July 7 – Tell the Truth Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday envisions a day when there is no dishonesty or deception of any kind and encourages people to clear the air if there are hard feelings or to tell truths, even if they’re hard. If there is an honest statement you need to say, today may be the perfect opportunity to discuss it.

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective

Written by Marissa Moss | Illustrated by April Chu

 

As Kate read the newspaper advertisement from the Pinkerton Agency for the third time, she knew that this was the job for her. It said: “Wanted: Detective. Must be observant, determined, fearless, and willing to travel.” But in 1856 no one would hire a single woman, so Kate decided to present herself as a widow.

Kate had been raised by her father, a printer. Books had always been her companions, and she knew how to make up a story—even the story of her life. “So Kate Carter became Kate Warne…exactly the kind of person you’d want to hire as a detective.” As soon as she walked through the door, Allan Pinkerton began writing down his impressions of Kate. He thought she was a client seeking help. From her manner and appearance, he knew he would take her case—whatever it was.

But when Kate told him she was applying for a job, he told her he “had no need for a washerwoman or cook.” Kate told him she was there to apply for the detective position. Pinkerton had reservations. The dangerous work was “not at all the sort of thing a woman could do,” he said. But Kate disagreed. She told him that she would be able to go into places his male detectives could not and could be the confidant of women witnesses. Pinkerton told her he would think it over.

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Marissa Moss. Courtesy of Creston Books.

The next day Kate was at the office as soon as it opened. “Today, you’ve made some history,” Pinkerton told her, “You’re now the first woman detective in the country.” He handed her a file marked The Adams Express Case. As she read the case, Kate felt a thrill of excitement. “The Adams Express Company transported money and valuables for businesses all over the South, by rail, steamboat, and stagecoach.” Valuables were well protected by locks that couldn’t be picked.

But $40,000 had disappeared. One suspect stood out from the rest—Nathan Maroney, the manager of the Montgomery office where the packages had come from. He had been the last person to lock up the carrying pouch before the messenger, Mr. Chase, transported it to Atlanta, where it was found to be empty. Maroney was arrested, but there was little hard evidence—only a slit in the pouch that had not been there before Maroney was accused.

Kate considered the problem then remembered the sleight of hand tricks huskers used to fool people. She figured out how Maroney had stolen the money, but they needed more evidence and a confession. While a male agent pretended to be a fellow thief named “John White” in the same jail cell as Maroney, Kate befriended Maroney’s wife, Belle, pretending to be Madame Imbert. While Belle didn’t confess to the theft, she did ask her new friend for advice on where to hide valuables. Kate told her she hid her valuables in the basement or buried them in the garden.

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Marissa Moss. Courtesy of Creston Books.

When Belle left town to visit her husband in jail, Kate took the opportunity to do some snooping at her house. Just as Kate found a freshly dug mound behind crates and barrels in the basement, she heard Belle returning home. She hurriedly put everything back in place and rushed upstairs. Belle was suspicious of the dust on Kate’s dress, and Kate knew she and the other agents had to act fast. She alerted another agent who crawled through the basement window while Belle slept. He tidied up the basement, and the next morning when Belle checked her hiding place, everything was in order. She could still trust her friend she thought.

The Pinkerton Agency plan was going like clockwork. Inside the jail cell, Maroney put his faith—and his money—in the detective’s hands. Maroney wrote to Belle, telling her that John White was going to help them. He instructed her to give John White all the money he had stolen. White was going to plant some of it on Mr. Chase, use some of it to bribe a judge to find Maroney not guilty at trial, and keep the rest for Maroney to collect later. At first, Belle didn’t trust John White, but one sentence from her friend “Madame Imbert” eased her mind and she went along with her husband’s plan.

As the ingenious plan was hatched and carried out, Kate made sure that all the money was secure. The money made its way to the Pinkerton agent “Mr. White” with Belle and Maroney none the wiser. As Maroney’s trial proceeded, and he heard Mr. White called as the first witness, Maroney suddenly changed his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty.” “The reputation of the Pinkerton agency was made. So was Kate Warne’s.”

