November 8 – Young Readers Day

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About the Holiday

Falling each year on the first Tuesday in November, Young Readers Day highlights all of the benefits that babies, kids, tweens, and teenagers reap by reading and being read to. The holiday celebrates parents, teachers, and other caregivers who make sure that children are connected with books that capture their minds and hearts and lead to a lifetime love of reading. People are also encouraged to stop by their local bookstore and let their kids pick out a new book to enjoy.  Today is also National STEM/STEAM Day, which aims to get kids exploring the fields of science technology, engineering, art, and math – subjects that are the backbone of discovery and the type of innovation needed to design a better future for us all. Today’s book incorporates both of these holidays! 

Count on Us! Climate Activists from One to a Billion

Written by Gabi Snyder | Illustrated by Sarah Walsh

 

In her book aimed at inspiring children to discover what they can do to help protect and care for the environment, Gabi Snyder invites them to count the ways they can help and travel through the alphabet, beginning with “1 Action. One small person taking one small step towards Big changes.” But that one action and one person don’t need to stand alone. Snyder shows kids how a single expression of caring for the environment can influence a growing number of people to engage with conservation in diverse ways.

Counting from one to ten, Snyder demonstrates how small groups of people of varying generations can start to come together to “grow a movement” and come up with “inspiring ideas” while also introducing “5 Environmentalists” who are working around the world “to protect nature from being harmed by human’s waste and pollution” and “8 Healthy Habitats” from mountains to jungles to the ocean, and more.

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Image copyright Sarah Walsh, 2022, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2022. Courtesy of Barefoot Books.

After the number 10 is reached, Snyder begins counting by tens, and readers see how quickly the environmental movement can grow. Now “20 Kids for conservation” are planting gardens, picking up litter, riding bikes, and rescuing animals harmed by pollution, while 30 light bulbs have been replaced by energy-saving LED bulbs. And remember those 20 kids? They’re now part of “40 Mighty Marchers” carrying the banners made at number 2.

The “5 environmentalists” and “8 habitats” have spawned dozens of places and species that are being protected as well as products that can be recycled or repurposed and ways science can help. From 100, the number of those involved explodes exponentially to 1,000… 10,000…100,000… all the way to one billion with all those people doing what they can, described from T through Z, to make the world a cleaner, safer, and healthier place for all.

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Image copyright Sarah Walsh, 2022, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2022. Courtesy of Barefoot Books.

Four pages of back matter discuss in more depth the definition of Activism and why it’s so important for people to come together to voice their opinions on climate change and protecting our planet. Snyder provides two examples of young activists who are making a difference in different ways that are most meaningful to them. She then invites readers to do some thinking about what issues they care most about.

Snyder also provides short bios of the five environmentalists she introduced earlier in the story. At number 9 Snyder mentions “Inspiring Ideas,” and here she goes into more depth on each one that is pictured on the page. She finishes up by giving kids and adults a week’s worth of thoughtful ideas on how they can make an impact in their own home and community.

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Image copyright Sarah Walsh, 2022, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2022. Courtesy of Barefoot Books.

Gabi Snyder’s eye-opening book gives kids an idea of how important individual as well as group actions are in the movement to protect the earth from climate change while empowering them with specific examples of good ideas for combating the dangers our planet faces. Sharing Count On Us! with kids offers teachers, homeschoolers, clubs, and other organizations many opportunities for discussion, research, and the type of activism required to make a difference.

Sarah Walsh’s striking illustrations will capture children’s attention with depictions of friendship, cooperation, and the kind of growing enthusiasm that fuels real change. As the pages become more and more crowded with activists, readers will understand that not only are increasing numbers of people needed, but also more ideas and more helping hands. Adults can use Walsh’s images as jumping off points to get children talking about and/or drawing the various habitats, native plants and animals, and threats to the environment in their area and even devising solutions or inventions to help.

Count on Us! Climate Activism from One to a Billion would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries to inspire and energize environmental involvement and change.

Ages 4 – 9 

Barefoot Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1646866243

Discover more about Gabi Snyder, her books, and where to   on her website.

To learn more about Sarah Walsh, her books, and her art on her website.

Young Reader’s Day Activity

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We Love to Read! Maze

 

Help the kids pick up books and find their way through the library in this printable maze.

We Love to Read! Maze Puzzle | We Love to Read! Maze Solution

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You can find Count on Us! Climate Activists from One to a Billion at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support you local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 29 – It’s National Ice Cream Month

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About the Holiday

Ice cream has a long and elite history, dating back to Ancient Greece when a rudimentary version of the confection was made of snow, honey, and fruit. It wasn’t until the 16th century, when Catherine de’ Medici introduced the treat again, that a true ice cream was created. One hundred years later, Charles I of England used his royal clout to proclaim ice cream the prerogative of the crown. He paid to keep the recipe secret and forbid the common people from eating it. He and future royals must have known a thing or two about proprietary information, as the first recipes for ice cream were not recorded until the 18th century.

