April 4 – Jazz Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

Jazz Appreciation Month (nicknamed JAM) 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 “Latin Jazz and the Spirit of Cachao López.” Celebrations will revolve around “exploring the cross-pollination of Afro-Caribbean music and jazz that led to the formation of Latin jazz as well as the work of one of the iconic figures in the Afro-Caribbean music tradition – bandleader, composer, and co-creator of mambo, Israel “Cachao” López. To learn more about the month’s events, featured artist, and ways to celebrate, visit the Smithsonian’s Jazz Appreciation website. To celebrate the spirit of jazz with your kids, listen to the rhythms of life inside your heart and in the natural world and make your own music. A great way to start is with today’s book!

First Notes of Spring

Written by Jessica Kulekjian | Illustrated by Jennifer Bower

 

It’s time for a change of seasons, and the First Notes of Spring musicians are gearing up to melt “winter away with their melodies.” Auditions are being held bright and early at 6:00 a.m. to put the orchestra together. Juniper the badger was eager to join. She brought her instrument – a toadstool drum and two strong sticks – and took her turn playing for Mr. Moose, the conductor. “BOOMEY BOOM BOOM!” she banged away while Mr. Moose covered his ears and said, “‘You’re doing it all wrong!'”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-notes-of-spring-badger

Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Then he told Juniper to listen to the gentle “WHOO” of the flutes, the soft “HUM HUM” of the strings, and the delicated “Ringy Ring Ring” of the shaken keys. Juniper was sure she could play along, but as the other animals played their instruments, her “BOOMEY BOOMEY! BOOM BOOM! BOOMEY BOOM BOOM!” interrupted the dulcet flow.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-notes-of-spring-audition

Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mr. Moose was beside himself. It was all ‘”Too WILD!'” for him and he added that “‘Spring will not bloom to such a ruckus!'” Then he cancelled the auditions. As Juniper dejectedly headed home through, she heard a random “tap-a-tap” and walked closer. She found Holly the woodpecker “drumming on a tree” looking for insects. Juniper wanted to join in with her “fun sound” and added her “BOOMEY BOOM BOOM!” to Holly’s “tap-a-tap.”

In a bit they heard “clap-a-clap and found… Darby slapping the ice” with his tail. He was fixing his fort, the beaver told them. Juniper and Holly thought Darby’s clapping was just the addition they needed to play louder. The little band made their way through the forest and discovered Dash, a rabbit, thumping the ground. With Dash’s “thumpity thumping,” the band could play louder and wilder, and as they paraded through the forest, sleeping animals awoke, snow fell from the trees, and Spring sprang up all around them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-notes-of-spring-boom

Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Mr. Moose was surprised – and then sorry that he’d never known “‘Spring could wake up with such a bang!'” Still, the delicate flowers were still dozing. Juniper suggested that some “whoos, hums, and rings” could help rouse them. So while Juniper led Holly, Darby, and Dash in the beats, Mr. Moose led the squirrel, raccoon, deer, fox, and crow in the notes, and all of the forest blossomed into Spring.

Back matter includes an engaging discussion of the sounds heard during different seasons that will have kids and adults getting outside to listen to the loud and delicate music that orchestrate each magical time of the year.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-first-notes-of-spring-playing

Image copyright Jennifer Bower, 2022, text copyright Jessica Kulekjian, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Jessica Kulekjian’s imaginative take on the waking of spring employs alliteration and onomatopoeia that will entice kids to whistle, hum, clap, stomp, drum – and read! – along as winter transitions into spring. But the new season isn’t the only one who awakens, Mr. Moose also makes an eye-opening discovery as Juniper’s belief in herself and her music makes his traditional concert inclusive for everyone.

As Jennifer Bower’s delicate icy blues and pale greens of winter give way to the lush vibrancy of spring, kids will enjoy pointing out all of the small animals, insects, and blossoms that begin to populate the pages as they are awakened by Juniper’s novel alarm clock. Two split-page cutaways give readers a glimpse into Juniper’s underground den and a rabbit warren, where a mom, wearing curlers in her ears and bunny slippers on her feet, is just preparing breakfast for her still-sleeping brood. The final two-page spread of The First Notes (and Beats) of Spring musicians is a true celebration of the beauty and rhythms of spring.

Fast-paced and sure to inspire enthusiastic participation, First Notes of Spring is an enchanting read aloud and would be a perfect addition to music class time for students of varying ages, from preschool to the lower grades. The book would also be an exciting introduction for an outdoor activity to listen and look for signs of spring.

