November 6 – Marooned without a Compass Day

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About the Holiday

It may seem appropriate that the origins of this holiday are lost to history, like someone left to languish on a deserted island. But it’s true that—at some time or another—most of us feel marooned without a compass, flailing with decisions about what to do, who to confide in, even who we are. Today is an opportunity to reflect on the direction you are going in life and, if you find you are off course, to steer once more down the right path. It’s comforting to know that someone will be waiting for you when you reach home—wherever that may be.

In a Village by the Sea

Written by Muon Van | Illustrated by April Chu

 

High on a cliff a small house looks out over the sea, where fishermen are poling their craft and setting their nets. “In that house, high above the waves, is a kitchen.” In the kitchen a warm fire blazes under “a pot of steaming noodle soup.” A woman, preparing ingredients for dinner, watches, mixes, and stirs while the pot simmers.

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

“By that woman is a sleepy child, yawning and turning. By that child, tucked in the shadows, is a dusty hole.” If you peer into that hole, you will see something astounding—a brown cricket is “humming and painting.” The cricket, brushes in four hands is surrounded by paints contained in seashells. It is painting a “sudden storm, roaring and flashing.”

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

A white boat rides this roiling sea, rising and dipping with the crashing waves as lightning flashes ahead. Under the cover of the boat’s canvas roof a fisherman eyes the threatening sky and waits for the storm to end. In his hand he opens a precious box. Inside are two pictures: one of a small house high on a hill; the other of a smiling woman holding a little child while their dog looks on. Next to these sits a special cricket.

In the painting there is also a small house, and “in that house is a family waiting for [the fisherman] to come home.”

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

Muon Van’s lyrical tale expands and contracts through the eyes of family members to reveal not only the actions and emotions of one afternoon but those that eternally exist in each character’s heart. In the opening page readers view the small house from afar as the husband and father fisherman casts off on his journey. Children are then invited into the kitchen and finally into a small crevice.

Through the cricket’s tiny painting, readers once again see the wider world with its storms and worries. Narrowing the perspective to the fisherman’s view as he looks at his photo box, however, they understand that comfort and reassurance are always close at hand. As the next page zooms out, children are again invited into the little home to join the woman, baby, and vigilant dog as they gaze out into the bay, watching and waiting for one particular boat.

Van’s quiet and simple story holds much universal feeling as it traverses both homey and unpredictable landscapes. As each page depends on the previous one, a gentle suspense builds, enticing readers to follow wherever the story takes them. The inclusion of the “dusty hole,” where a cricket—a symbol of good luck—paints the rest of the story, is irresistible and lends the tale a mystical quality.

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Image copyright April Chu, courtesy of aprilchu.com

April Chu’s gorgeous paintings transport readers to a Vietnamese fishing village with their delicate and colorful details. The small home glows with the light of paper lanterns and the fire in the stove. As the perspective of the text changes, so does the perspective of Chu’s paintings. When readers peer into the soup pot, bubbling with delicious vegetables, the family’s Labrador gazes up at them, almost begging to know what smells so good. Another bird’s eye view lets kids watch as the dog discovers the hole under the rug, a beautiful device to increase their enjoyment of and wonderment at the story.

Kids will marvel at the cricket’s artistic talent, as the stormy sea churns with whitecaps and lightning flashes from the tip of the small creator’s paintbrush. But it is Chu’s mastery that makes each page so meaningful.

Ages 3 – 10

Creston Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1939547156

View a porfolio of picture books and other artwork by April Chu on her website!

Marooned without a Compass Day Activity

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Sailboat Maze

 

Sometimes getting through a maze is as smooth as sailing on a calm sea—and sometimes the path is a little choppy. Get your pencil ready and chart a path through this printable Sailboat Maze!

Picture Book Review

August 17 – Black Cat Appreciation Day

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About the Holiday

Because black cats have become associated with bad luck, they are more likely to end up in animal shelters and less likely to be adopted. Today’s holiday was established to raise awareness of this fact and assure people that black cats are just as loveable, cuddly, and purr-fect as other cats. If you’re thinking of adopting a new pet, why not consider a black cat like the subject of today’s book!

Splat the Cat and the Late Library Book

By Rob Scotton

 

Splat’s toy box and closet are overflowing with stuff Splat doesn’t use anymore. His mom suggests that they give some of it away to kids who need it more. While Splat likes the idea, he’s a little afraid to open his closet door, because whenever he does…SPLAT! Splat recovers from being covered, though, and separates his things into three piles: Trash, Keep, and Donate.

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Image copyright Rob Scotton, courtesy of HarperCollins

Splat has fun showing Seymour his mouse friend his old clothes and toys until he comes upon an old library book—a very old library book—a way, way overdue library book! Suddenly, Splat’s dad comes in to see how things are progressing. He thinks Splat is doing a great job and starts gathering up the clothes for the local shelter, the toys for the children’s hospital, and the books for the downtown library. “‘Not the library!’” Splat shouts. “‘Why not?’” asks his dad. “‘They’re having a book drive today to get more books. People don’t always return the ones they check out.’”

Poor Splat! His tail wiggles wildly as he imagines how ginormous the fine will be. Maybe he’ll be sent to jail. Or perhaps he’ll have to walk the plank. Splat grabs his piggy bank, hoping to find enough money for the fine, but only a thin quarter rolls from the slot. All too soon, the family is headed out to deliver their donations. At the shelter Splat tries to help carry in boxes, but maybe he’s too distracted because everything just goes SPLAT! Things go better at the hospital where the kids love getting all the new toys.

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Image copyright Rob Scotton, courtesy of HarperCollins

As his parents wheel the pile of books into the library, Splat tries to run the other way but his mom catches him by the tail. Inside Mrs. Sardino, the librarian, is very impressed with their donation. She rattles on and on about how hard it is to give away books and how many she has at her own house and…Splat can’t take it anymore. “‘I did it!’” he confesses. “‘My library book is WAY overdue. I didn’t mean to. I just loved the book so much I didn’t want to return it. And I loved it so much I hid it in my closet. And then I forgot that I’d hid it.’”

He’s ready to take his punishment when Mrs. Sardino interrupts him. “‘Um, Splat,’” she says. “‘It’s only a week overdue. You owe twenty-five cents.’” Splat reaches into his pocket and pulls out his quarter. “‘That’s okay,’” Mrs. Sardino tells him. “‘This time I think we can let it go. Besides, your generous donation more than makes up for it.’”

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Image copyright Rob Scotton, courtesy of HarperCollins

Fans of Splat the Cat will love this new adventure that addresses common concerns of kids who not only forget to return a library book but are remiss in any other number of required actions—homework, permission slips, housework, etc. Splat the Cat and the Late Library Book reveals that often the perceived infraction and it’s “punishment” far outweigh the reality. Relief from fear and worry is only a conversation away.

New readers will find that Splat is endearing, Seymour a faithful best friend, and his parents and other adults loving and understanding. They will want to explore the whole series. Each vividly colored page provides plenty of giggles as Splat contends with his overstuffed closet, tries on way-too-small clothes, envisions his prison and pirate punishments, tries to run away, and of course goes SPLAT in the process. The fast-paced action and comical scenarios make this a perfect read for story times or bedtime. Discovering this black cat is very good luck indeed!

Ages 3 – 8

Harper Festival, Harper Collins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062294296

Enter the world of Splat the Cat on Rob Scotton‘s website!

Black Cat Appreciation Day Activity

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Playful Cat Dot-to-Dot

 

Discover what the cat is doing in this printable Playful Cat Dot-to-Dot. Then color it!

Picture Book Review