January 18 – Thesaurus Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that most marvelous, stupendous, spectacular, cool, awe-inspiring, remarkableand—one from my early youth—groovy book, the thesaurus! Without its incredible cross-referenced lists of synonyms and antonyms, the world would be much more boring, dull, lackluster, monotonous place. Today, spice up your speech and writing with the perfect word to express all the nuances of life!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

While just a young child, Peter, along with his mother, his uncle, and his baby sister Annette, travel to their new home following the death of his father. It would not be his first move, and in the absence of long-time friends, Peter found companionship in books. When he was eight years old, he began writing his own book titled: Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. But this was not a book of stories or even one story; it was a book of lists. The first list was divided in two. On one side were the Latin words he knew; on the other were their definitions.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Peter’s mother hovered and worried over her son, and he always told her he was “fine.” “Although, to be honest, Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.” As the years went by, Peter added lists to his book, prompting his mother to complain about his constant “scribbling.” But Peter looked at his lists differently. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them in long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.”

As a teenager Peter was shy, preferring to wander the London gardens alone, “making lists of all the plants and insects,” as in one of his favorite science books by Linnaeus. His “mother didn’t approve, and Peter told her not to worry—but “perhaps worry wasn’t quite the right word. What was the right word? Peter began a new list: Worry, fret, grieve, despair, intrude, badger, annoy, plague, provoke, harass. Enough to drive one mad. How wonderful it felt to find just the right word.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

An idea crept into Peter’s mind for a book where “all the ideas in the world could be found in one place,” and people could “find the best word, the one that really fit.” When Peter was 14 he entered medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon graduation at 19, his uncle told him that patients would be wary of a doctor so young. To gain a bit of experience and maturity, Peter became a tutor to two teenage boys.

At last Peter set up his medical practice in Manchester, England, where he took care of the factory workers, who “were poor and often sick.” At night Peter worked on his book of lists, and in 1805 he declared it finished. “It had about one hundred pages, one thousand ideas, and listed more than fifteen thousand words!” Eventually, Peter moved back to London where he joined science societies and attended lectures. “Before long, he was asked to give lectures too,” and once-shy Peter astonished his audiences with his knowledge of math, magnetism, and other scientific subjects. He even invented a portable chess set.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

When Peter was 45 years old, he married Mary Hobson, and they had two children, Kate and John. As he grew older, he visited fewer patients, but he continued to take walks and work on his lists. While some other writers had published their own word lists to help people “to speak and to write more politely,” Kate and John “thought their father’s book was much better. Peter agreed.” For three years he rewrote his book. “He made it larger, more organized, and easier to use. Long ago Peter had discovered the power of words. Now he believed that everyone should have this power—everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

“In 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus, a word that means ‘treasure house’ in Greek.” It was an instant best seller, and Peter became a popular author. But he never stopped making lists.

Following the text, a timeline of principal events in Peter’s life as well as world events allow readers to better understand the historical period in which Peter worked. Extensive Author’s and Illustrator’ Notes also expand on Roget’s biography, and resources for further reading and research are included.

Jen Bryant’s biography of a brilliant boy who grew up to give the world its most fascinating and comprehensive collection of word lists, is a spritely telling of Roget’s life and revelation into his personality, which was perfectly suited to his scientific and written accomplishments. Children will appreciate Roget’s reactions to his mother’s worries as well as the message in his well-rounded pursuit of science and writing. Through Bryant’s captivating and lyrical storytelling, children will be inspired by Roget’s journey from shy child to much-accomplished adult.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet beguiles readers with her mixed media, collage, and watercolor illustrations that are as jam-packed with ideas, images, portraits, and typography as Roget’s thesaurus is full of words. In the early pages describing Peter’s childhood, the pages contain simple framed pictures of Roget and his family. As he grows, however, his lists of words are transformed into vibrant artwork that jostles for position from corner to corner of the pages. In the midst of these, delicate watercolors portray Peter as he strolls through a garden, takes his young charges to Paris, treats his patients, lectures, marries, and finally publishes his thesaurus. A special mention must be made of the typography, which at times in the text runs down the center of the page in one- or two-word lines, mirroring Roget’s love of lists, and in the illustrations presents the myriad synonyms in a mixture of colorful block letters, fine print, and calligraphy.

