October 13 – National Fossil Day

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About the Holiday

Did you know that some fossils date back to 4.1 BILLION years ago? Just think of that the next time you’re feeling a little bit old (or so recommends the website National Today). Today we celebrate National Fossil Day to recognize the importance (and, well, awesomeness) of paleontologists, geologists, and fossils in providing us with information on the history of our earth and those who have inhabited it before us. ​National Today provides some further information, with a timeline of fossil history, and fun facts like this one: The highest amount ever paid for a dinosaur fossil was $8.3 million (they named it “Sue”).

To celebrate National Fossil Day, check out National parks near you, learn more about fossils, do something to help protect the earth, read some books about evolution—like Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!—or visit the National Parks page for more information and resources on how to celebrate our geologic heritage.

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Chicken Frank, Dinosaur!

Written by S.K. Wenger | Illustrated by Jojo Ensslin

 

If you ask Chicken Frank he’ll tell you, “I’m a dinosaur! Cluckity-roar!” But the other barnyard animals aren’t so sure. Everyone is puzzled by this evolution thing Frank keeps talking about (“Evo-what?”). Chicken Frank tries to explain, “Evolution! Change! Change happens over time so we can survive.” He takes a stick and draws lines of lineage, connecting crocodiles to plant-eating dinosaurs and eventually birds. “From a dinosaur. See?” But the other animals don’t see it: “I see a chicken who was a chicken five minutes ago,” a sheep says. “I see a chicken who’s been a chicken since he hatched,” a pig chimes in.

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Chicken Frank then presents different types of evidence to try to convince the farm that birds evolved from dinosaurs. He points out his feet look like those of T. rexes, to which another chicken looks at the readers and says, “More like T. crazy.” Frank explains that feathers evolved from dinosaur scales, and that both dinos and chickens had little tails when they were embryos. Other animals start wondering if they come from dinosaurs, since they have tails too. So, in a last straw attempt, Chicken Frank returns to his mud lineage map once more.

He shows how fish, amphibians, reptiles and mammals come from different branches in the evolutionary tree. Birds, however, branch off from reptiles. Nobody is convinced, and pig, sheep, and horse turn their attention to pretending to be unicorns with carrot horns instead. But then, the results from Frank’s DNA test arrive. The data shows Chicken Frank has a reptilian cousin: Crocodile Ike.

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Chicken Frank decides to send a post card to his cousin Ike inviting him to come for a family reunion, much to the dismay of everyone. A crocodile and a chicken in the same place? Seems like a recipe for disaster…and maybe some chicken franks too. And while Crocodile Ike and his mom are first tempted to gobble Frank up, they take some time and study his charts. And, to everyone’s surprise, they get it! “One of us isn’t a dinosaur… But we’re both Archosaurs! KINGS of the dinosaurs! Roar!” Ike tells Frank. Ike’s mom wonders who else they may be related to, so Frank starts a letter to an even further distant cousin—the sharks!

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

They all decide to take a trip to the aquarium, where the pig, sheep, and horse are delighted to find “a swimming unicorn!” (a narwhal), and Crocodile Ike exclaims, “family!” Chicken Frank happily agrees and adds, “Ours is the very best.”

The story is followed by five informational sections: “What Is DNA?”, “What Is Evolution?”, “Is Chicken Frank Really Related to T. rex?” “Similarities Between Dinosaurs, Chickens, and Alligators”, and “Frank’s Glossary of Favorite Animal Groups” Each of these sections provide in-depth scientific explanations for those who want to know a bit more about how it all works. S. K. Wenger masterfully explains each of these concepts at an advanced level that is clear to read and understand for readers of a wide range of age and abilities.

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Image copyright Jojo Ensslin, 2021, text copyright S. K. Wenger, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

A joyous read, with important concepts about evolution scattered in with the fun. This comic-style picture book will have kids laughing out loud at the farm animals’ speech bubble puns and jokes. S. K. Wenger (and Chicken Frank) explain concepts of evolution in easily digestible terms for readers of all ages. The story is quick-paced and intriguing, with distinct characters and a quirky humor. A must-read for all kids, especially those with a fondness for dinosaurs.

The story would not be nearly as fun or educational without Jojo Ensslin’s colorful, cartoon-like drawings. As Chicken Frank explains his evolutionary reasoning, Ensslin depicts the ideas clearly and closely juxtaposed. For example, when Frank talks about how his feet match those of a T. rex, kids see both feet on the same page. Likewise, a scaled dinosaur and an ancient bird are portrayed on the same blackboard.

