October 31 – National Magic Day


About the Holiday

While there’s lots of magic going on today as little witches and wizards roam neighborhoods across the country casting spells and charming people to give them candy as part of Halloween, National Magic Day got it’s start in 1938 when a Chicago member of the Society of American Magicians sought official permission to honor the great Harry Houdini with a special day of recognition for his contributions to the world of magic. Houdini’s wife sanctioned the holiday and proclaimed October 31 – the date of his death in 1926 – as National Magic Day.

Tundra Books sent me a copy of The Magician’s Secret to check out. All opinions are my own. 

The Magician’s Secret

Written by Zachary Hyman | Illustrated by Joe Bluhm


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770498945

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

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

National Magic Day Activity


It’s Magic! Maze


Help the spell flow to the top hat to make the magic work in this printable maze!

It’s Magic! Maze | It’s Magic! Maze Solution


You can find The Magician’s Secret at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review


Picture Book Review

July 15 – I Love Horses Day


About the Holiday

The dream pet of many children, a proud part of settling and farming early America, majestic free spirits of the West, and gentle therapy animals, horses are much-loved by kids and adults alike. Today’s holiday celebrates the special feeling people have for horses.  To honor today’s holiday, read a book or watch a movie about horses or consider donating to the cause of protecting horses. There are many homeless horses who need permanent homes, too. If you have the land and means, you may even think about adopting a horse in need.


Written by Ed Galing | Illustrated by Erin E. Stead


Tony “was such a wonderful horse.” Every morning, long before the sun came up, Tom would hitch him to the wagon and they would deliver milk, butter, and eggs to customers around town. “Tony was all white, large, sturdy, with wide gentle eyes and a ton of love….” While Tom jumped out of the wagon and carefully carried the products to waiting doorsteps, Tony stood silently by.


Image copyright Erin E. Stead, 2017, text copyright Ed Galing, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

At one house the lights were always already burning even though it was only 3:00 a.m. The occupant of the house would come out and gently pat Tony, whose eyes shone as he bowed his head to receive the daily affection. Before moving on to the next house, Tom and the narrator always exchanged pleasantries. “Wouldn’t miss Tony for the world,” the customer would respond, adding compliments for Tony. 

These kind words made Tom smile as he seated himself once again in the wagon, and while the narrator watched them continue down the street, he “knew that Tony did a little dance.”


Image copyright Erin E. Stead, 2017, text copyright Ed Galing, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Ed Galing’s touching memoir to a special horse and a daily routine that brought camaraderie and comfort to the story’s narrator reminds readers that happiness can be found in the simplest of actions, and profound love in the connections between people and animals. Implicit in this minimalist snapshot of a short, early morning meeting are all the mornings—perhaps years-worth—carried out in exactly the same fashion that have forged the bond between Tony and the narrator.

Underlining the story is the basis for this bond—the affection and respect the narrator gives Tony and receives in return. It is perhaps not too much of a stretch to imagine a young child similarly encouraged by such compliments. The early morning setting (also prime time for many babies) lends a dreamy mystery to the tale—who is the narrator, why are they up so early, and how old are they? (certain illustrations give intriguing clues)—that children will enjoy imagining and discussing.


Image copyright Erin E. Stead, 2017, text copyright Ed Galing, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Erin E. Stead’s pencil-drawn illustrations, beautifully introduced by a page of vellum that sets the tone, are quiet, peaceful vignettes of Tony as he hitches up in the morning and takes Tom on his rounds. Bathed only in the glow of the light over the barn, a street light, or the light from the narrator’s open door, Tony makes his way through the dim streets with graceful dignity. Tony is gorgeously and expressively drawn.

As he waits outside the narrator’s house, Tony’s head is turned toward the doorway in expectation, and again as he pulls away from the curb, he gives one last look back. Children will love seeing the way milk and other farm products were once delivered and will respond to the gauzy sage and amber backdrop that makes Tony a perfect quiet time or bedtime book.