For bibliophiles, wordsmiths, scientists, and history buffs, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is just the right book for home libraries.

Ages 6 – 18

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0802853851

Discover more about Jen Bryant and her books as well as news, contests, and events, visit her website!

Learn more about Melissa Sweet and her books and have fun with the downloadable activities you’ll find on her website!

Watch this The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus book trailer!

Thesaurus Day Activity

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Word Words Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re looking for just the right word, where do you go? To the thesaurus of course! Can you find the 25 synonyms for “Word” in this printable Word Words Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

December 9 – Lost and Found Day

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About the Holiday

We all know that feeling of joy when something we love and think lost is found again. Today’s holiday commemorates that emotion and gives us a chance to reflect on the things that are most important to us. While Lost and Found Day was established in 2012, the first Lost and Found repository was opened by Napoleon Bonapart—who knew a thing or two about loss—in 1805. Today, take a moment to remember a time when you found something precious.

The Christmas Cat

Written by Maryann Macdonald | Illustrated by Amy June Bates

 

“Jesus was beautiful, like all babies,” but on the night he was born he cried and cried. Mary tried everything to comfort him—a warm blanket, feeding him, rocking him—but nothing soothed him. Looking on, the other animals longed to help. “Doves fluttered down from the rafters, settling on the creaky stable door.” Although their coos were soft and musical, the baby did not stop crying.

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

The gentle brown cow tried next, lowing the lullaby she used on her own calf, but Jesus cried louder. And even though the donkey meant well, her braying “made Jesus cry loudest of all.” Then from a hiding place a little kitten crept “step by careful step” toward Mary and Jesus. Leaping lightly onto Mary’s lap, the kitten “nuzzled Jesus’s neck. Then he began to purr, a calm, contented purr that came from deep inside.” Jesus gazed at the tiny kitten, and as he touched the soft fur his crying quieted. The barn grew silent and the new family and all the animals slept soundly.

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

As time passed and the kitten grew into a cat, he and Jesus became close companions, playing together under the fig tree. When it was naptime, “it was the cat’s turn to watch over the baby and purr him to sleep.” But one day their peaceful life was shattered. Jesus’s father, Joseph, learned through an angel that King Herod was looking for Jesus. Harod had heard rumors that Jesus would grow up to be king one day. “Herod’s soldiers, the angel said, were racing toward Bethlehem, hoping to find the baby Jesus and destroy him.”

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus hurried to leave their home, packing everything they had to go now—in the middle of the night—to escape detection and flee to Egypt. With all their goods piled onto their donkey, Mary and Joseph were ready to leave. But where was Jesus’s cat? “Mary and Joseph combed through the tall grass, searched the shadows near the fire and looked high in the branches of the fig tree. But the cat was nowhere to be found.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of Dial Books for Young Readers

It was much too dangerous to linger, and so, sadly, the family left Bethlehem without their beloved pet. In the chill night air, Jesus was uncomfortable; he missed his cat. “He clenched his tiny fists and screamed.” Joseph worried. Were the campfires on the horizon Herod’s soldiers? Could they hear Jesus crying? Both Mary and Joseph missed the calming influence of their cat. Suddenly, Jesus heard a familiar wail. Out of the basket tied to the donkey’s flank popped his companion. Jesus reached out for him, and the cat leaped into his arms.

After the two had greeted each other as long lost friends, they fell asleep to the cat’s tender purring as “the donkey carried them far away from Herod’s soldiers and their terrible swords, far away to the safe land of Egypt. Love had saved them.” As the two grew older together, they loved each other as only a pet and it’s child can. “They were meant for each other…from the very first Christmas night, in the bright starlight.”

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Image copyright Amy June Bates, courtesy of amyjunebates.blogspot.com/

In her Author’s Note following the text, Maryann Macdonald reveals that her story is inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of La Madonna del Gatto or the Madonna of the Cat, in which the baby Jesus is depicted holding and playing with a cat as he sits on his mother’s lap, as well as legends of a cat that lived in the stable where Jesus was born.

