March 29 – It’s International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate something that you can’t see or hold but which is real all the same. What is it? An idea! Ideas are amazing things. Sometimes seemingly conjured up out of thin air and sometimes the “Eureka!” result of long, hard work, ideas fuel our arts, sciences, education, and home life. So today, write down those ideas you have while driving or commuting to work, while in the shower, when you’re daydreaming, or just as you turn off the light to go to sleep. You never know what they might become!

Tundra Books sent me a copy of The Magician’s Secret to check out. All opinions are my o own. I’m also partnering with Tundra in a giveaway of The Magician’s Secret. See details below.

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm

 

When Mom and Dad dropped Charlie off at his grandfather’s for an overnight visit, they pleaded with him to make sure his grandson went to bed early. “‘No more hocus-pocus!’” his daughter said. That wasn’t just some phrase she conjured up, because her father had once been a magician and was still “like a big kid who never grew up.” He loved to play games with Charlie and “also knew the most amazing tricks.” But he never told Charlie his secrets.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-attic

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

What Charlie loved best were Grandpa’s stories. Whenever Grandpa told a story, he and Charlie went up to the “most cobwebby corner of the attic” where a big green trunk full of special things from Grandpa’s adventures sat. Grandpa would pull out an item and begin to talk. This night he showed Charlie an hourglass filled with sand that Grandpa said came from the tomb of King Tut.

Another time, he pulled out a scarf that had belonged to the World War I Red Baron fighter pilot. Grandpa had plucked it from the Red Baron’s neck during a dogfight in which Grandpa left the Baron and his plane floating in a French sea. One summer evening the story revolved around a coconut shell that he found on a tropical beach. He had fallen asleep under a palm tree only to be awakened by a roaring T-Rex intent on eating him. Just in the nick of time, “dozens of rocks rained down through the air, scaring the nasty dinosaur away.” Who had saved him? Grandpa never told, saying that was for Charlie to figure out.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-red-baron

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie loved Grandpa’s stories, but his father said that they were just “things Grandpa’s made up.” Charlie couldn’t believe it. He felt like he “had lived every one of those adventures with Grandpa. How could they not be true?” When Charlie asked his grandfather about it, Grandpa sighed. He said the problem with grown-ups was that they didn’t “have faith in make-believe” but that if you “use your imagination, you can turn a dream into something real.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-twilight

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Charlie wasn’t so sure, but Grandpa assured him: “‘We’ve done it over and over again, with cameras and computers, automobiles and airplanes…. Magic is all around us, kiddo—in me and in you.’” Then Grandpa waved his hands in the air and produced a…rock. He said it was the philosopher’s stone that could do magical things, but the secret was that “‘You have to see it, you have to believe it.’” That night Charlie fell into a deep sleep with the rock under his pillow. When he woke up, he heard an earth-shattering roar. He looked and saw a T-Rex threatening his grandpa. He looked at the rock in his hand and knew what to do….

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-magician's-secret-in-bed

Copyright Joe Bluhm, 2018, courtesy of joebluhm.com.

Zachary Hyman makes magic with traditional storytelling combined with the wonder of imagination and the encouragement to make dreams come true. As Grandpa talks about his daring feats, Charlie believes him, but more importantly, Charlie believes that he could do such marvelous things too. Hyman’s reminder that all great discoveries and achievements began as someone’s seemingly impossible idea is well aimed at his young audience whose boundless imaginations may just be our next realities. Hyman’s evocative language and conversational tone  will keep children enthralled until the surprise ending.

Joe Bluhm lends a mysterious enchantment to Hyman’s story with his atmospheric depictions of the cobwebby attic, darkened, creature-infested tomb, and twilit skies. Turning from the setup to the heart of Grandpa’s stories, readers are immersed in vibrant colors and dazzling light, representative of that flash of ingenuity or creativity in each of us. In a nice cyclical set of images, Charlie is first seen watching TV and playing aviator, spaceman, explorer, artists, and magician with Grandpa in sepia-toned snapshots. Near the end of the book when Grandpa talks about the power of imagination, these same scenes are presented in full color with Charlie as a pilot, astronaut, movie director, mountain climber, race car driver, and explorer.

