October 5 – World Teachers’ Day

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About the Holiday

World Teacher’s Day, sponsored by the United Nations, was established to celebrate the role teachers play in providing quality education from preschool through college and beyond. Teachers guide students to find their best selves, whether they’re children just starting their journey or adults going back to school. To celebrate today’s holiday, thank a teacher for everything they’ve done or do for you.

Because I Had a Teacher

Written by Kobi Yamada | Illustrated by Natalie Russell

 

A little bear has lots to say about his or her teacher. It may come as no surprise that this teacher has instilled in the bear a love of learning. But it goes beyond that. The little one reveals that “because I had a teacher, I discovered that I could do much more than I thought I could.” If one thing is harder than the rest, that’s okay too, the bear realizes.

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Copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

 

Because of having such a wonderful teacher, the child is ready for any challenges that come and understands that there are lots of ways of being smart”. Mistakes are not a big deal either, because they just happen when you’re trying to get things right. And those things that are the hardest? They bring the bear the most satisfaction to achieve.

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

“Because I had a teacher,” the little bear says, “I know how good it feels when someone is happy to see me.” Not only that, but the child knows a friend is always near and that there is always someone who can help out. The bear’s teacher has introduced vast new worlds to explore and has fostered the little learner’s imagination. In fact, the bear feels that nothing is impossible. Then the little bear gives the best compliment of all: “Because I had you, I learned to believe in me.”

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Kobi Yamada’s heartwarming love letter from student to teacher is a touching tribute to one of the most important relationships in life. One of the wonderful aspects of the story is its fluidity, which allows for multiple interpretations on the student and teacher dynamic. The lyrical prose is appropriate for a traditional teacher/student pair, but the bond could also easily be between a parent and child, a grandparent and grandchild, or any caregiver and their small charge. The book could also be read the other way ‘round with the endearing sentiments coming from an adult to a child, as children often teach adults much about life as well.

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Image copyright Nancy Russell, 2017, text copyright Kobi Yamada, 2017 Courtesy of Compendium, Inc.

Natalie Russell’s softly hued illustrations masterfully do double duty as well. Quiet in their yellow background, line drawings, and adorable bears, Russell’s soy-ink drawings are also full of action and excitement. The teacher is just as engaged in the learning as the student—doing experiments, climbing trees, launching boats, and helping to paint masterpieces—making their relationship balanced and one of equal sharing. Gender neutrality is found throughout the book, making it appropriate for all children and adults.

Because I Had a Teacher would make a much-loved gift for any teacher, parent, or caregiver. It would also be a cozy read together for bedtime or any story time.

Ages 4 – 7 and up

Compendium, Inc., 2017 | ISBN  978-1943200085

To learn more about Kobi Yamada visit the Compendium, Inc. website.

View a portfolio of illustration work and sketches by Natalie Russell on her website.

World Teacher’s Day Activity

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Thank You, Teacher Certificate

 

If you have a favorite teacher, here’s a printable Thank You, Teacher Certificate for you to color, fill out, and give to them today or any day.

Picture Book Review

October 2 – World Day of Bullying Prevention

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to raise awareness of the pervasive and growing societal problem of bullying and to bring people together to change the culture that allows for it to exist. It’s up to every individual to speak out against bullying in all its forms and for kindness and acceptance. For more information on what you can do or how you can find help, visit the STOMP Out Bullying website.

Come With Me

Written by Holly M. McGhee | Illustrated by Pascal Lemaître

 

A little girl watches the television news, taking in all the “anger and hatred—people against people.” She was “frightened by everything she heard and saw and felt.” She wanted to make “the world a better place,” and asked her papa what she could do. He told her, “‘Come with me.’” They went outside and down the stairs to the subway platform. There, as they waited for the train, her father tipped his hat to those passing by. Seeing this, the little girl did it too.

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

As they rode the train they were kind to the people around them. The little girl felt brave as she and her papa “won a tiny battle over fear for themselves and for the people of the world.” But the little girl continued to see stories of hatred on the news, so she asked her mother for advice. Her mama said, “Come with me.”

