November 21 – It’s National Aviation History Month

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About the Holiday

It seems that people have always been fascinated with flight. The first kite was invented in 1000 BCE in China; around 400 BCE Archytas of Tarentum developed a steam-powered pigeon; and most people are familiar with the designs of flying machines that Leonardo de Vinci created in the late 1400s. It wasn’t until 1680 that actual human flight was abandoned when an Italian mathematician determined that human muscles were incompatible with flight.

Zip ahead about 100 years and the first hot-air balloon took flight, which led to more complex technology, resulting in Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flight in 1903. From there, it seemed, the sky was the limit. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic Ocean solo flight in 1932, and in 1947 Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. Given this long history, it’s astounding to think that only 58 years span the time from that modest 12-second flight by the Wright Brothers to the first manned space mission by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin! To celebrate the month, visit a local museum or read up on some of the pioneers of early flight—like the courageous women in today’s book.

Aim for the Skies: Jerrie Mock and Joan Merriam Smith’s Race to Complete Amelia Earhart’s Quest

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Doris Ettlinger

 

Jerrie Mock was only seven when her first airplane ride convinced her she wanted to be a pilot when she grew up. At first she only dreamed of flying across Ohio, but later, when she followed reports of Amelia Earhart’s daring flights, she decided she too wanted to see the whole world.

In 1952, Joan Merriam was fifteen years old when she took her first airplane ride and was invited by the pilots to see the cockpit. That’s all it took for Joan to know she wanted to be a pilot too. She began flying lessons and was in the air before she even got her drivers license. By 1963, Joan was working as a professional pilot and bought a plane of her own. One of Joan’s goals was to “circle the globe following the exact route” her idol Amelia Earhart had charted.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

By the time Jerrie was thirty-seven, she had three children and ran a flight business with her husband, Russ. One night when she told Russ that she was bored, he joked, “‘Maybe you should get in your plane and fly around the world.’” Jerrie took him up on that. Both women spent months planning and charting their flights. Neither one knew that the other was getting ready for the same flight until their plans hit the media. Suddenly, what they had both thought was a solitary pursuit became a race to the finish.

Joan took off on March 17, 1964 from an airstrip in Oakland, California accompanied only by two stuffed bears. Two days later, surrounded by reporters asking if she thought she could beat Joan, Jerrie climbed into her tiny plane and took off too.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jerrie’s troubles began right away. First, her radio didn’t work then bad weather kept her grounded for six days. “Where was Joan?” she wondered. While Joan’s flight began smoothly, a gas leak brought her down to earth for a week while the tank was repaired. Back in the air, Jerrie seemed to suffer problems every day. “She battled dangerous ice buildup, burning radio wires, and bad weather. She flew into a sandstorm over the Arabian Desert and couldn’t see.” But she encouraged herself to stay calm and use her instruments. Joan was having it no easier. “Heavy rains pounded her pane. Her windshield leaked. Water puddled at her feet. When she finally made it to Brazil, she was delayed again. This time by a government revolution!”

Day by day both women battled the elements and equipment failures but kept flying. Everyone around the world seemed to be watching the race. Russ told Jerrie she had to fly faster—that Joan was winning. In Pakistan, people told Joan that Jerrie had landed there five days earlier. Finally, on April 17, twenty-nine days after she had left, Jerrie returned to Ohio to a hero’s welcome. Reporters and crowds pushed to see her. “Jerry’s heart pounded. She had done it. She had flown around the world. She had won the race.”

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Where was Joan? She “was in Lae, New Guinea—the last place Amelia Earhart was seen alive—when she heard the race was over.” Even though she knew she was behind Jerrie, “the news was still hard to take.” She sent Jerrie a congratulations telegram, and then left for Guam. There, she walked and “thought about her childhood dream. She thought about the race and she thought about losing.”  Then she thought about why she had undertaken the flight. She had done it to honor Amelia Earhart. Even though Jerrie had won the race, Joan thought that didn’t make her a loser. She “could still do what she set out to do.”

