February 1 – National Freedom Day

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About the Holiday

National Freedom Day commemorates the February 1, 1865 signing by President Abraham Lincoln of a joint United States House of Representatives and Senate resolution that outlawed slavery and later became the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Major Richard Robert Wright Sr., a former slave, called on local and national leaders to meet in Philadelphia and formalize a national day of remembrance. In 1947, a year after Wright’s death, the U.S. Congress passed a bill marking February 1 as National Freedom Day. The proclamation was signed into law on June 30, 1948 by President Harry S Truman. The holiday led to Black History Day, which was later expanded to Black History Month.

Freedom in Congo Square

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford | Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

 

From sunup to sundown slaves brought to the state of Louisiana from their homelands in Africa and the West Indies toiled on plantations six days a week. The seventh day, Sunday, was set aside as a day of rest and worship, and in the afternoon people of African descent gathered in Congo Square in the heart of New Orleans to dance, play instruments, and talk. On Monday morning the long week began anew, but the rhythms of Congo Square sustained the men, women, and children through “hogs to slop, / mules to train, and logs to chop. / Slavery was no ways fair. / Six more days to Congo Square.

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Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, text Carole Boston Weatherford. Courtesy simonandschuster.com

On Tuesdays, with “cows to feed, / fields to plow, and rows to seed,” five more days stretched out in endless labor. “Wednesdays, there were beds to make, / silver to shine, and bread to bake. / The dreaded lash, too much to bear. / Four more days to Congo Square.” Thursdays came with wash tubs and drying lines, scrub brushes, and brooms. “Spirituals rose from the despair. / Three more days to Congo Square.”

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Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, text Carole Boston Weatherford. Courtesy simonandschuster.com

Fridays were spent in back-breaking work and though some brave souls dared to run, most were counting “Two more days to Congo Square.” Saturdays brought no more relief, but the days had whittled down to hours and “Freedom was slaves’ ardent prayer. / One more day to Congo Square.” At last came Sunday afternoon, and slaves and free rushed to Congo Square—“…a market and a gathering ground / where African music could resound.”

They met their kinsmen by nation, tribe, or language and revived their own stories and music played on drums, fiddles, shells, flutes, gourds, and bells that led to chants and dancing. “This piece of earth was a world apart. / Congo Square was freedom’s heart.”

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Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, text Carole Boston Weatherford. Courtesy simonandschuster.com

Through powerful rhythmic couplets, as spare and austere as the work they describe yet ending in a focal point of hope, Carole Boston Weatherford recreates the steady thrum that resonated in the hearts of slave and free men and women as they anticipated each afternoon in Congo Square.  As the days remaining until Congo Square are counted off, Weatherford’s predominantly one-syllable words form a staccato beat, the pounding of hard, physical work. When Sunday comes and people find joy in their shared music and dance, Weatherford’s phrasing within the same structured couplets rises, employing multi-syllable words that give the verses a pulsing flow that echoes the freedom they find in Congo Square.

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Image copyright R. Gregory Christie, text Carole Boston Weatherford. Courtesy simonandschuster.com

Gregory Christie’s vivid folk-art illustrations are a perfect complement to Weatherford’s verses. The elongated figures stand tall and proud amidst the fields and workrooms of the plantation. In some scenes the slaves’ angled bodies, leaning over to pick cotton, wash floors, or lift baskets may be bent, but they are not broken, and while two men work on building a wall, they seem to kneel prayerfully as they add another brick. In a moving two-page spread set at night, brown wood-grain houses superimposed with rows of sleeping slaves float on a blue-toned ground below a red sky, reminiscent of ships laden with Africans sailing the Middle Passage of the Atlantic slave trade. As the men and women congregate in Congo Square, Christie’s lithe figures raise their arms and kick their legs in dance. The fiery backgrounds swirl with color as the celebrants jump, stretch, play instruments and move with exultation.

A detailed Forward by historian and Congo Square scholar, Freddi Williams Evans and an Author’s Note following the text reveal more information on the history of Congo Square and its significance to Jazz music.

Freedom in Congo Square is both a heartrending and jubilant book that would make a wonderful and meaningful addition to any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801033

Learn more about Carole Boston Weatherford and her books and discover book-related resources on her website!

