October 16 – National Dictionary Day

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About the Holiday

Dictionary Day honors Noah Webster, who wrote the first American dictionary. He was born in 1758 to a family that loved learning and knew the importance of a good education. Even as a boy Noah Webster loved words. He went on to become a lawyer, newspaper editor, Connecticut and Massachusetts legislator, and he helped found Amherst College in Massachusetts. He is most well-known, however, for compiling the first American dictionary that is synonymous with his name and still the most popular dictionary in use. His work, first published in 1828, revolutionized the way language and words were presented and remains always current by every year adding new words that come into common use through new products, fads, and slang. Today, celebrate by taking a walk through the dictionary—either in book form or online—to learn a few new words!

W is for Webster: Noah Webster and His American Dictionary

Witten by Tracey Fern | Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

 

Noah Webster was always different. Tall and thin with bright red hair, he liked to use big words when he spoke and wanted to do homework instead of goof around in school. Unfortunately for him school was in session for only a few months a year and goofing around seemed to be the major course of study. Of course, Noah didn’t call it “goofing around,” he called it “‘playing roguish tricks.’”

Noah begged to go to a harder school. “His pa knew Noah would make a terrible farmer. Noah spooked the cows by reciting Latin and spent too much time reading Ames’ Almanack under the apple trees.” His pa agreed, and in 1774 at the age of 16 Noah went off to study at nearby Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale had strict rules. Students had to rise at 5:30 a.m. and study for two hours before class. They were also fined “two shillings for making ‘tumult, noise, hallooing,’ or otherwise goofing around. Noah thought Yale was wonderful.”

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, 2015, text copyright Tracey Fern, 2015 . Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Noah hadn’t been at Yale long before the American Revolutionary War broke out. Although Noah signed up to fight, he recognized that he was “‘ill able to bear the fatigues of a soldier,’” which was “Noah’s big way of saying he was a lousy soldier.” He returned to Yale and graduated in 1778, but he left the school with no job and no prospects. Even his pa told him to leave home to find work.

Noah became a teacher, but he found the British textbooks “‘defective and erroneous.’” He believed the students should have American textbooks that better reflected their diverse experiences. With the Revolutionary War at an end and America victorious, Noah wanted to help “hold his new, complicated nation together.” He believed that America needed a language different than the English spoked in Britain. “‘A national language is a national tie,’ Noah insisted to all who would listen, and to many who wouldn’t.”

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

He began the work himself with a speller. Right from the start Noah’s speller was different than the British books. It included everyday words “like scab, grub, and mop.” He also simplified the spelling by taking out unpronounced letters or spelling words phonetically. He also added pictures to every page and presented lists of rhyming words. He also priced his book so almost anyone could afford it. Noah’s speller became a bestseller.

Still, Noah had bigger ideas. He wanted to write a patriotic dictionary with uniquely American words. He took his idea on the road to make money for the venture, lecturing wherever he could. But Noah’s know-it-all tone of delivery, his “prickly personality,” even his “‘porcupine hair’” put people off. And what’s more, they didn’t like the idea of his dictionary. People thought he was a “lunatic” for wanting to replace British words with American ones.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, 2015, text copyright Tracey Fern, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com

In 1806 Noah went ahead and published “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. It was a flop, but Noah wasn’t discouraged.” The next year he started working on a bigger dictionary. He copied words out of British dictionaries and added American words and he traced the roots of all the words and wrote definitions, sometimes including quotes from famous people to show differences in meaning. He figured the whole dictionary would take 5 years to finish—eight to ten, tops.

But five years later, Noah was still on the letter A. With no money coming in and a growing family, Noah took a variety of jobs, but he always seemed to rub someone the wrong way, and he lost job after job. He decided to sell his fancy house and bought a farm. Here he was able to gather books, books, and more books around his unusual donut-shaped desk. Standing inside the center of the desk, he spun around and around reading the books and finding words to include in his dictionary.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov. 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

By 1822 Noah had exhausted all the books in his study. He took to traveling to other American libraries, moved his family to New Haven to use the Yale library, and in 1824 even sailed to Europe to explore books found in the National Library in Paris and at the University of Cambridge in England.

