May 16 – Drawing Day

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About the Holiday

Drawing day was established to remind us that all of the creative thoughts inside us are worthy of being shared. It also brings awareness to and appreciation of the artists and illustrators of all types who translate our world into meaningful images through which we understand people, events, and objects in different ways. Today, indulge your inner artist! Grab a pencil, pen, marker, paints or chalk, some paper or canvas, and create!

Tell Me a Tattoo Story

Written by Alison McGhee | Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

 

A little boy tugs on his dad’s T-shirt, wanting to see his tattoos—again. His dad sits down with his son and patiently goes through them, like the pages of a favorite book. In fact, the tattoo on his shoulder—a dragon flying above mountain peaks—is from the book his mom read to him in childhood. “Did she read it to him over and over and over? She sure did,” he says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-interior-art-at-home

Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk

The elaborate design on the dad’s wrist reads “Be Kind,” advice his father used to give him. An intricate depiction of a carnival, complete with a Ferris wheel, fireworks, and flowers reminds him “of the day I met a pretty girl.” His son asks what made the girl so pretty, and his dad responds, “That’s a good question, little man. I’d have to say it was her smile.” In answer to his son’s wondering if he has ever met this girl, Dad looks at his wife and says, “You sure have.”

The tattoo picturing a globe and monument that covers the dad’s right side is from “the longest trip I ever took.” He reminisces—“Did I miss home while I was there?”—and confesses, “I sure did.”  The last tattoo the little boy asks about is a small heart festooned with a banner that reads “7● 22 Two Thousand Twelve.” Father and son engage in banter that is most likely familiar to them both, with the boy asking the questions he already knows the answers to but loves to hear again and again: “Those numbers inside it? Just somebody’s birthday, I guess. Whose birthday? / Oh some little man I know, is all. / What do you mean, this one’s your favorite? This dinky little heart?” Then leaning in to learn a secret, the boy rediscovers that the heart tattoo is his dad’s favorite too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-interior-art-be-kind

Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk

Alison McGhee’s Tell Me a Tattoo Story is such a sweet, original homage to the love between father and son. The use of body art to reveal not only seminal events in the dad’s life but the trajectory of his child’s birth is inspired. The minimal text highlights the deep emotion, giving the boy in the story as well as young readers the information they are really looking for. The soft-spoken dad is such an appealing character—emotionally available, honest, and offering just the right tone of humorous repartee—for today’s family dynamic.

Beautifully rendering McGhee’s text into art, Eliza Wheeler creates a homey atmosphere that emphasizes the theme of the book while creating tattoos that are immediately accessible to children. The dragon tattoo could come from The Hobbit or Harry Potter, kids will recognize the fun and excitement represented by the Ferris wheel, and the little heart is simplicity at its finest. While the pages depicting the dad’s tattoos are minimally hued, the father’s reminiscences burst with color and details—providing an overall feeling of warmth and affection. The image of the dad in his military uniform over the hot, golden sands on “the longest trip he ever took” will bring a tear to your eye.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-interior-art-longest-trip

Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk

The originality of the story and gorgeous illustrations make Tell Me a Tattoo Story a must for children’s bookshelves and will become an often-asked-for read during quiet story times or for bedtime.

Ages Birth – 6

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452119373

To discover more books for children and adults by Alison McGhee, visit her website!

View Eliza Wheeler’s portfolio and other books on her website!

National Tattoo Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-design-your-own-tattoo-template

Design Your Own Tattoo

 

Tattoos can be simple or elaborate, but they are always personal. They tell a story, commemorate an event, or reveal an emotion. What would your tattoo look like? Design your own body art on this printable Design Your Own Tattoo Template!

Picture Book Review

October 22 – Smart is Cool Day

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About the Holiday

There are many ways to be smart—and they are all very cool! The world needs people who can think differently about all issues to solve problems, create art and literature that reflects our times and present alternate viewpoints, and just to make life funnier, more poignant, more beautiful,more  livable. Today, celebrate your particular way of being smart and share it with others!

