October 24 – Photographer Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

National Photographer Appreciation Month is for all photographers, professional and amateur. The month-long holiday gives people an opportunity to really look at the photographs they see in newspapers, books, online, and even in their own home and truly appreciate the artistry that goes into capturing a moment, a place, or a personality to tell a bigger story. October is also a great month to go through your own family photographs and relive or rediscover favorite memories. To celebrate, consider having a professional portrait taken of yourself, your kids, or your whole family to decorate your home, give as gifts, or send as a holiday card. There are also many galleries displaying photographic work to explore. 

Operation Photobomb

Written by Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie | Illustrated by Matthew Rivera

 

Monkey and Chameleon loved scavenging stuff from tours that came through their neck of the jungle. One lucky day when they raided a backpack, Monkey discovered a polaroid camera while Chameleon came away with a roll of toilet paper. Monkey had a bit of a learning curve to get the hang of taking great shots, but soon he was snapping stylish pics of all his friends.

Monkey got so good that he started taking themed pictures. He took some that were “only for the birds” and others of “just animals with fur.” Chameleon was beginning to feel left out, so just as Monkey was going to click the button on a cute-as-a-button shot of two frogs on a branch, Chameleon swung in on a vine, shouting, “‘Photobomb!’”

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Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

“‘Chameleon, please don’t do that!’” Monkey said. “But Chameleon was just getting started.” The Capybara family suddenly had a new member in their portrait; Sloth’s new baby was joined by a chameleon-y brother; and as Monkey was about to capture Grandma Macaw blowing out her 76th birthday candles, Chameleon photobombed in, sending the cake splat all over her and her guests.

“‘Help me stop him from wrecking all the pictures!’ Monkey howled.” Toucan did a song and dance routine to distract him, Jaguar tried to fling him away, and the tapirs attempted to form an impenetrable line, but he was always able to sneak in. Monkey shrieked at him, and the other animals complained that he had ruined their once-in-a lifetime pictures. Chameleon blushed pink and red and said, “‘Fine. You won’t see me in any more pictures.’”

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Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

So Monkey went back to work. But the animals took a close look at their shots and noticed a phantom-like Chameleon blending in with them or their surroundings. “CHAMELEON!” they shouted. The animals huddled together to find a solution. Monkey had an idea, and they whispered and plotted until they had the perfect plan. “Operation Photobomb was a go.” Monkey called Chameleon over and arranged him in a perfect pose. Then he aimed his camera and counted down. When he reached “three” the Macaws yelled “‘Bombs away!’” and pelted him with juicy fruit. “Click!” Monkey took the shot.

Chameleon was covered in sticky pulp and juice. The animals laughed. But Chameleon didn’t think it was so funny. “‘You ruined my pic…Ohhhhh!’” he said. Monkey handed him the roll of toilet tissue and offered a truce. Chameleon agreed to both. Although it was hard, Chameleon stayed out of Monkey’s pictures from then on. But then he had an idea that was “picture-perfect.” He knew just the people who “loved a good photobomb.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-operation-photobomb-chameleon

Image copyright Matthew Rivera, 2019, text copyright Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie’s funny take on the photobomb phenomenon will have kids laughing and joining in with shouts of “photobomb!” as Chameleon inserts himself into all of the animals’ precious shots. When Chameleon ignores the animals’ complaints and requests to stop and instead uses his camouflage to trick them (a shrewdly worded hints at this), Monkey’s idea to give him a bit of his own medicine teaches him a valuable lesson. Chameleon also discovers a clever, more productive, and welcome way to enjoy his favorite activity. Through their fast-paced and humorous storytelling sprinkled with puns, Luebbe and Cattie reveal several truths about friendship, respect for others, and appropriate timing. Their surprise ending will satisfy and delight kids. It offers opportunities for discussion on social skills, putting others first, and finding the right time and place to engage in certain activities and behaviors.