Finally, in 1825 Noah finished his dictionary.  With more than 70,000 words, An American Dictionary of the English Language was the largest English dictionary ever written. “Many people thought it was the best English dictionary ever written.” Why the change of heart? Well, one reason might have been that the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, “was a common man and a bad speller.” Another might have been that the timing was just right.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, 2015, text copyright Tracey Fern, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

However it came to be, Noah was now lauded as a hero by states and newspapers. Congress even adopted the dictionary as its standard reference book. Noah had not only succeeded in writing an American dictionary, he had “created a new American language for a new American nation.” One that is still beloved today.

An Author’s note as well as a list of resources follow the text.

Webster’s dictionary is intrinsically woven into every American child’s life through language and vocabulary development. Tracey Fern’s captivating story reveals the charm and foibles of its author, a man with just the right temperament and perseverance to tackle and complete such an overwhelming task. Fern’s exceptional storytelling skills and deft turns of phrase allow for a comprehensive review of Webster’s life that is full of exhilaration, empathy, and a good dose of the “big” words Webster loved. Fern builds suspense and tension while offering an insightful look at early American history by including details of the staggering research required and the adverse reactions to Webster and his work.

Boris Kulikov’s expressive illustrations perfectly capture the complex personality of Noah Webster, late-1700s-to-early-1800s American society, and the obstacles Webster faced in writing his dictionary. Fittingly, words, books, or ink blots abound on every page, pouring from the air, sprouting from the ground, stacked like the skyscrapers that would come, and surrounding Noah Webster the way they must have swarmed through his brain. Kulikov infuses humor into his paintings, as when Noah tears at his hair wondering how he will support himself after college, shrugs nonplussed at his students’ shenanigans, and buys himself quiet work time by handing out sweets to his kids. Visual metaphors for the hard, backbreaking and mind bending work also enhance this beautiful biography.

Ages 5 – 10 (adult’s will also enjoy this biography)

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015 | ISBN 978-0374382407

Visit Tracey Fern’s website to learn more about her and her books!

Discover a gallery of artwork by Boris Kulikov on his website!

National Dictionary Day Activity

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“Big Words” Word Search

 

Knowing and using a wide range of words allows you to express yourself in exact—and often—fun ways. Find the 26 “big” words—one for each letter of the alphabet—in this printable “Big Words” Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

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You can find is for Webster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 24 – National Punctuation Day

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About the Holiday

Founded in 2004 by Jeff Rubin, National Punctuation Day promotes the correct usage of all those little marks that make reading clearer and more meaningful. Do you ever wonder just how to use the ; and what’s the real difference between – and —? It can all get a little confusing. But misplaced or misused punctuation can result in some pretty funny mistakes—or some serious misinterpretations. Whether you love punctuation, would like to understand it better, or just use it to make emojis, today’s holiday will make you : – ). To find information on the day, resources for using punctuation correctly, and a fun contest to enter, visit Jeff Rubin’s National Punctuation Day website.

Boyds Mills Press sent me a copy of A Bunch of Punctuation to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also excited to partner with Boyds Mills Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

A Bunch of Punctuation

Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins | Illustrated by Serge Bloch

 

In the world of writing and reading, the letters of the alphabet seem to get all the acclaim as they create cool words and form captivating sentences. But what about those little marks of punctuation that separate clauses, slow readers down, add mystery and excitement, and even tell readers when they should stop? They’d like a little attention too! In this enchanting collection of poetry, they get it as commas, apostrophes, quotation marks, and all the rest are put center stage—as you will see!

We all know about commas and the quandaries they pose: Is one needed here? Is one needed there? Should I use the Oxford comma? What is an Oxford comma, anyway? Lee Bennett Hopkins offers a lyrical example of a comma’s power in Comma:

“A comma / lets you stop, / pause, / enjoy the weather, / unlike a period, / which puts an end / to any / cloudy, / rainy, / snowy, / or sunny day, / at once, / immediately, / forever.”

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Image copyright Serge Bloch, 2018, Comma by Lee Bennett Hopkins, 2018. Courtesy of WordSong.

While a comma is a gentle reminder to take a break, in The Dash Charles Ghigna reveals that the little line is—among other things:

“A subdued dude / in tweet and text, / he signals what / is coming next. / The daring dash— / an interruption— / is cause for pause / a clear disruption.”

