March 1 – National Reading Month Book Tour Launch for Agnes’s Place

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About the Holiday

National Reading Month is a book-lover’s delight! With thirty-one whole days where taking extra time to read is not only allowed but encouraged can send one hurrying out to the bookstore or library to stock up! Kids love being read to, and setting aside time to read together every day builds strong bonds that can last a lifetime. The month is officially marked with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities that bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids. This year look for virtual events and make a plan with your kids to find new and old favorites books to share. 

Thanks to Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of Agnes’s Place for review consideration. All opinions are my own.  I’m happy to be teaming with Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Agnes’s Place

Written by Marit Larsen | Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie | Translated by Kari Dickson

 

In a city of “so many buildings,” Agnes lives on a neat little street where the trolley passes by and a café and corner grocery welcome their customers. In her apartment building, Agnes “knows she is at home before she even opens her eyes in the morning. She knows who is baking, who is playing, and who is saying shush.” When she opens her window, the birds come for the seeds she feeds them because “she knows that the birds are hungry and that she is the only one who remembers.” Agnes knows about all of the residents of her building and especially “what it is like to be the only child in a place full of adults who never have time.”

One day when she looked out her window at the rain coming down, she noticed a girl standing next to her favorite puddle with a tall pile of boxes and belongings. Agnes wondered if she was moving in. She watched through the peephole in her door as the girl and adults carried boxes and bags up the stairs to the fifth floor. Excited, Agnes drew a large picture of the swings outside the building, and she wrote an invitation—“HERE”—with an arrow. Then, when things were quiet, she went upstairs and slid it through the letter box, where it came to rest under a chest of drawers. Agnes skipped down the stairs. “She felt her heart pounding in her cheeks and ears.” But, later, she sat on the swing alone, which felt lonelier than playing on the swings by herself.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2021, text copyright Marit Larsen, 2021. Translation by Kari Dickson, 2021. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing.

When Agnes woke up the next day, she felt that everything was the same… but completely different. When she went to the window to feed the birds, they flew past her and up toward the new girl’s window. Later, Agnes practiced new tricks on the swing. After that, she played with her toys while she watched the new girl on the swing. Her home “was somehow a new place now,” and all she could think about was the new girl: did she hear and see the same things Agnes did?

Every day, Agnes waited by the swings until it was time to go in. The new girl discovered Agnes’s puddle by herself. She did a lot of fun things, and if she saw Agnes at the market, Agnes couldn’t tell because she walked right by. When Agnes went to get Emilia’s newspaper from the mailbox to deliver as she did every day, she found the box empty. And when she went to visit Emilia, she found Emilia already doing the crossword puzzle.

Agnes ventured: “‘it is a bit strange, isn’t it, that you can just move into a place without asking everyone who lives there if they think it’s okay?’” Emilia said, “‘Well, now—we’ve all been new at one time or another. Even me.’” Then Emilia offered her a waffle, but Agnes thought “a waffle is not much comfort when you are five and have no secrets left to share.”

But coming downstairs, Agnes was suddenly face to face with the new girl. They were the same size and “both just as quiet.” Agnes’s sweater matched the new girl’s hat, and when Anna opened her hands the marbles inside glowed as if “she had the whole universe in the palm of her hand.” They laughed together as the marbles flowed down the stairs like waves. Then Anna grabbed Agnes’s hand and led her upstairs to the roof, where Agnes had never been before but which Anna had transformed with birdhouses and little lights, and they had a picnic of waffles and hot chocolate. “It turned out that Anna had her own secrets. And they were wild and wonderful.”

Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage children to read from a wide range of cultural perspectives. Agnes’s Place was originally published in Norway.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2021, text copyright Marit Larsen, 2021. Translation by Kari Dickson, 2021. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing.

Marit Larsen has written a complex and thought-provoking story about making new friends and the nature of friendship, about loneliness, a sense of loss, and feelings of discovery. As the only child in the apartment building, Agnes has been left to make her own way and find her own entertainment and routines—her secrets. She is excited to see a new girl moving in and immediately invites her to play. But when her picture goes unseen and Agnes’s secrets are one-by-one discovered and, in some cases, “taken” by Anna, Larsen introduces the idea of how mixed signals, disappointments, and unfulfilled expectations can affect one’s own sense of self and place in the world.

Of course, Anna doesn’t know about Agnes and can’t know that the puddle, the swings, the birds, and Emilia’s newspaper have been “hers,” and in one illustration Anna can be seen as lonely too. When Agnes and Anna finally meet up and they realize that they are alike in many ways, they quickly become friends, and together they can their world more “wild and wonderful.” The events in the story give readers and adults excellent opportunities to discuss commonly felt emotions surrounding friendships and new experiences and what someone could and/or would do in similar situations.

