December 7 – It’s Computer Science Education Week

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About the Holiday

Computer Science Education Week was launched in 2009 to raise awareness of the importance of computer coding in all careers and to invite people to learn how to code. Students from kindergarten to grade 12 are especially encouraged to take an interest in computer science and learn coding skills and also to take part in Hour of Code programs at school and elsewhere. The holiday is celebrated in December to honor computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who was born December 9, 1906 and went on to become a United States Navy rear admiral. Her work with machine-independent programming languages led to the development of COBOL, and she was instrumental in many other early computer-related advancements. To celebrate this week, check out the Computer Science Education Week website and Hour of Code and try coding for yourself!

Doll-E 1.0

By Shanda McCloskey

 

“Charlotte’s head was always in the cloud.” She knew everything about computers and was plugged in to the (virtual) realities of each day. One day her mother bought her a present. Charlotte wondered at what kind of electronic marvel might lie underneath the wrapping. When the robotic arm she’d build untied the bow and tore off the paper, Charlotte gazed at the cloth doll in the little stroller uncertainly.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

She wasn’t sure how to play with it; where was the instruction manual? Charlotte took the doll to her lab and tried to engage it in her favorite video game and to get it to dance under the revolving disco ball, but the doll just sat on the floor and stared at her. Suddenly, the doll said “Ma-ma.” Charlotte didn’t think she was Mama material, but then she had a thought: “If the doll could talk, then it must have a power supply.”

Sure enough when she opened the back, she found two batteries. This was more like it! Since the doll’s only word seemed to be “Ma-ma,” Charlotte ran an update on it to increase its vocabulary. But before she could finish, her dog grabbed the doll by the leg and ran off with it. Before Charlotte could stop him, Blutooth had ripped the doll apart.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Charlotte collected the doll’s arms, legs, and head, gathered some more supplies, and went to work in her lab. “With a few spare parts and a bit of code, Charlotte changed the doll.” It looked at Charlotte with its bright eyes and smile and said, “H-e-l-l-o m-y n-a-m-e i-s D-o-l-l-E 1.0.” “And the doll changed Charlotte too.” Charlotte loved Doll-E. She read to it, and played with it, and took it outside, where its fast stroller and new remote-controlled robotic arms were perfect for walking Blutooth.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-doll-E-1.0-gift

Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Shanda McCloskey wonderfully inventive doll story for a new generation will delight children and remind adults that while toys may change, the feelings associated with them never do. Sprinkled with puns and led off with a just-right first line, McCloskey’s smart story shines. Charlotte shows heart and intelligence as she embraces her new doll and makes it a reflection of her own life—just as children have always done with their toys. Charlotte, as a computer whiz, makes a captivating role model for kids, especially girls who code or would like to.

There’s so much to admire in McKloskey’s illustrations, from Charlotte’s dedicated work space/lab outfitted with hand tools, spare parts, and craft supplies to her sweet determination to understand her new, simple doll. Clever details, such as a light bulb hanging over Charlotte’s head when she gets a brilliant idea and a Frankenstein-esque scene as Charlotte repairs her doll add depth and fun to the story’s theme.

A spirited story, Doll-E 1.0 clicks all the buttons as a must for home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316510318

Discover more about Shanda McCloskey, her books, and her art on her website.

Computer Science Education Week Activity

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Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle

 

The Internet has added many new words to our language as well as redefining old ones. Search for twenty-two Internet-based words in this printable word search puzzle.

 Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle | Trendy Trending Word Search Solution!

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You can find Doll-E 1.0 at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

November 30 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

For little learners, picture books provide one of the best ways to interact with facts about all kinds of subjects. Loaded with illustrations or photographs that let kids see exciting and beautiful details, nonfiction picture books bring to life science, history, biographies, nature, and so much more of the world around us. This month, take a look for nonfiction picture books about your child’s passions to add to your home library.

Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations

By Sara Gillingham

 

If you have a young astronomer in the family and are looking for a book that will make their eyes twinkle like stars on a clear, dark night, Sara Gillingham’s magnificent guide to all eighty-eight internationally recognized constellations is a must. Combining information on how and where to find each constellation, the fascinating stories and/or myths surrounding them, and stylistically gorgeous illustrations, Seeing Stars offers children and adults not only a resource to use when stargazing, but a sit-down-and-explore beauty to enjoy any time.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Seeing Stars opens with brief and illuminating discussions on what constellations are, who invented them, using asterisms and brightest stars to find a constellation, which constellations are visible when and where, and the art of stargazing.  A chapter on the ancient constellations takes in the signs of the zodiac (I’m an Aquarius and learned that the famous water carrier of the sign is none other than Ganymede, who in ancient Greece was “considered the most beautiful man alive…. One day, in the middle of a quiet life tending sheep, Ganymede was snatched by an eagle and taken to Zeus” who put him to work as “the official cup-bearer to the gods.”).

