January 5 – National Bird Day

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About the Holiday

Coming at the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count conducted in conjunction with the Audubon Society, National Bird Day turns the focus from wild birds to those kept in captivity while also raising awareness of the dangers that threaten many species with extinction. Today’s observance highlights the special behavioral and physical needs of birds and works to ensure that all birds—whether kept as pets or on farms or living in their natural environments—are treated compassionately. Now that winter has set in, make sure your pets and the birds that frequent your yard are cared for.

The Day I Became a Bird

Written by Ingrid Chabbert | Illustrated by Raúl Nieto Guridi

 

On the first day of school a little boy sees Sylvia and falls instantly in love. At home he draws picture after picture of her—“and one with hearts and a smiling sun.” Although the boy only has eyes for Sylvia, she doesn’t see him. Instead, the boy says, “Sylvia is a bird lover. She can’t bear to see them living in cages. She quietly observes them in the wild and gently cares for them when they are injured.”

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Image copyright Guridi, text copyright Ingrid Chabbert. Courtesy of Kids Can Press

Everything she does and wears is somehow associated with birds. Even “her voice sounds like birdsong.” The boy has lost all interest in his toys, the sports he plays, and all of his old pursuits. He thinks differently about birds now, too. One day he decides “to dress as a bird.” He constructs a costume with glistening feathers “like the ones you see in the forest in summer.” When he puts it on he feels handsome. In the costume he dreams of flying with Sylvia to the top of the Rocky Mountains or a pyramid.

In school he doesn’t care if the other kids stare and giggle. And even though it’s hard to walk, play soccer, and climb trees, he doesn’t want to remove his costume. He is a bird. One afternoon, the boy says, “I come face to face with Sylvia. And finally our eyes meet.” Sylvia approaches and takes off the boy’s costume. “My heart is beating a hundred miles an hour,” he relates. “In the sky, I see a flock of birds take flight.” Sylvia gives him a long hug.

Standing completely still, the boy doesn’t know how to react. He knows he’s not a bird anymore, but still, he feels as if he’s flying.

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Image copyright Guridi, text copyright Ingrid Chabbert. Courtesy of Kids Can Press

Ingrid Chabbert’s enchanting revelation of first love encompasses in its spare text all the obsessive but ultimately freeing power of this universal emotion. While in the midst of his “normal” life, the boy’s world is suddenly transformed when he spies Sylvia. Leaving his toys behind, he chooses Sylvia’s bird’s eye view. Likewise, when Sylvia sees the narrator, she allows her birds to take wing and considers boys—or at least one boy—in a whole new light. Chabbert’s use of first-person narration reinforces the intimate nature of love and the idea that when love is right, being “captured” is a most liberating experience.

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Image copyright Guridi, courtesy of Kids Can Press

The themes of Chabbert’s story are so movingly rendered by Guridi’s simple, monochromatic line drawings. Although the boy states that “one morning” he decided to dress as a bird, from the first day when the boy falls in love with Sylvia—gazing at her wistfully while her eyes are instead trained through binoculars at the sky or cast down at her chalk drawings—his costume begins to take shape. As it comes together, its wire skeleton resembles a bird cage, suggesting so many ways in which we may feel trapped by our emotions, our things, even changes in life.

When the boy dons the costume and begins to navigate the world in an unfamiliar way, readers will understand that he is no longer the boy he was, but neither is he a real bird. It is this unique creature that Sylvia responds to when, through holes in the costume where feathers are missing, she sees not the bird, but the boy. So it is that into everyone’s life there come people—or perhaps one particular person—with whom all costumes and cages are discarded, and we soar.

The Day I Became a Bird is a quiet beauty that gets to the core of what it means to give your heart to someone else. It would make a wonderful and touching addition to home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1771386210

Watch this The Day I Became a Bird book trailer!

