February 21 – It’s National Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

Spring comes early for our feathered friends. You may have noticed more bird activity in the past few weeks as birds get ready to build nests and mate. February can be a tough month for these little creatures, though. In some places snow still covers the ground, and the spring blooms that offer nutrition haven’t sprouted yet. To remedy this situation, in 1994 John Porter read a resolution into the United States’ Congressional record recognizing February as National Bird-Feeding Month. One-third of the American population have backyard feeders that provide the sustenance birds need to survive. To celebrate, if you have feeders make sure they are well stocked. If you don’t have a feeder in your yard, consider hanging one. Enjoying the beauty and songs of birds is a day brightener!

Warbler Wave

By April Pulley Sayre with Jeff Sayre

 

“In spring, as you nightly nap, / warblers flap / over oceans, lakes, / and mountains.” These tiny birds ride on streams of wind, navigating their way around buildings and towers and sharing space with bats, insects, and other birds. Then, nearly out of energy, they alight to rest and look for food.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-warbler-wave-wag-walk

Copyright April Pulley Sayre, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“They search. Stalk. / Wag. Walk. / So dainty, / these colorful diners.” They’re dots of color and intricate patterns among the leaves and “flit, like flying flowers.” They look and listen then dart to capture dinner. They are “crushers of caterpillars! / Slurpers of spiders!” Insects can hide from these clever hunters that know every nook and cranny to search.

And they’re not above nabbing a snack that a spider has so carefully wrapped. After a meal, “warblers sing. / Preen. / Scan the local scene.” But then as soon as nighttime falls, they’re off again, with miles to go until they reach their nesting grounds. Like good friends, they keep in touch with each other in the darkness as they fly “Surfing rivers of wind way up high…calling zeep, zeep, zeep in the sky.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-warbler-wave-colors-patterns

Copyright April Pulley, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Following the lyrical text, an extensive discussion of the “Migration Marathon” warblers take each spring reveals fascinating facts about the birds, their instinct to migrate, and why and how they migrate as well as the role of science in recording warbler migration. For instance, warblers weigh no more than a couple of baby carrots, yet they fly hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles from their winter homes in the southern hemisphere to their summer homes in the northern United States and Canada.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-warbler-wave-searching-trees

Copyright April Pulley Sayre, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Blackpoll warblers even undergo physical changes in preparation for their 4,000-mile journey taken three days at a time nonstop. And how do these tiny creatures find their way? They’re born with an innate knowledge of the direction they need to fly, and they navigate by the stars, the setting sun, and the earth’s magnetic field (which they may be able to see!). There’s much more to discover here, too, about the lovely warblers that may be flying through your area soon.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-warbler-wave-looking-for-bugs

Copyright April Pulley Sayre, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

April Pulley Sayre’s poetic narrative of the astounding migration warblers undertake every year is as bright and spry as her little subjects. Staccato sentences echo the birds’ quick, sure movements and alertness to the sounds and motions around them while longer passages flow with the rhythm of the birds in flight, soaring to the next stopping place and taking off again for home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-warbler-wave-taking-off-again

Copyright April Pulley Sayre, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Gorgeous photographs of a fiery horizon and rising moon that invite warblers to the air each night open the book and lead to lush, close-up views of a variety of warblers in their regal colors and patterns. Their sharp eyes, attentive expressions, and perky personalities are on full display in their native habitat. As dusk descends once more over sea and forest, the warblers take wing while birdwatchers wait to see them.

For children who are bird lovers and for families who have backyard feeders or enjoy taking bird-watching walks, as well as for classroom science and story times, Warbler Wave is a beautiful addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Beach Lane Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481448291

To learn more about April Pulley Sayre her books, and her work, visit her website.

National Bird-Feeding Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pine-cone-bird-feeder

Pine Cone Bird Feeder

 

You don’t need a fancy bird feeder to help out the birds in your backyard. With a pine cone, birdseed, and a bit of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening, you can make feeders that birds will flock to!

Supplies

  • Item to Cover, such as a pine cone, conical ice-cream cone, piece of toast or stale bread, bagel, paper towel or toilet paper tube
  • Peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening
  • Bird seed
  • String or wire for hanging
  • Large bowl or container
  • Knife for spreading

Directions

  1. Attach the string or wire to the item to be covered
  2. Cover the item with peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening
  3. Pour birdseed into a large bowl or container
  4. Roll the covered item in the birdseed until well covered
  5. Hang your homemade bird feeder!

Picture Book Review

January 16 – Nothing Day

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About the Holiday

Newspaper columnist Harold Coffin established Nothing Day in 1973 to satirize the proliferation of daily holidays. His purpose was to give people a day to do absolutely nothing. Sounds good to me! Still, does celebrating this holiday constitute doing something? This may be the most baffling holiday on the calendar! Why not find something—or nothing—to do with today’s book?

