August 20 – World Mosquito Day

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About the Holiday

World Mosquito Day dates back to 1897 when Sir Ronald Ross discovered the connection between these biting insects and malaria. The purpose for the holiday is to raise awareness about the causes of malaria and prevention methods. It is also marked by fundraisers to provide more resources for both research and preventative measures for people and communities that need them.

Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale

Retold by Verna Aardema | Illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

 

One day a mosquito has a secret for Iguana. The iguana bit at this enticing invitation, but when Mosquito told him that he had seen a farmer harvesting mosquito-sized yams, Iguana said, “‘What’s a mosquito compared to a yam?’” Iguana was so angry at this tall tale that he put sticks in his ears and went on his way. A little later, Iguana happened to pass Python, who greeted him with a cheery “Good Morning.” Because of the sticks in his ears, however, Iguana didn’t hear it and just continued walking.

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

This snub caused Python to think something nefarious was up. He looked for the first place to hide—which was a rabbit hole. Seeing the large python invading her space, the rabbit high tailed it out the back way and hurried across the field. Crow spied “the rabbit running for her life. He flew into the forest crying kaa, kaa, kaa! It was his duty to spread the alarm in case of danger.” Monkey began screeching and leaping through the tree tops, also on a mission to alert others.

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

In his rush, Monkey happened to step on a dead limb, which fell onto a baby owlet in a nest below, killing it. When Mother Owl returned from her hunting and found her little owlet, she was so sad that she could not hoot to wake up the sun. “The night grew longer and longer.” The animals thought the sun might never rise again. Finally, King Lion called a meeting. Owl explained that Monkey had killed one of her babies and that she could not “bear to wake the sun.”

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The lion called for the monkey to explain himself. He said that it was the crow’s fault. Because of the crow’s warning, he was also trying to help. He told about the branch and how it fell on the baby owl. King Lion next summoned the crow. He said that it was the rabbit’s fault. If he had not seen her running pell-mell through the field, none of this would have happened. “The king nodded his head and said to the council: ‘So, it was the rabbit / who startled the crow, / who alarmed the monkey, / who killed the owlet— / and now Mother Owl won’t wake the sun / so that the day can come.’”

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

The rabbit was called to speak next. The lion asked her why she had broken a rule of nature by running during daytime. The rabbit related how Python had invaded her home. Next, Python was asked to tell his side of the story. He slithered to the front of the group and cried, “‘it was the iguana’s fault! He wouldn’t speak to me. And I thought he was plotting some mischief against me.’”

Of course, Iguana hadn’t heard about the meeting, so “the antelope was sent to fetch him.” The other animals laughed when they saw the sticks in Iguana’s ears. King Lion pulled them out and demanded to know what he had planned for Python. Iguana didn’t know anything about it. “Python is my friend!” he said. “‘Then why wouldn’t you say good morning to me?’” Python asked. Iguana said he hadn’t heard him. He explained about the “big lie” mosquito had told him and the sticks in his ears.

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

All the animals cried that Mosquito should be punished. This idea satisfied Mother Owl, and she hooted toward the sun, waking it. The mosquito was tricky, though. She had listened to the council meeting from nearby. When she heard she was to be punished, she hid and was never found. From that day on, however, Mosquito has had a guilty conscience. “To this day she goes about whining in people’s ears: ‘Zeee! Is everyone still angry at me?’” And when people hear this question, you know swat the answer is!

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Image copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 1975, text copyright Verna Aardema, 1975. Courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Verna Aardema’s classic retelling of this West African tale is suspenseful, engaging, and inviting. Aardema’s animals mek, krik, wasawusu, kaa, and pem with evocative onomatopoetic actions as they react to mosquitoe’s influence. Their pass-the-buck testimony leads into lyrical and fun-to-say repetitive phrases that build on each other and allow children to read along and become one of the forest group. The ending is both humorous and appropriate while also providing an opportunity to delve into deeper ideas of responsibility,quick judgments, and guilt.