National Bird Day Activity

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Wild Bird Coloring Page

 

Grab your pencils or crayons and enjoy this printable Wild Bird Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

January 2 – Motivation and Inspiration Day

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About the Holiday

While Motivation and Inspiration Day was instituted in reaction to the 9/11 attacks, the holiday’s influence and meaning has grown and now includes world-wide participation. Falling on the second day of the year, it encourages us to reflect on our lives—where we are and where we want to go. Take some time to consider what motivates and inspires you and follow those inner and external voices to help you achieve your dreams.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

By Javaka Steptoe

 

“Somewhere in Brooklyn, between hearts that thump, double Dutch, and hopscotch / and salty mouths that slurp sweet ice, a little boy dreams of being a famous artist.” All day Jean-Michel sits surrounded by colored pencils and “a storm of papers” and draws. As he sleeps his dreams swirl with images. When he wakes he adds to his drawings, scribbling away. What he creates is “sloppy, ugly, and sometimes weird, but somehow still beautiful.”

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Image and text copyright Javaka Steptoe, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young People

Jean-Michel’s talent comes from his Puerto Rican mother, who has a natural sense of style and design and who always makes time to draw with her son, lying on the floor next to him. She takes Jean-Michel to art museums and theaters and reads poetry to him, but she also shows him the art of the city—its sounds, sights, style, and “patchwork” colors. Jean-Michel loves to visit the museum and read about the artwork and the artists. From these stories he “learns what it means to be a famous artist.”

When Jean-Michel is seriously injured in a car accident, his world seems scary and confusing. He mother gives him an anatomy book, which he memorizes. It erases his fears and becomes influential in his work. After returning home his life changes when his mother suffers a breakdown and can no longer live at home. “He tries drawing the terrible out of his blues, but things are not the same.” Jean-Michel visits his mother when he can, “always bringing his artwork to show, telling her that one day it will be in a museum, ‘when I am a famous artist.’”

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Image and text copyright Javaka Steptoe, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young People

As a teenager, Jean-Michel follows his dream, moving from Brooklyn to New York City. There he stays with friends, painting, creating collages, and writing poems on paper strewn about him. At night he paints on city walls, trash cans, and other urban canvases. His art, signed ‘Samoo,’ attracts attention. People wonder, “‘Who is Samoo?’”

Soon his art can be found in art galleries and hanging in the homes of the people who buy his work. Jean-Michel continues to create, listening to “a sound track that is all his own.” Through talent, inspiration, and his mother’s loving influence, Jean-Michel Basquiat conquered the art world, becoming a king among artists, and fulfilling his desire to be a famous artist.

An extensive Author’s Note about Jean-Michel Basquait’s life, including his struggles with addiction and his death in 1988, the motifs and symbolism in his work that now is displayed in museums around the world and sells for millions of dollars, and a personal comment on the impact Basquait’s art had on the author follow the text.

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Image and text copyright Javaka Steptoe, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young People

Javaka Steptoe’s compelling biography of this complex, brilliant artist who people called “radiant, wild, a genius child” beautifully brings to life the inspirations and motivations that fueled his unique and intense talent. Steptoe delivers the story in staccato and flowing sentences, using consonance, assonance, repetition, the rhythms of a poet. Taking the reader from Jean-Michel’s childhood to adulthood to show how maintaining his focused determination, self-confidence, and persistence over many years led to his ultimately becoming a famous artist demonstrates that success is not a matter of luck, but of belief in oneself despite obstacles. Steptoe sensitively addresses the serious injury Basquiat suffered, his mother’s mental illness and Basquiat’s continued love for her, and his unsettled teenage years to complete this far-reaching life story.

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Image and text copyright Javaka Steptoe, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young People

Steptoe’s mixed-media paintings were created on found wood from neighborhoods across New York City. While Steptoe does not reproduce any of Basquiat’s work, he states that readers will find “original pieces that were inspired by him and my interpretations of his paintings and designs.” As befitting his subject, Steptoe offers pages that burst with vibrant color and intricate details and beat with the pulse of the city, the people, the dreams, and the imagination that Basquiat transcribed onto paper, walls, and canvas. Part collage, part fine art, Steptoe’s illustrations will fascinate children and entice them to linger to take in all the emotion and meaning in each. The final spread, a crowd scene made up of photographs, sets Basquiat in the midst of people whom he and his art continue to inspire.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat offers children an inspirational model of creativity, compassion, and confidence no matter where their talents lie. The book is an excellent choice for school, public, and home libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316213882

Learn more about Javaka Steptoe, his books, art exhibitions, and life on his website!

