November 18 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Children benefit so much from close relationships to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family members. This month and next, as family gathers together for special holiday events, it’s fun for adults to share family history and their own funny or moving stories of growing up with the younger generation. Letting kids know how much they’re loved by everyone in the family is important too. It helps them develop a sense of belonging, a good self-image, and confidence. Reading together is a perfect way to spend time together and get conversations started.

Thanks to Amazon Crossing Kids and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of My GrandMom for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

My GrandMom

By Gee-eun Lee | Translated by Sophie Bowman

Gee-eun’s Grandma sits on the floor, holding her sobbing granddaughter in her lap. Breakfast is on the table and toys are strewn about. A gray cat comes to see what’s going on. “‘Dear me, your mom will have to take a boat to work to get across all these tears,'” she says. Grandma, who Gee-eun calls Halmoni in Korean, distracts her by letting her help make kalguksu. She gives Gee-eun a bit of the noodle dough, and while Halmoni rolls out the dough and slices the noodles, Gee-eun fashions little figures of her, her mom, dad, grandma, and their cat, Mari. When it comes time to make the kalguksu, Gee-eun’s dough family goes into the boiling pot along with the other ingredients. “‘…You tell them to hang on tight to the noodles so they stay afloat,'” Halmoni says.

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Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Gee-eun has been waiting and waiting for Family Sports Day to arrive, but when it does, her mom has to work and can’t go along as she had promised. Gee-eun was looking forward to doing the cheer dance, the tug-of-war, and the running race with her. Now who can she go with? Halmoni tells her granddaughter that she will go. She then relates tales from her own childhood, when she was so strong at tug-of-war that she “could pull all the other kids over with only one arm,” she was such a fast racer that they called her “Speedy Horse,” and was such a good dancer that it “goes without saying.” Then she shows Gee-eun some of her moves.

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Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

At Family Sports Day, Gee-eun feels confident in her and her grandma’s chances. But things don’t pan out exactly as she’d hoped, and Halmoni even trips and falls during the race.  Gee-eun is so disappointed that her tears flow freely. Walking home, Halmoni and Gee-eun get a curry bun—and then a second one that is their secret. “No matter how you may be feeling, curry buns are always delicious, especially when shared with Grandma,” Gee-eun says.

They then buy mackerel, bean sprouts, and eggs for dinner, while Gee-eun’s grandma assures her that her father would easily beat a mackerel in a swimming race, that she once bought a bean sprout as big as Gee-eun to season just for her mom, and that a hen always misses her eggs. “‘Halmoni,'” Gee-eun then asks, “‘when will Mom get home?'” The food is on the table when her parents get home, and she runs to the door to greet them so they can eat dinner together…because “nothing beats a mean made by Grandma.”

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Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Gee-eun Lee’s story is infused with those types of events in life, both inconsequential and significant, that are filled with emotional power that make them memorable. From Gee-eun’s meltdown at her mother’s leaving to her grandma’s quick thinking that leads to bonding over food and creativity to the bravado and disappointment of the Family Sports Day, Lee invites readers into the touching and humorous relationship between Gee-eun and her grandmother. Wily, proud, comforting, and understanding, Gee-eun’s grandmother is the heart of the family, bridging the generations with her wisdom and constant love. Lee’s storytelling draws readers in with her warm and familiar dialogue that ingeniously pivots back and forth in time, tying together moments in Gee-eun’s mother’s life, her grandmother’s life, and Gee-eun’s experiences. 

Gee-eun Lee’s soft colored pencil and paint illustrations are delightfully childlike, as if the character Gee-eun had drawn them. In that vein the expressive depictions of Gee-eun’s adult grandma fiercely besting a dozen children at tug of war, her smooth dance and nimble dance moves, and her and Gee-eun’s “set and ready” stance at the track while other mother/child pairs stretch, play, and tie laces are comical joy. The theme of bridging generations also appears cleverly in the image of Gee-eun’s dough family floating together in the soup and the portrait of Gee-eun brushing her doll’s hair while her grandmother brushes and braids Gee-eun’s, among others.

 Written with a unique voice that echoes universal truths about family relationships, My GrandMom is a humorous, poignant, and heartening read aloud that will quickly become a favorite for parents, grandparents, other caregivers, and children to share. The book is highly recommended for home and classroom libraries and a must for school and public library collections.  

