June 12 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Cats make wonderful pets! They can be cuddly or completely independent, but their playful personalities make for lots of laughs and love. If you own a cat, spend some extra time with your pet and ensure that all of your feline friend’s health needs are being met and are up-to-date. If you think you might like to adopt a cat into your family, visit your local animal shelter for cats and kittens who are looking for a forever home.

Lily’s Cat Mask

By Julie Fortenberry

 

Lily was starting school so her dad took her shopping. “Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to get new things for school, but her father said it would be fun.” After buying some clothes and meeting a woman they knew who gushed at how much Lily had grown, Lily was tired and wanted to go home. “But then she saw the cat mask.” It was the only one on the shelf, and Lily’s dad surprised her by buying it for her.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Lily put it on immediately and wore it on the way home. She wore it to tea parties with her toys, to family parties “when she wanted to be invisible. And when she wanted to be noticed.” When she wore it to her doctor’s appointment, the doctor spoke in meows. One day she lost her mask. Her dad made her a rabbit costume, and while that was fun for a while, Lily was happy to finally find her cat mask.

Lily wore her cat mask for many occasions. She wore it when she didn’t want to talk—like when she met her new teacher. “She liked to hide her face when she felt mean and couldn’t get nice.” She even blew out her birthday candles and made a wish wearing the mask. When school started, Lily was only allowed to wear her mask on the playground, but once in a while she put it on, hoping no one would notice. Then it was sometimes put in the teacher’s desk drawer.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

One day, the teacher made a very exciting announcement. The class was going to have a costume party, and everyone could wear a mask or dress up however they wanted. On the day of the party, there were characters, animals, and bugs of all kinds. But then Lily looked across the room and saw the best costume of all—another cat! During recess the new friends played on the swings and meowed happily together.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Julie Fortenberry’s story of a quiet, hesitant child who discovers a unique way of interacting with the world around her offers openhearted acceptance and understanding for children who are observant and thoughtful integrators. The reaction of Lily’s father, teacher, doctor, and family members to her cat mask is uplifting and provides excellent modeling. The straightforward storytelling highlights Lily’s sweet personality as well as the empathetic responses her costume elicits.

Fotenberry’s illustrations of adorable Lily and her experiences at home, at school, at the doctor’s office, and at the mall are full of joy. The colors are fresh and vibrant, but also calm and peaceful, mirroring Lily’s feelings when wearing her cat mask. The images demonstrate and validate Lily’s preference to watch and participate in events from her own distance.

Lily’s Cat Mask provides the opportunity for much discussion with children, especially about meeting people, Lily’s birthday wish, where Lily sits and plays at parties and at school, and when Lily makes a friend. The book is highly recommended for classroom and school libraries and would make a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0425287996

Discover more about Julie Fortenberry and view a gallery of her books and artwork on her website!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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The Cat’s Meow Word Search

 

There are so many beautiful types of cats! Can you find the names of twenty-one breeds in this printable The Cat’s Meow Word Search puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

April 13 – National Make Lunch Count Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to help trim the number of days you remain at your desk during lunchtime eating the same ol’ same ol’. Instead of staying in, why not get out of the office! Try eating outside in a nearby park or going to a favorite lunch spot to enjoy a hearty lunch. You could even invite some coworkers along and engage in some interesting, funny, or stimulating conversation. By getting away from your work for a bit, you’ll actually be more creative and efficient for the rest of the day!

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

By Julia Sarcone-Roach

 

Oh dear… something happened to your sandwich? Well… “it all started with the bear. You see, when the bear woke up and left his den for his morning exercises, he caught a whiff of ripe berries in the back of a pickup truck. After eating his fill, he fell asleep in the bed of the truck. He woke once again to find himself “being quickly swept along like a leaf in a great river. The forest disappeared in the distance and high cliffs rose up around him.” Soon he found himself in a city—a forest like he had never seen before.

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Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

Still, he found many similarities to home. The fire escapes, clothes lines, and rooftops offered challenging places to climb, the lamp posts scratched his back just fine, and there was a new sidewalk that was just as squishy as the mud in the forest. This forest also had many intriguing smells, but each time the bear explored one he found someone else had gotten there first. He continued to follow his nose and discovered a playground full of fun things to do. He was at the top of the slide “when he saw it.”

