September 16 – It’s Classical Music Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-cover

About the Holiday

Classical music has been an inspiration since the earliest instruments were created. The talent and imagination of great composers of the past has been passed down from generation to generation of music lovers, influencing new music all along the journey. To celebrate this month’s holiday, take in a classical music concert or performance or listen to your favorite (or a new) classical music station. If you’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano, violin, or other instrument, take the opportunity this month to sign up for lessons!

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Written by Chieri Uegaki | Illustrated by Qin Leng

 

When Hana Hashimoto told her brothers that she had signed up to play her violin in the talent show, they laughed.  “‘That’s just loopy,’” Kenji said, and Koji added ‘‘You can barely play a note.’” They reminded her that it was a talent show and that she was just a beginner. But Hana didn’t listen. “It was true that she was still a beginner. She had only been to three lessons.” But playing the violin was in her blood. Her grandfather, Ojiichan, had once been Second Violin in a symphony orchestra in Kyoto, Japan and had even played for the Imperial Family.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-brothers-in-tree

Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Hana had visited her grandfather that summer, and the sweet notes of his playing had coaxed “her awake as gently as sunshine” every morning. In the evenings her grandfather would take requests from Hana and her brothers. “Hana always asked for a song about a crow cawing for her seven chicks. Whenever Ojiichan played it, Hana would feel a shiver of happy-sadness ripple through her.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-hana-sleeping

Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Ojiichan’s playing was like magic. He could make the violin chirp like crickets, plink like falling raindrops, and send fireflies dancing. At the end of the summer, Hana had decided she also wanted to play the violin and her parents agreed. Hana practiced every day even though her brothers ran away with their hands over their ears. She played for her parents, for her dog, JoJo, and for a photograph of Ojiichan. Sometimes she pretended to play for “an audience so appreciative they called for encore after encore.”

On the night of the talent show, Hana waited backstage for her turn “with a walloping heart.” Five other violinists had already gone before her. Finally, she heard her name. As she strode across the stage as wide as a desert, she had a fleeting feeling that her brothers had been right—that her performance was going to be a disaster. But when she reached her spot near the microphone and gazed out at the audience, she saw her best friend and her parents smiling at her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-listening-to-grandfather

Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Hana took a deep breath and let it out. Suddenly, “everyone seemed to disappear beyond the light shining down on her like a moonbeam” and she remembered her grandfather’s words: “‘Gambarunoyo, Hana-chan.’ Do your best.” Hana told the audience, “‘This is the sound of a mother crow calling her chicks.’” She “played three raw, squawky notes.” Then she played the yowl of her neighbor’s cat at night and the plucky droplets of rain on a paper umbrella. Hana played a world of special sounds, from buzzing bees to squeaking mice to croaking frogs. When she had finished, she said, “‘And that is how I play the violin.’” Then she took a bow.

Later that night Kenji asked Hana for an encore, and she happily played her piece again. Next year, Hana thought, she might be able to play one of her grandfather’s melodies. Before she went to sleep, Hana played another piece she had been practicing. “She imagined that the notes would drift out through the window, past the bright rabbit moon and beyond, and Ojiichan would hear them and smile.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-hana-bows

Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Chieri Uegaki’s gorgeously told story of a little girl’s first performance with her new violin rings true on every page, from her being inspired by her grandfather to her own inspirational performance. Uegaki’s descriptions of the melodies that capture Hana’s heart are as beautiful as the music itself and are a joy to read. Hana’s continued self-confidence in the face of her brothers’ teasing and her own fear is a wonderful lesson for all children. The brothers’ support of Hana after the talent show is a welcome show of familial love, and the touching ending offers encouragement and happiness.

Young readers will love Qin Leng’s evocative illustrations that follow Hana on her musical journey. Notes from the violin pieces Hana admires float from page to page—from her grandfather’s home in Japan to her own room—tying together not only Hana’s fondness for the violin but her love for her grandfather. Beautiful touches, such as an image of Hana reflected in a pastel blue rain puddle and a night sky twinkling with fireflies, mirror the wonder of childhood, when everything is new and possible.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin is refreshing encouragement for any child engaging in new experiences or activities. The book’s warmth and inventiveness make it a wonderful gift or addition to home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1894786331

Enjoy this Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin book trailer!

