February 24 – It’s National Haiku Writing Month

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About the Holiday

Great things come in small packages, right? Just look at the amazing kiddos in your family! It’s the same with poetry! The haiku may be the smallest form of poetry, but it packs in huge heart and emotion. Traditionally written to express awe at the natural world, haiku now touches on every subject with its poignancy. Poets the world over have designated this month to create new haiku, improve their art, and share their work. To celebrate this month, try your hand at writing haiku and introduce your littlest readers to these little verses.

Guess Who, Haiku

Written by Deanna Caswell | Illustrated by Bob Shea

 

Down on the farm the animals are playing games and they invite readers to join in the fun! Combining poetry with a guessing game, this cute book introduces younger children to haiku. On each page an animal presents a riddle about another animal in the form of a haiku. When readers turn the page, they discover the answer to the riddle as well as another one to solve.

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Image copyright Bob Shea, text copyright Deanna Caswell. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams Books

As morning dawns the first haiku reveals: “new day on the farm / muffled mooing announces / a fresh pail of milk.” Then kids are asked, “Can you guess who from this haiku?” Flipping the page, kids see a smiling cow who in turn has a haiku for them: “flower visitors / busy buzzing in the field / black and yellow stripes.”

Other animals familiar to kids—a horse, bird, fish, mouse, cat, dog, and this guy: “from a lily pad / keen eyes spy a careless fly / a sticky tongue—SNAP!”— also puzzle over each other from page to page. The final haiku describes an animal like no other: “two hands hold a book / guessing animals’ puzzles / written in haiku.” Who can it be? Kids will giggle and beam when they discover that they too are in the book!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-guess-who-haiku-cow-haiku

Image copyright Bob Shea, text copyright Deanna Caswell. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams Books

Deanna Caswell’s Guess Who, Haiku is a fun way to get kids interacting with poetry and the very accessible haiku form. Her clever riddles contain lovely images and lyrical alliteration that make these poems as enjoyable to read as they are to hear.

Bob Shea’s animals are adorably illustrated on vibrant solid-colored backgrounds, and each haiku is accompanied by an image that helps kids guess the answer to the riddle. The text and illustrations work together to make Guess Who, Haiku a wonderful way to spend time with kids—who, after reading, may want to make up some poems of their own!

Ages 3 – 6

 Harry N. Abrams, 2016 | ISBN 978-1419718892

Check out a gallery of work by Bob Shea on his website!

National Haiku Writing Month Activity

CPB - Animal Matching Cards

Animal Pairs Matching Game

 

You can have fun testing your powers of guessing with this cute Animal Pairs Matching Game!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Animal Pairs Cards, print two pages to have double cards. To make the game more difficult print 3 or more pages to find 3 or more groups of matching animals
  2. Color the cards
  3. Cut out the cards
  4. Lay the cards face down on a table in random order
  5. Turn over cards to look for matching pairs
  6. When you find a matching pair leave the cards face up
  7. Continue playing until you find all the matching animal pairs or groups

Picture Book Review

February 22 – World Yoga Day

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About the Holiday

World Yoga Day was the idea of Samira Radsi, a yoga teacher from Berlin, Germany, who believed that harnessing the power of yogis worldwide could help the victims of human rights violations. With help from her friend, Bjoern Wyrich, a fellow yoga teacher, she contacted yoga schools across the globe and received positive responses from hundreds of schools. Now each year, yoga teachers, schools, students, and yogis around the world donate time, space, and money to human rights causes.

During the time of 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. local time, participating yoga schools hold a session during which everyone devotes all of their thoughts and energy to people who have suffered human rights violations in hope that they will help people feel stronger and more positive. The two-hour time period creates a twenty-four hour yoga marathon of positive energy to support those in need. Any funds raised go to charities that help the victims of injustice. To celebrate, why not seek out a local yoga school or group who is participating in today’s holiday and lend your support?

You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Yoga Poses

By Taeeun Yoo

 

When the bright, early sun begins to warm the garden, “children all gather / Namaste to the morning.” If you sit back on your heels with your hands on your knees and your tongue sticking out, what are you? “You are a…Lion / King of the jungle / Roaring so loud / Make the woods rumble.”

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Copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2012, courtesy of Nancy Paulson Books.

