September 15 – International Dot Day

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About the Holiday

Usually, I match books to existing holidays. Today, though, I have the pleasure of posting a review of a book that established a holiday. On September 15, 2009 teacher Terry Shay introduced his class to Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. From that one event grew a national and then an international celebration of creativity and the freedom to make art with your heart. All around the world, school children and adults are inspired on this day to make their mark and celebrate creativity, courage, and collaboration. For more information and to join in on a live event starting at 10:00 a.m. PT, visit the International Dot Day website.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

At the end of art class, Vashti looked at her paper. It was still as blank as it was at the beginning of art class. Her teacher came over and took a peek. She saw right away that Vashti had drawn “‘a polar bear in a snowstorm.’” Vashti wasn’t fooled by the joke. “‘I just CAN’T draw,’” she said. But her teacher had a suggestion. “‘Just make a mark and see where it takes you.’”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti jabbed at the paper with a marker, making a dot right in the center. Her teacher studied her drawing carefully then told Vashti to sign it. That, at least, was something Vashti could do. She signed her name and gave the paper to her teacher. At the next week’s art class, Vashti was stunned to see her dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. She looked at the tiny mark and decided that she could do better than that.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti opened her watercolor set and began. She “painted and painted. A red dot. A purple dot. A yellow dot. A blue dot.” Then she discovered that blue mixed with yellow made a green dot. Vashti went to the easel and began painting lots of little dots in all sorts of colors. She realized if she could make little dots, she could make big dots. She knelt down on the floor with a big piece of paper and a big brush and created a huge dot.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Then on an enormous canvas Vashti “made a dot by not making a dot.” At the school art show, Vashti’s dot paintings covered two walls and were quite a hit. Coming around the corner a little boy spied Vashti. He came close and told her, “‘You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.’” Vashti was encouraging, but the little boy said he couldn’t even “‘draw a straight line with a ruler.’”

Vashti wanted to see. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. With a quivering pencil, he drew a line and handed the paper back to her. Vashti studied the wavy line for a minute, and then gave the paper back. “‘Please…sign it,’” she said.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynold’s classic story of a little girl who believes she can’t draw is inspirational for anyone at any age who listens too closely to that voice in their head that stops them from letting go and doing. Whether it’s painting, writing, changing the décor of one’s house, updating a wardrobe, getting healthy, or even taking a class, the project often seems insurmountable. But what if you could start with a YouTube video, one step, a pair of earrings, a pillow, a word, or…a dot? Reynolds says you can! With his straightforward storytelling, Reynolds gives readers permission to play, experiment, and feel free.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Reynold’s familiar line drawings that sketch out adorable Vashti and her wise teacher are punctuated by the colorful dots that Vashti draws in profusion. Even Vashti, herself, is surrounded by circular auras of color throughout the story, reflecting her talent and creative spirit. The final scene of the art show gallery is a revelation, showing readers that one’s work or life work adds up to an impressive display of the self.

Through and through The Dot is charming, moving, and encouraging. It is a must addition to home libraries, public libraries, and classrooms.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2003 | 978-0763619619

To learn more about International Dot Day and find ideas and resources for classrooms, libraries, and booksellers, a variety of coloring pages to download, and a gallery of projects, visit the International Dot Day website

You’ll learn more about Peter H, Reynolds, his books, and his art as well as find lots of inspiration and creative tips on his website!

International Dot Day Activity

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Make Your Mark! Mini-Poster Coloring Page

 

Grab your favorite paints, markers, crayons and Make Your Mark with this printable mini-poster from Peter Reynolds!

Make Your Mark! Mini-Poster

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You can find The Dot at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 14 – National Garage Sale Day

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About the Holiday

Garage Sale Day was created in 2001 by C. Daniel Rhodes of Alabama, who noticed that his neighbors were holding separate garage sales on different weekends. He decided that it might be convenient and lucrative for sales to be coordinated on the same weekend instead. If you have extra stuff filling up your attic, garage, basement, or cabinets, why not take today’s inspiration to hold or plan a garage or yard sale of your own. If you just feel like getting out or have a shelf, nook, or need that could be filled with a new-to-you item, check out the garage sales in your area and make a day of it!

