December 19 – Look for an Evergreen Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by the National Arborist Association to remind people to appreciate the beauty of evergreens that got that name because they stay green year round, These majestic trees add color to the doldrums of winter and remind us that summer will come again. To celebrate, why not take a walk and rediscover the evergreens in your neighborhood!

Arturo and the Navidad Birds / Arturo y los Pájaros de Navidad

Written by Anne Broyles | Illustrated by KE Lewis

 

The day for decorating the Christmas tree had arrived, and Arturo “bounced up and down in front of the pine tree. ‘Hurry, Abue!’” he exclaimed. The tree looked so empty, but Arturo’s grandmother brought out the box of ornaments, and soon the two were admiring the little treasures. A tiny mouse nestled into a walnut shell bed had been made by Abue Rosa’s mother when she was a little girl. Although it was hard for Arturo to imagine his grandmother as a little girl, he loved hearing the story of how she carried the mouse in her pocket. “‘I called him Hermanito—my little brother! Find a good home on our tree!’” Abue Rosa said. Arturo placed the ornament on a low branch.

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Image copyright Karen Lewis, courtesy of karenlewis.com

The next ornament out of the box was a square piece of “cardboard decorated with mahogany-colored beans.” This had been made by his mother. Arturo hung it in the middle of the tree because his mother “was the middle child between Tío Hernan and Tía Ines.” A donkey ornament that Arturo’s abuelo bought when he and Rosa were first married went high up on the árbol de Navidad. The pair added ornament after ornament on the tree and it “began to shine with Abue Rosa’s stories.” Then Abue Rosa went into the kitchen to fix dinner. While she was gone Arturo rummaged through the box and found a “tiny, blown-glass bird. ‘Fly, bird. Like a plane. Vroom, vroom!’”

The little bird hit the wall and fell to the floor, its wings broken. “Horrified, Arturo covered the pieces with newspaper just before Abue came back.” As they finished decorating the tree, Abue Rosa looked through the box and asked Arturo, “Have you seen the glass pajarito that my dearest friend, Sofie, game me? It’s all I have left from her.” Arturo couldn’t look at his grandmother, instead asking to take a break.

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Image copyright Karen Lewis, courtesy of karenlewis.com

Arturo ran to his room and grabbed the glue, but he couldn’t make the wings stick. As he looked at the broken bird, tears filled his eyes. He wondered if his grandmother could forgive him. Then he had an idea. In the basement he found a pinecone and some craft materials. When he finished making his pinecone bird, he gazed at it in disappointment. It didn’t look like any bird he had ever seen and certainly not like the glass bird.

“‘Donde estas, mi’jo?’” Grandma Rosa called from the top of the stairs. Arturo slowly climbed the stairs, carrying both birds. “Arturo took a deep breath. He held out the homemade bird. ‘I made this for our tree.’” “‘Qué bonita!’” How beautiful, Abue Rosa exclaimed. Arturo continued to tell his grandmother that he made it because….He held out his other hand with the broken bird inside. Abue Rosa gasped, and Arturo felt a sob filling him. “‘I didn’t mean to,’” he said.

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Image copyright Karen Lewis, courtesy of karenlewis.com

Abue Rosa hugged Arturo and told him that even without the bird she still remembered Sofia. “‘Now when I look at this bird you made, I will think of you and Sofia.’” Together they placed the pinecone ornament on the tree and turned on the lights. Afterward, they enjoyed cups of hot chocolate together. “‘The tree is full now,’ Abue said as Arturo snuggled against her, ‘of memories.’ He nodded. ‘And love.’”

Anne Broyles’ story of a boy and his grandmother who share the true meaning of love and memories is a touching holiday read. Through an incident which many children experience in one way or another, Broyles reassures young readers that—as Arturo’s grandmother states—people are more important than things. Her realistic portrayal of Arturo’s and his grandmother’s actions and emotions will resonate with readers, and the close bond between the two is a highlight of the story. Kids will enjoy the details in the stories of the ornaments as well as in Abue Rosa’s home.