This favorite dessert received its true recognition in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan established July as National Ice Cream Month. Today, indulge in your favorite flavor or sundae!

The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Revolution

Written by Lisa Robinson | Illustrated by Stacy Innerst

 

When you think of ice cream, does your mind immediately go to vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Or maybe you think a little fancier, like mint chocolate chip or fudge swirl. But there’s a whole other menu to choose from: “What about Wavy Gravy, Truffle Kerfuffle, or Chubby Hubby? What’s the scoop on those wacky flavors?” If you’re sweet on ice-cream, you’ll want to keep reading to find out!

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It all started back in 1963 with two friends—Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield—who loved to eat. And they especially loved to eat ice cream. When they were in high school, Ben got a job driving an ice cream truck, and Jerry rode along to help scoop and tell “goofy jokes.” When they graduated, Ben and Jerry went off to different colleges and pursuits, but their careers didn’t turn out the way they planned. 

They were both feeling pretty down until they got together and decided to start a business together—a business where they’d be their own bosses and have fun. Since they both loved to eat, they first thought about a bagel delivery business, but it turned out to be too expensive. Then they thought about how much they loved ice cream and discovered that making it was much less expensive than making bagels.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Next, in Vermont, they found the perfect place to open shop and began fixing it up (it needed a lot of work!). But when they got to the plumbing job, Ben and Jerry didn’t have enough money to pay the plumber. That’s when Jerry had a brilliant marketing idea that the plumber jumped on. With the shop (and the plumbing) out of the way, Ben and Jerry began tinkering with their ice cream recipe.

“Teamwork was the answer. Jerry, the scientist, experimented with cream, milk, sugar, and eggs for the ice cream base. Ben, the artist, crafted clever combinations of chocolate, caramel, and cookies.” After a lot of trial and error, they hit upon the perfect combination of “rich, creamy, and chewy.” “Finally, on May 5, 1978, the doors of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream shop opened. And people came. Lots of people!” 

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Still, despite their success, there were still obstacles to overcome. One of the biggest was “making their flavors stand out” among all the others. They decided to give their flavors “cool names, like Chunky Monkey, Phish Food, and Dastardly Mash.” They even invited customers to submit ideas. And while most of Ben and Jerry’s flavors were hits, there were some clunkers among the batches. But Ben and Jerry knew how to make even these failures fun with the “Flavor Graveyard” that commemorates “dearly departed flavors” like Vermonty Python, Oh Pear, and Peanut Butter and Jelly.

As their ice cream grew in popularity, Ben and Jerry wanted to do more with their product. “They believed they could use ice cream to help make the world a better place.” They began with paying their workers well and moved on to inventing an environmentally safe carton. Their factory sported solar panels and they looked for ways to reduce waste.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

To draw attention to world issues, they created special flavors: “Save Our Swirled to promote awareness of climate change; Imagine Whirled Peace to demand an end to war; I Dough, I Dough to support same-sex marriage; and Empower Mint to call attention to the unfairness of the growing gap between rich and poor.” They donated profits to causes they cared about and “formed the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to support ‘social and environmental justice around the country.'”

So now when you enjoy your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, you’ll know that you’re also contributing to “making the world a better place.”

Back matter includes an Author’s Note, a Timeline, and a list of sources.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Lisa Robinson’s smooth-as-ice cream storytelling relates the facts of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield’s uplifting and inspirational career while infusing her biography with Ben and Jerry’s personalities with a conversational cadence and clever, but not intrusive, puns sprinkled throughout.

Standout aspects of the book include how, as young men, both Ben and Jerry used their disappointments as a springboard to a creative, satisfying, and influential career; how they found strength in their diverse but complimentary talents; and how they relied on their personal compasses to design a business model that is mindful of employees’ needs as well as important social and environmental issues. And Robinson does all this while making her book fun to read aloud and including a comical cow that pops up on several pages to tell kid-pleasing ice cream jokes.

Stacy Innerst’s watercolor and ink illustrations top off Robinson’s story like luscious whipped cream on a six-flavor sundae. Soft, yet vibrant each page spread pops with grape purples, pistachio greens, lemon yellows, and plenty of chocolate waves and swirls. Ben and Jerry are front and center on most pages, coming up with unique ideas to make their ice cream as iconic as Ben’s hat. Young readers will benefit from seeing how these two life-long friends have each other’s backs, whether its “scarfing down pizza” as teens, rising above discouragement after college, or repairing the old gas station that will become their ice cream shop.