In this section, readers will also find the constellations created from “well-known stories, characters, animals, and sacred objects” as well as the  heroes and gods of Greek mythology. Here, readers learn about Hydra, the water snake. Hydra, the largest constellation, covers one fourth of the sky in a “twisting line” that at one end curves inward to make a “small irregular polygon” that serves as the serpent’s head. She was “so wretched that even her breath could kill someone,” and was vanquished by Hercules in the second of his labors. Pegasus, Persius, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, and Orion are just a few of the other well-known figures from the ancient world.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Next, come the modern constellations mapped by European explorers and named for exotic and even mythical creatures in the late 1500s and 1600s. One of these early astronomers was Elisabeth Hevelius, considered to be one of the first female astronomers. Colorful birds of paradise inspired these stargazers to name a small cluster of stars that “make a line with a narrow V on the end, much like the point of a beak” Apus (from the Greek word apous or “footless”), after some European navigators believed the birds had no feet.

What constellation outlines an animal with a “long neck like a camel and a body that is covered in ‘spots’”? Camelopardalis, of course! Or you may be more familiar with this animal’s more common name: giraffe. Chameleons, doves, dolphinfish, cranes, lizards, lions, and lynx also appear in our skies but there’s room, too, for the more whimsical, like Monoceros – or unicorn – and the phoenix.

Modern constellations also pay homage to invention and discovery. These include Caelum, the chisel, named for an engraver’s tool invented in the 1600s to “carve fine lines into printing plates” for book production; Circinus, the compass; Microscopium, the microscope; Telescopium, the telescope; and Pictor, the painter’s easel.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

A Resource section provides information on tools for stargazing, eight circular maps that chart the constellations seen from the northern and southern skies over three-month increments throughout the year, an illustrated guide to asterisms, resources for further reading, and an extensive glossary and index.

Each constellation is highlighted with a two-page spread. The left-hand page is attractively divided into four sections that provide an image of the constellation created from lines connecting stars in three different sizes that indicate their brightness, tell where the constellation is found and it’s proportion to other constellations, a circular map that spotlights the constellation among others nearby, and a paragraph on the story or myth surrounding the constellation. On the right, the image of the god, animal, or object that inspired the constellation floats on a midnight-blue background and contains within it the stars that make up the constellation connected to show its shape. The brightest star in the constellation is highlighted.

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Copyright Sara Gillingham, 2018, courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Sara Gillingham’s writing style is knowledgeable and entertaining, opening up the world of astronomy to experts and novices alike with the kind of storytelling that captivates while it teaches.

Special mention must be made of the dazzling cover and dust jacket, which together recreate the depth of the night sky. The shimmering gold cover, splashed with the image of the Milky Way, shines through the tiny laser-cut “stars” on the deep blue dust jacket, making a stunning and interactive introduction to this well-crafted book. Kids will love finding and naming the constellations they see on the cover after reading about them inside.

Perfectly conceived and executed, Seeing Stars is a book the whole family can enjoy and will spark many trips outside to gaze at the stars with new interest and understanding. The book would make a much-cherished gift for astronomers, armchair stargazers, space buffs, and those who love mythology and history. It’s a terrific addition to home, classroom, and public libraries and would be just as at home on the coffee table as on the bookshelf.

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877723

Discover more about Sara Gillingham, her books, and her art on her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle

 

Sometimes the constellations can seem hidden among all the other stars. Can you find the names of eighteen constellations in this printable Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle?