Joan landed back in Oakland, California on May 12, 1964. Her plane was in such bad shape that the Coast Guard had to dispatch a plane to guide her in. Joan was also welcomed by cheering crowds and reporters. Both Jerrie and Joan had accomplished incredible feats. Jerrie “became the first woman to fly around the world,” and Joan—”following Amelia’s exact route along the equator”—was the first “pilot—man or woman”—to fly that distance solo. And both women received thanks from Amelia’s sister, Muriel, for honoring Amelia—”a pilot who, like them, chose to follow her dreams.”

An Author’s Note describing the differences in Joan and Jerrie’s routes and aircraft as well as a bit more about their lives after the historic flight and a map outlining each woman’s flight pattern follow the text. Resources for further reading are also included.

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Image copyright Doris Ettlinger, 2018, text copyright Aimée Bissonette, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aimée Bissonette’s thrilling biography of two woman, two flights, and one race will keep young readers on the edge of their seats. Riveting details reveal the staggering dangers the women faced as well as their astonishing courage, dedication, and persistence. Bissonette’s fast-paced, electric storytelling puts kids in the cockpit as Joan and Jerrie cross the globe. As Jerrie wins the race and Joan reevaluates her goal, Bissonette makes important and welcome points about the nature of competition, keeping one’s eyes and heart on an original goal without getting caught up in distracting hype, and having the self-confidence to believe in oneself and recognize one’s accomplishments.

In her realistic, richly colored watercolors, Doris Ettlinger follows Jerrie and Joan as they experience their first airplane rides that determine their futures, plot their flights around the world, and take off. The obstacles each woman dealt with are dramatically portrayed as winds whip trees, blinding rain and sand storms thwart progress, and mechanical failures keep the women grounded. Children get a look at landscapes from Bermuda, the Philippines, Africa, and Pakistan as Joan and Jerrie complete their flights. Expressive depictions of Jerrie’s and Joan’s emotions show readers the determination, pressures, and ultimate joy each woman felt during these historic months of 1964.

An exhilarating biography and adventure story rolled into one, Aim for the Skies is a book that will inspire young readers to keep their eyes on their goals despite obstacles and setbacks while reassuring them that winning is accomplished by being true to yourself. Children who love history, flight, biographies, and adventure will find this a compelling book to add to their home bookshelf. Classroom, school, and public libraries will want to include Aim for the Skies in their collections for story times and lessons.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363810

Discover more about Aimée Bissonette and her books on her website.

National Aviation History Month Activity

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Flying is Fabulous! Maze

 

Can you pilot the airplane along its route to the airport in this printable Flying is Fabulous! Maze?

Flying is Fabulous! MazeFlying is Fabulous! Maze Solution

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You can find Aim for the Skies at these booksellers

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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

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Picture Book Review

October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation. From the military, to business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the commemoration was expanded to a month in 1988. You can learn more about today’s holiday, find classroom and other resources, and discover fun facts on the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise | Illustrated by Paola Escobar

 

In 1921 Pura Theresa Belpré left her home in San Juan to visit Nueva York and celebrate her sister’s wedding. “Words travel with her: stories her abuela taught her. Cuentos folklóricos Pura retold in the shade of a tamarind tree, in Puerto Rico.” Pura’s visit lengthened, becoming a new start in a new land. At first, she got a job in a garment factory, but then Pura saw that the library needed a bilingual assistant. Pura spoke Spanish, English, and French. She thought she was perfect for the job, and the library did too.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

But while she shelved books, she noticed that there were no books of folktales from Puerto Rico in the collection. “How lucky for the library that Pura has story seeds ready to plant and grow.” In the children’s room she sits with the kids around her and tells the story of a beautiful cockroach and a galant rat who loves her: “la cucarachita Martina and el ratoncito Pérez.