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day

By Beatrice Alemagna

 

A little girl and her mom are “back again” at the cottage—even trudging up the walk in “the same rain”—while Dad is working back at home in the city. While Mom works at her computer, the girl destroys Martians, but she says, “Actually, I was just pressing the same button over and over.” She wishes that her dad were there.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-cabin

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Mom turns away from her writing and watches her daughter playing her video game. “Is this going to be another day of doing nothing?” she growls. Mom takes the device and hides it—“as usual”—and the little girl finds it—“as usual.” But this time she takes it outside. As the rain pelts down from gloomy skies it looked as if everything in the “garden was hiding from the sun.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-playing-video-games

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

In the pond at the bottom of the hill she finds a line of flat stones. She hops from one to another, crushing them like the Martians in her game. While jumping, though, her game falls out of her pocket and into the pond. The water is so icy cold that she can’t grab it before it sinks out of sight. Oh no! she thinks, “Without my game, I have nothing to do.” The rain strikes her “like rocks,” and she feels “like a small tree trapped outside in a hurricane.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day--jumping-on-rocks

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Just then she spies four giant snails slithering by. She asks them if there is anything to do around there, and they tell her yes. She gently feels one of the snail’s antennae. It is “as soft as jello” and makes her smile. She follows the snails and discovers a field filled with mushrooms. Their damp musky smell reminds her of her grandparents’ basement—her “cave of treasures.” She walks on and finds a spot in the earth where she digs her hand into the ground. She feels “thousands of seeds and pellets and kernals, grains and roots and berries touch “her fingers and hand.” When she looks up the sun is shining “through a giant strainer” and blinds her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-snails

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

Her heart starts beating fast with energy. She takes off running and runs so quickly that she tumbles down the hill. She lands on her back with a flop, and when she opens her eyes, the world is topsy-turvy new. Energized, she climbs a tree and gazes out at the horizon, breaths deeply in the fresh air, drinks raindrops as they fall from a leaf, and notices bugs she’s never seen before. She talks to a bird, splashes in a puddle, and watches the world through stones as clear as glass.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-tumbling

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of beatricealemanga.com.

She hurries home and takes off her raincoat. When she glances in the mirror, for a moment she thinks she “sees her dad smiling at [her].” Her mom is still writing, but now she looks different to the little girl—“like one of the creatures outside.” Her mom notices how soaked she is and takes her to the kitchen to dry her off in a big, soft towel. The little girl feels like giving her mom a big hug. For a moment she wants to tell her about all the things she saw and did, but she doesn’t.

Instead, they enjoy their hot chocolate quietly together. “That’s it,” she says. “That’s all we did. On this magical do-nothing day.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-hot-chocolate

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

While the protagonist of A Magical Do-Nothing Day may never have looked at the world outside closely, Beatrice Alemagna certainly has. Alemagna’s exquisite illustrations portray the beauty of our environment—both indoors and out—and our connections to it with novel descriptions and stunning color and perspectives. As the girl ventures outside, video game clutched tightly, her face registers sadness and wariness. The Martians from the game crawl over and surround her, even when the game is off, seeming to fill any space that might be open to exploration, and, indeed, her first forays into the wild are taken game-style, hopping from platform to platform, rock to rock.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-magical-do-nothing-day-mirror

Copyright Beatrice Alemanga, 2017, courtesy of HarperCollins.

When the gaming device sinks into frigid water (as cold and impersonal as the gaming experience itself?), the child quickly comes out of her shell with the help of snails that lead her to greater discovery. The story gives readers much to ponder in the relationships between the child and parents and the child’s newfound appreciation for the natural world.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day is a fantastic book to add to home and classroom libraries to spur children’s exploration—both in the natural world and within. While I used the feminine pronoun in my review, the story is told from the first person point of view and the child is drawn with gender neutral clothing and hairstyle, making this a book with universal appeal.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062657602

Discover more about Beatrice Alemanga, her books, and her art on her website.

Nothing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainy-day-with-mushroom-and-cricket-coloring-pageNothing To Do Coloring Pages

 

Rainy days are perfect “do-nothing” days. The next time you have an indoor day, grab your crayons or colored pencils and enjoy these printable coloring pages

Splashing in the Rain Coloring Page | Cricket Hiding from the Rain Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

December 1 – Eat a Red Apple Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is steeped in the history of the apple industry in America, beginning with the work of John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, who planted apple trees on his travels across the country in the early 1800s. Due to the popularity of apples and their ease of transportation, a variety of apples were being developed during the mid-to-late 1800s. While the “Ben Davis” apple was at the top of the list in 1880 for its resilience in tough growing climates and long shelf life, it wasn’t the tastiest of apples. As transportation from farm to store became easier and shorter, the Red Delicious emerged as the favorite. It held that position into the 1980s, comprising 75% of all apples grown in Washington state—one of the largest apple producers in the world. While other apple varieties have taken a bite out of the popularity of the Red Delicious, it is still the iconic apple—and the star of today’s holiday!