They walked down to the international grocery store on the corner with its bins full of fresh fruit and vegetables. There they met people from all over the world buying food for their meals and products for their homes. The little girl understood that “one person doesn’t represent a family or a race or the people of a land.” At home, while her mother cooked dinner, the little girl set the table as she always did.

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

As they ate, the girl scratched her puppy behind the ears and thought about what she had seen and done with her parents. She wanted to do something by herself and asked if she could walk the dog. Her parents looked at each other and decided to let her go to show their child and the world that “they would not live in fear.”

Just as the little girl was leaving her apartment, the boy across the hall opened his door. He wondered where she was going. “‘Come with me,’” she said. The two children were happy to be outside, and they began to understand that if they were “brave, gentle, strong—and kind…to one another and all living things,” the world would be a better place.

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They smiled at a mother and her young son as the little boy pet her dog. Then the boy shared his box of chalk, and the three kids drew pictures on the sidewalk. The single flowers and hearts became a garden as more and more children joined in. From all around, doors opened and children and adults approached. They took a piece of chalk and bent down to add their own flowers to the growing picture.

What you do matters too—even if your part seems small, it makes a difference. Listen! The little girl is calling, “‘Come with me.’”

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Amid all the noise and fear that children are exposed to comes Holly McGhee’s quiet and powerful book that shows them that even small gestures have great reach and make a big impact. Like self-seeding gardens, one small act can take root and grow, displacing the weeds of fear, anger, and misunderstanding. McGhee’s honest, lyrical text is refreshing as it demonstrates the role of adults as well as children in changing not only outward behavior but inner feelings as well. Young readers will want to accept the little girl’s invitation to change the world they live in.

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Image copyright Pascal Lemaître, 2017, courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Pascal Lemaître’s colorful line drawings on white backgrounds provide a sense of openness and clarity that is the perfect accompaniment to McGhee’s story. Lemaître’s city is vibrant and diverse, and as people go about their business, they smile at one another, happily interact, and are excited to join in the fun of chalk drawing. At home, members of the family watch TV, cook and eat dinner, and take care of their pet, just as families do around the world. Careful observers will note that as the little girl sets the table, she studies the fork—a single utensil made up of many tines that work together. Each of Lemaître’s pages likewise invites readers to take another look at their own homes and neighborhoods to see the goodness there and to work with others to make the world a better place.

Come With Me is a moving story that can comfort and inspire children who have questions and want to help. The book would be a welcome addition to classroom and home libraries.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1524739058

Discover the world of Holly M. McGhee and her children’s and middle-grade books on her website

View a portfolio of illustration work for children and adults by Pascal Lemaître on his website.

View a portfolio of illustration work for children and adults on his website.

World Day of Bullying Prevention Activity

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Friendship Chalk Garden

 

Just like the little girl in today’s book, you can make a positive change in the world through simple acts of kindness and cheer. Drawing a Friendship Chalk Garden is a great way to show your love, compassion, and courage—and to make your home, neighborhood, or school a better place!

Adults and kids, join in making a positive change! Draw a garden—or even just one flower— and post a picture on Twitter using the hashtag #FriendshipChalkGarden. Adults can help children post their pictures.

Here are some ideas:

  • Create your garden by yourself
  • Gather your friends
  • Invite other kids and adults in the area to draw with you
  • Ask your teacher to make it a class—or school—project

Places to Draw

Outside:

  • Find a spot in your driveway
  • Draw on the sidewalk outside your home or school
  • Use the school playground
  • Go to the park

Inside:

  • Use black or white poster board attached to the wall
  • Draw on the school blackboard or white board
  • Make flowers for a classroom or hall bulletin board

Picture Book Review

September 15 – International Dot Day

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About the Holiday

Usually, I match books to existing holidays. Today, though, I have the pleasure of posting a review of a book that established a holiday. On September 15, 2009 teacher Terry Shay introduced his class to Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. From that one event grew a national and then an international celebration of creativity and the freedom to make art with your heart. All around the world, school children and adults are inspired on this day to make their mark and celebrate creativity, courage, and collaboration.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

At the end of art class, Vashti looked at her paper. It was still as blank as it was at the beginning of art class. Her teacher came over and took a peek. She saw right away that Vashti had drawn “‘a polar bear in a snowstorm.’” Vashti wasn’t fooled by the joke. “‘I just CAN’T draw,’” she said. But her teacher had a suggestion. “‘Just make a mark and see where it takes you.’”

