October 22 – National Nut Day

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About the Holiday

No, no, no…we’re not going there. Today is a culinary holiday. Today we celebrate cashews, almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, and all the others. Nuts are nutritious, providing a good source of vitamins, protein, fiber, and important minerals. Eating nuts on a regular basis can also help keep your heart healthy. So crack open some nuts today and have a feast!

The Nuts: Keep Rolling!

Written by Eric Litwin | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

The nut family was enjoying a picnic in the beautiful, hilly outdoors. Everything was great, except Hazel really wished she was bigger and taller so she could reach the apples on a nearby tree. Wally also felt pretty small, but he had a plan. So while Hazel leaped from a rock to try and nab an apple, Wally was busy covering himself with mud. Hazel caught on and pat-patted mud on herself until she was encased in a nice, thick layer.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Then down the hill “they rolled through sticky / mud and goo. / The more they rolled, / the bigger they grew.” And while they bounced along, “they sang this song: “Keep Rolling. Keep Rolling. Keep Rolling.” As they rolled down the muddy lane they picked up layer upon layer of dirt, sticks, and leaves until “they were the size of cats.”

Being this big was fantastic “until…a pack of dogs came over the hill.”  Hazel and Wally rolled faster to escape, while all the time singing their song: “Keep Rolling. Keep Rolling. Keep Rolling.” Soon, they were as big as the dogs chasing them. They bounded along “until…the dogcatcher came over the hill. Oh, No!” What could they do? You know: “Keep Rolling. Keep Rolling. Keep Rolling.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-nuts-keep-rolling-zoo-keeper

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

They hurtled along over gardens and wood piles, growing bigger and bigger until they became as large as elephants. Their little giggles became big laughs “until…the zookeeper came over the hill. Oh, No!” But they were much too fast for him, and as they flew down the road they sang their song: “Keep Rolling. Keep Rolling. Keep Rolling.”

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

But suddenly “It started to rain. / The sky turned gray. / The mud and the goo / were all washed away.” Hazel and Wally kept rolling, becoming “smaller and smaller and smaller.” They were back to their original size and discovered they were far from home. But Wally and Hazel knew the way back and knew how to get there quickly too. And all the way they sang their song: “Keep Rolling. Keep Rolling. Keep Rolling.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-nuts-keep-rolling-walking-on-path

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Their mama and papa were so happy to see them, and Hazel and Wally were glad to be back in their home so “cozy and bright.” Then Mama and Papa Nut / hugged them so tight.” Their adventure had taught them a thing about happiness, and now they knew “even though they were small…when you have each other, then you have it all.”

Little ones will giggle, laugh and love to roll with Hazel and Wally and this charming nut family. There’s even a free song and dance download provided. The Nuts: Keep Rolling! would make a much-appreciated gift and a fun addition to home bookshelves for read- aloud story times.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-nuts-keep-rolling-rainbow

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

With his talent for writing catchy story/song mashups, Eric Litwin has created another rollicking picture book that little ones will want to hear again and again. Kids will love joining Hazel and Wally in the “growth spurts” that allow them to become as big as their imaginations. Litwin’s funny repartee and gentle suspense will excite kids as they read and sing along. The sweet message that even though they may be little, they play a big part in the family will delight children.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-nuts-keep-rolling-hazel

Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2017, text copyright Eric Litwin. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Scott Magoon’s dazzling blue sky and green hills set this story in motion as Wally and Hazel find a way to make their wish to be bigger come true. Readers get an inside view as Hazel and Wally keep rolling and pick up layer upon layer of mud, leaves, and sticks. Magoon uses these natural accents to ingeniously define the eyes, ears, and noses of the cats, dogs, and elephants the little nuts become on their jaunt. Adorable Hazel and Wally smile, giggle, and laugh their way through the amusing-not-menacing “dangers,” letting little ones fully enjoy the fun of this boisterous story. The tender final spread is full of warmth and love as this diverse family reunites.

Ages 3 – 6

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316322515

Check out all of the books, music, and fun stuff for kids by Eric Litwin on his website.

There’s a whole gallery of books and illustration work by Scott Magoon on his website.

You’ll go nuts for this The Nuts: Keep Rolling! book trailer!

National Nut Day Activity

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Nutty Pumpkins and Jack O’Lanterns

 

With acorns falling tap, tap, tap in bushels on the ground and other delicious nuts readily available in grocery stores and farmers markets, autumn is the perfect time for this craft that turns nuts into pumpkins!