Ages 3 – 7

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662508257

About the Author

Gee-eun Lee is an award-winning Korean author/illustrator. She recently won the prestigious BolognaRagazzi Award in the comics category for her book, The Story of How the Korean Shaved Ice Dessert Was Born, and is also a top winner of the Korean Young Illustrator Award. She studied design and illustration in Korea and the UK. Her first picture book, Paper Dad, was made into a children’s musical in Korea. My GrandMom is the second book she both wrote and illustrated and is based on her own grandmother.  You can connect with Gee-eun on Instagram: @studio_geeeun

About the Translator

Sophie Bowman is a PhD student at the University of Toronto, studying Korean literature. She was awarded the ICF Literature Translation Fellowship at Ewha Womans University. In 2015, she won the Korea Times Modern Korean Literature Translation Award grand prize for poetry with her translations of Jin Eun-young and co-translated Kim Bo-Young’s I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories. She recently translated the picture book Magic Candies by Heena Baek, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Follow her on Twitter @SophieOrbital.

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You can find My GrandMom at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 21 – My Name Is Not Ed Tug Book Tour Stop

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I’d like to thank The Children’s Book Review and Amy Nielander for sharing a digital copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug with me and offering a small stipend to write a review. All opinions on the book are my own. As part of the tour I’m also excited to be participating in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

My Name Is Not Ed Tug

By Amy Nielander

 

From the Publisher

A sweet, whimsical story about the meaningfulness behind a person’s name and the power of accepting people just as they are.

Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug has a very special name that is all his own. But his teacher thinks it’s too long and hard to say. One day she shortens it to. . . Ed.

But he loves his name just the way it is. So he comes up with a plan—if he can teach everyone his name, maybe they’ll love it too!

Sweet and whimsical, My Name Is Not Ed Tug empowers readers to own their identities and proudly celebrate who they are.

My Review

Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug knew where he came from and just where he fit into his family. After all, “he was named after his Grandpa Edimor,” who helped him learn how to spell his name with a tall tower of blocks; “his Great Uncle Whitimor,” who taught him how to play the accordion; his Aunt Mili,” who ran a butterfly farm; “and his Granny Gimmus,” who filled his tummy with warm, homemade soup.” Anyone hearing his name might think it was gibberish, but Edimorwhitimormiligimmus thought “it was perfect.”

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

School, of course, was a challenge since the other kids had a hard time spelling or even remembering his name. And his teacher, Ms. Mell, found that her mouth grew “quite tired” just trying to pronounce it. But one Monday, Ms. Mell announced that a new student, Ty, would be joining their class. Mrs. Mell had made name tags for each student to make it easier for Ty to remember their names, and she slapped one on Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s shirt. When he looked, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus saw that the tag simply read “Ed.” He gazed at the tag with sadness. “Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug was shocked. He was perplexed. He felt like his heart had been stung by a giant bee. Twice.”

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

After school, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus went straight to his room and stayed there, thinking. When he emerged, he had a plan (and a very perfectly sized name tag taped to his sweater). The next day, he approached Ty, who was playing with puzzle blocks. He stood proudly, displaying his sweater, and introduced himself—his whole self. He slowly said each part of his name and, miraculously, Ty repeated it. Edimorwhitimormiligimmus “was so happy his curls bounced.” Then as he and Ty constructed a tall bridge with the blocks, he explained how he and his Grandpa Edimor “love to build things together”—and had even invented those blocks.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

At lunch he did the same thing with the kids at his table, and they also repeated his name. To explain how important his Uncle Whitimor was to him, Edimorwhitimormiligimmus, he played his uncle’s favorite song on the accordion. When the class went out for recess, he told more kids about his Aunt Mili and pointed out, and they too learned his name.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Mell was out sick, and Edimorwhitimormiligimmus saw an opportunity to be kind and explain about his name. He and Ty delivered a steaming pot of Granny Gimmus’s soup to her doorstep and told her all about cooking with his granny. “The delicious soup warmed her heart.” Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s plan worked. Now everyone, including Ms. Mell, knew—and used—Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s full name.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

The experience prompted Edimorwhitimormiligimmus to come up with a new plan, a project to ensure all of his friends knew their names were just as perfect for them as Edimorwhitimormiligimmus was for him. And he and his classmates got started with the gift they made for Tyvantennyson to give him at his birthday party.

