July 21 – It’s Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the culinary arts from entrees to desserts to everything in between. July is also a great time to honor the chefs, cooks, and bakers who continually develop new dishes, create exciting taste sensations, and make dining out an event to look forward to. Of course, during this month we also thank those home chefs who prepare healthy meals for their families every day. To celebrate the holiday, go out to your favorite restaurant or try a new place. At home, get the kids involved in making meals. Cooking together is a terrific way to spend time together. 

Kitchen Dance

By Maurie J. Manning

 

A little girl wakens to sounds coming from the kitchen—“Glasses clinking. Water swishing. Forks clattering.” Then more personal sounds—humming, laughing, and “hush!” The girl slips out of her blankets and climbs to the top bunk to wake her brother, Tito. Together they tiptoe downstairs and peek through the kitchen door. “A bright skirt flashes by! Four feet fly!”

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Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

With a wooden spoon microphone the kids’ father sings, “Cómo te quiero! Oh, how I love you. Umm, hmm.” Juggling stacked plates in one hand while using the other to dance hand-in-hand, the kids’ parents glide, slide, and twirl around the kitchen floor. Laughing, their mom closes cabinet doors with a bump of her hips as she spins into her husband’s arms “then out again, like a yo-yo on a string.”

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Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

Pots and pans find their storage space with a swirl and a dip while another is dried with the swish of a towel. Around the kitchen the couple dances, “feet tapping, water dripping, sponge wiping, towel snapping.” While singing, “they tango across the room with the leftover tamales.” As they turn toward the door, Mama glimpses her little ones. The kids squeal and start to run, but Papa swings open the door—“Hola!” He pulls Tito into his arms, while Mama catches her tiny daughter.

As the four whirl around the kitchen, Tito and his sister sing into wooden spoons, “Cómo te quiero! Oh, how I love you!” They “twirl around and around in a circle of family.” The dance slows to a gentle swaying as Tito and his sister grow sleepy. Mama and Papa carry their drowsing children upstairs and cover them once more under their cozy blankets. “Cómo te quiero,” Papa whispers. “Besitos, mi’ja,” Mama says “Sweet dreams.”

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Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

Maurie J. Manning’s sweet story of a private moment between parents that becomes a celebration of family love offers a fresh, fun, and lively glimpse of the small events that contribute to real connectedness. Telling the story from one of the children’s point of view adds a deeper level of understanding and recognition that of the strong bond between the parents. The repeated phrase, “Cómo te quiero! How I love you!” is reassuring and allows kids to read along with the book’s most important theme.

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Copyright Maurie J. Manning, 2008, courtesy of Clarion Books.

Manning’s vivacious and vibrant illustrations bring to life the swirling energy of the text. Tito and his sister creep downstairs in a house bathed in shadow only to open the door to flashing yellow, green, purple, and orange brilliance. The scenes of Mama and Papa dancing together, using a wooden spoon as a microphone and pot lids as cymbals as well as twirling hand in hand while balancing stacks of dishes are filled with happiness, and the  picture of the two tangoing with tamales will make kids giggle. Tito and his sister are adorable as they spy on their parents with astonished looks on their faces and then join the dance.

Kitchen Dance is a joy for story time or bedtime, and in these always busy days would be a welcome reminder that carefree moments carry their own special meaning.  Kitchen Dance is a great addition to a child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 8

Clarion Books, 2008 | ISBN 978-0618991105

To learn more about Maurie J. Manning, her books, and her art, check out her website!

Take a look at the Kitchen Dance book trailer!

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-spoon-microphone-craft

Wooden Spoon Microphone

 

With this easy craft you can turn a wooden cooking spoon into a fun microphone for playtime or in case you ever have to sing for your supper!

Supplies

  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Black craft paint
  • Silver craft paint
  • Black permanent marker

Directions

  1. Paint the handle of the spoon black, let dry
  2. Paint the head of the spoon silver, let dry
  3. After the paint is dry, make rows of small dots on the head of the spoon

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-cover

You can find Kitchen Dance at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 24 – National Brother’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we take time to celebrate brothers! Whether you grew up with a brother (or a few) or have a friend you love like a brother, today’s holiday gives you a terrific reason to get in touch, relive some old memories, and make new ones! 