After sharing the story with the children at the library, Pura hopes to “plant her story seeds throughout the land.” Pura makes puppets and performs her folktales for families who come to listen “en inglés y español.” But Pura wants children to be able to readPérez y Martina and other cuentos de Puerto Rico.” She types up her story and sends it to the publisher Frederick Warne. He agrees to publish her book.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Now Pura travels from library to library and to schools, “churches and community centers…planting her story seeds in the hearts and mind of children new to this island who wish to remember la lengua y los colores of home.” She spends her time writing, traveling, and speaking until she meets and marries Clarence Cameron White. Pura decides to take a year off from working at the library to be a wife. But one year becomes many as she and Clarence travel, playing music and telling stories. They spend many happy years together. When Clarence dies, “Pura’s story must begin again.”

“It is 1961,” and Pura returns to the library. Now other storytellers share Pura’s stories with the children and “the seeds she has planted…have become a lush landscape into which she steps as though she has never left.”

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

An Author’s note reveals more about the life and work of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City and the author of the first mainstream Latinx storybooks published in America. Back matter also includes selected bibliographies, archival resources, titles of articles and films, a list of books for further reading, and more information on the four folktales mentioned in the book.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lovely and lyrical tribute to the trailblazing and prolific Pura Belpré is a fast-paced introduction to the influence this librarian, storyteller, and writer had on children and the community as the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York and the first published Latinx children’s author in America. By blending Spanish words and phrases and English into her evocative sentences, Denise reflects the immigrant experience while also embracing Belpré’s and her Latinx reader’s love for and pride in their culture. As children learn how Belpré brought Spanish-language programs and books to children and families in New York and beyond, they will be inspired to look for ways that they, too, can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

Mirroring the lush landscape of language that Pura Belpré tended, Paola Escobar infuses her illustrations with rich hues and enveloping details. Belpré’s love for San Juan and her heritage is shown through the sprinkling of flowers, rendered in the bright pastels of her native country, that float around her whenever she tells her stories. The whimsical images of Martina and Pérez, characters from her first published folktale, also follow her from page to page throughout the story. Spectacular images of the city and inside the New York Public Library will have readers lingering over the pages.

A gorgeous read-aloud about a woman all children should know, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré is a must for all school and public libraries and would make an inspiring choice for home collections as well.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062748683 | Spanish-language edition ISBN 978-1400212644

Discover more about Anika Aldamuy Denise and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Paola Escobar, visit her on tumblr.

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

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We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped We Are All Family Word Search! Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré at these booksellers

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

Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré: bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos

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Picture Book Review

Pk Review

 

September 10 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

There are so many perfect times to read a book and so many new books to fill those hours. Kids love reading or being read to in school or before going to sleep. And adults they try to snatch a few minutes here and there during lunch or a break or before turning out the light. Whether you read a newly published book, a book that’s new at your local library or bookstore, or a book that’s just new to you, grab your favorite kind of book and start reading!  

Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank’s Diary

Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Jordi Solano

 

On August 4, 1944, Miep Gies hears the worst sound she’s ever heard: “footsteps on the secret back stairs.” The sound is “worse than the World War II bomber planes…. Worse than the queen’s quivering voice on the radio announcing the invading Nazi army.” The sound means that Nazi officers have come to arrest the Frank family who Miep has been hiding for two years. Miep hears the van carrying her friends roar away. She knows that soon Nazi movers will return to take away all of the Frank’s possessions. She knows too that she could be arrested for keeping anything belonging to her friends, but there is one item she must rescue. “It calls silently from the musty rooms above.”

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It takes many hours before Miep can bring herself to enter the secret annex. With her husband, Henk, and a coworker, Elli, they enter the rooms. In the bedroom, Miep finds what she is looking for: a red checkered diary that holds the thoughts and hopes of the Franks’ young daughter Anne. Miep “knows Anne dreams of publishing it as a book after the war.” Elli gathers up more of Anne’s writing that lies strewn across the floor, and Miep “grabs…Anne’s delicate combing shawl, strands of her dark hair clinging to its fabric like silky noodles.”

