January 2 – It’s National Sunday Supper Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nothing-wee-about-me-coverAbout the Holiday

Isabelle Lessing began the Sunday Supper Movement in 2012 after her oldest child left home to attend college and she realized that the time spent around the family table would be something she missed most. Isabelle reached out to other food bloggers to share their experiences and recipes, and the Sunday Supper Movement was born. If you’d like to revive this tradition, which was once a staple of family life, you’ll find recipes and ideas on the Sunday Supper website.

Nothing Wee About Me! A Magical Adventure

Written by Kim Chaffee | Illustrated by Laura Bobbiesi

 

It was time for Sunday Supper at Grandma’s again. Liesel ran past her brother and up the front walk into Grandma’s kitchen, where she began to search through the spoons, spatulas, and other baking utensils. Grandma held the large soup ladle aloft and asked, “‘Looking for this?’” When Liesel cheered, Grandma said, “‘Dear Liesel, you’re just like me when I was a wee girl.’” But Liesel let her know that there was nothing wee about her.

Grandma warned Liesel that the old ladle didn’t work quite as well as it used to and made her promise to “be back in time for Sunday soup.’” Liesel raised the ladle above her head and made a wish. Immediately, she was in a little submarine, her ladle-scope trained on an island where a rumbling volcano threatened the pretty castle and the villagers. Liesel hurried toward the island to warn its inhabitants.

When she landed on shore, she was met by a lion pirate who took in her wee size and sneered while informing her that the island belonged to him. In turn, she informed him that the volcano was about to blow and—in her loudest voice—that “‘THERE’S NOTHING WEE ABOUT ME!’” Then she brandished her “ladle-hook” hand at him and sent him running. Then she rushed through the town announcing the danger through her ladle-megaphone.

She came to the castle and knocked loudly on the door. But then she spied, crouched over the tallest tower and with its wings outstretched, a fire-breathing dragon who was keeping the prince prisoner. The dragon was not afraid of such a “wee girl,” but Liesel swung her “ladle-sword” at the dragon and ordered it to let the prince go. Surprised by Liesel’s bravery, the dragon relented.

But were they too late to get to the rescue boat? Lava was already streaming from the volcano as the earth shook. Once more, Liesel raised the ladle and made a wish. Immediately, Liesel found herself holding a stick with a marshmallow attached. She told the ladle that the volcano was “‘not a campfire’” and that this was “‘no time for s’mores.’” The prince, thought a snack sounded good, though.

Liesel made another wish and found herself holding a plunger; another wish presented her with a golf club. Liesel had to admit that Grandma had been right about the ladle being broken, but she tried one more time. When she opened her eyes, she was holding a fishing pole. The prince couldn’t see how that would help, but Liesel knew just what to do. She sent her line flying, “hooked the largest coconut she could find,” and…saved the day.

While Liesel wished she and the prince could stay on the island, she knew Grandma was waiting. At dinner, Liesel slurped up her whole bowl of soup and asked for another. As Grandma ladled up another serving of Sunday soup, she remarked that she’d never seen Liesel eat so much. “‘That must have been some adventure today!’” she said and then worried that perhaps it had been too dangerous. But Liesel reassured her grandma that there was “‘Nothing this WEE girl couldn’t handle.’”

Kim Chaffee’s enchanting and action-packed story is a celebration of imagination and the way that simple toys or objects can spark children to discover their own creativity. With evocative verbs, suspenseful encounters, rich dialog, and a sprinkling of humor, Chaffee creates a charming page-turner that’s sure to thrill readers. Kid-power, girl-power, and themes of family and tradition as well as a sweet and loving intergenerational relationship between the children and their grandmother make this a multi-layered story that kids will love. Liesel’s mantra “There’s nothing wee about me” is sure to become a rallying cry for readers.

Laura Bobbiesi’s watercolor and ink illustrations are filled with captivating details that revel in the joys of simpler times and hint at some of the adventures to come. As Liesel and her brother run to meet Grandma, Liesel wears a paper hat while her brother sports the gold crown and red cape of a prince, and the seagull that greets their little dinghy wears an eyepatch. The plump submarine, golden-maned pirate, and rainbow-scaled dragon are whimsical while highlighting the ingenuity of young minds at play. Subtle hints incorporated in the text and accompanying images may spur some readers to join in on the adventure and guess how Liesel will solve the problem of the volcano.

An inventive story with lots of heart, Nothing Wee About Me! A Magical Adventure would make a fun addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for story times that stir children’s imaginations.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146923

Discover more about Kim Chaffee and her books on her website.

To learn more about Laura Bobbiesi and see a portfolio of her work visit her website.

National Sunday Supper Month Activity

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Souper Maze!

 

Soup makes a souper meal for Sunday Suppers, but you can’t eat it without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable maze?