Now, sit up straight and press the bottoms of your feet together while you hold your toes and flap your knees. What are you? “You are a… Butterfly” Feel the breeze as you stretch your wings and flit through the air. What would you be if you stood and bent to touch the ground in front of your feet? You’d be a dog… “Stretch in the sun / Bark at your friend / Ready for fun.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-a-lion-and-other-fun-yoga-poses-snake-girl

Copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2012, courtesy of Nancy Paulson Books.

Next try this! Lie on your stomach with your hands near your shoulders and push up. Do you feel like a…Snake? “In the cool grass / Slither and glide / Make a big hiss.” Ready for another one? Great! Crouch down with your feet flat on the floor and your hands on the ground in front of you and hop. You know what you are! A frog!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-a-lion-and-other-fun-yoga-poses-cat

Copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2012, courtesy of Nancy Paulson Books.

If you kneel down on all fours put your head down and arch your back, do you feel like a…Cat? “Frisky at night / Mew to the moon / Play till it’s light.” Then stand tall with your palms together and your arms stretched high over your head. You’re a mountain, “solid and mighty / Touching the sky.” Finally, lie down on the ground and slowly breathe as you listen to the silence. “Namaste to each other.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-a-lion-mountain

Copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2012, courtesy of Nancy Paulson Books.

Taeeun Yoo’s charming illustrations of a diverse group of children sitting, standing, lying, and crouching in simple yoga positions give way to lush imaginative scenes as the child assumes the personality and traits of the animals in each particular yoga pose. Accompanying these scenes are three-line verses of four syllables each that offer cheerful, spirited descriptions of each animal and make You Are a Lion! as much a picture poetry book as a yoga book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-are-a-lion-and-other-fun-yoga-poses-mountain-pose

Copyright Taeeun Yoo, 2012, courtesy of Nancy Paulson Books.

 A little girl relaxes in a gold and white field of daisies as the breeze ruffles her ponytails and butterflies flutter around her. A friendly puppy, nose to nose with a little boy, wags his tail, ready to run and leap. A long, coral-colored snake winds through the deep woods, showing a little girl how to demonstrate a regal presence, and a little boy stakes out his spot on a lily pad as frogs hop, leap, and swim among the reeds. As night falls, a girl follows a cat bounding along the strong branch of a tree under a full moon, and a mountain range of children stand tall, each one accompanied by their animal.

You Are a Lion! is a sweet way to introduce yoga to young children as a playful and healthy activity. For families or classrooms who want to entice young children to participate in this nurturing relaxation method, the book would be a welcome addition to their bookshelves.

Ages 3 and up

Nancy Paulson Books, Penguin, 2018 | Board book edition, ISBN 978-0525515128 | Hardcover, 2012 ISBN 978-0399256028

Discover more about Taeeun Yoo, her books, and her art on her website.

World Yoga Day Activity

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Yoga Alphabet Coloring Pages

 

It’s fun to match yoga poses with letters of the alphabet! Grab your crayons and enjoy these yoga-inspired coloring pages then do the poses!

D is for Dog | K is for Kite | W is for Waterfall

Picture Book Review

January 9 – Poetry at Work Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday encourages people to consider their jobs, their office environment, their coworkers, and maybe even that snack in the desk drawer through the lens of poetry. You may find inspiration in today’s book about William Carlos Williams, who wrote many of his famous and well-loved poems while working as a physician. Whether you find poignancy or humor in your workplace, take a moment to jot down a few thoughts in free verse or rhyme and share your poem with your friends!  

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Willie Williams was just like the other boys in his neighborhood—well, almost. When the other boys went home after a day of playing, Willie took off for the woods and fields behind his house. “As he walked through the high grasses and along the soft dirt paths, Willie watched everything.” He liked to sit next to the Passaic River and listen to the rhythm of the water as it “went slipping and sliding over the smooth rocks, then poured in a torrent over the falls, then quieted again below.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

But as Willie grew older, he didn’t have time for these leisurely pursuits. In high school, he was on the track team, attended lots of classes, and had even more homework. His was a rushed and hurried life. Except for in English class. There, when his teacher read poetry, he was taken back to the flow of the river. Each line created pictures in Willie’s mind.