In Alice Schertle’s five-stanza Forgotten: A Colon’s Complaint, these two little stacked dots just want some respect:

“The comma, incredibly common / butts right into line after line. / Couldn’t there be a small place for me: / just one little sentence that’s mine?”

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Image copyright Serge Bloch, 2018, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, 2018. From Apostrophe by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. Courtesy of WordSong.

Julie Larios counts up from 1 to 10 and down from 10 to 1 with the most dynamic of punctuation marks in !!!!!!!!—Superhero Kaboom—!!!!!!!!. Just a peek gives us:

“1 big boom! / 2 kapows!! / 3 in a row of wow, wow, wows!!! / 4 kahblooies!!!! / 5 bops and bams!!!!! / 6 gee whizzes!!!!!! / 7 whops and whams!!!!!!!” And what’s at the end of all this excitement? “1 more kaboom, then it’s off to bed!”

Twelve more rhyming and free-verse poems from Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Allan Wolf, J. Patrick Lewis, Michele Krueger, Jane Yolen, Prince Redcloud, Joan Bransfield Graham, and Betsy Franco will have kids looking at punctuation in new and creative ways. A final poem by Lee Bennett Hopkins invites children (and adults) to write their own poems based on four thought-provoking prompts, such as:

“Can you write poems posing questions / like who, what, where, / when, how, and why?” and “Can you write poems causing / words such as: / Whoopee! / Whee! / Wha-hoo! / to look as if they are / leaping off pages?”

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Image copyright Serge Bloch, 2018, poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, 2018. From A Punctuation Tale by Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Courtesy of WordSong.

Lee Hopkins Bennett gathers a group of the most inventive and popular poets for children in this collection that turns learning about punctuation into a flight of fancy, a comical romp, and an all-around engaging way to learn how these tiny show-stoppers work on a page. Each poem will spark discussions and “Ah-ha” moments about the function of punctuation and will make a grammar lesson one of the most eagerly anticipated classes of the day.

With his signature line drawings and humorous flair, Serge Bloch gives each type of punctuation mark a unique personality and purpose whether it’s creating a contraction, crying a puddle of lonely tears, lassoing words, or linking clauses in a train of thought. Bloch’s bold colors and action-packed pages bring the punctuation to life and will delight readers.

For young and older grammarians and poetry lovers, A Bunch of Punctuation is a bunch of fun to add to home, school, and classroom libraries.

Ages 8 – 12

WordSong, 2018 | ISBN 978-1590789940

To learn more about Lee Bennet Hopkins, his books, and his poetry, visit his website.

To learn more about Serge Bloch, his books, and his art, visit his website.

A Bunch of Punctuation Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Boyds Mills Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of A Bunch of Punctuation with poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins  | illustrated by Serge Bloch

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 24 – 30. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on October 1.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Boyds Mills Press.

National Punctuation Day Activity

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Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search

 

Have fun finding the twelve types of punctuation in this printable puzzle!

Pick Out the Punctuation! Word Search Puzzle | Pick Out the Punctuation! Solution

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You can find A Bunch of Punctuation at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 2 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both September and December have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! So, let’s get this book party off to an enthusiastic start with today’s book!

Hooray for Books!

By Brian Won

 

Turtle was looking everywhere for his favorite book. He took off his shell and searched it through and through. He found a pile of toys, games, hats, and puzzle pieces. There was one swim fin, a red wagon, an apple core, and even a wrapped gift box, but no book. Turtle thought hard, then remembered. “Aha! Maybe I shared it with…Zebra!” After imagining how much Zebra probably enjoyed the book, Turtle couldn’t wait to read it again himself. He dashed off to Zebra’s house, shouting, “‘Hooray for Books!’”

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Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

But Zebra didn’t have Turtle’s book. Instead, while munching on a carrot, Zebra offered him two others about unicorns. Turtle wanted his book, though. He thought some more and decided that maybe Zebra had shared it with…Owl! The two friends marched off to find out, cheering, “‘Hooray for Books!’” Owl was busy reading…but not Turtle’s book. Owl was paging through a book about eagles. While Turtle thought it might be interesting, it was not as interesting as his own book “‘I like my book!’” he said. “Maybe you shared it with…Giraffe!”