Later, when Ike receives the postcard from Frank in a muddy swamp, swarming with crocodiles, and calls out, “Does anyone know a cousin named Frank?” little speech bubbles with “Nope!” scatter the swamp, prompting kids to join in. In a carved-out corner, a close-up view of Ike and his mom show their evil plans to crash the reunion with some chompers. The facial expressions of each of the animals add to their characters and the humor of the story. Many carefully placed illustrative details add to the plot in meaningful and silly ways, such as, the DNA Test Kit shown the page before the story begins and the large bone Chicken Frank stores in his coop; the illustrations and text come together to create a read-aloud that is enjoyable to all.

Creative nonfiction at its best, Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! is both a hilarious story and a highly engaging way to explain evolutionary science in a way kids will respond to and remember. Sure to spark an interest in further science learning, the book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807511411

Discover more about S. K. Wenger and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jojo Ensslin and view a portfolio of his illustration, animation, and woodcout work, visit his website.

National Fossil Day Activitycelebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-frank-dinosaur-national-park-service-dinosaur-coloring-pageDinosaur Coloring Pages

 

Enjoy these four dinosaur coloring pages from the National Park Service’s free prehistoric coloring book in honor of National Fossil Day!

Dinosaur Coloring Pages

For more, you can download the whole coloring book from the National Park Service here.

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You can find Chicken Frank, Dinosaur! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 12 – National Savings Day

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About the Holiday

National Savings Day was established by Capitol One to educate people on saving money and taking control of their finances in ways that empower them now and in the future. Simple steps such as opening a savings account, saving a portion of each paycheck, and setting short-term and long-term goals can help people feel more confident about their relationship with money. Teaching children the value of money through their allowance or while shopping can help them learn important lessons they will take with them into adulthood.

She’s on the Money (She Made History series)

Written by Andrea Hall | Illustrated by Li Zhang

 

If you’re looking for a fascinating and inclusive way to introduce profiles of influential women from different cultures and time periods in your classroom, homeschool, or family reading time, you’ll find lots to love in She’s on the Money. The lives, work, and impact of thirteen woman involved in politics, science, the arts, education, and activism from ancient Egypt to modern times are presented in short biographies that include interesting facts about how the women changed their country, community, or the world and why each was chosen to represent her country on its currency. The beliefs, customs, atmosphere, and conditions of the historical periods are revealed in appealing captions that are accompanied by illustrations that help readers visualize the concepts. Beautifully detailed images of each country’s currency also graces the pages.

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Image copyright Li Zhang, 2021, text copyright Andrea Hall, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Cleopatra remains as intriguing today as she was centuries ago, so it’s fitting that she appears first in this book—just as she was the first woman to appear on currency. Why was her profile there? “Cleopatra appears on currency because she put herself on it. As ruler of Egypt, she had her own coins minted, or made.” In fact, “Unlike many women who came after them, Egyptian woman of Cleopatra’s time could buy property, divorce and remarry, and serve on juries. And like Cleopatra, they could be rulers.” Children will also learn how clever, fashionable, and “modern” Cleopatra really was. They’ll also discover facts about mummification.

Another leader represented is Queen Sālote Tupou III, the first queen of Tonga, who was the first Tongan chief to unite the 172 Pacific islands that make up the country. She appears on banknotes issued from 1967 – 1974. These intricately designed two-pa’anga bills feature Queen Tupou’s portrait on the front and an image of four women making tapa cloth on the back. Readers learn about and see an example of tapa cloth as well as information on the country’s produce and clothing.

Other politicians include Indira Gandhi, the first—and so far only—female prime minister of India, who appears on a specially minted five-rupee coin that was issued in 1985 to commemorate of her birthday on November 19; and Eva Perón, the former first lady of Argentina, whose profile appears on a colorful one-hundred-peso banknote, “unveiled on the sixtieth anniversary of her death, in July of 2012.”

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Image copyright Li Zhang, 2021, text copyright Andrea Hall, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Kids will be inspired by entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian, who at a time when insects were believed to be “‘evil spirits’ because they came out of the ground, captured and studied insects in order to understand and draw them. She appears on the German “500-deutsche-mark banknote from October 27, 1992 to the end of 2001, when Germany began using he euro.”

Educators include Maria Montessori, who developed Montessori schools and is featured on Italy’s elaborate 1,000-lira note, and Helen Keller, who is featured on the Alabama state quarter first released on March 17, 2003 as part of the program begun in 1999 to honor each American state. Her quarter also includes her name in both English and braille.

