August 10 – World Lion Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by Big Cat Rescue, the world’s largest sanctuary dedicated to Big Cats, to raise awareness of the dwindling number of lions and promote action to save them. Because of hunting, habitat destruction, and other environmental and manmade dangers, the lion has been placed on the endangered species list. To observe World Lion Day, visit a preserve or sanctuary if you live near one or read up on lions and consider donating to their protection.

The Lion Inside

Written by Rachel Bright | Illustrated by Jim Field

 

“In a dry, dusty place where / the sand sparkled gold, / Stood a mighty flat rock / all craggy and old.” Way down below in a chink in the rock a little brown mouse lived in the tiniest house. He was so small and meek that no one noticed him—Ever. The other animals stepped on him and sat on him and forgot all about him when they got together.

On top of the rock sat a fierce lion. He had very sharp teeth and a very loud roar that made sure everyone knew how important he was. “Yes, ALL were impressed / by this mighty King Cat. / ‘If only,’ thought mouse, / ‘I could be more like that.’” Then one night it hit him—he should have his own roar. “With a little more Grrrr / and a little less meek” he’d make lots of friends, the mouse thought.

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2015, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2015. Courtesy of Scholastic.

The mouse determined right then to learn how to roar, but he knew that the only one who could teach him might gobble him up. He decided it was time to be brave. As he began his long climb to the top of the rock, he was nervous and scared, but he knew that “if you want things to change, / you first have to change you.” When he got to the top. he found the lion sleeping. Standing nose-to-nose with the big cat, he squeaked out his request. The lion woke up, took a long look, and then “opened his mouth and let out an Eeeeak!” The lion shook with fear and begged the mouse not to hurt him.

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2015, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2015. Courtesy of Scholastic.

The mouse told the lion he didn’t need to be scared. They could work together and have some fun. In that moment the mouse found his true voice. He discovered he didn’t need to roar or shout to be heard. And the lion learned that it was okay to be friends with the other animals. Now the mouse and the lion share the big rock, and when the lion roars it’s “with laughter instead.”

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Image copyright Jim Field, 2105, text copyright Rachel Bright, 2015. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Rachel Bright’s jaunty rhyming story about embracing your true nature is sure to enchant kids who are learning to find their place within various groups. As the mouse and the lion discover, size and volumn don’t define importance or influence. Kindness, friendship, and self-confidence are what matter most. Sprinkled with squeaks, grrrrs, gulps, and roars, the story will have little ones giggling and reading along.

Jim Field’s tiny mouse with elephantine ears is adorable and sweetly determined as he decides to bravely confront the lion. Young readers will laugh as the once strutting and roaring lion is left quivering at the sight of the mouse. Kids will also enjoy pointing out that the rock the mouse and lion share is itself shaped like a lion. Field’s palette of golds and browns reflects the sun-drenched savannah while the mouse’s house, painted in vibrant red and yellow, hints at the individualistic creature who lives inside.

The Lion Inside is a great book to share within a classroom at the beginning of the year or anytime. It also makes a fine addition to home bookshelves to remind kids to celebrate what they’re made of.

Ages 3 – 6

Scholastic, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545873505

View a gallery of books and artwork by Rachel Bright on her website!

World Lion Day Activity

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Spoon Lion Puppet 

 

With a round, wooden spoon, you can make a ROARingly cute lion puppet or decoration!