One night, Willie began writing his own poems. He copied the English poets he had learned about in school, using structured beats and rhyming endings. But soon these rules began to frustrate Willie; they didn’t give him the freedom to fully express his thoughts. He wanted to write about what he saw nearby, the things he was familiar with. Things, he said, like “plums, wheelbarrows, and weeds, / fire engines, children, and trees— / things I see when I walk down my street / or look out my window.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-sparrows

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Willie began writing poems the way they came to him, with their own shape and sound. Writing this way made Willie feel free, and he filled notebook after notebook with poems. While Willie wished he could make a living as a poet, writing did not pay much, and he needed to be self-sufficient. Willie’s uncle had been a doctor, and Willie liked the idea of healing people. He wondered, though, if he could be a doctor and still write poetry.

When Willie graduated from high school, he went off to the university to study medicine. There he met the writers Ezra Pound and Hilda Doolittle and the artist Charles Demuth. Spending time with his new friends made his difficult studying easier. After college, Willie returned to his home town of Rutherford and opened his practice. He had so many patients that some people said he was “the busiest man in town.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

No matter how busy he was, however, he found time to write. Sometimes he jotted lines and ideas on his prescription pads. Then, after his long days at work, Willie climbed to his attic room where he studied the notes he’d made and wrote poems late into the night.

A Timeline, Author’s Note, and Illustrators Note about William Carlos Williams follow the text. The endpapers present a selection of Williams’ poetry.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams is an inspirational book for children who have creative ideas of their own and would make an excellent addition to classroom and home libraries.

From the title through to the end of her lyrical biography, Jen Bryant captures the flow of William Carlos Williams’ creative and scientific life, which was as purposeful and free as the river that inspired him. Young readers and would-be writers will find much encouragement and insight in Bryant’s story, which reveals that talent and day-to-day life not only can co-exist but can enrich each other. By showing how Williams broke free from the structures of the poetry he copied, Bryant also motivates children to find their own voice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-river-of-words-plums

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2008, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet lends her distinctive collage style of illustration to this story, bringing to life the lines of and natural world reflected in Williams’ poetry. The busy-ness and business of Williams’ days are depicted in vibrant images of winding streets, classrooms, offices, and the outside world where he composed his uniquely revealing poems.

Ages 6 and up

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0802853028

Learn more about Jen Bryant and her books on her website!

Discover more about Melissa Sweet, her books, and her art on her website!

Poetry at Work Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grow-a-poem-craft

Grow Your Own Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also a piece of art!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

January 7 – Tempura Day

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About the Holiday

Tempura is a delectable dish that originated in Japan when Portuguese Jesuits introduced the recipe in the 16th century. Traditionally, seafood and vegetables are breaded and fried, but other ingredients, including broccoli, zucchini, asparagus, chicken, and some cheeses, are also cooked tempura style around the world. The word tempura derives from the Latin word tempora, which means “times” and refers to Lenten times or Ember Days. To celebrate today’s holiday, enjoy a meal of tempura! You can also learn more about the Japanese culture with your child with today’s book!

My First Book of Japanese Words: An ABC Rhyming Book of Japanese Language and Culture

Written by Michelle Haney Brown | Illustrated by Aya Padron

 

Upon opening My First Book of Japanese Words, readers are immersed in the beauty of Japan—it’s homes, cities, natural environment, and cuisine. The first page introduces the alphabet with “A is for ari. / A teeny weeny / ant crawls / with teeny / weeny legs on / the bamboo plant.” Moving from the bamboo grove to the city, D takes children on a ride. A “densha—a train in Japan—goes choo choo down / the track as fast as it can.” They disembark at “E…for eki where trains come and go. / An eki in English is station, you know.”

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Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

They may be on their way to G “for gakkō, / the word for school, / where we make lots of friends and / learning is cool.” At lunch time kids discover that “H is for hashi. / Chopsticks are nice / for picking up goodies / like veggies and rice.” After lunch there are games like Janken for J, “a game played in / Japan. It’s Rock, / Paper, Scissors / (make those with your hand.)”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-japanese-words-futon

Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

“N is for neko / a kitty so sweet. / She says ‘nyah’ / when she wants / a treat.” If kitty is having a snack, kids want one too! “O is for onigiri / a Japanse / treat— / a rice ball / that’s yummy / and fun to eat!” Good manners are found when “R is for rei. / We bow when we say / ‘Good morning’ and / ‘Thank you’ and / ‘Have a good day.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-japanese-words-kitten

Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

A child’s learning begins with S for sensei, a teacher from whom students learn aboutT for tanuki…a raccoon dog / with a twinkly eye” and U for uma, “a beautiful horse.” Learning new things is exciting and makes you want to cheer. Learn how with “W is for Waa! / which is how we say Wow!” “Y is for Yatta! / ‘I did it!’ ‘Yay!’ / This is a word / I like to say.” The alphabet ends with “Z is for zō, / an elephant BIG— / but if he sees a mouse / he might dance a jig.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-first-book-of-japanese-words-dog

Image copyright Aya Padron, 2017, text copyright Michelle Haney Brown, 2017. Courtesy of tuttlepublising.com.

With language that invites readers to discover the connections between cultures, Michelle Haney Brown’s charming rhymes entice children to learn these Japanese words and will spark an interest in learning more. The verses on each page are accompanied by paragraphs that expand a reader’s knowledge of the object or idea presented. In some cases, Brown discusses the absence of particular letters or sounds in the Japanese language.

Aya Padron’s paintings transport children to Japan where they can experience life at home, school, and in nature. Whimsical, tranquil, and lively scenes help young learners absorb the full meaning of the words presented while also teaching them about the culture, sights, sounds, and games of Japan. Each word is also written in Kanji (when applicable) and Kana. Padron’s illustrations glow with a love of this lyrical language and will enchant children. 

My First Book of Japanese Words is a superb book for young language learners and transcends its alphabet book roots to become a book of poetry that would be a fine addition to any child’s bookshelf or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 8

Tuttle Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-0804849531

Discover more books for children and adults about Japan and a host of other countries  on the Tuttle Publishing website.

Tempura Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dining-in-japanese-word-search-puzzle

Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle

 

Learning the Japanese words for some of your favorite foods is fun! Can you find the names of twenty Japanese words you’d use while eating in this printable Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle?

Dining in Japanese Word Search Puzzle | Dining in Japanese Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

October 18 – It’s National Friends of Libraries Week

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About the Holiday

When you think of friends, you think of people and places you can go to for laughter, information, intrigue, a welcoming atmosphere, and smiles—you think of a library! All this week we are celebrating the people and groups that promote and protect this amazing institution that allows you to take books home for free! What would we do without these cozy buildings and kind, helpful librarians? The Friends of Libraries Groups work to make sure we never find out by organizing fun activities and annual fund drives so that libraries can continue to offer new books, resources, and programs for everyone. To celebrate this week, visit your local library and consider making a donation or joining a Friends of Libraries group!

Read! Read! Read!

Written by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater | Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

 

In twenty-three poems Amy Ludwig Vanderwater takes readers on a journey of…Reading, from when a child first recognizes that those “squiggles / make letters. / Letters / make words. / Words / make stories / that fly like birds…” through the world they discover as they take in the printed word in all its forms.

In Pretending, a little girl remembers “tracing my fingers / under each letter/ I used to pretend / I could read to myself.” At the library she would “pull from the shelf– / a rainbow of rectangles.” For days, weeks, months, she practiced. “Learning to read / felt like / learning to fly. / And one day / I took off. / I was swooping / alone / over words / once confusing / but now / all my own.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Cereal Box and Sports Page are placed side by side like the brother and sister eating breakfast together. But which sibling is reading “Recipes. / Stories. / Jokes. / Weird facts….the box” and which is “Scanning scores / studying stats / …checking on my team?”  Children will discover that there aren’t many things the little boy in I Explore has not done as he reveals, “I have stood upon a moonscape. / I have witnessed peace and war. / I have ridden a wild horse. / I’m a reader. / I explore.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Reading doesn’t just inform you, it reforms you, as An Open Book explains: “An open book / will help you find / an open heart / an open mind / inside yourself / if you’re inclined. / An open book / will make you kind.” Or maybe all that reading can give a younger brother a moment of power when he uses new-found information. “At dinner I ask– / Do you know / how many pounds of skin / a person sheds by age seventy? / My sister puts down her fork. / No. / One hundred five. / Oh. / She will not look at me. / She will not pick up her fork. / I keep eating. / I love reading.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Reading comes in many forms, from Maps, which “…fold / into themselves / like perfect beetle wings.” to Road Signs, in which the alphabet was once “like a secret code / for grown-ups / splashed / on every sign.” There’s also the Internet for Googling Guinea Pigs, where an eager pet sitter can “read about treats. / Read about exercise. / Read about safe holding” before the class pet comes home for the weekend. A Birthday Card with a poem from Grandpa, a Magazine that “…comes / by mail / twelve times / each year,” and Sunday Morning with the comics, where a loyal fan can “know every character / know every name” all bring joy to avid readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-read!-read!-read!-word-collection

Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

For readers there may be no more exciting time than Late at Night when a little lie—“I cannot sleep”—is exposed as Mom “…reaches out to touch my lamp. / The bulb is warm. / My mom knows why,” and a special bond is formed: “I’m sure my mom / read past her bedtime / under blankets / at my age.” A final cozy image closes the book in I Am a Bookmark, where a nighttime reader compares himself “here in bed / between two sheets / crisp-cold / and white” to a bookmark “holding the page between dark and light.”

Along the way Amy Ludwig Vanderwater also explores Reading Time, a lyrical Word Collection, a Field Guide, the emotional effect of Stories, how reading can be like leading a Double Life, the benefits of a Book Dog, and the Forever connection between real people and characters in books.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-read!-read!-read!-bookmark

Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s charming poems on the joys of a reading life will engage children just starting out on their own journeys or those who are better versed in this exceptional art. At once inspiring and homey, these poems open the vast world and the private pleasures of the written word. Vanderwater’s verses are in turn smooth, conversational, reflective, humorous, and fun to read aloud.

Ryan O’Rourke opens Read! Read! Read! with a beautiful image of squiggles turned letters turned words turned books that soar like birds over a young reader’s head. The image wonderfully carries readers into the rest of the book where fancies and facts enlighten young minds. O’Rourke’s imaginative interpretations of each poem enhance their effect and cleverly convey extended meanings and visual humor. 

For children who love poetry, reading, writing, and seeing the world through a lyrical lens, Read! Read! Read! would be a terrific choice for any story time or bedtime. The book would also be welcome in classrooms for teachers to dip into again and again.

Ages 5 – 10

WordSong, 2017 | ISBN 978-1590789759

Discover more about Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, her books, articles, and poetry on her website.

View a gallery of book, map, and editorial illustration by Ryan O’Rourke on his website.

National Friends of Libraries Week Activity

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Libraries Are the Best! Coloring Page

 

If you love libraries, you’ll enjoy this printable Libraries Are the Best! Coloring Page. Hang it over your home library or decorate and give to your favorite librarian.

Picture Book Review

October 7 – Random Acts of Poetry Day

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About the Holiday

Today is set aside for all of those professional and private poets to unleash their imaginations and create poetry! As the name of the holiday suggests, these poems can be random – random subjects, random format, written or spoken in a random place. If writing isn’t really your thing but reading is, take a little time to read a favorite poem or poet or discover a new one! 

enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings

Written by Matthew Burgess | Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

 

Hello! Welcome to 4 Patchin Place, the home of poet E. E. Cummings! This is where he wrote his poetry on a clackety typewriter, stopping only for tea poured out by the love of his life, Marion Moorehouse. How did he become a poet? That is an interesting story! E. E. was born Edward Estlin Cummings on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His house was full of extended family, a handyman, a maid, and several pets. From an early age he loved to translate the things he saw into words. “His first poem flew out of his mouth when he was only three: “‘Oh, my little / birdie, Oh / with his little / toe, toe, toe!’”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Estlin’s mother wrote down all the poems he told her and made a little book of them titled “‘Estlin’s Original Poems.’” When he was six, he expressed his love of nature in a poem about trees, and when his mother asked him what else he saw, he “looked around as if his eyes were on tiptoes and when his heart jumped he said another poem: ‘On the chair is sitting / Daddy with his book. / Took it from the bookcase / Beaming in his look.’”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

As he grew, Estlin was fascinated by the animals he saw at the circus and in the zoo. He drew pictures of them and wrote about them, using the words he loved so well—and even making up his own words. Estlin had a zest for life and for making life fun for himself and his little sister. During the summers the family traveled to Joy Farm in New Hampshire, where Estlin swam, milked the cow, rode a donkey, and wandered through the fields and forest. His father had built him a little log cabin in the woods, and in the afternoons Estlin went there to draw and write. At home he also had a special place all his own. In an enormous tree his father built a tree house, complete with stove to keep him warm on cold days.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-tree-house

