December 6 – Mitten Tree Day

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About the Holiday

The feel of a cozy mitten on freezing fingers is one of the luxuries of wintertime. But where did mittens come from? You might be surprised to discover that the word “mitten” comes from the French word mitaine, which was an old nickname for a cat, because early mittens were typically made of animal fur. The earliest mittens, dating to around 1000 AD, were used as sheaths for gloves, adding extra protection for cold hands. Today, I’m pleased to review the book in which Mitten Tree Day is said to have its origins! Originally published in 1997, the story has endured and continues to spark programs in schools, libraries, and communities around the country.

The Mitten Tree

Written by Candace Christiansen | Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

 

In a small house at the end of a lane Sarah lives all alone. Her own children have grown and moved away, but as she watches the kids gather at the blue spruce tree to wait for the school bus she remembers all the years that she walked her son and daughter to this same spot. As she makes her way down the lane to her mailbox, she wishes the children will wave and smile, but they never seem to notice her. Still, it makes Sarah smile to see them.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

One winter morning Sarah notices all the kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen—all except one little boy dressed all in blue who lacks the mittens needed to join his friends. All day Sarah worries about the boy with no mittens. As the sun goes down Sarah digs “through the basket of yarn scraps she had saved for many years.” She finds her needles and four shades of blue wool. Then Sarah begins to knit.

With the rising sun Sarah hurries to the bus stop and hangs the new blue mittens on the spruce tree. Then she hides behind a hedge to watch. The little boy in blue is the first to arrive at the bus stop. When he sees the mittens hanging there, he tries them on and finds that they fit perfectly. With a big smile he makes “a perfect snowball” and throws “it high into the winter sky.” Soon Sarah sees a little girl with mismatched mittens. That night she finds the perfect color of wool and knits a pair to match the girl’s red coat.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Every morning Sarah watches the children, looking for any who have no mittens. During the day her needles are busy making gifts for these children. The next morning before anyone else is up she rushes to the spruce tree and adorns it with the mittens she has knitted. The children have warmed to the “game,” and each day search “under every branch and bough for another pair of mittens.” Once or twice Sarah thinks the boy with her blue mittens sees her, but his eyes don’t linger.

On the day before the school’s winter break Sarah fills her knitting basket with the latest mittens she’s knit. She heads out the door and down the lane. When she reaches the blue spruce, she hangs “mittens on every branch.” When the children arrive, they stand “very still for a few minutes looking at the mysterious, beautiful mitten tree.” As they board the bus, each child is wearing a new pair of mittens. Sarah sees them appear one by one in the bus windows, but none see Sarah.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Sarah goes home feeling happy and with her heart as full as it was “when the sounds of her own children had filled her house.” But what awaits Sarah? As she climbs the stairs to her porch, she notices a “basket woven with thick brown vines and decorated with a large white bow.” She’s surprised to see that it is filled to the brim with balls of colorful yarn. Even today Sarah knits new mittens for all the children in town, and “every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears.” Sarah doesn’t know who brings the basket, just as the children don’t know who supplies the mittens. “But someone must….”

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Candace Christiansen’s heartwarming story of kindness given and reciprocated will inspire kids to see that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others by using their talents to fill a need. This gentle, quiet tale offers suspense that will pique readers’ curiosity from page to page, and the mystery surrounding the never-empty basket of wool provides a satisfying and moving ending that also reassures kids that deeds of thoughtfulness and compassion are noticed. The grandmotherly Sarah and familiar school bus stop setting and winter activities will resonate with readers.

Elaine Greenstein’s softly colored, folk-style illustrations give the story a cozy feeling—perfect for cold-weather reading, The variety of intricately knitted mittens, with their hearts, stripes, snowflakes and cables, are charming, and the enchanting image of the blue spruce decorated with mittens makes it easy to see how The Mitten Tree continues to inspire so many acts of kindness and charity.

Ages 3 – 7

Fulcrum Publishing, 2009 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1555917333

Mitten Tree Day Activity

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Mitten Match & Coloring Page

 

Mittens often get lost or mismatched in the fun of winter activities. Find the pairs in this printable Mitten Match & Coloring Page and then decorate them!

