September 18 – National Respect Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to help people focus on how they can be more respectful of others—family, friends, and strangers. It’s also a day to think about yourself. Do you respect yourself and your abilities? Self-respect is crucial for achieving your goals, both personal and professional. There are many ways to show respect. Good manners, listening to others, acknowledging others with a “thank you” or “great job,” and inclusion are only a few of the ways that people can start building the kinds of respectful relationships that lead to success.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange

By Adam Rex

 

As the book opens, readers meet two smiling friends—an apple and a pear who ask the jaunty and rhyming question: “Who wouldn’t travel anywhere to get an apple or a pear?” A little purple fruit joins the fun with “And if a chum hands you a plum, be fair and share that tasty treat!” From the sidelines an orange watches in anticipation like a child waiting to leap into a twirling jump rope. When the banana and peach arrive, enjoying a beachside cabana, the orange takes the initiative and calls out, “Hey, are you guys going to need me for this book?”

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

But the action continues with caped grapes and a kind of high-fiving dance party where all the cute fruit are cheering themselves on. The persistent orange peeks out from the background just to remind them that he’s there. As the fig admits that she’s not very big, the orange begins to catch on to the pattern of invitations, and his once-present grin begins to fade. With a shrug he acknowledges that “nothing rhymes with me, but…” he’d still like to be included.

If nearly getting sucker punched by a “peewee” kiwi’s “pucker punch” counts as being included, then the orange is front and center. But then a cantaloupe riding an antelope enters the scene with a dietary suggestion.”If you aren’t a fan of cantaloupe, then feed it to an antelope.” Not a fan of that rhyme? Well…the orange agrees with you, and he’s a little unsure about the quince on the next page too. But…back to the dance party, where all the newly introduced “cute fruit” are now cutting the rug.

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

The produce seem to be losing control as they reach for rhymes. I mean, “you can keep them in a bowl or in a boot—fruit!” Really? Is it actually a good idea to eat out of a shoe? Poor Orange doesn’t “even know what that is.” Want a little philosophy with your fruit? Then try this on for size: “I think cherries are ‘the berries’ and a lychee is just peachy. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is a book by Friedrich Nietzsche.” Impressive!

That bit of nonsense just makes Orange mad, though. As Nietzsche throws his hands in the air and joins the festivities, Orange is nonplussed: “I don’t see why he’s in this poem and I’m not.” Good question! And now the banana again?! Didn’t he already have his turn? And the pear? Didn’t she get to lead the whole thing off? Maybe this is one of those circular plots…. Whoa! Here’s a twist—a wolf wants to take a bite of Pear. 

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

But suddenly a transformation takes place that brings up some pretty deep questions: “then does that pear become a pearwolf when the moon is full and bright? Will the apple have to grapple with this pear with fangs and hair?” Now that the story has gone to the dark side, the orange decides he’s “glad he’s not part of it.” Yet, wait! A caped grape comes to the rescue, and Orange realizes that “this book is amazing.”

The cute fruit party is in full swing with a band, a singer, and a whole lot of dancing. The rhymes are coming fast and furious—some a bit better than others, according to Orange—and he decides to just hang out on the next page. There, though, as he stands alone and dejected and surrounded by lots of white space, Orange hears a cheery sound. It’s Apple with a welcoming rhyme: “But the fruit are feeling rotten, ‘cause there’s someone they’ve forgotten.” And while what Apple says next might not technically be a real word, it does the job with a little hip-hop beat: “It’s the orange. He’s really smorange. There’s no one quite as smorange as orange.”

This, of course, could go either way, so Orange asks for a little clarification and discovers that “smorange” means “totally awesome in every way.” And with that, the jam continues, with Smorange Orange out in front.

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Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Adam Rex’s cool, funny, and sophisticated riff uses the fact that the word orange has no rhyme to explore the ideas of exclusion and inclusion and show readers that there’s always a way to embrace others and make them feel good and part of the group. 

