June 11 – Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by Apriori Beauty in 2015 to recognize all those people who make life more fun, meaningful, joyful—more beautiful—for someone else. This can be done in so many ways. Spending more time talking with someone lets them know you care. Sharing your talent for baking, art, music, gardening, home repair, or any skill with a friend, family member, or coworker brings joy to them and you. Even just giving a smile to those you meet can brighten someone’s day. Making someone else feel good will make life more beautiful for you too!

The Color Collector

Written by Nicholas Solis | Illustrated by Renia Metallinou

 

A boy notices a new girl, Violet, at school. He knows what it’s like to be the new kid, so he waves to her as she sits on a bench alone, reading. She gives him a small smile—he thinks—but doesn’t say anything. He knew that Violet lived near him because they always “walked home the same way,” although he “was on one side, she on the other.” She was “always quiet. Always alone.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It was always the same until one day when the wind blew a red candy wrapper Violet’s way and the boy watched her pick it up and put it in her backpack. When she looked up, Violet saw the boy watching. “She looked at me,” he says. “She waved. Then her eyes went down and she turned the corner.” Now, the boy noticed how many things Violet picked up along the way home. “Bright blue cookie wrappers. Yellow pieces of paper. Green bottle caps. Red fall leaves. All disappearing into the gray backpack.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One day the boy crosses the street and asks Violet what she does with the things she picks up. Violet invites him to come see. They come to a brownstone and up a few flights of stairs, Violet takes him inside her home and opens the door to her room. “Here in her room, the sun comes to shine,” the boy says. “It reaches in and makes her glow. It makes her collection glow as well.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What the boy sees—on the walls, the ceiling, the door—is “her sky, her beach, her village” recreated from the wrappers, paper, leaves, caps, and other bits she’s found. “We came here for a better life,” Violet tells the boy. “I miss home, though. I miss the sounds and smells. And I miss the colors.” The boy tells her the mural is beautiful. Then Violet tells him stories about her village, the people there, and the ocean. The boy and Violet “sit and talk. Then laugh. Then talk some more.” The boy sees that Violet is not so sad or alone anymore, and he’s glad to be her friend. When he leaves, he and Violet wave goodbye and “smile the same.” One the way home, the wind blows a red leaf his way. He picks it up and puts it in his backpack.

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Poignant and honest, Nicholas Solis’s multilayered story touches on friendship, loneliness, new experiences, immigration, creativity, and how acts of welcome, empathy, and kindness can change perspectives and bring joy to life. Told from the boy’s point of view in short, straightforward observations, the story captures readers’ emotions and curiosity as they walk with him and Violet, waiting to see why the reason for her collection. As days and maybe weeks or months pass before the boy speaks to Violet, readers on “both sides of the street” (those who are hesitant to talk and share as well as those who would like to get to know someone better) learn that friendship takes time, patience, trust, and sincere interest. 

Renia Metallinou adds visual eloquence to the story with his gray- and dun-hued illustrations, which pick up increasing hints of color as Violet and the boy grow closer to Violet’s house and finally explode with vibrancy when she opens the door to her room. The first clue of the importance of color to the “new girl” is in her name, and to punctuate this fact, Metallinou gives Violet purple hairbands for her braids. As Violet walks home on a parallel track to the boy, purple tints the pots and flowers decorating the sidewalk, a woman’s purse, and her dog’s collar as if to show that Violet is already assimilating and contributing to her new community.

After she picks up the red wrapper, red flowers, and accents dot the next page, and after the boy describes the blue, yellow, and green items she finds, the trees gain red and yellow leaves, container gardens overflow with greenery, an orange cat watches a trio of red-bellied birds, and blue curtains hang in a downstairs room. But it’s when Violet opens her bedroom door that the real magic happens.

Readers are treated to one more two-page spread of suspense, heightened by the boy’s look of wonder and Violet’s proud gaze. Surrounded by light, Violet smiles. Her gray-and-white-striped shirt turns green and yellow, her brown skin glows with joy. Then readers turn the page and, like the boy, step into a sun-drenched coastal village with candy-colored buildings, lush foliage, a sparkling sea, and a woman – perhaps Violet’s grandmother – looking toward the horizon, maybe looking for Violet herself. Metallinou has made Violet’s mural a masterpiece of art, life, longing, and love. As Violet’s stories pour forth, she and the boy discover how to let their true colors show.

A beautiful and evocative story about the power of friendship, empathy, and kindness, The Color Collector provides a unique and highly effective way for kids and adults to talk about feelings of loneliness, homesickness, making new friends, opening up to others, and many other feelings kids experience. The book could spark meaningful art projects for classrooms and homeschoolers and would be an excellent addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111059

Discover more about Nicholas Solis and his books on his website.

