January 10 – It’s International Quality of Life Month and Q & A with Deborah Sosin

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About the Holiday

How one achieves their definition of a good quality of life may differ for every person, but in general it encompasses being happy and satisfied with one’s relationships, work, living conditions, and self. Whether you find happiness and quality of life in outdoor or indoor pursuits, with others or alone, at work or at home, this month’s holiday gives you time to get in touch with your inner quiet place and reflect on changes or improvements to bring you more peace and happiness in life.

Charlotte and the Quiet Place

Written by Deborah Sosin | Illustrated by Sara Woolley

 

Charlotte is a girl who likes quiet who lives in a noisy world. Everywhere she goes, it seems, it’s impossible to escape from sounds that disturb her peace. At home the hallway creaks where “the floorboards groan,” the living room is like an arcade where the “TV bellows and blares,” and the kitchen is filled with Otto’s barks for his dinner. Even in Charlotte’s bedroom, “which is supposed to be a quiet place, the old steam radiator hisses, whistles, and whines. Where can Charlotte find a quiet place?”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

When Charlotte goes to school, things are no better. In the classroom kids are boisterous and bells ring; the lunchroom echoes with clattering trays and scuffing chairs; and the playground blares with big voices and stomping feet but also with the little squeaks and rattle of the swings. “Even in the library, which is supposed to be a quiet place, the children giggle, yammer, and yell. Where can Charlotte find a quiet place?”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

The outside world resounds with the din of jackhammers, horns, sirens, shouts, cars, music, and the “screeches, rumbles, and roars” of the subway. “Even in the park, which is supposed to be a quiet place, the leaf blower buzzes, blusters, and hums.” Charlotte puts her hands to her ears. “‘Nooo!’” she cries, “‘I have to find a quiet place!’”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

On Saturday Charlotte takes her dog for a walk in the park. Suddenly, Otto spies a squirrel and takes off running, wrenching his leash out of Charlotte’s hand. She chases after him down a hill, over a bridge, into the middle of a grove of trees. Out of breath, Charlotte and Otto sit beneath a tree. Gasping, Charlotte’s “belly rises up and down, up and down. Her breath goes in and out, in and out. Hooooo ahhhhh. Hooo ahhh.”

Slowly, Charlotte’s breath comes easier and “her mind slows down.” In this state, she discovers another, even quieter place. It is a place deep inside where her breath is soft and her “thoughts are hushed and low.” It is “a place as quiet as the small silence on the very last page of her favorite book, the silence right after ‘The End.’”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

In a little while, Charlotte and Otto leave the grove, but now whenever home or school or the neighborhood is too loud, Charlotte remembers where she can find a quiet place. She simply closes her eyes and pays attention to that place deep in her belly and deep in her mind—“that quiet place inside.”

For so many children the world is a blaring, clattering place where their thoughts are drowned out by the noises around them. Deborah Sosin’s award-winning Charlotte and the Quiet Place validates these feelings and offers children a way to discover inner peace wherever they are. As a tonic to today’s hyper-stimulated environment, kids and adults alike will benefit from the method of mindful reflection Sosin presents. Sosin’s combination of evocative verbs and repetition makes the story fresh and an excellent read-aloud while also mirroring the sounds that are a part of our everyday life.

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

Sara Woolley’s beautiful watercolor illustrations vividly depict not only Charlotte’s world but the sounds that disturb her peace. Amid the fully realized home, school, and neighborhood environments, complete with realistic details kids will recognize, sharp cracks of equipment, blaring bells and whistles, high-pitched voices, and other noises spark the page. Portrayals of Charlotte, her hands over her ears and her eyes sad, express her distress in a way kids will understand. When Charlotte finds the grove of trees in which she first experiences inner peace, Woolley’s color palette turns softer, with peaceful tones of green, blue, and yellow where, previously, “louder” purples, reds, and golds predominated.

Charlotte and the Quiet Place is a very welcomed book for those times when peace seems elusive and will give comfort to children who prefer quiet places and have more introverted natures. The book would make a wonderful addition to all children’s book shelves as well as to school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Parallax Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1941529027

Visit Charlotte and the Quiet Place on her own webstite! You’ll find resources, images and videos, news about events, and more!

Discover more about Deborah Sosin, her writing for children and adults, writing workshops, mindfulness services, and more on her website!