Spying the adorable cow on a page holding a mic, riding a pogo stick, fixing an ice cream truck, and even hanging out with a skeleton, kids will eagerly anticipate each new joke. Seen through Innerst’s eyes, Ben and Jerry’s world is one where ideas are colorful clouds and clouds are shaped like ice cream cones. It’s a pretty sweet world we all get to live in.

Inspirational and uplifting, The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Revolution is an outstanding combination of biography, social activism, and the powers of positivity and creativity. The book would be a stirring and dynamic addition to home bookshelves and is a must for all school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Harry N. Abrams, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419748035

Discover more about Lisa Robinson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stacy Innerst, his books, and her art, visit his website.

National Ice Cream Month Activity

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How Many Scoops? Ice Cream Stacking Game

 

How many flavors do you like on your ice cream cone? If you say “All of them!” then this game’s for you! 

Supplies

Directions

This game can be played with as many scoops as you like. Younger kids may only want to gather three or four scoops before a winner is declared. Older kids may want to earn six or even more scoops before they’re done. 

  1. Print out one ice cream cone and one set of scoop playing pieces for each player. The number of playing pieces you need will depend on how many scoops players determine it will take to win.
  2. Cut out the ice cream cone.
  3. Cut out and color the ice cream scoop playing pieces in your favorite flavors (or make up your own flavors!).
  4. Color the scoops on the die. The scoops on the die must correspond to the colors on the playing pieces. If more than six scoops are needed to win, print and color two die with 12 different colors/flavors. Kids can roll both dice at once or one at a time until all the flavors are gathered.
  5. Tape the playing die together.
  6. Choose a player to go first. That player rolls the die and places the color scoop shown on their cone.
  7. Play continues to the left.
  8. If a player rolls a color/flavor they already have, they lose the turn and play continues with the next player.
  9. Play continues until one person has collected the number of scoop playing pieces decided on to win.

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You can find The Sweetest Scoop at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 28 – Endangered Species Act Day

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About the Holiday

The Endangered Species Act was signed into law in by President Richard Nixon on this date in 1973.  The primary law in the United States for protecting imperiled species, the Act protects critically imperiled species from extinction as a result of the consequences of economic growth and development undeterred by concern for conservation. The US Supreme Court called it “the most comprehensive legislation for the preservation of endangered species enacted by any nation”. The purposes of the Endangered Species Act are to prevent extinction and to recover species to the point where the law’s protections are not needed, therefore protecting diverse species as well as the ecosystems in which they live or depend on. Today’s book reveals the story of a National Park that provides a unique refuge for many rare and endangered species. To celebrate the holiday, learn more about how the Endangered Species Act affects your state.

Thanks go to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of A Voice for the Everglades: Marjory Stoneman Douglas with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

A Voice for the Everglades: Marjory Stoneman Douglas (Part of the She Made History Series)

Written by Vicki Conrad | Illustrated by Ibon Adarne and Rachel Yew

 

“Long ago a trickle of water / spilled from a lake / and formed a tiny stream.” The stream spread until it covered almost half of the state of Florida, creating a shallow lake that moved like a slowly running river – “a river bursting with wildlife, / whispering to the world / to listen, to notice, to discover its wonders.” Mangroves and cypress trees grow from the water, the soil fed by the cycles of growing and dying sawgrass. The water, trees, and grass attract a “rainbow of birds” that wade in the shallows, hunting for food. “These are the Everglades. / The wildest, richest, and most diverse ecosystem in all the world – / every plant and animal needing another to survive.”

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Image copyright Ibon Adarne and Rachel Yew, 2021, text copyright Vicki Conrad. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

But leaders and developers wanted to drain the water to create land to build on, land they could sell, land with which they could make money. They pumped the water out and built dams and drains to make farmland, but the farmland turned dry and burned easily. The animals and birds fled. The ecosystem was “desperate for a voice to protect them.”

When Marjory traveled from Massachusetts to Florida and saw the beautiful scenery, she knew immediately that this was her new home. She made a friend, Ernest, and together they spent time paddling a boat through the Everglades, “watching whirling wheels of white birds dance” and spying panthers, alligators, turtles, manatees, and more of the animals that lived there. Where other people saw a swamp, Marjory and Ernest saw “treasure.”

Marjory and Ernest wanted to do something to preserve the Everglades. They studied the map and the formation of the Everglades. Marjory called it “a river of grass.” Ernest wrote a bill for the United States Congress to consider, and “Marjory wrote a poem, / hopeful it would move Congress.” Although lawmakers did tour the Everglades and see its miraculous sights, the bill did not pass.