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti jabbed at the paper with a marker, making a dot right in the center. Her teacher studied her drawing carefully then told Vashti to sign it. That, at least, was something Vashti could do. She signed her name and gave the paper to her teacher. At the next week’s art class, Vashti was stunned to see her dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. She looked at the tiny mark and decided that she could do better than that.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti opened her watercolor set and began. She “painted and painted. A red dot. A purple dot. A yellow dot. A blue dot.” Then she discovered that blue mixed with yellow made a green dot. Vashti went to the easel and began painting lots of little dots in all sorts of colors. She realized if she could make little dots, she could make big dots. She knelt down on the floor with a big piece of paper and a big brush and created a huge dot.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Then on an enormous canvas Vashti “made a dot by not making a dot.” At the school art show, Vashti’s dot paintings covered two walls and were quite a hit. Coming around the corner a little boy spied Vashti. He came close and told her, “‘You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.’” Vashti was encouraging, but the little boy said he couldn’t even “‘draw a straight line with a ruler.’”

Vashti wanted to see. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. With a quivering pencil, he drew a line and handed the paper back to her. Vashti studied the wavy line for a minute, and then gave the paper back. “‘Please…sign it,’” she said.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynold’s classic story of a little girl who believes she can’t draw is inspirational for anyone at any age who listens too closely to that voice in their head that stops them from letting go and doing. Whether it’s painting, writing, changing the décor of one’s house, updating a wardrobe, getting healthy, or even taking a class, the project often seems insurmountable. But what if you could start with a YouTube video, one step, a pair of earrings, a pillow, a word, or…a dot? Reynolds says you can! With his straightforward storytelling, Reynolds gives readers permission to play, experiment, and feel free.

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Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Reynold’s familiar line drawings that sketch out adorable Vashti and her wise teacher are punctuated by the colorful dots that Vashti draws in profusion. Even Vashti, herself, is surrounded by circular auras of color throughout the story, reflecting her talent and creative spirit. The final scene of the art show gallery is a revelation, showing readers that one’s work or life work adds up to an impressive display of the self.

Through and through The Dot is charming, moving, and encouraging. It is a must addition to home libraries, public libraries, and classrooms.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2003 | 978-0763619619

Discover more about International Dot Day, download an Educator’s Guide, and see a gallery of projects on thedotclub.org.

You’ll learn more about Peter H, Reynolds, his books, and his art as well as find lots of inspiration and creative tips on his website!

International Dot Day Activity

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Decorate the Dots Coloring Page

 

How would you color these dots? Grab your favorite paints, markers, or crayons and let your imagination fly with this printable Decorate the Dots Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

 

August 26 – Women’s Equality Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday commemorates the date in 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granted women the right to vote. The observance of Women’s Equality Day also calls attention to women’s continuing efforts toward full equality, including equal pay, equal opportunities for education and employment, freedom from discrimination and violence, and equal standing in all communities and situations. Workplaces, libraries, organizations, and public facilities now participate with Women’s Equality Day programs, displays, video showings, or other activities.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

Written by Debbie Levy | Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

 

Ruth Bader grew up during the 1940s in Brooklyn, New York’s multicultural neighborhood. It was a time when boys were educated for jobs and bright futures while girls were expected to marry and raise children. Ruth’s mother, Celia Amster Bader, however, “thought girls should also have the chance to make their mark on the world.” She introduced Ruth to books in which she discovered women who used their strength, courage, and intelligence to do big things.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Baddeley, text copyright Debbie Levy. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Ruth also saw and felt the sting of prejudice while growing up. Her family was Jewish, and at the time “hotels, restaurants, even entire neighborhoods” denied access to Jews, African Americans, Mexicans, and others. Ruth disagreed and never forgot. She was even discriminated against for being left-handed. In school she was instructed to write with her right hand, but her awkward penmanship earned a D. First, she cried; then she protested by only writing with her left hand—“it turned out she had quite nice handwriting!”

