January 31 – It’s National Storytelling Week

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About the Holiday

Are you a raconteur? Do you love to weave a tale so intricate and intriguing that your listeners are on the edge of their seats? Or are you the one leaning forward, all ears, feeling the tingling thrill of that story? Either way—this day is for you! The Society for Storytelling instituted National Storytelling Week 17 years ago to promote the oral traditions of this art in England and Wales. Since then it has become an international event. So take some time to tell or listen to a story—or even write one of your own!

One Day, The End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-than-Ever Stories

Written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich | Illustrated by Fred Koehler

 

Hey! I have a fantastic story to tell you! Ya gotta minute? Ok! See… “One day I went to school. I came home. The End” What do you mean, “Is that it?” Don’t you get it?  So many things happened—funny, messy, worrisome, happy. It was an amazing day! I didn’t say that? But it’s all right there! Where? In the middle. In the pictures!

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, text copyright, Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press

On other days the little girl who so creatively told about her day at school becomes a detective to find her lost dog who’s gone off to chase a squirrel, invents ingenious ways to hide from her brother, and creates something awesome for her mom. She also runs away from home, but of course comes back, and shadows her cat to a surprising discovery. On yet another day mistakes, mishaps, and frustrations just make her feel like stomping. And on still another day she  relents to a much-needed bath…and shares it with her dog!

What does she do after all these adventures? She wants to write a book about them…and she does!

Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s One Day…The End is such an ingenious concept that readers will keep turning the pages just to see what clever idea comes next. Each story consists of a first sentence that introduces a plot and the last line that wraps it up. Sure Dotlich could have fleshed out the characters, detailed the setting, added dialogue, and symbolized a theme, but sometimes pictures are worth a thousand words, and this is where Fred Koehler comes in.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, text copyright, Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press

Koehler takes these kid-centric tales and fills in the exploding science experiments, ice-cream trucks, accidental oopsies, distractions, clues, and more that make up each day’s adventure. With humor and an eye for real-kid emotions and actions (the little girl pours glue from the bottle held above her head), Koehler creates a unique plot for each story.

In “One day I felt like stomping” the little girl doesn’t stomp for no reason: her cat eats her pizza lunch, she splatters herself with purple paint, and her fishing pole breaks. She just feels like…! The word STOMP grows bigger across the page and even gets stomped on itself as the girl vents her frustration in a puddle, on a pile of leaves, and—almost—on a flower. But seeing the daisy saves her day and she saves the daisy. Haven’t we all been there?

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, text copyright, Rebecca Kai Dotlich. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press

One Day…The End is a joy to share with kids and would make a great addition to home bookshelves. They’ll love to spend time pointing out the humorous details and depth of story each page holds, and may even like to “tell” the story as they read. This book would be a fantastic jumping off point for kids wanting to write their own stories or for teachers wanting to demonstrate the elements of active, detailed story writing. As Dotlich says on the first page: “For every story there is a beginning and an end, but what happens in between makes all the difference.”

Ages 4 – 8

Boyds Mills Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1620914519

Discover all of the amazing books by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, plus lots more, on her website!

Learn more about Fred Koehler and his work and get freebies – including a One Day, The End coloring page – on his website!

Tell a Story Day Activity

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Story Maze

 

This puzzle may look like a regular maze, but there’s a secret to it! Within this maze is any story you’d like to make up. Why do you go left instead of right? Are you avoiding a zombie or a rainy shower? Why do you go up instead of down? Is it because you can you float? What lurks in that dead end you’ve entered? There are as many cool stories as you can imagine right in those little pathways. And when you find your way to The End, you’ll have written a story! Print the Story Maze and the Solution here!

picture book review

January 24 – It’s National Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

The idea of hobbies—something useful, purposeful, and fun done in one’s spare time—has been around at least since 1676 when Sir Matthew Hale wrote in Contemplations Moral and Divine that “Almost everyone hath some hobby horse or other wherein he prides himself.” Later, in the mid-1800s when work ceased to consume every hour of the day, and people had more time for leisure pursuits, hobbies became more popular. Today, it may be interesting to consider that many of our current hobbies—knitting, sewing, woodworking, candle making, etc.—were once the work of our ancestors. To celebrate this month’s holiday, try a new activity—it may turn into a favorite!