Like the best magic trick, The Magician’s Secret will captivate readers but will also tell them what they really want to know: the answer to how they can do wondrous things themselves. The book would make a terrific addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

To learn more about Joe Bluhm, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no secret that you’ll love this The Magician’s Secret book trailer!

International Ideas Month Activity

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Share Your Bright Idea! Page

 

Do you sometimes have a lightbulb moment when an idea seems just right? Use this printable Share Your Bright Idea! Page to write about or draw your idea!

Picture Book Review

January 26 – It’s National Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

If you like to take a break from the routine or pressures of the work day and sew, garden, or read, play music, dance, or draw, or if you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill or develop a talent, then this month is for you! During National Hobby Month take some time to research a skill, art, or discipline that strikes your fancy and get started!

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love

Written by Michelle Edwards | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

One of the first gifts Sophia received when she was a baby was a knitted hat from her neighbor Mrs. Goldman. Now that Sophia is more grown up, she helps Mrs. Goldman make pom-poms for the hats she knits for other babies, friends, and neighbors. “‘Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,’ says Mrs. Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. ‘This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.’”

One day in late autumn Sophia and Mrs. Goldman walk Mrs. Goldman’s dog Fifi. While Fifi is kept warm in a dinosaur sweater and Sophia is cozy in the fuzzy kitten hat and mittens that Mrs. Goldman made them, Mrs. Goldman’s head and ears are unprotected in the icy wind. When Sophia asks her friend why she doesn’t have a hat, Mrs. Goldman tells her “‘I gave it to Mrs. Chen.’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Michelle Edwards. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Sophia begins to worry about Mrs. Goldman. Who will knit a hat for her? “Not Mrs. Goldman. She’s too busy knitting for everyone else.’” Last year Mrs. Goldman had tried to teach Sophia to knit, but it was too hard and took too long, so she decided to stick with making pom-poms. But Sophia thinks maybe it’s time to try again. She goes to her knitting bag and pulls out the hat they had started together. “The stiches are straight and even. The soft wool smells like Mrs. Goldman’s chicken soup.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holding the needles, Sophia thinks about what she was taught. Even though she drops stitches, she continues to knit. “She wants to make Mrs. Goldman the most special hat in the world.” The next day snow falls on Mrs. Goldman’s head as they walk Fifi. Sophia frets, and at home she begins knitting morning, noon, and night to finish her hat. Winter has set in and one day when the pair walk Fifi, “Mrs. Goldman wraps Mr. Goldman’s scarf around her head like she’s a mummy.” But the wind grabs it and rips it away. Sophia catches it, but shivers at the thought of how cold Mrs. Goldman must be.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Michelle Edwards. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

At home Sophia knits in a frenzy, adding row after row of stitches until the hat is finished. When Sophia looks at it, though, she finds holes where they shouldn’t be and lumpy and bumpy areas. She thinks what she has made looks more like a monster than a hat. Sophia takes out the box containing all the hats Mrs. Goldman has made for her, but they are much too small for Mrs. Goldman to wear. While Sophia’s mama and papa have hats made by Mrs. Goldman, she knows she can’t give those away.

Sophia imagines all the hats she makes with her neighbor and how Mrs. Goldman always tells her that her pom-poms add beauty, and that “‘that’s a mitzvah too.’” Sophia’s heart swells. She finds red yarn—Mrs. Goldman’s favorite color—and her pom-pom making supplies and goes to work. When she is finished and the pom-poms are attached, “Mrs. Goldman’s hat is the most special hat in the world.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Sophia runs next door and surprises Mrs. Goldman with her gift. Mrs. Goldman hugs Sophia and tears come to her eyes. “‘Don’t you like it?’” Sophia asks, but she needn’t worry. “‘I more than like it, I love it,’ declares Mrs. Goldman. ‘Gorgeous. Like Mr. Goldman’s rosebushes. And you know how I love his roses.’” With a kiss for Sophia, Mrs. Goldman begins counting the twenty pom-poms on her hat—“each one made with love.” Mrs. Goldman slips the hat on her head. Now when she and Sophia take Fifi for a walk, Fifi wears her dinosaur sweater, Sophia wears her kitty hat and mittens, and “Mrs. Goldman wears her Sophia hat. Her keppie is toasty warm. And that’s a mitzvah.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-hat-for-mrs.-goldman-giving-hat