To learn more about Renia Metallinou, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-initial-bookend

Initial Bookend or Decoration

 

Today’s holiday is all about making someone feel special. With this easy craft, kids can make a gift for a family member, friend, or teacher that shows them why they think the person makes the world more beautiful. And don’t forget to make one for yourself too!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block of the recipient’s first initial or both initials
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write words on the letter that you think best describe the person you’re giving it to
  3. Wrap and give your letter!

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You can find The Color Collector at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 18 – Centennial Anniversary of the 19th Amendment Ratification

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed a woman’s right to vote. Yet even as we commemorate this achievement, we must remain vigilant to protect our voting rights and access and teach children that most-important lesson – that every voice, every vote is important. Today’s book reveals the true story of that nail-biting vote for the 19th amendment while also keeping it’s eye on the future. For more information on the history of suffrage and to learn more about the brave women on the front lines of progress, visit the 2020 Women’s Vote Centennial Initiative website and Women’s Vote Centennial. You’ll find extensive resources, curriculum for middle school and high school students, as well as online exhibits, videos, and so much more.

The Voice that Won the Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History

Written by Elisa Boxer | Illustrated by Vivien Mildenberger

The year was 1920 and women were demanding the right to vote, just as they had been for the last seventy-five years. But all of their meetings, shouting, and signs were silenced. Men called the women “troublemakers” and “uncivilized.” Some men said it would “cause chaos” if women could vote, and others said “‘the only vote a woman needs is the vote to choose her husband.” There were even other women who thought women shouldn’t vote.

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Image copyright Vivien Mildenberger, 2020, text copyright Elisa Boxer, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But then there was Febb Burn from East Tennessee who had gone to college, become a teacher, and loved to keep learning. She was especially interested in laws and how they were made, and every year as she watched her farmhands head off to vote on election day, she wanted to be able to go too. Finally, she grew so tired of being “shut out of the process” that she wrote a letter to her son.

Who was her son? His name was Harry Burn, and he was the “youngest lawmaker in Tennessee.” As he read his mother’s letter, he watched out his window as people from across the country gathered to decide the fate of women’s suffrage. One round of voting had already taken place, and it had resulted in a tie. Thirty-five states had voted yes on the issue, but thirty-six were needed to make it a law. Harry Burn for Tennessee had been one of the “no” votes in the first round. Now in the second round, Harry Burn would be the deciding vote. A “no” would deny women the vote, while a “yes” would change elections forever.

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Image copyright Vivien Mildenberger, 2020, text copyright Elisa Boxer, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

“He knew that most of the people who had elected him hated the idea of women voting.” Many of them were even in the audience and were counting on him. He was, after all, wearing a red rose—”the symbol of keeping women in the home, and out of the voting booth”—in his pocket. When it came time for Harry to vote, all eyes were on him as he said “‘Yes.’” The officials thought he’d “made a mistake” or “gotten confused,” but he hadn’t. The suffragettes cheered and hugged.

Everyone wanted to know why Harry Burn had changed his mind. In answer, he pulled from his pocket the letter his mother had written urging him to vote for suffrage. Harry constituents were shocked and angry. They vowed to vote against him in the next election. The headlines in the newspapers said that Harry had ruined his career. But Harry already knew that. He knew that his vote would mean “giving up his seat in the Tennessee House of Representatives.”

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Image copyright Vivien Mildenberger, 2020, text copyright Elisa Boxer, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When interviewed for newspaper articles, Harry said that he had followed his conscience that all people should have the right to vote. At last the election was held, and Harry awaited his fate as all the votes were counted. Who would be the next Tennessee Representative? Harry Burn! “And no one was prouder than the woman who, without speaking a word, gave all women a vote.”

In an Author’s Note, Elisa Boxer talks more about the women’s suffrage movement, the courage to stand up for what you believe in, and the power of using the vote to voice your opinion. A timeline of significant events in the women’s suffrage movement is also included.

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Image copyright Vivien Mildenberger, 2020, text copyright Elisa Boxer, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

For anyone wondering about the power of one vote, Elisa Boxer puts all doubts to rest with her engaging recounting of this little-known true story. While Harry Burn’s vote took place 100 years ago, the courage he showed in standing up for his own conscience and in opposition to what was expected of him reverberates today. Boxer opens the story with a clear and meaningful definition of how a vote equals one’s voice, instilling in children who are learning to speak up for themselves in classrooms, on social media, and elsewhere the importance of voting when they come of age.

Her inclusion of quotes revealing the reasons behind opposition to women’s suffrage will be eye-opening. Her well-paced building of suspense going into the second vote and the aftermath will have kids on the edge of their seat and offers many opportunities to discuss the mechanisms of politics, expectations, and courage. Through her straightforward yet multilayered storytelling, Boxer presents two heroes for children to look up to: Harry, who put the good of the country and women ahead of his own career and Febb, who used her voice to make lasting change.

