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!’”

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 7

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

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

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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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.”

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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.

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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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-books-review-kindness-cards

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!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-want-to-grow-cheering

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

March 16 – National Panda Day

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About the Holiday

National Panda Day was established to raise awareness of the dangers faced by these favorite, adorable animals. Destruction of the vast bamboo forests on which pandas rely for food, coupled with their low birth rate has resulted in their being placed on the endangered list. Conservation groups as well as zoos and other animal sanctuaries are working to breed and protect these gentle black-and-white beauties. If you’d like to get involved, consider donating to a local zoo program or other environmental group.

I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda

By Steve Antony

 

Perhaps lured by the vision of Mr. Panda wearing an apron and chef’s hat and carrying a bowl and spoon, a very fancy, fluffy alpaca approaches him and inquires, “What are you making, Mr. Panda?” Mr. Panda eyes him skeptically and tells him to wait because “it’s a surprise.” With his nose in the air, the alpaca spins around, declares that he “will not wait,” and gives a terse “Good-bye.” Little penguin seems to appear out of nowhere and, while Mr. Panda adds flour to the bowl, pipes up that he will wait.

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Image and text copyright Steve Antony, courtesy of Scholastic Press

Next on the scene is an eager aardvark wondering if Mr. Panda is making cookies. “Wait and see. It’s a surprise,” Mr. Panda answers over his shoulder as he surreptitiously stirs his ingredients and little penguin stands by. But the aardvark isn’t into such a tough assignment and also says “Good-bye.” Keen to pick up the slack, the penguin calls out from the edge of the page, “I’ll wait, Mr. Panda.”

Suddenly, the floor erupts in rabbits! They are curious to find out if Mr. Panda is making pancakes. He gives them his standard line, but the rabbits are “done waiting” and dive back into their pancake-shaped holes and disappear. Only a moment later, a white crane dashes in all a-flutter. He doesn’t care what Mr. Panda is making as long as it’s ready. When he discovers that he will have to wait, he flaps his wings and soars off the page, leaving only a “Good-bye” in his wake.

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Image and text copyright Steve Antony, courtesy of Scholastic Press

The small penguin, tired of being ignored, shouts in her loudest voice, “I’ll wait, Mr. Panda!” She stands gazing out at the right edge of the page as Mr. Panda finally notices her from the edge of the left page. He peeks slyly at her, and as readers turn the page, the little penguin is rewarded. “Surprise!” sings Mr. Panda as he rolls out a chocolate-frosted-and-sprinkled doughnut that is bigger than he is. The penguin is in awe and offers Mr. Panda the ultimate compliment—“That was worth the wait”—and a very polite “Thank you.”

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Image and text copyright Steve Antony, courtesy of Scholastic Press

Young children just learning the virtues of patience and manners will identify with the little penguin who has the right attitude and is rewarded in the end while all of the bigger, in-a-hurry animals lose out. The spare text allows even very young readers to join in, especially on Mr. Panda’s repeated request and each animal’s “Good-bye.” Read with feeling, the story will induce giggles of delight. Steve Antony’s collection of black-and-white animals with their superior, confused, and frazzled expressions will also amuse kids while they cheer for the persistent penguin. Fans of Antony’s Please, Mr. Panda, will be happy to see the return of their favorite buddy and his favorite snack.

Ages 3 – 5

Scholastic Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1338028362

Discover more about Steve Antony, his books, and art as well as fun kids’ activities on his website!

National Panda Day Activity

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Pandas in the Park Find the Differences

 

These pandas are enjoying a day in the park! Can you spot all the differences in the second picture on this printable Pandas in the Park Find the Differences Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

February 21 – It’s Love the Bus Month

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About the Holiday

Love the Bus Month, sponsored  by the American School Bus Council, promotes awareness of and offers appreciation to the thousands of school bus drivers across the country who safely transport students every day to and from school, to field trips and to sporting events. To join the celebration, write a note to your bus driver and thank them for all they do for you!