Matthew Rivera’s tropical, sun-kissed illustrations will enchant readers. Chameleon, a mottled vibrant blue in most spreads, shows his enthusiastic prankster side popping up at the last moment to join the animals’ photos. Readers will love pointing him out in the polaroid squares scattered throughout the book. They’ll especially enjoy finding him when he camouflages himself against various backdrops. As he discovers his “picture-perfect” audience, kids will see that here he can show all his colors.

Operation Photobomb is a lively and original way to introduce children to ideas of respect for others and proper conduct. The humor and familiar activity will resonate with kids and makes this a book that will be a favorite for thoughtful as well as spirited story times at home, in the classroom, and for public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807561300

Discover more about Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie and their books on their website, BeckyTaraBooks.

To view a portfolio of work by Matthew Rivera and learn more about him, visit his website.

Photographer Appreciation Month Activity

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Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for your favorite pictures of friends and family!

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1 ½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. Wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness
  3. Glue down the end of the twine to keep it from unraveling
  4. With the needle-nose pliers, roll down one end of the wire to create a small coil
  5. Repeat with two other lengths of wire
  6. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  7. Fit the three wires into the center hole on the top of the spool
  8. Push the wires into the clay until they are held securely
  9. Clip photographs into the coils
  10. Display your pictures!

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You can find Operation Photobomb at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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 Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future. From 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 holiday was expanded to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. learn more about the holiday, find resources for classrooms and homeschooling, videos, and more to use not only this month but throughout the year, visit the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Ańo Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Albert Whitman & Company in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela, written by Alexandra Alessandri | illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Reply with a holiday tradition for extra entry. Each response gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 7 through October 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 14.

Prizing provided by Albert Whitman

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

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 word search puzzle.

We Are All Family Word Search PuzzleWe Are All Family Word Search Solution!

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You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 17 – Constitution Day and Citizenship Day

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About the Holiday

On this day in 1911 schools in Iowa first celebrated Constitution Day, commemorating the date in 1787, when our Founding Fathers signed the Constitution of the United States. in 1952 Citizenship Day was moved from May to coincide with Constitution Day. In addition to honoring our constitution, Americans are also encouraged to reflect on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and what it means to be a U.S. citizen. We also recognize those who are taking steps to become U.S. citizens and all those who are seeking a better life here.

Thanks to Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers for providing me with a digital copy of A Vote is a Powerful Thing for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

A Vote is a Powerful Thing

Written by Catherine Stier | illustrated by Courtney Dawson

 

Ms. Trask is teaching about elections and voting to her class. When she says that “‘a vote is a powerful thing…. Powerful enough to change the world,’” Callie pays particular attention, so she can tell readers all about it. In the election coming up in November, “one vote, combined with other votes…,’” Ms. Trask explains, “‘is what puts mayors, governors, senators, and even the president of the United States into office.’” To demonstrate the power of voting, Ms. Trask is going to hold a classroom election about an issue that she thinks will pique the kids’ interest.

Callie has already been introduced to the idea of campaigning and voting through her grandmother, who is working to save the local wilderness park, where, Callie says,  “I saw my first mountain laurel in full bloom, my first turtle in a pond, my first swallowtail butterfly.” Ms. Trask goes on to tell the class that not only are elections about people, they’re about “‘important issues as well.’” 

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Image copyright Courtney Dawson, 2020, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers.

The next morning Ms. Trask reveals the issue that the class will vote on—where they’ll take their next field trip. The candidates are the cookie factory and the wilderness park. Some kids love the idea of the free samples at the cookie factor, while others like the walking trail at the park. As they discuss the options, Callie realizes that where the class goes is important to her. She raises her hand and asks if she can “‘campaign in support of the wilderness park.’” At home, she creates posters and writes a speech. Lynn is campaigning in favor of the cookie factory.

On election day, Lynn gives her speech first. She talks about what the class could learn about food and science—and reminds her classmates about the free cookies. Even Callie agrees that the factory is a good option. Then it’s Callie’s turn. She tells the class about how special the park is and describes some of the animals she’s seen. Callie also reveals what scientists say are the benefits of being outdoors.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-vote-is-a-powerful-thing-Ms-Trask

Image copyright Courtney Dawson, 2020, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers.

