January 31 – Inspire Your Heart with Art Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-hiding-game-cover

About the Holiday

Celebrating art is always a great thing! Today we champion that feeling you get inside when you create or experience art—no matter what kind is your favorite. Paintings, books, music, sculpture, quilts, photography, and other arts show you a bit of the world in a new way—a way, perhaps, you’ve never thought of before. Art can inspire, gladden, sadden, anger, teach, and compel action. It can also provide joy and inspiration when you need it most—as you’ll see in today’s book. Celebrate today’s holiday by visiting a museum, bookstore, library, concert, or gallery.

The Hiding Game

Written by Gwen Strauss | Illustrated by Herb Leonhard

 

It was October of 1940, and after moving from place to place to stay “one step ahead of the German soldiers,” Aube and her family had found a home where they could “live together until it was their turn to flee to safety. The Villa Air-Bel was rented by Varian Fry—a magician—and his assistant Danny Bénédite and served as a place to hide those looking to escape the war-torn country. On Sundays, the house was full of “thinkers, artists and writers who had to hide from the German soldiers because of their ideas of freedom and liberty” like Aube’s parents.

On those days, everyone played games, danced and made collages. One of Aube’s favorite games was Cadavre Exquis, in which a piece of paper was folded and each participant drew a design on one fold. When the whole paper was unfolded, amazing, artistic pictures emerged. These games and entertainment, Aube’s father told her, were their ways of fighting against fear. Because of the danger, many things had to be hidden at the Villa, including the radio and the cow that provided milk. Many ingredients for cooking were scarce. But even then Aube’s father used art to lighten the mood, leaving a drawing of a roast beef in the pantry where a real roast should have been.

Because the authorities were reading Varian and Danny’s mail and were listening to their phone calls, they had devised a way of hiding messages in toothpaste tubes that escaped the guard’s searches. The messages went to other people helping along the escape route to tell them who to expect next. Everyone in the house also had to have a special hiding place in case the police came. Aube chose the an old cabinet in the kitchen.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-hiding-game-tree

Image copyright Herb Leonhard, 2017, text copyright Gwen Strauss, 2017. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

Whenever a new group of people were scheduled to “make the dangerous journey to a new country, they held a Sunday party and art sale to raise money.” Canvases painted by famous artists were hung among the branches of a large tree on the Villa grounds. When winter came, the Villa was so cold everyone had to wear all of their clothes to stay warm. They kept their spirits warm, too, by singing their favorite songs.

During the winter Danny visited camps where people were being held under terrible conditions. “Aube understood now that the danger was that they would be sent to the camps,” where people were dying of starvation and disease. They had little clothes and no blankets even though it was snowing. The people, Danny said, were going to freeze. Aube thought of the game freeze tag and worried about all of those “people freezing, waiting for someone to set them free.”

One day in December, the police raided the Villa. They took away all the men, including Danny, Varian, and Aube’s papa. Aube cowered in the kitchen cabinet with their dog in fear. The next week, the men were released, but they knew that the police would be back. Danny and Varian began to plan their escape. Before they all left, Aube’s father devised one more game. Each artist would paint their own version of a playing card to create a collective work of art. “The cards would remind them that they had laughed together and stayed free in their hearts even during the darkest times.”

Aube’s family were placed on a ship sailing to South America, and on February 18, 1941 they left the Villa and Danny and Varian behind and made the one-month-long journey to freedom. Several months later, Varian was “forced to leave France and return to America.” Danny went underground and “helped another 300 people escape France.” In 1943, however, Danny was “arrested by the Nazis and sentenced to death.” Just as he was facing the firing squad, soldiers fighting the Nazis burst through the gates of the camp and freed him and the other inmates.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-hiding-game-villa-air-bel

Image copyright Herb Leonhard, 2017, courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

Gwen Strauss includes extensive backmatter on this true-life story about her great-uncle Danny Bénédite. A detailed account of the work by Varian Fry, Danny Bénédite, and the American Rescue Committee, complete with photographs, as well as short biographies of some of the artists who visited the Villa (and a compelling list of others) plus resources for further study round out this compelling book.

Clearly written and with details from a child’s point of view that will resonate with readers, The Hiding Game is an absorbing tribute not only to two men involved in the Nazi resistance movement but to the resilience that uplifts people during the darkest times. This fascinating true story also offers a glimpse into the important role that artists and writers play in shining a light on history, interpreting it, and fighting against forces that destroy. Rich with the atmosphere of intrigue, suspense, and simple pleasures enjoyed, Strauss’s dynamic storytelling will thrill children. The Hiding Game will prompt them to learn more about this time period and will inspire in them their own acts of heroism.