Souper Maze Puzzle | Souper Maze Solution

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You can find Nothing Wee About Me! A Magical Adventure at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 26 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to gather together and share their stories, Oral storytelling has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever. The stories your children will be telling start now in the everyday and special moments they share with others.

The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope

Written by Danielle Davison | Illustrated by Anne Lambelet

 

Whenever Liam’s father came home from the sea, he told his son wonderous tales of “the faraway places he’d been and the curious things he’d seen.” Someday, Liam thought, he would join his father and have his own tales to tell, but for now he enjoyed sharing his father’s stories with others. One day, though, Liam’s father didn’t return. “Liam thought of the stories he hadn’t heard, the ones he’d never hear again, and the adventures they would never take.” He didn’t feel like telling his father’s stories any more.

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Even though Liam knew his father wouldn’t return, he spent his days at the harbor in the company of the sailors there who told their stories; but none were as good as his father’s had been. One day, a very old man appeared on the dock. His name was Enzo, but the sailors called him “‘the Traveler.’” Liam had never seen anyone like him before. He talked of wonderous voyages, and as he did his beard grew and grew, “until each story he told wove from his face like a tapestry.”

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

People traveled from all over to see the Traveler and his beard. Many thought it was strange or odd, but Liam thought it was perfect. One day, just before the Traveler was about to set off on what he said was his last voyage, he announced that he was looking for a “worthy companion” whom he could pass his gift on to. Many people on the dock raised their hand and Liam did too, although he didn’t think the Traveler would pick him. The Traveler did choose him, though, and before he knew it, Liam was setting sail. “‘I feel like my heart might burst from my chest!’ said Liam.”

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

The Traveler taught Liam how to truly observe and listen to the world around him. They traveled to places not on any map and saw many unusual creatures. “But after many suns had set, Enzo’s soul grew weary.” As Liam sat with him, Enzo told him he’d like to give him a gift. Enzo asked Liam to close his eyes and tell him a story. After giving it some thought, Liam talked about his father, about his friend, and about all of their adventures. “Liam’s words wove splendid pictures, the way his father’s once had.”

As he talked, the magic of storytelling came back to him, and the Traveler bestowed his gift. Liam’s hair grew and grew, unfolding like a tapestry.

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Danielle Davison’s mystical ode to storytelling and life relived and revived through words unwinds with the wonder of traditional tales tinted with the curiosity and imagination of children. While Liam misses his father and the adventures he thought they would have together, he is also open to new experiences and friendships—a quality that allows him to restore the future he had for himself.

Anne Lambelet’s rich and unique illustrations, appearing as if they have been hewn from wood, convey all of the mystery and wonder of the story. Through colorful ribbons teeming with ships, pirates, unicorns, mountains, trees, castles, cities, marvelous creatures, and more, Lambelet connects the gift of storytelling that Liam’s father, the Traveler, and, finally, Liam possess. The color fades to gray as Liam learns of his father’s loss, but even here, his sadness is diffused by just the hint of sun or the glimmer of candlelight. Lambelet’s use of color and black-and-white imagery also reveals Liam’s growth.

Lambelet’s ocean and dockside illustrations are gorgeous and extend to the front and end endpapers that each tell a part of Liam’s life. Lambelet’s lush color palette adds beauty to each page, and the people and objects that appear in the stories by Liam’s father, the Traveler, and Liam will keep readers lingering over the pages to what they are, where they come from, and how they are connected.

A book for thoughtful story times that celebrates the regenerative and enlivening power of imagination and keeping one’s heart open, The Traveler’s Gift would be a distinctive addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624147654

To learn more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Family Stories Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-heart-framed-drawing-page

I Love My Family! Portrait

 

What is one of your favorite family stories? Use this printable heart-framed I Love My Family! Page to write or draw about that story!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-traveler's-gift-cover

You can find The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 19 – World Photography Day

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About the Holiday

Photography is all about providing information through images. A picture really can be worth a thousand words in capturing a moment of surprise, joy, danger, or sadness. Well-placed photographers, videographers, and cinematographers have given voice to some of society’s pivotal moments, allowing the whole world to witness change, sometimes as it happens. Today we celebrate the “art, craft, science, and history of photography,” as well as those photographers who often put themselves in danger to get the story as well as those who bring us much-needed lighter moments. To learn more visit the World Photography Day website.

Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid

By Adrienne Wright

This powerfully emotional book opens with a recollection by Sam Nzima, the photojournalist who captured this pivotal event and a brief history of South Africa and the segregation and governmental restrictions that led up to the protest in 1976 which resulted in Hector Zolile Pieterson’s death. The compelling story, illustrated in graphic novel style, is broken up into three “chapters.”