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Image copyright Elizabeth Baddeley, text copyright Debbie Levy. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

During elementary school, Ruth was outstanding in some classes, such as history and English, and did not do so well in others, such as sewing and cooking. Music, especially opera, was another favorite subject—even though she did not have the voice to match her dreams. She excelled in high school and was even chosen as a graduation speaker. But Ruth had been hiding the fact that her mother was very ill. The day before graduation, her mother died. Ruth did not go to her graduation, but she did fulfill her mother’s wish and entered college.

In college Ruth met Marty Ginsberg, and the two fell in love. They both decided to become lawyers to fight prejudice and unfairness in court. People thought this was a great idea for Marty, but disapproved of it for Ruth. “Ruth disapproved right back. So did Marty.” After college they got married, went to law school, and had a baby girl.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Baddeley, text copyright Debbie Levy. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

In law school Ruth was one of nine women in a class of 500. She worked hard and tied with another student as first in the class, but after graduation she couldn’t find a job. Employers objected because she was a woman, a mother, and Jewish. Finally, she found work with a judge. Her excellent work for him translated into jobs at one law school after another, and she became “one of the few female law professors in the whole country.”

All around her Ruth saw other women who were denied jobs or paid less than men. Women also had very little voice in courtrooms or in government. Rulings by the Supreme Court, the highest court in America, had helped maintain this inequality. The Court had stated that women were unfit for many jobs because of their “natural and proper timidity and delicacy.” Besides, the Supreme Court also said, “Woman has always been dependent upon man.”

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Image copyright Elizabeth Baddeley, text copyright Debbie Levy. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

“Ruth really, really disagreed with this!” So she began fighting in court for equal rights for women. But equal rights for women also meant equal rights for men: Ruth believed men should be able to stay home with children if they wanted to while women worked. “These were fresh ideas in the 1970s. Ruth did not win every case, but she won enough. With each victory, women and men and girls and boys enjoyed a little more equality.”

At home, Ruth’s own family agreed with her. Marty was a successful lawyer and also an accomplished chef who cooked the family’s meals. Ruth went on to become a well-known and well-respected lawyer. President Jimmy Carter asked her to be a judge in Washington DC. Then President Bill Clinton chose her to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court. “Ruth agreed.”

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Image copyright Elizabeth Baddeley, text copyright Debbie Levy. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

“In 1993, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the first Jewish woman on the nation’s highest court.” When the nine justices decide a case, they listen to both sides and then vote. The winning side then writes an opinion explaining their ruling. When Justice Ginsburg votes with the winning side, she wears a special lace collar over her robe. When she does not agree with the ruling, she says, “I dissent” and writes an opinion explaining why. She has a special collar for dissenting too.

Some of her dissensions were influenced by her early experiences. She dissented when “the court wouldn’t help women or African Americans or immigrants who had been treated unfairly at work. She dissented when the court did not protect voting rights for all citizens. She dissented when the court disagreed with schools that offered African Americans a better chance to go to college.” And once when she dissented, Congress and the president agreed with her and overturned the Supreme Court’s ruling.

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Image copyright Elizabeth Baddeley, text copyright Debbie Levy. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is now the oldest member of the Supreme Court. Some people think she should retire, but she disagrees. She still has work to do. Over the years, she has “cleared a path for people to follow in her footsteps—girls in college, women in law school, and everyone who wants to be treated without prejudice….Step by step, she has made a difference…one disagreement after another.”

An extensive Author’s Note about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life, notes on Supreme Court Cases, and a selected bibliography follow the text.

Debbie Levy’s outstanding biography allows readers to journey with Ruth Bader Ginsburg as her experiences and beliefs lay the foundation for her life’s work. Well-chosen anecdotes from Ginsburg’s childhood make her accessible to kids and may even inspire them to look toward their own futures. Ginsburg’s trajectory from college student to lawyer to judge and finally to the Supreme Court is balanced and uplifting, emphasizing the positive impact of persistence and self-confidence.

