February 13 – World Radio Day

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About the Holiday

The radio has provided entertainment, news, comfort, and information and has united people both near and far ever since Guglielmo Marconi invented  it in 1895. Today, radio continues to be an important part of people’s lives around the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization established February 13 as World Radio Day “to celebrate radio as a medium, to improve international cooperation among broadcasters, and to encourage both major networks and community radio to promote access to information, freedom of expression and gender equality across the airwaves.” This year’s UNESCO theme is “Radio is You” and focuses on ensuring that all radio stations from personal to commercial have the tools they need to provide the best service they can.

Radio Man/Don Radio

By Arthur Dorros | Translated by Sandra Marulanda Dorros

 

“Radio man” is Diego, a boy in a family of migrant workers who pick fruit and vegetables from the Southwest to as far north as Washington state. Although his family moves frequently, Diego has close relationships with his parents, sister, grandparents, cousins, and especially a friend named David.

As his family moves from town to town searching for work, Diego listens to the radio. Stations broadcasting in both English and Spanish keep the family company, and Diego measures the distance of upcoming towns along their route by the clarity of the DJs’ voices. The radio also provides entertainment for end-of-picking season parties among the workers and serves as a catalyst for the grandfather’s stories of growing up in Mexico.

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Image copyright Arthur Dorros, courtesy of Penguin Books

While Diego’s family is close-knit, their nomadic lifestyle separates Diego from his best friend, David, who is also the son of migrant workers. As the story begins Diego and David are leaving Texas and know they won’t see each other for a while. Traveling north, Diego’s family stops in different towns. In each Diego goes to school during the day and picks crops in the afternoon. He meets up with his cousins and other friends, along the way, but never finds David. When the family reaches Sunnyside, Washington, Diego discovers that radio station KMPO allows people to send messages to others. Diego calls the station and sends a message: “Hello, David! This is Diego. Are you here?”

David, missing Diego and listening to his own radio, is there! David smiles, happy to be reconnected with his best friend.

Arthur Dorros’s story reflects not only the life of migrant workers but also the universal feelings of children separated from friends. Through Dorros’s honest and moving descriptions, readers discover the importance of communication, whether it be through shared history and stories or through technology, in keeping relationships strong. When Diego and David finally find each other again, children will identify with their happiness.

Through vivid illustrations, Dorros depicts the landscape and farms of the American southwest, the festive celebrations held by workers at the end of picking seasons, the reality of driving from town to town, and the tight relationships among family members, giving children a glimpse into the life of migrant workers as well as the heart of friendship.

Each page of Radio Man is presented in English and Spanish, with translation by Sandra Marulanda Dorros. It has become a classic multicultural story, and one that is a wonderful read for all kids.

Ages 4 – 8

Trophy Picture Books, HarperCollins, 1997 | ISBN 978-0064434829

Discover more about Arthur Dorros and his books as well as fun activities on his website!

World Radio Day Activity

CPB - Radio Man box radios from side

Box Radio Desk OrganizerMau

 

With a recycled box and the provided printable templates  you can make a desk organizer that looks like a radio with this fun craft!

Supplies

  • Cardboard box – Use an empty cube-shaped tissue box, pasta box, or any small box
  • Wooden chopstick
  • Printable Radio Face Template
  • Aluminum foil
  • Glue – a hot-glue gun works well on the cardboard; regular glue for the buttons and tape for the station tuner window
  • Paint – any color you like
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Prepare the box:

  • Choose a box to be your radio. In the pictures I used a cube-shaped tissue box and a penne pasta box with a cellophane window in it.
  • If you are using a box without an opening in the top, cut the top or bottom flaps off of one end of the box, depending on where you want the station tuner window to go.

2. Paint the box:

  • You can paint the printed front, back and sides of the box.
  • OR if you want a plain box to use “as-is” or to paint: take the recycled box apart at the seams and turn it “inside out.”
  • If you are using a pasta box with a window in it, tape the stations tuner template to the cellophane window before gluing the seams
  • Glue the original seam and flaps (a hot-glue gun works well). Let the glue dry. Then paint.

