May 5 – National Astronaut Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-otter-in-space

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the astronauts who with their bravery and sense of adventure inspire everyone to “reach for the stars.” The date commemorates the mission of Astronaut Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr., who became the first American in space on May 5, 1961. Aboard the Freedom 7 Space capsule, Shepard took a 15-minute suborbital flight 116 miles into the atmosphere. The stories of astronauts from other missions have—and continue to—spark dreams of adventure in all. Even, and maybe especially,  among the youngest of us!

Otter in Space

By Sam Garton

 

On Sunday Otter goes to the museum with Otter Keeper and Teddy to see the Space Exhibition. They see a Triceratops skeleton and meet a stuffed bear that must be Teddy’s cousin. On the walls are old paintings made before the invention of crayons, and ancient, interesting things are everywhere.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-otter-in-space-museum

Copyright Sam Garton, 2015, courtesy of Balzer + Bray.

Otter likes all these exhibits, but her favorite is the room dedicated to outer space—there are buttons to push just like a real astronaut, videos to watch, and a rock that came all the way from the moon. At last Otter gets to go to the gift shop. She loads up her arms with toys, but Otter Keeper says, “One thing only.” The spaceship travels home with them, but Otter and Teddy really want a moon rock too.

The next day while Otter Keeper is at work, Otter and Teddy play with their new spaceship, but it’s just not as fun without a moon rock. Teddy suggests going back to the museum, but no one can drive them. Otter thinks and thinks and suddenly has “the best idea ever!” She and Teddy will blast to the moon and retrieve a moon rock.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-otter-in-space-museum-exhibits

Copyright Sam Garton, 2015, courtesy of Balzer + Bray.

Otter makes a very important list of very important things to do. After lunch she builds two space suits and starts training. Although Teddy has some trouble keeping his space suit on and with problem solving, his performance in anti-gravity training is impressive so they move on to constructing the spaceship. With ingenuity and a bunch of household items, Otter builds a rocket and takes it to the Launchpad.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-otter-in-space-museum-science-exhibit

Copyright Sam Garton, 2015, courtesy of Balzer + Bray.

With Giraffe at “mishun control” lift-off is easy, but the moon landing is a little bumpy. Otter’s suit gets torn, but she perseveres and discovers the perfect moon rock nearby. It’s huge! With a little trouble Otter and Teddy transport it back to Earth, where it makes a perfect companion, playing board games and pirates—until Otter Keeper comes home and says it has to go back where it belongs.

The discussion is carried over to dinnertime, and Otter Keeper relents when he sees how serious Otter is in her space suit. If Otter cleans the moon rock she can keep it, says Otter Keeper. But one more restriction has been added to the Otter DO NOT list: dig up moon rocks! That’s okay, though. There are other things to dig up on the moon—like a dinosaur!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-otter-in-space-museum-gift-shop

Copyright Sam Garton, 2015, courtesy of Balzer + Bray.

Sam Garton’s Otter in Space is a cute, spot-on portrayal of the fantastic ideas kids get when exposed to new concepts or places. Told from Otter’s point of view, the text hits on the serious-yet-humorous observations of kids: the gift shop as the favorite museum “exhibit,” a lingering regret for the toy left behind, and “the best ideas ever!” to correct situations.

Garton’s colorful illustrations of wily Otter and her faithful Teddy as they visit the museum, plan their space trip with the help of Giraffe and other toys, and blast off wearing a cereal box space suit are endearing. Kids will giggle at Teddy’s anti-gravity training in the washing machine. They and their parents will also appreciate Otter’s crafty discovery of the moon rock in the garden and recognize with a laugh his adoption of it as a member of the family.

Otter in Space is a book kids will want to explore again and again and would make a favorite addition to home bookshelves!