If you’re lucky enough to live in Decatur, Illinois, you can visit R. Gregory Christie’s unique art studio, art school, and bookstore Gas-Art Gifts Autographed Children’s Bookstore. If you don’t live near Decatur, you can check out all the books, art, and items for sale on the website!

National Freedom Day Activity

Freedom Stone

 

Freedom is a precious right—one that can be represented in different ways by each person. For today’s activity use a brick, paving stone, large stone, or molded plaster of Paris and decorate it with a picture or design that means freedom to you. Then put it in a special place—in a garden, near your front or back door, in your room, or in another spot—where it will remind you of freedom’s gifts.

Supplies

  • Brick, paving stone, large stone, plaster of Paris
  • Paint
  • Plastic gems, bead, or other small objects
  • Strong glue or other adhesive
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Create a design that shows what freedom means to you or an object that represents freedom to you
  2. Paint your stone with the design, let dry
  3. Add gems, beads, or other objects
  4. Display your Freedom Stone

Picture Book Review

January 27 – It’s Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

January is a time for reflection and new beginnings. What better time to start thinking creatively and finding your inner artist, scientist, inventor, thinker? Go ahead and do the thing you’ve always wanted to do!

Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt

Written by Patricia C. McKissack | Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

In this story told through poems, a little girl begins telling of her life, starting with a recitation on Gee’s Bend Women: “Gee’s Bend women are / Mothers and Grandmothers / Wives / Sisters and Daughters / Widows.” They are every kind of woman you know, doing every type of work and activity. “Gee’s Bend women are / Talented and Creative / Capable / Makers of artful quilts / Unmatched. / Gee’s Bend women are / Relatives / Neighbors / Friends— / Same as me.”

In Who Would Have Thought, the girl muses on how perceptions change. “For as long as anyone can remember,” she says, the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have created quilts that were slept under, sat on, and wrapped around the sick or cold. But now those same quilts are “…hanging on museum walls, / their makers famous….”

When she was just a tot “Baby Girl” reveals in Beneath the Quilting Frame, she played under the quilting frame, listening to her “mama, grandma, and great-gran / as they sewed, talked, sang, and laughed / above my tented playground.” She remembers the “steady fingers  /[that] pieced together colorful scraps of familiar cloth / into something / more lovely / than anything they had been before” as her mother sang her a lullaby.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Something Else, “Baby Girl” is growing too big to play beneath the frame. Her legs becoming longer and her mind full of “recipes for eleven kinds of jelly…how to get rid of mold…and the words to a hundred hymns and gospel songs” while she waits her turn at the frame. Finally, in Where to Start? her time comes. The girl asks her mama how to begin and she answers, “‘Look for the heart. / When you find the heart, / your work will leap to life… / strong, beautiful, and… / independent.’”

In Remembering, the girl thinks about how her mama has told her that “cloth has a memory.” As she chooses the cloth that will become her quilt she sees the life and the history in each. 

Nothing Wasted sees Grandma pulling apart a red-and-white gingham dress stitch by stitch to become a quilting square that the girl suddenly knows “will be the heart of my quilt.” In Puzzling the Pieces the girl and her grandma stand over the quilting frame fitting the squares together in the perfect way to tell the girl’s story. Her quilt comes together piece by piece to tell the history of Gee’s Bend in The River Island. The brown strips along three sides mirror the muddy waters surrounding her town. The fourth side is a green strip—“a symbol of the fields where my ancestors / worked cotton from can to can’t— / can see in the morning until / can’t see at night.” Lined up next to the green strip are six squares representing the small communities “where families with / the same name / are not kin by blood / but by plantation.”

Being Discovered is portrayed with “a large smoke-gray square”—the color of the Great Depression and the 15 minutes of fame Gee’s Bend garnered when discovered “by sociologists, historians, / educators, and journalists” who came and went, leaving Gee’s Bend “the way it had been / before being discovered.”

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Colors, the girl’s grandma explains the meanings and feelings behind each colored cloth. “Blue cools. / Red is loud and hard to control, / like fire and a gossiping tongue.” Green, orange, yellow, white, pink, and all the others have their own personalities. “Grandma says, / ‘Colors show how you / feel deep down inside.’”

