December 10 – Jane Addams Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2007 and commemorates the day in 1931 when Jane Addams became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work to bring about social change, equality, and peace. Each year the Jane Addams Peace Association presents awards to outstanding children’s books that promote peace and justice. To learn more about Jane Addams and the Jane Addams Peace Association, visit janeaddamspeace.org.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams

Written by Tanya Lee Stone | Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

 

On a busy street stands a very special house where anyone is welcome and some find a home. In 1889 Jane Addams, a wealthy young woman, bought an elegant house in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Why? At just six years old on a trip with her father, Jane “noticed that not everyone lived like her family did.” Right then she vowed that when she grew older, she would live in a poor community and “find a way to fix the world.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane was brave and strong. Sometimes she and her stepbrother George would “sneak away at night to explore in nearby caves.” Jane was also smart and “read and read her father’s book collection,” which also served as the town library. Unlike most women at the time, Jane went to college. She attended Rockford Female Seminary and “graduated at the top of her class.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

After graduation, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, and when her father died that same summer, “Jane felt lost.” Two years later some friends invited her to travel to Europe with them. Although they went to the opera, museums, and many beautiful places, it was an experience in London that stuck with her. There she saw many “people in ragged clothes with outstretched hands, begging a cart vendor to buy his rotten fruits and vegetables that hadn’t sold at the market.” 

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When Jane returned home, the question of how she could help nagged at her. She returned to London to learn about Toynbee Hall, where poor and wealthy people lived together and learned from each other. Here, skills, such as cooking, were taught to provide people with the education to find jobs. Toynbee Hall was called a settlement house, because the rich people who worked there lived there as well.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane now knew what she wanted to do. In 1889 Chicago was a diverse city with a large immigrant population. Many didn’t speak English, which made it hard for them to find jobs. “Large families were crammed into ramshackle houses with no running water.” Garbage lay in the street, and tough kids ran wild with nothing else to do.

Jane found a large house in the middle of one of these areas that had once belonged to Charles J. Hull and upon his death had been given to his cousin, Helen Culver.  When Helen discovered what Jane wanted to do, she donated the house for free. Jane left the house unlocked, letting people know that they could come there whenever they needed. In time, people did find their way to Hull House when they were hungry or out of work. Jane also had her own way of dealing with unruly children or those who didn’t understand her generosity. Once when a man broke into Hull House twice because he had no job and no money, Jane gave him a job.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane helped the neighborhood in other ways too. She built a public bath so that people could stay clean and avoid illness. She convinced “public officials to build more public baths.” Because children had nowhere to play, Jane convinced a neighbor to give her his unused lot near Hull House. She tore down the buildings and built Chicago’s first playground. For kids whose parents worked long hours, she started a morning kindergarten and after school clubs. She also began offering evening classes for children who worked during the day.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane had help with her endeavors. Her friend “Ellen Gates Starr was her partner from the start.” Many other people also helped. They moved into Hull House and “taught literature, art, English, math, science, and cooking.” Hull House continued to grow, and by 1907 Jane oversaw thirteen buildings, including “a gymnasium, coffee house, theater, music school, community kitchen, and an art gallery.”

By the early 1920’s more than 9,000 people visited Hull House every week. Jane’s work “changed a bad neighborhood into a great and strong community.” Today, you can still see Jane Addams’ commitment to others in the community centers that bring people together in nearly every city and town.

An Author’s Note with more information on Jane Addams follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-house-that-jane-built-playground

Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Tanya Lee Stone brings the story of Jane Addams’ work in Chicago to children in a compelling biography that gives readers a fully developed portrait of this most amazing woman. Stone’s active and evocative language puts children in the Hull House neighborhood, allowing them to get a feeling for and understanding of the issues of the time. Stone’s excellent examples of how Jane Addams responded to a variety of problems facing her community and even Hull House itself, demonstrate how generosity, empathy, and kindness can make positive changes in people’s lives. Depictions of Jane’s early compassion and commitment give children a sense that they too can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Kathryn Brown’s riveting illustrations capture Jane’s early moments of concern for others, bravery, and study that informed her adult life; times of decision and cooperation that led to the establishment of Hull House; scenes of poverty, upheaval, and need that touched Jane’s heart; and images of her successes in Chicago that inspired others around the country. Brown’s softly hued watercolors are beautifully infused with realistic period details and honest emotion that provide readers with a strong foundation for understanding and appreciating the life of Jane Addams.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams is an inspiring choice for children with a philanthropic heart and to open discussions on how one person can make a difference. The book would be a welcome addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0805090499

To learn more about Tanya Lee Stone and her books, visit her website.

