June 19 – World Sauntering Day

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About the Holiday

In 1979 as the jogging craze was sweeping the world, W.T. “Bill” Rabe decided people needed to be reminded to slow down and really notice the things around them. At the time Rabe worked at the the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, which boasts the world’s longest porch at 660 feet (200 m). Since that time people are encouraged to celebrate Sauntering Day by taking a long walk and enjoying the relaxation of a slower pace.

Tiny, Perfect Things

Written by M.H. Clark | Illustrated by Madeline Kloepper

 

A little girl and her grandfather head outside for a walk. “Today, we keep our eyes open for tiny, perfect things,” the girl says. The first thing they find is a yellow leaf that has fluttered down from a nearby tree. While the girl is examining the leaf, she notices an intricate “spider’s web that’s caught the light.” Then Grandpa lifts her up to see “a snail that had climbed the fence last night.” 

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

Crows overhead watch the pair and guard the treasures they’ve hidden in their nest. One drops a red bottle cap for Grandpa to find. The little girl and her grandfather also see a red flower pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk and a man wearing a hat with a long, red feather. Farther on, the girl realizes their “shadows are holding hands,” waking when they walk and standing when they stand.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

They wave to a neighbor and her cat and admire a shiny apple “way up high. / Red against the blue, blue sky.” As twilight falls and bunnies, birds, and other creatures settle in, a pale moon rises. The cold night air prompts the little girl and her grandfather to start back home. Around the corner, they see their house. A welcoming light is on, and a pretty white cat waits for them at the door.

The girl runs to her mother and exclaims, “We found so many things today! / A leaf, a snail, a cat, some crows. / The world is full of wonders, / no matter where we go.” She sits on the rug and draws all the tiny, perfect things they saw, ready to go out again tomorrow.

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Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

M.H. Clark’s gorgeously written, lyrical story shines a light on seemingly simple aspects of nature and neighborhoods. As seen through a child’s eyes, leaves, snails, the surprise meeting of familiar people and pets, and even a change in light and temperature are gems to be remembered, recorded, and sought out again and again. The gentle pace and affection between the little girl and her grandfather makes each page a joy to read, and the love and warmth of the girl’s mixed race, multigenerational family will swell the reader’s heart. Clark’s final line invites children to find “perfect things” wherever they go. It’s a call both kids and adults will want to answer.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tiny-perfect-things-double-gate-fold

Image copyright Madeline Kloepper, 2018, text copyright M.H. Clark. Courtesy of Compendium.

Madeline Kloepper’s lush illustrations combine sophistication with the sensibility of a child’s drawing to beautifully reflect the child’s-eye view of Clark’s story. With deep earth tones, Kloepper depicts a neighborhood teeming with life while also showing that the little girl and her grandfather are one with the natural world. Through various perspectives, Kloepper points out that astonishing things can be found at ground level, up high, and in surprising nooks and crannies if one just takes time to look. Each page depicts the object described in the text and then offers many more “tiny, perfect things” for alert readers to discover. A final double gate fold will have kids and adults sitting on the floor or spreading out at the table together to search for all of the wondrous things hidden in plain sight.

A book that opens readers eyes while warming their heart, Tiny, Perfect Things would be a much-loved addition to any child’s home bookshelf and is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Compendium, 2018 | ISBN 978-1946873064

To learn more about Madeline Kloepper, her art, and her books, visit her website.

World Sauntering Day Activity

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My Nature Journal 

 

You can remember the things you see on a walk in this Nature Journal. Just print the cover, add pages, and staple it together. Then draw the flowers, trees, birds, snails, and things you see. You can tape leaves and other small objects inside too!

My Nature Journal Cover 

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You can find Tiny, Perfect Things at these booksellers

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

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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 26 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Do you have new books to read? Yeah, me too! Today, why not avoid the crush of shoppers at the mall and settle in with a good book. Sometimes all you want to hear is the crinkle of pages turning and the sound featured in today’s book!

