January 11 – Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day

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About the Holiday

Melting snow or winter rains can cause plenty of opportunities to take part in today’s holiday! Jumping in puddles isn’t just for kids, either. Come on! You know you want to! So pull on those boots, find a puddle, and…jump!

Puddle

By Hyewon Yum

 

A little boy stands in the middle of the room with his arms folded firmly in front of him. “I hate rainy days!” he says. He flops onto a chair—half on, half off—and bemoans the weather. He “can’t go to the playground,” “can’t play soccer,” can’t ride his bike. His mom invites her grumpy boy to draw with her, but he’s so grumpy that he tells her he’s “never going to draw!” That’s okay, Mom says. She can draw without him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-grumpy-cat

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In a moment Mom sings out, “Ta-da! It’s an umbrella.” Intrigued just a little, the boy comes over to the desk and takes a peek. He recognizes his own blue umbrella. The little boy thinks something is missing, though, and asks if his mom can draw him holding it. Mom obliges and draws a yellow-slickered little boy holding the blue umbrella over his head.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-drawing

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

But there’s still something missing. The boy doesn’t want to stand there all alone. Where’s his mom? Where’s Billy? The boy’s mom isn’t so sure she can draw a dog, but Billy comes out just fine with a feathery tail and shaggy ears. Mom looks very stylish in her checkered raincoat and boots too. There’s just one problem—there’s no rain.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-dialoge

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The little boy picks up the crayon and draws blue slanting lines all around. “I’m really good at this,” he says. More and more rain fills the page, and Mom and her son hold their umbrellas in front of them as they trudge on. Pretty soon, Mom points to something in the path ahead. “It’s a puddle!” the boy exclaims. Before Mom can stop him, he’s ditched the umbrella and is running for the puddle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-what's-that

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

With one leap, he’s in the middle of it, stomping and splashing. Waves of water splatter everywhere, spraying Mom and Billy. “I told you not to go in there,” Mom says. “Now you’re all wet and I am too.” But her son reassures her that it’s okay; after all, it’s just a picture. Billy wants in on the fun and jumps in, bounding and shaking and showering water everywhere. Now it’s the little boy’s turn to be perturbed. “It’s just a picture,” his mom reminds him.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-blue-umbrella

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The drawing makes the boy want to have some real fun. “Why not?” agrees his mom. So they put on their raincoats and rain boots and grab their umbrellas and head out. Even Billy has his own orange cape. What do they see on the sidewalk not far ahead? A puddle—with room for all!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-splashing

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Hyewon Yum’s clever story-within-a-story intrigues on many levels. With ingenuity, the mom pulls her son out of his gray-weather funk by offering an understated yet creative lure that can’t fail to reel him in. Once invested in the drawing, the boy sees the possibilities for real play and turns the once “nothing to do” day into an afternoon of fun. The dialog between mother and son that carries the story is natural and honest, propelling the plot from drawing to outside exploration.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-puddle-hyewon-yum-chair

Copyright Hyewon Yum, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Yum’s engaging illustrations likewise hook readers as the more realistic images of the mom and son, living room, desk with drawing pad, and even the artist’s hand disappear from the pages as rain pelts the sketched mom, boy and Billy. Children will become so fully engrossed in the made-up story that it seems as if the trio are already out in the rain. When “life” then imitates art, readers will be wishing for their own puddles to jump in.

Puddle proves that the power of art and storytelling can change perceptions, create new realities, and make for a whole lot of fun! The book would be a terrific addition to home bookshelves and classrooms for story times, creative moments, and—of course—rainy days.

Ages 4 – 7

Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2017 | ISBN  978-0374316952

Discover more about Hyewon Yum, her books, and her art on her website.

Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-umbrella-matching-puzzle

Rainy Day Mix Up

 

These matching umbrellas and raincoats have gotten mixed up. Can you pair them up again to have fun in the rain in this printable Rainy Day Mix Up Puzzle? How will you match them?

Picture Book Review

December 23 – National Roots Day

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About the Holiday

As families gather for holidays this month, National Roots Day encourages people to talk about their collective histories, look at old photographs, and tell family stories. Sharing laughs, traditions, and those “remember when…?” stories with children helps give them a sense of connection and belonging and ensures that important events, customs, and relationships aren’t lost to time.

