July 29 – Rain Day

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About the Holiday

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

The Green Umbrella

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Maral Sassouni

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Maral Sassouni, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

NorthSouth Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0735842182

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

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

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

Rain Day Activity

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

 

Rain Stick Craft

 

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

Supplies

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

Directions

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

Picture Book Review

July 11 – Cow Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

While today’s holiday started out as a clever ruse to entice people to eat more chicken, it also gives us an opportunity to think about the world’s bovine citizens. These gentle animals deserve healthy and humane treatment as they provide our diets with needed protein as well as delicious treats. Cows appear in untold numbers of stories and songs for little ones, making them a favorite of young readers everywhere!

Prudence the Part-Time Cow

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

 

Out in the pasture swatting flies with her tail and lumbering along with the rest of the herd, “Prudence looked like a full-time cow.” But when she had a little time off from her bovine duties, Prudence “was a part-time cow.” While being milked she was a scientist, finding a book on the milking process “udderly amazing.” Salt licks were perfect blocks for architect Prudence’s wondrous structures. Engineer Prudence experimented with automatic lighting, even if the results were a bit electrifying.

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-farm

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

The other cows didn’t like it. They wanted Prudence to be more like them. She would never fit into the herd, they whispered to each other. Prudence fretted. She wanted to have friends and fit in, so “she decided to try to be like the others.” Dutifully, she went down to the pond for a little refreshment and was doing fine until… “she calculated the water temperature and wind speed. ‘Sixty-eight degrees and four miles per hour.’”

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-tree-huddling

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

The other cows were miffed, especially Bessie, who carefully made sure she had all her calves as she moved them along. Another day as the herd lazed under a tree, Prudence joined them, leaving only once to create a hat from an old wagon wheel, scrap of cloth, and piece of rope she found nearby. The other cows snorted, especially Patty, who jockeyed for a better position in the shade.

Even sleeping the same way as the others was difficult for Prudence when she had a brainstorm in the middle of the night. Spotz, the bull, was not happy with the noise she made with her latest invention. The herd had given up. Alone and sad, Prudence thought and thought of ways to make the others like her. Then it hit her! That night the barn rang with the sounds of her idea. But it wasn’t only one idea! When the herd woke and saw yet another contraption, they rolled their eyes. Until…

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-cow-power

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

Bessie saw the “cow-culator” Prudence had made to help her keep track of her calves. Patty was thrilled with the “portable shade tree” made from an umbrella, a saddle, and some dangly adornments. And Spotz thought his new guitar made from a shovel and fishing line was “gnarly.” Prudence was suddenly pretty popular! Even though “she knew she would always be a part-time cow,” she was happy to feel like a “full-time member of the herd.”

celebrate-picture-books-pciture-book-review-prudence-the-part-time-cow-happy-animals

Image copyright Stephanie Laberis, 2017, text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2017. Courtesy of Henry Holt & Co,

Jody Jensen Shaffer’s moooving and funny story of a cow with a scientific bent will delight kids. Little ones who think differently will empathize with Prudence’s wish to be herself while also fitting in with the herd. As the cows stand around in a pond and huddle under a tree, Shaffer offers a wink to the crowd mentality and peer pressure that can foster inaction and clone-like behavior. Prudence makes a gentle, but determined role model as a thinker who won’t be cowed by others’ opinions.

Stephanie Laberis’s cartoon-inspired illustrations of a herd of very distinct cows are a perfect accompaniment to this humorous story with a meaningful message. Prudence, with her fluff of pink hair, is happiest when fulfilling her creative visions. As the other cows disparage her efforts and isolate her from the herd, Prudence’s sad eyes and droopy tail and ears make the effect of their words obvious. Each page offers an opportunity for readers to discuss diversity, individuality, and what it means to be a friend.

Prudence the Part-Time Cow would be a wonderful addition to school and classroom libraries as well as to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Co, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627796156

Find out all about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and magazine writing for children on her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration and craft work by Stephanie Laberis on her website!

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craftMooo Mug

 

Milk—regular or chocolate!—will taste so much better in a Mooo Mug  you make yourself! 