The Sound of Silence

Written by Katrina Goldsaito | Illustrated by Julia Kuo

 

Early on a rainy morning, little Yoshio opened his door and ventured out. “The sounds of the city swirled all around him—Tokyo was like a symphony hall!” As he made his way through the crowded streets, he listened to his footsteps in the puddles and the rain on his umbrella. Suddenly, above all the other noises, Yoshio heard a Koto player carefully tuning her instrument. The sound was “high then low, squeaky and vibrating—amazing!” When the Koto player began a song, “the notes were twangy and twinkling; they tickled Yoshio’s ears!” Yoshio told the old woman that he had never heard a sound like that. The koto player’s laugh was like the tinkling chimes in his mother’s garden.

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Image copyright Julia Kuo, 2016, text copyright Katrina Goldsaito, 2016. Courtesy of juliakuo.com.

Yoshio asked the old woman if she had a favorite sound. Her answer surprised him. “‘The most beautiful sound, is the sound of ma, of silence.” Yoshio ran off to school, wondering where he could hear silence. All day, Yoshio listened for silence, but his classroom was too noisy and even in the bamboo grove near the playground, the wind through the stalks made “takeh-takeh-takeh” and “swish-swish-swish” sounds.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sound-of-silence-city

Copyright Julia Kuo, 2016, courtesy of juliakuo.com.

On the way home from school, Yoshio was alert to discover the sound of silence, but cars and buses honked, the trains whooshed by, and the traffic lights beeped. At home, the dinner table was alive with the sounds “of chopsticks and slurping and chewing and swallowing,” and the bathtub rang with the patter of water droplets and swirling eddies.

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Image copyright Julia Kuo, 2016, text copyright Katrina Goldsaito, 2016. Courtesy of juliakuo.com.

Maybe nighttime would bring silence, Yoshio thought. He tried to stay awake until everyone else was asleep, “but his eyes got heavy and then heavier, and soon the sound of a distant radio became part of his dreams.” Yoshio woke to the barking of a dog and listened to his sisters calling his name. “Where was silence?” Yoshio hurried to school. He was the first one there, and the gate creaked as he opened it. His shoes shuffled in the hall on the way to his classroom.

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Image copyright Julia Kuo, 2016, text copyright Katrina Goldsaito, 2016. Courtesy of juliakuo.com.

When he got there, he sat at his desk and took his favorite book out of his bag. “He loved this story, and as he read, he forgot where he was. Suddenly, in the middle of a page, he heard it.” He listened. “Everything felt still inside him. Peaceful, like the garden after it snowed. Like feather-stuffed futons drying in the sun. Silence had been there all along…. It was between and underneath every sound. And it had been there all along.”

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Image copyright Julia Kuo, 2016, courtesy of juliakuo.com.

Katrina Goldsaito’s beautiful text hums with descriptions of sound that are both lyrical and tangible, allowing readers to hear the world through Yoshio’s ears. As children join Yoshio in his hunt for silence, they may find themselves becoming more aware of the sounds—and the ma—in their own lives.

The streets of Tokyo come to life in Julia Kuo’s illustrations that combine classic style and modern elements tied together with a fresh color palette. Readers will love lingering over the pages to catch sight of favorite characters from Japanese video games, toys, and books, and those who are familiar with the city will enjoy a bit of armchair traveling as they recognize buildings, businesses, and other landmarks. Yoshio is sweetly earnest as he searches for silence, and children will happily follow his yellow umbrella and red hat from page to page. The first two-page spread of Yoshio throwing open the door from his home rendered in white to the color-drenched city outside is stirring and an apt and surprising imagining of the story’s theme.

The Sound of Silence is an enchanting book that can inspire children to experience life in a new and deeper way and would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8 

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316203371

Discover more about Katrina Goldsaito and her work on her website

To learn more about Julia Kuo, her books, and her art visit her website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

CPB - Bookworm Book (2)

I’m a Bookworm Bookmark

 

Feeling like wriggling into a new book? Use this I’m a Bookworm Bookmark to keep your place when you finish reading!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the I”m a Bookworm Bookmark on regular or heavy paper
  2. Cut along the mouth line to make a slit that can fit over the top of a page to mark it

Picture Book Review

 

November 15 – I Love to Write Day

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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.

