January 16 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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About the Holiday

Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrates the life and legacy of the man who dedicated his life and work to teaching—as Coretta Scott King stated—“the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service” and led a non-violent Civil Rights movement to enact racial equality and justice throughout state and federal law. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, setting it on the third Monday of January to coincide with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday on January 15. The holiday was officially observed in all 50 states in 2000. Today, learn more about the life and work of Martin Luther King and how you can help promote justice and equality for all. Consider volunteering in your community where help is needed.

I am Martin Luther King, Jr.

Written by Brad Meltzer | Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

 

Standing inside a church, Martin Luther King, Jr. introduces himself with two anecdotes from his childhood that demonstrate his world outlook. “When I was little,” he says, “I used to get into a lot of accidents.” He was hit in the head by a baseball bat, knocked down by cars and once even “tumbled over our banister, then bounced through an open door into the basement.” While these incidents could have made him cautious, Martin instead was determined to keep “getting back up.” His second influence were the books in which he could find “big words.” Even as a child Martin recognized that “there is power in words.”

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Image copyright Christopher Eliopoulos, text copyright Brad Meltzer. Courtesty of Dial Books for Young Readers

Before he went to school, Martin relates, his best friend was a white boy whose father owned a nearby store. They did everything together until school started. Then Martin went to a school with only black students while his friend went to a white-students-only school. Soon, Martin’s friend told him his father didn’t want them to play together anymore. Martin was confused. When his parents told him the reason was that they had different colored skin, Martin felt angry. He wanted to hate his friend and his father, but Martin’s parents taught him to love his friend, and his mother told him, “you must never feel that you are less than anyone else.”

It was a difficult lesson when all around him he saw inequality. White schools had better equipment, there were different elevators, bathrooms, water fountains, and other facilities for black people and white people, on buses black riders had to give up their seats to white riders. Everywhere black people and white people were segregated.

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Image copyright Christopher Eliopoulos, text copyright Brad Meltzer. Courtesty of Dial Books for Young Readers

When Martin was only 15 he was admitted to college. At 19 he entered the seminary where he learned about civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance—ways to use “love and peaceful methods to change unfair things in society.” These were lessons Martin wanted to share with others. His chance to put his thoughts into action came when Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to relinquish her seat to a white man. Martin advocated a peaceful protest—a boycott of public buses. He reasoned that without the money from black riders, the bus companies would change their policies.

As the boycott began working, Martin gave a speech in Montgomery, Alabama, motivating people to continue their peaceful protest. Martin was put in jail and his house was bombed, but the boycott continued for more than a year. Eventually, the bus companies changed their rules. Other peaceful protests began to take place in restaurants and other public places.

One protest took place in Birmingham, Alabama.  Martin was again put in prison, where he wrote one of his most famous speeches. Children also took part in the Birmingham protest. The Children’s Crusade attracted more than 1,000 kids. On the first day 900 of them were arrested, but that only inspired the children more. On the second day 2,500 children showed up. They stood firm while they were sprayed with water hoses and attacked by police dogs. People—both black and white—watching the news reports were aghast. Three months later the rules began to change.

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Image copyright Christopher Eliopoulos, text copyright Brad Meltzer. Courtesty of Dial Books for Young Readers

“By the summer of 1963, an estimated one million Americans held their own protests in cities across the country.” Then A. Philip Randolph suggested a single huge march to convince “Congress and the president to pass laws so that no one in America can treat people differently based on skin color.” On August 28, 1963 the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place. Martin gave what may now be considered his most famous speech in which he talked about his dreams for the country, for the people, and for their children.

Although Congress began passing new laws, the ability and right to vote in elections still eluded black people. To change the voting rules another march was organized to walk 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery Alabama. The 600 walkers were met by police who stopped them. Two days later 2,500 activists tried again but could not get through. On the third try 8,000 marchers showed up. This time, with the world watching on television, the activists made it to Montgomery, protected by troops sent by President Johnson.

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Martin continued to speak out, relating his philosophy and dreams for the nation. “To reach our goals, we must walk the path of peace,” he said. “We must lock arms with our brothers and sisters. We must march together. When we do…Our voices will be heard, and freedom will ring.” The lessons Martin Luther King taught still resonate today. He stands “as proof that no matter how hard the struggle, we must fight for what is right and work to change what is wrong.…if we stand together, if we remain united, nothing can stop our dream.”

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Brad Meltzer’s Ordinary People Change the World: I am… series of biographies are well-known for showing young readers that they can achieve their dreams and make a difference no matter what those hopes may be. In his biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., Meltzer depicts several incidents from King’s childhood and early adulthood that influenced his future work. These help readers understand not only the types of prejudice King and other African Americans experienced, but also the people who inspired his philosophy of peace.

