February 19 – It’s Nest Box Week

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About the Holiday

Nestle in for Nest Box Week! Nest Box Week was founded in 1997 by the British Trust for Ornithology to raise awareness about the widespread loss of habitats for birds. During the week people are encouraged to put up nest box homes to support bird conservation and breeding. The holiday begins on Valentine’s Day, marking the beginning of bird breeding season. To celebrate Nest Box Week, listen closely for backyard birdcalls, look out for local neighborhood birds, read books about birds, or even install your own nest box at home!

Thank you to Carolrhoda Books for sharing a copy of Rissy No Kissies for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Review by Dorothy Levine

Rissy No Kissies   

Written by Katey Howes | Illustrated by Jess Engle

 

Everybody loves a kiss goodnight, right? Well no, not quite! Rissy the lovebird does not love kisses, even though lovebirds are known for loving to kiss each other. The book begins when Miss Bluebird came over for a visit and tea; she leaned in to give Rissy a smooch on the cheek and, “‘NO KISSIES!’ Rissy chirruped with a most emphatic squeak.”

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Image copyright Jess Engle, 2021, text copyright Katey Howes, 2021. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

At first everyone laughed, but later as Rissy continues refusing “kissies,” family members are perplexed. They worry Rissy might be confused or coming down with a bug. Grandma Lovebird says, “We know lovebirds all love kisses. I think Rissy’s being rude.” Meanwhile at school, Rissy meets some friendly chick friends, and the three sit and smile and sing together. When Rissy’s friends cuddle in and try to show their love with a kiss, Rissy erupts “NO KISSIES!” once again. Rissy’s friends feel hurt and dejected.

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Image copyright Jess Engle, 2021, text copyright Katey Howes, 2021. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

Rissy is worried too. She wonders if she’s being mean by refusing kisses. Perhaps if she doesn’t like kisses, she isn’t even a lovebird after all. Rissy tells her mother, “Kissies make my tummy icky. I feel worried, weird, and wrong. If I can’t show love with kissies, then I’ll never quite belong.” But, does Rissy’s not liking kisses really mean she can’t ever show her affection for others? Why of course not! That would be silly. Rissy’s mother comforts her, tells Rissy she’s a lovebird “through and through.” She explains, “Your body and your heart are yours, and you choose how to share. You get to pick the ways you want to show us that you care.”

With this reassurance, Rissy is able to speak up for herself and show others the way she feels comfortable sharing her love. She braces her wings in a heart shape and pulls out a homemade card. While she isn’t one for kisses, she loves to make cookies, sing with friends, give feather fives, and hold wings. She realizes it’s okay – we all like different things!

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Image copyright Jess Engle, 2021, text copyright Katey Howes, 2021. Courtesy of Carolrhoda Books.

Author Katey Howes draws on her experience with neuro-diverse children and adults to provide a story that normalizes issues of sensory processing, bodily autonomy, and consent. Rissy is a loveable narrator who will make readers and caregivers alike giggle and smile as the story provides a gentle way to jumpstart conversations about limits and differences.

Jess Engle’s beautiful water-colored lovebirds show clear emotional responses, allowing for kids to easily connect to the feelings in the story beyond just the words. Through subtleties in the pictures, she captures Rissy’s confusion surrounding forms of affection and how lovebirds can show their love. Additionally, the illustrations add depth to the storyline. For example, on the first page Rissy is shown coloring a card with the image of a lovebird and a heart while Miss Bluebird visits with her mother. When Miss Bluebird later admonishes Rissy for refusing a kiss, Rissy’s card appears crumpled and hidden behind her back. The card motif returns at the end, when Rissy declares that making cards is one of the ways she enjoys sharing her love. Together, Howes and Engle have created an accessible story that can help everyone feel loved in a better and comfier way—what could possibly be sweeter?!

Rissy No Kissies provides a platform to empower children to discuss what makes them feel good and how they like to show their love best. With Jess Engle’s gorgeous painted pages and Katey Howes’ singing AB rhyme scheme, Rissy’s story is a joy for all. The book is filled with love, wisdom, kind dialogue, and little hearts brimming from the pages. Following the story there is one note for kids, and another for caregivers; both offer guidance on how to respect one’s personal boundaries and others. Rissy No Kissies teaches that it’s never too early to teach listening and caring practices and the power of consent.

Rissy No Kissies is highly recommended for home libraries and a must for school and public library picture book or family issues collections.

Ages 4 – 9

Carolrhoda Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1541597983

Discover more about Katey Howes and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jess Engle, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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Consent Heart Coloring Page & Activities

 

Love can be shown in so many ways! Share what’s in your heart with this printable coloring page! Parents, teachers, and other caregivers can engage with their kids on the issue of consent with more activities and coloring pages found at SafeSecureKids.org.

Consent Heart Coloring Page

Baby Love Birds

You’ll fall in love with the baby love birds in this video!

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You can find Rissy No Kissies at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 21 – World Music Day

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About the Holiday

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

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

Written by Anne Rockwell | Illustrated by Colin Bootman

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 6 – 10

Carolrhoda Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-0761355656

World Music Day Activity

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It’s Instrumental Word Search

 

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