Classical Music Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kids-playing-music-find-the-differences

Musical Kids Find the Differences

 

These two kids are performing a duet! Can you find all of the differences in the second picture on this printable Musical Kids Find the Differences?

Picture Book Review

August 23 – It’s Back to School Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-I-became-a-bird-cover

About the Holiday

A lot can happen over the summer.  Going on vacation can give new perspectives; a growth spurt means new clothes and shoes; and a little more maturity can cause unfamiliar feelings. It’s all enough to make a student’s heart race when crossing the classroom threshold on that first day. Sometimes, though, when looking around at all of the known and new faces, that little flutter of the heart can be…love.

The Day I Became a Bird

Written by Ingrid Chabbert | Illustrated by Raúl Nieto Guridi

 

On the first day of school a little boy sees Sylvia and falls instantly in love. At home he draws picture after picture of her. Although the boy only has eyes for Sylvia, she doesn’t see him. Instead, the boy says, “Sylvia is a bird lover. She can’t bear to see them living in cages. She quietly observes them in the wild and gently cares for them when they are injured.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-I-became-a-bird-boy-costume-being-built

Image copyright Raúl Nieto Guridi, 2016, text copyright Ingrid Chabbert, 2016. Courtesy of Kids Can Press

Everything she does and wears is somehow associated with birds. Even “her voice sounds like birdsong.” The boy has lost all interest in his toys, the sports he plays, and all of his old pursuits. He thinks differently about birds now, too. One day he decides “to dress as a bird.” He constructs a costume with glistening feathers “like the ones you see in the forest in summer.” When he puts it on he feels handsome. In the costume he dreams of flying with Sylvia to the top of the Rocky Mountains or a pyramid.

In school he doesn’t care if the other kids stare and giggle. And even though it’s hard to walk, play soccer, and climb trees, he doesn’t want to remove his costume. He is a bird. One afternoon, the boy says, “I come face to face with Sylvia. And finally our eyes meet.” Sylvia approaches and takes off the boy’s costume. “My heart is beating a hundred miles an hour,” he relates. “In the sky, I see a flock of birds take flight.” Sylvia gives him a long hug.

Standing completely still, the boy doesn’t know how to react. He knows he’s not a bird anymore, but still, he feels as if he’s flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-I-became-a-bird-boy-in-class

Image copyright Raúl Nieto Guridi, 2016, text copyright Ingrid Chabbert, 2016. Courtesy of Kids Can Press

Ingrid Chabbert’s enchanting revelation of first love encompasses in its spare text all the obsessive but ultimately freeing power of this universal emotion. While in the midst of his “normal” life, the boy’s world is suddenly transformed when he spies Sylvia. Leaving his toys behind, he chooses Sylvia’s bird’s eye view. Likewise, when Sylvia sees the narrator, she allows her birds to take wing and considers boys—or at least one boy—in a whole new light. Chabbert’s use of first-person narration reinforces the intimate nature of love and the idea that when love is right, being “captured” is a most liberating experience.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-I-became-a-bird-boy-in-costume

Image copyright Raúl Nieto Guridi, 2016, courtesy of Kids Can Press

The themes of Chabbert’s story are so movingly rendered by Raúl Nieto Guridi’s simple, monochromatic line drawings. Although the boy states that “one morning” he decided to dress as a bird, from the first day when the boy falls in love with Sylvia—gazing at her wistfully while her eyes are instead trained at the sky or cast down at her chalk drawings—his costume begins to take shape. As it comes together, its wire skeleton resembles a bird cage, suggesting so many ways in which we may feel trapped by our emotions, our things, even changes in life.

