November 26 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to gather together and share their stories, Oral storytelling has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever. The stories your children will be telling start now in the everyday and special moments they share with others.

The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope

Written by Danielle Davison | Illustrated by Anne Lambelet

 

Whenever Liam’s father came home from the sea, he told his son wonderous tales of “the faraway places he’d been and the curious things he’d seen.” Someday, Liam thought, he would join his father and have his own tales to tell, but for now he enjoyed sharing his father’s stories with others. One day, though, Liam’s father didn’t return. “Liam thought of the stories he hadn’t heard, the ones he’d never hear again, and the adventures they would never take.” He didn’t feel like telling his father’s stories any more.

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Even though Liam knew his father wouldn’t return, he spent his days at the harbor in the company of the sailors there who told their stories; but none were as good as his father’s had been. One day, a very old man appeared on the dock. His name was Enzo, but the sailors called him “‘the Traveler.’” Liam had never seen anyone like him before. He talked of wonderous voyages, and as he did his beard grew and grew, “until each story he told wove from his face like a tapestry.”

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

People traveled from all over to see the Traveler and his beard. Many thought it was strange or odd, but Liam thought it was perfect. One day, just before the Traveler was about to set off on what he said was his last voyage, he announced that he was looking for a “worthy companion” whom he could pass his gift on to. Many people on the dock raised their hand and Liam did too, although he didn’t think the Traveler would pick him. The Traveler did choose him, though, and before he knew it, Liam was setting sail. “‘I feel like my heart might burst from my chest!’ said Liam.”

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

The Traveler taught Liam how to truly observe and listen to the world around him. They traveled to places not on any map and saw many unusual creatures. “But after many suns had set, Enzo’s soul grew weary.” As Liam sat with him, Enzo told him he’d like to give him a gift. Enzo asked Liam to close his eyes and tell him a story. After giving it some thought, Liam talked about his father, about his friend, and about all of their adventures. “Liam’s words wove splendid pictures, the way his father’s once had.”

As he talked, the magic of storytelling came back to him, and the Traveler bestowed his gift. Liam’s hair grew and grew, unfolding like a tapestry.

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Danielle Davison’s mystical ode to storytelling and life relived and revived through words unwinds with the wonder of traditional tales tinted with the curiosity and imagination of children. While Liam misses his father and the adventures he thought they would have together, he is also open to new experiences and friendships—a quality that allows him to restore the future he had for himself.

Anne Lambelet’s rich and unique illustrations, appearing as if they have been hewn from wood, convey all of the mystery and wonder of the story. Through colorful ribbons teeming with ships, pirates, unicorns, mountains, trees, castles, cities, marvelous creatures, and more, Lambelet connects the gift of storytelling that Liam’s father, the Traveler, and, finally, Liam possess. The color fades to gray as Liam learns of his father’s loss, but even here, his sadness is diffused by just the hint of sun or the glimmer of candlelight. Lambelet’s use of color and black-and-white imagery also reveals Liam’s growth.

Lambelet’s ocean and dockside illustrations are gorgeous and extend to the front and end endpapers that each tell a part of Liam’s life. Lambelet’s lush color palette adds beauty to each page, and the people and objects that appear in the stories by Liam’s father, the Traveler, and Liam will keep readers lingering over the pages to what they are, where they come from, and how they are connected.

A book for thoughtful story times that celebrates the regenerative and enlivening power of imagination and keeping one’s heart open, The Traveler’s Gift would be a distinctive addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624147654

To learn more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Family Stories Month Activity

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I Love My Family! Portrait

 

What is one of your favorite family stories? Use this printable heart-framed I Love My Family! Page to write or draw about that story!

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You can find The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 14 – Anniversary of The Race Around the World

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About the Holiday

On this date 130 years ago, an incredible race began between investigative reporter Nellie Bly and Cosmopolitan magazine writer Elizabeth Bisland to beat the fictional voyage of Phileas Fogg, a character in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days. I’m excited to be reviewing Caroline Starr Rose and Alexandra Bye’s book on the anniversary of this historic feat.