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Copyright Adrienne Wright, 2019, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

The first introduces Hector, a twelve-year-old boy who loved playing soccer, watching movies, and visiting family. After his normal weekend chores, Hector would run errands for his neighbors to make a little money. Hector was happy, but things were changing at his school. The government had passed a law that instead of the international language English, black students must be taught half of their subjects in Afrikaans, a language derived from Dutch and spoken by descendants of the early Dutch settlers. This “added hardship to students and teachers in an already oppressive education system.” As he counted the money he’d made, his mother reminds him to count in Afrikaans, since that is what will be required in school.

On June 14, 1976 Hector visited his granny Mma. When he left, she gave him some money for his mother. On the way home, he was waylaid by men trying to steal the money. Hector was able to escape with the money and decides not to worry his Mma by telling her. On June 16, Hector heads off to school, but when he gets there, he sees the students “chanting and singing” as they all march toward Orlando Stadium to protest the new Afrikaans law. “More students join in, and soon hundreds, then thousands of people are marching. Hector is swept up in the excited activity of the growing crowd.”

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Copyright Adrienne Wright, 2019, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Ahead on the road the protesters see the police and a blockade. The students begin marching down another street. They wave signs and sing the “government-banned anthem, ‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica’—’God Bless Africa.’” The police confront the students, blowing their whistles, shouting, and throwing tear gas. Suddenly, Hector hears his sister, Antoinette’s voice warning him to run home. Shots ring out.

The second chapter introduces Antoinette, who on June 16 is leaving for school from Granny Mma’s house. She knows about the planned protest but says nothing to Granny Mma. She joins the crowd waving signs and chanting. Then “POW! Tear gas explodes in the air. Students scatter in all directions,” and Antoinette sees Hector. As they run for cover, they become separated. Shots ring out all around them. When the smoke dissipates, Antoinette sees a teenager running towards a car with a boy in his arms. “She can’t see the child’s face, but when she sees his shoe…”

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Copyright Adrienne Wright, 2019, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Chapter three takes readers behind the lens of Sam Nzima’s camera. On assignment for The World newspaper, Sam is documenting the protest through his photographs. “The protest begins. / The students march. / Sam snaps photos…. / The police barricades go up. / The children sing. / Sam snaps photos. / The police shoot! / Sam snaps.”

The police see Sam taking pictures and confiscate his film. But Sam has hidden the most important roll in his sock. “His picture of Hector, Antoinette, and another student runs on the front page of the newspaper.” At Granny Mma’s house, Hector’s family grieves his loss; around the world “Hector lives on as a compelling symbol of the cost of apartheid and the change sparked by students that day.”

The final spread shows the black-and-white photograph of Mbuyisa Makhubu carrying Hector with Antoinette running alongside. Back matter includes a short discussion that expands on the events of June 16, 1976 and the years that followed in the fight against Apartheid. An Author’s Note; short biographies of Hector, Antoinette, Sam Nzima, and Mbuyisa Makhubu; and a glossary also follow the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Hector-help

Copyright Adrienne Wright, 2019, courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Adrienne Wright’s gripping storytelling and evocative illustrations go hand-in-hand to present a full portrait of young Hector, his life, his sweet nature, and his dreams. His family’s close bonds and their concern for each other is evident in the dialog that accompanies images of Hector playing, helping Mma and Granny Mma, running errands, and interacting with his sisters. As June 16 dawns, Wright sketches a normal day, with Hector joking with his mother at home and his friend on the way to school.

As it did for Hector, the protest comes as a surprise for readers, sweeping them up into the action just as Hector was. Antoinette’s chapter is the shortest but gripping in its pacing that mirrors the turmoil of the day and her tragedy. As readers enter Sam’s viewpoint, they see, blocked off in vertical and horizontal frames, the pictures of celebrating and happy, yet serious students marching to make a difference. The moment of the shot is seen through Sam’s lens and clouded in smoke.

Wright’s use of overlapping storylines as she transitions from Hector’s account to Antoinette’s and then to Sam’s adds to the tension, drawing readers in and reinforcing their understanding of the atmosphere and what the students were protesting. The final, nearly full-page reproduction of the actual photograph is an unflinching look at the reality of that day, what it stands for, and its personal cost.

A profound narrative for teaching children about South African history, the costs of discrimination, and the personal stories involved in any conflict, Hector is an important book to add to school and public library collections.

Ages: The book is targeted for children from eight to twelve, but adults should be mindful of the maturity and sensitivity of readers. Hector would also be a compelling inclusion in middle school and even early high school social studies and history classes.

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146916

To learn more about Adrienne Wright and her work, visit her website.

World Photography Day Activity

CPB - New Professionals Picture

News Professionals Clothespin Figures

 

Photojournalists and journalists cover the news and sometimes put themselves in danger to bring readers true stories of events happening around the world. With this craft, you can make these clothespin figures that honor the men and women who work to keep us all informed.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Draw a face and hair on the clothespin
  2. Cut out the clothes you want your journalist or photographer to wear
  3. Wrap the clothes around the clothespin. The slit in the clothespin should be on the side.
  4. Tape the clothes together
  5. Cut out the camera
  6. Tape one end of a short length of thread to the right top corner of the camera and the other end of the thread to the left corner. Now you can hang the camera around the figure’s neck.

