April 18 – World Heritage Day

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About the Holiday

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

School Days Around the World

Written by Margriet Ruurs | Illustrated by Alice Feagan

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages  3 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1771380478

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

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

World Heritage Day Activity

Monumental Word Scramble

Monumental Word Scramble

 

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

Picture Book Review

March 30 – It’s Music in Our Schools Month

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About the Holiday

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

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Written by Chieri Uegaki | Illustrated by Qin Leng

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1894786331

Enjoy this Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin book trailer!

Music in Our Schools Month Activity

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Musical Kids Find the Differences

 

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

Picture Book Review

March 26 – It’s Umbrella Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate umbrellas, those perky protective accessories that have been around since earliest times. Ancient civilizations used palmetto fronds for shade and during inclemet weather. The first waterproof umbrellas were created by the Chinese, who waxed or lacquered their paper parasols. Umbrellas were strictly women’s accessories until Jonas Hanway, a Persian travel writer, used one in public in England in the 1700s. English men then took up the practice, calling their version a “Hanway.” The first collapsible umbrella was designed in 1710, and in 1928 the folding pocket umbrella appeared. Since then, umbrellas have become fashionable and necessary accessories for all.

The Umbrella Queen

Written by Shirin Yim Bridges | Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

 

The residents of a small village in Thailand are well known for the beautiful paper umbrellas they make and sell in the local shops. The umbrellas are colorful, but always decorated with flowers and butterflies. Every New Year’s Day the villagers hold an Umbrella Parade, and the woman who has painted the most beautiful umbrella is chosen as the Umbrella Queen.

Noot is a little girl who longs to paint her own umbrellas and partake in the parade. One day her mother gives her an umbrella to paint and shows her how to copy her design. Noot is a natural artist, and her finished umbrella is nearly indistinguishable from her mother’s. She is given her own painting spot in the garden and five umbrellas to decorate.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of taeeunyoo.com

Noot paints the familiar butterflies and is about to start on the flowers when she is inspired to draw elephants instead. She covers all five umbrellas with elephants doing handstands, playing and squirting water, walking trunk-to-tail, and just being silly. When her mother sees these umbrellas, she is unhappy. Flowers and butterflies sell in the local shops, not elephants. Noot understands the importance of the money made from the umbrellas to her family. For the next year she paints the large umbrellas with the traditional design. At night, however, using bits and pieces, she fashions tiny umbrellas. These she paints with elephants, and displays them on her windowsill.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of taeeunyoo.com

As New Year approaches there is much excitement in the village. It is rumored that the king will be visiting and will choose the Umbrella Queen himself. One day the villagers receive the message that the king will indeed arrive. The villagers spruce up their town and each woman displays her umbrellas in front of her home.

The king walks the length of the street, considering each umbrella until he comes to Noot’s house. He is very impressed with the umbrellas painted by Noot’s mother, but his gaze wanders to Noot’s windowsill, and he asks who painted the “strange” umbrellas.

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Image copyright Taeeun Yoo, courtesy of taeeunyoo.com

A bit embarrassed by the attention, Noot shyly answers the king’s questions about the size of the small umbrellas and the unusual designs. In trying to explain herself, she forgets to look at the ground when talking to the king, and when her eyes meet his she realizes that, instead of judging her, he is charmed. “I like elephants,” she tells him, and he laughs. The king then takes Noot’s hand and names her the Umbrella Queen because “she paints from her heart.”

Shirin Yim Bridges has written a unique story that effectively and engagingly presents the often conflicting dilemma of responsibility to others while staying true to yourself. Noot’s journey from an observer in her family’s business to a valued artist is told straightforwardly, and the familial love and support are clearly emphasized. The king’s recognition of Noot’s talent and heart will be highly satisfying for young readers or listeners.

Taeeun Yoo’s delicate illustrations in gold, red, black, and green set the story firmly in Thailand and perfectly demonstrate the close-knit village and relationships as well as the intricate beauty of the umbrellas and the pride the villagers take in them.

The Umbrella Queen is a wonderful story about family, discovering your talents, and self-expression that would find a welcome spot on any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, Harper Collins, New York, 2008 | ISBN 978-0060750404

Learn more about Taeeun Yoo, her books, and her art on her website!

