September 16 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Sure, this month-long holiday is called Read a New Book Month, but what if you’re just itching to draw in a book? Sometimes those empty margins and chapter-opening pages seem to call out for embellishment. That’s where today’s book comes in! Every page (yes, every page!) invites kids to get out their colored pencils, markers, and crayons to add their own creative flair to make it truly their own.

Thanks to Cicada Books for sharing a digital copy of Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination

By Jurg Lindenberger

 

A child’s imagination is boundless – and so is their desire to find lots of different ways to express it. In Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination, Jurg Lindenberger gives kids a ticket to travel to wacky worlds where they get to do all sorts of things, like stock the shelves of silly stores, wind their way through the maze that is Megaburb, design cozy outfits for staying warm while skiing in Frostonika, and create delicious drinks to sip while lounging on the beach of LazyIsle.

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Copyright Jurg Lindenberger, 2022, courtesy of Cicada Books.

All along the way, from packing a suitcase and navigating Catwick Airport to getting onboard the pencil plane and touching down in Vectoland, Fruitnveg Megaburb, Frostonika, LazyIsle, Olde-Forest, and Crystal Castles, whimsical friends greet readers with enthusiastic smiles and humorous comments.

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Copyright Jurg Lindenberger, 2022, courtesy of Cicada Books.

A friendly narrator also keeps up a running conversation with kids that prompts them to add people, things, and even themselves to the pages. There are mazes, search-and-find and find-the-differences puzzles, a color-by-number scene, and many other ways for kids to stretch their creativity while being entertained to boot. 

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Copyright Jurg Lindenberger, 2022, courtesy of Cicada Books.

Jurg Lindenberger knows what will get kids giggling and drawing, and his easy comical flair makes every page fun (with even a little geometry thrown in). Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination is a perfect stowaway for trips by train, plane, or automobile to make those miles fly by as well as an engaging way to keep kids busy on rainy days or at the kitchen table and family room during relaxing time. 

Ages 4 – 11

Cicada Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1800660106

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Head in the Clouds Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying, you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! Use your creativity to decorate your plane while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. Younger children will have fun sharing this activity with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons
  • 2 mini buttons
  • 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 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini 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 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch 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 between the wheels at 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

Display your biplane!

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You can find Wowee Zowee: a flight of imagination at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 9 – National Day of Encouragement

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About the Holiday

Everyone can get discouraged, frustrated, and lonely at times, that’s why today’s holiday was conceived as a day to encourage, cheer, and inspire those who are missing out on the joy life can bring. The idea was first celebrated in Arkansas, when Governor Mike Beebe proclaimed September 12, 2007 to be a “State Day of Encouragement.” The holiday later spread across the country when President George W. Bush established September 12 as a National Day of Encouragement. It doesn’t always take a lot to make a difference for someone who’s struggling. Giving a kind word, taking time to listen, sharing a special treat, or just being there for a colleague, friend, or family member are all ways to help them feel happier and more encouraged to complete a goal, deal with a problem, or just have a good day.

Alte Zachen / Old Things

Written by Ziggy Hanaor | Illustrated by Benjamin Phillips

 

It’s grocery shopping day and Benji’s bubbe, scowling, peers into the refrigerator then sits down to make her list. She looks uncertainly at herself in the wall mirror as she puts on her headscarf. Benji, meanwhile, gets the cart and bags ready and then sits down to wait. He looks at his phone and then waits some more. When Bubbe Rosa finally appears, she says “Now come on, Benji. I don’t have all day.” He stands up and tells her he’s ready, but is met with an inexplicable “You young people are so lazy, everything comes for free. Tsk Tsk.” He pushes back a bit, showing her that he has brought a cart and bags. Bubbe can’t understand why he’s bringing bags when they give them out at the store, and he tells her that they are better for the environment. As they walk down the sidewalk, Bubbe considers this.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

She cheers up at the thought of what she will make for dinner tonight: “…gefilte fish and brisket and kugel.” They will get challah from Carmelli’s and babka from Gershon’s. Bubbe remembers how as a young man, Gershon “was always so forward. He’s a very rude man,” she says. She can’t seem to separate young Gershon from Benji when he mentions that they’ve missed their turn off and tells him that young people these days are also rude and “don’t know anything.”

She tells Benji how what kids learn in high school now, they learned in first grade. But then she reveals the day that all Jewish kids were banished from school. She had cried because she was going to be in the school play the next week. Her friend thought they’d be allowed back in, but they weren’t. Bubbe becomes sad at the memory and wipes away a tear. Then her scowl returns, and she trudges angrily on.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

When they get to the place where Rosa believes Ray’s Market is, they discover another store in its place. Bubbe can’t believe it, and begins to tell Benji the story of how Ray came over from Germany on the same boat as Benji’s Zayda Joe. Ray wasn’t as ambitious as Joe, and she wonders what happened to him. Today, when they approach the check-out counter, Bubbe is scandalized to find a tattooed young woman in a crop top behind the cash register, and gives her a piece of her mind.