Meltzer’s inclusion of King’s imprisonments and the violence that met the peaceful protesters deepens the understanding of the dangers King and other protesters faced, and provides an opportunity to open a discussion between adults and children about those times and what they now see in the news. Meltzer’s description of the Children’s Crusade will inspire readers, making them proud of children in the past and stirring them to actions of their own. Sections from King’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and his most famous speeches are presented in speech bubbles. The text is followed by photographs of Martin Luther King, Jr. with his family and at the March on Washington as well as a timeline of his life. Sources and resources for further reading are also included.

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In keeping with the style of all of Meltzer’s and Christopher Eliopoulos’s Ordinary People Change the World: I am… biographies, the illustrations are vibrant and cartoon-inspired. Martin Luther King, Jr. is depicted with the size of a child but the features of an adult, reinforcing the idea contained in the text of the dual nature of the future adult residing in the child and the ideals of the child remaining in the adult that appeals to ambitious young readers. Speech bubbles highlight text that carry emotional dialogue. Settings, including churches, Birmingham jail, Washington DC, the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument give children a look at the cities and places described in the text.

For young readers, I am Martin Luther King, Jr. offers a comprehensive biography of the man who was a national and world leader in the fight for equal rights for all people and makes an excellent starting place for classroom lessons and personal discussions.

Ages 5 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0525428527

Discover more about Brad Meltzer and his books for adults and children as well as other goodies on his website!

Learn more about Christopher Eliopoulos, his books, and his comics on his website!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Activity

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Martin Luther King, Jr. Portrait

 

Color this printable Martin Luther King, Jr. Portrait and then hang it in your room or locker to inspire you!

Picture Book Review

July 24 – Amelia Earhart Day

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About the Holiday

On July 24, 1897 Amelia Mary Earhart was born. With astounding bravery and perseverance, Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She was an author; a founder of the Ninety-Nines, an organization for women pilots; an instructor and career counselor; and she broke many aviation records. Her disappearance over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 remains one of the most baffling historical mysteries.

I am Amelia Earhart

Written by Brad Meltzer | Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

 

Even as a child Amelia Earhart chafed at the idea that girls could only wear dresses, play with dolls, and have “unladylike” adventures. At the age of seven Amelia and her sister built a roller coaster in their backyard by placing two planks against a shed and making a car from a packing crate with roller skate wheels on the bottom. They even greased the wood to make it “super-fast.”

Amelia took the first ride. With the wind in her face she launched off the end of the ramp, catching air and her first feeling of flight. She crash landed a minute later, but declared the experience, “awesome!”

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Image copyright Christopher Eliopoulos

When Amelia was 23 she met Frank Hawks, who took her on her very first flight for ten dollars. It only took her ten minutes to realize that “she had to fly.” To save money for flying lessons Amelia took on many jobs. She worked as a truck driver, a stenographer, and a photographer. In time she learned to fly and within six months of becoming a pilot, she bought a bright yellow biplane that she named Canary.

Amelia admitted that she wasn’t a natural or even the best pilot, but she worked hard to learn the skills she needed. She also bravely dared to do what others wouldn’t or couldn’t. Because of her determination she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic and then the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. At a time when people still traveled from America to Europe by boat, no one thought a woman would be able to fly that far.

To make the flight required the kind of grit that Amelia possessed. The trip took 14 hours and 56 minutes with no stops and no breaks, and when Amelia landed she broke the record for the fastest Atlantic flight ever. She broke other records too, including the woman’s altitude record and a speed record. Despite her success, whenever she set a new goal there were always people who told her she couldn’t do it. But she never let that stop her.

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Image copyright Christopher Eliopoulos

Her life and achievements serve as inspiration to all who aspire to great heights. Amelia’s advice? “Whatever your dream is, chase it. Work hard for it. You will find it. It is the best lesson I can give you.” And she added this reminder: “I hope you’ll remember that the greatest flight you’ll ever take, is the one no one has tried before.”

Part of Brad Meltzer’s I am… series of biographies, this portrait of Amelia Earhart highlights the traits of bravery and individualism—evident from her youngest years—that fueled her passion for adventure and breaking barriers. Perfectly suited for its audience, the text is conversational and includes funny asides from young Amelia to her readers. The repeated repartee between those who doubted her and Amelia (“you sure this is a good idea?” and “This isn’t a good idea. It’s the best idea!”) emphasizes Amelia’s determination and self-belief that will inspire kids to think likewise about their own dreams. The book follows Amelia from her childhood through her young adulthood and into her record-breaking years with well-chosen facts that illuminate but do not overwhelm. As this is a book to inspire children to reach for their dreams, the book makes no mention of Amelia’s eventual disappearance over the Pacific Ocean, instead leaving kids with wise words from this most iconic and fascinating adventurer.