A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland

Written by Caroline Starr Rose | Illustrated by Alexandra Bye

 

In 1889 the world was changing in incredible ways through inventions such as the telegraph, electricity, the telephone, and express trains and fast steamships. People thrilled to the idea of circumnavigating the globe faster and faster. Previous attempts had seen a voyage by a travel writer that took a year and a half and a trip by a baseball team that took six months. But the goal that was so enticing came in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days. “A reporter named Nellie Bly believed she could be even faster.”

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Image copyright Alexandra Bye, 2019, text copyright Caroline Starr Rose, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Nellie Bly studied steamer and train schedules and thought she could make the trip in seventy-five days. “Her boss at the New York World said only a man could manage such a trip.” With only three days to prepare, Nellie boarded the Augusta Victoria in New Jersey on November 14, 1889. Meanwhile, in New York, Elizabeth Bisland was called to her office at Cosmopolitan magazine. Her publisher wanted her to leave immediately to begin her own journey around the world to beat Nellie Bly. In five hours she was boarding a train. As Elizabeth made her way across country, Nellie was on a steamer, fighting seasickness, unaware “that her one-woman dash was now a contest of two.”

When Nellie docked in England, she learned that Jules Verne wanted to meet her. Their meeting meant a mad dash to France and back before she boarded a ship for the next leg of her trip. In San Francisco Elizabeth was excited to be leaving the United States for the first time. Nellie arrived in Ceylon two days ahead of schedule, but her advantage faded as her ship was delayed. While Nellie stewed, in Japan Elizabeth “marveled at sloping hills and mist-filled valleys. She wandered temples and tombs as elegant as poetry.”

Nellie stopped in Singapore, while Elizabeth laid over in Hong Kong; Nellie’s ship was rocked by a monsoon, while Elizabeth’s ship suffered a broken propeller. “During the third week of December, in the South China Sea, two steamers passed. One carried Nellie. One Elizabeth. Who was winning the race? No one knew.

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Image copyright Alexandra Bye, 2019, text copyright Caroline Starr Rose, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

When Nellie arrived in Hong Kong, she learned that she was in a race that the whole world was watching—and that she was probably losing. Nellie and Elizabeth made their way on the last legs of their respective trips in fits and starts; weather and timing slowing them down, beautiful scenery and their own strength keeping them going. As Nellie skirted blizzard conditions affecting the Central Pacific Railroad by taking a southern train, Elizabeth was crossing the Atlantic on “one of the slowest ships in the fleet.”

When Nellie stepped from the train car onto the platform on January 25, 1890, she was met with three official timekeepers, a ten-cannon salute, and adoring crowds. What’s more, she had bested herself by nearly three days. A disappointed Elizabeth sailed into New York Harbor on January 30 and was met by a small gathering. As the winner of the race, Nellie Bly was famous, her name known around the world. For Elizabeth the experience was just the beginning of a lifetime of travel and writing. But “both took on the world and triumphed, each on her own terms.”

An Author’s Note relating more about Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland and how their story affected the author follows the text. The endpapers contain a map with Nellie’s and Elizabeth’s routes depicted.

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Image copyright Alexandra Bye, 2019, text copyright Caroline Starr Rose, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In her compelling and lyrical recounting of this historic contest, Caroline Starr Rose brings to life the magnitude of two women’s achievement in conquering the elements, technical setbacks, and the prevailing misconceptions about women’s abilities. Like any great travelogue, Rose’s story is peppered with scintillating details of narrow escapes, late and missed connections, and the sights, sounds, and tastes of the countries Nellie and Elizabeth traversed. Used to information that is relayed around the world in the blink of an eye and transportation that takes mere hours to travel across the globe, Children will be awed by this competition set in motion by the forerunners of these technologies and the precociousness of a fictional character. In Rose’s final pages, readers will find universal truths about the personal dynamics of winning and losing, the benefits of leaving their comfort zone, and meeting challenges on their own terms.

Alexandra Bye’s rich illustrations take readers from Nellie Bly’s newsroom and Elizabeth’s apartment to ship staterooms, luxury train compartments, and exotic locales. Along the way they see sweeping vistas, experience roiling storms, and even meet a monkey that Nellie bought. Bye’s intricate images depict the time period with a fresh sensibility that conveys the universality of the emotions and drive involved in daring adventures of all kinds and for all times.