After the speeches, everyone receives a piece of paper, writes their choice on it, and places it in the ballot box. As Ms. Trask holds up the last ballot, she congratulates Lynn and Callie on their campaigns. She says they both did such an excellent job “‘that the election is tied now, with just one vote left to count.’” She unfolds the slip of paper and reads…Wilderness Park.

On the day of the field trip, the kids explore the rocks and plants. They even see a fox. The kids are all excited and want to share the experience with their families. Their enthusiasm gives Callie hope that people will vote to fund the park during the town’s election. On voting day, Callie’s happy to stand next to her grandma at the polling place with a sign to “Vote Yes!” because she knows how valuable just one vote can be.

Extensive back matter discusses the concept of voting, who can vote, and how citizens vote as well as gives a timeline of United States voting rights from 1870 to 1990. A list of resources for further reading and research is also included.

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Image copyright Courtney Dawson, 2020, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers.

Catherine Stier’s comprehensive and engaging story outlines facts about elections and the importance of voting—not only for candidates, but also about important issues—in an easy-to-follow and organic way. Stier’s use of two high-interest issues, both of which have educational merit, gives children a glimpse of the difficult choices voters are faced with. Callie’s appreciation for Lynn’s opinion and Lynn’s enthusiasm for the wildlife park field trip show readers that disagreements can be handled respectfully and amicably. Through her first-person storytelling that is rich with dialogue, Stier creates a personal narrative that will resonate with children, many of whom most likely have issues that are important to them. As the last vote counted breaks a tie, readers learn how important it is for everyone to vote.

Courtney Dawson’s bright illustrations of a diverse classroom learning about elections and voting give children snapshots of historical events in US voting history that may surprise them spur them to learn more as well as images that are recognizable from community activism. As Callie prepares her speech and posters, readers see the wildlife and scenery that makes the issue of the field trip so important to her and come to understand the time and effort that candidates put into their campaign. Clear images of the children—and later, their families—casting their ballots reinforces the concept of this valuable right. The final image can empower children to get involved in their own community or school to make a difference in issues that are important to them.

An excellent book to introduce the concept of elections and voting for candidates and issues, with many opportunities within the text and illustrations to initiate discussion, A Vote is a Powerful Thing would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807584989

Discover more about Catherine Stier and her books, visit her website

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Vote! Word Search Puzzle

 

Can you find the twenty words related to elections in this printable word search puzzle?

Vote! Word Search Puzzle | Vote! Word Search Solution

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You can find A Vote is a Powerful Thing at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 25 – National Park Service Founders Day

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About the Holidays

On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Willson signed what is now called the Organic Act, establishing the National Park Service. In the 104 years since that historic signing, 400 areas in each of the 50 states, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, totaling 84 million acres, have been designated as national parks. Today we honor the park rangers who conserve and preserve these natural wonders and educate visitors. To discover national parks near you and their stories as well as to learn more about the week and how to help out all year round, visit the National Park Foundation website and the National Park Service website.

Thanks to Albert Whitman for sending me a copy of If I Were a Park Ranger for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. 

If I Were a Park Ranger

Written by Catherine Stier | Illustrated by Patrick Corrigan

If you love trees, animals, and all the beauty of nature, you may think about being a park ranger in one of the United States national parks. How would you get there? By studying “wildlife biology, conservation, or education” in college. Historian William Stegner called national parks “America’s ‘best idea.’” Being a park ranger means you’d be part of a proud history of people who have cared for the “country’s most beautiful, historic, and unique areas.”

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Who are some of these people? Stephen Mather and Horace Albright were the first directors of the National Park Service, Captain Charles Young was “the first African American superintendent of a national park,” and Gerard Baker “brought Native American heritage and perspectives to the parks.” There are also writers, like Marjory Stoneman Douglas ,and artists, like John Muir and Ansel Adams, who shared the grandeur of the parks.