Umbrella Month Activity

CPB - Umbrella Matching Game

Rainy Day Mix Up Matching Game

 

A sudden storm scattered all the umbrellas and raincoats! Can you put the pairs together again? Draw a line to connect the umbrella and the raincoat that have the same pattern. Print the Rainy Day Mix Up Game here!

Picture Book Review

March 9 – It’s Read Aloud Month

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About the Holiday

From the moment babies are born, they are learning. Talking and reading aloud to babies from the very beginning are crucial parts of helping their developing brain learn language and improves literacy in the years to come. Reading aloud to babies and older children for only 15 minutes a day makes a tremendous and beneficial difference to their future. Make reading time a special time with your kids, and with so many wonderful books available—like today’s book—you’ll have as much fun as they do!

Rosa’s Very Big Job

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

 

Rosa may be little, but she has big ideas about how to help. While Mama is out shopping for groceries for that night’s dinner, Rosa decides to surprise her by folding and putting away the laundry. The basket is piled high with fluffy dry clothes, sheets, and towels. Rosa watches her grandpa reading the newspaper. “‘Please help me, Grandpa!’” she says. She tugs on her grandpa’s hands, trying to pull him out of his chair. “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get up.”

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Grandpa seems to have a little trouble managing: “‘It’s difficult to carry these enormous piles,’” he sighs. But Rosa knows that smaller armloads work better. Grandpa’s clothes come unfolded as he puts them in the drawer. “‘Be neat. Like me,” Rosa says, showing him her tidy stack. Poor Grandpa! He has to keep hanging up the same jacket over and over. “‘It’s difficult to keep this jacket from sliding off the hanger,” he says. Rosa has the answer: “‘Zip it up,’” she explains. “‘Then it stays on.’”

Grandpa sinks back into his chair. “‘You are terrific at doing laundry, Rosa. And I am exhausted,’” he says. But this is no time to quit—Rosa has big plans. As she steps into the now empty laundry basket, she exclaims, “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get in the boat. Help me sail back to there.’” Rosa points to the linen closet.

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Suddenly, the floor swells with ocean waves teeming with fish. Grandpa channels his inner sailor as he holds aloft a sheet as a sail. As the wind billows and they come perilously close to the kitchen table, he says, “‘It’s difficult to sail around this enormous rock!’” Contemplating the rising sea, he exclaims, “‘It’s difficult to sail over this enormous wave!’”

There’s a dangerous storm ahead, warns Grandpa, “‘I can’t hold the sail in this strong wind.’” Rosa is there to help and grabs one side of the sheet. “‘Hold tight,’” she orders. “‘Use both hands.’” At last the seas die down and Grandpa is ready to steer the laundry basket back to port, but Rosa has a more entertaining thought. Spying a sock on the floor, Rosa wants to catch the “enormous fish.” Grandpa obliges and picks up a hangar for a fishing pole. He holds Rosa as she stretches out over the edge of the laundry basket to land her fish.

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Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Just as Rosa nabs the fish, Mama comes home with her bags of groceries. She’s surprised to see that the laundry is not in the basket. Rosa runs to her and proudly explains, “‘We put all the laundry away. It was a very big job. We carried enormous piles. Grandpa dropped things. And I picked them up. It was very difficult for Grandpa. He got exhausted. But not me. I am terrific at laundry!’” Mama agrees that Rosa is a terrific helper. Then Rosa leads her mother to see the most surprising thing of all—the fish she has caught for dinner!

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In her series of Small Talk Books® Ellen Mayer presents exciting stories for preschoolers full of imagination and rich language learning. Rosa’s Very Big Job introduces Rosa, a sweet girl bubbling with enthusiasm and the desire to help. The close relationships between Rosa, her mother, and her grandpa promote cooperation as well as effective modeling of speech patterns and a way to introduce larger words in an organic manner through play and common chores. Rosa’s inventive idea to turn the laundry basket into a boat is delightfully enhanced by her grandpa’s willingness to share in the story and expand on it. Humor, cheerful banter, and the easy camaraderie between Rosa and Grandpa invite young readers to join in the fun as they build confidence in their language learning.