View a gallery of artwork for books, comics,  and other illustration work by Sara Woolley on her website!

International Quality of Life Activity

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Share a Smile Cards

 

Life is better when you share smiles with those you know—and those you don’t! Try it! When you’re out today at school or other places, look someone in the eye and smile. You’ll probably get a smile back—and you can be sure that you will have made the other person’s and your day better!

Here are some Smile Cards that you can share. Why not slip one into your dad’s pocket or your mom’s purse, put one in your friend’s backpack, or sneak one onto your teacher’s desk? You can even leave one somewhere for a stranger to find! Have fun sharing your smiles, and see how much better you and the others around you feel!

Click here to print your Share a Smile Cards.

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Photo by Kevin Day Photography

Q&A with Author Deborah Sosin

 

Today, I’m thrilled to talk with Debbie Sosin, a writer, editor, and clinical social worker who specializes in mindfulness-based psychotherapy, about her first picture book, her choral singing, and how kids respond to her presentations.

In your career you write for adults and children, work within the publishing industry, provide publicity services, and teach. How did you get started? Did you always want to write?

I kept a diary starting at around age ten and always loved writing for school or for fun. I started getting more serious about writing for publication in the past ten years, studied at GrubStreet, attended the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and eventually went back to school to get an MFA in Creative Writing. I wish I had started earlier, but it’s been rewarding to finally follow my true passion.

What influenced you to write Charlotte and the Quiet Place?

I wrote the book as an independent project as part of my MFA studies at Lesley University. They say “write what you know,” so I thought about my childhood growing up in kind of a noisy house, where my brother played the piano, my father had a radio and TV on simultaneously, and my mother was on the phone a lot. And then I thought about my longtime meditation practice and how tuning in to my breathing has helped me find a quiet place inside. So I wanted to write a story about children finding their own quiet place inside themselves.

You give school presentations on mindfulness and your picture book Charlotte and the Quiet Place for various ages. Is there an experience from any of these that you would like to share?

School visits are my favorite part of being an author! No matter what age the students are, they love to help me tell the story by repeating the “noisy” sounds and the “hoo ahh” breathing sounds. We usually do a few calming/breathing exercises together and, without fail, even the squirmiest group will settle into a beautiful, shared, often profound silence. Once, when asked where Charlotte finds her quiet place, one kindergarten girl said, “In her belly and in her brain, where it’s calm.” Many kids get that idea. What could be better? I also love showing them my early scribbles and illustrator Sara Woolley’s wonderful sketches and storyboards, and sharing the step-by-step process of publishing the book, from concept to completion

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Deborah Sosin reads Charlotte and the Quiet Place to students at Newton Montessori School. Photo courtesy of Newton Montessori School.

Can you talk a little about mindfulness and how it can benefit children?

Mindfulness has become a catchword these days, but my favorite definition is from Dr. Amy Saltzman: “Noticing what’s happening right here and now, with a friendly, curious attitude, then choosing what to do next.” Many top-notch scientific studies show that mindfulness can help kids with concentration, attention, self-soothing, anxiety, depression, sleep, mood, compassion, confidence…I could go on. Compared with adults, most kids are naturally mindful, that is “in the moment,” but kids do get stressed out and worried about the past or the future, so mindfulness helps. I sometimes worry that parents and teachers might use it for disciplinary reasons (“Enough! Go be mindful in the corner!”), which is not the point. It’s a whole-life practice, not a technique or intervention. And, as the book shows, mindfulness can lead us to a quiet place inside that we can access whenever we want.

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Students at the Cottage Montessori School in Arlington, Massachusetts play the Silence Game with director Karen Wagner, watching the sand in the hourglass. Photo courtesy of Stacey Moriarty.

Can you tell me a little about your work with Grub Street, a creative writing center in Boston?

I started taking classes at GrubStreet in 2008; my first class was “Six Weeks, Six Essays,” and from that class, I helped form a longtime regular writing group. I started blogging soon after and then submitted personal essays for publication, with some good luck. GrubStreet is a fantastic, inclusive community, with excellent faculty and a huge range of motivated, smart, and enthusiastic students, from beginners to veterans. After a few years, I applied to teach classes there and am proud to be on their instructor and consultant rosters now.

You are an accomplished choral singer, having performed at Lincoln Center, the United Nations, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and on an international tour. When did you begin choral singing? Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share from any of your experiences?

