November 19 – Have a Bad Day Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bad-day-at-riverbend-cover

About the Holiday

Ever get tired of telling others to “have a nice day!” when you—or they–are not really feeling it? Do you work in the customer service industry (and who doesn’t in one way or another) and deal with difficult personalities on a daily basis but still need to smile and wish the person a good day? Well, today’s holiday was established to give us all a bit of relief and encourages people to end their interactions or conversations with the surprising “Have a bad day!” It’s probably safe to say that upon hearing this, even the grumpiest of grumps would have to smile—even a little bit—and acknowledge that maybe everything isn’t so terrible.

Bad Day at Riverbend

By Chris Van Allsburg

 

“Riverbend was a quiet little town—just a couple dozen buildings alongside a dusty road that led nowhere.” It was the kind of town the stagecoach passed through without even stopping, where nothing new ever happened. But one day Sheriff Ned Hardy did see something new—a bright light that flashed on and off in the western sky. He was sitting in the jailhouse, pondering this strange occurrence when Owen Buck, the blacksmith’s son, ran in with some news. “In between gasps, Ned Hardy heard the words ‘stagecoach’ and ‘something awful.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bad-day-at-riverbend-stagecoach

Copyright Chris Van Allsburg, 1995, courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

Outside, a crowd of townsfolk stared at the stagecoach, which was standing still at the end of the road. “The horses were covered with great stripes of some kind of shiny, greasy slime.” No one knew what this was or what had happened. Ned Hardy tried to remove the slime that hung from the horses “in loopy ropes or stuck out like stiff wire.” But as hard as he tried, the sheriff could not tear the stuff away from the horses’ bodies.

The stagecoach driver was nowhere to be seen, so Ned Hardy saddled his horse and went to search for him. Along the way he came upon the same strange markings he’d seen on the horses. It covered the ground and the cacti. He didn’t have much time to consider what he saw before he heard a sound nearby. The sheriff found the coachman lying behind a bolder. He was also “covered with the greasy slime. Thick stripes of the stuff ran right across his eyes and mouth.” Ned Hardy picked the driver up and put him on his horse for the ride back to Riverbend. As they passed over a ravine, they saw a herd of cattle, which also carried the odd, colorful markings. Once again the sheriff saw the flash of light over Riverbend.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bad-day-at-riverbend-horses-covered

Copyright Chris Van Allsburg, 1995, courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

As the two rode back into town, they saw that even tidy Riverbend had not been spared. Some of the townspeople had been marred as well, and “they all told the same story: Without warning, the sky overhead had filled with a brilliant light, a light that froze everything it touched…’Like stepping out of a privy and looking straight into the sun at high noon,’ one of the cowboys said….When the light passed, they were covered with the greasy marks.”

Ned Hardy was not about to let his town down. He went outside to confront this mysterious foe. Inspired by his bravery, other townspeople joined him. Just then they saw the flash of light again. “‘Whatever evil thing has done this is out in those hills,’” Ned Hardy said, “pointing in the direction of the light. ‘I aim to ride out there and put an end to it.’” He took a posse out to the canyon, which was now a mess of greasy slime as well.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bad-day-at-riverbend-cows-covered

Copyright Chris Van Allsburg, 1995, courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

They rode on toward the horizon where the light always seemed to appear. But just over a hill they saw a most terrible sight. “There was a man standing perfectly still at the bottom of the hill. He was as tall as a cottonwood tree and as skinny as a broomstick. He looked like he was made entirely of the greasy stuff that now covered the countryside.”

Ned Hardy was sure this stranger was the cause of all their troubles. With the go-ahead from the sheriff, the posse advanced, ready to take their shot at capturing him. “But just as they came over the hill, they were frozen in the bright light that suddenly filled the sky” as a little hand scribbled away with red, blue, green, and purple crayons. “And then the light went out.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bad-day-at-riverbend-kid-coloring

Copyright Chris Van Allsburg, 1995, courtesy of HMH Books for Young People.

For its outright cleverness and superb storytelling, Bad Day at Riverbend is one of my all-time favorite picture books. In his story set in the Old West, Chris Van Allsburg—master of the “what if…?”—has turned a coloring book into a suspenseful who-done-it for young readers. With the twang and tone of a Western movie and detailed line drawings, Van Allsburg empathizes with the coloring book characters, who are mystified by what is being done to them and their surroundings.

As Ned Hardy and his posse happen upon a stick figure drawn into their landscape, readers may begin to suspect who the perpetrator really is. The final pages reveal satisfying “Ah-ha!” moments as a child’s arm and hand appear from the corner wielding a stick of “greasy slime.” The following two-page spread shows a boy or girl wearing a red cowboy hat busy at work and surrounded by art supplies. The last page, on which a closed coloring book lays on a table, answers the question, “what was that bright light?”

Bad Day at Riverbend is the kind of unique story that would capture any child’s imagination and make a wonderful addition to a home library. It would also make a great gift for coloring book enthusiasts.

Ages 4 – 8

HMH Books for Young Readers, 1995 | ISBN 978-0395673478

Find out more about Chris Van Allsburg and his books on his website.

