June 12 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Cats make wonderful pets! They can be cuddly or completely independent, but their playful personalities make for lots of laughs and love. If you own a cat, spend some extra time with your pet and ensure that all of your feline friend’s health needs are being met and are up-to-date. If you think you might like to adopt a cat into your family, visit your local animal shelter for cats and kittens who are looking for a forever home.

Lily’s Cat Mask

By Julie Fortenberry

 

Lily was starting school so her dad took her shopping. “Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to get new things for school, but her father said it would be fun.” After buying some clothes and meeting a woman they knew who gushed at how much Lily had grown, Lily was tired and wanted to go home. “But then she saw the cat mask.” It was the only one on the shelf, and Lily’s dad surprised her by buying it for her.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Lily put it on immediately and wore it on the way home. She wore it to tea parties with her toys, to family parties “when she wanted to be invisible. And when she wanted to be noticed.” When she wore it to her doctor’s appointment, the doctor spoke in meows. One day she lost her mask. Her dad made her a rabbit costume, and while that was fun for a while, Lily was happy to finally find her cat mask.

Lily wore her cat mask for many occasions. She wore it when she didn’t want to talk—like when she met her new teacher. “She liked to hide her face when she felt mean and couldn’t get nice.” She even blew out her birthday candles and made a wish wearing the mask. When school started, Lily was only allowed to wear her mask on the playground, but once in a while she put it on, hoping no one would notice. Then it was sometimes put in the teacher’s desk drawer.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

One day, the teacher made a very exciting announcement. The class was going to have a costume party, and everyone could wear a mask or dress up however they wanted. On the day of the party, there were characters, animals, and bugs of all kinds. But then Lily looked across the room and saw the best costume of all—another cat! During recess the new friends played on the swings and meowed happily together.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Julie Fortenberry’s story of a quiet, hesitant child who discovers a unique way of interacting with the world around her offers openhearted acceptance and understanding for children who are observant and thoughtful integrators. The reaction of Lily’s father, teacher, doctor, and family members to her cat mask is uplifting and provides excellent modeling. The straightforward storytelling highlights Lily’s sweet personality as well as the empathetic responses her costume elicits.

Fotenberry’s illustrations of adorable Lily and her experiences at home, at school, at the doctor’s office, and at the mall are full of joy. The colors are fresh and vibrant, but also calm and peaceful, mirroring Lily’s feelings when wearing her cat mask. The images demonstrate and validate Lily’s preference to watch and participate in events from her own distance.

Lily’s Cat Mask provides the opportunity for much discussion with children, especially about meeting people, Lily’s birthday wish, where Lily sits and plays at parties and at school, and when Lily makes a friend. The book is highly recommended for classroom and school libraries and would make a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0425287996

Discover more about Julie Fortenberry and view a gallery of her books and artwork on her website!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-The-Cat's-Meow-Word-Search

The Cat’s Meow Word Search

 

There are so many beautiful types of cats! Can you find the names of twenty-one breeds in this printable The Cat’s Meow Word Search puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

June 8 – Upsy-Daisy Day

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About the Holiday

Do you wake up before the alarm or do you hit the snooze button a couple of times? Do you bound out of bed or do you pull the covers up tighter? Do you greet your family with a cheery “Good Morning” or do you mumble an incoherent “gmmmphngg?” If you’re more the latter type of person, then today’s holiday encourages you to be a happy “upsy-daisy” who starts the day with enthusiasm and an optimistic outlook. Beginning the day fresh as a daisy helps the whole day go better!

A Crow of His Own

Written by Megan Dowd Lambert | Illustrated by David Hyde Costello

 

When fame and fortune came calling for Larry, the charismatic rooster of Sunrise Farm, the daily routine turned upside down. “The animals overslept and no one knew what to do.” But while the cow, horse, sheep, chickens, and goose fretted, Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin had a plan. One day they gathered all the animals and introduced Clyde, the new rooster. Looking at the “scrawny little guy” as he stammered his hello, the cow, horse, and sheep expressed doubt in his abilities, already comparing him to their beloved Larry.

Roberta, the goose, stepped forward, however, and reassured him that “they just miss Larry.” When Clyde asked who Larry was, the animals gasped. “Only the best rooster ever,” claimed the sheep. “Take it straight from my mouth: he was more than that,” said the horse. “He was a genius,” the cow chimed in.” And the chickens? In the dirt they scratched a heart with Larry and XOX in the center.

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Clyde was worried—how could he ever live up to Larry? Roberta tried to soothe him. “‘Larry wasn’t a genius…he just made quite a show of it.” Emboldened and with an inkling of what he needed to do, Clyde thanked Roberta and dashed off. “Clyde spent the whole day gathering props, designing his costume, and choreographing a sublime two-step.” As Clyde gave himself one last look in the mirror in his top hat and cloak, he had misgivings. “Could he put on a show of a crow?” He went to bed, but hardly slept at all.