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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.”

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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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-someone-like-me-cottonwood-tree

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-someone-like-me-geese

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-writing-template

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

December 31 – No Interruptions Day

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About the Holiday

Perhaps on this last day of the year you’re suffering from a little stimulation overload. Everywhere you go, it seems, there is something else begging for your attention, whether it’s flashing signs, sale advertisements, that chore you haven’t gotten to, or just coworkers, family members, or others wanting to say hi or needing help. On No Interruptions Day you’re allowed to take a little time for yourself to decompress and enjoy a bit of silence and relaxation. Sure, you can party later, but for now—Ahhhhh….

The Quiet Book

Written by Deborah Underwood | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

 

Quiet comes in many guises, for many reasons, and with many internal emotions attached to it. Each type of quiet is unique, compelling, and special. If you are lucky enough to enjoy a “first one awake quiet,” you have a bit of time to compose yourself for the day because you never know if you might experience “jelly side down quiet,” “thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet,” or even “last one to get picked up from school quiet.”

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, text copyright Deborah Underwood. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Suspense is full of quiet—like “hide-and-seek quiet,” “pretending you’re invisible quiet,” and bubbling “top of the roller coaster quiet.” There are times when quiet is required, for instance “sleeping sister quiet” and “right before you yell ‘SURPRISE!’ quiet.” Experiences in nature inspire quiet awe, like “swimming underwater quiet,” “first snowfall quiet,” and “don’t scare the robin quiet.”

Concentration, commiseration, and companionship all contain their own depth of quiet, and the end of the day brings comfortable moments of quiet in story time, tucking in time, bedtime kisses, and finally “sound asleep quiet.”

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, text copyright Deborah Underwood. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

In her sweet tribute to the wondrous moments of quiet, Deborah Underwood is always surprising. Her original examples of quiet times are both ingenious and familiar, lending depth, humor, and insight to those times of the day that may defy definition but are felt in the heart.  The Quiet Book is perfect for bedtime, but also for any time when quiet reigns. It’s a beautiful book for children who are more reflective and for whom quiet times are treasured.

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, text copyright Deborah Underwood. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Renata Liwska’s soft, enchanting illustrations are as cuddly and comforting as a favorite blanket. Her little furry, spiky, and feathery animals navigate their day, experiencing those occasions of calm or turmoil with faces registering thoughtfulness, sadness, resignation, or cheer. Each page contains details, such as a bunny with an ear bandaged in solidarity with her friend who has a hurt tail and head, a bear holding a hiccupping rabbit upside down, and a cactus whose shadow is transformed into a monster, that will give even the youngest readers much to discover.

While the text on each page is sparse, the feelings they elicit are intimate and profound. Offering readers—both children and adults—much to discuss, The Quiet Book is a must for children’s home bookshelves.

Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2016 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0544809048

Discover the world of books by Deborah Underwood, including picture books, books for older readers, and nonfiction on her website!

View a gallery of picture book artwork by Renata Liwska on her website!

No Interruptions Day Activity

Quiet Time 

 

Finding opportunities to spend time in quiet contemplation or creativity is rejuvenating. Teaching children to appreciate down time and listen to their own thoughts is a gift that can bring them happiness and success that follows them into adulthood.

Today, set aside 15 minutes (or an appropriate amount of time for your child) and do one—or both—of these activities:

  1. You can do this with or without a piece of paper and pencil. Sit still and quietly in a place with no distractions and listen to what you hear. If you’d like write down the answers to these questions or just consider them:
  • What do you hear inside?
  • What do you hear coming from outside?
  • Can you tell how close or how far away the sound is?
  • In what way might you be a part of the sounds you hear?
  • Pick one sound and expand on its meaning
  1. Listen carefully to your own thoughts. What do you “hear” or “see”? On the paper draw or write whatever comes to mind, without changing it or erasing anything.