An excellent book for children interested in history and travel as well as an inspiring spark for cross-curricular lessons, A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland would make a stirring addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 9

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807500101

Discover more about Caroline Starr Rose and her books on her website.

To learn more about Alexandra Bye, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Anniversary of the Race Around the World Activity

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Nellie Bly Coloring Page

 

Nellie Bly was an amazing woman! Not only did she set a record for fastest trip around the world but she was one of the first women journalists in the country and pioneered investigative reporting. She was also an inventor and industrialist.

Nellie Bly Coloring Page

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You can find A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly & Elizabeth Bisland at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 16 – It’s Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the culinary arts from entrees to desserts to everything in between. July is also a great time to honor the chefs, cooks, and bakers who continually develop new dishes, create exciting taste sensations, and make dining out an event to look forward to. Of course, during this month we also thank those home chefs who prepare healthy meals for their families every day. To celebrate the holiday, go out to your favorite restaurant or try a new place. At home, get the kids involved in making meals or special treats. Cooking together is a terrific way to spend time together, and today’s book can get you started!

United Tastes of America: An Atlas of Food Facts & Recipes from Every State

Written by Gabrielle Langholtz | Illustrations by Jenny Bowers | Photographs by DL Acken

 

If you have a child who loves to cook, who’s a bit of a foodie, or who just likes to chow down, then the mouth-watering, eye-popping United Tastes of America is for them! Young travelers will also appreciate the wanderlust that the recipes and fascinating facts from each state serve up in abundance. Come along on a dip into the vast and varied culinary world of America!

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Image copyright Jenny Bowers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Starting on the East Coast in the state I grew up in, we visit Florida, where as Gabrielle Langholtz says, the “tropical weather allows farmers to grow all kinds of fruit, including lots of citrus.” The plentiful coastline on this peninsula also provides “fish such as grouper, pompano, and mullet.” Residents from Cuba Jamaica, Haiti, and the Bahamas have brought “Caribbean dishes such as mashed yucca,…fried plantains,…and arroz con pollo.” A slice of refreshing Key lime pie deliciously finishes off any meal. Some other tidbits to gnaw on before getting to the Key Lime Pie recipe on the next page revolve around the Cubano sandwich, conchs, alligators, and stone crabs.

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Image copyright Jenny Bowers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Moving up the coast and a bit inland, we come to Pennsylvania, where members of the Pennsylvania Dutch community know how to dish up traditional flavors from their German heritage that are still favorites with adults and kids. Some of these include “chicken potpie, ham loaf, egg noodles, and schnitz un knepp, or pork with dried apples.” You’d also find bright pink hard-boiled eggs (colored by pickling them with beets) and hinkelhatz, a hot pepper used to make sauerkraut from homegrown cabbage. Other local delicacies include button mushrooms (“The tiny town of Kennett Square, home to only six thousand people, grows more than a million pounds of mushrooms each week! That’s half of all the mushrooms farmed in America.”), chow chow, cheese steak, scrapple, and pepper pot. Turn the page and you’ll find a recipe for Soft Pretzels, a well-deserved pride of Pennsylvania.

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Photograph copyright DL Ackers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Trekking into the very middle of the country, we discover Missouri, which in addition to it’s tasty treats has a distinctive connection to home cooks everywhere. In 1931 Missouri resident Irma Rombauer “published 3,000 copies of The Joy of Cooking…. Irma’s book showed American food in a time of change.” While it contained recipes “for farm foods, like pickles, pie, and even possum…The Joy of Cooking also included recipes for canned ingredients, which many people saw as the foods of the future.” Irma may have been inspired by hearty Missouri fare like steak (a favorite ever since cowboys began bringing cattle from the southwest to the rail yards in Kansas City, MO), black walnuts from the Ozark Mountains, toasted ravioli, introduced by the state’s Italian immigrants, and partridge, a purported fave of Mark Twain. When you’re ready to create a true Missouri original, turn to the recipe for St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake that is a “creamy-on-the-inside and crisp-on-the-sugary-top treat.”