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Image copyright Ibon Adarne and Rachel Yew, 2021, text copyright Vicki Conrad. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Marjory decided to write a book about the area she loved, and in 1947 The Everglades: River of Grass was published. Her book helped people see the marvels that lived within the Everglades: “the manatee munching seagrass / protecting her calf from harm”; “the red-bellied turtle, / laying eggs in the abandoned alligator nest, / dry and protected from water.”; the only place in the world where an alligator and a crocodile live together.”

At last people began to take notice – and care. Their voices joined with Marjory’s and Ernest’s and Everglades National Park was established that same year. “Yet only one-fourth of the Everglades was protected.” Marjory understood that “all the ecosystems needed one another.” When plans to build the world’s largest airport on land that was part of the Everglades, Marjory, now eighty years old, established the Friends of the Everglades, and their three-thousand voices convinced President Richard Nixon to stop the building.

Marjory continued to fight for the Everglades, giving speeches and putting hecklers in their place. When she was ninety-nine years old, Marjory could be found chipping away at a concrete drain to restore the land to its former waterway. At 105 years old, Marjory was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Adults and children sent her letters thanking her for saving the Everglades, but Marjory knew there would always be more work to be done to protect this unique ecosystem.

Back matter includes an extensive, illustrated discussion of the Everglades ecosystem, the nine different habitats that make it such a unique area, and many of the plants, animals, birds, and fish that call it home. More on the life of Marjory Stoneman Douglas and her legacy as well as how readers can help the Everglades are also included.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-voice-for-the-everglades-national-park

Image copyright Ibon Adarne and Rachel Yew, 2021, text copyright Vicki Conrad. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

A compelling biography of a woman with vision and grit who took on a nearly impossible task and saved one of the world’s unique environmental treasures, A Voice for the Everglades: Marjory Stoneman Douglas will inspire young environmentalists and would serve as a captivating resource to begin studies about ecosystems, conservation, endangered and rare species, and many other topics revolving around nature science. Marjory Stoneman Douglas, whose perseverance, dedication, and voice still resonate today, continues to be a role model for children and adults alike.

Through Vicki Conrad’s lyrical text and light incorporation of a “This is the House that Jack Built” cadence readers see how people’s actions build on and affect each other – whether detrimentally (as the building plans; pumps, dams, and drains; and disappearing wildlife do) or beneficially (as Marjory’s and Ernest’s appeals to Congress, Marjory’s writings, and her continued advocacy do) and understand that once voice can make a difference. Conrad does an excellent job of portraying the beauty and uniqueness of the Everglades and giving kids a view of the many wonders to be found there.

In their vivid illustrations, Ibon Adarne and Rachel Yew depict the rich colors of the diverse flora and fauna found in the nine cohesive habitats, from the vibrant pink roseate spoonbills to the purple passion flowers to the elusive crocodiles and the breathtaking, fiery sunsets that blanket them all. Adarne and Yew also allow children to navigate the meandering waterways that weave through the mangroves and sawgrass in their slow, steady, and life-giving pace. The breadth of wildlife within the pages offer many opportunities for further learning and research at home and at school.

An enticing and educational look at one of the world’s most valued natural treasures – whose story and resources continues to influence nature studies and advocacy today – A Voice for the Everglades: Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a book that every school and public library will want to add to its collection and would be an inspiring inclusion for home bookshelves for nature lovers and homeschoolers.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807584965

Discover more about Vicki Conrad and her books on her website.

You can connect with Ibon Adarne on Twitter.

You can connect with Rachel Yew on Twitter.

Endangered Species Act Day Activity

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Everglades National Park Coloring Page

 

Travel to the Everglades and see the diverse wildlife that lives there with this printable coloring page!

Everglades National Park Coloring Page 

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You can find A Voice for the Everglades: Marjory Stoneman Douglas at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support our local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 2 – I AM TODAY Blog Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I’m thrilled to be a stop on the blog tour for I Am Today by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Patricia Pessoa. This season of giving is the perfect time to share this gorgeous book that reflects the desire of children to give their thoughts, talents, and actions to causes that are meaningful to them. If you’d like to follow I Am Today’s blog tour, see the graphic below for further dates and blogs.