Picture Book Review

November 23 – Fibonacci Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is dedicated to the man—Leonardo of Pisa, today known as Fibonacci—who promoted awareness throughtout Europe of the number sequence that now bears his name. First appearing in Indian mathematics and linked to the golden triangle and the golden ratio, the number pattern states that each consecutive number in the series is the sum of the two preceding numbers: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34…. This sequence is found again and again in nature in such arrangements as leaves on a flower stem, seeds in a sunflower, the tapering of a pinecone, the swirl of a seashell, and manys. These precise compositions allow each leaf to get enough sunlight, make room for the correct number of petals, or squeeze in as many seeds as possible. To celebrate, learn more about this sequence and then observe patterns in nature. A good place to start is with today’s book!

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci

Written by Joseph D’Agnese | Illustrated by John O’Brien

 

Leonardo Fibonacci introduces himself this way: “You can call be blockhead. Everyone else does.” He goes on to reveal that he acquired that nickname because he loved to think about numbers. Once when his teacher gave the class ten minutes to solve a math problem, he knew the answer in two seconds. At home he counted everything he saw. When he was bored his mind pondered the patterns he saw. For instance, on that school day while his classmates worked on the problem, Leonardo spent the time gazing out the window. H e noticed 12 birds sitting in a tree. How many eyes was that? How many legs? “And if each bird sang for two seconds, one bird after the other, how long would it take all of them to sing?” He was counting these answers in his head when his teacher yelled, “‘How dare you daydream in my class!’” He told Leonardo there would “‘be no thinking in this classroom—only working! You’re nothing but an absent-minded, lazy dreamer, you…you BLOCKHEAD!’”

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

Leonardo ran from the room into the city he loved—Pisa, one of the greatest cities in 1178 Italy. A new tower was being constructed—although the builders were having trouble with their math and the tower stood at an angle. He was so enthralled with the math he saw all around him that he nearly walked into danger. “‘What are you, a blockhead?’” a woman shouted. Leonardo’s father was angry and embarrassed by his son’s reputation in town. He wanted Leonardo to become a merchant, and took him to northern Africa to learn the business.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

In Africa Leonardo learned a new number system. Instead of Roman numerals, the people used numbers “they had borrowed from the Hindu people of India.” In this system XVIII became the much easier 18. During the day Leonardo handled his father’s business accounts, but at night Alfredo, his father’s advisor and Leonardo’s champion, accompanied him as he learned the new number system. As Leonardo grew older, his father sent him on trips to other countries to conduct business. In each Leonardo learned new mathematics concepts. In Egypt he learned about fractions. In Turkey and Syria he discovered methods of measurement. In Greece he learned geometry, and in Sicily he used division and subtraction.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

One day Leonardo “began to write a book about Hindu-Arabic numerals” and included riddles to demonstrate the ideas. One was about a pair of rabbits. Leonardo asked Alfredo to tell him how many baby rabbits would be born within one year if it took a baby one month to grow old enough to have babies of its own and one more month to have a pair of babies. Alfredo tried to solve it but couldn’t. As Leonardo explained the sequence of adult pairs and baby pairs of rabbits to Alfredo, he noticed a pattern. At the end of month two, there would be 1 grown-up pair of rabbits and 1 baby pair; at the end of month three there would be 2 grown-up pairs and 1 baby pair; at the end of month 4 there would be 3 grown-up pairs and 2 baby pairs…. Leonardo saw that by adding “any two consecutive numbers in the pattern,” you’d get the next correct number. This discovery made solving the problem even easier.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-blockhead-the-life-of-fibonacci-sea-shells

Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

Leonardo’s work with math soon spread across Europe. Frederick II, the ruler of the Holy Roman Empire invited Leonardo to visit. There Frederick’s wise men challenged him with math problems that were no match for Leonardo’s quick brain. Frederick II didn’t call Leonardo a blockhead, instead he said he was “‘one smart cookie.’” When Leonardo went home, however, the people of Pisa grumbled and complained. They thought the old Roman numerals were good enough.