You can view a gallery of illustration work by Kathryn Brown on her website

Jane Addams Day Activity

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Jane Addams Coloring Page Poster

 

Jane Addams is an inspiration to all! Print this Jane Addams Coloring Page and hang it in your room or locker to inspire you to make a difference and be a positive influence in your community!

Picture Book Review

December 6 – It’s Computer Science Education Week

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About the Holiday

Computer Science Education Week was launched in 2009 to raise awareness of the importance of computer coding in all careers and to invite people to learn how to code. Students from kindergarten to grade 12 are especially encouraged to take an interest in computer science and learn coding skills and also to take part in Hour of Code programs at school and elsewhere. The holiday is celebrated in December to honor computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who was born December 9, 1906 and went on to become a United States Navy rear admiral. Her work with machine-independent programming languages led to the development of COBOL, and she was instrumental in many other early computer-related advancements. To celebrate this week, check out Hour of Code and try coding for yourself!

Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing

Written by Dean Robbins | Illustrated by Lucy Knisley

 

“Margaret Hamilton loved to solve problems.” When she looked around, she saw many things that made her wonder “why?” Instead of going with the status quo, though, she came up with her own answers. Some things she questioned were why girls didn’t play baseball and why there were so few women doctors, scientists, judges and other professionals. So Margaret joined the baseball team and studied “hard in every subject at school—reading, music, art, and especially mathematics.”

From her father who was a poet and philosopher, Margaret learned about the universe. She wanted to know “how the planets moved, when the galaxies formed, and why the stars shone.” She loved to gaze “at the night sky in wonder.” She especially wanted to know more about the moon—how far away is it? How many miles is its orbit around the Earth? What is its diameter?

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

In school, Margaret found it fun to solve “harder and harder math problems” in algebra, geometry, and calculus. “And then she discovered computers!” She realized that she could use computers to solve so many of her questions about the universe. She began writing code and called herself a software engineer. After starting with simple mathematical problems, Margaret moved on to writing code that “could track airplanes through the clouds,” predict the weather, and perform functions they never had before.

In 1964 she joined the team at NASA that was working on sending astronauts to the moon. In writing her code, “Margaret thought of everything that could happen on a trip to the moon.” What if the spacecraft went off course or lost power? What if one of the astronauts made a mistake? Margaret wrote code that could solve all of these problems and more. Soon Margaret was leading a team of her own as “Director of Software Programming for NASA’s Project Apollo.”

She was instrumental in helping Apollo 8 orbit the moon, Apollo 9 hook up with another ship in space, and Apollo 10 come “within nine miles of the moon’s surface.” When NASA was ready to land people on the moon, Margaret wrote the code. She thought of every problem that could arise and included a solution. The printout of her code stood taller than she was.

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Image copyright Lucy Knisley, 2017, text copyright Dean Robbins, 2017. Courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

On the day of Apollo 11’s launch, Margaret was in the control room while the world watched on television. It took four days for the spacecraft to reach the moon. Finally, the lunar module, Eagle, separated and was ready to make the landing. But just as it was about to descend, an astronaut flipped a switch that sent the Eagle’s computer into overload.

Had Margaret “prepared for this problem? Of course! Margaret’s code made the computer ignore the extra tasks and focus on the landing.” Slowly the Eagle approached the surface of the moon and touched down. “The Eagle has landed!” Neil Armstrong announced to an amazed audience. In NASA’s control room, everyone cheered. “Margaret was a hero!”

An Author’s Note with more information about and photographs of Margaret Hamilton follow the text.

With excellent examples from Margaret Hamilton’s childhood and adult life, Dean Robbins presents an accessible and compelling biography that reveals, from the beginning, Margaret’s curiosity, confidence, and convictions. Robbin’s focus on Margaret’s hard work, her excitement at discovering computers, and her leadership at NASA creates a narrative that is inspirational for all children. His emphasis on positive, affirming events in Margaret’s life is welcome, allowing girls and boys to realize that through dedication and self-assurance, they can achieve their goals just as Margaret—a superb role model—did.