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Image copyright Vivien Mildenberger, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Vivien Mildenberger’s lovely, textured illustrations take readers back to the pivotal year of 1920, when vocal suffragettes faced their equally vocal opposition and Febb Burn, sitting on her front porch decided to write her life-changing letter. Images of politicians sporting yellow and red roses reveal the long tradition of color as an identifying symbol. An especially powerful spread comes after Harry’s vote as he walks among his angry constituents, all of whom shun him behind newspapers full of articles about the historic vote. The inclusion of the actual Febb Burn’s letter to Harry and a photograph of Febb give readers see and hear from this influential woman.

A stirring true story about the power of one person to make a difference, The Voice that Won the Vote is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 7 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110496

You can download a The Voice that Won the Vote Teaching Guide from Sleeping Bear Press here.

Discover more about Elisa Boxer, her book, journalism, and other work on her website.

To learn more about Vivien Mildenberger, her books, and her art on her website.

Meet Elisa Boxer

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Elisa Boxer is an Emmy-winning journalist and columnist whose work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, Inc., and Fast Company. She has always been passionate about children’s literature, and finds herself especially drawn to stories of unsung heroes like Febb and Harry Burn. The Voice That Won the Vote is her first book, and she hopes it inspires children to give voice to what matters to them. Elisa lives in Maine with her family.

Today, I’m excited to chat with Elisa Boxer about her timely The Voice Who Won the Vote, her work as a journalist, and the themes woven through all of her stories. Elisa also gives kids an intriguing writing prompt. And my blogging partner Jakki’s sons, Steve and Jack, are back with their questions too!

Steve asked: How did you find the letter Febb Burn wrote to her son?

Hi Steve! So glad you liked the book. The story of how I found the letter goes back to a couple of years ago when my agent, Steven Chudney, let me know that 2020 would be the 100th Anniversary of women getting the right to vote. He asked if I could come up with a picture book about it. I’ve always been drawn to stories of unsung heroes, so I scoured the internet for little-known figures in the suffrage movement. When I stumbled across the story of Febb Burn and learned that she was the mom who saved suffrage, I knew this was a story I wanted to tell! More digging led me to the online archives at the Knox County Library in Tennessee. These archives included the letter.

By the way, in case you haven’t seen it, here’s a link to the photo of the actual letter: http://cmdc.knoxlib.org/cdm/ref/collection/p265301coll8/id/699

I think it’s so cool to see the original papers that Harry received and read that day in the legislature back in 1920.  And to see Febb’s actual handwriting! Aaah! I tend to geek out over historical documents like this.

Jack wondered: How much research did you have to do?

Hi Jack! The short answer is: Lots. After I found Febb’s story on the internet, I read as many articles online as I could find. I also read several books about the women’s suffrage movement. I wanted more background information to put the story in context, and I also wanted to know more about the legislative session in Tennessee that led to Harry Burn tipping the scales and giving women the right to vote. I also enlisted the help of the Special Collections department at the University of Tennessee Libraries. One of the most exciting things they shared with me was a scanned version of Harry Burn’s personal scrapbook from 1920, containing newspaper clippings and headlines from his historic vote!

Jack and Steve would like to know: Is voting important to you?

Definitely. I started the book with the line: “A vote is a voice,” because I believe that voting is one of the most powerful ways we can have our say in society.

Hi Elisa! I read in your bio that even as a child you loved to write. In fact, if readers look on your website they’ll see a picture of quite a large group of books with covers written in crayon. I’m sure kids would love to know what some of those stories were about. Can you share a few of the ideas you wrote about as a child?

Sure! It’s fun to look back on those and see some common themes, like defying authority (You Can’t Catch Me, for example, about a girl outrunning her parents) and grief (I wrote The Kitten and the Puppy after losing my beloved dog). And then, there was a book about a dinosaur making friends with a little girl and moving into her house, which I think I wrote because I had just learned how to draw dinosaurs ;).

With your early interest in writing books, did you ever consider becoming a children’s writer or novelist before going into journalism? What was it about journalism that attracted you?

Even though I’ve loved reading and writing children’s books for as long as I can remember, I never really considered making a career of it. I wish I had followed that passion earlier. I’m 49 and my first book was just published. So if you have any interest in creating children’s books, don’t wait as long as I did! Although, having said that, I really do love print and broadcast journalism. My specialty has always been long-form journalism, which involves in-depth research, multiple interviews, and spending time crafting a story. A lot like writing nonfiction picture books, actually. A couple of years ago, I got sidelined with a severe case of Lyme disease. It hurt to move and breathe and I was basically housebound. So that’s when I decided to re-visit my childhood passion. I began dusting off old picture book manuscripts, revising them, and querying agents.

Your stories in print for newspapers and for television news have garnered many awards. What aspects of story do you infuse into each of your pieces? What do you like best about each medium?

