August 13 – What Will Be Your Legacy Month

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About the Holiday

As you grow and have difference experiences, it’s fun and instructive to look back and reflect on your life: are you doing the things that make you  happy? Are you performing your job and other responsibilities the way you want to be? What impact you are making? This month’s holiday encourages people to think about their legacy and make changes if desired. 

Homer Henry Hudson’s Curio Museum

By Zack Rock

 

Everything has a story, the narrator tells readers, especially the Homer Henry Hudson Curio Museum, which, he says, has been described as “a colossal collection of curios, discovered, described, and displayed by that eccentric explorer extraordinaire: Homer Henry Hudson.”

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Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

Come in and experience the wonders inside. A dignified bulldog dressed in a dapper tweed suit and leaning on a crooked cane will greet you. His job is to keep the place clean and dusted. Although the museum is stuffed floor to ceiling, he knows the placement of every object, knick-knack, and curiosity. As you explore the museum’s holdings—its portraits, musical instruments, ancient artifacts, taxidermy animals, and other treasures, the caretaker sits silently, hoping you will read the display cards that Homer Henry Hudson has lovingly written out with a description and personal note. He even has his favorite “bits and bobs” that he would like you to see.

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Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

One of these is Item #0001, the Conausaurus Skull of a small dinosaur from the late Jurassic Period that HHH found in the soil of his family’s farm. This bony discovery made Homer Henry wonder what else the world held and sparked his love of exploration. Another is Item #0023, a Radial Tide Diviner once used by Calypsonian seers to predict the future based on tidal patterns. It was the discovery of the lost Calypsonian civilization with its valuable artifacts that funded Homer’s further explorations.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-homer-henry-hudson's-curio-museum-parrot

Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

Item #3412, a Temple Montepaz Choir Finch with a C sharp trill that chanted to accompany the parrot priest, was a most unusual gift. It was bestowed on HHH for convincing the Parrot Priest to release a piece of wood stripped from the temple wall. This shard turned out to lead Homer Henry Hudson into his future—for better or worse. With renewed fire, HHH charged toward the promise of riches only to fly his plane into a mammoth stone figurehead, which resulted in injury and his life-long limp.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-homer-henry-hudson's-curio-museum-visitors

Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

Item #3415, The Manneken Mort of King Ingmar, is perhaps Homer Henry’s most treasured possession. Composed of fabric bands that represent the stories friends and family tell when someone dies, this Manneken Mort contains hundreds of bands relating the life of King Ingmar. This object HHH acquired for bravery and self-sacrifice when he was younger and still full of enthusiasm for life.

The old bulldog thinks of this curio most. He wonders what his Manneken will look like and whether all the bands of his life have been woven. He likes to think his Manneken Mort “would be  hundreds—thousands—of feet tall. It’d tower over the Taj Mahal, shame the Sphinx!” But he knows “few memorable tales are told of rusty old codgers who spent their days…leaning upon fear like a crutch.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-homer-henry-hudson's-curio-museum-end-papers

Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

Though blind in one eye and nagged by trepidation, the old bulldog packs his suitcase, dons his hat and throws away his cane. As he walks out the door, past pictures of himself on his early expeditions of discover, he knows he might “meet with catastrophe,” be “swallowed by quicksand,” or “gnawed on by piranhas.” But he also knows “there’s no success without failures,” and he has had many successes.

Homer Henry Hudson boards the cruise liner Phoenix and sets out for adventure once more. After all, he well knows that everything has a story. So if you come by the Homer Henry Hudson Museum today, you will see a sign hanging on the door: The Curio Museum is CLOSED Until Further Notice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-homer-henry-hudson's-curio-museum-leaving

Copyright Zack Rock, 2014, courtesy of The Creative Company

Zack Rock has written a compelling and unique picture book for adventurers of all types and ages. Part motivation and part cautionary tale, this story of the once intrepid explorer turned tremulous caretaker has a mysterious, treasure-around-every-corner quality that will appeal to kids. The life of Homer Henry Hudson is told through the display cards that accompany some of the museum’s curios. As the story develops through the cards’ personal notes, readers learn of the museum’s true owner and the life-altering decision he makes.

Rock’s illustrations in greens and parchment-paper golds and browns have a high “Oh, Cool!” factor as the odd, ancient, and unusual objects of the museum invite kids to explore every nook and cranny of the pages. The exhibits serve not only to fill the museum, however; they remind us how easily the future can get overshadowed and crowded out by the past.