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team

Written by Audrey Vernick | Illustrated by Steven Salerno

 

When the weather warms and kids’ thoughts turn to sports, the afternoon air rings with the sounds of slamming doors as players race from home to the baseball diamond. Back in the 1920s and ‘30s, the same door slammed not once or twice, not three or four times, not even eight or nine! The door shut behind 12 brothers! Anthony, Joe, Paul, Alfred, Charlie, Jimmy, Bobby, Billy, Freddie, Eddie, Bubbie, and Louie Acerra. These 12 boys also had 4 sisters—but this is a story about baseball, and back then girls didn’t play ball.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

It could be said that “baseball set the rhythm of their lives.” Neighbors couldn’t remember a time when Acerra boys weren’t throwing or hitting a ball or running the bases at the local park. And there was an Acerra on the high school baseball team for 22 years in a row!

In 1938 the nine oldest brothers formed a semi-pro team and competed against other New Jersey teams and teams from New York and Connecticut. Their dad was their coach. The brothers all had different skills—Anthony could hit homeruns, and even hit a couple into the Atlantic Ocean from a seaside park; Charlie was a slow runner; and Jimmy had a knuckleball that was unhittable and uncatchable.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

But playing had its dangers too. In one game Alfred was going to bunt, but the ball bounced badly off the bat and hit him in the face. He was rushed to the hospital, but the accident caused him to lose an eye. Everyone thought he would never play again. But after he healed, his brothers helped him recover his skills and his courage.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

During World War II six of the brothers joined the war effort and spent years apart. Far from home they dreamed of the days when they played together on warm afternoons. When the war ended all the Acerra boys came home to their very happy mother. The brothers got back to what they loved doing best. Now Anthony was their coach, and from 1946 to 1952 they won the Long Branch City Twilight Baseball League championship four times—much to the pleasure of the crowds that came out to watch the Acerras play.

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Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

As time went on the Acerras got jobs, married, and had families of their own. In 1952 the brothers played their last game as a team, having made history as the longest-playing, all-brother baseball team ever. Even though the Acerras played many, years ago, people have not forgotten them. In 1997 they were honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame. The surviving seven brothers made the trip along with one sister and more than a hundred relatives. Now Jimmy Acerra’s uniform and glove are on display alongside exhibits about Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Willie Mays. If you visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, you can see them too!

Interesting and personal author’s and artist’s notes follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat-brothers

Copyright Steven Salerno, 2012, courtesy of stevensalerno.com.

Baseball fans will love Audrey Vernick’s exciting, true story of this most unusual team. Her focus on the close relationship of the Acerra brothers elevates the tale from merely a sports story to one that reveals deep affection and support during difficult times. The different personalities of the brothers shine through in Vernick’s easy, conversational tone, and the inclusion of the Acerra brothers’ induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame shows that this story lives on for all generations.

Steven Salerno’s evocative illustrations will transport readers into a past where neighborhood leagues enjoyed the same level of loyalty as the majors. Capturing the brushed style, colors, and portraiture of pictures of the period, Salerno shows kids not only what it meant to be a baseball player in the 1930s and 40s, but what it meant to be a family.

Ages 4 – 9

Clarion Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0547385570

Discover more about Audrey Vernick and her book on her website.

To learn more about Steven Salerno, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Brother’s Day Activity

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Best Brother Award Certificate

 

Today is all about your brother and how great you think he is! Print and fill out this Best Brother Award Certificate and give it to your brother—or brothers!

March 27 – Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day

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About the Holiday

Song titles can be evocative of so many emotions, and country song titles seem to take this fact to a whole nuther level. Sure, the travails of heartbreak may cause misery and despair, but I bet you can’t help smiling—just a little—when you read titles like this: I Would Have Writ You A Letter, But I Couldn’t Spell Yuck!, You Were Only A Splinter As I Slid Down The Bannister Of Life, and Did I Shave My Legs for This? So, today, celebrate by finding and listening to some quirky country songs that tickle your fancy.

