November 6 – Marooned without a Compass Day

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About the Holiday

It may seem appropriate that the origins of this holiday are lost to history, like someone left to languish on a deserted island. But it’s true that—at some time or another—most of us feel marooned without a compass, flailing with decisions about what to do, who to confide in, even who we are. Today is an opportunity to reflect on the direction you are going in life and, if you find you are off course, to steer once more down the right path. It’s comforting to know that someone will be waiting for you when you reach home—wherever that may be.

In a Village by the Sea

Written by Muon Van | Illustrated by April Chu

 

High on a cliff a small house looks out over the sea, where fishermen are poling their craft and setting their nets. “In that house, high above the waves, is a kitchen.” In the kitchen a warm fire blazes under “a pot of steaming noodle soup.” A woman, preparing ingredients for dinner, watches, mixes, and stirs while the pot simmers.

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

“By that woman is a sleepy child, yawning and turning. By that child, tucked in the shadows, is a dusty hole.” If you peer into that hole, you will see something astounding—a brown cricket is “humming and painting.” The cricket, brushes in four hands is surrounded by paints contained in seashells. It is painting a “sudden storm, roaring and flashing.”

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

A white boat rides this roiling sea, rising and dipping with the crashing waves as lightning flashes ahead. Under the cover of the boat’s canvas roof a fisherman eyes the threatening sky and waits for the storm to end. In his hand he opens a precious box. Inside are two pictures: one of a small house high on a hill; the other of a smiling woman holding a little child while their dog looks on. Next to these sits a special cricket.

In the painting there is also a small house, and “in that house is a family waiting for [the fisherman] to come home.”

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

Muon Van’s lyrical tale expands and contracts through the eyes of family members to reveal not only the actions and emotions of one afternoon but those that eternally exist in each character’s heart. In the opening page readers view the small house from afar as the husband and father fisherman casts off on his journey. Children are then invited into the kitchen and finally into a small crevice.

Through the cricket’s tiny painting, readers once again see the wider world with its storms and worries. Narrowing the perspective to the fisherman’s view as he looks at his photo box, however, they understand that comfort and reassurance are always close at hand. As the next page zooms out, children are again invited into the little home to join the woman, baby, and vigilant dog as they gaze out into the bay, watching and waiting for one particular boat.

Van’s quiet and simple story holds much universal feeling as it traverses both homey and unpredictable landscapes. As each page depends on the previous one, a gentle suspense builds, enticing readers to follow wherever the story takes them. The inclusion of the “dusty hole,” where a cricket—a symbol of good luck—paints the rest of the story, is irresistible and lends the tale a mystical quality.

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

April Chu’s gorgeous paintings transport readers to a Vietnamese fishing village with their delicate and colorful details. The small home glows with the light of paper lanterns and the fire in the stove. As the perspective of the text changes, so does the perspective of Chu’s paintings. When readers peer into the soup pot, bubbling with delicious vegetables, the family’s Labrador gazes up at them, almost begging to know what smells so good. Another bird’s eye view lets kids watch as the dog discovers the hole under the rug, a beautiful device to increase their enjoyment of and wonderment at the story.

Kids will marvel at the cricket’s artistic talent, as the stormy sea churns with whitecaps and lightning flashes from the tip of the small creator’s paintbrush. But it is Chu’s mastery that makes each page so meaningful.

Ages 3 – 10

Creston Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1939547156

View a porfolio of picture books and other artwork by April Chu on her website!

Marooned without a Compass Day Activity

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Sailboat Maze

 

Sometimes getting through a maze is as smooth as sailing on a calm sea—and sometimes the path is a little choppy. Get your pencil ready and chart a path through this printable Sailboat Maze!

Picture Book Review

October 8 – World Octopus Day

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About the Holiday

With fossils dating back 300 million years, the octopus is one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating creatures. It’s also one of the smartest as more than 500 million neurons fire information through an octopus’s brain and arms, allowing them to learn from experience and solve problems. Octopuses are versatile and are found in all the world’s oceans. While most prefer warmer waters and living along the ocean floor, some species swim in shallower, cooler waters. Octopuses have an excellent sense of touch and sense of vision—some even see in color. They fool predators by hiding or camouflaging themselves but can defend themselves by shooting an inky substance at their pursuers. To celebrate today’s holiday, plan a visit to an aquarium or other sea life center!

Also an Octopus

Written by Maggie Tokuda-Hall | Illustrated by Benji Davies

 

“Every story starts with nothing.” But as you think about your story, you imagine a character. This character can be anyone or anything—maybe a little girl, or a bunny, or an octopus. Maybe even an octopus that plays the ukulele. Yes! Now, by itself that seems kind of boring, so the octopus has to want something like a sandwich or a friend. Hey! Didn’t you think of a little girl? Maybe she could be the friend. But wait! How about if the octopus wants a “totally awesome shining purple spaceship capable of intergalactic travel?”