Yard Sale

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

 

From the first words—“Almost everything we own is spread out in our front yard”—readers realize that this is no ordinary yard sale. A little girl sits on the front porch of her tidy house gazing out sadly at the family’s furniture, toys, books, and knick-knacks that are all for sale. The family is moving to a small apartment: “‘Small but nice,’ my mom told me.” The apartment has a secret bed that opens down from the wall “right in the living room.”

When the yard sale opens people stop by to look, “picking up things, asking the price, though Mom and Dad already put prices on them.” Even though the items are priced low, people haggle over how much they want to pay. A woman complains that ten dollars is too much for the little girl’s bed because the headboard has crayon marks on it. Watching, Callie now wishes she hadn’t made the marks to show how often she had read Goodnight Moon. Her mother settles for five dollars for the bed.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo,  text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Suddenly, Callie sees a man loading her bike into a truck and runs to grab it. The man is confused, sorry for taking it, but tells her he has just bought it. Callie’s dad runs over and explains again that the apartment has no place for the bike or sidewalks nearby to ride it on. Callie looks at her dad who seems to have tears in his eyes. “But probably not,” she decides. “My dad doesn’t cry.” She relinquishes the bike, but asks the man, “‘Will you give it back to me when we get our house back?’”

Callie’s best friend, Sara, is waiting for her. The two friends hug and talk about why Callie has to move. “‘I wish you didn’t have to go,’” Sara mutters. “‘Why do you, anyway?’” Callie shrugs. “‘I don’t know. It’s something to do with money.’” They don’t understand what has happened, and Sara offers, “‘I could ask my parents if you could stay with us.’” But Callie’s heart tells her where she belongs. “‘My parents would be lonely,’” she says. “‘…I’d miss my mom and dad.’”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

The sale continues and people drive away with tables, chairs, and clothing. For a moment, Callie feels important when a man asks her if their large potted geranium is for sale and she directs him to her dad. By the end of the day almost everything is gone. Callie’s mom “looks droopy” and her dad is comforting her. Callie sits dejectedly watching the final things being carried away and thinking that she will give Sara her red heart necklace and invite her to visit their new apartment.

At that moment a woman comes up to Callie and says, “‘Aren’t you just the cutest thing? Are you for sale?’” Callie has a visceral reaction: “A shiver runs through me, from my toes to my head.” She runs to her parents, crying. “‘I’m not for sale, am I? You wouldn’t sell me, would you?’” Her parents drop what they are doing to hug and reassure Callie that they would “‘not ever ever, ever’” sell her. “‘Not for a million, trillion dollars.’”

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

With everything gone, Callie and her parents go back inside their “almost empty house.” It’s okay, Callie thinks. None of the stuff is important, and it wouldn’t fit in their new place anyway. “But we will fit in our new place. And we are taking us.”

For so many children frequent relocations or sudden moves from a home they know is a reality. Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale treats this subject with sensitivity and honest emotion through the eyes of a little girl for whom the change is confusing but ultimately reassuring. Bunting does not stint on either the setting of the yard sale itself, where people quibble over a couple of dollars, or the toll the day takes on the family. Her dialogue always rings true, and her straightforward delivery allows for understanding and for the moments of humor to shine through.

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Image copyright Lauren Castillo, text copyright Eve Bunting. Courtesy of laurencastillo.com

Lauren Castillo’s ink-and-watercolor paintings anchor this emotional story in a homey, loving environment even as they realistically portray the atmosphere of the yard sale. The full range of feelings are apparent in the characters’ faces from sadness and doubt to kindness and acceptance. Children will respond to Callie with her earnest attempts to understand and feel the comfort and encouragement Callie receives as her parents bend down to talk to her, hold her hand, and give her hugs.

Yard Sale is a poignant story that offers assurance and insight both for children who are facing a move and the friends and classmates who will miss them. The book’s theme is applicable to other daunting circumstances and would be a welcome addition to classroom and local libraries as well as for individuals encountering change.

Ages 4 – 9

Candlewick Press, 2017 (paperback); ISBN 978-0763693053 | 2015 (hardcover); ISBN 978-0763665425

To view more books and artwork by Lauren Castillo, visit her website!

National Garage Sale Day Activity

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Garage Sale Maze

 

A garage sale is a bit like a treasure hunt. Can you find your way through this printable Garage Sale Maze from the roadside sign to the items for sale? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Yard Sale at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 3 – It’s Family Fun Month and Interview with Jamie Michalak

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About the Holiday

August is a perfect time to have fun with the family! The days are long and warm, and there are so many activities to discover. Get away from the heat at a pool, the beach, or on the cool shade of a forest path. Explore your adventurous side while camping or traveling to an unfamiliar town, or increase your knowledge by visiting a science, art, history, or other museum. As today’s book shows, a museum might just be the most adventurous place on your list! So, before school starts up for another year, get out there and have fun!

Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter

Written by Jamie Michalak | Illustrated by Kelly Murphy

 

“In the great, big city, in the great, big museum, a clock tick-tocks past midnight.” The guards are on the watch, but they don’t see the tiny mouse that “creeps out of the shadows” and zig-zags her way through the galleries under the peering eyes of the art hung on the walls. Who is this explorer that carries a sack over one shoulder and has her eyes riveted on a map? It’s Dakota Crumb, and “for endless nights, Dakota has searched for a famous priceless treasure.

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Image copyright Kelly Murphy, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak, 2021. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The map reveals that it is in “the Deepest, Darkest Cave. But perils lie ahead. Scurrying past knights in armor, Dakota spies a tiny masterpiece across the room. Using her rope, she swings and picks it up. She places it into her sack and continues on. Into the hall of giants she roams. The only movement is the maintenance worker cleaning the floor. Dakota scans the room and—“aha!”—discovers a forgotten statue. Trying to collect it, she’s nearly swept away with the day’s refuse.

Dakota consults the map again and crawls away. Her journey takes her “to the land of Egypt,” where Dakota is on the hunt for “the famous Purple Jewel of Egypt.” Dakota summons all her courage when she comes eye to claw with “A GIANT… EVIL EYED… MOUSE-EATING… CAT!” She hurries past and into the deep, dark cave. She climbs up, up and “Pull. Pry. Oh, my!”  grabs the treasure she’s been seeking—the Purple Jewel of Egypt. “Oh! how it sparkles!” As dawn colors the glassed rotunda, Dakota tiptoes home, her sack full.

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Image copyright Kelly Murphy, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak, 2021. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The museum opens, but not only for people. Around the corner, a “teeny-tiny door” welcomes visitors of another sort. These city dwellers—insects and mice, raccoons and squirrels, worms and pigeons await the opening of a new museum—the Mousehole Museum, where Dakota Crumb proudly presides over her carefully curated exhibits. The visitors enter and roam the galleries, marveling over all of the wonderful treasures they see. You’re welcome to join them too!

Following the story, Dakota Crumb invites readers to return to the museums—both big and small—to scour their rooms for forty-five items that are cleverly concealed.

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Image copyright Kelly Murphy, 2021, text copyright Jamie Michalak, 2021. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Charming from beginning to (ingeniously extended) end, Jamie Michalak’s Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter is sure to become a favorite of any child. Michalak’s crafty uses of the types of exhibits seen in major museums not only add intrigue to the story but will thrill those kids who are already museum lovers and entice others to visit their local museums. The hushed sense of suspense that infuses the pages as Dakota Crumb creeps from room to room gathering items in her bag will have kids eagerly turning the pages to discover the provenance of the Purple Jewel of Egypt. What is she doing with all of the things she finds? Michalak’s perfect answer will enchant every collector, artist, scientist, history buff, and explorer.

Kelly Murphy’s wizardry begins on the title page, where the museum is just about to close and they city dwellers are heading home in the purple twilight. Taking in the lush urban landscape, alert readers may pick up on details that tell them the fun is just beginning. As kids follow Dakota through the quiet museum, finding themselves searching for treasure just as she does, they see paintings, ceramics, sculptures, animal exhibits, and finally the regal Egypt room.

Murphy ingeniously incorporates items from the scavenger hunt list kids find at the end of the story into each page spread while adding humorous hints, realistic portrayals of famous exhibits, and even a comical nod to a common cleaning occurrence. But like many museum goers, readers may find themselves catch their breath when they enter the Mousehole Museum. Murphy’s well-imagined exhibits turn everyday items into masterpieces—and who’s to say they’re not? From toys to fasteners to snacks, containers, and trinkets and even an overdeveloped polaroid photograph, the displays in Dakota Crumb’s museum invites readers to look at their surroundings in a brand-new way.

