November 28 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s still time this week to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re in shopping mode, be sure to put plenty of picture books on your list for the kids in your life. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again!

The Visitor

By Antje Damm

 

Elise sat alone in her gray house day after day and night after night because she was too afraid—of everything—to go out. To spend her time and because she liked a neat house, she cleaned it every day. Sometimes she opened a window to air it out. “Then one day something unbelievable happened.” A blue paper airplane came zipping in through the window.

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Copyright Antje Damm, 2018, courtesy of Gecko Press.

She looked at it lying on the floor in front of her and decided it did not belong in her tidy house, so “she scooped it into the fire.” But as Elise tried to sleep that night, the plane flew here, there, and everywhere circling through her house—or did it? “She was too scared to sleep.” The next day, someone came to the door. Elise didn’t know who it could be and was not about to open the door, but the knocking continued.

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Copyright Antje Damm, 2018, courtesy of Gecko Press.

Finally, a bit perturbed, Elisa opened the door and stared at the boy standing there. “‘I’m here for my plane,’” he said. Then he urgently needed to use the bathroom. Elise was surprised to hear herself telling the boy he’d find the bathroom upstairs. As he came back downstairs, he spied a portrait on the wall and asked Elise who it was. She told him that it was her on the day of a special dance. “‘I wore my prettiest dress,’” she said. “‘Cool!’ said the boy and he looked around some more.”

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Copyright Antje Damm, 2018, courtesy of Gecko Press.

He found a bookcase loaded with books and asked Elise to read him one. It had been “a long time since Elise had read to anyone,” but the boy was attentive and wanted to hear all the stories in the book. After that he wanted to play hide-and-seek. When the game was finished, the boy was hungry, so Elise gave him a slice of buttered bread. Then she told him it was probably time for him to go home. Elise found that she felt sad.

Before he left, the boy asked Elise what her name was and told her his. Emil said goodbye to Elise and told her he’d had fun. “‘Bye for now, Emil,’ she said.” That night Elise got out some blue paper and began folding. It took her many tries, and crumbled paper began to pile up at her feet. But at last she did it just right, and she smiled at the new paper airplane on her table.

The Visitor was translated from German by Sally-Ann Spencer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-visitor-bread

Copyright Antje Damm, 2018, courtesy of Gecko Press.

Antje Damm’s story, played out in stunning photographed 3D dioramas, is a triumph of light and color conquering shadow and isolation. As the story opens, Elise sits alone at her table, bowed by fear and the gloominess of her closed-up house. But when the blue airplane flies through the open window, things begin to change. A yellow glow appears outside the panes of glass, brightening the room and beginning to dispel the murk. The next morning the light is a fiery orange, and with the knock at the door, the light seeps underneath, seeming to want to come in. Will Elise let it?

When she opens the door to Emil, dressed in red and yellow, the light spreads across the floor. A red path follows Emil up the stairs while details of Elise’s home assume depth and definition. As Emil notices Elise’s youthful portrait, her apron and cheeks turn pink to mirror her picture. Similar to an Impressionist painting, the walls, floor, and furnishings take on a colorful, stippled beauty as Elise reads to Emil, and readers can see on the shelf above her bed toys left there long ago perhaps by her own children. The vivid intensity of the colors that linger after Emil leaves hints at the rich life Elise may once have had and may reenter thanks to Emil.

With mystical overtones that will delight children, The Visitor is a thought-provoking and uplifting tale of the difference one person can make. The unique mixed-media art makes this a captivating choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Gecko Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1776571888

Picture Book Month Activity

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Follow the Story! Maze

 

Can you find your way through the story from beginning to “The End” in this printable Follow the Story! Maze?

Follow the Story! Maze | Follow the Story! Maze Solution

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You can find The Visitor at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. Events include, the Big Hug, handing out Kindness Cards, and flash mobs showing and promoting kindness. The day spotlights good deeds—both individual and community—and focuses on “the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” It doesn’t take cost anything to celebrate today with a simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support to someone in need. Don’t limit your care and concern to just one day, either. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness

By Kerascoët

 

With smiles on their faces a family carries boxes from the moving van into their new home. The next morning the teacher introduces brown-skinned Vanessa to her new class, and she takes a seat in one of the two empty desks—the one separated from a straight-haired girl in a yellow dress by the other empty desk. During the lesson, Vanessa keeps her head down shyly as other kids raise their hands and answer questions. At recess, Vanessa sits alone on the bleachers while her classmates dribble basketballs, shoot baskets, and talk and laugh together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-walk-with-vanessa-first-day

Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

When the bell rings the kids pour out of the building, forming pairs and groups to walk home or play. Vanessa starts her route home by herself. At the crosswalk, a blond boy wearing a scowl approaches Vanessa and stops to talk. But he doesn’t offer friendly chit-chat. He sneers and taunts and points at her accusingly. Then with a huff, he turns and goes back the way he came.