Little Elliot, Fall Friends

By Mike Curato

 

Little Elliot the elephant and his best friend Mouse loved the lights, action, and feel of the big city. Sometimes though “the city was too dirty, too loud, and too busy.” Mouse decided they needed a vacation, so they took a bus ride to the country. As they left the buildings and traffic of the city behind for the autumn leaves, rolling hills, and fresh air of the countryside, Elliot and Mouse felt refreshed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-in-the-country

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

When the bus dropped them off, Elliot exclaimed, “‘Wow…the country is even bigger than the city!’” They ran up a hill and relaxed under a tree feeling “the breeze and the sunshine and the soft grass.” Soon, they began to get hungry. Down in an orchard below, they found some juicy red apples to eat. Taking a bite, Elliot thought, “‘The country is delicious!’” Mouse thought the piles of fallen leaves were pretty fun too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-eating-apples

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The two played hide-and-seek in the woods, in a pumpkin patch, and in a corn field, where tall brown stalks still stood. Elliot thought the corn field was the perfect hiding spot, but as the sun began to go down and no Mouse appeared to find him, he wondered where Mouse was. “Suddenly, Elliot smelled something delicious.” He followed the aroma out of the corn stalks and to a farm house, where he found a an apple pie cooling on a windowsill.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-playing-hide-and-seek

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Elliot came closer, close enough to peek in the window. Just then Mouse jumped out from behind the pie. “‘I found you!’” he said. Elliot was excited to see his friend. It seemed that Mouse had been busy. When he couldn’t find Elliot, he knew just what to do. He made friends with the farm animals, and then they made a pie because Mouse knew that Elliot would follow his nose and come out of his hiding place. “‘Nobody knows me better,’ said Elliot.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-in-the-corn-field

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Later, the pig, cow, horse, dog, and chicken gathered with Elliot and Mouse around the big picnic table “for a fall feast.” With apple cider served in mason jars, Mouse gave a toast: “‘To new friends!’” and Elliot added “‘And to new treats!’” They fell asleep on the soft hay in the barn, naming the stars that twinkled in the dark sky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-fall-feast

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Mike Curato’s Little Elliot books enchant little ones, and it’s easy to see why as Elliot and Mouse’s adventure into the countryside offers young readers all the comfort and camaraderie that best friends provide each other. The quietly simple and tender story is highlighted by Curato’s spectacular illustrations that combine the clear precision and details of photography with the playful softness of a favorite stuffed toy. Here and there clever designs in the images reflect the sunny tone and foreshadow the special treat Mouse uses to reunite with his best friend. The final nighttime spreads will fill children with wonder.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-elliot-fall-friends-pie

Copyright Mike Curato, 2017, courtesy of mikecurato.com.

Little Elliot, Fall Friends is a sweet, sophisticated book that fans of the series will want to add to their collection and new readers will embrace, while also eager to discover the other Little Elliot books: Big City, Big Family, and Big Fun. It’s a “can’t miss” for any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627796408

Discover more about Mike Curato and his books plus downloadable Little Elliot activity sheets on his website.

Eat a Red Apple Day Activity

CPB - Cinnamon Apples (2)

Cinnamon Apples Recipe

 

Cinnamon apples are a delicious side dish to any meal! This tasty recipe is fun for kids and adults to make together.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of apples, Macintosh or Granny Smith apples are good choices
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

CPB - Cinnamon Apples ingredients (2)

Directions

  1. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon
  2. Peel and core 2 large apples
  3. Thinly slice apples
  4. Combine apples and cinnamon sugar/brown sugar mixture
  5. Stir until well combined
  6. Drizzle with lemon juice and stir again
  7. Cook apples on the stove at medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until desired texture

Picture Book Review

November 21 – National Entrepreneurs’ Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2010, today’s holiday celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit that is alive and well in so many people and that helps advance knowledge and technology, solve problems, and make life better. The third Tuesday of November has been set aside to honor those thinkers and inventors of the past as well as to encourage those now working to see their ideas come to fruition. With their supple minds and unique way of looking at the world, children are natural entrepreneurs, as today’s book shows!

Norton and Alpha

By Kristyna Litten

 

Norton was a very particular kind of collector. He loved finding the kinds of things most people threw away. “Battered wheels, rusty cogs, broken springs…and best of all were the things Norton didn’t have a name for.” Nearly everywhere he went, Norton found useful things. He took them all home and “made the most amazing inventions.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-lab

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day Norton found a little springy thing that he added “to his latest project.” It was the perfect final touch, and Norton named his invention Alpha. Alpha accompanied Norton on all of his hunts, following “his little robot nose down unknown paths.” He was small enough to get into all those places Norton couldn’t reach—ones where amazing items lurked.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-collecting-things

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

One day “Alpha’s nose felt slightly odd. It tickled and tingled and led him to something very unusual.” Norton had no idea what it was, but he took it along home. In his workshop he tested it in all of his usual ways, but this object didn’t react in any way familiar. In fact, the longer Norton had it, the less useful it appeared to be until Norton finally threw it out the window. As it fell it scattered bits of itself all over the ground.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-finding-flower