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein

Written by Jennifer Berne | Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

 

More than 100 years ago on a windy March day, a baby boy was born—Albert was his name. Albert turned one without saying a word. When Albert had his second birthday, he still hadn’t said a word. By the age of three Albert had only said a few words. “He just looked around with his big, curious eyes. Looked and wondered. Looked and wondered.” Albert’s parents were a bit worried because he was so different from other kids. But “they loved him…no matter what.”

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Image copyright Vladimir Radunsky, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Once when Albert was sick, his father brought him a compass. As he watched the needle automatically spin to point north, “Albert was so amazed his body trembled. Suddenly he knew there were mysteries in the world—hidden and silent, unknown and unseen.” Albert began asking questions wherever he went. His teachers told him he was a “distraction” and that “he would never amount to anything if he didn’t behave like all the other students.” But Albert didn’t want to be like other kids.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-beam-of-light-albert-gets-compass

Image copyright Vladimir Radunsky, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

While on his bicycle one afternoon, Albert wondered what it would be like to ride a beam of sunlight. He was excited by this idea and it filled him with questions. He began to study light and sound, heat, magnetism, and gravity. He also read about numbers, which to him were like a secret language. Still, Albert had many more questions. After college he wanted to teach the subjects he loved, but he couldn’t find a job.

Instead, he went to work for the government. His job left him a lot of time to ponder his questions. He watched sugar dissolve in tea and smoke disperse in the air and wondered how that happened. Albert realized that everything is made of tiny particles. While many people didn’t believe it, Albert’s work helped prove the existence of atoms.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-beam-of-light-albert-at-school

Image copyright Vladimir Radunsky, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Next Albert considered motion and how everything is always moving. “Even sound asleep we’re moving, as our planet circles the sun, and our lives travel into the future. Albert saw time and space as no one ever had before.” He wrote about his theories and sent the articles to magazines that published them all. Scientists asked him to join their research and teach with them. People began to call Albert a genius. Now he could spend all his time thinking, wondering, and imagining—doing what he loved.

His ideas took in huge things—like planets—and infinitesimal things—like the particles inside atoms. To help him think, Albert sailed his little boat and played his violin. Even the kinds of clothes he wore—or didn’t wear—affected his thinking. He loved baggy pants, over-sized sweaters, and NO socks! He was easily recognized around town by his long, white hair.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-beam-of-light-albert-riding-bike

Image copyright Vladimir Radunsky, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

During all these years Albert never forgot about that beam of light he once wanted to ride. He “figured out that no person, no thing, could ever zoom through space as fast as a beam of light.” If that could occur “crazy things” would happen. While only minutes would pass for the traveler, years would go by for those left on earth. This sounded like a ridiculous idea, but since then it has been proven true.

Albert Einstein continued reflecting on the world until the day he died. He asked and answered many questions that had never been posed before. But he also left many, many questions for other generations—maybe even you!—to discover and solve.

Jennifer Berne’s engaging biography of Albert Einstein is a charming and absorbing look at one of the most unique thinkers in history. Her uplifting, conversational storytelling and well-chosen anecdotes from Albert’s childhood and adulthood will keep kids riveted to the story and show them that while Albert Einstein’s ideas may have been out of this world, he was also very much down to earth. On a Beam of Light introduces readers to this fascinating scientist and will also inspire them to find the genius inside themselves.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-on-a-beam-of-light-atoms

Image copyright Vladimir Radunsky, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

The childlike, offbeat goache, pen, and ink illustrations of Vladimir Radunsky lend the right amount of lightness and movement to each page, depicting not only Albert and his surroundings but also the endless musings that filled his mind and his days. As Albert grows from a baby to a child, his loving and understanding parents stand by and encourage his gifts; he and his bicycle rocket off on a beam of light; and numbers swirl through the air as Albert rests his head on a stack of books. In a restaurant other patrons are portrayed as simple line drawings, putting the focus on Albert as he ponders a dissolving sugar cube, a device that is used to also depict Albert’s thoughts and scientists of the future who have proven his theories correct. When Albert discovers atoms, he and a family portrait are rendered in dots. The muted colors, mottled paper, and period details allow readers to fully appreciate Albert’s Einstein’s story and contributions.

