February 4 – Take Your Child to the Library Day

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About the Holiday

What better way to spend a Saturday than by stopping by your local library and picking up a few books to while away the hours on a cold winter day? While you’re there thank the librarians for all they do to keep libraries open and books accessible to all. Consider donating to your local library today!

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq

By Jeanette Winter

 

Alia Muhammad Baker, oversees the library of Basra in Iraq, where all those who love books and learning come to “discuss matters of the world and matters of the spirit.” Now, though, their talk is full of the war around them. Alia is afraid for her books, worried that the fires of war will destroy them, so she petitions the government for permission to move them to a safe place. Her request is denied, so Alia secretly fills her car each night with as many books as it can carry and takes them home.

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Image copyright Jeanette Winter, courtesy of post-gazette.com

As rumors of war continue to swirl, the library becomes a shelter for government offices. When the battles reach Basra, “the city is lit with a firestorm of bombs and gunfire.” The government officials, soldiers, and library workers abandon the library, leaving Alia alone to protect the books. She summons help from Anis Muhammad, the restaurant owner on the other side of the library wall, and together they remove the rest of the books in crates and sacks and wrapped in curtains. Other shopkeepers and neighbors join in, removing the books and hiding them in Anis’s restaurant.

The war rages, but the books’ whereabouts remain a secret. “Then, nine days later, a fire burns the library to the ground.” “At last, the beast of war moves on,” but the books are still in danger. While the city is quiet, Alia “hires a truck to bring all thirty thousand books to her house and to the houses of friends.” Alia’s house is stacked floor to ceiling with the books she loves. They fill every cabinet, teeter on every shelf, and sit in piles under tables, chairs, and Alia’s bed. There’s hardly room for Alia herself.

But Alia is patient. She waits and “dreams of peace” and a time when a new library will be built to replace what has been lost.

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Image copyright Jeanette Winter, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers

Jeanette Winter’s story of one woman who risked her own safety to protect the books she loved, including an ancient biography of Muhammad, reminds all readers of the importance of these storehouses of our collective history, culture, imagination, and knowledge. The gripping true-life story abounds with suspense as war grows closer but also with hope as friends and neighbors make Alia’s mission theirs too. In these days when so many libraries are threatened with closure, The Librarian of Basra, asks the question: what would we do to protect our books?

In square framed acrylic paintings on solid colored backgrounds, Winter reveals the day-to-day wartime events and the actions Alia takes to save the library’s collection. She is seen visiting a government official, sneaking books into her car by night, and watching as soldiers are stationed on the library roof. When the battle comes to Basra, silhouetted jets fly in a rust-colored sky as orange flames dwarf the buildings and people below. Under the threat of bombs, Alia and her neighbors are portrayed packing up the books and carrying them over the wall to safety. Readers will marvel at the image of Alia’s house stacked with books and may wonder how many their own homes could hold.

Ages 4 – 8

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2005 | ISBN 978-0152054458

Take Your Child to the Library Day Activity

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I Love the Library! Coloring Page

 

If the library is one of your favorite places, print out this I Love the Library! Coloring Page and enjoy!

Picture Book Review

January 17 – Kid Inventors’ Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all those ingenious kids who have improved the world with their inventions. This date was chosen to commemorate another child inventor—Benjamin Franklin—who designed the first swim fins when he was just 12 years old! (Seriously, is there nothing this man didn’t or couldn’t do?). With their supple minds and can-do attitudes, kids have changed the ways things are done in the fields of medicine, technology, communications, and even food—as today’s book shows! To learn more about the day and find resources for young inventors, visit the K.I.D website.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

Written by Pat Miller | Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

 

In 1844 at the tender age of 13, Hanson Gregory left the family farm and went to sea as a cabin boy on the schooner Isaac Achorn. He quickly became the cook’s assistant and also learned how to rig the sails and “steer a ship over trackless waves by sun and stars.” By the age of 19 Gregory had become the captain of the schooner Hardscrabble, and within a few more years was racing “his cargo from Maine to California as commander of a clipper, the fastest ship on any ocean.”

