August 11 – It’s Elvis Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elvis-is-king-cover

About the Holiday

Each year during the week in August surrounding the date of Elvis Presley’s death, fans gather in Memphis and at Graceland, his home that is now a monument to The King to celebrate his music, movies, and legacy. Events include concerts, workshops, dances, the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, and more. The annual Candlelight Vigil, which attracts tens of thousands of fans, is held from the evening of August 15 to the morning of the 16th. Participants carry a candle as they walk up the driveway to the Meditation Garden, listening to his music and taking in memorials created by fans. To learn more about Elvis Week, visit the Graceland website.

Elvis Is King

Written by Jonah Winter | Illustrated by Red Nose Studio 

 

Elvis is King by Jonah Winter and Chris Sickels’ Red Nose Studio is an eye-popping wonder for fans of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll wanting to share their love for Elvis with their kids. In short, lyrical chapters with dramatic titles that are cleverly reminiscent of the sensational headlines Elvis generated throughout his life (and even after), Winter peels back Elvis’s rags-to-riches story, encapsulating the depth of poverty, talent, and ambition that fueled his life. It’s all here—his birth “in a humble shack / on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, / the side where the poorest of the poor people live…;” his reason for being: singing; and the county fair talent show, where ten-year-old Elvis got his first taste of adoration and a “Fifth Prize!” award.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elvis-is-king-school

Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Kids walk into the hardware store with Elvis’s barefoot mama, who “with pennies she saved…/ buys her eleven-year-old birthday boy / the most important gift he will ever receive. / It will be the key to his salvation.” Elvis plays that guitar everywhere, “All. The. Time.” There’s the moment Elvis overheard gospel singing coming from the African American Church and “The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis.” And that question: Why peanut butter and banana sandwiches? The answer’s here too.

When the family moves to Memphis, it’s up to teenage Elvis to make the money by “working nights as a ticket taker at a movie theater.” Then, suddenly during those years, Elvis finds the “Weird Teenage Elvis” inside him. He dyes his blond hair black and waxes it into a wave. At a thrift shop he buys green pants, a pink shirt, and a checkered jacket. Then at the high school talent show, he “KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD with his song.” And not only that “something happens, something big, when he’s up there: / He is no longer shy! / He can be whatever he wants to be—let loose, go crazy!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elvis-is-king-memphis

Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Along the way he falls in love, graduates from high school, and soaks up the sounds of the blues on Beale Street. For his mama’s birthday, he goes to Sun Studios, where anyone can record themselves singing. “(It also makes *real* records of big-time singers— / and Sly Elvis knows this.)” Elvis has his first recorded song for just $3.98. A bit later he gets the call he’s been hoping for from Sun Studios and discovers his signature sound and moves. The song—”That’s All Right”—plays on the radio, and where’s Elvis? Hiding out. Will people like it? Five thousand requests and fifteen replays in one night say Yes!

And when Elvis walks on stage for the first time to sing his song, he’s met with an “AVALANCHE of screaming—in a good way!” Goggle-eyed girls just want to be near him, and it’s the same no matter where he travels. This “Good-Lookin’ Heartthrob Elvis” is soon to lose his “One True Love, / his little darlin’, Dixie Locke. He uses that feeling, though, in a song—”Heartbreak Hotel” that “rises to number 1 on the pop charts.” So “What Is This Crazy Music, Anyway?” It’s not exactly country and it’s not exactly rhythm and blues. “It’s… / ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, baby. / And Elvis is its KING…!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elvis-is-king-beale-street

Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Jonah Winter’s biography is in every way a loving tribute to Elvis Presley that also winks at his larger-than-life persona and the world’s obsession with him. Well-chosen adjectives presented in initial caps and attached to Elvis’s name, give titles to the phases of Elvis’s life and present an evocative way to show what and where he grew from and left behind on his rise to fame. Sprinkled with southern vernacular and touched with the cadence of a slow, considered southern drawl, Winter’s ingenious verses mirror song lyrics and echo themes that not only make up the country and blues standards that influenced Elvis’s music but that applied to his life. 