I’ve been singing my whole life and have been in choruses since elementary school. Singing with other people is extremely gratifying and, after all the “verbal”-type things I do, including my work as a psychotherapist, it’s a lovely change of pace. I spent about 15 years in the Zamir Chorale of Boston, which specializes in Jewish choral music. Our tours to Eastern Europe, Italy, and Israel were extraordinary. In 1999, when we sang at Auschwitz and Terezin, the sites of former concentration camps, it was hard to keep our emotions in check, but it felt important to revive the voices of the Jewish people that the Nazis had attempted to quell. A PBS documentary film, “Zamir: Jewish Voices Return to Poland,” chronicled our tour that summer. I think it’s still available through the Zamir Chorale website.

What’s the best part about writing for children?

After having focused almost exclusively on nonfiction for most of my writing career, it’s been wonderful to work in the very precise and rich world of picture-book writing with so many lovely, funny, imaginative, and supportive fellow writers I’ve met through SCBWI and the amazing Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, Mass.

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Debbie’s niece Mollie and a friend draw a noisy thing at The Oblong Bookstore event. Photo courtesy of AM Media Group

What’s up next for you?

I have a couple of Picture Book manuscripts in progress and I’m participating in Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo) this month, so I hope to generate more ideas and get some new work out there soon.

Since this is a holiday-themed blog, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you at least one question about holidays, so…

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite, as it means getting together with my family, which is now spread far and wide, and having an opportunity to express our gratitude.

Thanks, Debbie, for stopping by and chatting! I wish you all the best with Charlotte and the Quiet Place and all of your future endeavors!

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You can find Charlotte and the Quiet Place at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Parallax Press |Porter Square Books (signed copies available)

Connect with Deborah Sosin on

Her Website | charlotteandthequietplace.com | Facebook | Twitter

Picture Book Review

December 29 – Tick Tock Day

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About the Holiday

As the year winds down Tick Tock Day reminds us of the passage of time and encourages us to examine our life and find opportunities to accomplish the things we really want to. While the day only has 24 hours, a little creative scheduling, letting go of those tasks that aren’t so important, and even saying “no,” can help us achieve the things that matter.

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock

Written by Shana Keller | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

With winter approaching Benjamin Banneker has finished up his autumn chores and is looking forward to time to indulge his creative dreams. He finds his favorite spot under the chestnut tree—the place where during the summer he plays his violin and flute, “blending his soft music with the bird’s songs”—and pulls out a pocket watch he has borrowed from a gentleman. Benjamin is fascinated by the ticking and the movement of the small hands. He carefully opens the back of the watch and discovers “a world of wonderful whirls. There were gears of all shapes and sizes. Such a tiny maze!”

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

The miniature timepiece is mesmerizing, but Benjamin’s mind holds a challenge—a big challenge. He envisions a large clock, one that chimes to tell the time. Remembering his math skills, Benjamin mulls over the scale needed to turn “something small into something big.” As the snow falls, Benjamin goes to work. First, he dismantles the pocket watch and draws careful diagrams of the gears and workings. Then he begins transposing these into larger drawings.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

With the coming of spring and his drawings finished, Benjamin plans how he will build his clock. While the little pocket watch is made of metal, that material is much too expensive for a large version. As he ponders the problem under his favorite tree, Benjamin looks around him. Suddenly he knows! The answer is “right in front of him, even in his hands! The very instrument he played was made of wood!” There is a forest of trees on his farm, and this material is free.

During the summer between farm chores, Benjamin uses “every spare moment he had to find the perfect pieces of wood.” Once he has enough he begins to convert his drawings into carvings, whittling the gears and other pieces he will need. Soon, however, he becomes discouraged. The wood begins to split and come apart. Benjamin thinks about how his family cures tobacco leaves—drying them out until all the moisture evaporates. Perhaps, he thinks, he can do the same with wood to make it stronger. The process would take months, but Benjamin is patient.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

Winter has come around again, and the wood is finally ready. In his warm house Benjamin sets about carving again. During the day he carves near the sunny window, and at night he works by candlelight. At last he has all the parts he needs to build his clock. Gears, wheels, tiny pins, and the boards that will become the case are scattered across Benjamin’s work table. There is only one piece missing. A piece that cannot be made of wood—the bell!

