June 15 – Smile Power Day

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About the Holiday

We smile at people all day long, don’t we? I mean there’s 🙂  😀  🙂  😉  and so many more! But how about the real kind? Giving a warm smile to a friend, a stranger, or—especially—someone who looks as if they need one, makes everyone feel better! Today, be happy and welcome all with a smile!

Welcome

By Barroux

 

A polar bear is sitting on the edge of an ice floe enjoying some relaxing time with his friends when he hears an ominous noise. “CRACK! The ice breaks! ‘We’re drifting away!’” his friends cry. In no time at all the three polar bears are adrift in the middle of the sea in need of a new home. They float and float, but “the water goes on forever!” To pass the time the friends play games: “‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with W…’”

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

Perhaps days go by. The bears ride out a storm with dark skies and huge waves that threaten to sink them. It’s scary and the trio wants “to find a new home right now!” At last, their ice floe—smaller now—approaches a sandy shore. “Land! We’re saved,” cheer the polar bears. They ask the cows on the beach if they can live there, but the cows take exception. The bears are “too furry…too tall…and too bear-ish.” And with a “Sorry!” the cows turn the weary travelers away.

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

Once again on their own, the bears have no choice but to let the current steer them. With standing room for only one on their icy raft, they near another beach where a single panda relaxes on pillows in the midst of expansive land. “Yes! This could be our new home,” the polar bears shout. The panda ponders the situation for only a moment before stating, “‘…you are too many. Look around, there’s just not enough room! You can’t live here.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-welcome-barroux-polar-bears-meet-cows

Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

As the polar bears continue on their journey, their “little ice boat has almost melted,” and they are running out of time. They bob next to a tall sea wall. “‘Help us!’” they plead. Behind the wall two giraffes lounge on the beach, too lazy to investigate the noise they hear. The ice floe has melted to a thin disk. The bears are hanging on and about to give up hope when they find an empty island. They jump to shore just in the nick of time and begin enjoying their new home.

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Copyright Barroux, courtesy of little bee books and simonandschuster.com

It’s not long before a dinghy floats into view with three monkeys on board. “‘Excuse me, we’re looking for a new home. Can you help us please?’” they ask. The polar bears stop their game of badminton and step forward. “‘Hmmm,’” they think. “‘You are…

Welcome!’”

With vibrant blue, full-bleed pages as wide open as the sea itself and three endearing long-nosed polar bears, Barroux has crafted a poignant tale with depth and far-reaching applications for readers of all ages. Inspired by the Syrian refugee crisis, Welcome stands on its own as an uplifting story of friendship and inclusiveness, but also offers an excellent means for beginning a discussion on the world events that children see and have questions about. Employing a bear’s first person point of view and incorporating a child-centric perspective on travel—from the humor of the I Spy game to the perseverance of the bears—Barroux sets just the right tone for his audience.

With sparse text and repetition of the bears’ simple request, the subject matter is handled with sensitivity, not fright, which allows children to understand that the theme of the story is relevant on many levels. Whether the “traveler” comes from near or far, is a classmate, teammate or neighbor, or is even the reader or someone else feeling adrift in a certain situation, children will see that all deserve welcome.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499804447

You can view a gallery of illustration work for children, adults, and more by Barroux on his website!

Smile Power Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-UN-day-puzzle

Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another.

Supplies

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Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures
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Copyright Conor Carroll, courtesy of celebratepicturebooks.com

Picture Book Review

December 12 – Gingerbread House Day

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About the Holiday

Yummy, warm gingerbread and winter just go together. And one of the best ways to enjoy gingerbread is by making a gingerbread house decorated with icing and candy. Gingerbread houses can be elaborate—like those made by professional bakers for competitions—or simple, but they all have one thing in common—they are so tempting to nibble on! To celebrate today’s holiday, grab the mixing bowl, flour and spices, bag of gumdrops, peppermints, and hard candies and get creative!

Gingerbread Christmas

By Jan Brett

 

Matti and the Gingerbread Baby are excited about the coming Christmas Festival. Gingerbread Baby even has plans to sing with his Gingerbread Band. There’s just one problem—there is no Gingerbread Band. But then Matti has an idea. As he rushes off to find the cookbook, he tells Gingerbread Baby to start practicing his song. “In no time Matti had mixed the ingredients, rolled out the dough, and popped the Gingerbread into the oven.”