When the boy dons the costume and begins to navigate the world in an unfamiliar way, readers will understand that he is no longer the boy he was, but neither is he a real bird. It is this unique creature that Sylvia responds to when, through holes in the costume where feathers are missing, she sees not the bird, but the boy. So it is that into everyone’s life there come people—or perhaps one particular person—with whom all costumes and cages are discarded, and we soar.

The Day I Became a Bird is a quiet beauty that gets to the core of what it means to give your heart to someone else. It would make a wonderful and touching addition to home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1771386210

Watch this The Day I Became a Bird book trailer!

Back to School Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-studying-together

 

Let’s Study Together! Coloring Page

 

Going back to school means getting back with friends! Grab your colored pencils, markers, or crayons and enjoy this Let’s Study Together! Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

April 18 – World Heritage Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-days-around-the-world-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 1982 by the International Council of Monuments and Sites to celebrate the joint history and heritage of the human race. World Heritage Day invites us to honor all of the world’s cultures and promotes awareness of important cultural monuments and sites in order to preserve these valuable historical places. Nearly 10,000 members from more than 150 countries, including architects, engineers, artists, geologists, civil engineers, and architects, work tirelessly to protect the world’s cultural achievements.

School Days Around the World

Written by Margriet Ruurs | Illustrated by Alice Feagan

 

Every day millions of children around the world go to school, but schools can vary from place to place. Some classes are held in large buildings with libraries, science labs, and computer rooms while others gather in small buildings or even outside. “Schools around the world may be very different, but children everywhere like to have friends and learn new things.” In School Days Around the World, readers meet children from thirteen countries to learn what their educational day is like.

First, children meet Tamatoa, who attends school on Rarotonga, one of the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. Tamatoa arrives to school on a scooter just as the “thang-Thong-thang! of the wooden slit drum calls students inside. Tamatoa’s teacher is wearing flowers in her hair as she does every day. She teaches the children their Ura language, and in the afternoon they dance the hupa, the island’s traditional dance. In Singapore Raphael goes to an international school where the students speak many languages. Raphael knows Dutch, English, and Spanish. His best friend Aamon speaks Hindi, Chinese, and English. Raphael likes to read and write stories on the computer. Sometimes they “have a craft fair to raise money to help children in other parts of the world.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-schools-around-the-world-map

Image copyright Margriet Ruurs, text copyright Alice Feagan. Courtesy of alicefeagan.com

Marta walks to her school in Azezo, Ethiopi, even though she is blind. Her friend Ayana holds her hand tightly to help “her around potholes and cow patties.” There are so many students that there are two different sessions. Marta goes in the morning with 500 other children. There are 70 students in her class. They learn Amharic and about Ethiopia. At noon Ayana and Marta “hurry home to help feed the ox and cow and to fetch water from the village well.”

Camilla is from Germany. Her older brother Johannes lives at a boarding school during the school year. He shares his room in an old stone house with three boys. Everyone eats together and cleans up afterward—just like in a family. In class he learns “about nature and science. They also learn how to sail.” Camilla can’t wait until it’s her turn to go to school.

If you visited Annika at school in Copenhagan, Denmark, you would probably spend most of the day outside. Some days the students take a bus to their forest school. There the “run and climb on an old boat.” They “play on swings and with a ball.” Outside they also listen to birds and learn about plants and insects and other parts of nature. While Annika enjoys spending cold days outside, Ana’s days are usually warm. She lives in San Luis, Honduras and walks an hour from her home in the hills to her new school. Inside, two teachers show the children how to read and write. Sometimes, Ana says, “a nurse visits our school. She teaches us how to brush our teeth and stay healthy.” One day a van delivers backpacks full of school supplies, books, and even running shoes.

In Alberta Canada, Shanika goes to a First Nations school where she learns her traditional Cree language along with math and language arts. After lunch, they hear stories, and elders teach them “powwow dances, drumming and how to raise a teepee. They also hold feasts where there are prayers, and the whole community shares tea, soup, bannock loaded with beans and cheese, and berries.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school-days-around-the-world-turkey

Image copyright Margriet Ruurs, text copyright Alice Feagan. Courtesy of alicefeagan.com

You can also spend school days with Lu in China, Alina in Kazakhstan, Mathii in Kenya, Bilge in Turkey, Luciano in Venezuela, and Amy and Gwen in Alaska, USA.