Kate became one of the agency’s most valuable detectives. She was even put in charge of a women’s division and hired many more women who became “some of Pinkerton’s strongest agents.” But Kate Warne, the first woman detective in America, would always be considered the best.

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Image copyright April Chu, text copyright Marissa Moss. Courtesy of Creston Books.

An Author’s Note explaining more about the Pinkerton Detective Agency and the first woman detective follow the text.

Children who love mysteries will be enthralled with this true tale of the first woman detective in America and her explosive first assignment. Marissa Moss’s suspenseful, compelling storytelling and excellent pacing reveal the facts of the case, Kate’s insightful reasoning, and the clever ruses the agents used in outsmarting and capturing the thief. Moss infuses the story with the feeling of the time period and a sense of pride in this little-known piece of women’s history.

April Chu’s detailed period drawings take kids to the mid-1800s to follow Kate Warne as she solves her first case. Depictions of Kate’s father’s printing press, the dirt roads traversed by horse-drawn wagons and carriages, the Adams Express locked pouches and secure rail car will excite history and mystery buffs. The full cast of characters are clearly portrayed, allowing young readers to become detectives themselves as they see the action through Kate’s eyes. The dramatic finale to the case will have children on the edge of their seats whether they are hearing the story aloud or reading it themselves.

Kate Warne: Pinkerton Detective is a thrilling picture book introduction to both biographies and mysteries for children. It offers a unique look at the contributions of strong women in history and is an excellent selection for school, public, and home libraries.

Ages 5 – 13

Creston Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1939547330

Visit with Marissa Moss on her website to discover more about her, her books, and loads of fun activities!

View a gallery of artwork by April Chu on her website!

Tell the Truth Day Activity

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Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle

 

Do a little sleuthing to find the twenty mystery-related words in this printable Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

June 15 – Smile Power Day

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About the Holiday

We smile at people all day long, don’t we? I mean there’s 🙂  😀  🙂  😉  and so many more! But how about the real kind? Giving a warm smile to a friend, a stranger, or—especially—someone who looks as if they need one, makes everyone feel better! Today, be happy and welcome all with a smile!

Welcome

By Barroux

 

A polar bear is sitting on the edge of an ice floe enjoying some relaxing time with his friends when he hears an ominous noise. “CRACK! The ice breaks! ‘We’re drifting away!’” his friends cry. In no time at all the three polar bears are adrift in the middle of the sea in need of a new home. They float and float, but “the water goes on forever!” To pass the time the friends play games: “‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with W…’”

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

Perhaps days go by. The bears ride out a storm with dark skies and huge waves that threaten to sink them. It’s scary and the trio wants “to find a new home right now!” At last, their ice floe—smaller now—approaches a sandy shore. “Land! We’re saved,” cheer the polar bears. They ask the cows on the beach if they can live there, but the cows take exception. The bears are “too furry…too tall…and too bear-ish.” And with a “Sorry!” the cows turn the weary travelers away.

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

Once again on their own, the bears have no choice but to let the current steer them. With standing room for only one on their icy raft, they near another beach where a single panda relaxes on pillows in the midst of expansive land. “Yes! This could be our new home,” the polar bears shout. The panda ponders the situation for only a moment before stating, “‘…you are too many. Look around, there’s just not enough room! You can’t live here.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-polar-bears-meet-cows

Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

As the polar bears continue on their journey, their “little ice boat has almost melted,” and they are running out of time. They bob next to a tall sea wall. “‘Help us!’” they plead. Behind the wall two giraffes lounge on the beach, too lazy to investigate the noise they hear. The ice floe has melted to a thin disk. The bears are hanging on and about to give up hope when they find an empty island. They jump to shore just in the nick of time and begin enjoying their new home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-polar-bears-adrift

Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

It’s not long before a dinghy floats into view with three monkeys on board. “‘Excuse me, we’re looking for a new home. Can you help us please?’” they ask. The polar bears stop their game of badminton and step forward. “‘Hmmm,’” they think. “‘You are…

Welcome!’”