Outside the store, Benji erupts, telling Bubbe that “girls don’t need boys to validate them” and that they can wear what they want. What Bubbe doesn’t tell Benji, but what readers see in a full-page illustration, is that she was the girl that Gershon chatted up many years ago and that once as she and Joe passed by Gershon’s bakery, their eyes met through the window.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

The rest of the shopping trip brings much of the same, and when she spots someone smoking outside a tattoo parlor, she yells at him about all of his tattoos. A turn of the page, however, reveals the roots of her rage in another full-page image filled with arms tattooed with numbers from concentration camps.

On the subway, Bubbe tells Benji more about her life: her trip from Berlin to Switzerland with her mother and sister—but not her father—and how she used to love to dance the polka. When she and Benji get off the train, Bubbe is disoriented. Benji leads her outside to the park to sit down. There, they lie on the grass, and while Bubbe dozes, Benji watches the people around them. When she awakens, Bubbe Rosa admits that she sometimes forgets, but then it all comes back to her. Readers see dated snapshots from her life—as a baby, with her sister, alone, standing next to Gershon, with Joe’s arm wrapped around her shoulders, with her two children as youngsters and then older, as empty nesters with Joe, and finally older and alone.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

It’s time to go home, and Benji calls an Uber he’s used before. In the car, the driver talks about coming from Ghana to New York to work until he can buy a house in Hamburg. While he means Hamburg, Pennsylvania, Rosa thinks only of Hamburg, Germany. Watching people out the window, she seems even more lonely than ever and asks Benji to request they go to Gershon’s bakery.

Benji can’t believe it will still be there, but they go. Rosa alights from the car and heads for the door. She opens it despite the closed blinds in the window and Benji’s entreaties to stop. Inside she does find Gershon, his shelves filled with baked goods and a with scowl on his face. He is surprised to see her and questions when she got so old. They banter with old jokes and then smile at each other.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

They reminisce about dancing together when they were young, and a turn of the page brings this memory to life with a colorful spread of people dancing, which also spans generations and includes other characters and time periods from the story. Back to present day, Benji sits on the grocery cart now watching Rosa and Gershon dance together under the bakery shop’s lights. “‘You’re just the same as always, Gershon,’ Rosa says.” And Gershon answers, “‘Some things never change, Rosa.’” And here, at least, that seems true as the babkas cost only $2.50. These scenes leave readers with hope that Rosa and Gershon will find the happiness that has eluded them for so many years. Feeling more like herself, Rosa suggests they walk home. She thanks Benji for all of his help that day and calls him a “good boy.” Benji replies that she is a “good bubbe,” too.

Back matter includes a glossary of Yiddish terms sprinkled throughout the story.

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Image copyright Benjamin Phillips, 2022, text copyright Ziggy Hanaor, 2022. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Powerful and emotional, Ziggy Hanaor’s Alte Zachen tells the story of one woman who grew up during the 1930s and lived through the holocaust, moving from Berlin to Switzerland to Palestine and finally to New York,  through her memories and their day-to-day repercussions. Hanaor’s gripping debut graphic novel tackles the complex histories and personal loss that affect the way people look at and interact with others in their communities as well as with their own families.

Bubbe Rosa’s displaced anger, distrust, confusion, triggers, and perhaps even envy for contemporary mores that allow more freedom are just some of the emotions that Hanaor explores. The impact of growing old and trying to adjust to a changing world is poignantly depicted through Rosa’s flashbacks and her angry outbursts. Benji is a compassionate ambassador for today’s generation and his counter arguments to Bubbe Rosa’s actions, are courageous—stated forcefully and clearly, but with respect. His tender love for his grandmother is evident in his patience and the way he treats her when she grows weary. Several elements of Rosa’s life are left ambiguous—for example the fate of her father and her prior relationship with Gershon—allowing readers to ponder and discuss the character’s full backstory and its effects.

Benjamin Phillips immediately draws readers into Bubbe Rosa’s consciousness with his nuanced and immersive imagery. Bubba Rosa’s face, its features deftly sketched and angled, reveals her querulous and dour demeanor, only softening when she imagines the dinner she will make and later meets up with Gershon again. Glimpses of Rosa’s profound sadness add depth to this complex character.  Masterfully moving between the present and the past, Phillips allows readers to see that for Rosa, her past—one that is both comforting and tortuous—is ever-present, even though its vestiges have mostly disappeared from her neighborhood.