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Copyright Amy Nielander, 2022, courtesy of West Margin Press.

Amy Nielander’s heartwarming and affirming story will captivate kids from the first recitation of “Edimorwhitimormiligimmus Tug”—a name that initially elicits giggles but soon rolls smoothly off the tongue. As they learn how each piece of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s name reflects not only the family member he’s named for but also the special things they do together, readers will empathize with the pride he feels in his name and his disappointment when they can’t get it right.

While Nielander’s clever story revolves around one child’s name, there are many other important lessons for both kids and adults woven throughout. Children will understand that their names, personalities, heritage, talents, and dreams are perfect for them just the way they are. For adults, Ms. Mell’s dismissive mangling and shortening of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s name to “make it easier for all of us” reminds us that every child deserves to be really seen and accepted for who and everything they are.

Nielander’s illustrations are full of warmth and love, charm and humor as she introduces the unique talents of each member of Edimorwhitimormiligimmus’s inclusive and close-knit family. As Edimorwhitimormiligimmus puts his plan to teach each classmate and Ms. Mell his name into action, the children’s sweet faces and palpable excitement are infectious and will draw readers into this universal hug of a story. The surprise reveal of Ty’s full name and the collective gift the class makes him—with the promise of the same for each child—will delight readers and is sure to spur them to create name signs for themselves.

An engaging, multi-layered story about acceptance, self-esteem, family, and friendship, My Name is Not Ed Tug is a story kids will want to hear again and again. The book is highly recommended for home bookshelves and is a must for classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

West Margin Press, 2022 | ISBN 978-1513134871

Discover more about Amy Nielander, her books, and her art on her website.

Take a peek at the book trailer for My Name Is Not Ed Tug!

About Amy Nielander

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Amy Nielander is a designer and award-winning children’s book author and illustrator who loves to create playful stories for kids. Growing up, she had her name frequently misspelled by others. My Name Is Not Ed Tug is inspired by this experience and by her time volunteering in her children’s classrooms. Amy lives near Detroit, Michigan. You can connect with Amy on: her Website | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn | Pinterest

My Name Is Not Ed Tug Book Giveaway

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Click the image below (or click here and scroll down) for a chance to win a signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug, the Potato-Noodle-Feel-Better Soup recipe featured in the story, and a Name Journal! Three winners will be chosen:

One (1) grand prize winner receives:

  • A signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug
  • A Potato-Noodle-Feel-Better Soup recipe (soup is featured in the story). The digital download includes an “Ingredient Checklist coloring page” for kids.
  • A Name Journal: A 3.5″ x 5″ pocket-sized journal with 32 blank pages (100% recycled paper).

Two (2) winners receive:

  • A signed copy of My Name Is Not Ed Tug

To Enter just click the image below, scroll down, and follow the directions!

My Name Is Not Ed Tug, by Amy Nielander | Awareness Tour

And there’s so much more! Don’t miss any of the excitement  of the…

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Read an Interview with Amy Nielander at Crafty Moms Share

You can read other reviews of My Name is Not Ed Tug at these wonderful sites

Check out these upcoming posts too!

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You can find My Name Is Not Ed Tug at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & NobleBookshop 

 

 

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 27 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

Even though we’re saying goodbye to Read a New Book Month, families don’t have to stop seeking out new books at their local bookstore or library. In fact, fall and the lead-in to the holidays is one of the busiest times of the year for publishers as they release wonderful books that share traditions and take readers through the winter in thoughtful, funny, and always surprising ways. Maybe that’s why December is also tagged as Read a New Book Month! Really, there’s never a time when you don’t want to celebrate new books—like today’s!

Thanks go to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a digital copy of Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Debby Rahmalia

 

Gracie always loves when Bubbe comes to visit, but this time Bubbe was too sad to do the things she and Gracie usually did together because her husband had died. She didn’t feel like doing yoga or making jokes. “She hardly even smiled.” Gracie missed all the things she used to do with Zayde too—talks about science and sharing inside jokes.