Rex has created very appealing characters in Orange and the others. Without a mean seed in their bodies, they’re just having fun and being a bit silly. In a very welcome plot turn, Apple and the other fruit recognize that Orange feels left out and come to him with a solution. Rex’s vivacious fruit are as cute as they think they are, and little Orange is endearing with his alternately easy smile and sad eyes. The addition of a dancing Friedrich Nietzsche is genius and will have both kids and adults laughing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nothing-rhymes-with-orange-apple-and-pear

Copyright Adam Rex, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Nothing Rhymes with Orange is a fantastic read-aloud for home and classroom story times. The book would be a much-asked-for favorite and would make a perfect gift or addition to home libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452154435

You’ll have a blast exploring the world of Adam Rex on his website!

National Respect Day Activity

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Initial Respect Craft

 

Here’s an easy craft that you can make for yourself or as a gift for someone else. This Initial Respect Craft can be used as a decoration or as a bookend while it reveals all the qualities that you respect in yourself, a family member, or a friend.

Supplies

  • Wooden letter
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk

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Directions

  1. Paint the letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. On the letter, write words that reflect the qualities that you respect in yourself, in a family member, or in a friend
  3. Display your letter to remind yourself that you should always be treated and treat yourself and others with respect.

Picture Book Review

September 12 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Discovering a new book is one of the joys of life! Right now bookstores everywhere are filled with books waiting for you to take them home, open the cover, and start reading. Whether you find a new book published just this year or one that’s older but new to you, take the opportunity of this month’s holiday to add to your home library. Children especially benefit from reading new and classic books—and thanks to the subject of today’s book, they have plenty to choose from!

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

 

With a hearty “Welcome!” readers are invited to explore—and appreciate—the pages, pictures, words, and even individual letters that make up the book they’re holding. Back in time, a book like this didn’t exist. How far back? Well, let’s return to 1726…. “In those days of powdered wigs and petticoats, England was brimming with books.” There were exciting tales about imaginary places, sailing voyages, mysterious happenings, “pirates, monsters and miniature people”—for adults. What did kids read? Their books were all about teaching them how to have good manners and how to live a good life because death was always near. Scary stuff and not much fun at all!

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Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

One of the children reading these books was John Newbery who, despite the dreariness, loved to read more than he liked to do his chores. When he grew up, he left the family farm and went to work for a printer. After he learned the business, he became a publisher himself. He moved from his small town to “London, center of the bookselling trade.”

Soon, he found the perfect storefront on a busy street and opened his shop. He had a dream of publishing books for every taste—and for children too. “He knew the youngsters were hungry for stories. Many boys and girls handed coppers to street hawkers for ugly chapbooks of fairy tales, or for chopped-up versions of grown-up books.” When John Newbery tried to offer good books for children, however, the adults balked. They were afraid “that if their little nippers read fun books, they’d turn wild as beasts!”

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Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“Balderdash!” John Newbery said. And others agreed. Two publishers issued books of alphabet rhymes and stories, and another published some books of nonfiction. But “John wanted his first book for children to be irresistible.” The books he created included pictures of fun children’s games, enjoyable ways to learn ABCs and other subjects, and fantasy stories. He even wrote a note to moms and dads to alleviate any fears.

The covers of his books were colorful and attractive and carried the title “A Pretty Little Pocket-Book.” To further entice kids and their parents, John offered to sell books along with a toy for a very good price. John wondered if his books would look “too cheerful,” but “the children gobbled them up like plum cakes.”

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Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

As customers bought books in the front of his shop, John created new books in the back. In addition to fiction books, he began printing books on math, science, and other subjects. With the books a success, John Newbery turned his thoughts and his press towards creating a magazine for children, and, finally, a novel. The novel was titled The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes and was a rags-to-riches story about a little girl who succeeded through “study, hard work, and kindness.” It showed children that they too could achieve their dreams. The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes was a hit in England and America.

While the authors of John Newbery’s books were all anonymous or had “silly, made-up names,” it wasn’t hard for people to figure out who was really creating the books that brought their children so much joy and made their lives better.

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Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017. text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

An Author’s Note about John Newbery as well as a resources page follow the text.

Kids will love Michelle Markel’s entertainingly informative book that takes them back to a time when the unthinkable was reality. Markel’s charming text is as infectious as John Newbery’s love of books, and readers will laugh at how kids’ books were once perceived. Her conversational tone and bemusement at the state of publishing at the time creates a warm reading experience—like a secret shared between friends.

