June 12 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Cats make wonderful pets! They can be cuddly or completely independent, but their playful personalities make for lots of laughs and love. If you own a cat, spend some extra time with your pet and ensure that all of your feline friend’s health needs are being met and are up-to-date. If you think you might like to adopt a cat into your family, visit your local animal shelter for cats and kittens who are looking for a forever home.

Lily’s Cat Mask

By Julie Fortenberry

 

Lily was starting school so her dad took her shopping. “Lily wasn’t sure she wanted to get new things for school, but her father said it would be fun.” After buying some clothes and meeting a woman they knew who gushed at how much Lily had grown, Lily was tired and wanted to go home. “But then she saw the cat mask.” It was the only one on the shelf, and Lily’s dad surprised her by buying it for her.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Lily put it on immediately and wore it on the way home. She wore it to tea parties with her toys, to family parties “when she wanted to be invisible. And when she wanted to be noticed.” When she wore it to her doctor’s appointment, the doctor spoke in meows. One day she lost her mask. Her dad made her a rabbit costume, and while that was fun for a while, Lily was happy to finally find her cat mask.

Lily wore her cat mask for many occasions. She wore it when she didn’t want to talk—like when she met her new teacher. “She liked to hide her face when she felt mean and couldn’t get nice.” She even blew out her birthday candles and made a wish wearing the mask. When school started, Lily was only allowed to wear her mask on the playground, but once in a while she put it on, hoping no one would notice. Then it was sometimes put in the teacher’s desk drawer.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

One day, the teacher made a very exciting announcement. The class was going to have a costume party, and everyone could wear a mask or dress up however they wanted. On the day of the party, there were characters, animals, and bugs of all kinds. But then Lily looked across the room and saw the best costume of all—another cat! During recess the new friends played on the swings and meowed happily together.

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Copyright Julie Fortenberry, 2017, courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Julie Fortenberry’s story of a quiet, hesitant child who discovers a unique way of interacting with the world around her offers openhearted acceptance and understanding for children who are observant and thoughtful integrators. The reaction of Lily’s father, teacher, doctor, and family members to her cat mask is uplifting and provides excellent modeling. The straightforward storytelling highlights Lily’s sweet personality as well as the empathetic responses her costume elicits.

Fotenberry’s illustrations of adorable Lily and her experiences at home, at school, at the doctor’s office, and at the mall are full of joy. The colors are fresh and vibrant, but also calm and peaceful, mirroring Lily’s feelings when wearing her cat mask. The images demonstrate and validate Lily’s preference to watch and participate in events from her own distance.

Lily’s Cat Mask provides the opportunity for much discussion with children, especially about meeting people, Lily’s birthday wish, where Lily sits and plays at parties and at school, and when Lily makes a friend. The book is highly recommended for classroom and school libraries and would make a welcome addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0425287996

Discover more about Julie Fortenberry and view a gallery of her books and artwork on her website!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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The Cat’s Meow Word Search

 

There are so many beautiful types of cats! Can you find the names of twenty-one breeds in this printable The Cat’s Meow Word Search puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

June 4 – Tailors Day

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About the Holiday

On Tailors Day we honor those who design and manufacture one-of-a-kind dresses, suits, and other outfits to precise specifications. With their vision and talents, tailors make the world a more beautiful place!

Green Pants

By Kenneth Kraegal

 

Jameson loved green pants—in fact, they were the only kinds of pants he wore. “When he wore green pants, he could do anything.” He flew to the basketball hoop for spectacular dunks; made Olympic gold-medal-deserving dives; and he could dance.” Sometimes Jameson’s mom and dad gave him different colored pants to wear, but somehow they ended up hanging from trees or flying from flagpoles, or even clothing neighborhood dogs.

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Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of kennethkraegel.com

One day Jameson’s cousin Armando and his fiancée Jo dropped by with a very important question. Jameson loved Jo. She “had the nicest smile Jameson had ever seen, and her eyes seemed to sparkle like the autumn sun shining upon a running river.” And when she asked if Jameson would like to be in their wedding, Jameson said, “‘Absolutely.’” Later, Jameson’s mom sat him down and explained the requirements: lots of standing, smiling nicely for photographs, using his best manners. “‘No problem,’” Jameson replied. “‘And one more thing,’ his mother said slowly. ‘You will have to wear a tuxedo.’” That sounded okay to Jameson too, until he learned the pants would be black. Jameson gasped.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-pants-asked-to-be-in-wedding

Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of candlewick.com

At the tuxedo fitting, Jameson tried on pair after pair of black pants, but none were as handsome as his own green pants. His mother put down her foot, though. If he wanted to be in the wedding, he had to wear black pants. On the day of the wedding, Jameson still didn’t know what to do. Even moments before the ceremony was to begin, Jameson had not made up his mind. His mother kissed him on the forehead and left him to figure it out.