Last Stop on Market Street

Written by Matt de la Peña | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

CJ, fresh from church, skips out into the sprinkling rain. He and his nana wait for the bus under her umbrella. From the bus stop CJ watches as his friend climbs into a warm, dry car and asks, “‘Nana, how come we don’t got a car?’” Nana was just telling CJ that they didn’t need a car when “the bus creaked to a stop in front of them. It sighed and sagged and the doors swung open.’”  As they stepped aboard, Mr. Dennis, the bus driver, pulled a quarter from behind CJ’s ear, making him giggle.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

CJ and Nana found seats up front across from a man with a guitar and an old woman with a jar of butterflies on her lap. Nana said hello to everyone and “made sure CJ did the same.” As the bus pulled away from the curb, Nana began to knit and CJ looked out the window feeling sorry that he couldn’t just go home after church like his friends. Nana said she felt “‘sorry for those boys….They’ll never get a chance to meet Bobo or the Sunglass Man.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-last-stop-on-market-street-getting-on-bus

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

At the next stop a blind man and his dog got on. CJ gave him his seat, but asked Nana why he couldn’t see. “‘Some people watch the world with their ears.’” Nana told him. When the bus stopped again, two older boys stepped on. CJ wished he could listen to music on a phone like they were, but Nana pointed to the man with the guitar, who began to pluck the strings and sing. CJ closed his eyes and let the music transport him out of the city. In his mind he saw waves and colors, hawks and butterflies. “CJ’s chest grew full and he was lost in the sound and the sound gave him the feeling of magic.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-last-stop-on-market-street-blind-man

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

When the man finished his song everyone clapped, and CJ dropped his quarter into the man’s hat. Finally, the bus came to the last stop on Market Street. CJ and his nana stepped off into a neighborhood of “crumbling sidewalks and broken-down doors, graffiti-tagged windows and boarded-up stores.” CJ wondered why it was always so dirty there, but Nana pointed to the beauty of the sky above them. CJ looked up and saw a rainbow arching over the soup kitchen. Then CJ saw familiar faces at the window and felt glad they had come. “‘Me too,’” Nana agreed as she and CJ took up their posts and began ladling soup into bowls.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-last-stop-on-market-street-soup-kitchen

Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Matt de da Peña, 2015. Courtesy of G. P. Putnam and Sons Books for Young Readers.

Matt de da Peña’s gentle nudging to look on the bright side and appreciate the beauty and wonder around you is made all the more poignant for readers by the story’s young protagonist. Through realistic dialogue and honestly expressed feelings, CJ and Nana engage in one of life’s most important lessons—connecting empathetically with others. CJ’s rich experiences on the bus and at the soup kitchen—microcosms of our larger world—broadens his view and enlivens his imagination. Last Stop on Market Street reminds readers that to truly enjoy a meaningful life they must be aware of and appreciate the diversity of people and events around them.

Christian Robinson’s acrylic and collage illustrations are smart, captivating snapshots of CJ’s day as he watches and interacts with a variety of people on the bus and at the soup kitchen. The visual camaraderie of the passengers—old and young, tattooed, talented, and disabled—as they talk together and smile at one another will cheer readers. The color scheme of bright and pastel colors shared from page to page enhances the book’s themes of interconnectedness and cohesion, and the clean, unadorned images reflect the idea that often the simple things in life really are the best.

Last Stop of Market Street, winner of the 2016 Newberry award and a Caldecott Honor book as well as the winner of many other awards, is a superb book to add to any child’s home library.

Ages 3 – 6

G. P. Putnam Suns Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0399257742

Learn more about Matt De La Peña, his books, and more on his website!

Discover more about Christian Robinson and view a gallery of his work on his website!

Get on board this Last Stop on Market Street book trailer!

Love the Bus Month Activity

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Where Are You Going? Coloring Page

 

Do you love riding the bus? It’s a great way to sightsee while getting where you want to go. Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and enjoy this Where Are You Going? Coloring Page!

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, text copyright Alethea Kontis. 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, 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, 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, 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, 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 (reprint) | 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!

Picture Book Review