Lucy Knisley’s bright, supportive illustrations, full of thought bubbles of Margaret’s ideas and wonderings, give readers the kinds of details that will spark their imaginations and help them understand and appreciate Margaret Hamilton’s many gifts and expertise. Images of mathematical problems give way to lines of code, helping children see the connection between what they’re learning at school and future careers. Kids interested in space exploration will be enthralled with the illustrations of the NASA control room and lunar launches.

For kids interested in computer science and other sciences, biographies, and history, Margaret and the Moon is an excellent addition to home as well as classroom and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0399551857

Discover more about Dean Robbins and his books on his website.

To learn more about Lucy Knisley, her artwork, books, and comic, visit her website.

Computer Science Education Week Activity

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I Love Computers! Coloring Page

 

Learning to code is awesome! Why not try an Hour of Code here and then color this printable I Love Computers! Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

November 4 – It’s Historic Bridge Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Bridges can do so much more than just take vehicles and people over waterways or highways. Many are beautiful structures that enhance the skyline or environment in which they’re found. Covered bridges, stone bridges, and soaring steel and cable bridges all inspire awe in their own way. Unfortunately, many older bridges are slated for destruction or replacement. To honor this month’s holiday, visit a historic bridge in your area or research famous bridges of the past and present.

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

Written by Dave Eggers | Illustrated by Tucker Nichols

 

“In the beginning there was a bridge.” Well, to back up a bit there was a bay that led to the Pacific Ocean. The opening between the two shores that enclosed the bay was called the Golden Gate. “On one side of the Golden Gate was the Presidio, a military base at the top of the city of San Francisco. On the other side there were only hills, green and yellow, rising high above the sea.” Beyond these hills towns dotted the coastline.

People traveled between these shores by boat or by driving way out of their way. Many times people had thought about building a bridge across the bay, but they were afraid it would ruin the beauty of the land. At last it was decided that a bridge should be built. The year was 1928 and Joseph Strauss, an expert on bridges, was hired to design it. What he came up with looked more like the skeleton of a roller coaster, and while it would be strong, it would also be ugly.

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Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

People agreed that for such a beautiful spot, a beautiful bridge was needed. Joseph Strauss then asked for help in developing a plan for the bridge. Leon Moisseiff, known for designing the Manhattan Bridge in New York, came on board. Leon’s idea was for “a suspension bridge, one with swooping lines and tall towers.” The drawings were light and airy and…beautiful. People liked it very much.

“But still the bridge appeared a bit stern in style. So Joseph and Leon asked another person, named Irving Morrow, to help out.” Irving and his wife Gertrude had a different idea about what the bridge could be. With vertical fluting, “art deco flourishes,” pedestrian walkways, and curved lamps lighting the way, “the bridge could be both a bridge and something like art.”

Steelworkers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey built the pieces of the bridge. They were shipped to California by train and by boat. Finally, it was time to construct the bridge. Men had to dive deep into the icy waters of the Pacific Ocean and climb high into the sky while constructing it. It was estimated that it would take 4 years and thousands of workers to finish it.

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Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

First the tall towers were constructed. The day they were finished was one of “jubilation” and awe as“sometimes the things humans make baffle even the humans who make them. One aspect of the bridge that had not been decided was the color, and many people had opinions on that. “The Navy thought it should be yellow and black so that ships and planes could easily see it.”

“The Army wanted it to look like a candy cane for the same reason the Navy wanted it to look like a tiger with jaundice: so that it would be easily seen by planes and ships.” Most people, though, thought the bridge should be painted black, white, or gray like most other monuments, towers, and buildings. Right now, the bridge was orange—coated with a special anti-rust paint. As Irving Morrow watched the bridge go up, he thought this orange was a beautiful color.

He suggested that the bridge be allowed to stay this color. Others thought he was “nuts.” Never had there been an orange bridge before, “and for a good portion of the human race, because something has not already been, that is a good reason to fear it coming to be.” But the people of San Francisco began to see things Irving’s way. Still, gray seemed to be the safe choice.

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Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

Irving, who was usually a shy and quiet sort, began to get vocal about his color preference as the completion date of the bridge came closer. Other’s began to echo his thoughts and arguments. “This bridge will not be gray!” they said. At last “the powers that be” agreed with Irving. The bridge remained orange: International Orange, in fact.

But because the wind, rain, and sun are harsh on the orange bridge, it needs to be repainted every year. Every day some part of it is being painted by dedicated workers. Is that crazy? Maybe, “But people love to paint it, and people love to look at it. The Golden Gate Bridge, which is orange, is the best-known and best-loved bridge in the world” because it is “bold and courageous and unusual and even strange.”