Ages 6 – 10

The Creative Company/Creative Editions, 2014 | ISBN 978-1568462608

To discover more about Zack Rock and his books and to view a gallery of his artwork, visit his website!

What Will be Your Legacy Month Activity

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Legacy Letter Page

 

If you were building a museum about your life, what would you put in it? Write or draw about what you would put in your museum on this printable Legacy Letter Page

 

Picture Book Review

August 4 – It’s Family Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

When families form, each person comes with their own history, which is then blended to create an entirely new story. Some families know all about great, great, great grandma or grandpa, while for some the distant past is a bit hazy. No matter how much you know about your family, though, you know that each step along the way for each person has brought you to the place you are now—together! This month encourages people to research their genealogy and discover more about their ancestors. It can be fun to draw a family tree or put together a scrapbook of photos, old and new. But whatever you do, don’t forget to celebrate your family!

One Family

Written by George Shannon | Illustrated by Blanca Gomez

 

It’s 6:00 and “one is one”: a little lady with a cotton-candy swirl of white hair is reading one book in the light of her one lamp. In the bedroom “one is two”: a boy and a girl have changed into pajamas, leaving one pair of shoes—two shoes with yellow laces—and a shirt on the floor. They’ve grabbed their team of horses—two stick ponies—and are galloping around the room. They make one family.

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Outside, “one is three”: a little girl is out with her mom and dad. As they pass a window, she points to one bowl of fruit holding three pears. In the toyshop window, the girl sees one house of three bears. The one family walks by happily. On another street “one is four”: two kids sit in their grandpa and grandma’s car. Grandpa has one ring of four keys. Grandma is carrying a basket with one pile of four puppies. Where is this one family going?

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2016, text copyright George Shannon, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the zoo “one is five”: a family of three kids and two adults watch one monkey hold one bunch of five bananas while another plays with one hand of five cards. In a busy house “one is six”: While a woman hangs out one line of six wet shirts, a girl paints one butterfly with six legs. The six people are one family working together.

In another neighborhood “one is seven”: one flock of seven birds flies over the tall apartment houses as one family of four adults, a child, and twin babies talk. Who is the “one bouquet of seven blooms” for? A door opens to a home where “one is eight”: one picture of eight ducks hangs on the wall above a child coloring with one box of eight crayons. The room is getting full as eight people from one family find places to gather.

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the seaside “one is nine”: a group of nine men, women, and children sit on one bench near one staircase of nine steps. One of the children has built one cairn of nine rocks. In a bustling kitchen “one is ten”: sitting at the table and standing near the stove are ten members of one family. A girl has baked one batch of ten cookies. On the wall is one shelf of ten books.

In this one town, all these people come together walking dogs, playing with balls, visiting neighbors, waving from windows, strolling babies, and having fun. Here “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.”

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In his unique take on a counting book, George Shannon challenges readers to consider the way we think about the number and the idea of “one,” both mathematically and linguistically. Along the way the story also invites readers to think about the nature of family. As each family unit grows larger from page to page, children see that no matter how many people are included, the group is one family. The sequential building on the idea of family organically leads to the insight that our one world is made up of many people—and even many families—but that we are all connected as one family on earth.

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, text copyright George Shannon, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In her vibrant and inclusive illustrations, Blanca Gomez celebrates what it means to be a family and even invites readers to perhaps make up their own stories about how each family came together. Every page offers welcome views of multigenerational, interracial, and multiethnic families. Three examples of the featured number on each two-page spread are just the right amount for kids to count and discuss how we use collective nouns to denote ideas such as “one pair” for two or “one batch” and “one bunch” for any number of cookies or flowers. A final spread gives readers another chance to count the items they found in the book, and the endpapers tell a story of their own.

With so much to see, talk about, and count, on every page, One Family is a fantastic book to add to school, classroom, and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015 | ISBN 978-0374300036

Find a gallery of illustration and other artwork by Blanca Gomez on her website!

Family Heritage Month Activity

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I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page

 

Filling in a family tree is a fun way to learn more about grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and where your family came from. Print this I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page then write the names or draw pictures of your family members in the hearts, and color the picture.