Read the Stars Word Search Puzzle | Read the Stars Word Search Solution

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You can find Seeing Stars: A Complete Guide to the 88 Constellations at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 27 – National Just Because Day

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About the Holiday

Doesn’t that sound refreshing? A whole day devoted to doing things “just because.” As the school year starts up again and the less structured days of summer fade, it’s fun to contemplate what you can do just because you feel like it, it makes you happy, or it’s something nice you want to do for someone else. With no expectations, no directions, and no nagging deadlines, today’s holiday lets you be the captain of your actions and fate! So get out there and do that thing! You might surprise yourself and others—just like the little girl in today’s book!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash

Written by Nicholas Day | Illustrated by Tom Disbury

 

Sylvia Samantha Wright was awesome at finding stuff. In fact, “on Monday, she found some leaky tires. And some tangled ropes that were underneath the leaky tires. And some old wood that was underneath the tangled ropes that were underneath the leaky tires.” She brought it all home in her wagon and stored it in the garage. When her father wanted to know “‘Why?,’” she told him that she had a plan.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Tuesday, Sylvia found a half-used pack of gum and added it to her stash. Her brother thought it was time for “‘another sister.’” On Wednesday, when Sylvia showed the Mayor the busted pipes, old motors, and empty paint cans she had collected, the Mayor was a bit skeptical about Sylvia’s project. Her next acquisition was a whole wagonload of “polka-dotted party hats from a store that was getting out of the polka-dotted party hat business.” On her way home, Sylvia ran into old Ezekiel Mather, who rarely spoke or smiled. Ezekiel appreciated the hats in Sylvia’s wagon, though, and wanted to know what she was working on.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Sylvia had to admit that she didn’t quite know. That’s when Ezekiel smiled and said, “‘That’s the best part. The part before you know.’” On Friday, Sylvia and Ezekiel found a dumpster full of half-rotten bananas. Sylvia didn’t know what she’d do with them, but they excited her nonetheless.

On Saturday everything changed. “The water tower sprung a few leaks,” and while the Mayor was setting up buckets to catch the water, she was washed downstream sitting on the playground’s tire swing. Then the main power line crashed, cutting out the security system at the zoo’s “Larger-Sized Animal House.” Out walked an Asian elephant, three hippopotamuses, a group of orangutans, and some capybaras.” On their way through town the elephant pulled up the flag pole—with the Mayor attached.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On Sunday, Sylvia went to the Mayor with her wagons loaded with junk and offered her help. “‘I’ve got this,’” she said. And she did! She fixed the water tower, redesigned the power system, and built a new and improved playground. And what about the zoo animals? It seemed a dumpsterful of half-rotten bananas was just the thing to entice them back home. There was just one thing left in Sylvia Samantha Wright’s wagon: polka-dotted party hats. What were those for? “‘For the party, of course.’”

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Nicholas Day’s witty, sequential story is a spirited tribute to those who can see the potential in even discarded things. Sylvia’s confident answers to people’s questions of “why?” will cheer both those children and adult readers who have a secret (or not-so-secret) stash of objects waiting for just the right project. As Sylvia amasses a seemingly disparate array of junk, readers’ suspense will grow as they wonder just how she’s going to use it all. As the out-of-her-depth mayor relinquishes control to Sylvia, kids will cheer as Sylvia Samantha Wright knows all the right solutions.

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Image copyright Tom Disbury, 2018, text copyright Nicholas Day, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Tom Disbury’s charming cartoon-style line drawings instantly make Sylvia a heroine for her astute junk plucking and her plucky can-do attitude. Images of her growing piles of junk will intrigue children, and illustrations of the Mayor riding the rapids on a tire, flailing on a floating log, and clinging to the flag pole add classic slap-stick humor to the story. Those with an artistic and/or a scientific bent will be fascinated with depictions of Sylvia’s ingenious inventions and innovations.

Sure to spark an interest in creativity, experimentation, building, and inventing, Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash would be a lively addition to STEM lessons in the classroom as well as a humorous and inspiring read at home.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585364008

Discover more about Nicholas Day and his writing on his website.

To learn more about Tom Disbury, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash Giveaway written by Nicholas Day | illustrated by Tom Disbury

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, August 27 – September 2. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 3.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Just Because Day Activity

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Recycled Crafts & Inventions

 

Look around your house or classroom. Are there boxes, cups, bottles, and other doodads that could be repurposed or reimagined? You bet! Collect as many of these items as you want and put your imagination to work. You’ll be amazed at what you can create—just because!

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You can find Junk: A Spectacular Tale of Trash at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 11 – Play in the Sand Day

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About the Holiday

Is there any better way to spend a summer day than playing on a sandy beach? That wet, compact surface is perfect for running on, digging in, and of course building sandcastles with. And the soft, dry areas? Their great for setting up chairs or blankets and wiggling toes in. Whether you head out to the ocean, a lake, or even a secluded river bank, don’t forget to pack a pail and shovel for some family fun!

