’s life and his calaveras drawings. On nearly every two-page spread readers experience this biography through Tonatiuh’s portrayals of Don Lupe, the townspeople, and others as well as through Posada’s actual broadsides and editorial drawings. The juxtapositions allow children to fully appreciate the meaning and humor behind these famous drawings that are still so popular and resonant today.

Ages 6 – 10

Harry N. Abrams, 2015 | ISBN 978-1419716478

View a gallery of Duncan Tonatiuh‘s artwork for children and adults on his website!

Dia de los Muertas (Day of the Dead) Activity

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Calaveras Coloring Page

 

With their intricate designs and vibrant hues, calaveras are a joy to color. Grab your entire set of markers, pencils, or crayons and design a masterpiece with this printable Calaveras Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review