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.

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

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

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You can find My Grandma’s Photos at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

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

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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You can find The Mitten Tree at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

June 25 – It’s National Insect Week

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About the Holiday

Insects are endlessly fascinating, and this week celebrates their diversity, purpose, and beauty. This week was established by the Royal Entomological Society to encourage people to learn more about insects, from those close to home to the exotic species around the world. This year the theme is Entomology at Home and people are invited to participate by learning about local species of insects and enjoying the resources on the National Insect Week website. There’s a photography contest, learning videos for all ages, access to Instar the Magazine for Young Entomologists, and so much more, including a mention of “the most bizarre use” of an insect ever imagined. To discover all of the resources and fun, visit the National Insect Week website.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing a copy of A Way with Wild Things for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

A Way with Wild Things

Written by Larissa Theule | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

Poppy Ann Fields made friends with lots of bugs. She appreciated all of their natural talents—the way the cicadas formed a symphony, the way the ants marched in perfect lines, the way the shy roly poly said hello, and the “magnificent art” the spider wove. She could spend all day outside among these friends, “but when people came around, Poppy preferred to disappear into the background.”

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

At parties she dressed to blend in with the wallpaper or the brightly flowered rug. She could disappear into the framed landscape on the wall or behind the tree in the corner. To celebrate Grandma Phyllis’s 100th birthday, there was a big party. Poppy watched from behind the flowers and bushes. She watched as people strolled about, meeting and hugging, dancing and running. “They looked like colorful leaves falling into each other then drifting apart.”

A shimmering dragonfly drifted on the breeze and landed on the cake. “Her whole heart glad, Poppy clapped her hands.” She came over to look and that’s when Uncle Dan spotted her. His voice boomed, “‘Poppy Ann Fields, you wallflower, you. So that’s where you’ve been hiding this time.’” Everyone turned to look at Poppy. She froze. The dragonfly took off… “and landed in her hand.” No one could believe it; they smiled and stared in wonder. Then they moved in to get a closer look.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Poppy wished she could run away. She didn’t know where to look, so she gazed at the dragonfly. “She knew the dragonfly had come here for her.” She listened to the cicadas’ music wafting through the air and took a breath. Then she spoke, telling everyone the dragonfly’s scientific name. Grandma Phyllis clasped her hands and gave Poppy a hug. “‘You wildflower, you,’” she whispered. In her heart Poppy knew Grandma Phyllis was right. She was not a wallflower, but “a wildflower.”

An illustrated glossary of Poppy’s bug friends, along with their scientific name and a brief description follows the story.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Larissa Theule’s quietly comforting story is balm for those thoughtful, introverted children who interact with the world through observation, contemplation, and gentle interactions. With the soul of a poet, Poppy listens to, watches, and connects with nature, feeling its rhythms and wonder with her whole heart. Theule’s carefully chosen verbs and play on the idea of nature embrace Poppy’s personality. Poppy “preferred” to observe large, noisy gatherings from the sidelines while she “became” things that most people find lovely: landscapes, trees, rain, a group of animals.

When Uncle Dan’s loud voice turns everyone’s attention to Poppy, Theule’s simply stated “she was scared down to her toes” validates the feelings of kids who’d rather not be in the spotlight and gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about these emotions. The party-goers’ enthusiasm to hear what Poppy has to say and Grandma Phyllis’s loving and apt nickname for her granddaughter will reassure introverted readers that they are seen and appreciated for their unique strengths.

Sara Palacios festival of flowers—found outside, in Poppy’s home décor, and on party-goers’ clothing—surrounds Poppy and reveals that she is a part of and does fit in everywhere. One of the joys of A Way with Wild Things is finding Poppy on each page and appreciating Palacio’s creative genius in how she uses camouflage similar to nature. Her vivid, textured illustrations are joyous and full of love for nature, for life, and especially for Poppy who tenderly takes it all in and makes it uniquely hers.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1681190396

Discover more about Larissa Theule and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Insect Week Activity

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Dragonfly Decoration

 

Your kids can bring the beauty of nature inside with this easy-to-make dragonfly craft.