3. Let the box dry

4. Cut out the radio dials, speaker, and stations tuner window

5. Glue the parts of the radio to the box 

6. To make the antenna, wrap the wooden chopstick in a strip of aluminum foil: lay the stick on the foil and fold a foil flap (about 1 inch long) over each end of the stick. Roll the foil around the stick and press gently to close seam.

7. Attach the antenna to your box:

  • For pasta boxes tape the antenna to the inside corner of the box
  • For cube tissue boxes, make a hole in the right hand corner and push antenna in

8. Use your Radio Desk Organizer to hold pencils, rulers, bookmarks, anything!

Picture Book Review

 

January 25 – A Room of One’s Own Day

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About the Holiday

Everyone needs a little space of their own—a place to think, read, write, or just say Ahhhh… after a long day. In today’s world of Man Caves and Women’s Sheds, designing a spot where you can get away and spend some rejuvenating alone time doing a particular hobby or just doing nothing is becoming easier and more accepted. Kids need their own spaces too—a personal place surrounded by the things they love.

My Very Own Room / Mi propio cuartito

Written by / Escrito por Amada Irma Pérez | Illustrated by / Ilustrado por Maya Christina Gonzalez

 

One morning a little girl woke up in a bed overrun with brothers. Victor’s elbow was poking her in the ribs, and Mario was curled up on the pillow with his leg across her face. In the next bed slept the girl’s three other brothers. The girl had had enough—after all she was nearly 9 years old. After years of sharing a room with her five brothers, “more than anything in the whole world [she] wanted a room of [her] own,” but space in her tiny house was hard to come by. What’s more, besides the eight immediate family members, sometimes friends and relatives from Mexico came to stay. It could be fun, but there was no privacy.

To get away she sometimes crept out early in the morning and climbed “the crooked ladder that leaned against the elm tree” in her backyard. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her brothers, she just needed a place of her own. She looked around the house for a space that would be just right. She peeked behind the flour-sack curtain that divided the living room from the storage closet. It seemed perfect! She imagined it with her “own bed, table, and lamp—a place where she could read the books she loved, write in her diary, and dream.”

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Image copyright Maya Christina Gonzalez, courtesy of Lee & Low Books

While the storage nook seemed the solution, the girl’s mother shook her head. The space was already assigned to her aunt’s sewing machine, her uncle’s garden tools, furniture, and old clothes—the things needed for others to make a better life in America. But then her mother saw the tears in her daughter’s eyes and decided that perhaps the things in the storage space could find a new home on the back porch with blankets and a tarp to protect them from the weather.

With a hug and a kiss, the little girl thanked her mother, and they and the five boys began rearranging the house. Finally, all that was left behind the flour-sack curtain were a few cans of leftover paint. There was blue, white, and pink, but not enough of any one color to paint the room. Suddenly, the girl had an idea. She and her brothers mixed the three together and made…magenta! Tío Pancho offered a spare bed and after measuring the room and then the bed with a piece of yellow yarn, the little girl discovered that the bed would indeed fit. An upended wooden crate became a nightstand. But what about a lamp?

Mamá brought out her box of Blue Chip stamps that she’d been collecting for years. The stamps were awarded with gas and food purchases. When they were stuck into booklets and used at special stores, the stamps were as good as money. The girl and her brothers “licked and licked and pasted and pasted.” When they were finished, they all went to the stamp store. As soon as she stepped into the store, the girl spied the lamp she wanted. “It was as dainty as a beautiful ballerina, made of white ceramic glass with a shade that had ruffles around the top and bottom.”

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Image copyright Maya Christina Gonzalez, courtesy of Lee & Low Books

Back home she carefully set the lamp on her bedside table, but “something was still missing, the most important thing…Books!” The next day the little girl brought home six books from the library—six was her “lucky number because there were six children” in her family. That night, the little girl nestled into her new room, turned on the light and began to read. When her two youngest brothers peered in through the curtain, she invited them in, and as they snuggled on her bed, she read them a story. At the end they said goodnight, and her brothers returned to their own room. Lying back against her pillow, the girl felt “like the luckiest, happiest little girl in the whole world” because each person in her family had worked to make her wish come true. She drifted off into peaceful sleep under a “blanket of books” in her very own room.