A smart, witty, fun, and thought-provoking book, Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter is a superb book for introducing the excitement of museums to children and engaging them in observation as well as ideas on art, historical value, community inclusion, and collecting. All this and an imaginative scavenger hunt that challenges readers to be as intrepid a treasure hunter as Dakota Crumb. Sure to spark plenty of ideas for teachers, homeschoolers, museum educators, and libraries, Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter is a must for home, school, and library bookshelves as well as for museum gift shops.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Candlewick Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1536203943

Discover more about Jamie Michalak and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kelly Murphy, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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You can download a Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter Activity Kit for teachers, families, librarians, or any book lover here or on the Candlewick Press website.

A Chat with Jamie Michalak

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Jamie Michalak is the author of many children’s books, including Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter, illustrated by Kelly Murphy; Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar; the highly praised Joe and Sparky early readers series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz; as well as the forthcoming picture book Niki Nakayama: A Chef’s Tale in 13 Bites, co-written with Debbi Michiko Florence and illustrated by Yuko Jones, and many more.

When not writing, she can often be found singing off-key, drinking too much coffee, or hanging out with her two sons. Jamie lives with her family in Barrington, Rhode Island.

You can connect with Jamie on her website | Instagram | Twitter

Welcome, Jamie! I’m so happy to be part of your book tour for Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter! Visiting museums is one of my and my family’s favorite activities, especially when we travel. They always provide us with wonderful memories. Do you have a favorite memory from a trip you took to research one of your books?

When I was writing Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter, in which a mouse searches for tiny objects in a museum, I wanted to scout out the best places to hide them. So I decided to visit an art museum in Manhattan, and I asked my eight-year-old son to come along as my research assistant.

Within fifteen minutes of our visit, he tugged on my sleeve. He was looking up at me with an expression of shock and horror.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“Mom,” he whispered, looking around. “They’re not wearing ANY PANTS!”

I had no idea he hadn’t seen nude Greek or Roman statues before.

In any case, he learned a lot about art, found some perfect hiding spots for mice treasures, and went home with lots to tell his friends.

That’s fabulous! Kids’ reactions to new experiences are such treasures in themselves.

In your school and library programs you share your writing process and give lots of advice for kids and teachers on how to create characters and stories as well as talking about your books. They sound like a blast! This past year, you probably held more virtual programs than usual. What was one funny thing that happened during one of these events this year?

I ended all of my virtual visits with a sing-along of the “Jelly Donut Hole Song” from my early reader Frank and Bean, illustrated by Bob Kolar. I’d play the audio and share the lyrics on my screen, so the class could join in. (Keep in mind I couldn’t see the faces of any of the kids.) During one visit, I’m playing the song, kind of half singing along because I can’t carry a tune AT ALL. Also, I’m clapping every now and then. Aaaand at the very end, the teacher says, “Um, Jamie? We couldn’t hear the audio on our end.” So basically the kids only saw my big head and heard me humming one note or mumbling every other three words. This went on for at least two minutes! Awkward.

Well, that sounds like a story Frank and Bean would love! Perhaps this funny oops! will find its way into one of your books. Thanks for sharing these two humorous events that show just what a varied tapestry being a picture book author is!

 Here’a a little more about Frank and Bean

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Written by Jamie Michalak; Illustrated by Bob Kolar

When the introspective Frank meets the gregarious Bean, can they find a way to make beautiful music together? Dry wit and hilarious illustrations introduce a new unlikely pair.

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Image copyright Bob Kolar, 2019, text copyright Jamie Machalak, 2019. Courtesy of Candlewick.

Candlewick Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-0763695590

Early Reader; Ages 3-7

A 2019 Amazon Best Book of the Year

2019 Junior Library Guild Selection

Florida 2020-2021 SSYRA JR Award Nominee

Cybils Award finalist

Family Fun Month Activity

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Tiny Treasure Hunt

 

This treasure hunt from Jamie Machalak is just like Dakota Crumb’s, but with a twist! And it’s perfect for families to do together! Print and cut out this tiny treasure hunt checklist for your child, so they can gather the objects listed. Then ask them to share what they found, using three adjectives to describe each treasure. What does a button feel like? What does the tiny toy look like? (Magnifying glasses are optional!)