Supplies

  • White ceramic mug, available at craft stores
  • Black permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Pink permanent marker or paint for ceramics
  • Brown permanent marker or paint for ceramics

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cow-mug-craft-back

Directions

  1. With the pink marker or paint, draw an oval shape for the nose near the bottom of the mug. Let dry.
  2. With the brown marker or paint, draw two angled nostrils inside the pink oval and color them in. Let dry.
  3. Color in the nose with the pink marker or paint.
  4. With the black marker, color the top tip of the handle where it meets the mug to make the tail.
  5. With the black marker or paint, draw two wavy lines on either side of the face starting at the top, angling toward the middle and returning to the bottom of the mug. Leave white space between the lines.
  6. Draw circles for eyes within the black lines. Add black pupils at the bottom of the eyes.
  7. Color inside the black lines and around the eyes to make the face markings.
  8. With the black marker or paint, make two or three splotches on the back of the mug.
  9. Let the mug dry and follow the directions for the markers or paint to set the color.
  10. Pour yourself a mooo mug of milk and enjoy!

Picture Book Review

June 30 – Social Media Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tek-the-modern-cave-boy-cover

About the Holiday

In 2010 the website Mashable established a special day to celebrate the popularity of social media. Since then social media has become even more a part of our lives. It’s great keeping up with friends, learning what’s happening in the news,watching silly videos, and making your opinions known. While unplugging often and living in the “real world” provides balance and a chance to relax, social media has changed the way we connect and interact with others all around the world—and that is something to celebrate. If you limit your time online, I appreciate your spending some of it with me!

Tek: The Modern Cave Boy

Written by Patrick McDonnell

 

There once was a Troglodyte cave boy named Tek. Well…actually, this might have happened yesterday. Tek was a normal cave kid except he never wanted to leave his cave. Even when his friend Larry the T-rex came by wanting to play, he stayed inside “glued to his phone, his tablet, and his game box.” At night the light of the stars was dwarfed by the “eerie glow” coming from Tek’s cave. His mom was mad at his dad for ever inventing the Internet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tek-the-modern-cave-boy-troglodyte

Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2016, courtesy of Hachette Book Group

“Outside, the real world was evolving, but Tek couldn’t have cared less.” During the ice-age? Tek missed all the winter fun. Dinosaurs? Tek only knew them as “Watchamacallitasaurus,” “Hoozdatasaurus,” and “Idontgiveadactyl.” Time was going by, and even Tek’s Larry, whose brain was “the size of a walnut” knew something had to be done.

Tek’s parents tried everything they knew to pull him away from his gadgets. “‘I need to light a fire under that boy’s butt,’ grumbled Tek’s dad. ‘Except I haven’t invented fire yet.’” Even the higher-ups in the tribe tried to get through to Tek, but he paid them no notice. Not even “Dora Duddly and her dinosaurs for a better tomorrow” could talk sense into Tek. But then Big Poppa, the village volcano, had a blast of an idea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tek-the-modern-cave-boy-eerie-glow

Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2016, courtesy of Hachette Book Group

“The eruption shot Tek and his phone, tablet, and game box out of his cave and into the sky.” When he crashed down to Earth he was “totally disconnected.” Upon opening his eyes, Tek wondered at the fresh smells, the warm sun, the bugs and flowers, the hairy elephant, and the hairy people. He thought the world was “‘Sweet!’” Tek rushed to find Larry and on the way stopped to kiss his happy mom and dad. He used some fancy footwork atop a round stone to wheel himself to Larry. Larry was thrilled to see him. The two spent all day playing with their friends, and that night they looked into the dark sky, imagining ways to “reach for the stars.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tek-the-modern-cave-boy-sweet-fresh-air

Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2016, courtesy of Hachette Book Group

On every level Patrick McDonnell’s Tek: The Modern Cave Boy is a delight. If you love wordplay, it starts on page one…no, before that—on the cover—with riffs on technology, kids TV, dinosaurs, and more. If you like time shifting, you’ll relish the prehistoric/modern mashup, and if you’re partial to laugh-out-loud illustration, you’ll want to get an eyeful of little Tek, full beard and all. This is one book that adults and kids will giggle over together even as it humorously pokes fun at our penchant for gadgets. Even the book itself is in on the joke, with a size and shape any tablet user well knows. The board book-thick covers give way to paper pages, reinforcing the idea of leaving technology behind to enjoy the outside world.

Tek: The Modern Cave Boy will quickly become an often-read favorite for both kids and adults and would make a welcome addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9 and up

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316338059

Discover more about Patrick McDonnell and his books on his website!