An Author’s Note and further paragraphs about Einstein’s thought experiments, playful nature, pacifism, and most famous equation, as well as a list of resources follow the text.

On a Beam of Light is a wonderful addition to home libraries for children interested in science, math, ideas, history, and creativity in general. Jennifer Berne’s emphasis on the support Albert received from his parents and his ultimate acceptance within the science community is also welcome comfort for kids who do think differently.

Ages 4 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2016 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1452152110

To view more books by Jennifer Berne, plus pictures by her readers and more, go to her website!

Visit Vladimir Radunsky’s website to see a gallery of his books with pictures!

Smart is Cool Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-smart-is-cool-writing-template

I’m Smart Because…

 

In what way are you smart? Draw a picture or write about your special talent on this printable I’m Smart Because…page.

Picture Book Review

October 5 – World Teachers Day

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About the Holiday

Teachers are amazing! They dedicate their lives to connecting students to the wider world and opening doors to opportunities for a bright future. Today’s holiday celebrates all the work, thought, and planning that teachers put into every day’s lessons as well as the care and concern they have for every one of their students. Wherever you are, thank your teacher or teachers for everything they do to help you write your own story and ultimately your own ticket—like the sharp heroine of today’s book!

Little Red Writing

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

One day in pencil school Ms. 2, the teacher, tells her class that they are going to write a story. Her students are excited, and each one has an idea of what to write. The birthday pencil, wearing a bright pink cone-shaped hat, yells “‘Yippee! I want to write a happy story!’” The state pencil, sporting a map of Pencilvania on its eraser end, wants to tell a nonfiction tale about its state, and the basketball pencil with a small replica basketball topper imagines writing a sports story.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Little Red, looking sharp in her shiny scarlet coat of paint chooses to “write a story about bravery because red is the color of courage. But what would a brave pencil do?” she wonders. She decides to go in search of unusual characters that will give her a chance to fight evil and save the day. Ms. 2 gives “Little Red a basket of 15 red words to use in case she ran into trouble” and reminds her that “it’s ok to wander a little, but stick to your basic story path so you don’t get lost.”

Little Red takes her basket full of nouns and sets off. In her notebook she begins to describe her journey. “As she walked along…” she writes and then stops. “Walking is boring,” she decides. To discover some action she heads for the gym, where other pencils are twisting, throwing, catching, swinging, and jumping. Little Red bounces and boogies and cartwheels “right off the page into a deep, dark, descriptive forest.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-red-writing-descriptive-forest

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

The adjectives lay thick on the gnarled, flowery, shadowy path. The towering trees smell piney and their verdant, russet leaves hide squirrelly creatures. The forest is beautiful, but suddenly Little Red feels “bogged down, hindered, lost!” Remembering her basket, she reaches in and pulls out scissors. They help her “cut through all this description and stick to the story path.” Back on the straight and narrower, Little Red encounters a bottle of “conjunction glue” with just the right kinds of words to help her. She gives the bottle a squeeze, but now finds that her sentences go on and on without saying anything important. All seems lost until “Suddenly” arrives.

“Suddenly,” she hears a throaty roar that begins to chase her. Little Red runs without stopping, throwing out any word she can grab from her basket until she can escape to the next page. Here, however, she discovers a “long, tangly tail” and decides to investigate. The tail winds all along the school corridors, passing the cafeteria, the music room, the art room, and the auditorium. It even meanders by the math room and the after school clubs room into the principal’s office.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-red-writing-wolf-3000-chases-little-red

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Little Red knocks on the door. Inside, Principal Granny, her long tail tangled behind her, roars her greetings. Little Red is suspicious, but she continues to explain the growly voice she heard. In fact, she says, “It sounded kind of like yours.” “The betterrr to be hearrrd on the school interrrcom,” the principal states. Little Red also reports the tangly tail, to which the principal answers, “the betterrr to get charrrged up for my school duties when my batteries are rrrunning low. All at once Red notices the principal’s big sharp teeth. “The betterrr to chomp little pencils like you and grrrind them up!”