Supplies

  • Wooden clothespin
  • Wax paper
  • Bright green craft paint
  • Bright blue craft paint
  • Green glitter
  • Blue glitter
  • Paint brush
  • Thread or fishing line (optional)
  • Adhesive magnet (optional)

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Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the top part of the clothespin (to the point where the metal hinge crosses the wood) green
  2. Sprinkle green glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  3. Paint the bottom part of the clothespin blue
  4. Sprinkle blue glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  5. If the glitter doesn’t completely stick, apply a thin layer of glue with a toothpick and add more glitter

To Make the Wings

  1. Cut two 5-inch-by-3/4-inch strips from the wax paper
  2. Cut a curved edge at each end of the wax paper strips, cutting straight down from the top and curving around the bottom corner
  3. Cut curved notches in the center, top and bottom, of each wing to allow the wings to fit into the clothespin
  4. Open the clothespin and slip the wings in, curved edge down and allowing the top wing to overlap the bottom wing slightly

To Finish

Attach the thread or fishing line to the dragonfly to hang, or to make a refrigerator magnet, attach an adhesive magnetic strip to the back.

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You can find A Way with Wild Things at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

May 23 – World Turtle Day

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About the Holiday

Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson, who founded American Tortoise Rescue in 1990, established World Turtle Day to raise awareness and respect for turtles and tortoises and to promote conservation to help them survive. Celebrations take many forms, from fun activities where participants dress as turtles to educational programs that teach about this fascinating creature and how people can help turtles in danger. To learn more about World Turtle Day and American Tortoise Rescue – and to meet some of their adorable residents – visit worldturtleday.org.

Memoirs of a Tortoise

Written by Devin Scillian | Illustrated by Tim Bowers

 

It’s April and Oliver the tortoise is in his garden with his pet, Ike. Ike has brought him “a plate of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” Oliver loves Ike and he can tell that Ike loves him too by the way he runs his hand over his shell. “This, this is life and it’s beautiful,” Oliver thinks. In May, Ike throws a stick that Oliver will never fetch, and they laugh over this old, favorite joke. Oliver thinks, “Eighty times I’ve watched spring arrive in the garden, and it’s always perfect.” He spies a bit of red on the other side of the garden and ambles off to investigate.

It’s June by the time he reaches the hibiscus grove. Oliver enjoys taking things slow—just like Ike does. July and August pass with special moments of companionship and fun. As September comes, life begins slowing down. “The days are getting shorter” and Ike is “taking lots of naps in the garden.” Oliver enjoys having Ike nearby and decides that “the next time he throws the stick, I’m going to fetch it.”

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

October arrives, but the regular routine of the garden has been broken. Oliver hasn’t seen Ike or been fed in several days. Oliver makes due with pumpkin from the garden, but he misses Ike. By November, Oliver is “afraid Ike is gone.” The idea makes him sad. After all, he thinks, Ike was still so young. He was 80 years old.” Oliver had thought they would grow old together and wonders where Ike is. In December, Oliver decides to go talk to someone who has more experience than he does—his mother, who is 137 years old.

It takes Oliver until February to cross the ten gardens between Ike’s house and where his mother lives. When Oliver’s mother sees her son, “she smiles wide and her eyes sparkle.” Oliver tells his mother that Ike is gone. She understands his sadness and tells him how much Ike loved him. But Oliver wonders why Ike couldn’t stay with him.

Oliver’s mother explains “we only get to have pets in our lives for a little while.” Then she offers words of comfort: “And when they’re gone, we count all those beautiful days we were lucky enough to have them with us. We’re so lucky.”

Oliver has enjoyed his visit with his mother, but in March he’s on his way back home. When he arrives in his own garden, the door of the house opens. Oliver turns instinctively expecting to see Ike, but it’s Ted, Ike’s son. He brings Oliver “a tray of lettuce and dandelions and a bright, crunchy apple.” He rubs Oliver’s shell just like Ike used to do and tells Oliver he’s glad he came home. Ted tosses a stick and the two laugh. “This, for me and Ted, this is life,” Oliver thinks. And he knows his mother was right when she said they were so lucky.

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Image copyright Tim Bowers, 2020, text copyright Devin Scillian, 2020. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Devin Scillian’s Memoirs of a Tortoise has it all—humor, poignancy, and a life lesson about the precious moments we share with loved ones. Using the longevity of tortoises, Scillian flips the script on the pet and human relationship with tender and emotional effect. When Ike passes away and Oliver is confused and sad, he confidently sets out to find answers and comfort from someone he can trust—his mother. The ten gardens between their homes may not seem far to us, but to Ike and his mom it’s the equivalent of towns, states, or even countries for us.