 In her short, engaging stories based on the lives of real families, Margriet Ruurs takes readers globe-trotting with new friends to show readers a typical school day in cities big and small. The details of each child’s experience—both familiar and unique—help readers learn more about their peers, promoting greater empathy and understanding now and for a better future.

Alice Feagan’s cut paper collages are full of joy and personality as kids dance, play, read, and study together. While the students’ clothing, lunches, and school buildings may differ from country to country, readers will see that the enthusiasm to learn is universal. A world map at the beginning of the book points out where each featured child lives.

A discussion following the text gives teachers, homeschoolers, and individuals tips on using the book to expand on the stories told. A glossary provides definitions and a pronunciation key for the native words found throughout the book. School Days Around the World offers a wonderful opportunity to jumpstart lessons on world customs and geography.

Ages  3 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1771380478

Discover more about Margriet Ruurs and her books as well as activities for teachers and readers on her website!

You’ll find more about Alice Feagan and a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

World Heritage Day Activity

Monumental Word Scramble

Monumental Word Scramble

 

You’ll travel the world as you unscramble the names of 15 world monuments in this printable Monumental Word Scramble Puzzle.

Picture Book Review

March 30 – It’s Music in Our Schools Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-cover

About the Holiday

This annual holiday celebrates the benefits of music education in schools. With budget cuts looming in nearly every school district, the arts are often the first to go. But music inspires creativity and critical thinking and contributes to a better understanding of math and other subjects. School music programs also offer opportunities to children who may otherwise not be able to take lessons and explore their talent. To help out, contact your local school and see what you can do!

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Written by Chieri Uegaki | Illustrated by Qin Leng

 

When Hana Hashimoto told her brothers that she had signed up to play her violin in the talent show, they laughed.  “‘That’s just loopy,’” Kenji said, and Koji added ‘‘You can barely play a note.’” They reminded her that it was a talent show and that she was just a beginner. But Hana didn’t listen. “It was true that she was still a beginner. She had only been to three lessons.” But playing the violin was in her blood. Her grandfather, Ojiichan, had once been Second Violin in a symphony orchestra in Kyoto, Japan and had even played for the Imperial Family.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-brothers-in-tree

Image copyright Qin Leng, text copyright Chieri Uegaki. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Hana had visited her grandfather that summer, and the sweet notes of his playing had coaxed “her awake as gently as sunshine” every morning. In the evenings her grandfather would take requests from Hana and her brothers. “Hana always asked for a song about a crow cawing for her seven chicks. Whenever Ojiichan played it, Hana would feel a shiver of happy-sadness ripple through her.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-hana-sleeping

Image copyright Qin Leng, text copyright Chieri Uegaki. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Ojiichan’s playing was like magic. He could make the violin chirp like crickets, plink like falling raindrops, and send fireflies dancing. At the end of the summer, Hana had decided she also wanted to play the violin and her parents agreed. Hana practiced every day even though her brothers ran away with their hands over their ears. She played for her parents, for her dog, JoJo, and for a photograph of Ojiichan. Sometimes she pretended to play for “an audience so appreciative they called for encore after encore.”

On the night of the talent show, Hana waited backstage for her turn “with a walloping heart.” Five other violinists had already gone before her. Finally, she heard her name. As she strode across the stage as wide as a desert, she had a fleeting feeling that her brothers had been right—that her performance was going to be a disaster. But when she reached her spot near the microphone and gazed out at the audience, she saw her best friend and her parents smiling at her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-listening-to-grandfather

Image copyright Qin Leng, text copyright Chieri Uegaki. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Hana took a deep breath and let it out. Suddenly, “everyone seemed to disappear beyond the light shining down on her like a moonbeam” and she remembered her grandfather’s words: “‘Gambarunoyo, Hana-chan.’ Do your best.” Hana told the audience, “‘This is the sound of a mother crow calling her chicks.’” She “played three raw, squawky notes.” Then she played the yowl of her neighbor’s cat at night and the plucky droplets of rain on a paper umbrella. Hana played a world of special sounds, from buzzing bees to squeaking mice to croaking frogs. When she had finished, she said, “‘And that is how I play the violin.’” Then she took a bow.