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

As Norton and Alpha cleaned up, “they found a little round something their mysterious discovery had left behind.” Norton placed it in a jar just in case. The next day rain kept Norton and Alpha indoors, and the next day after that it was too hot to go out. Friday turned out to be just right, so Norton “oiled their joints and got everything ready for a long day’s collecting.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-flower-thrown-out

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

When they opened the doors they were greeted by the most beautiful, colorful sight. Norton and Alpha ran and played in the field and collected samples of all “the blue, pink, and orange things.” At home Norton didn’t experiment on them or even try to figure out what they were. Instead, he just used them to decorate his shelves, pipes, boxes, and bins because they “made him smile.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-playing-in-field

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Kristyna Litten’s inventive story of a little robot who loves to tinker and collect odd objects and his constant companion, Alpha, will charm children who are always intrigued by the unknown and ready to incorporate found objects into their world. The idea that industrious efforts can coexist with the simple enjoyment of the earth’s beauty may inspire kids and adults to also appreciate those special “found moments” that can bring much happiness to life.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-norton-and-alpha-going-down-pipe

Copyright Kristyna Litten, 2017, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Litten’s Norton and Alpha are adorable friends, inviting little readers into their lab, where kids will love lingering over the gears, dials, machines, and shelves stacked with recognizable springs, tacks, nails, washers, hooks, hinges and other items. Readers will “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” when Norton and Alpha open their doors—accomplished through a marvelous double gate-fold spread—and the once-bleak landscape has been transformed into a gorgeous field by the flowers Norton has helped to grow. Children will also enjoy following what happens to the little seed Norton has saved as it is watered by an undetected leak in a nearby bottle and germinated on that very hot day.

With its cute illustrations and inspiring story, Norton and Alpha would be a much-asked-for book on any child’s home bookshelf and a terrific lead-in to inventive classroom playtimes or units.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454924999

Discover more about Kristyna Litten, her art, and her books on her blog.

National Entrepreneur’s Day Activity

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Inventor’s Box

 

For young inventors or tinkerers, having bits and pieces and some tools to work with all stored in one place encourages creative thinking. Filling the drawers of a tool case, a tool box, or a tackle box with items like springs, brads, wheels, hinges, plastic piping, pieces of wood, glue, tape, and simple tools can spark a child’s imagination. Take your child along to the craft or hardware store and choose items together!

Picture Book Review

November 1 – National Author’s Day & Interview with Author Linda Booth Sweeney

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About the Holiday

There may be no better month to celebrate Author’s Day than in November. Not only is it Picture Book Month, but thousands of people set aside their usual routine to take part in NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, when writers try to complete at least a first draft of a novel in one month. To kick off all of this literary love today, we remember and honor American authors past and present. The holiday was instituted in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement, Illinois Women’s Club. An avid reader, she established Author’s Day to thank writer Irving Bacheller who sent her an autographed story in response to her fan letter. The day was officially recognized in 1949 by the United States Department of Commerce. McPherson’s granddaughter, Sue Cole, has promoted the holiday since her Nellie’s death in 1968 and encourages people to spend a bit of the day writing a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

When the Snow Falls

Written by Linda Booth Sweeney | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

A little curly-haired girl and her younger brother wake up from a sleepover with Grandma to a magical sight. As they gaze out the big picture window in the little girl’s room, they’re dazzled to see “When the snow falls…Frost paints. / Skies gray. / Windows sparkle/ Snow? Yay!” There’s no school today, so Mommy and Daddy and Grandma bundle up and get the kids ready to head outdoors to take care of the farm animals.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-kitchen

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

Soft flakes flutter down, piling into deep drifts and providing a little extra after-breakfast treat as “Boot sink. / Lashes flick. / Tongues tickle. / We lick.” In the barn the horses, puppies, and chickens are just as excited about the snowy day. Riding an old chair sled, Grandma and her grandchildren glide down the hill, following tracks left by lively rabbits and now-dozing foxes.

Deep in the forest the three take in the beauty: “Woods hush. / Fields glisten. / Wren sings. / We listen.” On the other side of the woods, people continue their daily routine but at a slower pace as “plows push” and “mountains grow.” Grandma and the kids slide into town, where people are hard at work keeping up with the storm: “Wheels crunch. / Shovels scoop. / Ice cracks! / Awnings droop.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-barn

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The trio has reached Grandma and Grandpa’s house. They all grab shovels and help clear the walk. Now it’s Grandpa’s turn to have some fun. He takes his granddaughter by the hand, seats her little brother on a sled, and walk to the park. There, kids are making snowmen, building snow forts, and zipping down hills on their snow saucers. At the bottom of the hill everyone plops into the fluff and make snow angels.