Tony is gentle, heartwarming triumph and a wonderful book to spur family-history stories. It would be a welcome addition to any child’s bookshelf.   

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723085

Learn more about Erin E. Stead and view a gallery of her illustration work on her website!

I Love Horses Day Activity


My Own Horse Coloring Page


Horses are such beautiful creatures! If you owned a horse, what kind and color would it be? Enjoy this printable My Own Horse Coloring Page!


You can find Tony at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 15 – I Love to Write Day


About the Holiday

Of course, today is one of my favorite holidays! How could it not be when the whole idea is to spend the day writing?! Delaware-based non-fiction and how-to writer John Riddle instituted today’s holiday in 2002 to encourage kids and adults to set their thoughts down in whatever way they like best. The idea took off and now organizations from schools to shopping centers hold special events to promote and support the writing of stories, poems, articles, journal entries, and even novels. If you have words that are just waiting to be written, take some time today to put pen to paper or fingers to keys and let them flow!

Someone Like Me

Written by Patricia MacLachlan | Illustrated by Chris Sheban


A little girl strolls with her grandmother along a path lined with tall, golden grasses, rides in a pickup truck with her grandfather as the sun sets behind them, and visits her uncle in the barn as day breaks listening “to stories over and over and over.” There’s one about the time a horse named Jack and a dozen cows got loose and walked into town, and one about “Aunt Emma’s dog with three names—Tommy, Rascal, and Come Along,” and so many more.


Image copyright Chris Sheban, 2017, text copyright Patricia MacLachlan, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

This same little girl reads books every night and all day, never looking up even when “her mother led her across streets.” She likes to hide under tables and listen to “the grown-ups who told secrets,” and when she plays with her dog and reads to her chicken, she tries to teach them to talk. She is easily captivated by the fantastic, climbing the tall cottonwood tree to be closer to the clouds, and once running away with “a little boy who told her he’d find her a white horse, and didn’t.” She finds herself following people near enough to “hear their talk and their songs and how they laughed.”


Image copyright Chris Sheban, 2017, text copyright Patricia MacLachlan, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The little girl carries a plastic bag full of deep, rich earth that reminds her of her great-grandmother, who loved the prairie and flushing the geese from the slough just to watch them fly. If you were someone like this little girl, you might grow up to be “someone who writes about how the sky looks through the branches of a tree” or “geese against the clouds.” You might write about talking dogs, writerly chickens, and a mystical white horse. If you were someone like the teller of this tale, you might grow up to be just like her—a writer.


Image copyright Chris Sheban, 2017, text copyright Patricia MacLachlan, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In her lyrical answer to the question “where do you get your ideas?” Patricia MacLachlan gives readers a peek into the process of becoming a writer. As the little girl stores up a lifetime of carefully observed and remembered influences and impressions, children discover that it is often the simple moments and the things someone finds particularly beautiful, magical, or funny that makes their voice unique. MacLachlan’s story encourages not only would-be writers but all readers to pay attention and be in the moment to capture all of life’s wonders.


Image copyright Chris Sheban, 2017, text copyright Patricia MacLachlan, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Chris Sheban’s soft watercolor, colored pencil, and graphite illustrations have the timelessness of favorite memories as they give substance to transformative stories only heard by the little girl. The cars and pickups, downtown streetscapes, rocking chair on a front porch, and even the girl’s explorations lend a lovely nostalgic feeling to accompany the thoughtful text. In each scene as the young will-be writer gathers fodder for her imagination, she is illuminated by the sun, a porch light, lamp light, or the moon, creating a nice visual metaphor for her growing enlightenment. As the final page gives a glance into the author’s study, light flows from the open door through the darkened woods and toward the reader.

Someone Like Me is an inspirational story for children who love to write or create other types of art. The book would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves for reflective and quiet story times or to accompany classroom writing units.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723344

Discover more about Chris Sheban, his art, and his picture books on his website.

