April 19 – Banana Day

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About the Holiday

It seems people are somewhat split on this most appealing holiday—is it a day for enjoying the tasty tropical fruit or a day for goofing off? Why not do both?! Bananas offer plenty of nutrition and flavor in their own tidy, take-along package, and they’ve been the subject of humorous skits as long as people have been tossing the peels to the ground. Today, grab a bunch and head out to have some fun at a park, playground, shoreline, or even back deck near you!  

Bananas in My Ears: A Collection of Nonsense Stories, Poems, Riddles, and Rhymes

Written by Michael Rosen | Illustrated by Quentin Blake

 

Things may go from the ridiculous to the sublime or from the sublime to the ridiculous, but the rhymes, stories, poems, and jokes in this collection are both ridiculous and sublime. Divided into four sections—The Breakfast Book, The Seaside Book, The Doctor Book, and The Bedtime Book—these bite-sized tales will nibble at your funny bone.

Each book includes six to seven short pieces that humorously reveal the inner workings of familial and community relationships. Recurring titles “What if…,” “Things We Say,” and “Nat and Anna” sibling stories tie the books together. The tone for Bananas in My Ears is set with aplomb in the very first offering, “Breakfast Time,” which reveals the chaos of early morning with its spilled milk, banging trash cans, pets on the table, school clothes ruined, and “I think I’m going crazy!” shenanigans. 

“What If…” (Breakfast Book) combines kids’ natural penchant for rhyming with their unbounded imagination and a bit of stream-of-consciousness to boot. Just as a little boy is to bite into a piece of toast, he has this thought: “What if / a piece of toast turned into a piece of ghost / just as you were eating it / and you thought you were going to sink your / teeth into a lovely crunchy piece of hot toast / and butter and instead this cold wet feeling / jumps into your mouth / going, / ‘Whoooooooooooooooooooo!’ / right down into your stomach…”

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Image copyright Quentin Blake, text copyright Michael Rosen, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Adding speech bubbles and expressive art to commonly used phrases in “Things We Say” transforms throw-off lines like “My hair’s a mess,” “Look what I found,” “You can’t lie there all morning,” and “Now what seems to be the trouble?” into self-deprecating humor all can relate to.

Four stories of Nat and his older sister Anna zero in on particular moments that illuminate the sibling relationship, At once opposed and in sync, Nat and Anna negotiate moments in which Anna is put in charge of watching Nat at breakfast with topsy-turvy results; a frightening story that Anna tells Nat about jellyfish somehow backfires; a trip to the doctor turns into a competition about future professions; and a “who’s-on-first” type banter allows Anna to enjoy some alone time.

“Three Girls” is a clever take on outwitting-an-ogre tales. Three girls walking on the beach come across a cave. One girl goes in and “sees a pile of gold sitting on the rocks, so she thinks, ‘Yippee, gold, all for me!’ And she steps forward to pick it up and a great big voice booms out ‘I’m the ghost of Captain Cox. All that gold stays on the rocks.’” Afraid, she runs out of the cave. The second girl is braver. She enters the cave, sees the gold, hears the same booming voice and is also chased away. Undeterred, the third girl walks into the cave, sees the gold, and hears the booming voice of Captain Cox. Instead of running away, however, she says, “‘I don’t care. I’m the ghost of Davy Crocket, and all that gold goes in my pocket.’” With her treasure secured she hightails it out to join her friends.

Among other fun stories in this volume are: “These Two Children,” with a lively recitation of familiar bedtime routines; “Fooling Around,” that offers light rhymes on children’s names; and another “What If” (the Breakfast Book) that will have kids cracking up —“What if / hard-boiled eggs turned into hard-boiled legs / just when your dad was eating his egg / and he says, / ‘Hey, what’s this?’…”

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Image copyright Quentin Blake, text copyright Michael Rosen, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Michael Rosen understands, as kids do, that sometimes nonsense makes perfect sense and that even the commonplace is quite absurd when you think about it. This collection of witticisms is sure to resonate with children. Just hand a child this book and get ready for giggles—and, oh yes, adults will chuckle too.

In his colorful pen and ink drawings the inimitable Quentin Blake enlivens each piece with rakish kids, wide-eyed parents, sloppy messes, bouncing, jumping joy, and all the silliness that contributes to having a great day. “An accident waiting to happen” doesn’t begin to describe the bedlam ensuing in “What Happens Next?” as each character and object is set up to play their part in an oh-so-human game of dominoes. Kids will love seeing themselves and the world around them so candidly drawn, and adults will appreciate the whimsical sophistication of the same.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763662486

Banana Day Activity

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Banana Banana Bread recipe, courtesy of allrecipes.com.