Phillips depicts the present day in soft washes of blue, brown, and gray while Bubbe Rosa’s memories are as vivid as her recollections. By often portraying Rosa in the same flowered dress and Gershon with a mustache, Phillips orients readers to their history, a substory that threads its way throughout the narrative, enriching readers’ knowledge of these two connected characters.

Compelling and evocative, Alte Zachen is an eloquent intergenerational story that will resonate with and enlighten readers of all ages. The book is a perfect choice for families to share while discussing how particular events from the past, in general, as well as within the family affect the present day. It would also make a poignant selection for mixed-age book discussion groups and library programs. Alte Zachen is an absolute must for home, middle school, high school, university, and public libraries.

Ages 12 and up

Cicada Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1800660229

You can connect with Benjamin Phillips on Instagram.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-alte-zachen-cover

You can find Alte Zachen at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 7 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

November is all about picture books thanks to Picture Book Month founder author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas and co-founders author/illustrators Katie Davis, Elizabeth O. Dulemba, Wendy Matrin, and author Tara Lazar. This month-long international literacy initiative celebrates print picture books and all that they offer to young (and even older) readers. With gorgeous artwork and compelling stories, picture books open the world to children in surprising ways. They entertain, explain, excite, and help children learn empathy and understanding. If you want to learn more about the holiday and read engaging daily posts about why picture books are important by your favorite authors, illustrators, and others in the children’s publishing industry, visit picturebookmonth.com.

I received a copy of Iced Out from Cicada Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Cicada Books on a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Iced Out

Written by CK Smouha | Illustrated by Isabella Bunnell

 

At Miss Blubber’s School for Arctic Mammals, Wilfred, a walrus, and Neville, a narwhal, stood out among the rest of the class of seals—but not in the way they wanted to. With his pointy horn that deflated every ball he caught, Neville “never got picked for the football team.” And Wilfred’s overly aromatic lunch meant he always sat by himself. Even parties were perilous, “so they didn’t get invited very often.” You might think that Neville and Wilfred would be friends, but they weren’t—not really.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Wilfred and Neville disliked mornings, and thinking about the week ahead made Sundays tough too. But one Monday something amazing happened. A new student joined the class—Betty Beluga. “Everyone wanted to play with her. But Betty wasn’t interested.” She sat alone at lunch, didn’t join the football team even though she was an awesome scorer, and declined the invitations she got for parties. “Wilfred and Neville were smitten.” In fact, now they couldn’t wait to go to school as they daydreamed about Betty.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Neville decided he had to prove himself to Betty, and he practiced catching a ball without impaling it on his horn. Finally, he had the knack. The next day, though, just as he was showing Betty, Wilfred “accidentally” bumped into him and Neville’s trick went splat. Wilfred swam off with Neville in pursuit. Wilfred was good at hiding and Neville couldn’t find him anywhere. Betty thought they were playing hide-and-seek—her favorite game—and she joined the search. When she found Wilfred, it was her turn to hide. The three played all afternoon.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

Even though they were getting along, there was still a rivalry between Wilfred and Neville for Betty’s affections. “Who would you like to rescue you from dragons,” they wondered. But Betty set them straight. “I don’t need any rescuing and I don’t want a boyfriend thank you very much,” she told them. After that was understood, they became best friends. They ate lunch together, did classwork together, sometimes went to parties, and were just fine with not being like everyone else.

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Image copyright Isabella Bunnell, 2019, text copyright CK Smouha, 2019. Courtesy of Cicada Books.

CK Smouha’s story about a narwhal and a walrus who are ostracized by their classmates but find friendship with a new student is a complex tale that touches on group dynamics, self-esteem, independence, jealousy, finding your niche, and other topics that children deal with every day. There is a difference between totally fitting in and being accepted that frames the story and gives it its emotional punch. The pages in which Wilfred cowers under his covers, not wanting to go to school and Neville spends Sundays replaying the bullying he’s endured are heart-wrenching and important in that they reveal to readers that what happens in school colors life out of school. These pages also give children for whom these feelings are a reality a opening for discussing them. When Betty Beluga joins the class, she becomes a role model for Neville and Wilfred as well as for readers. While she has all the prerequisites to fit in with the seals, she charts her own course, maintaining her individuality.

As Neville and Wilfred become smitten with their new classmate, their hearts swell with romantic love, depicted with humorous snapshots of the two listening to love songs, writing adoring messages, playing cupid, and imagining themselves as rescuing heroes. Betty’s welcome reaction shuts this down, showing her burgeoning independent self-image while opening the door to true friendship. Accepted by Betty, Neville and Wilfred discover that where and how they fit in is just right for them.