Elizabeth Baddeley’s illustrations go hand-in-hand with Levy’s text to fully illuminate the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg for children. Ginsburg’s intelligence, sense of humor, courage, and principles are evident as she matures from school girl to Supreme Court Justice. Dynamic typography highlights the theme of dissent and disagreement as a force for positive change. The color, expression, and spirit imbued in each page make I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark an exciting and eye-catching read for all children.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark is a superb and recommended book for girls and boys. The book’s focus on a woman who continues to make a difference will inspire children and even adult readers to speak up and act on their convictions.

Ages 5 – 9

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016

To learn more about Debbie Levy and her books for children and young adults, visit her website!

Discover a gallery of illustration by Elizabeth Baddeley on her website!

Women’s Equality Day Activity

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Rosie the Riveter Coloring Page

 

Rosie the Riveter became a symbol of strong women during World War II and continues to be an iconic figure today. Print and color this Rosie the Riveter Page then display it to always remember that women can do anything!

Picture Book Review

August 12 – International Youth Month

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About the Holiday

International Youth Day was established by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2250 in 2015. Since then there has been “growing recognition that as agents of change, young people are critical actors in conflict prevention and sustaining peace.” The theme for 2017 is Youth Building Peace and celebrates “young people’s contributions to conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace.” Children and young adults have many paths to travel as they grow up. We should all work to make the world a better and safer place to live in as they journey through life.

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, sometimes 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.”

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, 2016, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Roads can bring you closer to your dreams or veer away, giving you choices on whether “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—built with only 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.”

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

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.”

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

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 a wide open country road, soaring and winding on her exquisite descriptions and word choices. Adult readers may well find a catch in their throat as they read the last line to their children.

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, 2016, text copyright Pat Zietlow  Miller. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

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 soft-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 with others. 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!

International Youth Day Activity

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Kids around the World Poster

 

Kids all around the world are working to make the world a more peaceful place. Print, color, and hang this Kids around the World Poster to remind you that you can make a difference through the various roads you choose to take!

Picture Book Review

May 21 – “I Need A Patch for That” Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrated annually on May 21, “I Need a Patch for That” Day gives a little love to patches of all kinds. Have you been out working in your garden patch? Fabulous! Did you just finish all the requirements for a scouting patch? Good job! Waiting on a fix for the latest software kerfuffle? Who isn’t? Are you a pirate keeping one eye ready for the dark? Argghh! Do you need to patch up a misunderstanding? Good luck! Or maybe you’re a quilter like the amazing women in today’s book who create a patch to remember each of life’s important, inspirational, and formative events. 

Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt

Written by Patricia C. McKissack | Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

 

In this story told through poems, a little girl begins telling readers about her life, starting with a recitation on Gee’s Bend Women: “Gee’s Bend women are / Mothers and Grandmothers / Wives / Sisters and Daughters / Widows.” They are every kind of woman you know, doing every type of work and activity. “Gee’s Bend women are / Talented and Creative / Capable / Makers of artful quilts / Unmatched. / Gee’s Bend women are / Relatives / Neighbors / Friends— / Same as me.”

In Who Would Have Thought, the girl muses on how perceptions change. “For as long as anyone can remember,” she says, the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have created quilts that were slept under, sat on, and wrapped around the sick or cold. But now those same quilts are “…hanging on museum walls, / their makers famous….”

When she was just a tot “Baby Girl” reveals in Beneath the Quilting Frame, she played under the quilting frame, listening to her “mama, grandma, and great-gran / as they sewed, talked, sang, and laughed / above my tented playground.” She remembers the “steady fingers  /[that] pieced together colorful scraps of familiar cloth / into something / more lovely / than anything they had been before” as her mother sang her a lullaby.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Something Else, “Baby Girl” is growing too big to play underneath the frame. Her legs are becoming longer and her mind is full of “recipes for eleven kinds of jelly…how to get rid of mold…and the words to a hundred hymns and gospel songs” while she waits for her turn at the frame. At last, her time does come, and in Where to Start?, the girl asks her mama how to begin. Her mother answers, “‘Look for the heart. / When you find the heart, / your work will leap to life… / strong, beautiful, and… / independent.’”