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

In the morning…well…Clyde overslept. The animals were not happy. “Who ever heard of a rooster sleeping in?” baaad mouthed the sheep. “What a worthless chicken,” complained the horse. And the cow had issues of her own. Once again Roberta came to Clyde’s defense. With a wagon full of new props and material, Clyde rushed away to prepare for the next day. Up bright and early and balanced on a unicycle atop the coop while surrounded by promotional signs, Clyde “opened his beak, and…promptly fell to the ground with an undignified croak.”

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Poor Clyde! Humiliated and hurt he once again had to endure the slights of the farmyard animals, but their comments only spurred him on. Vowing to go bigger and better, Clyde built himself a ramp, ordered roller skates for birds and a parachute, and designed a colorful Western-themed set. “‘Oh, my!’” remarked Farmer Jay as he walked by. “‘Try, try again,’ encouraged Farmer Kevin.” But in the morning Clyde’s spectacular trick left him hanging upside down from the chicken coop, and the animals more “disgruntled and dismayed” than before.

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Clyde was distraught. “‘Forget about Larry.’” Roberta said. “‘Just crow your own crow.’” Clyde considered her advice. The next morning as the sky turned pink and orange with the rising sun, Clyde stood tall atop the chicken coop. He quietly cleared his throat and then—“COCK-A-DOODLE-DOO!” The newly awakened animals came running. Even Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin came to see this new Clyde. The horse summed up their collective feeling: “It’s not so much like crowing, but crooning.” Roberta agreed. “‘Enough to give you goose bumps!’” she exclaimed. As an encore, “Clyde took a deep breath, gave a shake of his comb, and called out another crow of his own.”

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Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

These days it’s nearly impossible for kids not to compare themselves or be compared to others—even those they’ve never met. All they need to do is jump on the Internet and discover that so-and-so has double, triple, or more friends and/or followers than they do; go to class and get their grade on that assignment they worked so hard on; or simply stand by their locker, go to lunch, or head out to gym and overhear the comments of other students. Avoidance isn’t the answer, but a good base of self-confidence and personal identity is. In A Crow of His Own Megan Dowd Lambert offers readers such a base in her entertaining and meaningful tribute to self-acceptance and love that hits all the right notes.

As soon as scrawny Clyde walks out of his crate to the scorn of his farm mates, kids will root for this underchicken. With a light touch and plenty of wordplay, Dowd deftly presents honest portrayals of the opposition Clyde is up against as well as Clyde’s distressed reactions. Clyde’s three attempts to act like Larry humorously demonstrate the difficulties of trying to be someone you’re not. When Clyde finally musters the courage to “crow his own crow” and is met with praise, readers will see that their own unique talents will find an appreciative audience.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-crow-of-his-own-sunrise-farm

Image copyright David Hyde Costello, text copyright Megan Dowd Lambert. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

David Hyde Costello knows how to put on a show! His Sunrise Farm is a gentle, bucolic spread still under the thrall of Larry. Humorous details, such as the valentines to Larry the chickens draw in the dirt, the movie house-style posters on the side of the barn, and the surprised and exasperated expressions of the animals, testify to Larry’s enduring legacy. But careful observers will notice that while Larry is a rather bland white rooster with some black tail feathers, Clyde is distinctively colorful from his comb to his feet. Kids will giggle at Clyde’s increasingly complex morning shenanigans even as they sympathize with his plight. When Clyde finally reveals his magnificent crow, readers will cheer.

A Crow of His Own is a winner on so many levels. It offers parents and children a way to discuss and begin building the strong sense of self so important to a happy and successful life. The book also presents a positive visual representation of diversity, and in Roberta and Farmer Jay and Farmer Kevin it shows that finding support helps. And it does all of this in a story that stands on its own as a funny, laugh-inducing romp. Because kids will want to hear this story over and over, A Crow of His Own would be a wonderful addition to libraries and home book collections.

Ages 4 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2015 | ISBN 978-1580894470

To learn more about Megan Dowd Lambert, her picture books, her Whole Book Approach to Reading, and more visit her website!

On David Hyde Costellos website you’ll find a gallery of artwork, a portfolio of picture books, videos, and more!

Upsy-Daisy Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-craft

A Chicken to Wake Up To

 

A long-handled wooden turner makes a plucky decoration for your room or kitchen—and a great reminder to bring your passions to every job! In a few simple steps, you’ll have a cute companion you’ll want to crow about!

Supplies

  • Printable Comb and Scarf Template
  • Long-handled wooded turner, available in kitchen supply stores
  • Red felt, 2 inches by 2 inches
  • Yellow bakable clay
  • Fabric, 12 inches square
  • A small piece of white felt or fleece (optional)
  • White paint (or any color you would like)
  • Black marker
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun
  • Paint brush

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden turner, let dry
  2. Cut the scarf from the piece of fabric
  3. Make a beak from the yellow clay and bake it according to package directions

To make the comb

  1. Fold the felt in half and glue the end together with the fabric glue
  2. Cut short strips from the folded top of the felt, about ½-inch to ¾ -inch in length
  3. Round the corners of the strips slightly

To make the scarf

  1. Fold the fabric in half
  2. With the long, straight edge of the scarf template along the fold, cut out the scarf
  3. With the fabric glue, glue the two sides of the scarf together so that you have two “right” sides
  4. Let dry