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Estlin had support for his writing at school too. His favorite teacher encouraged him saying, “anything is possible, / as long as you are true to yourself / and never give up, even when the world / seems to say, stop!” From his Uncle George, Estlin received a guide to writing poems. Estlin followed the rules in the book, penning poems nearly every day. When Estlin was 17 he attended Harvard College and began publishing his poems in the school’s magazines. While at Harvard, Estlin realized he had to follow his heart to be happy. He wanted to be like the new artists who were shaping the world—people like Gertrude Stein, Paul Cezanne, and Igor Stravinsky, “artists who were,” he once said, “challenging the way we think and see.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-paris

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

After he graduated, Estlin returned home, but when he had saved enough money he moved to New York and fell in love with the city immediately. He and his friends took in everything new the city had to offer. Soon, however, the United States entered World War II. On April 17, 1917 Estlin volunteered to be an ambulance driver in France. Before he received his assignment, though, he had time to explore Paris. He was “bowled over by the museums, the ballet, and the colorful, crowded streets.” He enjoyed the city so much he returned often during his lifetime.

During the war, Estlin was mistaken for a spy and sent to prison for several months. After the war he wrote a book about his experiences titled The Enormous Room by E. E. Cummings. “The book was published and praised! Estlin was becoming E. E.!” A year later he published his first book of poetry—Tulips & Chimneys. In his poems he experimented with punctuation and using lower case letters instead of capitals.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Through his fanciful typography, E. E. “wanted his reader’s eyes to be on tiptoes too, seeing and reading poetry (inaway) that was new.” But some people didn’t understand or like his poetry; it was too strange and too small, they said. But E. E. knew he had to stay true to himself. He believed that “his poems were new and true” and “were his way of saying YES” to everything he loved. As time went on more and more people began to “see the beauty of E. E.’s poetry, and he became one of the most beloved poets in America.”

E. E. Cummings lived and worked at 4 Patchin Place for almost 40 years, but in his mind he would often return to his childhood home. He “could still see himself as a boy gazing out at the sunset”—a memory that he put into words: who are you,little i / (five or six years old) / peering from some high / window;at the gold / of November sunset / (and feeling:that if day has to become night / this is a beautiful way).”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-patchin-place

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Simply put, Matthew Burgess’s enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is a biography that will make you smile. Upbeat and full of the wonder and whimsy that influenced Estlin Cummings’ prodigious talent, the story encourages readers to always follow their heart. Burgess’s easy-going, conversational style invites kids along on the journey of Cumming’s life, stopping off at points that resonate with kids—early imaginary play, school, family vacations, home life, college, travel, and ultimate success. Seeing the support Cummings received throughout his life will inspire young readers just starting out on their own roads of discovery.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-enormous-smallness-typewriter

Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books.

Kris Di Giacomo’s enchanting illustrations will immediately capture the imagination of readers. The playful quality of Cummings’ personality and poems is mirrored in each spread as a variety of children’s drawings and  eye-catching typography are sprinkled throughout. As six-year-old Estlin composes poems for his mother, he stands on tiptoe in his nightshirt surrounded by toys; he experiences life from rooftop and treetop and gazes into the night from his tree house; New York lights up with fireworks and the lights of Broadway; and his poems spring from the pages in their own inimitable way.

A chronology of E. E. Cummings’ life, five poems, and an Author’s Note follow the text.

For children interested in writing, biographies, history, the arts, and the life of the imagination, enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is an inspiring choice for their home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Enchanted Lion Publishing, 2015 | ISBN 978-1592701711

To learn more about Matthew Burgess, his books, and his poetry, visit his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Kris Di Giacomo on her website!

Random Acts of Poetry Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grow-a-poem-craft

Grow a Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

October 6 – It’s National Carry a Tune Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-abc-cover

About the Holiday

Celebrating its 17th year, Carry a Tune Week, sponsored by the Center for American Music Preservation (CAMP), invites everyone to enjoy American music from the past. If you have a favorite tune, today’s the time to sing, hum, or whistle it! If can’t choose a favorite, CAMP has you covered. This year’s tune is the theme song from the movie Casablanca. You must remember that! Oh! I mean…You must remember this: “As Time Goes By.” If you’d like to check out tunes from previous celebrations, visit the American Music Preservation website.