Banana Banana Bread

 

How can you go wrong with a recipe that includes so many bananas they have to be listed twice in the name? You can’t! This simple, yet delicious banana bread from Allrecipes satisfies the munchies at breakfast or snack time! Try it toasted—you’ll be sure to cheer B-A-N-A-N-A-S! Click here to begin enjoying Allrecipes Banana Banana Bread.

Picture Book Review

April 6 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

National Poetry Month was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to highlight the achievements of poets, past and present; to promote the reading and writing of poetry in schools and by individuals; and to encourage people to discover the joys poetry can bring all year round. Poetry Month is now celebrated in April in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, with other countries holding their own events during other times of the year.

A Song About Myself: A Poem by John Keats

Written by John Keats | Illustrated by Chris Raschka

 

1

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / He would not stop at home, / He could  not quiet be—” So this adventurous boy packed his knapsack with “a Book / Full of vowels / And a shirt / With some towels—” He added a comb and a brush, a cap to protect himself both day and night, and an extra pair of stockings for when the old ones got threadbare. With his knapsack buckled on tight, the little boy headed North

2

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / For nothing would he do / But scribble poetry—” With ink stand and pen he ran away “to the mountains / And fountains / And ghostes / And Postes / And witches / And ditches.” In the winter he wrote with his coat on, not fearing contracting gout; and when the weather was warm, he abandoned his coat while he captured the charm of the North.

3

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / He kept little fishes / In washing tubs three.” Not fearing the maid’s or his granny’s displeasure, this mischievous boy would rise with the sun “And go / By hook or crook / To the brook” to catch minnows “The size / of a nice / Little Baby’s / Little fingers—” These tiny darters swam in his bucket—“A Kettle / Of Fish a pretty Kettle / A Kettle!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-song-about-myself-to-the-mountains

Copyright Chris Raschka, courtesy of Candlewick, 2017

4

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / He ran away to Scotland / The people for to see— / Then he found / That the ground / Was as hard, / That a yard / Was as long, / That a song / Was as merry,… /…That a door / Was as wooden / As in England—” Which made him think. “So he stood in his shoes / And he wonder’d, / He wonder’d / He stood in his shoes / And he wonder’d.”

In an Illustrator’s Note, Chris Raschka reveals that John Keats—one of the greatest romantic poets—wrote this poem in a letter to his sister, Fanny, while he was walking through Scotland on a tour that he imagined would inspire “the grand poetry that he knew was inside him.”

This quirky poem that follows the travails and travels of a little boy filled with wanderlust, a gift for writing, and insight beyond his years is a perfect match for Chris Raschka’s art. Topsy-turvy perspectives, vivid colors, and evocative and action-packed vignettes beautifully represent the boy’s “naughtiness” and precocious imagination. As he dashes across the yard, his house—red capped and with a mustache-shaped lintel over the door—seems to watch through window eyes; the boy’s mighty pen stands taller than he is; and ghosts, witches, castles, and fountains are framed in the hills that he passes on his journey. Bold swatches of yellow, green, and red that split the pages in half serve as directional arrows, roads, and verse dividers while also leading readers to the book’s final wisdom.

Kids will find it fun to explore the endpapers that present a bird’s-eye-view of the expanse from Scotland to New York over “Much Water.”

A Song About Myself: A Poem by John Keats is a joyous treat that celebrates the whimsy of childhood and the wonders of the imagination. For poetry lovers or those who enjoy a good story, this book would make a charming gift or addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 10

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763650902

You can view a gallery of artwork by Chris Raschka on tumblr!

National Poetry Month Activity

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I Have the Reading Bug Bookmark

 

If you love reading, then print out this I Have the Reading Bug Bookmark that can mark your page with style! For a sturdier bookmark, print on card stock or heavy paper.

Picture Book Review

March 2 – Read Across America Day

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About the Holiday

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Read Across America Day, which is sponsored by the National Education Association and promotes the joy and discovery that reading provides. Not only is reading fun, studies show that reading to a child from birth improves literacy and language development and leads to a lifelong love for books. Today, visit your local bookstore or library and find some new books to share—or grab some favorites off your shelf and enjoy them again!