Social Media Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lol-coloring-page

Social Media Coloring Pages

 

Social media has a vocabulary all it’s own! Can you find the hidden texting abbreviations in these printable coloring pages?

Coloring Page 1 | Coloring Page 2

 

Picture Book Review

June 27 – It’s Effective Communications Month

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About the Holiday

Sure, body language can say a lot, but effectively expressing yourself in words and writing helps decrease misunderstandings, misinterpretations, hurt feelings, and conflict. Learning to handle important relationships and work obligations with thoughtful care, consideration, and empathy can take patience and practice. This month people are invited to work on their communications skills to enhance their life with family, friends, co-workers, and others.

The Bear Who Stared

By Duncan Beedie

 

Bear loves to stare…and stare…and stare. One morning he emerges from his den to find a family of ladybugs having a picnic breakfast. He can’t help but gaze at them intently. “‘What are you staring at?’” the daddy ladybug demands before he and his family pack up to find a more private leaf. Bear continues on his way. In a bit he climbs a tree and stares at a bird feeding her chicks. “‘Can I help you?’” the mother bird asks, but Bear remains silent. The chicks don’t like Bear interfering with their meal, so the mother bird angrily tells him to “‘sshhhooooo!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-interior-art-ladybugs

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

At the bottom of the tree Bear spies a badger hole and sticks his head inside. The badger, particularly irritated at Bear’s badgering stare while he is shaving, bites poor bear on the nose. Sore and dejected, Bear wanders through the forest to a large pond. He sits down on a log to ponder his situation. He doesn’t mean to be annoying, he’s “just curious but too shy to say anything.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-ladybugs-yelling

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

A little frog floating on a lily pad in the middle of the pond pipes up, “‘I’ve seen that look before.’” Bear stares at the frog and the frog stares back. “‘Not much fun being stared at, is it?’” he says. Bear confesses that he just doesn’t know what to say to anyone. Just then Bear catches a glimpse of another bear staring back at him from the mossy water of the pond. This bear looks exactly like Bear, except that he is green and wavy. Suddenly, the green bear smiles. “‘You see?’” says the frog. “‘Sometimes a smile is all you need.’” The frog dives off his lily pad into the pond, and the green bear disappears too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-interior-art-staring

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The next day Bear leaves his den and discovers the ladybug family breakfasting again. As soon as they spot Bear, they begin to gather their things. “‘Hello!’” Bear says with a big smile on his face. The ladybugs are surprised and happy. “‘Oh, hello!’” replies the dad, smiling back. With renewed confidence Bear wanders into the forest. He smiles at the birds and smiles at the badger, and they smile at him in return. Bear makes a lot of new friends that day. And there’s even that friend down at the pond who likes to stare as much as he does!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-bear-who-stared-frog

Copyright Duncan Beedie, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Duncan Beedie highlights the awkward feeling many kids—and even adults—often feel in social situations. Nothing pops immediately to mind to say and yet there’s a desire for connection. As Bear discovers, staring is not the answer—so what is? In The Bear Who Stared, Beedie offers a simple, but universal solution through an engaging and humorous story. Bear, sporting a bemused expression that aptly depicts his predicament, is such an endearing character that readers will wish they could give him a hug as he suffers slights from the woodland creatures.

The full-bleed, oversized pages put readers at eye level with bear and his subjects, and the very up-close look into Bear’s staring eyes will make kids laugh. The green, rust, and blue palette on matte paper is bold, but muted, giving the pages an organic, environmental feel that is perfect to carry the story.

The Bear Who Stared is a funny story time read with a heart that kids will ask for again and again.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802856

Check out more of Duncan Beedie’s illustration and animation work on his website!

Take a good looong look at this The Bear Who Stared book trailer!

Effective Communications Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bear-craft

Expressive Bear Craft

 

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say or how to express your emotions and thoughts. With this easy-to-make felt (or paper) set, you can give the bear different emotions and talk about them, make up stories to go with each facial expression, or play a fun game. Below, you’ll find a couple of ideas!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print templates
  2. Cut bear head from light felt or fleece
  3. Cut eyes from white felt or fleece
  4. Cut nose and inner ears from dark brown felt or fleece
  5. Cut pupils from black felt or fleece
  6. Glue pupils onto white eyes

Alternately: Color and play with the paper set

To Play a Game

Roll the die to collect parts of the bear’s face. The first player to create a full face is the winner.