Ages 4 – 8

Balzer + Bray, 2015 | ISBN 978-0062247766

National Astronaut Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rocket-to-the-moon-tic-tac-toe-game

Out of This World Tic-Tac-Toe Game

 

You can launch your own Tic-Tac-Toe Game with this set you make yourself! With just a couple of egg cartons, some crayons, and a printable game board, you’ll be off to the moon for some fun! Opposing players can be designated by rockets and capsules. Each player will need 5 playing pieces. 

Supplies

  • Printable Moon Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board
  • 2 cardboard egg cartons
  • Heavy stock paper or regular printer paper
  • Crayons
  • Black or gray fine-tip marker

Directions

To Make the Rockets

  1. Cut the tall center cones from the egg carton
  2. Trim the bottoms of each form so they stand steadily, leaving the arched corners intact
  3. Pencil in a circular window on one side near the top of the cone
  4. Color the rocket body any colors you like, going around the window and stopping where the arched corners begin
  5. With the marker color the arched corners of the form to make legs
  6. On the cardboard between the legs, color flames for blast off

To Make the Capsule

  1. Cut the egg cups from an egg carton
  2. Color the sides silver, leaving the curved section uncolored. (If your egg cup has no pre-pressed curve on the sides of the cup, draw one on each side.)
  3. Color the curved section yellow to make windows
  4. With the marker, dot “rivets” across the capsule

Print the Moon Game Board and play!

Picture Book Review

 

 

Picture book review

February 4 – National Sweater Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-extra-yarn-cover

About the Holiday

Do you live in a place where winter means cold temperatures, snow, and sleet? Then you know how much comfort a cozy sweater can provide! But have you ever thought that sweaters can lower your heat bill? Today’s holiday reminds us that when we put on a sweater, we can turn down the thermostat, saving on fuel, which is beneficial for the environment. Knowing that you’re making a difference as you pull on your favorite sweater and lower that thermostat (even one degree can make a big difference) will make you feel warm inside and out!

Extra Yarn

Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Jon Klassen

 

In the dulled world of winter, “Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.” With it she knit herself a sweater, and because she had not run out of yarn, she knit a sweater for her dog, Mars, too. Afterwards, the two went for a walk, and Annabelle carried her box of yarn with her. They happened on Nate and his dog—dreary smudges against the monochrome landscape. “‘You two look ridiculous,’” Nate taunted. “‘You’re just jealous,’ said Annabelle.” Nate denied it, but after Annabelle knit him and his dog their own sweaters, they discovered she was right.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-extra-yarn-annabelle-knits-sweater

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2012. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

These four sweaters hardly put a dent in the yarn in the box, so Annabelle took it to school. There, the kids in their dark, winter clothes couldn’t stop staring at and whispering about Annabelle. Their teacher, Mr. Norman, shouted for quiet. “‘Annabelle, that sweater of yours is a terrible distraction. I cannot teach with everyone turning around to look at you!’” Annabelle knew just what to do. The class—and even Mr. Norman—looked brighter with their new sweaters. “And when she was done, Annabelle still had extra yarn.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-extra-yarn-mr-crabtree

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2012. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

She began knitting sweaters for everyone in town. Mr. Crabtree was the only exception. Since he wore shorts and a t-shirt in even the snowiest weather, Annabelle knit him a cap to keep his bald head warm. When all the people were snug, Annabelle fashioned sweaters for all the animals—from the tiniest birds to the biggest bears. “Soon, people thought, soon Annabelle will run out of yarn. But she didn’t. So Annabelle made sweaters for things that didn’t even wear sweaters.” Suddenly, the town was no longer drab and lifeless.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-extra-yarn-annabelle-knits-animals-sweaters

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2012. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

 

Word spread about Annabelle and her endless box of yarn. People came from all over to meet her and see her sweaters. The news even reached a clotheshorse of an archduke, who sailed his ship into port and demanded to see Annabelle. He offered her one million dollars for her box of yarn, but Annabelle turned him down. He raised his offer to two million, but Annabelle shook her head. “‘Ten million!’ shouted the archduke. ‘Take it or leave it!’” “‘Leave it,’ said Annabelle. ‘I won’t sell the yarn.’”