(Blushing). I am always looking for the soul of the story. Even with straight news pieces, I want to find people and circumstances to bring those stories to life in a way that readers or viewers can relate to. The thing I like best is the same for each medium, and that is finding the point of emotional resonance, the subtext, the theme that will stick with the audience long after they put down the paper or the magazine or turn off the TV. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I love books so much: people pick them up again and again. Sure, you can save a newspaper or magazine article that resonates with you. But it’s not the same as that feeling of finishing a book, internalizing its message, holding it in your hands and knowing it’s yours to return to whenever you want.

It seems very fitting that your first published book is a picture book. What is it about Febb Burn’s story that you think is most important for kids to know?

I really want kids to know how much their voices matter. It’s so easy to feel powerless, especially given the state of the world right now. But I hope kids come away from the book realizing that one small act of courage, in the form of giving voice to what matters to them, really can change the world.

Vivien Mildenberger’s illustrations are so evocative of 1920. What was your first reaction to seeing your story illustrated? Do you have a favorite spread?

Aren’t Vivien’s illustrations amazing? I’m still blown away by them every time I see the book. When I first saw her work on her website, even before I saw her illustrations for the book, I knew that her old-world style would be a perfect fit for this story. And then when I first saw her preliminary sketches, I thought, WHOA, this is going to be even better than I could have imagined. Hmmm, it’s tough to pick a favorite spread. But I’d have to say the one where Harry Burn is looking out the window of the state capitol, watching the throngs of people arrive to witness history. She really captures the mood here. “America was on the verge of change,” the text reads. You can’t even see Harry’s face, but Vivien somehow managed to convey so much tension and anticipation in this spread. You can feel his inner struggle to do what’s right and follow his heart in the face of opposition.

What’s up next for you?

I’m super excited to say that I have several more picture books on the way during the next couple of years, all nonfiction. I’m also working on a chapter book and two middle grade books, one nonfiction and the other historical fiction.

As kids stay home and are schooled at home, it’s wonderful to see them interacting with the kidlit community. Would you like to give readers a writing prompt?

It really is so wonderful to be interacting with kids, their parents and their teachers. As for a prompt, I’d ask kids: With the world the way it is, what are the words, the scenes, the images, and the messages that would touch your heart? In other words, what is the book you need right now? Take one small step to start creating it. And then another…

Thanks, Elisa! It’s been wonderful talking with you! I wish you all the best with The Voice Who Won the Vote, and I can’t wait to read your upcoming books. I hope we’ll have a chance to chat again!

You can connect with Elisa on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter 

To order a signed, personalized copy of The Voice that Won the Vote, visit Print: A Bookstore.

19th Amendment Ratification Activity

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Get Out and Vote! Maze

Help the girl find her way through the maze to the ballot box so she can cast her vote in this printable maze.

Get Out and Vote! Maze | Get Out and Vote! Maze Solution

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You can find The Voice the Won the Vote at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound 

Picture Book Review

August 3 – National Grab Some Nuts Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate cashews, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and all the other nuts that flavor dishes and provide healthy snacks. Nuts are nutritious, providing a good source of vitamins, protein, fiber, and important minerals. Eating nuts on a regular basis can also help keep your heart healthy. So, grab a handful of your favorite nuts today and have a feast!

I received a copy of The Squirrels Who Squabbled from Scholastic, Inc. for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

The Squirrels Who Squabbled

Written by Rachel Bright | Illustrated by Jim Field

 

In the middle of autumn, “a flighty young squirrel, / Who everyone knew as / ‘Spontaneous Cyril’” discovered he hadn’t prepared for the winter. In fact, “he hadn’t a mouthful of food ANYWHERE.” Then he spied a closed pinecone in a tree across the way. But as Cyril planned how to nab this very last treat, “‘Plan-Ahead Bruce’ had his sights on the prize.”

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

Although Bruce had amassed a tower of nuts, seeds, berries, and mushrooms to get him through the winter, he decided he must have that last pinecone too. So while Cyril took off running up the tree trunk on one side, Bruce scrambled up around the other side. Their scrabbling shook the tree and dislodged the pinecone from its nook. “Both squirrels gave chase at a lightning pace. / This was the start of a wild, nutty race.” They called out: “it’s mine!”. . . “No, it’s not!” . . . “Yes, it is!” and other such talk as they rushed after the pinecone.

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

“It BOINGED over bushes. . . and flew through the air. / It BINGED on the nose of a slumbering bear! / It BOUNCED over boulders then came to a . . . / STOP.” There, high on a cliff, it balanced a moment then fell into the rushing river below. Bruce and Cyril dived in after it. Each were thiiiis close to grabbing it when a bird nab it instead and flew far away. Meanwhile, the logs they were rafting on drifted over a waterfall. As they plunged did they think: “They’d squandered their chances / to team up and share. / Would their nutty young homes / simply end in despair?”