With that Little Red realizes that this isn’t Principal Granny but the “Wolf 3000: the grumpiest, growliest, grindingest pencil sharpener ever made!” The Wolf 3000 begins to chase Little Red around the office, and just when there seems no hope, in walks Mr. Woodcutter, the janitor—who immediately faints. There is only one thing left to do. Little Red grabs her last word and hurls it at the Wolf 3000. “KABLOOEY” goes the dynamite, reducing the Wolf 3000 to a pile of parts.

Principal Granny emerges from the rubble shortened but okay and declares Little Red a hero. Little Red rushes back to her classroom in time to hear the other pencils’ stories and to share her own brave adventure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-little-red-writing-dynamite

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Joan Holub’s delightfully clever tribute to writing draws on the Little Red Riding Hood story to get kids excited about using the various parts of speech that make writing so fun and reading so enjoyable. The metaphorical “story path” that Little Red traverses brings her into contact with characters that provide immediate understanding of the concepts. When Little Red squeezes the bottle of conjunction glue, out squirt the words so, but, and, although, yet, and or, which are incorporated into the illustrations on the page. Readers’ familiarity with the original fairy tale increases suspense in this fractured version. The Wolf 3000 electric pencil sharpener makes a perfect nemesis, and the fainting janitor leaves Little Red to sharpen her wits and defeat the beast. Dynamite—at least the word itself—truly is mightier than the sword.

Holub’s nibble talent with puns and wordplay elevates Little Red Writing from simply a book about the subject of grammar and writing to a captivating story kids will love to hear again and again.

Grammar has never looked as enticing as in Melissa Sweet’s vivacious illustrations of adorable Little Red on the story path to prove her bravery. Sweet’s pages, combining pencil drawings, watercolor, and collage, burst with animated typography, scraps of vivid red nouns, and expressive characters in a detailed and fully realized pencil school. Little Red’s final battle with the Wolf 3000 gives full range to Sweet’s rousing visual humor in a highly satisfying climax to the story.

For kids who love reading, writing, and a really good story, Little Red Writing would be a welcome addition to their bookshelves. Teachers will find the story enhances any unit on writing, grammar, and literature.

Ages 5 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1452152097

You will find children’s books for all ages as well as fun videos, activities, and teachers’ resources on Joan Holub‘s website!

Discover books, things to make, and lots of fun on Melissa Sweet‘s website!

World Teachers Day Activity

CPB - Pencil Maze

Pencil It In Maze

 

Writing a story is like completing a maze – you must stay on the right path from the beginning to the end to write a satisfying tale. Find your way through intricacies of this printable Pencil It In Maze! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 14 – It’s Chicken Month

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About the Holiday

It’s as simple as this – Chicken Is Good!  Chickens Are Good!? Hmmm…I guess it’s a little more complex than I thought.

Chicken Big

By Keith Graves

 

Something big is hatching at the teeny little farm. Not only big, but humongous! Chicks aren’t supposed to be that big, so what is it? The farm’s small chicken agrees that whatever it is, it’s big; the farm’s smaller chicken goes so far as to call it enormous; and the farm’s smallest chicken declares it’s an elephant, and warns that indoor elephants are dangerous! The chickens all agree on one thing—this creature is too big to stay in the itty-bitty coop. The newly hatched chick doesn’t feel like an elephant and wishes he were a chicken.

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Image copyright Keith Graves, courtesy of keithgravesart.com

The next day an acorn conks the smallest chicken on the head, causing the familiar “the sky is falling” panic to hit the teeny farm. While the chickens are running around like chickens with…well, you know, the big chick discovers that acorns are tasty. Seeing the chick eating acorns convinces the smallest chicken that their new coopmate is indeed a…squirrel!

When the rains come, the big chick protects the others under his wing, so the smallest chicken decides this barnyard biggie is an….umbrella! It doesn’t take long for the smallest chicken to realize she is wrong, and that the yellow fellow with the chilly wind blocking skills is a…sweater!