That night the archduke sent robbers to steal Annabelle’s box of yarn, and when they had it, the archduke sailed away under the dark cover of night. In his shadowy castle, the shady archduke opened the box. It was empty. In a fit of rage, he flung the box out the window into the sea, cursing Annabelle with eternal unhappiness. But the box found its way onto an ice floe, and it rode the current back to Annabelle, who was forever after happy.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-extra-yarn-archduke

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

Mac Barnett’s extraordinary story of a box of yarn and a little girl that keeps giving despite teasing, challenges, and attempts to strip her of her gift is an uplifting reminder that even the simplest of gestures can create profound change. With the lilt of a fairy tale but the anchors of reality, Barnett’s tale offers a universal lesson that children and adults can use their individual talents to improve their own lives and those of others. The title of the book may be Extra Yarn, but the question remains: is it the yarn or Annabelle who is special? The final scene proves that goodness and kindness always win out and will find its way back to the giver.

Jon Klassen’s brown, stolid town seems poised to suck readers in to its close, silent emptiness until Annabelle discovers the box of yarn and knits herself a rainbow to wear. With Mars similarly outfitted, they return to the somber outside. Annabelle, at first the only bright spot in the town and school, quickly transforms her classmates and neighbors into colorful individuals with sweaters as unique as they are. After the homes, buildings, mailboxes, and birdhouses acquire their own cozies, the town looks open and inviting. Once the archduke arrives on the scene, the pages turn dusky and gray, but there is one point of light: in the black, nighttime sea the little box floats on an icy raft that shines in the full moonlight.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-extra-yarn-townspeople

Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, courtesy of macbarnett.com

Klassen adds plenty of visual humor here too, as when Mars tangles his yarn leash around a grove of trees, and the archduke demonstrates a penchant for monogramming all of his possessions. Kids will be delighted to see some of their favorite Klassen characters so dandily dressed, and the images of the students and townspeople connected by a leading thread of yarn may help them see that Annabelle not only knit them sweaters but made them a much closer-knit community as well.

Ages 3 – 8

Balzar + Bray, HarperCollins Childrens, 2012 | ISBN 978-0061953385

Want to see what other books Mac Barnett has written? Visit his website and find out!

You can find a gallery of picture books and other artwork by Jon Klassen on tumblr!

National Sweater Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sweater-coloring-page

Design Your Own Sweater

 

If you could design your own sweater, what would it look like? Would it have stripes? Polka dots? A picture of a puppy, kitten, train, truck, or the logo of your favorite sports team? Use this printable Design Your Own Sweater template and have a bit of fashionable fun!

Picture Book Reviews

January 24 – Global Belly Laugh Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-cover

About the Holiday

If there’s one thing that unites us all, it’s laughter. A good belly laugh is good for your soul and your health! Today’s holiday encourages and celebrates smile, laughs, and all the things that bring us joy. It’s also a day to think about and thank those who share their funny stories, fun times, and laughter with us. So spend a happy day being with friends, watching a funny movie or show, and reading a laugh-out-loud book like…

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

Written by Drew Daywalt |Illustrated by Adam Rex

 

“Long ago in an ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of Backyard,” Rock ruled. There was just one problem. There was no one left who could challenge this mighty warrior. Rock traveled far and wide, even to the “Forest of Over by the Tire Swing.” Here, on a line strung between two trees, he spied a tiny opponent with super strength “holding a giant’s underwear.” The trash talking began as Rock called out Clip Man to fight him. Clip Man was not intimidated and threatened to pinch Rock until he cried. The battle was on! With a smash and a crack, Rock easily defeated Clip Man.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-clothes-pin