KE Lewis enhances the cozy tone of the story with her sepia-toned illustrations of Abue Rosa’s home and the personal memories surrounding her Christmas tree ornaments. Kids will recognize and empathize with Arturo’s and his grandmother’s feelings, which are genuine and clearly depicted. Kids will also like seeing the homemade and favorite ornaments that Arturo hangs on the tree as well as the loving relationship between Arturo and his Abue Rosa, which is beautifully revealed throughout the story.

Each page is told in both English and Spanish, making Arturo and the Navidad Birds a wonderful holiday choice for English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and bilingual families.

Ages 4 – 8

Pelican Publishing, 2013 | ISBN 978-1455618019

To learn more about Anne Broyles and her books, as well as to find book-related activities, visit her website!

Discover a portfolio of illustration work, animation, and picture books on Karen Lewis’s website!

Enjoy this Arturo and the Navidad Birds book trailer!

Look for an Evergreen Day Activity

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Puzzling Pine Tree Maze

 

The branches of a tall evergreen tree can form a kind of maze for the birds and squirrels who call them home. Can you find your way through this printable Puzzling Pine Tree Maze?

Picture Book Review

December 10 – Gingerbread Decorating Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2007 by the Encouragement Foundation at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, today’s holiday entreats us to cheer on our friends, coworkers, and even those we don’t know as they attempt to reach goals or start new endeavors. A pat on the back, a simple “you can do it!,” or a reassuring “great job!” boosts people’s self-confidence and makes the world a happier place.

Tough Cookie

Written by Kate Louise | Illustrated by Grace Sandford

 

Although one gingerbread man in the bakery looks like all the others, there is one important difference. Yes, the batter had “eggs and cinnamon and flour and butter and sugar—but wait! The baker forgot to add the ginger!” Without this signature ingredient the gingerbread man just doesn’t feel like a gingerbread man at all. In fact his whole life has been turned upside down. He’s different from his friends, and what’s worse, he can’t be sold. Instead, he lives in the back of the bakery  and in his sadness makes all kinds of mischief.

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

The gingerbread man chases the cat, splatters icing on other cookies, and squirts icing on the walls. “‘I need that for my cupcakes!’” the baker yells, but the gingerbread man just laughs. He moves on to the decorative candies, stuffing them in his mouth as fast as he can even though the baker needs them for his other treats and stands by tapping his foot. Next the gingerbread man scatters sprinkles all over the counter and slips and slides along on his belly—“‘woohoo!’” But the baker is not amused. “‘I need those for the donuts!’” he shouts.

 

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Finally, the baker has had enough. Not only is the gingerbread man upsetting the other gingerbread men and women, he is ruining the business. The baker orders the gingerbread man to leave the store. But this is one gingerbread man that does not want to run away. “‘I don’t want to leave!’” he cries. The baker relents. He takes the little cookie in hand and teaches him that even though he is missing an ingredient he can still be kind. The baker shows him by being nice he can become one of the group. 

Now, the little gingerbread man is happy. Instead of gobbling up all the candy, he helps create the other cookies. He no longer shoots icing on the walls or flings sprinkles around the kitchen. Rather, he helps the baker decorate the cupcakes and the donuts. He’s even learned how to sift flour and roll out dough, and he uses the cookie cutter to make new friends. And he never forgets to add the ginger!

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Grace Sandford’s bakery gleams with the golden hues of fresh-baked bread, the festive colors of sprinkles and icing, and the sparkle of sugar. Kids will love the vibrant pictures of cupcakes; lollypops; stacks of cakes, donuts, and candy; and decorated gingerbread houses surrounded by cookie forests. Her expressive gingerbread men and women register dismay at the wayward gingerbread man’s shenanigans and joy at his kindness. And the hero of the story? When he leaves behind his impish pranks he becomes a charming baker’s companion, sifting clouds of flour, running on the rolling pin to flatten dough, and passing out sugar-shiny gumdrop buttons to his new friends.

Young children will ask for this fun and funny read over and over. Tough Cookie makes an especially delicious accompaniment to an afternoon of baking or decorating gingerbread houses!

Ages 3 – 6

Sky Pony Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1634501972

Discover more of Kate Louise’s books for kids and young adults as well as Tough Cookie Coloring Pages on her website!

Read an interview with Kate Louise!

View the colorful world and signature style of Grace Sandford’s artwork on her website!

Read an interview with Grace Sandford!

Gobble up this Tough Cookie book Trailer!