  • Die dots correspond to:
  • 1—one eyebrow
  • 2—second eyebrow
  • 3—one eye
  • 4—second eye
  • 5—nose
  • 6—inner ears

For a Fun Story Time

Give the bear different faces and make up stories of why he looks that way!

Picture Book Review

June 12 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

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

Lily’s Cat Mask

By Julie Fortenberry

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-shopping-with-dad

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-making-a-wish

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lily's-cat-mask-lily-at-school

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 7

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

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

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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

The Cat’s Meow Word Search

 

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

Picture Book Review

May 4 – Petite and Proud Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-grade-coverAbout the Holiday

Life’s not about how tall you are but about how big your heart is! Today we celebrate people who are 5’4” and under—the petite! There are many advantages to being on the smaller side—it’s easier to fit into tight spaces; airline, train, and other transportation seats are more comfortable; and we can blend into the crowd more easily when we’re having a bad hair day. All-in-all being petite is pretty perfect!

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade

Written by Justin Roberts | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

Sally McCabe was so small that she was mostly overlooked. “She was the smallest girl in the smallest grade.” The other kids heard her name called every morning along with theirs, and they passed her in the hall on the way to class, but no one knew that “Sally was paying super extra special attention” to what went on around her. For instance, she noticed the kite someone had lost in the tree and had counted twenty-seven keys on the janitor’s ring.  She watched as the leaves turned “green to gold in the fall” and when “Tommy Torino was tripped in the hall.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-grade-classroom

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

She saw wildflowers turn their face toward the sun and “was there when the stray cats who normally fought / conducted a meeting in the church parking lot.” On the playground she saw Kevin McKuen get shoved down the slide and knew of the “tears that he wanted to hide.” On Parent-Teacher day, too, she watched kids pulled down the hall by parents upset at what they had heard. But during all this, no one happened to see Sally watching or knew what that could mean.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-grade-slide

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Sally understood that these slights, mean words, and cruel actions kept building and building without any stop, and she finally decided that something must change. So one day during lunch she stepped out of line, stuck her hand in the air, and announced very loud, “‘I’m tired of seeing this terrible stuff. / Stop hurting each other! This is enough!’”

Some kids just giggled and ignored what she’d said, but many others joined in with their hands in the air. “Like waves rolling in, one after another— / first Molly rose up, then Michael’s twin brother. / It was Tyrone and Terence, then Amanda and Paul, / who pushed out their chairs and stretched their arms tall.” And they all felt connected “like the janitor’s keys. Fastened together with a heavy steel ring / that held all the secrets to unlock everything.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-smallest-girl-in-the-smallest-jump-rope

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

After that day, things went back to normal—but with much welcomed kindness in small doses and places. Spaces were made for strangers to sit, doors held wide open, and many such “moments that get taken for granted—a wildflower appearing that no one had planted.” And so the world changed for this school and this town all because Sally was courageous and kind and paying attention.

Justin Roberts’ rhyming tribute to the empathy and bravery of one little girl who takes notice and makes a difference shows kids and adults that anyone can create change no matter who they are. Readers of all ages will recognize the hurts that Roberts chooses to include, good examples of the small and large acts that cause physical and emotional pain. The infectious rhythm and the inspirations of kindness—from the alley cats’ truce to wildflowers to keys (objects that at once have familiarity and deeper meanings)—give the book resonance far beyond the immediate reading.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Justin Roberts. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

Christian Robinson’s bright, wide-lens drawings of Sally’s schoolroom, cafeteria, and playground give young readers the same view Sally has, allowing them to also find the examples of arguing, pushing, whispering, and other slights that she reacts to. An illustration of Sally and her classmates sitting at their desks shows exactly how small she is in comparison to the other children; the rest of the pages demonstrate just how big her heart is. Each page offers opportunities for kids and adults to discuss the problems of bullying and options for how they can make a difference.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade is a wonderful reminder of how important each person is in making the world a happier place and would make an excellent addition to home libraries.

Ages 3 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2014 | ISBN 978-0399257438

Visit Christian Robinson’s website, where books and art are always fun!

Check out all the music, videos, activities, and other stuff by Justin Roberts on his website!