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Michelle Edwards’ heartwarming story of a little girl who sees that her friend is in need and determines to help draws on children’s natural generosity and shows readers that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Edward’s gentle and well-paced storytelling allows readers to understand the events and thoughts that bring Sophia to once again attempt knitting. Sophia’s solution to use the pom-poms she knows she makes well (and with love) to cover the holes demonstrates not only the ingenious creativity of kids, but also the idea that love can fill the voids in life.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-hat-for-mrs.-goldman-blue-yarn

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Brian Karas imbues the story of Sophia and Mrs. Goldman with a magical wonder that floats from page to page like the fluffy snowflakes that are the catalyst for Sophia’s mitzvah. A combination of full-page illustrations and snapshot images show days spent with Mrs. Goldman as well as the moments, hours, and days that adorable Sophia spends knitting her special hat. Sophia, tongue sticking out in determination, wields her knitting needs; she ponders her holey hat while imagining a frightened Fifi; and scraps of red yarn dot the floor and even sit atop Sophia’s head as she creates pom-pom after pom-pom. When Mrs. Goldman pulls the hat over her own head, kids will feel cheered, while adults may feel a small lump in their throat.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman is a gem. Its tender portrayal of kindness, love, and close personal relationships makes it an outstanding choice for any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497106

Discover more about Michelle Edwards and her books, plus activities, recipes, and information on knitting on her website!

Enter a gallery of books, sketches, blog essays, and more by G. Brian Karas on his website!

National Hobby Month Activity

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Winter Hat Match Puzzle

 

These kids have all lost their hats! Can you follow the paths in this printable Winter Hat Match Puzzle to reunite each child with the right hat?

Picture Book Review

December 30 – Baking Soda Day

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About the Holiday

Baking soda is one of those little chemical compounds that is indispensable in so many ways. First produced in 1791 by French chemist Nicolas Leblanc, it’s used for everything from cleaning solutions to health remedies to black snake fireworks to science fair volcanoes. In 1846 two New York bakers, John Dwight and Austin Church, established the first factory in the United States to produce baking soda from sodium carbonate and carbon dioxide. Of course, baking soda is also used to make treats of all kinds – even the ones featured in today’s book!

Baking Day at Grandma’s

Written by Anika Denise | Illustrated by Christopher Denise

 

Three little cubs bundle up in their winter coats, hats, scarves, and mittens and head out over the snowy hills to Grandma’s for baking day. Soon they see “past the pond so smooth and clear / little cottage drawing near.” A knock on Grandma’s door brings her closer, and when she opens the door the trio give her a kiss before entering the snug home.

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

After warming their toes by the fire, the young bears grab the cookbook, a mixing bowl, a spoon, and a whisk because “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!” As her little bakers stand on chairs to reach the table, Grandma passes out aprons and reads the recipe. Happily crowded around the bowl, the cubs with “wooden spoon and measuring cup, / mix the batter; stir it up. / Fold it gently in the pan, / lick the spoon because we can.”

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

While they wait for their treats to bake, Grandma pours tummy-warming mugs of hot chocolate and one little bear draws a smiley face on the frosty window for a little chickadee to see. Grandma puts a record on her old Victrola, and as she sings the “soft and sweet skippy notes,” the cubs tap their feet. At last the kitchen timer rings, and the little bears dance arm in arm because “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!”

The chocolate goodies pop from the pan, and with icing and sprinkles are ready to be wrapped and tied with a red ribbon. Other treats get pretty bags, “each one marked with little tags.” The cubs are also bundled nice and warm, and with final hugs for Grandma, they are soon “Walking home under the moon. / Back to visit Grandma soon.”