How to Code a Sandcastle

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

It’s the last day of Pearl’s summer vacation, and she’s hit the beach with her parents. Her goal is to build a sandcastle. It’s not like she hasn’t tried on other beach days, but there was always something that destroyed it. There was the frisbee that landed on top of it, then a surfer glided right into it, and another girl’s dog, Ada Puglace, thought it needed a moat. But today, Pearl brought her robot, Pascal, to build her sandcastle.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

As Pearl explains, “He’ll do whatever I tell him—as long as I tell him in code. It’s not a secret code—it’s special instructions that computers understand.” Pearl points out the perfect spot on the beach for her sandcastle and tells Pascal to build it. But Pascal doesn’t move. Pearl realizes that she must break down the one big request into smaller problems for Pascal to solve. Easy-Peasy, Pearl thinks.

The first problem Pearl gives Pascal is: “find a place to build.” First Pascal travels out to sea, but Pearl tells him they must build on land. So Pascal rolls out into the parking lot. Hmmm…that’s not right either. Pearl decides she must be “very specific with my instructions.” When she tells Pascal to “find a flat spot on sand that isn’t too close to the water,” he marks an X on a perfect sandy spot. Great!

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

The second problem Pearl gives Pascal is to “gather up sand.” She’s learned to be very particular in her instructions, so she gives her robot a three-step process: “Fill the pail with sand, dump the sand on our spot, pat the sand down.” This works just right, so Pearl continues telling Pascal the directions, until she grows tired of speaking.

There must be a better way, Pearl thinks. How about a loop? Pearl directs Pascal to “loop through this sequence,” and just like that Pascal is off and rolling and Pearl gets to relax. A while later, Pearl discovers that Pascal had built a pyramid-high pile of sand, so Pearl tells him to stop. Next, they will “shape and decorate the castle.” Pearl comes back with pretty seashells to add to the castle, while Pascal brings back the lifeguard—in his chair. Pearl orders Pascal to bring back something smaller. When he comes back with a crab, she tells him it must be something that doesn’t move, and when he shows up with a baby’s pacifier, Pearl knows she must do a better job of explaining.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

She decides to give him “if—then—else” instructions. With these detailed directions, Pascal returns with a shell and some seaweed. Finally, it’s time to shape the castle. They use their buckets and hands to build a beautiful castle that even has a turret. The shells, rocks, and seaweed are the perfect finishing touches. With the castle finally finished, Pearl runs off to get her toys.

But when she gets back, Pearl discovers that the rising tide has washed their sandcastle out to sea. And to make matters worse, Ada Puglace is back to add another moat. Hmmm… a moat? Pearl thinks. That’s what she needed the first time. Pearl really wants to rebuild, but it took her half a day to make the first one. Then she realizes that the code is already written. All she has to do is use it again. In no time a new sandcastle stands gleaming on the beach.

There’s just one more problem to solve. Quickly, Pearl gives Pascal a new looped sequence to dig the moat. Now it’s time to play—or “code an entire kingdom!”

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

A Foreward written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, introduces readers to this organization that is “working to close the gender gap in technology” and get girls of all ages excited about coding and future opportunities in science and technology. 

Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding with brief discussions of Code, Sequence, Loops, and If-Then-Else follows the text.

With his infectious enthusiasm and talent to reach kids in new and innovative ways, Josh Funk, a computer programmer by day and super writer by night, is a perfect guide to the joys of coding for young learners. Taking kids out to the beach for a bit of sandcastle building—an endeavor that is often fraught with dangers—is a terrific way to show the procedures and power of coding. Pearl’s initial missteps in programming Pascal provide laugh-out-loud moments while also demonstrating that computer programs work with precise instructions. Her inexperience but quick learning will give readers confidence in their own abilities to code and where to look for problems if their program does not run as smoothly as they’d like. When high tide washes Pearl and Pascal’s sandcastle out to sea, readers may groan in empathy, but the opportunity to do it all again—only bigger and better—will make them cheer.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Sara Palacios’s golden beach is a wide-open and inviting platform to introduce the world of computer programming to young readers. Sunny and enthusiastic, Pearl, in her heart-shaped sunglasses, is persistent and smart in figuring out just how to make Pascal do what she wants. Pascal is a round, rolling cutie, perpetually happy to perform its duties. Series of panels and speech bubbles depict each instruction Pearl gives Pascal, clearly showing readers how coding and a computer’s response to its instructions work. Sequence loops are cleverly portrayed with typeface that creates a circle around Pearl’s floating ring and later around the trench that will surround the castle and become the moat. The final image of Pearl and Pascal celebrating their successful day together is powerful encouragement that a new day of girls and women in technology and science is on the horizon.