As always Chris Sickels’ Red Nose Studio artwork is nothing short of astounding. Each illustration is composed as a 3-D set handcrafted from polymer clay, wood, wire, fabric, and found objects. The intricate details and moving emotions, demonstrated in a look, by a gesture, and through perspective, give the illustrations a realism that goes beyond a photographic depiction to illuminate the heart of Elvis Presley’s story. Readers will want to linger over every page to absorb the cultural landscape and life-affirming moments that created The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

A joy to read aloud, Elvis Is King is an inspirational story for anyone with a dream, big or small. The personal, yet universal, story and phenomenal art make the book a stirring addition for home, school, and public libraries. 

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2019 | ISBN 978-0399554704

Discover more about Jonah Winter and his books on his website.

To learn more about the work of Chris Sickels and Red Nose Studio, visit his website.

Elvis Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elvis-presley-coloring-page

Elvis Coloring Page

 

Elvis wowed audiences and movie goers with his moves and flair. This printable coloring page shows Elvis in of his well-known dance poses. In honor of Elvis Week, why not share Elvis is King, this page, and some of Elvis’s songs or movies with your kids?

Elvis Coloring Page 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-elvis-is-king-cover

You can find Elvis Is King at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 6 – International Ideas Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway

About the Holiday

The onset of spring with its  wide-open sunny days seems to beckon to us to open our minds to all sorts of new possibilities. International Ideas Month also invites would-be inventors and clever folk alike to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. You never know – there may be a book, a work of art, a new invention, or a solution to a need inside you just waiting to be let out! 

The Secret Subway

Written by Shana Corey | Illustrated by Red Nose Studio (Chris Sickels)

 

In the 1860s the streets of New York were…well, not to put too fine a point on it…disgusting. Made of cobblestone and filled with trash, waste, horse manure, dust, dirt, and throngs of people, the roads made for rough travel. Many people had ideas about what could be done to make the streets safer and cleaner. Some thought a moving sidewalk would work, others talked about double-decker roads or an elevated train system. But while there was a lot of talk, nothing ever got done.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway-city

Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

Alfred Ely Beach, however, peered down from his high office room and studied the street below him. Alfred Beach was a thinker, a publisher, and an inventor. He put his clever mind to work and came up with a solution. He envisioned a train powered by an enormous fan that would travel underground. “People would get where they needed to go as if by magic!” he thought. He couldn’t wait to start building. There was just one problem—he didn’t own the streets. And getting permission to dig them up would be hard. “So Beach hatched a sneaky plan. He would propose building an underground tube to carry mail instead.” As he had imagined, no one objected to this project when he proposed it—not even Boss Tweed, who unofficially ran the city.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway-designing

Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

Given the okay, Beach rented the basement of Devlin’s Clothing Store. Every day he sent in workers to dig and every night wagons took away the debris. For 58 days and nights Beach’s men tunneled under the city, moving forward 8 feet each day. At last the tunnel was finished. It was 8 feet across and 294 feet long—large enough to hold a train full of people.

Beach then decorated the basement to be a beautiful, welcoming waiting room. Gaslight lamps and paintings dotted the walls, flowers added color, and a grandfather clock rang out the time. There was even a fountain with goldfish, a man playing a grand piano, and a delicious lunch. When everything was ready, Beach invited reporters, government officials, and distinguished citizens to join him on February 26, 1876 at the “Beach Pneumatic Transit Company.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway-designing

Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

That first day Alfred Beach’s guests only admired the train, but they gave it glowing praise. Soon Beach opened his train to the public. With a WHOOSH from a gigantic fan, the train zipped down the track and then back again. “Beach’s train was a SENSATION! All winter while wagons slipped and slid on the slushy streets above, people poured into Devlin’s for the twenty-five-cent ride.”