In Remembering, the girl thinks about how her mama has told her that “cloth has a memory.” As she chooses the cloth that will become her quilt she recounts the life and the history in each. 

Nothing Wasted sees Grandma pulling apart a red-and-white gingham dress stitch by stitch. Suddenly, the girl knows that this cloth will become the patch that “will be the heart of my quilt.” In Puzzling the Pieces the girl and her grandma stand over the quilting frame fitting the squares together in the perfect way to tell the girl’s story. Her quilt comes together piece by piece to tell the history of Gee’s Bend in The River Island. The brown strips along three sides mirror the muddy waters surrounding her town. The fourth side is a green strip—“a symbol of the fields where my ancestors / worked cotton from can to can’t— / can see in the morning until / can’t see at night.” Lined up next to the green strip are six squares representing the small communities “where families with / the same name / are not kin by blood / but by plantation.”

Being Discovered is portrayed with “a large smoke-gray square”—the color of the Great Depression and the 15 minutes of fame Gee’s Bend garnered when discovered “by sociologists, historians, / educators, and journalists” who came and went, leaving Gee’s Bend “the way it had been / before being discovered.”

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Colors, the girl’s grandma explains the meanings and feelings behind each colored cloth. “Blue cools. / Red is loud and hard to control, / like fire and a gossiping tongue.” Green, orange, yellow, white, pink, and all the others have their own personalities. “Grandma says, / ‘Colors show how you / feel deep down inside.’”

In Dr. King Brings Hope, the little girl adds “a spotless white patch for the hope Dr. Martin Luther King / brought to the Bend” and goes on to tell how her grandma saw Dr. King at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and what it meant to her. By and By follows the girl as she adds “golden thank-yous, for James Reeb,” a “bright blue piece of velvet for Viola Liuzzo,” and a “big plaid people circle of white, black, brown, yellow, and red for Reverend Dr. King, all “killed for believing in justice.”

In the 1960s, The Sewing Bee tells, Gee’s Bend quilters were once again discovered. Joining the Bee provided buyers for the handmade quilts, but there were stipulations on the types of quilts that could be made and sold. The girl asks her grandma if she was part of the Bee, to which she replies, “‘more money. Less freedom. I chose to stay free.’”

At last all of the patches are laid out and the time comes to stitch the girl’s quilt. Five women stand at the frame “all stitchin’ and pullin.’” They work “in a slow and steady rhythm” relaxing and enjoying being together until the quilt is finished. In Finished, the last stitch is sewn, and the thread bitten and knotted. The girl has hundreds of ideas for future quilts. “Quilts that are about me, / the place where I live, / and the people / who have been here for generations.”

Further poems unite the history of “Baby Girl,” her family, and neighbors, and an Author’s Note about quilting and the women of Gee’s Bend follow the text.

Patricia McKessack’s free verse poems capture the close relationships and camaraderie of the generations of women who join around the quilting frame to share and pass down their art and their heart. McKessack’s conversational verses, connected page after page like the patches of a quilt, reveal the complexity of this handmade art form in the way intimate talks between friends unveil a life. Readers learn not only about the little girl and her own thoughts, but the history and influence of her immediate family, world events, inspirational figures, and deeply held beliefs that make her who she is and ties her to the other Gee’s Bend women.

Cozbi A. Cabrera’s stunning acrylic paintings take readers inside the heart of the Gee’s Bend women, depicting the girl’s home, the table-sized quilting frame where the women collectively work, the plantations, the protests, and the changes that came but did not unravel the convictions, values, and love of the little girl’s family. Readers can almost hear the talking and singing of the Gee’s Bend women as they stitch their quilts, and the comforting, embracing environment is evident on every page. Cabrera’s portraits of the little girl, her mama, and her grandma are particularly moving. For What Changed, Cabrera depicts a yellow school bus appearing on the dirt road from the right hand corner of the page. In the  driver’s side mirror, a dot of a house is reflected, reminding readers that no matter how far these women are from home, Gee’s Bend is always with them.

