May 26 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Get caught reading? Heck yeah! There may be no greater holiday for readers than one that encourages you to read whenever and wherever the opportunity hits. So all you readers out there, grab your favorite book, find a spot to kick back, and get caught reading!

Roger Is Reading a Book

By Koen Van Biesen | Translated by Laura Watkinson

 

Roger is a minimalist. His room consists of a black padded stool, a hook holding an orange coat, scarf, and umbrella, an extendable lamp jutting from the wall, and a basset hound pining for its leash which is crumpled on the floor. And—oh yes—there is Roger. Roger is sitting on the stool, reading. The little volume is engrossing, and Roger, in his tweed cap, plaid bowtie, green sweater vest, white shirt, orange outlined pants, and blue striped socks tucked into white shoes, is pondering a page.

Suddenly from the other side of the wall/left-hand page comes a resounding BOING BOING. It’s Emily bouncing a basketball! Roger flips his lid and one of the dog’s ears springs to attention. Emily and her room are a sight to behold. Emily’s thick unruly hair sports an enormous butterfly, she wears a number 2 on her pink dress, and her room is cluttered with the trappings of her hobbies. Roger rises, sets his book on the stool, and knocks on the wall while his dog offers his leash with hope. Emily stops her bouncing to listen.

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Image copyright Koen Van Biesen, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Ah! Silence reigns once more and Roger goes back to his book. But what’s this?! Emily is singing. The song is “LALALA” loud! Once again Roger knocks—“KNOCKITY KNOCK.” His dog wags his tail at the door. Okay, order has been restored and Roger, a little distracted, goes back to reading. What on Earth??!! “BOOM BOOM BOOM”—Emily is playing the drum. The noise shakes Roger to his core. A shoe flies off, the lamp leaps upward, the book bounds away, Roger whips his head around. “KNOCK KNOCK KNOCKITY KNOCK.” Ugh! Thinks Emily. Not this too!

“POK POK POK”—Emily juggles colorful clubs while poor Roger rubs his eyes, his book languishing in his hand. Even the basset hound has a paw over his snout. “TRIP TRIP TRAP”—Emily is now practicing ballet. Despondent Roger has turned his back on the whole thing—as has his dog and his lamp. The book lies abandoned in the corner. “BAF BAF BAF”—Emily is boxing! Something must be done! Roger paces. “Is Roger reading? No, Roger is not reading now.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roger-is-reading-emily-dancing

Image copyright Koen Van Biesen, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

“Book down. Coat on. Scarf on. Light off. Roger has made up his mind.” “KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.” Roger knocks on Emily’s door. With a package. Emily tears it open. “OH…A book.” Roger returns to his room and hangs his coat and scarf on the hook. He turns on the lamp and sits down on the stool. “Shhhh! Quiet. Emily is reading. Emily is reading a book.” It’s about juggling and basketball and other things. She holds her stuffed giraffe for company. “Shhhh! Quiet. Roger is reading. Roger is reading a book.” His faithful dog lies nearby for company.

Late into the night they read, their rooms each illuminated only by a single lamp. “WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF….” Both Roger and Emily jump, startled out of their reverie. There’s only one thing to do. Roger and Emily take the dog for a walk.

With just a glance at the cover of Koen Van Biesen’s Roger Is Reading a Book, readers know they are in for a treat. The distinctive artwork defies simple explanation. Part outline, part optical illusion, the illustrations combine the immediacy of an art installation with the humor of a New Yorker cartoon. You feel for Roger, who just wants to sit quietly and read his book. But sympathy flows also to Emily, who, alone, is trying to fill the empty hours. And of course you can’t forget Roger’s basset hound, who has a very real need to go out.

The trio’s circumstances come together on a rainy afternoon to create escalating hilarity and finally the perfect solution. The minimal text, displayed in various sizes and colors of type, enhances the droll nature of Roger and Emily’s contest of wills and allows for the illustrations to depict Roger’s growing discontent and Emily’s dedication to her activities. Roger’s basset hound and lamp are funny foils who empathize with Roger’s pain.

The unique art and fun animated read-aloud opportunities presented in this picture book make Roger Is Reading a Book a must for kids’ (or adults’) libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0802854421

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bell-bookmark-craft

Read aLOUD Bookmark

 

Make some noise for your favorite book with this bell-tastic bookmark! It’s easy to make, and everywhere you go you’ll give your book a ringing endorsement!

