December 11 – Get Ready for Hanukkah

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-hamster-cover

About the Holiday

Hanukkah is the eight-day Jewish “festival of lights” that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century BCE. The lighting of the menorah is at the heart of the celebration. On the first night, the first of the eight candles is lit using the shamash, or attendant, candle. Each subsequent night another candle is lit until at the end of the eight days all the candles are lit. The menorah is displayed in the window of homes and synagogues. Special blessings, traditional songs, prayers, oil-based foods, fun games, and gifts are part of this much-anticipated holiday.

Hanukkah Hamster

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by André Ceolin

 

The city was decorated with twinkling lights for the holidays, and busy shoppers bustled in and out of stores, delivered there by Edgar and his cab. After one shift, Edgar was so tired he took a nap in the back seat. He was awakened when “Ohhhf! Something scrambled onto his chest. Ayyee! Something hairy brushed his face.” Edgar opened one eye to see… a hamster! He picked it up and gazed at its tiny eyes and ears and feet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-hamster-city-lights

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Edgar wondered which of his many customers may have lost the little hamster as he called in to the cab company’s lost and found department. Edgar took the little hamster home and shredded some paper to make him a bed. Then he went to his menorah, said the Hanukkah blessing, and lit two candles. All the next day as he drove people in his cab, Edgar wondered if someone had claimed the hamster, but no one did.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-hamster-sleeping

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

That night after lighting three candles, Edgar made a chopped salad dinner for himself and a tiny one for the hamster. As he watched the little animal nibble on a chickpea, Edgar asked, “‘Okay if I call you Chickpea?’” No one had claimed Chickpea the next day either, so Edgar went to the pet store and bought hamster food. At home, he lit four candles and gave Chickpea some food. As Chickpea ate, “Edgar took pictures on his phone and shared them with his family in Israel.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-hamster-cab

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

On the fifth night of Hanukkah, Edgar made Chickpea “a slide out of a cardboard tube. Chickpea whooshed down. Wheeee! His nose twitched.” As the week of Hanukkah went on, Edgar was fearful that someone might call about their missing hamster. He spent the evenings telling Chickpea about Tel Aviv until the little one fell asleep.

The next day, Edgar took a customer to a neighborhood on the edge of town. There he saw a woman who looked familiar. With her was her son. “Edgar felt a punch in his heart.” But he rolled down the window and asked the boy if he’d lost a hamster. The woman answered that she had bought the hamster for her classroom and thought he had escaped at home. “Edgar showed them pictures on his phone” of Chickpea eating salad, sliding through the tube and drifting off to sleep.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-hamster-chickpea

Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the woman saw Edgar’s menorah in one of the pictures, Edgar told them how he and Chickpea were celebrating Hanukkah together since the rest of his family lived in Israel. When Edgar began to tell them that he could return the hamster tomorrow morning, “the boy touched his mother’s arm, and the two of them exchanged glances.” The woman told Edgar that she thought Chickpea belonged with him. Then she wished him a wonderful holiday. That night, “Edgar said the blessing and lit all the candles on the menorah.” Then, while he enjoyed a doughnut, Chickpea ran and ran on his new wheel.

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Image copyright André Ceolin, 2018, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Immersed in the special yearning for family and togetherness the holidays bring, Michelle Markel’s touching story glows with kindness and empathy. The growing friendship between Edgar and Chickpea will tug at readers’ hearts just as it does for Edgar, who so hopes to keep the little hamster but also knows there may be someone in the city missing him. As the days pass, and Edgar, alone for Hanukkah, shares his traditions with the hamster, readers also become participants in the holiday. Children will be riveted to the increasing suspense, and the pitch-perfect solution is joyful and satisfying. Realistic dialogue and honestly portrayed emotions provides depth to this moving story.

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From the tiny white lights lining main street to the first glimpse of the little hamster to Edgar’s cozy apartment with his menorah in the window, André Ceolin’s richly colored illustrations invite readers into Edgar’s life with his new friend, Chickpea. Chickpea is adorable as it nibbles on salad, poses for pictures, and curls up in its shredded paper bed. Images of Edgar lighting the menorah are luminous, and the Edgar and Chickpea’s smiles will spark happiness in readers’ hearts.

The portrayals of friendship, generosity, empathy, and family make Hanukkah Hamster a poignant story for all children to share not only at the holidays but all year around. The book would make a wonderful gift and much loved addition to home and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363995

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website.

To learn more about André Ceolin, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Get Ready for Hanukkah Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-hanukkah-word-search

Festival of Lights Word Search

 

Find 20 words related to Hanukkah celebrations in this printable Festival of Lights Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanukkah-hamster-cover

You can find Hanukkah Hamster at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 12 – It’s Read a New Book Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-balderdash!-john-newbery-and-the-boisterous-birth-of-children's-books-cover

About the Holiday

Discovering a new book is one of the joys of life! Right now bookstores everywhere are filled with books waiting for you to take them home, open the cover, and start reading. Whether you find a new book published just this year or one that’s older but new to you, take the opportunity of this month’s holiday to add to your home library. Children especially benefit from reading new and classic books—and thanks to the subject of today’s book, they have plenty to choose from!

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

 

With a hearty “Welcome!” readers are invited to explore—and appreciate—the pages, pictures, words, and even individual letters that make up the book they’re holding. Back in time, a book like this didn’t exist. How far back? Well, let’s return to 1726…. “In those days of powdered wigs and petticoats, England was brimming with books.” There were exciting tales about imaginary places, sailing voyages, mysterious happenings, “pirates, monsters and miniature people”—for adults. What did kids read? Their books were all about teaching them how to have good manners and how to live a good life because death was always near. Scary stuff and not much fun at all!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-balderdash!-john-newbery-and-the-boisterous-birth-of-children's-books-old-style-books

Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

One of the children reading these books was John Newbery who, despite the dreariness, loved to read more than he liked to do his chores. When he grew up, he left the family farm and went to work for a printer. After he learned the business, he became a publisher himself. He moved from his small town to “London, center of the bookselling trade.”

Soon, he found the perfect storefront on a busy street and opened his shop. He had a dream of publishing books for every taste—and for children too. “He knew the youngsters were hungry for stories. Many boys and girls handed coppers to street hawkers for ugly chapbooks of fairy tales, or for chopped-up versions of grown-up books.” When John Newbery tried to offer good books for children, however, the adults balked. They were afraid “that if their little nippers read fun books, they’d turn wild as beasts!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-balderdash!-john-newbery-and-the-boisterous-birth-of-children's-books-going-to-london

Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“Balderdash!” John Newbery said. And others agreed. Two publishers issued books of alphabet rhymes and stories, and another published some books of nonfiction. But “John wanted his first book for children to be irresistible.” The books he created included pictures of fun children’s games, enjoyable ways to learn ABCs and other subjects, and fantasy stories. He even wrote a note to moms and dads to alleviate any fears.

The covers of his books were colorful and attractive and carried the title “A Pretty Little Pocket-Book.” To further entice kids and their parents, John offered to sell books along with a toy for a very good price. John wondered if his books would look “too cheerful,” but “the children gobbled them up like plum cakes.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-balderdash!-john-newbery-and-the-boisterous-birth-of-children's-books-kids-with-books

Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017, text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

As customers bought books in the front of his shop, John created new books in the back. In addition to fiction books, he began printing books on math, science, and other subjects. With the books a success, John Newbery turned his thoughts and his press towards creating a magazine for children, and, finally, a novel. The novel was titled The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes and was a rags-to-riches story about a little girl who succeeded through “study, hard work, and kindness.” It showed children that they too could achieve their dreams. The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes was a hit in England and America.

While the authors of John Newbery’s books were all anonymous or had “silly, made-up names,” it wasn’t hard for people to figure out who was really creating the books that brought their children so much joy and made their lives better.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-balderdash!-john-newbery-and-the-boisterous-birth-of-children's-books-newbery's-shop

Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017. text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

An Author’s Note about John Newbery as well as a resources page follow the text.

Kids will love Michelle Markel’s entertainingly informative book that takes them back to a time when the unthinkable was reality. Markel’s charming text is as infectious as John Newbery’s love of books, and readers will laugh at how kids’ books were once perceived. Her conversational tone and bemusement at the state of publishing at the time creates a warm reading experience—like a secret shared between friends.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-balderdash!-john-newbery-and-the-boisterous-birth-of-children's-books-kids

Image copyright Nancy Carpenter, 2017. text copyright Michelle Markel, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Nancy Carpenter infuses Balderdash! with the sights, dress, activities, and flavor of the time period in her pen-and-ink illustrations. Humor abounds, from the little boy overflowing with tears in the corner of the first page to a young John Newbery relishing the feel and smell of newly printed pages to parents pulling their children away from “dangerous” books. Along the way, kids will want to scope out all the details on each page. A variety of typefaces and sizes further enhances the humor and ambience of the book.

Balderdash! John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books would make a great addition to home libraries for kids interested in books, history, and innovation. Teachers will also find the book to be a perfect beginning for language arts or history units.

Ages 4 – 8

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0811879224

Discover more about Michelle Markel and her books on her website!

Read a New Book Month Activity

I Have the Reading Bug! Bookplate and Bookmark

 

Do you have the reading bug like John Newbery? If so, here’s a bookplate and bookmark for you to print to show your love of books!

I Have the Reading Bug Bookmark | I Have the Reading Bug Bookplate

Picture Book Review

November 27 – Pins And Needles Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-cover

About the Holiday

It’s not often that a whole holiday is dedicated to a theatrical play. Pins and Needles Day dates back to 1937 and commemorates the Broadway musical of the same name that originally ran from 1937 to 1940. The play was produced by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union and cast sewing machine operators, cutters, and basters who were just looking for a creative outlet in their free time. The play ran for 1,108 performances and was so successful that the cast members were able to quit their jobs to fully partake in the performance schedule. The pro-Labor play saw a revival in 1978 and continues to be staged. This year the musical ran at the Provincetown Playhouse in New York City, featuring NYU students who were near the ages of the original cast members.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Among the immigrants sailing to New York stands five-foot-tall Clara Lemlich. She may not know it now, but she’s going to change her new city. While her father can’t find work, Clara gets a job in the garment industry, which hires school-age girls to make women’s clothing. Instead of going to school, Clara spends her days hunched over her sewing machine in a dark, smelly factory with many other girls, making clothes as fast as she can.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-clara-comes-to-town

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of HarperCollins

The rules of the factory are severe. For minor mistakes workers can be fined or worse—fired, leaving their families without an income. The doors are locked so the girls can’t leave without being inspected to ensure they haven’t stolen anything. And the workers must toil long into the night. Despite it all Clara is determined to get an education even though it means walking to the library after work and missing sleep to read her lessons. 

At the factory the girls become friends and reveal stories and secrets. The working conditions make Clara angry. She hears that the men at the factory want to form a union. If all the workers team up, they can hold a strike and force the management to treat them better the men say. But they don’t think the girls are tough enough.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-forming-a-union

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Michelle Markel. Courtesy of HarperCollins

Clara knows what the girls are capable of. Every day she talks to her friends and the other women, urging them to fight for their rights—and they do! But it’s not as easy as the men predicted. The bosses don’t want to give in. In fact Clara’s life is in danger! She is beaten and arrested. Despite the intimidation she continues to picket. These small strikes make little difference, however—the bosses just hire new girls and the work continues.

Clara and other union leaders think only a huge strike by all workers in every garment factory in New York will cause the bosses to listen and make changes. At a union meeting workers pack the seats to listen to leaders from across the country. Not one of them recommends such a large strike. Clara can keep silent no more. She moves to the front of the hall and calls out. People lift her to the stage. Shouting “Unity is strength” she rallies the crowd and begins the largest strike of women workers ever in United States history.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-picket-line

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Michelle Markel. Courtesy of HarperCollins

The next morning thousands of women take to the sidewalks, leaving their sewing machines empty and silent. New York is stunned! Newspapers call the strike a “revolt” and the girls an “army.” But this is really an army of children—the girls range in age from only 12 to 25 years old. Clara knows how to lead and motivate the girls. She gives rousing pep talks, sings, and stands up to thugs sent to harass them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl-clara-and-the-shirtwaist-makers'-strike-of-1909-clara-on-picket-line

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of HarperCollins

All winter the girls join the men strikers. They are starving and cold and become the inspiration for newspaper articles and fundraising. Many wealthy women donate to their cause and join them on the picket lines. Finally the bosses relent. They agree to the formation of unions in their factories, to raise salaries, and to shorten the work week. Clara’s influence reaches far beyond New York. Factory workers in Philadelphia and Chicago take heart from her work and improve conditions in their cities. 

The final pages include more information about the garment industry in the early 1900s as well as a bibliography.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 is a wonderful addition to any school, classroom, or home library not only for the biographical facts of Clara Lemlich’s life, but also because her story shows readers that no matter how young or small they are they can right wrongs and make a difference.

Michelle Markel’s Brave Girl is a spirited biography of Clara Lemlich, clearly outlining the life and working conditions of immigrants in the early 1900s—especially certain industries’ use of children to fill low-paying, oppressive jobs. This true-life story of a girl who wouldn’t give up or give in is told with pride and balance, touching on the dangers Clara faced in a sensitive manner appropriate for children. Overall, the idea that one person can make a difference no matter how big or how old shines through, making this not only a tale of the past, but an inspiration for today’s children and the future.

Melissa Sweet cleverly combines watercolor and gouache paintings with colorful fabric, ribbon, sewing pattern paper, and ledger pages to create illustrations fitting to the story. The pictures appear sewn onto the pages with straight, zigzag, and embroidery stitches, and the vibrant colors depict the fiery nature of Clara and all the workers who strove for better lives.

Ages 4 – 9 

Balzer + Bray, Harper Collins, 2013 | ISBN 978-0061804427

To find more books by Michelle Markel plus what’s coming next, visit her website!

Discover more books and fun activities for kids as well as resources for educators by Melissa Sweet on her website!

Vote “yes” to watch this Brave Girl book trailer!

Pins and Needles Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sewing-word-search

Sewing Up Fun! Word Search

 

Sewing is a wonderful hobby and a fun way to make unique decorations for your room, accessories for your outfits, or gifts for friends and family. Like any great activity sewing has a vocabulary of its own. Find the 25 sewing-related words in this printable Sewing Up Fun! Word Search. Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

April 28 – Workers’ Memorial Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-brave-girl

About the Holiday

Some jobs are so dangerous that workers get hurt or even die doing them. Around the world organizations have been established to help industries provide safer working environments for their employees by establishing standard rules and regulations for buildings, machinery, working hours, and more. Unions and other groups have also been founded that represent workers to ensure their rights are upheld and their needs are met. Today we honor the sacrifices of workers in dangerous professions and raise awareness for safe working conditions.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Maker’s Strike of 1909

Written by Michelle Markel | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Among the immigrants sailing to New York, stands five-foot-tall Clara Lemlich. She may not know it now, but she’s going to change her new city. While her father can’t find work, Clara gets a job in the garment industry, which hires school-age girls to make women’s clothing. Instead of going to school, Clara spends her days hunched over her sewing machine in a dark, smelly factory with many other girls, making clothes as fast as she can.

The rules of the factory are severe. For minor mistakes workers can be fined or worse—fired, leaving their families without an income. The doors are locked so the girls can’t leave without being inspected to ensure they haven’t stolen anything. And the workers must toil long into the night. Despite it all Clara is determined to get an education even though it means walking to the library after work and missing sleep to read her lessons. 

At the factory the girls become friends and reveal stories and secrets. The working conditions make Clara angry. She hears that the men at the factory want to form a union. If all the workers team up, they can hold a strike and force the management to treat them better, the men say. But they don’t think the girls are tough enough.

Clara knows what the girls are capable of. Every day she talks to her friends and the other women, urging them to fight for their rights—and they do! But it’s not as easy as the men predicted. The bosses don’t want to give in. In fact Clara’s life is in danger! She is beaten and arrested. Despite the intimidation she continues to picket. These small strikes make little difference, however—the bosses just hire new girls and the work continues.

Clara and other union leaders think only a huge strike by all workers in every garment factory in New York will cause the bosses to listen and make changes. At a union meeting workers pack the seats to listen to leaders from across the country. Not one of them recommends such a large strike. Clara can keep silent no more. She moves to the front of the hall and calls out. People lift her to the stage. Shouting “Unity is strength” she rallies the crowd and begins the largest strike of women workers ever in United States history.

The next morning thousands of women take to the sidewalks, leaving their sewing machines empty and silent. New York is stunned! Newspapers call the strike a “revolt,” and the girls an “army.” But this is really an army of children—the girls range in age from only 12 to 25 years old. Clara knows how to lead and motivate the girls. She gives rousing pep talks, sings, and stands up to thugs sent to harass them.

All winter the girls join the men strikers. They are starving and cold and become the inspiration for newspaper articles and fundraising. Many wealthy women donate to their cause and join them on the picket lines. Finally the bosses relent. They agree to the formation of unions in their factories, raise salaries, and shorten the work week. Factory workers in Philadelphia and Chicago take heart from Clara’s work and improve conditions in their cities.

Even though Clara is young and small, she proves that anyone can right wrongs and make a difference.

The final pages include more information about the garment industry in the early 1900s as well as a bibliography.

Michelle Markel’s Brave Girl is a spirited biography of Clara Lemlich, clearly outlining the life and working conditions of immigrants in the early 1900s—especially industries’ use of children to fill low-paying, oppressive jobs. This true-life story of a girl who wouldn’t give up or give in is told with pride and balance, touching on the dangers Clara faced in a sensitive manner appropriate for children. Overall, the idea that one person can make a difference no matter how big or how old shines through, making this not only a tale of the past, but an inspiration for today’s children and the future.

Melissa Sweet cleverly combines watercolor and gouache paintings with colorful fabric, ribbon, sewing pattern paper, and ledger pages to create illustrations fitting to the story. The pictures appear sewn onto the pages with straight, zigzag, and embroidery stitches, and the vibrant colors depict the fiery nature of Clara and all the workers who strove for better lives.

Ages 4 – 9 (and up as Brave Girl makes a wonderful teaching text)

Balzar + Bray, Harper Collins, 2013 | ISBN 978-0061804427

Workers’ Memorial Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dream-job-application

Dream Job Application

 

Work isn’t working when you love your job—it’s fun! What is your perfect job? Is it working with animals? Playing a sport? Being an artist, scientist, entrepreneur? Fill out this application and get started on following your dreams! Print the Dream Job Application below!

Dream Job Application