Gracie tried different things to make Bubbe happy again. She asked if she’d like to sing while Gracie played the guitar, if she’d like to come to her soccer game, or help her draw a picture. But each time, Bubbe just said “‘No thank you, Bubala.'” This answer got Gracie thinking. “She knew bubbe meant ‘grandma’ in Yiddish. And zayde meant ‘grandpa.'” But she didn’t know what bubala meant. When Gracie asked Bubbe, she explained that “‘it means “little grandmother. …But you call someone you love “bubala.”‘”

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Then Bubbe sighed and told Gracie how much she and Zayde “‘loved using Yiddish words together.'” Gracie wanted to learn Yiddish words too, and asked Bubbe to teach her. They went into the kitchen, and while Bubbe cut up an apple, she taught Gracie the word nosh. “‘It means “eat a snack.”‘” As Gracie noshed on her apple, she thought she saw Bubbe smile just a little.

That night Bubbe taught Gracie how to say “good night” in Yiddish, and the next day when Gracie came home from school she wanted to walk around the neighborhood like they used to, but Bubbe said she didn’t feel like it. Gracie persisted, pulling on her hand and telling her how beautiful it was outside. Bubbe had to admit that it was sheyn. Gracie was excited to understand this Yiddish word for “beautiful” because Zayde often called her sheyna meidala or “pretty girl.” Bubbe conceded and put on her sneakers.

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Once outside, Bubbe even started jogging a little and taught Gracie another Yiddish word when Gracie asked her to slow down. As the week went on, Gracie and Bubbe began talking about their memories of Zayde. Bubbe even decided to go to Gracie’s next soccer game. At the game Bubbe smiled and even cheered when Gracie scored a goal, and back home they laughed together when Bubbe told Gracie her socks were “‘… so farshtunken, my nose might explode!'”

“‘Bubbe! You’re laughing!'” Gracie cried. And Bubbe had to agree and told Gracie it was for a very special reason. “‘Because you give me naches. That means ‘joy.'”

Back matter includes a short Author’s Note about the Yiddish language as well as a glossary of Yiddish words that includes and expands on the words found in the story, their meaning in English, and a pronunciation for each of them.

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Image copyright Debby Rahmalia, 2022, text copyright Jane Sutton, 2022. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Jane Sutton’s poignant story will touch readers’ hearts on many levels, from a child and grandmother overcoming grief to the passing on of family heritage to the way children bring a healing kind of joy through their exuberance, empathy, and love. Sutton’s storytelling hits all the right notes as she depicts Bubbe’s transition from mourning to joy over superbly paced scenes and seamlessly introduces Yiddish words through Gracie and Bubbe’s authentic conversations while also demonstrating the family’s strong bond of love and trust. Dialogue rich, the story makes a perfect read aloud that will excite kids about learning the Yiddish words along with Gracie and prompt families to talk about their own history.

In her vibrant illustrations, Debby Rahmalia lets young readers see through Gracie’s viewpoint how Bubbe’s sadness affects her and how much she wants to help her grandmother find happiness again. As Gracie does yoga while Bubbe stands by and shares a silent dinner with her usually talkative grandmother, Gracie’s expressions register concern and disappointment. In Gracie’s attempts to enlist Bubbe in doing their usual activities, Rahmalia portrays not only Gracie’s strong connection with Bubbe, but also a realistic look at how loss can affect emotions and physical energy. When Gracie hits on learning Yiddish as a way to interact with Bubbe, Rahmalia effectively shows how Bubbe’s smile, enthusiasm, and laughter return as she and Gracie share the language and memories of Zayde.

Touching, reassuring, and joyful, Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile comforts and restores while celebrating family love and generational ties. The book would be a meaningful addition to home bookshelves for all families and one school and public librarians will want in their picture book or family issues collection.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2022 | ISBN 978-0807510230

You can discover more about Jane Sutton and her books on her website and connect with her on Instagram.

You can view a portfolio of work by Debby Rahmalia here and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile Matching Puzzle

 

Gracie loved learning Yiddish words from Bubbe! With this puzzle you can learn the Yiddish words from the book too. Just print the puzzle and match each word with its definition to get started using these words yourself!

Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile Matching Puzzle

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You can find Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

January 6 – Blog Tour Stop for My Grandma’s Photos

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My Grandma’s Photos

Written by Özge Bahar Sunar | Illustrated by Senta Urgan | Translated by Amy Marie Spangler

 

Ali and his mother are visiting his grandmother, who cannot see or hear very well anymore and often does not recognize Ali or his sister. Today, they have brought old black-and-white photographs to share, but Grandma doesn’t look at them, instead falling asleep as she holds them. Overcome with emotion, Ali’s mother leaves the room, but Ali stays. When Grandma awakens, she notices the photos in her hand and asks if they are of one of Ali’s friends.

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

At first Ali doesn’t recognize the person in the picture, but then he notices a beauty mark on the person’s cheek and realizes that it’s a photo of his grandma when she was a young girl. When he tells her, his grandma suddenly remembers the day it was taken and the garden in which it was taken. She begins to look at the other photographs and recognizes a family picnic and her wedding day. Suddenly, Ali’s grandma becomes very animated and invites him to see her world.

“At that moment I felt as if I were being pulled into the photo,” Ali says. “Together with Grandma, I traveled into the past.” Ali sees his grandma as a child his own age, climbing a tree and leaping from branch to branch. When Ali joins her, his grandma whispers to him, ‘”It can’t really be taught with words. You have to find yourself a tree and climb it every day.'”

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Grandma jumps down and runs into another photo with Ali right behind her. Here, Grandma is a teenager riding a ferry, feeding seagulls, and dreaming of her future. Another photo takes them to the shop where she worked as a master seamstress. “A young woman tried on the skit Grandma had made for her. She twirled and laughed, and said she loved it. Grandma’s face beamed proudly, and mine did too,” Ali says.

The last photograph takes them to Grandma’s wedding. ‘”Let me show you how much you look like your grandpa,'” Ali’s grandma tells him. Grandma is wearing a “gorgeous wedding gown she’d made herself” and Grandpa looked so handsome as they dance together. At last, Ali’s grandma tells him it’s time for him to go home. When Ali asks if she’s coming too, she replies that she’s happy there. “‘I’m going to dance with y our grandpa a little longer. … Your grandpa and I have been apart for such a long time, you know.'”

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Ali protests and says he wants to stay there with her, but Grandma tells him that he must go “‘to collect memories and photos of your own.'” She reminds him that if he misses her, she will always be there in the photos and that she “‘won’t forget anyone or anything ever again.'” Tears spring to Ali’s eyes. He hugs and kisses his grandma one last time. When he opened his eyes, Ali was back in the present. Now his family has hung most of Grandma’s photographs on the walls of Ali’s room. “Whenever I miss her,” he says, “I look at her photos. I’m sure she’s still there, at peace, dancing away….”

Note: While the male pronoun is used on the book’s jacket flap and in this review, the story contains no pronouns associated with Ali and the illustrations depict a child with short hair and wearing overalls.

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Image copyright Senta Urgan, 2022, text copyright Özge Bahar Sunar, 2022; translation Amy Marie Spangler, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Özge Bahar Sunar’s beautiful tribute to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, first published in Turkey, offers an emotional bond between generations as Ali joins his grandma in formative moments during her life and discovers that they share many of the same experiences and dreams. Readers will be captivated by Sunar’s conversational storytelling and empathize with Ali’s gentle acceptance of his grandma’s failing memory.

As Ali’s recognition of his grandmother as a young girl in one of the photos and her recollection of the picnic it portrays leads to a magical trip back in time, readers will likewise become interested in learning more about their own grandparents and other relatives. For Ali and readers, his grandma’s passing takes place in the world of the photographs as Grandma chooses to remain dancing with her husband. Ali’s sweet and comforting hugs and final kiss for his grandmother before returning to the present reassures children that the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren continue endlessly through time.

Senta Urgan’s wispy pastel pencil illustrations, sprinkled with collage fabrics and sewing items, flowers, coins, and other elements as well as photographs of the author’s and illustrator’s families combine to create a moving, dreamlike feel that immerses readers in the story’s enchanting travel through time. As Ali’s grandma tells him that he must go while she stays behind, she is shown in a loving embrace with her husband on their wedding day, reinforcing the idea that for her, death is a comforting coming home to a place where she will be forever young. Flowers, vines, and trees that surround and support the characters create a motif that death is a natural part of life and that one’s love for another nurtures and grows.

