January 1 – Commitment Day and Interview with Author/Illustrator Lindsay Ward

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About the Holiday

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to think about your relationships and let all of the special people in your life know how much they mean to you. It’s easy to let time go by without telling friends, coworkers, and family members that they are important to you and that you appreciate everything they do for you and with you. Little ones are  committed not only to family and friends but—often with the same fervor—to their favorite toys as well. And vice versa? Perhaps—as today’s book shows!

Don’t Forget Dexter!

By Lindsay Ward

 

In an empty pediatrician’s waiting room, a little dinosaur calls out “Hello? Is anyone there?” Then he sees you! Yes, you, and he needs your help. It seems Dexter (that’s the dino’s name) has lost his best friend, Jack. Jack was just there a minute ago coloring with Dexter, but now he’s gone. Dexter’s been waiting “a really long time. Like forever.” He thinks that “maybe you’ve seen him?” Oh, right! You don’t know what Jack looks like! Dexter draws a quick picture of a kid with curly hair, stick arms, stick legs, and a smile. Have you seen Jack?

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

Maybe you and Dexter need a little more help. Suddenly, Dexter has an idea of who to ask. “Excuse me. Hello? Mr. Fish? Have you seen my best friend, Jack?” Or maybe the lady behind the window knows where Jack is. But she’s on the phone and doesn’t even seem to hear or see Dexter. Wait! Dexter knows what to do—he’ll sing his and Jack’s favorite song! “Dexter Dino, stomp through the swamp. Dexter Dino, Chomp, Chomp, Chomp!”

No Jack? Dexter sings louder, but still no Jack. Poor Dexter! He just doesn’t understand. Could it be…”Oh no! What if he left me here ON PURPOSE?” Dexter thinks, as his eyes with tears. But then denial kicks in. That can’t be…after all Dexter says, “I’m Dexter T. Rexter. The toughest, strongest, coolest dinosaur there has ever been. EVER!” And he’s pretty much right! He’s got a swishy tail, chompy teeth, pretty sharp claws, and feet that “make this really cool sound.”

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

But oh, dear…did you really just suggest the unthinkable? That maybe Jack “likes something more? Like another toy?” You know what kinds of great toys are out there—all sorts of cars, trucks, trains, and planes that have fancy moving parts, blinking lights, and swell sounds. “Wait, what did you say? You think dinosaurs ARE awesome?” Just that thought has given Dexter more oomph and confidence. So much, in fact, that he’s going to escape from this waiting room through the window and find Jack.

Dexter builds a pile of books to reach the supply closet handle, grabs some sturdy bandages to make a climbing rope, and—under the watchful gaze of the swimmy “unhelpful spectator,” swings into action and…into the fish tank! Oh no! As Dexter sinks to the bottom, he sees all of his favorite moments sinking with him. “No more playtime. No more bath time. No more bedtime snuggles. No more Jack.” Dexter’s tears mix with the aquarium water.

But what’s this? What is that sound? “DEXTEEERRR!” Dexter recognizes that voice. It’s Jack! See? “And you were so worried.”  But Dexter knew all along he’d never be forgotten. And now as Jack pushes him around the waiting room in a cool sports car, he and Jack even have a new song to sing!

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Copyright Lindsay Ward, 2018, courtesy of Two Lions Publishing.

What child can resist the roar of a dinosaur who needs help? The opportunity to be bigger, braver, and fiercer, than T-rex is irresistible, and in Lindsay Ward’s hilarious direct-address friendship story, it’s irresistible fun. As Dexter takes readers along on his roller coaster of emotions, asking readers for help and reassurance, kids will empathize with this lost toy who’s feeling small and alone. There will be plenty of giggles when Dexter draws his stick-figure portrait, rappels into the fish tank, and melts into a puddle of dinosaur tears. A spirited reading (and singing) will bring the story fully to life.

Ward’s bright, bold illustrations set Dexter center stage as his emotions play out on his very sweet face. From page to page, Dexter’s expressive eyes register uncertainty, hope, worry, bravado, angst, bravery, despair, and finally joy. Orange Dexter is a cutie with his scattered polka dots and kindergarten-style, writing-paper belly. Kids will recognize the doctor’s office with its universal fish tank; the “better” toys Dexter compares himself to are appropriately menacing; and Dexter’s memories of fun times spent with Jack show readers just how strong the bond between these two friends is. As Jack, wearing a Dexter t-shirt and also with tears in his eyes, searches for Dexter, readers will see that the love between toy and child goes both ways. Children will cheer when Jack reunites with Dexter with a huge hug.

Don’t Forget Dexter! is a funny and heartfelt choice for dinosaur lovers and for introducing discussions of various emotions and the nature of love for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 |ISBN  978-1542047272

Two Lions sent me this book to check out. All opinions are my own.

Discover more about Lindsay Ward, her books, and her art on her website.

Commitment Day Activity

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I Love You Jar

 

You can show the people you love how much they mean to you by giving them your heart! Make this I Love You Jar so you always have a little love on hand to share!

Supplies

  • A decorative clear glass jar, mason jar, or other kind of jar
  • Red felt (or other desired color or colors)
  • Heart stencils or cookie cutter (optional)
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Cut 10 to 20 heart shapes from the red felt 
  2. Place the hearts in the jar for safe keeping
  3. When you want to tell someone that they are special to you, give them a heart!

Meet Lindsay Ward

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Today I’m excited to talk with Lindsay Ward about the text that inspired Dexter, the best part of meeting with students, and what makes Ohio home.

What inspired you to write Don’t Forget Dexter!?