More-igami

Written by Dori Kleber | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

Joey was a little boy with a particular fascination. He was captivated by all things folded. At home he had a collection of “old road maps,” the bellows on an accordion made it his favorite instrument, and he even tucked himself into a foldaway bed at night. One day Joey witnessed the most amazing thing at school. Sarah Takimoto’s mother came to his class, and—right before the students’ eyes—folded, flipped, and pulled a plain white piece of paper “until it became…a crane.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

“Joey’s eyes popped. His jaw dropped. Mrs. Takimoto called it origami.” Joey was smitten. “‘I want to make origami,’” Joey told Sarah’s mother. “‘Will you teach me?’” Mrs. Takimoto  answered that while she could teach him the right folds, it would take practice and patience to become an origami master. Joey raced home that afternoon and began folding. When he ran out of notebook paper and construction paper, he used his homework…the newspaper…his sister’s sheet music…gift wrap… even “Aunt Vivian’s pineapple surprise” recipe card. But when he folded up all thirty-eight dollars in his mom’s purse, she put her foot down.

“Joey drooped.” His cranes were still coming out wrinkled and crooked, and he’d never be able to become an origami master without practicing. To soothe his disappointment, he headed next door to Muy Mexicana for some fajitas. Right away Mr. Lopez noticed Joey’s disgruntlement. When Joey explained that everyone was losing patience with him, Mr. Lopez said, “‘Many artists are misunderstood, amigo.’ Especially when they are just learning.’” Mr. Lopez went into the kitchen, and when he came out with the sizzling fajitas, he was delighted to see a napkin pyramid sitting on the table.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Joey apologized, but Mr. Lopez thought it made the table look fancy. In fact, he liked it so much that he had Joey fold every napkin on every table. After that, Joey went to Muy Mexicana each day following school and folded the napkins into decorative shapes. One day he made fans, the next candlesticks, and the day after that, crowns. He patiently worked until each one was perfect.

Finally, he felt ready to attempt his original challenge. “He took a crisp napkin. He folded. He flipped. He pulled.” When he was finished, a perfect crane sat in front of him. Just then a girl with a paper fan walked in. Her eyes widened as they zeroed in on Joey’s crane. Joey offered to show her how to make it, but warned, “‘It takes practice—and lots of patience!’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Dori Kleber’s unique multicultural story of a little boy who finds the perfect creative outlet for his singular interest will captivate kids who are just beginning to try their own hands at favorite hobbies, schoolwork, or other pursuits. With humor and honest depictions of Joey’s frustration and persistence, Kleber shows readers that practice and patience really do pay off. As Joey meets another folding enthusiast, kids will see that there are always others with whom to share favorite pastimes.

Opening More-igami to the first page where Joey sits gazing lovingly at a taco with a folded napkin next to his plate, readers will know they are in for something special. As always, G. Brian Karas’s characters are enthusiastic, encouraging, and adorable. Readers will empathize with Joey as they watch him folding and folding, and giggle at the many, many practice cranes that litter his home, even perching atop his sister’s music stand and appearing in his mom’s purse.

Karas makes full creative use of the origami theme in his clever page designs and illustrations, beginning with the square shape of the book itself and the origami paper-styled endpapers. Vivid, solid-color background pages are divided diagonally, vertically, or horizontally with subtle changes in hue or nearly invisible lines. In depictions of Joey’s school, home, and favorite restaurant, diagonals, angles, and sharp edges predominate: tables and floors create triangles on the page; windows, walls, and doors divide pages into shapes associated with the steps of origami’s folded creations; and floor tiles, the sidewalk, and even Joey’s shirt portray grid lines. The color schemes of each page, inspired by the patterns and shades of origami paper, are dazzling and unite the varied aspects of this special book.

For any child undertaking a new activity or venture, More-igami is a charming and encouraging companion on the way to proficiency—one that would make a wonderful home library addition.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763668198

To learn more about Dori Kleber and her writing, visit her website!