Maryann Macdonald’s gentle story of the baby Jesus soothed by a kitten on the night he was born and saved by this same pet on his flight to Egypt will captivate young children. The focus on the child-animal bond will delight little ones with pets of their own and makes the Christmas story immediately accessible. Macdonald’s lyrical language beautifully portrays the emotion and setting of the story, and she establishes the danger faced by the family with age-appropriate suspense.

Amy June Bates enhances the story with gorgeous traditional paintings of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, the stable and its animals, and the nighttime journey to Egypt. Her watercolor, gauche, and pencil illustrations glow with warm ambers, greens, and midnight blues. The barn animals are sweetly gentle and earnest in their attempts to soothe the crying baby, and the realistic portraits of the family demonstrate their love for each other. Children will especially like the images of Jesus and his pet cat cuddling and playing together. The final illustration of Mary, Jesus, and their cat echoes the drawing by Leonardo da Vinci that accompanies the Author’s Note.

For pet owners and animal lovers, The Christmas Cat would make a meaningful addition to their holiday collection.

Ages 3 – 6

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-0803734982

To learn more about Maryann Macdonald and her books, visit her website!

To view a portfolio of artwork by Amy June Bates, visit her blog!

Lost and Found Day Activity

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Lost and Found Kitten Maze

 

A little girl has lost her kitten! Can you help her get through the printable Lost and Found Kitten Maze to find her pet?

Picture Book Review

December 7 – Letter Writing Day

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About the Holiday

With all the letter writing going on during December by young wishers, it should be no surprise that a letter-writing day be included in this month’s calendar. Today’s holiday celebrates all forms of personal communication written by hand and remembers the correspondence of the past that has given us such insight into our favorite poets, novelists, historical figures, and more. Sure email might be faster, but there’s a certain luxury in taking the time to write your thoughts and an unexplainable excitement in holding a heartfelt letter in your hands. The punctuation marks in today’s reviewed book not only help correspondents write more dramatically, but they remind us that we all have unique things to say!

Exclamation Mark

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 

! “stood out from the very beginning.” When he was standing in a row of ……, it didn’t matter if he was in the middle or at the end—he still stuck out. The only time he wasn’t so noticeable was when he laid down to go to sleep. Sometimes he twisted himself into coils and did somersaults to be like the others, but nothing worked. “He just wasn’t like everyone else. Period.” This left him feeling “confused, flummoxed, and deflated.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

He was just about to run away from all his problems when he met ?. ? rushed right up to him and wanted to know everything. “Who are you?…What’s your favorite color? Do you like frogs?…Do you wanna race to the corner? Is there an echo in here? Is there an echo in here?…Why do you look so surprised?….” The list went on and on.

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

“STOP!” ! shouted. The sound stunned him. ? smiled and wanted him to do it again. ! didn’t know if he could, so he tried a small “Hi!” “That felt right, so he tried something bigger. Howdy!” And then he said, “Wow!” After that there was no stopping him: “You’re it!…Home run!…Yum!…Look out!…Thanks!…Boo!…Go!”

He rushed off to show everyone what he could do. The …… were delighted and “there was much exclaiming.” Now feeling happy and confident, ! “went off to make his mark.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s clever story of an exclamation point searching for self expression is as moving as it is original. Kids will recognize his feelings of sticking out in a crowd and uncertainty of purpose and applaude when ? comes on the scene to befriend !. Readers will giggle knowingly at the barrage of questions, and feel emboldened themselves as ! finds his voice and his own unique contribution.

Tom Lichtenheld’s adorable punctuation marks hanging out on kid-ruled paper demonstrate all the expression and expressions of this well-crafted story. With simple dot eyes and small streak mouths, Lichtenheld animates the various emotions of the periods, exclamation mark, and question mark as they discover !’s special talent with individuality for each. The unbridled exuberance of ?‘s and !’s meeting makes this a terrific book about friendship as well.

! deftly points out “What would we do without exclamation points?” Likewise it asks, “What would we do without each one of us?” The positive message, creatively and humorously presented, makes this book a terrific addition to any child’s library.

Scholastic Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-054543679

You’ll find more about Amy Krouse Rosenthal, her books for children and adults, videos, other projects, and so much more on her website!

Discover a portfolio of books by Tom Lichtenheld as well as fun book-related activities and resources for teachers on his website!

!!!! for this ! book trailer!