Now there’s a story! It’s not? Oh…too short? Too ehh? What if the octopus builds the rocket ship from stuff around the house? Easy-peasy! Oh dear, it doesn’t work. It can’t even get off the ground. Maybe that bunny from your earlier imagination can help. I’m sure that rabbit is great at building rockets—carroty ones anyway. Not exactly what the octopus had in mind though, huh? What’s an octopus to do beside feel “heartbroken”…beside feel “despondent?”

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Image copyright Benji Davies, text copyright Maggie Takuda-Hall. Courtesy of candlewick.com

Maybe the octopus’s sorrows can be drowned in music. A few strums on the ukulele might be soothing. Not a bad idea! Doing this changes things completely! “People come to listen to the ukulele-playing octopus.” What a turn of events! Some of the people are rocket scientists who can help construct a spaceship and who “also play the saxophone, tambourine, trumpet, and lute!” Now this is getting interesting! “So what happens next?” Well, that is up to you!

But you say “I’ve got nothing”? That’s all you need—“because every story starts with the same thing: just a little bit of nothing.”

In Also an Octopus Maggie Tokuda-Hall encourages budding writers and other creative kids to trust their imaginations and let the ideas fly. With humor Tokuda-Hall demonstrates how characters, needs or wants, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution come together to make a whole story. Readers will see how one randomly chosen element can spark an entire work of art—one that is unique to its creator. Tokuda-Hall’s Octopus is a sweet, appealing character who just wants a spaceship (and a story) to take them wherever their heart desires.

Benji Davies’s adorable Octopus, sporting a red knit cap, immediately forms a bond with readers with sweet smiles, a determined work ethic, and a sad, dejected ukulele performance on a lonely curb. Davies’ vibrant purple, yellow, and orange palette highlights the gray octopus, making this would-be astronaut the star of each page. The rocket scientists who come to listen to, jam with, and help Octopus are a welcome diverse group of adults, and the final spreads show kids that with any object or idea, the sky’s the limit.

Ages 3 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763670849

Learn more about Maggie Tokuda-Hall and her work on her website!

You’ll discover a colorful world of illustration and kids books on Benji Davies’ website!

World Octopus Day Activity

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Cute Sock Octopus Craft

 

Who wouldn’t like to have a cute octopus for a pet? With this fast and easy craft you can make your own little cephalopod to hang out on your bed, your shelves, or on your desk!

Supplies

  • Child’s medium or large size sock, white or colored
  • Polyfiber fill, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Ribbon
  • 2 Small buttons
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue or strong glue

Directions

  1. Fill the toe of the sock with a handful of polyfiber fill
  2. Tie the ribbon tightly around the sock underneath the fiber fill to separate the head from the legs
  3. Tie the ribbon into a bow tie
  4. With the scissor cut up both sides of the sock almost to the ribbon
  5. Cut these two sections in half almost to the ribbon
  6. Cut the four sections in half almost to the ribbon
  7. Glue the eyes to the lower part of the head
  8. To display, set the octopus down and arrange the legs in a circle around the head

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You can find Also an Octopus at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 11 – Grandparents Day and Q&A with Author Ellen Mayer

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About the Holiday

In the early 1970s Marion McQuade had the idea for a special day of the year when grandparents and grandchildren could show their love for one another. She further wanted it to be a day when grandparents could pass down the wisdom they had gained over their lifetime as well as share a bit of family history. Of course the same goes for grandparents learning the latest and greatest from the kids in their lives—from new technology to current fads. When all generations share their experiences, we’re all a lot smarter—and have closer relationships!

Rosa’s Very Big Job

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

 

Rosa may be little, but she has big ideas about how to help. While Mama is out shopping for groceries for that night’s dinner, Rosa decides to surprise her by folding and putting away the laundry. The basket is piled high with fluffy dry clothes, sheets, and towels. Rosa watches her grandpa reading the newspaper. “‘Please help me, Grandpa!’” she says. She tugs on her grandpa’s hands, trying to pull him out of his chair. “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get up.”

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Grandpa seems to have a little trouble managing: “‘It’s difficult to carry these enormous piles,’” he sighs. But Rosa knows that smaller armloads work better. Grandpa’s clothes come unfolded as he puts them in the drawer. “‘Be neat. Like me,” Rosa says, showing him her tidy stack. Poor Grandpa! He has to keep hanging up the same jacket over and over. “‘It’s difficult to keep this jacket from sliding off the hanger,” he says. Rosa has the answer: “‘Zip it up,’” she explains. “‘Then it stays on.’”

Grandpa sinks back into his chair. “‘You are terrific at doing laundry, Rosa. And I am exhausted,’” he says. But this is no time to quit—Rosa has big plans. As she steps into the now empty laundry basket, she exclaims, “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get in the boat. Help me sail back to there.’” Rosa points to the linen closet.

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Suddenly, the floor swells with ocean waves teeming with fish. Grandpa channels his inner sailor as he holds aloft a sheet as a sail. As the wind billows and they come perilously close to the kitchen table, he says, “‘It’s difficult to sail around this enormous rock!’” Contemplating the rising sea, he exclaims, “‘It’s difficult to sail over this enormous wave!’”