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Image copyright Jenny Bowers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Travel down and west a few states to find New Mexico and its spicy cuisine. Known for its chile peppers (when you order be prepared to answer “the state’s official question ‘red or green?’”), New Mexico boasts home cooks and restaurants who can really highlight this hot ingredient. You can enjoy Posole, which is hominy simmered with green chiles and shredded pork or chicken; carne adovada, “pork cooked in red chile sauce with vinegar” and served with warm tortillas; and spicy pie, which is “apple pie baked with spicy Hatch chiles and often eaten with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.” If you want to try something non-spicy, take a taste of prickly pear or piñon nuts. Hungry for a cookie with a bit of snap? Try the recipe for the anise-flavored Biscochitos, the official state cookies of New Mexico, that pair nicely with hot chocolate.

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Photograph copyright DL Ackers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Finally, this culinary caravan reaches the west coast and Oregon’s diverse flavor sensations. On the coast, fish and seafood as well as fiddlehead ferns, chanterelle mushrooms, and berries are seasonal treats. The Cascade Mountains offer more fishing, and in the valleys below fruit orchards provide apricots, peaches, pears, and apples. Foodies will be interested in snapshots that include the fact that “Oregon grows 99 percent of America’s hazelnuts” and that “scientists at Oregon State University developed delicious new berry varieties that include marionberries and tayberries.” You can get your day off to a healthy start with the hearty recipe for Granola with Hazelnuts and Cherries.

In addition to pages and recipes from the fifty states, United Tastes of America also includes culinary highlights from Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

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Image copyright Jenny Bowers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Before kids and adults get cooking, Gabrielle Langholtz packs the front matter with cooking tips, descriptions of nine cooking methods, helpful cooking how-tos, an illustrated and descriptive guide to kitchen tools, and a map of the United States and its territories. Two indexes in the back of the book help readers find information presented in the text and also present the recipes by level of difficulty from Easier than Average to Average Difficulty to Harder than Average. Most recipes fall within the Easier and Average categories. Her light, conversational introductions to each state will pique the interest of foodies, history lovers, and travelers alike.

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Photograph copyright DL Ackers, 2019, text copyright Gabrielle Langholtz, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Each state is introduced with a two-page spread spotlighted with Jenny Bowers’ vivid, bold typography that names the state and presides over a silhouette of the state which hosts charming depictions of the interesting morsels of culinary information. Every recipe is clearly and beautifully photographed by DL Acken and presented in a way that is irresistibly enticing.

A cookbook that goes beyond its culinary roots, United Tastes of America will appeal to both kids and adults. It is a book that will be as welcome in the classroom for geography and social studies lessons (with a side dish of tastings) as in the kitchen, and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 8 – 11 and up (these are terrific family recipes that all ages will enjoy)

Phaidon, 2019 | ISBN 978-0714878621

You can connect with Gabrielle Langholtz on Instagram and Twitter

You can find a portfolio of work by Jenny Bowers on her website.

Discover more about DL Acken and her photography on her website.

Culinary Arts Month Activity

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My Family’s Recipe Box, Label, and Cards

 

Holidays are a perfect time for kids to learn traditional or favorite family recipes. With this easy craft and printable label and recipe cards, children can create their own unique recipe box.

Supplies

  • A tea bag box, such as Tetley Tea or another appropriately sized box with a lid that overlaps the front edge
  • Printable Recipe Box Label | Printable Recipe Cards
  • Washi tape
  • Heavy stock printing paper
  • Adhesive printing paper (optional)
  • Glue (optional)

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Directions

  1. Cover the box in washi tape
  2. Print the label on adhesive printing paper or regular paper
  3. Stick label to box or attach with glue
  4. Print recipe cards on heavy stock paper
  5. Write down favorite recipes and store them in your recipe box

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You can find United Tastes of America at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 1 – Canada Day

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About the Holiday

Today, we’re celebrating our neighbors to the north! With the signing of the Constitution Act on July 1, 1867, Canada became a new federation with its own constitution. The country’s distinctive red-and-white maple leaf flag—often claimed by vexillologists as one of the world’s most beautiful—flew over Parliament Hill for the first time on this day in 1965. With beautiful coastlines, rugged mountains, bustling cities, quaint towns, and warm, welcoming people, Canada is a wonderful place to live and makes a fantastic vacation destination!