National Letter Writing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil-riding-kids-find-the-differencesLetter-Writing Kids Find the Differences Puzzle

 

Sometimes writing a letter is a flight of fancy through the thoughts and stories you want to tell someone else. Can you find the 12 differences in this printable Letter-Writing Kids Find the Differences Puzzle?

Picture Book Review 

December 6 – Mitten Tree Day

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About the Holiday

The feel of a cozy mitten on freezing fingers is one of the luxuries of wintertime. But where did mittens come from? You might be surprised to discover that the word “mitten” comes from the French word mitaine, which was an old nickname for a cat, because early mittens were typically made of animal fur. The earliest mittens, dating to around 1000 AD, were used as sheaths for gloves, adding extra protection for cold hands. Today, I’m pleased to review the book in which Mitten Tree Day is said to have its origins! Although originally published in 1997, the story has endured and sparked programs in schools, libraries, and other places around the country.

The Mitten Tree

Written by Candace Christiansen | Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

 

In a small house at the end of a lane Sarah lives all alone. Her own children have grown and moved away, but as she watches the kids gather at the blue spruce tree to wait for the school bus she remembers all the years that she walked her son and daughter to this same spot. As she makes her way down the lane to her mailbox, she wishes the children will wave and smile, but they never seem to notice her. Still, it makes Sarah smile to see them.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing

One winter morning Sarah notices all the kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen—all except one little boy dressed all in blue who lacks the mittens needed to join his friends. All day Sarah worries about the boy with no mittens. As the sun goes down Sarah digs “through the basket of yarn scraps she had saved for many years.” She finds her needles and four shades of blue wool. Then Sarah begins to knit.

With the rising sun Sarah hurries to the bus stop and hangs the new blue mittens on the spruce tree. Then she hides behind a hedge to watch. The little boy in blue is the first to arrive at the bus stop. When he sees the mittens hanging there, he tries them on and finds that they fit perfectly. With a big smile he makes “a perfect snowball” and throws “it high into the winter sky.” Soon Sarah sees a little girl with mismatched mittens. That night she finds the perfect color of wool and knits a pair to match the girl’s red coat.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, text copyright Candace Christiansen. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing

Every morning Sarah watches the children, looking for any who have no mittens. During the day her needles are busy making gifts for these children. The next morning before anyone else is up she rushes to the spruce tree and adorns it with the mittens she has knitted. The children have warmed to the “game,” and each day search “under every branch and bough for another pair of mittens.” Once or twice Sarah thinks the boy with her blue mittens sees her, but his eyes don’t linger.

On the day before the school’s winter break Sarah fills her knitting basket with the latest mittens she’s knit. She heads out the door and down the lane. When she reaches the blue spruce, she hangs “mittens on every branch.” When the children arrive, they stand “very still for a few minutes looking at the mysterious, beautiful mitten tree.” As they board the bus, each child is wearing a new pair of mittens. Sarah sees them appear one by one in the bus windows, but none see Sarah.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, text copyright Candace Christiansen. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing

Sarah goes home feeling happy and with her heart as full as it was “when the sounds of her own children had filled her house.” But what awaits Sarah? As she climbs the stairs to her porch, she notices a “basket woven with thick brown vines and decorated with a large white bow.” She’s surprised to see that it is filled to the brim with balls of colorful yarn. Even today Sarah knits new mittens for all the children in town, and “every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears.” Sarah doesn’t know who brings the basket, just as the children don’t know who supplies the mittens. “But someone must….”

Candace Christiansen’s heartwarming story of kindness given and reciprocated will inspire kids to see that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others by using their talents to fill a need. This gentle, quiet tale offers suspense that will pique readers’ curiosity from page to page, and the mystery surrounding the never-empty basket of wool provides a satisfying and moving ending that also reassures kids that deeds of thoughtfulness and compassion are noticed. The grandmotherly Sarah and familiar school bus stop setting and winter activities will resonate with readers.

Elaine Greenstein’s softly colored, folk-style illustrations give the story a cozy feeling—perfect for cold-weather reading, The variety of intricately knitted mittens, with their hearts, stripes, snowflakes and cables, are charming, and the enchanting image of the blue spruce decorated with mittens makes it easy to see how The Mitten Tree continues to inspire so many acts of kindness and charity.

