April 30 – It’s Jazz Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

Jazz Appreciation Month got its start at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001. The aim was to celebrate and educate people on the history of and continuing love for jazz. The holiday encourages people of all ages to become familiar with jazz music and the musicians of the past who created this original sound and those today who keep innovating jazz for new audiences. This year’s theme is “jazz beyond borders” and looks at the “dynamic ways jazz can unite people across the culture and geography.” In connection with this initiative, the Smithsonian Masterworks Orchestra will travel to cities in North America, Europe, and Asia as a way to use music to open dialogue about “diversity, identity, diplomacy, and innovation.” To celebrate jazz not only this month but anytime, attend a concert, listen to recordings, and read up on your favorite musicians or a new one. And don’t forget to share your love of jazz with your kids! A great place to start is with today’s book!

Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Written by Kathleen Cornell Berman | Illustrated by Keith Henry Brown

 

As a child, Miles Davis listens to the radio before school, clapping and swaying along to “Louis Armstrong’s soaring trumpet” and “Duke Ellington’s sensational big band.” The “swinging sounds of jazz / swirl together like / colors on a pinwheel.” When he’s older, Miles watches the riverboats on the Mississippi as they bring musicians from New Orleans to play in the East St. Louis clubs. At night he listens as “melodies drift down the street. / Some croon country, / some cry the blues. / Sassy saxophones wail / through the night.”

During the summer, Miles visits his grandfather’s farm in Arkansas. Here, he hears the music of horses’ hooves. On his walks through town, he listens to the sounds of guitars and singing, and at church he learns the notes of “soulful singing.” For his thirteenth birthday, Miles receives a trumpet. He takes lessons and practices again and again.

While he’s still in high school, Miles begins being paid to play at dance halls. His confidence grows and he begins to develop his own sound. A new form of jazz is attracting attention—Bebop: “far-out harmonies / with fast, flipping beats / that hop and bop.” He goes to clubsto listen to Charlie “Bird” Parker and Dizzy Gillespie play. He’s “blown away / by the energy of the music.”

Then one night, one of the band members doesn’t show up, and Miles—who always has his trumpet with him—is asked to fill the spot. In awe and a little intimidated in the presence of his idols, Miles’ playing “doesn’t shine.” But he knows that “jazz / is all he wants to play.” Miles moves to New York to go to school at Juilliard, but, really, to learn from Bird, Dizzy, and all of his idols. In the morning he goes to class, practicing between classes. At night he plays clubs throughout the city.

Soon, he leaves Juilliard to concentrate on playing and learning from the greats. His father advises him: “Don’t be like the mockingbird / that copies others. / Be your own man. / Be your own sound.” When Dizzy leaves Bird’s band, Miles takes his place. But he plays differently than Dizzy. “Some listeners put him down— / they want Dizzy’s rippling trumpet.” The criticism make Miles lose confidence and want to quit. But Bird encourages him.

With practice and patience, he discovers his own sound, holding and savoring perfect notes “just for the beauty of it.” He forms his own group with talented musicians who want to create new sounds. The nine musicians play “slowly and mysteriously…. Cool— / relaxed, / with a lighter, / lyrical feel.” Mile’s solos enchant audiences.

But the endless work takes its toll. He begins to lose gigs; his health declines. Miles doesn’t give up. “He climbs out / of his dark days / by playing his horn again.” Then in 1955 he takes the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival and begins to play. “…His mystical voice hangs / like a cloud, / leaving space / for each listener’s / imagination to wander.” The crowd cheers and applauds. Miles is back with his unmistakable sound and new ideas for the future of the music he loves.

Notes about Miles Davis from Wynton Marsalis, Kathleen Cornell Berman, and Keith Henry Brown as well as a selected discography and bibliography follow the text.

Kathleen Cornell Berman’s lyrical passages reveal a boy, a teenager, and a man who embodied music, listening to and absorbing the various sounds around him and incorporating them into his own, unique sound. Her evocative vocabulary (swirl, rollicking, croon, rumbling, far-out, rippling, blizzard of notes, itching to play) and phrasing that blends short staccato lines with longer sentences echoes the rhythm of jazz and will keep readers riveted to the story. Berman emphasizes the listening, practice, and experimentation that informed Miles Davis’s original sound, showing children that innovation is built on hard work, dedication, and even history. Her inclusion of Davis’s setbacks also demonstrates that perseverance is part of the success of any endeavor.

Keith Henry Brown’s gorgeous, detailed pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations take readers from Miles Davis’s living room, where he listens to the radio as images of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington swirl through his imagination, to an overlook on the Mississippi River and its paddlewheel steam ships to the clubs and jam sessions of New York and finally, to the Newport Jazz Festival. Brown’s color palette of cool blues, greens, purples, and browns, punctuated with Davis’s ever-present gleaming brass trumpet, brings Davis’s country and city experiences to life while mirroring the tone and feel of his unique sound. Quotes from Miles Davis are sprinkled throughout the story and set apart with type that looks handwritten, giving his words a personal touch.

