December 1 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Bright Winter Night

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Thank you to Two Lions and Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Bright Winter Night for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Bright Winter Night

Written by Alli Brydon | Illustrated by Ashling Lindsay

Something magical is happening as “the song of snow” begins, and all of the woodland animals are gathering to complete a special task. Falcon flies in “silken strings” as “Wren flutters while she chirps and jigs, determined as she lays down twigs.” Beaver’s brought more sturdy boughs, and Stag’s back and antlers provide a sturdy base as the Rabbits use the wood and ribbons to build a sleigh. Attaching the reins Mouse brings and with the Wolves “all clear,” Bear climbs aboard to provide a comfy seat. 

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Image copyright Ashling Lindsay, 2022, text copyright Alli Brydon, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The Wolves take up the reins. “There’s just one goal. They must move fast— /  for soon the northern lights will pass!” The Wolves race over clearings and down hills, pulling the sleigh behind them. But the terrain is tough, and “the sleigh careens, the rabbits jump as all the rest go . . . BUMP, BUMP, BUMP!” But Stag is there to dig them out of the snowy drifts, and Beaver rights the sleigh and gets it back on track.

Suddenly through the bare and silent branches, “they spy a flash, and Squirrel says, ‘WHOA— / COME ON FRIENDS, LET’S GO, GO, GO!'” They hurry through the crystal night to a clearing, where, gazing upward, they’re enveloped in the grandeur of the northern lights. “The colors dazzle, glow, and blaze— / the flashes sizzle, shock, amaze!” In this moment, huddled together—”beak and muzzle, fur and feather”—this diverse group of animals are united in their awe of nature’s beauty, and a “peacefulness so warm and bright, / settles in their hearts tonight.”

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Image copyright Ashling Lindsay, 2022, text copyright Alli Brydon, 2022. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Alli Brydon’s brisk and lovely story is at once a lyrical call to appreciate and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and a poignant appeal to put aside perceived differences and embrace what connects us. As the animals work together to build a sleigh that will transport them to view the northern lights, they each bring to the project their own talents to make it sturdy and comfortable for all. When the sleigh flips, they again pull together to set things right. Brydon’s deft rhymes and rhythms build step-by-step as the animals construct the sleigh then flow as smoothly and quickly as the runners over the snowy trail. Even the sled’s momentary mishap is palpably felt with Brydon’s well-paced “BUMP, BUMP, BUMP!” And when the friends finally reach the clearing, Brydon captures not only the breathtaking view but the tranquil contentment it brings.

Using lush blues and shades of grey, Ashling Lindsay draws readers into the snowy woods, where blushes of pink, purple, and auburn highlight scampering rabbits, squirrels, and beaver as well as fluttering birds and majestic stag. Stylized trees, their feathery leaves touched with pink lend a mysterious air to the silent forest. As snowflakes fall, readers watch as the animals bind the twigs and branches just so to create their sleigh. And then they’re off. A two-page spread lets kids run with the wolves as they race into the oncoming snow. Lindsay’s image of the animals all snuggled together on the sleigh, protected by Bear, is heartwarming, while their topsy-turvy tumble into the snow will make some kids say “oh no!” and others giggle with memories of their own spills. Her interpretation of the northern lights sparkles and shimmers and will have kids adding their own “OOOOH! AHHHH!” to those of the animals gazing skyward.

An inspiring story for snuggly bedtime or daytime read alouds, Bright Winter Nights swells the heart with it’s focus on the power and beauty of nature to spark friendship and peace. The book is sure to be asked for again and again and is highly recommended for home and public library collections as well as for teachers, homeschoolers, and other educators, who will find it a stirring addition to lessons on space, geography, and natural phenomenon.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542022248

About the Author

Author Alli Brydon is inspired by natural wonders and what they can teach us, and she strives to bring that magic to the books she writes for children. Recent picture books include Lobstah Gahden, illustrated by EG Keller, and Love Around the World, illustrated by Wazza Pink. She also writes nonfiction about creatures, from insects to lemurs to humans. Alli holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in New York and lives in England with her family. Learn more at www.allibrydon.com. You can also connect with Alli on Instagram: allibrydon and Twitter: Alli Brydon