Picture Book Review

August 3 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

I know, I know…you’re not ready to go back to school yet! But all over the country, teachers, administrators, parents, and…yes, kids…are preparing for the day when school opens again for another year. Now’s the time to pick that folder that’s just right, find a new backpack, buy some new clothes, and decide that this year is going to be the best year yet! And as today’s book shows—even school is getting ready for school!

School’s First Day of School

Written by Adam Rex | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

During the summer an empty lot was cleared and leveled. Bricks were brought in and stacked in neat order to become a school. A sign reading Frederick Douglass Elementary was placed above the door. “’That’s a good name for me,’ thought the school.” On most days Janitor came to the empty school to buff floors, wash windows, and spruce up the classrooms for opening day. The school liked the peaceful days with Janitor.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

It wouldn’t always be this way, though, Janitor told the school. Soon teachers and all kinds of children would arrive, wanting to play and learn. The school didn’t think he liked the sound of that, but Janitor reassured him. Still, the school was wary. On the first day, kids poured off buses and jumped out of cars. They ran through his halls, sat in all the rooms, and opened and closed his doors and lockers. They even scrambled around the jungle-jim.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-jungle-jim

Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Then the school heard some older kids talking on the playground. “‘This place stinks,’ said one, and the school gasped. ‘I hate school,’ said another with puffy hair to the agreement of his friends. The school sagged a little.” There was even one little girl with freckles who didn’t want to come into the school at all and had to be carried in. “‘I must be awful,’ the school whispered to himself.” That afternoon when the puffy-haired kid took a drink from the fountain, the school “squirted him in the face. Then he felt bad about it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-kids-arriving

Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In one kindergarten room, the kids were sitting on one of the school’s rugs. When the teacher asked each student to say their name, they all did, except for the freckled girl. “‘I don’t like school,’” she said to herself, and the school thought, “‘Maybe it doesn’t like you either.’” At last, the ruckus died down, and the school felt a little more peaceful. But then, suddenly, his fire alarm rang and all the children had to leave. They all “walked to the other side of the field and stared at him. He was so embarrassed.” When the kids finally came back in, he held his doors open and said, “‘Sorry. Sorry’” to each one—even the girl with freckles.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At noon the students ate lunch. At one table a boy told a joke that made another boy blow milk out his nose. While the school thought this a bit icky, he did have to admit it was a pretty funny joke. “Even the girl with freckles liked it.” Back in the kindergarten room, the kids learned about shapes and then drew pictures. The freckled girl drew a picture of the school. The school was impressed. It looked just like him. The teacher even hung the picture on the bulletin board.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-girl's-picture

Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At 3:30 after the kids had gone home, the janitor returned. The school told him all about the day; about the mistaken fire alarm, and the joke, and the little girl’s picture. Janitor told the school that it sounded as if he’d had a big day. The school was surprised. “‘Do you think you could invite everyone to come back tomorrow? Especially that little freckled girl.’” The janitor thought he could do that. Later, when the work was all done, Janitor and the school watched the sun set together. The school admitted that at first he had thought he was the janitor’s house. He guessed that another building was his house. Yes, the janitor said, “‘but you get to be a school. That’s lucky.’ And the school thought he was probably right about that.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-older-kids

Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Adam Rex performs a pretty neat trick in personifying a new school building on his first day of school. By infusing the school building with the same emotions as children, Rex lets kids see how their comments, actions, fears, nerves, and successes look from the outside and allows them to embrace their own feelings and empathize with others. Happy with the comfortable camaraderie and routines of life with Janitior, Frederick Douglass Elementary is wary of changes that the first day of school will bring. Like any child leaving home for the first time, the school is a little shocked, uncertain, shy, and thoughtful. And to add a bit of humor, Rex gives the school a small attitude of schoolyard justice. The ending rings true while flipping the idea that teachers live at school and revealing that school is a lucky thing all around.

Christian Robinson captures the heart of the story with his simply drawn yet expressive kids, who smile, scowl, laugh, play, and make friends. The homes and school building are equally emotive, with doors and steps that register happiness or thoughtfulness as the day progresses. Robinson’s bright, distinctive color palette and diverse school population invite readers in to find friends and enjoy a first or another year of school.

School’s First Day of School is a fantastic book to share with kids as the school year approaches and during the first days or when going to school gets tough. The book would be a charming addition to classrooms and home libraries.

Check out more books, art, and other fun stuff by Adam Rex on his website!

