May 23 – National Turtle Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-cover

About the Holiday

Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, who founded American Tortoise Rescue in 1990, established World Turtle Day to raise awareness and respect for turtles and tortoises and to promote conservation to help them survive. Celebrations take many forms, from fun activities where participants dress as turtles to educational programs that teach about this fascinating creature and how people can help turtles in danger. To learn more about World Turtle Day and American Tortoise Rescue – and to meet some of their adorable residents – visit worldturtleday.org.

Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends

Written by Mike Reiss | Illustrated by Ashley Spires

 

Upon beginning the story, children learn that “far, far away” two eggs shared the same pen at a zoo. Eventually, the eggs hatched: first a turtle and then a tortoise. The two babies took to each other right away, excited about all the fun they would have together. “People will call us the terrible Turtle Twins!” the little turtle says. But the tortoise is not receptive to this idea and launches into a mirror-image description about the differences between a turtle, a “horrid beast” and a tortoise who is a “handsome creature.” Following this, they go their separate ways to separate parts of the pen.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-hatching

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Soon, the zookeeper, leading a school field trip, stops by and during his spiel reveals that turtles and tortoises can live 100 years. The little turtle and tortoise are surprised and impressed by this information, but they go on with their individual lives – for 14 years. The turtle finds – and eats – a worm that “looked just like Winston Churchill.” The tortoise was picked up by one eagle and returned by another. They endured nature’s worst weather and saw old years go and new years come. They could have commiserated and celebrated together, but they didn’t.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-lost-ball

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Then one day, a red ball came bouncing into their pen. Both the turtle and the tortoise rushed to catch it. “The turtle got there first…seven years later.” Once he had it, he wasn’t sure what it was or what to do with it. At last, he climbed on top of it and felt like “the king of the zoo” until he rolled off and landed on his back. Seeing an opportunity, the tortoise hurried over. Two years later he reached the ball. Passing the struggling turtle, he gave a snide laugh and claimed it for himself, with predictable results. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-ball

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Both the turtle and the tortoise spent the days and months and years on their backs, staring up at the sky and at each other. Time passed – a lot of time. Eventually, a new zookeeper guiding a new group of children related some new information that changed the whole Turtle-Tortoise dynamic. The tortoise suddenly had an idea on how they might regain their footing, and not so suddenly the turtle agreed to try it. Managing it took some time – a lot of time – but they finally found themselves face-to-face again, and, with a different attitude and appreciation for their new “fast” friendship, they wandered off to enjoy some lettuce leaves together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-on-backs

Image copyright Ashley Spires, 2019, text copyright Mike Reiss, 2019. Courtesy of Harper Collins.

Funny, thought-provoking, purposeful, and poignant, Mike Reiss’s story is at once an entertaining tale of two stubborn creatures wasting decades of a could-be friendship and a gentle prompting to really look at the senseless prejudice, lack of communication, and missed opportunities that keep our human race divided. A careful reading of the tortoise’s comparison of a turtle and a tortoise provides a humorous yet serious jumping off point for discussions about prejudice as well as the effect of not questioning such pronouncements. Reiss even cleverly inserts a nod to scientific advancements and other societal changes that if embraced can lead to better understanding, friendship, and community. His early introduction of a turtle’s life span likewise frames the story in human terms. As the years pass by in the blink of an eye (or three or four words), Reiss encourages readers to count up how many years it takes the tortoise and turtle to become friends and ponder how that might relate to their own lives.

How far, far away is this unnamed zoo? Taking a good look at Ashley Spire’s ingenious cityscape, kids will discover that, no matter where they live, it is closer than they might think. Spires goes on to make the turtle and the tortoise distinct individuals but with many similarities, an idea that adults may want to explore with children while reading the book together. The turtle and the tortoise are adorable, and kids will be rooting for them to put aside their misconceptions and become friends. The passage of time is charmingly represented by the clothing and demeanor of the two groups of children that visit the zoo.

Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends is an enchanting and multilayered story that kids will want to hear again and again for its humor and thoughtful treatment of friendship. 

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0060740313

You can connect with Mike Reiss on Twitter.

To learn more about Ashley Spires, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Turtle Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-shell-game

Follow the Turtles! Game

 

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-game

Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-turtle-and-tortoise-are-not-friends-cover

You can find Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 18 – World Day of the Snowman

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-cover

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate snowmen, those winter sculptures that roll to a stop on front lawns, welcome customers to friendly business, and enjoy a day or two (or more if the weather cooperates) in parks and town greens wherever snow falls. Why today? Because the clever founder of the holiday looked at the 18 and decided it looked enough like the rounded body of a snowman and requisite handle of a broomstick to honor our winter friends. Speaking of friends, did you know that tomorrow is one of the three times during the year that we celebrate New Friends Day? The other two dates are October 19 and July 19! If you’re looking for a story to share for both World Day of the Snowman and New Friends Day, you’ll want to pick up today’s book!