Sing, Don’t Cry

By Angela Dominguez

 

Once a year, Abuelo came from Mexico to visit his family in America. “He always brought his guitar,” and he sang to his granddaughter and grandson every night. Abuelo would talk about his life, and if the children were sad, his advice was “‘Sing, don’t cry. Because singing gladdens the heart.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-abuelo-arrives

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

One of the stories Abuelo told was about a time when he was very young and his family “had to travel a long way to find a new home.” Just like his granddaughter and grandson’s family. He said that “singing made the distance seem smaller.” He also knew that when bad things happen, singing can make them better. “‘Some things may be lost forever,’” he said, “‘but maybe that makes room for new and wonderful things to be found.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-playing-guitar

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When you feel alone, Abuelo said, singing can attract friends. When there are days that are hard or when people are mean, singing—“even if it is only in your soul”—can cheer you. As Abuelo strummed his guitar and sang to his precious grandchildren, he reminded them that “‘I will always be singing with you.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-singing-uplifts

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Angela Dominguez pairs her heartwarming text with images that are at once simple and complex as they hold images that span the generations while also bringing them together. As Abuelo arrives as his daughter’s house, his grandchildren greet him enthusiastically with signs and balloons. The children are excited to see Abuelo get out his guitar, and as he sings, readers see that each child is comforted in different ways by their interactions with their grandfather.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-singing-attracts-friends

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A sepia-hued portrait on the wall of Abuelo as a young man as well as clothing choices offer color-coded clues to Abuelo’s history and reassurance for events in the lives of his grandkids. As Abuelo reveals the restorative power of singing, Dominguez portrays examples of three situations on a tri-paneled page. The top, sepia-colored image depicts a boy sick in bed as a worried mother looks on; the second image is rose-colored and shows a single teddy bear; and in the aqua-toned third, a boy sits forlornly on the sidelines of an American football game.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-young-abuela

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of angeladominguezstudio.com.

Turning the page, these three panels are more fully developed, letting young readers experience each characters’ disappointment in events that will resonate with them. Turn the page again, and children see that Abuelo’s assurance of brighter days comes true for all. Abuelo’s positive outlook is further revealed in cherished framed photographs, and the final image of the whole family gathered around Abuelo and his guitar is joyful.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-family

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of angeladominguezstudio.com.

An Author’s Note includes the lyrics from Cielito lindo that inspired the story as well as a brief biography of Angela Dominguez’s grandfather, Apolinar Navarrete Diaz, that provides a deeper understanding of the story and the significance of Abuelo’s guitar.

An inspiring and uplifting story, Sing, Don’t Cry would be a welcome read for those times when encouragement is needed both at home and in a classroom setting.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627798396

Learn more about Angela Dominguez, her books, and her art on her website.

National Roots Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grandpa-fill-in-sheet

I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages

 

What are some of the favorite things you love about your grandmother and grandfather? Fill out, draw your and your grandparents’ faces, and color these printable I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages. They even make nice gifts that your grandparents’ will appreciate!

I Love Grandma | I Love Grandpa

Picture Book Review

December 7 – International Civil Aviation Day

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About the Holiday

This United Nations-sponsored observance was established to raise worldwide awareness of the importance of civil aviation between cities and countries to their social and economic development. Every five years a theme is chosen under which agencies work to advance the global rapid transit network to the benefit of all. The theme for the years 2015 – 2018 is “Working Together to Ensure No Country is Left Behind.” If you are an aviation buff, spend a little time today introducing your hobby to a child!

 Amazing Airplanes

Written by Tony Mitton | Illustrated by Ant Parker

 

“An airplane’s amazing / for it travels through the sky, / above the clouds for miles and miles, / so very fast and high.” Where do you start a trip by airplane? At the airport! First you go inside the terminal to check in, show your ticket, and leave your luggage. While you wait at the gate, the ground crew weigh the passengers’ bags and load them into the cargo hold at the bottom of the plane.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amazing-airplanes-ground-crew

Image copyright Ant Parker, 2002, text copyright Tony Mitton, 2002. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When your flight is called, you’ll take the walkway connecting the plane to the terminal. Once inside the plane, you find your seat. In the flight deck the pilot and co-pilot are ready to “do their jobs. / They both know how to fly the plane / with all its dials and knobs.” Before taking off, the pilot radios the Control Tower to make sure the runway is clear.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amazing-airplanes-flight-deck