Discover more about Christian Robinson, his books, and his artwork on his website!

Back to School Month Activity

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Pencil It In Maze

 

School and pencils go together like, , , kids and a fun puzzle! Find your way through this printable Pencil It In Maze!

Picture Book Review

July 28 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

This month is set aside to honor the chefs, bakers, and cooks who create delicious meals and treats for hungry diners. Many of today’s culinary artists are involved in using organic and locally sourced foods, reducing waste, and bringing fresh foods and eating establishments to underserved communities. Through their knowledge, talents, experimentation, and love of offering good food for body and soul, those involved in the culinary arts make the world a better place for all. 

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

Written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee | Illustrated by Man One

 

“Chef Roy Choi can chop an onion in an instant, carve a mouse out of a mushroom. He’s cooked in fancy restaurants, for rock stars and royalty. But he’d rather cook on a truck.” Roy considers himself a “‘street cook,’” and he creates food with love and care—and especially sohn-maash—for anyone who stops by. What’s sohn-maash? “It is the love and cooking talent that Korean mothers and grandmothers mix into their handmade foods.”

When Roy was two his family moved from Seoul, Korea to Los Angeles, California. His mother made kimchi that was so delicious friends bought it from the trunk of her car. Eventually, Roy’s parents “opened a restaurant—Silver Garden.” Roy loved exploring the various ethnic foods in his neighborhood, but always liked his mom’s food the best.

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Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Roy loved hanging out in the bustling kitchen of the Silver Garden. And when 3:00 rolled around “everyone gathered at booth #1 for Dumpling Time.” While they filled dumpling wrappers, they told stories, shared news, and laughed. “Family together, making food. Roy’s best good time.” In time his neighborhood changed, and the Silver Garden closed. His parents then opened a jewelry store, and the family moved to the suburbs. But Roy was not happy. He wasn’t like the other kids in the neighborhood.

After he graduated, Roy was at a loss; he didn’t know what he wanted to do. No matter what, though, he always went home, “where his mom helped him get strong with kimchi, rice, tofu, stew.” One day as Roy watched a cooking show, he realized his heart was in the kitchen. He went to cooking school and learned about recipes and preparing food. When he graduated, he got jobs in fancy restaurants where he cooked for a thousand diners a night and ran the kitchen crew. He knew that this was where he belonged.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roy-choi-and-the-street-food-remix

Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

“Roy was a success—until he wasn’t.” There came a time when he couldn’t keep up with the frantic pace, couldn’t remember recipes. He lost his job. A friend suggested they open a food truck together—putting Korean barbecue in a taco. Roy jumped at the idea of remixing “the tastes he loved on the streets that were his home. He used mad chef’s skills to build flavor and cooked with care, with sohn-maash.” They called their truck Kogi BBQ, and they hit the road, looking for hungry customers.

At first the idea of a Korean taco didn’t fly, but once people tried them, they lined up to buy them. “Roy saw that Kogi food was like good music, bringing people together and making smiles. Strangers talked and laughed as they waited in line—Koreans with Latinos, kids with elders, taggers with geeks.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roy-choi-and-the-street-food-remix-watts

Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Roy felt at home in his truck, and his Kogi tacos made him famous. He opened cafes in older neighborhoods, and called his chef friends, saying “Let’s feed those we aren’t reaching.” Chef DP joined up. Together they opened fast-food places for kids and others skateboarding, playing, or just hanging out.

In the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, across the street from an elementary school, they opened Locol. The two chefs wondered if people would “care about soulful fast food.” But he needn’t have worried. Before the doors even opened, a line formed down the street and around the corner. Now, Roy wants to bring the remixed flavors of Locol to other neighborhoods. He dreams of “‘feeding goodness to the world’” and says you can do that too. All it takes is to “cook with sohn-maash, cook with love.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roy-choi-and-the-street-food-remix-neighborhood

Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Extensive Authors’ and Illustrator’s Notes offering more information about Roy Choi, his work, and the making of the book follow the text.

For kids who love cooking—and eating—Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee have written a compelling biography of one of the culinary world’s stars. Beginning with Roy Choi’s childhood, Martin and Lee show young readers the family and social events that influenced not only his choice of career but his dedication to underserved neighborhoods. Scattered throughout the pages are poems that read like recipes and satisfy like comfort food. Full of care and love, the story will encourage readers to follow their heart, try out different ideas, and find the mission that’s important to them.