A beautiful and tender way to talk about the life and death of a grandparent, family member, or beloved friend, My Grandma’s Photos is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1542031158

Özge Bahar Sunar is a former teacher turned children’s author. She has written multiple picture books, including the bestselling The Hedgehog and the Exhibit, illustrated by Ceyhun Şen, which was translated into seven languages. Sunar lives with her two children in Antalya, Turkey, where she loves to think up new stories while hiking in the wild. You can find her on Instagram @ozgebaharsnr.

Senta Urgan is a graduate of Mimar Sinan University, where she studied sculpture. Since 2010 she has been illustrating books for children, including picture books and novels, and also works as a graphic designer. She is the founder of the brand Mala Hermana Handmade, where she exhibits her illustrations and ceramic art. You can connect with her Instagram @toporulkesindekikes.

Amy Marie Spangler is a cofounder of Istanbul-based AnatoliaLit Agency, and a commercial and literary translator with numerous books and short stories to her credit. You can connect with Amy on Twitter @Amy_Spangler.

Thank you to Amazon Crossing Kids and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of My Grandma’s Photos with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

My Grandma’s Photos Blog Tour Activity

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Spool Photo Holder

 

With this easy craft you can make a personalized photo holder for your favorite pictures of friends and family!

Supplies

  • Wooden spool with hole through the middle, top to bottom. (A spool without a hole also works if you make a hole in the top with a hammer and nail), 1 ½ -inch or larger, available at craft stores
  • Colorful twine or light-gauge yarn, 3 to 4 yards
  • Alternatively: you can buy a wooden spool of colorful twine at some discount stores
  • 3 pieces of light-gauge wire 12 to 15-inches long
  • Clay or play dough
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Fill hole in spool with clay or play dough, pushing it well in to provide a base for the wire
  2. If using your own twine or yarn: wrap the twine or yarn around the spool to desired thickness and glue the end down to keep it from unraveling
  3. With the needle-nose pliers, roll one end of each wire to create a small coil
  4. Cut the three wires to different lengths to provide room for all three photographs
  5. Fit wires into the center hole on the top of the spool and push them into the clay until they are secure
  6. Clip photographs into the coils

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-grandma's-photos-cover

You can find My Grandma’s Photos at these booksellers

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Picture Book Review

December 20 – Get Ready to Celebrate New Year’s Eve

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

About the Holiday

As we get ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve and the beginning of a new year, adults and kids often look for opportunities to reflect and grow while sharing the traditions that keep our families and friendships strong. Today’s book embraces all three of these parts of New Year’s Eve and is a reassuring and uplifting read aloud for the holiday and throughout the year.

Thanks to Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-abuelita

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-kitchen

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-mamá

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Año Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-new-years-eve

Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Get Ready for New Year’s Eve Activity

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New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

 

Celebrate the New Year with this printable coloring page! You might even want to add some glitter to make the fireworks even more spectacular!

New Year’s Eve Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-feliz-new-year-ava-gabriela-cover

You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

December 6 – Mitten Tree Day

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About the Holiday

2021 marks the fifth year that I’ve celebrated Mitten Tree Day with the book that started it all. Originally published in 1997, The Mitten Tree has become a treasured read aloud and continues to inspire kindness programs in schools, libraries, and communities around the country. The feel of a cozy mitten on freezing fingers is one of the luxuries of wintertime. But where did mittens come from? The word “mitten” comes from the French word mitaine, which was an old nickname for a cat, because early mittens were typically made of animal fur. The earliest mittens, dating to around 1000 AD, were used as sheaths for gloves, adding extra protection for cold hands. Now that mitten weather is upon us, make sure your pair is still soft, wooly, and warm. If they’re not, consider buying a new pair from a local artisan, or, if you’re crafty, knit a new pair yourself. And, of course, enjoy the season with today’s book!

The Mitten Tree

Written by Candace Christiansen | Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

 

In a small house at the end of a lane Sarah lives all alone. Her own children have grown and moved away, but as she watches the kids gather at the blue spruce tree to wait for the school bus she remembers all the years that she walked her son and daughter to this same spot. As she makes her way down the lane to her mailbox, she wishes the children will wave and smile, but they never seem to notice her. Still, it makes Sarah smile to see them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-sarah

Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

One winter morning Sarah notices all the kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen—all except one little boy dressed all in blue who lacks the mittens needed to join his friends. All day Sarah worries about the boy with no mittens. As the sun goes down Sarah digs “through the basket of yarn scraps she had saved for many years.” She finds her needles and four shades of blue wool. Then Sarah begins to knit.