Sure to inspire readers to learn more about Miles Davis and listen to his music, Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound would be an excellent accompaniment to school music programs, an inspiring book for biography lovers and young musicians of all types, and a beautiful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 8 – 12

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146909

Discover more about Kathleen Cornell Berman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Keith Henry Brown, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Meet Kathleen Cornell Berman

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In your author’s bio you say that you fell in love with Mile’s Davis’ music when you were 10 years old. Was there a particular spark that made you love his music?

As a kid I loved all kinds of music. When I first heard Miles’ trumpet sound, I fell in love. His trumpet sound was different. It wasn’t flashy, it was slow, haunting and very beautiful. I longed to hear it again.

Can you take readers on your journey of writing Birth of the Cool and having it published? What kind of research did you do? What was the most surprising thing you learned about Miles Davis?

I was thrilled when I got the email from Charlotte Wenger from Page Street. It’s beyond exciting when you find someone who loves your story as much as you do. And Charlotte was a dream editor to work with.

I read Miles’ autobiography and many other books about him, as well as journal and magazine articles. I listened to countless interviews and researched players in his band. And I listened to his music a lot. He went through many changes in his musical career. I realized I had to keep my focus on his early career. 

I was surprised to learn he had slave ancestors who played music in the main house on a plantation. It was interesting to discover that Miles loved rural life (from his visits to his relatives’ farms). When he first moved to NYC, he visited the stables and asked to ride their horses. He had fond memories of riding them on his grandfather’s farm.

Keith Henry Brown’s pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are gorgeous and full of expression. Can you talk about your reaction to seeing the illustrations for the first time. Do you have a favorite spread?  

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Kathleen Cornell Berman and Keith Henry Brown at the book launch for Birth of the Cool and the Jazz Gallery in New York City.

My first reaction to Keith’s illustrations was like an “out of the body” experience. To see my words come to life was a wonderful feeling. His art illuminated Miles’ journey in a jazz inspired way. I was very happy when he accepted the job. I already knew he was a jazz fan, so he was a good choice.

Keith’s goal was to create drawings that weren’t too tight or realistic. He wanted to create a loose, abstract feeling. I think Keith achieved that beautifully. Kudos to his courage in creating illustrations in watercolor, a very unpredictable medium. It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite illustration, I really love them all.

Your inspirational biography highlights the ups—and downs—of Miles Davis’ early career. What message would you like readers to take away from the story?

Miles is a great example of how hard work pays off. Some kids today think it’s easy to play an instrument. For some it might be, but inventing your own sound, is extremely difficult. It takes perseverance and dedication to create your own voice on the instrument. That goes for anything you attempt, whether you become an architect, a visual artist, writer, or a singer. Unfortunately, many jobs don’t allow individuality, but finding something, anything that you’re good at can boost happiness.

I hope this story inspires kids to reach for the stars, to find their own voice, and never give up. I also hope kids will take time to listen to jazz; it’s America’s classical music. Listening to music has so many benefits, intellectually as well as emotionally.

I saw on your website that you like to collect words. Can you tell me five of your favorites and what you love about them? Do you remember where they first caught your eye—or ear?

I’m usually attracted to words that tickle the tongue and have a unique sound, like mesmerizing, prickly, crumpled, nuzzle, etc. There are so many. I love alliteration. When words are paired with another, they sing and make the text come alive. I usually have my wordbook at my side as I read any kind of book. I also use my phone memo to jot words as I hear them in daily life.  

Besides writing, you paint, and create assemblages from found objects. Your sculptures are gorgeous and fun and have so much personality! Which came first—writing or art? When creating an assemblage, do you start with one object or do you see how several of the materials you have can fit together?

Thank you very much. Creating found art sculptures is like therapy. I’ve always been into creating something out of ordinary things. The art and writing coincided with a strong desire to break out of the box of being a teacher.

I collect a lot of wood as well as words. When I find a piece that inspires me, I visualize what it might become and I begin the search for a complimentary piece. It’s kind of like doing puzzles.

Is there a similarity for you in constructing a sculpture and creating text for a picture book?

Yes, there is. I look for a seed of an idea that touches my senses or emotions. And in art I choose a piece of wood that inspires me visually. Then it all comes down to layering and adding details that make the story or art shine in a new way. Finally, adding the “just right” color or details can be compared to the continual revisions to discover perfect words that fit my story.

Birth of the Cool is your debut picture book. What are you looking forward to most as a picture book author?

Reading the book to children and getting them to reflect about their feelings. And, of course, introducing them to jazz.

I love writing picture book biographies. I also enjoy writing books that will amuse kids, as well challenge their thoughts about nature.

What’s up next for you?

I have a new picture book bio about another musician that I just started submitting. And I’ve started research on another interesting, relatively unknown musician that had a big impact on many.                                  