It’s been an exhilarating, adventurous day, but twilight is on the horizon and now “toes tingle. / Lips quiver. / Cheeks glow. / We shiver.” As grandma calls from her front porch, the little girl and Grandpa, carrying his grandson, race toward home amid the swirling snowflakes. Inside, the light, warmth, and cozy comforts of warm soup, popcorn, and a crackling fire await. Later, the two kids enjoy quiet time with Grandma and Grandpa when “Cocoa warms. / Mittens puddle. / Day dawdles. / We cuddle.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-fox

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

With her brilliantly expressive staccato sentences—each only two words long—Linda Booth Sweeney evokes the sights, sounds, and joy of a care-free, snowy day. Each four-line, rhyming verse abounds with melodic verbs that spark readers’ imaginations and concrete nouns that in many places form delightful alliterative pairs that softly trip off the tongue. Readers will love the story line that takes them from a rustic farmhouse to Grandma and Grandpa’s cozy home through woods, over hills, past the highway, and into downtown all with the help of an old-style sled. Several verses full of snow day fun play out like a long afternoon spent with friends, leading naturally into the slower pace and loving comfort of the night spent with Grandma and Grandpa.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-sledding-with-grandma

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

In glorious two-page spreads, the wind-swept snow swirls, spatters, and blankets the world in downy white fluff. Jana Christy takes children into the family’s large farmhouse kitchen where a blackboard announces Grandma’s Sunday sleepover as well as Monday’s snow day in place of the crossed-out piano lesson. The family steps out into the sparkling countryside where purple mountains form a backdrop for the barn and sheep pen. As Grandma and the kids start their journey, the forest, a quiet enclave of teal and greens, welcomes them. By the time they reach town, cars are stuck in snowdrifts, snow shovels scrape against the sidewalk, and kids are heading to the park.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-the-snow-falls-sledding

Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

The thrill of playing in the snow is palpable as saucers zoom down hills, hats fly off, and hair blows in the wind. The final spreads of Grandma and Grandpa’s tidy home glow with love and laughter as the kids pull off their snow gear, their dog shakes off the snow, and they settle on the couch for cocoa and cuddles. The busy townspeople, happy playmates, and close-knit mixed-race family make When the Snow Falls a cheerful celebration of diversity.

When the Snow Falls is a joyous book to add to winter collections and would be often asked for during home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399547201

Discover more about Linda Booth Sweeney, her books and her systems work, visit her website.

To learn more about Jana Christy, her art, and her books, visit her website.

National Author’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-snowman-craft

Snow Buddies

Even when there’s no snow, you can make yourself a snow buddy with this fun and easy craft!

Supplies

  • White dress ankle socks
  • Polyester Fiber Fill
  • Tiny buttons
  • Fleece or ribbon, enough for a little scarf
  • Toothpicks
  • Twigs
  • Orange craft paint
  • Cardboard
  • White rubber bands, one or two depending on the size of the snowman
  • Fabric or craft glue
  • Small hair band (optional)

Directions

To Make the Snowman

  1. Cut a circle from the cardboard about 2 inches in diameter for the base
  2. Place the cardboard circle in the bottom of the sock
  3. Fill the sock with fiber fill about ¾ full or to where the ribbed ankle cuff begins. Pack tightly while making a sausage shape. You can make your snowman different shapes with the amount of fill you use.
  4. Stretch out the cuff of the sock and tie it off near the top of the fill either with a loop knot or with the hairband.
  5. Fold the cuff down around the top of the filled sock to make the hat.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of the sock to make a two-snowball snowman. For a three-snowball snowman, use two rubber bands. Adjust the rubber bands to make the “snowballs” different sizes.

To Make the Scarf

  1. Cut a strip of fleece or ribbon 8 to 10 inches long by ½ inch wide
  2. Tie the fleece or ribbon around the neck of the snowman
  3. To Make the Nose
  4. Dip one end of the toothpick into orange paint, let dry
  5. Cut the toothpick in half
  6. Stick the toothpick into the head or top portion of the snowman

To Make the Arms

  1. Insert small twigs into each side of the body of the snowman
  2. You can also use wire or cardboard to make the arms
  3. Attach two mini-buttons to the face for eyes with the fabric or craft glue
  4. Display your Snow Buddy

Interview with Linda Booth Sweeney

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As the weather turns cooler, I’m happy to talk with Linda Booth Sweeney about the event that inspired her first book for children, a favorite wintertime activity, and how we can learn to see and benefit from systems.

How did you get started writing for children?

It seems like I’ve always been writing though it has taken me a long time to call myself a writer. During our last move, I discovered an old cardboard box from my parents’ attic.  After moving it literally for years, I finally opened it this summer. Inside there must have been 15 diaries and journals. When I looked at the dates, I realized that I started writing in those when I was about twelve and I really haven’t stopped. 

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I actually remember the exact day I began writing for children! Jack, my oldest son (now 19), was three. I was pushing him around Cambridge in one of those $20 pop-up strollers. We were a good fifteen minutes from home when a gale force wind blew in. The little canopy on this stroller snapped off and I remember feeling like the stroller lifted up off the ground. This was before cell phones so there was no calling for a ride. I put my head down and ran for home. Well, Jack loved that, and the wind blowing! He was bouncing up and down, pointing to everything he saw: signs rattling, balls rolling, hats flying.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2017, text copyright Linda Booth Sweeney, 2017. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons for Young Readers.