Gingerbread Decorating Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-gingerbread-kids-craftGingerbread Kids Decorations 

 

Way back in the past when gingerbread was new it was creatively iced and used to decorate windows. You can make decorations for your home or room with this easy craft!

Supplies

  • Printable Gingerbread Girl and Boy Template
  • 2 Brown foam sheets
  • White paint (or any color you like)
  • Glitter in two colors
  • Paint brush
  • 2 Small heart buttons (optional)
  • Mounting squares (for mounting)
  • Thread  and needle (for optional hanging)

Directions

  1. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  2. Trace gingerbread girl and boy on brown foam sheets
  3. Cut out gingerbread girl and boy
  4. Paint around the edge of the gingerbread boy and girl with the white paint
  5. Add trim to the edge of the gingerbread girl’s dress
  6. Add socks to the gingerbread boy
  7. Add buttons
  8. Add faces
  9. Paint the hands of each figure with the paint
  10. Sprinkle glitter on the hands to make mittens
  11. To use as decoration attach mountable squares or with a threaded needle make a hole in the top of the figures and tie the thread to create a hanger.
 Picture Book Review

December 7 – Letter Writing Day

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About the Holiday

With all the letter writing going on during December by young wishers, it should be no surprise that a letter-writing day be included in this month’s calendar. Today’s holiday celebrates all forms of personal communication written by hand and remembers the correspondence of the past that has given us such insight into our favorite poets, novelists, historical figures, and more. Sure email might be faster, but there’s a certain luxury in taking the time to write your thoughts and an unexplainable excitement in holding a heartfelt letter in your hands. The punctuation marks in today’s reviewed book not only help correspondents write more dramatically, but they remind us that we all have unique things to say!

Exclamation Mark

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal | Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

 

! “stood out from the very beginning.” When he was standing in a row of ……, it didn’t matter if he was in the middle or at the end—he still stuck out. The only time he wasn’t so noticeable was when he laid down to go to sleep. Sometimes he twisted himself into coils and did somersaults to be like the others, but nothing worked. “He just wasn’t like everyone else. Period.” This left him feeling “confused, flummoxed, and deflated.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

He was just about to run away from all his problems when he met ?. ? rushed right up to him and wanted to know everything. “Who are you?…What’s your favorite color? Do you like frogs?…Do you wanna race to the corner? Is there an echo in here? Is there an echo in here?…Why do you look so surprised?….” The list went on and on.

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

“STOP!” ! shouted. The sound stunned him. ? smiled and wanted him to do it again. ! didn’t know if he could, so he tried a small “Hi!” “That felt right, so he tried something bigger. Howdy!” And then he said, “Wow!” After that there was no stopping him: “You’re it!…Home run!…Yum!…Look out!…Thanks!…Boo!…Go!”

He rushed off to show everyone what he could do. The …… were delighted and “there was much exclaiming.” Now feeling happy and confident, ! “went off to make his mark.”

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Image copyright Tom Lichtenheld, text copyright Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Courtesy of Scholastic Press

Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s clever story of an exclamation point searching for self expression is as moving as it is original. Kids will recognize his feelings of sticking out in a crowd and uncertainty of purpose and applaude when ? comes on the scene to befriend !. Readers will giggle knowingly at the barrage of questions, and feel emboldened themselves as ! finds his voice and his own unique contribution.

Tom Lichtenheld’s adorable punctuation marks hanging out on kid-ruled paper demonstrate all the expression and expressions of this well-crafted story. With simple dot eyes and small streak mouths, Lichtenheld animates the various emotions of the periods, exclamation mark, and question mark as they discover !’s special talent with individuality for each. The unbridled exuberance of ?‘s and !’s meeting makes this a terrific book about friendship as well.

! deftly points out “What would we do without exclamation points?” Likewise it asks, “What would we do without each one of us?” The positive message, creatively and humorously presented, makes this book a terrific addition to any child’s library.

Scholastic Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-054543679

You’ll find more about Amy Krouse Rosenthal, her books for children and adults, videos, other projects, and so much more on her website!

Discover a portfolio of books by Tom Lichtenheld as well as fun book-related activities and resources for teachers on his website!

!!!! for this ! book trailer!