Children—and adults—will find Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt inspirational and uplifting. This volume of poetry can be read at one sitting or delved into again and again, making it a wonderful choice for home libraries and a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 12

Dragonfly Books, Random House, 2016 (paperback edition) | ISBN 978-0399549502

View a gallery  of fashion designs, dolls, and other handmade art work by Cozbi A. Cabrera on her website!

“I Need a Patch for That” Day Activity

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Design a Quilt Coloring Pages

 

Quilts are so much more than pieces of material sewn together—they’re life stories! Here are two quilt coloring pages for you to design and color. What does each piece mean to you? As you color each section, write a sentence about an event or thought that is important to you.

Quilt Template 1 | Quilt Template 2

Picture Book Review

May 15 – Straw Hat Day

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About the Holiday

Straw hats are found in nearly every culture in the world and have been used since ancient times. Made from local materials, some are unique to and even iconic of the country in which they’re made. Woven loosely, straw hats can protect a person from the hot sun while also keeping their head cool. In rainy climates, tightly woven hats are good for staying dry. Of course, straw hats are a staple of women’s fashion and can be found in nearly every color and decorated with ribbon, flowers, feathers, beads, and more.

Miss Fannie’s Hat

Written by Jan Karon | Illustrated by Toni Goffe

 

“Miss Fannie has lots of hats. And each one is her favorite.” Miss Fannie is ninety-nine years old and has a closet full of hats that she has worn on special occasions throughout her life. When she tries on her “red felt with the big feather, she looks in the mirror and says ‘I just love this hat!’” It’s the same with her green velour hat that’s decorated with a fancy pin. She’s not the only one who loves her hats. When she wears them to church, people always tell her, “‘Miss Fannie, I sure do love that hat!’” But Miss Fannie has a favorite among her many hats: the pink straw with silk roses. Everyone else loves this hat too.

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Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

Miss Fannie is a tiny woman who now lives with her daughter, Wanda. Wanda takes good care of her mother. She makes her big breakfasts, and even though Miss Fannie always says its “way too much,” she always clears her plate. Every Saturday, Wanda helps her mother wash her hair in the bathroom sink. Miss Fannie is so small that she has to stand on a stool to reach. Afterward, Wanda rolls her mother’s hair in curlers, and on Sunday morning she “combs out her mama’s hair, which is all nice and soft and gray, like the feathers of a dove.”

Then Miss Fannie puts on make-up, dresses in her best clothes, and chooses a hat. Choosing can be difficult because “Miss Fannie has three black hats, two red hats, one green hat, two white hats, two navy hats, three beige hats, one brown hat, and the famous pink straw with roses. Because she never wears the same one twice in a row, some people think she has a whole closet full of hats. Which, of course, she does.”

One Sunday, Miss Fannie’s preacher comes to her with an earnest request. He asks her to donate one of her hats to the auction that will raise money to fix up the church for Easter. Miss Fannie wants to help, but how can she choose among her beautiful hats? When they get home, Miss Wanda helps her mother lay out all of her hats on the bed and dresser. Alone in her room, Miss Fannie looks over all her hats. As she holds each in her hand she remembers her past. “The green velour with the fancy pin was very, very old, and still very beautiful.” She had worn it during the great flood of 1916 when she “crossed the swollen river on a ferry to visit her mother and father. As she stood at the rail…a house had floated by, almost close enough to touch.”

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Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

Next, she considers the red, wide-brimmed felt. The feather on this hat came from a hawk Miss Fannie had caught trying to nab one of her chickens. Then she picks up the brown velvet hat that “always reminded her of Flower, her grandmother’s cow.” She had begun milking Flower when she was seven years old and had learned to churn butter that was better than any found in a store. “Finally, Miss Fannie came to her most favorite hat of all: the pick straw with silk roses.” She had worn it every Easter for thirty-five years and it never failed to make her feel brand new. It was a tradition everyone else enjoyed too, “just as they looked for the tulips and daffodils to bloom in the spring.”