Tiny Treasure Hunt List

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You can find Dakota Crumb: Tiny Treasure Hunter at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 23 – Hot Enough for Ya? Day

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About the Holiday

So here we are in the dog days of summer with their sweltering heat and soggy humidity. It’s so hot that even the simplest activities leave you drenched and drained. It’s the same every year, so what can you say? Well, today’s holiday gives a wry wink at that summer conversation starter, “Hot enough for ya?” Somehow this folksy phrase always brings a smile and shared commiseration. During these sweltering days enjoy some cooling treats with your kids – how about an ice-cream, a dip in the pool, lake, or ocean, or even that old favorite: running through the sprinkler? No matter where you find refreshment today, don’t forget to ask: “Hot enough for ya?”

And Then Comes Summer

Written by Tom Brenner | Illustrated by Jaime Kim

 

Summer days are like no other days during the year. Full of light and the kind of weather that entices you to stay outdoors, the months of June, July, and August hold promises of beauty and fun. Every day and every place welcome summer in their own way and invite new adventures. “When the days stretch out like a slow yawn, and leaves and grasses sparkle with dew, and the cheerful faces of Johnny-jump-ups jump up…THEN throw on flip-flops and breathe the sweet air.”

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Copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, courtesy of jaimekim.com

In those flip-flops you’ll run past buzzing bumblebees, flying warblers, and Dad mowing the lawn to your bike. Pump up the tires, raise the seat, put on your helmet, and take off! When the sun stays up past bedtime “and crickets crick-crick in the evening air, and bugs as big as thumbs bang against windows…” then it’s time to play games until night falls.

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Copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, courtesy of jaimekim.com

When every day is a play day and you’re out running and jumping or at the beach, and you hear that “familiar jingle,” you know the ice-cream truck is on its way. Then race your friends “to be the first in line” to choose your favorite icy-cold treat. “When the dog days of summer roll around, and it’s so hot you’re practically panting, and not even the sprinklers provide relief…THEN it’s time to head to the lake.” On the way, watch the world go by through your open window. Feel the breeze and enjoy the smells, sounds, and sights of the trip.

As you approach the familiar vacation spot where “the silver lake winks through the trees, and old friends run to greet you…” then it’s time for swimming and tents and roasted marshmallows while you tell stories and “plan tomorrow’s adventures.”

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Image copyright Jaime Kim, 2017, text copyright Tom Brenner, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Tom Brenner’s tribute to the wonders of summer reflects that free and easy feeling that vacation months bring to kids. The little moments that become favorite memories are all here, recorded in Brenner’s lyrical and evocative pages. The rhythm and repetition play out like the best summer days—some, nuggets of individual joy and others, building to the excitement of eagerly anticipated vacations.

Jaime Kim transports kids to backyards, main streets, lemonade stands, and finally a shimmering lake in her sun-drenched illustrations of kids enjoying the freedom of summer. Readers can almost hear the shouts, sprinkler spray, running feet, fireworks, and crackling campfire as they turn the pages to join Kim’s enthusiastic kids in their summertime romps.

And Then Comes Summer is a joyous book to share with kids during summer or any time of the year.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763660710 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1536217377 (Paperback)

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Jaime Kim on her website!

Hot Enough for Ya Day? Activity

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Flip-Flop Flower Pots

 

Have you outgrown your flip-flops from last year? You can turn them into fun plant holders with just a few buttons and mounting squares! Paint the pots with your own designs to make your hangings even more unique!

Supplies 

  • Small flip-flops with elastic heel backings
  • Decorative buttons
  • Glue or needle and thread
  • Small plastic flower pots
  • Paint for decorating the pot (optional)
  • Flower or plant
  • Dirt
  • Mounting Squares

Directions

  1. Plant the flower or plant in the flower pot 
  2. Decorate the straps of the flip-flops with the buttons. You can glue them on or sew them on with a needle and thread
  3. Place the flower pot into the flip-flop, letting it rest on the toe separator and securing it with the elastic backing
  4. Attach mounting squares to the back of the flip-flop to hang.

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You can find And Then Comes Summer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 6 – It’s National Vacation Rental Month

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About the Holiday

A great vacation starts with a great place to stay! Whether you like a cabin by the lake, a cottage by the shore, a tent or camper in the woods, an airbnb, or that good-ol’ staple the hotel, getting away from home is an adventure in itself. National Vacation Rental Month takes place in July because this is the month when most people go on vacation. If you haven’t planned a get-away yet, there’s still time to find just the right accommodation for maximum enjoyment! You might even look into staying in a sandcastle – especially if it’s as luxurious as the one in today’s story!