Benjamin buys a bell from a metalsmith, and back home begins to build his clock. With his drawings to guide him, he fits the gears together and then sets the hands to “match up perfectly with the second, minute, and hour of each day. It took more than one try, but Benjamin had learned to be patient.” Using the sun to determine the correct time, Benjamin positions the hands and steps back. His clock works! “The little iron bell chimed every hour, on the dot, for the next forty years.” Benjamin becomes famous, and neighbors from near and far come “to see his amazing invention.”  

An Author’s Note expanding on Benjamin Banneker’s life and work follows the text.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

With lyrical language that glides as smoothly as a well-oiled timepiece, Shana Keller reveals the remarkable story of Benjamin Banneker, born free during the time of slavery, who possessed exceptional math and scientific skills and used them to help his friends and neighbors and to make real his vision of a striking clock. Keller’s detailed and descriptive storytelling animates this life story, allowing readers to take the journey with Banneker as he experiences excitement, setbacks, and ultimately success. Banneker, embodying determination, persistence, and creativity, is an excellent role model for kids with big dreams of their own.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, courtesy of flyingdogstudio.com

David C. Gardner’s lovely full-page and two-page-spread illustrations gloriously portray Benjamin Banneker’s farm and home as well as his dedicated commitment to building a striking clock despite—or perhaps spurred on by—the challenges he faced. Gardner’s detailed images set the biography firmly in its time period, letting children experience farm and home life in the 1750s. Banneker carries wooden buckets to feed the animals, tobacco leaves hang in a dry shed, a fire blazes in a large, open fireplace, and a candle flickers as Banneker whittles wheels and gears with his pocket knife. The realistic paintings that depict Banneker’s emotions as he imagines creating a large clock, overcomes obstacles, and studiously works on his drawings and carvings will inspire readers to attempt their own inventions—whatever they may be.

For any would-be inventors, history lovers, tinkerers, and science buffs, Ticktock Banneker’s Clock is a stirring biography that would make a wonderful addition to school and home libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369560

Learn more about Shana Keller and her work on her website!

Discover a portfolio of picture book art, fine art, animation, and videos by David C. Gardner on his website!

Tick Tock Day Activity

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Cuckoo Clock Coloring Page

 

The chirp of a cuckoo clock keeps you on time—or at least aware of the passing of time! Here’s a printable Cuckoo Clock Coloring Page for you to enjoy!

Picture Book Review

December 6 – Mitten Tree Day

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About the Holiday

The feel of a cozy mitten on freezing fingers is one of the luxuries of wintertime. But where did mittens come from? You might be surprised to discover that the word “mitten” comes from the French word mitaine, which was an old nickname for a cat, because early mittens were typically made of animal fur. The earliest mittens, dating to around 1000 AD, were used as sheaths for gloves, adding extra protection for cold hands. Today, I’m pleased to review the book in which Mitten Tree Day is said to have its origins! Although originally published in 1997, the story has endured and sparked programs in schools, libraries, and other places around the country.

The Mitten Tree

Written by Candace Christiansen | Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

 

In a small house at the end of a lane Sarah lives all alone. Her own children have grown and moved away, but as she watches the kids gather at the blue spruce tree to wait for the school bus she remembers all the years that she walked her son and daughter to this same spot. As she makes her way down the lane to her mailbox, she wishes the children will wave and smile, but they never seem to notice her. Still, it makes Sarah smile to see them.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing

One winter morning Sarah notices all the kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen—all except one little boy dressed all in blue who lacks the mittens needed to join his friends. All day Sarah worries about the boy with no mittens. As the sun goes down Sarah digs “through the basket of yarn scraps she had saved for many years.” She finds her needles and four shades of blue wool. Then Sarah begins to knit.

With the rising sun Sarah hurries to the bus stop and hangs the new blue mittens on the spruce tree. Then she hides behind a hedge to watch. The little boy in blue is the first to arrive at the bus stop. When he sees the mittens hanging there, he tries them on and finds that they fit perfectly. With a big smile he makes “a perfect snowball” and throws “it high into the winter sky.” Soon Sarah sees a little girl with mismatched mittens. That night she finds the perfect color of wool and knits a pair to match the girl’s red coat.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, text copyright Candace Christiansen. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing

Every morning Sarah watches the children, looking for any who have no mittens. During the day her needles are busy making gifts for these children. The next morning before anyone else is up she rushes to the spruce tree and adorns it with the mittens she has knitted. The children have warmed to the “game,” and each day search “under every branch and bough for another pair of mittens.” Once or twice Sarah thinks the boy with her blue mittens sees her, but his eyes don’t linger.