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Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

“There it was. Your beautiful and delicious sandwich. All alone.” The bear was wily, though. “He waited to make sure no one saw him (not even the sandwich) before he made his move.” Feeling safe, the bear grabbed that sandwich and gobbled it all up. He was just licking his lips when he heard a “sniff, snuffle, slobber, snort behind him.” He turned around to find four canine witnesses to his misdeed.

He fled the scene, loping down the street to the nearest tall tree and escape. From the top of this telephone pole, he could see way down the river to his own forest. He stowed away on a boat and fell asleep to its gentle rocking. “When he opened his eyes, he heard the breeze in familiar branches and the birds’ and bugs’ evening song.” He was home.

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Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

“So. That’s what happened to your sandwich.” Really! I was there—“I saw it all.” I even tried to save your sandwich, but all I could retrieve was this tiny piece of lettuce. I know you’re disappointed, and “I’m sorry to have to tell you about your sandwich this way, but now you know….” Would your own puppy pal lie to you?

Julia Sarcone-Roach knows how to spin a yarn. Her clever and funny confessional story will have kids’ glued to the eye-witness testimony about a bear who, according to the report, seems to be both sympathetic and a scoundrel. The surprise ending will make readers laugh—especially if they have mischievous siblings, friends, or pets. Sarcone-Roach’s vibrant, gauzy illustrations echo the fantastical imagination of the sly Scottie while giving vibrant life to the forest and city. Her depictions of the bear performing his morning exercise ritual, clambering across apartment buildings, encountering his competition for scraps, and attempting the playground equipment are endearing, and his utter astonishment at being caught is a comical joy.

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Copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach, courtesy of jsarconeroach.com

Ingenious clues sprinkled throughout the pages may lead some skeptical readers to doubt the veracity of the story, but the ending is delightfully satisfying and unexpected to all—except, perhaps, for the pup’s owner.

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich is a fun, charming, (mis?)adventure that kids will giggle through and ask for over and over. It would make a favorite addition to home libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Knopf Book for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0375858604

Discover so much more by Julia Sarcone-Roach on her website—including books, illustration, film, and more!

National Make Lunch Count Day Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chew-on-this-lunch-words-word-scramble

Chew on This! Word Scramble

 

Oh dear! The lunch menu has gotten completely mixed up! Can you unscramble the words on this Chew on This! Word Scramble so everyone can enjoy a tasty lunch? Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

March 23 – Near Miss Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday commemorates a most auspicious moment in history that never happened! On March 23, 1989 a huge asteroid missed hitting Earth by only 500,000 miles. Did you feel the breeze as it blew by? Yeah, me too! I think we can all remember exactly where we were when we happily escaped suffering the same fate as the dinosaurs. So drink a toast to serendipity and the gravity of natural forces.

Oh No, Astro!

Written by Matt Roeser | Illustrated by Brad Woodard

 

Astro was not a typical asteroid. Instead of zooming around crashing into obstacles, he believed in “personal outer space” and had for millions of years. One day when Astro spies an approaching satellite, he greets him cordially and lays down the rules: “please keep your distance” and “stay in your orbit.” But the satellite ignores him and comes closer and closer until…

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Image copyright Brad Woodard, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

“‘Good gravity! You’ve struck me!” Astro exclaims. He’s just about to “point out to the satellite that it had done considerable damage to one of his favorite craters” when he discovers that he is spinning out of his orbit and out of control. How humiliating! The usually unflappable space rock suddenly finds himself hurtling past Mars. At the same time young astronomer, Nova, is “enjoying a quiet night of stargazing” through her telescope. She catches sight of Astro as he zips past an astronaut, rushes past the Moon, and finds himself on an inevitable collision course with Earth.

As he enters Earth’s atmosphere he begins to break apart, shedding bits of the past, as the universe watches. He lands on Earth with a SMASH! Reeling from the impact Astro slowly opens one eye and then the other. He finds that he’s smaller but in one piece. Standing by is Nova, waiting to welcome him to his new home. “‘My stars,’” he mutters. “‘Dare I say that was…FUN?!’”