Herb Leonhard’s realistic drawings of the Villa Air-Bel, the families who stopped there on their way to freedom, the moments of joy that sustained them, and the secret measures necessary for people’s safety take readers into the heart of the story and allow them to witness the danger and the creativity that swirled side-by-side within the Villa and the people living there. Largely depicted in somber tones of gray and green, the pages brighten with glowing yellows during times of laughter, games, and creativity. An illustration of the mammoth tree hung with canvases by famous artists will impress children, and the final image will leave an indelible and thought-provoking impression on young readers and adults.

An excellent book for facilitating discussions about World War II and the Holocaust with children at home and in the classroom as well as offering opportunities for cross-curricular learning in history, art, reading, and more, The Hiding Game is a superb choice to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 7 – 12

Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 | ISBN 978-1455622658

Discover more about Gwen Strauss and her books on her website.

To learn more about Herb Leonhard, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Inspire Your Heart with Art Day Activity

I Love Art! Word Search Puzzle

 

Art has a language all its own! Have fun finding the twenty-five art-related words in this printable puzzle.

I Love Art! Word Search Puzzle and I Love Art! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-hiding-game-cover

You can find The Hiding Game at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

 

January 25 – National Florida Day and Interview with Author B. J. Lee

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-was-an-old-gator-who-swallowed-a-moth-cover

About the Holiday

Today, we recognize Florida—the 27th state to enter the Union. Did you know that Florida is home to the oldest established city in the country? Founded by Spanish explorers in 1565, St. Augustine remains a fascinating city that combines an intriguing history of religious settlements, pirate treasure hunters, and a tug of war over ownership among Britain, Spain, and France with the modern beauty of a thriving community. Of course, Florida is well-known as an international tourist destination for its theme parks, wide open beaches, and warm weather. The state is also home to animals, insects, and reptiles unseen in the rest of the United States—a fact that today’s book riffs on.

There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth

Written by B.J. Lee | Illustrated by David Opie

 

“There was an old gator who swallowed a moth. I don’t know why he swallowed the moth. It made him cough.” And with this culinary choice, readers are off on a wild jaunt full of suspense, humor, and big, sharp teeth. To catch that moth, the gator gobbled down a crab, but that scuttling bugger just filled his tummy with pain. To “nab the crab” the gator decided to “swallow an eel. / Quite an ordeal to swallow an eel!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-was-an-old-gator-who-swallowed-a-moth-cough

Image copyright David Opie, 2019, text copyright B.J. Lee, 2019. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

But the eel didn’t help, and the cough persisted. What could the old gator do? He swallowed creature after creature to resolve a cascading number of problems until “he swallowed a manatee.” It was clear “he lost his sanity to swallow a manatee!” Because now that old gator’s stomach was getting pretty cramped. There wasn’t a lot of nabbing or catching going on in there, and there was still that moth to take care of. The distressed gator then spied just the enforcer that might get the job done and gulped it down too.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-was-an-old-gator-who-swallowed-a-moth-belly

Image copyright David Opie, 2019, text copyright B.J. Lee, 2019. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

After such a big meal, the gator needed a bit of a drink, and the lagoon looked so refreshing! Just then, when that old gator was fully…well…full, that pesky moth fluttered its wings and made the poor guy “cough! Cough! Cough!” And what did that one little last cough do? Well, let’s just say the story has a splashing…I mean smashing…ending!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-was-an-old-gator-who-swallowed-a-moth-last-cough

Image copyright David Opie, 2019, text copyright B.J. Lee, 2019. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

B.J. Lee gives the favorite cumulative rhyming There Was an Old Lady story a reptilian remodeling that kids will find irresistible as the old gator guzzles down a host of Florida denizens with hilarious results. Lee, an award-winning poet, has an engaging way with words and phrasing that creates surprising rhymes and rib-tickling rhythms. Clever alliteration and action-packed verbs move the story along at a clip that mirrors an alligator’s voracious appetite and will keep young readers on the edge of their seat to see which animal becomes the gator’s next snack. Kids may even enjoy trying to come up with their own rhyming line to add to the story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-was-an-old-gator-who-swallowed-a-moth-last-moth

David Opie’s illustrations of the anguished alligator and his unsuspecting “remedies” are a hoot. Opie accomplishes just the right combination of suspense and humor with his juxtaposition between realistic depictions of the coastal animals and gut-busting portrayals of these creatures crammed into the gator’s belly. As the gator grows rounder and rounder, readers will be wondering how it will all end. The final spreads of the tormented gator are sure to elicit an “Oh!” or “Ew!” or two and plenty of guffaws.