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Image copyright Christopher Denise, courtesy of Philomel Books

Anika Denise’s sweet, rhyming story is as heartwarming as a cozy kitchen on a cold day. The buoyant rhythm is a joy to read, and Denise’s infectious repeated verse, “It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / It’s baking day! / at Grandma’s!” invites little ones to join in the story. The bond between the three cubs and their grandma is full of love and hugs, and just like the young bears, readers will want to return again and again to Grandma’s house.

Christopher Denise infuses his winter landscapes and Grandma’s house with rich, warm colors that welcome readers into this special family baking day. The three cubs, wrapped in green coats and red knit caps, march with their sled over brilliant white snowy hills between their house and Grandma’s tidy log cabin. Inside, the rooms glow with golden sunshine, and it’s easy to see why the cubs love their attentive grandma so as she gently guides them in baking.

Newly available as a board book, Baking Day at Grandma’s is a book that young children will love to hear over and over at story time, naptime, or bedtime. It would also make an appreciated gift to or from a grandmother.

Ages 2 – 5

Philomel Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0399171574 (board book) / 978-0399242441 (hardcover)

Learn more about Anika Denise and her books and find Reader Engagement and Activity Kits on her website!

Discover the illustrated world of Christopher Denise on his website!

Spend time baking with Grandma with this sweet book trailer!

Bake for Family Fun Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cupcakes

Very Vanilla Cupcakes

 

This delicious vanilla cupcake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction would definitely please Grandma—and they’ll become your favorite confection too!

Vanilla Cupcakes

  • 1 and 2/3 cup (210g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (60g) vanilla Greek yogurt (or plain; or regular yogurt; or even sour cream)
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) vanilla almond milk (or cow’s milk; or soy milk; or plain almond milk)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1

Vanilla Bean Frosting

  • 1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4-5 cups (480-600g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream2
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract seeds scraped from 1/2 split vanilla bean1
  • Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Whisk in sugar – mixture will be gritty. Whisk in egg whites, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Split 1 vanilla bean down the middle lengthwise. Scrape seeds from half of the vanilla bean into batter. Reserve other half.
  3. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick.
  4. Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners (or 24 mini) and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Bake for 8-9 minutes if making mini cupcakes. Allow to cool.
  5. To make the frosting, beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for about 3 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Add salt if frosting is too sweet (1/4 teaspoon). Frost cooled cupcakes (I used Wilton 1M piping tip). There may be leftover frosting depending how much you use on each cupcake.
  6. Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 7.

Additional Notes

  1. If you can’t get your hands on vanilla beans, add an extra ½ teaspoon of pure vanilla extract instead.
  2. Strongly urged to use heavy cream. You may use milk or half-and-half, but heavy cream will give the frosting a thicker texture. I recommend it!

For ways to adapt this recipe and more scrumptious recipes, visit Sally’s Baking Addiction. I guarantee you’ll go back again and again!

Picture Book Review

December 23 – National Roots Day

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About the Holiday

As families gather for holidays this month, National Roots Day encourages people to talk about their collective histories, look at old photographs, and tell family stories. Sharing laughs, traditions, and those “remember when…?” stories with children helps give them a sense of connection and belonging and ensures that important events, customs, and relationships aren’t lost to time.

Sing, Don’t Cry

By Angela Dominguez

 

Once a year, Abuelo came from Mexico to visit his family in America. “He always brought his guitar,” and he sang to his granddaughter and grandson every night. Abuelo would talk about his life, and if the children were sad, his advice was “‘Sing, don’t cry. Because singing gladdens the heart.’”

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

One of the stories Abuelo told was about a time when he was very young and his family “had to travel a long way to find a new home.” Just like his granddaughter and grandson’s family. He said that “singing made the distance seem smaller.” He also knew that when bad things happen, singing can make them better. “‘Some things may be lost forever,’” he said, “‘but maybe that makes room for new and wonderful things to be found.’”