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Copyright Jan Brett, 2016, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Even though the recipe specifically says not to open the oven for a full eight minutes, after six minutes Matti can’t wait another second. He opens the oven door ever so slightly to peek, and out pop the musical instruments made of gingerbread. The instruments hop onto the table and begin playing immediately. But Matti knows they need a bit of icing before they’re ready to make an appearance in the village.

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Copyright Jan Brett, 2016, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

After they are decorated in their party best, the Gingerbread Baby leads the procession of instruments—“a violin, cello, double bass, French horn, clarinet, and trumpet, tooting and zumming to the beat of the big bass drum”—to the village. The band jumps on stage, tunes up, and begins playing. People hurry from all over tocome and listen; even the woodland animals stop to watch from behind the trees. The villagers can’t help but tap their toes and dance to the band’s sweet music.

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Copyright Jan Brett, 2016, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

When the animals join the crowd, the Gingerbread Baby conducts the band in ‘The Wild Animal’s Waltz.’ No one is left on the sidelines as the band plays faster and faster and everyone joins in the dance. Suddenly, young Ann-Sophie calls out, “‘I think those instruments are really cookies. And I so want one!’” Everyone else takes a closer look, and they all so want a cookie too. The Gingerbread Baby notices the hungry looks on the villagers’ faces, and begins singing an entrancing melody. While the people stand listening, the instruments quietly tiptoe offstage.

Matti meets each one and cleverly disguises them—covering them in snowballs and decorating them as snowmen. As soon as all of the instruments are safe, the Gingerbread Baby somersaults off the stage with a playful taunt for the villagers to try to catch him but also teases, “‘you’ll never guess where I’ll be.’” The chase is on. Zigging and zagging the Gingerbread Baby dashes toward the enormous decorated Christmas tree—where he suddenly vanishes.

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Copyright Jan Brett, 2016, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Although the villagers search everywhere, they can find neither the band nor the Gingerbread Baby. While Matti waves goodbye and takes off with his sled full of snowmen, the Gingerbread Baby is being as still and quiet as possible, hidden in the boughs of the Christmas tree. Finally, all the villagers give up the game and go home—all except Ann-Sophie, who may or may not hear “a tiny voice singing” in the now silent air.

Jan Brett’s mischievously loveable Gingerbread Baby is back, wanting to participate in the Village Festival. With her signature storytelling that includes danger, mystery, and clever shenanigans surrounding Matti and his special gingerbread creations, Brett creates a holiday adventure that kids will love. Her well-known intricate illustrations, in a rich palette, offer vivid action as the Gingerbread Baby and instruments play onstage while the villagers dance below. Brett’s beautiful details and cozy settings make Gingerbread Christmas a feast for the eyes, and readers will also like to linger over the musical instruments in the margins of each page that reveal more snapshots of the story line. A dazzling fold-out Christmas tree, decorated from top to bottom will occupy and delight kids as they search for where the Gingerbread Baby is hiding.

For winter fun and especially those days when the house fills with the delicious aroma of baking cookies, Gingerbread Christmas is great book to have on hand.

Ages 4 – 7

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0399170713

Discover more about Jan Brett and her books as well find activities, coloring pages, contests, and more on her website!

Gingerbread House Day Activity

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Gingerbread House Coloring Page

 

You may not be able to nibble on this printable Gingerbread House Coloring Page, but you can still have fun decorating it!

Picture Book Review

December 11 – International Mountain Day

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About the Holiday

Mountains are majestic! Towering over the landscape, they leave us awestruck with their beauty and mystery. Supporting unique wildlife, providing challenging personal achievement, and inspiring countless works of art, the mountains of the world received their own United Nations-sponsored holiday in 2003. Established so that we remember and honor the importance of mountains to the environment and cultures in which they’re found and to the world at large, International Mountain Day is a celebration we can all support.

She’ll Be Coming UP the Mountain

Written by Kim Norman | Illustrated by Liza Woodruff

 

Moose and her pals are sprucing up the place in anticipation of Polar Bear’s return home. They know that “she’ll be coming up the mountain when she comes,” and are sure “She’ll enjoy our frozen fountain when she comes.” In addition to sweeping and dusting, the crew are planning a special welcome, and can’t wait for her arrival because “when she gets here she’ll discover / just how much we really love her / in a banner strung along the cabin wall.”