On the day before the school’s winter break Sarah fills her knitting basket with the latest mittens she’s knit. She heads out the door and down the lane. When she reaches the blue spruce, she hangs “mittens on every branch.” When the children arrive, they stand “very still for a few minutes looking at the mysterious, beautiful mitten tree.” As they board the bus, each child is wearing a new pair of mittens. Sarah sees them appear one by one in the bus windows, but none see Sarah.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, text copyright Candace Christiansen. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing

Sarah goes home feeling happy and with her heart as full as it was “when the sounds of her own children had filled her house.” But what awaits Sarah? As she climbs the stairs to her porch, she notices a “basket woven with thick brown vines and decorated with a large white bow.” She’s surprised to see that it is filled to the brim with balls of colorful yarn. Even today Sarah knits new mittens for all the children in town, and “every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears.” Sarah doesn’t know who brings the basket, just as the children don’t know who supplies the mittens. “But someone must….”

Candace Christiansen’s heartwarming story of kindness given and reciprocated will inspire kids to see that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others by using their talents to fill a need. This gentle, quiet tale offers suspense that will pique readers’ curiosity from page to page, and the mystery surrounding the never-empty basket of wool provides a satisfying and moving ending that also reassures kids that deeds of thoughtfulness and compassion are noticed. The grandmotherly Sarah and familiar school bus stop setting and winter activities will resonate with readers.

Elaine Greenstein’s softly colored, folk-style illustrations give the story a cozy feeling—perfect for cold-weather reading, The variety of intricately knitted mittens, with their hearts, stripes, snowflakes and cables, are charming, and the enchanting image of the blue spruce decorated with mittens makes it easy to see how The Mitten Tree continues to inspire so many acts of kindness and charity.

Ages 3 – 7

Fulcrum Publishing, 2009 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1555917333

Mitten Tree Day Activity

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Mitten Match & Coloring Page

 

Mittens often get lost or mismatched in the fun of winter activities. Find the pairs in this printable Mitten Match & Coloring Page and then decorate them!

Celebrate Picture Books

October 24 – United Nations Day

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About the Holiday

Founded in the aftermath of World War II to promote cooperation among all nations and prevent another devastating conflict, the United Nations is an intergovernmental organization whose purpose has grown to include encouraging social and economic development, protecting human rights, and providing aid in times of natural disasters, famine, and war. Today’s holiday commemorates the establishment of the UN and advocates the remembrance and implementation of its principles for this and future generations.

Welcome

By Barroux

 

A polar bear sits on the edge of an ice floe enjoying some relaxing time with his friends when he hears an ominous noise. “CRACK! The ice breaks! ‘We’re drifting away!’” his friends cry. In no time at all the three polar bears are adrift in the middle of the sea in need of a new home. They float and float, but “the water goes on forever!” To pass the time the friends play games: “‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with W…’”

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

Perhaps days go by. The bears ride out a storm with dark skies and huge waves that threaten to sink them. It’s scary and the trio wants “to find a new home right now!” At last their ice floe—smaller now—approaches a sandy shore. “Land! We’re saved,” cheer the polar bears. They ask the cows on the beach if they can live there, but the cows take exception. The bears are “too furry…too tall…and too bear-ish.” And with a “Sorry!” the cows turn the weary travelers away.

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

Once again on their own, the bears have no choice but to let the current steer them. With standing room for only one their icy raft, they near another beach where a single panda relaxes on pillows in the midst of expansive land. “Yes! This could be our new home,” the polar bears shout. The panda ponders the situation for only a moment before stating, “‘…you are too many. Look around, there’s just not enough room! You can’t live here.’”

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

As the polar bears continue on their journey, their “little ice boat has almost melted” and they are running out of time. They bob next to a tall sea wall. “‘Help us!’” they plead. Behind the wall two giraffes lounge on the beach, too lazy to investigate the noise they hear. The ice floe has melted to a thin disk, with room for only one. The bears are hanging on and about to give up hope when they find an empty island. They jump to shore just in the nick of time and begin enjoying their new home.