My husband and I were pregnant with our first child and my husband was required to get a T-DAP booster shot prior to our son’s birth. He went to get the shot and while he was waiting to be seen he texted me a photo with of a toy dinosaur lying underneath a chair with the line “well, they left me here.” I laughed out loud when I read the text and immediately sat down to write Dexter’s story. To this day it’s still the fastest idea-to-story moments I’ve ever had. I ended up writing the first draft within an hour and the rest is history.

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When did you know you wanted to write books for children? Has becoming a mom changed the way you work or the themes of your work? If so, in what way?

I always knew I wanted to be an artist of some kind, but I never thought about writing. That actually happened by accident years later once I was already published as an illustrator. When I was 15 I got my first job working in a children’s book store. After meeting authors and illustrators who would come do signings at Hicklebee’s (where I worked), I realized I wanted to illustrate children’s books. I loved the idea of working from a narrative. After I graduated high school I went on to study illustration in college and began trying to get published.

My books have always been connected in some way or another to personal experiences. Now that I have two boys, I definitely get inspired by them. I’m also a lot more critical of books as a mom than I was before. Prior to having kids, I would really only care about the quality of the art when I purchased a book for my home library. Now I expect a book to have the full package— great writing and illustrations. Seeing first hand which books my kids respond to has been really interesting too.

When you’re working on a project, does the story come first or the art?

With the exception of Dont Forget Dexter! and Henry Finds His Word, the story has always come first. Those two titles are the only books where I had a character in my head before the story was written. Generally, I come up with a concept first and then I consider all the directions I can take the story in before I settle on one. Writing is a very instinctual experience for me, I trust my gut to tell me when I’m heading in the right direction.

You hold many readings and events at schools, libraries, and book festivals. Do you have an anecdote from any event you’d like to share?

I love meeting with students and visiting schools and libraries. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job. So often I’m in my own head working on an idea, so when I get the chance to meet my readers, it’s such a wonderful experience. I don’t necessarily have a particular anecdote, but I have experienced more than once going into a school where the students have never met an author or illustrator before. I love being able to show them that they can do something creative with their lives and nothing is impossible. I think that’s a very important lesson for kids to learn. I was lucky enough to have a mom that always supported my dreams, and I can’t imagine what it would have been like to pursue this career if she hadn’t been so supportive.

What’s the best part of writing and illustrating children’s books?

I think that moment where you know you’ve tapped into something great creatively and the idea begins to really come together— that’s a wonderful feeling. I love getting to meet my readers too, that’s the best!

Your book Please Bring Balloons, a mystical story about a little girl who rides a carousel polar bear into a magical arctic dreamscape, has been made into a play and had a recent run at the New York Children’s Theater. Can you talk a bit about that and how it came to be?

I didn’t really have much to do with the process of Please Bring Balloons becoming a play. My agent called one day to let me know they were interested in adapting my book and next thing I know it was a production in New York. I remember my husband brought home a dozen roses for me the day we found out—it was incredibly sweet, saying “this is what they give actors on stage.” Months later, my husband and I had the opportunity to go to New York and see the play—which is one of the best moments of my career as a children’s book author/illustrator. I was so proud of what I had created, and so impressed with the writer, director, and actors who put it all together. Seeing my story come to life was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.

Can you describe your studio a little? What’s your favorite thing in it? Why?

Currently, my studio is in a small bedroom in my house. It’s very cozy and has a beautiful view of the woods and river behind my house. I’m very type-A so I like to keep it organized, the only time it’s usually messy is if I’m working in cut paper on a book—then it looks like a bomb has gone off.  My favorite thing in it is my blue scissors that I’ve used on every book I’ve ever published. I’m a bit superstitious about them.

You grew up in California, lived in New York and Boston, and now live Ohio. What would you say are the three biggest differences in the West Coast, East Coast, and Midwest?

I get this question a lot, mostly from Clevelanders, who are fascinated by the fact that I grew up in California but choose to live in Ohio (sometimes I don’t think they realize how good they have it here). For me, the West Coast is laid back and goes with the flow, the East Coast is always moving, and the Midwest feels like home. I think the reason I fell in love with Cleveland is because the odds are always against it, a lot of people make fun of it or look down on it, but it’s got a lot of heart. Midwesterners are warm and passionate people. I’ve had the opportunity to live in many places and they’ve all given me wonderful experiences and shaped me into who I am today.

What’s up next for you?

I just wrapped up the sequel to Dont Forget Dexter!, titled Its Show-and-Tell, Dexter!, which will come out July 17th, 2018. I’ll be working on a new picture book about the relationship of colors, as told by the color Gray, titled This Book Is Gray, with Two Lions starting in January. And I’m thrilled to be starting a new original board book series, I Go, with HarperCollins next year.

What is your favorite holiday?

Hands down, Thanksgiving! Cooking for my family on a day filled with turkey, pie, and football…it doesn’t get better than that!

Thanks, Lindsay! It’s been fun getting to know more about you and your work! I wish you all the best with Don’t Forget Dexter! and all of your books!

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You can find Don’t Forget Dexter! at these booksellers:

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

You can connect with Lindsay Ward on:

Her Website | Facebook | InstagramTwitter

Picture Book Review

October 12 – It’s National Seafood Month

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About the Holiday

Love seafood? Me too! This month seafood takes center stage as a delicious, healthy, and versatile dietary choice. With so many types of seafood—each with its own distinct flavor—it’s easy to create dishes that satisfy every taste. Seafood has played a part in cuisine around the world since earliest history. Why not explore some recipes from other cultures while you celebrate this month?