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Miep hides Anne’s diary and combing shawl in the drawer of her desk, never reading it. Nine months go by then one day Henk rushes into their apartment with news that the war is over and that the Nazis have surrendered. Miep and Hank wait for their “friends and neighbors to return from the camps,” wondering if the Franks will be among them. One day, Miep sees a familiar figure approaching her door. It’s Mr. Frank. He is alone, his wife having died in the camp. He has no knowledge about Anne and her sister as they were sent to another camp. While Mr. Frank regains his strength with the help of Miep, he sends letter after letter trying to locate his daughters.

At last a letter arrives, but it “contains the worst possible news: Anne and her sister did not survive the war. The air in the office hangs as still and shattered as the day of the capture.” With a broken heart, Miep opens her desk drawer and retrieves “Anne’s diary, papers, and shawl.” As she hands them to Mr. Frank, he gasps. He takes them to his office and reads Anne’s diary. “He savors her tales of growing up in hiding, her bright calls for hope when all seems lost.” He urges Miep to read it too, but she feels that she “will drown in sorrow” if she does.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

With the help of a war historian, Mr. Frank has Anne’s diary published. But, still, Miep cannot read it. Years go by before Miep opens the cover of Anne’s book. As she reads Anne’s words, she feels “as if Anne is standing right beside her, chattering away. Within the pages of her diary, Anne expressed her gratitude for the “gift…of writing, of expressing all that is in me” and her desire to “go on living even after my death!” After reading Anne’s words, Miep’s sadness lessens and she realizes that by saving her diary, “her beloved Anne will live on and on.”

An Author’s Note about how this book came to be written as well as more about the life of Miep Gies follows the text.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Reading Meeg Pincus’s compelling first page, readers can almost hear the stomp of Nazi footsteps on the stairs leading to the secret annex and feel the constriction of Miep Gies’s heart as the Franks are arrested and taken away. Miep’s courage amid her sadness reverberates throughout this true story, tinted with the secrecy of grocery runs, the hurried collection of Anne’s most precious possession, and her ongoing mission to protect her friends. Pincus’s excellent pacing and evocative storytelling, which includes actual quotes from Miep’s writings and is punctuated with emotion will have children holding their breath as they listen or read on their own. Heartbreaking facts are portrayed candidly and with respect for the target age, allowing Anne’s boundless hope to shine through.

Seeming to take inspiration in color and tone from photographs on the front endpaper of Anne and her father flanked by Miep Gies and other helpers, Jordi Solano washes his illustrations in somber grays and greens, preserving bright spots for Anne’s red diary and her grass-green skirt that connects her to the colorfully clothed children who, on the final page, have come to visit the Anne Frank Museum. Miep’s grief at the arrest of her friends is palpable, and the Nazi officer who threatens her with arrest is depicted with sharp angles and an unrelenting stare. Children see Miep hide Anne’s diary in the back of a drawer and the approaching figure of Mr. Frank coming home from the detention camp. Solano portrays the moment when Mr. Frank, reunited with Anne’s diary and papers, clasps his daughter’s things to his heart. It is a poignant glimpse into this most private experience. As Miep finally reads Anne’s diary, Anne, herself, appears as she was, full of curiosity, joy, and love.

A must to be included in lessons about World War II, the Holocaust, and Anne Frank, Miep and the Most Famous Diary is also a poignant reminder of the crucial role of personal courage as well as the everlasting endurance of hope. The book should be included in all school and public libraries and would make a powerful addition to home libraries as well.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110250

Discover more about Meeg Pincus and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jordi Solano, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Initials Bookends

 

You can display your personality along with your favorite books with this easy craft! This makes a great gift too!