Sandcastle

By Einat Tsarfati

 

A girl finds an empty spot near the water’s edge and begins to build a sandcastle. This is no ordinary sandcastle, though. It’s “a real castle with domes and turrets and a crocodile moat. And large windows with an ocean view.” Indeed, it is a spectacular castle, representing all the world’s architecture and decorated with seashells. Winding staircases lead to outside viewing spots, and its sculptural features are astounding. The girl stands on tippy-toe on a tall tower to place a pebble just on the tip of a taller tower.

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Inside, chandeliers hang in the great hall and above the double staircase on either side. The girl pauses during construction for a moment to gaze out of the five-paned bay window at the rolling sea. But she is not alone. A king peaks out of a doorway, watching her. It didn’t take long for more kings and queens from across the globe to discover the girl’s castle and come to visit, bringing along their children and pets and plenty of luggage.

They took in their surroundings, marveling at the girl’s craftsmanship. “‘It’s one hundred percent sand,’ murmured a king with a curly mustache. ‘And you can hear the ocean!’ added a queen with a fancy pearl necklace.” From the great hall they fanned out into the castle to enjoy its many rooms—the music room and the aquarium room; the camping room, complete with trees and a tent; the ice-skating rink and the carousel; the natural history room and the archaeology room with its brontosaurus skeleton. There was a library and a room with many safes for the royal jewelry. Visitors could play tennis, dance, and spend time feeding the swan in the pond room. Of course, there were bedrooms, and bathroom, and dining rooms galore.

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

The first night there was a “grand party in the ballroom. Dollops of ice cream were served all night long. It was awesome.” But in the morning the kings and queens saw things quite differently. The almond strudel, the pizza, the soups, the sandwiches, and all the cakes were full of sand. The next day, the Triathlon of Knights Tournament of badminton, cards, and Twister was “completely ruined. ‘Aargh! There is sand in my suit of  armor!’ sobbed the bravest knight in the kingdom.” It was so bad that he couldn’t even pick up a playing card from the stack. Royal toes grew itchy. Royal treasure chests became welded shut. And one elderly queen thought it was “even worse than a single pea underneath [her] mattress.

They all came to the girl to bitterly complain. There wasn’t much the girl could do. After all, the castle was made of sand. She decided to make a sand ball and then another and another until there were enough for a huge sand ball fight. Then, suddenly, the castle sprung a leak, and the kings and queens, their kids, and their luggage floated away on furniture, towers, and pedestals. Everything was washed away, so the girl “built a sandcastle.”

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Copyright Einat Tsarfati, 2020, courtesy of Candlewick.

Einat Tsarfati’s Sandcastle is a feast for the eyes, loaded with humor, marvels, and whimsy on every page. From the crowded beach to the luxurious interior of the sandcastle, kids will have a blast scouring the detailed drawings for their favorite feature. As the royal visitors’ initial awe dissolves into whiny complaining, Tsarfati’s droll storytelling will elicit plenty of laughs (and maybe even a bit of recognition). The girl’s clever solution to her guests’ dissatisfaction may surprise readers, but with a turn of the page, Tsarfati promises to begin the imaginative journey all over again.

Highly recommended for funny and immersive story times, Sandcastle wows with ingenuity that will inspire kids’ imaginations. Sure to be an often-asked-for favorite on home, school, or public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Candlewick, 2020 | ISBN 978-1536211436

Discover more about Einat Tsarfati, her books, and her art on her website.

National Vacation Rental Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vacation-rental-maze

Family Vacation Fun! Maze

 

This family is really looking forward to their vacation in the woods. Can you help them find their way to their cabin in this printable maze?

Family Vacation Fun! Maze | Family Vacation Fun! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sand-castle-cover

You can find Sandcastle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 26 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

No matter whether you live in a city, a small town, or a farm, in a house or an apartment, you can travel anywhere through books. The magic of reading lies in its ability to transport readers through history, to far-away places and long-ago times, or perhaps to the future, where all it takes is one’s imagination to make it so. National Reading Month invites readers of all ages to experience the world in new and unfamiliar ways through amazing books like today’s that transports you to medieval times.

The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry

Written by Danna Smith | Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline

 

A young girl introduces herself and her father from their fire-warmed room in the castle. Outside the window, a majestic bird waits. The girl says, “This is our hawk: a sight to behold, / a master of flight, graceful and bold. / My father trains this bird of prey / who lives with us at the castle.” An inset on the page reveals facts about the birds of prey used in medieval times for hunting: hawks and falcons.