Making a Friend

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Alison Friend

 

“Beaver was good at making lots of things.” He could build, he could knit, and he knew a bit about engineering. But he was not so good at making friends. He tried hard to do nice things, but something always seemed to go wrong. Then, one day, the snowflakes falling from the sky gave Beaver an idea. “Hmm! Maybe this is what I need to make a friend,” he thought.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-water-slide

Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He began rolling a huge snowball. While he was working, Raccoon came by to watch. When Beaver told him that he was making a friend, Raccoon said that it “takes two to make a friend.” Beaver was a bit disappointed until Raccoon did some math and showed him that Raccoon plus Beaver made two.

Working together Beaver and Raccoon made a cute snow friend. They added eyes, a nose, a smile, and two stick arms. But something was still missing. Raccoon said that thing was “pizzazz.” So they added a hat, a boa, some socks, and even a swim mask until their friend looked just right. But their friend just stared back at them. “This friend was not much of a friend at all. In fact, he seemed rather cold.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-water-snow

Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Then Beaver and Raccoon looked at each other. They talked about what fun they’d had building the snow friend together. And they realized that they had become friends. Now they make lots of things to share, but they agree—“the best thing they made was a friend.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-friends

Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins

Tammi Sauer unlocks the secret to friendship in her clever story in which making a friend leads to making a true friend. While Beaver tries to extend the hand of friendship and do nice things for others in the forest, his efforts miss the mark. But when he meets Raccoon, their personalities, talents, and ideas of fun click and they build a real friendship. Young readers will understand Beaver’s feelings of disappointment and confusion when his overtures of friendship are not reciprocated and see that collaborating with someone—either in play or toward a common goal—often brings friends together naturally.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-pointing

Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Little readers will fall in love with Alison Friend’s adorable Beaver who’s so good at creating a playhouse complete with water slide but has trouble making friends. Cheerful and enthusiastic, Beaver is a sweetheart as he begins rolling the snow into a ball. When Raccoon comes by, Beaver quickly shares the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing and learn from the images of companionship and give-and-take as Beaver learns a little math and a new word from Raccoon and Raccoon discovers that he likes the raisons Beaver offers him on their way to creating their snowman.  Full of color, smiles, and endearing moments, Friend’s pages are sure to delight kids.

Making a Friend is a charming read aloud, a celebration of creativity, and a gentle lesson on friendship all rolled into one. To share with children learning to navigate new friendships and those who love doing everything with their best buddy, the book makes a sweet addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062278937

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

You can connect with Alison Friend on Instagram.

World Day of the Snowman Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sock-snowman-craft

Snow Buddies

 

This is a great craft for kids to share with a friend. Grab a pair of socks and have fun making these snow buddies! 

Supplies

  • White dress ankle socks
  • Polyester Fiber Fill
  • Tiny buttons
  • Fleece or ribbon, enough for a little scarf
  • Toothpicks
  • Twigs
  • Orange craft paint
  • Cardboard
  • White rubber bands, one or two depending on the size of the snowman
  • Fabric or craft glue
  • Small hair band (optional)

Directions

To Make the Snowman

  1. Cut a circle from the cardboard about 2 inches in diameter for the base
  2. Place the cardboard circle in the bottom of the sock
  3. Fill the sock with fiber fill about ¾ full or to where the ribbed ankle cuff begins. Pack tightly while making a sausage shape. You can make your snowman different shapes with the amount of fill you use.
  4. Stretch out the cuff of the sock and tie it off near the top of the fill either with a loop knot or with the hairband.
  5. Fold the cuff down around the top of the filled sock to make the hat.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of the sock to make a two-snowball snowman. For a three-snowball snowman, use two rubber bands. Adjust the rubber bands to make the “snowballs” different sizes.