Graffiti artist and illustrator Man One infuses Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix with the vibrancy of the Los Angeles neighborhoods that nurtured Choi’s talent. Readers get to gather with the family during dumpling time and see the vast array of ingredients enveloped in the tasty wrappers, watch Choi finesse a lamb dish in his fancy restaurant, and feel the vibe as he remixes tacos with a Korean tang. Along the way, kids also meet the customers from all walks of life who line up to experience Choi’s food.

Ages 5 – 12

Readers to Eaters, 2017 | ISBN 978-0983661597

Discover more about Jacqueline Briggs Martin and her books on her website.

You can read more about June Jo Lee on the Readers to Eaters website.

View a gallery of art, murals, prints, and more by Man One on his website.

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lemon-and-chocolate-cookies

French Butter Cookies – Lemon and Chocolate

 

Whip up a batch of these delicious cookies to eat yourself or share with others! There are two distinct flavors to satisfy any palate!

Ingredients for Lemon Cookies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (or to taste)

For Chocolate Cookies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  1. In a bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix the dough. **For Chocolate Cookies use 1 ½ cups flour and add cocoa powder, cinnamon, and ground ginger before mixing.**
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half.
  5. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven.
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  8. Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick.
  9. Using a lightly floured 2 inch (5 cm) round, fluted cookie cutter (or other cookie cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
  10. Put the baking sheet of cut-out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough.
  11. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water for the egg wash. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the egg wash.
  12. Then, with the tines of a fork or a toothpick, make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie.
  13. Bake cookies for about 12-14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
  14. Cool cookies on wire rack.

Picture Book Review

July 24 – National Cousins Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate cousins—those family members who are close in age and in our hearts. Often getting together with family means getting to play with cousins who can become best friends. As we grow up and move on to other cities for school or jobs, it’s easy to lose touch. If you live far away from family, take the opportunity today to text, email, or call a special cousin and catch up. If you live close, why not plan a get together with your cousins or for your kids and their cousins?

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin

By Duncan Tonatiuh

 

Charlie runs through the house shouting with excitement. He’s gotten a letter from his cousin Carlitos who lives in Mexico. They’ve never met, but Charlie would like to. In his letter Carlitos tells Charlie that he lives on a farm where they grow maize. He has a burro, pollos, and a gallo that crows and crows. Charlie sits right down and writes a letter in return.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-biking

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

He tells Carlitos that he lives in a city. From his window he can see a bridge and skyscrapers. He writes: “Skyscrapers are buildings so tall they tickle the clouds. At night all the lights from the city look like stars from the sky.” To get to school, Carlitos says, he rides his bicicleta. Perros bark and run after him as he passes. Charlie goes to school on the subway that is like a “long metal snake” underground.

At recess Carlitos and his friends play fútbol. Charlie would call it soccer. Carlitos likes when another player passes him the ball and he kicks it into the net for a gol. Charlie likes scoring too. He plays basketball with his friends during recess. When he gets the ball he dunks it through the net for two points.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-recess

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

After school Carlitos helps his mama cook cheese quesadillas. Charlie grabs a slice of pizza on his way home from school. When Carlitos finishes his homework, he goes outside to play. He likes to shoot canicas and watch them roll, and he’s good at spinning the trompo. But his favorite thing to do is fly his papalote and watch its tail flutter as it soars into the sky. In the afternoon, Charlie says, he plays with his friends outside on the stoop. They jump rope and play hopscotch then they go inside to play video games. Sometimes it gets so hot that Carlitos and his friends go down to the río to go swimming. Charlie and his friends cool off in the spray of the fire hydrant when the firefighters open it for them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-cooling-off

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

Carlitos spends the weekends at the mercado selling the maize and prickly fruit, tunas, that his family grows on their farm. They also buy food they will need for the next week from other vendors. Weekends are market days for Charlie, too. He goes to the grocery store with his mom and checks off the items on their list as they put them in the cart.