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Image copyright Li Zhang, 2021, text copyright Andrea Hall, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Readers also learn about the crucial role Sacagawea, a member of the Lemhi Shoshone tribe, played in the success of the Lewis and Clark’s expedition to explore and map the country from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. Sacagawea appears on the dollar coin, which was issued in 2000. The coin is also distinctive for its gold color and smooth edge, which make it easier for visually impaired people to identify.

Seamstress and revolutionary Catherine Flon of Haiti, opera singer Jenny Lind from Sweden, and revolutionaries and sisters Patria, Minerva, and María Teresa Mirabal of the Dominican Republic as well as writers Ichiyō Higuchi from Japan and Kate Shepard from New Zealand are also profiled.

An Introduction reveals information on the beginnings of the monetary system’s coins and paper bills and the choices governments make on who will appear on them. Discussions of the changing images of Britannia and Lady Liberty follow the biographies as well as an Author’s Note and a Glossary of words found in the text.

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Image copyright Li Zhang, 2021, text copyright Andrea Hall, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Andrea Hall’s engaging, conversational style gives readers a wealth of knowledge on their way to learning about the money we use every day. Her well-chosen details provide kids with plenty of sparks for further research about the women and their work, how money is minted and protected from counterfeiters, and pivotal periods in world history.

Li Zhang’s textured and realistic reproductions of world currency are visually stunning, showing kids that much of the world’s coins and paper bills qualify as art in addition to their purchasing value. Her images of stamps, cultural fashions, iconic products, and more are equally beautiful, while her snapshots of insects, jewelry, flags, coats of arms, and other symbols provide readers with tangible views that set the women in their time period and further inform children’s reading.

Absorbing for anyone interested in money, history, art, and biographies, She’s on the Money is highly recommended as an addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 9

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807573426

Discover more about Andrea Hall and her books on her website.

To learn more about Li Zhang, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Savings Day Activity

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Count Your Pennies! Matching Game

 

Counting pennies can be so much fun! Saving them can be even better! Collect enough pennies and you can buy something special or donate to your favorite cause! In this printable matching game, draw a line from the stack of pennies to the object they will buy.

Counting Your Pennies! Matching Game

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You can find She’s on the Money at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 5 – National Do Something Nice Day

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About the Holiday

Similar to Random Acts of Kindness Day, National Do Something Nice Day encourages people to think of others and do nice things for them. These don’t have to be big or expensive; in fact, small gestures or thoughtful actions can make all the difference in the way a friend, family member, or stranger feels. These acts of kindness will make you feel good too! To celebrate today, keep an eye out for ways you can lend a hand, times you can share a smile or a conversation, or ways you can make a new friend. Kids may enjoy sharing the encouraging cards found below with friends, siblings, and teachers or by leaving them at school, the library, shops or anywhere that someone may find them.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice

Written by Maggie C. Rudd | Illustrated by Kelly O’Neill

 

It seems like being nice should be easy, but there are so many emotions that often surround that one little word that sometimes doing the considerate thing is really hard. How hard? Like smiling and saying “that’s okay” when “your mom says you have to share” your favorite toy with a friend, sibling, or cousin and they break it. Like sitting through your brother or sister’s boring performance, game, or recital when you’d rather be somewhere else—anywhere else. Or like eating your least favorite food and thanking the cook for the meal because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In fact, “sometimes being nice takes practice” like when a little brother or sister destroys your stuff and you yell at them, but then later you realize they didn’t really understand what they were doing. Or like when visiting someone you love in a nursing home or new place is scary and you hang back, not wanting to see them but then decide you won’t be scared next time you visit. And then there are times like these on the playground “when you have been waiting in line for the big slide, and a kid jumps in front of you because he didn’t see you standing there. And your mom says that the polite thing to do is to let him go first. But it’s your turn so you go anyway. Somehow it isn’t as fun. Next time you’ll let him go first.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

So what does all that practice lead to? The good feeling you get when you are nice. Like when you let your baby brother sit with you as you play a video game, “and he claps for you the whole time.” There’s also the great feeling you get when you’ve cleaned up after playing and your parents really appreciate it, or “when you’re late for soccer practice and your mom can’t find her keys, so you help her look for them . . . and find them in the doorknob! And your mom says she doesn’t know what she would do without you!”