To Make the Scarf

  1. Cut a strip of fleece or ribbon 8 to 10 inches long by ½ inch wide
  2. Tie the fleece or ribbon around the neck of the snowman
  3. To Make the Nose
  4. Dip one end of the toothpick into orange paint, let dry
  5. Cut the toothpick in half
  6. Stick the toothpick into the head or top portion of the snowman

To Make the Arms

  1. Insert small twigs into each side of the body of the snowman
  2. You can also use wire or cardboard to make the arms
  3. Attach two mini-buttons to the face for eyes with the fabric or craft glue
  4. Display your Snow Buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-cover

You can find Making a Friend at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 25 – It’s Middle Grade Monday

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-from-the-desk-of-zoe-washington-cover

 

Review by Jakki Licare

From the Desk of Zoe Washington

By Janae Marks

 

Synopsis

This synopsis contains spoilers

Zoe, an aspiring baker, receives a letter on her 12th birthday from her biological father, Marcus, who is incarcerated for murder. She’s sure her mother won’t let her read his letter so she secretly hides it. She isn’t sure if she should write back because her bio dad must be a monster to have murdered someone. But he sounds so nice in the letter that Zoe decides to write back just this once to see if she can get some answers. As she’s trying to write back to her dad, her ex-best friend and next-door neighbor, Trevor, tries to hang out with her. After making it clear that they aren’t friends anymore, Zoe finishes her letter and mails it.

Zoe discovers that the Food Network is auditioning kids for a children’s baking show, and she begs her mom and step dad to let her audition. They aren’t sure if she’s ready, but they agree to think about it and even get her an internship at a local bakery. Over the next couple of weeks, Zoe sneaks out letters as she writes back and forth with Marcus. Zoe tells Marcus about her job at the bakery and how she wants to make her own recipe. Marcus tells her about his life in prison and how he’s going to college online. He suggests she tries to make a cereal cupcake.

After some prodding from Zoe, Marcus confesses that he’s innocent of his crime, but had a bad lawyer and ended up wrongly convicted. Zoe wants to continue writing to Marcus, but doesn’t like hiding it from her mom, so she asks her mom if she can write to Marcus. Her mother absolutely refuses, and Zoe decides she must keep lying.

Zoe is sickened by the idea that her dad is innocent and stuck in jail, but what if he’s just lying to her? Zoe decides to do some research at the library. Trevor finds her reading books about incarceration, and he listens as she explains that she wants to find out if her dad is really innocent. He helps her research and they start to talk. Zoe confesses she heard him bad mouth her to his basketball friends. Trevor apologizes and they decide to work things out.

Zoe decides she must find Marcus’s alibi witness and find out if Marcus is telling the truth or not. She begs Marcus for the name of his alibi witness and sets off trying to find the lady he met at a tag sale. She hits a lot of dead ends, but with Trevor’s help she stumbles across the person who fits the description Marcus gave her.

Unable to reach the woman by email, Zoe and Trevor sneak off to Harvard, where she teaches. When they find her, she says she doesn’t remember Marcus. Zoe is devastated that she trusted Marcus. She thinks that he must have been lying to her and that he did kill someone. Zoe and Trevor get back late, and their parents are furious that they ran off. While Zoe is waiting for her mom to get home, she gets a text from the professor saying she does remember Marcus and to call her back.

Zoe’s mom is furious when she finds out why Zoe went to Harvard on her own and absolutely livid to discover that she’s been secretly writing to Marcus. She takes away Zoe’s phone before she can call the professor back. Several days later Zoe’s mom and step dad tell her they’ve been in contact with the professor and that she did have an alibi for Marcus.

Over the next several weeks, a friend of her stepdad who is a lawyer and lawyers from the Innocence Project work together to assemble a case to appeal Marcus’s verdict. When they take it to trial, Marcus and his attorneys win. At the end, Zoe’s mom admits that she was wrong about Marcus and shouldn’t have thrown out Zoe’s letters. Zoe is still grounded for lying and running off to Harvard, but she uses the time to reconnect with her family. On his next birthday, Marcus gets to celebrate with his family at home. And while Zoe never realizes her dream to audition for the Food Network show, she does create a cupcake based on her dad’s suggestion, and the bakery where she’s interning adds it to their menu. She’s proud to take this as a success.

Review

 

Janae Marks’ uplifting and timely contemporary novel takes you on a quest for justice that is filled with memorable characters and strong friendships. From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a compelling introduction for kids to the problem of racism in our justice system and will open up a lot of meaningful discussions.

Zoe is a spunky, upbeat, and determined twelve-year-old middle-class twelve-year-old. It’s her determination that ultimately brings about Marcus’s appeal, but we also see Zoe’s determination through multiple facets of her life. I love how she’s willing to prove to her parents she’s ready to audition for the Food Network. I like how she gives herself her own challenges too. No one asks her to come up with her own recipe, but she tackles that task and the problems involved in creating her own recipe herself. She doesn’t give up after the first batch of cupcakes comes out too sweet, but instead spends her time problem solving. She creates a system of small batches of cupcakes with different amounts of sugar until she finds the perfect recipe.  