Amada Irma Pérez’s touching story from her own childhood is a delightful reminder for readers of the strong bonds of family love that puts other’s needs ahead of one’s own. The family’s commitment to each other is found not only in their willingness to help rearrange the house to accommodate a maturing daughter and sibling, but in the collection and storage of goods that will contribute to a better life for friends and relatives. Children familiar with reward points will be fascinated to learn about their predecessor “blue chip stamps.” The straightforward storytelling is infused with the kinds of hopes and suspense that resonate with kids, and the tender, quiet ending leaves readers with a lingering feeling of comfort and happiness.

Maya Christina Gonzalez fills the pages of My Very Own Room with joyous vibrancy and empathy that emphasizes the family’s connection. Soft edges and swirling patterns create a comforting environment, while elements, such as the long piece of yellow yarn, underscore the familial ties. While the little girl finds solace in the backyard elm tree and hunts for a space to call her own, her mother looks on with understanding, which leads to depictions of mother and daughter that are particularly moving. With warmth and welcome, each page invites readers into the family home to share a transitional event in their life.

The text is presented in both English and Spanish on each page, and is followed by a brief biographical note, including photographs, by Amada Irma Pérez.

It’s heartening to read a story in which siblings are so immediately supportive of each other. The gentle pace and upbeat tenor of My Very Own Room makes it a wonderful choice for quiet family story times or group school or library readings.

Ages 5 – 10

Lee & Low Books, 2008 | ISBN 978-0892392230

Learn more about Amada Irma Pérez and her books on her website!

Discover a gallery of book illustration and fine art by Maya Christina Gonzalez plus resources for educators on her website!

A Room of One’s Own Day Activity

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Decorate Your Room Coloring Page

 

If you had a room to fix up just the way you’d like, how would it look? Here’s a printable Decorate Your Room Coloring Page for you to enjoy. Put your own knick-knacks on the shelf and your things on the nightstand by the bed. Then give your room a color scheme – and move in!

Picture Book Review

January 22 – Celebration of Life Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to give parents, grandparents, and caregivers a nudge to step back and look at our children and grandchildren as the unique individuals they are. Each child has a special personality and innate talents that combine to make them who they are. Today, celebrate each child’s exceptional character! Ask your children what they want from life, what their opinions are, and what is important to them. Then incorporate some of those things into your daily life!

Cake Day

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Estelle Corke

 

An adorable little boy runs to his grandma, excited that it’s “Cake Day!” “That’s right,” his grandma agrees, “Today we’re going to bake a cake!” The boy, hardly able to see over the counter, wants to be picked up and see what’s in the cabinet. His grandma happily obliges, and the pair carefully pick the ingredients for their cake together.

“‘Hmmm…we need flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar to make a cake,’ says Grandma.” With all the ingredients set on the table, the two start measuring. The little chef is eager and curious: “‘Cake Day! How much, Grandma?’” he asks. As Grandma pours the flour into the cup and a soft, powdery cloud envelops them, the delighted boy laughs, “‘Too much, Grandma!’” The two work happily side by side, with Grandma adding the eggs while her grandson pours in the milk.

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Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

As the ingredients start to mesh, Grandma exclaims, “‘Look! What’s happening to the batter?’” The little boy wants to help it along and takes up the wooden spoon. Round and round he stirs, creating swirls in the yellow batter until it’s ready for the oven. “‘Bake day! Your turn, Grandma!” the boy says and stands wide-eyed as his grandma slides the deep pan into the oven. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cake-day-stirring-batter

Image copyright Estelle Corker, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of Star Bright Books, 2016

The little boy and his dog settle in front of the oven to watch the cake bake. With keen expectation the boy asks, “‘Cake day! Ready, Grandma?” Grandma encourages her grandson’s inquisitiveness and explains the process: “‘We have to wait until the cake rises. The heat makes it rise. When you hear the timer go BEEP BEEP it will be ready.’” At last the cake comes out of the oven, but it’s not ready to be decorated yet. First, they must wait for it to cool.