With vibrant blue, full-bleed pages as wide open as the sea itself and three endearing long-nosed polar bears, Barroux has crafted a poignant tale with depth and far-reaching applications for readers of all ages. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, Welcome stands on its own as an uplifting story of friendship and inclusiveness, but also offers an excellent means for beginning a discussion on the world events that children see and have questions about. Employing a bear’s first person point of view and incorporating a child-centric perspective on travel—from the humor of the I Spy game to the perseverance of the bears—Barroux sets just the right tone for his audience.

With sparse text and repetition of the bears’ simple request, the subject matter is handled with sensitivity, not fright, which allows children to understand that the theme of the story is relevant on many levels. Whether the “traveler” comes from near or far, is a classmate, teammate or neighbor, or is even the reader or someone else feeling adrift in a certain situation, children will see that all deserve welcome.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499804447

You can view a gallery of illustration work for children, adults, and more by Barroux on his website!

Smile Power Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another.

Supplies

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures
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Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Picture Book Review

May 9 – National Moving Month

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About the Holiday

With better weather, kids getting out of school, and more jobs opening up, May begins the busiest season in the moving business. Moving can be both hard and exhilarating—and there’s so much to do! But help is only a phone call away. There are professionals to help you all along the way from selling and finding a house to packing up belongings and transporting them. Somewhere along the way, a yard sale is always in the mix to pass along those items that are no longer needed and to make a little money in the process!

Yard Sale

Written by Eve Bunting | Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 9

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

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

National Moving Month Activity

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Garage Sale Maze

 

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

April 5 – National Read a Road Map Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday is all about those paper maps that have guided travelers along the trails, roads, highways, and biways as they search for adventure or just need to get from here to there. While the little window of GPS may be more prominent now, there’s nothing like opening the wide vista of a paper map and letting your mind wander to far-off places. Old maps are fascinating too, as they reveal the changes in road systems and population over time. Today, rediscover your local area or take an armchair trip to a new locale through a paper map.

The 50 States: Fun Facts

Written by Gabrielle Balkan | Illustrated by Sol Linero

America is one vast country made up of 50 states that are each unique and fascinating in their own way. The history, people, topography, and even weather of each region has resulted in an incredible diversity of animal life, cuisine, transportation, leisure activities, and celebrations across the nation. The 50 States: Fun Facts offers up a patchwork of engaging and enlightening information about each state that will entice kids to learn more about their own home as well as other areas.

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Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

The large-format board book is divided into five two-page spreads, each dedicated to a particular topic. In 50 Animals readers discover that the first Seeing Eye dogs were trained in Nashville, Tennessee; that “the colors of Maryland’s state cat—the Calico Cat—match the state flag”; and that there are so many moose in Wyoming that there’s even a town named Moose! From state to state kids will also learn about the Chinook Dog of New Hampshire, meet white buffalo that roam North Dakota, and view the state insect of Connecticut—the praying mantis, which can turn its head 360 degrees—among many, many more.

Each state is also known for its own, particular mode of transportation. In Alaska the Tlingit Nation builds beautiful canoes, which the people believe are inhabited by their own spirit. If you’re interested in scanning the skies for alien lifeforms, you may want to head to the San Luis Valley of Colorado, which is considered to be prime UFO-spotting territory! If boats are more your thing, you might want to take a houseboat vacation in the lakes around Jamestown, Kentucky, or see a Navy Destroyer at the shipyard in Bath, Maine. Carousel lovers will want to take the road to Rhode Island, where they can catch the gold ring on the Flying Horse Carousel that has been going round and round for nearly 150 years! There are so many more Things That Go on these pages, including trains, trucks, trolleys, and a 16-story electric shovel!