I Love to Write Day Activity


My Story Template


Everyone has a story inside them! Take some time today to write yours on one of these printable My Story Templates

Lined Temp;ate | Unlined Template

Picture Book Review

August 23 – Ride the Wind Day


About the Holiday

Today is set aside to honor the first manned air flight to win a Kremer Prize, a series of monetary awards established by Henry Kremer to commemorate pioneers in human-powered flight and administrated by the Royal Aeronautical Society. The first Kremer Prize was won on this date in 1977 by Dr. Paul MacCready when his Gossamer Condor, piloted by Brian Allen flew a figure eight around two markers one half mile apart. Three Kremer Prize milestones still remain to be accomplished. Today people are encouraged to spend time outdoors catching the wind with a kite, pinwheel, sailboat, or maybe with a toy airplane like the little boy in today’s book!

The Boy and the Airplane

By Mark Pett


A little boy receives a present and watches the giver as he leaves. When the boy opens the box, he is thrilled to find a red airplane inside. He runs outside to play with it, zooming it up and down. Laying it on the ground, he then becomes an airplane, zooming around with his arms out as wings.

The boy looks at his plane and wonders. He picks it up and gives it a good, hard throw. It soars upward…upward, its propeller spinning as it speeds away. The boy chases after it then stops. His plane has come to a landing…on the roof. He ponders what to do for a moment, then gets a ladder. He leans the ladder against the house and climbs to the top rung, but he’s not nearly close enough. With child-like persistence, he tries different tactics—lassoing it, hitting it off with a baseball, jumping on a pogo stick, spraying it off with a hose—nothing dislodges his new toy.


Image copyright Mark Pett, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

He sits down under a tree to think. As he reflects a whirlybird seed spirals down in front of him. He gazes at it, then goes to the garage for a shovel. He digs a hole, tosses the whirlybird in, pats down the dirt and waits. Snow falls on a tiny sapling as the boy in his coat, cap, and scarf keep it company. A future springtime sees both the boy and the tree older, with a little more height and hair and a little more height and leaves, respectively.

The tree grows tall and sturdy, complete with a bird’s nest and little peepers as the boy becomes an adult, complete with suit and tie and wiser peepers. By the time the boy reaches middle age, the tree’s trunk is thick and powerful, and as the boy matures to old age, the tree is strong enough to hold him. The elderly man climbs his tree’s branches and reaches over the eaves. His red plane is waiting for him, a little dusty now and tied down with cobwebs, but just as it was on that afternoon so long ago.


Image copyright Mark Pett, courtesy simonandschuster.com

With the exuberance of his youth, the man pulls back to give the plane a good, hard throw, but he stops. He considers his recovered toy and keeps it close instead, devising another plan for the airplane. He knows someone else who will like that plane as much as he did. he puts it in a box, wraps it and gives it to his granddaughter.

Mark Pett’s lovely, wordless picture book is a tribute to childhood, imagination, patience, and generational longevity. The subtle, vintage-style drawings in hues of brown on sage green backgrounds, punctuated only with the deep maroon red of the airplane, convey the feeling of permanence and the enduring presence of nature and familial love. The figure disappearing off the left-hand side of the first page after presenting the gift of the airplane to the little boy mirrors the clothes of the elderly man the boy has become as he gives the airplane to his granddaughter, passing down tradition and heritage.

Kids will also enjoy spotting the little bird that follows the boy on every page and hatches its own family in the branches of the mature tree. A close reading reveals deeper meanings and metaphors, comparisons and humor, making The Boy and the Airplane a perfect book for quiet story times or bedtime.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-1442451230

Discover more books by Mark Pett and what’s coming next on his website!

Ride the Wind Day Activity


Tiny Toy Airplane Coloring Page


Is this airplane in the sky or at the airport? Or maybe it’s sitting in a field or at an airshow. It could be an attraction at a fair, or maybe it’s waiting to take you for a ride! Draw in whatever background you imagine and then color it! Get your Tiny Toy Airplane Coloring Page here!