Park rangers work in some of the most exciting places in the country—in caves, deserts, and mountains and near volcanos or the sea shore. And that’s just the beginning! Ships, homes, battlefields, and monuments are also part of the National Park System. As a park ranger, you would protect the animals, plants, and buildings, you might work with scientists, or archaeologists, and you would help visitors gain new perspectives. How would you do that?

You’d “be a great storyteller.” As part of your job, you’d “learn about the natural history, the human history, and the legends” of you park so you “could share those tales…” and maybe “a few spooky campfire stories too.” You’d also learn all about the animals and landmarks of your park so you could provide interesting tours.

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Rangers are always on the lookout for fires, bad weather, or visitors who require help and alert emergency services when they’re needed. But rangers don’t spend all of their time outdoors. Sometimes they spend time inside using “computers to design exhibits, make maps, write articles, and keep track of endangered animal populations” or keep the park’s website updated. Park rangers are also invited to talk to students in schools and for organizations.

If you were a park ranger, you would make a big impact. Your park would be “cleaner and safer,” the “animals living there would be stronger and healthier,” and visitors might “experience something astonishing…a moment that could happen nowhere else in the world. A moment they’d remember forever” all because of you!

An Author’s Note reveals other riches of the National Park System, including STEM research, creative programs, artifacts and primary source materials, and more as well as a discussion on the education and various roles of rangers and a link where kids can find out about becoming a junior ranger at many parks.

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Catherine Stier’s inspiring look at the role of a ranger in the National Park Service takes readers from shore to shore and shows them the exciting and diverse jobs that are part of a ranger’s day. Stier’s use of the first-person point of view empowers readers to see themselves as a ranger protecting the treasures of the park and sharing them with visitors. Her straightforward storytelling is full of details readers will love about the duties of a park ranger and the parks themselves. Her stirring ending swells the heart. It’s certain to plant the seed of interest in jobs within the National Park Service as well as in planning a vacation trip to one of these beautiful areas.

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Image copyright Patrick Corrigan, 2019, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Through vibrant snapshots and two-page spreads, Patrick Corrigan transports readers to twenty-five national parks, including Redwood National Park, California; Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico; Acadia National Park, Maine; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To immerse young readers in the story, the rangers are depicted as diverse children helping visitors, giving talks, protecting animals, translating petroglyphs, giving tours, calling firefighters, and even brushing dirt from an unearthed animal skull. In one image a ranger gives a flashlight tour of Mammoth Cave National Park to a girl who uses a wheelchair, and in another a ranger uses sign language to describe the beauty of her park. Children will want to linger over the pages to take in all the details and will be moved to learn more about each park.

Sure to spark expressions of “ooh,” “ahh,” and “I’d like to do that!,” If I Were a Park Ranger makes an inspiring addition to classroom geography and nature lessons and would be a terrific addition to home libraries for kids who love nature and travel and would like to explore future possibilities.

Ages 5 – 9

Albert Whitman and Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807535455

Discover more about Catherine Stier and her books on her website.

To learn more about Patrick Corrigan, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Park Week Activity

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Majestic Parks Coloring Pages

You may not be able to visit all of these parks, but you can still enjoy their beauty with these printable coloring pages!

Mesa Verde National Park | Gates of the Arctic National Park | Hawaii Volcanoes National Park | Biscayne National Park

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You can find If I Were a Park Ranger at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

July 6 – It’s Wild about Wildlife Month

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About the Holiday

This month we honor wildlife—all those majestic creatures of the air, land, and sea that share the earth with us. But what about all of the creatures that live through mythology, legends, stories, and our imagination? Today, we celebrate one of these unique and wild beings that has been around for a long, long time. Maybe you’ve seen one?

Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz?

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall | Illustrated by Kyle Reed

 

As kids open the cover to this delightful mythologically based story, the narrator asks: “Have you ever zeen a Ziz? Do you wonder what one iz?” Could it be an alien floating through space, or a “giant cat or a prehistoric bat?” It turns out that it’s none of these. A Ziz is a bird with brilliant feathers and a wing span that can block out the sun—or moon.