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

As they passed by a tree, Cyril clung to a branch and reached out his hand to rescue Bruce. Soaked and exhausted they crawled to dry land. “Then Bruce looked at Cyril and… exploded in giggles!” He thought they’d been silly and that he was greedy to boot. He vowed that he’d change and that their skirmish would cease. He said, “‘We should celebrate—seeing / we’re both in one piece!’” And Bruce kept his word. From then on he shared his bounty with Cyril and all the animals of the forest because he’d learned that sharing with friends was the best thing of all.

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2019, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2019. Courtesy of Scholastic, Inc.

Kids will eat up Rachel Bright’s funny friendship story that bounces along at the pace of a flick of a squirrel’s tail. Her set-up to the action of the story is nifty with humorous and telling nicknames for the two squirrels and spreads that deftly depict their opposing lifestyle philosophies. Cyril and Bruce’s race through the forest, plunge over the waterfall, and daring rescue provide plenty of material for dramatic readings of Bright’s spectacular rhymes and rhythm. Her delectable vocabulary serves up comical squabbles, gripping suspense, and a heartwarming ending. Readers will eagerly join in on the rousing onomatopoeic rhymes. Bright’s message of camaraderie and what’s most important in life is always welcome and is well delivered. The story offers many opportunities for creative extension ideas.

Jim Field’s striking images of the forest in autumn—rendered in gold, red, orange and green with touches of rose—are fresh and peaceful. The sun-dappled vistas soon become an ironic counterbalance for the hilarious antics of Cyril and Bruce. The two rakish squirrels leap and bound through the forest, their speed portrayed with blurred backgrounds and their wrangling for the last pinecone pictured in tangled and grasping arms and legs. Cyril and Bruce’s  plummet over the waterfall is a vertical showstopper as is an illustration of the black bear among the birch trees. Get ready for repeat readings of the page where the pinecone ricochets from tree to rocks to the bear’s nose and lots of giggles when Bruce and Cyril make up. The final two-page spread of Bruce and Cyril’s feast shows friendship at its best.

Without a doubt, The Squirrels Who Squabbled is a book to add to home, classroom, and school libraries. It will be an often-asked-for favorite for story times all year ‘round.

Ages 3 – 7

Scholastic Inc., 2019 | ISBN 978-1338538038

Discover more about Rachel Bright and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jim Field, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Grab Some Nuts Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squirrel-maze-puzzle

Pinecone Bird feeder

 

These two squirrels are after all the nuts they can find! Can you help one squirrel pick up nuts while scampering through the maze to her friend in this printable puzzle?

A Feast of Nuts! Maze Puzzle| A Feast of Nuts! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-squirrels-who-squabbled-cover

You can find The Squirrels Who Squabbled at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshhop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

February 3 – It’s Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week

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About the Holiday

This week was established to raise awareness and promote literacy and the joys and benefits of reading. During the week, children’s authors and illustrators attend special events at schools, bookstores, libraries, and other community centers to share their books and get kids excited about reading. To learn more about how you can instill a lifelong love of learning in your children, visit ChildrensAuthorsNetwork!

I received a copy of What’s Up, Maloo? from Tundra Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to partner with Tundra in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

What’s Up, Maloo?

By Geneviève Godbout

 

Maloo is a little kangaroo with an especially hoppy spring in his step. But one day he feels grounded. Instead of hop, hop, hopping to see his friend, he takes “One step. Two steps, Three steps.” Wombat immediately notices that something’s amiss and asks, “What’s up, Maloo?” She brings him inside her cozy den and gives him a slice of pie. While she slides another treat into the oven, Maloo sits forlornly at the table, not touching his pie.

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Copyright by Geneviève Godbout, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

They go down to the river—“Four steps. Five steps. Six steps”—where Crocodile sees it too and asks Maloo what’s wrong. Perhaps a swim will cheer Maloo up, but he sits dejectedly atop his ball and floats with the current. The three go to see Koala. They all want to help Maloo feel better. They try giving him a lift with an electric fan, but the wind just knocks Maloo head over heels.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-up-maloo-den

Copyright by Geneviève Godbout, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Maloo’s friends stay with him, though––“ten steps…one hundred steps…one thousand steps.” They stretch out a blanket and fling Maloo into the air, giving him encouragement. Can he hop? Maloo falls…but springs up again. “Hop!” He floats down, but this time instead of feeling dejected, he’s looking up. Back into the air he goes. He descends, but something is rising up in him. Maloo jumps with a gigantic “Hop!” He smiles. Koala climbs on Maloo’s back while Wombat and Crocodile balance on pogo sticks, and they all “hop like Maloo!’”