Children love the accessibility of Christopher Eliopoulos’ I am… series illustrations! Enthusiasm and joy radiate from Amelia Earhart’s face as she races to meet the world head-on. Her dismay with typical “girl stuff” as well as her excitement when flying is evident in her very kid-like expressions. The scenes of Amelia building and riding her homemade roller coaster will make kids’ eyes widen in delight. Amelia’s various flights and planes are beautifully rendered in both up-close views of her aircraft as well as panoramic spreads showing her flying through clouds, over fields, and across the ocean. The full-bleed, vibrant and action-packed pictures will rivet kids’ attention to Amelia’s life and her inspiring message

Ages 5 – 9

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0803740822

Keep up with what Brad Meltzer is writing and doing next by visiting his website!

Discover the cartoon world of Christopher Eliopoulos on his website!

Amelia Earhart Day Activity

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Soar Toward Your Dreams Box Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying—or if you just have sky-high aspirations—you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! You can use your own creativity to decorate it or make Amelia Earhart’s Canary while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. This is a fun activity to share with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 Long, wide craft sticks
  • 2 Short “popsicle” sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons or flat beads
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one long, wide craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that will be the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other long, wide craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one short craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted wide craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it half-way between each side

To assemble the wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the short toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick to the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

February 12 – Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday

CPB - I am Abraham Lincoln

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday! Abe Lincoln was born in a one-room log cabin in Kentucky and later worked as a riverboat worker, a shopkeeper, and a postmaster in Illinois before becoming the 16th President of the United States. With compassion, bravery, and strength, Lincoln shepherded the country through the Civil War and signed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery in the United States. Lincoln’s birthday is commemorated with wreath-laying ceremonies at his birthplace and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

I am Abraham Lincoln

Written by Brad Meltzer / Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos

 

In his I am… series of biographies, Brad Meltzer writes about famous people as they grow from childhood into the influential adults they became. In I am Abraham Lincoln, Meltzer illuminates various experiences of Lincoln’s life that formed his beliefs of equality and inclusiveness. At a time when most children liked to hunt, fish, and tend the farm, young Abe spent his time reading, and he was one of the few people in town who could write. Even at the age of 10, his compassion showed when he stopped a group of his peers from treating a turtle roughly. Later, as a young man and newcomer to Illinois, he faced a group of bullies and dispersed them without throwing a punch.

It was when he witnessed the indignities of a slave boat, however, that his most deeply held beliefs took hold. As President, Lincoln acted on those beliefs, helping the country through the Civil War, gave speeches, and signing laws that ensured all people would be treated equally.

By relating stories from Abraham Lincoln’s childhood, Meltzer not only teaches children about his life, but demonstrates that his young readers can also make a difference by speaking up and helping others whenever they see injustice.

Christopher Eliopoulos’s cartoon-like illustrations are particularly effective in showing the earnestness of Abraham Lincoln’s personality from early childhood on. Speech bubbles display dialogue, modeling the simple words that can so often create great change. Part of the book’s charm is that even as a child Lincoln sports his iconic beard and top hat, making him instantly recognizable as the hero children are familiar with and emphasizing the “man in the child” theme.

Ages 4 – 8

Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Group, New York, 2014 | ISBN 978-0803740839

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday Activities

CPB - Abe Lincoln's Top Hat chalkboard (2)

Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard

Abraham Lincoln was known for the black top hat he wore – and for his inspiring words In this activity you can learn how to make a top hat chalkboard to use for your own drawings or inspiring words!

Supplies

  • Cereal Box (I used a large sized cereal box), cardboard or poster board
  • Chalkboard Paint (black)
  • Paint brush
  • Hot Glue Gun or extra-strength glue
  • Removable mounting squares
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. If you are using cardboard or poster board: cut a rectangle at least 8 inches wide by 12 inches long for the hat and 12 inches long by 2 inches wide for the brim (but your top hat can be any size you’d like!)
  2. If you are using a Cereal Box: open the seams of the Cereal Box
  3. Cut the panels of the cereal box apart
  4. Take one face panel and one side panel
  5. With the chalkboard paint, paint both panels
  6. Let the panels dry
  7. Attach the side panel to the bottom of the face panel to create the shape of Lincoln’s top hat
  8. Hang Abe Lincoln’s Top Hat Chalkboard 

Donate to a Food Bank

Today can be a day to remember the hardships that many people still endure. Many still live with hunger every day. Today, gather a bag of non-perishable foods and donate them to your local food bank. This activity can also be done by a group—a classroom, scout troop, youth group, or group of friends. Even a little bit helps a lot!