C is for Canada

Written by Mike Ulmer | Illustrated by Sylvie Daigneault

 

What would you see if you decided to take an alphabet-inspired trip across the vast expanse that is the gorgeous country of Canada? Dip into this special ABC travel guide and find out! A great place to start is with the letter A, which stands for Aurora Borealis: “Look up into the nighttime sky / and see the colours dance on by. / The show takes place on cloudless nights; / Aurora Borealis means Northern Lights.” B happens to be for Beaver, Canada’s national symbol. This little animal is a perfect match for the country’s people because “…his heart is big; he’s always eager— / Canada is like that busy beaver.”

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Image copyright Sylvie Daigneault, 2017, text copyright Mike Ulmer, 2017. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Dino lovers (and, really, who isn’t?) will want to head for the Badlands of Alberta, where the letter D awaits in Drumheller, the Dinosaur capital of the world and home to the biggest dinosaur skeleton. If those beasts are too tame for you, you might like to try the open-air thrill of E at Edgewalk at the CN Tower. Can’t get enough of the outside? Then take in K for Klondike Days, a 10-day festival commemorating Edmonton’s role in the Klondike Gold Rush with food, music, rides, and booths.

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Image copyright Sylvie Daigneault, 2017, text copyright Mike Ulmer, 2017. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

While you’re here, you’ll use Canada’s beautifully designed money engraved with polar bears and the loons that give the coins their L nickname, Loonies: “The sound of it gives me a smile / when I add a coin every once in a while. / A loonie makes a lovely ‘clank’ / when dropped inside my piggy bank.” Of course no Canadian excursion is complete without M for Maple Leaf: “Our country’s like a maple tree— / we know the strongest limbs / are those with roots that reach around / the world and back again.”

If winter sports are your thing, then you’ll love N, which is for the National Hockey League. As hockey players well know, “To play in the NHL would be a thrill / but first I have to learn one skill. / I can skate very fast, I’m off like a shot— / I just need to learn the best way to stop.” Maybe you like to spend more time outdoors than at the rink. If so you might just see R for Rock Rabbits on a hike: “When a rock rabbit lets out a squeak, / it means it’s playing hide-and-seek. / And when it gives another cry, / it means it’s safe to go outside.”

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Image copyright Sylvie Daigneault, 2017, text copyright Mike Ulmer, 2017. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Two distinct areas are worth a peek at U and V. U is for Underwear—the special warm kind made in Truro: “We treasure pretty Truro, / I think we always will. / That’s where they make the long johns / that protect us from the chill.” V is for Victoria and all its grandeur: “There’s an ocean complete with oceanside / and carousels for kids to ride. / And a great hotel for weeklong stays / and bike trails you can ride for days.” And now we’ve come to the end of our alphabetic tour where Z is for Zero—or is it? “Zero isn’t zero; it tells you quite a lot. / Below is fairly chilly, above is really not. / Zero isn’t zero; it’s more vital than you think. / You need less than zero degrees to have yourself a rink.”

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Image copyright Sylvie Daigneault, 2017, text copyright Mike Ulmer, 2017. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

These are just a few of the highlights among the 26 letters and bright spots C is for Canada has to offer. Mike Ulmer’s verses provide tantalizing tidbits of descriptive and action-packed information for readers who want to learn more about this fascinating northern country. A glossary following the text gives more intriguing details about each letter’s subject.

Sylvie Daigneault’s vibrant illustrations are lovely companions for Ulmer’s verses and give young readers clear, up-close views of the people, places, animals, and history of Canada. Huskies frolic in the snow, caribou trot along a rocky lakeside while majestic mountains rise behind them, two science centre visitors have a hair-raising experience, and an old prospector pans for gold in the Yukon. Each snapshot will engage little armchair travelers and make their imaginations roam far from home.

And now, even the youngest Canadians and travelers can enjoy getting to know Canada from A to Z with the new board book edition! The small size makes it a great take-along too!

Ages 2 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369737 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1534110458 (Board book)

You can connect with Mike Ulmer on his blog!

View a gallery of illustration work by Sylvie Daigneault on her website!

