May 16 – National Biographers Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-write-on-irving-berlin-cover

About the Holiday

National Biographers Day commemorates a very special meeting that led to one of the most celebrated biographies in English literature. On May 16, 1763, James Boswell met with Samuel Johnson for the first time in a Covent Garden, London bookshop. Thirty years later, Boswell, who was also a poet, essayist, editor, literary critic, and lexicographer, published his biography of Samuel Johnson. Today’s holiday honors all those who delve into the life of others to bring their often fascinating and inspiring stories to readers. To celebrate today, read up on one of your favorite people and introduce your kids to biographies—like today’s book—that can encourage them to follow their dreams.

Write On, Irving Berlin!

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

In September of 1893 Moses and Lena Baline and their six children, including 5-year-old Israel, sailed into New York Harbor hoping “to start a new life in a new country.” They came from Russia, where their home had been burned down by “gangs of angry men” who “rode from village to village in pogroms, destroying Jewish homes and hurting the people who lived in them.” In America, the Balines had a small apartment, little money, and little food. But they did have freedom.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-write-on-irving-berlin-immigrating

Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

At school, Izzy—as Israel was nicknamed—paid less attention to his schoolwork than to the music in his head. When Izzy was only thirteen, his father died. Izzy knew that money was tight, so he moved out and made his own living singing in saloons, in the chorus line of New York shows, and even as he waited tables.  Irving as Izzy now called himself, became a professional song writer when he was paid 37 cents for his first song.

Irving continued to write the tunes that filled his head. When Ragtime was all the rage during the early 1900s, Irving tried this new, jazzy kind of music, and his “‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ was a smash.”  Irving married, but his wife died only a few months after their wedding. Irving consoled himself by writing. He became an American citizen, and when he was drafted into the US Army during WWI, he wrote songs to encourage his fellow soldiers. When he married again, he was inspired to write a song called “Always” about a love that lasts forever.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-write-on-irving-berlin-school

Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Irving never seemed to be without a tune in his head. He “wrote music for plays, for movies, for friends, for strangers. He scribbled ideas on napkins and on the sleeves of his shirt. He wrote songs in elevators and in taxicabs. He wrote songs in the bathtub.” During World War II, one of his older songs—“‘God Bless America’ became a HUGE hit.” In the winter of 1942, Irving wrote “White Christmas.” It’s sentimental words and catchy tune inspired the “American soldiers fighting fierce battles all around the world.”

Since Irving was too old to fight in the war, he developed a show called “This is the Army” that he took around the world to entertain the troops. His “cast was completely integrated—black and white soldiers lived, ate, and traveled together, which was rare in those days.” Even after the war ended, Irving continued to write songs that people still love today.

An Author’s Note about Irving Berlin and his songs as well as books for further reading follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-write-on-irving-berlin-thirteen

Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Leslie Kimmelman brings to life the story of one of America’s most prolific and beloved song writers with enthusiasm and wit and the kinds of details that capture kids’ attention and inspire them to learn more. Timely for this year’s 100th anniversary of the writing of “God Bless America” and the 80th anniversary of its public appearance, Write On, Irving Berlin would make an excellent centerpiece of school music units when paired with Berlin’s songs, many of which kids will recognize. Berlin’s success, as revealed in Kimmelman’s well-paced, upbeat, and converstional storytelling is a powerful motivator for any child with big dreams.

David C. Gardner’s beautiful, softly-washed and detailed paintings take readers from the New York neighborhoods, restaurants, and dance halls of the early 1900s to the battlefields of World Wars I and II to the bright lights of Broadway, where his last musical, “Annie Get Your Gun” is advertised on the marquee. Along the way, kids see Irving as a child, a young man, and an older professional, always with a pencil and paper in hand. Images of the Statue of Liberty seen throughout the book tie together the theme of the immigrant’s experience, Berlin’s love of America, and one of his most famous works, “God Bless America.”

Write On, Irving Berlin! is an excellent biography that should find a home in classroom, school, and public libraries as well as on home bookshelves for children who love history, music, and biographies and who have big ideas of their own.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363803

Discover more about Leslie Kimmelman and her books on her website.

To learn more about David C. Gardner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Write On, Irving Berlin! Giveaway

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-write-on-irving-berlin-cover

I’m thrilled to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Write On, Irving Berlin!

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, May 16 – 22. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on May 23.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Biographer’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-biography-worksheet

I Am…  Biography Page

 

How well do you know yourself – or your friends? This printable I Am… Biography Page can be fun to fill out and share with friends. Make a game of it and see if you can answer the questions for someone else in your family or among your friends!

 

Picture Book Review

December 29 – Tick Tock Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-cover

About the Holiday

As the year winds down Tick Tock Day reminds us of the passage of time and encourages us to examine our life and find opportunities to accomplish the things we really want to. While the day only has 24 hours, a little creative scheduling, letting go of those tasks that aren’t so important, and even saying “no,” can help us achieve the things that matter.