Leo and Diane Dillon won the Caldecott Medal in 1976 for this stunning book that encompasses airbrushed watercolors, pastels rubbed on by hand, india ink, and die-cut shapes made of velum. This combination of styles creates pages of modern folkart that seem to be in motion as the animals slither, scurry, run, and bound away from some perceived but indistinct danger. The colors are magnificent, and as each animal takes its turn in front of the council, the black nighttime gives way to a bit of daylight. The animals may be in the dark, but enlightenment is on its way. The final pages in which the mosquito tickles the ear of an innocent bystander may make children cringe a little even as they look forward to what they know, from experience, is coming.

Ages 5 and up

Puffin Books/Dial Books for Young Readers, 2004 (Paperback edition) | ISBN 978-0140549058

World Mosquito Day Activity

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Mosquito Facts Page

 

Mosquitoes are an unavoidable part of summer. You can learn a few interesting things about them from this printable Mosquito Facts Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

August 15 – Relaxation Day

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About the Holiday

Don’tcha wish every day could be relaxation day? Of course, if it were, though, we wouldn’t be celebrating this special occasion. Everyone has their own version of what’s relaxing, so if you’re a beach person, a reader, a binge watcher, a laze around the house person, or even if you find work relaxing, take the opportunity to indulge yourself today! Sometimes, as today’s book reveals, a relaxing day may not turn out as quiet as you might like. But a good laugh can set it right again.

BE QUIET!

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Rupert, a scholarly little mouse is so excited to be writing a book in which he will be the starring character. It’s going to be great—a wordless book that is “very artistic.” But just as he gets started his friend Nibbs, pops over and wonders what Rupert is doing. Rupert tells him, “Shhh. Be QUIET. This book does not have words.” When Nibbs hears this, he wants to help, but there’s supposed to be no talking and he’s talking. In fact, he’s “talking about talking.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Rupert wants to throw his friend out of the book, but Nibbs begs and pleads to be included. He’ll even be “extra wordless” if he can just stay. Rupert is beside himself. “I said BE QUIET. This book is wordless!” Just then their friend Thistle drops by wondering what all the shouting is about. Nibbs tells him in some detail what’s going on and why he can’t talk about it.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Thistle thinks a wordless book sounds perfect and also wants to be included. Nibbs says sure, but says they won’t tell Rupert because they’re not supposed to be talking. Rupert, though, is keeping count of all these words, and there are too many of them. Thistle rubs his hands in glee: it’s going to be such fun. But Rupert takes him to task. His book is going “to be more than FUN. It will be visually stimulating.” Nibbs isn’t sure what that means, so Thistle explains that it means they’re going to “poke our readers in the eyeballs with pictures.”

After a bit of strong-man silliness, Nibbs and Thistle buckle down to find “strong-but-silent types.” Nibbs suggests a very familiar bear, but Thistle thinks he looks too grumpy. Rupert thinks a cute kitten would be a good addition, but those claws? And those teeth? On second thought perhaps a cucumber would be better. With just a squiggly smile and some googly eyes, the cucumber makes a great vegetarian character. Thistle tries to explain about vegetarians, and Rupert is in a fury over all this nonsense clogging up his “brilliant piece of wordless literature.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-be-quiet-visually-stimulating

Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Oh! Well, if “serious” is what Rupert wants, how about a portrait of Vincent van Mouse? Too esoteric? Then maybe the three mice should be converted into three potatoes. Rupert yells that he doesn’t even like potatoes. Action is what’s needed, says Thistle. A silent superhero, like “Captain Quiet the Vocabulary Vigilante. Bam! Pow! Kaboom!” No, no, no! Rupert is hopping mad. “No superheroes and no onomatopoeia either.” Say what? “I’m-a-gonna-pee-a?” asks Nibbs “What’s that mean?” Thistle thinks Rupert “should have gone to the bathroom before the book started.”