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Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

San Francisco resident Dave Eggers has written a loving tribute not only about the very distinctive Golden Gate Bridge but to the equally distinctive, quirky, and even courageous Irving Morrow, other architects, and people of the Bay area who saw and championed art where others may only have seen function. Passages of straightforward narration are joined by rivets of whimsically inserted dialogue, soaring description, and moving insight to construct a lyrical story of vision and inspiration that both kids and adults will find fascinating.  

Tucker Nichols’ paper cut illustrations are as playful and full of imagination as a kindergarten classroom. Using simple shapes and a gorgeous palette Nichols crafts portraits, collages, and landscapes that are movingly effective in depicting the San Francisco Bay area, the rising Golden Gate Bridge, and the personalities involved in this fun history of a beloved monument.

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray is a must for school and public libraries, a wonderfully inspiring addition to children’s bookshelves, and a colorful coffee table book for any home.

Ages 4 – 10 and up

McSweeney’s, 2015 | ISBN 978-1940450476

Click here to learn more about Tucker Nichols and his work.

Historic Bridge Awareness Month Activity

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Golden Gate Bridge Coloring Page

 

Get out your markers, colored pencils, or crayons and color this printable Golden Gate Bridge Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

October 7 – Random Acts of Poetry Day

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About the Holiday

Today is set aside for all of those professional and private poets to unleash their imaginations and create poetry! As the name of the holiday suggests, these poems can be random – random subjects, random format, written or spoken in a random place. If writing isn’t really your thing but reading is, take a little time to read a favorite poem or poet or discover a new one! 

enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings

Written by Matthew Burgess | Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo

 

Hello! Welcome to 4 Patchin Place, the home of poet E. E. Cummings! This is where he wrote his poetry on a clackety typewriter, stopping only for tea poured out by the love of his life, Marion Moorehouse. How did he become a poet? That is an interesting story! E. E. was born Edward Estlin Cummings on October 14, 1894 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His house was full of extended family, a handyman, a maid, and several pets. From an early age he loved to translate the things he saw into words. “His first poem flew out of his mouth when he was only three: “‘Oh, my little / birdie, Oh / with his little / toe, toe, toe!’”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

Estlin’s mother wrote down all the poems he told her and made a little book of them titled “‘Estlin’s Original Poems.’” When he was six, he expressed his love of nature in a poem about trees, and when his mother asked him what else he saw, he “looked around as if his eyes were on tiptoes and when his heart jumped he said another poem: ‘On the chair is sitting / Daddy with his book. / Took it from the bookcase / Beaming in his look.’”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

As he grew, Estlin was fascinated by the animals he saw at the circus and in the zoo. He drew pictures of them and wrote about them, using the words he loved so well—and even making up his own words. Estlin had a zest for life and for making life fun for himself and his little sister. During the summers the family traveled to Joy Farm in New Hampshire, where Estlin swam, milked the cow, rode a donkey, and wandered through the fields and forest. His father had built him a little log cabin in the woods, and in the afternoons Estlin went there to draw and write. At home he also had a special place all his own. In an enormous tree his father built a tree house, complete with stove to keep him warm on cold days.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Estlin had support for his writing at school too. His favorite teacher encouraged him saying, “anything is possible, / as long as you are true to yourself / and never give up, even when the world / seems to say, stop!” From his Uncle George, Estlin received a guide to writing poems. Estlin followed the rules in the book, penning poems nearly every day. When Estlin was 17 he attended Harvard College and began publishing his poems in the school’s magazines. While at Harvard, Estlin realized he had to follow his heart to be happy. He wanted to be like the new artists who were shaping the world—people like Gertrude Stein, Paul Cezanne, and Igor Stravinsky, “artists who were,” he once said, “challenging the way we think and see.”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books

After he graduated, Estlin returned home, but when he had saved enough money he moved to New York and fell in love with the city immediately. He and his friends took in everything new the city had to offer. Soon, however, the United States entered World War II. On April 17, 1917 Estlin volunteered to be an ambulance driver in France. Before he received his assignment, though, he had time to explore Paris. He was “bowled over by the museums, the ballet, and the colorful, crowded streets.” He enjoyed the city so much he returned often during his lifetime.