Talkin’ Guitar: A Story of Young Doc Watson

By Robin Gourley

“Yonder, where blue mountains meet the sky, Arthel Watson was born into a world of music.” Music, for Arthel, was much more than his mama’s singing at the end of the day. It was the calls of animals and birds, the burbling river, the whistles of trains, and the clatter of farm machinery. He loved to listen to the rain and the wind and the silence between sounds too. “Arthel had ears like a cat. Maybe it was because he was blind.”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

Arthel just couldn’t help but make music whenever and wherever he could. Pots became drums, and cowbells rang like cymbals. Arthel even strung a steel wire across the barn door to strum. When Pappy gave him a harmonica, Arthel practiced until the screechy notes settled into a purr. When Pappy made him a banjo, he practiced until the “rusty door hinge” creak was replaced by spritely melody. One day when Arthel plinked out a few notes on his cousin’s guitar, his father made him a promise. “‘Son, if you can play a song by the time I git home from work, we’ll go into town and buy you your own guitar.’”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

By the end of the day, Arthel had composed a “sweet, simple song” from the few chords he had learned. With a “belly full of butterflies,” he played it for his family and earned himself a guitar. From then on Arthel carried his guitar everywhere, learning from records at home and from songs on the radio. He memorized the rhythms of farm work and the songs of various animals, and between chores he practiced, practiced, practiced. “All those chores and all that practice made him sharp as a whittling knife and tough as a hickory.”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

Arthel decided that if he could work just like everyone else, he could probably play music as well as the artists he listened to on records and on the radio. He began to compose his own music. “It felt as natural as dew on a foggy mountain morning.” Arthel played “what he couldn’t see. He could make his guitar sound like a muskrat or a groundhog or a ‘wooly boogie bee’” and sing the stories of the countryside he loved.

An Author’s Note following the text reveals more about Arthel’s life, the influences on his music, and how he earned the nickname “Doc.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-talkin-guitar-inspired

Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

Robin Gourley’s heartening biography of Doc Watson is perfectly attuned to her young audience. Readers are introduced to Arthel as he soaks in the sounds of life around him and only learn several pages into the story that he was blind. His blindness is not mentioned again except for the subtle acknowledgement that “he reckoned if he could work like everyone else, he could play music like the folks he heard on the records and the radio”—which becomes universal inspiration for all. The emphasis that practice develops natural talent and pays off is also a great lesson for readers who may just be discovering their own talents.

Gourley’s soothing watercolors are suffused with the beautiful pastels of Appalachia, which was both home and muse to Anthel. Vignettes take readers inside Anthel’s home to discover the Victrola and the old radio that were his early teachers and introduce his family, who surrounded him with encouragement as he grew from a child to a young man—always with a guitar in his hands.

Ages 4 – 7

Clarion Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-0544129887

To discover more about Robbin Gourley, her books, and her art, visit her website!

Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day

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Musical Dot-to-Dot

When a musician follows notes, they create a song. What will you find when you follow the numbers on this printable Musical Dot-to-Dot?

Picture Book Review

January 8 – Bubble Bath Day

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About the Holiday

On a cold, snowy day – or even on a sunny day if you live in a warmer climate—a bubble bath can be just the thing for relaxing at the end of the day. Your kids love splashing in the frothy suds, so why shouldn’t you enjoy them too? Take the opportunity for a little luxury and have some fun!

A Whale in the Bathtub

 Written by Kylie Westaway | Illustrated by Tom Jellett

 

When Bruno goes to take a bath, instead of an empty tub he finds it occupied by a whale. The whale takes a bit of offense at the little boy who is staring at him. “‘You could have knocked!’” he says. The boy is nonplussed and wants to ask the whale how he got there. He’s also a little surprised to see that the whale is luxuriating in his “bubblegum bubble bath.” Not a fan of bubblegum, however, the whale says, “‘I don’t like it. Have you got any that smells like krill?’”

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Image copyright Tom Jellett, courtesy of tomjellett.com

With the admonition that he’s “letting the heat out,” the boy leaves to find his sister, Ally. Ally is unsympathetic to her brother’s plight, and shouts to their mom, “‘Bruno’s pretending again! And he’s not taking a bath!’” Bruno protests that he’s not pretending, but his sister reminds him that last week he reported a bear under his bed and “‘on dad’s birthday, there was a walrus in the backyard.