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Image copyright Bagram Ibatoulline, 2017, text copyright Danna Smith, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick.

Down in the courtyard the girl and her father prepare the hawk to fly as it sits on its favorite perch, which, as the inset explains, resembles a tree branch a hawk would normally search out in the wild. Falcons, on the other hand, prefer perches with flat surfaces like the cliffs they gather on. The girl’s father puts on a thick leather glove that protects him from the hawk’s “razor-sharp claws” as they take the bird outside the castle walls. Next, the girl gets out the hood the hawk “wears on his head, / with fancy top feathers of purple and red. / It hides his eyes so he’s not afraid / of soldiers who roam ’round the castle.” Readers learn more about this hood and its purpose in the illustrated inset.

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Image copyright Bagram Ibatoulline, 2017, text copyright Danna Smith, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick.

Out in a nearby field, the girl, her father, and the hunting hound they have also trained are ready to begin the day. But before the hawk’s flight begins, children learn an astonishing fact about the bells hawks wear on their legs. Then the girl’s father raises his arm, signaling to the hawk that it’s time to take flight. The hawk takes to the sky with a cry that echoes over the castle.

As the hound flushes grouse from under a bush, the hawk, “…folds his wings and dives headfirst / in pursuit of his prey for the castle.” In midair the hawk grasps the grouse with its talons and brings it to the ground. More information about how a hawk captures its prey is found in the inset. The girl and her father follow the sounds of the bells to where the hawk and its catch hide in the tall grass. Readers discover more about the bells and what a falconer does if the raptor does not catch its prey.

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Image copyright Bagram Ibatoulline, 2017, text copyright Danna Smith, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick.

As a reward, the girl feeds the hawk a treat. The inset explains what kinds of treats falconers often provide for their birds. And when they get back to the castle, a large shallow bowl of water is put out for the hawk to bathe in. When the sun goes down, the sleepy hawk settles on its perch in its own room, called a mews, designed to keep the bird safe. “Built with windows for natural light and ventilation, a mews is large enough for a hawk to move freely inside without damaging its wings.”

Backmatter includes an extensive Authors Note about Danna Smith’s personal experience with falconry, the history of falconry, fascinating information about social standing and different types of raptors, and modern falconry. A list of books and websites is also provided for further reading and research. An index makes finding specific facts and topics easy for young readers.

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Image copyright Bagram Ibatoulline, 2017, text copyright Danna Smith, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick.

Readers will be mesmerized by Danna Smith’s rich tale of a girl and her father and their important role in a medieval castle. The girl’s pride in her father and awe for the hawk they have trained and care for stands out on every page, creating a story steeped in history and emotional bonding. A wealth of knowledge about falconry and hunting flows fluidly through Smith’s enchanting poetry, and the graceful language of her insets, some of them illustrated, allow for smooth transitions while reading the story aloud.

Bagram Ibatoulline’s breathtakingly realistic acrylic gouache paintings of the castle and countryside will wow kids and draw them into the story to discover the processes, equipment, and purposes of falconry. No detail has been overlooked in these sumptuous pages that make readers feel they only need to reach out to feel the rough stone walls, the elegant fabrics, or the soft feathers of the stunning hawk. The castle environment is fully realized as soldiers in armor stand guard, a horse and rider exit through a stone arch, and plants even wait to be watered on a high ledge.

The centerpiece, of course, are the images of the girl and her father preparing the hawk for hunting and the hawk itself. Through various perspectives, Ibatoulline gives children an idea of the scale of the castle and the rolling countryside outside its walls. In their colorful clothing, father and daughter stand out as they kneel with the bird on its perch, summon it with an outstretched arm, add hood and bells, and release it into the sky. The facial expressions on the father and the girl depict love and trust, not only for each other but also for their hawk.

Enthralling for family reading or as an exciting addition to school or homeschool lessons on many levels, The Hawk of the Castle is a must for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 and up

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763679927

Discover more about Danna Smith and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Bagram Ibatoulline, visit his website.

About Danna Smith

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-danna-smith-with-owlDanna Smith is a poet and an award-winning author of seventeen books for children, including Arctic White, Swallow the Leader, Mother Goose’s Pajama Party, and several Little Golden Books. Her nonfiction picture book, The Hawk of the Castle: A story of Medieval Falconry, received two starred reviews and is a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Danna was exposed to all sorts of creatures through her father, who trained, bred, and rehabilitated animals. It wasn’t uncommon to find bobcats, alligators, monkeys, hawks, or even vultures at her home. A love of animals and nature has spilled over into her love of writing.