Idea for displaying the figures

  • Attach a wire or string to the wall and pin the figure to it
  • Pin it to your bulletin board or on the rim of a desk organizer

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Hector-cover

You can find Hector: A Boy, a Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 11 – All American Pet Photo Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday probably needs no special promotion since the purpose of the day—sharing pictures of our singular pets with others—is something all of us pet owners do every day. Our pets are just so cute and funny and clever. Like just this morning, my cat… but I digress. To celebrate today, capture your pet doing something extraordinary—or ordinary, it doesn’t really matter—and share them for your family, friends, and the world to see!

Dogs and their People

By Anne Lambelet

 

When the day is fine, a girl likes “to take the long way home from school” and watch people and their dogs. Some people have both babies and puppies, while others share their advanced age with their loyal hound. “Some dogs and their people look alike, and others could not be more different, but however they look, each person “seems to have found their perfect match.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dogs-and-their-people-school

Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

Take Cordelia Vanderlay, the painter, and her dog Fluffernutter Vanderlay, who loves to make prints of her paws. Or Jennette and Lisette, who are twins, but very different. While Jennette likes to wear sleek black attire, her sister loves things that are frilly. And their dogs—a smooth dark greyhound and a fluffy, groomed standard poodle—are perfect mirrors of their owners. And of course there’s “Lord Banberry and his schnauzer, O’Grady,” who both sport the same impressive, well-trimmed, downturned mustachios.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dogs-and-their-people-park

Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

A young hot-dog lover, accompanied by his wiener-dog dachshund, buys an after-school treat from Freddie McDarrow and his smiling pup. Yes, “watching dogs and their people is fun,” the girl says, “because I can always tell they are best friends.” But she’s always happiest to come home to her best friend…can you guess who?

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Copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, courtesy of annelambelet.com.

Anne Lambelet’s story charms as she introduces dog-and-owner pairs who look alike, act alike, or are polar opposites but still besties. As author and illustrator, Lambelet perfectly melds the joy of people- and pet-watching with a Victorian elegance that sets her story in an enchanting universe. Readers will get a kick out of Lambelet’s flowery names—both human and pet—that add to the ambience and seem as perfect as the friendships.

Lambelet’s unique mixed-media style of illustration, which highlights each owner and their dog—often with simple props surrounded by airy white space, but also in several two-page spreads that give kids a glimpse into the girl’s city—brings texture, interesting perspectives, and movement to the pages. Her lovely, muted color palette is as refreshing as the glow of autumn, and her fashionable city dwellers and their equally well-turned-out pooches could easily have just stepped out of a fashion magazine. Lambelet’s surprise ending will delight readers and gives the other side a sweet, heart-felt nod.

A jaunty trip through the joys of pet-and-people friendships, Dogs and their People will be a much-asked-for favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves and would be a fun spark for or take along on a people- and pet-watching walk.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146893

Discover more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art on her website.

All American Pet Photo Day Activity

CPB - Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

 

Each of the puppies has a friend. Can you match them up based on one trait? There may be multiple right answers! Why do you think the dogs you chose go together in this printable puzzle?

Peppy Puppies Match Up Puzzle

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You can find Dogs and Their People at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

June 20 – International Tennis Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2014 and sponsored by the U.S. Court Tennis Preservation Foundation with support from world-wide national tennis governing bodies and associations, today’s holiday aims at raising interest in the game of tennis. One goal of the day’s celebrations is to have simultaneous matches, tournaments, and exhibitions at tennis clubs, schools, universities around the world. Those who participate are encouraged to upload images to social media with the hashtag #itennisday. Why was June 20 chosen for this holiday? It commemorates the Tennis Court Oath of June 20, 1789, on which date nearly 600 people packed a tennis court near the Palace of Versailles during the French Revolution in a show of hope and solidarity. A painting of the event by Jacques-Louis David honors this pivotal protest. To celebrate, grab a racquet and head to a court near you. You’ll also want to gear up for the summer’s tennis tournament season.

Serena: The Littlest Sister

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Monica Ahanonu

 

On that day when “Serena stood in Arthur Ashe Stadium and kissed the trophy,” her fans, sisters, and parents cheered. How had that day come about? It started thirteen years earlier when Serena, then four years old, joined her older sisters on the tennis court where their dad coached them. As he showed Serena how to swing, her sisters celebrated when she hit one and ran after the ones she didn’t. Mostly, the equipment they used was old and donated. Sometimes the balls had even lost their bounce, but “their father explained that it was good practice for Wimbledon—a Grand Slam tournament where the balls bounced lower because the tennis court was made of grass.”

