November 11 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. He then enlisted the help of Frederic G. Melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly, who believed that “a great nation is a reading nation,” and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library to help spread the word. This year’s theme is “How Do You Book?” The thought-provoking theme encourages readers to think about what they read, where they read, and how they read. To learn more about this literary holiday, visit Every Child a Reader to find out more about the week, how to join online, and lots of bookmarks and activities to download.

Building an Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chávez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash

Written by Carmen Oliver | Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

 

As a child, Favio Chávez looked to music as an important touchstone. When he grew up, he was still involved with music, but his profession was as an environmental engineer. He was given a job in “Cateura, Paraguay—a small village built on a landfill—to try to help the families who lived and worked amid the hills of trash.” When trucks came and dumped load after load of trash, recyclers, called gancheros, filled bags of items they could resell. The air was choked with the stench of garbage, and anywhere the gancheros walked “they waded through filth.” It made Favio sad to think of people living this way.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

As Favio supervised the gancheros, he “became friends with them and their children. He worried about what kind of lives they would live when they grew up. Besides his job at the landfill, “Favio conducted a youth orchestra in a nearby village.” One day, the people he worked with came to listen. They wondered if their kids could also learn to play instruments. Favio was excited by the prospect. 

He even brought his own guitars and violins for the children to play, but soon he had more kids in class than he had instruments. But there was another problem too. The instruments were valuable and could attract thieves to the homes of his students. He needed another idea, and while watching Nicolás “Colá” Gómez, a talented carpenter, picking through the trash, he thought of something that might work. 

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Colá began searching through the piles for anything that he could use to make instruments. He collected cans and pipes, crates and buttons, even X-ray film and eating utensils. As he looked at his materials, Colá envisioned how he could create a violin. Finally with violins and other instruments for each child, Favio began teaching them how to play and how to read music. They practiced and practiced until they were ready to perform for their parents.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

At a local church, with the audience packed and excited, the notes of the children’s first song ‘”New York, New York’ floated out the windows and into the warm night air.” The adults were overcome with happiness. While their lives had been only about survival, they now “had hope in their hearts and dreams for a better tomorrow.”

Back matter includes further information about Favio Chávez and the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura from 1975, when Favio was born in Argentina to 2006, when he arrived to work at the Cateura landfill to today, when the Orchestra supports more children and families with building projects, food, computers for school, scholarships, and many more humanitarian efforts. A selected bibliography is also included.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

From its earliest days the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura has inspired musicians, authors, movie makers, and listeners from around the world. In Building an Orchestra of Hope, Carmen Oliver tells the story through the lens of a hope fulfilled. As Favio Chávez begins his new job at the landfill educating the gancheros on how to work more efficiently, his initial thought is for the future of the children of the village. Oliver shows how Chávez not only supervised the workers but became their friend, honored to be included. While relating Chávez’s eagerness to share his love of music with the children, Oliver hints at what’s to come with lyrical descriptions of the sounds the glass, metal, and plastic makes as the gancheros rake through the piles of trash. She also includes pertinent facts that allow readers to understand the challenges the community faced and what a monumental undertaking the idea was.

While this story revolves around Favio Chávez, his idea could never have been brought to fruition without the talents of Nicolás “Colá” Gómez, who could envision the instruments and even hear their sound as he pored through the trash for materials. Oliver provides a satisfyingly detailed list of the types of items Colá repurposed and later reveals which items were used to create violins, drums, violas, flutes, saxophones, and trumpets, pages that are sure to pique young crafters’ interest. The emotional ending to this true story will swell the hearts of readers—those who already know about the orchestra and those being introduced to it for the first time.

Louisa Uribe’s soft-hued illustrations realistically depict the village of Cateura and the landfill it is built upon. They meet Favio Chávez and Nicolás Gómez and witness the idea of creating instruments from trash come to life. Uribe’s close up of a violin lets kids see how disparate items are used creatively to replicate each part of the instrument. As instruments are made, the number of children filling the courtyard grows until their hard work and practice is rewarded on a real stage, a microcosm of the growth and impact of one man’s caring and creativity.

Special Note: The inspirational back matter, worthy of its own picture book, will astound readers with just how far-reaching one idea when explored in collaboration with others can be. Themes of the vital importance and life-changing impact of the arts, persistence, determination, overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges and odds, and the power of hope are what this true story is built on, and this factual back matter is sure to affect readers and get them thinking about how they can make a difference to a cause they believe in.

Powerful, accessible, and impactful, Building an Orchestra of Hope is a must for all home, school, and library collections, not only to tell this compelling, ongoing story but to remind them that their actions, too—from a single kind word or smile to large community effort—can change lives. 

Ages 4 – 9 

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-0802854674

You can learn more about Luisa Uribe, her books, and her art on her website.

You can connect with Carmen Oliver on Twitter.

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Bookworm Bookmark

 

Are you a bookworm? If so, then this bookmark is for you! Just print, color, and cut along the dotted line. This little worm will happily save your page for you!