There Might Be Lobsters

Written by Carolyn Crimi | Illustrated by Laurel Molk

 

Suki may have liked going to the beach, but there were many things there that scared her. Eleanor encouraged her puppy to come down the stairs and join her on the sand, but Suki sat at the top overwhelmed with doubt. She was such a small dog, “and the stairs were big and sandy, and she hadn’t had lunch yet, and she might get a shell stuck up her nose.” She might even “tumble down on her head…and need stitches, and, besides, there might be lobsters.”

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Image copyright Laurel Molk, 2017, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Suki thought she’d sit with her toy monkey Chunka Munka and watch, but Eleanor was there to pick her up and carry her down the steps. Eleanor wanted to play and tossed her beach ball in Suki’s direction. The big ball bounced and rolled toward Suki, and Suki took off. What if the ball “hit her nose,” or “knocked her down?” If that happened she might never get home and might have to “eat seaweed to survive.” Besides, didn’t “beach balls attract lobsters?” Suki grabbed Chunka Munka and ran away.

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Image copyright Laurel Molk, 2017, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Eleanor scooped her dog up again and brought her to the water’s edge. She was sure Suki would enjoy swimming with her. But Suki gazed out at the vast sea and the approaching waves that “might toss her out to the middle of the sea” where she could “float all the way to Tasmania or even Florida.” She could be “swallowed by a whale,” and besides isn’t that where lobsters live? So Suki and Chunka Munka chose to stay on shore.

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Image copyright Laurel Molk, 2017, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Suddenly, a wave picked up Chunka Munka and the little monkey was washed out to sea. Soon he began to sink. “Suki started to paddle.” She swam past a beach ball, into a wave, and maybe even over a lobster to save Chunka Monka. When they landed once more on dry land, Suki felt brave and proud. Eleanor was proud of her puppy too. She picked up Suki and Chunka Monka “with a ‘yay’ and a ‘hooray’ and swung them gently through the air.” Then Suki sat on the beach, enjoyed the waves, and “watched for lobsters. And they didn’t see one all day.”

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Image copyright Laurel Molk, 2017, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

When fears and doubts have kids in their claws, Carolyn Crimi’s reassuring story of a little dog who does a big deed is just the kind of support they need. It can be easy for scary thoughts to overwhelm reality, but through Suki’s worries and Eleanor’s patient encouragement, Crimi gives readers a chance to empathize with the little puppy while recognizing that some fears are unfounded. Suki’s unselfish act to save her beloved toy may spur children to dip their toe into the waters and become brave themselves.

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Image copyright Laurel Molk, 2017, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Laurel Molk’s adorable Suki will have readers rooting for her as she sits forlorn and hesitant at the top of the stairs, cowers from the beach ball, and stops short at the water’s edge. When Chunka Monka floats away, Molk immediately shows Suki in the ocean swimming to catch him, demonstrating that the natural instinct to help often overrides fears and leads to self-confidence and growth. Molk’s watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations are as bright, wide-open, and inviting as the beach itself. Each page offers readers lots to see, giggle over, and talk about while they cheer on Suki—and discover the only lobster on the beach.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763675424

To find out more about Carolyn Crimi and her other books, and have a laugh or two (or three), check out her website.

View a gallery of books illustrated by Laurel Molk as well as other artwork, visit her website.

National Seafood Month Activity

What a Catch! (1)

What a Catch! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are so many types of seafood! Can you find the twenty names of fish and shellfish in this printable What a Catch! Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

October 10 – National Face Your Fears Day

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About the Holiday

Going outside your comfort zone can be scary, but being afraid holds you back and affects your quality of life. Today’s holiday encourages people to face their fears and overcome trepidation or hesitance and say, “I’m going to do it!” Perhaps knowing that others are also trying the hard thing today will provide a little extra courage. You never know what you can achieve until you take that first step!

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

By Dan Santat

 

If readers don’t quite remember what happened to Humpty Dumpty back in the day,  his unfortunate accident is captured on the title page. But this is not a story about falling (we all do that sometimes). Instead, as the subtitle reveals, it’s about the recovery. Here, Humpty Dumpty tells his story his way—what really happened on that fateful day and afterward.

Humpty takes readers back to the scene where it all happened: his “favorite spot high up on the wall.” He acknowledges that it’s a strange place for such a fragile being to be, but up there he felt closer to the birds. He goes on to say that he’s not really comfortable with all the fuss and the fancy “Great Fall” title. It was just a mistake; even if that mistake did change his life.

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

It turns out that despite what we’ve all learned, the king’s men were able to patch Humpty up. Well, at least partly. His shell was repaired, but inside? “There were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.” Where Humpty once loved his bunk bed above his desk, he now slept on a mat on the floor; he only bought items from the lowest grocery store shelves; and even though he passed the wall every day, he knew he could never climb the ladder to the top again.

Humpty resigned himself to watching the birds from the ground through a pair of binoculars. Then, one day, a paper airplane streaked across the sky and gave him an idea. Paper airplanes looked so easy to make, but Humpty found it hard. Day after day he struggled, suffering paper cuts and scratches. One day, though, he “got it just right.” In his hand was a beautiful paper bird.

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Humpty took his bird plane outside and launched it into the air. “It flew like nothing could stop it.” Humpty felt happier than he had in ages, and even though watching his plane wasn’t the same as being on top of the wall among the birds, “it was close enough.” But then the unthinkable happened—the bird plane flew over the wall. Humpty was well aware that “unfortunately, accidents happen…they always do.”