Motivation and Inspiration Day Activity

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Found-Item Crafts

 

 

Each person finds motivation and inspiration in different things, places, and people. Today, try to create something new from the materials around you. Boxes, bottles, wire, magazines, cloth, wood, sponges—almost anything—can be transformed with some imagination. With those old socks, corks, flower pots, candle stubs, bits of ribbon, clementine crate, paint, glitter, beads, and more, you can make something useful, a decoration for your room, or even a gift for a friend!

Picture Book Review

December 31 – No Interruptions Day

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About the Holiday

Perhaps on this last day of the year you’re suffering from a little stimulation overload. Everywhere you go, it seems, there is something else begging for your attention, whether it’s flashing signs, sale advertisements, that chore you haven’t gotten to, or just coworkers, family members, or others wanting to say hi or needing help. On No Interruptions Day you’re allowed to take a little time for yourself to decompress and enjoy a bit of silence and relaxation. Sure, you can party later, but for now—Ahhhhh….

The Quiet Book

Written by Deborah Underwood | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

 

Quiet comes in many guises, for many reasons, and with many internal emotions attached to it. Each type of quiet is unique, compelling, and special. If you are lucky enough to enjoy a “first one awake quiet,” you have a bit of time to compose yourself for the day because you never know if you might experience “jelly side down quiet,” “thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet,” or even “last one to get picked up from school quiet.”

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, text copyright Deborah Underwood. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Suspense is full of quiet—like “hide-and-seek quiet,” “pretending you’re invisible quiet,” and bubbling “top of the roller coaster quiet.” There are times when quiet is required, for instance “sleeping sister quiet” and “right before you yell ‘SURPRISE!’ quiet.” Experiences in nature inspire quiet awe, like “swimming underwater quiet,” “first snowfall quiet,” and “don’t scare the robin quiet.”

Concentration, commiseration, and companionship all contain their own depth of quiet, and the end of the day brings comfortable moments of quiet in story time, tucking in time, bedtime kisses, and finally “sound asleep quiet.”

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, text copyright Deborah Underwood. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

In her sweet tribute to the wondrous moments of quiet, Deborah Underwood is always surprising. Her original examples of quiet times are both ingenious and familiar, lending depth, humor, and insight to those times of the day that may defy definition but are felt in the heart.  The Quiet Book is perfect for bedtime, but also for any time when quiet reigns. It’s a beautiful book for children who are more reflective and for whom quiet times are treasured.

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, text copyright Deborah Underwood. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Renata Liwska’s soft, enchanting illustrations are as cuddly and comforting as a favorite blanket. Her little furry, spiky, and feathery animals navigate their day, experiencing those occasions of calm or turmoil with faces registering thoughtfulness, sadness, resignation, or cheer. Each page contains details, such as a bunny with an ear bandaged in solidarity with her friend who has a hurt tail and head, a bear holding a hiccupping rabbit upside down, and a cactus whose shadow is transformed into a monster, that will give even the youngest readers much to discover.

While the text on each page is sparse, the feelings they elicit are intimate and profound. Offering readers—both children and adults—much to discuss, The Quiet Book is a must for children’s home bookshelves.

Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2016 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0544809048

Discover the world of books by Deborah Underwood, including picture books, books for older readers, and nonfiction on her website!

View a gallery of picture book artwork by Renata Liwska on her website!

No Interruptions Day Activity

Quiet Time 

 

Finding opportunities to spend time in quiet contemplation or creativity is rejuvenating. Teaching children to appreciate down time and listen to their own thoughts is a gift that can bring them happiness and success that follows them into adulthood.

Today, set aside 15 minutes (or an appropriate amount of time for your child) and do one—or both—of these activities:

  1. You can do this with or without a piece of paper and pencil. Sit still and quietly in a place with no distractions and listen to what you hear. If you’d like write down the answers to these questions or just consider them:
  • What do you hear inside?
  • What do you hear coming from outside?
  • Can you tell how close or how far away the sound is?
  • In what way might you be a part of the sounds you hear?
  • Pick one sound and expand on its meaning
  1. Listen carefully to your own thoughts. What do you “hear” or “see”? On the paper draw or write whatever comes to mind, without changing it or erasing anything.