I Am Today

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Patricia Pessoa

 

A child stands on the edge of the beach, letting the sea foam run over her bare toes. Below, a turtle wrapped in a strand of wire floats nearby, while in the background a factory belches smog into the air, and a pipe snakes over the dunes to the water, where it spills its industrial waste. As the child picks up the turtle and removes the wire, she states, “Grown-ups say I am the Future.” Then while releasing the freed turtle, she finishes her thought: “But I’d rather be the Now.” The child then makes her case, explaining that she’s ready to contribute in positive ways, having learned decency, fairness, and generosity from her family and other role models.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The memory of the turtle she saved stays with her—her one small act inspiring her to do more. She determines “if I see something isn’t right, / I need to take a stand! / Why wait to offer kindness? / Why wait to lend a hand?” While trying to go to sleep, the little turtle and a whole sea of fish and other creatures swim in her mind. Suddenly, she has an idea and gets out of bed. She writes note after note and folds each paper into origami turtles. She then goes to her window and releases them on the wind.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

The next morning, despite the rain, a crowd of children has gathered at the child’s door—all are holding her note. They and their parents and other adults, many carrying signs urging protection for the sea animals, march down the sidewalk and past the polluting factory to the beach. Living in that moment, they think: “The past is far behind us, / the future, well beyond. / There’s never been / a better time to listen… / …learn… / …respond!”

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

At the beach the group fans out across the sand to pick up debris, and a turn of the page reveals a clean beach and a newspaper containing a front-page article on the factory’s waste pipe that has been closed. “Someday I’ll be the Future” the child says, “But right now… / …I am Today.”

Illustrated instructions on how to make an origami turtle follow the story.

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Image copyright Patricia Pessoa, 2021, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2021. Courtesy of POW! Kids Books.

Children, having lived on our planet for only a few years, are all progress, moving forward, not looking back yet as each day they learn something new, develop another skill, break old barriers, and form unique opinions. So it’s no surprise that kids are concerned about what is happening today and how it will affect the future—their future and the world’s. In I Am Today, Matt Forrest Esenwine harnesses that power of wonder, confidence, and ambition that children possess and gives it a lyrical voice. Flowing with a rhythm as stirring as ocean swells, Esenwine’s story will resonate deeply within any child’s heart.

While Patricia Pessoa’s lovely illustrations depict a child concerned with protecting the ocean and its creatures, Esenwine’s text is universal and equally inspiring for any child and any cause. While recognizing the desire and ability of children and young people to bring about change, Esenwine also provides concrete ways that they can do so, from small gestures to larger actions, allowing all readers to feel included and important. I Am Today also presents a meaningful way for kids and adults to talk about causes that are important to them and ways that they can get involved.

With a warm, vivid color palette and fresh perspectives that allow readers to make some of their own deductions, Patricia Pessoa presents a lush landscape of a child’s family life, imagination, and ideas brought to fruition. Her images of the family’s picture wall and dinner time are full of heart and humor, and kids will enjoy lingering over the pages to catch all the action. Pessoa portrays the importance of saving the turtles and other sea creatures with clever imagery as the turtle appears in the bathroom mirror as the child brushes her teeth, swimming in the bathtub, and decorating the cup of water on her nightstand. Pessoa’s illustrations of the fish and other ocean creatures that fill the child’s mind are especially beautiful, as is the spread in which she sends her origami messengers out into the world.

I Am Today is an inspiring, uplifting, and motivational book that children will want to frequently revisit and one that families, classrooms, schools, and public libraries will want to add to their collections. The book’s beauty and message makes it a wonderful gift for any child on your list.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

POW! Kids Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1576879948

Discover more about Matt Forrest Esenwine, his books, and his poetry on his website.

You can connect with Patricia Pessoa on Instagram.

Check out these upcoming dates and discover how other bloggers are celebrating I Am Today

I Am Today Blog Tour Schedule

This year many books have been delayed from their original publishing date to a later time due to shipping and supply issues. The best way to support authors and their wonderful new books is to preorder titles from your favorite bookseller. I Am Today will be available January 23, 2022.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-am-today-cover

You can preorder I Am Today at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 14 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

From September 15th through October 15th National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” From business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment, Hispanic and Latinx Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. You can learn more about the holiday and find cross-curricular resources for classrooms and homeschooling, videos, exhibitions, and much more from the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, the National Park Service, the National Gallery of Art, the Nationla Archives and more to use not only this month but throughout the year on the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Without Separation: Prejudice, Segregation, and the Case of Roberto Alvarez

Written by Larry Dane Brimmer | Illustrated by Maya Gonzalez

On January 5, 1931 twelve-year-old Roberto Alvarez was happy to be going back to Lemon Grove Grammar School after the Christmas vacation. But when he got there “the principal told Roberto and the other Mexican and Mexican American children that they did not belong there.” He told them to go to the new Mexican school on Olive Street, and when they arrived, their teachers and desks were already waiting for them.

This had all come about stealthily after the school district’s board of trustees received a letter from the parent-teacher association complaining that “the Mexican children didn’t understand English,” which “held back the white students.” The letter also said that the “Mexican children were unclean and endangered the health of every other student in the school.” The board decided to construct a separate school—but without telling the Mexican parents, fearing “trouble.”