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

But even though the Ziz is huge, “she’s a kindly, gentle bird. / Big and yellow, sweet…absurd.” She lets children play on her enormous back and helps farmers keep their crops on track. But the Ziz is best know for her lilting zongs, which she zings with great gusto no matter the time or place or who she’s with. But when she sleeps, those zongs turn into loud, LOUD snores.

Now if you happen to see one passing by or you look up and can’t see the sky, you’ll know precisely, exactly why.

An Author’s Note following the story reveals that “the Ziz is a mythological bird found in a collection of ancient Jewish writings” and is even mentioned in the Biblical book of Psalms. Marshall includes more information on this legendary bird as well as a reference work.

Funny and endearing, Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz is a joyful read aloud with many applications for classroom lessons and story times. It would be an entertaining addition to home, school, and public library collections.

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Image copyright Kyle Reed, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Linda Elovitz Marshall’s jaunty, rhyming read aloud is feathered with imagination that will have kids’ own musings soaring. Enchanting in her size, talents, and kindliness, the Ziz will delight readers even as Marshall’s rhythmic storytelling gives teachers and homeschoolers a fun way to interact with language and rhyme schemes, introduce lessons on mythology, and extend story time with an artistic project. After reading, children are sure to want to draw or otherwise create a Ziz or invent a mythological creature of their own. Musical readers may even be inspired to write a song for the Ziz to zing.

Kyle Reed’s collage-style illustrations are whimsical and sweet. As this most unusual bird soars over the ocean, her broad wingspan dwarfs a whale on one side and a crocodile on the other. After seeing a group of friends slide down the Ziz’s loooooong back and neck, kids will wish they had a Ziz at their own playground, and the image of the Ziz standing on the ground with its head in the clouds is a textural beauty. After enjoying Reed’s sightings of the Ziz on mountaintops, skyscrapers, the beach, and anywhere the sky beckons, readers will no doubt be keeping their eyes and ears open for their own view of this spectacular creature.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807531730

Discover more about Linda Elovitz Marshall and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kyle Reed and see a portfolio of his work, visit his website.

Wild about Wildlife Month Activity

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Draw Your Own Wild Creature

 

With a little imagination, kids can create their own mythological creature to roam the earth under the smiling sun on this printable drawing page.

Wild Creature Drawing Page

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You can find Have You Ever Zeen a Ziz? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

April 2 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

National Poetry Month was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to highlight the achievements of poets, past and present; to promote the reading and writing of poetry in schools and by individuals; and to encourage people to discover the joys poetry can bring all year round. Poetry Month is now celebrated in April in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, with other countries holding their own events during other times of the year.

Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence

Written by Jacqueline Jules | Illustrated by Iris Deppe

 

Playing—organized sports or spontaneous games—offers so much more than momentary entertainment. In her extensive collection of poems, Jacqueline Jules celebrates the life lessons that a wide variety of activities have to teach children of all ages. She begins her book with Tag Your Dreams, an invitation to chase and capture those dreams that inspire, encouraging kids to “Chase them / till you’re breathless. / Dreams / have strong legs, / but so do you….”

In Clapping Hands, a girl in a wheelchair approaches Bianca, a girl she hopes to make friends with. Blanca welcomes her with a smile. A “good sign.” The girl says, “My legs can’t run at recess, / but my hands can clap rhymes / my abuela taught me and reach / the new girl from Guatemala.” These new friends sit under a cherry tree playing Cho-co-la-te. “Our hands fly / fast and strong / together.”

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Image copyright Iris Deppe, 2020, text copyright Jacqueline Jules, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Strings is a moving ode to the importance and comfort of belonging. As a child flies a kite, they contemplate: “Without a string, / a kite blows away / into the clouds, / having no one who cares how far it flies…. And sometimes, a kite / wishes to be cut free, / to fly wherever it wants. / But without a string, a kite is alone in the sky / with no one on the ground / watching and cheering.”