In Pinky, the harrowing facts of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama frame the story of one marcher, Mr. Willie Quill who broke horses for the Alabama State Mounted Patrol and was saved from the Police attacks when one of the horses he’d trained knew his voice. In Dr. King Brings Hope, the little girl adds a “Patch of bright pink / to remember Pinky’s story. / Next to it I sew / a spotless white patch for the hope Dr. Martin Luther King / brought to the Bend” and goes on to tell how her grandma saw Dr. King at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and what it meant to her.

By and By follows the girl as she adds “golden thank-yous, for James Reeb,” a “bright blue piece of velvet for Viola Liuzzo,” and a “big plaid people circle of white, black, brown, yellow, and red for Reverend Dr. King, all “killed for believing in justice.”

In the 1960s, The Sewing Bee tells, Gee’s Bend quilters were once again discovered. There were buyers for the handmade quilts, but stipulations. The girl asks her grandma if she was part of the Bee, to which she replies, “‘Yes, / more money. Less freedom. I chose to stay free.’”

At last all of the patches are laid out and the time comes to stitch the girl’s quilt. Five women stand at the frame “all stitchin’ and pullin.’” They work “in a slow and steady rhythm” relaxing and enjoying being together until the quilt is finished. In Finished, the last stitch is sewn, and the thread bitten and knotted. The girl has hundreds of ideas for future quilts. “Quilts that are about me, / the place where I live, / and the people / who have been here for generations.”

Further poems unite the history of “Baby Girl,” her family, and neighbors, and an Author’s Note about quilting and the women of Gee’s Bend follow the text.

Patricia McKessack’s free verse poems capture the close relationships and camaraderie of the generations of women who join around the quilting frame to share and pass down their art and their heart. McKessack’s conversational verses, on page after page like the patches of a quilt, reveal the complexity of this handmade art form in the way intimate talks between friends unveil a life. Readers learn not only about the little girl and her own thoughts, but the history and influence of her immediate family, world events, inspirational figures, and deeply held beliefs that make her who she is and ties her to the other Gee’s Bend women.

Cozbi A. Cabrera’s stunning acrylic paintings take readers inside the heart of the Gee’s Bend women, depicting the girl’s home, the table-sized quilting frame where the women collectively work, the plantations, the protests, and the changes that came but did not unravel the convictions, values, and love of the little girl’s family. Readers can almost hear the talking and singing of the Gee’s Bend women as they stitch their quilts, and the comforting, embracing environment is evident on every page. Cabrera’s portraits of the little girl, her mama, and her grandma are particularly moving. For What Changed, Cabrera depicts a yellow school bus appearing on the dirt road from the right hand corner of the page. In the side mirror a dot of a house comes into view, reminding readers that no matter how far these women are from home, Gee’s Bend is always with them.

Children—and adults—will find Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt inspirational and uplifting. This volume of poetry can be read at one sitting and delved into again and again, making it a wonderful choice for home libraries and a must for school, public, and other libraries.

Ages 5 – 12

Dragonfly Books, Random House, 2016 (paperback edition) | ISBN 978-0399549502

View a gallery  of fashion designs, dolls, and other handmade art work by Cozbi A. Cabrera on her website!

Creativity Month Activity

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Design a Quilt Coloring Pages

Quilts are so much more than pieces of material sewn together—they’re life stories! Here are two quilt coloring pages for you to design and color. What does each piece mean to you? As you color each section, write a sentence about an event or thought that is important to you.

Quilt Template 1 | Quilt Template 2

Picture Book Review

December 29 – Tick Tock Day

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About the Holiday

As the year winds down Tick Tock Day reminds us of the passage of time and encourages us to examine our life and find opportunities to accomplish the things we really want to. While the day only has 24 hours, a little creative scheduling, letting go of those tasks that aren’t so important, and even saying “no,” can help us achieve the things that matter.

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock

Written by Shana Keller | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

With winter approaching Benjamin Banneker has finished up his autumn chores and is looking forward to time to indulge his creative dreams. He finds his favorite spot under the chestnut tree—the place where during the summer he plays his violin and flute, “blending his soft music with the bird’s songs”—and pulls out a pocket watch he has borrowed from a gentleman. Benjamin is fascinated by the ticking and the movement of the small hands. He carefully opens the back of the watch and discovers “a world of wonderful whirls. There were gears of all shapes and sizes. Such a tiny maze!”