And as Astro gazes at the night sky from a fresh perspective with Nova by his side, he asks, “‘What on Earth shall we do next?!’”

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Image copyright Brad Woodard, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

For anyone stuck in the rut of their own orbit, Matt Roeser’s story of the unwitting space traveler is a humorous invitation to explore the universe around them. Roeser’s language—from calling asteroids “rambunctious” and the satellite a “celestial wanderer” to exclamations of “good gravity!” and “Pluto’s revenge!”—is an inspired treat. Kids and adults will laugh at Astro’s attempts to handle his undesirable predicament with dignity. Complacent Astro with his dry-as-space-dust wit and sparkling puns makes a stellar guide on this journey to more self-discovery and life enjoyment.

In the hands of Brad Woodard, deep space is a very cute and cool place! Rendered in flat tones of black, aqua, yellow, red, and white, Woodard’s illustrations give Oh No, Astro! a retro feel for a space-savvy audience. The oblivious satellite floats through Astro’s orbit with wide eyes and a sweet grin, while angular Astro with his stick arms, expressive face, and boldly displayed “No loitering” banner would be a welcome alien intruder in any back yard. Inquisitive and inclusive Nova, in her ponytails and Saturn-patterned dress, is the perfect companion to greet him! The night sky abounds with constellations, but Astro is the real star!

In the final pages, Astro leads readers in a “A Selection of Space Facts” from the  very Manual of the Cosmos, 2nd edition that he used to sort things out in  his own life. A short list of suggested reading is also included.

Kids would love to find Oh No, Astro! on their bookshelf for story times of cosmic fun!

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481439763

Visit Matt Roeser’s Website to discover his gallery of book jacket designs!

You can learn more about design and illustration work by Brad Woodard at Brave the Woods!

Near Miss Day Activity

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Name That Asteroid! Word Search

 

Can you find the names of 20 asteroids floating around in this printable Name That Asteroid! Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

February 12 – It’s Black History Month

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About the Holiday

Black History Month, also known as National African American History Month celebrates the achievements and contributions of African Americans in United States History. Originally a week-long observance commemorating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and Frederick Douglass on February 14,  Black History Month was officially established in 1976 by then president Gerald Ford.

Words Set Me Free

Written by Lesa Cline-Ransome | Illustrated by James E. Ransome

 

Born into slavery and separated from his mother in infancy, Frederick Bailey is raised by his Grandmama while his mother works on a separate plantation. When she is able Harriet Bailey walks the 12 miles between plantations to spend a few short hours with her son, watching him sleep before making the long journey back. While Frederick is still a very young child, his mother falls ill and dies. Douglass recalls never seeing his mother’s face in daylight.

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Image copyright James E. Ransome, text copyright Carole Boston Weatherford. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

At the age of six, Frederick is moved from his Grandmama’s cabin to the plantation house. At eight, he is sent to the master’s brother in Baltimore, Maryland. Here, the master’s wife, Sophia Auld, treats Frederick more like a paid servant then as a slave. When Frederick says he wants to learn how to read and write, she immediately begins teaching him the alphabet. Frederick is always mindful, however, that he may be punished for these lessons, and he has only memorized the letters and a few words before his master puts an end to his education. Angrily, the master explains to his wife, “If you teach him how to read…it would forever unfit him to be a slave.”

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These words are perhaps Frederick’s greatest lesson. He never forgets them, and they fuel his resolve to pursue an education. He makes clever use of the few resources he has and slowly learns to read and write. From the newspapers he discovers that the North offers freedom, and Frederick decides to escape. It’s many long years, however, before he can fulfill his dreams. At last, he sees an opportunity to leave the South behind, and using his talent for writing makes his escape a reality.

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Image copyright James E. Ransome, courtesy of Simon & Schuster.

Lesa Cline-Ransome has written a compelling biography of Frederick Douglass for children in Words Set Me Free. In straightforward language and through first-person point of view, Cline-Ransome reveals the brutal truth of Douglass’s life as a slave and his fight against injustice. As the title suggests, the book focuses on Frederick’s desire to become educated and the obstacles he overcame to succeed. This universally important message continues the work Douglass engaged in long ago.