Really, Thistle and Nibbs just want to help. What about mimes? Nibbs comes up with a great routine, flapping arms and all. Thistle tries to guess what he is, and Rupert can’t understand how they don’t know what “quiet” means. Oh!, say Nibbs and Thistle. Like that saying about the tree in the forest. Is that what quiet is? With a chain saw and a nearby tree, they try it. But Rupert is screaming so much they can’t hear if it makes a sound or not.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Poor Rupert! All he wants is for them to “be quiet for just one page!” He can’t hold his frustration in any longer. He goes on a tirade of words. Nibbs quietly interrupts him. “WHAT?!” yells Rupert. “Shhh. Be Quiet. This book does not have words,” Nibbs reminds him just as the book ends. Now that the book is finished, Thistle and Nibbs think it came out pretty good and hope they can do another one.

Ryan T. Higgins’ laugh-out-loud book about best intentions gone awry is a definite day brightener. Kids and adults will recognize the zany truth of control lost to the unexpected or the oblivious. While we may often feel Rupert’s frustration in real-life situations, Higgins reminds us that it’s good to step back and see the humor in it all. Higgins’ action-packed illustrations and rakish mice ramp up the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing a glimpse of their favorite grumpy bear, Bruce, and discovering what the three mice have been up to since they transformed Bruce’s home into a hotel.

Clever wordplay, realistic dialogue, and sweet characters make BE QUIET! a perfect read-aloud book that kids will want to hear again and again. It would be a funny and fun addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 6

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1484731628

Discover more about Ryan T. Higgins and his books on his website!

Relaxation Day Activity

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Homemade Bath Clings

 

Taking a nice long soak—or playing in the bathtub—can be a nice change of pace. With these homemade bath clings, kids can make up their own stories—wordless or not—right on the bathtub wall!

Supplies

  • Craft foam in various colors
  • Scissors
  • Cookie cutters for creating shapes (optional)

Directions

  1. Trace cookie cutters on the craft foam (optional)
  2. Cut out cookie cutter shapes or hand-drawn shapes from the craft foam
  3. With a little bit of  water, the clings will hang on the wall

Picture Book Review

July 4 – Independence Day

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About the Holiday

On July 2, 1776 the Continental Congress voted for Independence from Great Britain. Two days later delegates from the 13 American colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, a document penned by Thomas Jefferson asserting the equal rights of all and establishing a democratic government. It went on to name the America’s grievances against Great Britain and to create from the colonies the United States of America. Independence Day was made a federal holiday in 1941. The day is celebrated with official ceremonies, parades, picnics, and fireworks displays.

The Night Before the Fourth of July

Written by Natasha Wing | Illustrated by Amy Wummer

 

The Fourth of July is tomorrow, and one family is getting ready! While Dad hangs the American Flag on the front porch, Mom is decorating the fence with red, white, and blue bunting. While they sleep, the brother and sister dream about fireworks. The next day every one dresses up in patriotic stripes and stars to attend the town parade, complete with “marching bands and 4-H club goats.” Even the Mayor joined in the fun, tossing candy to the crowds from a convertible car, while “an Uncle Sam walking on stilts brought up the rear.”

After the parade friends and family came to the house for a barbeque, but as Dad flipped burgers and the table was laid with summer treats, gray clouds threatened overhead. Just as everyone “sat down it started to pour. ‘Grab the food!’ shouted Mom and [they] raced through the door. In hot dogs! In salads! In blueberry pie! In melon and corn! Keep those potato chips dry!”

Everyone piled into the kitchen and continued to munch. But what about the fireworks? They watched out the window at the rain pouring down. A Fourth of July without rockets and sparkle and light just wouldn’t be the same. But there was no need to worry. After the storm burst, the clouds went away and the sky turned blue.

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Image copyright Amy Wummer, text copyright Natasha Wing. Courtesy of Grosset & Dunlap

As dusk approached they all drove to the park. Dad lit the sparklers and set the glow sticks alight. Soon, “the first firework was launched high into the night. It bloomed like a flower exploding with light.” People oohed and ahhhed, but for some little ears the booms were too loud. Then the band played the national anthem and Dad sang along, even if he was “way out of key.”

As the last notes faded into the air, it was time for the finale – a spectacular display of color and wonder. “When the last firework fizzled like fairy dust in the sky, [they] all cheered and shouted, “Happy Fourth of July!”