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Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

After all that activity, readers may be a bit hungry. All they need to do is flip the page to find 50 Things to Eat—specialties from around the nation. Whether you call them blackberries or brambleberries, these sweet nuggets—Kentucky’s state fruit—are great alone or in special treats. If you love pretzels, then the pretzel festival in Germantown, Ohio is for you! Spicy foods more your style? Then you’ll want to check out Hatch, New Mexico—the chili capital of the world! After having Delaware’s chicken specialty, catfish from Mississippi, or potatoes from Idaho, you may just want to try a banana split—first served in Latrobe Pennsylvania in 1904—or even nosh on a few roasted Joshua Tree flower buds that are said to taste like candy.

Ready to work off that meal? The next page provides 50 Ways to Get Moving, including archery in California, rafting in West Virginia, base jumping in Utah, snowshoeing in Minnesota, and snorkeling in Hawaii. 

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Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

Celebrations have been part of America since the first Thanksgiving, and each state has a entertaining—often quirky—spectacular to highlight their history or specialty. In Nebraska the old Pony Express mail system is reenacted every June; The Heart of the Ozarks Bluegrass Festival brings musicians and fans to West Plains, Missouri each year; and Honobia, Oklahoma’s Bigfoot Festival makes believers of us all—well, almost.

In Florida, you can learn how to wrestle an alligator with the Miccosukee tribe on American Indian Day; you can test your mettle on 98 flights of stairs during Washington’s Space Needle Base 2 Space Race for charity; and “you can cheer on bronc riders at the ‘Daddy of All Rodeos’” during Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. Perhaps  the oddest celebration is Mike the Headless Chicken Festival held every May in Fruita, Colorado that commemorates “a rooster that lived for 18 months…with no head!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-50-states-fun-facts-puzzle

Image copyright Sol Linero, text copyright Gabrielle Balkan. Courtesy of Eyes Wide Editions, Aurum Press.

Each spread also offers a sidebar scavenger hunt of sorts as it asks readers to see if they can find four different categories of items among the rest. After kids have soaked up all the facts about the 50 states, they can test their knowledge of American geography by completing the included jigsaw puzzle map.

Gabrielle Balkan has collected tons of engaging facts about the United States that are sure to delight and amaze children. Each category would be a wonderful starting point for learning about any or all of the states and gives kids an idea of the variety found across America. Sol Linero’s striking category “quilts,” composed of colorful patches decorated with clear, engaging illustrations, draw readers in to discover the fascinating facts presented about each state.

Ages 4 – 10

Wide Eyes Editions, Aurum Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1847808691

Discover more about Gabrielle Balkan and her books on her website!

View a gallery of illustration work by Sol Linero on her website!

National Read a Road Map Day Activity

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Make a Road Map Jigsaw Puzzle

It’s fun and easy to make your own jigsaw puzzle from a map of your local town or a place you’d like to visit!

Supplies

  • A paper map
  • Poster board
  • Glue or spray glue
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Smooth out the paper map
  2. Glue the map to the poster board
  3. Cut the poster board into interlocking or adjoining pieces (the number of pieces can depend on the child’s age)

Picture Book Review

March 26 – It’s Umbrella Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate umbrellas, those perky protective accessories that have been around since earliest times. Ancient civilizations used palmetto fronds for shade and during inclemet weather. The first waterproof umbrellas were created by the Chinese, who waxed or lacquered their paper parasols. Umbrellas were strictly women’s accessories until Jonas Hanway, a Persian travel writer, used one in public in England in the 1700s. English men then took up the practice, calling their version a “Hanway.” The first collapsible umbrella was designed in 1710, and in 1928 the folding pocket umbrella appeared. Since then, umbrellas have become fashionable and necessary accessories for all.

The Umbrella Queen

Written by Shirin Yim Bridges | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

The residents of a small village in Thailand are well known for the beautiful paper umbrellas they make and sell in the local shops. The umbrellas are colorful, but always decorated with flowers and butterflies. Every New Year’s Day the villagers hold an Umbrella Parade, and the woman who has painted the most beautiful umbrella is chosen as the Umbrella Queen.