Picture Book Review

December 28 -Christmas Bird Count Week

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About the Holiday

For 117 years the Audubon Society has held a bird count in North America, Central America, and South America from December 14 through January 5. The count is conducted by professionals and volunteers who sign up to monitor various areas designated in 15-mile-wide diameter circles. The information and statistics gathered help to keep track of bird populations and aid in protecting our beautiful feathered friends. During the snowy, cold winter months, remember to set out seed and suet for birds to eat. For more information or to get involved, visit the Audubon Society website.

Some Birds

By Matt Spink

 

The variety of birds in the world is astounding! With their unique coloring, songs, and behaviors, our feathered friends provide entertainment and beauty wherever we are. Most times, we only need peer out the window or gaze into the sky to find a fascinating array of life. In his illustrated poem Matt Spink takes readers on a flight of fancy to show the charm, power, and even quirkiness of birds. “Some birds are big / some birds are small / and some birds are just incredibly tall,” the book starts.

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Image copyright Matt Spink, courtesy Matt Spink

How do these birds get around? Sure, they fly but “some birds swoop,” others “soar high,” and still others walk or waddle or hop. And when they get hungry? “Some birds eat worms until they go pop!” Some birds get the itch to swim, tweet, squawk, or twitch, and while some cling to trees making rat-a-tat-tats, others build nests to escape “from sly cats.” Though some birds live in cages, “most birds are free. / A much better life, I’m sure you’ll agree.”

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Image copyright Matt Spink, courtesy Matt Spink

Matt Spink’s sleek birds, each as shining as a stained glass window and as detailed as an Amish quilt or Native American carving, embody the distinct personalities that make these creatures so endearing. With expressions that will make kids giggle and brilliant color combinations that will inspire their creativity, Some Birds is a page-turner. Teetering on loooong knitting-needle-thin legs, a little ball of a bird with a teeny beak and scroll-work head and tail feathers humorously spans two pages. A green-and-white quail with a frilly orange topknot cranes her neck to get a better look (at you, the reader?). Two psychedelic friends flutter and flap as they compare plumage.

Matt Spink’s Some Birds is a mosaic of wonder for young and older readers, and would make a vibrant addition to home bookshelves. After all, who among us does not yearn to “fly free?”

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Image copyright Matt Spink, courtesy Matt Spink

Ages 2 – 5

Harry Abrams, 2016 | ISBN 978-1419720703

Christmas Bird Count Activity

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Feathered Friends Coloring Page

 

Watching birds flit and fly through the sky is a pleasure of being outdoors or just gazing through your window. Enjoy this printable Feathered Friends Coloring Page of a parent bird and their little one!

Picture Book Review

December 8 – Pretend to Be a Time Traveler Day

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About the Holiday

For almost as long as human kind has recognized time, we have wanted to be able to move back and forth in it, searching for enlightenment, to witness history being made, or to right some mistake (isn’t that a no-no, though?). Still, our fascination with the reality of time and the ability to manipulate it has spawned countless books, movies, television shows, scientific experiments, and dreams. Established in 2007, today’s holiday lets us indulge our fondness for time warps. Hey! If anyone can manage it—could you add a few hours to the day? Thanks!

Tek: The Modern Cave Boy

Written by Patrick McDonnell

 

There once was a Troglodyte cave boy named Tek. Well…actually, this might have happened yesterday. Tek was a normal cave kid except he never wanted to leave his cave—even when T-rex came by wanting to play. He stayed inside “glued to his phone, his tablet, and his game box.” At night the light of the stars was dwarfed by the “eerie glow” coming from Tek’s cave. His mom was mad at his dad for ever inventing the Internet.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2016, courtesy of Hachette Book Group

“Outside, the real world was evolving, but Tek couldn’t have cared less.” During the ice-age? Tek missed all the winter fun. Dinosaurs? Tek only knew them as “Watchamacallitasaurus,” “Hoozdatasaurus,” and “Idontgiveadactyl.” Time was going by, and even Tek’s best friend Larry, whose brain was “the size of a walnut” knew something had to be done.