Supplies

  • Wooden mixing spoon
  • Yellow Fleece
  • Brown felt
  • Colorful Fleece or felt
  • Fabric glue
  • Light brown marker
  • Dark brown marker
  • Hot glue gun or super glue

CPB - Spoon Lion with stuff

Directions

To make the lion’s face

  1. Draw a nose, mouth, and eyes on the front/bowl of the spoon

To make the mane

  1. Measure the rim of the spoon from one side of the handle to the other
  2. Cut a strip of yellow fleece as long as rim measurement and 4 inches wide
  3. Fold the piece of fleece in half long-ways
  4. Glue the open edges of the fleece together
  5. Along the folded side cut a fringe, leaving the loops intact

To make the ears

  1. Cut round ears from the brown felt.

Assembling the lion

  1. Glue the ears to the back of the spoon
  2. Glue the mane to the back of the spoon

To make the bow

  1. Cut a 3-inch x 1 ½-inch piece of colorful fleece or felt
  2. Cut a long thin strip of fleece or felt
  3. Pinch the bow in the middle and tie with the longer piece of cloth. Trim as necessary
  4. Glue the bow to the handle

To make the tail

  1. Cut three thin 4-inch-long strips of yellow fleece
  2. With fabric glue, glue the tops of the strips together
  3. Braid the strips
  4. At the bottom, glue the strips together, leaving the ends free
  5. Fold the top of the tail and push it into the hole in the handle of the spoon

Picture Book Review

February 8 – Kite Flying Day

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About the Holiday

If you live in a cold climate and cabin fever has set in or if you live in a warm climate and want to get out and enjoy the day, why not take the opportunity of today’s holiday and go fly a kite? Whether you’re steering a simple diamond or a fancy dragon, watching a kite dip and soar through the sky is an exhilarating experience!

Red Kite, Blue Kite

Written by Ji-li Jiang | Illustrated by Greg Ruth

 

“I love to fly kites,” young Tai Shan relates, but not he’s while standing on the ground. Instead, because his city is so crowded, his Baba and he climb to the peak of their triangular roof where they are “above but still under, neither here nor there. We are free, like the kites.” While they fly their kites—red for Tai Shan and blue for Baba—Baba tells stories, and Tai Shan feels as if he is soaring through the clouds, “looking down at the dotted houses” and wanting to stay up there forever.

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copyright Greg Ruth, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

But one day dark times descend. Tai Shan’s school and many others are shuttered. Baba is taken away by men in red arm bands and sent to work in a labor camp. Tai Shan is sent to live with Granny Wang, a farmer who lives in a village next to the labor camp. A thick forest separates Tai Shan and Baba. During the day Granny Wang teaches Tai Shan how to make straw grasshoppers and spin cotton and lets him ride her buffalo. At night Tai Shan dreams of flying kites from the rooftop with his father.

On Sundays Baba walks for hours to visit Tai Shan. He spends time telling stories and playing with his son and his friends. Then they climb the hill and fly kites, Tai Shan’s red one following Baba’s blue. “The kites hop and giggle as they rise and dive, soaring and lunging together.” At the end of the day, Baba returns to the labor camp for another week. In the autumn Baba tells Tai Shan that he won’t be able to visit for a long time. But he has a clever plan—a way that he and Tai Shan can see each other.

Baba gives his son a new red kite and tells him to fly it from the hill each morning. He will see it from his camp. In the evening Baba will fly his blue kite so that Tai Shan can see it. Tai Shan likes the idea of this “secret signal.” The next morning Tai Shan runs to the hill and launches his kite, knowing that “Baba is smiling as he watches the red kite dancing.” In the evening he returns to the hill, and after a long wait “Baba’s blue kite sways into the white clouds.”

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copyright Greg Ruth, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

Every day Tai Shan sends his father a silent message—“‘How are you, Baba? I miss you.’” and “Baba’s blue kite swirls and circles, replying, ‘I miss you, too, little Tai Shan.’” Autumn is coming to a close, but still Baba does not visit. One day no blue kite appears in the sky. The next day and the next no kite appears either. Tai Shan asks Granny Wang to take him to the camp to see Baba. If there is no kite on the fourth day they will go, Granny Wang promises.