Noot is a little girl who longs to paint her own umbrellas and partake in the parade. One day her mother gives her an umbrella to paint and shows her how to copy her design. Noot is a natural artist, and her finished umbrella is nearly indistinguishable from her mother’s. She is given her own painting spot in the garden and five umbrellas to decorate.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of taeeunyoo.com

Noot paints the familiar butterflies and is about to start on the flowers when she is inspired to draw elephants instead. She covers all five umbrellas with elephants doing handstands, playing and squirting water, walking trunk-to-tail, and just being silly. When her mother sees these umbrellas, she is unhappy. Flowers and butterflies sell in the local shops, not elephants. Noot understands the importance of the money made from the umbrellas to her family. For the next year she paints the large umbrellas with the traditional design. At night, however, using bits and pieces, she fashions tiny umbrellas. These she paints with elephants, and displays them on her windowsill.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of taeeunyoo.com

As New Year approaches there is much excitement in the village. It is rumored that the king will be visiting and will choose the Umbrella Queen himself. One day the villagers receive the message that the king will indeed arrive. The villagers spruce up their town and each woman displays her umbrellas in front of her home.

The king walks the length of the street, considering each umbrella until he comes to Noot’s house. He is very impressed with the umbrellas painted by Noot’s mother, but his gaze wanders to Noot’s windowsill, and he asks who painted the “strange” umbrellas.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of taeeunyoo.com

A bit embarrassed by the attention, Noot shyly answers the king’s questions about the size of the small umbrellas and the unusual designs. In trying to explain herself, she forgets to look at the ground when talking to the king, and when her eyes meet his she realizes that, instead of judging her, he is charmed. “I like elephants,” she tells him, and he laughs. The king then takes Noot’s hand and names her the Umbrella Queen because “she paints from her heart.”

Shirin Yim Bridges has written a unique story that effectively and engagingly presents the often conflicting dilemma of responsibility to others while staying true to yourself. Noot’s journey from an observer in her family’s business to a valued artist is told straightforwardly, and the familial love and support are clearly emphasized. The king’s recognition of Noot’s talent and heart will be highly satisfying for young readers or listeners.

Taeeun Yoo’s delicate illustrations in gold, red, black, and green set the story firmly in Thailand and perfectly demonstrate the close-knit village and relationships as well as the intricate beauty of the umbrellas and the pride the villagers take in them.

The Umbrella Queen is a wonderful story about family, discovering your talents, and self-expression that would find a welcome spot on any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, Harper Collins, New York, 2008 | ISBN 978-0060750404

Learn more about Taeeun Yoo, her books, and her art on her website!

Umbrella Month Activity

CPB - Umbrella Matching Game

Rainy Day Mix Up Matching Game

 

A sudden storm scattered all the umbrellas and raincoats! Can you put the pairs together again? Draw a line to connect the umbrella and the raincoat that have the same pattern. Print the Rainy Day Mix Up Game here!

Picture Book Review

January 26 – Walk Your Pet Month

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About the Holiday

January has been designated as Walk Your Pet Month to remind pet owners of the importance of regular exercise for their pooches – or other animals who may enjoy a stroll. Keeping pets fit is one way to make sure they stay healthy and live a long and happy life!

Excellent Ed

Written by Stacy McAnulty | Illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach

 

Ed, the Ellis family’s dog, is feeling a little left out. All five of the children are excellent at something, but not Ed. All the Ellis kids can eat at the table, ride in the car, sit on the couch, and use the indoor bathroom, but not Ed. Each kid has his or her own talent—playing soccer, calculating math, dancing, and baking cupcakes—and while Ed can carry a ball in his mouth, count to 4, spin after his tail, and eat cupcakes, it’s just not the same.

One day Ed wonders—if he was excellent at something, could he have the same perks as the kids? He considers his talents and comes up with what he thinks is a good one. He knows he’s great at breaking stuff! Surely this will earn him a place at the dinner table. But even before he gets going, Elaine runs in with the news that she’s broken the record for most soccer goals in a season. Ed sadly realizes that Elaine is better at breaking stuff than he is.