There’s a dangerous storm ahead, warns Grandpa, “‘I can’t hold the sail in this strong wind.’” Rosa is there to help and grabs one side of the sheet. “‘Hold tight,’” she orders. “‘Use both hands.’” At last the seas die down and Grandpa is ready to steer the laundry basket back to port, but Rosa has a more entertaining thought. Spying a sock on the floor, Rosa wants to catch the “enormous fish.” Grandpa obliges and picks up a hangar for a fishing pole. He holds Rosa as she stretches out over the edge of the laundry basket to land her fish.

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Just as Rosa nabs the fish, Mama comes home with her bags of groceries. She’s surprised to see that the laundry is not in the basket. Rosa runs to her and proudly explains, “‘We put all the laundry away. It was a very big job. We carried enormous piles. Grandpa dropped things. And I picked them up. It was very difficult for Grandpa. He got exhausted. But not me. I am terrific at laundry!’” Mama agrees that Rosa is a terrific helper. Then Rosa leads her mother to see the most surprising thing of all—the fish she has caught for dinner!

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In her series of Small Talk Books® Ellen Mayer presents exciting stories for preschoolers full of imagination and rich language learning. Rosa’s Very Big Job introduces Rosa, a sweet girl bubbling with enthusiasm and the desire to help. The close relationships between Rosa, her mother, and her grandpa promote cooperation as well as effective modeling of speech patterns and a way to introduce larger words in an organic manner through play and common chores. Rosa’s inventive idea to turn the laundry basket into a boat is delightfully enhanced by her grandpa’s willingness to share in the story and expand on it. Humor, cheerful banter, and the easy camaraderie between Rosa and Grandpa invite young readers to join in the fun as they build confidence in their language learning.

Sarah Vonthron-Laver depicts Rosa’s afternoon with her Grandpa with joy and the spirited energy young children bring to everything they do. Grandpa is happy to spend time with his granddaughter, yet shows honest feelings of tiredness and frustration that spur on the plot. The transition from doing laundry to using the basket as a boat is as seamless as a child’s imagination, and the way Rosa and her grandpa use household items to create “sails,” “rocks,” “fish,” and “fishing poles” will give readers great ideas for post-reading play. Bright colors, an adorable kitten, and familiar surroundings welcome young children into the world of reading and expanded vocabulary.

Rosa’s Very Big Job would be a welcome addition to a young child’s bookshelf, not only for its fun story that kids will want to hear again and again, but for its leap into imagination that kids will want to replicate.

Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development, provides tips for parents, grandparents, and caregivers following the text.

Ages 2 – 6

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727497

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as book-related activities and literacy initiatives she’s involved with on her website!

Find Sarah Vonthron-Laver on Facebook!

Grandparents Day Activity

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Original illustrations by Saran Vonthron-Laver, Copyrights © 2016 Star Bright Books. Paper dolls created by AislingArt and Celebrate Picture Books, copyrights © 2016

Rosa’s Very Big Job Paper Dolls

Rosa loves helping out at home. She’s terrific at doing laundry – folding and putting away the family’s clothes, socks, and linens. You are terrific at helping too! Can you help Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa get dressed and ready for the day with these printable paper dolls? You’ll even find a laundry basket, socks, and Rosa’s sweet kitty to play with! 

Supplies

Printable Paper Dolls, Clothes, and Extras

  • Heavy stock paper and/or poster board
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Print dolls on regular paper or heavy stock paper. Dolls printed on heavy stock paper may stand on their own with the supplied stand cross piece. For dolls printed on regular paper, you can cut the supplied stand templates from poster board or card stock and glue the dolls to the backing.
  2. Rosa’s kitty and the laundry basket can also be attached to the supplied template if needed
  3. Print clothes for each figure
  4. Color the blank clothes templates any way you’d like
  5. Cut out clothes and extra items
  6. Fit outfits onto dolls
  7. Make up your own stories about Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa!

Interview with Author Ellen Mayer

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Today, I’m happy to present a fascinating interview with Ellen Mayer, a writer and expert in early literacy, in which she discusses her involvement with various organizations and programs, her baby granddaughter, why Hug Your Cat Day is at the top of her list of holidays, and gives us a peek at a very special sugar egg.

I’m really interested in your work in the education and literacy fields. Could you talk a little bit about your job as an education researcher and an early literacy home visitor, and how you got into those fields?

I got into these fields after leaving a Sociology PhD program right near the end.  I didn’t want to be an academic and teach, I wanted to do applied research – to solve practical problems out in the world and to make a difference in the lives of those who were struggling. At the Harvard Family Research Project at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, I studied the ways that families from underserved communities were engaged in supporting their children’s learning and education, and created research-based materials for families and schools to promote effective engagement. One of these was the Family Involvement Storybook Corner—curated picture book selections with family engagement themes. That got me interested in early literacy and picture books.

After researching family engagement in children’s learning for many years, I decided I wanted to go out into the field and be a practitioner and work directly with families on this topic. I worked as an early literacy home visitor with diverse families with the Parent-Child Home Program, modeling ways to share stories with little ones to build early language. I actually got paid to read picture books and play with families in their homes!