What is your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love the traditions and the history. Holidays are so important in bringing busy families together. As a former teacher,             Thanksgiving gave me the opportunity to discuss the importance of the Native American people. They taught us so much. At the Thanksgiving table, we as a family celebrate the Native American contributions to our country. I wish more people did the same.

You can connect with Kathleen Cornell Berman on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Jazz Appreciation Month Activity

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Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle

 

Jazz has a sound and vocabulary all it’s own! Can you find the twenty jazz-related words in this printable puzzle? Then have fun coloring it!

Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle | Cool Jazz! Word Search Solution

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You can find Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 20 – Go Caroling Day

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About the Holiday

Caroling is a long-standing tradition of the holidays. Gathering with friends and neighbors as part of a professional singing group or just as amateurs and singing Christmas songs door to door, at nursing homes, and other community venues brings joy and cheer to all. Both hearing and singing favorite songs that only come around once a year makes caroling a much-anticipated activity. Today’s holiday celebrates the love of caroling and encourages people to raise their voices and join in. It’s also a perfect day to highlight the life of the man who wrote one of our most beloved carols—White Christmas—with today’s book!

Write On, Irving Berlin!

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

In September of 1893 Moses and Lena Baline and their six children, including 5-year-old Israel, sailed into New York Harbor hoping “to start a new life in a new country.” They came from Russia, where their home had been burned down by “gangs of angry men” who “rode from village to village in pogroms, destroying Jewish homes and hurting the people who lived in them.” In America, the Balines had a small apartment, little money, and little food. But they did have freedom.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

At school, Izzy—as Israel was nicknamed—paid less attention to his schoolwork than to the music in his head. When Izzy was only thirteen, his father died. Izzy knew that money was tight, so he moved out and made his own living singing in saloons, in the chorus line of New York shows, and even as he waited tables.  Irving as Izzy now called himself, became a professional song writer when he was paid 37 cents for his first song.

Irving continued to write the tunes that filled his head. When Ragtime was all the rage during the early 1900s, Irving tried this new, jazzy kind of music, and his “‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ was a smash.”  Irving married, but his wife died only a few months after their wedding. Irving consoled himself by writing. He became an American citizen, and when he was drafted into the US Army during WWI, he wrote songs to encourage his fellow soldiers. When he married again, he was inspired to write a song called “Always” about a love that lasts forever.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Irving never seemed to be without a tune in his head. He “wrote music for plays, for movies, for friends, for strangers. He scribbled ideas on napkins and on the sleeves of his shirt. He wrote songs in elevators and in taxicabs. He wrote songs in the bathtub.” During World War II, one of his older songs—“‘God Bless America’ became a HUGE hit.” In the winter of 1942, Irving wrote what he considered not only his best song, but the best song anyone had ever written: “White Christmas.” It’s sentimental words and catchy tune inspired the American soldiers engaged in battles around the world and helped them “remember all the things they were fighting for.”

Since Irving was too old to fight in the war, he developed a show called “This is the Army” that he took around the world to entertain the troops. His “cast was completely integrated—black and white soldiers lived, ate, and traveled together, which was rare in those days.” Even after the war ended, Irving continued to write songs that people still love today.

An Author’s Note about Irving Berlin and his songs as well as books for further reading follow the text.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Leslie Kimmelman brings to life the story of one of America’s most prolific and beloved song writers with enthusiasm and wit and the kinds of details that capture kids’ attention and inspire them to learn more. Timely for this year’s 100th anniversary of the writing of “God Bless America” and the 80th anniversary of its public appearance, Write On, Irving Berlin would make an excellent centerpiece of school music units when paired with Berlin’s songs, many of which kids will recognize. Berlin’s success, as revealed in Kimmelman’s well-paced, upbeat, and conversational storytelling is a powerful motivator for any child with big dreams.

David C. Gardner’s beautiful, softly-washed and detailed paintings take readers from the New York neighborhoods, restaurants, and dance halls of the early 1900s to the battlefields of World Wars I and II to the bright lights of Broadway, where his last musical, “Annie Get Your Gun” is advertised on the marquee. Along the way, kids see Irving as a child, a young man, and an older professional, always with a pencil and paper in hand. Images of the Statue of Liberty seen throughout the book tie together the theme of the immigrant’s experience, Berlin’s love of America, and one of his most famous works, “God Bless America.”

Write On, Irving Berlin! is an excellent biography that should find a home in classroom, school, and public libraries as well as on home bookshelves for children who love history, music, and biographies and who have big ideas of their own.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363803

Discover more about Leslie Kimmelman and her books on her website.

To learn more about David C. Gardner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Go Caroling Day Activity

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Musical Mice Coloring Page

 

Grab your crayons or pencils and have fun with this printable Musical Mice Coloring Page!