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

It’s not long before a dinghy floats into view with three monkeys on board. “‘Excuse me, we’re looking for a new home. Can you help us please?’” The polar bears stop their game of badminton and step forward. “‘Hmmm,’” they think. “‘You are…

Welcome!’”

With vibrant blue, full-bleed pages as wide open as the sea itself and three endearing long-nosed polar bears, Barroux has crafted a poignant tale with depth and far-reaching applications for readers of all ages. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, Welcome stands on its own as an uplifting story of friendship and inclusiveness, but also offers an excellent means for beginning a discussion on the world events that children see and have questions about. Employing a bear’s first person point of view and incorporating a child-centric perspective on travel—from the humor of the I Spy game to the perseverance of the bears—Barroux sets just the right tone for his audience.

With sparse text and repetition of the bears’ simple request, the subject matter is handled with sensitivity, not fright, which allows children to understand that the theme of the story is relevant on many levels. Whether the “traveler” comes from near or far, is a classmate, teammate or neighbor, or is even the reader or someone else feeling adrift in a certain situation, children will see that all deserve welcome.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2916 | ISBN 978-1499804447

United Nations Day Activity

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Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another.

Supplies

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Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures
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Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

October 19 – Global Dignity Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2008, Global Dignity Day aspires to inspire and educate young people to understand their self-worth and achieve their goals. Events take place in schools in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Oceania. On this day speakers from all walks of life speak to children, revealing experiences from their life and work as it relates to dignity and a sense of self-respect, accomplishment, and interconnectedness.

Students then talk among themselves about what dignity means to them, and many speak their thoughts in front of the class. Following this they write letters to themselves outlining their feelings and aspirations. The letters are collected and handed back to them on the next Global Dignity Day so each child can assess how their life has changed and whether they have achieved their goals or are working toward them.

Today take some time to measure your own sense of dignity and to set goals. Discuss the issue with your child or children and make sure they know that whatever road they choose, they deserve dignity and the opportunities to achieve their full potential.

Wherever You Go

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

 

“When it’s time for a journey, to learn and to grow, / roads guide your footsteps wherever you go. / Roads give you chances to seek and explore. / Want an adventure? / Just open your door.”

So opens this lovely, inspirational picture book that looks at life through the metaphor of those sometimes straightforward, sometime winding, but always intriguing roads. In these pages “Roads…go” over hills, under bridges, and through valleys. They can take you past vast seas and small streams. “Roads…zoom” through brightly lit cities, and “bend,” taking you on detours “you wouldn’t expect, / showing you various ways to connect.”

Roads can bring you closer to your dreams, but also veer away, giving you choices “To go? / Or to stay?” “Roads…reach” from shore to shore or mountain to mountain, “attaching two places that once were apart.” You can “choose to cross over. Follow your heart.” Some roads are small—only built with one lane, but they merge with another “and the two become one.”

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of hachettebookgroup.com

With time and change “Roads…grow,” becoming longer and wider and more populated with people you know and those you don’t—yet. Often “Roads…wait. For click-clacking trains / and boats with tall sails. / Slow-going hay wagons carrying bales. / Stoplights and crosswalks, a deer with a friend. / Roads sometimes pause, or just come to an end.”

Roads also rise to dizzying heights and the sense of accomplishment is well worth the climb. From on top “Roads…remember. Every life landmark, the big and the small. / The moments you tripped, the times you stood tall.” At last when you’re ready there are roads that will help you find your way home. So… “Which path should you choose? / That’s easy to see. / The one that will take you / where you wish to be.”

Pat Zietlow Miller’s lyrical journey down the paths life presents is an enchanting quiet-time and story-time read. Wherever You Go also offers parents, caregivers, and teachers a wonderful opportunity to discuss the concepts of self-confidence and self-respect and also the idea that life is made up of many different experiences that can be accepted or rejected like alternate routes on a map. Miller’s rhymes flow as smoothly as an wide open country road, soaring and winding on her exquisite descriptions and word choice. Adult readers may well find a catch in their throat as they read the last line to their children.

Eliza Wheeler captures not only the literal meanings of the lines in Wherever You Go, but also the heart and thoughts of life’s travels. Her softly hued watercolor-and-ink illustrations glow with the promise and possibilities encountered on life’s roads. Intricate details fill every page to show readers that their journeys are shared. Children will enjoy following the main character, a rabbit who rides a bike along a chosen path, but they will also love keeping track of traveling companions met along the way.