National Letter Writing Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil-riding-kids-find-the-differencesLetter-Writing Kids Find the Differences Puzzle

 

Sometimes writing a letter is a flight of fancy through the thoughts and stories you want to tell someone else. Can you find the 12 differences in this printable Letter-Writing Kids Find the Differences Puzzle?

Picture Book Review 

November 9 – National Aviation History Month

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About the Holiday

If you look back in history you see that people have always been fascinated with flight. The first kite was invented in 1000 BCE in China; around 400 BCE Archytas of Tarentum developed a steam-powered pigeon; and most people are familiar with the designs of flying machines that Leonardo de Vinci created in the late 1400s. An important discovery that led inventors in the right direction came in 1680 when an Italian mathematician determined that human muscles were incompatible with flight.

Zip ahead about 100 years and the first hot-air balloon flight was undertaken, which led to more and more complex technology, resulting in Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flight in 1903. From there, it seemed, the sky was the limit. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic Ocean solo flight in 1932, and in 1947 Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. But it’s astounding to think that from that modest 12-second first flight by the Wright Brothers to the first man in space—Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin—it took only 58 years! Today astronauts from countries around the world live and work in the International Space Station, and spacecraft are traversing deep space.

Wind Flyers

Written by Angela Johnson | Illustrated by Loren Long

 

With pride a young African-American boy tells the story of his great-great-uncle who was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II. His uncle was “a smooth wind flyer. A Tuskegee wind flyer…,” the boy says. He knows well his uncle’s history—how like a bird, his uncle believed he was born to fly. “With his arms flapping, he jumped off a chicken coop at the age of five,” and when he was only seven he soared from a lofty barn into a pile of hay. His first real flight came at the age of eleven, when he paid 75 cents to be a passenger with a barnstormer.

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Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Flying over lakes and fields, his uncle felt as if he were in Heaven, among clouds “like soft blankets, saying, ‘Come on in, get warm. Stay awhile and be a wind flyer too.’” The experience changed him forever. In fact he “cried when they landed because then he knew what it was like to go into the wind, against the wind, beyond the wind.” As a young adult his uncle contributed his dream and his skills to the World War II effort, becoming a Tuskegee Airman, one of the first black pilots in the United States military.

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Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

As the pair sit in the uncle’s barn, surrounded by his military uniform, leather jacket, and other memories of his flying career—after the war to continue flying he became a crop duster—the pair look through old photographs, seeing once more those young and brave pilots—the Tuskegee wind flyers. Planes are different now, Uncle says, but the clouds remain the same. The boy and his uncle climb to the highest point of the uncle’s barn to watch the jets—and in those moments they once more become the smooth wind flyers, flying into the wind and beyond.

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Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

In her soaring, rhythmic language, Angela Johnson captures the dreams and yearning of a young boy whose greatest desire is to fly among the clouds. Her combination of straight narration with lyrical lines as he joins the Tuskegee Airman in World War II enhances the sense of achievement and pride the young pilots felt. The structure of the story is well chosen, as relating the uncle’s life from childhood through old age through the eyes of his nephew strengthens the themes of strong familial relationships as well as shared dreams across generations.

Loren Long gives Wind Flyers additional power with his strong, vibrant paintings. Two-page spreads provide a sense of the vastness of the skies that so enticed the young would-be pilot. Even the clouds echo the emotion of the page—fluffy, floating, and alive in the flight scenes while linear, flat, and stationary when the plane and the uncle are earthbound. Realistic portrayals of the boy, his uncle, and the other Tuskegee Airmen are reminiscent of the WPA murals of the 1940s while still setting this book firmly in today for a new generation.

Wind Flyers is a wonderful book to share with aviation buffsm budding historians, and dreamers of all types and would make a welcome thoughtful book for quiet story times.

Ages 4 – 9

Simon & Schuster Books for Young People, 2007 | ISBN 978-0689848797

To learn more about Angela Johnson‘s books for all ages, visit her website!

View a gallery of artwork for picture books and other media by Loren Long, visit his website!

National Aviation History Month Activity

CPB - Biplane side

Head in the Clouds Box Biplane

 

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

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons 
  • 2 mini buttons
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

CPB - Biplane front

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

CPB - Biplane bottom

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick between the wheels at the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

Display your biplane!