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

The miniature timepiece is mesmerizing, but Benjamin’s mind holds a challenge—a big challenge. He envisions a large clock, one that chimes to tell the time. Remembering his math skills, Benjamin mulls over the scale needed to turn “something small into something big.” As the snow falls, Benjamin goes to work. First, he dismantles the pocket watch and draws careful diagrams of the gears and workings. Then he begins transposing these into larger drawings.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

With the coming of spring and his drawings finished, Benjamin plans how he will build his clock. While the little pocket watch is made of metal, that material is much too expensive for a large version. As he ponders the problem under his favorite tree, Benjamin looks around him. Suddenly he knows! The answer is “right in front of him, even in his hands! The very instrument he played was made of wood!” There is a forest of trees on his farm, and this material is free.

During the summer between farm chores, Benjamin uses “every spare moment he had to find the perfect pieces of wood.” Once he has enough he begins to convert his drawings into carvings, whittling the gears and other pieces he will need. Soon, however, he becomes discouraged. The wood begins to split and come apart. Benjamin thinks about how his family cures tobacco leaves—drying them out until all the moisture evaporates. Perhaps, he thinks, he can do the same with wood to make it stronger. The process would take months, but Benjamin is patient.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

Winter has come around again, and the wood is finally ready. In his warm house Benjamin sets about carving again. During the day he carves near the sunny window, and at night he works by candlelight. At last he has all the parts he needs to build his clock. Gears, wheels, tiny pins, and the boards that will become the case are scattered across Benjamin’s work table. There is only one piece missing. A piece that cannot be made of wood—the bell!

Benjamin buys a bell from a metalsmith, and back home begins to build his clock. With his drawings to guide him, he fits the gears together and then sets the hands to “match up perfectly with the second, minute, and hour of each day. It took more than one try, but Benjamin had learned to be patient.” Using the sun to determine the correct time, Benjamin positions the hands and steps back. His clock works! “The little iron bell chimed every hour, on the dot, for the next forty years.” Benjamin becomes famous, and neighbors from near and far come “to see his amazing invention.”  

An Author’s Note expanding on Benjamin Banneker’s life and work follows the text.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

With lyrical language that glides as smoothly as a well-oiled timepiece, Shana Keller reveals the remarkable story of Benjamin Banneker, born free during the time of slavery, who possessed exceptional math and scientific skills and used them to help his friends and neighbors and to make real his vision of a striking clock. Keller’s detailed and descriptive storytelling animates this life story, allowing readers to take the journey with Banneker as he experiences excitement, setbacks, and ultimately success. Banneker, embodying determination, persistence, and creativity, is an excellent role model for kids with big dreams of their own.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

David C. Gardner’s lovely full-page and two-page-spread illustrations gloriously portray Benjamin Banneker’s farm and home as well as his dedicated commitment to building a striking clock despite—or perhaps spurred on by—the challenges he faced. Gardner’s detailed images set the biography firmly in its time period, letting children experience farm and home life in the 1750s. Banneker carries wooden buckets to feed the animals, tobacco leaves hang in a dry shed, a fire blazes in a large, open fireplace, and a candle flickers as Banneker whittles wheels and gears with his pocket knife. The realistic paintings that depict Banneker’s emotions as he imagines creating a large clock, overcomes obstacles, and studiously works on his drawings and carvings will inspire readers to attempt their own inventions—whatever they may be.

For any would-be inventors, history lovers, tinkerers, and science buffs, Ticktock Banneker’s Clock is a stirring biography that would make a wonderful addition to school and home libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369560

Learn more about Shana Keller and her work on her website!

Discover a portfolio of picture book art, fine art, animation, and videos by David C. Gardner on his website!

Tick Tock Day Activity

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Cuckoo Clock Coloring Page

 

The chirp of a cuckoo clock keeps you on time—or at least aware of the passing of time! Here’s a printable Cuckoo Clock Coloring Page for you to enjoy!

Picture Book Review

August 15 – National Relaxation Day

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About the Holiday

Relaxation Day was founded in 1985 by then fourth-grader Sean Moeller, who already knew a thing or two about balance in life when he suggested that “cleaning and real work are not part of relaxation.” Today’s holiday gives you permission to kick back and enjoy yourself. The subject of today’s book invented a great way to take advantage of a day off—and also demonstrates that sometimes work and relaxation go hand-in-hand!