While these examples may be hard because you feel slighted or tired or rushed or scared, there are times when being nice takes all your courage—like when you befriend the new kid or the kid everyone picks on and find out you have lots in common. Or when the bullies come around and you stand up for your new friend even though it’s scary and you end up in the principal’s office. So why would you want to be nice? Because “it’s worth it.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Maggie C. Rudd’s excellent primer to the emotions and circumstances around being nice presents children with realistic scenarios involving family members and friends, favorite toys and activities, and common situations at school that often require extra effort to respond to in a positive way. Rudd’s conversational writing style directly engages the reader, and while every example may not be an exact match to the reader’s experience, many will be spot on and the others easily recognized and adaptable.

Rudd’s four-step progression acknowledges that showing kindness or even just good manners can be difficult, but that it can become easier—especially when a situation seems unfair or is disappointing—with practice and perspective. Rudd’s examples of when being nice feels good are sprinkled with humor and warm family feelings that will bring smiles that support her point. A thread involving a favorite Galactic Star Crusher action figure ties several of the vignettes together, adding a sense of relationship and connectedness among the characters.

Kelly O’Neill illustrates each example for readers with clearly depicted scenes involving kids like them playing video games, visiting with grandparents, playing on the playground, helping their parents, and standing up for another child. In every instance, the children’s emotions are easily understood, which opens up many opportunities for adults and kids to discuss the feelings and issues surrounding how one treats others from both a child’s and adult’s perspective and experience. O’Neill’s bright colors, familiar settings, and uncluttered, well-conceived pages put the focus on her engaging children and elegantly complement Rudd’s important message.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice is a superb read aloud for honestly addressing the complexities and rewards of showing kindness and being nice. It is a book that families, teachers, and caregivers will find themselves turning to again and again in helping children navigate and learn this important social skill. The book is a must addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company | ISBN 978-0807575734

Discover more about Maggie C. Rudd and her books as well as an Activity Kit for educators and parents on her website.

To learn more about Kelly O’Neill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Do Something Nice Day Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

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You can find Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 4 – World Habitat Day

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About the Holiday

Today we have two special holidays to share: World Habitat Day and National Ship in a Bottle Day! World Habitat Day was created by the United Nations to emphasize the right for all to have access to a home, or a habitat. It is meant to teach more about both humanitarian and environmental issues, as well as their many intersections. This year’s theme is Accelerating Urban Action for a Carbon-free World. To learn more about World Habitat Day and the various activities happening this year to honor it, check out the United Nations World Habitat Day Page.

Today also marks National Ship in a Bottle Day, a holiday founded in 2013 on the birthday of Jack Hinkley, the founder of the Ship in Bottle Association of America. This holiday is meant to celebrate the magical craft of placing a tiny model ship within a glass bottle with a narrow opening. It is a tricky feat that takes a lot of preparation, skill, and careful execution.

You are probably now wondering what book could possibly bridge these two seemingly divergent holidays. The answer is Shipwreck Reefs— a nonfiction picture book from the Imagine This! series published by Albert Whitman & Company.

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Shipwreck Reefs for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Shipwreck Reefs

Written by Aimée M. Bissonette | Illustrated by Adèle Leyris

 

“Splash! Kick! Swim down into the deep.” Readers join scuba divers in learning about coral and reefs. However, not all of these reefs discussed are typical. They are sometimes born from sunken shipwrecks or other non-living, human-placed materials. The book begins with some background on coral reefs, and then readers flip the page to a sunken ship, inhabited by seagrass, algae, barnacles and colorful fish. “But is this a coral reef? Yes…and no.”

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Image copyright Adèle Leyris, 2021, text copyright Aimée M. Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Shipwrecks provide hard surfaces for small animals like baby corals and barnacles to attach onto and grow into colonies. Over time, sunken ships can become entire ecosystems as the corals grow, providing shelter and food for other animals. More specifically, readers will learn about silver bellied yellow jack, long spine squirrelfish, plankton, rainbow parrot fish, loggerhead sea turtles and more.

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Image copyright Adèle Leyris, 2021, text copyright Aimée M. Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Artificial reefs have been around for ages. “In the 1830’s, ocean fishermen in South Carolina constructed artificial reefs out of logs.” Reefs can be constructed from many different materials, from wooden plants to scrap metal, old tanks to sunken ships. “Whether a subway car or oil rig, army tank or shipwreck, artificial reefs do many jobs.” Around the world, there are many reefs that function as both art installations and tourist attractions for deep-sea divers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shipwreck-reefs-oil-rig

Image copyright Adèle Leyris, 2021, text copyright Aimée M. Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The book also discusses how human-caused climate change, pollution from a wide range of contaminates, and the burning of carbon dioxide-producing fuels has caused changes to our oceans that have harmed coral and the other marine life that relies on them. Readers also learn how artificial reefs are beneficial to the ocean habitat. The story reveals: “Artificial reefs help ease the human activity at natural reefs by offering other locations for research, fishing, and diving. Artificial reefs can give natural reefs time to heal, which helps our ocean stay healthy.”