To assemble the chicken

  1. Pinch the bottom of the comb together so that the strips open and the felt pleats a little
  2. With the glue gun attach the comb to the back of the painted turner, keeping the bottom pinched together
  3. Attach the beak to the front of the turner
  4. Draw eyes on the chicken with the black marker
  5. Tie the scarf around the neck of the handle, hold in place with a drop of glue in the back if necessary
  6. To make tail feathers in a turner with a hole in the handle, pinch together a small folded piece of white felt or fleece and push it through the hole in the handle of the turner.
  7. Cut or arrange to look like feathers

Picture Book Review

May 9 – National Moving Month

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About the Holiday

With better weather, kids getting out of school, and more jobs opening up, May begins the busiest season in the moving business. Moving can be both hard and exhilarating—and there’s so much to do! But help is only a phone call away. There are professionals to help you all along the way from selling and finding a house to packing up belongings and transporting them. Somewhere along the way, a yard sale is always in the mix to pass along those items that are no longer needed and to make a little money in the process!

Yard Sale

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

 

From the first words—“Almost everything we own is spread out in our front yard”—readers realize that this is no ordinary yard sale. A little girl sits on the front porch of her tidy house gazing out sadly at the family’s furniture, toys, books, and knick-knacks that are all for sale. The family is moving to a small apartment: “‘Small but nice,’ my mom told me.” The apartment has a secret bed that opens down from the wall “right in the living room.”

When the yard sale opens people stop by to look, “picking up things, asking the price, though Mom and Dad already put prices on them.” Even though the items are priced low, people haggle over how much they want to pay. A woman complains that ten dollars is too much for the little girl’s bed because the headboard has crayon marks on it. Watching, Callie now wishes she hadn’t made the marks to show how often she had read Goodnight Moon. Her mother settles for five dollars for the bed.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo,  text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Suddenly, Callie sees a man loading her bike into a truck and runs to grab it. The man is confused, sorry for taking it, but tells her he has just bought it. Callie’s dad runs over and explains again that the apartment has no place for the bike or sidewalks nearby to ride it on. Callie looks at her dad who seems to have tears in his eyes. “But probably not,” she decides. “My dad doesn’t cry.” She relinquishes the bike, but asks the man, “‘Will you give it back to me when we get our house back?’”

Callie’s best friend, Sara, is waiting for her. The two friends hug and talk about why Callie has to move. “‘I wish you didn’t have to go,’” Sara mutters. “‘Why do you, anyway?’” Callie shrugs. “‘I don’t know. It’s something to do with money.’” They don’t understand what has happened, and Sara offers, “‘I could ask my parents if you could stay with us.’” But Callie’s heart tells her where she belongs. “‘My parents would be lonely,’” she says. “‘…I’d miss my mom and dad.’”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

The sale continues and people drive away with tables, chairs, and clothing. For a moment, Callie feels important when a man asks her if their large potted geranium is for sale and she directs him to her dad. By the end of the day almost everything is gone. Callie’s mom “looks droopy” and her dad is comforting her. Callie sits dejectedly watching the final things being carried away and thinking that she will give Sara her red heart necklace and invite her to visit their new apartment.

At that moment a woman comes up to Callie and says, “‘Aren’t you just the cutest thing? Are you for sale?’” Callie has a visceral reaction: “A shiver runs through me, from my toes to my head.” She runs to her parents, crying. “‘I’m not for sale, am I? You wouldn’t sell me, would you?’” Her parents drop what they are doing to hug and reassure Callie that they would “‘not ever ever, ever’” sell her. “‘Not for a million, trillion dollars.’”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

With everything gone, Callie and her parents go back inside their “almost empty house.” It’s okay, Callie thinks. None of the stuff is important, and it wouldn’t fit in their new place anyway. “But we will fit in our new place. And we are taking us.”

For so many children frequent relocations or sudden moves from a home they know is a reality. Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale treats this subject with sensitivity and honest emotion through the eyes of a little girl for whom the change is confusing but ultimately reassuring. Bunting does not stint on either the setting of the yard sale itself, where people quibble over a couple of dollars, or the toll the day takes on the family. Her dialogue always rings true, and her straightforward delivery allows for understanding and for the moments of humor to shine through.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Lauren Castillo’s ink-and-watercolor paintings anchor this emotional story in a homey, loving environment even as they realistically portray the atmosphere of the yard sale. The full range of feelings are apparent in the characters’ faces from sadness and doubt to kindness and acceptance. Children will respond to Callie with her earnest attempts to understand and feel the comfort and encouragement Callie receives as her parents bend down to talk to her, hold her hand, and give her hugs.

Yard Sale is a poignant story that offers assurance and insight both for children who are facing a move and the friends and classmates who will miss them. The book’s theme is applicable to other daunting circumstances and would be a welcome addition to classroom and local libraries as well as for individuals encountering change.

Ages 4 – 9

Candlewick Press, 2017 (paperback); ISBN 978-0763693053 | 2015 (hardcover); ISBN 978-0763665425

To view more books and artwork by Lauren Castillo, visit her website!