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Image copyright Stacy McAnulty, text copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach. Courtesy of Alfred Knopf Books for Young Readers

Again Ed thinks. Suddenly it dawns on him that he’s excellent at losing things—he even lost himself last week! This kind of ability was surely worth a ride in the van. But just as he’s about to jump in, the twins both shout, “I’ve lost a tooth!” Foiled in this attempt, Ed goes back to the drawing board. Hmmm…it was just there, at the tip of his brain…oh, yeah! Ed is fantastic at forgetting stuff! After proving to Dad that he doesn’t remember eating just a minute ago, he’s ready to take his place on the couch. But Ed is thwarted again by Edith, who is thrilled to tell her family that she forgot to be nervous during an audition and is now the lead ballerina.

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Image copyright Stacy McAnulty, text copyright Julia Sarcone-Roach. Courtesy of Alfred Knopf Books for Young Readers

Ed whimpers. Is there nothing he’s most excellent at? Maybe he doesn’t even belong in the Ellis family. Just then Ernie drops his sandwich and Ed gobbles it up, leaving no crumbs on the floor. “‘Wow, Ed! You are excellent at cleaning the floor,’” Earnie says. When Emily and Elmer come home, Ed runs to meet them and covers them in kisses. “‘Ed! You’re excellent at welcoming us home,’” the twins exclaim. Later, with the couch stuffed with Ellises, Ed lays across Edith’s and Elaine’s feet. “‘Ed is excellent at warming feet,’” Elaine and Edith agree.

Ed wags his tail—he is an excellent floor cleaner, welcomer, and feet warmer! Now he knows why he doesn’t sit at the table, stays home instead of riding in the van, and doesn’t join the family on the couch. He realizes that he is an important part of the Ellis family, and that he’s always loved and appreciated. Now, if only he could figure out that indoor bathroom thing….

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Image copyright Stacy McAnulty, courtesy of Alfred Knopf Books for Young Readers

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they doubt their place in the world. Stacy McAnulty explores that feeling through Ed, who worries, works the problem, and discovers that he is without a doubt excellent just the way he is. Giving the Ellis kids a variety of ages and talents makes this a great universal book for readers. McAnulty’s twist which turns “negative” gifts for breaking, losing, and forgetting things into triumphs for the Ellis kids is ingenious, adding humor, depth, and “ah-ha! moments” to the story. The mystery of Ed’s abilities is well-kept until the end, and the solution comes as a happy surprise.

Readers will wish they were part of the Ellis family, with their exuberant smiles, supportive cheers, snuggly, crowded couch, and, of course, adorable Ed. Julia Sarcone-Roach’s vivid illustrations are infectious as Ed perks up his ears, rolls his eyes skyward and with tongue out thinks about his situation. Scenes of his shenanigans will elicit giggles, and Ed’s sweet looks and wagging tale will win readers’ hearts.

Pet owners and animal lovers will want to bring Excellent Ed into their families. A wonderful book for story times or those times when you need a little encouragement, Excellent Ed is inspirational for all kids! 

Ages 4 – 8

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553510232

Discover more about Stacy McAnulty and her picture books, chapter books, and novels on her website!

View a gallery of picture books, illustration, sketches, and film by Julia Sarcone-Roach on her website!

Walk Your Pet Month Activity

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A-maze-ing Pets Maze

 

When dogs are out for a walk, they love to take circuitous routes as they pick up scents that are too enticing not to follow! Can you find your way through this printable A-maze-ing Pets Maze? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

January 23 – National Pie Day

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About the Holiday

National Pie day is perfect for…well…pie! Whether you love fruity pies or meat pies, pies with lattice tops or crumble crusts this day is for you! There’s only one true way to celebrate—make or buy your favorite kind of pie and enjoy! 