It seems that even though Polar Bear was away for a long time, no one forgot her. During her absence her friends sent her poems and hand-knitted sweaters, and now that she is coming back even the narwhals and gulls will come to cheer. Even if their “teeth begin to chatter / not a bit of it will matter when she comes.” Then they’ll throw “an arctic party when she comes. / We’ll play music, tapping icicles and drums. / Everybody will be clapping / while the caribou is rapping. / Not a creature will be napping when she comes.”

And, boy, do these guys know how to plan a homecoming! Out in the bay the kayakers will be paddling in formation, the whales will be spouting, and everyone else will be shouting when they see Polar Bear. There will be gifts galore, “high ones, twos, and fives,” a daring ski-slope salute, and plenty of “cheesy” pictures to document it all. As the moment arrives the anxious friends send out a message to which Polar Bear instantly sends an intriguing reply that they that they won’t believe their eyes. Before the waiting group can decide whether to “send our fastest skier, / who will be the first to see her, / and can tell us what will be her big surprise?,” they hear snuffling in the snow. Then suddenly over a snowbank they see her! They cheer and run to meet her and then they all tumble into the house—Polar Bear and her cubs!

Kim Norman has taken the buoyant song “She’ll Be Coming ‘round the Mountain When She Comes” and turned it into a joyful tribute to friendship that will have kids tapping their toes and bouncing along. The sweet story, strict rhythm, and well-known rhyme scheme allow for a mountain of laughs as the welcome-home party grows for the return of a favorite friend. Norman infuses her story with so many details and such enthusiasm that readers can’t help but get excited too. The final revelation that Polar Bear is bringing a surprise will have kids cheering along when they discover Polar Bear has new cubs.

Liza Woodruff’s vibrant illustrations exuberantly depict the preparations and plans the friends have for Polar Bear’s return. Kids will love lingering over Woodruff’s brightly colored and action-packed pages to catch all the details of the coming party. The animals’ camaraderie as they clean together, help deer knit a sweater, practice their welcome activities and especially imagine being together again is heartfelt and infectious. Readers will be glad they too are standing on the front porch looking for the first sight of Polar Bear and are invited inside the cozy cabin for the surprise party.

She’ll Be Coming UP the Mountain is a book full of fun that you’ll probably find yourself singing instead of reading—much to everyone’s delight! For boisterous story times, as a take-along on vacations, or for any time when happiness is the order of the day, this book is a perfect addition to kids’ bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 8

Sterling Children’s Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1454916109

To learn more about Kim Norman and her other books as well as find fun activities, visit her website!

Discover a portfolio of artwork by Liza Woodruff on her website!

International Mountain Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-mountain-landscape-coloring-page

Mountain Landscape Coloring Page

 

Grab your pencils and crayons and create a beautiful scene with this printable Mountain Landscape Coloring Page.

November 10 – World Science Day for Peace and Development

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About the Holiday

This annual, internationally observed day highlights the importance of science in and for society and is sponsored by the United Nations. Its aim is to promote education and awareness of scientific issues that affect the world and its sustainability as well as to underscore the role that scientists play in improving our lives and developing solutions for the future. This year the theme is “Celebrating Science Centers and Science Museums.” To celebrate, grab the kids (or go alone!) and head out to your local science center!

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum

By Jessie Hartland

 

A science teacher leading her students through a science museum stops at the display for the Peekskill Meteorite that fell to Earth in New York state on October 9, 1992. As she explains a bit about meteorites, one student raises his hand and asks, “But how did the meteorite get here—to the museum?” With that question the students—as well as readers—are off and running on an adventure of astro-nomical proportions as the teacher begins: “Hundreds of mllions of miles from Earth, in deep, dark, cold outer space, there are vast fields of space debris flying around.” The smaller rocks are called meteors, and a meteor that falls to Earth is called a meteorite.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2013, courtesy of Blue Apple Books.