For a minute Humpty Dumpty considered walking away. But then he remembered all the work he’d put into his plane, which led him to think about all the things he was missing out on. He looked up that tall, tall ladder and started to climb. The farther up he got, though, the more afraid he became. Without looking up or down, he continued climbing. “One step at a time.”

When he reached the top, he “was no longer afraid.” At that moment, as his shell began to crack and he felt lighter and more powerful. Humpty tells readers that he hopes they won’t remember him as “that egg who was famous for falling,” but as “the egg who got back up and learned how to fly.”

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Dan Santat deftly works with preconceived notions and a well-known idiom to turn the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty into an inspirational “happily ever after” story. Just as fears can come to define a person, traditional interpretations of this tale classify Humpty as a chicken egg and specify his lack of repair as physical. But what if, as Santat envisions, Humpty is the egg of a bird that soars and that his hurts are more internal? Then readers can identify with this hero who doesn’t give in and who conquers his fear to come out of his shell and fly. Santat’s honest, straightforward storytelling will resonate with young readers and listeners. The gentle reassurance in After the Fall will encourage children to try again—one step at a time.

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Santat’s luminous illustrations express wonder, humor, and touching moments in ways that not only enhance the story but make readers think about other issues as well.  Children will want to linger over the pages to catch all the references to Humpty’s bird watching hobby, take in the enormity of the wall that Humpty Dumpty confronts, and catch humorous takes on the original rhyme, including Santat’s King’s County Hospital. Adults and kids alike will enjoy poring over and discussing the wall of cereals, and as Humpty’s tiny hand reaches for the next rung on the ladder adults may feel a lump in their throats. When Humpty breaks free of his shell and emerges in the same form as the paper bird he created, readers may consider whether Humpty spent time only working on his toy or on himself as well.

After the Fall is a picture book that offers reassurance and invites deeper discussion. The book would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626726826

Learn more about Dan Santat and After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) on the book’s website.

Face your Fears Day Activity

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Calming Sensory Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

  • Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid
  • White glitter glue,
  • Light blue glitter glue,
  • Fine white and/or blue glitter
  • Large white and/or blue glitter
  • Warm water

Directions

1. For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tight

3. Shake

4. As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

Picture Books Review

 

September 25 – World Dream Day and Interview with Author Michelle Cuevas

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About the Holiday

World Dream Day is a global participatory holiday that encourages individuals, schools, businesses, and families to focus on their dreams and make them reality. Discovering and acting on your dreams can transform not only your life, but the lives of others. Imagine how the world could change if everyone had the opportunity to live their dreams. Today, feel inspired and empowered to do or become whatever you’ve always dreamed of!

Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow

Written by Michelle Cuevas | Illustrated by Sydney Smith

 

Smoot the Shadow was bored. Bored. Bored. For seven and a half years, he’d been doing the same things over and over. Every day, he and his boy—to whom he was firmly connected—“brushed the same teeth, frowned the same frown, and drew the same pictures—always staying perfectly inside the lines.” Smoot’s boy never jumped, ran, or even laughed, so Smoot never did either.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Excet at night. Then, while the boy slept, Smoot dreamed. He dreamed in a multitude of colors about singing, dancing, and having fun. One day, with an unexpected “pop” Smoot became free of his boy. He didn’t waste a moment, but packed a few things and headed out into the world. He jumped rope, rode a carousel and climbed a tree to say hello to a little bird. He even got to dance in a field of multicolored wildflowers just like in his dreams.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

Suddenly, other shadows took notice. As they watched Smoot play, they became braver too. “‘If he can follow his dreams, we can too,’” they reasoned. The first shadow to take the plunge was a dandelion. As it soared away into the sky, becoming an indistinct form, people tried to guess what it was. All this attention emboldened the shadows of a cricket and a grasshopper who had “formed a band, but were nervous about playing music in public.” Their shadows, however, picked up their instruments and played “like cool shade on a hot afternoon.”

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

A frog’s shadow discovered his inner prince, and a dragonfly’s shadow floated out over the city as a ferocious dragon. Even a lowly rock’s shadow had dreams of greatness, transforming into “a cathedral, and then a skyscraper, and finally a castle that reached the clouds.” Smoot began to grow afraid of the imagination he’d unleashed. What if the shadows of zoo animals escaped and roamed through town or if the sun was eclipsed by the shadow of an enormous whale? How would anyone catch them?

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of Dial Books.

But Smoot had an idea. He made a castle from the ambitious rock and some others. The frog moved in to live like a prince, and the dragonfly guarded the gate. Then Smoot sang with the grasshopper and cricket to give them more courage, and he blew the dandelion seeds into the air. The shadows all saw that their dreams had come true, so they returned to their owners, who also felt different.

And Smoot’s boy? All the excitement had inspired him to be more like his shadow. After he and his shadow reconnected, they ran, tumbled, jumped in puddles, and played in “singing, ringing, flying, vibrant, dancing color.”

Through her rambunctious shadows, Michelle Cuevas creatively externalizes that small (or loud) voice inside many people that is yearning to be heard and acted on. For many children and adults, giving free reign to their alter ego can feel uncomfortable or even frightening. In her lyrical and uplifting book, Cuevas reveals these dreams for greatness, recognition, or freedom and encourages readers to let go and chase them. She shines a light on how they can take that first step through play, teaming up, or using their imagination and talents to make their dreams come alive.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, 2017, text copyright Michelle Cuevas, 2017. Courtesy of sydneydraws.tumblr.com.