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Image copyright Adèle Leyris, 2021, text copyright Aimée M. Bissonette, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Aimée M. Bissonette follows the story with a page of further information on “Remarkable Resourceful Artificial Reefs,” specifically discussing the experimentation done with artificial reefs and the different creative types that exist. The storyline is interspersed with text in smaller print explaining terms such as ecosystems, scuttling, coral polyps, moray eels, and more for extra-curious readers. Bissonette’s writing is straightforward, and neatly compacts complex terms into simple explanations. The author explains climate change, CO2, and coral bleaching in comprehendible terms to teach young audiences to care about these pressing issues.

Adèle Leyris’s mesmerizing illustrations immerse readers in a deep-sea ecosystem with flashy colored fish, detailed coral, and water-colored blues. The scenes feel authentically underwater, exciting, and full of enticements for the audience to take an extra-long look. The scuba divers are depicted in darker shadows, with spots of light that radiate from the page. One page stands on its own with no text: a murky underwater subway car inhabited by a school of fish, with colorful corals wrapped around the pole. The beautiful illustrations will get readers inspired to learn more about reefs, marine life, and how they can help protect them.

Visually striking and loaded with information that will spur kids to learn more about both artificial and natural coral reefs as well as the sea creatures that rely on them, Shipwreck Reefs is a must for any budding naturalist, classroom science collection, or public library.

Ages 5 – 9 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807512876

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

To learn more about Adèle Leyris, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Habitat Day and National Ship in a Bottle Day Activities

 

Exploring the Coral Reef Video

 

Watch this educational video to see some real-life coral reef ecosystems! 

Scout Life Ship in a Bottle Craft

Image courtesy of Scout Life (scoutlife.com)

Make Your Own Ship in a Bottle

 

To make your own ship (or artificial reef!) in a bottle, visit Scout Life for detailed instructions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shipwreck-reefs-cover

You can find Shipwreck Reefs at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 29 – It’s Intergeneration Month

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About the Holiday

Cuddle ‘round for two loving holidays—Intergeneration Month and National Attend Your Grandchild’s Birth Day—which each encourage grandparents to be present figures in their grandchildren’s lives starting from birth! Already, many grandparents across the globe play active roles in caring for children. In the US alone, 4.8 million preschoolers were under the care of grandparents in 2011. Whether you are a grandchild, parent, or grandparent, it is important to support family and spread some love. Hug someone special today to celebrate this holiday. In honor of this day, we present a story about artist Maria Povika Martinez, co-written by her great-granddaughter. Her historical account teaches the importance of love, family, and the passing down of knowledge through generations.

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Shaped By Her Hands with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Shaped By Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez (Part of the She Made History Series)

Written by Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales | Illustrated by Aphelandra

As a child growing up in the pueblo of San Ildefonso, New Mexico in the 1890s, Maria always loved clay. While her siblings played with straw dolls and her parents planted crops, Maria spent her time making clay pots. But, to her frustration, her pots would always crack when she set them out to dry in the sun. Maria’s aunt, or ko-ōo, Nicolasa offered to help and showed Maria “the centuries-old tradition of san-away.” Nicolasa still made clay pots using these traditional methods, even though more and more people were buying tin pots from stores. 

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Image copyright Aphelandra, 2021, text copyright Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Nicolasa taught Maria how to coil the clay in circles and then lay the pots together on a fire to make them dry, solid, and strong. “As Maria watched Nicolasa work the clay, she thought of the many generations of potters who had come before. She wanted to make bowls as strong and beautiful as her ko-ōo’s.” Nicolasa and Maria thanked Mother Earth for the clay she shared with them. 

When Maria grew older, she continued to make pots and gained a reputation for her skilled work. One day in 1908, an archeologist named Edgar Lee Hewett came to visit Maria. He had discovered an old shard of black pottery in a dig nearby. Mr. Hewett wanted to know if Maria could recreate a pot in the similar style. She decided to take on the challenge.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaped-by-her-hands-Nicolasa

Image copyright Aphelandra, 2021, text copyright Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

After much experimentation, Maria and her husband, Julian Martinez, discovered a technique: “One afternoon, they tried smothering the fire to keep the smoke in. When they pulled out the pot, it was shiny, and black as a raven.” With this new method, Maria combined her own style with old traditions to create a new style of pottery that was marvelous. Mr. Hewitt took some of these pots Maria made. “He put one of the pots in the Museum of New Mexico, where he worked.” The others he took to shops in Santa Fe. To Maria’s surprise, they sold like crazy! Julian began to paint designs on the black shiny pots—decorations of serpents, feathers, and water—using a yucca-blade brush. 