Coding a Sandcastle is a motivating combination of lighthearted fun and accessible education that will encourage girls—and boys—to get involved with computer coding just for their own enjoyment or as a future profession. It’s a must for school media and computer class libraries, and with this book on home bookshelves, kids won’t want to just play on the computer—they’ll be asking to program too.

Ages 4 – 8

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0425291986

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find lots of fun activities to do too on his website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Play in the Sand Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bringing-the-outside-in-painted-pails-craft

Personalized Painted Pail

 

A trip to the beach or park isn’t complete without a pail to collect shells, seaweed, sea glass, pebbles, sticks, nuts, or other things in. But why should all the cool stuff be on the inside? With this craft you can decorate your pail to show your unique personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic or metal pail
  • Craft paint in various colors
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint designs on the pail
  2. When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
  3. Let dry

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You can find How to Code a Sandcastle at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 9 – World Doll Day

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About the Holiday

Dolls have been part of childhood from earlies times. Once simple cloth or wooded carved figures, dolls have evolved over the years to cry, talk, and move in almost a lifelike way.  Although dolls have changed, one thing has stayed the same: they are much-loved companions, especially for little ones. Adults are also fascinated by dolls, and collectible dolls of all types have an ardent following. Today’s holiday was established in 1986 by Margaret Seeley to spread the “universal message of happiness and love.” People are encouraged to give a doll to a child of a family member or friend or to donate a doll to a child in need. The day is also celebrated with special events and doll shows.

Doll-E 1.0

By Shanda McCloskey

 

“Charlotte’s head was always in the cloud.” She knew everything about computers and was plugged in to the (virtual) realities of each day. One day her mother bought her a present. Charlotte wondered at what kind of electronic marvel might lie underneath the wrapping. When the robotic arm she’d build untied the bow and tore off the paper, Charlotte gazed at the cloth doll in the little stroller uncertainly.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

She wasn’t sure how to play with it; where was the instruction manual? Charlotte took the doll to her lab and tried to engage it in her favorite video game and to get it to dance under the revolving disco ball, but the doll just sat on the floor and stared at her. Suddenly, the doll said “Ma-ma.” Charlotte didn’t think she was Mama material, but then she had a thought: “If the doll could talk, then it must have a power supply.”

Sure enough when she opened the back, she found two batteries. This was more like it! Since the doll’s only word seemed to be “Ma-ma,” Charlotte ran an update on it to increase its vocabulary. But before she could finish, her dog grabbed the doll by the leg and ran off with it. Before Charlotte could stop him, Blutooth had ripped the doll apart.

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Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Charlotte collected the doll’s arms, legs, and head, gathered some more supplies, and went to work in her lab. “With a few spare parts and a bit of code, Charlotte changed the doll.” It looked at Charlotte with its bright eyes and smile and said, “H-e-l-l-o m-y n-a-m-e i-s D-o-l-l-E 1.0.” “And the doll changed Charlotte too.” Charlotte loved Doll-E. She read to it, and played with it, and took it outside, where its fast stroller and new remote-controlled robotic arms were perfect for walking Blutooth.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-doll-E-1.0-gift

Copyright Shanda McCloskey, 2018, couirtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Shanda McCloskey wonderfully inventive doll story for a new generation will delight children and remind adults that while toys may change, the feelings associated with them never do. Sprinkled with puns and led off with a just-right first line, McCloskey’s smart story shines. Charlotte shows heart and intelligence as she embraces her new doll and makes it a reflection of her own life—just as children have always done with their toys. Charlotte, as a computer whiz, makes a captivating role model for kids, especially girls who code or would like to.

There’s so much to admire in McKloskey’s illustrations, from Charlotte’s dedicated work space/lab outfitted with hand tools, spare parts, and craft supplies to her sweet determination to understand her new, simple doll. Clever details, such as a light bulb hanging over Charlotte’s head when she gets a brilliant idea and a Frankenstein-esque scene as Charlotte repairs her doll add depth and fun to the story’s theme.

A spirited story, Doll-E 1.0 clicks all the buttons as a must for home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0316510318

Discover more about Shanda McCloskey, her books, and her art on her website.