National Moving Month Activity

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Garage Sale Maze

 

A garage sale is a bit like a treasure hunt. Can you find your way through this printable Garage Sale Maze from the roadside sign to the items for sale? Here’s the Solution!

March 30 – It’s Music in Our Schools Month

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About the Holiday

This annual holiday celebrates the benefits of music education in schools. With budget cuts looming in nearly every school district, the arts are often the first to go. But music inspires creativity and critical thinking and contributes to a better understanding of math and other subjects. School music programs also offer opportunities to children who may otherwise not be able to take lessons and explore their talent. To help out, contact your local school and see what you can do!

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Written by Chieri Uegaki | Illustrated by Qin Leng

 

When Hana Hashimoto told her brothers that she had signed up to play her violin in the talent show, they laughed.  “‘That’s just loopy,’” Kenji said, and Koji added ‘‘You can barely play a note.’” They reminded her that it was a talent show and that she was just a beginner. But Hana didn’t listen. “It was true that she was still a beginner. She had only been to three lessons.” But playing the violin was in her blood. Her grandfather, Ojiichan, had once been Second Violin in a symphony orchestra in Kyoto, Japan and had even played for the Imperial Family.

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Image copyright Qin Leng, text copyright Chieri Uegaki. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Hana had visited her grandfather that summer, and the sweet notes of his playing had coaxed “her awake as gently as sunshine” every morning. In the evenings her grandfather would take requests from Hana and her brothers. “Hana always asked for a song about a crow cawing for her seven chicks. Whenever Ojiichan played it, Hana would feel a shiver of happy-sadness ripple through her.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-hana-sleeping

Image copyright Qin Leng, text copyright Chieri Uegaki. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Ojiichan’s playing was like magic. He could make the violin chirp like crickets, plink like falling raindrops, and send fireflies dancing. At the end of the summer, Hana had decided she also wanted to play the violin and her parents agreed. Hana practiced every day even though her brothers ran away with their hands over their ears. She played for her parents, for her dog, JoJo, and for a photograph of Ojiichan. Sometimes she pretended to play for “an audience so appreciative they called for encore after encore.”

On the night of the talent show, Hana waited backstage for her turn “with a walloping heart.” Five other violinists had already gone before her. Finally, she heard her name. As she strode across the stage as wide as a desert, she had a fleeting feeling that her brothers had been right—that her performance was going to be a disaster. But when she reached her spot near the microphone and gazed out at the audience, she saw her best friend and her parents smiling at her.

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Image copyright Qin Leng, text copyright Chieri Uegaki. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Hana took a deep breath and let it out. Suddenly, “everyone seemed to disappear beyond the light shining down on her like a moonbeam” and she remembered her grandfather’s words: “‘Gambarunoyo, Hana-chan.’ Do your best.” Hana told the audience, “‘This is the sound of a mother crow calling her chicks.’” She “played three raw, squawky notes.” Then she played the yowl of her neighbor’s cat at night and the plucky droplets of rain on a paper umbrella. Hana played a world of special sounds, from buzzing bees to squeaking mice to croaking frogs. When she had finished, she said, “‘And that is how I play the violin.’” Then she took a bow.

Later that night Kenji asked Hana for an encore, and she happily played her piece again. Next year, Hana thought, she might be able to play one of her grandfather’s melodies. Before she went to sleep, Hana played another piece she had been practicing. “She imagined that the notes would drift out through the window, past the bright rabbit moon and beyond, and Ojiichan would hear them and smile.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-hana-bows

Image copyright Qin Leng, text copyright Chieri Uegaki. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Chieri Uegaki’s gorgeously told story of a little girl’s first performance with her new violin rings true on every page, from her being inspired by her grandfather to her own inspirational performance. Uegaki’s descriptions of the melodies that capture Hana’s heart are as beautiful as the music itself and are a joy to read. Hana’s continued self-confidence in the face of her brothers’ teasing and her own fear is a wonderful lesson for all children. The brothers’ support of Hana after the talent show is a welcome show of familial love, and the touching ending offers encouragement and happiness.

Young readers will love Qin Leng’s evocative illustrations that follow Hana on her musical journey. Notes from the violin pieces Hana admires float from page to page—from her grandfather’s home in Japan to her own room—tying together not only Hana’s fondness for the violin, but her love for her grandfather. Beautiful touches, such as an image of Hana reflected in a pastel blue rain puddle and a night sky twinkling with fireflies, mirror the wonder of childhood, when everything is new and possible.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin is refreshing encouragement for any child engaging in new experiences or activities. The book’s warmth and inventiveness make it a wonderful gift or addition to home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1894786331

Enjoy this Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin book trailer!

Music in Our Schools Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kids-playing-music-find-the-differences

Musical Kids Find the Differences

 

These two kids are performing a duet! Can you find all of the differences in the second picture on this printable Musical Kids Find the Differences?

Picture Book Review

March 29 – Niagara Falls Runs Dry Day

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About the Holiday

March 29, 1848 was a cold day. How cold? It was so frigid that rivers feeding Niagara Falls turned to ice and reduced the flow of water to such an extent that Niagara Falls’ 3,160 tons of water per second came to a halt. Today, locals—and weather aficionados—remember this auspicious natural phenomenon.