WHOOSH! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Written by Chris Barton | Illustrated by Don Tate

 

Lonnie Johnson had a way with stuff. In his hands bolts and screws, gears and springs, spools, clothespins, “spare parts his dad let him bring in from the shed, and various other things he’d hauled back from the junkyard” fueled Lonnie’s ideas for inventions and rocket ships. The kids at school loved to watch him launch the rockets he’d devised on the playground. Lonnie wanted to have a career as an engineer. Getting there took a lot of determination and courage. Once, the results of a standardized test said that he would not make a good engineer. Lonnie felt discouraged, but he knew that the person who had graded his test didn’t know him—or Linex.

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Image copyright Don Tate, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Linex was the robot Lonnie had built from scrap metal. “Compressed –air cylinders and valves allowed Linex’s body to turn and its arms to move. The switches came from an old, broken jukebox. Lonnie used a tape recorder to program Linex, and as a bonus the reels looked like eyes.” Lonnie’s goal was to enter Linex in a science fair, but first he wanted to be able to program it. It took several years before he discovered how. Using his little sister’s walkie-talkie, Lonnie took Linex to the “1968 science fair at the University of Alabama—where only five years earlier, African American students hadn’t even been allowed.” Lonnie’s team won first place.

Lonnie went to college at Tuskegee Institute, where he realized his dream of becoming an engineer. His career “took him beyond Alabama—way beyond.”  He went to work for NASA. Before the orbiter Galileo could be sent to Jupiter, Lonnie developed a system that would ensure the craft would have a constant supply of power for its computer memory in case the main power was lost. Some fellow scientists doubted his idea would work, but it did. “As it photographed Jupiter and its moons, Galileo was supported by the power package that Lonnie designed.”

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Image copyright Don Tate, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Even though Lonnie worked for NASA, he continued tinkering with his own ideas—in his own workshop. One problem he was trying to solve involved the need for the world’s refrigerators and air conditioners to have a cooling system that didn’t use the damaging chemical R-12. “He had an idea for using water and air pressure instead.” He built a prototype and experimented with it in his bathroom sink. When he turned his pump and nozzle on, a stream of water blasted across the room.

Suddenly, Lonnie saw another use for his invention—as a water gun. He created a design small enough for children’s hands, and tested it at a picnic, where it was a hit. Lonnie took his idea to a toy company…and another…and another. Finally one company agreed to make his water gun. Spurred on by this success, Lonnie found investors to help him build other original inventions: “a water-propelled toy airplane, two kinds of engines, and his cooling system” that had led to the water gun. He even quit his day job to devote his time to inventing.

But things don’t always work out. Each project fell through—even the water gun. It was a scary time as he and his family had to move out of their house and into an apartment. But Lonnie believed in himself. He took his water gun to another toy company. In 1989 he found a toy company willing to take a look. Lonnie made the trip to Philadelphia and wowed the executives with his invention.

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Image copyright Don Tate, courtesy of charlesbridge.com

Now kids everywhere enjoy the fun of the Super Soaker. Today, Lonnie can be found in his workshop doing what he loves: “facing challenges, solving problems and building things” because “his ideas just keep on flowing.”

Chris Barton’s biography of Lonnie Johnson is a fascinating look at a man who succeeds in turning “No” into “Yes” by the power of his intelligence, ideas, and determination. Kids will love hearing about how one of their favorite toys came to be and will be inspired to chase their own dreams despite challenges and setbacks. Barton’s detailed narration provides a full picture of Lonnie Johnson and his times, specifics that attract and inform like-minded kids. Including the results of Lonnie’s exam should encourage kids who think differently. The story is enhanced by the conversational tone that makes it accessible to kids of all ages.

Don Tate illuminates Lonnie Johnson’s life story with his bold, full-bleed paintings that follow Lonnie from his being a child with big ideas to becoming a man who has seen these ideas through to success. With an eyebrow raised in concentration, young Lonnie demonstrates confidence and skill as he works on an invention, and kids will love seeing the tools of his trade laid out on the kitchen table. With his eyes narrowed in frustration and disappointment, Lonnie reads the results of his childhood exam. As Lonnie grows older and designs systems for NASA, the illustrations depict the schematics of the Galileo power package and Lonnie’s surprise at the strength of the water stream in his prototype cooling design. As all kids know, the spurt of a Super Soaker is awesome, and this fact is demonstrated in a “Wowing” fold-out page.