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You can find The Mitten Tree at these booksellers

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

Celebrate Picture Books

November 1 – National Author Day

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About the Holiday

What would we do without authors? Through their imagination we’re transported into new realms, learn fascinating facts about the world around us, and laugh, cry, and come together as we collectively embrace their characters. Today’s holiday was established in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, who was an avid reader and grateful owner of a signed copy of a story by Irving Bacheller. To show her thanks, she instituted Author’s Day. The holiday was officially recognized in 1949 by the US Department of Commerce. To celebrate, people are encouraged to write a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

Up the Mountain Path

By Marianne Dubuc

 

In all her many years, Mrs. Badger has “seen many things.” A small collection of things on her kitchen shelves reminds her of all the places she’s been. But every Sunday, Mrs. Badger goes on an adventure that is always the same and always different. She walks the path that leads from her home to the top of a small mountain.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

On her way out of her garden, she says hello to Frederic, a white-throated sparrow. She picks mushrooms for Alexander the fox, careful to avoid the poisonous ones, and if she encounters someone who needs help, she lends a hand before moving on. This Sunday, though, “she has a feeling she is being watched.” Without turning to look, she says “‘There’s enough for both of us, if you’re hungry.’” Out of the bushes bounds a kitten. They eat together and Mrs. Badger tells the kitten about Sugarloaf Peak. The little one would like to see it too, but is afraid of being too small.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-up-the-mountain-path-frederic

Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Even though Mrs. Badger reassures her new friend, the kitten stays put, so Mrs. Badger continues on her way. In a moment, the kitten is by her side. Lulu is her name, she tells Mrs. Badger. They find walking sticks and travel over a stream, through trees, and along the path. Lulu asks lots of questions, but “Mrs. Badger teaches Lulu how to listen instead, how to help others, and that life is made up of many choices.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When they come to a fork in the path, Mrs. Badger lets Lulu decide which way to go. She knows “that you have to listen to your heart.” On the way, they sing songs and stop to rest beside a blue pond. As the path grows steeper, they know they are near the top of Sugarloaf Peak. Will, a turkey vulture who has known Mrs. Badger for a long time welcomes them. When they reach the top, Mrs. Badger gives Lulu a hand to scramble up the last few feet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-up-the-mountain-path-mushrooms

Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

They sit together at the top looking out over the tree tops to the horizon. “Lulu doesn’t say a word. She’s on top of the world.” After that, Lulu became Mrs. Badger’s constant companion on her Sunday hikes. They see many things, and Mrs. Badger teaches Lulu about the plants and creatures along the way. In time, it is Mrs. Badger who needs to rest beside the blue pond and needs help scrambling up the last few feet of Sugarloaf Peak. But at the top, they both still think “‘It’s wonderful!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-up-the-mountain-path-kitten

Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

One Sunday when Lulu comes to Mrs. Badger’s house, she “doesn’t have the strength to climb Sugarloaf Peak,” so Lulu goes alone. Her solo journeys continue week after week, and every time she returns to Mrs. Badger’s to tell her “all about her discoveries. She also brings new treasures” for Mrs. Badger’s shelves. “Gradually, Mrs. Badger’s mountain becomes Lulu’s mountain.” One day, Lulu finds a path she’s never taken; she also has the feeling that she is being watched. Without looking, she offers to share her snack—and then to share the path to the top.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Marianne Dubuc’s poignant story about one’s path through life celebrates the gathering of knowledge and experience and the passing on of this acquired wisdom to younger generations. In her quiet, straightforward storytelling, Dubuc builds a deep understanding of Mrs. Badger through her kindness, philosophies, and willingness to share. Her excellent pacing—which sees Mrs. Badger as a lone traveler then accompanied by Lulu and finally happy to hear about Lulu’s solo adventures as Lulu then takes up the mantle with a new friend of her own—movingly demonstrates the cyclical nature of life.

Duboc’s charming illustrations, rendered in greens and browns sprinkled with bright color are adorable and as endearing as a hug. The sweet smiles and connections between characters mirror the patience, kindness, and understanding we all want our children to experience on their journey. Up close images of Mrs. Badger’s treasures combined with the vast vista from the top of Sugarloaf Peak reveal that happiness springs from paying attention to the small details as well as the big picture.

A heartwarming, uplifting, and life-affirming book, Up the Mountain Path—which was named a Best Picture Book of 2018 by Publishers Weekly—is a treasure to add to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Princeton Architectural Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1616897239

To learn more about Marianne Dubuc, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Author Day Activity

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Dear Author Notepaper

 

Today’s holiday encourages people to write letters thanking their favorite authors. If you wrote a letter to your favorite author, what would you say? Color the book and then jot down your letter on  this printable Book Notepaper. 