There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth is a fun and funny choice for story time, and its comical repetition will prompt enthusiastic read-alongs. The book would be a sunny choice for home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Pelican Publishing Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-1455624416

Discover more about B.J. Lee, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about David Opie, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Meet Author B. J. Lee

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bj-lee-author-headshot

Thank you, Kathryn, for having me on your blog! There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth is getting a lot of love and I appreciate that! I also appreciate that you asked me about my poetry since, even in my picture books, I try to incorporate some aspect of poetry, such as lyrical language, rhyme and, in the case of Gator, cumulative rhyme.

There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth is your debut picture book. What drew you to creating a Florida-themed version of this well-known classic?

It wasn’t so much that I set out to write a Florida themed version of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, it was more that I had a gator character in mind and he pretty much chose this classical structure.

Have you always loved to write? When did you publish your first poem? Can you tell readers a bit about your journey to becoming a published writer?

Yes, I have always enjoyed writing. My sixth-grade teacher encouraged me to write plays! But I didn’t really realize I was a writer until, as an adult, I started writing a novel, which I never finished because my health intervened. In 2006 I had a shoulder operation which left me with severe bicep tendinitis, and for two years I couldn’t write, couldn’t even hold a pencil. My husband said “Write something shorter. Write poetry.”  But I didn’t know how to write poetry. He had planted something in my mind, though. I started studying poetry and then began to write it. My first poem was published in the SCBWI Bulletin in 2010. And so, I became a poet quite by accident. In a way I’m almost grateful for the bicep tendinitis, because I would not have become a poet without that hiccup in my journey. And I’ve picked up the novel again, resurrecting it as a verse novel.

I wasn’t surprised when I saw that you worked as a librarian at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee and play the piano since your poetry has such a musical quality to it. Did you ever consider becoming a musician or songwriter? How does your musical background influence your poetry?

Thank you for saying that my poetry has a musical quality. I have heard that before but I am unaware of trying to incorporate any musicality into my poetry. I am a pianist, jazz singer, and even enjoyed a brief stint as lead singer in a local rock ‘n’ roll band. Recently, I have written some songs for a current work in progress in which the main character is a singer-songwriter.

What is your favorite form of poetry to write and why? Do you write poetry for adults as well as children? What do you find satisfying about both?

I enjoy writing many forms of poetry but I guess I like the challenge of writing in repeating forms, such as the villanelle, the triolet, the pantoum and the roundel. I blog at Today’s Little Ditty, where I am an authority on poetic forms. 

However, I am continually challenging myself to write new forms of poetry, like free verse and performance poetry such as rap. I have written poetry for adults; however, since I am a children’s author, I try to stick with children’s poetry, including work for very young children through young adult and have over 100 poems published in anthologies and magazines.

The breadth of subjects you’ve written about—from sea glass to termites to naughty poodles and so many more—is truly inspiring! Can you talk about how and why certain subjects spark your creativity and how you follow that to a completed poem?

As far as subject matter, I’m very interested in the natural world and animals, so those subjects often show up in my work. Sometimes I write to prompts from anthologists. Once I have a subject that begs a poem, I simply try to find the best form to present it. Sometimes the poem may not work at all, and I’ll have to select a new form. Sometimes poems just start in my head and I have to be very quick to capture them.

Your poetry appears in children’s magazines, including Highlights and Spider, in publications for schools and many others, and in anthologies such as those published by National Geographic and Wordsong. Do you ever hear from young readers about your work? Do you have an anecdote from a letter or reading event that you’d like to share?

Yes, I do hear from young readers, which is very gratifying. In one case a Vietnamese teacher contacted me telling me that her phonics students are using my poem, A Garden Prayer, to learn English. That was when I realized that my poetry has gone around the world.

In another case, a woman contacted me from St. John’s, Nova Scotia, to ask me if they could use my poem, Moored, on a sculpture in Bannerman Park for a woman who died at a young age and who had always loved sailing. Of course I said yes! The proposed sculptor is Luben Boikov.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bj-lee-intreview-moored-image

I’ve read some of your very clever poems that have been finalists—and winners!—in the Think, Kid, Think! Madness Poetry Tournament held in April on thinkkidthink.com. Can you talk a little about the tournament and being an authlete?