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Image copyright Keith Graves, courtesy of keithgravesart.com

When the chickens return to the coop for naptime and discover their eggs have been stolen, they boo hoo hoo into their feathers while the humongous chick scouts out the fox carrying the precious cargo into his den. With a hop and a jump the big chick spans the mile and peeps into the fox’s home just as he is about to fry up some lunch. Frightened by the “hippopotamus,” the fox scampers away.

Big chick brings back the eggs and is proclaimed a hero. Finally the big chick’s intelligence, kindness, and bravery convince the chickens that he is one of them, and they welcome him into the coop. There’s just one problem…he doesn’t quite fit. Showing compassion and uncharacteristic understanding, however, the smallest chicken is the first to say they’ll make room.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chicken-big-fox

Image copyright Keith Graves, courtesy of keithgravesart.com

Keith Graves has hatched up a manic tale of mistaken identity that will keep kids giggling and groaning with delight as the possible aliases grow more and more ridiculous. The feather-brained chickens are drawn with comic masterstrokes as they frantically try to determine who or what has invaded their farmyard. The big chick is indeed big—dominating the page and towering over his coopmates. Incorporating comic-style conventions on some pages, such as speech bubbles and small panels, as well as mixed typefaces adds to the humor.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-1452131467

Like the best children’s museums, Keith Grave‘s website is a colorful and crazy compendium of his work!

While I take some personal days over the next couple of weeks, I am re-blogging some earlier posts with updated interior art and links.

Chicken Month Activity

CPB - Chick single

Hatch a Chick! Craft

 

Chicks are so cute and fluffy—you just wish you could have one of your very own! Now you can! Hatch your own chick with this craft.

Supplies

  • Cotton balls
  • Yellow chalk
  • Orange paper
  • Black paper
  • Egg shell
  • Paper grass
  • Cardboard or poster board
  • Cheese grater
  • Bowl
  • Green paint
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To make the shell

  1. Crack an egg and save the two halves
  2. Soak the eggshells in soapy water or wash gently with soap
  3. Dry eggshell

To make the chick

  1. Grate the chalk with the cheese grater into the bowl
  2. Roll the cotton balls in the chalk dust until they are covered
  3. Choose one cotton ball to be the head
  4. Make the beak from the orange paper by folding the paper and cutting a small triangle. The triangle’s base should be along the fold.
  5. Cut two small eyes from the black paper
  6. Glue the beak and eyes to the head cotton ball
  7. Glue the head cotton ball to the body cotton ball
  8. Set the chick into one of the eggshell halves (you can glue it in if you wish)

To make the stand

  1. Cut a 3-inch by 3-inch square from the cardboard or poster board
  2. If you wish, paint the square green
  3. Glue green paper grass to the square
  4. Glue the eggshell halve to the stand.

August 31 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Double Happiness by Nancy Tupper Ling Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Summer is coming to a close and school is starting again. It’s a great time to reflect on the fun you’ve had in the warmer weather and all the memories that are about to be made as another year of activities, education, new friendships, and excitement unfolds. Happiness really does happen if you let it!

Double Happiness

Written by Nancy Tupper Ling | Illustrated by Alina Chau

 

This quiet, thoughtful picture book tells the story of a family’s move from China to America in a series of unrhymed verses that reveal the experience honestly from alternating viewpoints of a brother, Jake, and his sister, Gracie. Each page is dedicated to one sibling or the other with the Jake’s poems written in blue and Gracie’s in purple. In several poems the children interact with each other, the blue and purple lines acting as dialog tags.

In the first poem, The Move, Gracie stands on her doorstep surrounded by boxes and suitcases and thinks, “I won’t go! / I won’t move / away / from our city house / by the trolley tracks….” But Jake is more adventurous and in the second poem, Train, is already imagining his new room. After considering different décor, he decides what he really wants is something familiar, something outside—“just one long train / that rocks and wobbles / my bed each night. / I can’t fall asleep until the train passes by.”