Later that night Kenji asked Hana for an encore, and she happily played her piece again. Next year, Hana thought, she might be able to play one of her grandfather’s melodies. Before she went to sleep, Hana played another piece she had been practicing. “She imagined that the notes would drift out through the window, past the bright rabbit moon and beyond, and Ojiichan would hear them and smile.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-hana-bows

Image copyright Qin Leng, text copyright Chieri Uegaki. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Chieri Uegaki’s gorgeously told story of a little girl’s first performance with her new violin rings true on every page, from her being inspired by her grandfather to her own inspirational performance. Uegaki’s descriptions of the melodies that capture Hana’s heart are as beautiful as the music itself and are a joy to read. Hana’s continued self-confidence in the face of her brothers’ teasing and her own fear is a wonderful lesson for all children. The brothers’ support of Hana after the talent show is a welcome show of familial love, and the touching ending offers encouragement and happiness.

Young readers will love Qin Leng’s evocative illustrations that follow Hana on her musical journey. Notes from the violin pieces Hana admires float from page to page—from her grandfather’s home in Japan to her own room—tying together not only Hana’s fondness for the violin, but her love for her grandfather. Beautiful touches, such as an image of Hana reflected in a pastel blue rain puddle and a night sky twinkling with fireflies, mirror the wonder of childhood, when everything is new and possible.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin is refreshing encouragement for any child engaging in new experiences or activities. The book’s warmth and inventiveness make it a wonderful gift or addition to home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1894786331

Enjoy this Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin book trailer!

Music in Our Schools Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kids-playing-music-find-the-differences

Musical Kids Find the Differences

 

These two kids are performing a duet! Can you find all of the differences in the second picture on this printable Musical Kids Find the Differences?

Picture Book Review

January 7 – It’s Hot Tea Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-cover

About the Holiday

I must confess that this may be my favorite holiday. There’s nothing better than waking up with a well-steeped cup of tea, writing with a favorite mug brimming with hot tea with honey sitting nearby, enjoying scones with clotted cream and jam and a hot cuppa…well…you get the picture. People have drunk tea since earliest times for its soothing and medicinal properties. Mellower than coffee and available in endless varieties and tastes, hot tea is just the thing for relaxing moments. Today, enjoy your favorite tea or try a new kind!

The Tea Party in the Woods

By Akiko Miyakoshi

 

Because snow had fallen overnight Kikko’s father was off to her grandmother’s house to shovel the walk. After he left, Kikko noticed that he had forgotten to take the pie her mother had made for Grandma. “‘I can still catch up to him,’” said Kikko. Carefully, carrying the boxed pie, Kikko followed “her father’s tracks in the fresh snow. The woods were very still. And so quiet. Kikko’s footsteps were the only sound.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-kikko-peers-in-window

Spying a coated figure in the distance, Kikko began to run, but she fell in the deep snow, crushing the pie. Still, she picked up the box and hurried on. She watched as her father entered a strange house. “Has it always been here? Kikko wondered. She couldn’t remember having seen it before.” Kikko crept to the window and peered inside, just as her father took off his hat and coat. But—he wasn’t her father at all!” He was a bear!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-lamb-meets-kikko

A little lamb approaching the house found Kikko looking through the window and asked if she were there for the tea party. Taking Kikko’s hand, the lamb led her into the house. When Kikko saw all of the animals gathered there, she couldn’t believe it. The animals cheered and welcomed Kikko enthusiastically. “‘We’re about to serve the tea,’ said the rabbit. ‘You’re just in time.’” After the animals seated themselves around a long table, a doe stood, thanked everyone for coming, and asked Kikko to introduce herself.