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Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017. text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Nancy Carpenter infuses Balderdash! with the sights, dress, activities, and flavor of the time period in her pen-and-ink illustrations. Humor abounds, from the little boy overflowing with tears in the corner of the first page to a young John Newbery relishing the feel and smell of newly printed pages to parents pulling their children away from “dangerous” books. Along the way, kids will want to scope out all the details on each page. A variety of typefaces and sizes further enhances the humor and ambience of the book.

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books would make a great addition to home libraries for kids interested in books, history, and innovation. Teachers will also find the book to be a perfect beginning for language arts or history units.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0811879224

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website!

Read a New Book Month Activity

I Have the Reading Bug! Bookplate and Bookmark

 

Do you have the reading bug like John Newbery? If so, here’s a bookplate and bookmark for you to print to show your love of books!

I Have the Reading Bug Bookmark | I Have the Reading Bug Bookplate

Picture Book Review

August 30 – Toasted Marshmallow Day

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About the Holiday

Today is a day to celebrate the simple pleasures of toasting marshmallows. Whether you like your marshmallows just lightly browned or blackened to a crisp, these ooey-gooey delights are fun to make and fun to eat! Why not make a campfire, start up the fire pit or grill, or even set the oven to broil and toast up some marshmallows today?

A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee

By Chris Van Dusen

 

As the sun came up Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee packed up their car and headed out on an adventure. They left their seaside home for the mountains, where they plan to camp for two nights or “possibly three.” Mr. Magee tells Dee that he’ll love camping. It’s quiet and peaceful and “aside from the wildlife, there’s no one around.” In a few hours they found the perfect spot to pitch their tent. “It was high on a hill with a beautiful view / of Mount Adams, Mount Lincoln, and Jefferson too.” But the prettiest sight of all was the stream that ended in a whooshing waterfall.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mr. Magee gathered pinecones and sticks and made a fire where he cooked hotdogs for the dinner. Then “as the sun set behind far distant knolls, / they sat roasting marshmallows over the coals.” When darkness fell, Mr. Magee and his little dog fell asleep in their cozy camper. As they were dreaming of the next day, a bear bumbled by, led to the spot by the sweet smell of marshmallows.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

The bear wanted those marshmallows, but he couldn’t quite reach with the car and the camper blocking his way. “But that didn’t stop the sneaky old snitch, / he simply tried squeezing right under the hitch.” But as he wriggled and wiggled he undid the lock, and the car rolled forward while the camper rolled back. On separate paths down the hillside, the two vehicles flew. The car bounced down the road, while the camper headed straight for the stream.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Mr. Magee and Dee woke in alarm when the camper splashed headlong into the roaring current. “They were caught in the rapids, but that wasn’t all. / They were headed smack dab through the big waterfall.” They were quaking with fear and the camper was swept away, but just as they were about to go over the falls, their camper was snagged by a rock on the edge.

They were worried and wondering what they could do, when the bear spied one more marshmallow to chew at the end of the camper. He jumped in the river, grabbed the hitch in his teeth, and dragged the camper back to the bank. When the bear tasted metal instead of sweetness, he moseyed away disappointed.

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Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When the bear let go, the camper bounded away and rolled down the rocks. It came to rest right next to the car. Mr. Magee and Dee hitched up once more and drove home. They weren’t ready to give up their camping quite yet, so “when they got home with the sky turning red, / they decided to camp in the backyard instead.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-camping-spree-with-mr-magee-camping-at-home

Copyright Chris Van Dusen, 2003, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Chris Van Dusen’s classic camping adventure featuring the loveable Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee is full of humor, suspense, and cozy moments. The sweet relationship between Mr. Magee and his faithful companion, will charm young readers and make them happy to be taken along for the ride. Van Dusen’s rolling rhythm and clever rhymes are catchy and fun to read aloud.

The vintage open-top rambler and tiny, rounded camper are just as endearing as the main characters as they roll and bump along the dirt road to the campsite and then go their separate ways to create a dramatic story. The blue seaside, mountain scenery, and fiery sunset are beautiful backdrops to the action, and the aerial view down the 50-foot waterfall will make readers cringe at Mr. Magee’s predicament.