In a short time the high, golden cake can be iced and decorated. The little boy vigorously shakes a jar of sprinkles over the top, scattering a rainbow of colors across the white frosting. The cake is beautiful and just the right complement to the little boy’s Cake Day, Bake Day, Shake Day—Birthday!

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Image copyright Estelle Corke, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy Star Bright Books, 2016

Ellen Mayer’s language-rich and playful story of a small child and his grandmother baking together is a wonderful introduction not only to reading but to the type of full-sentence conversational modeling that improves and increases literacy. The steps to baking the birthday cake flow organically and lyrically through the loving relationship between the little boy and his grandma, enticing young readers to learn more about the world around them and how it works. The repeated phrases “Cake day! Bake day!,” and “Ready, Grandma?” as well as the boy’s short statements offer opportunities for kids to read along and learn new vocabulary as they develop important language skills.

Estelle Corke’s cheery illustrations glow with enthusiasm and the close bond between grandmother and grandson. The grandmother lifts, steadies, and holds the boy while still allowing him to perform all the tasks he can. The little boy, in his green apron, delights in every aspect of the baking process, his eagerness expressed in his animated smile and lively participation. The homey kitchen is awash in inviting colors and objects that children will recognize. The clearly drawn boxes and jars of ingredients, kitchen tools, and furnishings offer readers a chance to practice their vocabulary and learn new words.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727466

To see more books by Ellen Mayer as well as language development and reading strategies for young children, visit her website!

Visit Estelle Corke’s website to view a gallery of her artwork!

Star Bright Books publishes fiction nonfiction, and bilingual “great books for great kids” and provides literacy resources for readers.

Celebration of Life Day Activity

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Image copyright Ellen Mayer, 2016

Grandma’s Cake

 

Grandma and her grandson baked a delicious, special cake—and now you can too! Invite your child or children to help, and make a Celebration of Life cake decorated just the way they’d like! Here’s the full recipe that Grandma uses. Recipe courtesy of Ellen Mayer.

A Simple Sponge Cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus a little to grease cake pan.
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • You will need: 3 mixing bowls:
  1. 1 to cream butter and sugar
  2. 1 to mix flour, baking powder and salt
  3. 1 in which to beat the eggs
  • A 7-inch diameter, deep cake pan

Directions

  1. Butter pan and dust with flour.
  2. Set the rack at the middle of the oven.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  5. In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. In the third bowl, beat the eggs and add milk.
  6. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to butter mixture then alternate with the egg and milk mixture. Continue to alternate ending with flour mixture. Scrape bowl and beater often.
  7. Add vanilla and mix well.
  8. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula.
  9. Bake cake about 45 minutes. Insert knife or wooden skewer into the center. If it emerges clean, the cake is done. If not, bake for 5 more minutes.
  10. Remove cake from oven and allow to set for 5 minutes.
  11. Turn cake out onto a cake rack and leave to cool.

Grandma’s Favorite Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1 1⁄2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1⁄4 stick butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Blend all ingredients together with a mixer until smooth
  2. Spread on the top and sides of cake
  3. Decorate with sprinkles or your favorite topping

Picture Book Review

January 21 – Hugging Day

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About the Holiday

This is one of those lovely, simple holidays that’s just what it seems. So go ahead and hug someone today.

Hug it Out!

By Louis Thomas

 

With rain pelting the windows, brother and sister Woody and Annie were playing inside. Woody was building an airport while Annie was creating a town from blocks. Everything was going great “until…they both reached for the car.” Then a tug-of-war began. Woody “wanted the car to pick up travelers from his airport” and Annie needed a little traffic in her town. They both yelled for Mom, who made them promise to be better sharers. Woody and Annie agreed with a pinky swear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-it-out-playing-happily

Image and text copyright Louis Thomas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

But the sharing didn’t last long. Time with the car seemed unfair, and then there was the name-calling: Annie called Woody a “‘dumb-dumb,’” and Woody retaliated with “‘ding-dong,’” and they both called for “‘Mommm….’” Mom returned with coffee in hand and requested that Annie and Woody apologize to each other. A couple of mumbles later, Mom proclaimed it “‘Good enough’” until little feet started getting involved, and cries of “‘Ow!’” and “‘Quit it!’” filled the air. And…oh yeah… “‘Mommmm!’”