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At the same time, I was pitching my Small Talk Books®, a collection of playful stories about everyday activities that provide fun for kids and ideas for adults – Rosa’s Very Big Job is one. The adults in the stories are engaged with children’s learning, modeling conversational ways to build young children’s language.

I read that your book Red Socks, another of the Small Talk Books®, is being used in a program to turn wash time at Laundromats into talk time for literacy development. Could you discuss this early literacy initiative?

Yes! Wash Time/Talk Time is a terrific campaign led by Too Small To Fail, a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and the Opportunity Institute teaming up with a host of partners to turn Laundromats in underserved areas into venues for early literacy. This campaign distributes free books and information to families in Laundromats about building early language to help close what’s called the “word gap” by promoting parent conversation with babies and young children. Almost 60% of children in our country start kindergarten behind in their language development and this then sets them on a downward path and they get even further behind in school.

Red Socks was a natural fit for this program. In it a Mama narrates what she is doing for her little pre-verbal child as she folds the laundry and dresses the child—and as they search for a missing sock!

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Illustration © 2015 by Ying-Hwa Hu, text © 2015 Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books

I have to say that it’s a dream come true that Too Small To Fail is using my book.

Wash Time/Talk Time is really reaching the families on the other side of the word gap who most need the ideas and inspiration in Red Socks. When I began writing the Small Talk Books® I wanted to include stories about doing laundry, as it’s something we all do as parents and provides lots of things to talk about with children. (Like the color of socks!) In fact, I used to sit in Laundromats and observe families when I was thinking up ideas for stories. I guess that’s the sociologist in me.

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We just had the opportunity to visit one of the Laundromats in the campaign—at the Free Laundry Day in Tampa, FL hosted by The Laundry Project—and share Red Socks with families. You can see some of the fun illustrator Ying-Hwa Hu and I had here: 

What inspired you to begin writing picture books?

I came to picture book writing through a backdoor. When I was at Harvard Family Research Project, I was thinking about new ways to convey our ideas from research into practice for parents, and it occurred to me that a read-aloud picture book could address an audience of parents, as well as the primary one of children. My boss was enthusiastic about the idea, and so I enrolled in an adult ed class on writing for children. Then I turned one of our research case studies about challenges an immigrant Latino family had in communicating with their son’s teacher into a picture book, Tomasito’s Mother Comes to School/La mamá de Tomasito visita la escuela. Joe Cepeda did the art for it, and we made it downloadable for free.

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Illustration ©2007 Joe Cepeda

What’s up for you next?

Some new things! I have a fellowship with the Storytelling Math Project that’s funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation and coordinated by TERC, a not-for profit STEM research and development organization here in Cambridge, MA. I’ll be a member of a group that’s identifying, creating, and promoting math-infused storybooks for diverse young children and I hope to create a couple of Small Talk Books® along these lines—probably about supermarket shopping! I also was asked to help out the Highlights magazine editorial team that creates HELLO magazine for 0-2 years and be an outside reviewer for issues before they go to publication. And then I’ll be volunteering as a visiting children’s book author to the Somerville Family Learning Collaborative, the family engagement and early childhood hub of the Somerville, MA Public Schools, sharing my books with playgroups and new parent groups.  

But mostly, I plan to write! I have a bunch of picture book manuscripts in various states, and ideas for new ones. These manuscripts are different from the Small Talk Books®; they don’t have a deliberate educational underpinning to them. They are fun, and just fun. One, for example, is called What To Do With Ruby-Lou and it’s about a baby who doesn’t laugh, no matter what her family does. Who is going to be able to get a laugh out of Lou? Well, it’s a surprise and it just might require some audience participation. I’ve had an agent in the past and hope to find a new one to rep me with these picture books.

You recently became a grandmother. Can you tell me a little about your granddaughter?

I thought our granddaughter was the most wonderful and expressive baby in the world when was she born – of course! She and my advance copy of the new Rosa book arrived into the world at just about the same time.

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At three months now my granddaughter is a big reader and is riveted on the B&W hi-contrast board book genre, especially one board book about cars and trucks. She moves her head back and forth, from one end of the spread to the other, scanning the images on the page like a studious scholar of some ancient text.

What is the best part about being a grandmother?

For me the best part about being a grandmother is being able to simply enjoy my granddaughter and play with her and watch her develop, and not have to worry about taking care of her daily needs. I didn’t have to stress when she refused to take the bottle before starting full-day childcare. That wasn’t my job. (She did take it – of course!) They live nearby, and seeing her once or twice a week, I love noticing small changes on each visit. I also love seeing our daughter and son-in-law parent.

Have you given thought to what you’d like your granddaughter to call you?

Our daughter asked us ahead of time what we’d like to be called when we became grandparents. I thought it was a wise idea to be proactive and select a name immediately, to avoid being named by the grandchild something like “Grandma GA-GOO-GA.” My great aunt Jane is called “Nini” as a grandmother, and I’ve always loved that, but I didn’t want to steal it. So I chose “Mimi.”

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It sounds as if Grandparents Day may be one of your top holidays! Do you have another favorite?