Leonardo set out to prove how valuable Hindu-Arabic numerals were. He began observing nature, and everywhere, from the petals of a flower to the arms of a starfish to the seeds in an apple, Leonardo discovered the same numbers—the sequence he had discovered in the rabbit riddle. He realized that these numbers could be used in different ways—to draw a spiral; the same type of spiral found within pinecones and the center of a sunflower.

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Image copyright John O’Brien, courtesy of Henry Holt and Company

Leonardo finishes his story by relating that even though he is now old, numbers still delight him, as does the secret Mother Nature cleverly uses to organize the world and even the universe. He invites readers to look again through his story and find the places where his Fibonacci sequence appears.

More biographical information about Leonardo of Pisa plus a discussion of where readers can find Fibonacci number patterns in nature and a scavenger hunt through the book follow the text.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci is an engaging, accessible biography that describes this mathematical scholar’s life and theory in a clear and entertaining way, whether their thing is math and science or English, history, and art. Joseph D’Agnese immediately entices kids into the story with the revelation of how Leonardo acquired the nickname that gives the book its title. Using anecdotes such as the birds in the trees and the rabbit riddle, he invites readers to think like Fibonacci, leading to a better understanding and enjoyment of his life story and the mathematical concept. The idea of using your talents and passions wherever you are—as Leonardo does in his work for his father—is a valuable lesson on its own.

John O’Brien’s wonderfully detailed illustrations take children back to early Italy and the Mediterranean with his depictions of Leonardo’s school and town, as well as the under-construction Tower of Pisa and the influential cultures of other countries he visited. Cleverly inserted into each page are examples of the Fibonacci sequence at work—in whorls of wood grain, the spirals of women’s hats, the web of a spider and horns on a passing goat, and so many more. The rabbit riddle is neatly portrayed for a visual representation of the math involved, and the way nature uses the pattern is also organically portrayed. Children will love searching for and counting the various ways Fibonacci’s seuqence is used throughout the illustrations.

Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci is a fantastic book to share with all children, especially as they begin to learn mathematical problem solving, the value of math, how it is used, and how it occurs naturally in the world. The book makes a marvelous teaching resource and addition to classroom libraries and also a great addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 9

Henry Holt and Company, 2010 | ISBN 978-0805063059

To discover more books by Joseph D’Agnese for children and adults visit his website!

Find a vast portfolio of cartoon and illustration work by John O’Brien for kids and adults on his website!

Watch the Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci book trailer!

Fibonacci Day Activity

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Spiral Coloring Page

 

Have fun coloring this printable Spiral Coloring Page that is inspired by Leonardo Fibonacci’s work.

Picture Book Review

November 8 – X-Ray Day and Q & A with Author Sara Levine

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About the Holiday

In 1895 while Wilhelm Conrad Rontgen was experimenting with cathode rays and glass, he noticed a glow coming from a nearby chemically coated screen. This led him to make an astounding discovery. He found that the electromagnetic energy that caused the glow—which he named X-rays—could penetrate human flesh, but not bone, thus allowing bone to be photographed. For the first time doctors could see inside the body without surgery. X-rays were first used during the Balkan War in 1897 to find bullets, shrapnel, and broken bones in soldiers. While X-rays were an amazing advancement for medical research and patient care, their danger was not readily understood. The novelty of this new technology was used by shoe stores as a fitting device in the 1930s through 50s until the harmful properties of radiation were better appreciated. Today, X-rays and the technology they led to are instrumental in diagnosing injuries and diseases and in targeting a medical response.