Supplies

  • Sturdy wooden letter blocks in the child’s first and last initials. Or, if the child would like to try on a new name or nickname, the first letter of their new name.
  • Chalkboard or acrylic paint
  • Colored chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the letters, let dry
  2. With the chalk write words that describe you or names of your heroines and/or heroes
  3. Display your bookends

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You can find Miep and the Most Famous Diary at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 9 – It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation. From the military, to business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the commemoration was expanded to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. To celebrate, learn more about Hispanic Americans who have influenced our culture, attend a special event, and enjoy great books by Hispanic authors like today’s book! You can learn more about the holiday at the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Written by Margarita Engle | Illustrated by Rafael López

 

Growing up in Venezuela, Teresa listened to her mother’s lullabies and learned how to play the piano from her father. It wasn’t always easy “to make the stubborn music behave as she practiced gentle songs that sounded like colorful birds…and powerful songs that roared like prowling jaguars, beside towering waterfalls in a mysterious green jungle.” But by the time she was six, she was composing her own songs and at seven, she played in the cathedral.

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

When Teresa was eight, however, her world was rocked by war, and she and her family escaped by ship to America. In New York, she felt lost among all of the strangers, who didn’t speak Spanish and gawked at her and her family as if they “belonged in a museum of oddities.” Even here, they had not escaped conflict as the Civil War waged, pitting the North against the South and family against family.

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Teresa found refuge in her new piano and began to make friends with musicians who came to her home to listen and play along. Teresa practiced all types of music, “her strong hands accepting the challenge of life’s many dark and light moods.” She became well known as “the Piano Girl” and performed with big orchestras and in theaters. She became so famous that she was even invited to play for President Abraham Lincoln and his family at the White House.

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

At the time Washington DC was awash in suffering, torn by war and weariness. President Lincoln’s young son had recently become sick and died. How, Teresa wondered, “could music soothe so much trouble?” Holding tightly to Papá’s hand, she entered the White House and was ushered into a room “as red as a storm or a sunrise.” As she sat at the piano, Teresa recalled past challenges and her discover that life was a “mixture of all sorts of feelings, happy and sad.”

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

She began to play, but the piano was out of tune, “making her music sound ugly.” She stopped, but then President Lincoln requested she play his “favorite song, ‘Listen to the Mockingbird.’” This was a song Teresa could play on this imperfect piano. “Her fingers leaped across all the dark and light keys, improvising the way mockingbirds do, the melody changing as she went along.” Lincoln closed his eyes and was taken away on the soaring notes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dancing-hands-new-york

Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

When the song ended, the President rose and applauded. He smiled at Teresa and she smiled back, understanding that “her music had brought comfort to a grieving family, at least for one brief, wonderful evening of dancing hands.” Teresa continued to share her gift with the world, always bringing “beautiful dark and light moments of hope” to her listeners.

A Historical Note about the life of Teresa Carreño follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dancing-hands-war

Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Margarita Engle’s soaring biography introduces readers to an astounding woman who, even as a child, had not only a prodigious talent for the piano but a gift for understanding life as well. Engle, the 2017 -2019 national Young People’s Poet Laureate, infuses her story with beautiful lyricism and stirring metaphors that evoke the power of music in Teresa’s heart and hands. On these pages, music becomes a living thing, capable of forming friendships, soothing grief, providing escape, and offering hope. Engle’s focus on the meeting between Teresa Carreño and Abraham Lincoln is significant and offers inspiration to young readers. Like Teresa, who, concerned with playing just right, was presented with an imperfect piano but encouraged by Lincoln’s kindness, they too can learn that with a steady and courageous heart, anyone can use their talents to overcome challenges.

In Rafael López’s crisp, stylish illustrations, Teresa Carreño’s love of music and its emotional power serves as a counter point to the distress of war and anguish of grief. Using vibrant greens, pinks, oranges, and blues, Lopez surrounds Teresa with lush vegetation, dazzling birds, and the security of home. Muted variations of  these colors depict the bleakness of war. A moving image, washed completely in gray except for an approaching vivid bird and a tinge of soft rose dawn shows a mourning Abraham Lincoln alone in his office but soon to be comforted by Teresa’s music.