G. Brian Karas has a whole gallery of illustrations, books, information, and “what nots” on his website!

National Hobby Month Activity

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Origami Pets

 

Origami is a fun hobby that can grow in complexity as you gain skill. Here are two templates to get you started! All you need is a square piece of paper and—if you’d like to decorate your piece—some markers or colored pencils.

Puppy Template | Penguin Template

Picture Book Review

January 13 – It’s National Soup Month

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About the Holiday

Winter weather is made for soup…or…is soup made for winter weather? Either way, soup offers the warm, comforting, stick-to-your ribs meal that just seems so right as the temperatures dip. Today, grab a can or cook up a batch of your favorite soup and add a hearty loaf of sourdough or artisanal bread and have a feast!

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First Tomato: A Voyage to the Bunny Planet

By Rosemary Wells

 

The day is new—only 7:00 a.m. —and already Claire is having a tough time.  At breakfast she “ate only three spoons of cornflakes” before the bowl was knocked to the floor. While walking to school, Claire’s feet were soaked by snow, and “by eleven in the morning, math had been going on for two hours.” The cafeteria was serving baloney sandwiches—blecchh!—and at recess “Claire was the only girl not able to do a cartwheel.” At the end of school, all Claire wanted to do was go home, but she was left waiting…and waiting…and waiting at the bus stop.

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Image copyright Rosemary Wells, courtesy rosemarywells.com

After all the slights and disappointments, “Claire needs a visit to the Bunny Planet.” She closes her eyes and floats away…. “Far beyond the moon and stars, / Twenty light-years south of Mars, / Spins the gentle Bunny Planet / And the Bunny Queen is Janet.”

Janet ushers Claire into “the day that should have been.” Wafting on the warm winds Claire hears her mother’s voice: “pick me some runner beans and sugar snap peas. / Find a ripe tomato and bring it to me, please.” So early in the season, Claire finds only one red, ripe tomato on the vine. It “smells of rain and steamy earth and hot June sun” that tempts her to taste it, but she puts in her basket and gives it to her mother.

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Image copyright Rosemary Wells, courtesy rosemarywells.com

As her mother cooks, Claire sits at the cozy kitchen table shelling the peas. Soon, Claire’s mother brings her a steamy bowl of soup, and as they gaze at each other in understanding, Clair hears her “mother calling when the summer winds blow, / ‘I’ve made you First Tomato soup because I love you so.’”

Finally the bus arrives to take Claire home. During the ride she spies the Bunny Planet “near the evening star” and realizes that it was there all the time.

Today I chose a favorite book from when my own kids were little. One of three Voyage to the Bunny Planet books, Rosemary Wells’ First Tomato never failed to bring a little lump to my throat as I read it to my son and daughter (and even reading it again for this review, I felt the same catch in my heart).

In the difficulties that Claire suffers during the school day, kids will recognize the predicaments they also experience, and as Claire visits the Bunny Planet they’ll understand that solace is always close by. Claire’s sweet face and vintage dress as well as the lush details of the settings make each square illustration a masterpiece of expression and emotion. Wells’ beautiful turns of phrase and lyrical lines soothe the disquiet of real life with the balm of a parent’s or caregiver’s love, making First Tomato a wonderful book to share again and again.

All three Voyage to the Bunny Planet books—including The Island Light and Moss Pillows, two more enchanting and touching quiet-time reads—are available in a single-volume gift edition.

Ages 3 – 7

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2008 | ISBN 978-0670011032

To discover more about Rosemary Wells and her books, plus videos, games, coloring pages, information for parents and educators, and more, visit her website!

National Soup Month Activity

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Souper Maze!

 

You can’t eat soup without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable Souper Maze? Here’s the Solution!

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 21 – Winter Solstice

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About the Holiday

At exactly 5:44 a.m. today winter arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. This also means that today offers those living there the least amount of sunshine—only 9 hours, 15 minutes, and 6 seconds. While the earth’s tilt in relation to the sun at this time of year brings cold and snowy weather to the World’s northern half, the Southern Hemisphere is basking in longer days and warm temperatures. For those of us just beginning to enjoy another winter’s chill, the onset of snow brings special beauty, outdoor adventure, and the fun explored in today’s book!