When I was little, I liked Easter a lot because it combined a lot of my favorite things: crafts, springtime, running around outside, candy. Also, we didn’t dress up much as kids, but I do remember Easter bonnets!

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When our children were little, their birthdays became my favorite holiday celebrations. Now that they are grown, maybe I need to pick a new favorite holiday? I see that June 4th is Hug Your Cat Day. That might be just right: we have a rather large and ferocious cat and when she actually lets you hug her, well, it’s a cause for celebration.

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Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

When I was six years old, I saw the Easter Bunny. I was staying at my Grandparents’ house, and I looked down the stairwell, and there he was, crossing the landing at the foot of the stairs. He was quite tall, wore a yellow slicker that was too small for him, and he was carrying a large Easter basket. I’m afraid I didn’t have my Brownie camera with me at the time to snap a photo.

But I do have an unwrapped sugar Easter egg that I’ve saved from that era.

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Thanks for sharing so much about your work and life, Ellen! I wish you all the best with Rosa’s Very Big Job, your other Small Talk Books®, and of all your other ventures!

You can also find Ellen Mayer on Facebook and Twitter

Rosa’s Very Big Job can be found at

Star Bright Books | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Other Small Talk Books® available from Ellen Mayer and Star Bright Books include Cake Day, Red Socks, and A Fish to Feed and can also be found at the above booksellers.

Visit Ellen Mayer on her:

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Picture Book Review

September 9 – It’s National Courtesy Month

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About the Holiday

September has been designated as National Courtesy Month to remind us that good manners and watching out for others, goes a long way toward making the world a more cooperative and happy place. Sometimes common courtesy is as black and white as directly following the rules…but sometimes…well, I’ll let you decide…

The Black and White Factory

Written by Eric Telchin | Illustrated by Diego Funck

 

You are one lucky reader! You have won a tour of the Black and White Factory where the employees are hard at work making products like checkerboards, dice, tuxedos…you know the stuff. Even the bosses—a panda and a penguin—are in black and white. Before you start your tour, you’re met by a zebra foreman who goes over the rules of the factory. And they are these:

“No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed.” When? “Ever.”

As you proceed inside your first stop is the billiard ball machine—8 balls only, of course! It doesn’t take you long to be ushered into the “top-secret Experiment Room,” where innovative products are being developed. You may be the first ever to see “trick dominoes that are impossible to knock over” and new black-and-white-paint in either checkerboard or polka-dot. Another prototype displayed on a wall chart is “never-melting vanilla ice cream.” Also prominently displayed are the factory’s rules: “No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed. Ever.”

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Image copyright Diego Funck, text copyright Eric Telchin, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Moving on you push the button leading to the Animal Room. Housed here are white Dalmatians, dairy cows, and skunks who are being sprayed with their distinctive black marks. An elevator takes you to the Bar Code Room. While waiting for your car, you are exhorted to remember the rules: “No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed. Ever.” The Bar Code Room is “the cleanest, most perfect, most black and white room in the whole factory. Every bar code in the world is make right here.” Even the one for the book you’re reading! Turn it over and see!

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Image copyright Diego Funck, text copyright Eric Telchin, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“Wait!” Wait!! Turn the book back! A stripe of yellow has seeped into the factory! “Someone didn’t follow the rules. Someone brought an outside mess into the Black and White Factory.” The bosses need your help! Can you “use your fingers to wipe the color off the bar code?” Oh, no, no, no! That just made it worse—now it’s smudged yellow and orange! “Quick! Do something! Rub the colors with your sleeve. Or your elbow. Something.”

We interrupt this review to remind you of the RULES: “No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed. Ever.” Right, then, back to our dilemma. Now the colors are dripping! It’s such a mess! Suddenly, the zebra has an idea. He asks you to “hold the book upright and tilt it so the color drips down the bottom of the page.” Okay—phew!—great job!

Oh, no!! More colors are creeping in! “Swirl the book so the colors fly off the page,” the penguin orders. You are one strong swirler—the zebra, penguin, and panda are all topsy-turvy, and now the factory looks like an abstract painting! This definitely is not good. “What a mess! The Black and White Factory is ruined.” But the panda may have an idea. Everyone, “back to the top-secret Experiment Room.” There the panda, zebra, and penguin, splattered in paint, stand in front of the “Air-powered comprehensive cleaning contraption.” They just need your help in getting it started. Can you blow into the nozzle? Harder? Come on, put some oomph into it! All right!

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Image copyright Diego Funck, text copyright Eric Telchin, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The machine’s at 100% power! The machine shakes and whirrs with a color overload. It explodes with a rainbow of colors that covers everything in the factory. The panda, zebra, and penguin stand in the midst of it. “Everything is so…different,” says the panda. “It’s…colorful…,” adds the penguin. “And wonderful!” concludes the zebra. There’s just one problem…The RULES: “No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed. Ever.” Hmmmm….

How about: “No Messes, No Colors, No Surprises Allowed. ForEver.”

Yes! Much better! So “that concludes the Best. Tour. Ever!” Off you go—just don’t forget the rules: “Messes, Colors, Surprises Allowed. Forever.”