She told then her name and why she was in the forest. The animals thought she was very brave, and Kikko began to feel braver herself. When the animals learned that Kikko’s pie had been ruined, they all contributed a piece of their own pie from the party. “Slice by slice they assembled a new pie on a pretty plate. Each piece had a different filling of seeds and nuts and fruit and other delicious things gathered from the woods.” They found a new box, placed the plate inside, and tied it with a red ribbon.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-animals-meet-kikko

Kikko was so excited to bring her Grandma this gift that she wanted to leave right away. The animals said they would come too. The woods rang with music, talking, laughing, and singing as the group “paraded to Grandma’s house.” When they reached Grandma’s house, the animals encouraged Kikko to go to the door. Grandma and Kikko’s father were surprised to see her. “‘My dear, did you come all this way on your own?’ asked Grandma, stepping inside.” Kikko could not see the animals anywhere. “‘You’re never alone in the woods,’” Kikko answered, smiling. She was sure her new friends were listening.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-tea-party-in-the-woods-parade

Akiko Miyakoshi’s reassuring story about a little girl venturing out into strange territory on her own for the first time is a delight. The straightforward narrative offers just the right amount of familiarity for young readers to allow them to be fully charmed by the magical elements that provide surprise and suspense. Little ones will be entranced by the warm welcome Kikko receives at the splendid and well-attended tea party. They will also find comfort in realizing that even when travels become hard, they can still discover wondrous things and that friends and help are always available – sometimes where they least expect it.  

Miyakoshi’s stunning black-and-white drawings, done in charcoal and pencil, are gorgeous in their portrayal of the woodland animals and their tea party. The long table they crowd around is laden with pies, bowls of fruit, vases of flowers, and of course teapots and teacups. At first Kikko offers the only color on the pages with her red cap and skirt and yellow hair. Later, however, when the animals suggest sharing their pie, the plate dazzles with mouthwatering brilliance, and hints of red and yellow brighten the next page. As the parade marches through the woods, the animals’ red and yellow clothes and musical instruments make a festive party. But as Kikko goes on to her Grandma’s house alone, the color fades from the animals, highlighting her achievement.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-177138107

Discover more about Akiko Miyakoshi and a portfolio of her work on her website!

Tea Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ceramic-mug-craft

Decorate Your Own Mug

 

It’s fun to drink tea (or hot chocolate—shhh!) from a mug you’ve designed yourself. Personalized mugs also make fantastic presents for friends and family.

Supplies

  • Plain ceramic mug
  • Bakeable markers or paint

Directions

  1. Design and color your mug
  2. Follow directions on the markers or paint to properly bake on your decoration and make it permanent.

Picture Book Review

January 5 – National Bird Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-I-became-a-bird-cover

About the Holiday

Coming at the end of the annual Christmas Bird Count conducted in conjunction with the Audubon Society, National Bird Day turns the focus from wild birds to those kept in captivity while also raising awareness of the dangers that threaten many species with extinction. Today’s observance highlights the special behavioral and physical needs of birds and works to ensure that all birds—whether kept as pets or on farms or living in their natural environments—are treated compassionately. Now that winter has set in, make sure your pets and the birds that frequent your yard are cared for.

The Day I Became a Bird

Written by Ingrid Chabbert | Illustrated by Raúl Nieto Guridi

 

On the first day of school a little boy sees Sylvia and falls instantly in love. At home he draws picture after picture of her—“and one with hearts and a smiling sun.” Although the boy only has eyes for Sylvia, she doesn’t see him. Instead, the boy says, “Sylvia is a bird lover. She can’t bear to see them living in cages. She quietly observes them in the wild and gently cares for them when they are injured.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-I-became-a-bird-boy-costume-being-built

Image copyright Guridi, text copyright Ingrid Chabbert. Courtesy of Kids Can Press

Everything she does and wears is somehow associated with birds. Even “her voice sounds like birdsong.” The boy has lost all interest in his toys, the sports he plays, and all of his old pursuits. He thinks differently about birds now, too. One day he decides “to dress as a bird.” He constructs a costume with glistening feathers “like the ones you see in the forest in summer.” When he puts it on he feels handsome. In the costume he dreams of flying with Sylvia to the top of the Rocky Mountains or a pyramid.