As more and more pots sold, Maria and Julian taught the rest of her family and some friends to make the pots with them. They became so famous that many people across the country invited them to demonstrate their skills to others. When Maria’s husband died, she continued to make pots with her family. “First, her children came to paint the designs. Later, her grandchildren came to help with the painting and polishing. They made pots as a family, remembering to thank Mother Earth, and teaching new hands to form, polish, and design.” 

The story is followed by back matter that provides more information about Maria, the Tewa people, and the San Ildefonso Pueblo for readers. Both authors include a note about how they were influenced by Maria and why they believe it is important to share her story with young people today. 

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Image copyright Aphelandra, 2021, text copyright Anna Harber Freeman and Barbara Gonzales, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The story is co-written by Barbara Gonzales, the great-grandchild of Maria, and Anna Harber Freeman, whose grandmother was a member of the Osage Nation and who is a lifelong fan of Maria’s work with degrees in multicultural education and art. Their biography of Maria Martinez shines with its lyrical, straightforward telling that reveals the deep history of the Tewa people as well as the meaning and uses of the pottery that Maria and her ko-ōo Nicolasa created by hand. The importance of passing down knowledge and traditions from one generation to another is organically woven throughout the story. Many readers will recognize Maria and Julian’s distinctive pottery and be inspired by the history behind it.

Aphelandra is a descendant of the Oneida Nation, and the daughter of a crafts artist and landscaper. She writes that she grew up surrounded by natural beauty and creativity, which can be seen in her illustrations. The illustrations in Shaped by Her Hands consist largely of soft yellow, green, and red hues. In the part of the story in which Maria is sent off to boarding school, the colorful tones found throughout the book are confined to a single window, depicting the feeling of entrapment and homesickness Maria felt. Aphelandra vividly weaves in the storytelling of past generations through her use of color, shadow and circular imagery. Her painted landscapes gorgeously depict the natural San Ildefonso scenery. 

This beautifully crafted tale shares the history of Maria Povika Martinez while introducing readers to Tewa people’s values of kindness, passing on of knowledge, and respect for elders and Mother Earth. An inspiring read for all children, especially those interested in artistic and creative endeavors, Shaped By Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 9 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807575994

Discover more about Anna Harber Freeman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Barbara Gonzales and her pottery and to view a video with Barbara and other artists discussing an exhibition of San Ildefonso Pueblo potters at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, visit the adobe gallery website.

You can learn more about Aphelandra, her books, and her artwork on her website.

Intergeneration Month Activity

Highlights Kids Homemade Clay figures

Photo and craft sample by Madison McClain, courtesy of Highlights Kids (highlightskids.com)

This craft comes from Highlights Homemade Clay, by Marie E. Cecchini posted on April 12, 2016. You can find the post on the Highlights kids website.

Make your own homemade clay in honor of Maria’s art form then make your own pot or creation!

What you’ll need

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 ¼ cups water
  • Cooking pot
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Wiggly eyes, chenille sticks, pompoms, feathers, etc. (optional)

What to do

Note: Food coloring can be added to the water before mixing in the other ingredients or can be added to the clay after it has cooled. Adding coloring later may be a little messier, but you can divide the clay and create different batches of various colors.

  1. Combine ingredients in the pot and cook mixture over medium heat, stirring until it thickens to a consistency like mashed potatoes.
  2. Let the clay cool
  3. Knead the clay until smooth.
  4. Make creations!
  5. Leave clay pieces in the sun to dry.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaped-by-her-hands-cover

You can find Shaped By Her Hands: Potter Maria Martinez at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 21 – Get Ready for Halloween

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-haunt-a-house-cover

About the Holiday

It’s never too early to get ready for Halloween! As the temperatures cool and the trees just begin to turn red, yellow, and orange, kids of all ages look forward to the thrills and chills of this favorite fall holiday. Whether your kids like spine-chillers, ghost stories, or stories that make them giggle, Halloween-themed books are a rib-tickling way to enjoy the season.