Mom had had enough! This time she laid down the law, and Woody and Annie—eyes wide in and hands to their cheeks in horror—heard her say, “From now on, any time you argue, you’re going to have to…HUG IT OUT.’” Annie and Woody were flummoxed, confused, perplexed. Mom pushed them together cheek to cheek to demonstrate, and with frowny faces and stiff arms, they hugged.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-it-out-fighting-over-car

Image and text copyright Louis Thomas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Still, the chasing— “‘Hug it out!’” —the hair pulling— “‘Hug it out!’” —the squabbling— “‘Hug it out!’” —and the wrestling— “‘HUG IT OUT!’” (this time with stuck-out tongues) continued. Finally, Annie confessed that she couldn’t “‘take one more hug,’” and Woody agreed. The two went back to playing—apart. Woody flew his planes, and Annie took care of her town. “And they both found a way to play with the car.”

After a while they looked at each other with an unexpected realization. “‘Mommmm!’ Annie screamed. ‘Mommmm!’ Woody screamed louder.” And their mom answered “‘HUG IT OUT!’” And with big smiles, “they did.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hug-it-out-wrestling

Image and text copyright Louis Thomas, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Louis Thomas is onto something in this timely, sibling-rivalry story. Kids—and adults—will recognize the realistic dialogue and circumstances that makes Hug It Out! a laugh-out-loud tug at the heart. Thomas’s positive “punishment” is a clever solution to those sister and brother squabbles and might inspire parents and caregivers to give it a try. Readers will love shouting out “Mommm!” and “Hug it Out!” in this perfect—and perfectly fun—read-along. Thomas’s bright-eyed, straw-haired siblings are adorable, and kids will giggle to see the two smooshed together in a forced hug that becomes closer and closer with every attempt to make up and later becomes a sought-out part of the day.

With it’s wry take on the daily travails of sister- and brotherhood, Hug It Out! would make an amusing addition to home bookshelves—one that might reached for with every “Mommm!” 

Ages 3 – 7

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017 | ISBN 978-0374303143

To view galleries of illustration work by Louis Thomas, visit his blog and tumblr!

Hugging Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-and-mitten-neck-warmer-and-pillow

Warm Hugs Neck Warmer or Pillow

Supplies

  • Knee sock or tall crew sock
  • 2 knit gloves
  • Fiber Fill (for pillow and mittens)
  • Uncooked rice (for neck warmer)
  • Thread
  • Needle

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-and-mitten-neck-warmer-and-pillow

Directions

For Pillow

  1. Fill knee sock or crew sock with fiber fill
  2. Sew open end of sock closed 
  3. Fill knit gloves with fiber fill
  4. Sew one mitten to each end of the sock 
  5. Curve sock pillow around neck and relax!

For Neck Warmer

  1. Fill knee sock with uncooked rice
  2. Sew open end of sock closed
  3. Fill knit mittens with fiber fill
  4. Sew one mitten to each end of the sock
  5. Heat in microwave for 1 minute and then in 30-second increments until desired warmth

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

December 23 – Roots Day

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About the Holiday

Roots Day was established to inspire us to look into our family background and learn about our heritage. It’s fascinating to discover facts about our ancestors’s lives and the stories that have come down from generation to generation. If you will be with family this weekend, talk about your collective history and get to know each other in a whole new way!

Mango, Abuela, and Me

Written by Meg Medina | Illustrated by Angel Dominguez

 

During the winter Mia’s Abuela moves from her house far away to live with her family. Mia feels shy around her unfamiliar grandmother, but quickly adapts, sharing her room and her drawer space. The one thing they cannot share is language. Abuela “can’t unlock the English words” in Mia’s book, and Mia knows only a little Spanish.