Supplies

  • Acorns or walnuts
  • Orange multi-surface acrylic craft paint or spray paint  
  • Sandpaper
  • Paint brush
  • Black, fine tip marker

Directions

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-acorn-pumpkins-craft (3)

For Acorns

  1. Remove the caps
  2. If using acorns for crafts that will be kept long-term, follow these Directions for Drying Acorns
  3. Hold the acorn with the flat side down. The little tip will serve as the pumpkin’s stem.
  4. Paint the acorn, leaving the just the tip brown, let dry
  5. With the flat side down, draw a face on your “pumpkin.” Let dry
  6. Use your little pumpkin in decorations around your house or make a tiny pumpkin patch in a box or jar lid with paper, sticks, leaves or other material

For Walnuts

  1. If you live in an area where there are no oak trees, you can use walnuts or other nuts available in grocery stores. These do not need to be baked before using.
  2. Paint and decorate according to the directions For Acorns

Picture Book Review

September 16 – It’s Classical Music Month

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About the Holiday

Classical music has been an inspiration since the earliest instruments were created. The talent and imagination of great composers of the past has been passed down from generation to generation of music lovers, influencing new music all along the journey. To celebrate this month’s holiday, take in a classical music concert or performance or listen to your favorite (or a new) classical music station. If you’ve always wanted to learn to play the piano, violin, or other instrument, take the opportunity this month to sign up for lessons!

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Written by Chieri Uegaki | Illustrated by Qin Leng

 

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

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

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

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

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

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

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Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-hana-bows

Image copyright Qin Leng, 2014, text copyright Chieri Uegaki, 2014. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1894786331

Enjoy this Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin book trailer!

Classical Music Month Activity

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Musical Kids Find the Differences

 

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

Picture Book Review

June 21 – Make Music Day

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About the Holiday

Make Music Day first rang out in 1982 in France as the Fête de la Musique. Celebrated by young and old, professional musicians and amateurs, the day invites all to make and share their music. People in more than 750 cities and towns in over 120 countries participate in this creative holiday.

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

Written by Susan Hood | Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

 

Ada Ríos is growing up in Cateura, a town built of trash as the main garbage dump for the capital city of Paraguay. Every morning the refuse trucks rumble into town to deposit their loads—1,500 tons of trash every day. The citizens of Cateura—gancheros or recyclers—go to work sifting through the mounds and tearing into bags looking for anything valuable enough to recycle or sell. Cardboard is worth 5 cents a pound, plastic 10 cents a pound.

Ada knows the landfill can hold surprises—“Her father, a ganchero, had found appliances, toys, perfumes, and antique watches.”—but she can never imagine what it holds for her. When Ada and her sister were little, their grandmother watched them while their parents worked. They loved to listen to music, to sing, and to learn stories of musicians and the sounds of different instruments. Ada fell in love with the violin.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ada's-violin-making-singing

Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

As the girls grow older and go to school, they venture farther into town, but there is little to fill their time. Many kids join gangs or get into fights. When Ada is 11 her grandmother signs her and her sister up for music lessons being offered by a new man in town named Favio Chávez. “Ada’s heart sang out” when she hears the news. On the first day ten children show up to play the five instruments available. But a bigger problem looms: the three guitars and two violins cannot be taken home for practicing as they are magnets for thieves. In Cateura a violin is worth more than a house.

But Favio Chávez has an idea. With help from Nicolás Gómez, a ganchero and carpenter, they pull bits and pieces from the landfill. An old broken drum and an X-ray film become a workable drum, water pipes become flutes, packing crates become guitars and violins, and oil drums become cellos. “Ada chose a violin made from an old paint can, an aluminum baking tray, a fork, and pieces of wooden crates. Worthless to thieves, it was invaluable to her. It was a violin of her very own.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ada's-violin-making-instruments

Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

The children practice tirelessly outside in 100-degree heat until the initial “screeches, twangs, and tweets hit all the right notes. Their class became ‘a small island’ where Chávez taught them to respect themselves and one another.” They become known as The Recycled Orchestra. Music now fills the air, adding a soundtrack of beauty to the grueling work. The orchestra is soon invited to play concerts in Cateura and the capital city of Asunción. When word spreads of their talent, the children receive offers to play from other cities and even other countries.