But as the Olive Street school was being built, Mexican parents understood it true purpose of segregation and instructed their children not to attend, but to come home. Most of the kids, including Roberto did as their parents told them. “That January morning the Olive Street School stood almost empty, except for two teachers, three students, and many unoccupied desks.” Roberto believed he didn’t need a different school. While his parents had come from Mexico, he had been born in California and spoke English as well as any of the white students.

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Image copyright Maya Gonzalez, 2021, text copyright Larry Dane Brimmer, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

The Mexican parents formed the “Comité de Vecinos de Lemon Grove—the Lemon Grove Neighbors Committee”—to talk about the situation. They knew the new school had not been built to “help their students learn the English language and American customs, as the school board and newspapers claimed.” The only deciding factor of which school a child attended was the color of their skin.

The Comité de Vecinos acquired two lawyers, and on February 13, 1931 “Roberto brought the situation in Lemon Grove to the attention of the California Superior Court in San Diego” by filing a law suit against the Lemon Grove School board of trustees. His lawsuit asked that the school district stop discriminating against the Mexican students and allow them to return to the Lemon Grove School. The school board falsely stated that the students’ strike was “organized by Mexico or by groups in Mexico,” and the president told a reporter he knew that the district attorney of San Diego was on the school’s side.

In fact the San Diego district attorney represented the school board in its dealings with the court, saying that the Olive Street School was for “‘better instruction,’” a claim that was different from the minutes from the school board’s summer meetings. He then went on to say that having a school in their own neighborhood was safer since they didn’t have to cross the railroad tracks. But Roberto wanted to go to school with all of his friends—”brown and white.”

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Image copyright Maya Gonzalez, 2021, text copyright Larry Dane Brimmer, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

The trial began on March 10, 1931 in San Diego. The lawyers for the school board insisted that the new school was to “benefit the Mexican pupils…not to separate” them. Roberto’s lawyers countered this with the minutes from the board’s summer meetings.

The trial ended the next day, and the decision was handed over to the judge. Two days later, the judge handed down his ruling. He stated that “in the eyes of the law the Lemon Grove School District had no power to set up a separate school for Mexican children.” On April 16, 1931, the judge’s ruling became official and the school board was ordered to immediately admit Roberto Alvarez and all of the other Mexican students “‘without separation or segregation.’” Roberto knew he had to stand up for what was right, and as he and the other Mexican students returned to school, “this time all were welcomed.”

An extensive Author’s Note, complete with photographs of Roberto Alvarez, his third- and fourth-grade classmates in 1928, Roberto’s mother, Lemon Grove Grammar School and its principal, and Roberto in 1999, reveals more about this historical event, the people involved, and the political and social atmosphere in the US at the time. Larry Dane Brimmer also discusses other cases of school segregation and follows up with the consequences for Lemon Grove principal Jerome Green and the successful career enjoyed by Roberto Alvarez as an entrepreneur. Resources used in researching the book are also included.

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Image copyright Maya Gonzalez, 2021, text copyright Larry Dane Brimmer, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Larry Dane Brimmer’s compelling history of this landmark case and biography of Roberto Alvarez and all of the students and their parents who stood up for equal access to schooling is instructive and empowering. The fact that this issue and similar others continue to roil schools, workplaces, and communities, makes Without Separation a vital resource to educate children and adults on system racism and how it spreads.

Brimmer highlights the courage, intelligence, and acceptance that children display and inspires them to lend their voices to change injustice wherever they find it. Brimmer’s clear and precise storytelling allows children to understand the actions and discussions involved in the school board meetings, neighborhood committee meetings, and the trial without losing any of the story’s emotional impact.

Maya Gonzalez’s lovely folk-art illustrations present stylized-yet-realistic depictions of the citrus groves, the school, and the courtroom. Fashions and décor set the time period while also appearing appropriate today. Another portrayal of universality is accomplished in Gonzalez’s two-page spread of the board of trustees’ meeting, in which she pictures the members sitting at a table with only their feet and upper body showing. Not only is this group representative of the 1930 school board, but of the “faceless” masses and committees that often drive policy today. Many images of the Mexican community supporting each other shows readers what can be accomplished when people work together.

An important book that will resonate with its target audience, Without Separation: Prejudice, Segregation, and the Case of Roberto Alvarez is a must-addition to any home, classroom, school, and public library.

Ages 7 – 10 and up

Calkins Creek, 2021 | ISBN 978-1684371952

Discover more about Larry Dane Brimmer and his books on his website.