During his nap that afternoon, I flopped down at my desk, grateful we made it home in one piece. Jack’s excitement was contagious and his words were swimming around my head so I wrote them down. That was the beginning of my first children’s book, When the Wind Blows.

Using short, two-word phrases, your picture books are so evocative of actions outdoors and indoors as well as internal emotions. Can you describe your writing process?

I was mimicking the voice of a three-year old so the two words. Balls roll. Object and action. Noun and verb. It just made sense. In my other books like the one I’m working on now about the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial, I am writing for older readers (ages 7-12). My sentences are longer. The book is inspired by big themes like being true to oneself, equality, social justice, and love for country so I find myself writing punchy sentences in the scenes and more lyrically the bridges, or the transitions, between scenes.

Do you remember your favorite picture book when you were a child?

As a little kid, I always loved Dr. Seuss books. My imagination was going full tilt as a kid. Dr. Seuss made me feel like the other worlds I created were not just okay but to be celebrated! As a nine-year-old, I devoured Encyclopedia Brown and anything by James Herriot.

Your first book for children, When the Wind Blows, takes readers on a jaunt through town on a blustery day. When the Snow Falls is a joyful romp through a winter day. What is it about weather that inspires you and your writing?

It’s the immediacy that weather brings. When the rain is pouring down or the snow is falling, that grabs my attention. Of course my attention is also on how to keep my fingers warm or my feet dry. But I can’t think of much else. I love that. I have to be in the moment. My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, captures this idea well in her “Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”

If you’re outside stomping in puddles or making snow angels, who needs to be on a phone? There’s a lot of research coming out that equates nature to a “vitamin” we all need. Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, says it well: “Just as children need good nutrition and adequate sleep, they may very well need contact with nature.” 

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You mentioned in one of your blog posts that When the Snow Falls first took shape during “found time” during the winter of 2015 with its four nearly back-to-back snow storms. Do you have any advice for recognizing and taking advantage of found time not only for writers, but for anyone?

I think the biggest opportunity to enjoy found time comes when we’re willing to put down technology. Sure the photos we can take on our iPhone may be lovely but what if sometimes we are just there, fully present, open and even willing to be a little bored.  Maybe then we can be dazzled by the red Cardinal that lands on the white snowman or the hush that creeps in when no can one drive.

What is your favorite wintertime activity?

I love looking for snow art and especially love seeing it through the eyes of little ones. I’m always amazed by the “art” that forms during snow storms – polka-dotted fields, top hats on fence caps, intricate patterns on round porch tables, delicate animal tracks that look like instructions for some kind of dance move. 

And then of course there is cross country skiing with my family and my crazy friends.

Your other work involves Systems Thinking. Can you describe systems thinking and talk about your systems thinking work with children and schools?

Sure. Like a spider’s web, what happens on one part of the web affects every other part. The same is true of living systems. A pond, our family, our school, a city, the climate—these are all systems. They have two or more parts that interact over time. What’s really interesting is that these different kinds of systems share some similarities, and they can act in surprisingly similar ways. (You can learn more about my systems work here).

How does considering systems thinking and living systems benefit children and their education?

Systems thinking, or “Thinking about systems,” means paying attention to the interrelationships and patterns that surround us. My experience, and that of systems educators around the globe, shows that children are naturally attuned to this. They can read If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff and then recognize that same closed loop of cause and effect in their everyday lives.  

A few years back I wrote When a Butterfly SneezesA Guide for Helping Kids Explore Connections in our World as a resource for anyone who wants to help children think about interconnections in our world. Each chapter focuses on a favorite children’s picture book—like If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss—and shows how to use the story to engage children in systems thinking. I just finished updating that book and the new version should be up and ready by next week!

To answer your question about how systems thinking benefits children, learning about systems, and about living systems in particular, can help children to make better decisions and avoid unintended consequences. It can also help them to develop a more compassionate and sustainable sensibility about what is beautiful and what is essential.

I always come back to the Joseph Campbell quote—“People who don’t have a concept of the whole, can do very unfortunate things.…”—and flip it: People—and especially children—who have a concept of the whole can do very fortunate things. If we encourage young people to look for the “whole” and not just focus on the parts, they will be geared toward seeing connections and will not see things in isolation. So much in our culture forces us into compartments. But just as we teach kids not to be victims of advertising, we can teach them to see beyond the obvious, to see the systems all around us.  

What’s up next for you? 

My next children’s book is a richly illustrated biography about Daniel Chester French, the sculptor of the Lincoln Memorial.  I am thrilled to be working with Shawn Fields a representational artist on this book.  The working title of the book is Monument Man, and that subject is very much a part of our public conversation at this point in our history. 

Thanks, Linda! Your books inspire us to look closure and pay attention to the moment, and I wish you all the best with them!