Supplies

  • 3 novelty shoe laces or three strands of thin ribbon in different designs
  • 6 small jingle bells

Directions

  1. Cut the shoelaces or ribbon to the length you want for your books
  2. Knot the three shoelaces or strands of ribbon together at one end
  3. Braid the three shoelaces or strands of ribbon together
  4. Knot the strands together at the top, leaving about two inches of unbraided shoelace or ribbon hanging
  5. Thread the bells on a piece of string or cord
  6. At the knot tie the bells around the shoelaces or ribbon

Picture Book Review

May 28 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-wren-and-the-great-gift

About the Holiday

You can never read too many books! This idea is definitely supported by the Get Caught Reading campaign that makes people aware of all the benefits of sitting down with a fantastic book—whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, drama, or poetry. To celebrate this holiday, get involved with a literacy program, a book drive, or thank a teacher or librarian for always supplying you with great reads!

Baby Wren and the Great Gift

Written by Sally Lloyd-Jones | Illustrated by Jen Corace

 

From a narrow crevice a little brown wren peeks out of her nest. Her vantage point gives her a view of all the wonderfulness around her. Monarchs flutter in the Milkweed, breezes whisper in the switch grass, and the glittering river flows along. Emboldened, the baby wren hops onto the canon ledge just as a kingfisher dives down to the river and captures a fish.

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Image copyright Jen Corace, text copyright Sally Lloyd Jones. Courtesy of Zonderkidz

“Oh! How wonderful!” the little wren exclaims. The kingfisher invites her to come along, but the wren tells the bigger bird that she can’t dive. As the kingfisher flies away, the wren wonders why she can’t fish too.

Next, two frisky ring-tailed cats cartwheel by. “Oh, how wonderful!” little wren says. The ring-tails want her to play with them, but the wren says that she doesn’t have a ring tail, so the cats cartwheel away leaving the baby wren wondering why she isn’t a ring-tail cat who can cartwheel.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-wren-and-the-great-gift-kingfisher

Image copyright Jen Corace, text copyright Sally Lloyd Jones. Courtesy of Zonderkidz

Just then some sunfish splash in the water nearby. The little wren also declines their invitation to play, saying that she can’t swim. As the sunfish hurry down the river, the wren wonders why she isn’t a sunfish who can swim. Overhead two eagles glide on the winds of a gusty storm. “Oh, how wonderful,” the wren says. “Come and see the thunderclouds,” the eagles tell her. But the baby is afraid of the big storm, and the eagles soar higher and higher and away. Watching them, the wren regrets that she isn’t brave and wonders what she can do that is wonderful.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-baby-wren-and-the-great-gift-sunset

Image copyright Jen Corace, text copyright Sally Lloyd Jones. Courtesy of Zonderkidz

Suddenly, the sun paints the canyon pink. The baby wren looks and looks and looks. The beauty of the sky and the canyon “bumped into her heart, it dazzled in her eyes, it pushed on her throat until the tiny trembling bird with all her tiny might sang by herself a song.”  Her glorious carol echoes through the canyon, and the eagles soaring overhead call to her: “‘You are only little, but your song fills the whole canyon.’” And as the kingfisher, the ring-tailed cats, the sunfish, and the eagles listen, the little wren fills the air with singing.

Sally Lloyd-Jones’ inspirational story is perfect for this time of year when baby birds are just leaving the nest and children are moving on to new grades or new experiences. Jones’ lyrical and gentle tale offers comfort to those wondering just where they fit into the world. As baby wren discovered, everyone has innate talents that shine when the time is right.

Jen Corace’s vibrant illustrations of the baby wren’s canyon home employ bright yellows and vivid contrasting greens and blues to evoke the “wonderfulness” that so captivates the little wren. In each spread the baby bird is depicted as the tiny creature it is surrounded by vast mountains and other, larger animals, but as her song flows out of her in a soaring collage of all the colors and silhouettes of her new-found friends her stature grows. She is happy with her place in the world.

Ages 4 – 8

Zonderkidz, 2016 | ISBN 978-0310733898

Discover more about Sally Lloyd-Jones and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of illustration work by Jen Corace on her website!

View the Baby Wren and the Great Gift book trailer!

 

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

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Baby Bird Coloring Page

 

Baby birds love the cozy safety of their nests as much as you like snuggling under the blankets with a good book. Print the Baby Bird Coloring Page and have fun with it—instead of just coloring it, how about making a collage? You can attach different colors of torn paper to decorate the bird and use grasses or twigs for the nest! Use your unique creative talents to make a one-of-a-kind picture!

Picture Book Review

May 21 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-whoops

About the Holiday

Created by former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, now president of the Association of American Publishers, Get Caught Reading Month promotes good reading habits and encourages people of all ages to take part in the fun of reading. Reading to young children is especially important as research indicates that early language experience stimulates a child’s brain to grow and gives kids a huge advantage when they start school. Whether you like fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic novels, or comics, there is an amazing book just waiting on a shelf for you!