In her gorgeous matte illustrations rendered in soothing hues, Jenny Løvlie creates a charming neighborhood and apartment building, in which cutaways show Agnes’s neighbors baking, reading, and tinkering in their own apartments. Through snapshot images Løvlie shows the disconnect between Agnes and Anna, and clearly shows how Agnes’s initial excitement at making a friend turns to sadness and uncertainty when her invitation goes unanswered and her comforting daily routine is seemingly usurped.

The moment when Agnes and Anna meet, however, is infused with acceptance, understanding, and promise. The final two spreads in which Anna and Agnes climb to the roof and have a picnic are stunning for their color and the magic they inspire. Kids and adults will want to linger over each page to soak up all of the details that are so true to home life as well as the whimsical antics of a pair of mice. Readers will also love to point out all of the cats and other animals that appear throughout the pages.

A heartfelt and lovely story about new friendships and growing up set in a vibrant apartment community, Agnes’s Place would be a captivating addition to home, school, and public libraries for thoughtful story times.

Ages 4 – 8

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-1542026758

Marit Larsen is a Norwegian songwriter and musician. Agnes’s Place, her debut picture book, was first published in Norway and will also be published in Denmark and Italy. She currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. You can learn more about the author at www.maritlarsen.com and on Instagram: larsenmarit

Jenny Løvlie is a Norwegian illustrator. Her previous picture book, The Girls, written by Lauren Ace, was the winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. She currently lives in Cardiff, Wales. You can connect with Jenny Løvlie at www.lovlieillustration.com and on Instagram: lovlieillustration.

Kari Dickson is a literary translator from Edinburgh, Scotland. In 2020 she won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for best children’s translation for Brown, written by Håkon Øvreås and illustrated by Øyvind Torseter. She holds a BA in Scandinavian studies and an MA in translation.

Agnes’s Place Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Agnes’s Place written by Marit Larsen | illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your favorite childhood book for extra entry

This giveaway is open from March 1 to March 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 8. 

Prizing provided by Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

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You can find Agnes’s Place at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 13 – National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Reading with your child every day gives you time to relax, giggle, talk, and enjoy some precious moments together. In fact, that’s what National Reading Month is all about! So grab some old favorites and new finds – like today’s book – and make treasured family memories.

In My Heart

Written by Mackenzie Porter | Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

 

A little girl tiptoes into her mom’s room, giggling as she jumps on the bed and wakes her up. They have breakfast together and get ready for their day. Buckled into her car seat, the girl says, “‘Mama, I will miss you. What do you do all day?’” With loving words, her mom takes her through her day. She says, “First, before I go, my love, I give you a good-bye kiss. / Then as I am leaving, I remind myself of this: / Though we’re not together, / we’re never truly apart / because you’re always on my mind / and you’re always in my heart.”

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2020, text copyright Mackenzie Porter, 2020. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Her daughter learns that her mom starts thinking about her as soon as she drops her off to spend the day with other kids. Driving to work, Mama listens to her little one’s favorite song and thinks about how she sings along. While participating in meetings, she wonders if her little girl is learning new things too. And at lunchtime she feels especially close as she thinks of them eating the same meal. As she doodles, she’s reminded of the drawings taped up around their house.

But while the day brings joy and sweet memories, this mom reassures her wondering child that her favorite part of the day is picking her up so they can spend the evening and nighttime together. “Once I hear your voice again / the whole world melts away. / The moment you say ‘Mama’ is what I’ve waited for all day.”  

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2020, text copyright Mackenzie Porter, 2020. Courtesy of Little Simon.

For little ones missing Mom during the day, Mackenzie Porter’s lyrical story simply and beautifully connects a child’s experiences at daycare or school with their mother’s day at work. Examples familiar to all kids reassure them that throughout the day their mom is thinking about them and looking forward to being together again. Porter’s sweet repeated verse gives kids an easy-to-memorize reminder of their mother’s love to comfort them when they experience those pangs of separation. For working moms, In My Heart lets them share that they too feel those pangs but are always and forever bonded with their child.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2020, text copyright Mackenzie Porter, 2020. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Jenny Løvlie’s soothing colors and joyful scenes of mother-and-child togetherness create a tranquil reading experience that moms and their little ones will love to share. Hugs, hand-holding, gentle caresses, and mirrored smiles demonstrate the strong and caring relationship between the two. Facing pages portraying mom at the office and the little girl at daycare or school show that they are each independent yet connected by thoughts and their mutual love.

A delightful and poignant book that is sure to become a daily read, In My Heart would be a favorite addition to home bookshelves and school and library collections.

Ages Baby and Up

Little Simon, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534454330

To learn more about Jenny Løvlie, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

Jar Full of Love

 

With this easy-to-make craft your child can see the love that’s in your heart. Whether you fill it up right away or add to it a day at a time, just looking at this jar will make your child happy. 