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems

Written by J. Patrick Lewis | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

There’s something about poetry with its iambic pentameters, feet, meter, sonnets, couplets, and more countable qualities that just seems to lend itself to math. J. Patrick Lewis must have thought so too because he penned a clever volume of poems inspired by well-known verses. First up is Edgar Allan Poe’s Apple Pie, which is inspired by “The Raven” and begins: “Once upon a midnight rotten, / Cold, and rainy, I’d forgotten / All about the apple pie / Still cooling from the hour before.” But now, even though there is a “knocking, knocking…” at the door, the narrator takes up a knife and slices the night with a cutting question, only to hear the stranger’s mysterious clue “‘Never four!’”

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Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

All the narrator of Emily Dickenson’s Telephone Book, inspired by “My Life Closed Twice Before its Close,” wants to do after napping is to find a certain phone number in her directory, but where is it? She knew where it was before she went to bed—in fact its “two opposing pages / that added up to 113— / Were smudged around the edges—” but now she’s so confused…. Can you help?

Those who think that “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has no link to underwear possibly are not aware of Robert Frost’s Boxer Shorts, in which the lilt and the rhythm of the original are perfectly matched in a priceless, pricey puzzle that ends “My tightie whities look so sad. / My tightie whities look so sad.” How can you resist?

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Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

You may know about William Carlos Williams’s red wheelbarrow and where it stood, but what if that handy implement was replaced by a… “fifteen-inch square pizza” that is missing “nineteen and a half pieces”?! Well, there may not be any rainwater glaze, but it sure does make for a delicious arithmetic conundrum in William Carlos Williams’s Pizza.

You’re eating up these poems, aren’t you? Well, next come three poems in which termites, sharks, and a “hippo-po-tah-tum” do a bit of nibbling of their own. The fun multiplies in Ogden Nash’s Buggy Rugs, where 313 little wood chompers hide; in John Ciardi’s Shark Dentist, in which you’ll want to brace yourself for the ending; and in Shel Silverstein’s Hippo-po-tah-tum, which is fractionally frightening.

These seven poems are added to seven more, plus two pages full of “prose about the poets,” to equal one smart, tantalizing poetic brainteaser of a book!

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Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

Patrick Lewis, who served as the US Children’s Poet Lauriat from 2011 to 2013, has honored 16 of the world’s most beloved poets the way kids love best—with humor. Adapting the original poem’s rhythm, rhyme scheme, and length with a dash of the ridiculous and a dose of numerical heft, Lewis has created poems that will have kids giggling while they ponder the answers to the lyrical math problems the verses pose. While arithmetic aficionados will gobble these poems up, there’s plenty for language arts lovers to sink their teeth into too. Each witty poem just begs to be compared to the original, which would make for a fun afternoon at home or lesson in the classroom. Admit it—aren’t you just the tiniest bit curious what Edward Lear’s “There was an Old Man with a Beard” has to do with an 80-foot hotdog?

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Image copyright Michael Slack Lewis, courtesty slackart.com

Michael Slack gets things off and running on the first spread, where a sharp-taloned blackbird stands over a knife that’s plunged into the center of a pie. While readers of Walt Whitman’s Web-Covered Shoe may wonder exactly how long the boot has been untouched, they’ll be more distracted by the number of eyes on two very fierce-looking spiders. And there may be nothing more diverting than the potbellied cowboy wearing only his tightie whities as he waits for his snowflake, flame, spaceship, and other uniquely decorated boxers to dry. Slack illustrates each poem with distinctive, vibrant images that ramp up the humor and give every page an individual look.

Answers to the math problems proposed are included with every poem, and brief biographies accompanied by tiny portraits, reveal information about the poets represented and their work.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie is a fantastic way to get kids interested in math and poetry. The brain ticklers, as well as the wonderful wordplay and illustrations, make this a book that should be on classroom shelves and would be welcome in home libraries too.

Ages 6 – 9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2015 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0544456129

To learn more about J. Patrick Lewis, his books, and resources for kids and teachers, visit his website!

View a gallery of books, illustration, and other art by Michael Slack on his website!

National Pie Day Activity

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Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle

 

Each winner of a poetry contest were supposed to get two identical pies, but they got mixed up! Can you find the matching pies in this printable Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle and save the day?

Picture Book Review