The teacher sets the scene: “Here in outer space is a meteor…flying around and around and around”—for over four billion years! Then for some unknown reason the meteor changed direction and entered “Earth’s atmosphere over the state of Kentucky.” With a Hissssss and a Crack! the zipping meteor alerts a sleeping dog, who begins to bark at it. The space rock, trailing a fiery tail, zooms over a burger stand in Virginia, attracting the attention of some late-night snackers.

In Pennsylvania, a few seconds later, a high school football game suddenly turns historic as the meteorite, hissing and crackling through the sky attracts the attention of video cameras throughout the stands. Yes, this is the same celestial body “which was spotted by the Virginians, and yelped at by the dog as it zipped toward the Earth.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2013, courtesy of Blue Apple Books.

With a Crash, Bang, Boom, the rock hurtles downward. “Here is the teenager, who had been watching late-night TV at her house in Peekskill, NY, when she heard a tremendous CRASSHHH! She has rushed outside and discovered a huge dent in the trunk of her car and a smoking ‘rock’ nearby.” Wanting to discover the culprit of this vandalism, the teenager calls the police who summon firefighters to cool down the “rock.”

After hosing down the ‘rock’ the firefighters “start to suspect that the rock may really be a meteorite.” A geologist is called from Columbia University to examine the rock. “He confirms that what smashed the car is, indeed, a meteorite, which was cooled by Firefighters, investigated by Police, found by the Teenager, gawked at by Sports fans, buzzed about by Virginians, and arfed at by a dog as it raced toward the Earth.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2013, courtesy of Blue Apple Books.

Next, the Curator of Meteorites from the Museum of Natural History in New York City visits the geologist, hoping to obtain this special specimen for the museum. Soon, a Cosmologist develops a program about the meteorite that she presents at a museum symposium, explaining how this 26-pound meteorite crossed over 400-500 miles in just 40 seconds and collided with a car—a-one-in-a-billion chance. The Museum of Natural History secures the meteorite for its collection, and the Exhibits Team designs the “lighting, signage, and diorama for their newest acquisition.”

Which brings us back to the Ross Hall of Meteorites at the museum and the complete story of “the Peekskill Meteorite, which was…barked at tby the Dog, witnessed by Virginians, filmed by Sports Fans, found by a Teenager, poked at by Police, sprayed with water by Firefighters, validated by the Geologist, obtained by the Curator of Meteorites, summed up by the Cosmologist, presented by the Exhibits Team, and explained by the Science Teacher who says: ‘…and that’s how the meteorite got to the museum.’”

An Author’s Note following the text explains more about meteors and introduces Dr. Mark Anders, the Geologist mentioned in the book. A photograph of the car hit by the meteorite offers fascinating viewing.

In her entertaining and informative telescoping text, Jessie Hartland reveals in easy-to-understand steps the people and actions involved in bringing together a museum exhibit for a meteorite. The repetition of the important characters in this true, history-making drama combined with Hartland’s deft command of a vast array of synonyms makes reading each page a joy. Suspense grows as each stage of the meteorite’s trajectory from space rock to “star” exhibit builds on the previous one, exciting kids not only for the tale of the meteorite, but also for the displays they see when visiting a museum.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, 2013, courtesy of Blue Apple Books.

Hartland’s folksy two-page spreads are a perfect match for the rhythmic text—both humorous and educational in their details. The meteor—zipping through the dark blue night sky dotted with stars, over a small town, above an out-of-the-way burger joint, and through the cheering sounds of a football game—leads readers on a page-turning chase until it crash lands on the bumper of the teenager’s car. Here, as the police write up their investigation on the left-hand page, the firetruck can be seen hurrying to the scene, siren blaring, on the right, even as raccoons and a cat take the opportunity of the distraction to make mischief.

Hartland’s depictions of the geologist’s office as well as the American Natural History Museum give readers a peek behind the scenes at the tools and displays used by scientists and museum workers. For kids who love museums, science, and fun wordplay, How the Meteor Got to the Museum is an absorbing addition to home bookshelves as well as school, classroom, and other libraries. Jessie Hartland’s other titles in this series—How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum and How the Sphynx Got to the Museum—are also highly recommended.

Ages 4 – 9

Blue Apple Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1609052522

Discover many more books by Jessie Hartland as well as other artwork on her website!