Danna is currently living in northern California, where she is hard at work on her next book. For more information about her books, upcoming releases, and teaching activities, visit her book website and her poetry blog. You can also connect with Danna on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Learn about why Danna Smith wrote her beautiful story and how it came to be on The Story Behind the Story on Lynne Marie’s blog

Look for these forthcoming books from Danna Smith
One Blue Gnu (Amicus / Spring 2022)
Wake Up, Freight Train (Little Simon / Spring 2022)
Rooftop Garden (Barefoot Books / Summer 2022)
The Thank You Book (Little Simon / Summer 2022)

National Reading Month Activity

The Hawk of the Castle activity sheet questions

The Hawk of the Castle Activity Sheet

 

Can you identify this equipment used in falconry? Learn the answers and more about each item in the Answer Sheet

The Hawk of the Castle Activity Sheet | The Hawk of the Castle Activity Sheet Answers

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Hawk Coloring Pages

 

Enjoy these printable coloring pages while you learn about three kinds of hawks.

Broad-winged Hawk | Red-shouldered Hawk | Ridgeway’s Hawk

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You can find The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 19 – Look for an Evergreen Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday gives people an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the variety of evergreen trees that grow locally and around the world. During the winter these giants stand out against snowy landscapes with their deep-green needles that retain their color all year around and always offer the hope of spring. For those who celebrate Christmas, the evergreen is a highlight of the celebration. Decorated with lights and sparkly ornaments, the tree is where family and friends gather to exchange gifts and share time together. Look for an Evergreen Day was created by the National Arborist Association to encourage people to enjoy the beauty of these special trees.

Pick a Pine Tree

Written by Patricia Toht | Illustrated by Jarvis

 

A family of four and their dog head out to “pick a pine tree / from the lot,” but what kind do they want—“slim and tall or short and squat?” After looking them all over, they choose a nice big one and tie it to the roof of their car for the trip home. At home they clear a place for the tree to stand, give it a drink, and then “find the trimmings / stored within / bulging boxes, rusty tins, / paper bags, a wooden case. / Bring them to that / special place, / there, beside your tree.”

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But they don’t start decorating yet. They call their friends to come and help. With the house full of cheer, the kids string the lights, wrapping them around the branches. Next come the ornaments—“Jolly Santas, / Dancing elves. / Wooden reindeer. / Jingle bells. / Lacy snowflakes. / Paper dolls. / Candy canes and / bright glass balls.” With hooks and string the bright ornaments are hung on the tree.

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Finally, garlands are “strung / from bough to bough,” and tinsel is draped in “silver drips.” On the top a star shines bright and down below a tiny village springs up, complete with “a train that chugs around a track.” At last it’s finished and the lights are lit. “Look! It’s not a pine tree / anymore. / It’s a… / Christmas tree!” As everyone gathers to singing around the Christmas tree, Merry wishes are bestowed on “one and all.”

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Image copyright Jarvis, 2017, text copyright Patricia Toht, 2017. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Patricia Toht’s lively rhymes engage kids in one of the holiday season’s most fun activities—picking out and decorating the Christmas tree. Her step-by-step verses brim with the growing excitement of the day and encourage sharing the celebration with family and friends. As they read, kids will be caught up in the fun and memories of this favorite tradition.

Vivid, action-packed mixed-media illustrations in a rich color palette by Jarvis take readers to the Christmas tree lot with its rows and rows of different trees to choose from and back to the family’s cozy home—where a dog and cat are happy to help out. As friends and neighbors drop by for the decorating party, kids will love recounting their own experiences hanging the lights and pointing out ornaments that may look like their own. The fully decorated tree glows in a two-page vertical spread that will wow little readers.

A sweet family story full of smiles, eager anticipation, and a love of Christmas, Pick a Pine Tree is a magical read to add to holiday story times.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763695712

Discover more about Patricia Toht and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jarvis, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Look for an Evergreen Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Find-the-Perfect-Pine-Tree-maze

Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze

 

Can you help the kids sled their way to find the evergreen tree in this printable maze?

Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze | Find the Perfect Pine Tree! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pick-a-pine-tree-cover

You can find Pick a Pine Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review