If Snowflakes Tasted Like Fruitcake

By Stacey Previn

 

Snowflakes gently fluttering down from a gray winter sky seem to tease “catch me if you can!” Perhaps it’s their similarity to coconut shavings or confectioners’ sugar sifted over a delicious cake that inspires us to stick our tongues out to taste those little white flakes. But what do they really taste like? And what if they tasted like other yummy foods? Stacey Previn explores that idea, starting with a winter favorite—“If snowflakes tasted like sugar plums…they’d be dancing in my head.” Or perhaps they are better for breakfast—“If snowflakes tasted like oatmeal…they would get me out of bed.”

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Image and text copyright Stacey Previn, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Maybe snowflakes would be better in a mug—“If snowflakes tasted like cocoa…they would warm me to my toes” Or if they came in whipped cream dollops, “they would tickle me on my nose.” Imagine “if snowflakes tasted like apples…” you could “bake them in a pie.” And “if snowflakes tasted like peppermint…” we’d “wish more fell from the sky.”

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Image and text copyright Stacey Previn, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Sometimes snowflakes twinkle like diamonds, but what if they were as shiny as gumdrops? Or imagine if they were as warm and soothing as noodle soup. Still, there is that title question: what “if snowflakes tasted like fruitcake?” Well, then, I’m afraid we “would give them all away.” So what is that special flavor that makes us stick out our tongues? “Winter,” of course!

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Image and text copyright Stacey Previn, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Stacey Previn offers up a whimsical, culinary menu of various taste sensations that might entice readers to eat up winter’s delicate, white morsels, including those above as well as honey, figs, chestnuts, gingerbread, popcorn, and marshmallows. Accompanying each verse are richly colored and wood-grain-textured folk-art illustrations that enhance the homey nature of the book. From verse to verse, a red-snowsuited child, joyful to wake to falling snow, imagines shaking snowflakes from tree branches, building a snowman and a snow choir, roasting snowflakes in a pan, catching snowflakes in a spoon, a net, a ladle, and more.

Kids who love playing in the snow—and for whom snowflakes are a delicacy—will delight in curling up with cup of hot chocolate and enjoying the sweet ideas and fanciful humor in this cozy wintertime book. Its sure to inspire kids to think up their own taste comparisons.

Ages 3 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801804

Discover more about Stacey Previn and her books on her website!

Winter Solstice Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mind-jar

Snowy Day Mind Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid

White glitter glue,

Light blue glitter glue,

Fine white and/or blue glitter

Large white and/or blue glitter

Warm water

Directions

1.For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tight

3. Shake

4. As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

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

November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Perhaps now—more than we’ve seen in a long time—the world needs a day of kindness. Today’s holiday was initiated in 1997 when a number of humanitarian groups made a Declaration of Kindness and dedicated themselves to paying goodness forward and sharing positivity. With so many ways to help our friends, neighbors, even strangers living both near and far away, it’s within each person’s grasp to make the world a better place for all. To learn more about World Kindness Day and ways that you can make a difference, visit Random Acts of Kindness.

Extra Yarn

Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Jon Klassen

 

In the dulled world of winter, “Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.” With it she knit herself a sweater, and because she had not run out of yarn, she knit a sweater for her dog, Mars, too. Afterwards, the two went for a walk, and Annabelle carried her box of yarn with her. They happened on Nate and his dog—dreary smudges against the monochrome landscape. “‘You two look ridiculous,’” Nate taunted. “‘You’re just jealous,’ said Annabelle.” Nate denied it, but after Annabelle knit him and his dog their own sweaters, they discovered she was right.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, text copyright Mac Barnett. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

These four sweaters hardly put a dent in the yarn in the box, so Annabelle took it to school. There, the kids in their dark, winter clothes couldn’t stop staring at and whispering about Annabelle. Their teacher, Mr. Norman, shouted for quiet. “‘Annabelle, that sweater of yours is a terrible distraction. I cannot teach with everyone turning around to look at you!’” Annabelle knew just what to do. The class—and even Mr. Norman—looked brighter with their new sweaters. “And when she was done, Annabelle still had extra yarn.”