Picture Book Review

May 25 – National Photography Month


About the Holiday

Established in 1987 by the United States Congress to commemorate the importance of photos to present and future generations, National Photography Month encourages photographers to really look at their subjects and become more intentional about making photos that will be meaningful in the future. Once you’ve taken your pictures, don’t just leave them on your phone, in the cloud, or on your hard drive. Print them and document the place, people, and time of each picture for future generations.

Pictures from Our Vacation

By Lynne Rae Perkins


Just before a family leaves on vacation, a girl and her brother each receive a Polaroid camera and a notebook from their mom so they can document their trip. The first picture the little girl takes is of her feet by mistake. During the two-day trip to the old farm where their dad grew up, the kids play with games from the activity bag and look out the window at the passing landscape. Her second photo taken through the car window reveals “there was not anything to look at out there,” although she does see an orange truck labeled “Yellow” and a motel with a red roof. 

She thinks that if she owned a motel it would be called the Blue Motel, and she begins to imagine in detail the accommodations she would offer. In the Jungle Cottage people would sleep in hammocks and shower under a waterfall. In the Sun Cottage, the bed would glow like the sun but turn off for sleeping. The floor of the Flower Garden Cottage would be real grass, and she thinks up many more.

Her reveries last until the family begins searching for a real motel. They stop at the Shangri-La, which advertises POOL, but as the girl’s photograph shows, “it didn’t have water in it.”

When the family reaches the farm, Dad sees happy memories everywhere. They find an old badminton set with warped racquets (shaped like potato chips, the girl says in her picture’s caption) and begin to play. But one minute into the game the rain comes down. It rains for days and the family spends the time playing cards, reading, and drawing.

After the rain stops, Dad takes the family to a hidden swimming spot. They forge their way through the now-overgrown secret path only to find a KEEP OUT sign and a guard dog.  They backtrack to the car and drive around and around, having trouble finding the lake. They stop at a park, where the girl takes a picture of hills that were built in ancient times to look like a snake from the air and one of a leftover Chinese food container where a squirrel was eating before it ran away.

At last they find the lake and run out to the end of the dock. But a boy warns them of an impending storm. Suddenly, the storm breaks and as the family shelters in the dock gazebo, the girl learns that tomorrow they are attending a memorial service. The next day the old farmhouse fills up with relatives who have traveled there for a memorial service for Great-aunt Charlotte.

At the service family members tell stories about Charlotte’s brave escapades and afterward the whole crew go back to the farmhouse to spend a several days. They eat dinner and tell more stories, and the cousins play. They roll down the hill, climb trees, and explore. That night as the kids sleep upstairs, murmurs of continued conversation float up through the grate. After a few days, the families disperse and only the girl and her brother and parents stay behind, but the memories and feeling of the full house remain.

Finally the girl’s family leaves too, and as they drive home she looks at the pictures she has taken. “‘These don’t remind me much of our vacation,’” she says. She snaps one last picture as they pass a row of huge electrical towers along the highway. When she looks at the photograph, however, the towers don’t look like the giant robots she imagined. She realizes that “it’s hard to take a picture of a story someone tells, or what it feels like when you’re rolling down a hill or falling asleep in a house full of cousins and uncles and aunts. There are a lot of things like that. But those kinds of pictures I can keep in my mind.”

Lynn Rae Perkins’ paean to formative old-fashioned vacations in which extended family members gathered to pass on history and traditions through stories told around the picnic table is a welcome reminder in this digital age that some “pictures” are better stored in one’s memory than on a device. Perkins’ choices of details seen on the two-day road trip, the incessant rain, and the changed landscape that lead to wrong directions are just the kinds of childhood events that often stick in a person’s memory for life. The story is charmingly told from a child’s point of view with realistic dialogue and a tone of heartfelt nostaligia.