“Jameson sank in despair. ‘But how? HOW? How do I make such a decision? AAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!’” At that moment Jo poked her head out the door. “Her hair played happily in the sunny breeze, her eyes shone like the summer stars, and her smile warmed his very soul. ‘Hey,, Jameson! I’m so glad you’re here! I’ll see you inside!’” she said and then she was gone. Suddenly, Jameson’s decision was made.

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Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of kennethkraegel.com

Following the bridesmaids down the aisle, Jameson looked “quite dashing in his tuxedo!” He remembered all of his mother’s words, too. He stood still, smiled for the camera, and used his best manners. But then the music began. With a leap, a flip, and a whoosh, Jameson’s black pants came off to reveal his green pants underneath, “and Jameson danced like no one has ever danced before.”

Kenneth Kraegel’s at-once funny and sweet story of obsessive love will resonate with young readers and adults as well. Kids often go through stages where one outfit, food, drink, or activity becomes synonymous with their identity and only that thing will fit the bill. Kraegel’s straightforward and tender storytelling wonderfully portrays opportunities for Jameson’s independent thought while showing how love overcame and became personal preference when it mattered. The dialogue among the characters rings true and is inspirational modeling. Jameson’s ultimate solution to his dilemma is all-kid and will make his reading peers nod in appreciation.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-green-pants-dancing

Copyright Kenneth Kraegel, 2017, courtesy of kennethkraegel.com

Jameson, with a shock of curly hair and his ever-present green pants, is an adorable protagonist. Ready with a smile for Jo or when accomplishing daring feats, he also registers amusing alarm at the idea of wearing black pants. Children will laugh to see where Jamison’s non-green pants end up and will empathize with his agonizing indecision—and they may just want to try some of his pretty sweet dance moves too!

Ages 3 – 8 (great as a read-aloud for younger kids and also as an independent book for early and transitional readers)

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763688400

You’ll find books, art, coloring pages, and more by Kenneth Kraegel on his website!

Dance with Green Pants in this toe-tapping book trailer!

Tailors Day Activity

Sew Much Dress-Up Fun!

 

If you like playing dress-up, why not be your own tailor and make a one-of-a-kind outfit from your imagination. With only a few materials and supplies, you can be anything or anyone you want!

For the Knight’s Tunic

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Supplies

  • Tee shirt with the sleeves cut off
  • Thin cardboard (a cereal or other food box works well)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Paper or foam
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Markers
  • Play jewels (optional)
  • Fabric glue
  • Belt, rope, or twine
  • Tape

Directions

  1. Cut the sleeves off of the T-shirt
  2. Use the cardboard to create a crest shape
  3. Cover the cardboard with aluminum foil
  4. Tape the aluminum foil if necessary
  5. With the markers, color a design with various shapes
  6. Alternately: glue play jewels to the crest
  7. On the paper draw a fleur de lis or other design
  8. Color the fleur de lis or other design
  9. Cut out the fleur de lis or other design
  10. Glue the fleur de lis to the crest
  11. Attach the finished crest to the tunic with fabric glue
  12. Tie a belt with the rope, twine, or belt

For the Dress

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Supplies

  • Plastic tablecloth
  • Belt or scarf
  • Permanent Markers
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper or old sheeting to protect the floor or table from the permanent markers

Directions

  1. With the table cloth folded along one edge, cut a rectangle the appropriate size
  2. In the middle of the folded edge cut a V-shaped or rounded opening for the child’s head. Begin with a small opening and enlarge it as needed
  3. Lay the dress on newspaper or other material to protect the floor or table
  4. Draw and color shapes, lines, figures, or other designs on the dress
  5. Add a belt with a ribbon, a scarf, a piece of crepe paper garland, or other material

Picture Book Review

May 21 – “I Need A Patch for That” Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrated annually on May 21, “I Need a Patch for That” Day gives a little love to patches of all kinds. Have you been out working in your garden patch? Fabulous! Did you just finish all the requirements for a scouting patch? Good job! Waiting on a fix for the latest software kerfuffle? Who isn’t? Are you a pirate keeping one eye ready for the dark? Argghh! Do you need to patch up a misunderstanding? Good luck! Or maybe you’re a quilter like the amazing women in today’s book who create a patch to remember each of life’s important, inspirational, and formative events. 

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 readers about 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 underneath the frame. Her legs are becoming longer and her mind is 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 for her turn at the frame. At last, her time does come, and in Where to Start?, the girl asks her mama how to begin. Her mother 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 recounts the life and the history in each. 

Nothing Wasted sees Grandma pulling apart a red-and-white gingham dress stitch by stitch. Suddenly, the girl knows that this cloth will become the patch that “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 Dr. King Brings Hope, the little girl adds “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. Joining the Bee provided buyers for the handmade quilts, but there were stipulations on the types of quilts that could be made and sold. The girl asks her grandma if she was part of the Bee, to which she replies, “‘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, connected 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  driver’s side mirror, a dot of a house is reflected, 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 or delved into again and again, making it a wonderful choice for home libraries and a must for school and public 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!

“I Need a Patch for That” Day 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