Ages 4 – 7

Chronicle Books, 2003 | ISBN 978-0811836036

Discover more about Chris Van Dusen, his books and art on his website!

Toasted Marshmallow Day Activity

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Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes from allrecipes.com.

Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes

 

Toasted marshmallows aren’t just for S’mores anymore! With this delicious cupcake recipe from All Recipes, toasted marshmallows top off chocolate cupcakes in style! Visit All Recipes and get the recipe for Toasted Marshmallow Cupcakes that makes any event as fun as a camping trip!

Picture Book Review

August 16 – It’s Water Quality Month

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About the Holiday

Water is one of earth’s most precious resources. Worldwide, millions of people do not have access to clean water. Climate change is also contributing to alterations in water temperature which affects sea life and coastal animals. Pollution, habitat destruction, pesticides, and a disregard for the crucial importance of this limited resource all threaten not only the quality of water, but the quality of life on this planet. To get involved in the solution, volunteer to clean up waterways, be mindful of the products you use, and consider donating to the cause.

Over and Under the Pond

Written by Kate Messner | Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

 

A mom and her son have taken their rowboat out on the pond, where they “slide, splashing through lily pads, sweeping through reeds.” As they gaze over the side of their little boat, they can see the sun, the clouds, and themselves reflected in the still surface. But the little boy wonders what is below, where they can’t see. His mom tells him there is a “hidden world of minnows and crayfish, turtles and bullfrogs.”

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

On top the two can see tall grasses that break the water’s surface and little beetles and skaters making their way along the water. Below, a brook trout waits for his dinner. As the mom and her son paddle between thick stands of cattails, three painted turtles take turns slipping from their sunny perch back into the safety of the pond. Hidden in the cattails is a small nest, just a pocket of sticks and grass for red-winged blackbird babies.

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

There are babies under the pond, too. “A secret shelter of pebbles and sand” that hold the larva of a caddisfly. Along the shore, trees cast shadows on the water as a moose makes a lunch of water lilies. It’s also mealtime under the pond, where three beavers pull up roots to chew on. The weather is turning breezy over the pond, making the current stronger and blowing leaves here and there. All around animals are maturing: “a new goldfinch teeters, finally ready to fly” while tadpoles are “losing tails, growing legs, growing up.”

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Carefully picking his way in the muddy shallows, a great blue heron searches for food. He spies a minnow and with a flash snaps it up with his long, pointy beak. Way up in the trees the tat-tat-tat of a woodpecker looking for ants echoes through the air while down below an otter has her eyes set on a passel of mussels. The sun is beginning to set, and an iridescent dragonfly takes a rest on the little boy’s knee. Perhaps it is related to the dragonfly larvae underwater who has just grabbed a minnow for its dinner.

The nocturnal animals begin making an appearance in the spindly grasses. “Ospreys circle on quiet wings. Raccoons and mink stalk the shoreline for supper.” In the blue-black evening, the mother and her son head home as “a far-off loon calls good night.”

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Image copyright Christopher Silas Neal, 2017, text copyright Kate Messner, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

An Author’s Note about the ecosystem of a pond and the animals that live in and around the water follows the text.

Kate Messner’s lyrical environmental books invite young readers to discover the world around them through the eyes of their peers. In Over and Under the Pond, Messner takes children on a leisurely afternoon boat ride that compares and contrasts what is happening on top of and below the water. Along the way, kids learn fascinating facts while absorbing the feel and beauty of the outdoor world.

Christopher Silas Neal gorgeously depicts the mysteries of a pond environment in his matte, mixed media illustrations that allow readers to view the birds, fish, insects, plants, and animals in action as they go about their day. The mixture of familiar and new creatures will engage children interested in learning more about the natural world. As the sun goes down and evening falls with its comforting starlit sky, young readers will feel happy to be part of this wonderfully complex world.

Ages 5 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452145426

To learn more about Kate Messner and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Christopher Silas Neal on his website!

Water Quality Month Activity

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Busy Pond Coloring Page

 

There’s so much going on at the pond! Get your pencils, markers, or crayons and have fun with this printable Busy Pond Coloring Page! You can even add tissue paper grass, real sand, and other materials to make it look realistic!

Picture Book Review

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Picture Book Review