World Doll Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stacking-dolls-coloring-page

Russian Nesting Dolls Coloring Page

 

Russian nesting dolls are fun to play with! Open one up and see what’s inside! Then another… and another… and another…. Grab your crayons or pencils and your scissors and enjoy this coloring page!

Russian Nesting Dolls Coloring Page

Picture Book Review

May 30 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Get Caught Reading Month was established in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers to encourage people of all ages to read more. Authors, illustrators, celebrities, athletes, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues hold special programs throughout the month. For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Albie Newton

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Ester Garay

 

Albie Newton was something of a prodigy. As a tyke, he retrofitted his stroller into a racecar, tried counting to infinity, and “learned to speak a language almost every week: / English, Spanish, Hindi, Klingon, Gibberish, then Greek.” When he moves to a new town and a new school, his classmates are excited to meet him. Albie is also revved up to start making friends, and he has a plan he thinks the other kids will love.

But as they all settle in to work, “the students noticed Albie was a whiz. / Albie wrote a sonnet while they took a spelling quiz.” During art class, the kids were likewise astounded (and a little dismayed) when, while they scribbled, drew swirls, and made handprints, Albie painted like Van Gogh. When free time rolled around, and some kids played dress up, Albie “sifted through the trash,” to build a science lab, leaving a mess for Arjun to clean up.

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Then things began to disappear. “Hamilton the hamster tried to run but had no wheel. / Albie needed extra sprockets made of stainless steel.” While Sona and Shirley created paper masks, the glue went missing, and Albie “didn’t even ask.” The wings from Dave’s propeller plane were suddenly broken off, and reading time became impossible when “booming pandemonium descended on the school.” Albie, though, intent on his invention, didn’t notice the trouble he was causing or the crowd of angry kids rushing to complain.

Before they could reach Albie, though, Shirley stopped them, saying “‘maybe Albie didn’t know. Let’s look at what he made.’ Curious, the children headed straight to where he played.” When they say all the inventions Albie had made, they stopped and stared. Albie had made the class a gift—a spaceship, and with the push of a button, an amazing time machine!

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With his inimitable style, Josh Funk creates a rambunctious tale of invention and creativity, but one that also has a deeper message about the way some kids see the world and communicate with peers and others. In the first pages, readers are introduced to the precocious Albie, who from birth has demonstrated a talent for learning and doing. When he enters a new school, however, his single focus doesn’t translate into the kinds of social interactions his classmates are used to. Albie gathers materials for his present unaware of the mayhem he’s causing, just as the other kids are unaware of Albie’s real goal. Only Shirley is sensitive to the idea that Albie may not be causing havoc on purpose but for a purpose. Her calming defense of Albie allows the other kids to see Albie in a new light and appreciate his gift—and his gifts.

While Funk’s rhyming verses are focusing on Albie and his actions, Ester Garay’s bright illustrations depict the other kids’ reactions to his talents and also his disruptions. A first hint at how Albie fits in with his new class comes as the kids welcome him with cheer and smiles. Instead of facing them to accept the welcome, Albie is faced away from them, happily imagining the gift he will make for them.

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Image copyright Ester Garay, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Throughout the day, Shirley follows Albie, and as she watches and wonders, her facial expressions demonstrate dismay at some of Albie’s antics but also a growing understanding and acceptance. Garay captures the close camaraderie of a preschool or kindergarten classroom, and her close-up view of Albie toiling away on his invention will have readers eager to see the result. The reveal of Albie’s spaceship time machine and the final spread of the kids frolicking on a distant planet with the likes of Freda Kahlo, William Shakespeare, Amelia Earhart, and a helpful dino, are sure to produce some oohs and ahhhs.

Albie Newton is a doubly impactful story that would be a welcome addition to home and, most especially, classroom bookshelves. It can be read as a boisterous story of innovation for lively story times, but it also provides adults and children an opportunity to discuss the ideas of social interaction and various personalities. Most children know someone like Albie who as naturally quiet, on the spectrum, or singularly focused on one area or another, communicates and socializes differently than others. Reading Albie Newton can help kids better understand different behaviors and, like Shirley, become more sensitive to all their classmates and friends.

Ages 5 – 9

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454922582

Discover more about Josh Funk and his books as well as find fun activities and lots of resources on his website.

To learn more about Ester Garay, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Check out the Albie Newton book trailer!