She puts the pink straw hat on, looks in the mirror, and sighs. “In her heart she did not want to giver her hat away. Not at all.” But as she places it back in its box and ties the ribbon, she discovers “she was very, very excited” about all the things it might be able to do. The old pipe organ needed fixing, there was a crack in the church bell, and the roof really needed to be replaced.

At the auction, when the preacher holds up Miss Fannie’s pink straw hat with the silk roses, “the bidding took off lickety-split.” With the bang of the gavel, the hat goes to a woman in the front row. The check she gives the preacher is “enough to really get things fixed,” Miss Fannie knows. She also knows “that she would not miss her favorite hat one bit.”

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Image copyright Toni Goffe, text copyright Jan Karon. Courtesy of Puffin Books.

On Easter morning Miss Fannie rises and fixes her hair. She looks at her hats—none of which seemed right. As she meets Wanda at the front door in her best dress, her best jewelry, her best gloves, and a white corsage, “Miss Wanda couldn’t believe her eyes. Her mama was going out the door without wearing any hat at all!” When they arrive at the freshly painted church, Miss Fannie and Miss Wanda are surprised and delighted to see pink roses planted everywhere around the building. “‘Oh, Mama!’ said Miss Wanda. ‘It looks just like your pink hat!’”

With tears in her eyes, Miss Fannie learns that they were able to fix the organ and the bell as well as planting all the roses. As the congregation looks on “they didn’t see an old woman at all. What they saw was a young girl with hair as soft as the feathers of a dove.” And now when people pass the church, they don’t see gardens of roses. Instead, they see Miss Fannie’s hat. “And it will always be her favorite.”

Jan Karon’s story of selfless love was a favorite in our house when my daughter was young. Not only is the well-paced narrative full of evocative sensory details, bits of history, and realistic dialogue, it centers around a unique plot involving the types of soul-searching decisions that are hard to make. No matter how many times we read the book, Miss Fannie’s choice to auction her favorite hat to benefit her church seemed to come as a surprise that both inspired and heartened. While the tale is primarily Miss Fannie’s, it is Wanda’s story of benevolence too as Karon affectionately describes the ways in which Wanda lovingly attends to her mother’s physical and emotional needs. Throughout Miss Fannie’s Hat, Karon demonstrates that a life well-lived is one abounding in joyous giving.

Toni Goffe takes readers into Miss Wanda’s home—and Miss Fannie’s memory—with his bright, delicate illustrations that fully satisfy little one’s love of realistic detail. My daughter enjoyed the textured feel to the images, where steam rises from a cup of tea and from the bathroom sink, Miss Wanda brushes out her mother’s soft hair, and the hats—made of velvet, velour, and straw and sporting feathers, flowers, nets, and ribbon—beg to be touched. In fact, with the first page and its tantalizing peek into Miss Fannie’s closet, readers will find themselves riveted to her hats and life story. Vignettes from Miss Fannie’s younger years as well as scenes of her now demonstrate her enduring courage and strength of character.

For kids who like to count, sort, and compare, a one-page illustration and a glorious two-page spread allow them to match the list of hats in the text with the contents of Miss Fannie’s closet. They are also invited to choose their favorite from among Miss Fannie’s hats.

Miss Fannie’s Hats is a wonderful story to share with young readers for its ideas of giving, multigenerational relationships, and friendship.

Ages 3 – 6

Puffin Books, 2001 | ISBN 978-0140568127

Discover more about Jan Karon and her books for children and adults on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Toni Goffe on his website!

Straw Hat Day Activity

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Hat Matching Game

 

These hats come in pairs—or maybe even triplets—but somehow they’ve been mixed up! Can you find all the matching sets? Just put on your thinking caps and play this printable game!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two or more sets of cards
  2. Cut the hat cards apart
  3. Mix them up and lay them face down on the floor or table
  4. Choosing one card at a time, turn them over to try and find a match
  5. If the cards do not match, replace them face down and try again
  6. Continue play until all the hats have been matched

Picture Book Review