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling

By Timothy Basil Ering

 

Captain Alfred was sailing home with his boat filled with ducks for his farm. “Nestled safe inside his fiddle case” was one nearly ready-to-hatch egg—a surprise present for his wife. Captain Alfred already had a name picked out for the little one—Alfred Fiddleduckling—and he knew this baby would be very special. But suddenly a “mighty gale whipped the seas into a raging fury” and tossed the little boat and its occupants to and fro. When the storm had blown itself out, a thick, impenetrable fog descended over the ocean.

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Image and text copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

From the porch of a small cottage on the shore’s edge, a woman looked out to sea as “tears of worry dropped from her cheeks, into the mist.” Baby Alfred, however, unaware of these events and hidden by the fog, hatched as the fiddle case floated on the now-calm water. The little duckling looked around and saw something in the water nearby. He paddled out to it and even though it took no notice of him, Alfred “embraced the object with all of his heart.” He “caressed it so that it would not feel as lonely as he did ” and was surprised to hear a most beautiful and unexpected sound.

Alfred immediately fell in love—and imagined that his love was reciprocated. The two drifted along, buoyed by the waves until Alfred’s feet touched ground in a spooky swamp. In a moment, however, the comforting music began again. The sounds, so unexpected in this mist-shrouded swamp, reached the ears of “a beast that was lurking in the tall grasses.” The Beast bounded in the direction of the sound and found Alfred and his love. With drool dripping from its jaws, the beast came closer. Alfred shook, and in his fear “his music became fast and wild!”

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Image and text copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

The beast stood on his hind two legs, rising high and menacing above tiny Alfred and…began to dance. The dog had missed his master’s fiddle playing and he now found a best friend in Alfred. The two trekked through the swamp, searching for home and becoming cold, wet, and helpless as the hours stretched on. The fiddle quivered with music that was as sad and helpless as the two wanderers.

But someone heard those quiet strains—the woman on the porch of the little cottage. “She ran through the fog, straight toward the sound of Alfred’s fiddle. She wrapped her arms around her dog and marveled at the special duckling and his music. “‘Don’t ever stop playing your wonderful music,’” she told Alfred. Alfred played with abandon, pouring out all the happiness in his heart. Out on the sea a raft of ducks and one very surprised captain heard the music…and you can guess what happened next!

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Image copyright Timothy Basil Ering, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Timothy Basil Ering’s wonderfully unique tale of a ship-wrecked duckling and a fiddle who together make beautiful music that reunites a family is captivating. The story holds just the right amount of surprise, suspense, and heart to keep young children riveted to what happens next. Ering’s lyrical phrasing is music to readers’ ears and conveys the various melodies—sweet, quivering, poignant, tempestuous, and finally joyful—that carry the story from one event to another.

Ering’s full-bleed illustrations begin with bright vibrancy that gives way to gauzy grays as the fog rolls in. Despite the weather or ominous surroundings, Alfred remains a bright spot, his yellow fuzz and the multi-colored notes a glowing beacon in the dark. Little readers will love following the confetti notes of Alfred’s playing and guessing the next twist in the plot. The star of the story, plucky little Alfred, is a cutie as  with empathy he embraces the fiddle and bravely ventures through sea and swamp to find home.

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling is joyful, mysterious, and humorous tribute to friendship, love, and the unexpected that would make a great gift and an often-read addition to children’s home libraries.

Ages 2 – 6

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763664329

Read Across America Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mug-cookie

Snuggle-in Mug Cookie Treat

 

Snuggling up and reading is made even better with a quick and tasty treat! Make this warm mug cookie that takes only minutes to put together and then settle in for some favorite or new stories! Here’s a delicious recipe from Food.com for you to try!

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • ½ Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 Tablespoons dark or milk chocolate chips
  • 1 Pinch salt

Directions

  1. Place butter and milk in a microwavable mug. Microwave for 30 seconds to melt the butter and warm the milk.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar and vanilla extract.
  3. Mix in flour, chocolate chips, and salt.
  4. Microwave for about 1 minute on High. (Cooking time is based on the texture of cookie you like)
  5. Cool for 5 minutes before serving
  6. Add toppings such as ice cream, whipped cream, or hot fudge or chocolate sauce

Picture Book Review

February 7 – It’s Haiku Writing Month

The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers by Michael J. Rosen and Lee White picture book review

About the Holiday

National Haiku Writing Month—also known as NaHaiWriMo—encourages poets and poetry lovers to write one haiku a day for the entire month of February. Why was February chosen for this literary challenge? Perhaps the fact that the haiku is the shortest form of poetry and February is the shortest form of month makes them natural allies. While a haiku may be short, it is full of emotion and impact, not unlike its host month. If you have haiku inside of you, write them down and share them with others!