Image copyright Ant Parker, 2002, text copyright Tony Mitton, 2002. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When everything is ready and the plane is just about to leave, “by intercom the captain on the flight deck says hello. / You have to do your seat belt up before the plane can go.” Then that big and heavy plane races down the runway and soars into the sky. How can it do this and fly among the clouds? “Its wings hold big jet engines / which are loud and very strong. / They suck in air and blow it through / to whoosh the plane along.” Then when the plane is going fast enough, the air is moving quickly too. “It pushes up beneath the wings / and makes the whole plane lift.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amazing-airplanes-take-off

Image copyright Ant Parker, 2002, text copyright Tony Mitton, 2002. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Once the plane is in the air, the flight attendants come by with drinks and snacks, and you can watch a movie in your seat. When the plane has reached its destination, the pilot radios the Control Tower to see if it is safe to land. Then “there’s a bumpy, rumbling sound— / the wheels are making contact, / and the plane is on the ground.”

When the door opens you gather your things and leave the plane, full of smiles. It’s fun to visit new exciting places, to “fly for miles and miles.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amazing-airplanes-deplaning

Image copyright Ant Parker, 2002, text copyright Tony Mitton, 2002. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

On the final page, the parts of an airplane and the control tower are described in more detail.

Tony Mitton’s engaging rhymes introduce young readers to the various steps in plane travel and parts of an airplane in language that is accurate while maintaining a child’s sense of wonder and fun in this mode of travel. The mini-lesson in aerodynamics will intrigue little ones with a mechanical or engineering mind and may spur an interest in more exploration.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-amazing-airplanes-snack-cart

Image copyright Ant Parker, 2002, text copyright Tony Mitton, 2002. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Ant Parker’s bright and cheerful illustrations that follow a group of animals on their flight are full of the kinds of realistic details that young travel and airplane enthusiasts will want to linger over. The traveling friends watch as their luggage is wheeled out to the tarmac, allowing kids to see the ground crew load the bags into the cargo hold. The flight deck with its myriad “dials and knobs” is drawn from a perspective that allows readers to see the whole cockpit while also showing the control tower in the background. The wings are depicted with their various panels and supporting the engines, while the cabin and refreshment carts are also portrayed with realistic touches.  

For children enthralled by airplanes and transportation or who are taking their first flight, Amazing Airplanes makes a first-rate choice for home bookshelves or as a take-along in a carry-on bag for in-flight reading.

Ages 2 – 5

Kingfisher Publishing, Macmillian, 2017 Board Book Edition | ISBN 978-0753473702 (Paperback ISBN 978-0753459157; Hardcover ISBN 978-0753454039)

To learn more about Tony Mitton and his books, visit his website.

View a gallery of artwork by Ant Parker on his website.

International Civil Aviation Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-airplane-parts-word-search-puzzle

Got a Plane to Catch Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re flying, do you think of all the parts of the plane you’re in? Find all twenty plane-related words in this printable Got a Plane to Catch Word Search Puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

October 10 – National Face Your Fears Day

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About the Holiday

Going outside your comfort zone can be scary, but being afraid holds you back and affects your quality of life. Today’s holiday encourages people to face their fears and overcome trepidation or hesitance and say, “I’m going to do it!” Perhaps knowing that others are also trying the hard thing today will provide a little extra courage. You never know what you can achieve until you take that first step!

After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)

By Dan Santat

 

If readers don’t quite remember what happened to Humpty Dumpty back in the day,  his unfortunate accident is captured on the title page. But this is not a story about falling (we all do that sometimes). Instead, as the subtitle reveals, it’s about the recovery. Here, Humpty Dumpty tells his story his way—what really happened on that fateful day and afterward.

Humpty takes readers back to the scene where it all happened: his “favorite spot high up on the wall.” He acknowledges that it’s a strange place for such a fragile being to be, but up there he felt closer to the birds. He goes on to say that he’s not really comfortable with all the fuss and the fancy “Great Fall” title. It was just a mistake; even if that mistake did change his life.

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Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

It turns out that despite what we’ve all learned, the king’s men were able to patch Humpty up. Well, at least partly. His shell was repaired, but inside? “There were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.” Where Humpty once loved his bunk bed above his desk, he now slept on a mat on the floor; he only bought items from the lowest grocery store shelves; and even though he passed the wall every day, he knew he could never climb the ladder to the top again.