Bookworm Bookmark Template

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You can find Building an Orchestra of Hope at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 23 – It’s National Sewing Month

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About the Holiday

Sewing is one of the most popular hobbies around and has historically been one of the most important industries in this country and around the world. National Sewing Month was established in 1982 to encourage people to learn more about this craft and to try their hand at picking up a needle or sitting down at a sewing machine. To celebrate read up on the history of sewing and the textile industry and consider taking a sewing class or learning on your own. Sewing can be a fun and rewarding activity for adults and children. Who knows? It may even become a career that can send you to the Oscars, as you’ll see in today’s book!

Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head

Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey | Illustrated by Diana Toledano

 

As a child, living in a dry, barren mining town, Edith felt like she didn’t belong. She dreamed of living “in a place full of people and sounds and dazzling lights.” She liked hosting pretend tea parties with colorful china and sweet treats for her stuffed animals and imaginary guests. She also dressed up her pet cat, dog, rabbit, horned toad, and two mules in scarves, clothes, and fancy hats that she made just for them.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

“Edith’s greatest treasure was her bag of fabric scraps,” which she added to by going door to door collecting cloth whenever she and her family visited Searchlight, Nevada, a few miles away. With these scraps she made furniture, rugs, and tablecloths for her dollhouse and clothes for her little dolls. But her favorite thing to do was make costumes for her two friends, who liked to perform and make up plays for their families and friends. Edith preferred staying behind the curtain, self-conscious about her straight hair and gasses.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Every night, Edith wished on the stars that she could move away and transform her life. Her chance came when her mother enrolled her in high school in Los Angeles. Here, Edith set about trying to figure out what kind of career she would pursue. She tried piano and gymnastics, but finally found her passion at the movie theater. Watching actors on the screen, Edith was able to escape “feeling shy at school.”

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

While Edith initially chose to become a teacher, after a few years “the allure of movies drew her back.” Without any formal art training, she found “a job as a sketch artist in a costume department of a movie studio.” When her boss discovered her lack of training, instead of firing her, he began teaching her how to draw costumes himself.

It took time and many rejections of her designs until Edith was finally entrusted with making costumes. But these weren’t for actors. “Instead, she dressed up animals. They were not easy clients.” But Edith was determined and soon she had a shot at dressing dancers as candy, but her designs, while creative, melted, cracked, and . . . flopped. But Edith got another chance.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

She worked hard for many years, gained experience, and was finally asked to “design costumes for famous movie stars.” Edith came to work on hundreds of movies, transforming actors into their characters and becoming famous herself. Then one night at the Oscars, Edith sat listening to the presenter announce the name of the winner for Best Costume Design. She was thrilled to hear her name, and “she climbed the stairs to the stage to accept her award” wearing a gown she’d designed herself.

Back matter includes an extended biography of Edith’s life, teaching, and work in Hollywood and includes photographs of Edith at work at her easel and dressing Dorothy Lamour in 1938 as well as a sketch for a costume worn by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.

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Image copyright Diana Toledano, 2022, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2022. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Jeanne Walker Harvey’s biography of Edith Head highlights this famous behind-the-scenes creator’s early life and dreams, her perseverance, and the self-confidence that spurred her on despite setbacks. Young readers will be interested to see how Edith’s childhood love for imaginary play, creating clothes for her pets and toys, and collecting cloth ultimately led to her career as a movie costume designer even though she pursued other jobs before recognizing her true passion. As she becomes involved in the movie industry, Edith’s receptiveness to learning and to learning from her mistakes provides a valuable lesson for all children. 

Diana Toledano’s charming illustrations show Edith at her creative and courageous best as she holds a tea party for her toys, dresses her bevy of unusual pets, and strikes out into the desert to play. Depictions of the small town of Searchlight, Nevada, Edith’s enchanting dollhouse, and a Los Angeles street orient readers to the time period, while the ornate movie theater and black-and-white film Edith watches show how the movies offered Edith escape from her shyness. Toledano’s textured images follow Edith as she practices, fails, practices some more, and finally achieves her goals. The final illustrations showing Edith at the Academy Awards ceremony, walking the red carpet and winning an Oscar shows kids that dreams really can come true.

An inspirational biography of a woman who broke barriers in Hollywood, Dressing Up the Stars will appeal to kids who are interested in the movies and all creative endeavors and encourage them to pursue their true passions.

Ages 3 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1534451056

Discover more about Jeanne Walker Harvey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Diana Toledana, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Sewing Month Activity

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Dressing Up the Stars Activity Kit

 

With this Dressing Up the Stars Activity Kit, kids can create their own costumes for Edith’s pets, a paper doll, and a character dressed as candy! They can even write the acceptance speech they’d give if they won an Oscar for their work on a movie!