Book Notepaper

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You can find Up a Mountain Pass at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all our feathered friends from the birds in our backyards to the chickens and turkeys that provide us with food to the penguins of Antarctica. They include wild birds and those in captivity, either as pets or in zoos or other aviaries. National Bird Day was established to promote an awareness of issues concerning the safety, health, and protection of the world’s birds. To celebrate put out birdseed and suet for winter birds or learn a little more about the birds in your area.

The Lion and the Bird

By Marianne Dubuc

 

Lion was ready for a day in his garden and had just begun to hoe the rows when he spied a bird lying on the ground. “Oh, poor little thing,” Lion said. He felt he had to do something. He lifted Bird into his paws. Lion settled Bird on a tree stump and bandaged his wing.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2014, courtesy of mariannedubuc.com.

Just then Lion and Bird noticed that Bird’s flock was flying south for the winter. Without hesitation, Lion picked Bird up and placed him gently in his mane. ‘You won’t be cold here,” he told Bird. Then the two went inside Lion’s home, where there was a fire burning in the fireplace and a cozy atmosphere. Lion invited Bird to stay, saying there’s “plenty of room for both of us.”

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2014, courtesy of mariannedubuc.com.

Lion and Bird ate dinner together, and Lion made a warm box for Bird to sit in next to his rocking chair in front of the fire. They sat side by side while Lion read. Then Lion brushed his teeth and Bird brushed his beak and they went to sleep. Bird found a comfortable bed in Lion’s slipper.

Autumn turned to winter with its snow and ice. But Bird was “snug and warm” nestled in Lion’s mane and under a special stocking hat Lion made. They went sledding and ice fishing and spent evenings reading by the fire. The snow piled high, but being with a friend made the winter feel less cold.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2014, courtesy of mariannedubuc.com.

When spring returned the other birds did too. Bird pointed them out to Lion, and Lion told Bird he knew he had to join them. He watched his friend Bird fly off with his flock. “So it goes,” Lion thought. “Sometimes life is like that.” Still, Lion felt sad eating alone, with no one to read to, and without being able to say goodnight to Bird. In summer, Lion’s garden produced a good harvest of bright, red tomatoes, and he spent afternoons reading under his favorite tree.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2014, courtesy of mariannedubuc.com.

When autumn returned again, Lion wondered about Bird as he watched the flock flying south. Then he heard a familiar song. He looked and found Bird waiting on a branch of the tree. Once again Bird settled into Lion’s mane, and they went home to spend the winter together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lion-and-bird-bird-with-lion

Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2014, courtesy of mariannedubuc.com.

Marianne Dubuc’s tender story of a deep and abiding friendship shows young readers that even distance and time cannot break bonds when love is shared between two people. Dubuc’s spare but profound text empathizes the warmth, attachment, and camaraderie felt between good friends. Her comforting words point to her poignant images in which Lion and Bird spend time together content in each other’s company. The idea that these two friends may not share the same language makes their devotion to each other all the more touching, and their consideration for each other’s feelings offers a moving lesson in kindness.

The Lion and the Bird is an enriching tale for quiet bedtimes and story times and provides a gentle way for parents, caregivers, and teachers to talk with children about friendship.

Ages 4 – 7

Enchanted Lion Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-1592701513

Discover a gallery of books and other illustration projects by Marianne Dubuc on her website.

National Bird Day Activity

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Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are so many beautiful birds to celebrate on National Birding Day! You can find twenty kinds of birds without even going outside in this printable Let’s Go Birding! Word Search

Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle | Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Solution

Picture Book Review

 

December 8 – Lost and Found Day

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About the Holiday

Doncha hate when you lose something? You know…you just had it and now it’s nowhere to be seen. Where is it? The last place you look, of course! But what if you never find it? Perhaps someone else found it and turned it in to a lost and found department. Oh, it’s all very disconcerting. Don’t give up hope! Today’s holiday was established just to give people an opportunity to really stop what they’re doing and look for that long-lost object. Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte was the mastermind behind the idea of a Lost and Found? In 1805 he opened the world’s first Lost and Found Office in Paris and encouraged people to bring in items they found in the street. From there the idea spread! So if you’ve lost something, take a bit of time today to find it!

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!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hooray-for-books-bookshelf

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 allows little ones to join in on the repeated phrases, are full of the emotions that children will recognize. The gentle suspense that propels the story is delightfully cheerful with “Hoorays” and smiles and humor as the friends’ pile of books grows with each stop. Won’s ending is comforting and satisfying, allowing young readers to see that they can enjoy their own favorites and share in the favorites of others as friends build strong bonds.

Children will be happy to see Won’s familiar characters in another 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.