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons

Written by Sara Levine | Illustrated by T.S Spookytooth

 

Can you imagine if we sloshed through life like soup without a bowl? What would we set our hats on? Where would we carry our phones? How could we sit in class or the office or perform our favorite activities? And what would happen to our organs, our hair, our homes? It’s all a little disturbing! Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that scenario because “we’re vertebrates, animals with bones. Our bones hold us up.” Phew!

There are different kinds of vertebrates—mammals, reptiles, fish, and more—but many of our bones are similar. For example, “all vertebrates have skulls and ribs. And we all have vertebrae. Vertebrae stack up one on top of another to make the spine, or backbone.” Humans have vertebrae that end…well…you know where, but imagine for a minute if your vertebra kept on going. What if they poked a hole right through your shorts? Yes! You’re right—you’d have a tail. Tails are pretty helpful for some animals. They help them swim, communicate, even keep their balance.

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Image copyright T. S Spookytooth, text copyright Sara Levine. Courtesy of Lerner Publishing

Good job! Let’s try again…how about if you only had a skull, vertebrae, and ribs. No arm bones; no leg bones. You’ve got it! A slithery snake! Nah…really…you’d look great! Okay, maybe you’d prefer if you had a skull, vertebrae, and arm bones—but no leg bones—and your nose was transferred to the top of your head. Sounds fishy? Maybe, but not quite. Oh! Did I give it away? Yep, you’d be a whale or a dolphin, and you’d use those powerful vertebrae to propel yourself to the ocean’s surface to grab a breath.

Imagine what kind of gloves and shoes you’d need if your “middle fingers and middle toes were so thick that they supported your whole body.” Hey, you’re good at this! It was a trick question. You wouldn’t need gloves, but you’d wear horse shoes (or no shoes if you’re a less domesticated animal like a zebra). Now, let’s take a trip through a room full of fun-house mirrors. What kind of animal would you be if your neck was reeeaally long and each vertebrae was “as big as your head?” Or if your legs were muuuuuch longer than your arms? Or your “finger bones grew so long that they reached your feet? Seeing those transformations is definitely worth the price of admission, right?

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Image copyright T. S Spookytooth, text copyright Sara Levine. Courtesy of Lerner Publishing

But getting back to the bowl of soup: “Could you be an animal if you didn’t have any bones at all?” Sure! Some insects and sea creatures “have their hard parts on the outside,” and some are just “mushy.” Think of worms, slugs, and jellyfish, just to name a few. But bones make life more fun, don’t ya think? So if all vertebrates have bones, what makes humans different? Well, for one thing we (as well as some apes and monkeys) have opposable thumbs, which means that “we can move our thumbs in a special way that allows us to do many things, including turning the pages of a book,” using tools, and picking up objects. “Did you get that one? If so, give yourself a thumbs-up!”

An Author’s Note including more about bones, the types of vertebrates, a glossary, and resources for further reading follow the text.

With humor and a kid’s sensibility of the bizarre, Sara Levine presents an anatomy lesson that young readers will respond to. Juxtaposing individual bony features of humans and animals is a brilliant idea to give children perspective on the differences in animal skeletons and the uses of each unique trait. Levine’s quiz-like format engages readers, encouraging independent thought and active participation as well as building suspense for what transformation comes next. Kids will laugh and learn and be on the lookout for other ways human and animal skeletons differ as they become more aware of the natural world around them.

With illustrations of tailbones sticking out of pants, empty socks, two fingered hands and two toed feet, a neck that needs two scarves, and more, T. S Spookytooth illuminates what it means to be human in an animal world or an animal in a human world. Kids will laugh imagining themselves as Spookytooth depicts them with animal features and “Ewww” when their portrayal dissolves into a muddy mess. The accurate drawings of human and animal skeletons educate readers on the names and placement of particular bones.

The unique approach to the study of human and animal skeletons, the wide range of animals presented, and the enticing writing and illustrations make Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons a wonderful choice for libraries and home bookshelves of budding scientists and nature lovers.

Ages 5 – 10

Millbrook Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0761384649

To learn more about Sara Levine and her books, visit her website! You’ll also discover fun Bone by Bone activities to enhance your reading!