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Hanson Gregory may have been one of the best captains to sail the seas—once awarded a medal for heroism for rescuing seven shipwrecked Spanish sailors even though his own ship and crew were endangered. But his greatest achievement was not attained because of his seafaring skills—it was his ingenuity in the galley that people remember.

On June 22, 1847 as a 16-year-old cook’s assistant, Hanson was rustling up the crew’s breakfast—coffee and fried cakes, the same as every morning. While the pot of lard bubbled on the stove, Gregory formed balls of sweetened dough and dropped them in. They sizzled and crisped—at least around the edges. The centers were raw, heavy with grease, and they dropped like cannonballs in the stomach. “Sailors called them Sinkers.” But this morning Gregory had an idea. He removed the lid from the pepper can and cut out the center of the balls. “Then he tossed the rings into the bubbling lard.”

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

The cook and the sailors took one look at this odd concoction and…ate them up! “The cakes were brown, and sweet, and fully cooked. Sighs of delight rose above the noisy sea. A new breakfast tradition was born.” Gregory told his mom about his invention, and she fried up large batches of these ‘holey cakes’ that became a sensation at a friend’s store and on the docks.

You might think this is a pretty interesting tale in itself, “but sailors like their stories bold” and so they “spun legends worthy of such a delicious treat.” One tale had Captain Gregory inventing the doughnut while he saved his ship from disaster. Another told how Gregory, distraught over the drowning of five sailors pulled to the ocean floor by their “sinker” breakfast, punched holes in every cake to make them look like life rings and vowed, “‘Never again!’”

Captain Gregory had a sense of humor about his accomplishment. During an interview he once stated that “he had invented ‘the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes.’” Gregory lived to be 89 and is buried “overlooking the sea where stormy weather can be spotted as readily as it once was from the quarterdeck of the Hardscrabble.”

An author’s note expanding on the story of Captain Gregory, the doughnut, doughnut shops, a timeline, and a selected bibliography follow the text.

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Doughnuts have never been so evocative! In Pat Miller’s humorous, informative history of this favorite pastry treat, readers can smell the salt air, feel the ocean swell and roll under their feet, and even ache a little for those poor sailors forced to eat “sinkers.” Seamlessly interwoven into this foodography is a fascinating look at the early days of sail. Miller’s language is immediately stirring: the Ivanhoe bucks and plunges, the sea becomes a monster, and Captain Gregory spears a sinker on the wheel spoke. Kids will marvel at a 13-year-old going off to sea and becoming an inventor at 16.

Vincent X. Kirsch provides just the right touch to this captivating true story with his cartoon-inspired watercolor and cut paper artwork. Ingeniously incorporating Hanson Gregory’s innovation of removing the center of the fried cakes, Kirsch’s illustrations are “cored” to allow for text, while the extracted section appears on the facing page as a glimpse through a porthole. The maritime atmosphere—from ship to shore—of the mid-1800s is beautifully represented in the folk-style sketches, and the humor that is so intrinsic to this story is wonderfully embraced.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut will delight foodies and history buffs alike and would make a fun gift and a delectable addition to personal libraries for all ages.

Ages 5 – 12

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544319615

Vincent X. Kirsch’s website is full of illustrations from his books for children—take a look at his portfolio!

Spend some time with Pat Miller on her website that offers activities, tips, resources and many more books!