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Image copyright Angela Domingues, text copyright Meg Medina. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

On the first night Abuela shows Mia two things she has carefully brought with her—a feather from a wild parrot that roosted in her mango trees and a photograph of her late husband. “Tu Abuelo,” she explains to Mia.

For the rest of the winter, Mia spends time with her grandmother, but regrets that she can never tell her important things about her life. Abuela does’t know that Mia’s good at art or can beat the boys in a race. Likewise, Abuela can’t tell Mia about her life or answer Mia’s many questions. 

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Image copyright Angela Domingues, text copyright Meg Medina. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

When Mia confides in her mother, her mom reminds her of how she helped her best friend, Kim, learn English when she was new at school. One day while Mia and her grandma bake meat pies, Mia pretends to be her teacher, naming each ingredient in English. Abuela reciprocates with the Spanish word. Mia suddenly has an idea. She tags everything in the house with its English name and the pair practices.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mango-abuela-and-me-word-tags

Image copyright Angela Domingues, text copyright Meg Medina. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

The next day on a trip to the pet shop to buy hamster food, Mia sees something in the window that gives her another exciting idea. Right in the middle of the display sits a colorful parrot. “Let’s buy him,” Mia exclaims. “For Abuela.” The parrot can keep Abuela company while she is in school, Mia thinks.

Abuela is thrilled with the gift, and they name the parrot Mango because he is the color of the tropical fruit. Abuela teaches him to say Buenos tardes. Good afternoon, Mia teaches him. “Buenos tardes, good afternoon,” Mango repeats. Abuela, Mia, and Mango spend the days practicing new English and Spanish words, learning the days of the week, the months, and the names of coins. Encouraged by her success, Abuela asks to learn more and harder words so she can meet people in the neighborhood.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mango-abuela-and-me-pet-store

Image copyright Angela Domingues, text copyright Meg Medina. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Best of all, Mia and Abuela can now talk about everything. Their “mouths are full of things to say,” and they tell each other about their day and their lives. From his perch Mango watches and listens. Night falls and as the light is turned off, Mia says “Hasta mañana, Abuela.” “Good night, Mia,” Abuela whispers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mango-abuela-and-me-baking-together

Image copyright Angela Domingues, text copyright Meg Medina. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Meg Medina beautifully represents the relationship between a little girl and her grandmother who are unfamiliar with each other but bound by familial love. The little girl’s acceptance of her grandmother and desire to communicate is strongly depicted in the activities they do together. Mia’s clever ideas to promote the mutual learning of each other’s language shows the kind of inclusiveness that builds friendships. 

Angela Dominguez depicts the developing friendship between Mia and her Abuela in bright paintings that mirror the reds, blues, greens, and yellows of the tropics. The pair’s closeness grows organically from page to page as Mia first shies away from the grandmother who is a stranger to her to attempts at communication to deep feelings of love as they bridge the language barrier through dedication, hard work, and the help of a unique friend.

Ages 5 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763669003 (English) / 978-0763680992 (Spanish)

Learn more about Meg Medina and her books on her website

Discover more about Angela Dominguez and her books on her website!

Watch the Mango, Abuela, and Me book trailer!

Roots Day Activity

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Family Recipe Card

 

Every family has at least one favorite recipe. Maybe it’s a recipe handed down through the generations or maybe it’s a brand new treat! Print this Family Recipe Card on card stock or glue it to a 4″ x 6″ index card. Write down your recipe and save it. Why not start your own box of special recipes that you can pass down?

Picture Book Review

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-arturo-and-the-navidad-birds-flying-bird-ornament

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-arturo-and-the-navidad-hot-chocolate

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 5 – International Ninja Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s celebration remembers and honors the ninja warriors of China and Japan who with stealth and their signature black clothing could appear and vanish “like a hawk on stolen wings” to defeat their opponents. It was rumored that they were masters of Kuji-Kiri, an eastern magical practice that allowed them to combine their natural ability to move undetected with supernatural powers. The original ninja came from the Iga province of Japan and were made up of regular citizens. Their weapons were those of farmers, making it easier for them to be explained away and these warriors to escape exposure. The black clothing that we now associate with the ninja came from the theater, where the “invisibility” of the common-man warrior was represented by stage hands playing the parts of the ninja. To conceal themselves from the audience, stage hands wore black costumes that blended in with the black background curtains. When they became part of the play, theater-goers were taken by surprise. Today, ninja remain popular characters in movies and books, and especially with children.