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Rock’s win just whet his appetite for victory, so he moseyed over to “the Mystical Tower of Grandma’s Favorite Apricot Tree.” There he encountered a small, orange fruit. Rock told the Apricot exactly what he thought of him. Apricot couldn’t let the dis go unchallenged, so the battle was on! Although Apricot gave it his all, his “tart and tangy sweetness” was no match for Rock’s smooshing power. While Rock took some pleasure in his win, it did not bring him the joy he sought. He decided to leave the Kingdom of Backyard in search of a worthy opponent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-peach

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

“Meanwhile, in the Empire of Mom’s Home Office, on lonely and windswept Desk Mountain, a second great warrior sought the glory of battle.” Paper was smart and so clever that “no one could outwit him.” As he roamed across the vast desk, Paper met up with Computer Printer, who vowed to gobble him up and spit him out. The battle was on! But within seconds Computer Printer realized he was in a jam—a Paper jam! Flush with victory Paper rappelled over the side into the “Pit of Office Trash Bin,” where the menacing “Half-Eaten Bag of Trail Mix” awaited him. Paper leapt! Paper blocked the light! The Trail Mix fled! Disheartened by this easy win, Paper also left his kingdom in search of a worthy opponent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-apricotpng

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Back in “the Kitchen Realm in the tiny village of Junk Drawer, there lived a third great warrior. They called her Scissors.” She too was looking for a challenging adversary. She was happy to take on the “tacky and vaguely round monstrosity” who confronted her, but Roll of Tape’s “adhesive and tangling powers” were no match for Scissors’ sharp blades. She sauntered across her kingdom to Refrigerator/Freezer, where the breaded-chicken dinosaurs lived. They were ready to fight, and the battle is on! At first it looks as if the “kid-pleasing shapes and flavors” will vanquish Scissors, but it’s just a plot twist! Scissors is victorious again!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-rock

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Scissors knew it was time to move on, so she left the Kitchen Realm for the “Great Cavern of Two-Car Garage.” There she came face-to-face with Rock. They sized each other up, and Scissors threw down the gauntlet: “I hope you’re wearing your battle pants, rock warrior.” Rock answered: “If by ‘battle pants’ you mean ‘no pants but I’m willing to fight you,’ then yes…yes, I am wearing my battle pants, weird scissory one.” The battle was on!

Rock versus Scissors! The battle raged, until…Rock defeated Scissors. Suddenly, Scissors knew the happiness of having a worthy opponent, but Rock was still unsatisfied. Just then Paper floated onto the scene, and with the well-known fighting words, “Hi there,” the battle was on! Brought down and wrapped up by Paper’s flexible forces, Rock was joyful. But what about Paper? Who could defeat him?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-rock-battle

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Scissors stood on her tippy toes and faced Paper. With one smooth slice, she cut a hole in his win record. Now Paper knew the thrill of defeat. The three warriors became fast friends and battled each other over and over. Their story became legend and their legend became the stuff of “backyards, playgrounds, and yes, even classrooms” as kids around the world play Rock, Paper, Scissors!

Get ready for plenty of dramatic reading, out loud laughs, and ringing cheers the moment you open Drew Daywalt’s The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors. This worthy spoof on the warrior genre from Medieval knights to the wrestling ring is a hilarious take down of challenges, trash talking, and bravado with a good bit of truth about the nature of competition and friendship: true friends are open to challenges and supportive when the other guy wins. Daywalt’s freewheeling conversational tone, inspired kingdoms, and cunning choices of opponents will have readers looking at their homes in a whole new light.

Employing the same thrilling spectacle as action movies, Adam Rex brings to life the adrenaline-pumping swagger of three brave warriors. Bold typefaces invite spirited reading, and the details of the realms overseen by Rock, Paper, and Scissors will enthrall kids. Both young and adult readers will want to linger and laugh over every page to check out all the anthropomorphized items that populate these kingdoms.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors is sure to be a champion in any child’s home library. It would make a perfect gift and a much-asked-for book for exuberant story times.

Ages 4 – 9

Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN  978-0062438898

Check out books, art, and other fun stuff by Adam Rex on his website!