So Turtle and Zebra and Owl took off with their books in tow to find Giraffe. Giraffe had a stack of books, but had already passed on Turtle’s book to someone else. Giraffe did have a rollicking roller skating book, however, if Turtle was interested in that one. Turtle was having none of it, and suggested that maybe Giraffe had “shared it with…Elephant!” With Owl carrying the tall stack of books with a little help from Giraffe, and Zebra happily reading the roller skating book, Turtle led the way to Elephant’s house.

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Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

Elephant did not have Turtle’s book either. “‘It was a very good story,’ Elephant said. ‘Now I can share these with you.’” Elephant held up a book about juggling. Turtle was growing dejected. He wondered if Elephant could possibly have shared it with Lion. Just then Lion approached carrying a very, very tall stack of books. Turtle was so excited to see his own book at the bottom of the pile. He rushed over and pulled it out, sending the rest of the books flying.

“Turtle cheered, ‘I finally found my favorite! Hooray for Books!’” He went to a quiet spot and read his book three times. Meanwhile Owl, Zebra, Elephant, and Giraffe were sharing all of their books. Turtle heard them talking and laughing. Then he heard Lion say, “‘I bet Turtle would love this one.’” Intrigued, “Turtle came closer” and asked if everyone would like to read his book again because it was about friends. Then he asked, “‘Will you share your favorites with me?’”  

Everyone was excited and cheered, “‘Let’s read together!’” So they sat down surrounded by all of their favorite books and celebrated, “‘Hooray for Story Time!’”

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Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

Brian Won’s sweet group of friends return in a story of togetherness and the joys of sharing favorite books. Won’s dialogue-rich text makes this a perfect read-aloud that encourages little ones to join in on the repeated phrases that are full of the emotions children will recognize. The gentle suspense that propels the story is delightfully cheerful, with plenty of “Hoorays,” smiles, and humor to celebrate the growing pile of books. Won’s ending is comforting and satisfying. Young readers will see that they can enjoy their own favorites while also sharing in the favorites of others – a practice that helps build strong bonds of frienship.

Children will be happy to see Won’s familiar characters having a new adventure. The enthusiasm of Zebra, Owl, Giraffe, Elephant, and Lion to help Turtle is infectious, and readers will giggle at the precarious pile of books that grows and grows. Kids will love predicting what will happen to that stack. As Turtle searches his home for his book, kids will recognize and be happy to point out items from Won’s Hooray for Hat! and Hooray for Today! The final two-page vertical spread is an adorable celebration of story time and friendship.

Hooray for Books! is a joyful addition to any home or classroom bookshelf and would make a fun gift for inspiring many story times to come.

Ages 4 – 7 

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0544748026

Discover more about Brian Won, his books, and his art on his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate

 

Do you have a new book to read? Maybe you’d like to share it with a friend – or even a sibling! Use this printable I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate to personalize your book and make sure it never gets lost!

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You can find Hooray for Books! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 30 – Frankenstein Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who in 1818 at the age of 18, penned one of the most influential books of all time. Considered the first modern science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus incorporates elements of horror, psychology, love, abandonment, and acceptance. These themes and Shelley’s enthralling storytelling created a book that is always current. During this 200th anniversary year of the publishing of classic novel, discover (or rediscover) the spellbinding thrill of reading Frankenstein.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Júlia Sardà

 

Mary was a dreamer. She liked to spend time alone, thinking and imagining “things that never were.” Mary called these daydreams “‘castles in the air.’” Mary loved to write stories too, but her daydreams were even more thrilling. When Mary wanted to read and dream, she went to the graveyard and sat next to her mother’s grave. Mary’s mother had died when Mary was only 11 days old.

While Mary loved her father, she didn’t like the way he punished her. Mary didn’t like his new wife, either. Mary’s father is friends with many famous people, and he invites them to visit. One night “a writer named Samuel Taylor Coleridge recites a strange, eerie poem—The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Mary loves such poems.” Even though she was supposed to be in bed, she hid and listened, shivering “with fear at the spine-tingling tale of a ship full of ghosts.” Forever after, Mary remembered that night and that poem.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

By the time Mary was fourteen, she was unhappy at home and causing trouble. One night, when she was sixteen, she and her stepsister, Claire, ran away with a “brilliant, young poet” named Percy Bysshe Shelley. They traveled through Europe, one day finding themselves outside a “ruined castle. It’s called Castle Frankenstein. Such an interesting name! Does it stick in Mary’s mind?”