With the rising sun Sarah hurries to the bus stop and hangs the new blue mittens on the spruce tree. Then she hides behind a hedge to watch. The little boy in blue is the first to arrive at the bus stop. When he sees the mittens hanging there, he tries them on and finds that they fit perfectly. With a big smile he makes “a perfect snowball” and throws “it high into the winter sky.” Soon Sarah sees a little girl with mismatched mittens. That night she finds the perfect color of wool and knits a pair to match the girl’s red coat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-blue-sprce

Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Every morning Sarah watches the children, looking for any who have no mittens. During the day her needles are busy making gifts for these children. The next morning before anyone else is up she rushes to the spruce tree and adorns it with the mittens she has knitted. The children have warmed to the “game,” and each day search “under every branch and bough for another pair of mittens.” Once or twice Sarah thinks the boy with her blue mittens sees her, but his eyes don’t linger.

On the day before the school’s winter break Sarah fills her knitting basket with the latest mittens she’s knit. She heads out the door and down the lane. When she reaches the blue spruce, she hangs “mittens on every branch.” When the children arrive, they stand “very still for a few minutes looking at the mysterious, beautiful mitten tree.” As they board the bus, each child is wearing a new pair of mittens. Sarah sees them appear one by one in the bus windows, but none see Sarah.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-basket

Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Sarah goes home feeling happy and with her heart as full as it was “when the sounds of her own children had filled her house.” But what awaits Sarah? As she climbs the stairs to her porch, she notices a “basket woven with thick brown vines and decorated with a large white bow.” She’s surprised to see that it is filled to the brim with balls of colorful yarn. Even today Sarah knits new mittens for all the children in town, and “every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears.” Sarah doesn’t know who brings the basket, just as the children don’t know who supplies the mittens. “But someone must….”

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Candace Christiansen’s heartwarming story of kindness given and reciprocated will inspire kids to see that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others by using their talents to fill a need. This gentle, quiet tale offers suspense that will pique readers’ curiosity from page to page, and the mystery surrounding the never-empty basket of wool provides a satisfying and moving ending that also reassures kids that deeds of thoughtfulness and compassion are noticed. The grandmotherly Sarah and familiar school bus stop setting and winter activities will resonate with readers.

Elaine Greenstein’s softly colored, folk-style illustrations give the story a cozy feeling—perfect for cold-weather reading, The variety of intricately knitted mittens, with their hearts, stripes, snowflakes and cables, are charming, and the enchanting image of the blue spruce decorated with mittens makes it easy to see how The Mitten Tree continues to inspire so many acts of kindness and charity.

Ages 3 – 7

Fulcrum Publishing, 2009 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1555917333

Mitten Tree Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mitten-match

Mitten Match & Coloring Page

 

Mittens often get lost or mismatched in the fun of winter activities. Find the pairs in this printable Mitten Match & Coloring Page and then decorate them!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-mitten-tree-cover

You can find The Mitten Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

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Picture Book Review

October 21 – National Apple Day

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About the Holiday

It’s apple season! Honeycrisp, Cortland, Gala, Fuji, Macintosh—there are so many delicious varieties to choose from and enjoy! The bounty of apples allows bakers and chefs to create scrumptious desserts and dishes, and for purists, there’s nothing better than biting into a crisp apple. Orchards are open for picking, and farmers markets and grocery stores are packed with these red, green, and yellow treats. To celebrate today and all month long, take the family apple picking, make your favorite apple recipes, or discover new taste sensations.

Applesauce Day

Written by Lisa J. Amstutz | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

As a girl and her family have breakfast, she spies the tall pot that means it’s applesauce day. Her younger sister Hannah cheers, and her little brother “bangs his spoon.” After breakfast they head to the orchard outside the city. There, the air smells of ripe apples and it’s quiet. “There are no sirens or screeching tires. Only the buzzing of bees and the rustling of leaves in the wind.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-orchard

Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Hannah calls to her big sister for help. She shows Hannah how to twist and pull the apples from the tree. Mom and Dad pick the apples high in the trees while Hannah, her big sister pick low apples. Ezra helps by putting the apples in a basket. He can’t resist taking a bite of one.