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You can connect with Linda Booth Sweeney on:

Her Website | Twitter | Facebook | Linked in

You can find When the Snow Falls with these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

Picture Book Review

October 23 – Mole Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday has a very strict time structure. From 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m. we celebrate Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x  10 to the 23rd), a basic measuring unit in chemistry. This measurement states that for a given molecule one mole is a mass (measured in grams) that is equal to the molar mass of the molecule. Take the water molecule: since its molar mass is 18, one mole of water weighs 18 grams. How many molecules are in that mole? Ah! This is where Avogadro’s Number comes in. One mole of any substance contains Avogadro’s Number of molecules. The association of the chemistry mole and the animal mole came about as a fun way to get kids interested in this area of discovery.  For more information on Mole Day and this year’s theme: MOLEvengers visit Moleday.orgMoleday.org. Today’s book also surprises with a little mole making her own discoveries.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney Mole

Written by Jane Yolen | Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

 

Down at the bottom of a deep hole in the ground, three sisters—Eeny, Meeny, and Miney Mole kept house. “In that hole, dark was light, day was night, and summer and winter seemed the same.” Sometimes the sisters went to bed during the day and got up at sunset, or they played all day and night and never slept at all. Even the seasons seemed the same down in their cozy home. Eeny, the youngest sister, liked to explore, burrowing here and there away from their house. Once, “she met a worm who told her the most astonishing thing.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

Eeny hurried back to tell her sisters what she had learned about the “Up Above—which is what they called the world on top of the ground.” The worm had told her that up there “‘things are both dark and light.” Meeny didn’t believe it. Miney laughed it off. And both told Eeny that worms were unreliable. They went to bed early and covered up their heads “because they didn’t want to even think about light.”

But Eeny did want to think about it. She wondered about light’s size and shape. She thought about whether light “spread from corner to corner Up Above like a blanket or if it just touched in and out like the thread in the hem of a dress. She thought about light all that night until her sisters woke up. Another day, Eeny burrowed to the right of her home and met a centipede who told her another astonishing thing.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

When Meeny and Miney heard that Up Above had both day and night, they told Eeny that centipedes were just “addlepated” and to pay no attention. Then they went off to have dinner and “dipped their noses into their soup bowls and snuffled up tubers so they didn’t have to think about day.” But Eeny wasn’t hungry. Instead, she wondered about day’s length and sound and whether it was “sharp like hunger or soft like sleep.”

One day Eeny burrowed underneath her hole and came upon a snake, who served her tea and related “the most astonishing thing.” Meeny and Miney were aghast to hear that Up Above there was both winter and summer and told Eeny never to talk to snakes. But while Meeny and Miney went off to play checkers, Eeny thought and thought about whether summer and winter were “low or high…young or old.” She wondered if they were damp or dry, clumpy or crumbly.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

The next time Eeny went exploring, she decided to find out about the Up Above for herself. When she got there she discovered that all of her thoughts had been right in some way. Light was like a blanket, but it was also like the hem of a dress. While the sun was sharp, shadows were soft. There was moisture in the air that was “sometimes warm and sometimes cold.” All around her Eeny heard the “murmur…of bees and trees, of showers and flowers, of tadpoles and tidepools and crinkly grass”—the sounds of Spring. Eeny was happy to have visited the Up Above and promised herself that she would go back someday to meet Summer and Winter. But for now, as she carried a bright yellow flower back home, she couldn’t wait to tell Meeny and Miney about Sprng.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

Jane Yolen’s stirring story of opening oneself to new possibilities, people, and experiences is gentle and sweet and full of wonder. As Eeny ponders the astonishing things she hears, her sisters prefer to remain in the dark, offering their advice in shocked expressions and reverting to diversions that little ones will find humorous. Yolan’s tale is rich in words that are wonderful to hear and read. The sisters snuffle up tubers, the centipede is addlepated, seasons are clumpy and crumbly, and grass is crinkly. The repeated words, astonishing, complicated, burrowing are lyrical and invite imaginative thinking. And, of course, Yolen’s metaphors are precise and novel. The moving ending is uplifting in its reassurance of the family unit while still promising an astonishing future.

The beauty and detail of Kathryn Brown’s watercolor illustrations are awe-inspiring and create a luxuriant underground world where a pink-wrapped and -capped worm reads by following the words with the tip of his tail while a green-coated cricket turns pages; a colorfully socked centipede watches the outside world through a daffodil bulb periscope hanging like a chandelier in her den; a snake wears a seashell cap and smokes a pipe near his crackling fireplace; and the Up Above is sunny and breezy, expansive and inviting. Tiny Eeny is adorably thoughtful as she wanders through the tunnels of her cozy hole and reports her findings to her older sisters. Readers may notice that Eeny carries with her a lantern that lights her way even as she becomes enlightened and will be delighted with Eeny’s favorite toy—an acorn carriage and itty-bitty doll.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney Mole is sweetly superb and perfect to snuggle up with for quiet story times. Look for this classic story in your local library or used bookstore.