Ages 3 – 7

Fulcrum Publishing, 2009 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1555917333

Mitten Tree Day Activity

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Mitten Match & Coloring Page

 

Mittens often get lost or mismatched in the fun of winter activities. Find the pairs in this printable Mitten Match & Coloring Page and then decorate them!

Celebrate Picture Books

December 5 – International Ninja Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s celebration remembers and honors the ninja warriors of China and Japan who with stealth and their signature black clothing could appear and vanish “like a hawk on stolen wings” to defeat their opponents. It was rumored that they were masters of Kuji-Kiri, an eastern magical practice that allowed them to combine their natural ability to move undetected with supernatural powers. The original ninja came from the Iga province of Japan and were made up of regular citizens. Their weapons were those of farmers, making it easier for them to be explained away and these warriors to escape exposure. The black clothing that we now associate with the ninja came from the theater, where the “invisibility” of the common-man warrior was represented by stage hands playing the parts of the ninja. To conceal themselves from the audience, stage hands wore black costumes that blended in with the black background curtains. When they became part of the play, theater-goers were taken by surprise. Today, ninja remain popular characters in movies and books, and especially with children.

Ninja! Attack of the Clan

By Arree Chung

 

Maxwell is dressed in his ninja best, pool cue at the ready. Now all he needs is a “worthy opponent.” He leaps into the kitchen where his mom’s making a salad. “HI-YA!” But when he asks if his mom wants to play, she tells him she’s too busy. He turns to his sister. “BOOYAH! Cassy, want to play with me?” he asks. “I working,” she answers from behind the tall building she’s constructing from blocks. Disappointed, Maxwell searches out his dad in his office.

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Copyright 2016 Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

“Papa!” Maxwell exclaims. “Yes, Maxwell…,” Papa says, flipping through the file cabinet. Want to play hide-and-seek with me?” Maxwell asks. “Yes, Maxwell,” Papa says, studying the income tax form in his hand. “OKAY!!! I’ll hide, you seek.” Maxwell shouts as he runs out of the room. “Yes, Maxwell,” Papa says, opening the tax program on the computer.

Maxwell tries out various hiding places, but none seem ninja-worthy. Then he spies the bed. Concealing himself underneath, he waits for Papa to find him…and waits. Finally, he hears a thump, thump, thump, and giggles with anticipation. But it’s only Brutus sniffing him out. Time goes by and still no Papa. Maxwell shouts out an anti-clue, but still nothing happens. At last Maxwell leaves his hiding place and goes back to his dad’s office, where Papa is still sitting in front of the computer. “Hey, you never came looking for me,” Maxwell says. But his dad is too distracted to hear him. Maxwell heads out with a dejected, “Forget it.”

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Copyright Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

To recover from disappointment, Maxwell knows “a ninja must practice the art of meditation and find inner peace.” But even here his bad day continues. When he’s called for dinner he skips out to the dining room, but no one is at the table except Brutus, who is gulping down Maxwell’s soup. Suddenly, Brutus barks a warning. From behind comes a “surprise attack!” “Defend yourself,” orders Papa. With a flick of his finger, Maxwell secures his mask and goes to work, poking Papa in the belly. His dad comes back with an awesome bear hug, but Maxwell deftly somersaults out of his arms. With lightning speed he whips his jump rope across the room and ties up Papa.

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Copyright 2016 Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Next comes his mom, wielding her yellow bag. Maxwell leaps over the flying purse and retrieves its lost lipstick, which he slathers on in preparation for the “kiss of death!” Covered in red lip marks, Maxwell’s mom joins his father in defeat. Cassy, however, is harder to pin down. She sneaks behind him and in one swift move covers his eyes with his own headband and applies a dastardly “SLURP!” Stunned, Maxwell admits, “I’ve been licked.” Still—as the battle continues to wage—Maxwill declares, “I love my ninja clan!”

In Ninja! Attack of the Clan, Arree Chung’s cute sequel to Ninja!, Maxwell just wants to play with his family but is disappointed as each is too busy to take notice. Maxwell’s dilemma is handled with honesty and humor that will resonate with kids. The end of the story in which Maxwell’s family executes the perfect remedy for his bad day is touching and will have kids cheering for this enthusiastic ninja. Chung’s bold, vibrant cartoon-inspired panels perfectly carry the high-action parts of the story, while full-page illustrations slow things down a bit to embrace family time.