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When you feel alone, Abuelo said, singing can attract friends. When there are days that are hard or when people are mean, singing—“even if it is only in your soul”—can cheer you. As Abuelo strummed his guitar and sang to his precious grandchildren, he reminded them that “‘I will always be singing with you.’”

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Angela Dominguez pairs her heartwarming text with images that are at once simple and complex as they hold images that span the generations while also bringing them together. As Abuelo arrives as his daughter’s house, his grandchildren greet him enthusiastically with signs and balloons. The children are excited to see Abuelo get out his guitar, and as he sings, readers see that each child is comforted in different ways by their interactions with their grandfather.

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A sepia-hued portrait on the wall of Abuelo as a young man as well as clothing choices offer color-coded clues to Abuelo’s history and reassurance for events in the lives of his grandkids. As Abuelo reveals the restorative power of singing, Dominguez portrays examples of three situations on a tri-paneled page. The top, sepia-colored image depicts a boy sick in bed as a worried mother looks on; the second image is rose-colored and shows a single teddy bear; and in the aqua-toned third, a boy sits forlornly on the sidelines of an American football game.

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of angeladominguezstudio.com.

Turning the page, these three panels are more fully developed, letting young readers experience each characters’ disappointment in events that will resonate with them. Turn the page again, and children see that Abuelo’s assurance of brighter days comes true for all. Abuelo’s positive outlook is further revealed in cherished framed photographs, and the final image of the whole family gathered around Abuelo and his guitar is joyful.

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of angeladominguezstudio.com.

An Author’s Note includes the lyrics from Cielito lindo that inspired the story as well as a brief biography of Angela Dominguez’s grandfather, Apolinar Navarrete Diaz, that provides a deeper understanding of the story and the significance of Abuelo’s guitar.

An inspiring and uplifting story, Sing, Don’t Cry would be a welcome read for those times when encouragement is needed both at home and in a classroom setting.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627798396

Learn more about Angela Dominguez, her books, and her art on her website.

National Roots Day Activity

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I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages

 

What are some of the favorite things you love about your grandmother and grandfather? Fill out, draw your and your grandparents’ faces, and color these printable I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages. They even make nice gifts that your grandparents’ will appreciate!

I Love Grandma | I Love Grandpa

Picture Book Review

October 15 – World Maths Day

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About the Holiday

Math on a Sunday? You bet! Today’s holiday is about making math fun by encouraging kids to take part in competitive math-themed games with the chance to win prizes and certificates. This world-wide phenomenon plays out online too, as schools and individuals are linked across the globe. Even the youngest children are invited to participate, so why not get out those math puzzles and have some fun. You can also use math to solve some real-life puzzles today too—as you’ll see in today’s book.

Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story!

Written by JaNay Brown-Wood | Illustrated by Priscilla Burris

 

Grandma’s tiny blue house sits on a tidy little yard between two multi-story homes. The walls of Grandma’s tiny house are full of framed photographs of her family and even her pets. Today is a very special day, and “ONE grandma waits in her big easy chair, / while TWO turkeys send scrumptious smells through the air.” There’s a knock on the door, and Grandma opens it to find three neighbors carrying four pots of “hot greens and ham hocks galore.”

Before Grandma can close the door, five more friends stride up the walk, bringing six dozen biscuits and pear jam. Then “SEVEN cool uncles stroll up in a line, / with EIGHT jugs of lemonade, ice-cold and fine.” There are nine aunts and ten cheesecakes squeezed into the den, and all their kids are happy to be here again. “ELEVEN nephews join, slapping high fives / and fumbling TWELVE sweet-potato pies.”

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Image copyright Priscilla Burris, 2017, text copyright JaNay Brown-Wood, 2017. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

Sure, there are girls too—thirteen, in fact, and they’ve brought a wagon of fourteen honeydew melons. But those are the big kids; who else has come running? Fifteen excited little ones are ready for Grandma’s hugs. When everyone’s inside “that’s when the walls bulge. There is no more space! / How will we all eat in this too-tiny place?”