When they weren’t on a real tennis court, the girls played a pretend game of tennis on the sidewalk. Serena loved when she won these games “because, well, Serena loved being the star.” As they grew, their father never allowed them “to use the word can’t.” Their mom told them, “‘Whatever you become, you become in your head first.’ So the girls dreamed of what they could become.” While the other sisters became a nurse, a lawyer, and a singer, Venus and Serena became top tennis players.

Venus was taking the tennis world by storm with her hard hitting, speed, and 100-miles-per-hour serve. Serena wanted to play in tournaments too, but her father said she wasn’t ready. But one day, Serena noticed an application for a tournament Venus was playing in. Serena filled it out and sent it in. At the tournament, Serena snuck off to play on one court while her parents watched Venus on another. Serena ran her opponent ragged and won the match.

Serena thought her father might be angry, but instead he was proud and began teaching her how to play against her next opponent. “Serena won all her matches, moving up and up until…she faced her big sister in the final match.” During the match, Serena asked Venus to let her win one game, but Venus ignored her plea. Later at home, though, Venus traded her gold trophy for Serena’s silver one. “Serena cherished that trophy.” Serena idolized Venus and did everything she did until her father reminded her that she was her own person. Some people didn’t think Serena would have the success Venus did, but her oldest sister told her, “‘You’ll have your day. And it’s gonna be even bigger.’”

After several years of winning, Serena, Venus, and her family moved to Florida for training. On those courts the girls stood out for their skin color, their beaded braids—and “their powerful strokes.” When Venus was fourteen, she was allowed to enter professional tournaments. She won her first match. When Serena turned pro, she didn’t win. The two teamed up as doubles partners, and by the time she was sixteen, Serena had grown in both height and confidence. She had her own style of play too.

The sisters continued to play as a doubles team, and in 1999 they won the French Open Doubles competition. Venus was eighteen and Serena was seventeen. That same year, the sisters entered the US Open, the tournament Serena had long dreamed of winning. Surprisingly, Venus was knocked out early, but Serena kept winning her matches. In the finals she met the player who had beaten Venus. Serena served eight aces and “her fierce forehand earned her point after point.” Serena won the match and became “the first black woman to win a Grand Slam singles tournament in more than forty years.” At the awards ceremony, Serena thanked her dad, her mom, and her sisters for all of their support. The crowd cheered as cameras flashed. “And one of the many headlines of the day read, Little Sister, BIG HIT!”

An Afterword highlights other victories Serena and Venus have enjoyed during their careers, follow-ups on their sisters, and quotations from each of the five sisters.

Karlin Gray’s masterful biography of Serena Williams shows young readers the determination, confidence, and strong familial bond that followed Serena through her life and made her one of tennis’s most influential women players. The family’s remarkable life and focus on what one can achieve will inspire all kids, no matter what their dream is. Choosing seminal events in Serena’s and Venus’s life, Gray follows Serena’s reputation on the court as she loses and wins matches, building suspense until that day when she accomplishes her goal and wins the US Open. Her inclusion of articles and comments that cast doubt on Serena’s future success, demonstrates that even the greats face opposition and naysaying, and Serena’s sister’s advice to ignore it is sound.

Monica Ahanonu’s textured, collage-style illustrations leap off the page with vibrant images full of action and the girls’ personalities. As the girls race onto a court for practice, their eager expressions show their love of the game and being together. Even as a four-year-old Serena has the steely eyed gaze of a champion as she watches the bouncing ball and lines up for her swing. Ahanonu’s use of various perspectives and shadowing create dynamic scenes on the court, and tennis lovers will be thrilled at the many illustrations of Venus and Serena playing their sport. The bond between the sisters is evident in images of Serena interacting with one or more of her sisters. Those who remember Serena’s win at the 1999 US Open will recognize her joyous win.

Perfectly aimed at young readers who are the same age as Serena and Venus when they began developing their skills and sport, Serena: The Littlest Sister is an inspirational biography of a present-day role model that is sure to spark an “I can” attitude. Adults who have followed the Williams sisters’ rise to tennis stardom will be equally enthralled with this beautiful biography. The book would make a stirring addition to home, classroom, and library collections.

Ages 8 – 11

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146947

Discover more about Karlin Gray and her books on her website.

To learn more about Monica Ahanonu and her work, visit her website.

International Tennis Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tennis-word-search-puzzle

Tennis Love Word Search Puzzle

 

If you’re a tennis ace, you’ll enjoy finding the tennis-related words in this printable word search puzzle.

Tennis Love Word Search Puzzle | Tennis Love Word Search Solution

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You can find Serena: The Littlest Sister at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

May 16 – National Love a Tree Day

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About the Holiday

Trees are some of the most majestic, surprising, and giving things on Earth. The glorious beauties that make up our forests provide shelter, shade, and food to countless birds and animals and fruit trees around the world provide nutrition all year long. Trees’ root systems hold soil in place, and their leafy branches work as wind breaks on flat prairie land. The foliage of trees and plants provide us with oxygen and clean our air. Today, we celebrate all of these benefits and more. To participate, consider planting a tree in your own yard or contributing to an organization dedicated to protecting our forestland.