Eric Telchin’s The Black and White Factory will have kids tipping, tilting, swinging, and even reading this fun and funny interactive picture book. Directly addressing the reader, the three staid and rule-abiding managers of a very focused factory, play straight-man to the child’s laugh inducing and unintentional “mistakes” that lead to a brighter future. With the pacing of a favorite theme-park ride, the story has a suspenseful “Oh, no! What’s going to happen?” feeling as readers progress from page to page until the first tinge of yellow precipitates the humorous chaos to come.

Diego Funck’s sly illustrations riff on the black-and-white theme, as he designed a clever product line in line with “the rules.” Kids will want to linger over the pages to catch all the jokes and visual puns. The reactions of the three employees of The Black and White Factory will make readers laugh too as they endeavor to hang on to their beloved rules in the midst of their changing world. The bold colors of the transformed factory are as refreshing as the sun after a dark, rainy day.

The theme that creativity and expression come from making messes and allowing surprises to happen is a welcome idea and one that leads to innovation and personal freedom. The Black and White Factory is sure to be asked for again and again!

Ages 4 – 7

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499802771

Learn more about Eric Telchin on his websites – erictelchin.com and boyseeshearts.com

To view a portfolio of Diego Funck’s artwork, visit his website!

National Courtesy Month Activity

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Let Your Colors Shine Through! Craft

 

With this easy-to-make craft you can show your colors and your creativity!

Supplies

  • Heavy stock paper
  • Crayons, a variety of colors and black

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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-black-and-color-crayon-craft-black-crayon

Directions

  1. Color the paper with blocks, stripes, or splotches of color
  2. Cover the colored paper entirely with the black crayon
  3. Scrape a design in the black crayon, exposing the colors beneath

Picture Book Review

September 7 – Buy a Book Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2012 Buy a Book Day promotes an appreciation for physical paperback and hardbound books. Whether you’re cracking open a brand new release or gently turning the pages in a well-worn volume, holding an actual book in your hands is an unforgettable connection between you, the author, and another world—real or imaginary. Today, drop into your local bookstore and peruse the shelves—you’ll be sure to find a fascinating book to buy.

A Child of Books

By Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

 

A little girl sits on a log raft with a parchment sail, dangling her feet into the water that swirls around her legs in an eddy made of words that read: “Once upon a time there was a child who loved to read…,” while the rest of the words disperse and float away. In fact, the girl is reading now—a book with a keyhole in the middle. “I am a child of books,” she reveals. “I come from a world of stories.” The wind catches the sail of her raft and the girl is off on an adventure, rising and dipping with the cresting letters that make up waves coming from the deeper sea of straight lines of excerpted text from classics including The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and Kidnapped.

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

The waves bring her to shore, where riding atop one she towers over a small boy. The girl asks if he will sail away with her. He peers into the window of his house where his father sits reading the newspaper. Headlines announce “Serious Stuff,” “Facts,” “Important Things,” and “Business.” And indeed just a glance at the articles will inform readers that “A group of serious people passed on concerns about a serious document that has been lost by a serious organization….”; that “Scientists have discovered a new fact. In one test, nearly half the subjects proved the fact, it was revealed….”; and that “an important company is to stop producing some important stuff by later this year. It said no one wanted this particular bit of important stuff.” The father’s glasses glint with numbers that rim the frames like tears.

The girl says that “some people have forgotten” where she lives, but that she can lead him on the way. The two follow a path of words from Alice in Wonderland, and the boy watches worriedly as the girl confidently climbs down a hole in the lines. There is more climbing to be done, however, and the girl, in her blue and white sailor dress, holds the boys hand as they traverse mountains made of Peter Pan that reach into the sky. By the time the friends row their dinghy into a dark cave created from the story of Treasure Island and discover a wooden chest, the boy is eager and excited for the journey.

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

The girl and boy play hide-and-seek among tall trees made of books, where titles and lines of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red-Cap, The Golden Goose, Tom Thumb, and more jut out as leaf-covered branches. They leave the woods and come to a haunted castle that is being attacked by a monster made dark and hairy with the words of Frankenstein and Dracula. This time the boy holds a line of Rapunzel as the girl deftly shimmies to the top of a turret.

Tuckered out, the pair of friends ascend ladders to clouds of lullabies and drift into dreamland where they stand on the moon so they can “shout as loud as we like in space.” But perhaps it is not the moon but, instead, their own imaginary world made of color and characters, palaces and possibilities where stories may end but creativity lives on because “we’re made from stories…” and “our house is a home of invention.”

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

If any book invites readers to linger over the intricacies of its pages, A Child of Books is it. A perfect combination of Oliver Jeffers’ homage to the power of storytelling and Sam Winston’s artistry with typography, A Child of Books summons readers of all ages to leave the weariness of the “serious” world and enter the realm of the imagination.