Sarah Vonthron-Laver depicts Rosa’s afternoon with her Grandpa with joy and the spirited energy young children bring to everything they do. Grandpa is happy to spend time with his granddaughter, yet shows honest feelings of tiredness and frustration that spur on the plot. The transition from doing laundry to using the basket as a boat is as seamless as a child’s imagination, and the way Rosa and her grandpa use household items to create “sails,” “rocks,” “fish,” and “fishing poles” will give readers great ideas for post-reading play. Bright colors, an adorable kitten, and familiar surroundings welcome young children into the world of reading and expanded vocabulary.

Rosa’s Very Big Job would be a welcome addition to a young child’s bookshelf, not only for its fun story that kids will want to hear again and again, but for its leap into imagination that kids will want to replicate.

Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development, provides tips for parents, grandparents, and caregivers following the text.

Ages 2 – 6

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727497

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as book-related activities and literacy initiatives she’s involved with on her website!

To read an interview with Ellen Mayer about her books and her work, click here!

Find Sarah Vonthron-Laver on Facebook!

Read Aloud Month Activity

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Original illustrations by Saran Vonthron-Laver, Copyrights © 2016 Star Bright Books. Paper dolls created by AislingArt and Celebrate Picture Books, copyrights © 2016

Rosa’s Very Big Job Paper Dolls

 

After you read the story, you can continue the fun with these Rosa and family paper dolls! Rosa loves helping out at home. She’s terrific at doing laundry – folding and putting away the family’s clothes, socks, and linens. You are terrific at helping too! Can you help Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa get dressed and ready for the day with these printable paper dolls? You’ll even find a laundry basket, socks, and Rosa’s sweet kitty to play with! 

Supplies

Printable Paper Dolls, Clothes, and Extras

  • Card stock paper and/or poster board
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Print dolls on regular paper or card stock paper. Dolls printed on card stock paper may stand on their own with the supplied stand cross piece. For dolls printed on regular paper, you can cut the supplied stand templates from poster board or card stock and glue the dolls to the backing.
  2. Rosa’s kitty and the laundry basket can also be attached to the supplied template if needed
  3. Print clothes for each figure
  4. Color the blank clothes templates any way you’d like
  5. Cut out clothes and extra items
  6. Fit outfits onto dolls
  7. Make up your own stories about Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa!

Picture Book Review

March 7 – Unique Names Day

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Established in 1997 as part of Celebrate Your Name Week, Unique Names Day celebrates uncommon or uncommonly spelled names and encourages those with unique names to always take pride in their name. One way to celebrate is to find out more about your name and how or why your parents chose it.

The Name Jar

By Yangsook Choi

 

Unhei has recently moved to the United States from Korea. Although Unhei is excited about the first day of school, on the bus ride she misses her former home and looks at the wooden name stamp her grandmother gave her. A boy sitting behind Unhei notices the unfamiliar object and asks about it. Then other kids notice Unhei. They ask what her name is and when she answers, they mispronounce it, laughing and making jokes.

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Image copyright Yangsook Choi, courtesy of Random House

Unhei is embarrassed and glad that when the bus drops them off that those kids head to a different classroom than hers. As Unhei enters her own room, her classmates smile and greet her—it is obvious that their teacher has prepared them for a new student, and they are excited.

Of course, they first question her about her name, and remembering the experience on the bus, Unhei is reluctant to answer. She quickly says that she hasn’t picked a name yet, but will tell them next week. When she gets home, Unhei tells her mother that she wants an American name, a name that is easy to pronounce.

Her mother is dismayed; Unhei’s name was chosen by a master so that it would describe her uniqueness. But Unhei doesn’t want to be different, she just wants to fit in. Later while she and her mother are at a Korean grocery store, she introduces herself to the owner, who exclaims that her name is beautiful and means “grace” in English. 

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Image copyright Yangsook Choi, courtesy of Random House

That evening Unhei tries out American names in front of the mirror—Amanda, Laura, Susie—but they don’t feel or sound right. The next day at school Unhei finds a jar on her desk with pieces of paper in it. On each piece of paper is a name—suggestions from each of her classmates. Her new friends have chosen these names thoughtfully. Daisy is the nickname of one girl’s baby sister; Tamela is a smart and brave heroine from a story; and Wensday is the day Unhei joined their class.

At the end of the school day, a classmate named Joey comes to her. He knows she actually does have a name, and Unhei, while not wanting to say it out loud, shows him the characters on her wooden stamp. Joey thinks it is beautiful and asks to keep the paper. Day by day the glass jar fills up with names. Unhei will have to choose soon.