Canada Day Activity

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Canada Coloring Pages

 

From its vivid red-and-white flag to its purple mountains, Canada is a colorful country! Here are three printable Canada Coloring Pages for you to enjoy!

Canadian Flag | Canadian Animals Coloring Page | Beaver Carrying Canadian Flag

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You can find C is for Canada at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 16 – National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day

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About the Holiday

If you like dressing casually for work, then you’re going to love today’s holiday. Why is National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day celebrated today? It follows what may be one of the most stressful days in the US calendar—April 15, or Tax Day. While it may not actually be possible to wear your comfiest clothes to the office, you and your family could make that change as soon as you get home and wear your pajamas to work on dinner, homework, house projects, or whatever you have going.

Night Train: A Journey from Dusk to Dawn

Written by Annie Cronin Romano | Illustrated by Ileana Soon

 

As dusk descends, the night train wakens, “groggy, stretching.” Coal’s loaded in while excited passengers get on board. The night train creeps up the hills, winding its way through stands of pine trees, startling small creatures with its clattering wheels. After navigating the hills, the night train crosses a wide plains, where wheat fields sway their golden greeting.”

Over the river the train chugs across a bridge passing a deer who’s come to the edge to drink and a silently watching raccoon. As a dad and his son eat and chat in the dining car, the train travels by “whitewashed barns” and races wild stallions. The train rumbles into a tunnel where the track is cloaked in darkness by the “granite passage.” But its “headlamp brightens, pathway lightens— / never-fearing, calmly steering night train.”

The train approaches its destination just as the sun begins to lighten the sky. The city is coming awake; children rising, workmen rushing. The night train’s breaks squeal as it thunders into the station, slows and stops. The “worn conductor yawns and stretches,” and the train, with its journey finished, gets to sleep.

Annie Cronin Romano’s lovely, lyrical ode to the mystery and allure of a nighttime journey by train is the perfect antidote to a busy day for sleepy children or those who just need some down time. With rhythmic phrasing, the sounds of the train as it progresses on its steady route play out, enveloping readers in a blanket of security and custom that mirrors the constant love and care of the adults in the young reader’s life.

Ileana Soon takes children on a gorgeous journey from golden sunset to velvet blue night to pastel dawn. As evening settles in, the train makes its way up dusky brown hills while small animals scurry away from the clattering wheels. Seen from above, the train puffs along tracks that are as straight as an arrow cutting through a vast wheat field. Silhouetted horses race the train, but like the little bats in the sky, they are soon left behind. When dawn breaks, the town welcomes the train and its passengers with lighted windows and a busy station.

Night Train: A Journey from Dusk to Dawn is a beautiful bedtime or quiet time story and would be a favorite on home, school, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146572

Discover more about Annie Cronin Romano and her books on her website

To learn more about Ileana Soon and her art, visit her website.

National Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day Activity

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Riding the Rails Dot to Dot

 

Taking a trip by train long distance can be fun—especially if you travel overnight in a sleeper car! Instead of counting sheep, count and follow the numbers in this printable Riding the Rails Dot to Dot.

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You can find Night Train: A Journey from Dusk to Dawn at these booksellers

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Picture Book Review

February 15 – National Wisconsin Day

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About the Holiday

Following the week of Independence Day in 2017, National Day Calendar instituted a weekly celebration of each state in the order in which they entered the union. Today, we recognize Wisconsin, which became the 30th state on May 28, 1848. In 1634, while searching for a Northwest passage to China, Jean Nicolet explored the area. Mining for copper and lead brought Europeans to the region and gave the state its nickname. Wisconsin became known as The Badger State not for the animals but for the habit of miners to build their shelters into the hillsides instead of erecting more permanent homes. Now, Wisconsin is known for its dairy farms and delicious cheeses. Kids will have fun learning about Wisconsin’s largest city with today’s book!

Lulu & Rocky in Milwaukee

Written by Barbara Joosse | Illustrated by Renée Graef

 

Lulu and Pufferson receive a letter from Aunt Fancy inviting them for an adventure. Included are two tickets for the Lake Express to Milwaukee and instructions to go to the Pfister Hotel, where Lulu’s cousin Rocky will be waiting for them. Lulu and Pufferson pack quickly, and in no time they’re aboard the ferry and crossing Lake Michigan. Norman, the doorman at the Pfister, ushers them into the lobby. Rocky is standing in the middle of the lobby, where “there’s gold everywhere and everyone smells like perfume.” He waves and Lulu rushes over and gives him a hug.