Family and how this special relationship teaches children to love amid poignant separations or memorable “firsts” is the theme of two poems: Kick Scooters, in which a child and Dad make the most of their time together riding scooters even though “It’s not easy to have things / in common / every other weekend” and The River Trail, in which a child remembers the wonders they saw while hiking with their grandparents for the first time and says, “I learned to love when I was five.”

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Image copyright Iris Deppe, 2020, text copyright Jacqueline Jules, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Children turn disappointments into triumphs in Umbrella Dance—where a rainy day may have dampened beach plans but not a little girl’s spirit—and #64 Soccer Tryouts—in which a girl overcomes last year’s omission from the team with practice on her speed, technique, and shyness. When she sees the coach add her to the team roster, she “…raced off the field, / arms raised, grinning. / All goals reached.”

The persistence needed and learned in baseball, tae kwon do, basketball, volleyball, football, and hockey is also explored in poems about each of these sports, while inclusion, new perspectives, self-confidence, patience, resolve, appreciation, and the joys of one’s native language take center stage in poems about four square, cartwheels, kickball, swimming, bowling, and jump rope. Even more subjects and themes fill out this stirring collection of thirty-one poems. The sentiments in Olympic Skater sum up the inspiration found on each page nicely: “Did you see / how he rose / after that fall? / In one sweeping / circular motion / as if the question / of getting up / never existed at all.”

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Image copyright Iris Deppe, 2020, text copyright Jacqueline Jules, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Jacqueline Jules’ lyrical, unrhymed verses flow with the rhythms of life, revealing honest feelings, moments of discovery, times of reflection, wishes, and victories big and small. With a fine eye and ear for the glimmer of hope, the harbored emotion, or that one second when everything changes, Jules creates images that kids will recognize and embrace. The breadth of subject matter and universal experiences found here create a collection that will appeal to all children.

Iris Deppe’s bright, expressive illustrations depict Jules’ verses through kids whose happiness, doubts, confidence, concentration, and perseverance are clearly shown as they partake in their favorite sport or activity. The diversity of children in gender, race, and abilities reflects the readers’ world. The smiles that shine from each page will cheer readers as they soak up the message that they hold the key to a positive outlook and can create the change they want for themselves and others.

A stirring poetry collection that will be a favorite for dipping into throughout the year, Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence is highly recommended for all readers. It would be an inspirational addition for home story times as well as for homeschool, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807567265

Discover more about Jacqueline Jules, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Iris Deppe, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Poetry Month Activity

CPB - Plant Poem

Grow a Poem Craft

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece! This craft can make an imaginative accompaniment to homeschool Language Arts, writing, and vocabulary lessons.

Options: This craft can be adapted to use whatever items you have at home. Instead of a dowel, kids can use a stick, yard stick or ruler, small branch, or even a strip of paper taped to the wall for the stem. The flower pot can be made from a can, jar, box, or other container.

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Printable Flower Template, available here and on the blog post
  • Wooden dowel, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper if leaves will be preprinted
  • Colored paper if flowers will be preprinted
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaves and flowers (you can also write the poem after you have strung the leaves and flowers)
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Gently arrange the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

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You can find Tag Your Dreams at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 21 – National Apple Day

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About the Holiday

It’s apple season! Honeycrisp, Cortland, Gala, Fuji, Macintosh—there are so many delicious varieties to choose from and enjoy! The bounty of apples allows bakers and chefs to create scrumptious desserts and dishes, and for purists, there’s nothing better than biting into a crisp apple. Orchards are open for picking, and farmers markets and grocery stores are packed with these red, green, and yellow treats. To celebrate today and all month long, take the family apple picking, make your favorite apple recipes, or discover new taste sensations.