When Ada is 16 The Recycled Orchestra is invited to tour with a world-famous rock band. As Ada takes the stage in front of 35,000 people in Bogotá, Colombia, she is afraid, but the audience cheers for them and sings along as they play. On that night the children discover a new life. “Buried in the trash was music. And buried in themselves was something to be proud of.”

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

An extensive author’s note plus a photograph of The Recycled Orchestra, lists of websites, videos and sources follow the text.

Ada’s Violin is also available in a Spanish edition—El violín de Ada: La Historia de la Orquesta de Instrumentos Reciclados del Paraguay.

Susan Hood has brought to light an incredible story of perseverance, hope, and the ability of music and other arts to provide opportunities and self-confidence that change lives. Told with unstinting honesty and sensitivity, Hood’s biography of Ada Ríos, Favio Chávez, and The Recycled Orchestra will inspire all who read it. The well-paced text offers revealing details on every page and flows with a lyrical quality that enhances the effect of the story and its impact. From the first sentence to the last, both children and adults will be riveted to The Recycled Orchestra.

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, text copyright Susan Hood. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Sally Wern Comport’s paintings beautifully capture the human spirit that shines through and drives people to astonishing achievements even in the most adverse conditions. With intricately created collages of rich hues, Comport depicts the town of Cateura and the mountains of trash the citizens work and play on. Warm lighting illuminates faces full of dreams and love. Readers will linger over depictions of the instruments workshop and cheer along with the concert audience as the children receive recognition. The full-bleed, two-page spreads echo the expanded world music gave to the children in the orchestra and the adults who heard them as music score confetti flutters throughout.

Both school classrooms and home libraries will benefit from the stirring message of Ada’s Violin.

Ages 4 and up

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481430951 (English edition); 978-1481466578 (Spanish edition)

Discover more about Susan Hood and her books, plus fun activities for kids and information for teachers and parents on her website!

View a gallery of Sally Wern Comport’s artwork on her website!

Make Music Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-homemade-musical-instrument

 

Make Your Own Musical Instrument

 

Inspiration for sound can come from almost any object! Look around your house or classroom and discover the music in boxes, cans, blocks of wood, plastic egg cartons or deli containers, and more. Add string or wire for plucking, sticks for drumming, or beans for shaking. With a little glue, tape, or hardware and some creativity, you’ll be making your own rhythms in no time!

Supplies for the stringed instrument shown in the picture above

  • Tin can
  • Two small L brackets
  • Piece of wooden molding, 2 1/2 feet by 1 1/2 inches by 3/4 inches
  • Five small strips of wood to raise the wire off the neck of the instrument. I used long wooden fireplace matches cut into 1 1/2″ sections 
  • Thin wire
  • Small circular hook screw or regular screw
  • Two tacks
  • A nail, screw, or piece of wood that will fit horizontally in the mouth of the can
  • a small nail to make a hole in the can
  • Hammer
  • Strong Glue
  • Paint
  • Foam decorative dots

Directions

  1. Paint the wood and let dry
  2. Paint the small strips of wood and let dry
  3. Decorate the can with paint, sticker, duct tape, or paper
  4. With the hammer and small nail, make a hole in the center of the bottom of the can
  5. Wrap one end of the wire around the nail and glue so it is firmly in place
  6. Feed the other end of the wire through the hole in the bottom of the can
  7. Screw or glue two L brackets to one end of the wood molding so that the bottom of the L is flush with the bottom of the wood molding and there is space between the brackets. This makes the neck of the instrument
  8. Screw the circular or regular screw into the top, center of the wooden molding
  9. When the wooden match strips are dry, glue three match strips side-by-side 3 inches from the top of the molding. Glue two more match strips, one on top of the other on the center strip.
  10. When the L brackets are dry, glue them (and the neck of the instrument) to the can, making sure the brackets are on either side of the hole in the can. Make sure the wire is out of the hole. 
  11. When the brackets are firmly attached to the can, pull the wire to the top of the neck. Settle it in the center of the small pieces of wood, so that the wire is not touching the neck.
  12. Wrap the wire around the screw at the top of the molding until it is firmly in place and the wire is taut. 
  13. Secure the wire to the neck with the tacks
  14. Mark the “frets” with the foam dots

Picture Book Review

 

May 25 – National Tap Dance Day

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About the Holiday

Starting out as an assignment on Congressional legislation for George Washington University graduate student Linda Christensen, Tap Dance Day has become an international celebration of this quick-stepping, staccato-rhythmed art form that is a favorite in movies, on the stage, and in dance schools. Established in 1989, Tap Dance Day brings together professionals and amateurs in shows, workshops, and tap jams around the world. Why not take in—or even perform in—a tap dance show to celebrate?

Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing

Written by Marilyn Singer | Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

 

The rhythms of dance and the cadence of poetry create a natural pairing as these seventeen poems that celebrate the moves, music, and thrill of dances from around the world demonstrate with toe-tapping joy.

In Cha-Cha a boy attending his Uncle Nate’s birthday party learns the cha-cha from his grandma. At first he says “I don’t / know these moves. / My fee / feel like hooves.” But then “something clicks! / Okay, it’s old school. / I say, / cha-cha’s cool!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

While the kids at school brag about their parents’ jobs, one boy has them beat in Hip-Hop: “No fumbling, no bumbling, / my pops is tops at tumbling. / He’s elastic, so fantastic. / Papa’s so gymnastic!” But while Dad “will swipe and windmill” and “slide on his knees, / do lots of flares and coin-drops” and “boomerang and freeze,” the boy adds “…wait / until you see my mom!”

Is it meringue or Merengue? Maybe a bit of both…because doing it right means “Moving sideways, / turning wrists, / while we do / our pretzel twists. / We sway our hips, we shift our legs, like we’re whipping / lots of eggs.”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, test courtesy of Marilyn Singer. Courtesy of kristivaliant.com

It’s fun to let go when learning the Salsa. All you need is to “Feel the beat / in your feet, / in your heart. / Then you start.” So “Don’t be shy. / Come on try. / In this class, / show some sass.” If only shopping could be so entertaining…. But, wait! Maybe Conga is the solution. “We’re at the MALL. / I’m very BORED. / I hate the STORES, / I hate the HORDE…. / ‘Just one more SHOP’ / turns into FOUR. / I’m gonna SCREAM, / I’m gonna ROAR.” Then music starts and a line grows long—“Uh uh uh, KICK! / You cannot WHINE / when you are ON / a conga LINE! / Uh uh uh, KICK! / A flash mob BALL! / Keep shopping, MOM! / I love the MALL!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

The library may be a quiet, staid place most of the time, but Swing Dance takes over one special library. “On the plaza in July, / underneath the summer sky / where you can get to hear good bands, / kick your feet, wave your hands, / we’re gonna swing. / That’s our new thing / We’re gonna swing!” A boy and his mom have joined lots of other dancers having fun on the square— “We step…step… / rock step. / we’re full… / of pep. / We Lindy hop. / Bibbidy-bop! / We Lindy hop!”

And for those kids who look at the Square Dance unit in PE with trepidation, this girl feels the same: “Got a partner, lost my shoe. / Allemande left? I haven’t a clue….Did that caller give a cue? / Don’t promenade me. Shoo, boy, shoo!…Bow to Francisco, bow to Sue. / One more swing. It’s over! Whew! / I tried real hard, but alas, it’s true. / I’m flunking out of square dance!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

Other poems introduce the Foxtrot, Hora, Samba, Two-Step, Argentine Tango, Waltz, Bhangra, and Polka. Notes about each dance, giving a description, a bit of history, and basic rhythms and steps, follow the text. A CD of dance music is also included.

Marilyn Singer begins her exuberant celebration of dances from around the world with a pair of the reverso poems for which she is well known: All Over the World, Dancing is Joy and Joy is Dancing All Over the World. With this start, Singer invites readers to put on their dancing shoes and enter ballrooms, classrooms, and outdoor spaces filled with music. From birthdays to bar mitzvahs to weddings to spontaneous parties, Singer imbues each experience with the beats, steps, and sometimes missteps of dance with expressive vocabulary and humorous asides. Reading the poems aloud offers its own special treat as the meter of each poem reflects the rhythm of the dance described.

Kristi Valiant’s vibrant two-page spreads put kids in the center of the action where individuals, couples, and groups enjoy groovin’ to the music in their own style. Dancers swirl, stomp, hop, twirl, sway, dip, and kick up their heels on sunny days and under glowing nighttime light. So join in—no experience or partner necessary!

For kids who love music and dance and for those who love poetry of all kinds, Feel the Beat; Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing is a fun addition to home libraries—and may spark an interest in learning how to perform these dances.

Ages 5 – 9

Dial Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0803740211

Discover more about Marilyn Singer and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Kristi Valiant on her website!