Lost and Found Day Activity

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I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate

 

Books are great to share with friends, but sometimes it’s hard to remember who you’ve lent them to or who you’ve borrowed them from. With this printable personalized I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate, you can make sure your books never get lost!

Picture Book Review

August 4 – It’s Family Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

When families form, each person comes with their own history, which is then blended to create an entirely new story. Some families know all about great, great, great grandma or grandpa, while for some the distant past is a bit hazy. No matter how much you know about your family, though, you know that each step along the way for each person has brought you to the place you are now—together! This month encourages people to research their genealogy and discover more about their ancestors. It can be fun to draw a family tree or put together a scrapbook of photos, old and new. But whatever you do, don’t forget to celebrate your family!

One Family

Written by George Shannon | Illustrated by Blanca Gomez

 

It’s 6:00 and “one is one”: a little lady with a cotton-candy swirl of white hair is reading one book in the light of her one lamp. In the bedroom “one is two”: a boy and a girl have changed into pajamas, leaving one pair of shoes—two shoes with yellow laces—and a shirt on the floor. They’ve grabbed their team of horses—two stick ponies—and are galloping around the room. They make one family.

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Outside, “one is three”: a little girl is out with her mom and dad. As they pass a window, she points to one bowl of fruit holding three pears. In the toyshop window, the girl sees one house of three bears. The one family walks by happily. On another street “one is four”: two kids sit in their grandpa and grandma’s car. Grandpa has one ring of four keys. Grandma is carrying a basket with one pile of four puppies. Where is this one family going?

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2016, text copyright George Shannon, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the zoo “one is five”: a family of three kids and two adults watch one monkey hold one bunch of five bananas while another plays with one hand of five cards. In a busy house “one is six”: While a woman hangs out one line of six wet shirts, a girl paints one butterfly with six legs. The six people are one family working together.

In another neighborhood “one is seven”: one flock of seven birds flies over the tall apartment houses as one family of four adults, a child, and twin babies talk. Who is the “one bouquet of seven blooms” for? A door opens to a home where “one is eight”: one picture of eight ducks hangs on the wall above a child coloring with one box of eight crayons. The room is getting full as eight people from one family find places to gather.

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the seaside “one is nine”: a group of nine men, women, and children sit on one bench near one staircase of nine steps. One of the children has built one cairn of nine rocks. In a bustling kitchen “one is ten”: sitting at the table and standing near the stove are ten members of one family. A girl has baked one batch of ten cookies. On the wall is one shelf of ten books.

In this one town, all these people come together walking dogs, playing with balls, visiting neighbors, waving from windows, strolling babies, and having fun. Here “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.”

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In his unique take on a counting book, George Shannon challenges readers to consider the way we think about the number and the idea of “one,” both mathematically and linguistically. Along the way the story also invites readers to think about the nature of family. As each family unit grows larger from page to page, children see that no matter how many people are included, the group is one family. The sequential building on the idea of family organically leads to the insight that our one world is made up of many people—and even many families—but that we are all connected as one family on earth.

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, text copyright George Shannon, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In her vibrant and inclusive illustrations, Blanca Gomez celebrates what it means to be a family and even invites readers to perhaps make up their own stories about how each family came together. Every page offers welcome views of multigenerational, interracial, and multiethnic families. Three examples of the featured number on each two-page spread are just the right amount for kids to count and discuss how we use collective nouns to denote ideas such as “one pair” for two or “one batch” and “one bunch” for any number of cookies or flowers. A final spread gives readers another chance to count the items they found in the book, and the endpapers tell a story of their own.

With so much to see, talk about, and count, on every page, One Family is a fantastic book to add to school, classroom, and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015 | ISBN 978-0374300036

Find a gallery of illustration and other artwork by Blanca Gomez on her website!

Family Heritage Month Activity

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I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page

 

Filling in a family tree is a fun way to learn more about grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and where your family came from. Print this I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page then write the names or draw pictures of your family members in the hearts, and color the picture.

Picture Book Review

July 29 – Rain Day

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About the Holiday

Are you feeling a bit parched? Is the grass turning brown and the garden droopy? Would a rainy day be the perfect antidote? Well, today, wishing might just make it so! Throughout history people have relied on rain to nourish crops, fill up reservoirs, and cool things down. Rain is a crucial part of the ecosystem and a weather pattern that deserves its own holiday. So, no saying “Rain, rain, go away. Come again another day.” You can do that tomorrow!