Oliver, The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth

Written by Josh Crute | Illustrated by John Taesoo Kim

 

Sherman towers over all the other trees in the forest. In fact, “he is the largest living thing on Earth, and, boy does he know it.” A sign at the base of his trunk even proves it. People from all over the world come to see him, take pictures, stretch their arms around a tiiiny part of him, and even eat their lunch nestled next to his roots.

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Image copyright John Taesoo Kim, 2019, text copyright Josh Crute, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

There’s another tall tree in the forest—Oliver. “He is the second-largest living thing on Earth, but there isn’t a sign for that.” Visitors to the forest hardly give him the time of day, and even though he’s 268.1 feet tall, “he often feels invisible.” One day, he decides he was going to change the dynamics. All year long, he worked on growing bigger—and he did. Unfortunately, Sherman had also grown.

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Image copyright John Taesoo Kim, 2019, text copyright Josh Crute, 2019. Courtesy of johntaesookim.com.

“Oliver wilted.” And while he was bent over, he noticed Agnes. Agnes “is the third-largest living thing on Earth” and stands 240.9 feet tall. But she wasn’t all Oliver saw. There was also Gertrude, Peter, Guadalupe, and Lars—all in descending order. “Oliver waved shyly.” Suddenly, Oliver had a change in perspective. Now, he stands proud and happy because he realizes “he is part of something larger”— the Sequoia National Forest.

Back matter reveals that even General Sherman isn’t the largest living thing on Earth—that distinction goes to the Humongous Fungus in Oregon. It also includes a discussion about sequoias as well as several other first- and second-largest things on Earth.

Image copyright John Taesoo Kim, 2019, text copyright Josh Crute, 2019. Courtesy of johntaesookim.com.

Image copyright John Taesoo Kim, 2019, text copyright Josh Crute, 2019. Courtesy of johntaesookim.com.

In his spare, but compelling story, Josh Crute reveals a truth that often gets overlooked in the competitive nature of the world today: no matter how hard one works to be the best, the biggest, or the most renowned, there is usually someone or an up-and-comer who can or will best them. Crute ingeniously uses the example of the Sequoia National Forest to show readers that true happiness comes from doing their best, being true to themselves, and recognizing that they are an important part of something bigger, which might include their group of friends, their class, a team, an organization, and definitely their family and the world at large.

John Taesoo Kim’s anthropomorphic trees include the actual General Sherman Sequoia, here with a muscular-looking trunk and sporting a leafy hairdo and beard along with bushy hands and several offshoots. Images of people with arms outstretched and sitting at the base of Sherman will impress kids with this tree’s grandeur. Oliver, with striking foliage of his own, appears thinner even though he too towers over the other trees. His work-out routine shows results, encouraging children to develop their own talents and personal style. When Oliver notices all the other tall trees in the forest, this confident crew—made up of all different sizes and personalities—shows him that they all have their place and role in the forest.

A straightforward and reassuring look at how readers can consider their place in the world, Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624145773

To learn more about John Taesoo Kim, his art, and his animation, visit his website.

National Love a Tree Day Activity

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Paper Plate Tree

 

On Earth Day children love planting trees in their yard or as part of a community project. With this easy craft, they can also plant a tree on their wall or bulletin board.

Supplies

  • Two paper plates 
  • Paper towel tube
  • Brown craft paint
  • Green craft paint (using a variety of green paints adds interest)
  • Paintbrush, cork, or cut carrot can be used to apply paint
  • Glue or hot glue gun or stapler

Directions

  1. Paint the paper towel tube brown, let dry
  2. Paint the bottoms of the two paper plates with the green (or other color) paints, let dry
  3. Flatten about 4 inches of the paper towel tube 
  4. Glue or tape the flat part of the paper towel tube to the unpainted side of one paper plate
  5. Glue the edges of the two paper plates together, let dry.
  6. Straighten the tree so that it can stand up, or hang your tree on a wall, bulletin board, in a window

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You can find Oliver: The Second-Largest Living Thing on Earth at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 30 – It’s Jazz Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

Jazz Appreciation Month got its start at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001. The aim was to celebrate and educate people on the history of and continuing love for jazz. The holiday encourages people of all ages to become familiar with jazz music and the musicians of the past who created this original sound and those today who keep innovating jazz for new audiences. This year’s theme is “jazz beyond borders” and looks at the “dynamic ways jazz can unite people across the culture and geography.” In connection with this initiative, the Smithsonian Masterworks Orchestra will travel to cities in North America, Europe, and Asia as a way to use music to open dialogue about “diversity, identity, diplomacy, and innovation.” To celebrate jazz not only this month but anytime, attend a concert, listen to recordings, and read up on your favorite musicians or a new one. And don’t forget to share your love of jazz with your kids! A great place to start is with today’s book!

Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Written by Kathleen Cornell Berman | Illustrated by Keith Henry Brown

 

As a child, Miles Davis listens to the radio before school, clapping and swaying along to “Louis Armstrong’s soaring trumpet” and “Duke Ellington’s sensational big band.” The “swinging sounds of jazz / swirl together like / colors on a pinwheel.” When he’s older, Miles watches the riverboats on the Mississippi as they bring musicians from New Orleans to play in the East St. Louis clubs. At night he listens as “melodies drift down the street. / Some croon country, / some cry the blues. / Sassy saxophones wail / through the night.”

During the summer, Miles visits his grandfather’s farm in Arkansas. Here, he hears the music of horses’ hooves. On his walks through town, he listens to the sounds of guitars and singing, and at church he learns the notes of “soulful singing.” For his thirteenth birthday, Miles receives a trumpet. He takes lessons and practices again and again.

While he’s still in high school, Miles begins being paid to play at dance halls. His confidence grows and he begins to develop his own sound. A new form of jazz is attracting attention—Bebop: “far-out harmonies / with fast, flipping beats / that hop and bop.” He goes to clubsto listen to Charlie “Bird” Parker and Dizzy Gillespie play. He’s “blown away / by the energy of the music.”

Then one night, one of the band members doesn’t show up, and Miles—who always has his trumpet with him—is asked to fill the spot. In awe and a little intimidated in the presence of his idols, Miles’ playing “doesn’t shine.” But he knows that “jazz / is all he wants to play.” Miles moves to New York to go to school at Juilliard, but, really, to learn from Bird, Dizzy, and all of his idols. In the morning he goes to class, practicing between classes. At night he plays clubs throughout the city.

Soon, he leaves Juilliard to concentrate on playing and learning from the greats. His father advises him: “Don’t be like the mockingbird / that copies others. / Be your own man. / Be your own sound.” When Dizzy leaves Bird’s band, Miles takes his place. But he plays differently than Dizzy. “Some listeners put him down— / they want Dizzy’s rippling trumpet.” The criticism make Miles lose confidence and want to quit. But Bird encourages him.

With practice and patience, he discovers his own sound, holding and savoring perfect notes “just for the beauty of it.” He forms his own group with talented musicians who want to create new sounds. The nine musicians play “slowly and mysteriously…. Cool— / relaxed, / with a lighter, / lyrical feel.” Mile’s solos enchant audiences.

But the endless work takes its toll. He begins to lose gigs; his health declines. Miles doesn’t give up. “He climbs out / of his dark days / by playing his horn again.” Then in 1955 he takes the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival and begins to play. “…His mystical voice hangs / like a cloud, / leaving space / for each listener’s / imagination to wander.” The crowd cheers and applauds. Miles is back with his unmistakable sound and new ideas for the future of the music he loves.

Notes about Miles Davis from Wynton Marsalis, Kathleen Cornell Berman, and Keith Henry Brown as well as a selected discography and bibliography follow the text.

Kathleen Cornell Berman’s lyrical passages reveal a boy, a teenager, and a man who embodied music, listening to and absorbing the various sounds around him and incorporating them into his own, unique sound. Her evocative vocabulary (swirl, rollicking, croon, rumbling, far-out, rippling, blizzard of notes, itching to play) and phrasing that blends short staccato lines with longer sentences echoes the rhythm of jazz and will keep readers riveted to the story. Berman emphasizes the listening, practice, and experimentation that informed Miles Davis’s original sound, showing children that innovation is built on hard work, dedication, and even history. Her inclusion of Davis’s setbacks also demonstrates that perseverance is part of the success of any endeavor.

Keith Henry Brown’s gorgeous, detailed pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations take readers from Miles Davis’s living room, where he listens to the radio as images of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington swirl through his imagination, to an overlook on the Mississippi River and its paddlewheel steam ships to the clubs and jam sessions of New York and finally, to the Newport Jazz Festival. Brown’s color palette of cool blues, greens, purples, and browns, punctuated with Davis’s ever-present gleaming brass trumpet, brings Davis’s country and city experiences to life while mirroring the tone and feel of his unique sound. Quotes from Miles Davis are sprinkled throughout the story and set apart with type that looks handwritten, giving his words a personal touch.

Sure to inspire readers to learn more about Miles Davis and listen to his music, Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound would be an excellent accompaniment to school music programs, an inspiring book for biography lovers and young musicians of all types, and a beautiful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 8 – 12

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146909

Discover more about Kathleen Cornell Berman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Keith Henry Brown, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Meet Kathleen Cornell Berman

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In your author’s bio you say that you fell in love with Mile’s Davis’ music when you were 10 years old. Was there a particular spark that made you love his music?