During the war, Estlin was mistaken for a spy and sent to prison for several months. After the war he wrote a book about his experiences titled The Enormous Room by E. E. Cummings. “The book was published and praised! Estlin was becoming E. E.!” A year later he published his first book of poetry—Tulips & Chimneys. In his poems he experimented with punctuation and using lower case letters instead of capitals.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Through his fanciful typography, E. E. “wanted his reader’s eyes to be on tiptoes too, seeing and reading poetry (inaway) that was new.” But some people didn’t understand or like his poetry; it was too strange and too small, they said. But E. E. knew he had to stay true to himself. He believed that “his poems were new and true” and “were his way of saying YES” to everything he loved. As time went on more and more people began to “see the beauty of E. E.’s poetry, and he became one of the most beloved poets in America.”

E. E. Cummings lived and worked at 4 Patchin Place for almost 40 years, but in his mind he would often return to his childhood home. He “could still see himself as a boy gazing out at the sunset”—a memory that he put into words: who are you,little i / (five or six years old) / peering from some high / window;at the gold / of November sunset / (and feeling:that if day has to become night / this is a beautiful way).”

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of matthewjohnburgess.com

Simply put, Matthew Burgess’s enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is a biography that will make you smile. Upbeat and full of the wonder and whimsy that influenced Estlin Cummings’ prodigious talent, the story encourages readers to always follow their heart. Burgess’s easy-going, conversational style invites kids along on the journey of Cumming’s life, stopping off at points that resonate with kids—early imaginary play, school, family vacations, home life, college, travel, and ultimate success. Seeing the support Cummings received throughout his life will inspire young readers just starting out on their own roads of discovery.

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Image copyright Kris Di Giacomo, 2015, text copyright Matthew Burgess, 2015. Courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books.

Kris Di Giacomo’s enchanting illustrations will immediately capture the imagination of readers. The playful quality of Cummings’ personality and poems is mirrored in each spread as a variety of children’s drawings and  eye-catching typography are sprinkled throughout. As six-year-old Estlin composes poems for his mother, he stands on tiptoe in his nightshirt surrounded by toys; he experiences life from rooftop and treetop and gazes into the night from his tree house; New York lights up with fireworks and the lights of Broadway; and his poems spring from the pages in their own inimitable way.

A chronology of E. E. Cummings’ life, five poems, and an Author’s Note follow the text.

For children interested in writing, biographies, history, the arts, and the life of the imagination, enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings is an inspiring choice for their home bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Enchanted Lion Publishing, 2015 | ISBN 978-1592701711

To learn more about Matthew Burgess, his books, and his poetry, visit his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Kris Di Giacomo on her website!

Random Acts of Poetry Day Activity

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Grow a Poem

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

September 12 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Discovering a new book is one of the joys of life! Right now bookstores everywhere are filled with books waiting for you to take them home, open the cover, and start reading. Whether you find a new book published just this year or one that’s older but new to you, take the opportunity of this month’s holiday to add to your home library. Children especially benefit from reading new and classic books—and thanks to the subject of today’s book, they have plenty to choose from!

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

 

With a hearty “Welcome!” readers are invited to explore—and appreciate—the pages, pictures, words, and even individual letters that make up the book they’re holding. Back in time, a book like this didn’t exist. How far back? Well, let’s return to 1726…. “In those days of powdered wigs and petticoats, England was brimming with books.” There were exciting tales about imaginary places, sailing voyages, mysterious happenings, “pirates, monsters and miniature people”—for adults. What did kids read? Their books were all about teaching them how to have good manners and how to live a good life because death was always near. Scary stuff and not much fun at all!

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Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

One of the children reading these books was John Newbery who, despite the dreariness, loved to read more than he liked to do his chores. When he grew up, he left the family farm and went to work for a printer. After he learned the business, he became a publisher himself. He moved from his small town to “London, center of the bookselling trade.”

Soon, he found the perfect storefront on a busy street and opened his shop. He had a dream of publishing books for every taste—and for children too. “He knew the youngsters were hungry for stories. Many boys and girls handed coppers to street hawkers for ugly chapbooks of fairy tales, or for chopped-up versions of grown-up books.” When John Newbery tried to offer good books for children, however, the adults balked. They were afraid “that if their little nippers read fun books, they’d turn wild as beasts!”