Kid Inventors’ Day Activity

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CD (Compact Doughnuts) Decoration

 

Are some of  your CDs a little passé? Not if you can turn them into cute décor like this doughnut hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD, let dry
  2. Paint the center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted
  3. When the icing paint is dry, draw sprinkles on the icing with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

Picture Book Review

January 3 – Festival of Sleep Day

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About the Holiday

After all the celebrating, we’re finally ready for some down time – and when I say down time, I mean sleep! That feeling of sinking into a deep slumber and waking refreshed the next morning is so comforting. And the opportunity to sleep in – or sleep all day? That’s luxury! To take full advantage of today’s holiday, jump in bed, pull up the covers and…Zzzzzzzzzz…

Henry & Leo

By Pamela Zagarenski

 

Ever since Henry was two, he and his stuffed lion, Leo, have been inseparable. “Perhaps it was his glass button eyes, which made him look as if he knew secret things” that made him so special and unlike Henry’s other toys. One Saturday Henry’s parents suggested a hike in the Nearby Woods. Henry was excited because he knew Leo would love the outing. Henry’s sister thought this idea was foolish, after all Leo wasn’t real, she said, and couldn’t love anything.

Henry didn’t care what his sister thought, and as they walked through the forest, he “could tell that Leo loved hearing the birds and finding the woodland animals as much as he did.” When evening began to fall, the family headed home, Henry riding on his father’s shoulders. At home, Henry discovered that Leo was missing. They looked everywhere, but Leo could not be found.

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Image copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt

Papa promised that they would resume the hunt in the morning, but Henry worried. He knew Leo would want to be home with him tonight, and asked that a light be left on for him. Henry’s mother suggested that since Leo was only real in Henry’s imagination that he “‘imagine Leo tucked into a safe place.’” In the morning, she said, they would return to the Nearby Woods and find him.

In the darkness of his room, clutching a stuffed rabbit and fox, with a toy bear nearby, Henry thinks about Leo. He “knows that his family just didn’t understand what it truly meant to be real.” But Henry and Leo were best friends. They cared for each other. “That’s real.”

Meanwhile, in the Nearby Woods, a bear, a rabbit, and a fox discover Leo sitting at the base of a tree. With a twig, Leo sketches a house in the dirt, washed white in the gleam of the full moon. The rabbit produces a compass as the fox consults the stars. The foursome takes off down the path, watched over by owls and other night creatures. As the trip grows longer, Leo rides on the bear’s back. At last they reach the edge of the forest, and in the distance Leo points to a house bathed white in the moonlight.

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Image copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt

With the dawning sun Henry and his family take up the search again. Suddenly, Henry spies Leo near the front door. “‘Leo!’” he shouts. His family sighs in relief, but his sister and father are both perplexed. They know they had “‘looked in that very spot last night.’” As Henry hugs Leo tightly, he whispers “‘You found home! I love you, Leo.’” And Leo whispers back, “‘I love you, too, Henry.’”

With her signature grace and lyricism. Pamela Zagarenski infuses her lost-toy story with the mystical imagination of childhood. As the title suggests, she presents the experience from both Henry’s and Leo’s perspectives, echoing the wonderful ability of young children to fully embrace and transfer their emotions, giving—and accepting—love from animate and inanimate objects equally. Zagarenski’s illustrations are glorious, with the richness of royalty—a motif that is carried through in the crowns that hover above and settle on the heads of Henry, his family, other toys, and the woodland animals. Children may enjoy discussing and interpreting the different crowns. The middle spreads of nighttime in the forest are wordless, allowing the animals to communicate in their own way and in a way children believe. Young readers will appreciate the gentle suspense and be satisfied with the correctness of Henry’s prediction as Leo finds his way home. Fans of Zagarenski’s work will notice familiar images, such as teapots, tea cups, and paper sailboats, scattered among the pages.

The beauty of Zagarenski’s art and her stardust magic of imagination make Henry & Leo an excellent choice for bedtime and quiet time reading, and would be an often-asked-for addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544648111

Festival of Sleep Day Activity

CPB - Pillowcase

Hand-painted Pillow Case

 

Designing your own pillow case is a fun and easy craft to do with kids. When finished the pillow case can be used for sleeping, can be stuffed with fiber fill and sewn to create a decorative pillow, or can make a storage bag for toys or other objects.