World Science Day for Peace and Development Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-astronomy-find-the-differences

Astronomy Buffs Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These kids are looking for stars and planets, but can you find the 15 differences between the two pictures in this printable Astronomy Buffs Puzzle?

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You can find How the Meteorite Got to the Museum at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

August 27 – International Bat Night

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About the Holiday

From the time that darkness falls on August 27 until the sun rises on August 28, people in more than 30 countries organize walks, talks, and all kinds of educational and fun activities related to bats and their conservation. Why not find an event in your neck of the woods—or cave—and celebrate this most unusual and beneficial animal!

Bats in the Band

By Brian Lies

 

Huddled together a colony of bats sleeps through the winter, but as the icy weather warms they stretch their wings and take flight to find food. As they swoop through the air chasing the echoes they hear, these animals that live by echolocation sense “that something’s not right. / And then when a bugle blast shatters the night, / that one lonely note tells us just what is wrong: / We’re hungry for sound—we’ve been silent too long.”

The bats swarm to a summertime theater now quiet and dark except for a small glow that invites  them inside. They enter the building—passing hawkers of T-shirts, posters, and hats—and set up the stage and the lights. Some bats have brought their own instruments while others improvise with the leftovers of last season’s concertgoers. “Behind the stage curtain, they’re getting in tune, / making up things out of straws, out of spoons.”

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Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

Finally, the conductor lifts his baton, and the concert begins. “We sing together as one voice. / It seems the very walls rejoice! / All together, rafters ringing… / it’s as though our souls are singing.”  Then the strings “change the mood to sweet and mellow” before a one-bat band takes over. “Next up, there’s a country song—/ some lonesome bat done someone wrong. / He’s  gone and broken someone’s heart. / Now everything has come apart.”

There’s even an entertainer for children far off in a corner where the pups can run and play. Now on stage a blues singer “cries of lonely days and empty skies” that make the bats cry. “It’s hard to figure—eyes get wetter, / …so how is it that we feel better?” There’s not much time for reflection though as a hard-rock band begins “blazing,” “pumping,” and “jumping.”

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Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

While everyone is dancing to the beat, the sun begins to rise signaling that it’s time for the bats to go. But in one last blast, all the musicians jam together. “The music soars. Finale’s here, the ending of the song. / It builds and builds—now here it comes! / It’s going…/ going…/ GONG!” With that last bang of the cymbal the bats, “worn out, wrung out, half asleep,” fly from the theater and out into the dawning day. In the air they discover the music in everything from “the roar of a car, or the bark of a pup—/ the sound of the rest of the world waking up.” As they fall into slumber up in their cozy rafters, the bats continue to sway unconsciously. “It’s not our intention, but you understand. / We’re dreaming of being the bats in the band.”

Brian Lies “Bat” books are well-known and well-loved. Bats in the Band continues the excellent storytelling and poetry of his other titles, this time to a rock-n’-roll beat. The idea of bats needing to hear sound after a long winter’s silence is brilliant, and these bats play almost as many different styles of music as there are species of bat. The rhyme scheme is true and musical, carrying the story well through its words and rhythm.

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Image copyright Brian Lies, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (hmhco.com)

Lies’ illustrations remain as clever as ever. The two-page spread of the bats choosing and tuning up their instruments is a joy. Bats make a xylophone from keys hanging on a peg board and two nails for mallets. Instead of a harp, a bat plucks the tines of a plastic comb, and a bendy straw serves as a fine wind instrument. The string section plays while hanging upside down (of course!). The pups’ entertainer will bring a smile to readers’ faces, and the blues singer performs under cool blue lights.

Kids and adults will love lingering over the detailed pages, where allusions to actual concert atmospheres abound. Look for the bats holding aloft lightning bugs in a tribute to a long-held tradition.

Bats in the Band is a rockin’ addition to Brian Lies collection and will be welcome on any child’s shelf—whether they are completing the set or just starting it!

Ages 4 – 8

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014 | ISBN 978-0544105690

Visit Brian Lies‘ website to learn more about him, view his many books, and see a gallery of his artwork.