James Ransome’s stirring paintings realistically highlight pivotal scenes of Frederick’s life, beginning with the tender moments he spends with his mother as a very young child. With an unstinting eye Ransome reveals the hardship and cruelty Frederick endured as a slave. His moving illustrations also demonstrate hope as Frederick, with blossoming intellect, resolves to educate himself and find a means of escape.

Ages 5 and up                                                                                                            

Simon & Schuster, New York, 2012 | ISBN 978-1416959038

Learn more about Lesa Cline-Ransome and her books on her website!

Find a gallery of illustration, paintings, drawings, videos, and more on James E. Ransome‘s website!

Black History Month Activity

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Frederick Douglass Word Search

 

Words were so important to Frederick Douglass that he risked everything to learn how to read and write. In this printable Frederick Douglass Word Search Puzzle you will find words about the subject of today’s book. Here’s the Solution

January 18 – Thesaurus Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that most marvelous, stupendous, spectacular, cool, awe-inspiring, remarkableand—one from my early youth—groovy book, the thesaurus! Without its incredible cross-referenced lists of synonyms and antonyms, the world would be much more boring, dull, lackluster, monotonous place. Today, spice up your speech and writing with the perfect word to express all the nuances of life!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

While just a young child, Peter, along with his mother, his uncle, and his baby sister Annette, travel to their new home following the death of his father. It would not be his first move, and in the absence of long-time friends, Peter found companionship in books. When he was eight years old, he began writing his own book titled: Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. But this was not a book of stories or even one story; it was a book of lists. The first list was divided in two. On one side were the Latin words he knew; on the other were their definitions.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Jen Bryant. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Peter’s mother hovered and worried over her son, and he always told her he was “fine.” “Although, to be honest, Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.” As the years went by, Peter added lists to his book, prompting his mother to complain about his constant “scribbling.” But Peter looked at his lists differently. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them in long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.”

As a teenager Peter was shy, preferring to wander the London gardens alone, “making lists of all the plants and insects,” as in one of his favorite science books by Linnaeus. His “mother didn’t approve, and Peter told her not to worry—but “perhaps worry wasn’t quite the right word. What was the right word? Peter began a new list: Worry, fret, grieve, despair, intrude, badger, annoy, plague, provoke, harass. Enough to drive one mad. How wonderful it felt to find just the right word.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Jen Bryant. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

An idea crept into Peter’s mind for a book where “all the ideas in the world could be found in one place,” and people could “find the best word, the one that really fit.” When Peter was 14 he entered medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon graduation at 19, his uncle told him that patients would be wary of a doctor so young. To gain a bit of experience and maturity, Peter became a tutor to two teenage boys.

At last Peter set up his medical practice in Manchester, England, where he took care of the factory workers, who “were poor and often sick.” At night Peter worked on his book of lists, and in 1805 he declared it finished. “It had about one hundred pages, one thousand ideas, and listed more than fifteen thousand words!” Eventually, Peter moved back to London where he joined science societies and attended lectures. “Before long, he was asked to give lectures too,” and once-shy Peter astonished his audiences with his knowledge of math, magnetism, and other scientific subjects. He even invented a portable chess set.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Jen Bryant. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

When Peter was 45 years old, he married Mary Hobson, and they had two children, Kate and John. As he grew older, he visited fewer patients, but he continued to take walks and work on his lists. While some other writers had published their own word lists to help people “to speak and to write more politely,” Kate and John “thought their father’s book was much better. Peter agreed.” For three years he rewrote his book. “He made it larger, more organized, and easier to use. Long ago Peter had discovered the power of words. Now he believed that everyone should have this power—everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Jen Bryant. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

“In 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus, a word that means ‘treasure house’ in Greek.” It was an instant best seller, and Peter became a popular author. But he never stopped making lists.

Following the text, a timeline of principal events in Peter’s life as well as world events allow readers to better understand the historical period in which Peter worked. Extensive Author’s and Illustrator’ Notes also expand on Roget’s biography, and resources for further reading and research are included.