Part of Natasha Wing’s “The Night Before” series, this summer holiday book offers young readers all the excitement and fun of the Fourth of July from community events to family picnics to, of course, the fireworks that wrap up this patriotic celebration with flair. While maintaining some of the cadence of its Christmas cousin, The Night Before the Fourth of July is jauntily unique. Young readers will be captivated by the story’s joyous preparations and “Uh-oh! What now?” moment and will enthusiastically look forward to their own family traditions.

Amy Wummer’s engaging illustrations invite kids into a big family Fourth of July celebration with all the red, white, and blue decorations and glitzy fireworks. All young readers’ favorite parts of the holiday are here and warmly depicted as the family raises their flag, enjoys the flavor of summer delights, and joins the rest of the town at the annual fireworks show.

The Night Before the Fourth of July is a great book to keep on the shelf for the holiday itself (it makes a great take along to that wait for the sky to turn dark) and for other family story times.

Ages 3 – 5

Grosset & Dunlop, 2015 | ISBN 978-0448487120

Independence Day Activity

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Glittery Fireworks Coloring Page

 

The fireworks display is one of the best parts of the Fourth of July. You can make this printable Glittery Fireworks Coloring Page as sparkly as the real thing by outlining the bursts with a sprinkling of red, white, and blue glitter! Just grab your colored pencils, crayons, or markers plus some glue and glitter and have fun!

Picture Book Review

May 27 – It’s Family Reunion Month

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About the Holiday

With summer approaching and the kids out of school, it’s the perfect time to plan a family reunion. For adults in the family it’s a great way to catch up with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandparents, parents… (did I leave anyone out?). For little ones, a reunion can be a wonderful opportunity to be introduced to the rest of the family. They’ll have a blast, as Sarah and Ian discover in today’s book which revolves around a wedding—another popular event for family reunions! To honor this month’s holiday, why not pick up the phone and start the ball rolling?

Sarah at the Wedding

By Pauline Oud

 

Today is a very special day for Sarah and Ian. They’re going to a party. Not just any party, though—a wedding! Aunt Olivia is marrying William. Sarah is going to be the flower girl and has a new fancy, pink dress. Ian is the ring bearer and is wearing a handsome suit.

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Copyright Pauline Oud, courtesy of Clavis Books

As Aunt Olivia, in her white lacy dress, and William, wearing a gray top hat, walk down the aisle, Sarah and Ian hold the veil and remember everything they have practiced. They remind each other of the things they’ve been told. “‘Don’t pull on the veil,’ Sarah says softly. ‘No, and don’t stick out your tongue or wave at the people,’ Ian whispers.” After Olivia and William promise to love each other and affirm that they want to be married, it’s time for the rings!

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Copyright Pauline Oud, courtesy of Clavis Books

“The rings are in the pocket of Dad’s jacket. Or are they?” Frantically, Dad searches through all of his pockets. Where can they be? At last, Dad finds them in his pants pocket. Sarah and Ian smile. Dad lays them on the little red pillow Ian and Sarah are carrying, and they walk carefully to Olivia and William. When William and Olivia put the rings on each other’s fingers, they are pronounced husband and wife. Sarah and Ian giggle when they kiss. Mom and Dad and Grandpa call out ‘Hooray!’ Grandma has tears in her eyes.

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Copyright Pauline Oud, courtesy of Clavis Books

Olivia and William walk outside on a long red carpet. Everyone cheers and applauds as they pass by while Ian and Sarah toss little flowers into the air. Now it’s time for photos. Sarah and Ian stand next to William and Olivia. They have to smile for a long time. Finally, the photographer is finished and “they go to the big party tent in the garden.”

There, Sarah spies the most beautiful cake she has ever seen. On top stand two dolls that “look exactly like William and Aunt Olivia!” Together. Aunt Olivia and William hold the knife as they cut the cake. “‘You don’t like cake, do you?’” William teases Ian and Sarah. “‘Yes, I do!’” they answer together. After cake and lemonade, Sarah and Ian are full.

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Copyright Pauline Oud, courtesy of Clavis Books

Then Grandpa gives them bottles of bubbles! “While the other people talk and laugh in the garden, Ian and Sarah blow the biggest bubbles. Soon lots of beautiful bubbles are flying through the sky.” There’s even “an arts and crafts table in the party tent.” Sarah makes a veil just like Olivia’s while Ian makes a top hat like William’s to wear.