View a gallery of artwork by T. S Spookytooth, plus videos and more on his website!

X-Ray Day Activity

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Dog Paw and Human Hand X-Ray Craft

 

X-rays are cool to look at, but they always stay at the doctor’s office! With this craft you can simulate an X-ray of a dog’s paw and a human hand!

Supplies

  • Printable skeleton templates: Human Hand Template | Dog Paw Template
  • Black chalkboard drawing paper, 8 ½ inches by 11 inches
  • White colored pencil
  • White chalk
  • Clear Plastic Report Sheet Protectors
  • Magnetic clip to hang your x-ray on the refrigerator or other metal surface (optional) OR
  • String or wire, adhesive squares, and clothes pins to hang x-ray on the wall (optional)
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Human Hand and Dog Paw Templates (you may want to print two—one to cut and one to follow when transferring the bones to the black paper)
  2. Cut the bones apart
  3. Lay the bones on the black chalkboard paper
  4. Trace the bones with the white colored pencil
  5. Color in the bones with the white chalk
  6. Slip the black paper into the plastic report sheet protector
  7. If desired, hang the x-ray on the refrigerator with the magnetic clip or on the wall using string, adhesive squares and clothespins

 

Q & A with Author Sara Levine

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Today, I’m thrilled to talk to Sara Levine about her writing as well as to learn about her early experiences with animals and to discover a kid’s-eye-view of women in science.

Your writing for kids is so infused with humor that really captures their attention. What were some of the books that you liked best as a child?

When I was younger, one of my favorite picture books was Katerine and the Box by Patricia Lee Gauch. I’ve noticed that this book has gone back into print; I was so happy to find it online. It’s basically about creativity. A girl and her friend keep finding new uses for a large cardboard box—a house, a car, a dance platform. I can still recall my feeling of excitement when hearing it read to me—it made me want to go make something. It’s actually a feeling very similar to what I have today when I think of a new idea for a book. There was also a book called Wisher, which was about difference—about a cat who dreamt he was really a fish. I remember that the illustrations were beautiful and somewhat scary—just done in blues, browns and yellows.  As an older child, I loved Charlotte’s Web by E.B White, Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater and pretty much everything by Judy Blume.

I don’t suppose any of these books are like the books I write. I used to tell people that I liked my science and my books separate. I just wanted to go outside to learn about science. But, I wanted stories in my books. I don’t think there were any of the sorts of books I write about science out for kids when I was young. At least I didn’t find them. But if I had, I think I would have enjoyed them—the fact that they were funny and interactive. But here’s a picture book I LOVE that I found as an adult that is certainly infused with humor and captures a kid’s (and a grown-up’s) attention: Bark, George, by Jules Feiffer. I think this is currently my favorite picture book.

You grew up on a farm in Guilford, Connecticut. Can you tell me a little about the farm and how or if it influenced your current work?

Calling it a “farm” might be a bit of a stretch. My parents were two kids who grew up in Brooklyn and then moved to CT and decided to get some animals, cheered on by their enthusiastic offspring. First there was a goat, who got lonely. So then there was another goat. And they had a baby. And there was a chicken at school who needed a place to go for the summer. And then never went back to school… And so on. We ended up having over 100 named animals—a horse, a cow, peacocks, geese, a donkey and more. I loved taking care of the animals, with my siblings. It was a wonderful experience, one that I’m very grateful for. But it wasn’t at all lucrative. I think the only money made was by my brother who would sell extra eggs to his teachers.

How did it influence my current work? I’m not sure. Certainly my interest in animals is a lifelong one. I think the stories about the animals actually show up more in my writing for adults than in my picture books. The ideas for the books for children come more from teaching ideas that I think will translate well into a picture book format.

You have a doctorate in veterinary medicine and a masters in fine art. When and how did the two merge into your work as an author?