Yes, the Think Kids Think March Madness poetry tournament is a wonderful event for children’s poets. I loved being an authlete and competing but it’s very difficult to write a quality poem in a short amount of time. It was like pulling college all-nighters!

Do you have any advice for aspiring poets—children or adults?

My advice for aspiring poets, both children and adults, is: find the metaphor.

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently writing a verse novel as well as picture books and poetry collections.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

My favorite holiday is Valentine’s Day because: love.

Can you talk about one of your poems that incorporates a holiday theme?

I’ve written a few holiday poems including “Groundhognostication,” which appears in National Geographic’s Poetry of US.

Thanks for this wonderful chat, B.J.! I’ve loved learning more about your poetry and other work. I wish you all the best with There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth!

You can connect with B.J. Lee on:

Her website | Facebook | Twitter

National Florida Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fabulous-florida-word-search-puzzle

Fabulous Florida! Word Search Puzzle

 

Find the names of twenty mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects in this printable puzzle.

Fabulous Florida! Word Search Puzzle | Fabulous Florida! Word Search Puzzle Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-there-was-an-old-gator-who-swallowed-a-moth-cover

You can find There Was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth at these booksellers

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

 

March 19 – National Poultry Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-up-with-this-chicken-cover

About the Holiday

National Poultry Day, held annually between St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of spring, celebrates the importance of poultry to the diets of people around the world. From breakfast to special holidays, poultry is a valuable source of protein and nutrition that’s also delicious! 

What’s Up with This Chicken?

Written by Jane Sutton | Illustrated by Peter J. Welling

 

When Sylvia went out to the barn to collect the chickens’ eggs, something was up with Trudy. She squawked and screeched when Sylvia tried to reach under her, but Sylvia took it in stride and with humor: “‘Don’t get so egg-cited!’” she said. “‘I’ll get your egg tomorrow.’” But the next day Sylvia was met with the same reaction. Trudy wasn’t acting like the other chickens in Grandma’s backyard; if fact, she wasn’t even acting like Trudy! “‘What’s up with this chicken?’” Sylvia wondered.

While she and Grandma enjoyed “omelets with eggs from Sue, Clara, Doris, and Olga,” Sylvia talked about “stubborn Trudy.” Grandma didn’t know what was wrong either. The next morning Trudy was even more obstinate. Not only did she make a racket, she tried to peck Sylvia, and she puffed “herself up to twice her size.” Sylvia also noticed “that Trudy left her roost just once a day to eat, drink, and poop. She was getting skinny.”

Sylvia decided that Trudy must be hungry. She tried to lure her off her nest by offering chicken feed, but while all the other hens “wolfed it down like chocolate,” Trudy remained firmly on her roost. Sylvia tried everything she could think of to move Trudy, but nothing worked. That night she and Grandma consulted The Big Book About Chickens. Here they discovered that “‘Trudy is broody!’” Grandma read on: “‘Broody hens stay on their eggs so they will hatch into chicks.’” But Sylvia and Grandma know that Trudy’s eggs are not the kind that hatch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-up-with-this-chicken-switching-eggs

Image copyright Peter J. Welling, courtesy of Pelican Publishing

 

Sylvia realized that Trudy just wanted to be a mother, and she wished there were some way to help her. She thought and thought and finally came up with an idea. She ran to Grandma who agreed that Sylvia’s plan was “an egg-cellent idea.” A few days later a box arrived holding four eggs that would hatch. With thick rubber gloves, a dose of determination, and two tries, Grandma was able to lift Trudy off her nest. Sylvia made a quick switch of the eggs, and “Broody Trudy settled down on the new eggs.”

Trudy grew thinner every day but she stayed on her roost, rolling the eggs to keep them uniformly warm and even blanketing them with her own feathers. One day Sylvia heard peeping! She and Grandma rushed out to the coop and were even in time to watch the fourth little chick peck its way out of its shell. They named the new “little yellow fluff balls Sophie, Danielle, Mildred, and Judy.”

Trudy was a proud and protective mother, shielding her chicks with her wings like a “feathery beach umbrella” and teaching them how to find food and water. Trudy went back to her regular routine and began gaining weight. As the chicks grew they got their own nests in Grandma’s coop. But one day Judy squawked and screeched. This time “Sylvia laughed so hard that she almost dropped her egg basket. ‘Broody Judy,’ she said, ‘I know what’s up with you!’”

An Author’s Note about the real-life “Broody Trudy” that inspired the story follows the text.