The lilting lines of Oliver Jeffers’ prose poem flow with the stream of consciousness that allows thinkers to journey to nooks and crannies, participate in majestic vistas, and create the unknown of their own fancies. In Sam Winston’s hands sentences and paragraphs describing classic sea voyages swell into waves; lines from other classics crowd in upon each other, solidifying into a hidden inlet or forming a horned creature; and soft yellowed pages return to replicate the trees they once were. In the end a rainbow of characters spin out from a revolving globe, depicting our full color world.

Maps laid out by the storytellers of the past may show us routes to take but as A Child of Books reveals, there is so much white space yet to be discovered. For bibliophiles young and old, A Child of Books makes a beautiful gift and will be a welcome addition to personal library shelves.

Ages 4 and up

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763690779

Visit Oliver Jeffers’ website to view his wide-ranging work in picture books, paintings, film, and more. You can follow a paper airplane to fun games based on his picture books in Oliver Jeffers’ World.

To see the unique perspective of Sam Winston, view his books, projects, and archives on his website!

Watch the Child of Books book trailer!

 

Buy a Book Day Activity

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I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy List

 

Do you love to read? Do you have a wish list of books you want to read next? Me too! Use this printable I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy sheet to keep track of those great book ideas.

August 24 – It’s Get Ready for Kindergarten Month

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About the Holiday

One of the rights of passage for children going to school for the first time (or starting the next grade) is shopping for new clothes and supplies. These include pencils, paper, folders, three-ring binders, lunchboxes, and the backpacks to store it all in as well as a few new shirts, a couple pairs of pants, and maybe a jacket to take kids into the cooler weather. And of course a trip to the shoe store is paramount for those fast-growing feet! If only shopping could be as exciting as it is for the little boy in today’s book. With a little imagination it can be!

Secret Agent Man Goes Shopping for Shoes

Written by Tim Wynne-Jones | Illustrated by Brian Won

 

S.A.M. has an important missions to complete. He is “digging for the Lost City of Raisins…tracking down the treacherous green spitting bug…balancing on high places…and stealing home”—all while K is hanging out the laundry. K looks at S.A.M sitting on the ground with his box of raisins and says, “‘You need new shoes.’” And it’s true. S.A.M.’s red shoes are tattered and scuffed, and his toes are even poking out of the sole.

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

On the way downtown, S.A.M tells K that he can’t decide between rocket shoes and vanishing shoes as he reads a document titled Plans for World Domination. At the store they are met by a clerk carrying a tall stack of boxes. He assures the pair that he’ll help them in a minute, but with his eagle eyes S.A.M. thinks the “Shoe Store Man looks shifty and orders his agents to “‘frisk him.’” The Shoe Store Man turns out to be okay, and S.A.M. tries on lots of shoes. He finally settles on a pair with tiger stripes, and K gets the same for herself.

Time for lunch? “‘ROAR,’” answers S.A.M. All the shoe buying and secret agent prowling has made S.A.M. hungry. “He orders the double buffalo burger with a side of snakes and an electron float. “‘We are matching tigers,’” he says to K. K pokes her fork into a snake fry. “‘ROAR,’” she says.

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

The bus ride home is fraught with danger as S.A.M. foils an attempt by a spy in a stroller to steal the Plans for World Domination. “‘Phew! That was close,’” K says. The stairs to the front door seem unusually steep and tiring, and S.A.M is feeling “whoozy.” There’s only one explanation, he decides: his electron float must have been spiked. S.A.M drifts off into a short nap where he dreams of “beautiful poisonous butterflies and dangerous inflatable frogs.”

Later he has a secret meeting with Agent Coyote, Agent Ted, and Agent Pig. Their mission is to decode the Plans for World Domination by three o’clock. S.A.M. then goes looking for K. He can’t find her anywhere—not in the Chamber of Silence (the closet), not in the Holding Cell of Dispair (the bathroom), not in the Torture Chamber (the piano room), and not in the Rocket Silo (the utility closet). She’s not even in the Darkest Valley of Doom (the basement). Just then S.A.M. hears thunder.

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

S.A.M. grabs his new orange and black striped shoes, ties up the laces and races to the rescue with the speed of a tiger. K is outside “bringing in the clouds.” Some are being torn away by the wind, and S.A.M. makes a flying leap to save them. As the storm rages outside, S.A.M. and K relax inside with “steaming mugs of lava topped with dollops of candied gardenia and pearls” while discussing S.A.M.’s latest mission. It’s lucky, he says that his “Team of Expert Spies warned him about the storm.”

K recognizes the group “‘T.O.E.S.,’” she says. S.A.M. concurs. “‘We’re ready for anything.’” And indeed they are—in fact S.A.M. has even learned to ties his own tiger shoes. “‘ROAR!’”

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Image copyright Brian Won, courtesy of brianwon.com

Tim Wynne-Jones channels every kid’s dream of being a spy in this funny send up of an ordinary day of shopping and doing laundry. Using clever acronyms and a full dose of imagination, Wynne-Jones turns raisins into gemstones, French fries into snakes, fluffy laundry into clouds, and a boy into a secret agent man with tiger shoes and abilities. K is a supportive sidekick, encouraging S.A.M’s ingenuity and quick thinking and playing along with his day-brightening shenanigans. S.A.M.’s names for the various rooms in the house will make kids laugh, and they will also love his sweet little boy alter-ego.