Sydney Smith’s striking images immediately orient readers to the monotone world the boy lives in. While outside the window colors abound, inside, the boy sits on a gray sofa with a black-and-white rug and his black-and-white dog nearby. The walls are white, the floor is dull, and even the plant—standing away from the light of the window—is browning. Perhaps, however, the painting above the boy offers hope and a little foreshadowing: Black images play on a white canvas, but a swipe of blue and a red dot add lively, colorful accents. Likewise, the red-covered book the boy reads is a bright spot in this otherwise dreary room.

The boy’s shadow, however, dreams in color. When Smoot pops free of his restraints and goes on a play-filled adventure, the illustrations are full of action and vibrancy. Smoot smiles and exults in his freedom. His joy is infectious, and his antics and clever ways of ensuring that each character gets to fulfill their aspirations will inspire children to uncover their own inner world.

Smoot: a Rebellious Shadow is a heartfelt and empowering book for hesitant and more adventurous children alike. It would make an ideal book for home libraries and classrooms.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2017 | ISBN  978-0525429692

Discover more about Michelle Cuevas and her books for children and tweens on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Sydney Smith on Tumbler!

World Dream Day Activity

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Live Your Dream! Shadow Blackboard

 

Shadows are fun to create and play with! Making a black board from a shadow is a great way to show your imagination while making a useful decoration for your room. Put on your inventive thinking cap and devise a unique shadow by using toys or other objects from home. You can even make a shadow of yourself! Making the blackboard may require two people.

Supplies

  • Black thick poster board, 1 or 2 pieces or a tri-fold depending on how large your blackboard will be
  • Large sheet of white or light paper
  • Objects to create the shadow
  • Pencil
  • Scissors or x-acto knife
  • Mounting squares or tape
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. To Make a Shadow Blackboard from an object or objects
  2. Choose two or three objects, such as toys, musical instruments, shoes, knick-knacks, etc., that will make interesting shapes or ideas. Arrange the objects in a way to create the picture you want. (In the photo above, a cactus-shaped pillow and a ukulele were used to create the shadow)
  3. Either outside in a sunny spot or inside with a light, lay the white paper on the ground
  4. As one person holds the item or items above the paper, trace the shadow.
  5. Alternately, if the objects are large enough, you can arrange them and trace them on the white paper or directly on the black poster board.
  6. Cut the shadow out of the white paper
  7. Trace the shadow on the black poster board with the chalk
  8. Cut the image out of the black poster board
  9. Attach the shadow blackboard to your wall with the mounting squares or tape
  10. Use colored chalk to write or draw your dreams and doodles on your blackboard

To Make a Shadow Blackboard of Yourself

  1. Lie down on the white paper
  2. Strike a pose
  3. Have someone else trace you
  4. Cut out your figure
  5. Trace the figure onto the black poster board
  6. Cut out the figure from the black poster board
  7. Attach to the wall with the mounting squares

Meet Author Michelle Cuevas

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I’m excited to talk with Michelle Cuevas today about Smoot, her research adventures, and her very innovative Halloween costumes!

What draws you to write quiet picture books about introspective characters?

I actually think about this question a lot! I suppose it has to do with being a bit of a lone wolf as a kid – I loved making up song lyrics, building rock gardens, writing a newspaper about the lives of neighborhood animals. I was good at creating little worlds inside my own world, (I have three brothers, so I had company, but mostly the fighting-over-monopoly kind). I also think that in everyday life, it’s not always the big-bad-villain-monster that we’re up against. Often the things we face are inside – fear, loneliness, grief. I like characters who take on that kind of struggle, who make the everyday ‘okay this is hard but I’m going to keep trying’ feel extraordinary.

What was your inspiration for Smoot?

Smoot came to me when I had a couple candles lit and the shadows made me think I should do a book about shadow puppets… or a shadow puppeteer… something in that world. As I started writing, I realized that the most interesting character by far was the shadow. What were the shadow’s innermost dreams? Thoughts? Ideas? A lot of people ask about his name also. I think it’s a combination of “smudge” and “soot,” (though a child I met suggested it could also be “small” and “foot.” Definitely possible). I have such a great time naming characters in my books, I think I would thoroughly enjoy a career at Crayola in the color-naming department.

If you were a runaway shadow, where would you go or what would you do?

If I were a runaway shadow I might like to try being other things for a while – you could go be the shadow of a galloping horse, a skyscraper, a cloud across the surface of the ocean. The possibilities are pretty endless.

One of your activities is falconry, which conjures up such wonderful images. Could you tell how you became involved in falconry and a little bit about it?

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I like to do research for my books, so falconry started as research for my second novel about a boy who is half bird and hatched from an egg. I got very interested in it, even looking into getting my own Harris Hawk, but it takes many years and several days of hunting every week. Maybe someday!

I’ve also done research by riding elephants, bird banding with ornithologists, interviewing astrophysicists, spending time with butterflies, and more. It’s a really interesting part of my job!

Your research sounds fascinating and such fun! Is there anything you’d like to try that you haven’t yet?

I like to keep trying new things as a writer, and one new adventure I’m trying is artwork. I LOVED Shel Silverstein as a kid, so I’m pretty sure he’s my inspiration. I’ve been afraid to illustrate my own picture book, so far just sticking to little line drawings in my last two novels.

Perhaps I’ll take a cue from Smoot, be brave, and give picture books a try in the near future!

In your beautiful The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, the main character collects and delivers messages sent through bottles tossed into the sea. If you were going to write such a note to your readers, what would you say?

My dedication for Uncorker read:

For the Ocean Bottle Senders and Ocean Bottle seekers:

Try. Want. Wish. Tell

Is everyone as intrigued by book dedications as I am? When I read a book, I love imagining who the people are in the dedications, why did the author choose them? I often think about themes of my books when I write a dedication to a specific person. Since Uncorker is about a man with no name, and since the messages sent in bottles are often to no one in particular, I decided my dedication should reflect both of these feelings too.