Supplies

  • 1 pillow case
  • Fabric paint or fabric markers in several colors
  • Fiber fill or foam pillow (optional)
  • Thread and needle (optional)

Directions

  1. Design an image for the pillow case
  2. With the fabric paint or markers create the design, let dry

To Make a Decorative Pillow

  1. Fill the pillow case with fiber fill or foam pillow
  2. Sew the open end closed with the thread and needle

Picture Book Review

December 13 – National Day of the Horse

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About the Holiday

Established in 2004, today’s observance encourages people to remember the importance of horses to American history, culture, and character. Both wild and domesticated horses need our care and compassion. To celebrate consider volunteering at a facility that cares for horses, for an organization that uses horses in therapy programs for children or adults, or donating to the protection of wild horses.

Real Cowboys

Written by Kate Hoefler | Illustrated by Jonathan Bean

 

Real cowboys wake with the dawn’s light and are careful not to make too much noise for the people still sleeping in the “little houses in the hollow, and up the mountains, and at the edge of fields in the distance.” It is natural for the cowboys to think of others. Their job is to care for the herd; to help a stranded calf and their dog who is trying to lure it to safety; to soothe the herd when thunder rumbles overhead.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Real cowboys sing soft, slow songs to their cows to encourage them to continue moving when the path is narrow and dangerous and to sleep when coyotes howl in the night. Cowboys are good listeners—heeding the advice and warnings of the trail boss and other cowhands. “Sometimes they listen for trucks, and wolves, and rushing water. And sometimes they just listen to the big wide world and its grass song.” Along the way cowboys keep themselves safe with their wide-brimmed hats and leather chaps.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, text copyright Kate Hoefler. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Because the cattle drive is long—lasting “for hours, or days, or weeks”—cowboys learn to be patient. “Even on a fast horse, they have to move with the slow rhythm of a herd….” When they need help, real cowboys don’t hesitate to ask, using hand and hat signals to alert other cowhands. “Real cowboys want peace. They don’t want stampedes, where all the cattle spook, and thunder over the earth, and scatter in dust storms.” Sometimes, however, this happens, and sometimes a few cattle and dogs are lost. Thinking of them when times are quiet, “real cowboys cry.”

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, text copyright Kate Hoefler. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

At night cowboys take turns eating and sleeping so there is always someone to watch over the herd. When they pack up camp and move on, real cowboys are mindful of the earth, and when they are far from home, inside themselves they can feel homesick, even if they look tough on the outside. “Real cowboys are as many different colors as the earth. Real cowboys are girls too.” In their hearts “real cowboys are artists,” creating stories that are bigger than the wide open prairie. “They wonder what’s past the horizon. And one day, when their work is done, real cowboys find out.”

Kate Hoefler’s moving tribute to cowboys and cowgirls demonstrates the qualities of kindness, thoughtfulness, and mindfulness that we want to share with our children. With lyrical language she follows cowboys on a cattle drive, where they experience the joys and sorrows that life entails for all. Hoefler’s pacing echoes the day-to-day movement of the herd as well as readers’ daily life. Delving into the responsibilities and characteristics of these men and women is a unique way to open the world to children and promote discussions about the traits of caring individuals.

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Image copyright Jonathan Bean, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Jonathan Bean’s hand-stenciled illustrations printed in four Pantone colors are particularly effective in portraying the life of the cowboys and cowgirls entrusted with herds of cattle. Early morning dawns to rose skies that color even the horses and reflect in the drinking trough. Cattle, obscured by dust raised on the trail, form the backdrop to a cowboy worriedly watching his dog coax a calf from a cliff, and afternoon turns to night in a two-page spread where a cow nuzzles her calf as it sleeps. Depictions of the enormity of the herd traveling from one place to another amid sweltering days, rain storms, and blizzards are beautifully rendered, and the emotions of the cowboys are clearly discernable and touching.

Real Cowboys is stunning in both language and illustrations. For quiet story times, bedtime, or times for reflection and inspiration, this book would make an excellent addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544148925

To view a gallery of illustration by Jonathan Bean, visit his website!