About the Illustrator

Ashling Lindsay is an artist and writer from Belfast, Ireland. Her picture books are published in more than ten languages and have received various awards and accolades, including a nomination for the Kate Greenaway Medal; being shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Klaus Flugge Prize, and the Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year; and being longlisted for the UKLA Book Awards. In 2020 she was awarded the KPMG Children’s Books Ireland Honour Award for Illustration with her book The Tide, written by Clare Helen Welsh. Learn more at www.ashlinglindsay.co.uk. You’ll also find her on Instagram: ashling.lindsay

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You can find Bright Winter Night at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 11 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. He then enlisted the help of Frederic G. Melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly, who believed that “a great nation is a reading nation,” and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library to help spread the word. This year’s theme is “How Do You Book?” The thought-provoking theme encourages readers to think about what they read, where they read, and how they read. To learn more about this literary holiday, visit Every Child a Reader to find out more about the week, how to join online, and lots of bookmarks and activities to download.

Building an Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chávez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash

Written by Carmen Oliver | Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

 

As a child, Favio Chávez looked to music as an important touchstone. When he grew up, he was still involved with music, but his profession was as an environmental engineer. He was given a job in “Cateura, Paraguay—a small village built on a landfill—to try to help the families who lived and worked amid the hills of trash.” When trucks came and dumped load after load of trash, recyclers, called gancheros, filled bags of items they could resell. The air was choked with the stench of garbage, and anywhere the gancheros walked “they waded through filth.” It made Favio sad to think of people living this way.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

As Favio supervised the gancheros, he “became friends with them and their children. He worried about what kind of lives they would live when they grew up. Besides his job at the landfill, “Favio conducted a youth orchestra in a nearby village.” One day, the people he worked with came to listen. They wondered if their kids could also learn to play instruments. Favio was excited by the prospect. 

He even brought his own guitars and violins for the children to play, but soon he had more kids in class than he had instruments. But there was another problem too. The instruments were valuable and could attract thieves to the homes of his students. He needed another idea, and while watching Nicolás “Colá” Gómez, a talented carpenter, picking through the trash, he thought of something that might work. 

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Colá began searching through the piles for anything that he could use to make instruments. He collected cans and pipes, crates and buttons, even X-ray film and eating utensils. As he looked at his materials, Colá envisioned how he could create a violin. Finally with violins and other instruments for each child, Favio began teaching them how to play and how to read music. They practiced and practiced until they were ready to perform for their parents.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

At a local church, with the audience packed and excited, the notes of the children’s first song ‘”New York, New York’ floated out the windows and into the warm night air.” The adults were overcome with happiness. While their lives had been only about survival, they now “had hope in their hearts and dreams for a better tomorrow.”

Back matter includes further information about Favio Chávez and the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura from 1975, when Favio was born in Argentina to 2006, when he arrived to work at the Cateura landfill to today, when the Orchestra supports more children and families with building projects, food, computers for school, scholarships, and many more humanitarian efforts. A selected bibliography is also included.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

From its earliest days the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura has inspired musicians, authors, movie makers, and listeners from around the world. In Building an Orchestra of Hope, Carmen Oliver tells the story through the lens of a hope fulfilled. As Favio Chávez begins his new job at the landfill educating the gancheros on how to work more efficiently, his initial thought is for the future of the children of the village. Oliver shows how Chávez not only supervised the workers but became their friend, honored to be included. While relating Chávez’s eagerness to share his love of music with the children, Oliver hints at what’s to come with lyrical descriptions of the sounds the glass, metal, and plastic makes as the gancheros rake through the piles of trash. She also includes pertinent facts that allow readers to understand the challenges the community faced and what a monumental undertaking the idea was.