As an author of middle grade and picture books, what do you find is the best part of writing for children?

The best part of writing for children… well, from my perspective, the best part is the sense of fun. I started out during my fiction MFA writing stories for adults. I’d often turn in stories with talking plants or deer that broke into houses. These stories confused the other writers in my program. Who were they for? Not serious-thinking adults. My mom sent me care packages, often with books inside, mostly kids’ books I had loved when I was younger or new ones she thought looked cute. I read them and it was a light bulb-over-my-head moment. I started writing my first novel about a prolific painting elephant my last year of graduate school and suddenly, my writing felt like me. I was able to do all the wild, free, magical things I had wanted to do all along in my writing. I was finally having fun.

And I think the best part in the “interacting with the world” category is when a child (or adult) says they connected to a character, or that a character’s tale made them cry. We don’t know one another very well, but I know how it feels when a book makes me cry. It’s a remarkable connection, really blows me away every time.

What’s Up Next for You?

Up next for me are visiting schools to talk about my new books Smoot and The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole. In April 2018 I have a new picture book out with Catia Chien called Town of Turtle. It’s about a turtle who decides to do some renovations to his shell, which of course get wildly out of hand.

Since Celebrate Picture Books is a holiday-themed blog, I have to ask: what is your favorite holiday, and do you have any stories you’d like to share?

My favorite holiday… I’ve always loved making costumes and the idea of getting to be a character on Halloween. Even in the last few years I’ve been… a pro wrestler, a deer with branch antlers, Cindy Lou-Who, a falconer… the list goes on. Last year I was Lydia Deetz from the movie Beetlejuice. When I was Cindy Lou-Who I spent a couple days making a wire-rigged headpiece with some very architectural hair. Making the costume is half the fun. I have several glue gun burns to prove it.

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I also got my Bernese Mountain dog a backpack to hand out candy. I don’t usually let him wear clothing, but made an exception for lollipop duty.

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Thanks, Michelle, for the fun and inspiring interview—and all of the fantastic pics! I wish you all the best with Smoot and all of your other books!

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You can find Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow at these booksellers

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

You can connect with Michelle on: her website | Twitter

Picture Book Review

August 13 – What Will Be Your Legacy Month

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About the Holiday

As you grow and have difference experiences, it’s fun and instructive to look back and reflect on your life: are you doing the things that make you  happy? Are you performing your job and other responsibilities the way you want to be? What impact you are making? This month’s holiday encourages people to think about their legacy and make changes if desired. 

Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum

By Zack Rock

 

Everything has a story, the narrator tells readers, especially the Homer Henry Hudson Curio Museum, which, he says, has been described as “a colossal collection of curios, discovered, described, and displayed by that eccentric explorer extraordinaire: Homer Henry Hudson.”

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Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

Come in and experience the wonders inside. A dignified bulldog dressed in a dapper tweed suit and leaning on a crooked cane will greet you. His job is to keep the place clean and dusted. Although the museum is stuffed floor to ceiling, he knows the placement of every object, knick-knack, and curiosity. As you explore the museum’s holdings—its portraits, musical instruments, ancient artifacts, taxidermy animals, and other treasures, the caretaker sits silently, hoping you will read the display cards that Homer Henry Hudson has lovingly written out with a description and personal note. He even has his favorite “bits and bobs” that he would like you to see.

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Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

One of these is Item #0001, the Conausaurus Skull of a small dinosaur from the late Jurassic Period that HHH found in the soil of his family’s farm. This bony discovery made Homer Henry wonder what else the world held and sparked his love of exploration. Another is Item #0023, a Radial Tide Diviner once used by Calypsonian seers to predict the future based on tidal patterns. It was the discovery of the lost Calypsonian civilization with its valuable artifacts that funded Homer’s further explorations.

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Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

Item #3412, a Temple Montepaz Choir Finch with a C sharp trill that chanted to accompany the parrot priest, was a most unusual gift. It was bestowed on HHH for convincing the Parrot Priest to release a piece of wood stripped from the temple wall. This shard turned out to lead Homer Henry Hudson into his future—for better or worse. With renewed fire, HHH charged toward the promise of riches only to fly his plane into a mammoth stone figurehead, which resulted in injury and his life-long limp.

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Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

Item #3415, The Manneken Mort of King Ingmar, is perhaps Homer Henry’s most treasured possession. Composed of fabric bands that represent the stories friends and family tell when someone dies, this Manneken Mort contains hundreds of bands relating the life of King Ingmar. This object HHH acquired for bravery and self-sacrifice when he was younger and still full of enthusiasm for life.

The old bulldog thinks of this curio most. He wonders what his Manneken will look like and whether all the bands of his life have been woven. He likes to think his Manneken Mort “would be  hundreds—thousands—of feet tall. It’d tower over the Taj Mahal, shame the Sphinx!” But he knows “few memorable tales are told of rusty old codgers who spent their days…leaning upon fear like a crutch.”

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Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

Though blind in one eye and nagged by trepidation, the old bulldog packs his suitcase, dons his hat and throws away his cane. As he walks out the door, past pictures of himself on his early expeditions of discover, he knows he might “meet with catastrophe,” be “swallowed by quicksand,” or “gnawed on by piranhas.” But he also knows “there’s no success without failures,” and he has had many successes.