Ages 4 – 7

Henry Holt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0805099164

For little ninjas there’s so much to see and do on Arree Chung’s website, including fun activities, a video, more about the characters, a gallery of ninja art by kids, and even a place where they can “ninjafy” pictures of themselves!

International Ninja Day Activity

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Stealthy Ninja Maze

 

Two ninja have been separated from their group! Can you help them find their way back in this printable Stealthy Ninja Maze?

Picture Book Review

December 3 – Chester Greenwood Day

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About the Holiday

On March 13, 1877 Chester Greenwood—a 19-year-old inventor—received a patent for “improvements in ear-mufflers” and forever sealed his place in history—as well as making winter more comfortable for millions of freezing ears! Today we honor Chester and his invention that brought attention to Farmington, Maine and jobs for many people in the area. 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of Chester Greenwood Day, and the people of Farmington are pulling out all the stops. With a theme of Holiday Celebrations around the World, the day will include a parade, gingerbread contest, chili contest, craft fairs, historical open houses, Polarbear Dip, 5K race, Festival of Trees and more. If you live nearby, why not plan to attend? If not, and you live in an area where the cold winds are blowing, wear your earmuffs with pride!

Earmuffs for Everyone! How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs

By Meghan McCarthy

 

In the mid-1800s inventors were trying to solve the problem of winter’s chill effects on tender ears. William Ware designed an “ear, cheek, and chin muff” that one wore somewhat like a false beard. Ear protecting hats, ear “slippers,” high collars, and other designs followed. But it wasn’t until Chester Greenwood and his sensitive protruding ears came along that earmuffs became practical. While the exact steps Chester took in creating his earmuffs aren’t known, he eventually perfected his invention and received a government patent on March 13, 1877—when he was only 19 years old!

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Copyright Meghan McCarthy, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Chester was no one-invention wonder, though. Always on the lookout for clever ways to make money, he went on to improve other products. He applied his foresight to the tea kettle, rounding the edges of the bottom to reduce wear; constructed an interchangeable-tooth rake; and built a collapsible, if cumbersome, tent.

His inventions brought him a comfortable life that he shared with others—a beautiful house for his family in Maine, the first steam car in his town, and a bicycle shop on the bottom floor of his workshop. His wife, also a progressive thinker, worked for women’s suffrage and inspired her husband to hire women in his workshops.

After Chester passed away, some people, most notably Mickey Maguire, thought he deserved more acclaim—even a day dedicated as Chester Greenwood Day. Maguire was so excited about this that he became a kind of inventor himself—an inventor of tall tales. Over time he told some whoppers about Chester which were repeated in the press, making it hard to separate fact from myth. But even without the made-up stories, it’s easy to say that Chester Greenwood had a very remarkable life

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Copyright Meghan McCarthy, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Earmuffs for Everyone! goes beyond the story of Chester Greenwood to include other inventors, a discussion of the patent system (using products well-known to today’s kids), and an explanation of how an inventor’s legacy grows. Meghan McCarthy writes with verve and humor, making the story of Greenwood’s invention as well as others’ creations inviting, accessible, and fun. Her illustrations of early attempts at creating earmuffs as well as other products from the 1800s are sure to delight kids and make them curious about the time period.

In her author’s note following the text, McCarthy expands on the story of Chester Greenwood and the process of applying for and earning a patent.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1481406376 

Discover more about Meghan McCarthy and her books plus fun activities, videos,  artwork, advice for writers and artists and more visit her website!

National Earmuff Day Activity

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Here’s to Warm Ears! Maze

 

One muff on each side of the head—Genius! But it took inventors a lot of trial and error to make the perfect warming headgear. Use your own creative thinking on this Here’s to Warm Ears!earmuff-shaped maze. Solution included.