A beautiful and uplifting biography for kids of all talents, Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln would be an inspiring addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1481487405

Discover more about Margarita Engle, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Rafael López, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

CPB - Tortilla chips (2)

Homemade Baked Cinnamon Tortilla Chips

 

It’s easy to make these yummy tortilla chips at home! Why not invite your friends over and bake up a batch or two to enjoy while playing or reading together?

Ingredients

  • 2 10-inch flour tortillas
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • Butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine the cinnamon and the sugar in a bowl
  3. Butter the tortillas
  4. Sprinkle the tortillas with the cinnamon sugar mixture
  5. Cut the tortillas into 8 pieces
  6. Place pieces on a baking sheet
  7. Bake in 350-degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes
  8. Chips will become crispier as they cool.

Makes 16 chips

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You can find Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-cover

About the Holiday

Lighthouses have been in use since the earliest days of sea-going vessels. Built to warn sailors of dangerous and damaging rocks and reefs, these sentinels are a picturesque and fascinating part of history. From man—and woman—tended lights to today’s automated systems, lighthouses are a beacon of inspiration and imagination.

Miss Colfax’s Light

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

In 1861 when Harriet Colfax’s brother fell ill and decided to leave Indiana, Harriet had two options: she could leave with him—after all she had come to Indiana with him and worked with him at their newspaper—or she could stay on as the lighthouse keeper of the Michigan City Lighthouse, making $350 a year. Most women might have chosen to leave, but Harriet did not want to give up her independence or leave her best friend, Ann. She took the job as lighthouse keeper even though many in town thought she was too weak or too inexperienced to do the work.

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Harriet knew the ships on the sometimes wild waters of Lake Michigan—one of the northern United States’ Great Lakes—relied on the lighthouse to keep them from danger. Twice every night she had to carry “whale oil in a bucket up narrow stairs to the top of the lantern tower” to refill the light and then polish the Fresnel lens. During the day, she “cleaned and painted…varnished the woodwork and shined the brass…and wrote notes in her log.”

It didn’t matter if Harriet was tired or sick or if winter storms rocked the shore, Harriet’s work went on. In 1871 a beacon light was installed at the end of the Michigan City east pier. Now in addition to the main lighthouse, Harriet had to keep this signal lit too. To do so required a long walk down a wooden catwalk that jutted far out into the lake. At times the freezing water roiled and splashed over the catwalk, making the walk tricky and dangerous. By this time lard had replaced whale oil as fuel. While it was cheaper and easier to get, it also had to be heated to pour. Sometimes on frigid winter nights “the lard oil hardened in the cold and Harriet had to fight back through the wind to reheat the oil” on her stove.

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In 1874 the beacon light was moved to the west pier—farther away. Instead of being within walking distance, Harriet now had to “row a small boat across a creek, hike the far shore, and cross a longer catwalk to light the beacon light.” One night in 1886 storms raged as Harriet made her way down the west pier. “Driving sleet covered her coat with ice. Sand from the dunes along the lake pelted Harriet’s face, stinging her cheeks. Her boots slipped and slid on the catwalk.” Only moments after she finished filling the beacon light and stepped off the catwalk, “a deafening screech filled the air” as the beacon tower “ripped from its moorings and crashed into the lake.”

Harriet’s dedication to the Michigan City Lighthouse continued every day and every night for 43 years. People in town came to call the landmark “Miss Colfax’s Light,” and ship captains named it “Old Faithful.” Over the years her vantage point on the tip of the shore allowed Harriet to experience more than stormy seas. She also saw “brilliant sunsets, lunar eclipses, and silent, dancing northern lights. She saw tall-masted schooners with white sails give way to steamships of iron and steel.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In 1904, when Harriet was 80 years old, the Michigan City Lighthouse underwent a renovation. It acquired a fog signal, and the oil-burning mechanism was replaced with a steam engine and boilers with huge coal-fired furnaces that required several keepers. Although Harriet was sad to leave her life as a lighthouse keeper behind, she understood. With the same bravery that had brought her to the lighthouse, she opened the door and stepped out to what came next.