The Maine Coon’s Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers

Written by Michael J. Rosen | Illustrated by Lee White

 

Fortunately for poetry—and cat—lovers there are as many types of felines as there are ways to describe them. With wit and keen insight, this collection of haiku depicts the mystery, stealth, crouching, and curiosity of twenty breeds of cats.

The remains of a shredded plant elicits an unanswerable question in Ragdoll: “why today the cat / who sleeps beneath the ivy / halved the blameless hearts.”

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Image copyright Lee White, text copyright Michael J. Rosen. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Any cat owner who finds vases or lamps overturned will appreciate Siamese: “a toppled lamp shade / moon moth must be here somewhere / batted from the dark.” It is commonly known that cats own their domain, a fact acknowledged in British Shorthair: “paws plant mud-daisies / along the polished hillside / parked on the cat’s street.”

In these lines felines become baseball players, gymnasts, ghosts, and mist, as in Bombay: “paired shadows prowling / in nightfall, but just two lights / pierce that darkness” and Norwegian Forest Cat: “caught among branches / fog descends the trunk headfirst / one foot at a time.”

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Image copyright Lee White, text copyright Michael J. Rosen. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

While the haiku form is necessarily rigid, the supple rhythms of Michael Rosen’s phrases perfectly capture the vast array of quirks, moves, attitudes, and friskiness that make cats such favorite pets. These poems are in turn sweet, spirited, and humorous—just like their subjects.

Lee White similarly highlights the bounding, creeping, prowling, and snoozing postures of all manner and colors of the breeds represented here. The Turkish Angora, stealthily creeping across a room, is painted as transparent as it leaps through the door, becoming more opaque as it reaches mid-page and disappearing from the edge of the book, leaving only its back end behind. The Abyssinian plunks its head and whole body across the open book on its owner’s lap, its eyes closed in dreamy sleep, and the Scottish Fold indomitably maintains its perch in the magnolia tree, determined not to fall like the raining petals.

Ages 5 and up (any cat lover will enjoy these poems)

Candlewick Press, 2015 | ISBN  978-0763664923

Get to know Michael J. Rosen and discover books for kids and adults, poems, videos, work for radio and TV, and more on his website!

View a beautiful gallery of artwork for books and personal illustration by Lee White on his website!

Haiku Writing Month Activity

CPB - Cat Bookmark (2)

Hang in there, Kitty! Bookmark

 

Do you love to read? Do you love to write? If you said yes to either or both of these questions, then here is a kitty that wants to hang out with you! 

Supplies

  • Printable Hang in there, Kitty! bookmark template
  • Card stock paper
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Hang in there, Kitty! bookmark (printing on card stock will make a sturdier bookmark)
  2. Color the bookmark
  3. Cut around the toes of the front paws, leaving the top of the paws attached to make flaps that will hang over the page you want to mark

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-henry-finch-could-be-great

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-I-am-henry-finch-wake-up

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

cpb-bird-feeder-i

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

January 30 – Chinese New Year

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About the Holiday

Chinese New Year celebrations began on the eve of January 28, ushering in the Year of the Rooster. Also known as the Spring Festival, the New Year is a time for festivities including lion and dragon dances, fireworks, visiting friends and relatives, family meals, and special decorations.The New Year is the busiest travel season of the year as family members return home to spend the holiday with loved ones. The Chinese New Year celebrations  end on the 15th day of the new year with the Lantern Festival.  People born in the Year of the Rooster are said to be honest, energetic, intelligent, flexible, and confident.

A New Year’s Reunion

Written by Yu Li-Qiong | Illustrated by Zhu Cheng-Liang

 

Maomao’s papa works far away as a house builder and can only return home once a year—during Chinese New Year. Today, Maomao and her mother wake up early and get ready because “Papa is coming home.” When Papa arrives, Maomao peers at her father from a distance. He seems unfamiliar, and when he picks her up in his arms she calls for her mama in alarm. But Papa has come with gifts—a hat for Maomao and a coat for Mama.