WHOOSH! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions is a welcome biography of the man who designs systems for the greater world but has never lost his youthful enthusiasm to invent.

Ages 5 – 10

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580892971

Check out more fiction and nonfiction books by Chris Barton on his website!

Discover more books written and illustrated by Don Tate as well as a portfolio of his work and book-related activity guides on his website!

National Relaxation Day Activity

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Dive In! Coloring Page

 

The Super Soaker is a great way to cool off! Another relaxing water activity is swimming in a pool! So dive in to this printable cool pool Dive In! Coloring Page!

June 21 – World Music Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrated every year on the summer solstice, World Music Day, also known as the Fête de la Musique, brings together professional and amateur musicians to ply their trade and entertain audiences for a day full of sound. The day was first conceived in 1982 by French Minister of Culture Jack Lang, who elicited the help of Maurice Fleuret, the Director of Music and Dance. When Fleuret discovered that half of the nation’s children played a musical instrument, he devised a way to bring people out into the streets for a music festival. Since then, the event has become an international phenomenon, celebrated in more than 700 cities in 120 countries worldwide. To participate consider organizing or attending a  free concert or enjoying music in your favorite way.

Hey, Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band

Written by Anne Rockwell | Illustrated by Colin Bootman

 

“Have you ever known someone who was always trying to turn bad into good, always seeing hope where others saw despair?” This question, which begins the biography of Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins and the orphans he loved is as relevant today as it was in the early 1900s, when this story takes place. Reverend Jenkins was the pastor of a small church in Charleston, South Carolina. One night while collecting scrap wood at a railroad yard, he discovered a group of boys huddled and sobbing inside a freight car. Reverend Jenkins took them to his church, fed them, and gave them a warm place to sleep. He knew what it was like to be an orphan because he had been one too.

Soon more orphans showed up at the church door, and Reverend Jenkins accepted them all. Room grew tight so he convinced the city officials to give him an abandoned warehouse for his orphanage. There was just one drawback: the warehouse was next to a prison, where less-than-desirable sounds emanated from the walls. Reverend Jenkins figured out a way to drown out the noise, however. He gathered the orphans and led them in song outside the orphanage door. The kids were good singers, and that gave the reverend an idea.

He had grown up during the Civil War and remembered the marching bands that led the soldiers into battle. He remembered the instruments these musicians carried and asked for any that were now unused to be donated to the children. Instruments poured in! They were polished and tuned and the children learned to play under the direction of the best teachers in Charleston. With the money Reverend Jenkins thought they could make entertaining people, he planned to buy a farm for the orphans.

Soon the Jenkins Orphanage Band was playing on street corners and in other venues. Many of the kids were descended from the Geechee or Gullah people who lived on islands off the coast of South Carolina, and they played the old band music with their own special rhythm, called “rag.” “A couple of Geechee boys would lead the band by doing a dance—twisting and twirling and tapping their toes, knocking their knees, and flapping their arms.” People loved the music, but most South Carolinians were poor and couldn’t donate much to the orphans. Reverend Jenkins decided to take his band to New York City. The band took the city by storm! People loved when the kids played their raggedy music and soon were imitating the Geechee boys’ dance. “Hey, Charleston,” they’d shout, “Give us some rag!” They called the dance “the Charleston,” and soon everyone was doing it.

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The orphans made so much money they were able to buy a new house, and the music instruction became so renowned that families began paying to have their children taught along with the orphans. The band continued to travel around the United States, and they were even invited to perform in the inaugural parade for President Theodore Roosevelt. Finally, they were able to buy the farm Reverend Jenkins had dreamed of.

In 1914 the Jenkins Orphanage Band was even invited to play for Britain’s King George V at the Anglo-American Exposition in London. While they were there, however, Britain entered World War I. The British government ensured that the band had safe passage back home, but many other Americans were stranded in England. Reverend Jenkins offered to lend these citizens the money needed for them to return home as well.