Perkins’ realistic drawings of the family are homey and evocative. The kids lounge in the backseat of the car while the little girl conjures up the décor of her Blue Motel; the old house and fields of the family farm are rendered in warm golds and greens with humor and comfort; and you can almost hear the shouts and laughter of the family members gathered on the lawn at the reunion. This is a vacation kids will love to take.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins, 2007 | ISBN 978-0060850975

National Photography Month Activity


Fantastic Frame!


Your photographs show your unique personality, why shouldn’t the frame you put them in? Today, you can make a frame that perfectly suits your décor or snapshot!


  • Cardboard or bare wood frame, available at craft stores
  • Stickers
  • Buttons
  • Jewels
  • Beads
  • Glue
  • Paint in your favorite color
  • Paint brush


  1. Paint the frame (optional), let dry
  2. Attach stickers, beads, buttons, or other objects
  3. Fill with your favorite picture

April 9 – Cherish an Antique Day

Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden and Renata Liwska Picture Book Reivew

About the Holiday

When you look at an antique chair with its faded upholstery or a brooch handed down from your great-great-grandmother, do you ever think about the day when it was new? Imagine the excitement of sitting in the chair for the first time or opening the jewelry box on a shining pin. Today we remember our collective and individual treasured past, held in the objects of days gone by. Cherish an Antique Day is a perfect time to learn more about the stories of any antiques you may own.

Once Upon a Memory

Written by Nina Laden | Illustrated by Renata Liwska


This stunning, quiet book is so evocative in its premise that certain lines can bring a lump to your throat even before you reach the endearing end. A little boy sits in his playroom surrounded by his stuffed toys and pet dog, enjoying a tea party. A feather blows through the window, eliciting the question, “Does a feather remember it once was…a bird?” and then more musings: “Does a book remember it once was…a word?”

The simple patterned phrasing and rhyming couplets lend the story a surprising suspense as the reader tries to guess what one-time material or emotion transformed into another before the clever answer is revealed: “Does a statue remember it once was…stone? Does an island remember it once was…unknown?”

In the last pages the queries become more personal—“Does love remember it once was…new? Does a family remember it once was…two?” Adult readers will recognize where the reflective path leads, giving this book a deeper level of meaning for both adults and children: “Does the world remember it once was…wild? Will you remember you once were…a child?”

The question is not an idle one. In these busy, stressful times it’s good to remember what it meant—and means—to be a child.

Nina Laden’s subtly anthropomorphic world invites readers into a new realm of imagination as well as reality. Readers and listeners receive a new perspective on life as Laden’s poetic voice opens up a wide world of possibilities.

Renata Liwska’s illustrations are simply adorable and represent each couplet with depth and imagination. The feather that blows in the little boy’s window comes not from some single, random bird, but from a happy barber shop where an owl is getting a haircut. “Book” is both the volume lovingly read by the boy and the word painted on a busy bookshop sign. Liwska’s sweet bears, squirrels, beavers, birds, raccoons, bats and more as well as the tiny boy are rendered in gauzy browns, grays, reds, and yellows that are as soft and comforting as a favorite memory.  Once Upon a Memory would be a perfect companion on a walk, a trip, or during times of waiting, where readers and listeners could make up their own “once was” pairs. Its cadence also makes it a nice, comforting bedtime book.

Ages 4 – 7

Little Brown and Company, 2013 | ISBN 978-0316208161

Cherish an Antique Day Activity

CPB - Antique Day

Share the Stories of Your Antiques


Whether you have old photographs of great-great-grandparents or special heirlooms, today’s holiday is a wonderful time to share them and the stories behind them with children. The feeling of being part of several generations or holding history in your hands is exciting and comforting and can lead to more understanding and closer relationships.

Adults can collect a few family heirlooms and/or photographs to share with children. Children can choose which of their toys, books, or other favorite objects they think will last to become a cherished antique in the future.

Take time to get together and discuss the objects you’ve collected with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and some special treats.