The girl in the yellow dress has stopped with her friends by a tree. Instead of watching the squirrel scampering up the trunk, though, she sees and overhears the altercation between the boy and Vanessa. She looks as Vanessa stands a bit shell-shocked and then hurries across the road with tears in her eyes. Vanessa’s classmate is shocked too by what she’s seen. She feels sad and even sadder as Vanessa runs away and into her new home.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The girl returns to her friends and tells them what happened. They all react with surprise and sadness. All the way home, as her mom and dad cook dinner and her siblings watch TV, at bedtime and late into the night, the girl thinks about Vanessa. Vanessa has a sleepless night too.

In the morning, the girl gets dressed for school and heads to the table for breakfast. It’s while she’s drinking her orange juice that it hits her—what she can do. She grabs her lunch box and races out the door. She approaches a house and knocks on the door. Vanessa opens the door a crack and looks out. The little girl in her yellow dress talks to Vanessa and takes her hand. They walk down the sidewalk as other kids emerge from their own houses. A boy hails them and takes Vanessa’s other hand. Another boy joins the group and then a girl in pigtails. As more kids gather on the way to school, they come running to join Vanessa’s group.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The boy from the day before looks on with surprise. Soon the small group has become a wave as kids from all classes join in, streaming around the boy and passing him by. His face reddens and he sulks as the wave, led by Vanessa and her new friend enter the school building. In class, Vanessa takes her seat while the straight-haired girl moves to the desk next to her.

Backmatter includes advice for children on what they can do to help someone who is being bullied and helpful vocabulary to use when sharing the book with children.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Kerascoët’s perfectly constructed wordless picture book powerfully demonstrates the feeling of being overlooked and ignored, the emotional toll of being bullied, and how an act of bullying affects even those not directly involved. There is so much right about the details in this book from the empty desk between Vanessa and her soon-to-be friend on her first day of school to the suspense of  what the girl in the yellow dress says to her friends after witnessing the bullying and their reaction to the facial expressions on all of the characters faces.

Kerascoët’s use of color sets the tone as the background illustrations of the classroom and neighborhood is washed in a pale blue, putting the spotlight on the diverse classmates in their colorful clothes. A compelling double-spread center image gives vent to Vanessa and her classmate’s feelings through a stormy night with roiling black clouds and a torrent of rain. The two girls are connected by their lighted widows—the only bright spots in the darkened neighborhood. Turn the page and that glow is shining into the window from the sunny day. The homes are now lemon colored, with Vanessa’s house a standout pink.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-walk-with-vanessa-vanessa-goes-home

Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

As the little girl talks to Vanessa and holds her hand, you will feel tears spring to your eyes, and the gathering children with their smiles and waves will swell your heart. In the sense of motion caused by the children rushing to join Vanessa’s group, the bully is now the one overlooked, and as the small groups become a crowd all walking in the same direction, the bully—facing the other way and at the bottom of the page—is far outnumbered. As the wave of kids enter school, the bully appears in the bottom corner, red faced and frowning. The possibility the empty desk poses at the beginning of the story is fulfilled when the girl in the yellow dress moves there to sit next to Vanessa.

The wordless quality of this book allows for readers to volunteer what they think is happening and what is being said. It also allows for deep discussions of similar experiences and can lead into an expanded lesson on kindness, empathy, and how to handle bullying.

I Walk with Vanessa is a moving portrait of how a simple act of friendship multiplies and changes lives and is a must for home, classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1524769550

To learn more about the husband and wife team Kerascoët and their work, visit their website.

National Kindness Day Activity

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Kindness Cards to Share

 

On World Kindness Day people are encouraged to give out Kindness Cards to friends, family, and especially those who look as if they need cheering up. Here are some printable cards for you to use!

Kindness Cards to Share

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You can find I Walk with Vanessa at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 11 – National Cheer Up the Lonely Day

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About the Holiday

There are many people who, due to age, health, lack of transportation, distance from family and friends, and other factors, feel lonely. Today’s holiday was established to bring awareness to this problem and to encourage people to reach out to those who are alone. There are many ways to cheer up someone who’s feeling lonely, including visiting, taking them for an outing, calling, and taking food, treats, or something else you know they would like.

The Lonely Mailman

Written by Susanna Isern | Illustrated by Daniel Montero Galán

 

The mailman sets off on his bicycle at the crack of dawn to deliver letters all around the forest. “The mailman goes to each door, rings the bell, and only says four words: ‘Squirrel! Letter for you!’” Squirrel’s letter is from Hedgehog, who accidentally pricked him while at the market. He’s inviting Squirrel for dinner to make up for it. Next the mailman delivers a letter from Squirrel to Hedgehog. “He whispers so quietly that even he can hardly hear the words. “‘Hedgehog! Letter for you!’” Squirrel says all will be forgotten if Hedgehog invites him to dinner.

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Image copyright Daniel Montero Galán, 2016, text copyright Susanna Isern, 2016. Courtesy of danielmonterogalan.com.