Ages 3 – 6 

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1547604739

Discover more about Jessica Kulekjian and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jennifer Bower, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Jazz Appreciation Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jazz-trumpet-word-search-puzzle

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 First Notes of Spring at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 9 – It’s National Humor Month

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About the Holiday

During April we celebrate one of the most fantastic things about life—humor! Whether you’re laughing at a funny joke, your favorite comedian, a comic strip, a silly mistake, or even yourself, a chuckle is good for you! Today, take time to relax and enjoy the small absurdities in life—and give a few hearty “Ha ha ha’s!” along the way. Today’s book is a perfect place for you and your kids to start.

Not Now, Cow

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Troy Cummings

 

Even before the story properly begins, an alert rooster notices some small green leaves on the old tree and announces, “Spring is almost here!” He hightail-feathers it off to tell his farmyard friends. Duck is ready with her garden, Sheep is flying a kite, and Goat is enjoying a rainy-day galoshes dance. And Cow? Cow is bundled up in her knitted hat, scarf, and gloves. Rooster gives an eyeroll and says, “Oh, Cow. Not now.”

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Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2021, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Summer comes and Chick, Goat, and Pig are at the beach. Chick dives in. “Feathers flail.” Goat needs a snack. He “chomps a pail.” With an ice cream cone piled high, “Pig is ready. Leaves a trail.” And Cow? She’s all decked out for… sledding. Rooster says, “Oh, Cow. Not now.”

In Fall, Horse knows raking is to be done. Chick munches on an apple. And Sheep is ready with a jack-o-lantern. And Cow? Snuggled into a purple puffy coat, she’s sporting earmuffs and skis, and holding a steaming mug of hot chocolate—with marshmallows. Rooster is flummoxed. “Oh, Cow. Just…wow.”

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Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2021, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Finally, it’s Winter! Pig has fashioned a snowy friend. On his sled, “Horse rounds the bend.” And Duck is gliding on the pond. It’s Cow’s big moment. Is she ready? Well…yes…. For Summer! And as Cow sits on her blanket with her swim fins, swim goggles, and swimming cap on, munching a sandwich from her picnic basket, the farm animals gather round. “We need to talk,” Rooster says.

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Image copyright Troy Cummings, 2021, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2021. Courtesy of Abrams Appleseed.

Little ones will giggle with delight, eager to see what Cow is wearing next in Tammi Sauer’s joyously silly story about a cow who likes to celebrate the seasons her way—or is she just a bit mixed up? Either way, preschool– and kindergarten-age kids will love enthusiastically chiming in every time Rooster says, “Oh, Cow. Not Now.” Sauer’s simple structure, short sentences, and engaging triple rhymes make it easy for little ones to join in on subsequent readings.

Troy Cummings brings all the sweetness and fun of the farm animals’ seasonal activities to life in his lively illustrations. To open each sequence, the limbs from the tree where Rooster first notices spring blossoming are set against appropriately colored backgrounds and show signs of the transitions to summer, fall, and winter. Throughout Cummings’ candy-hued spring, sunny summer, fiery fall, and icy winter landscapes, Duck, Sheep, Goat, Horse, Chick, and Pig enjoy traditional fun. And then comes Cow, with her progressively bundled-up attire that bamboozles increasingly exasperated Rooster. The final, hilarious payoff comes when winter hits and Cow shows up in her bathing suit, floaties, and other swimming aids, with a picnic basket to boot. Kids may notice that no matter what the season or what she’s wearing, Cow looks perfectly happy.

Perfect zany fun that little ones will want to hear again and again, Not Now, Cow is a must addition to all young children’s bookshelves at home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 5 

Abrams Appleseed, 2021 | ISBN 978-1419746291

Discover more about Tammi Sauer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Troy Cummings, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Humor Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-share-a-laugh-wordsearch

Share a Laugh! Word Search Puzzle

 

Sharing a laugh with friends makes a day better. Can you find the fifteen words about laughter in this puzzle?

Share a Laugh! Word Search PuzzleShare a Laugh! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-not-now-cow-cover

You can find Not Now, Cow at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 23 – Mole Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday has a very strict time structure. From 6:02 a.m. to 6:02 p.m. we celebrate Avogadro’s Number (6.02 x  10 to the 23rd), a basic measuring unit in chemistry. This measurement states that for a given molecule one mole is a mass (measured in grams) that is equal to the molar mass of the molecule. Take the water molecule: since its molar mass is 18, one mole of water weighs 18 grams. How many molecules are in that mole? Ah! This is where Avogadro’s Number comes in. One mole of any substance contains Avogadro’s Number of molecules. The association of the chemistry mole and the animal mole came about as a fun way to get kids interested in this area of discovery.  For more information on Mole Day and this year’s theme: MOLEvengers visit Moleday.orgMoleday.org. Today’s book also surprises with a little mole making her own discoveries.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney Mole

Written by Jane Yolen | Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

 