This seamless blending of the tortoises’ experience and that of readers’ is both the charm and genius of Scillian’s story. Oliver’s straightforward comments and questions about loss echo those of children and will resonate with them. As Oliver’s mother reminds him to enjoy every day and be thankful for the time he spends with his pets and as Ted enters his life, readers will understand that her advice to embrace all the parts of life applies to them as well.

Tim Bowers’ endearing Oliver is a sweet companion on this journey through a formative experience. As Oliver spends time and enjoys inside jokes with kindly Ike, readers will recognize not only the pet and owner bond but the relationship between children and grandparents. Bowers’ lush depictions of Ike’s garden where he and Oliver play or sit quietly side by side portray the beauty of life that Oliver’s mother so wisely recognizes. Ike’s slowing down and passing away are drawn with sensitivity and through images that allow adults and children to discuss facts and feelings about death, mourning, acceptance, and the cycles of life.

Uplifting and full of wisdom, Memoirs of a Tortoise, is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110199

Discover more about Devin Scillian, his books, journalism, music, and more on his website.

To learn more about Tim Bowers, his books, and his art, visit his website.

We Love Memoirs Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-turtle-shell-game

Follow the Turtles! Game

 

You can make this fun game from recycled materials and a little creativity! When you’re finished making the turtle shells, have fun guessing where the marble, bead or bean is hiding!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Green tissue paper in different hues
  • Green construction or craft paper
  • A marble, bead, or bean
  • Glue
  • Scissors

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Directions

  1. Cut the egg carton apart into individual cups. You will need 3 cups for each game made.
  2. Cut the rims of the cups so they sit flat on a table.
  3. If the cups have open sides, fit two cups inside one another to fill the gaps
  4. Cut the tissue paper into small shapes
  5. Brush glue on a cup (I used a paper towel to apply glue)
  6. Cover the egg cup with pieces of tissue paper. Repeat with other cups.
  7. Let dry
  8. Cut a head and feet from the green craft paper
  9. Tape or glue the edges of head and feet to the inside of the cups
  10. Add a face to the head

To play the game:

  1. Line up the cups on a table
  2. Put a bead, bean, or marble under one of the cups
  3. Show the other player which cup the object is under
  4. Quickly move the cups around each other several times
  5. Ask the other player which cup they think the object is under
  6. Take turns playing

Extra Game: Make three more and play turtle tic-tac-toe! 

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You can find Memoirs of a Tortoise at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookseller, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 2 – International Children’s Book Day

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About the Holiday

Readers, writers and book lovers everywhere will love today’s holiday. International Children’s Book Day! What a time to visit Celebrate Picture Books! International Children’s Book Day was created in 1967 to celebrate young readers and children’s books across the globe. The holiday falls on April 2nd to commemorate the birthday of Hans Christian Anderson, the writer of many of the classic fairy tales. Each year a different country’s Board on Books for Young People is chosen to create a theme for a holiday. Currently there are 75 different countries involved. An author and illustrator are also elected to write an inspirational message for young readers and to design a poster to celebrate.

This year, the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) is sponsoring the holiday. The theme this year is “The Music of Words.” The poster was created by Hans Christian Andersen Award recipient, Brazilian illustrator Roger Mello, and contains a beautiful message on the music of words, written by Award-winning Cuban American author, Margarita Engle. How might you celebrate this fantastic holiday? You already are! Visiting Celebrate Picture Books blog is a wonderful way to honor the day. Additionally, spend some time reading some of your favorite picture books to young readers and discover new stories that highlight diversity and the music of words. Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is a perfect book to celebrate young readers globally.You can view and download this year’s International Children’s Book Day Poster here. Read “The Music of Words” here.

To find more spectacular books to share all through the month, check out USBBY’s 2021 Outstanding International Books List posted on the USBBY’s webpage.

Thank you to HarperCollins for providing a digital copy of Eyes That Kiss in the Corners for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners

Written by Joanna Ho | Illustrated by Dung Ho

 

On her way out of the house, a girl stops in front of the hall mirror to take a look. At school, the girl waves to two friends, their eyes wide and bright as they wave back. “Some people have eyes like sapphire lagoons with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns, sweeping their cheeks as they twirl. Big eyes, long lashes. Not me,” the girl says. She turns to face the reader head on; her black hair cascading past her shoulders. “I have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.”