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Initial Bookends

 

You can keep your books neat and tidy on the shelf with this easy-to-make bookend that displays your talents and personality!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block in the child’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 that your think best describe you on the letter
  3. Display your letter on your bookshelf!

May 3 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month and Interview with Author Jody Jensen Shaffer

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About the Holiday

Launched in 1999 by the Association of American Publishers and managed by Every Child a Reader, Get Caught Reading Month hopes to instill a love of reading in every child and encourages people of all ages to read more. Celebrities, authors, illustrators, and others participate by sharing pictures of themselves reading an old favorite or new book on social media. Special materials are available for and programs held in schools, libraries, bookstores, and community venues all month long. Why not join in by finding a new book to lovelike today’s book?! For more information and to find resources, visit the Get Caught Reading website.

Penguin Random House sent me a copy of A Chip Off the Old Block to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m partnering with Penguin Random House in a giving away a copy of A Chip Off the Old Block. See details below.

A Chip Off the Old Block

Written by Jody Jensen Shaffer | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

Rocky had an impressive family. There was Aunt Etna, Uncle Gibraltar, and his Great-Grandma Half Dome. His cousins were pretty well-known too. In fact, “tons of his relatives were rock stars.” Rocky loved hearing his parents’ stories about his family. Rocky wanted to be important too, but his parents thought he was too little. He may have been “just a chip off the old block” like his dad said, “but inside, Rocky was a boulder!”

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Rocky made a plan, and in the morning he hopped on a pickup truck headed for Arizona to join his cousin The Wave. As soon as he got there, though, a gust of wind blew him away. He landed hard and “noticed that a piece of him had broken off.” Undeterred, he caught a flight with an eagle out to Wyoming and another cousin, The Tower. Rocky was almost settled in when a rainstorm washed him over the side.

At the bottom of the long slide down, Rocky hitched a ride on a car bound for Texas. There, he thought he could watch over the sauropod tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park. But it didn’t take long for an armadillo to dig him out and send him back on the road again. this time he was determined to go to South Dakota. When he arrived, tinier than when he’d begun his trip, he decided that he’d make a terrific souvenir of his cousin Rushmore.

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

Just then he heard the news. The park was closing because a crack had been discovered in Abraham Lincoln’s nose. “Rocky was crushed.” His dreams of being important would never come true now. But looking up at his cousin, he realized that maybe he could help. A passing lizard gave him a ride to the top, and Rocky jumped. He tumbled down, down and right into the crack in Lincoln’s nose. “He was a perfect fit! I did it! I did something important! I saved Abraham Lincoln!” Rocky exaulted, excited and proud.

Down below, visitors and park employees cheered. Reporters relayed the news, and photographers took pictures. The park was saved, and it was “all thanks to Rocky, the little pebble that wouldn’t be taken for granite.”

A guide to igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks, illustrated descriptions of some of the world’s most majestic rock formations, and an Author’s Note about Mount Rushmore follow the story.

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Image copyright Daniel Miyares, 2018. text copyright Jody Jensen Shaffer, 2018. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.

There’s so much to love about Jody Jensen Shaffer’s A Chip Off the Old Block! Part adventure, part educational travelogue, and completely inspirational—with lots of funny wordplay to boot—Shaffer’s story will charm kids. Little Rocky is a sweetie of a go-getter who has big dreams and sets out to achieve them. He overcomes obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments and adjusts to changes with optimism while never losing heart and building up his self-confidence. Kids will cheer when Rocky finally finds the place where he can make the most monumental difference.

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Daniel Miyares’ gorgeous illustrations depict the splendor of Rocky’s magnificent cousins and the landscape they dominate while cleverly tracing his journey from state to state, carried along by a truck and a car, in a backpack, and with the help of some animal friends. Rocky is full of personality and childlike expressions that will endear him to readers. Miyares’ full-color, full-bleed pages will get kids excited to learn more about geology and each rock formation, and will no doubt inspire some vacation wish lists.

A Chip Off the Old Block is a smart and witty book that will excite a child’s imagination. It would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and should be included in classroom libraries to accompany STEM, STEAM, and English Language Arts lessons and well as fun story times.

Ages 5 – 8

Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House, 2018 | ISBN 978-0399173882

Discover more about Jody Jensen Shaffer and her books and find teachers’ resources and activities on her website.

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books and his art, visit his website.

Meet Jody Jensen Shaffer

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I’m excited to talk with Jody Jensen Shaffer today about what she loves about writing poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, her favorite childhood memories, and her rescue dog, Sophie.

