December 27 – Make Cut-Out Snowflakes Day

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About the Holiday

Making paper snowflakes is a fun wintertime activity that brings the outdoors in on snowy days or clear ones. This craft originates in the art of origami—a variation called kirigami. While both origami and kirigami involve folding paper, kirigami entails unfolding the paper and making cuts in desired places to create an effect. Cut-out snowflakes combine the two as the cuts are made while the paper is still folded. Today, get out some paper and scissors and make your own snowflakes to hang!

Snow

Written by Cynthia Rylant | Illustrated by Lauren Stringer

 

Just as every snowflake is unique, each snowfall is different, bringing with it a special feeling. There are the snows that come during the night “like a shy friend, who is afraid to knock, so she thinks she will just wait in the yard until you see her. This is the snow that brings you peace.” There are also snows made of big, wet flakes that pile one on top of each other in such a way that you know you will be leaving school or work early and navigating the slippery roads until you’re home and happy with the magical interruption.

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Image copyright Lauren Stringer, 2008, text copyright Cynthia Rylant, 2008. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Some snows are just a dusting, just enough to make you notice even the smallest tree branches and the tiny footprints of sparrows. But there are also snows “so heavy they bury cars up to their noses, and make evergreens bow,” and are perfect for curling up to take a nap.

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Image copyright Lauren Stringer, 2008, text copyright Cynthia Rylant, 2008. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Children love snow and don’t mind pulling on coats and boots and mittens because it means that they will be going outside to catch snowflakes on their tongue and sled down high hills. “The snow loves them back,” giving them snow angels and snow friends and a fresh way to see how beautiful the world can be. The impermanence of snow reminds us all “that nothing lasts forever except memories.”

Back home, a snow day is a perfect time for enjoying something hot to drink, playing games, or having thoughtful talks while “the flowers sleep and the sun sleeps and the soft green gardens are waiting.”

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Image copyright Lauren Stringer, 2008, text copyright Cynthia Rylant, 2008. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Cynthia Rylant mesmerizes with her lyrical passages that personify snow and reveal its power to transform not only the world but our hearts as well. Whispering, waiting, concealing, and enhancing, Rylant’s snow is a friend, a playmate, and a teacher showing us a quieter world of surprising and tender details and encouraging us to look inside even as we are watching it fall outside.

In her breathtaking illustrations, Lauren Stringer brings Rylant’s vision to life while juxtaposing images of exuberant children with lovely flakes, swirls, and blankets of snow that reinforce the uniqueness of both. As a classroom full of students gaze out of the window anticipating early release, their happy, diverse faces are framed by beautiful snowflakes, each one different. A little girl sleeps soundly in her bed as snow, piling in a skirt of drifts around a tree and forming a sleepy twin, waits for the morning’s discovery. After a day of playing outside, the girl and her grandmother walk home in a winter wonderland tinted pink by the setting sun. As they sit indoors, cozy and planning the spring garden, a bunny sniffs the cold, crisp air. Spring is coming, but for now, the snow is the star.

A wonder-filled story for cozy reading on snowy days or for when the snow is missed, Snow is a magical addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1328740557 (Paperback) 

Discover more about Cynthia Rylant and her books on her website.

To learn more about Lauren Stringer, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Make Cut Out Snowflakes Day Activity

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It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

 

Can you find the pairs of identical snowflakes in this printable puzzle?

It’s Snowing! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Snow at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 20 – Penguin Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

Who can resist those little black-and-white waddlers from a frozen realm? Today’s holiday gives us a chance to enjoy and learn more about one of the world’s favorite animals. To celebrate, research penguins or visit an aquarium, and, of course, read a great penguin book!

Little Penguins

Written by Cynthia Rylant | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

A tiny penguin stands at the window star-struck by the snowflakes floating gently down. Four more penguins join her to see this marvelous sight. There are so “many snowflakes.” Gathered around the window in their igloo home, the penguins are excited that “Winter is coming!” They rush to collect their cold-weather supplies. Out of the basket they pull mittens—a pair for each, red, blue, green, yellow, sage—“and matching scarves.”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Cynthia Rylant. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

With abandon the penguins raid the bureau, scattering socks like colorful confetti. Warm, dry boots get to leave their cubbies after a looong nap. Bundled up, the penguins tumble out into the winter wonderland. They sled and slide on the deep snow. In places they find the snow is top-of-their-boots deeper, and then suddenly waist-high, “very deep.”

Uh-Oh! Suddenly the landscape is blank-page white! Four of the little penguins look in all directions. “Where’s Mama?” No need to fret—Mama’s coming, skimming down the hill on her belly with the fifth tiny penguin. But the sky is darkening and it’s time to head for home. “In the door and off, off, off, off, off!”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

On go the jammies then warm cookies and filled “sippies” satisfy the tummy. Finally, it’s time to snuggle tight under colored blankets and watch the flurries fly because “Winter is here.”

Cynthia Rylant captures the exhilaration kids feel upon the first snow of winter in her delightful concept book. The flurry of activity to dig out the accoutrements of winter provide little readers the perfect opportunity to learn or—in the case of a bit older kids—to show their knowledge of cold-weather apparel, colors, counting skills, and other ideas. Rylant’s gifted way with even the simplest words turns the question-and-answer format of Little Penguins into a lyrical frolic little ones will love.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

In Christian Robinson’s cozy igloo, the eager brightness of the little penguins is highlighted against the mottled textures of sage walls and reflected in the gleaming gray-blue floor. The little home with its fish weather vane and tall chimney sits at the edge of an icy peninsula, perfectly placed for winter play. The five penguins joyfully don their mittens, wave their scarves and toss socks to and fro in their hurry to get dressed and get outside and enjoy the fat, fluffy snowflakes.

Once there, the penguins become tiny dots on the vast, white hill as they sink waist deep, glide on their bellies, and welcome Mama, who’s joined the fun. As the penguins remove their snow gear back home, Robinson cleverly stripes the two-page spread in the favorite colors of the individual penguins, creating a striking counterbalance to the snug kitchen to come. An old-fashioned stove, retro accents, and fish, whale, and boat décor wrap up the comfy charm of this superb book for young readers.

With its sweet characters and beautiful illustrations, Little Penguins would be a happy and often-asked-for addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553507706

To learn more about Cynthia Rylant and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of illustration art by Christian Robinson on his website!

Penguin Awareness Day Activity

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Copyright Celebrate Picture Books, 2017

Spicy Cool Penguins

Don’t throw away those empty spice bottles—instead make these cute penguins with their colorful hats who are just waiting to play!

Supplies

  • Empty glass or plastic spice bottle with cap
  • Black paint
  • White paint OR White fleece or felt
  • Black paper
  • Yellow foam or heavy paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Styrofoam ball (optional)
  • Glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the inside of the glass or plastic bottle with the black paint, let dry
  2. From the white fleece, cut an oval for the penguin’s belly and glue it on. Alternatively, paint a white oval on the jar to make a belly. Fleece may be a better option for younger children, as the paint can scratch off glass and plastic surfaces.
  3. Glue googly eyes near the top of the jar, but below the cap
  4. Cut a triangle of yellow foam or paper for the beak and glue it on
  5. Cut two tear shapes for the wings from the black paper. Glue the top of the shape to the body of the penguin, overlapping the belly a little. Fold the tips up
  6. Give your penguins Styrofoam ball snowballs to play with!

Picture Book Review