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Copyright by Geneviève Godbout, 2020, courtesy of Tundra Books.

With her powerfully emotional images and spare text, Geneviève Godbout allows readers to identify with Maloo as he experiences a time of sadness and recovers happiness with the help of his friends. In her soft, earth-toned illustrations, Godbout provides many perspectives and good examples for children and adults to discuss. Having lost his hop, Maloo seeks out one friend, who engages another friend and yet another, showing children the reassurance and help available by reaching out and having a supportive network. Maloo’s friends are also sensitive to Maloo’s mood, encouraging readers to pay attention to and acknowledge changes they may see in their friends and family. As readers count Maloo’s steps, they’ll see that sometimes the road back to feeling happy can be long, but that good friends stick with you no matter what or how long it takes. They also learn that asking for help starts with one step.

A moving and accessible resource for parents and caregivers to talk with their children about the ups and downs of life and the emotions of sadness and depression, What’s Up, Maloo? is a valuable addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0735266643

To learn more about Geneviève Godbout, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Geneviève Godbout

Born and raised in Quebec, Geneviève Godbout studied traditional animation in Montreal and at the prestigious Gobelins school in Paris. She is the illustrator of a number of books for children, including The Pink Umbrella, When Santa Was a Baby, Kindergarten Luck (Chronicle), and Joseph Fipps (Enchanted Lion). Some of her clients include The Walt Disney Company, Chronicle, HMH, Flammarion, Bayard, Les éditions Milan and La Pastèque. She also works for clothing designers like Nadinoo and Mrs. Pomeranz, creating illustrations and prints for their collections. Connect with Geneviève on her website.

Congratulations on What’s Up, Maloo, your debut picture book as both author and illustrator! Can you talk a little about the journey you’ve taken with this book?

Thank you! I never expected to be an author, but one day I woke up with the feeling I should write my own story about depression. I pictured this little kangaroo that lost his hop and told my French publisher (La Pastèque) about it. The whole creative process was natural, yet I felt incredibly insecure about my own capacities. But once published, we had such a fantastic response that I’m now working on a sequel with the little crocodile! 

What was your inspiration for this story and why this subject is important to you? What do you hope children will take away from your story?

I was inspired by my own experience of depression. I wanted to say that it’s ok to go through tough times and emphasize the importance of being surrounded without judgement. We should feel safe to confess our feelings to a friend. We don’t have to go through this alone. 

Your illustrations of Maloo feeling sad and losing the spring in his step are touching and instantly recognizable for children. How can adults use the book to talk with their children about the strong feelings of sadness and depression from multiple viewpoints, including the sufferer themselves and their friends?

I chose not to mention why Maloo lost his hop so that kids and adults can fill the gap in the text with their own experience. Maloo’s friends are sweet and full of empathy. I pictured this book as a comforter rather than a sad story. 

You’ve brought iconic characters Anne of Green Gables and Mary Poppins to books for the youngest readers. What are the challenges and joys of working with these beloved characters?
It was quite an intimidating challenge. These characters are so loved by readers (and myself!) that everyone has their own expectations of what they should look like. For instance, Mary Poppins is dramatically different in the original books by P.L. Travers from the Disney movie. But when we think about Mary Poppins, most people picture Julie Andrews, not a severe looking lady with very tall feet. With that in mind, I tried to find my own way of drawing both Mary Poppins and Anne Shirley. It was such an exciting opportunity, I reminded myself to have fun during the creative process without anticipating the public response too much. 

From characters’ round, expressive eyes, rosy cheeks, and sweet grins to animated action punctuated with humor to your gorgeous colors, your picture book illustrations are truly distinctive. How did you develop your signature style?

A style is the expression of one’s sensitivity and creativity. Mine evolved throughout the years as I gained experience and technique. And for some reason, I chose the most time-consuming medium: color pencils! I have always loved them. They’re delicate and precise. My background in traditional animation also has a huge part in the way I draw today. Everything is about movement and expressive posing. 

What do you love best about creating books for children?

I love the idea of touching people and offering them a safe bubble where they can smile and relax. There is nothing better than hearing a child or an adult say they love to curl up in bed with one of my books. 

You went to school in Paris, you’ve worked in London, and now you live in Montreal. Could you name one of your favorite places in each city and tell why you love it?

I was lucky to live in such fabulous and inspiring cities. I loved to get lost in Paris and walk by the Thames river near Hammersmith in London. Each time I go back, it feels a bit like home. As for Montreal, I think it’s the best place in terms of quality of life and I love the contrast between the seasons!

What’s up next for you?

I’m working on a couple of exciting projects including a sequel for What’s up, Maloo? and a third book in the Anne series. I’m kind of booked for the next year or so with Harper Collins, Random House, Comme des Géants, and perhaps Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, but I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say at this stage! 