Twinkle, Twinkle, ABC

Written by Barney Saltzberg | Illustrated by Fred Benaglia

 

When you hear the words twinkle, twinkle, little star, it’s almost impossible not to think of the nursery song. When you hear the letters ABC, you might again think of a nursery song. In fact, you’re thinking of the same tune! And that tune? It sure is a catchy one! So catchy that once learned those songs, they stay with you forever. Barney Saltzberg has taken delightful advantage of this whimsy in Twinkle, Twinkle, ABC.

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, 2017, text copyright Barney Saltzberg, Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

The sing-along, read-aloud starts like this: “Twinkle, twinkle, ABC, / A mixed-up, mashed-up melody. / A twinkly star, an alphabet, / Just how silly can we get? / Twinkle, twinkle, ABC. / Next time won’t you play with me?” From there the song takes flight with kids soaring over a city on the wings of birds. Next, the skyscrapers become multi-colored pillars for the kids to hop on and leap over. Coming back to the alphabet, readers are treated to: “Twinkle, twinkle, ABC, / Don’t forget D E F G. / A cow can MOO, and twirl and spin, / Left leg out, right leg in. / Twinkle, twinkle, ABC, A mixed-up, mashed –up jamboree!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-abc-birds

Image copyright Fred Benaglia, 2017, text copyright Barney Saltzberg, Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Now the children meet up with a bear, who leads them on a tightrope walk while they “Growl” and “GRRR.” That bear is pretty talented too, strumming a banjo on his knee to introduce H I J K L M N O P. Moving to the forest, the kids play a game of hide-and-seek with Q R S T U V and swing from branches like leaves blown in the wind. Just in the nick of time, a colorful caterpillar strolls by wearing sensible shoes, a jaunty hat, and the letters W X Y and Z. The jangly jingle begins again and the friends grasp hands and sing. But are they getting sleepy after their busy day? “We TWEET and MOO and GRRR and WHOOSH, / Singing, quietly, softly, shush. / Twinkle, twinkle, ABC. / A mixed-up, mashed-up, zzzzzz.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-abc-dancing

Image copyright Fred Benaglia, 2017, text copyright Barney Saltzberg, Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Barney Saltzberg’s exuberant combination of two favorite songs will have kids up and dancing on the first read and singing along on the second and all subsequent reads. Along the way Saltzberg uses familiar lines from both songs and even throws in a bit of direction from the Hokey-Pokey. Saltzberg’s perfect rhythm and rhymes make this book a joy to read or sing aloud. and his bouyant words will inspire plenty of action-packed story times.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-twinkle-twinkle-abc-holding-hands

Image copyright Fred Benaglia, 2017, text copyright Barney Saltzberg, Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Adding to the fun are Fred Benaglia’s lively and fanciful illustrations in which three children ride birds, slide on the letters of the alphabet, and play on a tightrope. Along the way they meet an orange, banjo-playing bear, a tutu-wearing cow, and a snazzy caterpillar who also join in the fun. The rhythm of the song is even helped along with clever placement of the letters, as when Q R S are divided from T U V by a tree trunk, reminding singers and readers to pause for just a moment between the runs. Benaglia’s color palette is vibrant and his perspectives eye-catching, making this “mixed-up mash-up” a letter-perfect book.

Twinkle, Twinkle, ABC is a picture book kids will love to interact with. It would make a much-appreciated baby gift or birthday gift and an often-read or sung addition to classroom and home libraries.

Ages 1 – 4

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714875071

Discover more about Barney Saltzberg and his books on his website.

View a gallery of illustration and art work by Fred Banaglia on his website.

National Carry a Tune Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-instrumental-game

It’s Instrumental! Game

 

Carrying a tune is easier when you’re accompanied by musical instruments. Play this game to acquire a full orchestra to back up your singing!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the Paper Cube Template, cut it out and assemble the cube die.
  2. Print the Musical Instruments cards, cut out cards, and separate the instruments into piles
  3. Players take turns rolling the die cube to collect musical instrument cards
  4. The first player to collect all 6 instrument cards is the winner

Picture Book Review