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Image copyright Yu Li-Qiong, courtesy of Candlewick Press

After catching up and eating lunch, Papa takes Maomao with him to the barber shop, where he gets a haircut and a shave. As Maomao watches, the Papa in the mirror is getting more like Papa the way he used to be.” Back home, Papa helps the family decorate their house and later they make sticky rice balls for the next day. “Papa buries a coin in one of the balls and says, ‘Whoever finds the ball with the coin will have good luck.’” As she falls asleep to the whispers of her parents, Maomao hears firecrackers snapping in the night air.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-new-year's-reunion-making-sticky-rice-balls

Image copyright Yu Li-Qiong, text copyright Zhu Cheng-Liang. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

In the morning while eating the sticky rice balls, Maomao bites down on something hard. “‘The fortune coin! It’s the fortune coin!’” she exclaims. Her papa tells her to put it in her pocket so that the good luck will not escape. She places it in her coat pocket and then they all join the crowd in the square going on holiday visits. On the way she meets her friend Dachun, who shows her the red envelope he has gotten. Maomao proudly shows Dachun her lucky coin.

On the second day of New Year’s while Papa is doing chores around the house, he takes his little daughter to the roof. From here she can see Dachun’s house and hear the dragon dance over on Main Street. Maomao stands on tiptoe as tall as she can, but she can’t see the parade. Papa swings her onto his shoulders. “‘Now can you see it?’ he asks. ‘Yes, I can. They’re coming!’” she answers with excitement.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-new-year's-reunion-visiting-in-square

Image copyright Yu Li-Qiong, courtesy of Candlewick Press

The third day of New Year’s brings snow, and Maomao, Dachun, and the other neighborhood children build a tall snowman and have a snowball fight in the courtyard. When Maomao comes in at the end of the day, she reaches into her coat pocket, but her fortune coin is gone! She runs outside, but the courtyard is covered in snow, and she can’t find it anywhere. Papa tries to give her another coin, but it isn’t the same.

Later, feeling miserable, Maomao climbs into bed and takes off her jacket. Suddenly, she hears a clink as something falls to the floor. “‘It’s the coin! My fortune coin!’” she cries. ‘‘Papa come quick—come and see! I haven’t lost the fortune coin. It’s been with me all the time.’” Maomao falls asleep happy. The next morning, she wakes to see Mama packing Papa’s things. Soon, he will return to work. He crouches down and with a promise to bring Maomao a doll hugs her tight. But Maomao shakes her head. “‘I want to give you something…,’” she says. She puts the coin in Papa’s hand and tells him, “‘Here, take this. Next time you’re back, we can bury it in the sticky rice ball again!’” Papa is silent and gives Maomao another hug before they say goodbye for another year.

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Image copyright Yu Li-Qiong, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Yu Li-Qiong’s touching story of a little girl’s reunion with the father she rarely sees is a heartfelt reminder that love continues over miles and days or months. Just as the fortune coin was with Maomao all the time, Maomao’s papa is always in her heart and she in his. Little ones, especially, will be captivated by the day-to-day activities of Maomao’s New Year festivities and appreciate the importance of her coin. Li-Qiong’s sweet story, filled with homey details of child and parent interactions, resonates beyond the holiday theme of the story and is a beautiful book for the many children who have parents who travel frequently with their jobs.

The quiet grace and wonder of Zhu Cheng-Liang’s gouache illustrations perfectly convey the loving relationship between father and daughter and the excitement of a family being together after a long absence. Although the Chinese New Year provides a frame for the story, Cheng-Liang’s paintings predominately focus on the day-to-day activities Maomao and her papa share—getting a haircut, fixing the house, cooking, meeting and playing with friends, and special hugs—emphasizing the universal scope of the story. The enchantment of the New Year’s festivities shines in a two-page spread where a fiery red-and-orange dragon puppet cavorts over the village bridge followed by a throng of people as others watch from homes and windows. Adorable Maomao may raise a lump in readers throats as she hugs her papa and gives him her treasured fortune coin.

A brief Author’s Note following the text pays tribute to the millions of migrant workers in China who often do not see their families except once each year.

A New Year’s Reunion would be a welcome book on any child’s bookshelf as a reminder that love overcomes any absence, long or short.

Ages 3 – 7

Candlewick Press, 2013 (paperback) | ISBN 978-076366748

Chinese New Year Activity

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Lantern Festival Coloring Page

 

Chinese New Year festivities end with a brilliant festival of lights. Enjoy this printable Lantern Festival Coloring Page to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

Picture Book Review

 

January 24 – It’s National Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

The idea of hobbies—something useful, purposeful, and fun done in one’s spare time—has been around at least since 1676 when Sir Matthew Hale wrote in Contemplations Moral and Divine that “Almost everyone hath some hobby horse or other wherein he prides himself.” Later, in the mid-1800s when work ceased to consume every hour of the day, and people had more time for leisure pursuits, hobbies became more popular. Today, it may be interesting to consider that many of our current hobbies—knitting, sewing, woodworking, candle making, etc.—were once the work of our ancestors. To celebrate this month’s holiday, try a new activity—it may turn into a favorite!