Queen of the Falls

By Chris Van Allsburg

 

Niagara Falls, spanning the border of Canada and New York state, has always attracted crowds of visitors who come to marvel over the roaring avalanche of water as it “drops from a height that is as tall as a seventeen-story building” and sends “up an endless cloud of mist at it crashes onto the rocks and water below.” But on October 24, 1901 the crowd was there for a very different reason. What was it? Well, that story begins back in Bay City, Michigan, where Annie Edson Taylor, “a short, plump, and fussy sixty-two-year-old widow” had just closed her charm school and was worried about how she’d pay the bills.

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Image and text copyright Chris Van Allsburg, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

She mulled and pondered, pondered and mulled her situation. Then she saw a newspaper article about Niagara Falls, and “like a cork popping from a champagne bottle” she had the idea to make her fame and fortune by going over the falls in a barrel. No one had ever tried a stunt like this before, but Annie seemed to know just how to do it. She designed a special barrel, but when she asked the barrel maker to build it, he refused. He told her that “if she wanted to kill herself, she’d have to do it on her own.”

When Annie went back three days later, though, she was able to convince him to build her barrel, and so construction began. The finished barrel was “four and a half feet high, with wire bands wrapped around it, and weighed more than one hundred and sixty pounds.” Inside there were handles and pillows and a leather belt that would strap her in tightly.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-queen-of-the-falls-niagara-falls

Image and text copyright Chris Van Allsburg, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Annie had the mind of an engineer and also the genius of a public relations guru. She hired Frank Russell to be her manager and visit Niagara Falls ahead of her to whip up enthusiasm for her daredevil exploit. To sweeten the pot, she told him that she was 42, believing people would be more interested in a younger adventurer. Frank Russell saw money in his—and Annie’s—future. He went to Niagara falls to arrange for newspaper reporters and hired Fred Truesdale to put the barrel into the river that would take her over the falls.

When Annie stepped off the train, she did not look the way reporters had expected. Many “wondered if the promised trip over the falls was just some kind of hoax: the barrel might go over, but would it really carry Annie Taylor inside?” As Annie answered questions, however, the reporters began to think she really might “go where no man or woman had gone before.”

Annie’s plunge was set for 10 days later. This gave them time to stir up excitement among the locals and anyone else who wished to come and witness her daring feat. Her barrel was put on display in the hotel lobby, and articles appeared in the newspaper touting the intentions of “the fearless Mrs. Taylor.” On the established day, Annie arrived at the cottage of Fred Truesdale. Her barrel was waiting and a small crowd had gathered to see her off.

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Image and text copyright Chris Van Allsburg, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Fred and his assistant, Billy, rowed Annie and the barrel to a small island near the falls. There Annie took off her hat and jacket and crawled backwards into the barrel. She strapped herself in and packed the pillows around. Then Fred sealed the lid as Annie called, “‘So long, boys.’” Fred and Billy rolled the barrel into the river and secured it to the boat with a rope. The men rowed the boat near a spot in the river known as the “‘Point of No Return’” where the current was so strong that it would carry any boat over the falls. Fred “tapped on the barrel with his oar and told Annie he was going to cut the rope.” She answered back, “‘All righty.’” With a slice Annie’s barrel bobbed and spun in the raging river, “slamming against rocks and waves, sometimes disappearing entirely from sight, sucked beneath the surface.”

Annie held on for dear life. At the edge of the falls, Fred had told her, there would be a moment of calm. Suddenly, Annie felt this while at the same time hearing the roaring water. “‘Oh, Lord,’” she whispered, and then she was gone.” Some spectators screamed, some cheered, but most just stood still hunting for the barrel at the bottom of the falls.

“Suddenly, the barrel bobbed to the surface.” Still, everyone held their breath, wondering what had happened to Annie. When the barrel neared shore, men jumped in and dragged it onto the rocks. They removed the lid, and called her name. A weak “‘Where am I?’” answered back. Annie had survived the fall, although she was dizzy, bruised, and battered. Annie soon recovered from her injuries, and began traveling across the country to meet the hundreds of people who lined up for tickets in every city to see the ‘Queen of the Falls.’

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Image and text copyright Chris Van Allsburg, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

When the people saw that Annie was an elderly widow instead of a dashing young adventurer, however, they lost interest. Fewer and fewer people came out to see her. When Fred Russell realized he would not be getting rich, he left Annie, taking her barrel with him. But Annie was not to be counted out. She recovered her barrel and hired a new manager named Billy Banks. Eventually, Billy also abandoned Annie and took her barrel for good.

Annie was down, but not out. She had a new barrel made and placed it in a park near Niagara Falls. She sat at a table nearby with postcards and a pamphlet about her amazing feat and invited passersby to buy them and meet the Queen of the Falls. Annie never did get rich and famous, but ten years after her wild ride she told a reporter that despite her disappointment on that point, she was proud to be able to say that she had done “the greatest feat ever performed.”