How to Haunt a House

Written by Carolyn Crimi | Illustrated by Edward Miller

 

All the little ghosties from far and near gathered at Madam Grey’s school “to learn her special ghost technique.’” Today, Madam Grey announced a surprise test: “‘Haunt three houses. /  Do your best! / If you succeed, you’ll pass the test!” She took her little charges to the first house—a small home, where the ghosties had to “‘make this family shake and shout.’” First, “Groana slammed the toilet seat” while the boy was brushing his teeth. Then Moana ate their cereal, and Shrieky scared their parakeet. The family was so frightened that they fainted.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-haunt-a-house-school

Image copyright Edward Miller, 2021, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Madam Grey was impressed. She took them to the second house, where she wanted her students to spook the three big dogs that lived there. In no time they had the hounds hiding under the bed. On to house three! But when they got there, the ghosties had a fright. This was no ordinary house or ordinary family. This house was already haunted by Frankenstein monsters.

The ghosties did as they were told and glided in. As the family was getting ready for dinner. “Groana made a scary face. / Moana stomped around the place. / Shrieky rode a pillowcase.” But were the ghouls scared? Not a bit. They just sat down and enjoyed their food. Madam Grey suggested “. . . a new approach. / “Perhaps a slimy toad or roach?” The three ghosties brought in bats, cats, and rats, but the family just accepted them as pets with hugs and kisses and a pot of food.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-haunt-a-house-family

Image copyright Edward Miller, 2021, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The ghosties were afraid they would fail their test. Back in the classroom, they studied, and thought, and experimented. Maybe bigger bugs and cats or a super scary snake. But those just wouldn’t do. Then they came up with the perfect idea. Instead of scary, they went cute. This time when the ghosties came to haunt, the family hid and shrieked and “ran away into the night!” Madam Grey bestowed the ghosties’ graduation caps and said, “‘You brilliant ghosties passed with style. / Your perfect tricks have made me smile.’” She proclaimed them ready for Halloween and sent them out to haunt.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-haunt-a-house-dogs

Image copyright Edward Miller, 2021, text copyright Carolyn Crimi, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Carolyn Crimi puts an adorable twist on the definition of scary in her clever Halloween romp. Her jaunty rhymes are sure to get kids shrieking with laughter and wanting to join in on with their ghostie peers with moans, groans, stomping, singing, and other ghoulish tricks of their own. Crimi’s solution to how to haunt an already haunted house will prompt readers to do some creative thinking too.

Edward Miller’s action-packed illustrations will have kids giggling as the three ghosties play practical jokes on the unsuspecting families and are rewarded with shakes, shivers, and Madam Grey’s approval. When the ghosties hit on the perfect way to scare the Frankensteins, kids will love all the cuter-than-cute “spookiness.” Fun details and lots of Halloween favorites make for lingering looks.

Full of silly scary fun to get preschoolers and young readers excited for Halloween plus out-of-the-box thinking to keep the fun going throughout the year, How to Haunt a House is sure to be a favorite on any bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 7 

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807534267

Discover more about Carolyn Crimi and her books on her website.

You can view a portfolio of work by Edward Miller on Bēhance.

Get Ready for Halloween Activity

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I Vant to Eat These Treats! Vampire Treats Box

 

Would you like your gift of homemade or store-bought cookies, candy, or other treats to have a little bite to it? Deliver them in this vampire box you can make yourself!

Supplies

  • Recycled pasta box (or any box with a cellophane window in it)
  • Black Paint
  • Silver Paint
  • Black felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet, or stiff paper
  • Red felt, 8 ½ x 11 sheet, or stiff paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Black heavy stock paper
  • White heavy stock paper or index card
  • Fabric glue
  • Craft glue or double stick tape
  • Hot glue gun (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vampire-treat-box-side-view (2)

Directions

  1. Paint the entire box silver, leaving the window unpainted, let dry
  2. With the black paint create the pointy hairstyle, with the point descending about 1 inch from the top of the box and the curves ending about 1 ½ – 1 ¾ inches from the side of the box (see picture).
  3. Paint around the sides and back of the box in line with the ends of the curves
  4. From the black paper make eyebrows—these can be pointy or rounded
  5. From the index card make the nose and teeth
  6. I painted the nose dark silver by combining silver and a little black paint
  7. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the eyebrows and nose to the box
  8. With the glue or double stick tape, attach the teeth to the window, fitting them slightly up into the rim of the window.
  9. Attach the googly eyes

To make the cape

  1. Holding the black felt or stiff paper horizontally, cut a piece about 4/5 as tall as the box
  2. Holding the red felt or stiff paper horizontally, cut a piece so that there will be a ½-inch border of black along the top and sides
  3. With the fabric glue attach the red felt to the black felt, let dry. If using paper, use craft glue
  4. With the hot glue gun, fabric glue, craft glue, or double stick tape, attach the felt or paper to the back of the box. 
  5. Fold the felt or paper around the sides of the box and attach along the bottom edge of each side with tape or glue
  6. Fold the top of the felt or paper back to make the collar
  7. Attach the bottom edge of the folded section to the box near the front with the tape or glue.