That night Tai Shan dreams about the thick forest and hears Baba whisper, “‘Tai Shan, I saw your red kite fly so high.’” But these words are not in a dream, Baba is there. But Baba is not home to stay. Hurriedly, he gives Tai Shan his blue kite, telling him that he will not be able to fly it for a while. He asks Tai Shan to fly both kites and know that he is looking up and thinking about his son. Suddenly, men with red armbands rush in and take Baba away. Tai Shan tries to run after him, but Granny Wang holds him back.

Tai Shan cries and does not understand. Granny Wang explains that Baba is being sent to another labor camp far away because the authorities don’t agree with his ideas. During the three days when he didn’t fly his blue kite, Granny Wang says, Baba had been imprisoned. He had escaped and run all the way to see Tai Shan before he was taken away. Now Tai Shan flies the two kites every day and thinks of being together with Baba.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-kite-blue-kite-Baba-gives-kite

copyright Greg Ruth, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion

One summer afternoon, Tai Shan dozes while he allows his red kite to dip and soar in the clouds. When he opens his eyes, he sees dozens of red and blue kites in the sky. Tai Shan jumps up. He sees Baba smiling at him and “holding the string of a huge blue kite dancing in the sky.” Tai Shan’s friends are also smiling and flying their new kites. Tai Shan runs to Baba, and Baba runs toward Tai Shan. The sky “is filled with kites—red and blue. They hop and giggle and cheer as they rise and dive, soaring and lunging together. They are free, flying everywhere.”

An Author’s Note about the Chinese Cultural Revolution follows the text.

Inspired by the story of a family friend whose father was sent to a labor camp during the Chinese Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, Ji-li Jiang wrote Red Kite, Blue Kite “for the many fathers and sons who suffered during that turmoil.” Jiang’s story is a universal and relevant reminder of the precious freedoms of thought and speech that need constant and vigilant protection. Through her sensitive storytelling and lyrical language, Jiang offers a story of understanding, hope, and infinite love that will fill readers’ hearts.

Greg Ruth’s stunning paintings show all the emotion of Jiang’s story through exquisite, realistic portraits of Tai Shan, Baba, and Granny Wang. The distinctive landscapes of China are rendered in colorful foregrounds set on gauzy backgrounds of rising hills. Smoky images of the followers of the Cultural Revolution mirrors the darkness and destruction of the time in a way that is understandable for the young audience. The final two-page spread of Tai Shan and Baba’s reunion amid dozens of red and blue kites is inspiring and full of the strength of the human spirit.

Red Kite, Blue Kite is a must for school and public libraries and makes an excellent addition to home libraries as well.

Ages 5 – 9

Disney-Hyperion, 2013 | ISBN 978-1423127536

For a downloadable Educator’s Guide click here.

Learn more about Ji-li Jiang and her books on her website!

Find galleries of books and illustration for children and adults plus lots more on Greg Ruth’s website!

Kite Flying Day Activity

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Soaring Kite Maze

 

The dips and rises your pencil takes through this maze is a little like the way a kite flies through the sky! Print your Soaring Kite Maze and enjoy!

Picture Book Review

February 4 – Take Your Child to the Library Day

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About the Holiday

What better way to spend a Saturday than by stopping by your local library and picking up a few books to while away the hours on a cold winter day? While you’re there thank the librarians for all they do to keep libraries open and books accessible to all. Consider donating to your local library today!

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

By Jeanette Winter

 

Alia Muhammad Baker, oversees the library of Basra in Iraq, where all those who love books and learning come to “discuss matters of the world and matters of the spirit.” Now, though, their talk is full of the war around them. Alia is afraid for her books, worried that the fires of war will destroy them, so she petitions the government for permission to move them to a safe place. Her request is denied, so Alia secretly fills her car each night with as many books as it can carry and takes them home.

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Image copyright Jeanette Winter, courtesy of post-gazette.com

As rumors of war continue to swirl, the library becomes a shelter for government offices. When the battles reach Basra, “the city is lit with a firestorm of bombs and gunfire.” The government officials, soldiers, and library workers abandon the library, leaving Alia alone to protect the books. She summons help from Anis Muhammad, the restaurant owner on the other side of the library wall, and together they remove the rest of the books in crates and sacks and wrapped in curtains. Other shopkeepers and neighbors join in, removing the books and hiding them in Anis’s restaurant.