An author’s note about Harriet Colfax follows the text along with a glossary of terms used in the book.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-harriet

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

The life of Harriet Colfax needs no embellishment to reveal the kind of determination and dedication it took to keep the Michigan City Lighthouse shining. Aimée Bissonette tells this brave woman’s story straightforwardly, focusing on particular moments when her duties were increased or her resolve challenged. Harriet’s personal motto that kept her going: “I can do this” is repeated throughout the book, echoing the revolving beacon that shines continuously on the shore of Lake Michigan. Actual entries from Harriet’s log punctuate the text, lending authenticity and Harriet’s voice to the story.Children will be fascinated by this snapshot of American (and world) history.

Eileen Ryan Ewen’s action-filled paintings of Harriet and her work beautifully demonstrate to readers Harriet’s incredible will and perseverance under the most difficult circumstances. The narrow stairs of the lighthouse pose daunting in the middle of the night; the seas of Lake Michigan surge and lap at Harriet and the winds buffet her as she navigates the catwalk; and an exhausted Harriet stands at the stove melting lard to light the lens. Children interested in ships and the sea will find much here to excite their imaginations.

A captivating biography of a woman who lived life on her own terms long before there was support for her choices, Miss Colfax’s Light will inspire today’s kids and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369553

Meet Aimée Bissonette and learn more about her books and work on her website!

To view Eileen Ryan Ewen‘s portfolio, sketchbook, and other books, visit her website!

National Lighthouse Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shining-lighhouse-maze

Shining Lighthouse Maze

 

Lighthouses protect ships from rocks, fog, and other dangers. Can you help the beam from the lighthouse reach the tugboat that is approaching in this printable Shining Lighthouse Maze? Here’s the Solution.

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National Archives Lighthouses from the Collection

 

If you’re fascinated by lighthouses, you’ll love exploring these drawings from the United States National Archives. Click below to download a pdf of lighthouses from around the country. 

The National Archives of the United States Coloring Book of Lighthouses

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miss-colfax's-light-cover

You can find Miss Colfax’s Light at these booksellers

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

July 2 – I Forgot Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-forgot-your-skirt-amelia-bloomer-cover

About the Holiday

Does summer make you feel forgetful? The hot, hazy weather and more relaxed schedule can loosen up that school-time vigilance and well… make you forget things. But that’s okay! I Forgot Day was established to give people an opportunity to make up for lapses in memory. If you’ve forgotten a special event, birthday, or anniversary, it’s not too late to apologize and let the person know you haven’t forgotten them—just that particular date. Of course, there are also things that may have slipped your mind that bear remembering or lessons from the past that should not entirely be forgotten. Today’s holiday is a good time to embrace those memories—just like today’s book shows!

You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer!

Written by Shana Corey | Illustrated by Chesley McLaren

 

“Amelia Bloomer was not a proper lady.” But that was all right with her because she “thought proper ladies were silly.” Amelia found it silly that proper ladies couldn’t vote and were not supposed to work. In response, she protested as a suffragette and began her own newspaper called The Lily which only published news about women. Amelia hired other women to work there.

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Image copyright Chesley McLaren, 2000, text copyright Shana Corey, 2000. Courtesy of Scholastic.

But to Amelia, the silliest thing of all was women’s long dresses. They “were so heavy, wearing them was like carting around a dozen bricks.” She thought women looked like “walking broomsticks. They acted like broomsticks too because their skirts swept up all the mud and trash from the street.” And the corsets they wore choked off their breathing and made them faint. To keep those long skirts standing out, they also wore wire frames that got squashed and squeezed in doorway after doorway. “Even little girls had to wear proper dresses. So they couldn’t run and jump and play.”