Homer Henry Hudson boards the cruise liner Phoenix and sets out for adventure once more. After all, he well knows that everything has a story. So if you come by the Homer Henry Hudson Museum today, you will see a sign hanging on the door: The Curio Museum is CLOSED Until Further Notice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-homer-henry-hudson's-curio-museum-leaving

Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

Zack Rock has written a compelling and unique picture book for adventurers of all types and ages. Part motivation and part cautionary tale, this story of the once intrepid explorer turned tremulous caretaker has a mysterious, treasure-around-every-corner quality that will appeal to kids. The life of Homer Henry Hudson is told through the display cards that accompany some of the museum’s curios. As the story develops through the cards’ personal notes, readers learn of the museum’s true owner and the life-altering decision he makes.

Rock’s illustrations in greens and parchment-paper golds and browns have a high “Oh, Cool!” factor as the odd, ancient, and unusual objects of the museum invite kids to explore every nook and cranny of the pages. The exhibits serve not only to fill the museum, however; they remind us how easily the future can get overshadowed and crowded out by the past.

Ages 6 – 10

The Creative Company/Creative Editions, 2014 | ISBN 978-1568462608

To discover more about Zack Rock and his books and to view a gallery of his artwork, visit his website!

What Will be Your Legacy Month Activity

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Legacy Letter Page

 

If you were building a museum about your life, what would you put in it? Write or draw about what you would put in your museum on this printable Legacy Letter Page

 

Picture Book Review

August 10 – World Lion Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by Big Cat Rescue, the world’s largest sanctuary dedicated to Big Cats, to raise awareness of the dwindling number of lions and promote action to save them. Because of hunting, habitat destruction, and other environmental and manmade dangers, the lion has been placed on the endangered species list. To observe World Lion Day, visit a preserve or sanctuary if you live near one or read up on lions and consider donating to their protection.

The Lion Inside

Written by Rachel Bright | Illustrated by Jim Field

 

“In a dry, dusty place where / the sand sparkled gold, / Stood a mighty flat rock / all craggy and old.” Way down below in a chink in the rock a little brown mouse lived in the tiniest house. He was so small and meek that no one noticed him—Ever. The other animals stepped on him and sat on him and forgot all about him when they got together.

On top of the rock sat a fierce lion. He had very sharp teeth and a very loud roar that made sure everyone knew how important he was. “Yes, ALL were impressed / by this mighty King Cat. / ‘If only,’ thought mouse, / ‘I could be more like that.’” Then one night it hit him—he should have his own roar. “With a little more Grrrr / and a little less meek” he’d make lots of friends, the mouse thought.

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2015, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2015. Courtesy of Scholastic.

The mouse determined right then to learn how to roar, but he knew that the only one who could teach him might gobble him up. He decided it was time to be brave. As he began his long climb to the top of the rock, he was nervous and scared, but he knew that “if you want things to change, / you first have to change you.” When he got to the top. he found the lion sleeping. Standing nose-to-nose with the big cat, he squeaked out his request. The lion woke up, took a long look, and then “opened his mouth and let out an Eeeeak!” The lion shook with fear and begged the mouse not to hurt him.

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2015, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2015. Courtesy of Scholastic.

The mouse told the lion he didn’t need to be scared. They could work together and have some fun. In that moment the mouse found his true voice. He discovered he didn’t need to roar or shout to be heard. And the lion learned that it was okay to be friends with the other animals. Now the mouse and the lion share the big rock, and when the lion roars it’s “with laughter instead.”

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2105, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2015. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Rachel Bright’s jaunty rhyming story about embracing your true nature is sure to enchant kids who are learning to find their place within various groups. As the mouse and the lion discover, size and volumn don’t define importance or influence. Kindness, friendship, and self-confidence are what matter most. Sprinkled with squeaks, grrrrs, gulps, and roars, the story will have little ones giggling and reading along.

Jim Field’s tiny mouse with elephantine ears is adorable and sweetly determined as he decides to bravely confront the lion. Young readers will laugh as the once strutting and roaring lion is left quivering at the sight of the mouse. Kids will also enjoy pointing out that the rock the mouse and lion share is itself shaped like a lion. Field’s palette of golds and browns reflects the sun-drenched savannah while the mouse’s house, painted in vibrant red and yellow, hints at the individualistic creature who lives inside.

The Lion Inside is a great book to share within a classroom at the beginning of the year or anytime. It also makes a fine addition to home bookshelves to remind kids to celebrate what they’re made of.

Ages 3 – 6

Scholastic, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545873505

View a gallery of books and artwork by Rachel Bright on her website!

World Lion Day Activity

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Spoon Lion Puppet 

 

With a round, wooden spoon, you can make a ROARingly cute lion puppet or decoration!

Supplies

  • Wooden mixing spoon
  • Yellow Fleece
  • Brown felt
  • Colorful Fleece or felt
  • Fabric glue
  • Light brown marker
  • Dark brown marker
  • Hot glue gun or super glue

CPB - Spoon Lion with stuff

Directions

To make the lion’s face

  1. Draw a nose, mouth, and eyes on the front/bowl of the spoon

To make the mane

  1. Measure the rim of the spoon from one side of the handle to the other
  2. Cut a strip of yellow fleece as long as rim measurement and 4 inches wide
  3. Fold the piece of fleece in half long-ways
  4. Glue the open edges of the fleece together
  5. Along the folded side cut a fringe, leaving the loops intact

To make the ears

  1. Cut round ears from the brown felt.

Assembling the lion

  1. Glue the ears to the back of the spoon
  2. Glue the mane to the back of the spoon

To make the bow

  1. Cut a 3-inch x 1 ½-inch piece of colorful fleece or felt
  2. Cut a long thin strip of fleece or felt
  3. Pinch the bow in the middle and tie with the longer piece of cloth. Trim as necessary
  4. Glue the bow to the handle