After they are done, Sarah and Ian pretend to get married with two paper rings. The party goes on into the night. Ian and Sarah eat French fries and ice cream. “When it gets dark, the little lamps in the party tent go on. Pretty!” People are dancing to music, and Ian and Sarah join in. “This wedding is so much fun!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sarah-at-the-wedding-dancing

Copyright Pauline Oud, courtesy of Clavis Books

Instructions on how to make a veil with paper and lace or cloth as well as how to make a top hat follow the text. The story leads off with six questions, which can be used as a scavenger hunt of sorts while reading or as a fun memory game afterward.

Pauline Oud’s sweet and perfectly paced wedding story will engage little one’s imaginations whether they are chosen to participate in a wedding or are just curious about this milestone event. Adorably aware of and diligent in performing their responsibilities, Sarah and Ian are integral participants in their aunt’s important day. Readers will giggle at the bit of suspense, sprinkled with humor, when Dad can’t find the wedding rings. The portrayal of an interracial couple as well as Oud’s fabulous ideas for entertaining children at a wedding, make Sarah at the Wedding, a warm, inclusive book that will make young—and older—hearts sing.

Sarah at the Wedding would be an endearing addition to home bookshelves for children who love to play dress-up and pretend as well as for those participating in a wedding or other family event.

Ages 3 and up

Clavis Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373317

Discover more about Pauline Oud, her books, and her work for the Dutch version of Sesame Street on her website!

Family Reunion Month Activity

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Hangin’ with Family! Magnets and Picture Hanger

 

What’s a family reunion—or any event—without photos to share afterward? Here’s an easy craft that you can make for yourself or to give to your family or friends whether they live close by or far away. These magnets can used by themselves or to hold a picture-hanging wire. Use maps, inside jokes, favorite characters, or shared experiences to make these crafts personal!

For Magnets and Picture Hanger

Supplies

  • Use a mapping program to find a map of your town and your friend’s town
  • Poster board
  • Large, 1 ½-inch clear glass stones (decorative fillers), available in craft stores
  • Markers or colored pencils if drawing your own designs
  • Twine
  • Super Glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Scissors
  • Heavy duty mounting squares

Directions for Picture Hanger

  1. Find maps of your and your friend’s towns
  2. Alternately, draw your own design on the poster board, and follow the directions from number 7 below
  3. Zoom in so the name of your and your friend’s towns are displayed well. You will be using about a 1-inch area around the towns’ names.
  4. Take a screen shot of the maps
  5. Print the maps
  6. Place the glass stone on the map and trace around it
  7. Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  8. Cut out the circles on the map and poster board
  9. With the toothpick, glue the map to the poster board, let dry
  10. With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the map side of the circle
  11. Attach the circle to the flat side of the glass stone, let dry
  12. Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  13. Repeat with the other map
  14. Attach a length of twine to the back of each glass stone
  15. Attach heavy duty mounting squares to the back of each glass stone
  16. Attach stones to the wall and hang pictures on the twine

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Directions for Magnets

  1. Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  2. Place the glass stone on the map with the town in the center and trace around it
  3. Alternately, draw your own design on the poster board, and follow the directions from number 6 below
  4. Cut out the circles on the poster board and maps
  5. Glue the map to the poster board
  6. With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the map side of the circle
  7. Attach the circle to the flat side of the stone, let dry
  8. Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  9. Attach the magnet to the back of the cardboard with glue

Picture Book Review

April 24 – It’s Car Care Month

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About the Holiday

So, after a long winter of standing around in freezing temperatures, slipping on icy pavement, and not getting quite as much exercise as usual, your car could use some tender loving care. April is the perfect time to schedule a maintenance checkup, give your auto a bath, and take ‘er out on the open road for a nice, long run. You never know, your car may have dreams too—just like the cute coupe in today’s story.

Mosey on down below to find an chance to win a copy of Cowboy Car!