Supplies

  • A clear jar with a lid—you can use a recyclable plastic or glass jar or buy a mason jar or other decorative jar at a craft store
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Add hearts to the jar in a way that’s meaningful to you and your child. Here are some ideas:

  • Fill the jar all the way to the top to show your child how your heart overflows with love for them
  • Add one heart every day. As you and your child put it in the jar, talk about a time during the day that you thought about each other.
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your child, Write one trait on each heart
  • Add a heart each time you do something fun together

3. Display the jar in your child’s room or somewhere else they can see it

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You can find In My Heart at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. A simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support goes a long way in making the world a kinder and better place to live in. But don’t limit your care and concern to just one day. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

Thanksgiving in the Woods

Written by Phyllis Alsdurf | Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

 

A little boy watches for the signs—fall winds, leaves falling, and when “jack-o-lanterns lose their smiles”—that tell him its time for Thanksgiving in the Woods. As he counts the days he gathers all the supplies he’ll need, including his stuffed puppy Brownie and puts them in a pile. At last the day comes to get ready for Thanksgiving in the Woods. His mama wakes him early. The boy stuffs “all of [his] treasures into a backpack. Mama gathers boots and winter coats” while Daddy brings his guitar and the boy’s recorder.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

They drive until they meet up with Grandpa waiting next to his truck on a gravel road. The boy jumps in and rides with Grandpa “over rutted fields, then down a slope to a clearing under trees that reach to the clouds.” He sees that his cousins are already there, building a fort next to a stream. From Grandpa’s pickup truck come boards to make tables and bales of straw to sit on. His uncle is busy building a bonfire while neighbors sling a tarp overhead and string lights through the branches.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

At Grandma and Grandpa’s house the next morning, the little boy is up early. After breakfast, while the adults talk, the kids get dressed in their warmest clothes. When they get to the site, some people are already there. Soon, a tractor pulling a wagon appears with Mama, Grandma, and others bringing “…turkeys and dressing, mashed potatoes, peas, and corn. Oh, now it’s starting to smell like Thanksgiving in the Woods!”

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

It’s not long before family, friends, and people the little boy doesn’t even know “cross the field to the hollow under the hemlocks,” carrying all kinds of food to share. When Grandma rings a bell, everyone gathers to sing and talk about being thankful. Then it’s time to eat. “Lines of people snake around the tables” as they fill their plates. The kids take their plates to the fort to have their own Thanksgiving in the Woods.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

As night falls, “grown-ups are playing fiddles, banjos, and drums and singing songs that everyone knows. Soon Daddy joins in on his guitar,” and the boy plays a tune on his recorder. Later, Grandma passes out marshmallows to toast in the bonfire. It’s one of the boy’s favorite parts of Thanksgiving in the Woods. When all the food has been eaten and the singing, music, and dancing are done, people pack up and return to the farmyard along a candle-lit path. As the boy rides on his daddy’s shoulders, he hears “a banjo and someone singing: ‘Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free, / “Tis the gift to come down / where we ought to be.” As Grandma says, it’s “‘a perfect ending to Thanksgiving in the Woods.’”

The book opens with a photograph and description of the actual Thanksgiving in the Woods held in upstate New York that inspired the story. The music and words to the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts follows the text.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2017, text copyright Phyllis Alsdurf, 2017. Courtesy of Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books.

Phyllis Alsdurf’s heartwarming recounting of this true-life Thanksgiving tradition wraps readers in the feelings of thankfulness, camaraderie, family, and friendship that the holiday embraces. Told from a little boy’s point of view, the story builds on his excitement for the preparations and the day’s celebration. Children will be enchanted by the fort where the boy and his cousins enjoy their Thanksgiving meal and may want to try it out at home. The quiet, leisurely simplicity of the gathering is a welcome respite from the commercialized day the holiday has become.

Jenny Løvlie’s illustrations glow with the warmth of autumn colors, twinkling lights, and roaring bonfires. Her double-page spreads of the woods and the clearing under the trees that hosts the annual feast are gorgeous, beautifully depicting the work that goes into creating this beloved tradition as well as the enthusiasm of the participants. The image of the group singing around the fire puts kids in the center of the celebration. As the day winds down and the families head home, readers will be happy they don’t have to wait a whole year to revisit Thanksgiving in the Woods.

Ages 4 – 7

Sparkhouse Family/Beaming Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1506425085

Discover more about Phyllis Alsdurf and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jenny Løvlie, her books, and her art, visit her website

World Kindness Day Activity

CPB - Random Acts of Kindness cards

Kindness Cards to Share

 

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

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You can find Thanksgiving in the Woods at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review