Eighteen months later, the three traveled to Switzerland, where they became friends with Lord Byron—the most famous poet in the world. One night as torrential storms crashed around Lord Byron’s house, he read ghost stories from Fantasmagoriana. After reading, Byron challenged his friends, who also included a doctor named John Polidori, to write a ghost story. Eighteen-year-old Mary, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Polidori accepted the challenge. But Mary could not think of a good story idea.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Soon, Shelley and Polidori gave up on their ghost stories, but their talk of new scientific experiments excited Mary. “Electricity can make the muscles of a dead frog twitch. Could it bring a dead creature to life? The idea is both thrilling and frightening.” The idea captured Mary, but instead of a frog, she imagined “a hideous monster, made of dead body parts, stretched out—and coming to life!” Mary suddenly realized she had the idea for her ghost story.

It took nine months for Mary to finish her story. When it was published, some people thought it had been written by Percy Bysshe Shelley—they didn’t “believe young Mary could have done it! How could a girl like her come up with such a story?” But she was a writer, assembling bits and pieces, ideas, and scientific changes in her imagination until they turned into the book Frankenstein. In the two-hundred years since the novel was first published, the story has become a classic. It has sparked movies, inspired other writers, and become a favorite all around the world.

An extensive Author’s Note about Mary Shelley, her life, and inspiration as well as Linda Bailey’s thoughts on the story behind Frankenstein follows the text. A full-page portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and a list of sources rounds out the informative backmatter.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

With atmospheric and riveting details, Linda Bailey captures the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the influences on her imagination that resulted in Frankenstein. Bailey’s use of the present tense is inspired as it reflects the continued currency of the novel while encouraging today’s readers to embrace their “castles in the air.” Facts about Mary’s travels, new scientific discoveries, and favorite books sprinkled throughout the story inform readers on how the imagination combines experiences to create art.

One look at Júlia Sardà’s spellbinding cover tells readers that they are in for an extraordinary reading experience. Muted tones of red, green, gold, blue, and plum cloaked in black create a thrilling backdrop to Bailey’s story. Ghostly winged creatures fly over Lord Byron’s home on a stormy night, smoky monsters emerge from Fantasmagoriana, a frog sits up in its coffin, and the spectre of the monster leans over Mary and sleeps at her feet as she writes her novel. At once spine-tingling and cozy, Júlia Sardà’s illustrations will draw children into this superb story of a ghost story.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is sure to spark the imagination of children who love literature, art, and writing. The book would be a thrilling addition to classroom libraries for literature and writing classes as well as an inspiring favorite on home bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770495593

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Júlia Sardà, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Frankenstein Day Activity

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Monstrously Good Puzzle

 

See if you’re a Frankenstein scholar by filling in this printable puzzle full of words and phrases about the novel!

Monstrously Good Puzzle | Monstrously Good Puzzle Solution

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You can find Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

July 29 – Rain Day

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About the Holiday

Is it hot enough for you? Do you start to melt the minute you step outside? Are you wishing for a little rain to cool things off? Well, today may be your lucky day! Today, we celebrate that rain that feeds farmer’s crops, brings our lawns back (just a little), and gives us a good reason to stay at home curled up with a good book. Why is July 29th designated as Rain Day? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania it has rained on this date 114 years of the last 142. So watch the skies and get your umbrella ready. A trip to the library or bookstore is a great idea too!

A Book for Benny

Written by Judith Koppens | Illustrated by Marja Meijer

 

It’s a rainy day and Sam is cozy on the couch reading…well, she would be if her dog, Benny, wasn’t pulling at her arm, wanting to play. “‘I’m not going to play with you. I’m reading.’” Sam tells Benny. She tries to show him how much fun reading is, but Benny doesn’t seem interested in the book Sam has. Maybe, Sam thinks, Benny would like a different book. “‘Come, Benny. We’ll go to the library. We’ll pick out a nice book just for you,’” Sam says. She grabs her raincoat from the hook, and Benny finds his leash.

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Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

They reach the library and hurry in through the revolving door to get out of the rain. Just then they hear a voice coming from the front desk. “‘I’m sorry, young lady, but dogs are not allowed in here!’” When Sam explains, the woman thinks that a book just for Benny sounds fun, but she still can’t allow Benny to stay. Sam takes Benny outside and returns to the shelves to look for the perfect book.