Cowboy Car

Written by Jeanie Franz Ransom | Illustrated by Ovi Nedelcu

 

“Ever since he was knee-high to his daddy’s hubcaps, Little Car wanted to be a cowboy.” He watched cowboy movies on the TV in his city garage and loved everything about cowboy life. Little Car lived in the city, squeezed in between lanes and lanes of cars and unable to see the sky for the soaring skyscrapers. He dreamed of sleeping under the stars and roaming the wide open plains. But everyone told Little Car, “‘Cars Can’t Be Cowboys.’”

Little Car’s dad wanted him to be a city taxi, like him; his mom hoped he’d be “a family car and settle down in a garage close to home.” Neither of those futures, however, offered the excitement of “herding cattle by day” and the camaraderie of “circling up around the campfire at night,” so when Little Car grew up he headed out West. First, he needed to look the part, but where would he find a hat big enough? He pulled up at a cowboy supply depot, and there on the roof sat the perfect 50-gallon hat!

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Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

With the hat settled firmly on his roof, Little Car drove on to the Circle R. Ranch. There he met Dusty, who listened to Little Car’s dream of being a cowboy and gave him a bit of bad news: “‘Cars can’t be cowboys. They can’t ride horses!’” Little Car was disappointed, and so was Dusty—the ranch really needed extra help. Little Car wanted to prove his mettle, so Dusty agreed to let him try a few cowboy tests. The next morning, Little Car “zoomed around the barrels in no time. He was used to making quick turns around tight corners in the city.” He was also strong enough to carry heavy loads and move bales of hay. He could even round up li’l doggies in the dark in the beam of his headlights.

The next day Dusty promised to take Little Car to the rodeo. When they got there, though, Little Car was told he couldn’t participate because he didn’t ride a horse. Still, he was excited to watch Dusty ride Double Trouble, the biggest, meanest bull on the circuit. With Dusty hanging on tight, Double Trouble bucked and snorted and leaped. In a minute Dusty was thrown to the ground, and Double Trouble was headed straight toward him.

“With tires squealing, horn honking, and the radio blasting, Little Car got everyone’s attention—including the bulls.” He zipped right and left, “swerved, stopped, backed up, and drove around and around until the bull’s snorts turned into snores.” Afterward, a news reporter wanted to know if he was a cowboy at the Circle R. Ranch. “‘He sure is,’ Dusty said. ‘In fact, he’s my pardner!’”

Watching the report on the garage TV, Little Car’s mom and dad proudly exclaimed, “‘That’s our cowboy!’” And “Little Car drove off into the sunset, home on the range at last.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-car-cowboy-hay-bales

Image copyright Ovi Nedelcu, text copyright Jeanie Franz Ransom. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Li’l pardners enamored of the cowboy life will be charmed by Little Car and his dreams to leave the big city for the freedom of cowboy life. With clever turns of phrase and a sprinkling of puns, Jeanie Franz Ransom takes readers on an endearing ride through the ups and downs, disappointments and successes of navigating life on one’s own. When Little Car uses his city experience, smarts, and courage to save Dusty and earn a spot at the ranch, despite not being able to ride a horse, kids will see that they too can overcome obstacles and accomplish their goals.

Children will love adorable Little Car as he snuggles next to his mom and taxicab dad in the garage. With wide headlight eyes and a grill with an ever-present grin, Little Car makes his way out West, where kids will giggle at the 50-gallon hat atop an old general store, whoop as Little Car completes his cowboy tests, and cheer when he outwits Double Trouble to save the day. As Little Car drives off into the sunset, readers will know that he—and they—have a bright future ahead.

Car and cowboy or cowgirl enthusiasts, as well as kids new to school and other activities will find a friend in Little Car and ask to hear his story again and again. Cowboy Car would make a sweet addition to story time and bedtime reading.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2017 | ISBN 978-1503950979

Discover more about Jeanie Franz Ransom and her books on her website!

You’ll find a portfolio of books and illustration work by Ovi Nedelcu on his website!

Howdy, Pardner! Enter the giveaway below for a chance to lasso a copy of Cowboy Car!