Picture Book Review

November 2 – Look for Circles Day

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About the Holiday

Today is one of those days that gets you really observing the world in a new way. As you go about your day at the office, at school, at shops, or just while driving here and there, be aware of all the different circles you see. Sure, there are the obvious ones—the tires on your car, the signals on a stoplight, the lid of your water bottle or coffee cup…but how about all the less-seen circles? Knots on trees, a lemon slice, the center of a flower, the ripple of a raindrop or pebble dropped in a puddle… Whether you look for circles through the eye of geometry or they eye of art, be fully aware of the shapes around you!

Squares & Other Shapes: with Josef Albers (First Concepts with Fine Artists)

Paintings by Josef Albers

 

Opening Squares & Other Shapes, readers encounter a vibrant magenta square nesting in an autumn maple leaf-hued square which floats in a square of clear, winter-sky blue. On the next page two orange squares beckon you to follow into the glowing, yellow center square. Could it be a doorway or window leading somewhere?

In another painting, a bold yellow rectangle and an equally bold blue rectangle host guests: “two little rectangles lying down for a nap.” But the calm is shattered on the next page as stacks of red and blue rectangles shake and tumble: “Watch Out! It’s raining rectangles!”

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Now circles want a turn, and they want to have fun! In a large black rectangle a white circle and a red circle play stoplight: “Circle, Circle, Stop!” while on the next page blue, black and spirally circles jump and frolic—“Bounce, Circles, Bounce!” Turn the page—can you count all of the little circles in the rectangle or all of the baby circles in the rectangle on the right-hand page? Some of the babies are leaping away—or are they just joining the group? What do you think?

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Next the black rectangle is back, but this time with two white squares inside. Wait a minute—how did those little yellow circles get into the bottom square? “Hey circles, get out of that square!” Of course triangles don’t want to be left out. Dusky triangles in many sizes connected tip to tip enjoy their light, white background, but on the next page they’re left in shadow—“Hey triangles, who turned out the lights?”

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Be careful turning the page to look at the two intersecting triangles: “Ouch, these triangles look sharp!” Maybe it’s better to move on to the big, vivid triangle on the right. Oooh, so many colors! Nine, in fact! Hmmm… “Is this one big triangle, or lots of little triangles?” These paintings are getting more complex! Now there are “blue squares in pink squares, pink squares in blue squares; rectangles in rectangles, circles in circles, and more triangles in triangles. But here’s a different painting: the rectangles are perfect rectangles, but the squares are a little off, and what kinds of shapes do those curved lines make?—“Funny shapes in funny shapes!” And the last painting? Back to squares. Red, purple, and blue squares. “Beautiful squares.”

Following the paintings, the last page provides a captivating biography about Josef Albers’ life and work aimed at the book’s young audience.

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Imagine being able to own a stunning collection of famous paintings by a world-renowned artist and educator to teach your child about shapes, color, and art. With Squares & Other Shapes by Josef Albers you can! The second in the First Concepts with Fine Artists series, Squares & Other Shapes presents readers with more than 30 painting by Josef Albers, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Most well-known for his Homage to the Square paintings, Albers worked with color and shapes to challenge perceptions and promote creative thinking.

Shapes are one of the earliest concepts introduced to babies and young children. Even the youngest readers will be riveted by the beautifully reproduced paintings in this large board book that present squares, circles, rectangles, and trianges in clear but creative ways. The easily understood labels, repetition, and recognizable patterns offer key strategies that are known to build strong reading and comprehension skills. Kids will love the humorous text that brings the paintings to life, helping them to also see that art is not static, but active and open to interpretation by each viewer.

Squares & Other Shapes with Josef Albers is a wonderfully conceived concept book that can grow with children as it offers readers enjoyment and education on so many levels. The book would be an often-sought-out addition to home and library bookshelves and also makes a perfect present for baby showers and other gift-giving holidays.

Ages birth – 5 (and up)

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872568

Look for Circles Day Activity

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Circle of Shapes Puzzle

 

Build a circle from different shapes with this puzzle that grows as you add pieces! You can also use these shapes to create your own art!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the shape templates
  2. Cut out the shapes
  3. Trace shapes onto different colored paper
  4. Cut out the colorful shapes
  5. Build the puzzle from the central square to the edges of the circle (It may be easier to keep the puzzle in place by sticking the pieces down with a little tape applied to the back of the pieces)

You can also use the shapes to create your own art!

Picture Book Review