In school he doesn’t care if the other kids stare and giggle. And even though it’s hard to walk, play soccer, and climb trees, he doesn’t want to remove his costume. He is a bird. One afternoon, the boy says, “I come face to face with Sylvia. And finally our eyes meet.” Sylvia approaches and takes off the boy’s costume. “My heart is beating a hundred miles an hour,” he relates. “In the sky, I see a flock of birds take flight.” Sylvia gives him a long hug.

Standing completely still, the boy doesn’t know how to react. He knows he’s not a bird anymore, but still, he feels as if he’s flying.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-I-became-a-bird-boy-in-class

Image copyright Guridi, text copyright Ingrid Chabbert. Courtesy of Kids Can Press

Ingrid Chabbert’s enchanting revelation of first love encompasses in its spare text all the obsessive but ultimately freeing power of this universal emotion. While in the midst of his “normal” life, the boy’s world is suddenly transformed when he spies Sylvia. Leaving his toys behind, he chooses Sylvia’s bird’s eye view. Likewise, when Sylvia sees the narrator, she allows her birds to take wing and considers boys—or at least one boy—in a whole new light. Chabbert’s use of first-person narration reinforces the intimate nature of love and the idea that when love is right, being “captured” is a most liberating experience.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-day-I-became-a-bird-boy-in-costume

Image copyright Guridi, courtesy of Kids Can Press

The themes of Chabbert’s story are so movingly rendered by Guridi’s simple, monochromatic line drawings. Although the boy states that “one morning” he decided to dress as a bird, from the first day when the boy falls in love with Sylvia—gazing at her wistfully while her eyes are instead trained through binoculars at the sky or cast down at her chalk drawings—his costume begins to take shape. As it comes together, its wire skeleton resembles a bird cage, suggesting so many ways in which we may feel trapped by our emotions, our things, even changes in life.

When the boy dons the costume and begins to navigate the world in an unfamiliar way, readers will understand that he is no longer the boy he was, but neither is he a real bird. It is this unique creature that Sylvia responds to when, through holes in the costume where feathers are missing, she sees not the bird, but the boy. So it is that into everyone’s life there come people—or perhaps one particular person—with whom all costumes and cages are discarded, and we soar.

The Day I Became a Bird is a quiet beauty that gets to the core of what it means to give your heart to someone else. It would make a wonderful and touching addition to home libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1771386210

Watch this The Day I Became a Bird book trailer!

National Bird Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bird-coloring-page

Wild Bird Coloring Page

 

Grab your pencils or crayons and enjoy this printable Wild Bird Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

November 16 – It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires picture book review

About the Holiday

Do you have a great idea to make the world a better place, a job easier, or life just a little more fun? Then this week is for you! All over the world inventors, thinkers, mentors, universities, and investors collaborate at events, conferences, and competitions to discover new products, creative ideas, and alternate ways of doing things. World leaders from 160 countries and more than 150,000 global organizations work together during this week to improve the lives of all.

The Most Magnificent Thing

By Ashley Spires

 

A little pony-tailed girl and her puppy do everything together. They race, eat, explore, and relax. When she makes things, her best friend unmakes them. One day the girl has a brilliant idea—she is going to make “the most MAGNIFICENT thing!” In her mind it’s going to be “easy-peasy.” She knows exactly how it will look and how it will work. With her faithful assistant following at her heels, the girl gathers materials and goes to work on the sidewalk outside her home.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-most-magnificent-thing-easy-peasy