Ninja! Attack of the Clan

By Arree Chung

 

Maxwell is dressed in his ninja best, pool cue at the ready. Now all he needs is a “worthy opponent.” He leaps into the kitchen where his mom’s making a salad. “HI-YA!” But when he asks if his mom wants to play, she tells him she’s too busy. He turns to his sister. “BOOYAH! Cassy, want to play with me?” he asks. “I working,” she answers from behind the tall building she’s constructing from blocks. Disappointed, Maxwell searches out his dad in his office.

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Copyright 2016 Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

“Papa!” Maxwell exclaims. “Yes, Maxwell…,” Papa says, flipping through the file cabinet. Want to play hide-and-seek with me?” Maxwell asks. “Yes, Maxwell,” Papa says, studying the income tax form in his hand. “OKAY!!! I’ll hide, you seek.” Maxwell shouts as he runs out of the room. “Yes, Maxwell,” Papa says, opening the tax program on the computer.

Maxwell tries out various hiding places, but none seem ninja-worthy. Then he spies the bed. Concealing himself underneath, he waits for Papa to find him…and waits. Finally, he hears a thump, thump, thump, and giggles with anticipation. But it’s only Brutus sniffing him out. Time goes by and still no Papa. Maxwell shouts out an anti-clue, but still nothing happens. At last Maxwell leaves his hiding place and goes back to his dad’s office, where Papa is still sitting in front of the computer. “Hey, you never came looking for me,” Maxwell says. But his dad is too distracted to hear him. Maxwell heads out with a dejected, “Forget it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ninja-attack-of-the-clan-cassy-asks-dad-to-play

Copyright Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

To recover from disappointment, Maxwell knows “a ninja must practice the art of meditation and find inner peace.” But even here his bad day continues. When he’s called for dinner he skips out to the dining room, but no one is at the table except Brutus, who is gulping down Maxwell’s soup. Suddenly, Brutus barks a warning. From behind comes a “surprise attack!” “Defend yourself,” orders Papa. With a flick of his finger, Maxwell secures his mask and goes to work, poking Papa in the belly. His dad comes back with an awesome bear hug, but Maxwell deftly somersaults out of his arms. With lightning speed he whips his jump rope across the room and ties up Papa.

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Copyright 2016 Arree Chung, courtesy of us.macmillan.com

Next comes his mom, wielding her yellow bag. Maxwell leaps over the flying purse and retrieves its lost lipstick, which he slathers on in preparation for the “kiss of death!” Covered in red lip marks, Maxwell’s mom joins his father in defeat. Cassy, however, is harder to pin down. She sneaks behind him and in one swift move covers his eyes with his own headband and applies a dastardly “SLURP!” Stunned, Maxwell admits, “I’ve been licked.” Still—as the battle continues to wage—Maxwill declares, “I love my ninja clan!”

In Ninja! Attack of the Clan, Arree Chung’s cute sequel to Ninja!, Maxwell just wants to play with his family but is disappointed as each is too busy to take notice. Maxwell’s dilemma is handled with honesty and humor that will resonate with kids. The end of the story in which Maxwell’s family executes the perfect remedy for his bad day is touching and will have kids cheering for this enthusiastic ninja. Chung’s bold, vibrant cartoon-inspired panels perfectly carry the high-action parts of the story, while full-page illustrations slow things down a bit to embrace family time.

Ages 4 – 7

Henry Holt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0805099164

For little ninjas there’s so much to see and do on Arree Chung’s website, including fun activities, a video, more about the characters, a gallery of ninja art by kids, and even a place where they can “ninjafy” pictures of themselves!

International Ninja Day Activity

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Stealthy Ninja Maze

 

Two ninja have been separated from their group! Can you help them find their way back in this printable Stealthy Ninja Maze?

Picture Book Review