While this story revolves around Favio Chávez, his idea could never have been brought to fruition without the talents of Nicolás “Colá” Gómez, who could envision the instruments and even hear their sound as he pored through the trash for materials. Oliver provides a satisfyingly detailed list of the types of items Colá repurposed and later reveals which items were used to create violins, drums, violas, flutes, saxophones, and trumpets, pages that are sure to pique young crafters’ interest. The emotional ending to this true story will swell the hearts of readers—those who already know about the orchestra and those being introduced to it for the first time.

Louisa Uribe’s soft-hued illustrations realistically depict the village of Cateura and the landfill it is built upon. They meet Favio Chávez and Nicolás Gómez and witness the idea of creating instruments from trash come to life. Uribe’s close up of a violin lets kids see how disparate items are used creatively to replicate each part of the instrument. As instruments are made, the number of children filling the courtyard grows until their hard work and practice is rewarded on a real stage, a microcosm of the growth and impact of one man’s caring and creativity.

Special Note: The inspirational back matter, worthy of its own picture book, will astound readers with just how far-reaching one idea when explored in collaboration with others can be. Themes of the vital importance and life-changing impact of the arts, persistence, determination, overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges and odds, and the power of hope are what this true story is built on, and this factual back matter is sure to affect readers and get them thinking about how they can make a difference to a cause they believe in.

Powerful, accessible, and impactful, Building an Orchestra of Hope is a must for all home, school, and library collections, not only to tell this compelling, ongoing story but to remind them that their actions, too—from a single kind word or smile to large community effort—can change lives. 

Ages 4 – 9 

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-0802854674

You can learn more about Luisa Uribe, her books, and her art on her website.

You can connect with Carmen Oliver on Twitter.

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Bookworm Bookmark

 

Are you a bookworm? If so, then this bookmark is for you! Just print, color, and cut along the dotted line. This little worm will happily save your page for you!

Bookworm Bookmark Template

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You can find Building an Orchestra of Hope at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 28 – It’s National Eat Better, Eat Together Month

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About the Holiday

National Eat Better, Eat Together Month encourages families to gather around the table for at least one meal a day. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics the benefits of eating together are wide ranging and can include better grades, better health, and fewer behavioral problems. Studies also show that when families get together for a meal, they tend to make more balanced food choices. This important uninterrupted time together allows each member of the family to share stories about their day or talk about issues that concern them, building stronger bonds.

Tiny Spoon Vs. Little Fork

Written by Constance Lombardo | Illustrated by Dan Abdo & Jason Patterson

 

The alarm clock on the kitchen wall “Bringgg! Bringgg! Bringggs” waking the baby’s spoon and fork, who pop out of their respective drawers, each raring to start the day. But it seems that these two have never met. “Wait a minute! Who are you?” they say in unison. Turns out Tiny Spoon and Little Fork both have the same job – to feed the baby. Tiny Spoon and Little Fork start to get into it—how Spoon has been there from the beginning and how much Baby loves to slurp, but now Fork reveals, Baby “wants to BITE! And CHOMP!” But time’s ticking away and Spoon and Fork have to get to the table.

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Image copyright Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson, 2022, text copyright Constance Lombardo, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park Books.

They make the daring leap only to continue their brew-ha-ha. Tiny Spoon has lots of great attributes and comes from sturdy stock, as proven by the photo album of “prominent spoons” like Aunt Soup Spoon, Daddy Serving Spoon, Cousin Teaspoon, and Grandpa Scoop. But Little Fork’s not impressed and opens up a photo app to demonstrate some bonafides in Uncle Salad Fork, Mama Carving Fork, Cousin Dinner Fork, and Great Grandma Tuning Fork, who had quite a voice. Tiny Spoon counters with an indisputable fact—”I was there FIRST time Baby ate solid food.”—and regales Little Fork with the fond memory of that day, Vroom, Vroom airplane noises and all.

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Image copyright Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson, 2022, text copyright Constance Lombardo, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park Books.

“BORING!” Little Fork says. “I’d like to see you try and twirl spaghetti.” Tiny Spoon volleys, but their pointed (and well-rounded) one-upmanship is interrupted by the “Thump! Thump! Thump! of Baby, who squeals “SPOOD!” and “FROK” as soon as she sees them. And, as she reaches out towards them, the promise of an answer is at hand. Instead, though, both Tiny Spoon and Little Fork are in hand, while Stuffed Bunny is in the other! 