With a deft and delightful understanding of the puns and humor that set kids to giggling, Jane Sutton has written a fun—and informative—story for animal lovers and anyone who loves a good, natural mystery. Through the well-paced plot and action-packed description, readers learn about a particular behavioral aspect of some chickens and the clever and sensitive way that Sylvia solves the problem. The close relationship between Sylvia and her grandmother adds charm and depth to the story, and their dialogue is spontaneous and playful.

Peter J. Welling’s bright, homey illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to the story. Animated Trudy shoos Sylvia away while the other chickens take dust baths, scratch for bugs, and look just as perplexed as Sylvia and Grandma. Humorous touches abound in Grandma’s choice of home décor and Sylvia’s printed T-shirts as well as in the facial expressions of the human and feathered characters. Trudy’s chicks are adorable, and readers will cheer to see Trudy fulfill her heart’s desire.

What’s Up with This Chicken is a wonderful read-aloud for younger kids’ story times and a fun romp that will keep older, independent readers guessing and wondering how it all comes out right up to the end. The likeable characters—both human and chicken—make this a book kids will like to hear again and again!

Ages 3 – 8

Pelican Publishing, 2015 | ISBN 978-1455620852

Discover more about Jane Sutton and her books on her website!

To read an interview with Jane, click here!

To learn more about Peter J. Welling, his books for kids and adults as well as the original lunch bags he made for his children, visit his website!

National Poultry Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-carton-chicken-double-chickens

Egg Carton Chickens and a Basket Full of Games

 

With twelve little chickens you can come up with lots of games to play! This fun craft and game activity is eggs-actly what you need to start hatching some real fun!

Supplies

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • White craft paint
  • Markers: red, yellow, black for the face; any colors you’d like for wings and eggs
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Construction or craft paper in white and a color of your choice

Directions

  1. Cut the notched flap off the egg carton and set aside
  2. Cut the top off the egg carton
  3. Cut apart all the egg cups and trim slightly so they sit flat
  4. Paint the egg cups with the white paint, let dry
  5. Add the face, comb and wings to the chicken with the markers. Make six chickens with one color wings and six chickens with another color wings.
  6. From the egg carton flap cut thirteen small egg-shaped playing pieces
  7. With the markers, decorate twelve of the eggs in pairs—each egg in the pair with the same design
  8. Color one egg yellow and add a beak, eyes, and wings to make it a chick

Games to Play

Tic-Tac-Toe (2 players)

  1. On a 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper draw a regular tic-tac-toe board or make it fancy – like the picket fence-inspired board in the picture
  2. To make the fence-inspired board on a colored background, cut 2 9-inch-long x 3/4-inch wide strips of white paper, cutting a pointed tip at one or both ends. Cut 2 white  8-inch x 3/4-inch strips of paper with a pointed tip at one or both ends. Glue the strips to the background.
  3. Each player chooses a set of chickens with the same colored wings
  4. Play the game as you usually do

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-carton-chicken-tic-tac-toe

Find the Matching Eggs (2 or more players)

  1. Have one player hide one egg under each chicken
  2. Shuffle the eggs around and form them into three lines of 4 chickens each
  3. Another player lifts one chicken at a time to find matching eggs. If the eggs don’t match, put both chickens back and start again

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-carton-chicken-matching

Where’s the Chick?

  1. Use as many chickens and eggs as you want (fewer for younger children, more for older)
  2. One player hides the chick under one of the chickens and eggs under the others.
  3. Another player has three chances to find the chick

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-egg-carton-chicken-where's-the-chick

You can also design your own games for your adorable chickens to play! With more chickens you can even make a checkers set or replicate another of your favorite board games!

Picture Book Review

December 19 – Look for an Evergreen Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-arturo-and-the-navidad-birds-cover

About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by the National Arborist Association to remind people to appreciate the beauty of evergreens that got that name because they stay green year round, These majestic trees add color to the doldrums of winter and remind us that summer will come again. To celebrate, why not take a walk and rediscover the evergreens in your neighborhood!