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Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“Balderdash!” John Newbery said. And others agreed. Two publishers issued books of alphabet rhymes and stories, and another published some books of nonfiction. But “John wanted his first book for children to be irresistible.” The books he created included pictures of fun children’s games, enjoyable ways to learn ABCs and other subjects, and fantasy stories. He even wrote a note to moms and dads to alleviate any fears.

The covers of his books were colorful and attractive and carried the title “A Pretty Little Pocket-Book.” To further entice kids and their parents, John offered to sell books along with a toy for a very good price. John wondered if his books would look “too cheerful,” but “the children gobbled them up like plum cakes.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-balderdash!-john-newbery-and-the-boisterous-birth-of-children's-books-kids-with-books

Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

As customers bought books in the front of his shop, John created new books in the back. In addition to fiction books, he began printing books on math, science, and other subjects. With the books a success, John Newbery turned his thoughts and his press towards creating a magazine for children, and, finally, a novel. The novel was titled The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes and was a rags-to-riches story about a little girl who succeeded through “study, hard work, and kindness.” It showed children that they too could achieve their dreams. The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes was a hit in England and America.

While the authors of John Newbery’s books were all anonymous or had “silly, made-up names,” it wasn’t hard for people to figure out who was really creating the books that brought their children so much joy and made their lives better.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-balderdash!-john-newbery-and-the-boisterous-birth-of-children's-books-newbery's-shop

Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017. text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

An Author’s Note about John Newbery as well as a resources page follow the text.

Kids will love Michelle Markel’s entertainingly informative book that takes them back to a time when the unthinkable was reality. Markel’s charming text is as infectious as John Newbery’s love of books, and readers will laugh at how kids’ books were once perceived. Her conversational tone and bemusement at the state of publishing at the time creates a warm reading experience—like a secret shared between friends.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-balderdash!-john-newbery-and-the-boisterous-birth-of-children's-books-kids

Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017. text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Nancy Carpenter infuses Balderdash! with the sights, dress, activities, and flavor of the time period in her pen-and-ink illustrations. Humor abounds, from the little boy overflowing with tears in the corner of the first page to a young John Newbery relishing the feel and smell of newly printed pages to parents pulling their children away from “dangerous” books. Along the way, kids will want to scope out all the details on each page. A variety of typefaces and sizes further enhances the humor and ambience of the book.

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books would make a great addition to home libraries for kids interested in books, history, and innovation. Teachers will also find the book to be a perfect beginning for language arts or history units.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0811879224

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website!

Read a New Book Month Activity

I Have the Reading Bug! Bookplate and Bookmark

 

Do you have the reading bug like John Newbery? If so, here’s a bookplate and bookmark for you to print to show your love of books!

I Have the Reading Bug Bookmark | I Have the Reading Bug Bookplate

Picture Book Review

August 29 – It’s American Artist Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the artists who interpret the unique history, culture, and people of America in ways that bring new meaning and insight to those who interact with it. To celebrate, visit your local art museum or take a trip to another city to view peices you’ve never seen before. The dynamics of seeing art up close provides new perspectives and appreciation.

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey | Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

 

As a child, Maya Lin loved playing and interacting with nature near her home. She and her brother liked to run over what Maya had named “the Lizard’s Back”—a hill behind her house—and into the woods. Sometimes Maya went into the woods alone and “sat as still as a statue, hoping to tame rabbits, raccoons, chipmunks, and squirrels.” She liked to play chess with her brother and build towns from scraps of paper, boxes, books, and other things she found around the house.

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya’s “parents had fled China at a time when people were told what to be and how to think.” They did not want the same for their children and always encouraged Maya to be and think what she wanted. Maya grew up surrounded by art. Her father worked with clay, and her mother was a poet. Maya also liked to make things with her hands. The beautiful library where she went to college inspired Maya to become an architect.

To learn about different buildings, Maya traveled all over the world. When she was only a senior in college, “Maya entered a contest to design a memorial to honor soldiers who died during the Vietnam War.” The contest stated two rules: the memorial had to fit in with a park-like setting, and it had to include the 58,000 names of the soldiers who had died in the war. These rules resonated with Maya. She “believed that a name brings back all the memories of a person, more than a photo of a moment in time.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maya-lin-artist-architect-of-light-and-lines-as-young-girl

Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya visited the site where the memorial would be built. As she looked at the gently rolling hill, she envisioned a simple cut in the earth that would support a polished wall covered in names. Not only would the wall reflect those who died, but also those who came to visit and the surrounding nature. At school, Maya worked with mashed potatoes and then with clay to help her create the perfect monument. When she had finished her drawings and plans, she wrote an essay to accompany them. She wrote that her monument would be “a place to be experienced by walking down, then up past names that seemed to go on forever.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maya-lin-artist-architect-of-light-and-lines-with-parents

Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

More than 1,400 artists and architects—many of them famous—entered the contest. The designs were hung in an airplane hangar anonymously for judging. Finally, the day came for the announcement of the winner. When the judges called out Maya Lin’s name and she came forward, they were surprised to find that she was so young. Maya was excited to have won, but then some people began to object to her design. Some said her “design looked like a bat, a boomerang, a black gash of shame.”

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya was hurt by these comments, but she defended her design and, finally, it was approved. Maya worked with the architects and engineers who excavated the land and built the wall. As each granite panel was polished, engraved with the soldiers’ names, and set in place, Maya looked on. The memorial opened on Veterans Day in 1982. Thousands of people came to see it and to find the names of loved ones they had lost. As Maya approached the wall, “she searched for the name of the father of a friend. When she touched the name, she cried, just as she knew others would.” Every day since then visitors come to the wall to remember.

Maya Lin has gone on to design many more works of art and architecture that can be seen inside and outside. Each piece has a name and a particular vision. Maya wants people to interact with her art—to touch it; read, walk, or sit near it; or think about it. After each piece is finished, Maya thinks about her next work and how she can inspire the people who will see it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maya-lin-artist-architect-of-light-and-lines-Vietnam-War-Memorial

Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

An Author’s Note about Maya Lin and the Vietnam War Memorial follows the text.

Jeanne Walker Harvey has written an inspiring biography of Maya Lin that reveals not only her creativity but the importance of creative freedom for children. Lin’s confidence that led her to enter the contest and then defend her winning design will encourage readers to pursue their dreams. Harvey’s lyrical storytelling reflects Maya Lin’s quiet, introspective nature, the influences that nurtured her creative spirit, and her dedication to inviting others to be part of her art.

Dow Phumiruk’s graceful, soft-hued illustrations allow children to follow Maya Lin as she grows from a girl discovering nature, constructing cardboard cities, and learning the arts from her parents to a young woman who draws inspiration from the world’s buildings and relies on her own sensitivity to guide her. Back-to-back pages of the landscape of Vietnam and the site of the memorial connect the two places for children’s better understanding. Phumiruk’s depictions of the Vietnam War Memorial also give children an excellent view of this moving monument. Her images of Lin’s other architectural work will entice young readers to learn more about her and to explore where each of these pieces can be found.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt & Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1250112491

Discover more about Jeanne Walker Harvey and her books on her website!

Learn more about Dow Phumiruk, her art, and her books on her website!

American Artist Appreciation Month Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-picture-frame

Fantastic Frame

 

Every great work of art deserves the perfect frame to display it. With a frame ready to decorate from a craft store and a few materials, you can create a Fantastic Frame for any of your drawings or photos!

Ideas for Decorating

  • Stickers
  • Decorative buttons
  • Small objects
  • Shells
  • Markers, crayons, or paint
  • Stencils
  • Washi Tape

Picture Book Review

November 20 – National Absurdity Day

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About the Holiday

Absurdity is all around us. It can make us laugh, make us mad, and make us see people and events with a new perspective. Today’s holiday gives us the opportunity to embrace absurdity in all its forms. You can spend the day doing something ridiculous, reading absurdist literature, or maybe listening to the music composed by the subject of today’s book!

Strange Mr. Satie: Composer of the Absurd

Written by M. T. Anderson | Illustrated by Petra Mathers

 

Born in 1866 in France, Erik Satie was a man of contradictions. “‘I was born very young in a very old world,’” he once remarked, and some thought that he never really grew up but always remained “a child with an old man’s smile.” This dichotomy even influenced the kind of music he liked to compose. Even as a child Satie loved music, and as he grew older he wanted to create music that was “both very young and very old, very bold and very shy, that followed no rules but its own.”

Satie liked to combine dissonant styles, such as chants and chorus line tunes. His listeners, with their fancy clothes, impeccable manners, and preconceived notions didn’t understand or like Satie’s “strange” music. On his part Satie found most people frightening and confusing. As a young man he moved to Paris where he made friends. One of his friends took him to a café called Le Chat Noir or The Black Cat. The café, with its resident cat, upstairs theater, and hidden poet’s skeleton attracted poets, artists, dancers, “wizards, and wisecrackers,” who would gather to share their work. Some had invented “luminous hats” while others had “schemes to cover the oceans with cork so they could travel from New York to France.”