The war rages, but the books’ whereabouts remain a secret. “Then, nine days later, a fire burns the library to the ground.” “At last, the beast of war moves on,” but the books are still in danger. While the city is quiet, Alia “hires a truck to bring all thirty thousand books to her house and to the houses of friends.” Alia’s house is stacked floor to ceiling with the books she loves. They fill every cabinet, teeter on every shelf, and sit in piles under tables, chairs, and Alia’s bed. There’s hardly room for Alia herself.

But Alia is patient. She waits and “dreams of peace” and a time when a new library will be built to replace what has been lost.

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Image copyright Jeanette Winter, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Jeanette Winter’s story of one woman who risked her own safety to protect the books she loved, including an ancient biography of Muhammad, reminds all readers of the importance of these storehouses of our collective history, culture, imagination, and knowledge. The gripping true-life story abounds with suspense as war grows closer but also with hope as friends and neighbors make Alia’s mission theirs too. In these days when so many libraries are threatened with closure, The Librarian of Basra, asks the question: what would we do to protect our books?

In square framed acrylic paintings on solid colored backgrounds, Winter reveals the day-to-day wartime events and the actions Alia takes to save the library’s collection. She is seen visiting a government official, sneaking books into her car by night, and watching as soldiers are stationed on the library roof. When the battle comes to Basra, silhouetted jets fly in a rust-colored sky as orange flames dwarf the buildings and people below. Under the threat of bombs, Alia and her neighbors are portrayed packing up the books and carrying them over the wall to safety. Readers will marvel at the image of Alia’s house stacked with books and may wonder how many their own homes could hold.

Ages 4 – 8

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2005 | ISBN 978-0152054458

Take Your Child to the Library Day Activity

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I Love the Library! Coloring Page

 

If the library is one of your favorite places, print out this I Love the Library! Coloring Page and enjoy!

Picture Book Review

February 3 – Feed the Birds Day

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About the Holiday

As the snow piles up and the harsh weather of winter sets in, it’s harder and harder for our feathered friends to find food. Today’s holiday reminds us that we should hang feeders with seed and suet to help birds stay healthy during these cold months.

I Am Henry Finch

Written by Alexis Deacon | Illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

 

The finches were a talkative bunch. In the morning the flock traded “good mornings”: “‘Good morning, Aziz Finch!’ ‘Good morning, George Finch!’ ‘Good morning, Tiffy Finch!’ ‘Good morning, Henry Finch!’” In the afternoon, they wished each other “Good afternoon!” Evening brought wishes of “Good evening!” And “at night, they said GOOD NIGHT.” The next day the round robin salutations began again. They were only interrupted when the Beast came.

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Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of vivianesxhwarz.blogspot.com

“Then they would all shout, THE BEAST, THE BEAST! And fly as fast as they could to the top of the nearest tree, where they would sit and shout until the Beast moved on.” It remained this way until one night “a little finch woke up in the dark and quiet. He had a thought, and he heard it. I AM HENRY FINCH, he thought.” He considered this thought as well as many others. He wondered if other finches had thoughts like his. He imagined himself defeating the Beast. “I COULD BE GREAT, thought Henry.”

The next morning the Beast did come. Henry envisioned himself standing atop the vanquished Beast and decided now “was the time for greatness.” Screaming his name, he flew directly at his foe…and was…swallowed. Inside the belly of the Beast, Henry had disparaging thoughts. “YOU ARE A FOOL, HENRY FINCH, he thought.” He regretted becoming the beast’s dinner. His troubled mind raced ahead through what would happen to him in the Beast’s digestion process, and yet he continued to think.