What was the spark for A Chip off the Old Block?

Hi Kathy! Thanks for having me on your blog. The spark for A Chip off the Old Block was the phrase, “Rocky loved his rock star relatives.” It came to me as I was brainstorming picture book ideas, and it felt like the first line of a story. I loved the word play of the line, so I created a story around it. I just had to discover who Rocky was and what his story would be.

A Chip off the Old Block combines terrific storytelling with science and history. What would you like for readers to take away from the book? How have children reacted to Chip?

Thanks! It was lots of fun to write. I hope readers take away from the book the idea that you’re never too small to matter and to never give up on your dreams. Bonus points if they learn a little about rocks, US landmarks, maps, and natural formations! I’ve been really happy with how Chip has been received by children and adults! One class even did a Google maps tour of the places Rocky visits in his travels.

You write across the spectrum of children’s literature from poetry to nonfiction to fiction. Can you briefly describe what you like about each?

I love writing poetry because of the challenge of the form. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and the pieces are brevity, beauty, meaning, and joy.

I love writing fiction because I can choose any characters I want, put them in any situations I want, and have fun with the language, voice, and story.

I love writing nonfiction because I love learning new things! And my interest in science comes to me naturally because of my dad’s influence. He was a college professor of biological sciences (and a great wordsmith).

You’ve said that you loved being a kid. What’s one of your favorite memories? How does being able to tap into that feeling of childhood influence your work?

I have so many great memories of my childhood: fishing with my family at local ponds, riding bikes to the swimming pool, visiting my dad’s lab at the college, even working our huge garden with my siblings (before we were allowed to ride our bikes to the swimming pool). I feel so blessed to have had the parents I had and the childhood they gave me. It’s easy to recall feelings of being loved and valued. I hope to send that same message to my readers through my writing.

You say you can remember the exact moment you learned to read. Can you talk about that a little?

It’s a very brief memory. I was reading an early chapter book and laboriously sounding out each syllable, index finger on page, when it occurred to me that if I just read “lighter,” the words might come to me more easily. I relaxed, I guess, and the words came. It was like a light switch turned on. From then on, I read fluently.

What’s the best part about being a children’s author? Do you have an anecdote from an author event that you’d like to share?

There are so many great things about writing for children, and I feel really blessed to be able to do it, but if I have to choose the best thing, I’d say it’s being able to play with words for a living. In terms of an anecdote, I was Skyping with a class for World Read Aloud Day recently, and a little guy stepped up to the screen and told me how much he liked one of my less well-known books. I felt his sincerity, and I appreciated him telling me.

In 2017, your book Prudence the Part-Time Cow was chosen to represent Missouri in the National Book Festival in Washington DC that is hosted by the Library of Congress. Can you talk about this honor a little? How was Prudence chosen and what did it mean for you as an author and for the book?

I was super excited to learn that the Missouri Center for the Book chose Prudence for that honor! At the National Book Festival, each state chooses a book to represent it. All the states’ books are displayed together in one room for festival-goers. I didn’t attend the event, but several people who did told me Prudence sold out several times!

You’re a dog lover and have a rescue dog named Sophie. I’d love to hear more about her!

How much time do you have? Just kidding. She’s part long-haired dachshund, part chihuahua, we think. Very friendly, a good walking companion, pretty, and a real cuddler. She sleeps under the sheets with us.

What’s up next for you?

In July 2018, just in time for back-to-school, Beach Lane will publish It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! about a school bus’s first day of school. In 2019, Grosset & Dunlap will release my bobble-head biography, Who Is Jackie Chan? I’ve got more projects coming that have yet to be announced, so I better stop there. I’ll continue to publish poetry in great children’s magazines, too.

What’s your favorite holiday? Do you have an anecdote from any holiday you’d like to share?

I really like Earth Day and Arbor Day. I love helping take care of the earth.

Thanks, Jody! It’s been so great chatting with you! I wish you all the best with A Chip Off the Old Block and all of your books and projects!

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You can find A Chip Off the Old Block at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Penguin Random House

(Leaving a review is one of the best ways to support authors and illustrators!)

You can connect with Jody Jensen Shaffer on

Her website | Twitter

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Catch the Reading Bug Bookmark and Bookplate

 

If you love to read, show it with these printable Reading Bug book bling!

I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookmark | I’ve Got the Reading Bug Bookplate

Picture Book Review