Arturo and the Navidad Birds / Arturo y los Pájaros de Navidad

Written by Anne Broyles | Illustrated by KE Lewis

 

The day for decorating the Christmas tree had arrived, and Arturo “bounced up and down in front of the pine tree. ‘Hurry, Abue!’” he exclaimed. The tree looked so empty, but Arturo’s grandmother brought out the box of ornaments, and soon the two were admiring the little treasures. A tiny mouse nestled into a walnut shell bed had been made by Abue Rosa’s mother when she was a little girl. Although it was hard for Arturo to imagine his grandmother as a little girl, he loved hearing the story of how she carried the mouse in her pocket. “‘I called him Hermanito—my little brother! Find a good home on our tree!’” Abue Rosa said. Arturo placed the ornament on a low branch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-arturo-and-the-navidad-birds-flying-bird-ornament

Image copyright Karen Lewis, courtesy of karenlewis.com

The next ornament out of the box was a square piece of “cardboard decorated with mahogany-colored beans.” This had been made by his mother. Arturo hung it in the middle of the tree because his mother “was the middle child between Tío Hernan and Tía Ines.” A donkey ornament that Arturo’s abuelo bought when he and Rosa were first married went high up on the árbol de Navidad. The pair added ornament after ornament on the tree and it “began to shine with Abue Rosa’s stories.” Then Abue Rosa went into the kitchen to fix dinner. While she was gone Arturo rummaged through the box and found a “tiny, blown-glass bird. ‘Fly, bird. Like a plane. Vroom, vroom!’”

The little bird hit the wall and fell to the floor, its wings broken. “Horrified, Arturo covered the pieces with newspaper just before Abue came back.” As they finished decorating the tree, Abue Rosa looked through the box and asked Arturo, “Have you seen the glass pajarito that my dearest friend, Sofie, game me? It’s all I have left from her.” Arturo couldn’t look at his grandmother, instead asking to take a break.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-arturo-and-the-navidad-hug

Image copyright Karen Lewis, courtesy of karenlewis.com

Arturo ran to his room and grabbed the glue, but he couldn’t make the wings stick. As he looked at the broken bird, tears filled his eyes. He wondered if his grandmother could forgive him. Then he had an idea. In the basement he found a pinecone and some craft materials. When he finished making his pinecone bird, he gazed at it in disappointment. It didn’t look like any bird he had ever seen and certainly not like the glass bird.

“‘Donde estas, mi’jo?’” Grandma Rosa called from the top of the stairs. Arturo slowly climbed the stairs, carrying both birds. “Arturo took a deep breath. He held out the homemade bird. ‘I made this for our tree.’” “‘Qué bonita!’” How beautiful, Abue Rosa exclaimed. Arturo continued to tell his grandmother that he made it because….He held out his other hand with the broken bird inside. Abue Rosa gasped, and Arturo felt a sob filling him. “‘I didn’t mean to,’” he said.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-arturo-and-the-navidad-hot-chocolate

Image copyright Karen Lewis, courtesy of karenlewis.com

Abue Rosa hugged Arturo and told him that even without the bird she still remembered Sofia. “‘Now when I look at this bird you made, I will think of you and Sofia.’” Together they placed the pinecone ornament on the tree and turned on the lights. Afterward, they enjoyed cups of hot chocolate together. “‘The tree is full now,’ Abue said as Arturo snuggled against her, ‘of memories.’ He nodded. ‘And love.’”

Anne Broyles’ story of a boy and his grandmother who share the true meaning of love and memories is a touching holiday read. Through an incident which many children experience in one way or another, Broyles reassures young readers that—as Arturo’s grandmother states—people are more important than things. Her realistic portrayal of Arturo’s and his grandmother’s actions and emotions will resonate with readers, and the close bond between the two is a highlight of the story. Kids will enjoy the details in the stories of the ornaments as well as in Abue Rosa’s home.

KE Lewis enhances the cozy tone of the story with her sepia-toned illustrations of Abue Rosa’s home and the personal memories surrounding her Christmas tree ornaments. Kids will recognize and empathize with Arturo’s and his grandmother’s feelings, which are genuine and clearly depicted. Kids will also like seeing the homemade and favorite ornaments that Arturo hangs on the tree as well as the loving relationship between Arturo and his Abue Rosa, which is beautifully revealed throughout the story.

Each page is told in both English and Spanish, making Arturo and the Navidad Birds a wonderful holiday choice for English-speaking, Spanish-speaking, and bilingual families.

Ages 4 – 8

Pelican Publishing, 2013 | ISBN 978-1455618019

To learn more about Anne Broyles and her books, as well as to find book-related activities, visit her website!

Discover a portfolio of illustration work, animation, and picture books on Karen Lewis’s website!

Enjoy this Arturo and the Navidad Birds book trailer!

Look for an Evergreen Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-evergreen-tree-maze

Puzzling Pine Tree Maze

 

The branches of a tall evergreen tree can form a kind of maze for the birds and squirrels who call them home. Can you find your way through this printable Puzzling Pine Tree Maze?

Picture Book Review