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Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of vivianesxhwarz.blogspot.com

He pondered, “WHO AM I?”and concluded that even if he wasn’t Henry Finch, he was something. “I AM,” he decided, and then he considered the cyclical nature of…well…nature. “IT IS,” he realized. He listened to the grumbling, gurgling sounds inside the Beast. He could “even hear the thoughts of Beast.” It was on the hunt for any “crawling, swimming, flying, walking” creature it could find to feed his family. Henry had had enough. “NO!” he thought. The Beast heard Henry’s thought, and the next one and the next one that told the Beast that all creatures have families and that from now on the Beast would eat only plants because they “have parts to spare.”

Yes, the Beast determined, “I WILL EAT PLANTS,” and when Henry told the Beast to open his mouth wide, the Beast complied. Out popped Henry much to the surprise and delight of the other finches. Henry told them everything that had happened. When he was finished, a small finch piped up, “I HAVE HAD A THOUGHT. GOOD-BYE, EVERYONE. I WILL COME BACK.” She flew off guided by her vision of landing atop a mountain. One by one, every finch envisioned its own great deed and flew away to achieve it, promising to return. And Henry? Gazing up at them as they disappeared into the sky, “he smiled a finch smile. GREAT! thought Henry.”

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Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of candlewick.com

Alexis Deacon’s unique tale is sure to raise plenty of giggles and “Oh, no’s!” followed by more giggles and finally cheers as Henry comes to terms with his greatness and despite his diminutive size vanquishes the Beast. Like René Descartes before him, Henry comes to the conclusion that “I think, therefore I am,” and with pluck and self-confidence decides that his existence warrants attention and respect. Deacon’s inspirational story is perfectly aimed at his young audience who are just beginning to “have thoughts” about who they are, who they want to be, and what they want to do. Henry’s wavering and uncertainty are presented with honesty and humor that will resonate with kids, and his final victory is a joy.

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Image copyright Viviane Schwarz, text copyright Alexis Deacon. Courtesy of vivianesxhwarz.blogspot.com

Viviane Schwarz could not have hit upon a more ideal way to depict Henry and the other finches than in the red fingerprints that determine their individuality. With only a few changes to his sketched-in features, adorable Henry becomes sweet, fearful, resolute, courageous, and of course thoughtful. The blue Beast with its mold-green tongue dominates the pages when it appears and dwarfs the tiny birds and other creatures it slurps up. When Henry is eaten and slides through the Beast’s digestive system, the pages turn appropriately black until Henry decides that “NO!” he is not going to become dinner today. A two-page spread of the life cycle for birds, insects, snakes, rats, plants, and even the Beast is a beauty.

I Am Henry Finch is a book that stirs emotions and stimulates discussion, and Henry—like another literary Finch who refused to accept the status quo—is a terrific hero to add to any home bookshelf.

Ages 5 – 8

Candlewick, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763678128

You can connect with Alexis Deacon on his blog “A Place to Call Home.”

You’ll find more about Viviane Schwarz, her books, and her Cat and Bag web comic as well as videos, worksheets, and other goodies on her website.

Feed the Birds Day Activity

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Pining for Seeds Pinecone Birdfeeder

 

Pinecone birdfeeders are quick to make and great for your backyard fliers. The combination of peanut butter, lard, or vegetable shortening and a quality seed mixture provide birds with the fat and nutrition they need to stay warm and healthy during the winter.

Supplies

  • Pinecones
  • Peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard
  • Birdseed
  • String
  • Knife or wooden spreader
  • Spoon

Directions

  1. Tie a long length of string around the middle of the pinecone
  2. Spread the peanut butter, vegetable shortening, or lard on the pinecone
  3. Sprinkle a thick coating of birdseed on the pinecone, pressing it into the covering so it will stick
  4. Tie the pinecone feeder onto a tree branch or other structure
  5. Watch the birds enjoy their meal!

Picture Book Review