Their mom has had enough of the squabbling and sends Bruno back upstairs. He finds the whale “scrubbing under his flippers with Dad’s back scrubber,” and when he hears that Bruno needs the tub, the whale simply says, “‘I haven’t done my tail yet. Come back later.’” Before he goes Bruno notices that despite the fact that the whale didn’t like his bubble bath, he sure seems to be using a lot of it.

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Image copyright Tom Jellett, courtesy of tomjellett.com

Bruno’s brother loves science, so Bruno tells him about the whale. “‘A whale can’t fit in a bathtub,’” Pete says. “‘Even a baby whale would be too big. And there’d be no room for the water. It’s just impossible.’” The bathroom is now splattered with water, suds, and bath toys, and the whale is still not finished. Why doesn’t the whale just wash in the ocean? There’s no hot water, no bubble bath, no soap, and no washcloths.

When Bruno goes downstairs he discovers his dad is home from his business trip. “‘Dad, there’s a whale in our bathtub!’” Bruno tells him. “‘A whale? Wow!’” His dad laughs, but even though he asks some very good questions, such as “‘How did it get there? Was there a flood today and the whale got stranded? Or did it just swim up through the drain?’” he sends Bruno back up with the promise that he’ll be there in five minutes.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-whale-in-the-bathtub-breeching

Image copyright Tom Jellett, courtesy of tomjellett.com

The whale is now “rinsing his barnacles” and reveals that he’ll be “at least another hour. Maybe four.’” But then he has an idea. The whale takes a deep breath and “Whoosh!” gives Bruno a shower, which, despite smelling a bit like krill, is one perk of having a whale in the bathtub.

Whether imaginary or real, Kylie Westaway’s Whale in the Bathtub is a fun bath-time romp. The mischievous sea creature that dwarfs the tub and has a ready retort to each of the boy’s questions and comments will make kids giggle and have them running to see if their own bathtub holds such adventure. Grounded in real family dynamics to further enhance the humorous absurdity, A Whale in the Bathtub is a great read aloud.

Tom Jellett will hook readers from their first glimpse of the enormous whale that has taken up residence in Bruno’s bath tub. So huge that he takes up two pages, the whale is a blue behemoth that loves his warm water, back scrubber, and bath toys and comes to appreciate bubblegum bubble bath. The vintage look to Jellett’s illustrations, complete with scribbled highlights and simple outlining of some details, will have kids pondering whether the whale is a figment of Bruno’s imagination and drawings or a real fish out of (sea) water.

Both reluctant bath-takers and kids who love to rub-a-dub-dub, as well as marine-animal enthusiasts, will find much to laugh about in A Whale in the Bathtub.

Ages 4 – 7

Clarion Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544535350

Get to know more about Kylie Westaway and find fun book-related activities on her website!

Discover a portfolio of illustration work by Tom Jellett on his website!

Bubble Bath Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bathtub-clings-craft

Fun Foam Bath Shapes

 

Instead of buying bathtub clings for your kids to play with, make some yourself! It’s easy with regular foam sheets, cookie cutters or stencils, and scissors! Make it a family activity and watch the shower of creativity that results!

Supplies

  • Foam sheets in various colors
  • Cookie cutters or stencils
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Trace cookie cutter shapes or stencils onto the foam 
  2. And/Or cut squares, triangles, rectangles, circles, and other shapes from the foam in a variety of sizes
  3. Cut out the shapes
  4. Wet the backs of the shapes with water and stick them to the tub or tiled or lined wall. Shapes will also stick with a little shaving gel or cream applied

Picture Book Review

September 29 – It’s National Piano Month

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield picture book review

About the Holiday

Invented around 1700, the piano was not an immediate hit with composers and performers. It took several decades before musicians embraced its versatility, and over the next 150 years the piano underwent many changes in tonality, size, and shape. In the 19th century the instrument became larger and more powerful to accompany soloists in concert and on tour with large orchestras. At the same time, individuals and families took the piano to heart – and hearth – as it became the primary source of home entertainment and piano lessons a must for all children. The United States became a major producer of pianos, with factories in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. New technology in the twentieth century provided other types of entertainment that came to toke precedence over the piano, and domestic sales declined.