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Image copyright Chesley McLaren, 2000, text copyright Shana Corey, 2000. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Amelia Bloomer was determined to do something about it. Then one day, Amelia’s friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton came to visit and brought her cousin Libby. “Libby looked remarkable” because “she was not wearing a dress!” Libby thought proper dresses were silly too. Libby’s dress was shorter and not so poofy, and underneath Libby was wearing a kind of pants. Amelia immediately sewed herself such an outfit.

When people saw Amelia in her new outfit, they gasped. “‘You forgot your skirt, Amelia Bloomer!’ called a little boy.” But Amelia didn’t listen to them. She felt so free that she “ran and jumped and twirled.” She wanted all women to know about these wonderful clothes, so she wrote about them in The Lily. Women all over the country loved them and wanted to know where they could get them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-forgot-your-skirt-amelia-bloomer-letters

Image copyright Chesley McLaren, 2000, text copyright Shana Corey, 2000. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Amelia was flooded with letters from women asking for the pattern so they could make an outfit for themselves and for advice on how to accessorize. “Some people called the new style of clothes the American Costume. Most people just called them Bloomers.” Of course, there were many proper gentlemen who disliked the bloomers. Some thought they would just “lead to more rights for women.”

After some time, bloomers went out of style. “Proper ladies and gentlemen everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.” They were sure women’s clothing would go back to “normal,” and that everyone would forget about Amelia Bloomer and her improper ideas. “Well… what do you think?”

An Authors Note filling in details of Amelia Bloomer’s life, the restrictive clothing women wore, and the early women’s rights movement follows the text.

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Image copyright Chesley McLaren, 2000, text copyright Shana Corey, 2000. Courtesy of Scholastic.

These days it does seem ridiculous that women once had to live in such restrictive, and even dangerous, clothing. Although children may see pictures of Victorian dress, they might not be able to fully appreciate all that was going on under those voluminous skirts. It’s with a sly wink to those times and people’s attitudes that Shana Corey presents her biography of Amelia Bloomer. Through her light touch, Corey highlights not only the early women’s rights movement but nudges children to keep vigilant to see that freedom and rights continue to come to all.

Chesley McLaren’s bright, delicate illustrations bring a Victorian vibe while reveling in fresh colors and offbeat perspectives. Kids may grow wide-eyed to see a woman holding onto a bedpost as her corset is drawn tight and other women fainting as a result of this necessary item. McLaren also exposes the “dirty” truth as a woman’s hem sweeps along apple cores, bones, bottles, and paper as she walks. An image of a hoop framework festooned with bricks, gives kids an idea of how much these dresses weighed. Proper ladies and gentlemen in their stuffy clothes may point, stare, and harrumph at Amelia in her comfortable bloomers, but Amelia gets the last laugh as she floats, twirls, and moves freely in her trendsetting pants. The influence Amelia Bloomer had on future fashions and the rights of women is delightfully shown in postcard-type snapshots of styles from the 1920s,1960s, 1980s, and in a two-page spread of a park today.

Awarded many accolades as one of the best books of 2000, You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! can be found at public libraries and from used booksellers. The book makes for an entertaining yet educational way for kids to learn about history.

Ages 4 – 8

Scholastic, Inc, 2000 | ISBN 978-0439078191

Discover more about Shana Corey and her books on her website

To learn more about Chesley McLaren, her books, and her art, visit her website.

I Forgot Day Activity

CPB - Sunglasses Matching Puzzle

Whose Sunglasses? Matching Puzzle

 

Four kids have forgotten their sunglasses! Can you follow the paths to match each child with the right pair in this printable puzzle?

Whose Sunglasses? Matching Puzzle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-you-forgot-your-skirt-amelia-bloomer-cover

You can find You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review