Tek’s parents tried everything they knew to pull him away from his gadgets. “‘I need to light a fire under that boy’s butt,’ grumbled Tek’s dad. ‘Except I haven’t invented fire yet.’” They appealed to the higher-ups in the tribe, but Tek paid them no notice. Not even “Dora Duddly and her dinosaurs for a better tomorrow” could talk sense into Tek. But then Big Poppa, the village volcano, had a blast of an idea.

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2016, courtesy of Hachette Book Group

“The eruption shot Tek and his phone, tablet, and game box out of his cave and into the sky.” When he crashed down to Earth he was “totally disconnected.” Upon opening his eyes, Tek wondered at the fresh smells, the warm sun, the bugs and flowers, the hairy elephant, and the hairy people. He thought the world was “‘Sweet!’” Tek rushed to find Larry and on the way stopped to kiss his mom and dad. He used some fancy footwork atop a wheel to reach Larry and beeped him on the nose. Larry was thrilled to see him. The two spent all day playing with their friends, and by that night they knew how to “reach for the stars.”

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Copyright Patrick McDonnell, 2016, courtesy of Hachette Book Group

On every level Patrick McDonnell’s Tek: The Modern Cave Boy is a delight. If you love wordplay, it starts on page one…no, before that—on the cover—with riffs on technology, kids TV, dinosaurs, and more. If you like time shifting, you’ll relish the prehistoric/modern mashup, and if you’re partial to laugh-out-loud illustration, you’ll want to get an eyeful of little Tek, full beard and all. This is one book that adults and kids will giggle over together even as it humorously pokes fun at our penchant for gadgets. Even the book itself is in on the joke , with a size and shape any tablet user well knows. But the board book-thick covers give way to paper pages, reinforcing the idea of leaving technology behind to enjoy the outside world.

Tek: The Modern Cave Boy will quickly become an often-read favorite for both kids and adults and would make a welcome addition to kids’ bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9 and up

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316338059

Discover more about Patrick McDonnell and his books on his website!

Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day Activity

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Visit another Time Coloring Pages

 

The ability to travel through time would be so cool! If you could suddenly find yourself in a different time period, where would you go? Back to the age of the dinosaurs? To medieval times? To the gold rush? Maybe to a time when pizza is delivered by spaceship! Grab your pencils and have fun coloring these printable Visit another Time Coloring Pages!

Age of Dinosaurs | Medieval Times | Gold Rush | Spaceship Pizza Delivery

Picture Book Review

PiPicture Book Review

November 28 – National French Toast Day

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

French toast is special breakfast treat that has been enjoyed at least as far back as the 4th century, and according to an ancient Latin recipe has always been made in the same way. While the recipe—bread dipped in egg and fried, then topped with syrup, fruit, or (my particular favorite) cinnamon sugar—may have stayed the same, this delicious concoction has gone by many names. Whether you call it French toast, eggy bread, poor knight’s pudding, German toast, Bombay toast, or pain perdu, though, you know what to do on today’s holiday!

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

You know those strange noises you sometimes hear coming from your refrigerator? And how you could have sworn the leftovers were on the top shelf? Well, Josh Funk’s Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast may solve those mysteries and more in this rambunctious tale about what happens when relationships grow frosty.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books

One day Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are hanging out at the back of the fridge when they learn the syrup is almost gone. Lady Pancake claims it as her own, but Sir French Toast replies, “Not if I get there first!” And so off they race! “Through Broccoli Forest, past Orange Juice Fountain, they climbed to the top of Potato Mash Mountain.” But the race takes a turn as the two meet obstacles that are no fun at all: at the edge of a shelf “Toast couldn’t quite stop, plummeting down into jam with a plop.” And “Chili Lagoon slathered Pancake in muck and then at a fork in the road she got stuck.”

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, text copyright Josh Funk. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books

 

The one-time friends call each other names and taunt each other with boasts of being the best breakfast food. As their competition upends the peace of the whole refrigerator from shelf to shelf, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast find their energy wilting, and by the time they reach that sweet sought-after prize, they are “battered and soggy, exhausted and crumbling, too tired to push, they were limping and stumbling.”