Wherever You Go is a fabulous book for all children and makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new babies, and graduations. The gender-neutral text offers inclusiveness for all.

Ages 4 – 9 (and up)

Little Brown and Company, 2015 | ISBN 978-0316400022

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller, her books, and her writing life on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork and a gallery of books by Eliza Wheeler on her website!

Before taking off on your journey, watch this Wherever You Go book trailer!

 Global Dignity Day Activity

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I Love Myself! Heart-Shaped Letter Tempate

 

Before you start life’s journey and while you travel the roads you choose, it’s important to believe and remember that you are unique, wonderful, talented, and valuable. Children and adults can use this printable heart-shaped I Love Myself! Letter Template to write a letter to themselves or their children about what makes them such a fantastic person and the goals they want to achieve.

Picture Book Review

September 10 – Swap Ideas Day

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About the Holiday

Today is a perfect day to get together with people you love, trust, and respect—and even some who challenge your thinking—to discuss matters large and small. Not only might you gain a different perspective on your pals, but you all may come up with the next Great Idea!

The King and the Magician

Written by Jorge Bucay | Illustrated by Gusti

 

In a faraway land there once lived a King who was very powerful. Not only did he love power, he commanded that everyone in his kingdom obey and admire him. Tremblingly, his subjects reassure him every day that he is the most powerful man in the kingdom. One day, however, the King hears a rumor that down in the village lives a Magician who can predict the future. The King fears that this man will become more powerful than he, and he sends his spies to learn more. The spies return and reveal that not only can the Magician tell the future, he is loved and admired by everyone.

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Image copyright Gusti, courtesy of Abbeville Press

The King becomes terribly jealous and plots to do away with his most hated enemy. He devises a plot to trick the Magician. He will host a party, and at the end he will ask the Magician if he can truly predict the future. If the Magician says “No,” he will be exposed as a fraud, and the king will kill him. If the Magician answers “Yes,” the King will ask him to predict the date of the Magician’s death and would then kill him. The King is pleased with his scheme because either way, he will be rid of his rival.

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Image copyright Gusti, courtesy of Abbeville Press

On the night of the party, the King summons the Magician and asks him the fatal question. The Magician is more than just a seer or a sorcerer—he is wise. He looks at the King and states, “the Magician of this kingdom will die the exact same day as his King.”

Now the King is in a terrible quandary. He does not want to risk the possibility that this old man’s prediction is true. He must now protect the Magician in order to save his own life. He quickly concocts a ruse and asks the Magician to stay the night in the castle, saying he wants to consult with him about some royal matters. In fact, he just wants to keep an eye on him.

The Magician agrees. The next morning the King goes to the Magician and asks his advice on some kingly decisions. The Magician offers good suggestions, and the king accepts them. As the months go by, the King continues to rely on the Magician for guidance, and slowly the King learns to be fair and wise. He becomes the respected and admired ruler he always wanted to be.

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The King realizes that not only is the Magician a trusted advisor, he is a loyal and beloved friend. One day, wracked with guilt over his one-time plot to kill the Magician, the King reveals the story. The Magician listens to the King’s secret, and shares one of his own.

On the night of the party, the Magician says, I saw you reach for the hilt of your sword when you questioned me, and I knew your intentions. He then divulges that he made up the prediction of their shared death date to teach the King a lesson—one the King has learned. He says, “It is our lives that have become entwined, not our deaths.”

For many more years the King and the Magician live as friends and confidants. The kingdom grows stronger and the King kinder and more loved by his people. One day the Magician dies. The King is sad, and realizes he is no longer afraid of his own death. The King has learned the Magician’s lesson well, and even though his advisor is gone, he continues to make wise and beneficial decisions.

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Image copyright Gusti, text copyright Jorge Gusti, courtesy of Abbeville Press

Ten years later the King writes a letter to his son and heir. In his letter, the King cautions his son that at sometime in his life he may come across someone or something that “will arouse fear and jealousy in your soul.” He will want to destroy this person or thing to alleviate his fear, his father tells him. Instead, says his father, “open your heart or your home” because “what you thought was your most feared enemy, is really your most powerful friend.”