Global Belly Laugh Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-laughing-girl-and-boy-coloring-page

Rock Paper Scissors Extravaganza

 

Come on! You know that a few rounds of Rock Paper Scissors will make you laugh! Find someone or many someones and challenge them to the battle of all rock, paper, scissors battles just like the two kids in this printable Laugh Along with Rock Paper Scissors Coloring Page!

 

Picture Book Review

July 13 – International Rock Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the lowly rock that has been—dare I say it?—the rock of our civilization. From earliest times, the rock as given us solid ground to stand on, been used as building material and even the tools to build with, and has provided us with valuable gemstones that beautify our lives. Geology and Archeology are just two of the sciences that explore the wonders of stone—what it is composed of and what secrets it keeps. Today, be more mindful of the rocks around you and take a closer look at the intricate patterns that lie within them.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

Written by Drew Daywalt |Illustrated by Adam Rex

 

“Long ago in an ancient and distant realm called the Kingdom of Backyard,” Rock ruled. There was just one problem. There was no one left who could challenge this mighty warrior. Rock traveled far and wide, even to the “Forest of Over by the Tire Swing.” Here he spied a tiny opponent with super strength “holding a giant’s underwear.” The trash talking began as Rock called out Clip Man to fight him. Clip Man was not intimidated and threatened to pinch Rock until he cried. The battle was on! With a smash and a crack, Rock easily defeated Clip Man.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-clothes-pin

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Rock’s win just whet his appetite for victory, so he moseyed over to “the Mystical Tower of Grandma’s Favorite Apricot Tree.” There he encountered a small, orange fruit. Rock told the Apricot exactly what he thought of him. Apricot couldn’t let the dis go unchallenged, so the battle was on! Although Apricot gave it his all, his “tart and tangy sweetness” was no match for Rock’s smooshing power. While Rock took some pleasure in his win, it did not bring him the joy he sought. He decided to leave the Kingdom of Backyard in search of a worthy opponent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-peach

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

“Meanwhile, in the Empire of Mom’s Home Office, on lonely and windswept Desk Mountain, a second great warrior sought the glory of battle.” Paper was smart and so clever that “no one could outwit him.” As he roamed across the vast desk, Paper met up with Computer Printer, who vowed to gobble him up and spit him out. The battle was on! But within seconds Computer Printer realized he was in a jam—a Paper jam! Flush with victory Paper rappelled over the side into the “Pit of Office Trash Bin,” where the menacing “Half-Eaten Bag of Trail Mix” awaited him. Paper leapt! Paper blocked the light! The Trail Mix fled! Disheartened by this easy win, Paper also left his kingdom in search of a worthy opponent.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-apricotpng

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Back in “the Kitchen Realm in the tiny village of Junk Drawer, there lived a third great warrior. They called her Scissors.” She too was looking for a challenging adversary. She was happy to take on the “tacky and vaguely round monstrosity” who confronted her, but Roll of Tape’s “adhesive and tangling powers” were no match for Scissors’ sharp blades. She sauntered across her kingdom to Refrigerator/Freezer, where the breaded-chicken dinosaurs lived. They were ready to fight, and the battle is on! At first it looks as if the “kid-pleasing shapes and flavors” will vanquish Scissors, but it’s just a plot twist! Scissors is victorious again!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-rock

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Scissors knew it was time to move on, so she left the Kitchen Realm for the “Great Cavern of Two-Car Garage.” There she came face-to-face with Rock. They sized each other up, and Scissors threw down the gauntlet: “I hope you’re wearing your battle pants, rock warrior.” Rock answered: “If by ‘battle pants’ you mean ‘no pants but I’m willing to fight you,’ then yes…yes, I am wearing my battle pants, weird scissory one.” The battle was on!