National Day of the Horse Activity

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Galloping Horse Coloring Page

 

A horse running at top speed is a beautiful sight! Enjoy this printable Galloping Horse Coloring Page—would you be riding?

Picture Book Review

November 22 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

Picture Book Month is an international literacy inititive put together by a group of authors and illustrators to raise awareness of the importance of print picture books. Througout the world libraries, schools, booksellers, authors, illustrators, and those who love picture books celebrate the wonder of this art form enjoyed by children and adults. The complexity of picture books is astounding. They contain some of the most beautiful art and compelling stories being created today. To learn more about the importance of the picture book visit Picture Book Month: A Celebration! to find daily posts by authors, illustrators, and experts in the field as well as fun activities!

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.”

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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…”

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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.

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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.

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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 and would be a welcome addition to any home library.

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

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 | ISBN 978-0544416864

Picture Book Month Activity

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I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate

 

Do you want to let everyone know which books are yours? Or just declare your love of books? Then display this printable I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate in your books. on your wall, or in your locker!

Picture Book Review

October 21 – Count Your Buttons Day

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About the Holiday

First designed in Germany in the 13th century, buttonholes revolutionized clothing, bags, and other objects that required closing and inspired a new art form. Designers and manufacturers took buttons to heart, making them not only functional but beautiful. Created from iridescent shells, sparkling glass, bone, and other materials, these little canvases were infused with paintings, intricate carvings, astonishing color, and more eye-catching features. Today, buttons still lend distinction and personality to outfits for all ages.

Button Up! Wrinkled Rhymes

Written by Alice Schertle | Illustrated by Petra Mathers

 

There may be no more outward demonstration of someone’s personality than the clothes they wear. In Button Up! Wrinkled Rhymes kids’ closets become the muse for Alice Schertle’s perky and humorous poems told from the unique perspective of shoelaces, t-shirts, pajamas, hats, and more garrulous garments.

In Bob’s Bicycle Helmet, this protective piece of equipment introduces itself: “Bob’s on his bike / and I’m on Bob. / I’m Bob’s helmet. / I’m on the job.” And even though “Bob skins his elbow. / Bob scrapes his knee. / Bob doesn’t hurt his head— / Bob’s got me.”

In Jennifer’s Shoes her new blue pair “…are learning the ways / of Jennifer’s world: / the way that Jennifer’s toes are curled, / the softness of carpet, / the steepness of stair, / the curve of the rung /  under Jennifer’s chair, / the hole in the heel / of Jennifer’s socks… / We are Jennifer’s shoes, we came home in a box.”

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Image copyright Petra Mathers, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Before bedtime Joshua’s Jammies are quite adamant about who they belong to: “We are the jammies that Joshua wears, / not jammies for penguins, / not jammies for bears, / not jammies for tigers with knots in their tails, / not jammies for whales…. / We don’t fit iguanas, / we’re not for the gnu, / we won’t suit the llamas / (they never wear blue)….”

Poor Tanya’s Old T-Shirt just doesn’t understand: “I live in a bucket shoved under the stair. / They call me a dust rag! / I don’t think it’s fair. / I’m still the same size as when I was new. / “I didn’t shrink— / it was Tanya who GREW…. / You’ll never, not ever / hear anyone say, / ‘She’s gotten too big, she’s just in the way, / let’s dust the piano with Tanya today.’”

While Rick’s Wool Sweater reveals that Rick wears a t-shirt underneath to be “warm on the OUTside / soft on the IN,”  it also takes a bit of pride in its particular talent: “To tell the truth it tickles me / to be a little prickly, / especially around his neck / and under his chin.”

Other poems reveal the inner thoughts of Bertie’s Shoelaces, Violet’s Hiking Hat, Harvey’s Golashes, Emily’s Undies, Wanda’s Swimsuit, Jack’s Soccer Jersey, Jamelia’s Dress-up Clothes, and a Hand-me-down Sweatshirt.