The Green Umbrella

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Maral Sassouni

 

On a gray and rainy day, Elephant went out walking with his green umbrella. He met a hedgehog who hailed him and said, “‘Excuse me. I believe you have my boat.’” Elephant was perplexed, so Hedgehog expounded on his theory. “‘I crossed deep oceans on my boat and faced the crash of icy waves. I saw dolphins leap two by two and tasted the salty spray of whales. The stars were my guide and my boat a faithful friend.”

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Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This poetic travelogue did not convince Elephant of the umbrella’s provenance, but he offered to let Hedgehog ride along and share in its protection. The two came upon a Cat, who took one look at the green umbrella and recognized it as her tent. Hmmm…said Elephant and Hedgehog. It was true replied Cat, and she related how when she visited the woods to study plants and flowers, she would rest in its shade and drink a cup of tea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-bear

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

This story seemed no more plausible than Hedgehog’s, but Elephant invited Cat to ride along and share in its protection. As they continued on, a Bear approached, sure that they had his flying machine. “‘Your what?’ asked the Elephant, the Hedgehog, and the Cat.” The Bear got a faraway look in his eyes as he said, “‘I soared through clouds high up in the air and saw Northern Lights glimmer above rolling hills. I floated on wings free and far from the noise of busy towns below.’”

Well, Elephant could play this game too. The umbrella was his and his alone. When he was a child, Elephant said, the umbrella was his pirate sword, his tightrope balance, and his baseball bat. By this time the rain had stopped. Elephant rolled up his umbrella and said good-bye to the Hedgehog, the Cat, and the Bear. The three couldn’t stand to see their boat/tent/flying machine taken away, so they clung to the Elephant.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-tea-party

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

A moment later they met an old Rabbit. “‘I believe you have my cane,’” he said. The others thought he was wrong. But this handy stick, the Rabbit explained, had helped him climb pyramids, hike mountains to ancient ruins, and navigate dark caves full of treasure. Again the Elephant objected, but seeing the old Rabbit mopping his forehead, he opened it and shaded the Rabbit from the sun. The Cat offered to make a pot of tea, and the Bear and the Hedgehog helped lay out a picnic lunch.

Under the cool umbrella, the five “shared their stories, drank tea, planned adventures, and became fast friends.” From then on when it was sunny, they went “Sailing, Camping, Flying, and Hiking” together. “And when it rained they stayed dry under the green umbrella.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-friends

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2017. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Jackie Azúa Kramer’s multi-layered story delves into the large points and small nuances of relationships old and new. The Elephant’s green umbrella is both a subject of envy and a uniting object. It also serves to demonstrate Elephant’s ability to stick up for himself as well as his willingness to share. As each animal presents an imaginative and compelling reason why the green umbrella belongs to them, the Elephant rejects the story while accepting the friend. In each animal’s lushly described imagination, Kramer does a beautiful job of showing readers how each of these friends are similar. She reveals that while friends can have different opinions, they can still find common ground.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-green-umbrella-followers

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Maral Sassouni’s dream-like illustrations are both exotic and homey. Village houses give way to turreted and domed towers, and the imaginative stories the animals tell are accompanied by details as free, cozy, or eccentric as their tales. The Elephant’s account is cleverly rendered in sepia tones, showing the age of the memories and who the original owner of the coveted umbrella really is. The final images of the five new friends sharing adventures in the green umbrella are sure to delight little ones.

The Green Umbrella is a perfect book to share on rainy days or sunny days. With humor and creativity, the book provides an opportunity to talk about the nature of friendship and sharing with children. It would make an often-read addition to public, classroom, and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

NorthSouth Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735842182

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer, her books, and a fun book-related activity on her website!

Learn more about Maral Sassouni and her artwork on her website!

Don’t wait for a rainy day to watch The Green Umbrella book trailer!

Rain Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rain-stick-craft

 

Rain Stick Craft

 

The steady sssshhhhhh of gentle rain is a sound that never fails to relax. With this easy craft, you can create your own rainfall for whenever you need  to de-stress.

Supplies

  • Heavy cardboard tube
  • Aluminum foil
  • Wrapping paper or other paper 
  • Rice or popcorn – 1/3 to 1/2 cup
  • Paint (optional)
  • Paint brushes (optional)
  • Rubber bands – 2

Directions

  1. Paint the cardboard tube, let dry (optional)
  2. Cut the paper into 3-inch or 4-inch squares
  3. Cover one end of the tube with paper and secure with a rubber band
  4. Crumple and twist two or three long pieces of foil 
  5. Put the foil strips into the tube
  6. Add the rice or popcorn to the tube
  7. Cover the open end of the tube with paper and a rubberband
  8. Turn the tube end-to-end and listen to the rain

Picture Book Review

June 5 – Sausage Roll Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that party-platter and food-on-the-go favorite—the sausage roll, aka Pigs in a Blanket. Whether you make these with homemade sausage, full-size hot dogs, or tiny hot dogs, the flaky, buttery “blanket” makes it a little culinary luxury.  Why not bake up a batch for lunch or dinner tonight and serve them with your favorite sides? 