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock

Written by Shana Keller | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

With winter approaching Benjamin Banneker has finished up his autumn chores and is looking forward to time to indulge his creative dreams. He finds his favorite spot under the chestnut tree—the place where during the summer he plays his violin and flute, “blending his soft music with the bird’s songs”—and pulls out a pocket watch he has borrowed from a gentleman. Benjamin is fascinated by the ticking and the movement of the small hands. He carefully opens the back of the watch and discovers “a world of wonderful whirls. There were gears of all shapes and sizes. Such a tiny maze!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-studying-pocket-watch

Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

The miniature timepiece is mesmerizing, but Benjamin’s mind holds a challenge—a big challenge. He envisions a large clock, one that chimes to tell the time. Remembering his math skills, Benjamin mulls over the scale needed to turn “something small into something big.” As the snow falls, Benjamin goes to work. First, he dismantles the pocket watch and draws careful diagrams of the gears and workings. Then he begins transposing these into larger drawings.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-flute

Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

With the coming of spring and his drawings finished, Benjamin plans how he will build his clock. While the little pocket watch is made of metal, that material is much too expensive for a large version. As he ponders the problem under his favorite tree, Benjamin looks around him. Suddenly he knows! The answer is “right in front of him, even in his hands! The very instrument he played was made of wood!” There is a forest of trees on his farm, and this material is free.

During the summer between farm chores, Benjamin uses “every spare moment he had to find the perfect pieces of wood.” Once he has enough he begins to convert his drawings into carvings, whittling the gears and other pieces he will need. Soon, however, he becomes discouraged. The wood begins to split and come apart. Benjamin thinks about how his family cures tobacco leaves—drying them out until all the moisture evaporates. Perhaps, he thinks, he can do the same with wood to make it stronger. The process would take months, but Benjamin is patient.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-carving

Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

Winter has come around again, and the wood is finally ready. In his warm house Benjamin sets about carving again. During the day he carves near the sunny window, and at night he works by candlelight. At last he has all the parts he needs to build his clock. Gears, wheels, tiny pins, and the boards that will become the case are scattered across Benjamin’s work table. There is only one piece missing. A piece that cannot be made of wood—the bell!

Benjamin buys a bell from a metalsmith, and back home begins to build his clock. With his drawings to guide him, he fits the gears together and then sets the hands to “match up perfectly with the second, minute, and hour of each day. It took more than one try, but Benjamin had learned to be patient.” Using the sun to determine the correct time, Benjamin positions the hands and steps back. His clock works! “The little iron bell chimed every hour, on the dot, for the next forty years.” Benjamin becomes famous, and neighbors from near and far come “to see his amazing invention.”  

An Author’s Note expanding on Benjamin Banneker’s life and work follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-winter

Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

With lyrical language that glides as smoothly as a well-oiled timepiece, Shana Keller reveals the remarkable story of Benjamin Banneker, born free during the time of slavery, who possessed exceptional math and scientific skills and used them to help his friends and neighbors and to make real his vision of a striking clock. Keller’s detailed and descriptive storytelling animates this life story, allowing readers to take the journey with Banneker as he experiences excitement, setbacks, and ultimately success. Banneker, embodying determination, persistence, and creativity, is an excellent role model for kids with big dreams of their own.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ticktock-banneker's-clock-studying-fall-chores

Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

David C. Gardner’s lovely full-page and two-page-spread illustrations gloriously portray Benjamin Banneker’s farm and home as well as his dedicated commitment to building a striking clock despite—or perhaps spurred on by—the challenges he faced. Gardner’s detailed images set the biography firmly in its time period, letting children experience farm and home life in the 1750s. Banneker carries wooden buckets to feed the animals, tobacco leaves hang in a dry shed, a fire blazes in a large, open fireplace, and a candle flickers as Banneker whittles wheels and gears with his pocket knife. The realistic paintings that depict Banneker’s emotions as he imagines creating a large clock, overcomes obstacles, and studiously works on his drawings and carvings will inspire readers to attempt their own inventions—whatever they may be.

For any would-be inventors, history lovers, tinkerers, and science buffs, Ticktock Banneker’s Clock is a stirring biography that would make a wonderful addition to school and home libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369560

Learn more about Shana Keller and her work on her website!

Discover a portfolio of picture book art, fine art, animation, and videos by David C. Gardner on his website!

Tick Tock Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cuckoo-clock-coloring-page

Cuckoo Clock Coloring Page

 

The chirp of a cuckoo clock keeps you on time—or at least aware of the passing of time! Here’s a printable Cuckoo Clock Coloring Page for you to enjoy!

Picture Book Review