To learn more about Maya Gonzalez, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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You can find Without Separation: Prejudice, Segregation, and the Case of Roberto Alvarez at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 11 – National Coming Out Day

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About the Holiday

The establishment of National Coming Out Day was inspired by the October 11, 1987 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, which drew 500,000 people and generated momentum for the movement for four months after the march had ended. During this time, more than one hundred LGBTQ+ identifying individuals gathered outside of Washington, DC. Rob Eichberg, who founded a personal growth workshop and Jean O’Leary, the head of National Gay Rights Advocates, proposed a national day to celebrate coming out and it was decided to create a National Coming Out Day that would officially begin on the 1st anniversary of their historic march. The holiday is now celebrated around the world. The day offers support and encouragement to those who are struggling with telling someone about their sexuality while urging family members, friends, educators, and others to listen with an open, loving, and welcoming heart.

Thanks to Joan Holub for sending me a copy of This Little Rainbow for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m thrilled to be teaming with Joan in an exciting giveaway of this book and more. See details below.

This Little Rainbow: A Love-is-Love Primer

 

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Daniel Roode

 

Joan Holub’s latest book in her THIS LITTLE series introduces preschoolers to eleven influential artists, scientists, sports figures, soldiers, activists, and politicians who are or were members of the LGBTQIA+ community. From the 1400s to today, these role models have been admired for their talents, opinions, and groundbreaking success in their chosen fields. Their courage has also contributed to a more open and appreciative society for all.

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Each featured profile is presented on a two-page spread. On the left side a rhyming couplet describes what the person is most known for, while on the right children learn a couple of facts about them in two or three short sentences. The book leads off with one of the most prominent painters, inventors, and scientists to have ever lived—Leonardo da Vinci. Readers learn: “This little rainbow / was a genius long ago. / He was a great artist / and an engineering pro.” They then discover that “Leonardo da Vinci painted the famous Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, and could paint with his left or right hand. He was also a scientist, inventor, and architect, who designed a flying machine!”

Moving on to the Jazz Age, little ones learn about Josephine Baker, “who sang and danced onstage,” refused to perform where African Americans weren’t allowed in, and spied on Nazis during World War II. Kids also meet computer scientist and code breaker Alan Turing; Harvey Milk, the first out politician “elected to public office in California. He helped pass an early rule for fairness in housing and jobs for LGBTQIA+ people.”

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Children will also be introduced to Sally Ride: “This little rainbow / launched a satellite / as the first female astronaut / on a US space flight.” Kids then learn that “Sally Ride helped design a big robotic art and then used it to launch communications satellites from the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1983.” Marsha P. Johnson, a transgender woman who, with Sylvia Rivera, “created a group called STAR to help homeless trans people,”

Singer Freddie Mercury, Gilbert Baker and Daniel Quasar, who designed today’s rainbow flags; tennis pro Martina Navratilova; and Shane Ortega, who “was the first person to openly transition during active duty” and “now speaks out for fair rules for all people,” are also represented in these pages.

Following these profiles, a two-page spread provides portraits and information on fifteen other LGBTQIA+ leaders from around the world as well as a glossary of twelve “rainbow terms.”

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Image copyright Daniel Roode, 2021, text copyright Joan Holub, 2021. Courtesy of Little Simon, Simon & Schuster.

Joan Holub’s inclusive introduction to people in the LGBTQIA+ community gives parents, educators, and other caregivers a meaningful way to share the work and lives of people who reflect perhaps their own family or a member of their family, their neighbors, friends, teachers, celebrities, and others. In positive, uplifting language, Holub provides a short history on the struggles, recognition, progress, and contributions of those who identified or identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community while instilling pride and hope in the future for today’s children.

Daniel Roode’s well-recognized illustrations for the THIS LITTLE series offer vibrant imagery of each person backed by a bold, easily identified setting that informs young readers about their work and personality. Each of the eleven featured portraits as well as the fifteen that follow give adults and children a great place to start learning more about these inspiring people.

This Little Rainbow, a Love-Is-Love Primer is a terrific addition to the THIS LITTLE series for all home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

Little Simon, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534475601

Discover more about Joan Holub and her books on her website.

You can connect with Daniel Roode on Instagram.

One Question with Joan Holub

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Joan Holub has authored and/or illustrated over 140 children’s books, including the Goddess Girls series, the Heroes in Training series, the New York Times bestselling picture book Mighty Dads (illustrated by James Dean), and Little Red Writing (illustrated by Melissa Sweet). She lives in North Carolina.

You can connect with Joan Holub on her Website and Twitter

Hi Joan! It’s wonderful to have this little chat with you! Your list of published books is truly incredible and inspirational for its length and breadth of topics. I can only imagine that you’ve always been an avid reader. Did you have a favorite place to read as a child? Do you still seek out a favorite comfortable place to read now?