What a great question. I have always had this science side and this humanities side. A lot of my life, I’ve been struggling with how to balance and feed both sides of myself. It’s taken me a long time to find a way to merge the two interests, and it’s been very satisfying to do so in writing about science, especially for kids.

You offer four different school and library programs, all of which sound fascinating. Do you have any anecdotes from a presentation you’d like to share?

In one of my workshops, the one for Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons, I bring in an articulated skeleton for the kids to see and a disarticulated skeleton in a box. The kids learn the bones, and I then hand them each a bone which they take up to the standing skeleton to figure out which bone it is, and then work together to put together the second skeleton on the floor. Inevitably, someone asks if the skeletons are real. They are. I literally found them in the closets, when I started my teaching at Wheelock. There are all sorts of questions about that, generated by the kids, and then, often, someone will ask if the skeletons are “boys or girls.” Recently, at a school near Boston, I was explaining to a group of second graders that both were female, that we could tell by the shape of the hips, and I heard one girl, going, “YES!” and pumping her arm up and down, in victory. The boy next to her says, “Why are you so happy? That means a girl died.” To which she responds, “That’s true. But it also means one more girl in science!”

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Sara Levine leads a workshop at Cold Spring School

What’s the best thing about writing for kids?

I enjoy trying to think of engaging and interactive ways to teach something that hasn’t been taught before. I like the creativity involved. And, of course, reading it to the kids when I’m done and seeing them respond!

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Students at Al Hamra Academy examine a skeleton

You also write articles for adults and were nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007. Can you tell me more about your writing for adults?

I write science related essays for adults. The writing comes more from my own experiences.  I do have a handful of essays published. I think the one that was nominated for the Pushcart, “What Hands Can Do” is still available to read online. Here’s a link to it on Fictionaut. It’s about spaying a dog. And more, of course. I think my most successful essay is “The Body of a Cow” which originally appeared in the Massachusetts Review. It’s also on Fictionaut, if anyone wants to have a look. Eventually, I hope to work the essays into a memoir for adults.

What’s up next for you?

I have a book on dinosaur bones which will be published by Lerner next year. I also have three children’s books written which I’m trying to find homes for at the moment—one on animal classification (but interactive, written like a “do your own adventure” story), one on how plants communicate with animals, and one very funny one (if I can say so myself) called “Breakfast at the Omnivore Café,” which is about what animals eat. This one might never get published because it falls into the cracks between nonfiction and narrative fiction, but I haven’t given up on it yet. The book I’m currently working on is an attempt to explain climate change through stories of the carbon cycle. Doesn’t sound very interesting when put that way, but it’s written as an interactive story, and is also actually quite funny in parts, so I think kids will like it.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking you what your favorite holiday is…

Passover. You get to tell a story to children in a way that is interactive and engaging for kids, AND it involves food. What could be better?

Thanks so much for chatting and sharing your unique perspective on the natural world, Sara! I, for one, would love to read Breakfast at the Omnivore Café—that would be one interesting menu, I bet! I wish you the best with all of your books!

You can connect with Sara Levine on:

Her Website | FacebookTwitter

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Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons and Sara’s other books can be found at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Lerner Publishing

About Sara Levine

Sara Levine is an assistant professor of biology at Wheelock College and a veterinarian.  Her science books for children include Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons (2013) and Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks and Chompers (2016).  Her third book, Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones will be published in 2018.  Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons has received much recognition, including the Utah Beehive Book Award, selection as a Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year, and finalist for the Cook Prize for best STEM picture book.

Sara also writes science-related essays for adults, one of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007.  Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Review, Bayou, and in the anthology And Baby Makes More. In addition to teaching college students, she has taught children’s environmental education classes for the Massachusetts Audubon Society and other nature centers in Massachusetts and Connecticut for over 15 years. 

Sara holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine (DVM) from Tufts University, a master of fine arts degree (MFA) in creative nonfiction writing from Lesley University and a bachelor of arts degree (BA) in English from Haverford College.  She is a native New Englander and lives with her daughter and their dogs and cat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  

Picture Book Review