Humpty resigned himself to watching the birds from the ground through a pair of binoculars. Then, one day, a paper airplane streaked across the sky and gave him an idea. Paper airplanes looked so easy to make, but Humpty found it hard. Day after day he struggled, suffering paper cuts and scratches. One day, though, he “got it just right.” In his hand was a beautiful paper bird.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-after-the-fall-hospital

Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Humpty took his bird plane outside and launched it into the air. “It flew like nothing could stop it.” Humpty felt happier than he had in ages, and even though watching his plane wasn’t the same as being on top of the wall among the birds, “it was close enough.” But then the unthinkable happened—the bird plane flew over the wall. Humpty was well aware that “unfortunately, accidents happen…they always do.”

For a minute Humpty Dumpty considered walking away. But then he remembered all the work he’d put into his plane, which led him to think about all the things he was missing out on. He looked up that tall, tall ladder and started to climb. The farther up he got, though, the more afraid he became. Without looking up or down, he continued climbing. “One step at a time.”

When he reached the top, he “was no longer afraid.” At that moment, as his shell began to crack and he felt lighter and more powerful. Humpty tells readers that he hopes they won’t remember him as “that egg who was famous for falling,” but as “the egg who got back up and learned how to fly.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-after-the-fall-cereals

Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Dan Santat deftly works with preconceived notions and a well-known idiom to turn the nursery rhyme about Humpty Dumpty into an inspirational “happily ever after” story. Just as fears can come to define a person, traditional interpretations of this tale classify Humpty as a chicken egg and specify his lack of repair as physical. But what if, as Santat envisions, Humpty is the egg of a bird that soars and that his hurts are more internal? Then readers can identify with this hero who doesn’t give in and who conquers his fear to come out of his shell and fly. Santat’s honest, straightforward storytelling will resonate with young readers and listeners. The gentle reassurance in After the Fall will encourage children to try again—one step at a time.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-after-the-fall-walking-past-wall

Copyright Dan Santat, 2017, courtesy us.macmillan.com.

Santat’s luminous illustrations express wonder, humor, and touching moments in ways that not only enhance the story but make readers think about other issues as well.  Children will want to linger over the pages to catch all the references to Humpty’s bird watching hobby, take in the enormity of the wall that Humpty Dumpty confronts, and catch humorous takes on the original rhyme, including Santat’s King’s County Hospital. Adults and kids alike will enjoy poring over and discussing the wall of cereals, and as Humpty’s tiny hand reaches for the next rung on the ladder adults may feel a lump in their throats. When Humpty breaks free of his shell and emerges in the same form as the paper bird he created, readers may consider whether Humpty spent time only working on his toy or on himself as well.

After the Fall is a picture book that offers reassurance and invites deeper discussion. The book would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626726826

Learn more about Dan Santat and After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) on the book’s website.

Face your Fears Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mind-jar

Calming Sensory Jar

 

You can capture the beauty of a glittering snowfall in this easy craft—that also makes a special gift for a friend!

Supplies

  • Small to medium mason jar or other decorative jar with a tight lid
  • White glitter glue,
  • Light blue glitter glue,
  • Fine white and/or blue glitter
  • Large white and/or blue glitter
  • Warm water

Directions

1. For every 1/2 cup of warm water add:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue glitter glue
  • 2 teaspoons fine glitter glue
  • 1/2 teaspoon large glitter

2. Close lid tight

3. Shake

4. As glue dissolves, the liquid will become clearer and the glitter will remain suspended in it

Picture Books Review

 

August 29 – It’s American Artist Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the artists who interpret the unique history, culture, and people of America in ways that bring new meaning and insight to those who interact with it. To celebrate, visit your local art museum or take a trip to another city to view peices you’ve never seen before. The dynamics of seeing art up close provides new perspectives and appreciation.

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey | Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

 

As a child, Maya Lin loved playing and interacting with nature near her home. She and her brother liked to run over what Maya had named “the Lizard’s Back”—a hill behind her house—and into the woods. Sometimes Maya went into the woods alone and “sat as still as a statue, hoping to tame rabbits, raccoons, chipmunks, and squirrels.” She liked to play chess with her brother and build towns from scraps of paper, boxes, books, and other things she found around the house.

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya’s “parents had fled China at a time when people were told what to be and how to think.” They did not want the same for their children and always encouraged Maya to be and think what she wanted. Maya grew up surrounded by art. Her father worked with clay, and her mother was a poet. Maya also liked to make things with her hands. The beautiful library where she went to college inspired Maya to become an architect.

To learn about different buildings, Maya traveled all over the world. When she was only a senior in college, “Maya entered a contest to design a memorial to honor soldiers who died during the Vietnam War.” The contest stated two rules: the memorial had to fit in with a park-like setting, and it had to include the 58,000 names of the soldiers who had died in the war. These rules resonated with Maya. She “believed that a name brings back all the memories of a person, more than a photo of a moment in time.”

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya visited the site where the memorial would be built. As she looked at the gently rolling hill, she envisioned a simple cut in the earth that would support a polished wall covered in names. Not only would the wall reflect those who died, but also those who came to visit and the surrounding nature. At school, Maya worked with mashed potatoes and then with clay to help her create the perfect monument. When she had finished her drawings and plans, she wrote an essay to accompany them. She wrote that her monument would be “a place to be experienced by walking down, then up past names that seemed to go on forever.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maya-lin-artist-architect-of-light-and-lines-with-parents

Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

More than 1,400 artists and architects—many of them famous—entered the contest. The designs were hung in an airplane hangar anonymously for judging. Finally, the day came for the announcement of the winner. When the judges called out Maya Lin’s name and she came forward, they were surprised to find that she was so young. Maya was excited to have won, but then some people began to object to her design. Some said her “design looked like a bat, a boomerang, a black gash of shame.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maya-lin-artist-architect-of-light-and-lines-library

Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya was hurt by these comments, but she defended her design and, finally, it was approved. Maya worked with the architects and engineers who excavated the land and built the wall. As each granite panel was polished, engraved with the soldiers’ names, and set in place, Maya looked on. The memorial opened on Veterans Day in 1982. Thousands of people came to see it and to find the names of loved ones they had lost. As Maya approached the wall, “she searched for the name of the father of a friend. When she touched the name, she cried, just as she knew others would.” Every day since then visitors come to the wall to remember.

Maya Lin has gone on to design many more works of art and architecture that can be seen inside and outside. Each piece has a name and a particular vision. Maya wants people to interact with her art—to touch it; read, walk, or sit near it; or think about it. After each piece is finished, Maya thinks about her next work and how she can inspire the people who will see it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maya-lin-artist-architect-of-light-and-lines-Vietnam-War-Memorial

Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

An Author’s Note about Maya Lin and the Vietnam War Memorial follows the text.

Jeanne Walker Harvey has written an inspiring biography of Maya Lin that reveals not only her creativity but the importance of creative freedom for children. Lin’s confidence that led her to enter the contest and then defend her winning design will encourage readers to pursue their dreams. Harvey’s lyrical storytelling reflects Maya Lin’s quiet, introspective nature, the influences that nurtured her creative spirit, and her dedication to inviting others to be part of her art.

Dow Phumiruk’s graceful, soft-hued illustrations allow children to follow Maya Lin as she grows from a girl discovering nature, constructing cardboard cities, and learning the arts from her parents to a young woman who draws inspiration from the world’s buildings and relies on her own sensitivity to guide her. Back-to-back pages of the landscape of Vietnam and the site of the memorial connect the two places for children’s better understanding. Phumiruk’s depictions of the Vietnam War Memorial also give children an excellent view of this moving monument. Her images of Lin’s other architectural work will entice young readers to learn more about her and to explore where each of these pieces can be found.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt & Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1250112491

Discover more about Jeanne Walker Harvey and her books on her website!

Learn more about Dow Phumiruk, her art, and her books on her website!

American Artist Appreciation Month Activity

 celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-picture-frame

Fantastic Frame

 

Every great work of art deserves the perfect frame to display it. With a frame ready to decorate from a craft store and a few materials, you can create a Fantastic Frame for any of your drawings or photos!

Ideas for Decorating

  • Stickers
  • Decorative buttons
  • Small objects
  • Shells
  • Markers, crayons, or paint
  • Stencils
  • Washi Tape

Picture Book Review

August 3 – It’s Back to School Month

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About the Holiday

I know, I know…you’re not ready to go back to school yet! But all over the country, teachers, administrators, parents, and…yes, kids…are preparing for the day when school opens again for another year. Now’s the time to pick that folder that’s just right, find a new backpack, buy some new clothes, and decide that this year is going to be the best year yet! And as today’s book shows—even school is getting ready for school!