Baby raises her arms! This is not eating posture… this is… “WHEEEEEEEEEEE!… NOT fun” to Spoon while “it’s a little fun” for Fork. Through the air Spoon, Fork, and Stuffed Bunny fly, landing with a bump on the floor just as the alarmed Clock warns that Baby’s hungry. This is dire. How will Tiny Spoon and Little Fork get where they are so needed? They try shimmying, climbing, even having Bunny toss them. up, but they clatter back to earth every time.

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Image copyright Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson, 2022, text copyright Constance Lombardo, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park Books.

But Baby’s needs are more important than ranking themselves, and Spoon and Fork find a clever way to work together and propel them to the table top, where Baby reacts with glee and surprise and immediately snatches them—one in each tiny fist—so that Tiny Spoon can scoop up oatmeal and Little Fork can grab the scrambled eggs. And Baby? She can “nom nom nom nom nom…” 

Happily food-encrusted and content with a good meal satisfactorily relayed, Tiny Spoon and Little Fork congratulate each other. They don’t have much time to relax, though, as Baby snatches them up again and they take another airborne trip across the kitchen to…could it be?…the dishwasher!

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Image copyright Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson, 2022, text copyright Constance Lombardo, 2022. Courtesy of Hippo Park Books.

Constance Lombardo’s madcap romp will have kids laughing out loud as Tiny Spoon and Little Fork try to outdo each other and claim the title of Baby’s favorite utensil. The comical repartee between Spoon and Fork lends itself to dramatic readings that kids will love chiming in on. As Tiny Spoon and Little Fork realize that their responsibility to feed Baby transcends their competition, they work together to ensure Baby’s needs are met, providing a humorous lesson on teamwork and friendship.

Dan and Jason know just what kids think is funny, and they bring all their talent for visual silliness to this rollicking story. Tiny Spoon and Little Fork’s expressive faces that accentuate the competition between them, Clock’s frantic Bringggg-ing, hand waving and alert that “BABY WANTS BREAKFAST NOW!” and baby’s boisterous actions will make any child or older sibling laugh out loud. The vivid, comics-style illustrations, dramatic text, and non-stop action will have kids shouting “again, Again, AGAIN!” for these two tiny superheroes.

A rollicking story that’s pure fun for lively story times, Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork is highly recommended. The book would be an often-asked-for favorite on home bookshelves and is sure to be in constant rotation at school and public libraries. If you’re looking for a gift for any child and especially an older sibling, you can’t go wrong with this book!

Ages 4 – 8

Hippo Park Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662640063

About the Author

Constance Lombardo is the author/illustrator of four books, including the three books in the Mr. Puffball series and the picture book, Everybody Says Meow, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book. Her passion for classic movies and classic comedy shines through in her work. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina. You can learn more about her books on her website and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

About the Illustrators

For the past 10 years, award-winning duo Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson have developed numerous animated campaigns, network TV and web series, and critically acclaimed commercial work. Their extensive portfolio has garnered them industry-wide recognition, while their humorous sensibility and diverse skill set has landed them jobs for top global brands. Dan and Jason have set up properties at Twentieth Century Fox, Disney, and Nickelodeon as well as a feature animated film through Paramount Pictures. The well-versed storytellers have developed original content for a wide variety of platforms, including print (Nickelodeon Comics, The New Yorker), theater (Pilobolus), and digital. Learn more about their work on their website. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

National Eat Better, Eat Together Month Activity

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Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork Printable Placemat

 

What’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner – or a snack – without a placemat? Messy! And what’s a placemat without fun puzzles to do? Boring! With this printable placemat from Hippo Park, you can spend mealtime with Tiny Spoon, Little Fork, and all their friends! Choose from full-color and black-and-white placemats here:

Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork Super Fun Printable Placemat

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You can find Tiny Spoon vs. Little Fork at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review