Jorge Bucay has written a classic tale of wisdom verses power wrapped around a clever trick. The story, full of intrigue and twists, initiates the kind of thought that leads to true enlightenment. The straightforward storytelling, beautifully paced over a lifetime of growth and change, builds suspense while lyrical descriptions create a beautiful flow that depicts both the quandary of the King and the kindness of the Magician.

Gusti’s lavish illustrations, reminiscent of hieroglyphics and Medieval tapestries, are rendered in dark, rich brown, rust, black, olive and blue hues that gorgeously depict the splendor of the King and his castle, but also signal the somber weight in his soul. The regal tone even extends to the gilded text. The King is drawn as an imposing figure, towering over everyone else in his kingdom, but his feet and hands are tiny, lending him a bit of a comical yet vulnerable air. The King’s eyes narrow with cunning as he plots his evil deed but widen in doubt and dispair as the Magician works his special brand of magic.

This lovely book—in both message and art—would be a wonderful addition to any child’s or fable-lover’s library.

Ages 4 – 8

Abbeville Kids, 2014 | ISBN 978-0789212047

While I take some personal days over the next couple of weeks, I am re-blogging some earlier posts with updated interior art, activities, and links, when available.

Swap Ideas Day Activity

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A World of Ideas Word Search

 

Creative ideas are a little like magic – sometimes seeming to come out of thin air – and can make the world a better place! Find the 21 words in this printable A World of Ideas Word Search about what swapping ideas can conjure up! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

 

August 11 – Son and Daughter Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the special relationship between parents and their sons and daughters. The lifelong bond takes work, dedication, and most importantly unconditional love, and its rewards are innumerable. Whether your child or children are still small, have moved away, or are somewhere in between, spend some time with them, tell them why they are unique, and tell them that you love them.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be

By Emily Winfield Martin

 

“When I look at you / and you look at me, / I wonder what wonderful / things you will be.” This opening sentence simply and beautifully expresses the emotions of parents and caregivers when first bringing a child home—and every subsequent day as they watch their kids grow and acquire their own talents, experiences, and opinions. From the first moments of a child’s life, the adults around them can’t wait to discover what is behind that sly smile, infectious laugh, even the pained cries. “When you were too small / to tell me hello, / I knew you were someone / I wanted to know.”

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Image copyright Emily Winfield Martin, courtesy of theblackapple.typepad.com

Martin reveals what caregivers know but children don’t yet realize—that the size of their heart, their wisdom, and their spirit is evident even when they are tiny, and because each child is unique the world holds a special place for them. Martin then opens that world to readers: “Will you stand up for good / By saving the day? / Or play a song only you / know how to play?” Perhaps the child will tell stories, help things to grow, or learn how to fly. Or will they “take care of things / Much smaller than you?” Whatever the child grows up to choose, parents or caregivers know that “they’ll be kind, and clever, and bold.” And when hard days come, being “brave” and “bright” will vanquish the “shadows.”

As each child matures and chooses a path in life, Martin leaves the reader of the book with these reassuring words any child needs to hear: “And then I’ll look at you / And you’ll look at me / And I’ll love you, / Whoever you’ve grown up to be.”

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Image copyright Emily Winfield Martin, courtesy of emilywinfieldmartin.com

When a child first comes into a home, parents or caregivers once again see the world in a new way—fresh and holding unlimited possibilities. Emily Winfield Martin captures that feeling with her lyrical words and delicate paintings. The vintage/retro illustrations populated with adorable children of various ethnicities, faithful pets, and favorite toys, give the book a universal feel. Throughout the book the children go about their tasks with confidence, thoughtfulness, and creativity—embodying the hopes and wishes adult readers have for their own children.

A gate-fold page toward the end of the book is a joy to explore as the illustrated children line up with costumes on as if for a school play or Halloween night. The different costumes invite readers to image what the children may grow up to be.

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Image copyright Emily Winfield Martin, courtesy of emilywinfieldmartin.com

The Wonderful Things You Will Be is a perfect gift for new babies or for older children graduating from high school or college. The book invites multiple readings and makes a wonderful addition to anyone’s library.

Ages Birth and up

Random House Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0385376716

Discover more distinctive artwork and books by Emily Winfield Martin on her website!

Son and Daughter Day Activity

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I Love You Because…

 

Children love to hear why you think they’re special and why you love them. With this printable I Love You Because…template, you can tell the children in your life what makes them so loveable and unique.

Picture Book Review