Marks tackles the incredibly complex issue of wrongful incarceration with beautiful sensitivity. This is highlighted in the way Marks slowly changes commonly held views of prisoners. Zoe starts off reading her father’s letter and being surprised that he sounds nice instead of like a scary villain from a tv show. Marks also debunks the idea that only guilty people go to jail, a concept that many young readers may not understand. She introduces statistics on how black men are more likely to go to jail than white men and shows that an indifferent lawyer can lead to wrongful conviction.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington never feels depressing because Marks balances Zoe’s ambition of becoming a pastry chef along with her father’s storyline. Marks even manages to tie the two together by having Marcus make a suggestion in his letter to make a cereal cupcake. Forgiveness is a strong theme in From the Desk of Zoe Washington. In the beginning, Zoe is not speaking to her best friend Trevor, and he has no clue why. It isn’t until almost halfway through the book that we learn she heard Trevor dissing her to his teammates.

Marks does a superb job in showing how awkward it is to discuss hurt feelings but also how necessary it is to talk them through so there’s a chance for understanding and forgiveness. Here’s how Zoe describes her impressions of their conversation: “But it was like when you drew something in pencil and then tried to erase it—the pencil lines would mostly go away, but sometimes the indent would still be there, so you could still sort of see what had been erased. That’s how Trevor’s apology felt….”

Zoe’s mom also has her own issues with talking through problems. She’s so devastated by Marcus’s arrest that she closes off her heart and is unwilling to let Marcus hurt her baby. Zoe’s mom apologizes at the end, but Marks gives us enough of the scenario to see why Zoe’s Mom felt so betrayed. I think kids can relate to and learn a lot from these story lines leading to an understanding of how to open up to others.

From the Desk of Zoe Washington is an outstanding middle-grade read for those interested in social justice and the intricacies of family relationships and friendship. If your kids enjoy Joan Bauer’s Close to Famous or Kelly Yang’s Front Desk, then From the Desk of Zoe Washington is a must read. 

Parental Considerations: racism, racial slurs, and talk of murder.

Ages 8-12

Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins, 2020 | ISBN 978-0062875853

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-from-the-desk-of-zoe-washington-cover

You can find From the Desk of Zoe Washington at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 6 – It’s Teacher Appreciation Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-teacher-cover

About the Holiday

Every May as schools begin to wind down for the year, students, parents, and school systems across the country celebrate the role teachers play in providing quality education from preschool through college and beyond. Established in 1984 by the National PTA, this week-long holiday also inspires a wide range of businesses to honor teachers with freebies and discounts. As Teacher Appreciation Week comes to a close, don’t forget to thank your teacher! To learn more about Teacher Appreciation Week and how you can show your gratitude this week and all through the year, visit the PTA website.

Thank you to HarperCollins for providing a digital copy of Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us

Written by Paris Rosenthal | Illustrated by Holly Hatam

 

As the school year winds down, kids in schools everywhere are beginning to wonder, How do I tell my teacher how much I love them? And parents, grandparents, or other caregivers are thinking, How can I truly express my gratitude for all the care, concern, understanding, education, and inspiration my child’s or children’s teachers show every day? The answer comes in Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us, a beautiful picture book letter to school teachers, music teachers, coaches, instructors, and anyone who helps kids discover who they are and encourage them to become their best selves.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-teacher-dream

Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Paris Rosenthal, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Paris Rosenthal begins each two-page spread with “Dear Teacher,” and then focuses on one action, inspiration, or lesson that teachers of all kinds use to engage their students. Some of these show appreciation for lessons that carry kids into the future, such as encouraging them to “dream big,” explore many paths, “think outside the box,” and be a team player. For this last lesson, Holly Hatam depicts a child throwing the basketball to her teammate in a wheelchair as the coach stands on the sidelines, saying “Pass the ball.” The letter reads, “Dear Teacher, You taught me to pass the ball, even when I think I have the shot.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-teacher-park

Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Paris Rosenthal, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Other letters reveal a moment that sparks concrete, at-the-moment feelings of self-confidence that can make all the difference. In one spread, a music teacher conducts a small orchestra in which all the children except one are wearing black and playing string or wind instruments. The standout is dressed in yellow and plays the triangle. The accompanying text reads, “Dear Teacher, You make me feel like I matter. no matter what.”