Jen Bryant’s biography of a brilliant boy who grew up to give the world its most fascinating and comprehensive collection of word lists, is a spritely telling of Roget’s life and revelation into his personality, which was perfectly suited to his scientific and written accomplishments. Children will appreciate Roget’s reactions to his mother’s worries as well as the message in his well-rounded pursuit of science and writing. Through Bryant’s captivating and lyrical storytelling, children will be inspired by Roget’s journey from shy child to much-accomplished adult.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Melissa Sweet beguiles readers with her mixed media, collage, and watercolor illustrations that are as jam-packed with ideas, images, portraits, and typography as Roget’s thesaurus is full of words. In the early pages describing Peter’s childhood, the pages contain simple framed pictures of Roget and his family. As he grows, however, his lists of words are transformed into vibrant artwork that jostles for position from corner to corner of the pages. In the midst of these, delicate watercolors portray Peter as he strolls through a garden, takes his young charges to Paris, treats his patients, lectures, marries, and finally publishes his thesaurus. A special mention must be made of the typography, which at times in the text runs down the center of the page in one- or two-word lines, mirroring Roget’s love of lists, and in the illustrations presents the myriad synonyms in a mixture of colorful block letters, fine print, and calligraphy.

For bibliophiles, wordsmiths, scientists, and history buffs, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is just the right book for home libraries.

Ages 6 – 18

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0802853851

Discover more about Jen Bryant and her books as well as news, contests, and events, visit her website!

Learn more about Melissa Sweet and her books and have fun with the downloadable activities you’ll find on her website!

Watch this The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus book trailer!

Thesaurus Day Activity

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Word Words Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re looking for just the right word, where do you go? To the thesaurus of course! Can you find the 25 synonyms for “Word” in this printable Word Words Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

December 22 – National Regifting Day

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About the Holiday

The Thursday before December 25 has been designated as National Regifting Day, owing to the number of office and other parties that hold gift exchanges. There is a certain art to regifting that requires special attention. Always remember to only regift quality, unopened or new items, be mindful of the person you are giving to, and do not return a present to its original giver! If you’re participating in today’s holiday, be creative and have fun!

Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Andy Rowland

 

While enjoying a breakfast of Gorilla Flakes and bananas, Esther viewed her calendar. Time had crept up on her, and she realized with a shock that Hanukkah was only one day away and she hadn’t bought her friends any presents. She hurried out to the Jungle Store and hit the clothing department. There she found a pair of striped and a pair of argyle socks for her friend Sarah. “Then she spotted a bright red turtleneck. ‘I’ll surprise my friend Zack with this,’ she decided.”

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

In the sports department Esther spied a jogging suit. It was even on sale—“marked down from $13.00 to only $12.99.” Esther quickly put it in her cart for her friend Josephine. She also discovered a make-your-own jungle gym that would be perfect for Hal, and it wouldn’t even take that long to build. “Just 10 minutes…or 10 days at the most!” the directions on the box said. “In the book department, Esther picked up a paperback called 100 Jokes About Elephants.” The jokes were so funny that she bought it for her pal Oscar. Back home, Esther wrapped her gifts.

The next night “Esther placed two candles in her menorah. She lit the shamash candle and said the special blessing. Then she lit the candle for the first night of Hanukkah and said the other two blessings. She remembered the story of the Maccabees and the little jug of oil that lasted eight days.” Soon it was time for her to deliver her presents.

She was happy to stop first at Sarah’s house. Esther was sure she would love the socks she had gotten her. But when the little monkey opened her gift she burst out laughing and said, “‘These socks are big enough for an elephant!’” but added that the gifts were not the most important part of Hanukkah. Sarah’s gift for Esther was Gorilla-Vanilla perfume, which was the perfect thing to make Esther smell nice.

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

Next, Esther headed over to Zack’s house. When the zebra unwrapped the red sweater Esther had chosen for him, he frowned. “‘I never, ever wear red clothing,’” he said, citing “‘that terrible riddle.’” When Zack related the riddle, ending with “an embarrassed zebra,” Esther laughed and agreed that red was probably not the best clothing choice. Zebra’s gift to Esther was membership in the Coconut of the Month Club—a perfect, yummy gift. Esther was beginning to feel bad about the gifts she was giving

At Josephine’s house Esther learned that the jogging suit she had picked for her turtle friend missed the mark, while the princess costume Josephine gave her fulfilled her dream of dressing up like a human. A little later when Oscar the Elephant opened the joke book, he gently told Esther that he thought “the book was in very poor taste” and that “there should be a law against elephant jokes.” Poor “Esther wasn’t laughing anymore. In fact she felt more like crying. ‘I’m sorry I hurt your feelings,’ she said.” She felt even worse when she opened Oscar’s thoughtful cookbook 1001 Ways to Serve Bananas.