Sometimes there are fiestas in town, Carlitos tells Charlie. The parties last for two or three days. “At night there are cohetas that light up the sky and mariachis who play and play.” Charlie replies that there are special celebrations in his city too where he watches parades with marching bands and people in costumes. Carlitos wishes Charlie could see the churros, cowboys who ride their caballos and twirl their reatas. Charlie thinks Carlitos would be amazed at the break-dancers in his neighborhood who can flip and spin on their heads.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-snack

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

In Mexico, Carlitos writes, there are so many traditions. On Dia de los Muertes families honor those who have passed away, and in December there are parties called Posados with piñatas full of sweets and fruit. Charlie writes that in America we have traditions too. Two of his favorites are Thanksgiving, when he gets to eat turkey, and Halloween, when he dresses up in a costume and goes trick-or-treating for candy.

He’d like to write more, Charlie says, but his mom is calling for him to brush his teeth and get ready for bed. It seems Carlitos ended his letter on the same note. And as each boy pulls up the covers, they have the same idea: “My primo should come visit me!”

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

Duncan Tonatiuh’s charming tribute to family and cultural similarities told through two letters written by cousins engages young readers on many levels. Filled with Spanish vocabulary, Carlitos’s letter introduces children to Spanish words for familiar things as well as to new ideas. Spanish-speaking readers find the same experience through Charlie’s letter to Carlitos. By juxtaposing similar daily and special events on each page or two-page spread, Tonatiuh emphasizes the fact that people are the same wherever they live.

Tonatiuh’s now well-known folk-art illustrations let kids travel to sites in Mexico and America as they get to know Charlie and Carlitos. Striking and vividly detailed images on each page invite kids to compare the lives of the two cousins and point out the similarities and differences.

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin is an engaging multicultural book for home and school libraries. The book is a perfect way to introduce Spanish words and Mexican culture to kids learning about their world.

Ages 5 – 8

Harry N. Abrams, 2010 | ISBN 978-0810938724

Discover more about Duncan Tonatiuh, his books, and his artwork on his website!

National Cousins Day Activity

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Cousins Connect! Maze

 

Can you help the cousins get together to play in this printable Cousins Connect! Maze? Then you can color the page! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 21 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of July we honor those professional chefs who provide us with tantalizing dishes at our favorite restaurants. In addition to cooking old favorites, chefs also stay up on trends and create new recipes to make life deliciously fresh and surprising. To celebrate, visit your local restaurants and try something new! If you like to cook at home, gather some different ingredients and see what you can create! This month is also a great time to explore foods and cuisine from other countries!

Chow Mein and Potstickers

Written by Liselotte Schippers | Illustrated by Monique van den Hout

 

A little boy named Chan has just moved here from China and is hoping to make new friends. He tells a little about himself: “I moved to this country with my father, / my mother and my sister. / My mother is starting a new job here. / She’s an astronaut and someday she’ll go to the moon!” He reveals that his favorite food is potstickers and chow mein. He’s just about to go door-to-door to meet his neighbors. He wonders if kids here like to play and how “things work around here.”

Next door at Number 6, Chan meets Mila, who is from Bosnia. Chan thinks “she looks like a princess from a country far away.” Chan and Mila play soccer until they “get tired and hungry!” Then they eat Mila’s “favorite dish / Bosnian ćevapĉići—rolls of ground / meat.” At the end of the day, they say goodbye: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Doviđenja!’”

The next day Chan meets Rani, who was born in Indonesia. Even though Rani is younger, Chan says that “you can tell he is very wise. / Rani’s father is a famous musician. / He has to travel a lot, touring with his band. / His mother works at the hospital and helps people who are sick.” Rani shows Chan how to play marbles. Afterward, they enjoy Rani’s “favorite foods: satay and kroepoek. / That’s meat on a stick and shrimp crackers.” Later, they wave good-bye and say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Sampai jumpa!’”

Across the street lives a little girl named Jamila, who is originally from Afghanistan. “‘Salaam!’” she greets Chan. Jamila plays the guitar, and the two sing and dance along. Chan says: “After a while we get tired and hungry. / Jamila and I eat Afghan qabuli—rice and lamb. / That brings us to the end of our day. / As we wave good-bye, we say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Khodahafez!’”

Twins Kim and Coen live at Number 10. They are from Belgium. “Their father is a master chocolatier. That means he / makes fancy chocolates. When he is working, the house / smells wonderful. / Their mother sells the chocolates in a  / special shop. We get to try some. I’ve never tasted / anything so delicious!” After roller skating, they eat frietjes, which are like French fries served with mayonnaise. “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Tot ziens!’”