As a kid I loved all kinds of music. When I first heard Miles’ trumpet sound, I fell in love. His trumpet sound was different. It wasn’t flashy, it was slow, haunting and very beautiful. I longed to hear it again.

Can you take readers on your journey of writing Birth of the Cool and having it published? What kind of research did you do? What was the most surprising thing you learned about Miles Davis?

I was thrilled when I got the email from Charlotte Wenger from Page Street. It’s beyond exciting when you find someone who loves your story as much as you do. And Charlotte was a dream editor to work with.

I read Miles’ autobiography and many other books about him, as well as journal and magazine articles. I listened to countless interviews and researched players in his band. And I listened to his music a lot. He went through many changes in his musical career. I realized I had to keep my focus on his early career. 

I was surprised to learn he had slave ancestors who played music in the main house on a plantation. It was interesting to discover that Miles loved rural life (from his visits to his relatives’ farms). When he first moved to NYC, he visited the stables and asked to ride their horses. He had fond memories of riding them on his grandfather’s farm.

Keith Henry Brown’s pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are gorgeous and full of expression. Can you talk about your reaction to seeing the illustrations for the first time. Do you have a favorite spread?  

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Kathleen Cornell Berman and Keith Henry Brown at the book launch for Birth of the Cool and the Jazz Gallery in New York City.

My first reaction to Keith’s illustrations was like an “out of the body” experience. To see my words come to life was a wonderful feeling. His art illuminated Miles’ journey in a jazz inspired way. I was very happy when he accepted the job. I already knew he was a jazz fan, so he was a good choice.

Keith’s goal was to create drawings that weren’t too tight or realistic. He wanted to create a loose, abstract feeling. I think Keith achieved that beautifully. Kudos to his courage in creating illustrations in watercolor, a very unpredictable medium. It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite illustration, I really love them all.

Your inspirational biography highlights the ups—and downs—of Miles Davis’ early career. What message would you like readers to take away from the story?

Miles is a great example of how hard work pays off. Some kids today think it’s easy to play an instrument. For some it might be, but inventing your own sound, is extremely difficult. It takes perseverance and dedication to create your own voice on the instrument. That goes for anything you attempt, whether you become an architect, a visual artist, writer, or a singer. Unfortunately, many jobs don’t allow individuality, but finding something, anything that you’re good at can boost happiness.

I hope this story inspires kids to reach for the stars, to find their own voice, and never give up. I also hope kids will take time to listen to jazz; it’s America’s classical music. Listening to music has so many benefits, intellectually as well as emotionally.

I saw on your website that you like to collect words. Can you tell me five of your favorites and what you love about them? Do you remember where they first caught your eye—or ear?

I’m usually attracted to words that tickle the tongue and have a unique sound, like mesmerizing, prickly, crumpled, nuzzle, etc. There are so many. I love alliteration. When words are paired with another, they sing and make the text come alive. I usually have my wordbook at my side as I read any kind of book. I also use my phone memo to jot words as I hear them in daily life.  

Besides writing, you paint, and create assemblages from found objects. Your sculptures are gorgeous and fun and have so much personality! Which came first—writing or art? When creating an assemblage, do you start with one object or do you see how several of the materials you have can fit together?

Thank you very much. Creating found art sculptures is like therapy. I’ve always been into creating something out of ordinary things. The art and writing coincided with a strong desire to break out of the box of being a teacher.

I collect a lot of wood as well as words. When I find a piece that inspires me, I visualize what it might become and I begin the search for a complimentary piece. It’s kind of like doing puzzles.

Is there a similarity for you in constructing a sculpture and creating text for a picture book?

Yes, there is. I look for a seed of an idea that touches my senses or emotions. And in art I choose a piece of wood that inspires me visually. Then it all comes down to layering and adding details that make the story or art shine in a new way. Finally, adding the “just right” color or details can be compared to the continual revisions to discover perfect words that fit my story.

Birth of the Cool is your debut picture book. What are you looking forward to most as a picture book author?

Reading the book to children and getting them to reflect about their feelings. And, of course, introducing them to jazz.

I love writing picture book biographies. I also enjoy writing books that will amuse kids, as well challenge their thoughts about nature.

What’s up next for you?

I have a new picture book bio about another musician that I just started submitting. And I’ve started research on another interesting, relatively unknown musician that had a big impact on many.                                  

What is your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love the traditions and the history. Holidays are so important in bringing busy families together. As a former teacher,             Thanksgiving gave me the opportunity to discuss the importance of the Native American people. They taught us so much. At the Thanksgiving table, we as a family celebrate the Native American contributions to our country. I wish more people did the same.

You can connect with Kathleen Cornell Berman on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Jazz Appreciation Month Activity

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Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle

 

Jazz has a sound and vocabulary all it’s own! Can you find the twenty jazz-related words in this printable puzzle? Then have fun coloring it!

Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle | Cool Jazz! Word Search Solution

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You can find Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review