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Image copyright Alina Chau, courtesy of Chronicle Books

In Grandmother, the siblings are each given a happiness box by their Nai Nai, who wisely challenges her grandchildren to “Find four treasures each, / leading from this home / to your new.” Gracie takes this to heart, and readers see in Panda that even before leaving Nai Nai’s Gracie has added a favorite keepsake to her box: “Nai Nai’s panda sits / by the window / like always. / “I’ll miss you,” I say. / Nai Nai leans over me. / She places Panda / inside my box. / “He has a new home / now.”

Too soon moving day comes, and in Goodbye Gracie and Jake give hugs and kisses to beloved relatives. The search for items to fill Nai Nai’s boxes is taken up in the next three poems. In Treasure, Jake becomes a dragon keeping his “dragon eyes / wide open for stuff / along the way.” He is rewarded in Lucky, in which he discovers an old penny on the bus ride to the airport. In Leaf Gracie receives a surprising gift for her happiness box: “One stray leaf / flutters down / onto my box— / Eucalyptus! / If I had a koala I’d feed / her this minty meal all / day long— / the perfect treasure / to remind me of home.” 

In keeping with the long hours of travel from China to the United States, the next six poems chronicle the brother and sister’s experiences in the airport, waiting for their plane, and during the flight. Airport sees the children running, hopping, waiting, and navigating their way through the crowds of people to their gate. Dad is already tuckered out in Quiet, but Jake is wrangling to look for treasure: “’Huff puff. Puff huff.’” / Dragon blows fire. / Dragon stomps his feet. / “’Ssshhh, you’ll wake Daddy. / I giggle. / Gracie giggles. / “’Daddy can sleep / anywhere.’” Jake finally discovers gum in his backpack and creates a treasure. “I stretch it / and roll it / and ooze it / into one slinky snake / Sssssee, his penny pillow. / Sssssee, he’s kai xin— / so happy—in his brown box. / I’m tied with Gracie now— / two treasures each.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-double-happiness-discovering-the-woods

Image copyright Alina Chau, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Adventures at the airport continue in Cat and Wings, and as the plane takes off Gracie draws pictures of the day’s events in Picture. In Here the children wake up to see their new city far below them and wonder, “can I find our house / from the sky?” Marble and Sadness juxtapose Jake’s happiness at finding another treasure for his box with the apprehension of Gracie as the plane lands and the family makes its way into their new country.

At last in Home the family reaches their new house by taxi. Gracie seems only to see the “piles of snow,” but Jake likes the “windy roads, lots of trees, and the curvy driveway.” In Explore Gracie and Jake walk around the countryside, and while Gracie still determines that she won’t like it, Jake hears a train and is happy. My Room and Dinner see the kids settling in, with a photograph of the family they’ve left behind accompanying them on the table while they eat. In A Surprise, Gracie finds that her grandmother is still with her through a special scarf, and in Paints Jake and Gracie accept the move as they paint their happiness boxes: Jake decorates his with a dragon and a train, while Gracie depicts herself and her brother walking in the snow and “they look very, / very / happy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-double-happiness-coming-to-new-house

Image copyright Alina Chau, courtesy of Chronicle Books

While Double Happiness tells the story of a family’s distant move, Nancy Tupper Ling’s gentle verses are appropriate for any situation involving change or uncertainty. She reminds children that happiness can be found wherever they are and all around them if they look for it. The poems flow as freely as thoughts, fears, and unguarded moments. As Gracie and Jake resolve their feeling, readers or listeners will also see that feelings of apprehension are common, and that happiness is waiting for them.

Alina Chau’s soft, lovely watercolor illustrations are beautiful representations of Gracie and Jake’s move from the familiar surroundings of their home in China to a new home in a snowy countryside.  The children’s emotions resonate as they alternate between sadness and happiness and between the concrete places of Nai Nai’s house, the airport, and their new city and their own imaginations of dragons, drawings, and dreams.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1452129181

Discover more books for children and adults by Nancy Tupper Ling on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Alina Chau and more on her website!