Other letters express their appreciation to their teacher for always “lifting me up,” “being there wherever I land,” and most especially for “sending me on my way!” The book ends with a final tribute to that steadfast teacher you’d like to thank: “You are a gift that keeps on giving and this book is my gift to you.” Inside the front cover there is an opportunity for the child to inscribe the book to their teacher: “TO ______ who I admire. FROM ______ who you inspire.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-teacher-box

Image copyright Holly Hatam, 2021, text copyright Paris Rosenthal, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With charm, sincerity, and enthusiasm Paris Rosenthal gives children the words to express their thoughts in ways that are sweet, conversational, and sound like kids and which will touch teachers’ hearts. The various types of teachers portrayed in Holly Hatam’s illustrations make this a wonderfully universal gift for any teacher, coach or instructor in your child’s life.

Holly Hatam’s vibrant and enchanting illustrations show children engaged in a wide variety of activities in clever and meaningful ways that reflect realistic experiences inside and outside of the classroom, on the court, at the gym and the pool, and while kids are playing together and using what their teachers have taught them. Hatam’s diverse children are happy, curious, proud, creative, and ready to face the future with confidence all because of the support and help their teachers give.

Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us would make a poignant, joyful, and much-appreciated gift for any teacher. The book would also be a terrific addition to home and public library bookshelves for families to share feelings of gratitude for teachers throughout the year.

Ages 4 – 8 

HarperCollins, 2021 | ISBN 978-0063012745

Discover more about Paris Rosenthal and her books on her website.

You can connect with Holly Hatam on Twitter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-teacher-cover

You can find Dear Teacher, A Celebration of People Who Inspire Us at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

April 2 – International Children’s Book Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eyes-that-kiss-in-the-corners-cover

About the Holiday

Readers, writers and book lovers everywhere will love today’s holiday. International Children’s Book Day! What a time to visit Celebrate Picture Books! International Children’s Book Day was created in 1967 to celebrate young readers and children’s books across the globe. The holiday falls on April 2nd to commemorate the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson, the writer of many of the classic fairy tales. Each year a different country’s Board on Books for Young People is chosen to create a theme for a holiday. Currently there are 75 different countries involved. An author and illustrator are also elected to write an inspirational message for young readers and to design a poster to celebrate.

This year, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) is sponsoring the holiday. The theme this year is “The Music of Words.” The poster was created by Hans Christian Andersen Award recipient, Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello, and contains a beautiful message on the music of words, written by Award-winning Cuban American author, Margarita Engle. How might you celebrate this fantastic holiday? You already are! Visiting Celebrate Picture Books blog is a wonderful way to honor the day. Additionally, spend some time reading some of your favorite picture books to young readers and discover new stories that highlight diversity and the music of words. Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is a perfect book to celebrate young readers globally.You can view and download this year’s International Children’s Book Day Poster here. Read “The Music of Words” here.

To find more spectacular books to share all through the month, check out USBBY’s 2021 Outstanding International Books List posted on the USBBY’s webpage.

Thank you to HarperCollins for providing a digital copy of Eyes That Kiss in the Corners for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners

Written by Joanna Ho | Illustrated by Dung Ho

 

On her way out of the house, a girl stops in front of the hall mirror to take a look. At school, the girl waves to two friends, their eyes wide and bright as they wave back. “Some people have eyes like sapphire lagoons with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns, sweeping their cheeks as they twirl. Big eyes, long lashes. Not me,” the girl says. She turns to face the reader head on; her black hair cascading past her shoulders. “I have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eyes-that-kiss-in-the-corners-reading

Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With this comparison, the young Asian girl embarks on a journey of observation, self-love, and family wisdom. She reflects on the beauty of her own, unique eyes and how they resemble those of her family members. Eyes are not just for seeing the tangible, our narrator explains: “When Mama tucks me in at night, her eyes tell me I’m a miracle. In those moments when she’s all mine, flecks of dancing gold tell me I’m hers too.” 

The girl considers how her eyes connect her to other generations of her family, specifically her grandmother, her amah. When her amah tells her stories of Chinese folklore, the girl can see “Guanyin with the Monkey King sitting on a lotus” and other traditional characters as well as lychee trees, mountains, and lotus blossoms—all within her grandmother’s eyes. “Her eyes are filled with so many stories; I can fall inside them and swim until time stops.”  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eyes-that-kiss-in-the-corners-amah

Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The narrator then cheerfully describes her younger sister Mei-Mei who watches patiently for her to return home from school. “…when she looks at me in that Mei-Mei way, I feel like I can fly,” she says. Following her reflection on her sister, our protagonist is featured close up with beautiful swirls of clouds, swallows, fish, and dragon together; her hair elegantly turns into a river for koi fish to swim in while a Chinese phoenix and dragon fly above her. The creatures, mythological and real follow her hair in a harmonious flow, merging the past and hope for the future.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eyes-that-kiss-in-the-corners-mei-mei

Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

She is then pictured powerfully standing on top of a lush green mountain, fists balled, ready for her eyes to “find mountains that rise ahead and look up when others shut down.” The narrator is confident, strong, aware of her beauty, and kind towards others. “My eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea are a revolution. / They are Mama and Amah and Mei-Mei. They are me. And they are beautiful,” she states—a perfect role model for all young people.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eyes-that-kiss-in-the-corners-phoenix

Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners teaches young readers to love themselves and all their uniqueness. Author Joanna Ho’s writing is lyrical and poetic, a joy to read for book lovers of all ages. The writing is simple but conveys infinitely deep messages; celebrating one’s culture and beauty, even when they are not always highlighted by mainstream society, fighting stigmas and finding strength in family connections are some of the many themes that can be found in this beautiful tale. Joanna Ho provides a much-needed story of radical love, joy, and connection. The gorgeous, poetic lines of this book may even bring tears to readers’ eyes.

Illustrator Dung Ho adds many beautiful details that liven up the story beyond the words. All of the spreads with the protagonist’s family feature meaningful eye contact and smiles so bright, one can’t help but smile along with the characters. Bursts of blossoms, lotus flowers, and butterflies adorn almost every page, symbols of natural beauty. Inside the family’s home, elements of childhood like stuffed animals, crafts, and playing dress-up, sit side-by-side with objects of their heritage, including Chinese porcelain vases and tea sets, guardian lion statues, and a koi kite. Sunbeams, dragons, and birds weave in and out of the pages in a harmonious stream with swirls of feathers, reds, yellows, and lush greens. The colors and intricate illustrative details fill the book with life, wonder, and affection.

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is a perfect book for children examining their own features and embracing their identities. Books that celebrate diversity are invaluably important, especially in times of political polarization and racism. The lesson of self-love is one that is important for all young children to read about and learn to embrace. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2021 | ISBN 978-0062915627

Discover more about Joanna Ho and her books on her website.

You can connect with Dung Ho on Instagram.

Watch the gorgeous Eyes that Kiss in the Corners book trailer!

International Children’s Book Day Activities

Screen Shot 2021-04-01 at 12.31.30 PM

Coloring Pages, Word Search, and More!

 

Hans Christian Andersen Coloring Pages

You can color pictures from many of your favorite Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales online at HelloKids

To download and print coloring pages from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, visit Animations A2Z.

“The Music of Words” Word Search

Find 21 words in this word search from Margarita Engle’s message “The Music of Words,” written to celebrate the International Children’s Book Day of 2021!

International Children’s Book Day Word Search

Read “The Music of Words” Message

You can view the 2021 International Children’s Book Message from Margarita Engle in five different languages here.

For adults

Check out these organizations that are actively working to fight anti-Asian racism and consider donating

Stop APPI Hate | CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eyes-that-kiss-in-the-corners-cover

You can find Eyes that Kiss in the Corners at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 20 – It’s the Spring Equinox

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-cover

About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate the first day of spring! What makes the equinox so special? On this date, day and night are equally long around the globe. With longer days and warmer weather, thoughts turn to nature and renewal. For many this means gardening for ourselves and for the returning bees and butterflies. Today’s book takes a look at one of nature’s most inspiring creatures – the monarch butterfly. 

When Spring Comes

Written by Kevin Henkes | Illustrated by Laura Dronzek

 

This beautiful tribute to spring is as surprising as new buds pushing through the earth or tiny hatching eggs. Using repeated phrasing, lyrically expressed facts, and poetic rhythms, When Spring Comes echoes the anticipation that sunnier days bring after a long winter. The book opens with a simple, evocative sentence: “Before Spring comes the trees look like black sticks against the sky.” Children will immediately agree—they see trees in this way out their windows and draw them like this in art class.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-robins

Image copyright Laura Dronzek, 2019, text copyright Kevin Henkes, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

The following sentence is equally as true: “But if you wait Spring will bring leaves and blossoms.” The book’s contrasting lines that explore conditions “before Spring comes” and “If you wait” gradually reveal more and more of springtime’s wonder, like the melting snows that usher in rainy days: “Spring comes with sun and it comes with rain and more rain and more rain. Do you like mud? Do you like puddles? I hope you like umbrellas.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-spring

Image copyright Laura Dronzek, 2019, text copyright Kevin Henkes, 2019. Courtesy of Greenwillow Books.

As Spring wakes more fully, it takes on a personality of its own: “Spring will call out the pussy willows and new kittens too. Spring can come quickly or slowly. It changes its mind a lot. But when Spring is finally here to stay, you will know it…There will be buds and bees and boots and bubbles.”  And there is much more to discover about this season of rebirth as well as the future within these pages.