The ship sailed silently through the dangerous Atlantic Ocean until it reached an American port. Once safe the passengers shouted, “‘Hey, Charleston! Give us some rag!’” Happy to be home, the band tuned up their instruments and played loudly and enthusiastically for the shipboard audience. As the passengers disembarked in New York Harbor, crowds greeted them with a hearty welcome. Back home “as they lay down to sleep that night, those band players knew they had done what Reverend Jenkins always taught them. They had turned bad into good.”

Anne Rockwell succinctly and clearly relays the story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band while also retaining all the heart and soul of this fascinating group of children and their dedicated caregiver. The true-life tale is mesmerizing, not only for the historical details of the growth of ragtime music and the Charleston dance but for the accomplishments of the orphans once given love, acceptance, and education. Rockwell’s conversational tone contributes to the story’s smooth, flowing pace, which will keep listeners or readers rapt from beginning to end.

Colin Bootman’s bold two-page spreads illuminate the sights and sounds of the early 1900s for readers. Emphasizing the personal connections between Reverend Jenkins and the orphans as well as the band and their audiences, Bootman’s vibrant paintings are full of people watching, dancing, marching, and celebrating these boys’ awesome gifts.

Ages 6 – 10

Carolrhoda Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-0761355656

World Music Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-musical-instruments-word-search

 

It’s Instrumental Word Search

 

Triangles may not get a lot of play in an orchestra, but there’s plenty of play in this printable It’s Instrumental Word Search that contains the names of 20 instruments! 

April 20 – It’s Jazz Appreciation Month

How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz by Jonah Winter and Keith Mallett picture book review

About the Holiday

Jazz Appreciation Month, nicknamed JAM, was initiated by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2002 to celebrate the heritage and history of jazz and to inspire people to embrace this musical form by attending concerts, listening to recordings, reading about jazz, and playing your own jazz music. The theme for JAM 2016 is an exploration of how jazz is a form of democracy in itself. Jazz works as a method of communication, brings people together, and can be enjoyed individually or in a group. This year’s events also remember the legacy of bandleader Benny Carter.

How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz

Written by Jonah Winter | Illustrated by Keith Mallett

 

So “here’s what could’ve happened” if you were the baby born to grow up and become one of the best, most innovative talents—maybe even the inventor—of jazz music: Living in New Orleans in the 1890s you might have been put under the spell of music by your godmother, who was a voodoo queen. This same godmother might have taken you with her to a saloon, and later that night you may have accompanied her to jail when trouble broke out at the bar. In jail you may have cried and cried until the other people in your cell “commenced to singing—‘cause music was the only thing that calmed you down.”

When you were still a little child, it might have happened that you sat down at a piano and without training “commenced to play.” With that kind of talent you might have snuck out at night to play for adults who loved to hear your music and paid you well. But one morning your great-grandmother who was raising you may have seen you sneaking back home. She’d ask where you’ve been and how you got such a fancy suit.

When you tell her, she says “she wouldn’t have no LOWLIFE MUSICIAN livin’ under her respectable roof.” But music is who you are, and so still a child, you have nowhere to live and must make your way in the world. This is how and why in 1902 “a thing called JAZZ got invented by a man named Jelly Roll Morton.” At least that’s how the story goes.

Jelly Roll Morton knew the only way to escape his life and show people who’s the best is by playing the music inside him “one piano note at a time.” He had a recipe for jazz as spicy as a pot of Creole gumbo combining the rhythms of New Orleans, the beat of Africa, a dash of Spanish melodies and a pinch of Calypso syncopation. Stir in the Blues and add a bit of “messin’ around” and the tones of laughter. Throw in a teaspoon of symphony, with its flavorful instruments, and you’ve got a ragtime band that produces “high-steppin’, low-down, horn-blowin’ spectacularamicus!”

Jelly Roll Morton took his unique style to Mobile, Alabama and Chicago, Illinois and to every place in between, showing people how music should be played. And while Jelly Roll Morton might not have invented jazz all by himself, he “sure did spread it around the towns,” waving that magic spell everywhere he went.

The final pages give more information about the life of Ferdinand Joseph La Menthe, nicknamed Jelly Roll, as well as further reading and listening resources.