One Saturday Unhei returns to the Korean grocery store. When Mr. Kim calls her by name, the one other customer turns around. It’s Joey! Carefully and slowly he says Unheis name until he gets it right. On Monday when Unhei enters the classroom, she discovers that the jar is missing. It’s all right, though, Unhei has chosen her name.

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Image copyright Yangsook Choi, courtesy of Random House

She walks to the chalkboard and writes her real name in English and Korean. She tells the class that her name means “grace.” Other kids reveal the meaning of their names, and they all practice saying Unhei’s name. That evening Joey comes to visit. He explains that he took the jar because he wanted Unhei to keep her original name. He suggests putting Korean nicknames into the jar for their classmates to pick. He has already chosen his Korean name with the help of Mr. Kim. It is the prefect nickname: Chinku, which means “friend.”

Ages 3 – 8

Random House, Dragonfly Books, 2003 | ISBN  978-0440417996

Discover more about Yangsook Choi, her books, and her art on her website!

Yangsook Choi’s The Name Jar is as timely now as when it was first written. Through compelling and detailed storytelling, Choi explores the themes of identity, empathy, family, friendship, and more  with sometimes heartbreaking honesty. Unhei’s varied experiences at school, at home, and at the market provide an opportunity for adults and children to discuss and embrace the diversity of our multicultural world. Choi’s warm-toned illustrations reveal the conflicts that Unhei encounters and her growing confidence as she makes friends with Mr. Kim and Joey who accepts her as she is. 

Unique Names Day Activity

CPB - Name Jars standing

Love Your Name Organizer Jar

 

Everyone needs a place to store their special stuff! Here’s a way to recycle a plastic jar and make a cool organizer jar with your name on it. This organizer jar also makes a great gift for your friends!

Supplies

  • A large plastic jar, such as a peanut butter jar or mayonnaise jar, cleaned out and with the label removed
  • Acrylic multi-surface paint or markers
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

CPB - Name Jars on sides

Directions

  1. Paint a rectangle on the front of the jar with chalkboard paint
  2. Decorate the rest of the jar with paint, markers, or paper just the way you want! My green jar sports a friendly dinosaur!

Picture Book Review

March 3 – World Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

In December of 2013 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 3rd as World Wildlife Day to promote awareness of our environment and the dangers to it. This year’s theme is “Listen to the Young Voices.” Nearly one-quarter of the world’s population is between the ages of 10 and 24. With a crucial stake in the preservation of the world’s animals and plants and their habitats, more and more young people are getting involved in the preservation of the environment. Today, find a way to get involved in your community or donate to a wildlife cause. A clean, healthy, and protective environment benefits all.

Lotus & Feather

Written by Ji-li Jiang | Illustrated by Julie Downing

Lotus was lonely since her winter illness had left her without a voice. The children at school “treated her like a strange creature,” and she was left without playmates or someone to keep her company on the walk home. She lived with her grandfather who made reed baskets and found solace when he took her to ride in his boat on the nearby lake. As he poled the boat through the still water, Lotus’ grandfather sadly pointed out how the lake had changed. No longer did the lotus flowers, fish, birds, or animals thrive. Instead, the landscape had “‘been ruined by greedy fishermen and hunters, and by ignorant people who took over the land where animals once lived.’”

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

One morning while Lotus was out collecting reeds for her grandfather she spied a rare crane. It’s wide white “wings were edged with black feathers, like lace on a dress”…and “its head was crowned with a red top like a dazzling ruby.” As she watched a gunshot rang out. Unable to alert the hunter by shouting, Lotus banged on her bucket, frightening him away. Lotus rushed toward the wounded bird, picked it up and carefully brought it home to Grandpa.

Grandpa tended to the crane’s injury and fed him rice soup while Lotus stroked the soft head. For two days, Lotus hardly slept as she took care of the crane. On the third day she fell asleep next to the crane, waking when he stirred and nestled her cheek. “Lotus’s heart pounded, and tears sprang to her eyes.” Lotus named the crane Feather. As it grew stronger she gathered food for it, and on the day Feather took his first steps, “Lotus jumped and swirled and hugged Grandpa blissfully.”