With his superb storytelling skills, Chris Van Allsburg reveals all the excitement and quirkiness of Annie Taylor’s wild idea and even wilder ride to readers. This true story of a bygone era and the utter audacity of a woman who tested her mettle against one of nature’s most formidable challenges will astound kids—and Annie’s nonchalance will make them (and adults) laugh. Perhaps more important than the facts of Annie’s stunt are the facts about Annie herself. Behind the etiquette teacher lay a smart, enterprising, and even scientific, woman who had the grit and self-confidence to attempt the “impossible.” Readers will also see that even when things don’t work out exactly as planned, they can be proud of their personal achievements. Van Allsburg’s sepia-toned photographic-style illustrations set readers in the early 1900s, catch Annie in the moment of her big idea and inside her barrel, and unveil the beauty of Niagara Falls.

Fascinating from beginning to end, Queen of the Falls is a wonderful book for kids interested in history, daredevils, and creative ideas.

Ages 6 – 9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011 | ISBN 978-0547315812

Learn more about Chris Van Allsburg and his books as well as discover a gallery of illustrations, videos, and even a TED Talk on Queen of the Falls on his website!

Niagara Falls Runs Dry Day Activity

Eggs-citing Ride Experiment

 

Even though Annie Taylor’s barrel was strong on the outside, she knew that she needed to protect herself inside. She used pillows, a handle, and a leather strap to keep herself from getting hurt.

In this experiment I invite you to design a container that will protect a raw egg from breaking when it is dropped from different heights. I’ll let you ponder what materials you will use—because that’s the fun part!

So get your creative thinking caps on—and get cracking…Umm…I mean…get going!

Supplies

  • Raw egg
  • Some kind of small container
  • Materials to protect the egg

Directions

  1. Using a variety of materials and your scientific knowledge, create a container that will protect a raw egg from breaking
  2. Place the raw egg inside the container and seal it shut
  3. Drop the container from as high as you can, for example, from the top of the stairs or a treehouse.
  4. Be sure to ask for an adult’s help or permission when choosing where to drop your egg.

Picture Book Review

February 10 – It’s Children’s Authors & Illustrators Week

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About the Holiday

Today I’m celebrating Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week with a humorous book by a debut author whose story embodies the universal themes of Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Her story is a bright reminder that life is better when we embrace the wonderful diversity all around us.

Anything But Pink

By Adelina Winfield

 

Not long ago in a nearby city—it might even have been yours—a couple was waiting for their little girl to be born. One night under a starlit sky, her mommy and daddy were inspired to call their precious one Starri. Starri’s “parents had big dreams about what she would be like,” but none of those things involved the color pink. In fact, when guests were invited to Starri’s baby shower they were told, “‘Please don’t bring anything Pink. Nope, Not one thing!’”  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-anything-but-pink-baby-shower

Image and text copyright Adelina Winfield, courtesy of Adelina Winfield

They were encouraged to bring “‘blue gifts, green gifts, purple gifts, yellow gifts, and rainbow gifts,’” but nothing pink. Why? Starri’s mom said, “‘all baby girls wear pink, and we want our baby girl to be different.’” So the decorations and cupcakes were “red, green, purple, and aqua, and friends and family brought a rainbow of blankets, bouncers, bassinets, toys, clothes, and diapers. But there was not one dot of pink. “Nope. No pink at all.”

Mommy and Daddy took all those presents home and decorated their baby girl’s nursery in “yellow, grey, aqua, and orange.” Pretty soon Starri was born, and she was “as bright as her name.” As an infant Starri was wrapped in green and yellow; she crawled in lavender onesies; she took her first steps in peach and blue; and she greeted the world in a bold red dress. But she never, ever wore anything pink. “Nope. Not one thing.”

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Image and text copyright Adelina Winfield, courtesy of Adelina Winfield

But one day Starri told her mom and dad that she wanted to wear a pink dress. Their astonished faces said it all. And Starri didn’t want just one pink dress, she wanted a pink tutu, “pink nail polish, pink shoes, pink ice cream, pink cake, pink leggings, and pink sunglasses. A pink room with pink walls, and a pink dresser with a pink lamp on a pink night table.” Yep, she wanted everything pink. And so it happened.

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Image and text copyright Adelina Winfield, courtesy of Adelina Winfield

There was not one inch of Starri’s life that was not pink. She wore pink at playtime, somersaulted in pink, sat on the pink spot on the classroom reading rug, and “of course had a pink birthday party.” One day as Starri once again clothed herself head to toe in pink, her mom stopped her. “‘Wearing all pink is boring,’” she said. But Starri didn’t believe it. How could pink be boring when there was “bubble gum pink, candy pink, magenta, rose, fuchsia, flamingo pink, watermelon pink, and hot pink?” Pink was not boring. “Nope, not one bit!”