In the tall yellow house next to the church on Chan’s street, Chan meets Basu, who came here from South Africa. His mother is a minister and his father is a fireman. Chan thinks that maybe he’d like to be a fireman too when he grows up. “Basu loves to paint and draw.” He and Chan “get busy with brushes, paints and pens.” When their “masterpiece is finished,” Chan says, “We have paint splatters on our clothes and in our hair!” All that creating has made them “tired and hungry.” They “eat South African bobotie… / a dish made with seasoned ground meat.” Before Chan goes home, the boys say:  “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Totsiens!’”

Chan is excited to discover that his street is full of other children to play with. In other homes live Ania from Poland, Nuray from Turkey, Clifton from Suriname, Gracy from England, and Nino from Italy. On one special day, Chan invites all of his new friends to go to the playground with him, and Chan’s father brings chow mein and potstickers for everyone to enjoy. At the end of the day, the air rings with each child’s special way of saying “good-bye.”

Liselotte Schippers free verse poetry opens the door to a world of children for young readers. Each poem gives children the kind of information they want to know about kids from around the world. What do they like to do? What are their families like? What do they eat? Every poem includes the words “hello” and “good-bye” in the native language of the child as well as a favorite dish from each country. Little Chan makes a delightful and enthusiastic tour guide to his multicultural neighborhood, and shows young readers that even though people may come from different countries, their dreams, desires, games, and even jobs are the same. The country that Chan has moved to is never named, making “here” everywhere.

Monique van den Hout’s beautiful illustrations combine the ethereal with realistic portrayals of the happy, bright-eyed children that Chan meets in his neighborhood. Each poem is presented on a two-page spread in which Chan and his new friend are surrounded by colorful images of symbols from that child’s native country. Following each poem, a short dictionary defines and gives a pronunciation guide to the greetings and food introduced.

Chow Mein and Potstickers is an enticing introduction to the global community for children. Each poem could be used to spark more discovery about the countries presented and their children. The book’s inclusion of languages and foods makes it a perfect addition to school, classroom, and homeschool libraries for social studies units as well as a fun book for personal bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373287

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page

 

It’s fun for friends to create new recipes or just cook up some favorite treats! Have fun with this printable Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

June 21 – Make Music Day

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About the Holiday

Make Music Day first rang out in 1982 in France as the Fête de la Musique. Celebrated by young and old, professional musicians and amateurs, the day invites all to make and share their music. People in more than 750 cities and towns in over 120 countries participate in this creative holiday.

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Written by Susan Hood | Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

 

Ada Ríos is growing up in Cateura, a town built of trash as the main garbage dump for the capital city of Paraguay. Every morning the refuse trucks rumble into town to deposit their loads—1,500 tons of trash every day. The citizens of Cateura—gancheros or recyclers—go to work sifting through the mounds and tearing into bags looking for anything valuable enough to recycle or sell. Cardboard is worth 5 cents a pound, plastic 10 cents a pound.

Ada knows the landfill can hold surprises—“Her father, a ganchero, had found appliances, toys, perfumes, and antique watches.”—but she can never imagine what it holds for her. When Ada and her sister were little, their grandmother watched them while their parents worked. They loved to listen to music, to sing, and to learn stories of musicians and the sounds of different instruments. Ada fell in love with the violin.

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

As the girls grow older and go to school, they venture farther into town, but there is little to fill their time. Many kids join gangs or get into fights. When Ada is 11 her grandmother signs her and her sister up for music lessons being offered by a new man in town named Favio Chávez. “Ada’s heart sang out” when she hears the news. On the first day ten children show up to play the five instruments available. But a bigger problem looms: the three guitars and two violins cannot be taken home for practicing as they are magnets for thieves. In Cateura a violin is worth more than a house.

But Favio Chávez has an idea. With help from Nicolás Gómez, a ganchero and carpenter, they pull bits and pieces from the landfill. An old broken drum and an X-ray film become a workable drum, water pipes become flutes, packing crates become guitars and violins, and oil drums become cellos. “Ada chose a violin made from an old paint can, an aluminum baking tray, a fork, and pieces of wooden crates. Worthless to thieves, it was invaluable to her. It was a violin of her very own.”

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The children practice tirelessly outside in 100-degree heat until the initial “screeches, twangs, and tweets hit all the right notes. Their class became ‘a small island’ where Chávez taught them to respect themselves and one another.” They become known as The Recycled Orchestra. Music now fills the air, adding a soundtrack of beauty to the grueling work. The orchestra is soon invited to play concerts in Cateura and the capital city of Asunción. When word spreads of their talent, the children receive offers to play from other cities and even other countries.