Today we celebrate the beauty of the piano—both in shape and sound—and all the musical artists who play and compose for this storied instrument.

The Bear and the Piano

By David Litchfield

 

One day a bear cub happens upon a piano in a clearing in the middle of the forest. Wondering what it could be, he approaches and lays his paw on the keys. The strange thing goes PLONK!—such an awful sound. The bear cub leaves, but is drawn back again and again for days, months, and years. Over time the bear grows up and learns to play the piano. The music is beautiful and transports him to strange and wonderful places.

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Image copyright David Litchfield, courtesy of davidlitchfieldillustration.com

Other bears soon gather in the clearing to hear the “magical melodies” the bear plays. The bear is happy entertaining his friends. One night a girl and her father hiking in the forest come to the clearing. They listen and then tell the bear what his strange instrument is. They invite him to move to the city with them, where he will be able to play grand pianos for hundreds of people. The music he will play and hear “will make your fur stand on end,” they tell him.

The bear is conflicted. One on paw he knows that leaving the forest will make the other bears sad; on the other he longs to explore the world, to play the piano better, and master more intricate music. He decides to go with the girl and her father.

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Image copyright David Litchfield, courtesy of davidlitchfieldillustration.com

In the city the bear is a sensation! He quickly becomes a celebrity with his name on marquees and playing to sold-out crowds. The bear records albums that go platinum, he appears on the covers of magazines, and wins awards. His experience is everything he could ever wish for. But deep in his heart there is another longing. He misses the forest and his friends there.

He decides to leave the city and rows a boat across the expanse of water to his old home. Excitedly he runs to the clearing, but when he arrives everything has changed. His piano is gone and there are no friends to greet him. The bear worries that everyone is angry at him for leaving, or worse—that they have forgotten him.

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Image copyright David Litchfield, courtesy of davidlitchfieldillustration.com

Suddenly an old friend peeks around the trunk of a tree. The bear hails him with a hearty “Hello!” The other bear remains silent, however, and then turns and runs into the trees. The bear follows, plunging deeper and deeper into the forest. Suddenly he stops. In front of him is a sight that makes his fur stand on end.

There, protected in the shade of a tree and surrounded by the albums, magazines, t-shirts, and other mementos of the bear’s success sits the old piano. The bear’s friends have not forgotten him and they are not angry. They are proud and welcoming. The bear tells them all about his adventures then sits down to play again—for the most important audience of all.

David Litchfield’s very original and moving story is such a wonderfully conceived microcosm of the changes life brings. Stumbling upon a talent, cause, or inspiration; opening up to other influences; and acting on hard decisions are all part of growing up. These concepts are honestly and sensitively presented in The Bear and the Piano, and the reassuring ending brings comfort as well as a tear to the eye.

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Image copyright David Litchfield, courtesy of davidlitchfieldillustration.com

Litchfield’s touching illustrations—rendered in gorgeous hues of browns, greens, yellows, and blues—brim with yearning and mystery. The piano sits in a misty glow, silent and draped with vines, when the cub discovers it. While the bear grows and learns to play, the air clears and the colors become brighter. When the bear moves to the city, the pages glint and swirl with the glow of marquees and concert halls announcing his enormous achievements. But as he sits on a rooftop one night contemplating his life and looking out toward his old home, the lights around him are the elements of normal life—lamps in apartment windows, stars, and the moon glimmering on the water. His nostalgia to be home will resonate with both kids and adults.

The Bear and the Piano makes a wonderful gift for any age—especially as a graduation or new-job gift—and is a must-have for anyone’s personal library.

Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544674547

To learn more about David Litchfield, his books, and his artwork, visit his website!

While I take a few personal days during this month, I am reposting earlier reviews updated with new links, interior art, and book trailers.

Watch the beautiful The Bear and the Piano book trailer!

National Piano Month Activity

CPB - Record Bulletin Board

Make a Record Chalkboard Bulletin Board

 

Do you play the piano or another instrument? Would you like to make a record some day? Why wait? In this fun craft you can create your own record bulletin board—and even create your own label art! While this record may not spin on turntables around the world, it will drop in a more important place—your very own room!