Down at the bottom of a deep hole in the ground, three sisters—Eeny, Meeny, and Miney Mole kept house. “In that hole, dark was light, day was night, and summer and winter seemed the same.” Sometimes the sisters went to bed during the day and got up at sunset, or they played all day and night and never slept at all. Even the seasons seemed the same down in their cozy home. Eeny, the youngest sister, liked to explore, burrowing here and there away from their house. Once, “she met a worm who told her the most astonishing thing.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

Eeny hurried back to tell her sisters what she had learned about the “Up Above—which is what they called the world on top of the ground.” The worm had told her that up there “‘things are both dark and light.” Meeny didn’t believe it. Miney laughed it off. And both told Eeny that worms were unreliable. They went to bed early and covered up their heads “because they didn’t want to even think about light.”

But Eeny did want to think about it. She wondered about light’s size and shape. She thought about whether light “spread from corner to corner Up Above like a blanket or if it just touched in and out like the thread in the hem of a dress. She thought about light all that night until her sisters woke up. Another day, Eeny burrowed to the right of her home and met a centipede who told her another astonishing thing.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eeny-meeny-miney-mole-astonishing-thing

Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

When Meeny and Miney heard that Up Above had both day and night, they told Eeny that centipedes were just “addlepated” and to pay no attention. Then they went off to have dinner and “dipped their noses into their soup bowls and snuffled up tubers so they didn’t have to think about day.” But Eeny wasn’t hungry. Instead, she wondered about day’s length and sound and whether it was “sharp like hunger or soft like sleep.”

One day Eeny burrowed underneath her hole and came upon a snake, who served her tea and related “the most astonishing thing.” Meeny and Miney were aghast to hear that Up Above there was both winter and summer and told Eeny never to talk to snakes. But while Meeny and Miney went off to play checkers, Eeny thought and thought about whether summer and winter were “low or high…young or old.” She wondered if they were damp or dry, clumpy or crumbly.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eeny-meeny-miney-mole-snake

Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

The next time Eeny went exploring, she decided to find out about the Up Above for herself. When she got there she discovered that all of her thoughts had been right in some way. Light was like a blanket, but it was also like the hem of a dress. While the sun was sharp, shadows were soft. There was moisture in the air that was “sometimes warm and sometimes cold.” All around her Eeny heard the “murmur…of bees and trees, of showers and flowers, of tadpoles and tidepools and crinkly grass”—the sounds of Spring. Eeny was happy to have visited the Up Above and promised herself that she would go back someday to meet Summer and Winter. But for now, as she carried a bright yellow flower back home, she couldn’t wait to tell Meeny and Miney about Sprng.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 1992, text copyright Jane Yolen, 1992. Courtesy of themarlowebookshelf.blogspot.com.

Jane Yolen’s stirring story of opening oneself to new possibilities, people, and experiences is gentle and sweet and full of wonder. As Eeny ponders the astonishing things she hears, her sisters prefer to remain in the dark, offering their advice in shocked expressions and reverting to diversions that little ones will find humorous. Yolan’s tale is rich in words that are wonderful to hear and read. The sisters snuffle up tubers, the centipede is addlepated, seasons are clumpy and crumbly, and grass is crinkly. The repeated words, astonishing, complicated, burrowing are lyrical and invite imaginative thinking. And, of course, Yolen’s metaphors are precise and novel. The moving ending is uplifting in its reassurance of the family unit while still promising an astonishing future.

The beauty and detail of Kathryn Brown’s watercolor illustrations are awe-inspiring and create a luxuriant underground world where a pink-wrapped and -capped worm reads by following the words with the tip of his tail while a green-coated cricket turns pages; a colorfully socked centipede watches the outside world through a daffodil bulb periscope hanging like a chandelier in her den; a snake wears a seashell cap and smokes a pipe near his crackling fireplace; and the Up Above is sunny and breezy, expansive and inviting. Tiny Eeny is adorably thoughtful as she wanders through the tunnels of her cozy hole and reports her findings to her older sisters. Readers may notice that Eeny carries with her a lantern that lights her way even as she becomes enlightened and will be delighted with Eeny’s favorite toy—an acorn carriage and itty-bitty doll.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney Mole is sweetly superb and perfect to snuggle up with for quiet story times. Look for this classic story in your local library or used bookstore.

Ages 3 and up

Harcourt Children’s Books, 1992 | ISBN 978-0152253509

There is so much to discover about Jane Yolen and her books on her website.

View a portfolio of books and illustration work by Kathryn Brown on her website.

Mole Day Activity

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Mole Tunnels Maze

 

Can you find your way through the underground pathways to visit Mole in this printable Mole Tunnel Maze?

Picture Book Review