When I was a girl, there was a willow tree in our backyard, and I loved how cozy and hidden I felt sitting beneath it, with its green canopy draped around me. It was my favorite hideout and place to read. My family had read a book called A Good Place to Hide, which featured a child hiding under a willow tree, and that fostered in me the idea of me doing the same. My favorite reading spot now is our back deck, which looks out onto trees, with a glass of iced tea beside me.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-little-rainbow-cover

You can find This Little Rainbow: A Love-is-Love Primer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

January 18 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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About the Holiday

Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrates the life and legacy of the man who dedicated his life and work to teaching—as Coretta Scott King once stated—“the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service” and led a non-violent Civil Rights movement to enact racial equality and justice throughout state and federal law. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, setting it on the third Monday of January to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on January 15. The holiday was officially observed in all 50 states in 2000. Today, learn more about the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. We still have a long way to go before there is justice and equality for all, but this year – even this week – gives us a new start. Look for ways you can offer help and hope.

Martin Luther King Jr. (Little People BIG DREAMS)

Written by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara | Illustrated by Mai Ly Degnan

 

“Martin Luther was a spiritual boy from Atlanta who came from a long line of preachers.” It was thought that he might grow up to be one too. One day, a White friend invited him to his house to play, but when his mother wouldn’t let him in, Martin “realized something terrible was going on.” He discovered that Blacks weren’t welcome in the same places as Whites. Businesses, transportation, and other public places were segregated, which meant there were separate areas for Black and White people. Martin and his friend even had to go to different schools.

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Image copyright Mai Ly Degnan, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Martin believed people should speak up when something is wrong. He decided that he would “fight injustice with the most power weapon of all: words.” As he grew up and went to college, he learned about ways people could peacefully protest things they felt were wrong. After he graduated, Martin did become a preacher in Alabama. On Sundays, he encouraged his congregation to make their voices heard.

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Image copyright Mai Ly Degnan, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

When Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus, Martin asked people to avoid taking the bus until the law was changed, and they responded. For nearly a year people walked and the buses were empty. Finally, segregation of buses ended. This was only the beginning of peaceful protests aimed at overturning the country’s segregation laws. Despite being attacked and arrested, Martin and his followers remained peaceful. Martin “knew that hate can’t drive out hate; only love can.”

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Image copyright Mai Ly Degnan, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

In a huge protest march on Washington DC, thousands of people assembled to hear Martin speak. His speech began with “four simple yet powerful words: ‘I have a dream.’” The next year, Martin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Little Martin’s words and dream still ring in your heart, and if you listen you can help make that dream “of a world where we are judged by our character, not by the color of our skin.”

A timeline of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, accompanied with photographs, follows the text.

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Image copyright Mai Ly Degnan, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara’s series of biographies for youngest readers are little gems that create a personal connection between the reader and the subject while presenting a clear overview of the person’s life and work. A highlight of the series is Vegara’s early focus on events in the subject’s childhood that changed their perspective and informed their later profession or influence and which will resonate with kids. Here, these include his family’s legacy, a forbidden friendship, and his discovery of the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi.

Vegara’s storytelling is simple and straightforward, presenting the facts of formative events in language that young children will understand but which never talks down to them. She highlights times when community members were instrumental in changing the laws of segregation, showing children that they too can affect change through their actions, words, and the way they treat others. She then leaves children with words of hope and encouragement on how they can carry on Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream.

Mai Ly Degnan’s stylized and sophisticated illustrations invite children to learn about Martin Luther King Jr.’s life through images they will connect with intellectually and emotionally. Kids will enjoy seeing Martin dressed up in his father’s robe that pools around his feet as he preaches to his friends and will not need words to understand the angry face and outstretched pointing arm of his friend’s mother.

Other events, such as Rosa Park’s arrest and the bus boycott are depicted from the community’s viewpoint, allowing children to be part of the audience or crowd. Other images, such as Martin’s arrest, a peaceful protest, and the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, give children and adults opportunities to discuss and expand on the text. Degnan’s final spread echoes back to the day when Martin was sent away from his friend’s house – but this time with acceptance – as a Black boy stands with his arm slung over the shoulder of his White friend as they stand in a diverse crowd of people.

Empowering and informative, Martin Luther King Jr.: Little People BIG DREAMS is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections.

The book can also be found as part of a boxed set Little People BIG DREAMS Black Voices, which includes biographies of Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks. 

Ages 4 – 7

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711245679 | Little People BIG DREAMS Black Voices, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711262539

You can connect with Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara on Twitter.

To learn more about Mai Ly Degnan, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Activity

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Martin Luther King Jr. Portrait

 

To inspire your dreams of a better future for all, c olor this printable coloring page and hang it in your room!

Martin Luther King Jr. Portrait 

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You can find Martin Luther King Jr. (Little People BIG DREAMS) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review Picture Book Review