When Spring visits it brings many wonderful smells, sounds, activities, and creatures, all of which are gorgeously depicted in Laura Dronzek’s radiant illustrations. The early gardens, blooming cherry trees, frolicking kittens, and profusions of flowers are as bright and welcome as the springtime sun. As the sweet-faced boy and girl in the book play, they are surrounded by birds, bunnies, dogs and kittens, and even ponder a little worm poking its head from the garden. Brilliant blues, pinks, greens meld with lush browns to create a joyful celebration of the newness of the season.

When Spring Comes is not only a book about a particular season or even for a particular age. The book is a wonderfully gentile and uplifting way to introduce or discuss the idea of waiting for good things to happen. Everyone, even the smallest child, has “winter days” when life doesn’t look so bright. But if you wait, spring comes with new life and surprises. 

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062331397 (Hardcover, 2016) | ISBN 978-0062741677 (Paperback, 2019) | ISBN 978-0062741660 (Board Book, 2018)

Discover more about Kevin Henkes and his books on his website.

Spring Equinox Activity

CPB - Paper Flowers

Paper Flowers

 

These paper flowers will brighten any room and come in a rainbow of colors. Make a bouquet for yourself or share them with a special friend.

Supplies

  • Tissue paper in many colors
  • Green paper
  • Green wire for stems
  • Scissors
  • Tape or glue
  • Pliers

CPB - Paper Flowers II

Directions

To make the stem

  1. Bend a 1 ½ -inch loop in the top of the wire
  2. Squeeze the wire together so it will fit tightly over the tissue paper

To make a flower

  1. Cut 6 or more 7-inch squares from tissue paper, mixing colors (you can make various sizes of flowers by making the squares larger or smaller and adding more squares)
  2. Gather all the squares together and fold them together accordion-style in 1-inch folds
  3. Slide the folded tissue paper under the wire loop, and tighten the wire
  4. Gently fan the tissue paper out on each side
  5. Beginning on one side, gently pull each sheet of tissue paper up toward the center
  6. Repeat step 5 on the other side

To make leaves

  1. Cut leaves from green paper, leaving a stem to wrap around the wire flower stem
  2. Fold the leaf stem around the wire and tape or glue

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-when-spring-comes-cover

You can find When Spring Comes at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

March 13 – It’s Women’s History Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaking-things-up-cover

About the Holiday

National Woman’s History Month was established by the United States Congress in 1987 to recognize and celebrate the achievements of American women in the past and today. This year’s theme is “Nevertheless She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination against Women” which provides an opportunity to recognize the tireless efforts of women in all walks of life who fight against discrimination to be heard and to achieve their goals. There’s no better time than now to get involved to ensure that all women have equal rights and standing in all areas of their lives.

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World

Written by Susan Hood 

 

Illustrated by Shadra Strickland, Hadley Hooper, Lisa Brown, Emily Winfield Martin, Sara Palacios, Erin K. Robinson, Sophie Blackall, Melissa Sweet, Oge Mora, Isabel Roxas, Julie Morstad, LeUyen Pham, and Selina Alko

 

This superb collection of biographies in verse highlights not only well-known pioneers but some delightfully fresh names and a few who are influencing the arts, science, and cause of human rights today. Each of the women profiled show the qualities of  bravery, persistence, intelligence, and ability over a vast spectrum of fields. Their success led the way for today’s women and will inspire tomorrow’s.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaking-things-up-Molly-Williams

Image copyright Shadra Strickland, 2018, text copyright Susan Hood, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Organized on a timeline from the early 1780s to 2014, Shaking Things Up begins with Taking the Heat and Molly Williams, who was the first known female firefighter in America. When the flu knocked out all the members of the Oceanus Fire Department and a fire raged, Molly, the servant of James Aymar, a volunteer fireman, “… knew the drill; / she’d seen what must be done. / she hauled the pumper truck by hand, / adept as anyone.” For her work she was named Volunteer 11 and made part of the crew. It took about two-hundred years before another woman—Brenda Berkman—was added to the New York Fire Department.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaking-things-up-Mary-Anning

Copyright Hadley Hooper, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Young paleontologists-in-the-making will be amazed by the story of Mary Anning, who, while searching the British coast for fossils to sell to support her family, uncovered the skeleton of an ichthyosaur in 1812. In Buried Treasure, children learn how she went on to discover “the first two complete plesiosaurs and a pterosaur, laying the foundation for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