With the bottle in sight, they are shocked to discover that the last drop of syrup is already gone. Who could have done this dastardly deed? None other than the sneaky Baron Von Waffle! With nothing to gain, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast no longer have a reason to fight. In fact they realize that they lost out on the syrup because they were fighting. When they see that there is a little butter left, they decide to use the lesson they learned and share it.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books

There are so many fantastic rhymes in this book that kids will want to hear again and again. One of my favorites comes as Sir French Toast catches up to Lady Pancake: “He scraped himself off and yelled up, / ‘You’re a meanie!’ / as Pancake rappelled / down a rope of linguini.” With such laugh-inducing verses, kids may never look at food the same way again. Josh Funk has created a tale about friendship that is both boisterous and unique and sure to quickly become a favorite.

The refrigerator world as envisioned by Brendan Kearney is as colorful as the food rainbow and as active as a playground in summer. It’s also stacked with the cutest array of legumes, yogurt, cake, juices, fruit, and veggies you’ll find anywhere. The final fold-down page of the entire refrigerator is a delight that kids of all ages will want to linger over even after the story of The Great Race between Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast is over.

Ages 5 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1454914044

Visit Josh Funk’s Website to download a free Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast Activity Kit and to learn about more upcoming titles!

Discover more art and books by Brendan Kearney on his website!

Watch the trailer for this amazing race – you’ll be singing the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast theme song in no time!

Love Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast? You butter get ready for more fun with their next adventure: The Case of the Stinky Stench, coming in May 2017!

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National French Toast Day Activity 

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Sweet as Syrup Figure

 

Fun shouldn’t be kept bottled up! Well…maybe just this once. Make your own figure to display or play with from a syrup bottle with this craft. It’s sure to be as sweet as you are!

Supplies

  • Small plastic syrup bottle with a narrow squeeze fliptop and without a handle, empty
  • 1 ½-inch wooden ball with ½-inch hole in bottom
  • 16-inch to 18-inch square piece of cloth
  • Ribbon or strip of material
  • 12 to 14-inch long medium-gauge craft wire
  • Gel pens, black, blue, brown, red (Gel pens work well on the wood as the ink doesn’t bleed into the wood and are easy to control)
  • Poly fill or needle-felting wool
  • Scissors
  • Strong glue

CPB - Syrup Bottle Figure II

Directions

To prepare the bottle

  1. Remove labels from syrup bottle
  2. Cut the flip top in half, keeping the narrow nozzle part

To make the head

  1. Holding the wooden ball with the hole at the bottom, draw a face on the wooden ball with the gel pens
  2. Glue a small handful of poly fill or needle-felting wool to the top of the wooden ball for hair. You can make the hair has long, short, or poofy as you wish.

To make the dress

  1. Cut a 16-inch diameter circle from the material

To assemble the figure

  1. To make the arms, wrap the wire around the neck of the syrup bottle, crossing it in the back and pulling tight
  2. Center the material over the opening of the syrup bottle
  3. Cut tiny slits in the material at the location of the wire on each side of the bottle, and pull the arms through the material
  4. Bend the ends of the wire into a small loop to form hands
  5. Screw the cap with the narrow nozzle over the material
  6. Tie the ribbon or strip of material around the narrow part of the bottle to make the figure’s waist
  7. Place the hole in the wooden ball over the nozzle in the cap and glue into place

Make up your own story with your new figure!

Picture Book Review

November 22 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

Picture Book Month is an international literacy inititive put together by a group of authors and illustrators to raise awareness of the importance of print picture books. Througout the world libraries, schools, booksellers, authors, illustrators, and those who love picture books celebrate the wonder of this art form enjoyed by children and adults. The complexity of picture books is astounding. They contain some of the most beautiful art and compelling stories being created today. To learn more about the importance of the picture book visit Picture Book Month: A Celebration! to find daily posts by authors, illustrators, and experts in the field as well as fun activities!

The Whisper

By Pamela Zagarenski

 

A little girl loves stories and the magical realms they can take her to. One day while waiting for school to be dismissed, she spies a book on a shelf. Her teacher allows her to take it home with her, and the little girl happily runs off with it when the clock strikes 3:00. On the way home, she doesn’t notice that all the letters are escaping from the book or that a wily fox is catching them in a net.