Rock versus Scissors! The battle raged, until…Rock defeated Scissors. Suddenly, Scissors knew the happiness of having a worthy opponent, but Rock was still unsatisfied. Just then Paper floated onto the scene, and with the well-known fighting words, “Hi there,” the battle was on! Brought down and wrapped up by Paper’s flexible forces, Rock was joyful. But what about Paper? Who could defeat him?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-legend-of-rock-paper-scissors-rock-battle

Image copyright Adam Rex, 2017; text copyright Drew Daywalt, 2017. Courtesy of Balzar + Bray.

Scissors stood on her tippy toes and faced Paper. With one smooth slice, she cut a hole in his win record. Now Paper knew the thrill of defeat. The three warriors became fast friends and battled each other over and over. Their story became legend and their legend became the stuff of “backyards, playgrounds, and yes, even classrooms” as kids around the world play Rock, Paper, Scissors!

Get ready for plenty of dramatic reading, out loud laughs, and ringing cheers the moment you open Drew Daywalt’s The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors. This worthy spoof on the warrior genre from Medieval knights to the wrestling ring is a hilarious take down of challenges, trash talking, and bravado with a good bit of truth about the nature of competition and friendship: true friends are open to challenges and supportive when the other guy wins. Daywalt’s freewheeling conversational tone, inspired kingdoms, and cunning choices of opponents will have readers looking at their homes in a whole new light.

Employing the same thrilling spectacle as action movies, Adam Rex brings to life the adrenaline-pumping swagger of three brave warriors. Bold typefaces invite spirited reading, and the details of the realms overseen by Rock, Paper, and Scissors will enthrall kids. Both young and adult readers will want to linger and laugh over every page to check out all the anthropomorphized items that populate these kingdoms.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors is sure to be a champion in any child’s home library. It would make a perfect gift and a much-asked-for book for exuberant story times.

Ages 4 – 9

Balzar + Bray, 2017 | ISBN  978-0062438898

Check out books, art, and other fun stuff by Adam Rex on his website!

International Rock Day Activity

Rock Paper Scissors Extravaganza

 

Come on! You know you want to! Find someone or many someones and challenge them to the battle of all rock, paper, scissors battles!

Picture Book Review

November 27 – Pins And Needles Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-cover

About the Holiday

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

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

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-clara-comes-to-town

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of HarperCollins

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-forming-a-union

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-picket-line

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-clara-on-picket-line

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of HarperCollins

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 9 

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

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

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

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

Pins and Needles Day Activity

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Sewing Up Fun! Word Search

 

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

Picture Book Review

November 26 – It’s National Family Week

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About the Holiday

This week we celebrate families. Yes, those people you may just have seen at the Thanksgiving dinner table—those people that you love even as you sometimes wonder if you’re really related. National Family Week was established in 1968 by Sam Wiley, a former teacher and administrator from Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1970 Wiley partnered with the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. The aim of the Alliance and this designated holiday is to “build community connections and honor those who strengthen families.” Today, tell your family members how much they mean to you and plan some fun activities that include all!

Meet the Dullards

Written by Sara Pennypacker | Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

 

Gray—that’s what the Dullards are. Gray and happily extra boring. Their life is going on in its monotonous way until one day when Mr. and Mrs. Dullard happen upon a most disturbing sight. Their three children are reading—and not only that, they are reading books about befriending lions, juggling, and walking a tightrope. The elder Dullards do what any self-respecting dullard would do. They retrieve the books and hand their children blank pieces of paper to read instead.

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Sara Pennypacker. Courtesy of danielsalmieri.com

The children are definitely becoming a problem. They want to go to school and have been playing outside. It’s not our fault, bemoan the parents; it must be the town, where last fall some leaves actually turned color and there’s that unruly snail in the driveway. In fact the whole atmosphere is like a circus! There’s only one thing to do. The Dullards pack up their house and Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud and move away.