“‘But honey,’” her mom and dad said, “‘variety is the spice of life,’” and they showed her how all the beautiful colors of the rainbow could “live together with pink.” Starri loved this idea, and so now when you see her, she’s still wearing pink, but she’s welcomed other colors into her life as well!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-anything-but-pink-starri's parents

Image and text copyright Adelina Winfield, courtesy of Adelina Winfield

If you have ever been a little girl, had a little girl, or even just known a little girl, Adelina Winfield’s Anything But Pink will resonate and make you smile. Despite parent’s preferences, protestations, and prohibitions, pink creeps then gallops into girls’ lives in a million different ways. Winfield’s repetition of a rainbow of colors and the fervently hopeful “Nope, no pink at all. Not one thing” makes her story all the funnier as adults surely know what’s coming and young readers will cheer when Pink finally makes its appearance. I laughed out loud when I turned to the pages after Starri embraces pink as it took me back to when my own daughter, who having earlier rejected pink for green, suddenly wanted a pink room, pink lamp, pink clothes, and even wall stickers exactly like the colorful circles that dot Winfield’s endpapers.

There is a joyous quality to Winfield’s stylish illustrations as Starri’s parents prepare for their baby amid vibrant images that express the dreams they share for their child. When adorable, curly-haired Starri comes along, she happily wears what her parents give her until the moment when she asserts her independence and with personality and flair enters the monochromatic world of pink. The story is infused with a sweet tone shown in the loving relationship between Starri’s parents as they stand close together, walk with their arms around each other, and even have priceless matching expressions the first time the dreaded P word is uttered. Their relationship with Starri is likewise affectionate. When their daughter does discover pink, they support her, only later guiding her to consider a more global perspective.

Anything But Pink is a cute story for all lovers of the color pink and would make an appreciated baby shower or birthday gift and a much-asked-for story time or bedtime read.

Ages 3 – 8

CreateSpace Independent Publishing, 2016 | ISBN 978-1541103672

Anything But Pink is available on Amazon

You can follow Anything But Pink on Instagram

About Adelina Winfield

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Adelina is an all around artist and an eternally creative spirit. She spent several years as a Fashion Designer in New York’s garment district, designing children’s clothing for labels such as Guess Jeans, JayZ’s Rocawear brand, and Tina Knowles’ Dereon line. This design experience allowed her to globe trot, where she spotted the latest trends throughout Europe and Asia. Her eclectic upbringing in Brooklyn, NY, worldwide travel, and many years in the fashion business has served as a canvas for her current creative expression: writing. Now living in another creative city, Austin, Texas, Adelina has married her artistic and writing talents in her first children’s book, Anything But Pink

Children’s Authors & Illustrators Week Activity

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 3

Crayon Rainbow Art

 

With this cool project you can create an art piece that’s as colorful as a rainbow and as unique as you are! Adult help is needed for children.

Supplies

  • Box of 24 crayons
  • White foam board or thick poster board, 8 inches by 17 inches
  • A small piece of corrugated cardboard, about 5 inches by 5 inches (a piece of the foam board can also be used for this step)
  • A small piece of poster board, about 5 inches by 5 inches
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife (optional)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hair dryer
  • Old sheets or towels, newspapers, a large box, or a trifold display board

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 2

CPB - Rainbow Crayon Art 1 (2)

Directions

  1. Remove the various red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet hued crayons from the box of crayons
  2. Strip the paper from the crayons by slicing the paper with the x-acto knife, or removing it by hand
  3. Line them up in order at the top of the white foam board
  4. Glue the crayons with their tips facing down to the board with the hot glue gun
  5. Cut an umbrella or other shape of your choice from the poster board
  6. Trace the umbrella or other shape onto the corrugated cardboard or a piece of the foam board and cut out
  7. Glue the poster board shape onto the corrugated cardboard, let dry
  8. Glue the umbrella or other shape to the foam board, about 4 ½ inches below the crayons
  9. Set up a space to melt the crayons. The wax will fly, so protect the floor and walls by placing the art piece in a large box or hanging newspapers, old sheets or towels on the walls and placing newspapers on the floor. A trifold display board and newspapers works well.
  10. Stand the art piece upright with the crayons at the top
  11. With the hot setting of the hair dryer, blow air at the crayons until they start to melt
  12. Move the hair dryer gently back and forth across the line of crayons from a distance of about 6 to 12 inches away. The closer you are to the crayons, the more they will splatter
  13. The crayons will begin to melt and drip downward
  14. You can experiment with aiming the hair dryer straight on or at an angle to mix colors
  15. Wax that drips onto the umbrella or other shape can be chipped off after it dries or wiped off to create a “watercolor” effect on the shape
  16. Once the hair dryer is turned off, the wax cools and dries quickly
  17. Hang or display your art!

About Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness on the ongoing need to include kid’s books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team are on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsors include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawDelores Connors, Maria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also work tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

Picture Book Review

February 3 – Feed the Birds Day

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About the Holiday

As the snow piles up and the harsh weather of winter sets in, it’s harder and harder for our feathered friends to find food. Today’s holiday reminds us that we should hang feeders with seed and suet to help birds stay healthy during these cold months.