Tap Dance Day Activity

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

Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle

 

People all around the world love to dance! Can you find the names of twenty types of dances in this printable Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

 

May 22 – National Buy a Musical Instrument Day

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About the Holiday

Each year on May 22 we celebrate music and the personal relationship musicians have with their instruments. Some musical artists even consider their instrument such a friend or part of the family that they give them names. Whether you are just starting out on your journey with music or are a seasoned professional, today may be a good day to think about buying your first instrument or adding to your collection.

A Violin for Elva

Written by Mary Lyn Ray | Illustrated by Tricia Tusa

 

While out on a springtime jaunt, little Elva came upon a garden party. There were the sounds of voices and rustling clothes, but Elva heard none of this. Instead, her ears were trained on the music the violinist was playing. Later that night she told her mom and dad that she wanted a violin. She even said please, but they said no.

So Elva found violins elsewhere. She practiced with a tennis racquet and stick; she rehearsed with her toothbrush and tube of toothpaste. When she was called to the board in math class, she wrote more notes than numbers, and when she “should have been going to sleep, she was playing music only she could hear.” Years passed; she grew, made friends and pursued other activities. Soon she was an adult with a job, appointments, and meetings. “But if she saw a page tremulous with music, she remembered what she once had wanted.”

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Image copyright Tricia Tusa, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of hmhco.com.

She told herself she was too busy to learn to play the violin now, but she began borrowing records from the library. When she listened to them, she felt as if she “had picked up her violin again” and was playing in an orchestra or performing a solo. At the end of the record, Elva filled the silence and empty feeling with all the other things she had to do.

More years passed, and “Elva had many satisfactions and achievements,” but something was still missing. She told herself that she was too old now, “but more and more she kept imagining what might have been—” Then one day she took some money, went to the store, and bought “a shiny, fragile, varnished violin.”  She hugged it tightly on the way home and once there—without even taking off her coat—she removed it from its case, placed it under her chin, and “pushed the bow across a string.” The violin squeeeked and squeeeeeeeeeeked. But then “she drew the bow back toward her—and the string sang.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-violin-for-elva-hears-music

Image copyright Tricia Tusa, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of hmhco.com.

She tried other strings without success, but that one, clear note encouraged her. “‘I will improve,’ she said. But she didn’t” Playing the violin was difficult; she had to hold the bow just right, land on the correct notes, and figure out the fingering for sharps and flats. It was all so confusing that Elva put away her violin.

Then one day she read that “Madame Josephina was accepting beginning students.” Again, Elva took some money and signed up for lessons. Twice a week Elva went to Madame Josephina’s house, and on the days in between, she practiced. At the end of the year, there was a recital. Elva was nervous as she took the stage with the other students. But when she drew the bow across her violin’s strings, Elva realized she “was making music.” That night at home she played her piece again and again. “At last, Elva kissed her bow and went to bed, imagining all the tomorrows. And all the music there was to make.”

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Image copyright Tricia Tusa, text copyright Mary Lyn Ray. Courtesy of hmhco.com.

Mary Lyn Ray’s story of a little girl whose lifelong love of the violin is only satisfied in old age reveals to readers that while they may grow and change throughout the years, childhood passions often remain strong. While they may be rejected or forgotten for one reason or another, these interests sometimes indirectly guide career choices or reappear when the time is right for them to be fulfilled. Although it is a violin that captures Elva’s heart, Ray could have chosen from a long list of creative, daring, or professional pursuits that niggle at one’s brain to be acknowledged and expressed. A Violin for Elva offers encouragement and inspiration not only for those who feel that it’s too late to achieve their dreams but for those struggling to overcome the fear of trying.

Tricia Tusa’s watercolor and ink illustrations are as light and graceful as the music that captivates Elva. In lovely vignettes, a garden-party attendee wears an enormous flower hat, Elva’s pet cat swipes a paw at her imaginary music, Elva stops on her way to work to admire a street musician, and Elva hugs her dog close while having tea in sunny window. When Elva finally buys her own violin, all the hustle and bustle of her life stops for a moment and love fills the page as she hugs the instrument while her dog leans affectionately against her leg and both are bathed in a glorious spotlight. Seeing Elva on stage at her first recital surrounded by children half her size, readers will understand that true love never fades and is always attainable.

Ages 4 – 7 and up (adults will also appreciate the book’s message)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 | ISBN 978-0152254834

Discover more about Mary Lyn Ray and her books on her website!