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It’s easy to enter! Just click the link below and tweet, leave a comment, or follow my blog for a chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Car Care Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-follow-the-open-road-maze

Follow the Open Road Maze

 

These four kids are ready to head out and enjoy the day! Match each child to the right car in this printable Follow the Open Road Maze to get them on their way!

Picture Book Review

March 27 – Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day

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About the Holiday

Song titles can be evocative of so many emotions, and country song titles seem to take this fact to a whole nuther level. Sure, the travails of heartbreak may cause misery and despair, but I bet you can’t help smiling—just a little—when you read titles like this: I Would Have Writ You A Letter, But I Couldn’t Spell Yuck!, You Were Only A Splinter As I Slid Down The Bannister Of Life, and Did I Shave My Legs for This? So, today, celebrate by finding and listening to some quirky country songs that tickle your fancy.

Talkin’ Guitar: A Story of Young Doc Watson

By Robin Gourley

“Yonder, where blue mountains meet the sky, Arthel Watson was born into a world of music.” Music, for Arthel, was much more than his mama’s singing at the end of the day. It was the calls of animals and birds, the burbling river, the whistles of trains, and the clatter of farm machinery. He loved to listen to the rain and the wind and the silence between sounds too. “Arthel had ears like a cat. Maybe it was because he was blind.”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

Arthel just couldn’t help but make music whenever and wherever he could. Pots became drums, and cowbells rang like cymbals. Arthel even strung a steel wire across the barn door to strum. When Pappy gave him a harmonica, Arthel practiced until the screechy notes settled into a purr. When Pappy made him a banjo, he practiced until the “rusty door hinge” creak was replaced by spritely melody. One day when Arthel plinked out a few notes on his cousin’s guitar, his father made him a promise. “‘Son, if you can play a song by the time I git home from work, we’ll go into town and buy you your own guitar.’”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

By the end of the day, Arthel had composed a “sweet, simple song” from the few chords he had learned. With a “belly full of butterflies,” he played it for his family and earned himself a guitar. From then on Arthel carried his guitar everywhere, learning from records at home and from songs on the radio. He memorized the rhythms of farm work and the songs of various animals, and between chores he practiced, practiced, practiced. “All those chores and all that practice made him sharp as a whittling knife and tough as a hickory.”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

Arthel decided that if he could work just like everyone else, he could probably play music as well as the artists he listened to on records and on the radio. He began to compose his own music. “It felt as natural as dew on a foggy mountain morning.” Arthel played “what he couldn’t see. He could make his guitar sound like a muskrat or a groundhog or a ‘wooly boogie bee’” and sing the stories of the countryside he loved.

An Author’s Note following the text reveals more about Arthel’s life, the influences on his music, and how he earned the nickname “Doc.”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

Robin Gourley’s heartening biography of Doc Watson is perfectly attuned to her young audience. Readers are introduced to Arthel as he soaks in the sounds of life around him and only learn several pages into the story that he was blind. His blindness is not mentioned again except for the subtle acknowledgement that “he reckoned if he could work like everyone else, he could play music like the folks he heard on the records and the radio”—which becomes universal inspiration for all. The emphasis that practice develops natural talent and pays off is also a great lesson for readers who may just be discovering their own talents.

Gourley’s soothing watercolors are suffused with the beautiful pastels of Appalachia, which was both home and muse to Anthel. Vignettes take readers inside Anthel’s home to discover the Victrola and the old radio that were his early teachers and introduce his family, who surrounded him with encouragement as he grew from a child to a young man—always with a guitar in his hands.

Ages 4 – 7

Clarion Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-0544129887

To discover more about Robbin Gourley, her books, and her art, visit her website!

Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day

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Musical Dot-to-Dot

When a musician follows notes, they create a song. What will you find when you follow the numbers on this printable Musical Dot-to-Dot?

Picture Book Review

March 18 – National Quilting Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday got its start in 1989 when the Kentucky Heritage Quilt Society held a “Quilters Day Out” on the third Saturday of March to honor the history of quilting in that state. The event was such a success that in 1991 the National Quilting Association decided to make it a country-wide event. Since then the idea has spread across the globe. Whether you celebrate National Quilting Day or Worldwide Quilting Day, you may want to take in an event that highlights these “stories in cloth” or even consider becoming a quilter yourself!