Fill with your favorite treat!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-how-to-haunt-a-house-cover

You can find How to Haunt a House at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 13 – Bald Is Beautiful Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday honors those who through choice, illness, medication, or heredity sport bald heads. Baldness for both men, women, and children can show courage, beauty, and an independent spirit. To commemorate today, give a shout out or support to your friends who are bald.

What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair?

Written by Norene Paulson | Illustrated by Camila Carrossine

 

“Bea wore hats everywhere.” But unlike her friend Shaleah, who sometimes wore hats too, she didn’t have to worry about “hat hair.” Why? Well, while Bea had been born with hair, she began losing it and “before Bea turned four, she was bald.” Bea didn’t remember having hair, and her family and friends loved her, so she just took it in stride—usually.There were times when she wished she could style her hair like Shaleah and felt sad when “a classmate called her a mean name.” And then there was Silly Spirit Week at school. Friday was Silly Hair Day. Bea wondered how she could participate. Shaleah reassured her that they’d think of something.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-hats

Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Shaleah’s first thought was a wig, so on Saturday Bea’s mom took them to a costume shop and Bea tried on lots of different wigs—but none seemed right. The next day they tried crafting hair with yarn and pompoms. It was silly, but still not right. Bea was getting discouraged. Maybe, she said, she should just stay home on Friday. But Shaleah reminded her that if she did she’d miss the Spirit Week picnic. And Shaleah vowed that if Bea stayed home, she’d stay home. Bea didn’t want Shaleah to miss the picnic, so they started thinking again.

For Monday’s Silly Costume Day and Tuesday’s Silly Backwards Day, Bea had great ideas. “On Wednesday Bea won the Wackiest Hat Award,” but she still didn’t have an idea for Silly Hair Day. Then during Silly Feet Day, she saw a temporary tattoo on the principal’s leg that gave her an idea. But first, she needed to get Shaleah and the principal’s approval. When they both said Yes, Bea was excited.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-baby

Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

After school and late into the night, Bea and Shaleah worked on the idea. The next day they got to school early and put up a new sign. It read “FRIDAY: Silly Hair or Head Day.” The kids wondered what that was all about. Then Bea and Shaleah approached in hoodies and lowered the hoods to reveal colorful tattooed and bejeweled designs on Bea’s head and a skullcap for Shaleah. “‘Because now everyone can participate!’ Bea and Shaleah said together. Even the principal joined in with her own decorated cap. And all the kids—including Bea—enjoyed the Silly Spirit Week picnic.

An Author’s Note discussing hair loss due to Alopecia—as Bea has—and some cancer treatments, including online resources that can provide more information follows the text. Bea also offers readers some fun tips on applying temporary tattoos.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-party

Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Norene Paulson addresses childhood alopecia and hair loss due to cancer treatments or other causes in her sensitive and uplifting story. While briefly mentioning bullying, Paulson focuses on a common school spirit week event that leaves Bea out. By empowering Bea and her best friend Shaleah to devise a solution, Paulson invites young readers to both empathize with Bea and see how true friends support each other. Two foundations of Bea’s strong self-confidence and positive self-esteem are revealed in two short, important, and instructive sentences: “Her family loved her.” And “Her friends didn’t care.” Underlying the mystery of how Bea will solve her problem, Paulson provides an excellent way for parents, teachers, school administrators, and other caregivers to discuss inclusivity, acceptance, and friendship.

Camilla Carrossine’s engaging illustrations mirror Paulson’s story, allowing readers to understand and empathize with Bea’s experience and join in on Bea and Shaleah’s close friendship. Children will love the silly wigs Bea tries on, the playful updo of yarn Bea and Shaleah create, and the vibrant tattoos that Bea, Shaleah, and the principal all sport.

A unique and welcome book that allows children with alopecia and/or undergoing cancer treatment to be seen with new understanding from their peers, What’s Silly Hair Day with No Hair? is highly recommended for home bookshelves and for all school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807506080

Discover more about Norene Paulson and her books on her website. You’ll also find reading questions, a curriculum guide, and other resources for the book on her site here.

To learn more about Camilla Carrossine, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-cover

You can find What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review