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

November 6 – Marooned without a Compass Day

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About the Holiday

It may seem appropriate that the origins of this holiday are lost to history, like someone left to languish on a deserted island. But it’s true that—at some time or another—most of us feel marooned without a compass, flailing with decisions about what to do, who to confide in, even who we are. Today is an opportunity to reflect on the direction you are going in life and, if you find you are off course, to steer once more down the right path. It’s comforting to know that someone will be waiting for you when you reach home—wherever that may be.

In a Village by the Sea

Written by Muon Van | Illustrated by April Chu

 

High on a cliff a small house looks out over the sea, where fishermen are poling their craft and setting their nets. “In that house, high above the waves, is a kitchen.” In the kitchen a warm fire blazes under “a pot of steaming noodle soup.” A woman, preparing ingredients for dinner, watches, mixes, and stirs while the pot simmers.

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

“By that woman is a sleepy child, yawning and turning. By that child, tucked in the shadows, is a dusty hole.” If you peer into that hole, you will see something astounding—a brown cricket is “humming and painting.” The cricket, brushes in four hands is surrounded by paints contained in seashells. It is painting a “sudden storm, roaring and flashing.”

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

A white boat rides this roiling sea, rising and dipping with the crashing waves as lightning flashes ahead. Under the cover of the boat’s canvas roof a fisherman eyes the threatening sky and waits for the storm to end. In his hand he opens a precious box. Inside are two pictures: one of a small house high on a hill; the other of a smiling woman holding a little child while their dog looks on. Next to these sits a special cricket.

In the painting there is also a small house, and “in that house is a family waiting for [the fisherman] to come home.”

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

Muon Van’s lyrical tale expands and contracts through the eyes of family members to reveal not only the actions and emotions of one afternoon but those that eternally exist in each character’s heart. In the opening page readers view the small house from afar as the husband and father fisherman casts off on his journey. Children are then invited into the kitchen and finally into a small crevice.

Through the cricket’s tiny painting, readers once again see the wider world with its storms and worries. Narrowing the perspective to the fisherman’s view as he looks at his photo box, however, they understand that comfort and reassurance are always close at hand. As the next page zooms out, children are again invited into the little home to join the woman, baby, and vigilant dog as they gaze out into the bay, watching and waiting for one particular boat.

Van’s quiet and simple story holds much universal feeling as it traverses both homey and unpredictable landscapes. As each page depends on the previous one, a gentle suspense builds, enticing readers to follow wherever the story takes them. The inclusion of the “dusty hole,” where a cricket—a symbol of good luck—paints the rest of the story, is irresistible and lends the tale a mystical quality.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-in-a-village-by-the-sea-on the shore

Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

April Chu’s gorgeous paintings transport readers to a Vietnamese fishing village with their delicate and colorful details. The small home glows with the light of paper lanterns and the fire in the stove. As the perspective of the text changes, so does the perspective of Chu’s paintings. When readers peer into the soup pot, bubbling with delicious vegetables, the family’s Labrador gazes up at them, almost begging to know what smells so good. Another bird’s eye view lets kids watch as the dog discovers the hole under the rug, a beautiful device to increase their enjoyment of and wonderment at the story.

Kids will marvel at the cricket’s artistic talent, as the stormy sea churns with whitecaps and lightning flashes from the tip of the small creator’s paintbrush. But it is Chu’s mastery that makes each page so meaningful.

Ages 3 – 10

Creston Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1939547156

View a porfolio of picture books and other artwork by April Chu on her website!

Marooned without a Compass Day Activity

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Sailboat Maze

 

Sometimes getting through a maze is as smooth as sailing on a calm sea—and sometimes the path is a little choppy. Get your pencil ready and chart a path through this printable Sailboat Maze!

Picture Book Review

November 1 – Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

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About the Holiday

Originating in Mexico, but celebrated throughout Latin America, Dia de los Muertos commemorates the lives of deceased loved ones with music, food, parties, and activities the person enjoyed in life. Dia de los Muertos revolves around the belief that death is just a natural part of the life cycle, and the dead are awakened from their eternal rest to once more join their community for this special day.

Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras

By Duncan Tonatiuh

 

José Guadalupe Posada was born in 1852 in the Mexican city of Aguascalientes. His older brother, a teacher, taught Lupe how to read and write, and seeing how well he drew, helped him enroll in art classes. When Lupe was 18, he went to work in a print shop where he learned lithography and engraving. During working hours Lupe created labels, invitations, flyers, and other documents.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-funny-bones-posada-and-his-day-of-the-dead-calaveras-introduction

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, courtesy of abramsbooks.com

After work, he gathered with other artists and talked about the government. They didn’t like how their government officials ran things. Lupe’s boss, Don Trinidad Pedroza, at the print shop also published a newspaper, and he invited Lupe to create editorial drawings to be included in the paper. Lupe’s drawings were humorous, but also highlighted the officials’ bad traits. After the elections some of these politicians remained in power and were angry with Lupe and his boss. Lupe and Don Trinidad decided to move to the city of León.

In León Lupe opened his own print shop, he got married, and had a son. He became well known not only for his printing work but also for book and pamphlet illustrations. People began to call him Don Lupe as a sign of respect. “But in 1888 a terrible flood destroyed a large part of the city, including Don Lupe’s shop.” He and his family moved to Mexico City, where in time he was able to open another print shop.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-funny-bones-posada-and-his-day-of-the-dead-calaveras-calavera-love

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, courtesy of abramsbooks.com

He worked with Antonio Vanegas, a writer, who published his stories on large sheets of paper called ‘broadsides.’ “The tales were about a wide range of topics, including scary creatures, fires, miracles, violent crimes, heroes, bandits, cockfights, and bullfights.” Don Lupe drew illustrations for many of these stories. Even people who couldn’t read began buying the broadsides because they were fascinated by Don Lupe’s art.

Every November first and second, during the Dia de Muertos celebrations venders sold special “pan de muerto (bread), cempasúchil (marigold flowers), alfeñiques (sugar skulls), and papel picado (paper cutouts). People bought these and other items to decorate the ofrendas (offerings) they made for their loved ones who had died.” Don Antonio and other editors published “literary Calaveras, which were “short rhyming poems that featured a skeleton and made jokes about him or her. People thought they were very funny. Soon Don Lupe began drawing illustrations for these poems.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-funny-bones-posada-and-his-day-of-the-dead-calaveras-fancy-hat

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, courtesy of abramsbooks.com

Over time Don Lupe began using the technique of etching, and his illustrations grew more complex. In his calaveras drawings Don Lupe interpreted and commented on what he saw not only on Dia de Muertos, but every day. For example, he watched families gather at loved ones’ graves with food, stories, and music then “drew skeletons dancing and partying. Was he saying that…El Dia de Muertos is not only a celebration of death but also a celebration of life? A day when the dead become alive?”

In another drawing a skeleton wears a large hat covered with lace, feathers, and flowers. This illustration accompanied a poem about a woman who wore expensive clothes and thought she was better than others and ignored them when they needed help. “Was Don Lupe saying that…no matter how fancy your clothes are on the outside, on the inside we are all the same? That we are all calaveras?

Don Lupe also commented on the ever increasing hustle and bustle of society, the Mexican Revolution of 1910, revolutionary leaders and government officials, and just common people and events. Perhaps the main idea Don Lupe was trying to communicate was that “calaveras are all around us. That we are all calaveras, whether we are rich or poor, famous or not.”

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, courtesy of abramsbooks.com

While many people loved and looked forward to Don Lupe’s artwork, they did not know the artist who drew them. It wasn’t until many years after his death in 1913 that “historians and artists such as Jean Charlot and Diego Rivera began to wonder who had drawn such wonderful images.” Today, we know Don Lupe by his last name—Posada—which is how he signed his work, and he and his work is still beloved around the world.

An extensive Author’s Note about El Dia de Muertos and Posada’s influence on other artists. A glossary, bibliography, art credits, and places where Posada’s work is displayed follow the text.

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, courtesy of abramsbooks.com

In Funny Bones Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, Duncan Tonatiuh accomplishes many things. First, his book is a fascinating look at the life of the man who entertained and enlightened the world with his distinctive talent and ideas. Tonatiuh’s straightforward storytelling reveals the personal and historical events that influenced Posada from childhood through adulthood, clearly explaining and highlighting each concept for his young audience. Second, Tonatiuh provides readers with brief primers on the printing processes of lithography, engraving, and etching with step-by-step descriptions of these interesting art forms.