Have a Bad Day Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-very-bad-bad-word-search

A Very Bad, Bad Word Search Puzzle

 

Some days are just bad…bad…bad! They make us feel sad, glum, dreary…Well, you know! Cheer up by finding the twenty words for describing a bad day in this printable A Very Bad, Bad Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution

Picture Book Review

May 31 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-original-cowgirl-cover

About the Holiday

As we say goodbye to Get Caught Reading Month, let’s remember all of the great stories we’ve read and eagerly anticipate those that still await us in the days and months ahead! The long, relaxing hours of summer vacation are nearing, giving readers even more time to enjoy their favorite pursuit. So why not make a list of titles you’d like to explore this summer, and lead it off with today’s book that tells the true story of a very original teenager!

The Original Cowgirl: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Suzanne Beaky

 

Unlike most girls in the 1890s, Lucille didn’t skip rope “with her mama’s clothesline, she twirled it like a lasso. Whoosh…whoosh…snap!” While Lucille’s papa thought his daughter would be a great help around the ranch, her mother considered riding horses and roping steers unladylike. Lucille wasn’t interested in the regular pursuits of becoming a lady, however. Sewing and cooking were boring, and “riding sidesaddle was slower than a snail climbing a greased log.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-original-cowgirl-clothesline

Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

By the age of ten, Lucille was well versed in “mending fences, training racehorses, and herding cattle.” When she asked her father for her own herd of cattle, he told her that she could have one when she was old enough to rope and brand her own—something she could already do. Lucille’s mother worried about her when she patrolled the pastures where her cows grazed. They were threatened by “longhorns, wolves, and coyotes so mean they could turn the strongest cowboy into buzzard food,” but Lucille could snatch those varmints with her lasso in no time flat. The only thing Lucille was afraid of was not being allowed to work on the ranch, so she hid her bumps and bruises.

When Lucille was thirteen, her papa took her along on some rough-riding and roping competitions he had organized. When people saw how talented she was, word got around. Newspapers called her a “daring young girl who ‘held the audience in a breathless spell’” and said she was “‘the envy of half the men.’” But now that she was a teenager, Lucille’s mama sent her to a boarding school where she was to learn how to be a lady.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-original-cowgirl-lassoing-cow

Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of albertwhitman.com

When she returned home at the end of the year, her papa presented her with a gift—a “beautiful sixteen-hand chestnut horse named Governor. Right off, Lucille could see that he would make a perfect trick horse. That summer Lucille, her papa, and the other cowboys were invited to perform for Vice Presidential candidate Teddy Roosevelt. At first Lucille’s mother said no, but she later relented, with the stipulation that “it would be Lucille’s last appearance.”

Lucille was a star, demonstrating her riding and roping skills for 25,000 people. Teddy Roosevelt was so impressed, he suggested Lucille have her own show. Soon, Lucille was traveling around the country, thrilling audiences by breaking broncos, lassoing and branding steers, and performing tricks like roping “five galloping cowboys all at once.”

Lucille entered her first professional steer-roping competition when she was just fifteen. She was the first women ever to compete in this kind of event. Some cowboys laughed at her, but she didn’t care. When the steer was released from the pen, Lucille took off after him. Her first throw of the lasso landed but broke. Quickly she tossed another and “flipped him up like a flapjack.” She jumped off her horse and in 29 ½ seconds tied the steer’s feet. Her time was “faster than all the men!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-original-cowgirl-roping-five-cowboys

Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

Lucille went on to break the world record for steer roping. Plenty of people still thought Lucille belonged in the home instead of on horseback. “But her home was always on a horse with the sun on her cheeks a lariat coiled in her hand, and the boundless Oklahoma prairie rolling out in front of her.”

More information on and a timeline of Lucille Mulhall’s life follow the text.

With her folksy storytelling, Heather Lang transports readers to the prairies of the Wild West, where a girl with phenomenal riding skills captured the attention and hearts of Americans. Young readers will be fascinated by Lucille Mulhall’s development from a 10-year-old prodigy to the star of her own stage show in only a few short years. Lang’s expressive period-perfect vocabulary allows all kids to ride the range while they learn about this young woman who broke stereotypes, championed the cause of women, and still serves as a role model for all who wish to live life on their own terms.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-original-cowgirl-roping-five-cowboys

Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

With her downhome, action-packed illustrations, Suzanne Beaky lets kids watch as Lucille lassos a wolf, ropes a steer, preforms tricks, and celebrates her record-breaking performance. Lucille is a wide-eyed force of nature in her split skirt and braids as she twirls her rope for serious ranch business and for entertaining the crowds, whose stunned expressions reveal just how original Lucille was. Clothing, hair, and mustache styles, as well as depictions of horses, steers, and the vast green prairie make The Original Cowgirl as fun as it is informative.

For kids interested in the Wild West, early American history, biographies, or a story about true individuality, The Original Cowgirl: the Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall is a great addition to home bookshelves and public and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman, 2015 | ISBN 978-0807529317

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website!

To find out more about Lucille Mulhall through videos, photographs, and fun activities, click here!

Learn more about Suzanne Beaky and view a gallery of her artwork on her website!

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Yee-haw-word-search

Yee-haw! Word Search

 

Can you lasso the eighteen Wild West-inspired words in this printable Yee-haw! Word Search? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review