Just in time for Halloween Clyde’s Costume a gingham sheet is pleased to see that it makes a most distinguished ghost after being taken from the guest room bed and given eyes: “Now I’m ghastly and ghoulish and ghostly, / a will-o’-the-wispy fright. / Pardon my pride, but with Clyde inside, I’m the hit of Halloween night.”

Of course, we can’t forget that today is dedicated to buttons and to celebrate, Bill’s Blue Jacket is thrilled to be lifted off the hook: “Arm in the left sleeve, / arm in the right. / Button up! Button up! Button up / TIGHT! / Snap! Goes the collar / under Bill’s chin. / Everybody holler, / BILL’S ALL IN! / Everybody clap your hands, / everybody shout, / Bill’s got his jacket on, / LET’S GO OUT!

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Image copyright Petra Mathers, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Alice Schertle brings a joyful buoyancy to the rhythms of her innovative poems, making each as distinctive as the article of clothing and the person who wears it. Her insights are surprising and will give kids a new perspective on their world and the secret life of the clothes they present to it.

Petra Mathers’ exuberant and adorable pigs, moles, alligators, mice, dogs, one cool-dude otter, and one fuzzy-headed ostrich lend the perfect touch of humor and setting to depict the stars of Schertle’s poems. Harvey the pig exuberantly kicks up mud, Emily happily watches her vibrant and fancy undies flap on the breezy clothesline, a drowsy Joshua in his blue jammies says goodnight to his toys, and Tanya’s old pink t-shirt remembers better days while hanging on the edge of her green bucket. Mathers’ beautiful watercolors also portray a cloudy-day ocean, trick-or-treaters heading out at dusk, a refreshingly cold pool, and other landscapes.

Button Up! Wrinkled Rhymes makes a fun story-time read, a great companion at the laundromat, or an entertaining pre- or post-clothes-shopping pick-me-up.

Ages 4 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 | ISBN 978-0544022690

Count Your Buttons Day Activity

CPB - Button Coat

Pin the Button on the Coat Game

 

Pin the Button on the Coat is a fun game you can make yourself and play anytime! It’s great for a button-themed party or on any day that you’re holed up and wanting something to do! The game is played like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” and the object is to get the buttons lined up as close to the center of the coat as possible. Have fun!

Supplies

  • Fleece or felt of your choice of several favorite colors, 2 pieces of 8 ½” x 11” to make the coat and smaller pieces or scraps to make buttons
  • Fabric glue
  • Scissors
  • Black marker
  • Clothes hanger
  • Clothes pins

CPB - Button Coat II

Directions

  1. Cut out a coat shape from the fleece
  2. Cut out a collar from a different color fleece (optional)
  3. With the fabric glue, attach the sleeves to the edge of the coat, and the collar to the top of the coat.
  4. Let dry
  5. Cut circles to represent buttons from the other colors of fleece or felt, as many as you need
  6. With the marker make dots to represent holes in the “buttons”
  7. When the glue on the coat is dry, attach it to the clothes hanger with the clothespins
  8. Have fun playing!

Picture Book Review

 

October 18 – It’s Squirrel Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Squirrels elicit emotions on both sides of the spectrum. On one hand you can’t help but say “Awww!” when you see their tiny little paws and crafty antics. On the other hand their voracious appetites at bird feeders and penchant for darting into traffic is more likely to make you say “Arrgghhh!” This month is set aside, however, for enjoying the squirrels in your yard, park, or city. And really, don’t they make life just a little more fun?

Those Darn Squirrels Fly South

Written by Adam Rubin | Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

 

Everyone knows Mr. Fookwire is a grump whose grumpiness knows no bounds. “He scolded fireflies for being too bright…yelled at clouds for being too fluffy…and pinched his nose with a clothespin” so he doesn’t have to smell the lilacs. Despite these annoyances, though, he had a wonderful summer painting pictures of the birds in his yard even though “those darn squirrels” had set up an easel of their own nearby.