But the tiniest girl has a big idea and whispers it into Grandma’s ear. The house may be small, but the “yard’s long and wide.” Her thought? “Why don’t we move our big dinner outside?” It’s the perfect solution, so everyone grabs a plate or a dish, the silverware, chairs, and tables and pour out the door. As evening approaches and the sun goes down, the family, friends and neighbors talk, eat, and play at Grandma’s tiny house.

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Image copyright Priscilla Burris, 2017, text copyright JaNay Brown-Wood, 2017. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

JaNay Brown-Wood’s joyful counting book adds up to a celebration of family and friends and offers a wonderful way to discuss math concepts, such as counting, amount, and spatial awareness, with little ones. Brown-Wood’s vivacious rhymes and dynamic vocabulary create a lively read-aloud that organically incorporates counting from one to fifteen into a larger story about the pleasures of boisterous gatherings and the love of extended families.

Priscilla Burris’s vibrant and animated illustrations will put a smile on little ones’ faces from the first page to the last. As the smiling Grandma gazes out the window of her tiny home, she’s not only waiting for her guests to arrive but is inviting readers to join in too. The two-page spread of family photos gives kids an inkling of the party to come, and as each laughing, talking, waving group arrives at Grandma’s, the excitement of the day—and the enticement to count, count, count—begins. Each of Burris’s many characters displays unique personality traits as they talk, sing, high-five, run, shout, and rejoice.

The people and objects to count are presented clearly, allowing children to easily find them. As the group gathers together inside the house and out in the yard, readers will no doubt want to count them all, letting them see addition at work. Each spread also offers a game of hide-and-seek with Grandma’s puppy and kitten.

Grandma’s Tiny House: A Counting Story is the kind of picture book that will get kids excited about math and their own place within a family. It would make a wonderful gift and addition to home as well as classroom libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Charlesbridge Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1580897129

Discover more about JaNay Brown-Wood  and her books and find resources for adults on her website.

View a portfolio of illustrations, drawings, and books by Priscilla Burris on her website.

You’re all invited to Grandma’s Tiny House book trailer!

World Maths Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-totally-cool-mystery-phrase-puzzle

Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle

 

There’s no mystery to how fun math can be! Use the numerical clues in this printable Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle to discover a hidden message! Add the numbers under each line then use that number to find the corresponding letter of the alphabet. Write that letter in the space. Continue until the entire phrase is completed.

Picture Book Review

September 23 – International Rabbit Day

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About the Holiday

With their little pink noses, long ears, and soft fur, rabbits make your heart melt. Today’s holiday was established to promote the protection and care of rabbits—both domestic and wild. Found in almost all types of environments—with more than one half of their total population living in North America—rabbits need protection from habitat destruction and predators. They are also a popular gift in spring, and families are encouraged to learn all about their needs and behaviors to determine if a rabbit is the best fit for the household. Because of their sweet, innocent nature, bunnies are often featured in children’s books. To celebrate the holiday, read a few of your favorites—including today’s book!

The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit

By Keiko Kaichi

 

Once King of the Plains, Old Lion had given up his place in the herd to his sons and now lived a quiet life alone. One day while napping, he felt a tickle in his mane and smelled a tantalizing aroma nearby. Old Lion discovered a tiny baby rabbit sleeping peacefully in the soft fur of his mane. “‘Hey,’ Old Lion thought, ‘this little one won’t fill my belly. But if I let him eat enough, he’ll grow up to be big and delicious!’” So Old Lion gathered as much grass as he could and fed the baby rabbit well, all the while feeling hunger growing in his stomach.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

To pass the time between feedings, Old Lion told Little Rabbit about his younger days on the savanna. “Little Rabbit crinkled up his nose with joy when he listened to Old Lion’s stories.” When other animals saw Old Lion and Little Rabbit together, they couldn’t believe it. As Old Lion talked to Little Rabbit, he remembered his big family and the joy of having children around him. He wondered how they were doing. But he knew that he couldn’t go back once he had “lost the fight to be the leader of the herd. Sometimes his old scars still ached him, especially during the cold nights.”