Image and text copyright Ashley Spires, courtesy of Kids Can Press

The girl “tinkers and hammers and measures” while her assistant “pounces and growls and chews.” When the little invention is finished, they stand back to examine it. Hmmm…it doesn’t look quite right. It doesn’t feel quite right either. In fact it is all wrong! The girl tries again. She “smooths and wrenches and fiddles” while her assistant “circles and tugs and wags.” It still turns out wrong. Determined to make her vision reality, she gives it another go…and another…and another. She makes her invention different shapes, gives it various textures, measures out assorted sizes. One attempt even smells like stinky cheese! But none of these creations are MAGNIFICENT.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-most-magnificent-thing-neighbors-come-by

Image and text copyright Ashley Spires, courtesy of Kids Can Press

People stop by and offer encouraging—even admiring—remarks, but the little girl just gets mad. Can’t they see how wrong her invention is? In her anger the little girl works at a fevered pitch, shoving parts together, her brain fogged by “all the not-right things.” In her haste she hurts her finger. This is the last straw. She explodes and declares that she QUITS!

celebrate=picture-books-picture-book-review-magnificent-thing-not-magnificent

Image and text copyright Ashley Spires, courtesy of Kids Can Press

The ever-watchful assistant suggests a bit of fresh air. The girl takes her puppy for a walk and at first her feelings of defeat stay with her. Little by little, though, she pays attention to the world around her and her mind clears. Coming home, she encounters all the wrong things she has made lined up on the sidewalk. Her disappointment threatens to return, but then she notices something surprising—there are parts of each iteration that she likes!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-most-magnificent-thing-tinkering

Image and text copyright Ashley Spires, courtesy of Kids Can Press

After studying each earlier attempt, she knows just what to do! Slowly and carefully she once more begins to tinker. At the end of the day she and her assistant stand back to look. The machine may lean a bit, and be a little heavy, and it may need a coat of paint…but as the girl and her puppy climb aboard, they both agree that “it really is THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING!”

You are never too young or too old for Ashley Spires’ inspiring and inspired story. The journey from idea to realization—so often fraught with disaster (or apparent disaster)—is depicted here honestly and with humor as the on-going process it is. Step-by-step the little girl thinks, gathers materials, tinkers, discovers, tinkers some more, and triumphs. It is this last step that is so “magnificently” presented—it’s only by not giving up that success can be achieved.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-most-magnificent-thing-the-girl-and-her-dog

Image and text copyright Ashley Spires, courtesy of Kids Can Press

Spires’ tale is a delight of language—the girl “smooths, wrenches, fiddles, twists, tweaks, and fastens, pummels, jams, and smashes.” Likewise, her illustrations wonderfully depict the changing emotions of this thoughtful, steely-eyed, shocked, and ultimately thrilled young inventor. Her faithful puppy is a charming companion and foil, and kids will love examining the early inventions that lead up to the final product.

The Most Magnificent Thing is a fabulous book to keep on any child’s or adult’s bookshelf for those times when inspiration hits but achievement seems elusive.

Ages 3 – 7 and up 

Kids Can Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-155453704

Discover more books by Ashley Spires on her website!

Global Entrepreneurship Week Activity

CPB - Inventor's Tool Kit II (2)

Entrepreneur’s Tool Kit

 

Every idea begins as a jumble of seemingly unrelated parts. Gathering whatever types of material inspires you and keeping it in a box ready to go when inspiration hits is a great way to support innovation and spark experimentation.

Supplies

  • Small parts organizer with drawers or compartments, available at hardware stores and craft stores
  • A variety of parts or craft materials that can be combined, built with, or built on
  • Some hardware ideas—pulleys, wheels, small to medium pieces of wood, wire, nuts, bolts, screws, hooks, knobs, hinges, recyclable materials
  • Some craft ideas—clay, beads, wooden pieces, sticks, paints, pipe cleaners, string, spools, buttons, glitter, scraps of material, recyclable materials

Directions

  1. Fill the organizer with the materials of your choice
  2. Let your imagination go to work! Build something cool, crazy, silly, useful—Amazing!

Picture Book Review