Third, his own vibrant and expressive stylized illustrations both contrast with and complement the depictions of Posada’s life and his calaveras drawings. On nearly every two-page spread readers experience this biography through Tonatiuh’s portrayals of Don Lupe, the townspeople, and others as well as through Posada’s actual broadsides and editorial drawings. The juxtapositions allow children to fully appreciate the meaning and humor behind these famous drawings that are still so popular and resonant today.

Ages 6 – 10

Harry N. Abrams, 2015 | ISBN 978-1419716478

View a gallery of Duncan Tonatiuh‘s artwork for children and adults on his website!

Dia de los Muertas (Day of the Dead) Activity

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Calaveras Coloring Page

 

With their intricate designs and vibrant hues, calaveras are a joy to color. Grab your entire set of markers, pencils, or crayons and design a masterpiece with this printable Calaveras Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

October 30 – Candy Corn Day

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About the Holiday

It says something about a candy that is only sold for a month or two out of twelve and yet has been around since the late 1800s. What is that candy? Candy Corn, of course! Seeing those little triangular white, yellow, and orange morsels on store shelves means Halloween is just around the corner. Whether you can eat them by the handful or find them too sweet, there’s no denying that Candy Corn is part of trick-or-treat fun!

Witches

Written by Cheryl Christian | Illustrated by Wish Williams

 

A gaggle of witches, too small for their feet to touch the floor as they sit around the table, stir up a special brew in their iron caldron. Into the bubbling pot go spiders’ webs and “a bone or two,” in fact “any kind of smelly, slimy, sticky stuff will do.” The witches gobble up their feast and hurry on their way, flying broomsticks into the night. They cackle with “screeching screeches”—“what a fearful sight.”

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Image copyright Wish Williams, text copyright Cheryl Christian. Courtesy Star Bright Books

Wearing dark capes and “witchy hats,” they creep along the street, meeting ghosts and astronauts, lions and crocodiles, and of course black cats. There are “witches ringing doorbells” and “running through the street. Witches having lots of fun…calling ‘TRICK OR TREAT!’”

Cheryl Christian’s bouncy, bounding rhyme bubbles with the excitement and joy kids feel on Halloween night. Transformed by costumes into witches that want more treats than tricks, favorite animals, personal heroes, mythical creatures, and spooky haunters, children relish the abandon of going door to door collecting goodies, meeting their friends, and “screeching screeches”—and all in the mysterious deep, dark night when they might usually be going to bed. Kids will love Christian’s focus on them and the activities that make Halloween such a looked-forward-to holiday.

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Image copyright Wish Williams, text copyright Cheryl Christian. Courtesy Star Bright Books

Wish Williams’ luminous celebration of Halloween night radiates a glow-in-the-dark feeling that lends the story an element of the fantastical even as it illuminates the traditional fun kids have on this special night. A distinctive color palette of deep turquoise, magenta, green, purple, and orange lit with an eye toward creating an atmosphere of spooky coziness, makes each two-page spread a joy to explore. In the kitchen scenes, cats frolic, jack-o-lanterns grin, and kids happily concoct a witchy potion from ingredients found in the fridge and pantry. Spatulas, whisks, and spaghetti spoons held up to the light become monstrous shadows on the wall.

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Image copyright Wish Williams, text copyright Cheryl Christian. Courtesy Star Bright Books

Outside, readers can almost hear the shouts and laughter of the trick-or-treaters as they fan out across the neighborhood, play in the town center fountain and gazebo, jump in fallen leaves, and run door-to-door calling out “trick-or-treat.” There are so many details tucked away from corner to corner of every page that kids will want to linger and find them all.

One very welcome and distinguishing aspect of Witches is its inclusion of children of color and children with disabilities among the group of witches as well as the other trick-or-treaters. Witches would be an excellent addition to library shelves for all kids to enjoy.

Ages 3 – 7

Star Bright Books, 2011 | ISBN 978-1595722836

Candy Corn Day Activity

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Halloween Word Search

 

Join the witch in this spooky printable Halloween Word Search as she concocts the perfect potion for a fun holiday!

Picture Book Reveiw