Supplies

  • Printable Record Label for you to design
  • Foam board, or a corkboard at least 12-inches x 12-inches square
  • Adhesive cork
  • A 12-inch round plate, record, or other round object to trace OR a compass
  • Chalkboard paint, black
  • X-acto knife
  • Paint brush or foam paint brush
  • Mounting squares

Directions

  1. Cut a section from the adhesive cork a little larger than 12 inches by 12 inches
  2. Affix the cork to the foam board
  3. Trace the 12-inch round object onto the cork/foam board OR use the compass to make a 12-inch circle
  4. With the x-acto knife, carefully cut out the circle (adult help needed for children)
  5. Cut out a ¼ -inch circle in the center of the record bulletin board
  6. Paint the cork, sides and inside the spindle hole with the black chalkboard paint. Let dry
  7. Print the label template and design your own record label
  8. When the paint is dry, glue your label to the center of the bulletin board
  9. Hang your bulletin board with the mounting squares
  10. Decorate!

Picture Book Review

July 21 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

Culinary arts from entrees to desserts and everything in between are celebrated during July. Whether you like going out to restaurants or staying in for a home-cooked meal remember to thank the chef for their time and talents!

Kitchen Dance

By Maurie J. Manning

 

A little girl wakens to sounds coming from the kitchen—“Glasses clinking. Water swishing. Forks clattering.” Then more personal sounds—humming, laughing, and “hush!” The girl slips out of her blankets and climbs to the top bunk to wake her brother, Tito. Together they tiptoe downstairs and peek through the kitchen door. “A bright skirt flashes by! Four feet fly!”

With a wooden spoon microphone the kids’ father sings, “Cómo te quiero! Oh, how I love you. Umm, hmm.” Juggling stacked plates in one hand while using the other to dance hand-in-hand, the kids’ parents glide, slide, and twirl around the kitchen floor. Laughing, their mom closes cabinet doors with a bump of her hips as she spins into her husband’s arms “then out again, like a yo-yo on a string.”

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Image copyright Maurie J. Manning

Pots and pans find their storage space with a swirl and a dip while another is dried with the swish of a towel. Around the kitchen the couple dances, “feet tapping, water dripping, sponge wiping, towel snapping.” While singing, “they tango across the room with the leftover tamales.” As they turn toward the door, Mama glimpses her little ones. The kids squeal and start to run, but Papa swings open the door—“Hola!” He pulls Tito into his arms, while Mama catches her tiny daughter.

As the four whirl around the kitchen, Tito and his sister sing into wooden spoons, “Cómo te quiero! Oh, how I love you!” They “twirl around and around in a circle of family.” The dance slows to a gentle swaying as Tito and his sister grow sleepy. Mama and Papa carry their drowsing children upstairs and cover them once more under their cozy blankets. “Cómo te quiero,” Papa whispers. “Besitos, mi’ja,” Mama says “Sweet dreams.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kitchen-dance-interior-art-kids-caught

Image copyright Maurie J. Manning

Maurie J. Manning’s sweet story of a private moment between parents that becomes a celebration of family love offers a fresh, fun, and lively glimpse of the small events that contribute to real connectedness. Telling the story from one of the children’s point of view adds a deeper level of understanding and recognition that of the strong bond between the parents. The repeated phrase, “Cómo te quiero! How I love you!” is reassuring and allows kids to read along with the book’s most important theme.

Manning’s vivacious and vibrant illustrations bring to life the swirling energy of the text. Tito and his sister creep downstairs in a house bathed in shadow only to open the door to flashing yellow, green, purple, and orange brilliance. The scenes of Mama and Papa dancing together, using a wooden spoon as a microphone and pot lids as cymbals as well as twirling hand in hand while balancing stacks of dishes are filled with happiness, and the  picture of the two tangoing with tamales will make kids giggle. Tito and his sister are adorable as they spy on their parents with astonished looks on their faces and then join the dance.

Kitchen Dance is a joy for story time or bedtime, and in these always busy days would be a welcome reminder that carefree moments carry their own special meaning.  Kitchen Dance is a great addition to a child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 8

Clarion Books, 2008 | ISBN 978-0618991105

To learn more about Maurie J. Manning, her books, and her art, check out her website!