Soon all of the baskets are full of apples “ready to be smooshed into sweet, tangy applesauce.” After the car is loaded up, they drive to Grandma’s house. When they get there, Grandma’s waiting with a big smile and a hug. They “lug the apples into the kitchen” and each take their place. This year even Ezra gets a spot. After Dad washes the apples, Grandma cuts them up. Ezra gets to drop the apples into the tall pot. “Thunk, thunk, thunk.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

While they work, Mom talks about how she used to help Grandma bring home the apples and how “they cooked the apples in this very pot when she was a little girl” in Ohio. Then Grandma tells how “she helped her mother pick apples from the old apple tree behind their house on the windy Iowa prairie.” They also cooked the apples in this very same pot. The older girl looks at the pot and wonders what kinds of stories it could tell if it could talk.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-grandma's-house

Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

As the apples cook, they release a sweet scent into the air and the red peels turn pink. Then with a ladle, Mom pours the apples into the food grinder. Hannah and her sister take turns cranking the handle. “Crank! Squish. Crankity! Squish!” The applesauce squeezes through the strainer while the seeds and peels are left behind. They mix in a bit of sugar and put the applesauce in containers to store.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-chopping-apples

Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

It’s lunchtime now and the family sits down to sandwiches and a bowl of warm applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled on top. They take big servings and then seconds. “Ezra licks the bowl.” After lunch there’s more peeling, cutting, and cooking until all the apples are gone. They put the containers in Grandma’s extra freezer and take some home for themselves.

It’s dark by the time they finish and head home, “sticky but full of stories and smiles and applesauce.” As they drive home the older sister thinks about their special pot and how when she grows up, she’ll cook in it on Applesauce Day.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-family

Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming story that lovingly explores the continuity of family heritage, you’ll want to share Lisa J. Amstutz’s Applesauce Day with your kids. Told through the viewpoint of the oldest daughter, the story takes readers from that first spark of recognition of a tradition through the actions that make it so special to the knowledge that they will be the ones to carry it on in the future. Excitement and pride flow through Amstutz’s pages as the children eagerly help pack the car, pick apples, and take their usual positions in Grandma’s kitchen.

The passing on of the tradition and skills involved in Applesauce Day are depicted in ways that will delight kids as the oldest sister shows the younger how to twist the apples from the tree and the little brother gets to participate for the first time. When the children’s mother and then their grandmother both tell how they helped with Applesauce Day when they were young, readers get a sense of generations and how far back traditions extend. Amstutz’s storytelling is homey and detailed and brimming with family camaraderie. The Introspective ending with appeal to kids thinking about their own place in their family.

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Talitha Shipman’s bright illustrations invite kids along for a day of apple picking and cooking. The siblings’ eyes shimmer with excitement as they partake in this favorite fall tradition. Like most kids on a day like this, Hannah, Ezra, and their older sister are in constant motion—picking apples, hugging Grandma, cranking the food mill—and working together. Shipman’s rich portrayals of these events will sweep readers into the action and inspire them to want to and learn more about their own family traditions or start new ones. Applesauce Day looks like so much fun that you can bet children will be eager to make a batch of this delicious fall treat themselves.

A perfect autumn (or anytime) read-aloud for families to share, especially as the holidays roll around or during intergenerational get-togethers, Applesauce Day would be a favorite on home bookshelves and in school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2017 | ISBN 978-0807503928

Discover more about Lisa J. Amstutz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website/

Johnny Appleseed Day Activity

CPB - Cinnamon Apples (2)

Cinnamon Apples Recipe

 

Cinnamon apples are a delicious side dish to any meal! This tasty recipe is fun for kids and adults to make together.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups of apples, Macintosh or Granny Smith apples are good choices
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice

CPB - Cinnamon Apples ingredients (2)

Directions

  1. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon
  2. Peel and core 2 large apples
  3. Thinly slice apples
  4. Combine apples and cinnamon sugar/brown sugar mixture
  5. Stir until well combined
  6. Drizzle with lemon juice and stir again
  7. Cook apples on the stove at medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until desired texture

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aplesauce-day-cover

You can find Applesauce Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review