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Isabella Bunnell’s matte illustrations, rendered in hues of blue, gold, red and black give a distinctive look to this multilayered story. Bunnell uses subtle shifts in the characters’ faces and body positions to portray their full range of emotions, giving readers much to think and talk about. With the exception of the hide-and-seek scenes, Bunnell chooses to depict the setting without an ocean background. Her pages thus orient readers in school, home, and sports-field environments that are familiar to them, reinforcing the universal theme of the story.

A unique and thoughtful look at the dynamics of groups, defining oneself, and friendship, Iced Out would be a discussion-starting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for all children.

Ages 3 – 8

Cicada Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1908714626

To view a portfolio of artwork by Isabella Bunnell, visit her tumblr.

Iced Out Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Cicada Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Iced Out written by CK Smouha | illustrated by Isabella Bunnell

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.
  • Bonus: Reply with your child’s favorite sea creature for an extra entry. Each reply earns one more entry.

This giveaway is open from November 7 through November 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 14.

Prizing provided by Cicada Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Picture Book Month Activity

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Sea Animal Friends Coloring Pages

 

These cute sea animals like playing together. Grab your crayons and give their world some color!

Beluga | Narwhal | Seal | Walrus 

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You can find Iced Out at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 8 – Math 2.0 Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the merging of math and technology together as the foundation of most of the things we use every day, such as computers, phones, tablets and other electronics. Math and technology are also employed by architects, scientists, researchers, and manufacturers. Math 2.0 Day was established to bring together mathematicians, programmers, engineers, educators, and managers to raise awareness of the importance of math literacy at all levels of education.

A Million Dots

By Sven Völker

 

With one green dot (and one brown rectangle) you can make a tree. Add one plus one and you can make two trees. Two plus two? Well, four trees might get a little boring. Why not put two apples on each tree? Then four people can enjoy a snack. In the autumn, those apples fall. There are four plus four dots on the ground—how many does that make? Eight!

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Copyright Sven Völker, 2019, courtesy of Cicada Books and svenvolker.com.

Eight plus eight? A nice number of dots for a ladybug’s wings. Won’t you count them? How about  adding those sixteen to another sixteen? Those thirty-two dots are still contained in a box. But thirty-two plus thirty-two? At sixty-four the dots spill out, colorful and free! Sixty-four plus sixty-four dots make one hundred and twenty-eight bubbles in a fizzy drink. Add one hundred and twenty-eight to itself and what do you get? A face full of freckles! What happens if you keep adding and adding? What can you make? Two thousand and forty-eight plus two thousand and forty-eight makes a night sky of stars, their reflections on the sea and the lights on the ship that sails it.

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Copyright Sven Völker, 2019, courtesy of Cicada Books and svenvolker.com.

Thirty-two thousand, seven hundred and sixty-eight plus thirty-two thousand seven hundred and sixty-eight makes sixty-five thousand, five hundred and thirty-six—enough dots for a soccer field to mow. Twice that is a desert of sand to scoop. Moving on to two hundred and sixty-two thousand, one hundred and forty-four plus the same, a blanket of steam streams out of a train stack five hundred and twenty-four thousand, two hundred and eighty-eight dots long, past the coal car and the long tanker car.

But what can be made when these half-a-million dots and a little are added together? One million and forty-eight thousand, five hundred and seventy-six dots filling apartment buildings, office towers, and inspiring skyscrapers in a fabulous city—maybe it’s yours!

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Copyright Sven Völker, 2019, courtesy of Cicada Books and svenvolker.com.

One, two, ten, even one hundred—you can see that number of people or items in your mind. It’s hard, though, especially for children, to visualize a thousand, a hundred thousand, a half a million, even a million. In his stylish book, Sven Völker translates these numbers into dots and uses them to create images that are both humorous and awe-inspiring. One dot nearly fills the page, but by the time the numbers have been doubled and doubled multiple times, half-a-million and then a million minuscule dots require pages that fold out and out and out and out…and out! Each number is presented in words and numbers allowing children to see and learn each interpretation. Kids who love numbers and counting and visual proofs will have a blast connecting these dots.

An entertaining and educational way to relay the idea of number to kids at home or in the classroom, A Million Dots will elicit multiple exclamations of “Wow!” as the numbers add up. 

A Million Dots is a New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award winner for 2019.

Ages 4 – 12

Cicada Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1908714664

To learn more about Sven Völker, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Math 2.0 Day Activity

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Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle

 

There’s no mystery to how fun math can be! Use the numerical clues in this printable Totally Cool Mystery Phrase Math Puzzle to discover a hidden message! Add the numbers under each line then use that number to find the corresponding letter of the alphabet. Write that letter in the space. Continue until the entire phrase is completed.