Take a look at the Kitchen Dance book trailer!

 

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-spoon-microphone-craft

Wooden Spoon Microphone

 

With this easy craft you can turn a wooden cooking spoon into a fun microphone for playtime or in case you ever have to sing for your supper!

Supplies

  • Long-handled wooden spoon
  • Black craft paint
  • Silver craft paint
  • Black permanent marker

Directions

  1. Paint the handle of the spoon black, let dry
  2. Paint the head of the spoon silver, let dry
  3. After the paint is dry, make rows of small dots on the head of the spoon

May 27 – It’s National Family Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brothers-at-bat

About the Holiday

National Family Month was established by KidsPeace and is observed in the weeks between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to encourage families to spend time together. Now that the school year is coming to a close, it’s the perfect time to plan some fun activities!

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team

Written by Audrey Vernick | Illustrated by Steven Salerno

 

When the weather warms and kids’ thoughts turn to sports, the afternoon air rings with the sounds of slamming doors as players race from home to the baseball diamond. Back in the 1920s and ‘30s, the same door slammed not once or twice, not three or four times, not even eight or nine! The door shut behind 12 brothers! Anthony, Joe, Paul, Alfred, Charlie, Jimmy, Bobby, Billy, Freddie, Eddie, Bubbie, and Louie Acerra. These 12 boys also had 4 sisters—but this is a story about baseball, and back then girls didn’t play ball.

It could be said that “baseball set the rhythm of their lives.” Neighbors couldn’t remember a time when Acerra boys weren’t throwing or hitting a ball or running the bases at the local park. And there was an Acerra on the high school baseball team for 22 years in a row!

In 1938 the nine oldest brothers formed a semi-pro team and competed against other New Jersey teams and teams from New York and Connecticut. Their dad was their coach. The brothers all had different skills—Anthony could hit homeruns, and even hit a couple into the Atlantic Ocean from a seaside park; Charlie was a slow runner; and Jimmy had a knuckleball that was unhittable and uncatchable.

But playing had its dangers too. In one game Alfred was going to bunt, but the ball bounced badly off the bat and hit him in the face. He was rushed to the hospital, but the accident caused him to lose an eye. Everyone thought he would never play again. But after he healed, his brothers helped him recover his skills and his courage.

During World War II six of the brothers joined the war effort and spent years apart. Far from home they dreamed of the days when they played together on warm afternoons. When the war ended all the Acerra boys came home to their very happy mother. The brothers got back to what they loved doing best. Now Anthony was their coach, and from 1946 to 1952 they won the Long Branch City Twilight Baseball League championship four times—much to the pleasure of the crowds that came out to watch the Acerras play.

As time went on the Acerras got jobs, married, and had families of their own. In 1952 the brothers played their last game as a team, having made history as the longest-playing, all-brother baseball team ever. Even though the Acerras played many, years ago, people have not forgotten them. In 1997 they were honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame. The surviving seven brothers made the trip along with one sister and more than a hundred relatives. Now Jimmy Acerra’s uniform and glove are on display alongside exhibits about Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Willie Mays. If you visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, you can see them too!

Interesting and personal author’s and artist’s notes follow the text.

Baseball fans will love Audrey Vernick’s exciting, true story of this most unusual team. Her focus on the close relationship of the Acerra brothers elevates the tale from merely a sports story to one that reveals deep affection and support during difficult times. The different personalities of the brothers shine through in Vernick’s easy, conversational tone, and the inclusion of the Acerra brothers’ induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame shows that this story lives on for all generations.

Steven Salerno’s evocative illustrations will transport readers into a past where neighborhood leagues enjoyed the same level of loyalty as the majors. Capturing the brushed style, colors, and portraiture of pictures of the period, Salerno shows kids not only what it meant to be a baseball player in the 1930s and 40s, but what it meant to be a family.

Ages 4 – 9

Clarion Books, 2012 | ISBN 978-0547385570

National Family Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-are-all-family-word-search

We Are All Family English – Spanish Word Search

 

This month is all about family! Find the words for special relatives in this English – Spanish dual language word search! Print the We Are All Family word search puzzle here! And here’s the Solution!