Musical Mice Coloring Page

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You can find Write On, Irving Berlin! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 3 – Make a Gift Day

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About the Holiday

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a homemade gift. But what if you’re not crafty and baking’s not really your thing either? A gift doesn’t have to be something you unwrap. There are plenty of ways to share your talents with those you love to show them they’re important to you. Are you handy around the house? Find a project that needs doing and go to work! Are you a dancer? Why not teach a young family member some steps or a short routine? If you sing or play and instrument, invite friends and family to your holiday concert or perform for them during a holiday get together. Whatever your talent is, others will be excited and happy to receive your “homemade” gift!

A Tuba Christmas

Written by Helen L. Wilbur | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

Ava came from a musical family, and the time had come for her to choose an instrument to learn. If she started practicing now, she’d be ready for the family’s holiday concert. Her father suggested the piano like her mother played. Her mom suggested the flute or maybe the violin like her dad played. But Ava wasn’t interested in these—or in following in her bothers’ steps with the cello or clarinet.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ava knew what instrument she wanted to play and proudly announced, “‘I want to play the tuba.’” Her family was surprised but signed her up for lessons. Her teacher, Rodney, played the tuba in the high school marching band. Since a full-sized tuba was much too big for Ava, “Rodney found a tuba that fit nicely in her lap and made her only a little lopsided when she carried it.” Ava loved everything about her tuba, but there was one problem. While Ava could make noise on her tuba, she couldn’t make music.

Ava practiced every day. At dinner, her parents always asked how her tuba playing was going while her brothers laughed and told her she would ruin their concert. Even the kids at school made fun of her choice of instruments, but Rodney told her, “‘Forget about them. The tuba is a noble instrument.’” But when she tripped over her tuba and fell in the cafeteria in front of all the laughing kids, she told Rodney she was quitting.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Rodney told her that was too bad because she’d miss being in the holiday concert—a first of its kind in the area. Ava perked up on hearing about the concert and vowed to keep practicing. As the days went on, “The notes came a little easier and sounded just a bit better every night.” Her tuba even seemed lighter to carry. When the posters went up announcing a surprise concert, everyone wanted to know what it was about, but Ava just told them they’d have to wait and see.

Ava’s brothers couldn’t believe she could be in a concert. They told her she’d “hit the wrong notes.” Rodney reassured her though that playing in an ensemble was a “great chance to learn.” He told her “if someone misses a note, other players will hit the right one and no one will know.” Ava felt better and on the day of the concert she ignored the butterflies in her stomach as she joined all of the other tuba players in decorating her tuba and donning an elf hat.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the audience saw that the orchestra consisted only of tubas, they looked around skeptically. Rodney explained that the tubas would play each song twice: once alone and then for everyone to join in singing. Everyone smiled when they recognized the first song, Jingle Bells. On the second go-round, the whole audience was soon singing. The tubas played lots of familiar songs. “the concert was loud and it was fun. At the end everyone cheered and cheered.” Even Ava’s brothers were proud to point her out and claim her as their sister. And just as her parents had promised, her father presented Ava with her very own tuba and a welcome to “the new musician in our family.”

An Author’s Note following the story reveals the origins of Tuba Christmas concerts, which take place all around the world. A description of the tuba, how it works, and other instruments in the tuba family is also included.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Helen L. Weber’s original holiday story will delight any child who sees life a little differently from their friends and family. Ava’s perseverance in playing the tuba despite the teasing and from her brothers and friends and a bit of skepticism on the part of her parents, will embolden readers who are met with similar reactions to their desired pursuits. Ava’s teacher, Rodney, gives sage and reassuring advice that provides positive perspective and will encourage kids to continue working on their skills despite setbacks or nervousness. Through her characters’ honest, realistic dialogue and emotions, Wilbur reveals the ups and downs of beginning any new activity, hobby, or vocation and offers children support and inspiration on their journey.

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Mary Reaves Uhles captures all of the heart of this one-of-a-kind story in her vivid and action-filled illustrations that reveal Ava’s enthusiasm for her shiny, coiled instrument. Images of Ava practicing while the cat covers its ears and the neighbor’s dog howls as the notes go awry add humor, but also reinforce Ava’s determination to learn the tuba. Ava’s interactions with Rodney are uplifting and will boost young readers’ confidence in their own abilities. The cheerful double-page spread of the tuba orchestra decked out for the holiday concert will have kids wanting to attend a Tuba Christmas concert—or take up the tuba themselves!

A heartening story for any child who marches to a different…tuba, A Tuba Christmas is a book that cheer and reassure kids at any time of the year.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363841

Discover more about Helen L. Wilbur and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Reaves Uhles, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Make a Gift Day Activity

CPB - Hot Chocolate trio (2)

Friendship Hot Chocolate Jar 

 

There’s nothing better than sipping hot chocolate with a friend or family member during the cold months ahead! Here’s an easy way to make a special gift for someone you love!