International Bat Night Activity

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Spiraling Bats Word Search

 

Find the bat related words in this printable Spiraling Bats Word Search that dips and soars like the flight of a bat! Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

July 31 – Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

Today is the day to be musically experimental. Intriguing, inventive instruments that make a wide variety of sounds exist in every corner of the world. From Russia comes the contrabass balalaika, a triangular stringed instrument. The cimbalom, a concert hammered dulcimer, originated in Hungary. And only the Welsh could give us an instrument with no vowels: the crwth. Glass, water, and lightning are also used to make beautiful sounds, and the Holophonor—a musical instrument and hologram projector all in one—is perfect for Elvis sightings wherever he is! So, play a different instrument or research one, and read the inspiring story in today’s book!

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.

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Image copyright Sally Wern Comport, 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, 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, they 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, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

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

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, 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, and 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!

Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day Activity

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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 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 strips are dry, glue three side by side 3 inches from the top of the molding. Glue two more matches, 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

 

 

 

February 8 – Opera Day

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About the Holiday

Today celebrates a musical art form that began in the 1500s in Italy. An opera is a play that is entirely sung by the actors. Operas can be funny, romantic, or tragic. The actors must have amazing voices that can fill the whole opera house because they do not use microphones. The actors get to sing solos, called arias, that reveal their emotions about particular moments in the story. Because of its grand history in countries such as Italy, Germany, and France, operas are still more popular in Europe than in the U.S. In America we’re more familiar with musicals, like Frozen orAladdin, where some dialogue is spoken and songs tell more about the plot of the story than about the characters’ feelings. If you’d like to listen to a little bit of an opera for children, check out this video of parts of Little Red Riding Hood performed by the BCOpera.

Father’s Chinese Opera

By Rich Lo

 

Recalling personal experience, author-illustrator Rich Lo writes a unique tale set within the Chinese opera. Revolving around themes pertinent to life, the Chinese opera employs actors as well as acrobats and flag carriers who add action and meaning to the play.

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Copyright Rich Lo, 2014, courtesy of Sky Pony Press.

In Father’s Chinese Opera, the son of the band leader and composer for the Hong Kong opera watches the actors flip and somersault across the stage and dreams of joining them. He approaches Gai Chui, the best acrobat in the troupe and asks to be taught the martial arts. Gai Chui agrees and the little boy begins to learn the moves—Praying Mantis, Crouching Tiger, Striking Leopard, and more. The little boy practices hard and believes he is ready to join the other actors, but when he tells Gai Chui he is ready, the master acrobat laughs and tells him it’s not quite that easy.

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Copyright Rich Lo, 2014, courtesy of Sky Pony Press.

Dejected, the boy goes home. His father tells him about how hard he worked to become the leader of an opera troupe, and the boy takes the lesson to heart. The next day he goes back to the opera house and instead of watching the actors, he takes note of the flag carriers—the lowest position in the troupe. He asks if he can be a flag carrier, to which his father agrees—but only for the summer.

As a flag carrier, the boy makes new friends, becomes a better acrobat, and impresses Gai Chui, who tells him that with more practice he will be able to achieve his dreams.

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Copyright Rich Lo, 2014, courtesy of Sky Pony Press.

Rich Lo’s story is full of truths about hard work and the benefits of developing a deep understanding of all aspects of one’s skills. Children may find a conversation like this seemingly unfair, but Lo reveals that such teaching on the part of a parent or other adult is one of the ultimate demonstrations of love. 

Lo’s watercolor illustrations are vibrant and dreamy, perfectly reflecting the beauty and action of the Chinese opera that so captivates the story’s young narrator. His father and the orchestra, dressed in their conservative blue and tan suits and sitting at the corner of the stage, contrast starkly with the bold, riotous mosaic of the actors’ costumes and the swirling moves of the acrobats. It’s easy to see why the boy is attracted to this art. It is back home—where the colors once again become muted and quiet—however, that the boy learns his greatest lesson.

Sharing Father’s Chinese Opera with children is an excellent way to discuss the idea that while a talent may be inborn, practice and patience are also needed to see it come to its full fruition. The book would be a valuable addition to home, classroom, and library collecions.

Ages: 3 – 7

Sky Pony Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-1628736106

Opera Day Activity

CPB - Opera Day word search

Opera Word Search

 

Today’s activity is a Word Search puzzle loaded with words about the Chinese opera. Just print out the puzzle and start looking! The Solution is also included.

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You can find Father’s Chinese Opera at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound