November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

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

Most People

Written by Michael Leannah | Illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris

 

The world is full of people, and if you look around and really look, you’ll notice something amazing: most people are the same! Do you like to smile? Do you like to laugh? Yeah, me too. So do most people! In fact, “most people love to see other people smile and laugh too.” But how about when someone’s sad? Well, “most people want to help when they see someone crying” or when someone is in trouble. “Most people want to make other people—even strangers—feel good. Most people are very good people.”

Sure there are some people who do bad things, but the good people far outnumber the bad people. And bad people can change if they allow the “seed of goodness inside them…to sprout.” Actually, people are a lot like a garden. They love the Earth, and they love being warmed by the sun. Sometimes people “feel like a sour grape in a bunch of sweet grapes.” But you can help make them feel better just by being nice.

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Image copyright Jennifer E. Morris, 2017, text copyright Michael Leannah, 2017. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishing.

When you walk around your neighborhood or play at the park or go to the store, you see people doing the same things. They run and dance and hug their dogs; they read and sing and talk. When people like what someone is doing or wearing or saying, they compliment them. And it’s pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t “smile when they see a baby.”

Most people even like to hear the same words. I bet you know what those are. Right! “Most people glow when they hear or say ‘I love you.’” So when you’re out and about, it’s good to remember that you’re really among “very good people.”

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Copyright Jennifer E. Morris, 2017, courtesy of Tilbury House Publishing.

In today’s world with so many media and social media outlets, bad news often overshadows good news. It can be easy to begin thinking the worst—of things, places, and people. Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris provide a reality check with their book that encourages children and adults to look around and make up their own minds about what they see. In his straightforward text, Leannah gives children easy-to-identify examples of emotions and behavior that they have themselves and can see in other people. He understands that shared experiences and feelings go beyond different clothing, hairstyles, or language to unite us.

This is where Jennifer E. Morris’s detailed and cheerful illustrations of a diverse community come in. Each spread offers a glimpse into a home or neighborhood to see what people are up to. The first pages invite readers into an apartment, where a mom, a little girl, and her baby brother are having breakfast. Out the big picture window, the sun is just creeping over the rooftops of other nearby apartment buildings. On the windowsill a mitten-shaped cactus seems to wave at the world.

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Copyright Jennifer E. Morris, 2017, courtesy of jemorris.com.

The next spread shows a little boy laughing with his grandpa and grandma. The third spread takes these two families out into the neighborhood and reveals that the little girl and boy are friends. This is a busy community where many different people are engaged in various examples of kindness and inclusion. As the story progresses, children follow these characters as they go about their day. In this way, readers may have preconceived notions challenged—that biker with the tattoos? He’s really just a softy who watches out for an elderly woman—and they’ll see plenty of thoughtfulness deeds that make a difference.

In the evening, it’s time to go back home to the boy’s apartment, where the décor includes a stone sculpture of a face that reminds readers of our common human history, Finally, up on the rooftop, the two friends’ families eat dinner together, while in the illuminated windows of the apartments below, the neighbors are seen enjoying their night.

Most People is an inspiring choice to start a discussion on diversity, empathy, and kindness as well as on analyzing what we hear and see in and on the news. The positive perspective is welcome and provides young readers with comfort and examples of how people in general and they specifically can make a difference with even simple heartfelt gestures. Most People is an excellent book for home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Tilbury House Publishers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0884485544

Learn more about Michael Leannah and his books on his website.

You’ll find a gallery of illustration art by Jennifer E. Morris as well as activity pages on her website.

World Kindness Day Activity

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Share a Smile! Cards

 

Being kind to someone is as easy as sharing a smile. With these printable Share a Smile! Cards, you can give someone a smile that they can carry with them all day long!

Picture Book Review

August 24 – It’s National Fishing Month

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About the Holiday

During National Fishing Month individuals and families are encouraged to try their hand at this fun outdoor sport. Whether you catch and release or eat what you catch, casting your line, seeing the bobber wobble, and feeling that exciting tug on the fishing pole makes for a fun day.

Skyfishing

Written by Gideon Sterer | Illustrated by Poly Bernatene

 

A young girl’s grandpa sold his cabin on the lake and is coming to live with her and her family. When they pulled in to pick him up, he was ready and waiting with every fishing pole he owned in one hand and his tackle box in the other. But once he saw his granddaughter’s apartment in the middle of the city, he “realized there was nowhere to fish.”

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

All during that fall and winter, the girl tried to engage her grandpa in new activities like building models and playing chess. But nothing was the same as fishing. Then in the spring, the little girl had an idea. She took her grandpa out on the fire escape with their fishing poles, and they cast their lines over the edge. At first nothing happened. But then Grandpa got a bite. He reeled it in… “Grandpa said he’d never seen one before, but there it was…A Flying Litterfish.”

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

That green plastic bag on the end of the hook was just the beginning. After learning the rules—always return what you catch and “where there’s one fish, you can bet there will be more”—the two caught “Chimefish, and Signfish, Laundry Eels and even a Cold-air-square.” But all of those things were stationary and easy to catch. Down below, however, “the sidewalk flowed slowly”; it was a perfect place to practice trawling.

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

“Capfish were the first to bite. Then Songfish, Goldfish, and fish “from foreign shores.” As Grandpa and his granddaughter became more proficient, they reeled in “Furry Snappers” on leashes and “Hammerheads” drilling holes. Even a “Grillfish” was on the menu. Next, it was time to try their luck in the ocean of the street where larger and faster fish lived. Here, “Zoomfish, Mailfish, Glowfish, and more Yellow-stripers than [they] could count” waited.

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

There were also mammoth creatures like the “Stretchfish,” Waste-muncher,” and “Constructionfish,” but down below these—in the murky depths—lived the largest fish of all. Grandpa and his granddaughter studied just how to set their line, they lowered it slowly and were not surprised when they felt the tug of the…oh, no!…“Troublefish” with sirens blaring.

Quickly and quietly the two put their fishing poles away for another day. But summer vacation was just beginning, and it was time to join those city fish. “It was time to swim.”

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

Gideon Sterer’s debut picture book gently and creatively addresses the issue of grandparents transitioning from their own home into another living situation. As an outdoor-loving grandpa comes to live with his family in the city, his caring granddaughter discovers a way for him to continue his beloved pastime while they also form a strong bond. Sterer’s clever idea of dry-land fishing along with his witty names for the fish found in the concrete depths will enchant readers and entice them to devise species of their own. The sweet ending in which both Grandpa and Granddaughter are ready to explore the city and new experiences together is satisfying and uplifting.

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Image copyright Poly Bernatene, 2017, text copyright Gideon Sterer, 2017. Courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Learners.

With perfect pacing and a growing sense of wonder, Poly Bernatene leads children from Grandpa’s sparkling blue lake to his granddaughter’s city apartment to the first glimpse of their fire escape trophy. Children will be charmed by the ingenuity of the plastic-bag fish dangling on the line and, like the little girl in the story, will be hooked on what comes next. As the waters rise and the people and objects down below slowly transition to fish and other humorous sea creatures, readers will love exploring the watery world and learn to look at their own neighborhoods in a whole new way.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1419719110

To learn more about Gideon Sterer and his books, visit his website.

Discover a gallery of artwork and books by Poly Bernatene for children, young adults, and adults on his website.

National Fishing Month Activity

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Tackle the Tackle Box Board Game

 

A good fisherman always needs a well-stocked tackle box. Play the Tackle the Tackle Box Game to earn lures, bobbers, hooks and more to fill your box. The first player to complete their set is the winner! For more fun, you can color the tackle box items any way you like. There are even three extra cards for you to draw your own tackle box items!

Supplies

 

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Directions

  1. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one Tackle the Tackle Box Game Board for every player
  2. On card stock, heavy paper, or regular paper, print one set of Tackle the Tackle Box Game Cards for every player
  3. Each player can color a set of playing cards
  4. Cut the cards apart
  5. Gather all the cards and set in separate piles
  6. Roll the die to determine who goes first, highest roll goes first
  7. The first player rolls the die, and adds the item that corresponds to the number on the die. The list is below.
  8. Play continues with each player rolling the die and collecting cards
  9. If the player rolls a number for a card that he or she already has, the die passes to the next player
  10. The first player to fix their tackle box is the winner!

Each number of dots on the die corresponds to these cards:

1: FISH LURES

2: HOOKS

3: WORMS

4: FISHING LINE

5: FLIES

6: BOBBERS

Picture Book Review

August 8 – Happiness Happens Day

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About the Holiday

Happiness doesn’t have to be something we plan for, schedule into our calendars, or spend money on. In fact paying attention to those little moments during each day, going on spontaneous outings with friends or family, or taking time to do a favorite activity may be all you need to feel happier every day!

My Heart Fills With Happiness

Written by Monique Gray Smith | Illustrated by Julie Flett

 

A little girl gazes into her mother’s eyes as she sits on her lap wrapped in a big, soft blanket. She thinks, “My heart fills with happiness when…I see the face of someone I love.” Waiting for the bannock to bake, a mother and her children huddle close around the oven surrounded by the delicious aroma that fills their hearts with joy. Singing brings its own lightness and pleasure as it fills one’s soul.

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Image copyright Julie Flett, 2016. Courtesy of Orca Books Publishing.

A girl lifts her face to the sky and swirls around, her dress floating with a swish as she smiles to “feel the sun dancing on [her] cheeks.” Happiness can be the tickly feeling of “walking barefoot on the grass,” the freedom of dancing, and the security of holding a loved one’s hand. Hearing stories and making music can also set hearts racing with delight. When you think about joy, what do you see? “What fills your heart with happiness?”

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Image copyright Julie Flett, 2016, text copyright Monique Gray Smith, 2016. Courtesy of Orca Books Publishing.

Monique Gray Smith’s sweet book for little ones about the various types of happiness offers readers and listeners a moment to stop and share the connection that joy brings. Whether feelings of happiness come from outside influences or from deep within, Smith encourages readers to reflect on what really makes them happy. Such awareness can inspire future activities and improve your quality of life. Smith’s lyrical phrasing and choice of pleasures will delight little ones, who will recognize each as a bond of love.

Julie Flett’s beautiful illustrations of indigenous families spending loving moments together are infused with warmth and strength. In her vignettes of the unhurried occasions that allow for profound happiness, children and adults sit together, hold hands, and wrap their arms around each other. Little ones also discover the individual joys found in a sunbeam, a blade of grass, or the abandon of dance. 

My Heart Fills With Happiness would be wonderful quiet book to add to a little one’s bookshelf to start a happy day or invite sweet dreams. 

Ages 2 – 4

Orca Book Publishers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1459809574

Discover more about Monique Gray Smith, her writing, and speaking engagements on her website!

View a gallery of books and illustration work by Julie Flett on her website!

Happiness Happens Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-smile-cards

Happiness Cards

 

Happiness can happen anywhere, and you can help make someone’s day extra happy with these printable Happiness Cards. Just give them to a friend, someone in your family, or someone who looks as if they need a pick-me-up. It’ll make you feel happy too!

Picture Book Review

August 4 – It’s Family Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

When families form, each person comes with their own history, which is then blended to create an entirely new story. Some families know all about great, great, great grandma or grandpa, while for some the distant past is a bit hazy. No matter how much you know about your family, though, you know that each step along the way for each person has brought you to the place you are now—together! This month encourages people to research their genealogy and discover more about their ancestors. It can be fun to draw a family tree or put together a scrapbook of photos, old and new. But whatever you do, don’t forget to celebrate your family!

One Family

Written by George Shannon | Illustrated by Blanca Gomez

 

It’s 6:00 and “one is one”: a little lady with a cotton-candy swirl of white hair is reading one book in the light of her one lamp. In the bedroom “one is two”: a boy and a girl have changed into pajamas, leaving one pair of shoes—two shoes with yellow laces—and a shirt on the floor. They’ve grabbed their team of horses—two stick ponies—and are galloping around the room. They make one family.

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Outside, “one is three”: a little girl is out with her mom and dad. As they pass a window, she points to one bowl of fruit holding three pears. In the toyshop window, the girl sees one house of three bears. The one family walks by happily. On another street “one is four”: two kids sit in their grandpa and grandma’s car. Grandpa has one ring of four keys. Grandma is carrying a basket with one pile of four puppies. Where is this one family going?

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2016, text copyright George Shannon, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the zoo “one is five”: a family of three kids and two adults watch one monkey hold one bunch of five bananas while another plays with one hand of five cards. In a busy house “one is six”: While a woman hangs out one line of six wet shirts, a girl paints one butterfly with six legs. The six people are one family working together.

In another neighborhood “one is seven”: one flock of seven birds flies over the tall apartment houses as one family of four adults, a child, and twin babies talk. Who is the “one bouquet of seven blooms” for? A door opens to a home where “one is eight”: one picture of eight ducks hangs on the wall above a child coloring with one box of eight crayons. The room is getting full as eight people from one family find places to gather.

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

At the seaside “one is nine”: a group of nine men, women, and children sit on one bench near one staircase of nine steps. One of the children has built one cairn of nine rocks. In a bustling kitchen “one is ten”: sitting at the table and standing near the stove are ten members of one family. A girl has baked one batch of ten cookies. On the wall is one shelf of ten books.

In this one town, all these people come together walking dogs, playing with balls, visiting neighbors, waving from windows, strolling babies, and having fun. Here “One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family.”

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In his unique take on a counting book, George Shannon challenges readers to consider the way we think about the number and the idea of “one,” both mathematically and linguistically. Along the way the story also invites readers to think about the nature of family. As each family unit grows larger from page to page, children see that no matter how many people are included, the group is one family. The sequential building on the idea of family organically leads to the insight that our one world is made up of many people—and even many families—but that we are all connected as one family on earth.

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Image copyright Blanca Gomez, 2015, text copyright George Shannon, 2016. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In her vibrant and inclusive illustrations, Blanca Gomez celebrates what it means to be a family and even invites readers to perhaps make up their own stories about how each family came together. Every page offers welcome views of multigenerational, interracial, and multiethnic families. Three examples of the featured number on each two-page spread are just the right amount for kids to count and discuss how we use collective nouns to denote ideas such as “one pair” for two or “one batch” and “one bunch” for any number of cookies or flowers. A final spread gives readers another chance to count the items they found in the book, and the endpapers tell a story of their own.

With so much to see, talk about, and count, on every page, One Family is a fantastic book to add to school, classroom, and home libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2015 | ISBN 978-0374300036

Find a gallery of illustration and other artwork by Blanca Gomez on her website!

Family Heritage Month Activity

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I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page

 

Filling in a family tree is a fun way to learn more about grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and where your family came from. Print this I Love My Family Tree! Coloring Page then write the names or draw pictures of your family members in the hearts, and color the picture.

Picture Book Review

July 28 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

This month is set aside to honor the chefs, bakers, and cooks who create delicious meals and treats for hungry diners. Many of today’s culinary artists are involved in using organic and locally sourced foods, reducing waste, and bringing fresh foods and eating establishments to underserved communities. Through their knowledge, talents, experimentation, and love of offering good food for body and soul, those involved in the culinary arts make the world a better place for all. 

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix

Written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee | Illustrated by Man One

 

“Chef Roy Choi can chop an onion in an instant, carve a mouse out of a mushroom. He’s cooked in fancy restaurants, for rock stars and royalty. But he’d rather cook on a truck.” Roy considers himself a “‘street cook,’” and he creates food with love and care—and especially sohn-maash—for anyone who stops by. What’s sohn-maash? “It is the love and cooking talent that Korean mothers and grandmothers mix into their handmade foods.”

When Roy was two his family moved from Seoul, Korea to Los Angeles, California. His mother made kimchi that was so delicious friends bought it from the trunk of her car. Eventually, Roy’s parents “opened a restaurant—Silver Garden.” Roy loved exploring the various ethnic foods in his neighborhood, but always liked his mom’s food the best.

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Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Roy loved hanging out in the bustling kitchen of the Silver Garden. And when 3:00 rolled around “everyone gathered at booth #1 for Dumpling Time.” While they filled dumpling wrappers, they told stories, shared news, and laughed. “Family together, making food. Roy’s best good time.” In time his neighborhood changed, and the Silver Garden closed. His parents then opened a jewelry store, and the family moved to the suburbs. But Roy was not happy. He wasn’t like the other kids in the neighborhood.

After he graduated, Roy was at a loss; he didn’t know what he wanted to do. No matter what, though, he always went home, “where his mom helped him get strong with kimchi, rice, tofu, stew.” One day as Roy watched a cooking show, he realized his heart was in the kitchen. He went to cooking school and learned about recipes and preparing food. When he graduated, he got jobs in fancy restaurants where he cooked for a thousand diners a night and ran the kitchen crew. He knew that this was where he belonged.

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Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

“Roy was a success—until he wasn’t.” There came a time when he couldn’t keep up with the frantic pace, couldn’t remember recipes. He lost his job. A friend suggested they open a food truck together—putting Korean barbecue in a taco. Roy jumped at the idea of remixing “the tastes he loved on the streets that were his home. He used mad chef’s skills to build flavor and cooked with care, with sohn-maash.” They called their truck Kogi BBQ, and they hit the road, looking for hungry customers.

At first the idea of a Korean taco didn’t fly, but once people tried them, they lined up to buy them. “Roy saw that Kogi food was like good music, bringing people together and making smiles. Strangers talked and laughed as they waited in line—Koreans with Latinos, kids with elders, taggers with geeks.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roy-choi-and-the-street-food-remix-watts

Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Roy felt at home in his truck, and his Kogi tacos made him famous. He opened cafes in older neighborhoods, and called his chef friends, saying “Let’s feed those we aren’t reaching.” Chef DP joined up. Together they opened fast-food places for kids and others skateboarding, playing, or just hanging out.

In the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, across the street from an elementary school, they opened Locol. The two chefs wondered if people would “care about soulful fast food.” But he needn’t have worried. Before the doors even opened, a line formed down the street and around the corner. Now, Roy wants to bring the remixed flavors of Locol to other neighborhoods. He dreams of “‘feeding goodness to the world’” and says you can do that too. All it takes is to “cook with sohn-maash, cook with love.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-roy-choi-and-the-street-food-remix-neighborhood

Image copyright Man One, 2017, text copyright Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee, 2017. Courtesy of readerstoeaters.com.

Extensive Authors’ and Illustrator’s Notes offering more information about Roy Choi, his work, and the making of the book follow the text.

For kids who love cooking—and eating—Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee have written a compelling biography of one of the culinary world’s stars. Beginning with Roy Choi’s childhood, Martin and Lee show young readers the family and social events that influenced not only his choice of career but his dedication to underserved neighborhoods. Scattered throughout the pages are poems that read like recipes and satisfy like comfort food. Full of care and love, the story will encourage readers to follow their heart, try out different ideas, and find the mission that’s important to them.

Graffiti artist and illustrator Man One infuses Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix with the vibrancy of the Los Angeles neighborhoods that nurtured Choi’s talent. Readers get to gather with the family during dumpling time and see the vast array of ingredients enveloped in the tasty wrappers, watch Choi finesse a lamb dish in his fancy restaurant, and feel the vibe as he remixes tacos with a Korean tang. Along the way, kids also meet the customers from all walks of life who line up to experience Choi’s food.

Ages 5 – 12

Readers to Eaters, 2017 | ISBN 978-0983661597

Discover more about Jacqueline Briggs Martin and her books on her website.

You can read more about June Jo Lee on the Readers to Eaters website.

View a gallery of art, murals, prints, and more by Man One on his website.

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-lemon-and-chocolate-cookies

French Butter Cookies – Lemon and Chocolate

 

Whip up a batch of these delicious cookies to eat yourself or share with others! There are two distinct flavors to satisfy any palate!

Ingredients for Lemon Cookies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (or to taste)

For Chocolate Cookies

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For Egg Wash

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  1. In a bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until blended
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and beat just until incorporated. Do not over mix the dough. **For Chocolate Cookies use 1 ½ cups flour and add cocoa powder, cinnamon, and ground ginger before mixing.**
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough a few times to bring it together, and then divide the dough in half.
  5. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or until firm
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in the center of the oven.
  7. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  8. Remove one portion of the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4 inch (1 cm) thick.
  9. Using a lightly floured 2 inch (5 cm) round, fluted cookie cutter (or other cookie cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
  10. Put the baking sheet of cut-out cookies in the refrigerator for about 15 -20 minutes to chill the dough.
  11. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the egg with the water for the egg wash. Remove the cookies from the refrigerator and brush the tops with the egg wash.
  12. Then, with the tines of a fork or a toothpick, make a crisscross pattern on the top of each cookie.
  13. Bake cookies for about 12-14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.
  14. Cool cookies on wire rack.

Picture Book Review

July 24 – National Cousins Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate cousins—those family members who are close in age and in our hearts. Often getting together with family means getting to play with cousins who can become best friends. As we grow up and move on to other cities for school or jobs, it’s easy to lose touch. If you live far away from family, take the opportunity today to text, email, or call a special cousin and catch up. If you live close, why not plan a get together with your cousins or for your kids and their cousins?

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin

By Duncan Tonatiuh

 

Charlie runs through the house shouting with excitement. He’s gotten a letter from his cousin Carlitos who lives in Mexico. They’ve never met, but Charlie would like to. In his letter Carlitos tells Charlie that he lives on a farm where they grow maize. He has a burro, pollos, and a gallo that crows and crows. Charlie sits right down and writes a letter in return.

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

He tells Carlitos that he lives in a city. From his window he can see a bridge and skyscrapers. He writes: “Skyscrapers are buildings so tall they tickle the clouds. At night all the lights from the city look like stars from the sky.” To get to school, Carlitos says, he rides his bicicleta. Perros bark and run after him as he passes. Charlie goes to school on the subway that is like a “long metal snake” underground.

At recess Carlitos and his friends play fútbol. Charlie would call it soccer. Carlitos likes when another player passes him the ball and he kicks it into the net for a gol. Charlie likes scoring too. He plays basketball with his friends during recess. When he gets the ball he dunks it through the net for two points.

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

After school Carlitos helps his mama cook cheese quesadillas. Charlie grabs a slice of pizza on his way home from school. When Carlitos finishes his homework, he goes outside to play. He likes to shoot canicas and watch them roll, and he’s good at spinning the trompo. But his favorite thing to do is fly his papalote and watch its tail flutter as it soars into the sky. In the afternoon, Charlie says, he plays with his friends outside on the stoop. They jump rope and play hopscotch then they go inside to play video games. Sometimes it gets so hot that Carlitos and his friends go down to the río to go swimming. Charlie and his friends cool off in the spray of the fire hydrant when the firefighters open it for them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dear-primo-a-letter-to-my-cousin-cooling-off

Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

Carlitos spends the weekends at the mercado selling the maize and prickly fruit, tunas, that his family grows on their farm. They also buy food they will need for the next week from other vendors. Weekends are market days for Charlie, too. He goes to the grocery store with his mom and checks off the items on their list as they put them in the cart.

Sometimes there are fiestas in town, Carlitos tells Charlie. The parties last for two or three days. “At night there are cohetas that light up the sky and mariachis who play and play.” Charlie replies that there are special celebrations in his city too where he watches parades with marching bands and people in costumes. Carlitos wishes Charlie could see the churros, cowboys who ride their caballos and twirl their reatas. Charlie thinks Carlitos would be amazed at the break-dancers in his neighborhood who can flip and spin on their heads.

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

In Mexico, Carlitos writes, there are so many traditions. On Dia de los Muertes families honor those who have passed away, and in December there are parties called Posados with piñatas full of sweets and fruit. Charlie writes that in America we have traditions too. Two of his favorites are Thanksgiving, when he gets to eat turkey, and Halloween, when he dresses up in a costume and goes trick-or-treating for candy.

He’d like to write more, Charlie says, but his mom is calling for him to brush his teeth and get ready for bed. It seems Carlitos ended his letter on the same note. And as each boy pulls up the covers, they have the same idea: “My primo should come visit me!”

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Copyright Duncan Tonatiuh, 2010. Courtesy of duncantonatiuh.com.

Duncan Tonatiuh’s charming tribute to family and cultural similarities told through two letters written by cousins engages young readers on many levels. Filled with Spanish vocabulary, Carlitos’s letter introduces children to Spanish words for familiar things as well as to new ideas. Spanish-speaking readers find the same experience through Charlie’s letter to Carlitos. By juxtaposing similar daily and special events on each page or two-page spread, Tonatiuh emphasizes the fact that people are the same wherever they live.

Tonatiuh’s now well-known folk-art illustrations let kids travel to sites in Mexico and America as they get to know Charlie and Carlitos. Striking and vividly detailed images on each page invite kids to compare the lives of the two cousins and point out the similarities and differences.

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin is an engaging multicultural book for home and school libraries. The book is a perfect way to introduce Spanish words and Mexican culture to kids learning about their world.

Ages 5 – 8

Harry N. Abrams, 2010 | ISBN 978-0810938724

Discover more about Duncan Tonatiuh, his books, and his artwork on his website!

National Cousins Day Activity

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Cousins Connect! Maze

 

Can you help the cousins get together to play in this printable Cousins Connect! Maze? Then you can color the page! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 23 – Gorgeous Grandma Day

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About the Holiday

If you’re a grandma, today’s your day! Grandmas have a particular beauty inside and out as they care for the children in their lives. Kids benefit from the love and knowledge grandmothers have to give, and grandmas can learn a bit from their grandkids too! To celebrate plan a special day with your grandkids!

What Can Your Grandma Do?

Written by Anne Sawan | Illustrated by Sernur Isik

 

Jeremy’s class at school is going to hold a grandparents talent show to celebrate Grandparents Appreciation Week. All the kids are excited except for Jeremy. He “loved his grandma, but he wasn’t sure she had any special talent.” Stella thinks that her grandma, who’s a doctor, can demonstrate how to splint an arm. Jeremy remembers that his grandma put ice on his ankle when he twisted it playing basketball, but she’s not a doctor.

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Image copyright Sernur Isik, 2017, text copyright Anne Sawan, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

Theo’s abuelo is a great artist and can paint a picture for the class. Jeremy thinks about when the wall at home got nicked during an indoor game of basketball. His grandma repainted it all by herself, but she isn’t really an artist. How about cooking? Celeste is going to bring her Ye-ye, who’s a baker. “‘I am sure he could make us some chocolate cupcakes with sugar flowers on top,’” she says. Hmmm…Jeremy’s grandma makes great sandwiches, but she nearly burned down their apartment building when she left a roast in the oven while she and Jeremy went to play basketball. No, his grandma isn’t a chef.

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Image copyright Sernur Isik, 2017, text copyright Anne Sawan, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

It seems as if everyone’s grandma has some amazing talent. One dances ballet, and one can do the hula hoop. Another creates balloon animals, and yet another is great at dancing the salsa. “‘What is your grandmother going to do?’” Stella askes Jeremy. He just shrugs. That afternoon as Jeremy eats one of his grandma’s sandwiches, he tells her about the talent show. His grandma thinks it sounds like fun. Jeremy looks at his grandma. “‘Yes. Well…do you have any talents?’” he asks.

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Image copyright Sernur Isik, 2017, text copyright Anne Sawan, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

His grandma isn’t sure. She tries juggling, but the three oranges just bounce around the room and break a vase. She tries pulling a quarter out of Jeremy’s ear like a magician, but that just hurts. And they both know she can’t cook. They both feel a little sad as they try to come up with a talent, but Jeremy knows how to cheer his grandma up. He grabs his basketball and they head for the court.

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Image copyright Sernur Isik, 2017, text copyright Anne Sawan, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

“‘Have you been practicing what I taught you?’” Jeremy’s grandma asks. She takes off down the court, running fast. “She dribbled the ball, took two giant steps, leaped into the air, raised the ball towards the rim, and…Whoosh!” Jeremy smiles. The next week Jeremy’s class gathers in the gym for the talent show. After the kids learned how to splint arms, paint pictures, dance, and do other “wonderful things,” their teacher announces that Jeremy’s grandmother is going to demonstrate her special talent.

She goes to the center of the court and begins to run. “She ran fast! She dribbled the ball, took two giant steps, leaped into the air, raised the ball towards the rim and dunked it right through the net.” Everyone cheers. “‘Oh yeah, that’s right,’” Jeremy says, “‘my grandma can dunk!’”

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Image copyright Sernur Isik, 2017, text copyright Anne Sawan, 2017. Courtesy of Clavis Publishing.

Grandmas and grandkids alike will love the close relationship between Jeremy and his grandma in Anne Sawan’s funny and heartfelt story. Her dialogue always rings true, and the open give and take between Jeremy and his grandma is sweet and leads to greater understanding between the two. Sawan’s portrayal of today’s grandparents as active professionals, talented, and hip is realistic and welcome. As Jeremy thinks about the mishaps his grandma has had, readers may giggle but also see that relationships aren’t based on perfection but on shared experiences.

Sernur Isik’s crisp, detailed illustrations are as vibrant as the grandparents depicted in this uplifting story. As the kids in the class reveal their grandparents’ particular talents, readers can see their obvious pride in and love for their family. Jeremy’s dilemma leads to humorous images of his grandma and her accidents, but kids will cheer along with the class as Grandma dunks the basketball like a pro.

What Can Your Grandma Do? Is a fun book for kids to share with grandparents. It would make a great gift and an enjoyable way to jump start a talk about hobbies and family history.

Ages 4 – 12

Clavis Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373324

Discover more about Anne Sawan, her books, and her blog on her website!

Learn more about Sernur Isik and view a portfolio and sketchbook of her artwork on her website!

Gorgeous Grandma Day Activity

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Floral“I Love You Because…” Page

 

You and your grandma have a special relationship! Tell her why you love her by writing a letter or drawing a picture on this printable Floral “I Love You Because…” Page.

Picture Book Review