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

Supplies

  • Mason jar, canning jar, or any recycled jar from home
  • Canister of your favorite hot chocolate mix
  • Bag of mini marshmallows
  • Bag of chocolate chips
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Piece of cloth
  • Shoelace, string, elastic, or ribbon
  • Paper or card stock to make a Friendship Tag
  • Hole punch
  • Scissor

Directions for Filling the Jar

  1. Wash and completely dry the jar
  2. Drop a handful of mini marshmallows into the bottom of the jar. With the spoon push some of the marshmallows tight against the glass so they will show up when you add the hot chocolate mix.
  3. Measure 1/3 cup of hot chocolate mix and sprinkle it on top of the marshmallows. With the spoon gently spread the mix over the marshmallows.
  4. If you wish, add a layer of chocolate chips.
  5. Continue layering marshmallows and hot chocolate mix until you get to the top of the jar.
  6. At the top add another layer of chocolate chips and marshmallows.
  7. Put the lid on the jar and secure it tightly.

Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag

  1. Cut a 6-inch circle from the cloth. To make the edges decorative, use a pinking sheers or other specialty scissor.
  2. Cover the lid of the jar with the cloth and secure with an elastic or rubber band.
  3. Tie the string, shoelace, or other tie around the rim of the lid.
  4. If using a Mason jar, place the cloth between the disk and the screw top
  5. Create a Friendship Tag and add your name and the name of your friend.
  6. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the Friendship Tag, slide it onto the tie, and knot it.

Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate

  1. With a spoon measure 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate chip mix into a mug
  2. Fill the mug with boiling water, hot milk, or a combination of both
  3. Enjoy!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-tuba-christmas-cover

You can find A Tuba Christmas at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 24 – It’s National Camping Month

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About the Holiday

June is the perfect month to explore the great outdoors up close through camping. Whether you enjoy pitching a tent, renting a cabin, or parking an RV, all the enjoyment of hiking, fishing, swimming, and of course toasting marshmallows and singing around the campfire await! 

Can You Canoe? And Other Adventure Songs

Written by The Okee Dokee Brothers—Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing Illustrated by Brandon Reese

 

Is it possible to sing a picture book? It is when the book is Can You Canoe?! These twelve humorous, rip-roaring tunes take readers and singers deep into the fun of what it means to spend time enjoying nature. Wild animals, tall tales, legendary characters, and all the sounds and flavors of country livin’ are represented in these catchy original songs that will have you singing and laughing along in no time.

Through the Woods introduces the line-up with an apt question: “I’m wondering if you’d go wandering with me / Through the wilderness and woods / To where the winds are blowin’ free…” But even the speaker realizes there might be doubts—“You’re wondering if I go wandering with you / what kind of trouble we’ll get ourselves into. / Would it be wrong to tag along / With a band of vagabonds?”—and assuages them in the end.

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Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Brandon Reese (brandonreese.com).

Jamboree takes readers to a country store where there’s dancing every Friday night to a song called “Jamboree” that’s played with abandon and just a little off key. But all you need is to “grab you a partner / And hold on tight / ‘Cause we ain’t stoppin’ / Until we see the light.”

In Black Bear Mama a couple learns there’s no arguing with a mother bear on the lookout for food for her cubs, and Echo Echoooo reassures that nothing, not even the widest valley, can keep true love apart. Can You Canoe? is a celebration of the simple life out on the water without distractions: “Can you canoe on a little boat built for two? Can You Canoe?…I wanna float down a river with you.”

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Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Mr. & Mrs. Sippy can take you by surprise as this isn’t a tune about straws or baby cups. Instead, this is a rambling life story that starts like this: “Mr. and Mrs. Sippy / Got married in the fall. / They left the church that very same day / For their honeymoon in St. Paul, / Singin’ M-I-double-S-double-S-I-P-P-I / M-I-double-S-double-S-I-P-P-I. The couple roams on down to St. Louis to make themselves a home, then raises children in ‘good old Memphis Town.” When they have no place left to go, “they drift down past New Orleans / To the Gulf of Mexico.” Then you’re invited to sing the chorus backwards and forwards once again!

The Legend of Tall Talkin’ Sam echoes some of the great legends of the American West, such as Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. Samantha Rosie-Anna, aka Sam, was “born to a pioneer woman and a Rocky Mountain mountain man” and “come out ridin’ a panther and ropin’ a twister outta the sky.” Sam’s so big that when she sleeps under a blanket of snow, she lays her “hat down in Montana and my boots in Colorado.” But even though this girl is “half horse, half mountain lion and half grizzly bear,” she admits there are things she doesn’t know—“like how some little stream / Carved out one big ol’ canyon, / Or how a fire’s angry flame / Can be your best companion.”

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Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Brandon Reese (www.brandonreese.com)

Jackalope addresses one of the greatest American myths—that of a creature of mixed jack rabbit and antelope blood that roams the plains of the West. With tongue in cheek, the mysterious whereabouts of the Jackalope is exposed in the chorus: “Well I’ve seen ‘em in books and in taxidermy shops. / I’ve seen ‘em hangin’ on the wall. / But I ain’t never seen one in the livin’ light of day— / It’s almost like they don’t exist at all.” But the last verse reveals that perhaps this odd apparition has a purpose after all: “So when you’re searchin’ for the truth / And you’re at the end of your rope, / You might find you don’t need no proof / To believe in the thing that gives you hope— / And for me that’s the jackalope.”