She finds one about knights and takes it to the big wall of windows to get Benny’s approval. She shows Benny the pictures. “Benny looks up at Sam, but then he pees against the tree.” Perhaps a circus book would be more appealing; after all, “Benny loves to do tricks with the ball.’” But when Benny sees this book, he simply turns his back on Sam.

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Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Sam searches through the bins of books. “‘Yes, this is the one!’ Sam suddenly cries.” She runs to the window and finds “the best picture to show Benny. Benny looks at the book and starts to wag his tail. He barks and licks the window…again and again” even though it’s dirty. Sam rushes to the desk to check out Benny’s book. When the woman picks it up, she “reads the title out loud. ‘I Love Sausages: 101 Recipes.’”

The librarian is surprised, but Sam tells her that this is the book Benny likes best. Back home, Sam settles in on the couch once more and begins reading again. “And Benny?” He stretches out, closes his eyes, and “has lovely dreams about his book.”

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Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Judith Koppens’ endearing story about a little girl who wants to share her love of reading with her pet will enchant animal lovers and may inspire some child/furry friend reading time at home. Benny’s humorous displays of disapproval and approval will have kids giggling, and the book that Benny ultimately chooses will be appreciated with a laugh by dog owners. Benny’s choice also demonstrates that everyone finds different books appealing, and that sometimes it takes a little trial and error and alternate thinking to find just the right fit for reluctant readers.

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Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Marja Meijer’s cartoon-style illustrations are just right for this lighthearted tribute to a love of reading. Sam’s home is warm and cozy with pictures and photos of the most valued family member on the wall, a comfy couch, and a fuzzy rug. The blue watercolor world outside plinks with raindrops and splashes with puddles, while inside the library, the colorful stacks of shelved books offers refuge that is recognizable to all book lovers. Benny’s slobbery assent to the book Sam chooses will have readers wondering about the title, and the cover reveal will make them laugh. As Sam and Benny settle in to read, the clearing skies show that happiness really is a good book.

Dialogue driven,  A Book for Benny makes a great read aloud for home or classroom storytimes.

Ages 4 – 6

Clavis Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373522

Discover more about Judith Koppens, her books, illustrations, and other creative endeavors on her website.

To learn more about Marja Meijer and her art, visit her website.

Rain Day Activity

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Rainy Day Match-Up Puzzle

 

On a rainy day you need just the right raincoat and umbrella to stay dry! These matching umbrellas and raincoats have gotten separated. Can you find the matching pairs? How do you match them up? 

Rainy Day Match-Up Puzzle

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You can find A Book for Benny at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 2 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. The week is celebrated by authors, illustrators, publishers, booksellers, librarians, and schools with special readings, events, and materials to get kids excited about reading. To learn more and find free, downloadable bookmarks and graphic novel, visit Every Child a Reader.

Disney-Hyperion sent me a copy of the Itchy Book to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Disney-Hyperion in a giveaway of a fantastic prize pack of books and other swag. See details below.

The Itchy Book! 

By LeUyen Pham | Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! Series from Mo Willems

 

Piggie has a question for Elephant: “Do you like books that make you feel things?” Indeed, Elephant does! And Piggie has just the book to give Elephant the feels all over. It’s called The Itchy Book!, and it opens like this:

Dino-Mo, a thoughtful, bespectacled pachycephalosaurus, comes strolling by and notices a sign that reads Dinosaurs Do Not Scratch. “Who knew?” says a tortoise snoozing next to the rock. Dino-Mo is contemplating this new bit of knowledge when a young triceratops comes by whistling a tune. Suddenly, she stops and bends down to scratch her bandaged knee, but before she can get her claws moving, the pachycephalosaurus rushes forwards to stop her.

He shows the triceratops the sign. “But I am ITCHY!” Triceratops tells him. There’s only one thing to do. “Dinosaurs are TOUGH! We do not scratch!” Dino-Mo instructs. The triceratops is doing her best not to think about it when a pterodactyl flies by chased by a bee. The bee catches up to her, and now she has a terrible itch. After a dire warning, Pterodactyl keeps her wings up and toughs it out.