**Note: As I take some personal days in the next few weeks, I will rerun updated posts published earlier in the year, including new interior art and links.

Happiness Happens Activity

CPB - Happiness typography

Happiness Is…Game

 

Happiness is all around you! Grab one or more friends to play a game that reveals what things make you happy. Here are two ways to play:

  1. Like the “Geography” game: the first player names something that makes them happy, the next player must think of something that starts with the last letter of the word the previous player said. The game continues with each player continuing the pattern. Players drop out as they cannot think of a word. The last player left is
  2. Within a certain time limit (depending on age), players must think of something that makes them happy. Players drop out if they cannot think of a word within the time limit. The last player left is the winner.

Picture Book Review

July 17 – National Tattoo Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-cover

About the Holiday

As an emerging holiday, National Tattoo Day gives us an opportunity to learn about and appreciate this very personal form of art. As the Smithsonian reports, tattoos have been found on human remains dating to Ancient Egypt and is believed to have been designed for therapeutic reasons similar to acupuncture. Body art has long been associated with soldiers and sailors, seeing a surge in popularity during the American Civil War, with the establishment of modern tattoo artists, and World War II. Today people of all ages and cultures embrace body art as a way of self-expression, and as today’s book shows, each tattoo tells its own story.

Tell Me a Tattoo Story

Written by Alison McGhee | Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

 

A little boy tugs on his dad’s T-shirt, wanting to see his tattoos—again. His dad sits down with his son and patiently goes through them, like the pages of a favorite book. In fact, the tattoo on his shoulder—a dragon flying above mountain peaks—is from the book his mom read to him in childhood. “Did she read it to him over and over and over? She sure did,” he says.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-interior-art-at-home

Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk

The elaborate design on the dad’s wrist reads “Be Kind,” advice his father used to give him. An intricate depiction of a carnival, complete with a Ferris wheel, fireworks, and flowers reminds him “of the day I met a pretty girl.” His son asks what made the girl so pretty, and his dad responds, “That’s a good question, little man. I’d have to say it was her smile.” In answer to his son’s wondering if he has ever met this girl, Dad looks at his wife and says, “You sure have.”

The tattoo picturing a globe and monument that covers the dad’s right side is from “the longest trip I ever took.” He reminisce—Did I miss home while I was there?”—and confesses, “I sure did.”  The last tattoo the little boy asks about is a small heart festooned with a banner that reads “7● 22 Two Thousand Twelve.” Father and son engage in banter that is most likely familiar to them both, with the boy asking the questions he already knows the answers to but loves to hear again and again: “Those numbers inside it? Just somebody’s birthday, I guess. Whose birthday? / Oh some little man I know, is all. / What do you mean, this one’s your favorite? This dinky little heart?” Then leaning in to learn a secret, the boy rediscovers that that tattoo is his dad’s favorite too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-interior-art-be-kind

Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk

Alison McGhee’s Tell Me a Tattoo Story is such a sweet, original homage to the love between father and son. The use of body art to reveal not only seminal events in the dad’s life but the trajectory of his child’s birth is inspired. The minimal text highlights the deep emotion, giving the boy in the story as well as young readers the information they are really looking for. The soft-spoken dad is such an appealing character—emotionally available, honest, and offering just the right tone of humorous repartee—for today’s family dynamic.

Beautifully rendering McGhee’s text into art, Eliza Wheeler creates a homey atmosphere that emphasizes the theme of the book while creating tattoos that are immediately accessible to children. The dragon tattoo could come from The Hobbit or Harry Potter, kids will recognize the fun and excitement represented by the Ferris wheel, and the little heart is simplicity at its finest. While the pages depicting the dad’s tattoos are minimally hued, the father’s reminiscences burst with color and details—providing an overall feeling of warmth and affection. The image of the dad in his military uniform over the hot, golden sands on “the longest trip he ever took” will bring a tear to your eye.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-interior-art-longest-trip

Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk

The originality of the story and gorgeous illustrations make Tell Me a Tattoo Story a must for children’s bookshelves and will become an often-asked-for read during quiet story times or for bedtime.