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Image copyright Renée Graef, 2018, text copyright Barbara Joosse, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

They head out to explore the city. First, they take “canoes from the Urban Ecology Center and see Milwaukee from the river.” All that rowing has made them hungry, so they hit the Historic Third Ward for fried cheese curds that “taste like melted sunshine.” The next day is busy too and includes a trip to the North Point Lighthouse, Discovery World, and the Harley-Davidson Museum. Dinner is rip-roarin’ fun with a fish-fry enjoyed while a polka band plays.

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Image copyright Renée Graef, 2018, text copyright Barbara Joosse, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The third day is spent at the lakefront peddling a surrey bike and visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum with its rooftop brise soleil—a wing-like structure that opens slowly like a swan taking flight. Lulu says she feels like she’s “riding in the swan! Higher than the clouds! Higher than the wind!” The sculpture and paintings in the museum inspire Lulu and Rocky to paint pictures of their day. The next morning it’s time to go home. Lulu and Rocky give Norman their pictures to remember them by. Lulu and Pufferson board the ferry that will take them home and wave goodbye to Rocky and Milwaukee.

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Image copyright Renée Graef, 2018, text copyright Barbara Joosse, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

An illustrated guide to the sites Lulu and Rocky visited with more information about what there is to see and do at each, plus a long list of even more things they will do on their next trip, follow the text. The title page shows an aerial-view map of the city with major landmarks noted.

Barabara Joosse’s Lulu and Rocky are enthusiastic tour guides through some of Milwaukee’s hot spots that offer sightseeing, exercise, music, inspiration, and yummy treats. Sprinkled with a few old-fashioned phrases and references to new-fangled technology, the story is as warm, friendly, and fast-paced as any enjoyable trip should be. Lulu’s observations highlight kid-favorite fun and will entice in readers a desire to discover not only Milwaukee but their own nearby cities as well.

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Image copyright Renée Graef, 2018, text copyright Barbara Joosse, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Renée Graef’s adorable fox cousins will charm children as they introduce kids to Milwaukee. From the letter that Aunt Fancy sends to the cutaway image of a ferry full of excited travelers to realistic depictions of the city center, lake front, and museums, readers will enjoy lingering over the pages to take in all the details. Humorous additions—as well as Norman’s “wooly bear caterpillar” eyebrows—will also keep kids giggling as they take this enchanting tour-in-a-book.

This first book in a new series—the Our City Adventures—will excite children to learn more about areas around the country and what makes them unique. An engaging introduction for young explorers or armchair travelers as well as an accessible resource for teachers. Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee would be just the ticket to add to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534110175

Discover more about Barbara Joosse and her books on her website.

To learn more about Renée Graef, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Wisconsin Day Activity

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Wonderful Wisconsin Coloring Page

 

Kids will enjoy learning some facts about Wisconsin with this printable coloring page.

Wonderful Wisconsin Coloring Page

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You can find Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 11 – International Mountain Day

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About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored holiday aims to raise awareness of the crucial importance of mountains to the livelihood and even survival of the world’s population. Covering nearly one-fourth of the earth’s land mass, mountain areas are home to almost one billion people, and over half of the human population relies on mountains for clean energy, food, and water, including 60 to 80 percent of the world’s freshwater supply. Today, mountains are under threat from land degradation, over exploitation, natural disasters, and climate change. This year’s International Mountain Day theme is Mountains Matter, and scientists, activists, and others involved in protecting these unique ecosystems will be advocating for recognition and protection on social media and directly to politicians who can enact change. To celebrate, learn more about the importance of mountains and consider getting involved locally or with national organizations.

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.

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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

International Mountain Day Activity

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Marvelous Mountains! Word Search

 

If you love mountains, you’ll want to find the names of the nineteen mountains in this printable word search puzzle – no climbing necessary!

Marvelous Mountains! Word Search Puzzle | Marvelous Mountains! Word Search Solution

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

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

 

 

Picture Book Review