Applesauce Day

Written by Lisa J. Amstutz | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

As a girl and her family have breakfast, she spies the tall pot that means it’s applesauce day. Her younger sister Hannah cheers, and her little brother “bangs his spoon.” After breakfast they head to the orchard outside the city. There, the air smells of ripe apples and it’s quiet. “There are no sirens or screeching tires. Only the buzzing of bees and the rustling of leaves in the wind.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Hannah calls to her big sister for help. She shows Hannah how to twist and pull the apples from the tree. Mom and Dad pick the apples high in the trees while Hannah, her big sister pick low apples. Ezra helps by putting the apples in a basket. He can’t resist taking a bite of one.

Soon all of the baskets are full of apples “ready to be smooshed into sweet, tangy applesauce.” After the car is loaded up, they drive to Grandma’s house. When they get there, Grandma’s waiting with a big smile and a hug. They “lug the apples into the kitchen” and each take their place. This year even Ezra gets a spot. After Dad washes the apples, Grandma cuts them up. Ezra gets to drop the apples into the tall pot. “Thunk, thunk, thunk.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

While they work, Mom talks about how she used to help Grandma bring home the apples and how “they cooked the apples in this very pot when she was a little girl” in Ohio. Then Grandma tells how “she helped her mother pick apples from the old apple tree behind their house on the windy Iowa prairie.” They also cooked the apples in this very same pot. The older girl looks at the pot and wonders what kinds of stories it could tell if it could talk.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

As the apples cook, they release a sweet scent into the air and the red peels turn pink. Then with a ladle, Mom pours the apples into the food grinder. Hannah and her sister take turns cranking the handle. “Crank! Squish. Crankity! Squish!” The applesauce squeezes through the strainer while the seeds and peels are left behind. They mix in a bit of sugar and put the applesauce in containers to store.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

It’s lunchtime now and the family sits down to sandwiches and a bowl of warm applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled on top. They take big servings and then seconds. “Ezra licks the bowl.” After lunch there’s more peeling, cutting, and cooking until all the apples are gone. They put the containers in Grandma’s extra freezer and take some home for themselves.

It’s dark by the time they finish and head home, “sticky but full of stories and smiles and applesauce.” As they drive home the older sister thinks about their special pot and how when she grows up, she’ll cook in it on Applesauce Day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-family

Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming story that lovingly explores the continuity of family heritage, you’ll want to share Lisa J. Amstutz’s Applesauce Day with your kids. Told through the viewpoint of the oldest daughter, the story takes readers from that first spark of recognition of a tradition through the actions that make it so special to the knowledge that they will be the ones to carry it on in the future. Excitement and pride flow through Amstutz’s pages as the children eagerly help pack the car, pick apples, and take their usual positions in Grandma’s kitchen.

The passing on of the tradition and skills involved in Applesauce Day are depicted in ways that will delight kids as the oldest sister shows the younger how to twist the apples from the tree and the little brother gets to participate for the first time. When the children’s mother and then their grandmother both tell how they helped with Applesauce Day when they were young, readers get a sense of generations and how far back traditions extend. Amstutz’s storytelling is homey and detailed and brimming with family camaraderie. The Introspective ending with appeal to kids thinking about their own place in their family.

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Talitha Shipman’s bright illustrations invite kids along for a day of apple picking and cooking. The siblings’ eyes shimmer with excitement as they partake in this favorite fall tradition. Like most kids on a day like this, Hannah, Ezra, and their older sister are in constant motion—picking apples, hugging Grandma, cranking the food mill—and working together. Shipman’s rich portrayals of these events will sweep readers into the action and inspire them to want to and learn more about their own family traditions or start new ones. Applesauce Day looks like so much fun that you can bet children will be eager to make a batch of this delicious fall treat themselves.

A perfect autumn (or anytime) read-aloud for families to share, especially as the holidays roll around or during intergenerational get-togethers, Applesauce Day would be a favorite on home bookshelves and in school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2017 | ISBN 978-0807503928

Discover more about Lisa J. Amstutz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website/

National Apple Day Activity

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Apple Turn Over! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Applesauce Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review