But now fall was here and that meant that all of Mr. Fookwire’s beloved birds would soon be flying south leaving him with only the squirrels for company. While the squirrels usually spent the winter months “playing ping pong, building ships in bottles, and knitting, this winter they had decided to follow the birds to warmer climes. With their expert knowledge in aerodynamic engineering, the squirrels had “built gyro-copters from pinecones…gliders from leaves…and even a zeppelin from an old shopping bag.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-those-darn-squirrels-fly-south-squirrels-build-flying-macihines

Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin. Courtesy of hmhbookscom

When the day came for the birds to take wing, Mr. Fookwire sadly waved goodbye. Just as he was about to return to the house, he heard a strange rustling, then a whir, and finally a buzz. It was the squirrels soaring away in their homemade aircraft. “‘Great googley-moogley’” Mr. Fookwire exclaimed.

The squirrels followed the birds for days until they landed on a beach. To celebrate the end of their journey and the welcome warmth, the squirrels held a fiesta, complete with mangoes, the marimba, and the merengue. Winter was wonderful here where there were new foods to eat and new birds to discover. One with a long neck, rings around its eyes, and red and blue feathers even looked a little familiar and left the squirrels feeling homesick. They decided to make a long-distance phone call, and chattered away to Mr. Fookwire.

Although he wouldn’t admit it, Mr. Fookwire was happy to receive the call. He decided to pack up his easels, paints, brushes, and cottage cheese with pepper and hit the road in his beautiful vintage car. Driving 12 miles an hour, Mr. Fookwire at last reached the beach, where the squirrels swarmed him in a big hug. “Maybe it was the nice weather. Maybe it was the beautiful scenery, Maybe it was the squirrels dancing in his pants. But for the first time in a very long time, the old man laughed.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-those-darn-squirrels-fly-south-squirrels-fly-south

Image copyright Daniel Salmieri, text copyright Adam Rubin. Courtesy of hmhbookscom

Mr. Fookwire was delighted with the local birds and immediately began to paint them. “‘The birds here are even more amazing than the birds back home!’ he exclaimed. ‘Harrumph!’ muttered the floogle bird.” The hot sun took its toll on Mr. Fookwire, however, and he collapsed right into the middle of his painting. The squirrels dragged him into the shade and revived him. Maybe spending the winter at home was better. Mr. Fookwire decided to head back, and the squirrels accompanied him. They didn’t want to miss “the annual snow-fort building competition.”

They all jumped into the car and sped off. Really! After all, Mr. Fookwire was in no condition to drive.

Adam Rubin’s Those Darn Squirrels Fly South contains all the charm and squirrely shenanigans that make the other two books in the series such a hit with kids (and adults). Rubin’s snappy descriptions, silly scenarios, and loveably cantankerous protagonist make for a hilarious story time read that will delight his fans and captivate new readers.

Daniel Salmieri knows how to make kids giggle and laugh out loud with colorful illustrations that perfectly depict Mr. Fookwire’s world—both at home and away. Mr. Fookwire’s noodly arms, giraffe-long neck, and carrot-shaped nose coalesce into a character that is at once funny and endearing. Getting more beak time in this third outing, the familiar birds are joined by a crew of even more brilliant and exotic beach mates. The squirrels are up to their usual contraption-making tricks as they build flying machines from soda bottles, flashlights, baseball caps, and more around-the-house items. The squirrels know how to live wherever they are, and Salmieri’s depictions of them holding a fiesta, hugging Mr. Fookwire, and roaring down the highway is absurdity for the younger set at its best.

Ages 4 – 7

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012 | ISBN 978-0544555457

You can find out more about Adam Rubin, his books, and his dry sense of humor on his website!

View a gallery of illustration work and more books by Daniel Salmieri on his website!

Go nuts watching this Those Darn Squirrels Fly South book trailer!

Squirrel Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squirrel-dot-to-dot

Celebrate Squirrels! Dot-to-Dot

 

Enjoy following the dots to finish this printable Celebrate Squirrels! activity sheet and then color it in!

Picture Book Review