Ages 3 and up

Harcourt Children’s Books, 1992 | ISBN 978-0152253509

There is so much to discover about Jane Yolen and her books on her website.

View a portfolio of books and illustration work by Kathryn Brown on her website.

Mole Day Activity

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Mole Tunnels Maze

 

Can you find your way through the underground pathways to visit Mole in this printable Mole Tunnel Maze?

Picture Book Review

September 26 – Love Note Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to communicate how they feel about each other by writing a note of affection to their special someone, child, or friend. Sure, you can always text your note, but why not get creative? Leave your note on the bathroom mirror, tuck a written message into a lunch bag, hide a post-it in your loved-one’s shoe, or drop a letter off in person and share a cup of tea. Of course, you may choose to send a different kind of love note—as you’ll see in today’s book!

Little Wolf’s First Howling

Written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky | Illustrated by Kate Harvey McGee

 

The day had come for a big step in Little Wolf’s education. As Big Wolf led his son to the top of the hill, Little Wolf hung back, exploring every plant and rock formation. “‘Tonight’s the night,’ said Big Wolf, “‘Your first howling.’ Little Wolf’s ears shivered with excitement. ‘I’m ready,’ he said. ‘I’m ready to howl!’” They sat on the hill watching the stars and the moon appear. Little Wolf was eager to start.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

First, however, Big Wolf needed to “demonstrate proper howling form.” He stood up, breathed deeply, and lifted his face to the dark sky. “AAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOO,” he howled, letting the last notes fade into the night air. The sound thrilled Little Wolf. He leaped on a fallen tree, raised his head and let out an “aaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooo I’m hoooowling, ‘oooowling, ‘ooooowling!”

Big Wolf gazed at his son with amusement and surprise and gently told him that he did not use proper finishing form. Again he demonstrated. Little Wolf was sure he knew how to do it now. He raised his head high and gave it all his might. “aaaaaaaaaaoooooooo…dibbity dobbity skibbity skobbity skooo-wooooo-wooooooooooo.” Little Wolf enthusiastically waited for his father’s opinion.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf wanted to be supportive; he wanted to be a good dad. “‘Son, I am proud of your nose, which has led to many new trails. I admire your strength when you tumble with the other pups. Most of all, I love how your ears express your thoughts. But your howling? It is not proper howling form.’”

Little Wolf felt listened carefully one more time as his father showed him again how to howl. The call was beautiful as it echoed over the hills. Then it was Little Wolf’s turn. Inside, his “heart swelled with wildness and joy,” and even though he knew what was welling up inside of him was not correct form, he opened his muzzle and let it out: “skiddily skoddily beep bop, a booobooo booooooooo…boppita boppita wheeee bop, a diddily daddily doooooooooooooo…”

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Big Wolf cocked his head and perked up his hears and listened closely. As the notes floated past him, “his tail started wagging. His ears started twitching. His paws started tapping.” Then, before he knew it, he joined in with a “yip-yip a dibby, dibby, do-wop a dooooooooo!,” and Little Wolf repeated it back. As the sky grew darker and the moon rose high, the two voiced filled the valley with jazzy music.

The time grew late, and father and son headed back home. Little Wolf couldn’t wait to tell the others about his first howling. “‘Big Wolf smiled. ‘Oh, I expect they already know,’” he said.

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Image copyright Kate Harvey McGee, 2017, text copyright Laura McGee Kvasnosky, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Laura McGee Kvasnosky’s father and son story is heartening in many ways. Big Wolf’s gentle and patient teaching style shows the love he has for his child while Little Wolf’s eagerness to please his dad is equally warm, but also overflowing with his own personality. In Big Wolf, Kvasnosky has created a wonderful adult character. By prefacing his instructions with Little Wolf’s strengths, Big Wolf demonstrates not only proper howling form, but also a beautiful understanding of how to build Little Wolf’s self-confidence and self-image. His willingness to really listen to Little Wolf’s howling and allow his son to take the lead is a lesson that is enriching for both children and adult readers. Kids will adore howling like Little Wolf, and adults will smile at the last line, which is full of humor and love.

Kate Harvey McGee’s gorgeous nighttime scenery provides the perfect backdrop to this sweet story. As the night grows darker, her blues become lush and deep, highlighting Big and Little Wolf as they raise their voices to the bright full moon. Yellow accents in the flowers, typography, and tiny owlets create a cozy glow that reflects the love between father and son. Stippling of the wolves fur coats brings these beautiful animals to life. Images of the father and son, both close together and a bit farther apart, mirror their relationship and the pup’s growing independence.

Little Wolf’s First Howling is a fantastic read aloud and a cozy book to snuggle up with at bedtime. It would be a much-asked for favorite for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763689711

You can learn more about Laura McGee Kvasnosky and her books—and find cool projects to do too—on her website!

Love Note Day Activity

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Love Notes to Share

 

Today’s a perfect time to share your feelings with those you love! Print out these cute Love Notes and give them to your favorite people!

Picture Book Review