School’s First Day of School

Written by Adam Rex | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

During the summer an empty lot was cleared and leveled. Bricks were brought in and stacked in neat order to become a school. A sign reading Frederick Douglass Elementary was placed above the door. “’That’s a good name for me,’ thought the school.” On most days Janitor came to the empty school to buff floors, wash windows, and spruce up the classrooms for opening day. The school liked the peaceful days with Janitor.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-janitor

Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

It wouldn’t always be this way, though, Janitor told the school. Soon teachers and all kinds of children would arrive, wanting to play and learn. The school didn’t think he liked the sound of that, but Janitor reassured him. Still, the school was wary. On the first day, kids poured off buses and jumped out of cars. They ran through his halls, sat in all the rooms, and opened and closed his doors and lockers. They even scrambled around the jungle-jim.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-jungle-jim

Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Then the school heard some older kids talking on the playground. “‘This place stinks,’ said one, and the school gasped. ‘I hate school,’ said another with puffy hair to the agreement of his friends. The school sagged a little.” There was even one little girl with freckles who didn’t want to come into the school at all and had to be carried in. “‘I must be awful,’ the school whispered to himself.” That afternoon when the puffy-haired kid took a drink from the fountain, the school “squirted him in the face. Then he felt bad about it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-kids-arriving

Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In one kindergarten room, the kids were sitting on one of the school’s rugs. When the teacher asked each student to say their name, they all did, except for the freckled girl. “‘I don’t like school,’” she said to herself, and the school thought, “‘Maybe it doesn’t like you either.’” At last, the ruckus died down, and the school felt a little more peaceful. But then, suddenly, his fire alarm rang and all the children had to leave. They all “walked to the other side of the field and stared at him. He was so embarrassed.” When the kids finally came back in, he held his doors open and said, “‘Sorry. Sorry’” to each one—even the girl with freckles.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-lunch

Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At noon the students ate lunch. At one table a boy told a joke that made another boy blow milk out his nose. While the school thought this a bit icky, he did have to admit it was a pretty funny joke. “Even the girl with freckles liked it.” Back in the kindergarten room, the kids learned about shapes and then drew pictures. The freckled girl drew a picture of the school. The school was impressed. It looked just like him. The teacher even hung the picture on the bulletin board.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-girl's-picture

Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At 3:30 after the kids had gone home, the janitor returned. The school told him all about the day; about the mistaken fire alarm, and the joke, and the little girl’s picture. Janitor told the school that it sounded as if he’d had a big day. The school was surprised. “‘Do you think you could invite everyone to come back tomorrow? Especially that little freckled girl.’” The janitor thought he could do that. Later, when the work was all done, Janitor and the school watched the sun set together. The school admitted that at first he had thought he was the janitor’s house. He guessed that another building was his house. Yes, the janitor said, “‘but you get to be a school. That’s lucky.’ And the school thought he was probably right about that.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-school's-first-day-of-school-older-kids

Image copyright Christian Robinson, 2016, text copyright Adam Rex, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Adam Rex performs a pretty neat trick in personifying a new school building on his first day of school. By infusing the school building with the same emotions as children, Rex lets kids see how their comments, actions, fears, nerves, and successes look from the outside and allows them to embrace their own feelings and empathize with others. Happy with the comfortable camaraderie and routines of life with Janitior, Frederick Douglass Elementary is wary of changes that the first day of school will bring. Like any child leaving home for the first time, the school is a little shocked, uncertain, shy, and thoughtful. And to add a bit of humor, Rex gives the school a small attitude of schoolyard justice. The ending rings true while flipping the idea that teachers live at school and revealing that school is a lucky thing all around.

Christian Robinson captures the heart of the story with his simply drawn yet expressive kids, who smile, scowl, laugh, play, and make friends. The homes and school building are equally emotive, with doors and steps that register happiness or thoughtfulness as the day progresses. Robinson’s bright, distinctive color palette and diverse school population invite readers in to find friends and enjoy a first or another year of school.

School’s First Day of School is a fantastic book to share with kids as the school year approaches and during the first days or when going to school gets tough. The book would be a charming addition to classrooms and home libraries.

Check out more books, art, and other fun stuff by Adam Rex on his website!