The Quilt Story

Written by Tony Johnston | Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

 

Long ago while the snow fell and the log cabin was filled with candlelight, a little girl’s mother sewed her a quilt “to keep her warm.” While “she stitched the tails of falling stars” and Abigail’s, the mother hummed with happiness. Abigail loved to wrap herself in the quilt as she gazed out at the winter night. “Sometimes she saw a falling star” like the ones on her blanket.

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Image copyright Tomie dePaola, courtesy of Puffin Books

The quilt went with Abigail into the woods, where she had tea parties with her dolls. “She had tea. Her dolls had tea. And the quilt had tea all over it.” Inside, her quilt became an elegant gown that she wore on trips into town on her hobby horse—until it tore. Then her mother stitched it up again. The quilt was a secret hiding place for games of hide-and-seek, even though her sisters always knew where to find her. When Abigail was sick, she snuggled under the quilt until she was better.

The time came when Abigail’s family had to move. They packed their Conestoga wagon and headed west, taking the quilt with them in front where “it kept the little girls warm from the wild winds. Warm from the rain. Warm from the sparkling nights.” On new land, in a new place, Abigail’s father built a new home “with his hatchet, chop, chop, chop.” He built Abigail a comfortable bed and even a new rocking horse, but Abigail still felt sad.

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Image copyright Tomie dePaola, courtesy of Puffin Books

Among all the newness, only the quilt had its old, comforting smell. Abigail’s mother “rocked her as mothers do. Then tucked her in. And Abigail felt at home again under the quilt.” Many years passed. The quilt became old and faded, and Abigail packed it away in the attic. There a gray mouse found it. It’s soft warmth provided a bed for baby mice. “When they got hungry, they ate a falling star.” A curious raccoon also found the quilt. She scratched a hole in the quilt and hid her apple in the corner. A cat exploring the attic discovered the quilt. As it rolled on the fragile material, “stuffing spilled out like snow. Then the cat curled up in the snow and purred.”

One day another little girl was looking for her cat and “found the quilt, splashed with patterns of sun.” She immediately loved the quilt and took it to her mother. Her mother filled it with new stuffing and patched the holes. “She stitched long tails on the stars to swish across the quilt again.” The time came for this little girl’s family to move far away. Their new house was clean and fresh and empty. After the long trip everyone was happy to be in their new home—everyone but the little girl.

She wrapped herself in the familiar quilt, and “her mother rocked her as mothers do. Then tucked her in. She felt at home again under the quilt.”

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Image copyright Tomie dePaola, courtesy of Puffin Books

This classic story by Tony Johnston was one of my daughter’s favorites when she was young. She loved the comfort the quilt represented and the texture of the illustrations—both aspects of the story that children will still respond to today. Following the antique quilt from its creation to its rediscovery and new life with a different family is a wonderful way to introduce children to the value of history, family stories, and interconnectedness. The soothing cadence of Johnston’s multigenerational tale is perfect for bedtime or quiet story times.  

Tomie dePaola’s folk-style illustrations in warm muted colors depict the close relationships among the members of two families who both take comfort in a homemade quilt. Under dePaola’s brush the cozy quilt is a canvas of hearts, doves, and shooting stars, symbols of peace, love, and dreams that transcend generations. DePaola’s similar images of two mothers stitching the quilt, two daughters snuggling under the quilt, and two families traveling far from one home to another reinforce the idea that while homes, hairstyles, and clothing may change, hearts do not.

The Quilt Story  would be an often-read addition to any child’s home library!

Ages 4 – 8

Puffin Books, Penguin, 2002 (reissue edition) | ISBN 978-0698113688

You can discover the world of Tomie dePaola‘s art and books as well as his thoughts on being an artist on his website!

National Quilting Day Activity

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Snuggle In Coloring Page

 

There’s nothing cozier than cuddling under a warm quilt. What would your quilt look like? Print out this Snuggle In Coloring Page and decorate the quilt. Then have fun coloring the rest of the page!