Whoops!

Written by Suzi Moore | Illustrated by Russell Ayto

 

This is the cat that can’t meow. And here’s the dog that can’t bowwow. And the little mouse when she tries to squeak? She opens her mouth but she just can’t squeak.

But the owl says to the three “‘Find the old lady in the tumbledown house. She’ll have a spell to make you all well.” So they go in search of the tumbledown house and find it in the middle of the woods. When they go inside, the little old lady doesn’t seem surprised to see them. In fact she’s heard of their problem and consults her spell book. She casts a spell “and the whole house shook, the wind blew in and the rain came down. Then the tumbledown house turned around and around.”

Now the cat says, “Cluck!” And the dog says, “Quack!” And the mouse says, “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” And the little old lady? She says, “Whoops!” Maybe the right spell is on page three. She casts a new spell and there’s a flash and a crash and the tumbledown house turns around and around. This time the cat says, “Baa!” and the dog says, “Neigh!” and the mouse says, “Moo!” And the little old lady? She says, “Whoops!”

The spell on page seven brings the three closer: the cat says, “Woof!” and the dog says, “Squeak!” and the mouse says, “Meow!” And the little old lady? She says, “Whoops!” That special spell to make them all well must be on page ten. The old lady waves her wand and the storm rages and the tumbledown house turns around and around. Finally, the cat says, “Meow!” and the dog says, “Woof!” and the mouse says, “Squeak!”” And the little old lady? She says, “CROAK!”

Whoops!

Suzi Moore’s laugh-out-loud, shout-out-loud tale of mistaken identity will have kids reading along during the first go-round. The catchy, repeated rhymes, cadence of the words and sentences, errant spells, and building storm create infectious silliness at its best. Kids will eagerly await what comes next for the dog and the cat and the mouse who have trouble speaking.

Russell Ayto accompanies this fun story with a crazy assortment of creatures drawn with maximum comic effect. The thin, angled shapes of the cat, dog, and mouse make for heroes kids will root for, and the little old lady with a cloud of blue hair sitting in the taaall-backed chair will make kids giggle. Who is she knitting three-legged stockings for? And what magic does her knitting-needle wand and maniacal grin possess in that narrow tumbledown house in the middle of the woods?

Ages 3 – 7

Templar Books, Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763681807

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wand

Reading is Magic! Wand

 

When you read you are transported into another world—it’s like being under a magic spell! Make your own magic wand and conjure up spells to take you wherever you want to go!

Supplies

  • Wooden dowel
  • Wooden ball with a hole to match the size of the dowel
  • Paint in your favorite colors
  • Ribbon, jewels, or other material to decorate your wand
  • Glue gun or strong glue
  • Paintbrush

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Directions

  1. Paint the dowel however you would like—one color, with dots or stripes, or multicolored
  2. Paint the wooden ball—you can even give it a mystical look with glow-in-the-dark paint or glitter
  3. Glue the wooden ball to the dowel with the hot glue gun or strong glue
  4. Decorate your wand with jewels, ribbon, or other material

May 9 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Supported by the Association of American Publishers (AAP), Get Caught Reading Month promotes literacy and reminds people of all ages how much fun reading is. Begun in 1999 by former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, President and CEO of AAP, the initiative brings together publishing industry executives, authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, politicians, celebrities, and readers to spread the word about the joys of books. To join the celebration, take a picture of yourself or a friend reading, hold a book drive, challenge yourself to a reading goal, and/or read to someone else.

The Whisper

By Pamela Zagarenski

 

A little girl loves stories and the magical realms they can take her to. One day while waiting for school to be dismissed, she spies a book on a shelf. Her teacher allows her to take it home with her, and the little girl happily runs off with it when the clock strikes 3:00. On the way home, she doesn’t notice that all the letters are escaping from the book or that a wily fox is catching them in a net.

At home she secludes herself in her room, excited to read the mysterious book. She turns the pages, awed by the beautiful pictures. But by the time she has finished, she has tears in her eyes. “Where were the words? Where were the stories?” The girl flips through the book again, but this time she hears a small whisper: “Dear little girl, don’t be disappointed. You can imagine the words. You can imagine the stories.”