With one gift left to deliver, Esther was sure there would be something wrong with it too, and when she reached Hal’s house she discovered what that was. “‘Hyenas can’t climb jungle gyms like monkeys can,’” he told her as he handed her two tickets to The Gorilla Theater. As Esther trudged away, she felt miserable, but at home with a cup of tea she had an idea. She sat down and wrote out invitations for all of her friends to join her on the Eighth Night of Hanukkah. “‘Make sure to bring the gift I gave you!’” she added.

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Image copyright Andrew Rowland, courtesy of Andrew Rowland

When her friends arrived, they lit the shamash candle, said the blessings, and sat down to a delicious dinner. Afterward, Esther admitted, “‘I know that my gifts to you were a total disaster, but now you can trade!’” She looked at Sarah. “‘The two pairs of socks I bought you would fit an elephant,’ she said. Sarah smiled and handed the socks to Oscar. Hal’s jungle gym turned out to be just right for Sarah. Zack Zebra was thrilled to get Josephine’s jogging suit, and Hal laughed like the hyena he was at 100 Jokes About Elephants. And that red turtleneck was the exact thing for their turtle friend, Josephine.

After her friends left, Esther thought that her gifts had not been so bad. After all, they brought everyone together for a perfect Hanukkah celebration.

Jane Sutton brings humor and meaning to her Hanukkah story that reveals the true nature of the holiday and friendship. With clever gift choices and a sweet plot twist, Sutton’s Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster will have kids giggling and empathizing as Esther’s plans go awry. Her easy-going delivery invites kids along on Esther’s shopping trip and sets up the jokes and final swap in a natural and engaging way. Sutton’s inclusion of Esther’s and her friend’s honest reactions to the gifts encourages discussion of how to choose gifts, how to make up for mistakes, how to graciously accept gifts, and more topics surrounding gift-giving.

Andy Rowland’s purple gorilla Esther is sweetly expressive even as she is a bit oblivious to the needs of her friends and clearly disgruntled when her gifts don’t work out. Kids will love the brightly colored illustrations loaded with details appropriate to Esther’s world, especially the bowls, drawers, and hangers of bananas, banana cookbooks, banana-decorated table cloth and even a banana-shaped teapot in her kitchen. The Jungle Store is a riff on big-box stores with multiple departments where shoppers finding everything from fish for a pelican to a book of Antelope Recipes for a lion to Ele-Wellie boots for an elephant.

Esther’s nighttime neighborhood is likewise beautifully drawn with lush foliage; hanging lanterns; wood, bamboo, and stone homes; and even a waterfall. The window of each friend’s home frames a menorah.

With its humorous take on a common mishap and loveable characters, Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster is a book kids will enjoy no matter what the gift-giving occasion is!

Ages 4 – 7

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2013 | ISBN 978-0761390435

Discover more about Jane Sutton and her books as well as book-related activities on her website!

Become wrapped up in this swinging Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster book trailer!

Regifting Day Activity

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Whimsical Gift Tags

 

Every present needs a tag! With these printable Whimsical Gift Tags you can present your present in style! Just color them and add the names!

Picture Book Review

November 27 – Pins And Needles Day

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About the Holiday

It’s not often that a whole holiday is dedicated to a theatrical play. Pins and Needles Day dates back to 1937 and commemorates the Broadway musical of the same name that originally ran from 1937 to 1940. The play was produced by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and cast sewing machine operators, cutters, and basters who were just looking for a creative outlet in their free time. The play ran for 1,108 performances and was so successful that the cast members were able to quit their jobs to fully partake in the performance schedule. The pro-Labor play saw a revival in 1978 and continues to be staged. This year the musical ran at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York City, featuring NYU students who were near the ages of the original cast members.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Among the immigrants sailing to New York stands five-foot-tall Clara Lemlich. She may not know it now, but she’s going to change her new city. While her father can’t find work, Clara gets a job in the garment industry, which hires school-age girls to make women’s clothing. Instead of going to school, Clara spends her days hunched over her sewing machine in a dark, smelly factory with many other girls, making clothes as fast as she can.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of HarperCollins

The rules of the factory are severe. For minor mistakes workers can be fined or worse—fired, leaving their families without an income. The doors are locked so the girls can’t leave without being inspected to ensure they haven’t stolen anything. And the workers must toil long into the night. Despite it all Clara is determined to get an education even though it means walking to the library after work and missing sleep to read her lessons. 