These and a few other rollicking, gold-nugget songs will make any camp out—or even camp in—a knee-slappin’ good time. Can You Canoe comes with a CD so you can sing along to all your favorites—and I have no doubt each song will become a favorite in no time!

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Copyright Brandon Reese, 2016, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing have known each other all their lives and know a thing or two about adventures and how to make them more fun for friends and families. This Grammy-winning duo conjure up catchy tunes and compelling stories to make their songs unforgettable. These poems/songs have as much heart and wonder as a new frontier and invite readers and singers to explore!

Brandon Reese lends his distinctive talent to each song, creating animated scenes loaded with the kinds of details and drama kids love. Barefoot travelers with their packs on their backs and strong walking sticks in hand pad through woods populated with friendly wildlife. The country store is alive with animal musicians and dancers on the porch, on the roof, and hanging out every window while broadsides for Aunt Malady’s Snake Oil and No Itch Flea Powder hang on the walls. A cozier camping tent you’ll never find, and canoe paddlers are accompanied by a raccoon poling a crocodile boat while a rabbit floats along on the belly of a turtle. Each picture invokes the great outdoors in all its glory.

Can You Canoe is a must for any trip, whether you’re traveling far or just down the road!

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1454918035

National Camping Month Activity

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Come Canoeing With Us Maze

 

These friends want to canoe together but first they must pick up little deer at the center of the lake. They need your help navigating their way in this printable Come Canoeing With Us maze! Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Can You Canoe? And Other Adventure Songs at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Reviews

May 16 – National Biographers Day

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About the Holiday

National Biographers Day commemorates a very special meeting that led to one of the most celebrated biographies in English literature. On May 16, 1763, James Boswell met with Samuel Johnson for the first time in a Covent Garden, London bookshop. Thirty years later, Boswell, who was also a poet, essayist, editor, literary critic, and lexicographer, published his biography of Samuel Johnson. Today’s holiday honors all those who delve into the life of others to bring their often fascinating and inspiring stories to readers. To celebrate today, read up on one of your favorite people and introduce your kids to biographies—like today’s book—that can encourage them to follow their dreams.

Write On, Irving Berlin!

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

In September of 1893 Moses and Lena Baline and their six children, including 5-year-old Israel, sailed into New York Harbor hoping “to start a new life in a new country.” They came from Russia, where their home had been burned down by “gangs of angry men” who “rode from village to village in pogroms, destroying Jewish homes and hurting the people who lived in them.” In America, the Balines had a small apartment, little money, and little food. But they did have freedom.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

At school, Izzy—as Israel was nicknamed—paid less attention to his schoolwork than to the music in his head. When Izzy was only thirteen, his father died. Izzy knew that money was tight, so he moved out and made his own living singing in saloons, in the chorus line of New York shows, and even as he waited tables.  Irving as Izzy now called himself, became a professional song writer when he was paid 37 cents for his first song.

Irving continued to write the tunes that filled his head. When Ragtime was all the rage during the early 1900s, Irving tried this new, jazzy kind of music, and his “‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ was a smash.”  Irving married, but his wife died only a few months after their wedding. Irving consoled himself by writing. He became an American citizen, and when he was drafted into the US Army during WWI, he wrote songs to encourage his fellow soldiers. When he married again, he was inspired to write a song called “Always” about a love that lasts forever.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Irving never seemed to be without a tune in his head. He “wrote music for plays, for movies, for friends, for strangers. He scribbled ideas on napkins and on the sleeves of his shirt. He wrote songs in elevators and in taxicabs. He wrote songs in the bathtub.” During World War II, one of his older songs—“‘God Bless America’ became a HUGE hit.” In the winter of 1942, Irving wrote “White Christmas.” It’s sentimental words and catchy tune inspired the “American soldiers fighting fierce battles all around the world.”

Since Irving was too old to fight in the war, he developed a show called “This is the Army” that he took around the world to entertain the troops. His “cast was completely integrated—black and white soldiers lived, ate, and traveled together, which was rare in those days.” Even after the war ended, Irving continued to write songs that people still love today.

An Author’s Note about Irving Berlin and his songs as well as books for further reading follow the text.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Leslie Kimmelman brings to life the story of one of America’s most prolific and beloved song writers with enthusiasm and wit and the kinds of details that capture kids’ attention and inspire them to learn more. Timely for this year’s 100th anniversary of the writing of “God Bless America” and the 80th anniversary of its public appearance, Write On, Irving Berlin would make an excellent centerpiece of school music units when paired with Berlin’s songs, many of which kids will recognize. Berlin’s success, as revealed in Kimmelman’s well-paced, upbeat, and converstional storytelling is a powerful motivator for any child with big dreams.