Ages Birth – 6

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452119373

To discover more books for children and adults by Alison McGhee, visit her website!

View Eliza Wheeler’s portfolio and other books on her website!

National Tattoo Day Activity

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Design Your Own Tattoo

 

Tattoos can be simple or elaborate, but they are always personal. They tell a story, commemorate an event, or reveal an emotion. What would your tattoo look like? Design your own body art on this printable Design Your Own Tattoo Template!

July 1 – International Joke Day

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About the Holiday

The tradition of a Joke Day originated in America and now is celebrated around the world. There may be no better way to bring people together than with a truly funny joke. Although what is considered humorous may vary from country to country, the love of laughter is universal and its health benefits are well-known. Today, rediscover your favorite jokes and research what others consider funny around the world!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School

Written by Davide Cali | Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud

 

Standing in front of his teacher, a little boy, his hair spiked with sweat, starts to explain why he’s late for school. It all began when giant ants stole his breakfast. This led him to his neighbors’ house to borrow a piece of bread, but he was thwarted because they were experimenting with a cannon and had just blown a hole in the wall.

Evil ninjas attacked him at the bus stop and then a team of high-stepping majorettes barred  his way. The gorilla who thought the school bus was a banana and the mole people who abducted him didn’t help things either. “‘So is that why you’re late?’” the teacher asks. Oh no, the boy says. He escaped easily enough and would have been on time if he hadn’t shrunk and then expanded and then returned to normal size just to fall into a pond where he had to fight a yellow blob.

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Image copyright Benjamin Chaud, courtesy of Chronicle Books

As soon as the blob was taken care of, an elephant snatched him up. A mouse helped him out of that fix, but soon he met Little Red Riding Hood and had a very Hansel and Gretel snack with her. “‘So is that why you’re late?’” the teacher asks. Nope, the boy says. He then followed a pied piper, but discovered he was going in the opposite direction of the school. Somehow he fell and landed in a spider’s web, but thanks to his trusty gadget belt he was able to cut his way out. Next Bigfoot and Yeti dropped on the scene, and later there was an unfortunate mix-up with a flock of sheep and some ducks. After that the President required his special chess skills.

“‘So is that why you’re late?’” the teacher asks. “Oh, no. I actually made it to school on time,” the boy states. “But I forgot my backpack…” The boy went home to get it, and as anyone would do if they had an uncle with a time machine, he used it to return to school on time. A malfunction in the machine sent him a little too far back—to the age of dinosaurs. “And THAT is why I was late to school,” the boy reveals.

The teacher takes a close, disbelieving look at her tardy student, but it may only be a moment before she discovers he was telling…the truth?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-funny-thing-happened-on-the-way-to-school-ape

Image copyright Benjamin Chaud, courtesy of Chronicle Books

There’s nothing so vivid as the imagination of a child trying to explain away a transgression, and Davide Cali puts that fact to excellent use in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School. Part farce, part science fiction, part classic fairy tale, Cali’s story employs all the resources of childhood to come up with a whopper of a tale that will impress and entertain kids.

Benjamin Chaud’s detailed depictions of the boy’s tall tales as he gets embroiled in one fantastic adventure after another will delight kids. Chaud’s colorful, action-packed illustrations deftly bridge the fantastic and reasonable aspects of the boy’s imagination. Kids will love the humorous additions—as when the wolf from “Little Red Riding Hood” eats the witch from “Hansel and Gretel” and an unfortunate parrot gets his tail feathers clipped along with the spider web—and will want to go through the story again to pick up other clues scattered along the way. 

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School is a great choice for a fun story and snack time.

Ages 5 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1452131689

International Joke Day Activity

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Elephants Never Forget a Joke Mask

 

Elephants are well-known for their good memories—all the better to remember favorite jokes! Print out and color this elephant mask and then have fun with it!

Supplies

  • Printable Elephant Mask
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • String, elastic band, or craft stick
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print and color the elephant mask
  2. Cut out the mask
  3. Color the mask
  4. Attach string, elastic, or a craft stick to the back of the mask at the marked places