To make the tail

  1. Cut three thin 4-inch-long strips of yellow fleece
  2. With fabric glue, glue the tops of the strips together
  3. Braid the strips
  4. At the bottom, glue the strips together, leaving the ends free
  5. Fold the top of the tail and push it into the hole in the handle of the spoon

Picture Book Review

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

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About the Holiday

Lighthouses have been protecting ships at sea since earliest times. From fires to gas lamps to electric lights, these warning signals have alerted sailors to reefs, heavy fog, and other dangerous conditions. Once operated by keepers who lived in or near the lighthouse, these beautiful structures are now mostly run automatically. Their color, iconic shapes, and intriguing lore make lighthouses a favorite site along the shoreline. If you live near the water, celebrate today by visiting a local lighthouse museum. If you are more landlocked, do a little research or read a good book about lighthouses.

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

Written by Hildegarde H. Swift | Illustrated by Lynd Ward

 

The little lighthouse “was round and fat and red. It was fat and red and jolly. And it was VERY, VERY PROUD.” It stood between New York and the Hudson River, which carried boats of all kinds as it rolled on and on, looking for the sea. As the boats passed the little lighthouse, they talked to it. The big steamer had a deep booming voice while the narrow canoe spoke with a gentle whisper, and the tugboat always gave a cheery hello. The lighthouse did not answer during the day, but at night “a man came to tend the little red lighthouse.”

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Copyright Lynd Ward, 1942. Courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

He opened the side door with a key from his jangling ring and “climbed its steep and winding stairs, up, up, up, to the very top. He took off the thick white cap that let it sleep by day.” He turned on the gas, and in a few minutes the lighthouse began to speak. “Flash! Flash! Flash! Look out! Watch me! Danger, danger, danger! Watch my rocks!” It felt very proud, knowing that the boats needed it to stay safe.

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Copyright Lynd Ward, 1042. Courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

When a heavy fog descended, the keeper came and wound a big clock inside the lighthouse. The clock ran an iron bell that rang to warn the sailors who couldn’t see the lighthouse flashing. With two voices, the lighthouse felt even more proud. “I AM MASTER OF THE RIVER” it decided. But one day construction workers arrived. They dug and dug and then began building enormous girders that reached high into the sky. Then the men attached thin silver cables to the structure. When the cables were in place, the men celebrated. The little lighthouse didn’t know what was happening.

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Copyright Lynd Ward, 1042. Courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

At night, the lighthouse continued to speak with its flashing and ringing voices. During the day, it watched as the huge gray thing grew larger and larger. It was wonderful and powerful, thought the lighthouse. Soon the bridge spanned the Hudson River from shore to shore. “It made the little red lighthouse feel very, very small.”

Then one night a great, bright light shown from the top of one of the bridge’s towers. “Flash! Turn! Flash!” it said in a loud voice. The lighthouse thought it was not needed anymore. Its light was so little while the bridge’s was so big. The lighthouse worried that the keeper would forget to turn its light on or that it would even be torn down. That night as it got darker and darker, the keeper did not come. The lighthouse felt strange.

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Copyright Lynd Ward, 1942. Courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

That night a storm roiled the sea. It threatened the boats, and though they looked for the little red lighthouse, they couldn’t find it. There was no bell, and the fog was so thick the bridge light couldn’t shine through. The tug hit the rocks and was smashed. The bridge called down to the lighthouse, “‘Little brother, where is your light?’” The lighthouse was surprised. It told the bridge that it thought it wasn’t needed anymore. But the bridge explained that its light was to alert airplanes, not the ships far below it. “‘You are still master of the river,’” the bridge said. “‘Quick, let your light shine again.’”

But the lighthouse couldn’t turn itself on. It was afraid that the keeper would never come again, and that this was the end for it. Suddenly, the lighthouse heard jangling keys and running steps. It was the keeper hurrying to turn on the light. “‘This will never happen again,’” the man said. Now the lighthouse realized that is was needed. It sent its beam out into the dark night, and soon its bell began to toll too. The lighthouse was glad and even thought it knew it was little, it was “still VERY, VERY PROUD.”

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Copyright Lynd Ward, 1942, Courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt Books for Young Readers.

Hildegarde H. Swift’s classic story of the Hudson River lighthouse will enchant readers. The little red lighthouse makes a charming narrator for its tale that teaches kids about the importance of lighthouses while also showing them that even though one may be little, they can still have a profound effect on those around them. The pride and worries of the lighthouse will resonate with young readers, and they will cheer when the light is turned back on and the lighthouse regains its proper place. Swift’s lyrical language will keep children riveted to this fictionalized account of a historical event.

Lynd Ward’s evocative illustrations, rendered in red, blue, black, and white, are both strong and whimsical and seem as fresh today as they were when the book was first published. Features on the ships, lighthouse, and bridge make organic faces, personalizing these characters for children, while Ward’s depiction of the storm as a specter grasping at ships is striking and emphasizes the importance of the lighthouse.

The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge is a multi-layered story for all readers. Children interested in lighthouses, bridges, boats, and construction will be especially drawn to this book.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2002 | ISBN 978-0152045715 (hardcover); 978-0152045739 (paperback)

National Lighthouse Day Activity

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Shining Lighthouse Maze

 

Lighthouses protect ships from rocks, fog, and other dangers. Can you help the beam from the lighthouse reach the tugboat that is approaching in this printable Shining Lighthouse Maze? Here’s the Solution.