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Soon Feather was following Lotus everywhere—even to school. After class Lotus would blow her whistle and Feather would come running and dance as Lotus played. The other children joined in, dancing and playing along every day. One night Lotus heard Feather crowing and woke to find that the village was flooded. Poling his boat through the streets, Grandpa shouted, Lotus banged her pail, and Feather crowed to alert the neighbors. “Over three hundred villagers were saved. Feather was the hero.” He became famous, and people wanted to hear his story again and again.

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

When Spring arrived Feather was still too weak to fly but he looked longingly at the birds migrating north. Lotus was frightened that her friend might want to leave them, but she “knew she would never separate him from his home and family.” One day Feather spread his wings and leaped into the air. Lotus realized that he had healed and knew it was time for him to leave. Grandpa and Lotus took Feather to the lake. Grandpa tossed Feather into the air, but he returned again and again. Grandpa gave Feather to Lotus. Lotus hugged Feather one more time and threw him into the sky.  

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Holding back tears, Lotus watched as “Feather flapped his big wings and soared north, disappearing into the horizon.” Lotus and the other children missed Feather. They gathered together listening to Lotus play her whistle, imagining that Feather could hear them. One autumn morning, Lotus heard a familiar crow and rushed outside. There stood Feather with his family. Then Lotus gasped. The sky was filled with hundreds of cranes coming to the lake. Lotus blew her whistle, and the notes, “accompanied by the birds’ singing, echoed far, far away in the golden sky.”

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Image copyright Julie Downing, courtesy of Disney Hyperion

Ji-li-Jiang’s tender story resonates on every page with love and friendship. The relationship revealed in Jiang’s tale exists not only between Lotus and Feather, but between readers and their environment. Beautifully interwoven throughout the plot, the idea of responsibility between friends, to the earth, and to ourselves makes Lotus & Feather a compelling book to read and discuss. Through lyrical passages and detailed storytelling, Jiang develops a deep, emotional bond between Lotus and Feather that readers will respond to. The heartwarming connection between Lotus and her grandfather brings comforting and another level of family commitment to the story.

Julie Downing’s stunning illustrations allow readers to walk, sit, worry, and cheer with Lotus as she finds and cares for Feather. Her sadness is palpable as she walks home from school past a group of classmates playing ball; in the corner of the dark lake, children will find bottles, cans, and other debris floating among the reeds; and Feather makes his debut with a graceful ballet. Readers will love watching the progression of Feather’s healing and Lotus’ reintegration into her circle of friends and will applaud when Feather and his family and friends return to the lake.

Lotus & Feather is a multi-layered story that will captivate readers. It is a must for public and school libraries and would make a beautiful addition to home libraries as well.

Ages 5 – 9

Disney Hyperion, 2016 | ISBN 978-1423127543

Discover more about Ji-li Jiang and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork as well as other books by Julie Downing on her website!

World Wildlife Day Activity

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Endangered Species Word Scramble

Can you find the names of 15 animals in this printable Endangered Species Word Scramble? Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

February 26 – Personal Chef Day

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About the Holiday

Today we honor those chefs who create delectable dinners for individual clients or for special occasions. With dedication and hard work, tasty ingredients and imagination, these artists make life better for foodies from coast to coast.

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service

Written by Annette Bay Pimentel | Illustrated by Rich Lo

 

Tie Sing, born in Virginia City, Nevada, grew up during a time when “America was a tough place to be Chinese.” Most worked in restaurants or laundries and were paid less than white employees. Tie Sing had big plans, though. “He got a job cooking for mapmakers as they tramped through the mountains, naming peaks. With sky for his ceiling and sequoias for his walls, he stirred silky sauces, broiled succulent steaks, and tossed crisp salads.” He quickly became known as the best trail cook in California.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

In 1915 Steven Mather was trying to convince politicians to create a national park system even though many business people were against it. Mather invited journalists, tycoons, congressmen, and others to go camping for ten days to show them the wonder of America. He knew that the trip had to be perfect, so he hired Tie Sing as his chef. Tie Sing planned gourmet menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that would satisfy the 30 campers. Each day he rose before dawn, cooked eggs and sizzling steaks, and packed box lunches.