At the factory the girls become friends and reveal stories and secrets. The working conditions make Clara angry. She hears that the men at the factory want to form a union. If all the workers team up, they can hold a strike and force the management to treat them better the men say. But they don’t think the girls are tough enough.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Michelle Markel. Courtesy of HarperCollins

Clara knows what the girls are capable of. Every day she talks to her friends and the other women, urging them to fight for their rights—and they do! But it’s not as easy as the men predicted. The bosses don’t want to give in. In fact Clara’s life is in danger! She is beaten and arrested. Despite the intimidation she continues to picket. These small strikes make little difference, however—the bosses just hire new girls and the work continues.

Clara and other union leaders think only a huge strike by all workers in every garment factory in New York will cause the bosses to listen and make changes. At a union meeting workers pack the seats to listen to leaders from across the country. Not one of them recommends such a large strike. Clara can keep silent no more. She moves to the front of the hall and calls out. People lift her to the stage. Shouting “Unity is strength” she rallies the crowd and begins the largest strike of women workers ever in United States history.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Michelle Markel. Courtesy of HarperCollins

The next morning thousands of women take to the sidewalks, leaving their sewing machines empty and silent. New York is stunned! Newspapers call the strike a “revolt” and the girls an “army.” But this is really an army of children—the girls range in age from only 12 to 25 years old. Clara knows how to lead and motivate the girls. She gives rousing pep talks, sings, and stands up to thugs sent to harass them.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of HarperCollins

All winter the girls join the men strikers. They are starving and cold and become the inspiration for newspaper articles and fundraising. Many wealthy women donate to their cause and join them on the picket lines. Finally the bosses relent. They agree to the formation of unions in their factories, to raise salaries, and to shorten the work week. Clara’s influence reaches far beyond New York. Factory workers in Philadelphia and Chicago take heart from her work and improve conditions in their cities. 

The final pages include more information about the garment industry in the early 1900s as well as a bibliography.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 is a wonderful addition to any school, classroom, or home library not only for the biographical facts of Clara Lemlich’s life, but also because her story shows readers that no matter how young or small they are they can right wrongs and make a difference.

Michelle Markel’s Brave Girl is a spirited biography of Clara Lemlich, clearly outlining the life and working conditions of immigrants in the early 1900s—especially certain industries’ use of children to fill low-paying, oppressive jobs. This true-life story of a girl who wouldn’t give up or give in is told with pride and balance, touching on the dangers Clara faced in a sensitive manner appropriate for children. Overall, the idea that one person can make a difference no matter how big or how old shines through, making this not only a tale of the past, but an inspiration for today’s children and the future.

Melissa Sweet cleverly combines watercolor and gouache paintings with colorful fabric, ribbon, sewing pattern paper, and ledger pages to create illustrations fitting to the story. The pictures appear sewn onto the pages with straight, zigzag, and embroidery stitches, and the vibrant colors depict the fiery nature of Clara and all the workers who strove for better lives.

Ages 4 – 9 

Balzer + Bray, Harper Collins, 2013 | ISBN 978-0061804427

To find more books by Michelle Markel plus what’s coming next, visit her website!

Discover more books and fun activities for kids as well as resources for educators by Melissa Sweet on her website!

Vote “yes” to watch this Brave Girl book trailer!

Pins and Needles Day Activity

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Sewing Up Fun! Word Search

 

Sewing is a wonderful hobby and a fun way to make unique decorations for your room, accessories for your outfits, or gifts for friends and family. Like any great activity sewing has a vocabulary of its own. Find the 25 sewing-related words in this printable Sewing Up Fun! Word Search. Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review