Pigs and a Blanket

By James Burks

 

A cute piglet loves her blanket sooo much; her brother loves his blanket sooooo much more! Henrietta loves the way her blanket smells. Henry loves the way his blanket feels. Henrietta reads with her blanket, while Henry draws under his.

Henry also creates hills in his blanket to zoom his monster trucks over while his sister uses hers as a backdrop for the fierce dinosaur movie she’s filming. The movie-making gives way to dancing because Henrietta loves to pirouette with her blanket. But wait a minute! The trucks have just gone off-blanket!! What’s happening?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pigs-and-a-blanket-playing-with-blanket

Copyright James Burks, 2016, courtesy of jamesburks.com

And—“Hey!”—mid-twirl, that familiar green cloth suddenly becomes a cape catching the wind behind Henry’s superhero personae. One blanket between two kids? Henrietta tugs on one end: “Stop pulling on my blanket!” Henry yanks on the other end: “Stop pulling on MY blanket!!” The tug-of-war rages until “RRRIIIPPPPP!”

Henry retreats to one corner and half-heartedly pushes around his monster trucks on his part of the blanket while glancing over to the other corner where Henrietta has unenthusiastically resumed her movie making on her half. Maybe drawing and reading will be better. But no, not really. That separated blanket isn’t nearly as cozy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pigs-and-a-blanket-playing-with-toys

Copyright James Burks, 2016, courtesy of jamesburks.com

The siblings move a little closer and shyly smile at each other. Maybe they can make up. “I missed you,” Henrietta confesses. “I missed you more,” Henry answers, placing a red checker on the board she’s brought over. The day is brightening in their playroom scattered with toys and art supplies. And as night falls, the two have cleverly reunited just in time for sleeping.

James Burks’ charming Pigs and a Blanket captures perfectly the vacillating relationship of siblings. Kids will recognize and appreciate the sentiments in this simple, honest story. While this sister and brother have separate interests and quarrel over a shared blanket, the truth is they love being together, and when the blanket no longer binds them, they soon realize life is much less rich.

Burks’ illustrations of the piglet siblings are adorable and expressive, registering the fortunes and misfortunes of an afternoon of play with joy, consternation, regret, sadness, and reconciliation. The book’s design makes excellent use of the two-page spreads. The sister plays with her blanket on the left-hand page, while her brother plays with his on the right. The blanket ingeniously disappears into the center of the pages, creating a smart, Ah-ha moment when Henrietta twirls it away from Henry. Likewise, after the blanket is torn apart, the once full-page illustrations are replaced with mostly white space as the two kids play alone and disconnected. As they move to restore their friendship, the white space lessens until it is again filled with love.

Pigs and a Blanket would be a wonderful addition to any child’s bookshelf to be reread at those times when getting along with siblings—or friends—seems hard.

Ages 2 – 6

Disney-Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1484725238

Discover more about James Burks, his books, and his art on his website!

Sausage Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crescent-rolls-recipe-pillsbury

Crescent Dogs Recipe courtesy of pillsbury.com

Pigs-in-a-Blanket Recipe

These snack, lunch, or dinner goodies are easy-peasy—and tasty too! They’re also great for getting kids involved in the kitchen. The simple steps are just right for little hands. This recipe from Pillsbury can be used with full-sized hot dogs or with mini hot dogs.  

Remember: always supervise young children when eating hot dogs. Babies and toddlers without their back molars should avoid hot dogs. For children under 4 years old, hot dogs should be sliced into quarters lengthwise and then cut into small pieces. For Guidelines on serving hot dogs to young children visit Our Everyday Life.

Ingredients

  • 8 hot dogs
  • 4 slices (3/4 oz each) American cheese, each cut into 6 strips
  • 1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crescent dinner rolls

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Slit hot dogs to within 1/2 inch of ends; insert 3 strips of cheese into each slit.
  2. Separate dough into triangles. Wrap dough triangle around each hot dog. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, cheese side up.
  3. Bake at 375°F. for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Picture Book Review