Thanks, Geneviève! It was wonderful chatting with you. I’m really looking forward to seeing the sequel to What’s Up, Maloo? and all of your upcoming books!

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You can find What’s Up, Maloo? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

January 1 – Z Day

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About the Holiday

On this first day of the year it seems fitting to let the last letter of the alphabet shine. Today all of those with last names that start with Z get to move to the front row and the front of the line! You might get creative with your celebrations and eat only foods that start with Z—ziti and zucchini sound good, buy a zipper or something zany, read a zine about zombies, and of course go to the zoo to see the zebra!

AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First

Written by Alethea Kontis | Illustrated by Bob Kolar

 

The letter A stands on a little pedestal holding aloft an apple. “A is for app—,” she starts, but is suddenly interrupted by Z, who states, “Zebra and I are SICK of this last-in-line stuff! This time we want to go first!” Y is all for this change and wants to give it a try. Z jumps on the pedestal, and with pride and a prop reveals, “Z is for zebra.” Next up is Y and with her knitting on her lap says, “Y is for yarn.” Although X is a bit wrapped up in Y’s craft, he still manages to plonk out, “X is for xylophone.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, text copyright Alethea Kontis, 2012. Courtesy of candlewick.com

W spouts off that “W is for whale, and P, lounging in swimming ring, is happy to tell you that P is for penguins as two of the little fellows toddle nearby.” Wait a minute! P doesn’t come after W…or is it before W? Hmm…This is getting confusing. V wants her rightful place and confronts P, but P brings up the point that no matter how the alphabet runs, some letters “are still stuck in the middle.” N agrees, and M takes off running “closer to the end, just to mix it up a bit.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

A is perturbed by this whole state of affairs, but Z is excited. O takes over with “owl,” and N flies off in the “night.” H takes the spotlight with a tall stack of hats while G waits in the wings whispering, “H, dear, it’s not our turn yet!” A is now fuming. H, however, is happy with her usual lot in life, and R, leaning on her rainbow-colored umbrella, agrees. Z is jumping! “Go wherever you want! Just hurry up, or we’ll never get to the end.” S rushes off to be ready for the page turn where he wrangles a snake above his head. I is chased by insects, V plays the violin, and J runs away with a jack-o’-lantern.

E blasts off toward Earth, where “F is for flowers. And fairies.” Hold on there a minute! V is upset: “Hey, I didn’t get to pick two things. I think I should get another turn.” X, on the other hand seems ok with it because he doesn’t “have much to choose from.” All this fuss is making Z crazy. He just wants things to move along.

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

Ok, then…the next letters get in line. “T is for taxi and train. L is for lemons and lollipops. K is for kangaroo and kites. And C is for cat and canary in cages.” V is back, inserting and asserting herself with a vacuum in hand, a volcano in the background, a vulture lurking, and valentines scattered about. But Z yanks her away as G says, “Ooh, V is for violence.”

R gets his chance to pop open his umbrella, D fights a dragon, and G frolics with a great gorilla. B gets a bevy of words that make a big mess. M dashes away from a monster, and Q is queen for the day. And that’s that, right? Is it? It’s kind of hard to tell. Z shouts through a megaphone, “Has everyone had their turn?” No! It seems U has been in the bathroom since P.

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, text copyright Alethea Kontis, 2012. Courtesy of candlewick.com.

U is uncertain whether the other letters still want her, but they usher her to the podium. Finally, it is A’s turn, but where is she? “Yikes!” exclaims Y and it’s easy to see why. A has been rounding up the words! Twenty-two of them, in fact—23 if you count “and.” The other letters cheer, and Z says he’s sorry for being bossy, to which A says, “apology accepted.”

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2012, courtesy of bobkolarbooks.com

Alethea Kontis’s classic alphabet romp is a hilarious, personality filled celebration of the 26 letters that compose our language. As Z’s mixed up experiment goes awry, the letters’ sassy and squabbling comments make for laugh-out-loud reading. Sly wordplay adds to the fun, making this an alphabet book that older kids will enjoy as well. Subtle lessons on cooperation, teamwork, acceptance, and inclusion give readers of AlphaOops: The Day Z Went First lots to discuss while enjoying the show.

Bob Kolar’s bold, bright, and enthusiastic letters nearly pop off the page. Their expressive eyes and mouths display their excitement, distress, pride, and other emotions as the status quo is shaken up by Z. As each letter gets their turn, Kolar infuses the page with visual puns. For example, I is being chased by “insects,” that also happen to be bees (Bs?). His clever choices of nouns allow for discussion of other forms of the words too—as when S juggles a snake that…well…snakes above him. Kids will love lingering over the illustrations to find all of the jokes and letter-related images and to make sure that all of the letters get their due.

AlphaOops! The Day Z Went First is so much more than an alphabet book. Adding it to any child’s bookshelf will suit them to a T.