Immersing yourself in Jonah Winter’s biography of Jelly Roll Morton is akin to sitting at the knee of the most captivating storyteller. With mesmerizing rhythms Winter weaves the events of Morton’s life into a tale as enthralling as jazz music itself. Passages of the text are infused with the flavor of New Orleans: “I thought I heard Mister Jelly Roll too / Sayin’ ‘I invented jazz in 1902, / It was me who invented jazz—‘cause it sure wasn’t you.’”

Complimenting Winter’s story, Mallett paints Jelly Roll Morton’s environment in dark washes of night illuminated by the glow of music. The bayou of New Orleans, the dance halls, and city streets glimmer in golden hues from lamp light, the dawning sun, and the radiance of Jelly Roll’s piano keyboard. Notes fly away from Morton’s piano, becoming birds as they soar over the wakening city, and the recipe for “Jazz Gumbo” is stunningly illustrated.

How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz is a unique, fascinating true-life tale that will entice music lovers and all readers.

Ages 5 – 9

Roaring Brook Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1596439634

Jazz Appreciation Day Activity

CPB - Trumpet maze

Blow Your Horn for Jazz Day! Maze

 

Jazz music is amazing in so many ways! Enjoy this riff on the usual maze and trumpet your success to your friends! Print the Blow Your Horn for Jazz Day! maze here. And here’s the Solution.

March 22 – Tuskegee Airmen Day

Wind Flyers by Angela Johnson and Loren Long Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black military aviators in the U. S. armed forces during World War II. The regiment consisted of 996 pilots and more than 15,000 ground personnel who were trained at Tuskegee Army Air Field and other locations. These brave pilots have been credited with 15,500 combat sorties and earned more than 150 Distinguished Flying Crosses. The success of the Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for the integration of the U.S. military under President Harry S Truman in 1948.

Wind Flyers

Written by Angela Johnson | Illustrated by Loren Long

 

With pride a young African-American boy tells the story of his great-great-uncle who was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II. His uncle was “a smooth wind flyer. A Tuskegee wind flyer…” Like a bird, his uncle tells his nephew, he was born to fly, jumping off a chicken coop at the age of five and into a pile of hay from a barn when he was seven. He has his first real flight at the age of eleven, when he pays to be a passenger with a barnstormer.

Flying over lakes and fields, his uncle feels as if he’s in Heaven, among soft clouds that beckon for him to be a wind flyer too. The experience changes him forever, and always there is the desire to fly “into the wind, against the wind, beyond the wind.” As a young adult his uncle contributes his dream and his skills to the World War II effort, becoming a Tuskegee Airman, one of the first black pilots in the United States military.

The boy and his uncle look through old photographs, seeing once more those young and brave pilots—the Tuskegee wind flyers. After the war, his uncle crop dusted in order to fly. Now planes are different, he says, but the clouds remain the same. The boy and his uncle climb to the highest point of the uncle’s barn to watch the jets—and in those moments they once more become the smooth wind flyers, flying into the wind and beyond.

In her soaring, rhythmic language, Angela Johnson captures the dreams and yearning of a young boy whose greatest desire is to fly among the clouds. When he gets his chance by joining the Tuskegee Airman in World War II, Johnson combines straightforward narrative with poetic lines to enhance the sense of achievement and pride the young pilots felt. The structure of the story is well chosen, as the relating of the uncle’s life from childhood through old age through the eyes of his nephew, strengthens themes of strong familial relationships as well as shared dreams across generations.

Loren Long gives Wind Flyers additional power with his strong, vibrant paintings. Two-page spreads provide a sense of the vastness of the skies that so enticed the young would-be pilot. Even the clouds echo the emotion of the page—fluffy, floating, and alive in the flight scenes while linear, flat, and stationary when the plane and the uncle are earthbound. Realistic portrayals of the boy, his uncle, and the other Tuskegee Airmen are reminiscent of the WPA murals of the 1940s while still setting this book firmly in today for a new generation.

Wind Flyers is a wonderful book to share with aviation buffs and dreams of all types.

Ages 4 – 9

Simon & Schuster Books for Young People, 2007 | ISBN 978-0689848797

Tuskegee Airmen Day Activity

CPB - Biplane side

Head in the Clouds Box Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying, you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! Use your creativity to decorate your plane while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. Younger children will have fun sharing this activity with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons 
  • 2 mini buttons
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

CPB - Biplane front

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

CPB - Biplane bottom

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick between the wheels at the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

Display your biplane!