Sometimes the animals invite the mailman in for a cup of coffee, but he never accepts. In fact, “he never gets off his bicycle” as he makes his rounds. Today, that includes letters between Dormouse and Woodpecker, who are resolving a loud tapping issue. Even though the animals see the mailman every day, they don’t really know him or anything about him. It doesn’t occur to some of them to wonder about the mailman as he, say, tosses a letter to Turtle from the Butterflies, who want to visit “to flutter around and keep you cool, and sit awhile on your lovely shell, listening to your tales while we enjoy the sun” and delivers an invitation from Turtle to the Butterflies to “sunbathe in peace and quiet” on his shell and have a cup of tea inside if it rains.

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Image copyright Daniel Montero Galán, 2016, text copyright Susanna Isern, 2016. Courtesy of danielmonterogalan.com.

Other animals, though, do think about the mailman. Some think he doesn’t say much because he’s sad. But as Bear reads his letter from Rabbit and Rabbit reads a letter from Bear, they don’t take time to ask the mailman how he’s feeling. At the end of the day, with “no more letters in his bag,” the mailman goes home feeling weary. But he still has much to do. In the flickering light of his candle, he sits down at an old typewriter and writes letters. “They are the letters he’ll be delivering the next day: invitations, apologies, plans, and messages full of love.”

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Image copyright Daniel Montero Galán, 2016, text copyright Susanna Isern, 2016. Courtesy of danielmonterogalan.com.

One day, as the sun is going down and the mailman is heading home, he sees that the last letter in his bag is addressed to him. He rushes home excited by the letter—the first he’s ever gotten. At home, he puts the letter in his own mailbox, “whispers four words: ‘Mailman, letter for you!’” then retrieves it and goes inside. As he reads the letter, a lump forms in his throat. The forest animals have discovered his secret and want to thank him.

Just then the doorbell rings—for the very first time. When he opens the door, he sees all the forest animals waiting for him. They surround him with cheers and hugs, and as the “old mailman smiles and blushes” he’s already composing the letters he will write tonight.

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Image copyright Daniel Montero Galán, 2016, text copyright Susanna Isern, 2016. Courtesy of danielmonterogalan.com.

The Lonely Mailman is a mesmerizing book in every way. Susanna Isern’s storytelling is straightforward, honest, and lyrical as she follows the mailman on his rounds, whispering those four words everyone wants to hear. Peeking into the letters that the animals exchange shows a world where mistakes happen, fears niggle, and grievances are expressed. It is also a world full of kindness, consideration, generosity, and love. The discovery that the mailman himself is the sower of this network of friendship will tug at readers’ hearts as they wish the same for him. The forest animals’ final response to one sharp-eyed mouse’s suggestion is touching and satisfying

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Image copyright Daniel Montero Galán, 2016, text copyright Susanna Isern, 2016. Courtesy of danielmonterogalan.com.

Daniel Montero Galán washes the soft, velum-like pages with gorgeous earth tones from the warm, golden light of dawn to the soft blues and greens of a summer day to the fiery reds of sunset. The dens, knotholes, and burrows of the forest creatures are cozy with homey details, and the letters each animal receives are called out in parchment-colored rectangles that add to the vintage feel. Alert readers will be intrigued to follow the little mouse who chases here and there, spying on the rotund mailman—who is shaped like half an inverted heart just waiting to be completed—and will be cheered when the animals embrace him, filling out his life with love.

Captivating and moving, The Lonely Mailman is a beautiful story that touches on themes of friendship, empathy, loneliness, kindness, and the power of the individual to create change. The book would be a superb choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Cuento de Luz, 2017 Hardcover: ISBN 978-8416147984 | Paperback, 2018: 978-8416147977

Discover more about Susanna Isern and her books on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Montero Galán, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Cheer Up the Lonely Day Activity

CPB - Paper Flowers

Paper Flower Bouquet

 

These paper flowers will brighten anyone’s day and come in a rainbow of colors. Make a bouquet to share them with a new friend.

Supplies

  • Tissue paper in many colors
  • Green paper
  • Green wire for stems
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue
  • Pliers

CPB - Paper Flowers II

Directions

To make the stem

  1. Bend a 1 ½ -inch loop in the top of the wire
  2. Squeeze the wire together so it will fit tightly over the tissue paper

To make a flower

  1. Cut 6 or more 7-inch squares from tissue paper, mixing colors (you can make various sizes of flowers by making the squares larger or smaller and adding more squares)
  2. Gather all the squares together and fold them together accordion-style in 1-inch folds
  3. Slide the folded tissue paper under the wire loop, and tighten the wire
  4. Gently fan the tissue paper out on each side
  5. Beginning on one side, gently pull each sheet of tissue paper up toward the center
  6. Repeat step 5 on the other side

To make leaves

  1. Cut leaves from green paper, leaving a stem to wrap around the wire flower stem
  2. Fold the leaf stem around the wire and tape or glue

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The Lonely Mailman can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review