Ages 3 – 8

Candlewick, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763660840

To discover more about Alethea Kontis and her books for kids and older readers as well as book-related activities, visit her website!

Find a gallery of picture book art, personal art, and other projects by Bob Kolar on his website!

Z Day Activity

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Zing! Goes My Heart Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the 20 words that begin with the letter Z in this printable heart-shaped Zing! Goes My Heart Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Alpha Oops! The Day Z Went First at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 7 – It’s Root Vegetables and Exotic Fruits Month

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About the Holiday

With all the special baking, cooking, and dining that takes place this month, it’s a good time to celebrate some staples of our diets as well as some unusual ingredients. Root vegetables, such as potatoes, onions, yams or sweet potatoes, celery root, turnips, and parsnips make meals homey and delicious, while exotic fruits, such as persimmon, dragonfruit, sapodilla, durian, and jackfruit, make for special and festive sides and desserts. This month try some new recipes that highlight two nutritious ingredients.

Potato Pants!

By Laurie Keller

 

Potato is so excited that Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store is selling potato pants that he’s doing a little dance—the robot, which he calls the “po-bot,” of course! He dances all the way to the store where potatoes are pouring in from all over and even delivered by Spud Bus, Tater Taxi, and Tuber Uber. They’re all rushing to Lance Vance’s because the sale is “Today Only” and “once they’re gone, they’re gone.” Potato knows just want he wants “…a stripey pair just like the ones in the window with stripey suspenders for added stripey-ness.”

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Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

But then, through the window, Potato spies an eggplant—and not just any eggplant. It’s the same eggplant who, in his hurry to Lance Vance’s for the eggplant pants sale yesterday, ran into Potato and knocked him into a trash can. Now, Potato worries, “If he sees me in Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store, he’ll push me again—and ruin my brand-new potato pants!” All Potato can do is watch from outside as all the other potatoes find just the pants for them.

He finally thinks to call the grocery store. Since they have potatoes, they just might carry potato pants too, he reasons—and he could avoid that eggplant altogether. But the grocery store doesn’t have potato pants, spud slacks tater trousers, or even yam chaps, so Potato has to think of another way to get his pants while avoiding the eggplant. And time is running out. “There’s only one pair of pants left on the rack.”

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Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The dire situation emboldens Potato. He barrels toward the store and bursts through the door knocking Eggplant aside and ripping his new eggplant pants. Potato is too late anyway; the last pair of potato pants has just been sold. Potato is steamed and he lets loose with a tirade about how “that eggplant ruined everything” and how “he has brand-new perfect eggplant pants” while Potato has nothing and how unfair it all is.

Just then another spud points out that Eggplant’s pants aren’t perfect anymore since Potato tore them. Now Potato is scared as Eggplant gets right in his face and tells him that the only reason he was at Lance Vance’s in the first place was to…turn Potato into mashed potatoes? the spud wonders…apologize for pushing him. Eggplant is hoping that Potato will forgive him.

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Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Potato agonizes over this dilemma and finally decides to…forgive him and offer his own apology for tearing Eggplant’s pants. At that, the store clerk appears to tell Eggplant they can fix his pants and that Potato can have the stripey potato pants in the window. Both Eggplant and Potato are so happy they leave the store doing the po-bot and the egg-bot in their perfect new pants.

An Author’s Note introduces kids to the creator of potato pants—Tubérto—and unveils his latest collection of pants for “both the active and the couch potato.”

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Copyright Laurie Keller, 2018, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A laugh-out-loud, tongue-tickling read aloud, Laurie Keller’s Potato Pants! is silliness at its best with lots of heart to boot. Keller’s clever mix of narration and dialogue draw kids into the mind of Potato as he bounces from the excitement of possibly getting stripey pants to the fear of facing his nemesis to the disappointment of missing the sale to plucking up the courage to forgive and apologize to Eggplant. Speech bubbles bring these dapper spuds to life as they negotiate the racks at Lance Vance’s Fancy Pants Store (adult readers should be prepared to read that name over and over!).

Keller’s bright, mixed-media (including potato stamps) illustrations are full of action, dynamic perspectives, and a community of potatoes and yams as delightfully bumpy, lumpy, and unique as those seen at any grocery store or farmers market. Kids will love picking out their own favorite potato pants from Tubérto’s fabulous collection, and you can bet they’ll jump up to do the Po-bot dance too.

Fun for all, Potato Pants! will inspire many tuberific story times at home, in the classroom, and at public and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-1250107237

To learn more about Laurie Keller, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Root Vegetables and Exotic Fruits Month Activity

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Veggie Dot to Dots

 

You can dig up some fun with these three printable root vegetable dot-to-dot coloring pages.

Carrot Dot-to-Dot | Onion Dot-to-Dot | Radish Dot-to-Dot

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You can find Potato Pants! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review