Discover more about Christian Robinson, his books, and his artwork on his website!

Back to School Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pencil-maze

Pencil It In Maze

 

School and pencils go together like, , , kids and a fun puzzle! Find your way through this printable Pencil It In Maze!

Picture Book Review

June 19 – It’s National Zoo and Aquarium Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldfish-ghost-cover

About the Holiday

This month’s observance pays tribute to the role of zoos and aquariums and the work they do for education, conservation, and research to protect the world’s animals. As zoos and aquariums build exhibits that more closely resemble the animals’ natural habitats and offer interactive and hands-on programs, more visitors can learn about the environments and science of each amazing creature. These institutions are also reaching out with personal and online visits to schools by zoologists and other experts, increasing the interest in biology and animal science to students. Nearly 175 million people—50 million of which are children—visit zoos and aquariums each year. To celebrate today, visit your local zoo or aquarium!

Goldfish Ghost

Written by Lemony Snicket | Illustrated by Lisa Brown

 

In a big round bowl in a certain boy’s room in a seaside town, “Goldfish Ghost was born.” For a while, Goldfish Ghost just hung out looking at the ceiling, but he got lonely, “so Goldfish Ghost floated out of the bowl and drifted toward the window to find some company.” He drifted over the compact little town nestled near the ocean and watched over by a lighthouse that “everyone said was haunted.”

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Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the pier seagulls screeched, waiting for a snack. They weren’t interested in talking to Goldfish Ghost, so he caught the breeze into town. The sidewalks and shops were busy with locals and tourists “buying sweaters and postcards and pets and groceries, but everybody there was with somebody else, so no one was looking for company.” Goldfish Ghost kept drifting and soon reached the beach. No one there noticed him either.

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Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The swimmers and sunbathers also didn’t seem to notice the “ghosts of creatures who had lived in the sea” that were now floating in the air just above the surface of the ocean. Goldfish Ghost might have joined them, but he didn’t feel comfortable among these wild fish. “It can be hard to find the company you are looking for.” Goldfish Ghost stopped for a moment “atop a beach umbrella and wondered what to do.” Finally, he returned home to his bowl.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldfish-ghost-above-the-ocean

Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When he got there, however, he found a new goldfish swimming happily in the bowl. While she seemed okay, Goldfish Ghost thought they wouldn’t have much in common, so he continued his search for the right companion. In the still night air, he heard a voice say, “‘I’ve been looking for company.’” Goldfish Ghost followed the sound to the lighthouse, where he found the ghost of the old keeper. She was also lonely and looking for someone to talk to.

She held Goldfish ghost gently “and placed him where the light had once shone for sailors at sea.” Then in silent happiness, the two ghosts gazed out at the world together.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-goldfish-ghost-lighthouse-keeper

Image copyright Lisa Brown, text copyright Lemony Snicket. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Lemony Snicket, most fortunately, interprets the world through a singular lens. In Goldfish Ghost he gives quirky, yet comforting, meaning to the sad reality of aquarium ownership while connecting Goldfish Ghost to the world’s natural lifecycle. Inherent in the story is also the idea of friendship and the idea that while some kids (and adults) may feel invisible to others at times, there is someone out there who will make a perfect companion, if you just keep looking.

Lisa Brown’s soft-hued, matte watercolor illustrations set a snug, soothing atmosphere as young readers follow Goldfish Ghost on his journey. From the little boy’s room and its seascape décor to the inviting lighthouse on the edge of the shore, Brown gives kids plenty to discover on every page. Alert readers will notice other ghosts on the pier and on the beach, find the little boy leaving the pet store holding a familiar plastic bag, and may want to name the ghostly creatures floating above the ocean. When Goldfish Ghost finally finds a friend in the lighthouse keeper (whose reading runs to the same interests as the little boy’s), kids will be cheered to see that he gets new “life” in the golden glow of the Fresnel lens.

With a splash of humor and a lot of heart, Goldfish Ghost makes a tender choice for story times as well as for children who have lost a pet or are navigating the world of friendships.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626725072

You’ll discover the world of Lisa Brown, her books, comics, and illustrations, on her website!

National Zoo and Aquarium Month Activity

Fill a Fishbowl Coloring Page

 

With these printable pages you can color your favorite fish and fill a bowl to decorate your room!

Fish Bowl | Friendly Fish

Picture Book Review