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Image copyright Petra Mathers, text copyright M. T. Anderson. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Satie liked Le Chat Noir. He played the piano and people listened—without laughing, without even moving, just allowing themselves to feel happy or sad or as if they were in a dream. Feeling accepted in this atmosphere, Satie wrote his most famous pieces for the piano—the Gymnopédies. His unusual songs for parties, puppet shows, and other occasions had equally unusual titles: one was called “The Dreamy Fish,” another “In a Horse Costume,” and still another “Real Flabby Preludes (for a Dog).” Instead of the usual instructions composers wrote for musicians, Satie included instructions like “‘On yellowing velvet’ and ‘I want a hat of solid mahogany.’”

One day at Le Chat Noir, Erik Satie “met an artist and model Suzanne Valadon and fell in love with her.” The only problem was that she already had a boyfriend—a wealthy lawyer. Satie simply invited himself along on their dates. Satie made friends, but he also lost them easily due to his terrible temper. He yelled at his friends when they didn’t like his music, when they did like his music, and for many small perceived grievances in between. He and Suzanne fought frequently until she left him forever.

Erik Satie seemed more “like a visitor” on Earth than one of its citizens. His wardrobe consisted of “seven identical grey velvet suits and that was all.” Instead of washing with soap, he used a stone, and his room was so small he had to climb on the bed just to get in the door. By this time Satie was in his late 30s and had never learned the rules of music. He realized that he needed to go back to school. After graduating he took to wearing suits and carrying an umbrella. He looked “normal” on the outside, but his eyes still gleamed with the unique creativity inside him.

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Image copyright Petra Mathers, text copyright M. T. Anderson. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

In 1917 Satie and his friends wrote and performed a ballet called Parade with sets designed by Pablo Picasso. The story of the ballet was dramatic and the music was peculiar—played on xylophones, typewriters, and sirens. The audiences and critics disliked it intensely; it caused fights and insults. Satie even came close to going to jail over his rude response to a critic.

In 1924 Satie wrote another ballet called Cancelled, which featured a movie and a real camel, and became a self-fulfilling prophesy when on opening night the lead dancer actually worried himself sick and the ballet was cancelled. When the ballet opened a few nights later, however, the audience loved it and, finally, Satie heard long-sought applause. Soon afterward Satie became sick and was taken to the hospital. He died on July 1.

Poets, artists, and musicians came from all over to attend Erik Satie’s funeral. They wanted to honor this most unique man who lived life on his own terms and whose music influenced famous composers in the future.

T. Anderson’s honest and entertaining biography of Erik Satie depicts the quirkiness of the composer’s life through well-chosen anecdotes that will have readers laughing, shaking their heads, and empathizing with this man of extraordinary brilliance. While Satie’s personality and creativity made for a topsy-turvy existence, Anderson combines lyrical passages with those of straight narration sprinkled with expressive adjectives and verbs to clearly paint a portrait of this most unusual and influential composer.

Petra Mathers brings to life late 1800s and early 1900s France as well as the unusual music Erik Satie composes. In vivid illustrations Satie is seen mingling with the patrons of Le Chat Noir, joining Suzanne Valadon on her dates, sitting in his small room and classroom, and giving vent to his argumentative nature. As Satie cannot be separated from his music, his pieces are depicted here. Disparate objects—candles, balls, bells, dice, question marks, dominoes, and more—burst out of a piano and into and out of listeners’ ears; a performer in the ballet Parade cross the stage wearing a costume of skyscrapers; and the ballet Cancelled with its smoking canon and live camel results in flower-strewn acclaim.

Ages 6 – 10

Candlewick Press, 2016 (reprint edition) | ISNB 978-0763687755

Visit M. T. Anderson‘s website to learn more about his books for children, teens, and adults. Plus you’ll find videos, interviews, wallpapers, and more gimmicks!

National Absurdity Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dancing-alligator-coloring-page

Really Ridiculous Coloring Pages

 

Have you every seen a frog in a suit or a dancing alligator? Absurd, right? Have fun with these printable Really Ridiculous Coloring Pages!

Frog Coloring Page | Alligator Coloring Page