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, text copyright Mac Barnett. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

She began knitting sweaters for everyone in town. Mr. Crabtree was the only exception. Since he wore shorts and a t-shirt in even the snowiest weather, Annabelle knit him a cap to keep his bald head warm. When all the people were snug, Annabelle fashioned sweaters for all the animals—from the tiniest birds to the biggest bears. “Soon, people thought, soon Annabelle will run out of yarn. But she didn’t. So Annabelle made sweaters for things that didn’t even wear sweaters.” Suddenly, the town was no longer drab and lifeless.

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Word spread about Annabelle and her endless box of yarn. People came from all over to meet her and see her sweaters. The news even reached a clotheshorse of an archduke, who sailed his ship into port and demanded to see Annabelle. He offered her one million dollars for her box of yarn, but Annabelle turned him down. He raised his offer to two million, but Annabelle shook her head. “‘Ten million!’ shouted the archduke. ‘Take it or leave it!’” “‘Leave it,’ said Annabelle. ‘I won’t sell the yarn.’”

That night the archduke sent robbers to steal Annabelle’s box of yarn, and when they had it, the archduke sailed away under the dark cover of night. In his shadowy castle, the shady archduke opened the box. It was empty. In a fit of rage, he flung the box out the window into the sea, cursing Annabelle with eternal unhappiness. But the box found its way onto an ice floe, and it rode the current back to Annabelle, who was forever after happy.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, text copyright Mac Barnett. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

Mac Barnett’s extraordinary story of a box of yarn and a little girl that keeps giving despite teasing, challenges, and attempts to strip her of her gift is an uplifting reminder that even the simplest of gestures can create profound change. With the lilt of a fairy tale but the anchors of reality, Barnett’s tale offers a universal lesson that children and adults can use their individual talents to improve their own lives and those of others. The title of the book may be Extra Yarn, but the question remains: is it the yarn or Annabelle who is special? The final scene proves that goodness and kindness always win out and will find its way back to the giver.

Jon Klassen’s brown, stolid town seems poised to suck readers in to its close, silent emptiness until Annabelle discovers the box of yarn and knits herself a rainbow to wear. With Mars similarly outfitted, they return to the somber outside. Annabelle, at first the only bright spot in the town and school, quickly transforms her classmates and neighbors into colorful individuals with sweaters as unique as they are. After the homes, buildings, mailboxes, and birdhouses acquire their own cozies, the town looks open and inviting. Once the archduke arrives on the scene, the pages turn dusky and gray, but there is one point of light: in the black, nighttime sea the little box floats on an icy raft that shines in the full moonlight.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, courtesy of macbarnett.com

Klassen adds plenty of visual humor here too, as when Mars tangles his yarn leash around a grove of trees, and the archduke demonstrates a penchant for monogramming all of his possessions. Kids will be delighted to see some of their favorite Klassen characters so dandily dressed, and the images of the students and townspeople connected by a leading thread of yarn may help them see that Annabelle not only knit them sweaters but made them a much closer-knit community as well.

Ages 3 – 8

Balzar + Bray, HarperCollins Childrens, 2012 | ISBN 978-0061953385

Want to see what other books Mac Barnett has written? Visit his website and find out!

You can find a gallery of picture books and other artwork by Jon Klassen on tumblr!

World Kindness Day Activity

CPB - Random Acts of Kindness cards

Kindness Cards to Share

 

It’s fun to surprise someone with an unexpected compliment! It makes the other person and you feel happier! Here are some printable Kindness Cards that you can give to anyone you meet today—or any day. If you’d like to write your own, here is a set of Blank Cards. You can give one to your teacher, librarian, favorite store clerk, your postal worker, your neighbors and friends, the person next to you on the bus or train. Or why not brighten someone’s day by leaving a note where they might find it—in a book at the library or bookstore, in a friend’s lunchbox, in your mailbox, on a store shelf, or anywhere you go!

Picture Book Reviews