You’ll find a gallery of art work by Tricia Tusa on her website!

National Buy a Musical Instrument Day Activity

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I Love Music! Word Search Puzzle

 

There’s an orchestra of instruments in this printable I Love Music! Word Search Puzzle. Can you find all eighteen different instruments? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

March 30 – It’s Music in Our Schools Month

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About the Holiday

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

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin

Written by Chieri Uegaki | Illustrated by Qin Leng

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-brothers-in-tree

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-hana-sleeping

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-listening-to-grandfather

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hana-hashimoto-sixth-violin-hana-bows

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

Kids Can Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1894786331

Enjoy this Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin book trailer!

Music in Our Schools Month Activity

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Musical Kids Find the Differences

 

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

Picture Book Review

March 27 – Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day

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About the Holiday

Song titles can be evocative of so many emotions, and country song titles seem to take this fact to a whole nuther level. Sure, the travails of heartbreak may cause misery and despair, but I bet you can’t help smiling—just a little—when you read titles like this: I Would Have Writ You A Letter, But I Couldn’t Spell Yuck!, You Were Only A Splinter As I Slid Down The Bannister Of Life, and Did I Shave My Legs for This? So, today, celebrate by finding and listening to some quirky country songs that tickle your fancy.

Talkin’ Guitar: A Story of Young Doc Watson

By Robin Gourley

“Yonder, where blue mountains meet the sky, Arthel Watson was born into a world of music.” Music, for Arthel, was much more than his mama’s singing at the end of the day. It was the calls of animals and birds, the burbling river, the whistles of trains, and the clatter of farm machinery. He loved to listen to the rain and the wind and the silence between sounds too. “Arthel had ears like a cat. Maybe it was because he was blind.”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

Arthel just couldn’t help but make music whenever and wherever he could. Pots became drums, and cowbells rang like cymbals. Arthel even strung a steel wire across the barn door to strum. When Pappy gave him a harmonica, Arthel practiced until the screechy notes settled into a purr. When Pappy made him a banjo, he practiced until the “rusty door hinge” creak was replaced by spritely melody. One day when Arthel plinked out a few notes on his cousin’s guitar, his father made him a promise. “‘Son, if you can play a song by the time I git home from work, we’ll go into town and buy you your own guitar.’”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

By the end of the day, Arthel had composed a “sweet, simple song” from the few chords he had learned. With a “belly full of butterflies,” he played it for his family and earned himself a guitar. From then on Arthel carried his guitar everywhere, learning from records at home and from songs on the radio. He memorized the rhythms of farm work and the songs of various animals, and between chores he practiced, practiced, practiced. “All those chores and all that practice made him sharp as a whittling knife and tough as a hickory.”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

Arthel decided that if he could work just like everyone else, he could probably play music as well as the artists he listened to on records and on the radio. He began to compose his own music. “It felt as natural as dew on a foggy mountain morning.” Arthel played “what he couldn’t see. He could make his guitar sound like a muskrat or a groundhog or a ‘wooly boogie bee’” and sing the stories of the countryside he loved.

An Author’s Note following the text reveals more about Arthel’s life, the influences on his music, and how he earned the nickname “Doc.”

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Image and text copyright Robbin Gourley, courtesy of robbingourley.com

Robin Gourley’s heartening biography of Doc Watson is perfectly attuned to her young audience. Readers are introduced to Arthel as he soaks in the sounds of life around him and only learn several pages into the story that he was blind. His blindness is not mentioned again except for the subtle acknowledgement that “he reckoned if he could work like everyone else, he could play music like the folks he heard on the records and the radio”—which becomes universal inspiration for all. The emphasis that practice develops natural talent and pays off is also a great lesson for readers who may just be discovering their own talents.

Gourley’s soothing watercolors are suffused with the beautiful pastels of Appalachia, which was both home and muse to Anthel. Vignettes take readers inside Anthel’s home to discover the Victrola and the old radio that were his early teachers and introduce his family, who surrounded him with encouragement as he grew from a child to a young man—always with a guitar in his hands.

Ages 4 – 7

Clarion Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-0544129887

To discover more about Robbin Gourley, her books, and her art, visit her website!

Quirky Country Music Song Titles Day

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Musical Dot-to-Dot

When a musician follows notes, they create a song. What will you find when you follow the numbers on this printable Musical Dot-to-Dot?

Picture Book Review