When Ada is 16 The Recycled Orchestra is invited to tour with a world-famous rock band. As Ada takes the stage in front of 35,000 people in Bogotá, Colombia, she is afraid, but the audience cheers for them and sings along as they play. On that night the children discover a new life. “Buried in the trash was music. And buried in themselves was something to be proud of.”

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

An extensive author’s note plus a photograph of The Recycled Orchestra, lists of websites, videos and sources follow the text.

Ada’s Violin is also available in a Spanish edition—El violín de Ada: La Historia de la Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados del Paraguay.

Susan Hood has brought to light an incredible story of perseverance, hope, and the ability of music and other arts to provide opportunities and self-confidence that change lives. Told with unstinting honesty and sensitivity, Hood’s biography of Ada Ríos, Favio Chávez, and The Recycled Orchestra will inspire all who read it. The well-paced text offers revealing details on every page and flows with a lyrical quality that enhances the effect of the story and its impact. From the first sentence to the last, both children and adults will be riveted to The Recycled Orchestra.

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Sally Wern Comport’s paintings beautifully capture the human spirit that shines through and drives people to astonishing achievements even in the most adverse conditions. With intricately created collages of rich hues, Comport depicts the town of Cateura and the mountains of trash the citizens work and play on. Warm lighting illuminates faces full of dreams and love. Readers will linger over depictions of the instruments workshop and cheer along with the concert audience as the children receive recognition. The full-bleed, two-page spreads echo the expanded world music gave to the children in the orchestra and the adults who heard them as music score confetti flutters throughout.

Both school classrooms and home libraries will benefit from the stirring message of Ada’s Violin.

Ages 4 and up

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481430951 (English edition); 978-1481466578 (Spanish edition)

Discover more about Susan Hood and her books, plus fun activities for kids and information for teachers and parents on her website!

View a gallery of Sally Wern Comport’s artwork on her website!

Make Music Day Activity

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Make Your Own Musical Instrument

 

Inspiration for sound can come from almost any object! Look around your house or classroom and discover the music in boxes, cans, blocks of wood, plastic egg cartons or deli containers, and more. Add string or wire for plucking, sticks for drumming, or beans for shaking. With a little glue, tape, or hardware and some creativity, you’ll be making your own rhythms in no time!

Supplies for the stringed instrument shown in the picture above

  • Tin can
  • Two small L brackets
  • Piece of wooden molding, 2 1/2 feet by 1 1/2 inches by 3/4 inches
  • Five small strips of wood to raise the wire off the neck of the instrument. I used long wooden fireplace matches cut into 1 1/2″ sections 
  • Thin wire
  • Small circular hook screw or regular screw
  • Two tacks
  • A nail, screw, or piece of wood that will fit horizontally in the mouth of the can
  • a small nail to make a hole in the can
  • Hammer
  • Strong Glue
  • Paint
  • Foam decorative dots

Directions

  1. Paint the wood and let dry
  2. Paint the small strips of wood and let dry
  3. Decorate the can with paint, sticker, duct tape, or paper
  4. With the hammer and small nail, make a hole in the center of the bottom of the can
  5. Wrap one end of the wire around the nail and glue so it is firmly in place
  6. Feed the other end of the wire through the hole in the bottom of the can
  7. Screw or glue two L brackets to one end of the wood molding so that the bottom of the L is flush with the bottom of the wood molding and there is space between the brackets. This makes the neck of the instrument
  8. Screw the circular or regular screw into the top, center of the wooden molding
  9. When the wooden match strips are dry, glue three match strips side-by-side 3 inches from the top of the molding. Glue two more match strips, one on top of the other on the center strip.
  10. When the L brackets are dry, glue them (and the neck of the instrument) to the can, making sure the brackets are on either side of the hole in the can. Make sure the wire is out of the hole. 
  11. When the brackets are firmly attached to the can, pull the wire to the top of the neck. Settle it in the center of the small pieces of wood, so that the wire is not touching the neck.
  12. Wrap the wire around the screw at the top of the molding until it is firmly in place and the wire is taut. 
  13. Secure the wire to the neck with the tacks
  14. Mark the “frets” with the foam dots

Picture Book Review