As the group hiked across beautiful scenery to the next site, Tie Sing and his assistant washed the dishes, put out the fires, packed the mules, and started the dinner’s sourdough bread. By the time Tie Sing arrived at the new campsite, it was time to begin cooking dinner. “He assembled sardine hors d’oeuvres, sliced juicy cantaloupe, and squeezed lemons to make tart-sweet lemonade. He grilled steaks and venison, fried fish and chicken, and baked sourdough rolls” as good as any fine restaurant. One morning Tie Sing was able to pack the mule early before he served breakfast. When he went back to the mule, however, he discovered it had wandered away—taking all of the best food with it.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

Steven Mather shrugged it off as he left for the day’s hike, but Tie Sing was upset. All of his planning was ruined. That night the dinner wasn’t as fancy, but it was delicious and topped off with “all-American apple pie.” The campers, happily satisfied, talked late into the night about the possibilities of a national park service. The next day, Tie Sing carefully led the mules along a narrow ridge. As the stones crumbled underneath their feet, one mule strayed too close to the edge. He tumbled backward and down the cliff. Bags, boxes, and food went flying. The mule got up and shook itself off, but much of the food, utensils, and equipment was lost.

Hours later Tie Sing limped into camp with “the battered boxes and bent knives and bruised apples he’d salvaged.” The men were ravenous; Tie Sing had to think quickly. He knew just how to use those apples, and under the glow of paper lanterns, the crew enjoyed the most delicious applesauce they’d ever had. Tie Sing knew his job was to fill the party with delicious meals, but “Steven Mather wasn’t the only one who loved the mountains; Tie Sing had the Sierra singing in his blood. He too planned to fill the campers with memories.”

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Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

As the pots bubbled on the camp stove, Tie Sing “bent over tiny slips of paper and wrote in English and Chinese.” Following dinner he handed out fortune cookies, each one holding a handwritten message: “Long may you search the mountains.” “Long may you build the paths through the mountains.” “Where but in the mountains would such a man become a spirit with the mountains?”

In the months following the trip, the members of the group “wrote magazine articles, published books, and made movies about America’s national parks.” Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s efforts worked. On August 25, 1916 Congress created the National Park Service. “Today, if you visit Yosemite National Park, you can hike to Sing Peak. It was named for Tie Sing, a mountain-loving American who knew how to plan.”

Three pages of back matter, complete with photographs of Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s actual 1915 trip, answer readers’ questions about Tie Sing, how he kept food fresh in the mountains, details of the trip, and short bios on the members of the mountain party.

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Image copyright Rich Lo, text copyright Annette Bay Pimentel. Courtesy of Rich Lo at greatsketch.com

Annette Bay Pimentel’s fascinating and timely story of the establishment of the National Park Service highlights the contributions of a Chinese American dreamer who had big plans for himself and the country he loved. Her detailed storytelling enhanced by lyrical phrasing (a linen tablecloth is washed in an icy snowmelt stream and spread “brighter than white-water foam” over a table) reveals the marvel of Tie Sing’s art. Readers will be awed by the dedication and careful planning it took for the gourmet meals and elegant table settings to come together in such rough surroundings. As food and supplies are lost along the way, children will be held in suspense, wondering if Steven Mather’s and Tie Sing’s strategy worked.

Rich Lo’s beautiful detailed and realistic watercolors transport readers to the mountains and trails of early 1900s California. With vivid imagery Lo lets children see the day-to-day preparations that went into Sing’s meals as well as the dangerous conditions he faced. Lo captures the hazy purple majesty of the mountain peaks, the glow of the campfire in the dark of night, and the vastness of the California environment. Kids may well wonder how Sing managed to create a five-star restaurant atmosphere and menu in the wild, and Lo shows them how it was accomplished.

Mountain Chef gives a unique perspective on an important historical moment—one that still resonates today—and is a compelling book for any classroom as well as for kids interested in history, culinary arts, and the environment and for those who just love a good story.

Ages 6 – 9

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580897112

Discover more about Annette Bay Pimentel and her work as well as a Teacher’s Guide on her website!

Learn more about Rich Lo and view a portfolio of his artwork on his website!

Personal Chef Day Activity

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Cook Up Something Tasty Coloring Page

 

These kids are making a special treat! Enjoy this printable Cook Up Something Tasty Coloring Page while you have a little treat too!

Picture Book Review