David C. Gardner’s beautiful, softly-washed and detailed paintings take readers from the New York neighborhoods, restaurants, and dance halls of the early 1900s to the battlefields of World Wars I and II to the bright lights of Broadway, where his last musical, “Annie Get Your Gun” is advertised on the marquee. Along the way, kids see Irving as a child, a young man, and an older professional, always with a pencil and paper in hand. Images of the Statue of Liberty seen throughout the book tie together the theme of the immigrant’s experience, Berlin’s love of America, and one of his most famous works, “God Bless America.”

Write On, Irving Berlin! is an excellent biography that should find a home in classroom, school, and public libraries as well as on home bookshelves for children who love history, music, and biographies and who have big ideas of their own.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363803

Discover more about Leslie Kimmelman and her books on her website.

To learn more about David C. Gardner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Write On, Irving Berlin! Giveaway

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I’m thrilled to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Write On, Irving Berlin!

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, May 16 – 22. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on May 23.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Biographer’s Day Activity

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I Am…  Biography Page

 

How well do you know yourself – or your friends? This printable I Am… Biography Page can be fun to fill out and share with friends. Make a game of it and see if you can answer the questions for someone else in your family or among your friends!

 

Picture Book Review

April 29 – International Dance Day

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About the Holiday

International Dance Day was founded in 1982 by the Dance Committee of the International Theater Institute. This date was chosen to commemorate the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, who was born in 1727 and is credited with creating modern ballet. Today’s holiday encourages people to celebrate dance and “revel in the universality of this art form.” There are so many styles of dance to watch and participate in. Today, enjoy a performance or find a venue where you can kick up your heals in your favorite kind of dance!

Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing

Written by Marilyn Singer | Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

 

The rhythms of dance and the cadence of poetry create a natural pairing as these seventeen poems that celebrate the moves, music, and thrill of dances from around the world demonstrate with toe-tapping joy.

In Cha-Cha a boy attending his Uncle Nate’s birthday party learns the cha-cha from his grandma. At first he says “I don’t / know these moves. / My fee / feel like hooves.” But then “something clicks! / Okay, it’s old school. / I say, / cha-cha’s cool!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

While the kids at school brag about their parents’ jobs, one boy has them beat in Hip-Hop: “No fumbling, no bumbling, / my pops is tops at tumbling. / He’s elastic, so fantastic. / Papa’s so gymnastic!” But while Dad “will swipe and windmill” and “slide on his knees, / do lots of flares and coin-drops” and “boomerang and freeze,” the boy adds “…wait / until you see my mom!”

Is it meringue or Merengue? Maybe a bit of both…because doing it right means “Moving sideways, / turning wrists, / while we do / our pretzel twists. / We sway our hips, we shift our legs, like we’re whipping / lots of eggs.”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, text courtesy of Marilyn Singer. Courtesy of kristivaliant.com

It’s fun to let go when learning the Salsa. All you need is to “Feel the beat / in your feet, / in your heart. / Then you start.” So “Don’t be shy. / Come on try. / In this class, / show some sass.” If only shopping could be so entertaining…. But, wait! Maybe Conga is the solution. “We’re at the MALL. / I’m very BORED. / I hate the STORES, / I hate the HORDE…. / ‘Just one more SHOP’ / turns into FOUR. / I’m gonna SCREAM, / I’m gonna ROAR.” Then music starts and a line grows long—“Uh uh uh, KICK! / You cannot WHINE / when you are ON / a conga LINE! / Uh uh uh, KICK! / A flash mob BALL! / Keep shopping, MOM! / I love the MALL!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

The library may be a quiet, staid place most of the time, but Swing Dance takes over one special library. “On the plaza in July, / underneath the summer sky / where you can get to hear good bands, / kick your feet, wave your hands, / we’re gonna swing. / That’s our new thing / We’re gonna swing!” A boy and his mom have joined lots of other dancers having fun on the square— “We step…step… / rock step. / we’re full… / of pep. / We Lindy hop. / Bibbidy-bop! / We Lindy hop!”

And for those kids who look at the Square Dance unit in PE with trepidation, this girl feels the same: “Got a partner, lost my shoe. / Allemande left? I haven’t a clue….Did that caller give a cue? / Don’t promenade me. Shoo, boy, shoo!…Bow to Francisco, bow to Sue. / One more swing. It’s over! Whew! / I tried real hard, but alas, it’s true. / I’m flunking out of square dance!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

Other poems introduce the Foxtrot, Hora, Samba, Two-Step, Argentine Tango, Waltz, Bhangra, and Polka. Notes about each dance, giving a description, a bit of history, and basic rhythms and steps, follow the text. A CD of dance music is also included.