Children who love spies, news reporting, and uncovering the truth will want to know about Nellie Bly, who as an investigative journalist took on disguises to infiltrate institutions and write about “corruption and cruelty.” She was also widely admired for her around-the-world trip that beat Jules Verne’s “80 days” by eight days. As told in Woman of the World: “Bly hopped a ship and told her tale / of all she saw on Earth. / She wrote of camels, temples, jewels / with gutsy wit and mirth.” Nellie was only twenty-five when she undertook her travels in “a record-breaking race. / No soul on Earth had ever sped / the globe at such a pace!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaking-things-up-Mary-Anning-poem

Image copyright Hadley Hooper, 2018, text copyright Susan Hood, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

If it weren’t for Annette Kellerman, women may never have made such a splash in swimming. Kellerman was a champion swimmer who began the sport to strengthen her legs after having rickets. Turning the Tide reveals that when she took to the water “without pantaloons—her swimsuit was deemed obscene!” After she was arrested she calmly stated, “who can swim fifty laps / wearing corsets and caps? / Her statement could not be contested,” and she went on to create the modern one-piece swimsuit, changing swimming for women forever.

In The Storyteller, a full alphabet of attributes describes Pura Belpré, a children’s librarian and the New York Public Library’s first Latina librarian. By offering—and often writing—Spanish books and creating programs for the Spanish-speaking community, Belpré revolutionized her library and touched many lives. 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaking-things-up-nellie-bly

Copyright Lisa Brown, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Children who reach for the stars will be transported by Lift-Off and the inspiration of Mae Jemison, the first female African-American astronaut. When young Mae gazes into the dark night sky, the “glittering stars, swirling galaxies / fill her, thrill her.” It doesn’t matter if she is afraid of the dark and afraid of heights, Mae looks and goes where she wants, where she needs to to learn and understand. And when she’s ready? “Ignition. / All systems are go. / Three / Two / One / Blast off!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaking-things-up-secret-agents

Image copyright Sophie Blackall, 2018, text copyright Susan Hood, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Break It Down reveals the way Angela Zhang attacks the questions she has about the way the world works, questions that lead her to answers and incredible achievements. From creating magic solutions with a Harry Potter potion kit at five years old to discovering answers to questions like why rainbows follow storms at seven years old to using a Stanford University lab at fifteen, Zhang has chipped away “at the ‘black boxes of life,’” including the “biggest black box of all– / a cure for cancer.” For Zhang science is “… both stone and chisel, / and I, your willing apprentice, / yearn to care away life’s mysteries / as a sculptor chisels marble / to find beauty inside.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaking-things-up-Malala-Yousefzai

Image copyright Selina Alko, 2018, text copyright Susan Hood, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Also included are poems about artist Frida Kahlo, World War II secret agents Jacqueline and Eileen Nearne, anti-hunger activist Frances Moore Lappé, civil rights pioneer Ruby Bridges, architect Maya Lin, and Noble Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

An illustrated timeline precedes the text, and suggested resources for further study on each woman follows the text.

Susan Hood has created fourteen poems that are as unique as the woman they describe. Some rhyming and some free verse, the poems include facts, quotes, intriguing details and the rhythms, sounds, and dreams of these young women. A paragraph following each poem reveals more about the woman and her work. Readers will be awe-struck by the enticing stories that inform each lyrical biography and will long to learn more about the women and their lives.

The theme of individuality is carried through in the illustrations, which are each created by a different illustrator. Colorful, whimsical, and realistic, the illustrations let children see the faces of the women presented, surrounded by their work and set within their time period. Readers will want to linger over the images and discuss the details included. A quotation from each woman accompanies her illustration.

Shaking Things Up offers an inviting way to introduce children to these amazing women and is an excellent reminder that they too can dream of what could be and make it happen. A must for classroom and school libraries, the book would be an inspirational addition to home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 10

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062699459

Discover more about Susan Hood and her books on her website.

You can learn more about these illustrators on their websites:

Shadra Strickland | Hadley Hooper | Lisa Brown | Emily Winfield Martin | Sara Palacios | Erin K. Robinson | Sophie Blackall | Melissa Sweet | Oge Mora | Isabel Roxas | Julie Morstad | LeUyen Pham | Selina Alko

Check out the Shaking Things Up book trailer!

Women’s History Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-freda-kahlo-coloring-page

Amazing Women Coloring Pages

 

There are so many incredible women to learn about during this month. Today, enjoy these coloring pages of inspiring women.

Mary Anning | Mae Jemison | Freda Kahlo 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shaking-things-up-cover

You can find Shaking Things Up: 15 Young Women Who Changed the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review