Pterodactyl is ready to do battle against Brontosaurus’s back itch, though and zips up on top to help out. Triceratops thinks this looks like fun and is making the leap when Dino-Mo shouts, “HOLD IT RIGHT THERE!!!” He reminds them all of the sign, and, duly dejected, the three dinos quit their itchfest. But someone else is coming! It’s T-Rex with a scratchy, scratchy tag. He even promises not to eat anyone if they’ll just help with the incredible itching that he can’t reach.

“You tell him,” says Triceratops, and Dino-Mo does. They all acknowledge that “It is tough to be tough.” Only Dino-Mo is itch free, but in a show of solidarity, he asks the other dinos to make him itchy. Triceratops tickles him with a feather. Pterodactyl throws cut grass on him, and Brontosaurus adds an ant. Everyone else is getting itchy just watching all of this, but Dino-Mo doesn’t flinch. Even a wool sweater brings no response.

With a bit of a crazed look in his eyes, Dino-Mo recites the mantra “Dinosaurs…Do…Not…SCRATCH!” as the other dinos shower him with itch-inducing things until they’re all just a bundle of itchiness. They’re hanging tough, though. They’re proud. They’re doing what the sign says. Then the tortoise, refreshed from his nap, gets up and wanders away leaving the whole sign exposed. It seems there’s a little more to this dinosaur scratching business than originally thought. Have an itch to find out what? You’ll have to read along with Elephant and Piggie!

LeUyen Pham rocks the prehistoric landscape with her hilarious early reader that will have all ages of kids—and adults too—giggling, laughing, and groaning in sympathy for these dinos with Gigantosaurus-sized itches. As anyone knows, just thinking about scratching makes the problem worse. Throw in a rule about not scratching, and you have Pham’s recipe for a perfectly frantic and giddy story that kids will love to read again and again.

Pham’s expressive dinosaurs—who really want to obey the law etched in stone—are endearing as they tough it out and encourage their friends to do the same. Bold colors, a great dynamic among the dinosaurs, and the cartoon-inspired format will engage kids. Repeated words and phrases as well as speech bubbles color-coded to each dinosaur will guide early readers.

The Itchy Book!, Book 5 of the Elephant & Piggie Like Reading series, is a must for early and emerging readers or for any fan of the Elephant & Piggie books, It’s also a terrific read-together for younger kids. Adding The Itchy Book! to home bookshelves and classrooms will make them richer—and funnier! 

Ages 6 – 8 , younger children will enjoy having The Itchy Book! read to them.

Disney-Hyperion, 2018 | ISBN 978-1368005647

Discover more about LeUyen Pham, her books, and her art on her very cool website.

Learn more about Mo Willems and his books, find fun activities, and much “Mo” on his website.

To Learn More about The Itchy Book! visit the book’s Official Site.

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Dino Diorama

 

Ever get an itch to visit the land of the dinosaurs? With this fun Dino Diorama craft you can make a mini version for your own room.

Supplies

  • 1-pound plastic deli container or glass jar
  • Three or four small plastic dinosaur toys
  • Dirt or sand to create a ½-inch ground layer in the bottom of the container
  • Small rocks or pebbles
  • Plastic leaves or plants, available from craft or fish tank supply sections of pet stores
  • Or use succulents in place of plastic plants to make a terrarium diorama
  • Goo-B-Gone for removing label-glue residue from the deli container (optional)

Directions

  1. Wash the deli container and carefully remove the label
  2. Use Goo-B-Gone to remove any residual glue (optional)
  3. Spread the dirt in the bottom of the container
  4. Place the rocks, plants, and dinosaurs into the container
  5. Put the lid on the container
  6. Or plant the succulents and decorate around them with the rocks and dinosaurs
  7. If using succulents, leave the container open

Picture Book Review

April 7 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate poets and the poetry they create to illuminate our lives in new and often surprising ways. National Poetry Month is a world-wide event, bringing together tens of millions of poets, readers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, and other poetry lovers in readings, school visits, and special events. To celebrate, check out some events in your area and enjoy reading the work of your favorite—or a new—poet. You might even try writing your own poetry!

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.

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, 2017. 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 with a mom who can empathize. A final cozy image closes the book in I Am a Bookmark, where a nighttime reader compares himself 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.

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, 2017. 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 Poetry Month Activity

 

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

Grow a Poem Craft

 

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