Marilyn Singer begins her exuberant celebration of dances from around the world with a pair of the reverso poems for which she is well known: All Over the World, Dancing is Joy and Joy is Dancing All Over the World. With this start, Singer invites readers to put on their dancing shoes and enter ballrooms, classrooms, and outdoor spaces filled with music. From birthdays to bar mitzvahs to weddings to spontaneous parties, Singer imbues each experience with the beats, steps, and sometimes missteps of dance with expressive vocabulary and humorous asides. Reading the poems aloud offers its own special treat as the meter of each poem reflects the rhythm of the dance described.

Kristi Valiant’s vibrant two-page spreads put kids in the center of the action where individuals, couples, and groups enjoy groovin’ to the music in their own style. Dancers swirl, stomp, hop, twirl, sway, dip, and kick up their heels on sunny days and under glowing nighttime light. So join in—no experience or partner necessary!

For kids who love music and dance and for those who love poetry of all kinds, Feel the Beat; Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing is a fun addition to home libraries—and may spark an interest in learning how to perform these dances.

Ages 5 – 9

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0803740211

Discover more about Marilyn Singer and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Kristi Valiant on her website!

International Dance Day Activity

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Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle

 

People all around the world love to dance! Can you find the names of twenty types of dances in this printable Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

 

March 27 – National Joe Day

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About the Holiday

Are you just a regular Joe? Well, not today! Today you’re special! Today, we’re honoring all those regular Joes, cups of Joe, and people named or nicknamed Joe—or Jo. Why? Just because! So celebrate today by indulging in your favorite coffee, getting in touch with any friends or family named Joe—or Jo—or even changing your name to Joe for this particular day.

Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown

Written by Eric Litwin | Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 

“Groovy Joe is totally fun. / He’s a song-singing, / tail-wagging / party of one.” And how does he rock? Wow! Like this: “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!” But just as Joe is feeling the beat, there’s a knock on the door. Who is it?  One tuba-playing dog who wants to join in. Now there are two dogs and a big ol’ tuba taking up space, but does Joe mind? Not at all! He just keeps groovin’ with a “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin, 2017. Courtesy of tomlichtenheld.com.

They’re soon interrupted by another knock at the door. Two more dogs come in, so now there are four! Four dogs mean there’s even less room for Joe. “Does Joe get upset? Goodness no!” So the four set to rockin’ ‘til there’s another knock at the door. “Who’s there?” asks Joe, and the answer is four. “Four who? Four more dogs are going to disco with you.” These dogs bring a flute, a cello, a violin, and a guitar. With eight in the room it’s getting pretty crowded, but does Joe care? Not a bit! They just “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!”

A pretty cool squirrel has danced onto the scene, and pretty soon he’s joined the band with his tambourine. Is eight dogs and one squirrel all the room can hold? No! Even though “This party is rocking” and “they’re packed on the floor… Groovy Joe says there’s always room for one more!” Do you know who that is? You’re about to find out because there’s a knock at the door. “Knock! Knock! / Who’s there? / Joe invited. / Joe invited who?” Just look! “Joe invited YOU to come to the party!”

So put on your dancing shoes and get your voice ready to sing because “there’s always room for more” at this “Disco party bow wow! Disco party bow wow!”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin, 2017. Courtesy of tomlichtenheld.com.

What little one can resist the upbeat beat of a dance party—especially one as inviting as Eric Litwin and Tom Lichtenheld’s disco bash at Groovy Joe’s? With a little math and a lot of inclusiveness, Litwin shows how adding more friends multiplies the fun. His infectious rhythm and repeated phrasing will have listeners memorizing and reading along with the knock-knock jokes and the call to party. Joe’s final invitation to kids to join in will have them up and dancing along joyfully.

Tom Lichtenheld’s shaggy Joe’s not worried about how much room he has. He’s only got smiles for the other dogs who come knocking at his door. As each new musician joins the band, readers will love watching the various dogs play their instruments and boogie to their own music. With each knock, the dogs stop their playing and turn their eager eyes to the door anticipating the fun repartee to come and the appearance of more friends. Presented addition problems, clearly drawn instruments, and a crew of recognizable dog breeds also give adults and kids lots to talk about during the party.

With playful, action-packed fun for energetic story times, Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown would be a terrific and favorite choice for preschool, kindergarten, and home libraries. The story would even be fun to act out for added learning opportunities.

Ages 3 – 5

Orchard Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0545883795

Discover more about Eric Litwin, his books, music, and more plus find free downloads on his website

To learn more about Tom Lichtenheld, view a portfolio of his books, and find fun activities, visit his website.

Dance along with Joe and Eric in this Groovy Joe: Dance Party Countdown book trailer!

National Joe Day Activity

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Build a Band Game 

 

Play this fun game to gather all the instruments you need to create a band. The first person to collect all six instrument cards is the winner!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Paper Die Template, cut it out and assemble the cube die.
  2. Print the Musical Instruments cards, cut out cards, and separate the instruments into piles
  3. Players take turns rolling the die to collect musical instrument cards
  4. The first player to collect all 6 instrument cards is the winner

Picture Book Review