Petite and Proud Day

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Kindness Cards

 

Being kind to someone can be as easy as slipping a friendly note into someone’s locker or backpack or leaving a card for a favorite teacher, bus driver, or librarian. If you notice someone who could use a pick-me-up, you could give them one of these cards too! Print out your Kindness Cards and start spreading some good cheer!

Picture Book Review

April 28 – It’s the Week of the Young Child

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About the Holiday

The Week of the Young Child is an annual initiative hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children to celebrate learning, young children, their families, and their teachers. Daily themes focus on ways that children learn. This year those included Music Monday, Tasty Tuesday, Work Together Wednesday, Artsy Thursday, and today—Family Friday, in which people are encouraged to share their family stories. Today’s book also takes a look at a common childhood topic through which kids learn about themselves and others.

I Want to Grow

By Ged Adamson

One day while Herb and Muriel were strolling through the neighborhood, Herb noticed something a little different. Every day this disturbing trend continued. The fact was impossible to ignore—“Muriel was getting taller. And Herb didn’t like it.” He didn’t mind that she could now see over the fence or reach things on high shelves, it was just that…well… “he wasn’t getting any taller himself.”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press

So Herb looked around for a way to rectify the situation. The flowers in Muriel’s garden were reaching for the sky. Perhaps planting himself in the ground would make him grow. But no matter how much Muriel watered him, nothing happened. He shook off the dirt and went to find Muriel. She was in the kitchen working with clay. Herb watched her roll a small piece of clay into a looong piece. That looked promising, so Herb asked for Muriel’s help. “She rolled him back and forth until her arms ached. But he didn’t get any longer. Just dizzy and a little queasy.”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press

Maybe if he just willed himself to grow, he would, Herb thought. He stressed and strained until he was red in the face, but he remained as short as ever. Muriel knew Herb was having a hard time, so she made him a special treat of tea and doughnuts. When he approached, Muriel immediately recognized a difference. Herb was tall top and bottom. Both Herb and Muriel loved the new look—the high wedge shoes and top hat looked amazing! But standing and walking proved to be perilous.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press

Herb went to bed feeling a little dejected. In the morning, though, Herb had a pleasant surprise. When he went to wake up Muriel, she noticed something right away. Herb had grown! He was so excited that he “jumped and cheered.” Suddenly, Muriel realized that she had grown too. Herb could see that something was on her mind and asked. It’s “nothing, Herb. Nothing at all,” she said. “Let’s celebrate your new tallness!” And that is just what they did. After that Herb didn’t “worry about catching up with Muriel because he was growing!”

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2017. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press

Ged Adamson’s wit and whimsy go a long way in assuaging childhood doubts and worries in his funny book. The issue of growth is a common one as siblings, friends, and classmates often compare themselves and watch as those around them grow taller or they themselves begin to outpace the rest. The uncertainty of being different can be troubling and set up unnecessary anxiety.

Adamson’s I Want to Grow offers kids reassurance that nature will take its course while also making them laugh at Herb’s attempts to speed the process. Muriel’s empathy and kindness toward Herb is another wonderful life lesson for readers navigating the quirks and changes of childhood. Adamson’s distinctive illustrations combine vibrant colors, sketched-in details, and sweet, round-eyed characters to enchant kids and boost both the humor and sweetness factor of this heartening story.

I Want to Grow is a great book to share with kids who may be feeling unsure about their height—or any such issue.

Ages 4 – 8

Boyds Mills Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1629795850

Check out more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art on his website!

Week of the Young Child Activity

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Window Pane Terrarium

With this easy craft for spring and summer that combines creativity, recycled materials, a little science, and an opportunity to watch your efforts grow, you can turn a window pane into a little garden.

Supplies

  • Small, light recycled plastic containers with no lip – small cups or colorful tops from shaving cream or other such cans
  • Googly eyes, foam, paint or other materials to decorate the container
  • Soil
  • Seeds or small plants (small succulents, air plants, spider plants, and grass work well)
  • Adhesive Velcro mounting strips in an appropriate weight category
  • Spoon

Directions

  1. Clean and dry containers
  2. Decorate containers with eyes and foam to make faces, or in any way you wish
  3. Fill container with soil
  4. Add seeds or plants
  5. Attach Velcro strips to back of container
  6. Attach firmly to window pane

Alternately: line up containers on a window sill for a colorful indoor garden

Picture Book Review