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

With this comparison, the young Asian girl embarks on a journey of observation, self-love, and family wisdom. She reflects on the beauty of her own, unique eyes and how they resemble those of her family members. Eyes are not just for seeing the tangible, our narrator explains: “When Mama tucks me in at night, her eyes tell me I’m a miracle. In those moments when she’s all mine, flecks of dancing gold tell me I’m hers too.” 

The girl considers how her eyes connect her to other generations of her family, specifically her grandmother, her amah. When her amah tells her stories of Chinese folklore, the girl can see “Guanyin with the Monkey King sitting on a lotus” and other traditional characters as well as lychee trees, mountains, and lotus blossoms—all within her grandmother’s eyes. “Her eyes are filled with so many stories; I can fall inside them and swim until time stops.”  

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

The narrator then cheerfully describes her younger sister Mei-Mei who watches patiently for her to return home from school. “…when she looks at me in that Mei-Mei way, I feel like I can fly,” she says. Following her reflection on her sister, our protagonist is featured close up with beautiful swirls of clouds, swallows, fish, and dragon together; her hair elegantly turns into a river for koi fish to swim in while a Chinese phoenix and dragon fly above her. The creatures, mythological and real follow her hair in a harmonious flow, merging the past and hope for the future.

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

She is then pictured powerfully standing on top of a lush green mountain, fists balled, ready for her eyes to “find mountains that rise ahead and look up when others shut down.” The narrator is confident, strong, aware of her beauty, and kind towards others. “My eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea are a revolution. / They are Mama and Amah and Mei-Mei. They are me. And they are beautiful,” she states—a perfect role model for all young people.

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Image copyright Dung Ho, 2021, text copyright Joanna Ho, 2021. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners teaches young readers to love themselves and all their uniqueness. Author Joanna Ho’s writing is lyrical and poetic, a joy to read for book lovers of all ages. The writing is simple but conveys infinitely deep messages; celebrating one’s culture and beauty, even when they are not always highlighted by mainstream society, fighting stigmas and finding strength in family connections are some of the many themes that can be found in this beautiful tale. Joanna Ho provides a much-needed story of radical love, joy, and connection. The gorgeous, poetic lines of this book may even bring tears to readers’ eyes.

Illustrator Dung Ho adds many beautiful details that liven up the story beyond the words. All of the spreads with the protagonist’s family feature meaningful eye contact and smiles so bright, one can’t help but smile along with the characters. Bursts of blossoms, lotus flowers, and butterflies adorn almost every page, symbols of natural beauty. Inside the family’s home, elements of childhood like stuffed animals, crafts, and playing dress-up, sit side-by-side with objects of their heritage, including Chinese porcelain vases and tea sets, guardian lion statues, and a koi kite. Sunbeams, dragons, and birds weave in and out of the pages in a harmonious stream with swirls of feathers, reds, yellows, and lush greens. The colors and intricate illustrative details fill the book with life, wonder, and affection.

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners is a perfect book for children examining their own features and embracing their identities. Books that celebrate diversity are invaluably important, especially in times of political polarization and racism. The lesson of self-love is one that is important for all young children to read about and learn to embrace. The book is a must for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2021 | ISBN 978-0062915627

Discover more about Joanna Ho and her books on her website.

You can connect with Dung Ho on Instagram.

Watch the gorgeous Eyes that Kiss in the Corners book trailer!

International Children’s Book Day Activities

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Coloring Pages, Word Search, and More!

 

Hans Christian Andersen Coloring Pages

You can color pictures from many of your favorite Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales online at HelloKids

To download and print coloring pages from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, visit Animations A2Z.

“The Music of Words” Word Search

Find 21 words in this word search from Margarita Engle’s message “The Music of Words,” written to celebrate the International Children’s Book Day of 2021!

International Children’s Book Day Word Search

Read “The Music of Words” Message

You can view the 2021 International Children’s Book Message from Margarita Engle in five different languages here.

For adults

Check out these organizations that are actively working to fight anti-Asian racism and consider donating

Stop APPI Hate | CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities

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You can find Eyes that Kiss in the Corners at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review