I Am Henry Finch

Written by Alexis Deacon | Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

 

The finches were a talkative bunch. In the morning the flock traded “good mornings”: “‘Good morning, Aziz Finch!’ ‘Good morning, George Finch!’ ‘Good morning, Tiffy Finch!’ ‘Good morning, Henry Finch!’” In the afternoon, they wished each other “Good afternoon!” Evening brought wishes of “Good evening!” And “at night, they said GOOD NIGHT.” The next day the round robin salutations began again. They were only interrupted when the Beast came.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-henry-finch-flock

Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of vivianesxhwarz.blogspot.com

“Then they would all shout, THE BEAST, THE BEAST! And fly as fast as they could to the top of the nearest tree, where they would sit and shout until the Beast moved on.” It remained this way until one night “a little finch woke up in the dark and quiet. He had a thought, and he heard it. I AM HENRY FINCH, he thought.” He considered this thought as well as many others. He wondered if other finches had thoughts like his. He imagined himself defeating the Beast. “I COULD BE GREAT, thought Henry.”

The next morning the Beast did come. Henry envisioned himself standing atop the vanquished Beast and decided now “was the time for greatness.” Screaming his name, he flew directly at his foe…and was…swallowed. Inside the belly of the Beast, Henry had disparaging thoughts. “YOU ARE A FOOL, HENRY FINCH, he thought.” He regretted becoming the beast’s dinner. His troubled mind raced ahead through what would happen to him in the Beast’s digestion process, and yet he continued to think.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-henry-finch-I-think

Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of vivianesxhwarz.blogspot.com

He pondered, “WHO AM I?”and concluded that even if he wasn’t Henry Finch, he was something. “I AM,” he decided, and then he considered the cyclical nature of…well…nature. “IT IS,” he realized. He listened to the grumbling, gurgling sounds inside the Beast. He could “even hear the thoughts of Beast.” It was on the hunt for any “crawling, swimming, flying, walking” creature it could find to feed his family. Henry had had enough. “NO!” he thought. The Beast heard Henry’s thought, and the next one and the next one that told the Beast that all creatures have families and that from now on the Beast would eat only plants because they “have parts to spare.”

Yes, the Beast determined, “I WILL EAT PLANTS,” and when Henry told the Beast to open his mouth wide, the Beast complied. Out popped Henry much to the surprise and delight of the other finches. Henry told them everything that had happened. When he was finished, a small finch piped up, “I HAVE HAD A THOUGHT. GOOD-BYE, EVERYONE. I WILL COME BACK.” She flew off guided by her vision of landing atop a mountain. One by one, every finch envisioned its own great deed and flew away to achieve it, promising to return. And Henry? Gazing up at them as they disappeared into the sky, “he smiled a finch smile. GREAT! thought Henry.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-henry-finch-could-be-great

Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of candlewick.com

Alexis Deacon’s unique tale is sure to raise plenty of giggles and “Oh, no’s!” followed by more giggles and finally cheers as Henry comes to terms with his greatness and despite his diminutive size vanquishes the Beast. Like René Descartes before him, Henry comes to the conclusion that “I think, therefore I am,” and with pluck and self-confidence decides that his existence warrants attention and respect. Deacon’s inspirational story is perfectly aimed at his young audience who are just beginning to “have thoughts” about who they are, who they want to be, and what they want to do. Henry’s wavering and uncertainty are presented with honesty and humor that will resonate with kids, and his final victory is a joy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-henry-finch-wake-up

Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of vivianesxhwarz.blogspot.com

Viviane Schwarz could not have hit upon a more ideal way to depict Henry and the other finches than in the red fingerprints that determine their individuality. With only a few changes to his sketched-in features, adorable Henry becomes sweet, fearful, resolute, courageous, and of course thoughtful. The blue Beast with its mold-green tongue dominates the pages when it appears and dwarfs the tiny birds and other creatures it slurps up. When Henry is eaten and slides through the Beast’s digestive system, the pages turn appropriately black until Henry decides that “NO!” he is not going to become dinner today. A two-page spread of the life cycle for birds, insects, snakes, rats, plants, and even the Beast is a beauty.

I Am Henry Finch is a book that stirs emotions and stimulates discussion, and Henry—like another literary Finch who refused to accept the status quo—is a terrific hero to add to any home bookshelf.

Ages 5 – 8

Candlewick, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763678128

You can connect with Alexis Deacon on his blog “A Place to Call Home.”

You’ll find more about Viviane Schwarz, her books, and her Cat and Bag web comic as well as videos, worksheets, and other goodies on her website.

Feed the Birds Day Activity

cpb-bird-feeder-i

Pining for Seeds Pinecone Birdfeeder

 

Pinecone birdfeeders are quick to make and great for your backyard fliers. The combination of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening and a quality seed mixture provide birds with the fat and nutrition they need to stay warm and healthy during the winter.

Supplies

  • Pinecones
  • Peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or wooden spreader
  • Spoon

Directions

  1. Tie a long length of string around the middle of the pinecone
  2. Spread the peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard on the pinecone
  3. Sprinkle a thick coating of birdseed on the pinecone, pressing it into the covering so it will stick
  4. Tie the pinecone feeder onto a tree branch or other structure
  5. Watch the birds enjoy their meal!

Picture Book Review