Brian Won deftly and humorously shifts between S.A.M.’s secret missions and his reality, depicting S.A.M.’s imaginary world in blue, black, and white and his real world in vivid color. Crafty juxtapositions include an image of the Shoe Store Man, his arms loaded with boxes and his face peeping between them on the left-hand page while on the right-hand page, S.A.M. in his spy gear shuffles along a wall of shoe-display shelves where two illuminated eyes search the darkness. Another occurs when S.A.M and K are having lunch. The top two-thirds of the two-page spread is cloaked in darkness, snakey French fries, an exploding drink, and cool costumes while the lower third shows their regular clothes and new matching tiger sneakers. The tiger unleashed by the new shoes is a vibrant flash in this book that moves as smoothly between life and fancy as a wild cat on the chase.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763671198

Check out Tim Wynne-Jones’ website for a vast array of books and other fun stuff!

A gallery of work by Brian Won is awaiting you on his website!

Get Ready for Kindergarten Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shoe-lace-craft

Coolee-o-lee Shoe Laces

 

It’s fun and easy to design your own shoe laces for your favorite sneakers or boots or even for tying up hair styles, decorating your room, or you name it!

Supplies

  • White or colorful shoe laces, wide
  • Fabric paint or markers

Directions

  1. Draw or paint special designs or figures on the shoe laces
  2. Let dry
  3. Wear with pride!

Picture Book Review

July 8 – Cow Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

The cow is a moo-st amazing animal! Its importance to the world cannot be overstated. It has sustained humankind throughout history and even played an integral part in the defeat of small pox. It was discovered that most milk maids did not get small pox because they regularly contracted cow pox (a less virulent cousin of small pox) and built an immunity to the more serious disease. From this revelation, a vaccine for small pox was developed, saving thousands of lives every year.

Cows, with their gentle demeanor and soft, brown eyes, have always been beloved picture book characters. My own early favorite was the classic The Story of Ferdinand written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson. The author/illustrator of today’s book carries on that cherished tradition.

The Cow Who Climbed a Tree

By Gemma Merino

 

Tina is a very unique cow. Unlike her sisters who are only interested in “fresh and juicy grass,” Tina is very curious and always inventing new ideas. Her sisters proclaim her notions “‘Impossible! Ridiculous! And Nonsense!’” One day while exploring the woods, Tina decides to climb a tree. Branch by branch she swings herself to the top. Up there among the owls and squirrels Tina discovers a dragon—a friendly one, and a vegetarian to boot!

“All afternoon they talked about wonderful dreams and incredible stories.” Tina is excited to tell her sisters, but when she gets home they aren’t impressed. The whole idea of cows climbing trees and dragons is “‘Impossible! Ridiculous! And Nonsense!’” The next morning Tina never shows up for breakfast. Her sisters find a note that reads “Gone flying with the Dragon of the Woods.”

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Image copyright Gemma Merino, courtesy of gemmamerino.blogspot.com

Her sisters decided this nonsense has to stop, so they head out to find her. As they leave behind their familiar farmland and enter the forest, they can’t believe how beautiful it is. Suddenly a pig wearing a backpack dashes past them and shimmies up a tree. Even though they consider this “impossible,” one sister follows the pig. The others join her. From a treetop branch they three find that “the world beyond the fields was extraordinary.”

Still, Tina is nowhere to be found. The sisters look left, right, down, and up. Up! “It was impossible. It was ridiculous. It was nonsense. But it was true! Tina was flying!” She and other animals are taking flying lessons from the dragon, and while they don’t have wings, they soar just fine with a little help. From her lofty place, Tina asks her sisters to join her, and they say something she has never heard before: “Yes, why not?” They float, drift, and glide in the sunlit sky, and ever afterward find that nothing is “impossible, ridiculous, or nonsense.” Now all four sisters can’t wait to see what else is possible.

Gemma Merino’s mooving tribute to people who live and dream large will inspire young children to reach for the treetops and beyond. The plucky heroine who doesn’t cower under her sisters’ reproach is a confident and likable role model, happy to include her sisters when they finally see the light. Merino’s sweet, soft-hued illustrations humorously depict the dichotomy between the sisters’ grass-focused existence and Tina’s vivid imagination. The cows’ home has sage green walls, furniture, and floors. The pictures on the walls, the flowerpot on the windowsill, and the planter are all full of various types of vegetation, and the jars in the pantry contain such ingredients as Pickled Leaves, Meadow Mix, Dried Petals, and Herbal Tea. But Tina’s imagination and the forest she loves to visit are infused with reds, ambers, blues, and teals; even the greens are more brilliant. For anyone contemplating the unknown, The Cow Who Climbed a Tree is rousing fun!

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807512982

To learn more about Gemma Merino and her books visit her website!

Cow Appreciation Day Activity

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Cud-dly Cows Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These two farms may seem identical, but if you look closely, you’ll find eleven differences that make them unique. Print your Cud-dly Cows Puzzle here!