More-igami

Written by Dori Kleber | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

Joey was a little boy with a particular fascination. He was captivated by all things folded. At home he had a collection of “old road maps,” the bellows on an accordion made it his favorite instrument, and he even tucked himself into a foldaway bed at night. One day Joey witnessed the most amazing thing at school. Sarah Takimoto’s mother came to his class, and—right before the students’ eyes—folded, flipped, and pulled a plain white piece of paper “until it became…a crane.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

“Joey’s eyes popped. His jaw dropped. Mrs. Takimoto called it origami.” Joey was smitten. “‘I want to make origami,’” Joey told Sarah’s mother. “‘Will you teach me?’” Mrs. Takimoto  answered that while she could teach him the right folds, it would take practice and patience to become an origami master. Joey raced home that afternoon and began folding. When he ran out of notebook paper and construction paper, he used his homework…the newspaper…his sister’s sheet music…gift wrap… even “Aunt Vivian’s pineapple surprise” recipe card. But when he folded up all thirty-eight dollars in his mom’s purse, she put her foot down.

“Joey drooped.” His cranes were still coming out wrinkled and crooked, and he’d never be able to become an origami master without practicing. To soothe his disappointment, he headed next door to Muy Mexicana for some fajitas. Right away Mr. Lopez noticed Joey’s disgruntlement. When Joey explained that everyone was losing patience with him, Mr. Lopez said, “‘Many artists are misunderstood, amigo.’ Especially when they are just learning.’” Mr. Lopez went into the kitchen, and when he came out with the sizzling fajitas, he was delighted to see a napkin pyramid sitting on the table.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Joey apologized, but Mr. Lopez thought it made the table look fancy. In fact, he liked it so much that he had Joey fold every napkin on every table. After that, Joey went to Muy Mexicana each day following school and folded the napkins into decorative shapes. One day he made fans, the next candlesticks, and the day after that, crowns. He patiently worked until each one was perfect.

Finally, he felt ready to attempt his original challenge. “He took a crisp napkin. He folded. He flipped. He pulled.” When he was finished, a perfect crane sat in front of him. Just then a girl with a paper fan walked in. Her eyes widened as they zeroed in on Joey’s crane. Joey offered to show her how to make it, but warned, “‘It takes practice—and lots of patience!’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Dori Kleber’s unique multicultural story of a little boy who finds the perfect creative outlet for his singular interest will captivate kids who are just beginning to try their own hands at favorite hobbies, schoolwork, or other pursuits. With humor and honest depictions of Joey’s frustration and persistence, Kleber shows readers that practice and patience really do pay off. As Joey meets another folding enthusiast, kids will see that there are always others with whom to share favorite pastimes.

Opening More-igami to the first page where Joey sits gazing lovingly at a taco with a folded napkin next to his plate, readers will know they are in for something special. As always, G. Brian Karas’s characters are enthusiastic, encouraging, and adorable. Readers will empathize with Joey as they watch him folding and folding, and giggle at the many, many practice cranes that litter his home, even perching atop his sister’s music stand and appearing in his mom’s purse.

Karas makes full creative use of the origami theme in his clever page designs and illustrations, beginning with the square shape of the book itself and the origami paper-styled endpapers. Vivid, solid-color background pages are divided diagonally, vertically, or horizontally with subtle changes in hue or nearly invisible lines. In depictions of Joey’s school, home, and favorite restaurant, diagonals, angles, and sharp edges predominate: tables and floors create triangles on the page; windows, walls, and doors divide pages into shapes associated with the steps of origami’s folded creations; and floor tiles, the sidewalk, and even Joey’s shirt portray grid lines. The color schemes of each page, inspired by the patterns and shades of origami paper, are dazzling and unite the varied aspects of this special book.

For any child undertaking a new activity or venture, More-igami is a charming and encouraging companion on the way to proficiency—one that would make a wonderful home library addition.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763668198

To learn more about Dori Kleber and her writing, visit her website!

G. Brian Karas has a whole gallery of illustrations, books, information, and “what nots” on his website!

National Hobby Month Activity

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Origami Pets

 

Origami is a fun hobby that can grow in complexity as you gain skill. Here are two templates to get you started! All you need is a square piece of paper and—if you’d like to decorate your piece—some markers or colored pencils.

Puppy Template | Penguin Template

Picture Book Review