The whisper seems so knowing that the girl does at it suggests. She turns to the first page where a blue bear followed by a beekeeper walks under a honeycomb sun toward a brown bear. The girl stares at the picture and thinks of a title: Blue Bear’s Visit. Her story begins: “Blue Bear arrived on the first day of spring. He promised…”

Warming to the idea of creating stories, the girl examines the second picture. She notices the same white rabbit that was in the first picture. In the foreground a “magnificent ox” is listening to a man whispering into its large, soft ear. The Secret, the little girl titles this story, which starts: “Mr. Ox, you must please promise not to tell anyone, but we need your help. Last week…”

With the third picture the words tumble out more easily, forming sentences that give life to the massive white elephant, regal lion, and that rabbit again who are traveling the sea in a long, open boat. The Quest, she calls it. In Tigers Prayer, preparations are being made: tea is brewing, a clown with a pointed hat plays his accordion, a windhorse jumps through hoops, and the rabbit rides a golden ring as a lion hears what Tiger has to say. A Birthday Party comes next, and it seems Pan has planned a very secret party. An owl perches in the crook of a tree asking for the password with a “Hoo, Who?” which is answered quickly because the vanilla cake with raspberry filling and vanilla cream frosting holding 6 candles must be delivered.

The Magical Cloak sees the little girl’s imagination truly take flight as she decides the man in the “elaborate coat” is a wizard or magician whose bubbles come to life once released from the blower. Enormous whales now fill the harbor. They are beautiful, but something must be done….Next, hurry to meet the owl! He is picking up passengers at midnight. But what does the golden key in his beak open? Only the story The Golden Key locked in the little girl’s mind will tell.

Hours go by as the little girl creates tales for each picture in the book. As the night grows late, she sleeps, carried into slumber on dreams woven from the pictures and stories she imagined. When she wakes up, the girl wishes to spend more time with her new friends, but it’s time for school so she gathers up the book and hurries away.

On the path to school she meets a fox who is carrying a bag. “Excuse me, little girl,” says the fox. “I believe I have the words to your book.” The fox then explains how he caught the words as they spilled from the pages the day before. The fox gives her his parcel, but asks for a favor. The girl is happy to oblige and lets the fox stand on her shoulders to reach a bunch of grapes dangling from a nearby vine.

The girl rushes into school and apologizes for being late. She relates the story of the fox and the words and the magical night she has spent making up tales for the pictures in the book. “I have so many stories to tell you,” says the girl to her teacher. “‘I can’t want to hear,’” the teacher replies with a smile.”

Opening a book by Pamela Zagarenski is to fall into an alternate realm of such beauty and imagination that you forget the real world exists.  Her paintings are composed of rich, regal hues swirling with images and designs that overlap and float to create the kind of experience only the deepest, most complex dreams allow. The characters and details follow page to page uniting the pictures and, subtly, the stories the little girl discovers in them: The teapot, once introduced, waits under a tree on the next page and rides the waves of the whale-filled sea in the next. The bees and the rabbit are constant companions on each spread, and the animals will fill the reader with awe.

The little girl’s imagined stories are tantalizing with just the right mix of the mysterious and the tangible to entice readers to add more. The frame of the Aesop Fable The Fox and the Grapes is inspired and could lead to a conversation about how “life is what you make it.”

The Whisper is a book readers will want to linger over and dip into again and again, and would be especially fun on those days when there’s “nothing” to do. It makes a beautiful gift for any occasion.

Ages 4 – 9 (this book would also appeal to adults)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 | ISBN 978-0544416864

Gardening for Wildlife Month Activity

In addition to Get Caught Reading Month, May is Gardening for Wildlife Month. It’s the perfect time to celebrate the joys and colors of spring and enjoy the many plants, flowers, and wildlife nature provides. Whether your garden is small or large, just being planted or already blooming, you can be mindful to make yours wildlife friendly to help and protect the environment.

This week’s crafts and activities will revolve around gardens and plants of all types. I hope you enjoy them!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vase

Painted Bottle Vase

Do you often pick up a smoothie or other drink at the grocery store and then just throw away the glass or plastic bottle? Those containers, with their elegant shapes, make beautiful vases with just a little paint!

Supplies

  • Plastic or glass bottle
  • Multi-surface craft paint in your favorite color
  • Paint brush
  • Wax paper

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Directions

  1. Wash and thoroughly dry your bottle.
  2. Pour 3 to 5 tablespoons of craft paint into the bottle
  3. Invert the bottle on the wax paper
  4. Let the paint drip down the sides of the bottle, this may take several hours to overnight
  5. When the paint reaches half-way down the sides of the bottle, you can “help it along” with the paintbrush, filling in any empty spaces
  6. Let the bottle sit, inverted, until the paint dries. This can take one to several days, depending on the atmosphere.
  7. When the paint is dry, use the vase for artificial flowers.

Join me tomorrow to see how to make flowers to go in your vase!

Picture Book Review