Now that Little Rabbit was growing bigger, he sometimes hopped far into the field, exploring just for fun. Then Old Lion worried that he might not come back, fearful that all his time and hard work would be wasted. He would call after Little Rabbit, reminding him to come back, and Little Rabbit always did.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

They spent their days watching the other animals, Little Rabbit perched on top of the lion’s head in order to see better. As time went by, Old Lion began to wish he could be satisfied with a diet of plants and wondered about the unfamiliar feeling in his heart. “Could it be that he was starting to care about this little creature who trusted him so blindly? Such a thing made no sense. Still, he had to admit that something warm stirred in him when he saw Little Rabbit each morning.”

One day as Little Rabbit played among the weeds while Old Lion rested, Hyena came calling. When he saw the little bunny, he immediately asked to share in the delicious meal as he often did. Old Lion was taken off guard and stammered that Little Rabbit was not nearly big enough to make a meal of. Hyena protested and pounced. Old Lion found his former quick reflexes and “with one gulp he snatched up Little Rabbit into his jaws.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-lion-and-little-rabbit-hyenna

Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

With a bit of regret but admiration for his old friend, Hyena turned and skulked away. When they were alone, Old Lion opened his mouth wide and let Little Rabbit climb out. He saw that his tiny friend had suffered a cut on his paw and bandaged it carefully. Then he placed Little Rabbit on his head and began to walk in the direction of the wind. “He could no longer deny that he loved Little Rabbit.”

Old Lion walked and walked to the edge of the savanna, where bushes and tall grasses blossomed. He set Little Rabbit down gently and nudged him forward. “You’ll be safe” there, Old Lion told him. “You’ll find other rabbits there—maybe even your family.” Little Rabbit gazed at Old Lion sadly, but the lion reassured him that it was time to go home. Old Lion watched Little Rabbit bound away and “felt a tickle on his face as a tear ran down his cheek.” Then he turned and walked back to where his throne waited.

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Copyright Keiko Kaichi, 2017, courtesy of minedition.

Keiko Kaichi’s books masterfully tug at readers’ heartstrings with poignant stories populated with adorable characters that immediately inspire love and empathy. In The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit, the lion’s history is revealed naturally and at a pace that makes his transformation believable and all the more emotional. Just as do children within a family, Little Rabbit alters Old Lion’s life simply through trust and dependence. Children will respond to the growing love between Old Lion and Little Rabbit. They will also find the solution to the mystery established at the beginning both surprising and satisfying. Adult readers cannot be faulted for feeling a small lump in their throat when Old Lion unselfishly protects Little Rabbit from Hyena and then takes him to safety.

Kaichi’s acrylic and pencil drawings are both evocative of the golden savanna and filled with tender sentiments. Old Lion may once have been a fierce predator, but he is now a contemplative and caring elder statesman while Little Rabbit is a wee nubbin of cuteness. As he sits next to the much bigger lion, his tiny paw touching Old Lion’s arm, or collects a bouquet of weeds under Old Lion’s watchful gaze, Little Rabbit swells readers hearts.

Superb in every way, The Old Lion and the Little Rabbit would make a wonderful choice for home bookshelves as well as for public and school libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

minedition, 2017 | ISBN 978-9888341245

International Rabbit Day Activity

Adorable Bunnies Coloring Pages

 

Bunnies are such loveable little creatures that you just can’t help but say “Awwww!” when you see one. Here are two printable Adorable Bunnies Coloring Pages for you to enjoy!

Bunny Coloring Page | Three Bunnies Coloring Page 

Picture Book Review

September 16 – It’s Classical Music Month

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About the Holiday

Classical music has been an inspiration since the earliest instruments were created. The talent and imagination of great composers of the past has been passed down from generation to generation of music lovers, influencing new music all along the journey. To celebrate this month’s holiday, take in a classical music concert or performance or listen to your favorite (or a new) classical music station. If you’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano, violin, or other instrument, take the opportunity this month to sign up for lessons!