Immediately upon moving into their new home, they are bombarded by the neighbor lady bringing exclamation marks and chunky applesauce cake into their perfectly dull new home. The kids are sent to watch the (unplugged) TV, but instead their eyes are drawn to the window. While unpacking Mr. and Mrs. Dullard discover a sight so shocking that Mrs. Dullard faints into the arms of her distressed husband. It’s yellow flowered wallpaper. (An exclamation mark would be appropriate here, but you know…)

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, courtesy of harpercollins.com

On the way to the paint store the family stops to get ice-cream cones, and with 90,000 flavors to choose from they pick vanilla. Plain cone or sugar cone? No cone, of course. At the paint store Mr. Dullard suggests medium gray, but Mrs. Dullard deems it too risky. Its similarity to highways could make the kids think of travel. Beige? Mrs. Dullard counters. Too much like clay, says Mr. Dullard which can be used to create stuff. They come to a compromise and go home to—you’ve got it—watch the paint dry.

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Sara Pennypacker. Courtesy of harpercollins.com

While their parents are mesmerized the kids sneak away and out the window that so enthralled them before. The sight of Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud juggling, teaching a dog tricks, and somersaulting on the clothesline, ushers in another move—back to where they came from just in time for the kids to join the circus.

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Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, courtesy of harpercollins.com

With dry wit and laugh-out-loud dialogue Sara Pennypacker delivers a spot-on family story. While seen through the eyes of Mr. and Mrs. Dullard, this funny tale is all about the kids. What kids don’t think their parents are dull and conventional? And can parents really understand what’s going on in those little minds? Both children and adults will love the Dullards, and after reading you may be inspired to go out for vanilla chocolate ice-cream (ok, you can still hold the cone!).

Daniel Salmieri’s Dullards are comic genius! With their oval bodies and gray attire they blend with their oatmeal-hued walls to perfect effect. Identical square houses give way to identical triangular houses as the Dullards move to avoid catastrophic enthusiasm. The kids’ facial expressions as they adhere to booorring rules are priceless, as are the parents’ reactions to the slightest excitement. Details such as a yellow snail in the driveway, the elder Dullards’ looks of horror when discovering the bright wallpaper, the signs on the ice-cream kiosk, and the name of the moving van provide humorous jokes on each page.

Ages 4 – 8

Balzer + Bray, Harper Collins, 2015 | ISBN 978-0062198563

Visit Sara Pennypacker‘s virtual studio to learn more about her, her books, and her thoughts on writing and literacy.

View a portfolio of Daniel Salmieri‘s artwork for picture books and other illustrations on his website!

National Family Week Activity

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Paint Strip Inspiration

 

Do you like to laugh? Do you like to watch paint dry? It is kind of cool how it changes color a bit as it dries….Oh, sorry! Where was I? Oh yeah—this craft. Paint sample strips make brilliant backdrops to your thoughts about love, life, laughter, family—anything! You can mix and match your favorite colors and arrange them any way you like to decorate your wall. Frame them for a more put-together look!

Supplies

  • 4 -5 paint strips from a hardware store OR You could also make your own color stips with poster board and craft paint
  • Poster board
  • Craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Markers or adhesive letters
  • Scissors
  • Mounting squares
  • Frame (optional)

Directions

  1. Choose an inspirational or funny quotation or make up your own phrase
  2. Decide how you would like the words displayed on the paint strips
  3. Count how many paint strips you will need
  4. If you are using paint strips from a paint or hardware store, choose the number of color strips that you need and write the letters and/or words of your phrase into the individual squares. You can print one letter per square or multiple letters or even whole words. Mix styles of print to give it your own unique look.
  5. If you are making your own paint strip, cut poster board into strips 9 inches long by 2 inches wide, or to desired size
  6. Paint squares of color to fill the strip, leaving a 1/8-inch-wide stripe between colors
  7. Think of a phrase that expresses your thoughts on life and laughter OR use a favorite quotation
  8. Print the words on the squares of color OR use adhesive letters. You can print one letter per square or multiple letters or even whole words. Mix styles of print to give it your own unique look.
  9. Mount or frame your paint strip phrase