While riders loved it, some people objected. Shop keepers didn’t want potential buyers underground. Property owners were afraid the digging would hurt their buildings, and some felt Beach wanted too much power. Even Boss Tweed no longer supported it since some of his friends had their own ideas on building a subway. When the governor of New York refused to let Beach expand his train, the project came to a halt.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway-invites-riders

Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

The idea didn’t die, however, and “many years later drilling could be heard once again under the streets of New York City” as a train system powered with electricity was being built. Diggers discovered many unusual things buried under the city. Perhaps the most surprising was a brick wall behind which stood a little railroad car rusting in its tracks, a memorial to innovation and the future.

Alfred Ely Beach was one clever man, and Shana Corey tells his story with historical perspective, wit, and suspense. Corey’s language crackles with evocative alliteration, stealth, and action. Kids will be excited to learn of the intrigue and imagination that led to this remarkable snippet of America’s history.

Fans of Claymation will love Chris Sickels’ multimedia artwork that combines sculpted characters, specially built props, photographs, and illustration. Sickels’ characters are nothing short of astounding. Their period clothing, hairstyles, and expressive faces lend an engaging and realistic dimension to the vintage scenes. Sickels cleverly depicts early New York City and people’s alternative ideas to the traffic problem with sketched in schemetics. His use of color and lighting sets the perfect tone for this highly entertaining and educational picture book. Kids will want to linger over each page to catch all the details of The Secret Subway.

For kids interested in transportation, history, inventions, and claymation and other arts, The Secret Subway would be a wonderful addition to their home library.

Ages 4 – 10

Schwartz & Wade, Random House Kids, 2016 | ISBN 978-0375870712

Discover more about Shana Corey and her books for kids on her website!

You will be amazed by the art, books, and animation by Chris Sickels on his Red Nose Studio website!

This Secret Subway book trailer is just the ticket!

International Ideas Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway-chris-sickels-craft

Chris Sickels’ Secret Subway

Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studio invites you to build your own Secret Subway with this printable play set, complete with Alfred Ely Beach and a passenger! Click here to download your printable Secret Subway Activity!

Build a Super Subway Car

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-subway-car

Every day, millions of people all over the world travel to work, school, and other activities by subway. Here’s an easy and fun way to build your own subway train from recycled materials. You can make just one car or make a few and connect them to create a long train worthy of any big city!

Supplies

  • Printable Subway Car Template
  • Medium or long toothpaste box
  • Silver paint
  • Glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the toothpaste box with the silver paint, let dry
  2. Cut out the windows, doors, and stripe templates
  3. Trim the stripes to fit your box
  4. To make the little sign near the door, trim a small aquare from one of the stripes
  5. Glue the templates to the box

Picture Book Review

June 2 – Leave the Office Earlier Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway

About the Holiday

The brain child of Laura Stack, a specialist in employee motivation, Leave the Office Earlier Day urges a look at how employees and employers use the working hours of the day to best advantage. Today’s holiday motivates employees to finish their tasks before schedule by making a conscious effort to increase efficiency and productivity. Greater cooperation between workers and their bosses can lead to less downtime and more success. To celebrate today’s holiday, employees can ask their bosses if they can leave the office once their work is truly and well finished. Employers may want to allow their workers to leave as soon as they have completed all their tasks. Both sides may find this tactic improves productivity and creates a more positive work environment.

The Secret Subway

Written by Shana Corey | Illustrated by Red Nose Studio (Chris Sickels)

 

In the 1860s the streets of New York were…well, not to put too fine a point on it…disgusting. Cobblestone and filled with trash, waste, horse manure, dust, dirt, and throngs of people, the roads made for rough travel. Many people had ideas about what could be done to make the streets safer and cleaner. Some thought a moving sidewalk would work, others talked about double-decker roads or an elevated train system. But although there was a lot of talk, nothing ever got done.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway-city

Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

Alfred Ely Beach, however, peered down from his high office room and studied the street below him. Alfred Beach was a thinker, a publisher, and an inventor. He put his clever mind to work and came up with a solution. He envisioned a train powered by an enormous fan that would travel underground. “People would get where they needed to go as if by magic!” he thought. He couldn’t wait to start building. There was just one problem—he didn’t own the streets. And getting permission to dig them up would be hard. “So Beach hatched a sneaky plan. He would propose building an underground tube to carry mail instead.” As he had imagined, no one objected to this project when he proposed it—not even Boss Tweed, who unofficially ran the city.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway-designing

Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

Given the okay, Beach rented the basement of Devlin’s Clothing Store. Every day he sent in workers to dig and every night wagons took away the debris. For 58 days and nights Beach’s men tunneled under the city, moving forward 8 feet each day. At last the tunnel was finished. It was 8 feet across and 294 feet long—large enough to hold a train full of people.

Beach then decorated the basement to be a beautiful, welcoming waiting room. Gaslight lamps and paintings dotted the walls, flowers added color, and a grandfather clock rang out the time. There was even a fountain with goldfish, a man playing a grand piano, and a delicious lunch. When everything was ready, Beach invited reporters, government officials, and distinguished citizens to join him on February 26, 1876 at the “Beach Pneumatic Transit Company.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway-designing

Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

That first day Alfred Beach’s guests only admired the train, but they gave it glowing praise. Soon Beach opened his train to the public. With a WHOOSH of a gigantic fan, the train zipped down the track and then back again. “Beach’s train was a SENSATION! All winter while wagons slipped and slid on the slushy streets above, people poured into Devlin’s for the twenty-five-cent ride.”

While riders loved it, some people objected. Shop keepers didn’t want potential buyers underground. Property owners were afraid the digging would hurt their buildings, and some felt Beach wanted too much power. Even Boss Tweed no longer supported it since some of his friends had their own ideas on building a subway. When the governor of New York refused to let Beach expand his train, the project came to a halt.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway-invites-riders

Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

The idea didn’t die, however, and “many years later drilling could be heard once again under the streets of New York City” as a train system powered with electricity was being built. Diggers discovered many unusual things buried under the city. Perhaps the most surprising was a brick wall behind which stood a little railroad car rusting in its tracks, a memorial to innovation and the future.

Alfred Ely Beach was one clever man, and Shana Corey tells his story with historical perspective, wit, and suspense. Corey’s language crackles with evocative alliteration, stealth, and action. Kids will be excited to learn of the intrigue and imagination that led to this remarkable snippet of America’s history.

Fans of Claymation will love Chris Sickels’ multimedia artwork that combines sculpted characters, specially built props, photographs, and illustration. Sickels’ characters are nothing short of astounding. Their period clothing, hairstyles, and expressive faces lend an engaging and realistic dimension to the vintage scenes. Sickels cleverly depicts early New York City and people’s alternative ideas to the traffic problem. His use of color and lighting sets the perfect tone for this highly entertaining and educational picture book. Kids will want to linger over each page to catch all the details of The Secret Subway.

Ages 4 – 10

Schwartz & Wade, Random House Kids, 2016 | ISBN 978-0375870712

Leave the Office Early Day Activity

 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-secret-subway-chris-sickels-craft

Chris Sickels’ Secret Subway

 

Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studio invites you to build your own Secret Subway with this printable play set, complete with Alfred Ely Beach and a passenger! Click here to download your printable Secret Subway Activity!

Build a Super Subway Car

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-subway-car

Every day, millions of people all over the world travel to work, school, and other activities by subway. Here’s an easy and fun way to build your own subway train from recycled materials. You can make just one car or make a few and connect them to create a long train worthy of any big city!

Supplies

  • Printable Subway Car Template
  • Medium or long toothpaste box
  • Silver paint
  • Glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the toothpaste box with the silver paint, let dry
  2. Cut out the windows, doors, and stripe templates
  3. Trim the stripes to fit your box
  4. To make the little sign near the door, trim a small aquare from one of the stripes
  5. Glue the templates to the box

Picture Book Review