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Written by Chieri Uegaki | Illustrated by Qin Leng

 

When Hana Hashimoto told her brothers that she had signed up to play her violin in the talent show, they laughed.  “‘That’s just loopy,’” Kenji said, and Koji added ‘‘You can barely play a note.’” They reminded her that it was a talent show and that she was just a beginner. But Hana didn’t listen. “It was true that she was still a beginner. She had only been to three lessons.” But playing the violin was in her blood. Her grandfather, Ojiichan, had once been Second Violin in a symphony orchestra in Kyoto, Japan and had even played for the Imperial Family.

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Hana had visited her grandfather that summer, and the sweet notes of his playing had coaxed “her awake as gently as sunshine” every morning. In the evenings her grandfather would take requests from Hana and her brothers. “Hana always asked for a song about a crow cawing for her seven chicks. Whenever Ojiichan played it, Hana would feel a shiver of happy-sadness ripple through her.”

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Ojiichan’s playing was like magic. He could make the violin chirp like crickets, plink like falling raindrops, and send fireflies dancing. At the end of the summer, Hana had decided she also wanted to play the violin and her parents agreed. Hana practiced every day even though her brothers ran away with their hands over their ears. She played for her parents, for her dog, JoJo, and for a photograph of Ojiichan. Sometimes she pretended to play for “an audience so appreciative they called for encore after encore.”

On the night of the talent show, Hana waited backstage for her turn “with a walloping heart.” Five other violinists had already gone before her. Finally, she heard her name. As she strode across the stage as wide as a desert, she had a fleeting feeling that her brothers had been right—that her performance was going to be a disaster. But when she reached her spot near the microphone and gazed out at the audience, she saw her best friend and her parents smiling at her.

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Hana took a deep breath and let it out. Suddenly, “everyone seemed to disappear beyond the light shining down on her like a moonbeam” and she remembered her grandfather’s words: “‘Gambarunoyo, Hana-chan.’ Do your best.” Hana told the audience, “‘This is the sound of a mother crow calling her chicks.’” She “played three raw, squawky notes.” Then she played the yowl of her neighbor’s cat at night and the plucky droplets of rain on a paper umbrella. Hana played a world of special sounds, from buzzing bees to squeaking mice to croaking frogs. When she had finished, she said, “‘And that is how I play the violin.’” Then she took a bow.

Later that night Kenji asked Hana for an encore, and she happily played her piece again. Next year, Hana thought, she might be able to play one of her grandfather’s melodies. Before she went to sleep, Hana played another piece she had been practicing. “She imagined that the notes would drift out through the window, past the bright rabbit moon and beyond, and Ojiichan would hear them and smile.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-hana-bows

Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Chieri Uegaki’s gorgeously told story of a little girl’s first performance with her new violin rings true on every page, from her being inspired by her grandfather to her own inspirational performance. Uegaki’s descriptions of the melodies that capture Hana’s heart are as beautiful as the music itself and are a joy to read. Hana’s continued self-confidence in the face of her brothers’ teasing and her own fear is a wonderful lesson for all children. The brothers’ support of Hana after the talent show is a welcome show of familial love, and the touching ending offers encouragement and happiness.

Young readers will love Qin Leng’s evocative illustrations that follow Hana on her musical journey. Notes from the violin pieces Hana admires float from page to page—from her grandfather’s home in Japan to her own room—tying together not only Hana’s fondness for the violin but her love for her grandfather. Beautiful touches, such as an image of Hana reflected in a pastel blue rain puddle and a night sky twinkling with fireflies, mirror the wonder of childhood, when everything is new and possible.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin is refreshing encouragement for any child engaging in new experiences or activities. The book’s warmth and inventiveness make it a wonderful gift or addition to home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1894786331

Enjoy this Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin book trailer!

Classical Music Month Activity

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Musical Kids Find the Differences

 

These two kids are performing a duet! Can you find all of the differences in the second picture on this printable Musical Kids Find the Differences?

Picture Book Review