At home she secludes herself in her room, excited to read the mysterious book. She turns the pages, awed by the beautiful pictures. But by the time she has finished, she has tears in her eyes. “Where were the words? Where were the stories?” The girl flips through the book again, but this time she hears a small whisper: “Dear little girl, don’t be disappointed. You can imagine the words. You can imagine the stories.”

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The whisper seems so knowing that the girl does at it suggests. She turns to the first page where a blue bear followed by a beekeeper walks under a honeycomb sun toward a brown bear. The girl stares at the picture and thinks of a title: Blue Bear’s Visit. Her story begins: “Blue Bear arrived on the first day of spring. He promised…”

Warming to the idea of creating stories, the girl examines the second picture. She notices the same white rabbit that was in the first picture. In the foreground a “magnificent ox” is listening to a man whispering into its large, soft ear. The Secret, the little girl titles this story, which starts: “Mr. Ox, you must please promise not to tell anyone, but we need your help. Last week…”

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

With the third picture the words tumble out more easily, forming sentences that give life to the massive white elephant, regal lion, and that rabbit again who are traveling the sea in a long, open boat. The Quest, she calls it. In Tigers Prayer, preparations are being made: tea is brewing, a clown with a pointed hat plays his accordion, a windhorse jumps through hoops, and the rabbit rides a golden ring as a lion hears what Tiger has to say. A Birthday Party comes next, and it seems Pan has planned a very secret party. An owl perches in the crook of a tree asking for the password with a “Hoo, Who?” which is answered quickly because the vanilla cake with raspberry filling and vanilla cream frosting holding 6 candles must be delivered.

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Magical Cloak sees the little girl’s imagination truly take flight as she decides the man in the “elaborate coat” is a wizard or magician whose bubbles come to life once released from the blower. Enormous whales now fill the harbor. They are beautiful, but something must be done….Next, hurry to meet the owl! He is picking up passengers at midnight. But what does the golden key in his beak open? Only the story The Golden Key locked in the little girl’s mind will tell.

Hours go by as the little girl creates tales for each picture in the book. As the night grows late, she sleeps, carried into slumber on dreams woven from the pictures and stories she imagined. When she wakes up, the girl wishes to spend more time with her new friends, but it’s time for school so she gathers up the book and hurries away.

On the path to school she meets a fox who is carrying a bag. “Excuse me, little girl,” says the fox. “I believe I have the words to your book.” The fox then explains how he caught the words as they spilled from the pages the day before. The fox gives her his parcel, but asks for a favor. The girl is happy to oblige and lets the fox stand on her shoulders to reach a bunch of grapes dangling from a nearby vine.

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The girl rushes into school and apologizes for being late. She relates the story of the fox and the words and the magical night she has spent making up tales for the pictures in the book. “I have so many stories to tell you,” says the girl to her teacher. “‘I can’t want to hear,’” the teacher replies with a smile.”

Opening a book by Pamela Zagarenski is to fall into an alternate realm of such beauty and imagination that you forget the real world exists.  Her paintings are composed of rich, regal hues swirling with images and designs that overlap and float to create the kind of experience only the deepest, most complex dreams allow. The characters and details follow page to page uniting the pictures and, subtly, the stories the little girl discovers in them: The teapot, once introduced, waits under a tree on the next page and rides the waves of the whale-filled sea in the next. The bees and the rabbit are constant companions on each spread, and the animals will fill the reader with awe.

The little girl’s imagined stories are tantalizing with just the right mix of the mysterious and the tangible to entice readers to add more. The frame of the Aesop Fable The Fox and the Grapes is inspired and could lead to a conversation about how “life is what you make it.”

The Whisper is a book readers will want to linger over and dip into again and again, and would be especially fun on those days when there’s “nothing” to do. It makes a beautiful gift for any occasion and would be a welcome addition to any home library.

Ages 4 – 9 (this book would also appeal to adults)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 | ISBN 978-0544416864

Picture Book Month Activity

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I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate

 

Do you want to let everyone know which books are yours? Or just declare your love of books? Then display this printable I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate in your books. on your wall, or in your locker!

Picture Book Review