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You can find Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 14 – Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts to science to sports to how you express yourself. Kids seem to know this inherently as they go about exploring and interacting with all the new things they see, hear, and do every day. Introducing kids to all kinds of hobbies, subjects, and professions expands their definition of creativity and their outlook on the future. Encouraging them to use their particular talents, helps them build confidence and find their place in the world. Reading today’s book with them is a great way to start! To celebrate today, take time to share your talents with others. You may be surprised at how creative you really are!

Thanks go to Beach Lane Books and Blue Slip Media for sharing a copy of Annette Feels Free with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Annette Feels Free: The True Story of Annette Kellerman, World-Class Swimmer, Fashion Pioneer, and Real-Life Mermaid

Written by Katie Mazeika

 

It was early 1900 and teenage Annette Kellerman was making a splash at Australia’s Melbourne Aquarium. She “was a real-life mermaid swimming and dancing with the fish…” to entertain visitors. The newspapers wrote about her, and people flocked to watch. Annette had always loved the freedom she felt while dancing, but when she was six, her legs became too weak for her to dance or to run or even to walk without braces. Sitting at home, Annette was no longer the happy little girl she had been.

Then one day, her father took Annette to swim in Lavender Bay. “She laughed and danced in the waves, kicking her legs. Splash, splash!” Annette swam so much that “she became the strongest swimmer in New South Wales” and no longer needed her leg braces. In addition to performing, Annette raced and soon she had broken all of Australia’s long-distance swimming records. She then moved to London and thrilled audiences there.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ANNETTE-FEELS-FREE-aquarium

Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Annette and her father then traveled throughout Europe and America, where Annette performed her water dancing and raced against other swimmers—men included—and won. But there was one thing that was holding her back from even greater success—her swim costume. “Because she was a woman, she still had to perform and compete in a full skirt and pantaloons.” Why, she thought, did she have to wear something different and so cumbersome?

Annette decided to sew her own swim costume. Her new one-piece suit with short legs was so liberating. She felt as she had as a girl first learning to swim and dance in Lavender Bay. But not everyone saw her swimsuit in the same light. When she wore it to the beach in Boston, the crowd was shocked, and she was even arrested for “not wearing enough clothing!” Arguing her case in front of a judge, Annette showed the court the difference in men’s and women’s swimwear and stated that she should have the same freedom as men. The judge agreed, but with a caveat: she had to remain covered up all the way to the water’s edge. Her new swimwear became a hit with other women, who even called it the Annette Kellerman.

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Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Annette’s career continued to take her all over the world and even made her a movie star! She trained other women in “ornamental swimming”, which later became known as “synchronized swimming.” Now called “artistic swimming”, Annette Kellerman’s revolutionary style is a recognized sport at the Summer Olympics.

Back Matter includes an expanded biography of Annette Kellerman, complete with photographs, and an Author’s Note about Katie Mazeika’s own experiences with a physical disability and how these life-changing occurrences shape who someone is and the careers they pursue.

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Copyright Katie Mazeika, 2022, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

A comprehensive and compelling biography of a woman who broke barriers while advocating for women and changing fashion mores forever, Annette Feels Free is historical storytelling at its best. Katie Mazeika clearly links Annette’s early disability, her perseverance, and her recovery to her recognition of her unique talent. Mazeika’s conversational narrative draws readers into Annette’s emotions and passion for swimming. Historical points of interest—women’s swim costumes, hot cocoa sipped mid-swim across the English Channel, Annette’s success in court, and her continued influence on swimming, for example—will amaze children and spark a desire to investigate more about Annette Kellerman and her times.

Mazeika’s full-bleed illustrations in this slightly oversized book lend grandeur to the pages, bringing readers into the aquarium’s fish tank to watch spectators’ reactions as Annette becomes “the original mermaid”; depicting her early love of dancing and distress at her braced legs; and falling with her as she thrills London audiences with graceful dives. Children will be particularly fascinated by images of Annette swimming, diving, and dancing in the proscribed swimming costume for women that included a cap and dress trimmed in lace, pantaloons, tights, and ballet-flat type shoes tied to her ankles. Her self-confidence and indomitable spirit grace each spread and are sure to inspire readers. 

For young readers, Annette Kellerman’s long, prolific, and creative career has the power to inspire their own creative endeavors. Annette Feels Free offers multilevel opportunities for lessons in history, the arts, and even math and science (how much did that swim costume weigh, anyway?). The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1665903431

Katherine Mazeika is an author and illustrator with a BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design. When she isn’t in the studio, she likes to spend time at the theater, in her garden, or getting lost in a good book. She lives in Ohio with her husband, two kids (Lillian and Jack), and two dogs.

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To learn more, and download a free curriculum guide, visit her website at katiemazeika.com. You can connect with Katie on Facebook: Katie Mazeika Illustration | Instagram: @kdmazart | Twitter: @kdmaz

Live Creative Day Activity

 

Video of Annette Kellerman’s “Ornamental Swimming”

 

Watch Annette Kellerman swim her water ballet in this rare footage from MermaidFX.

Million Dollar Mermaid Movie Scene

 

Now watch a thrilling scene from the movie Million Dollar Mermaid, the 1952 biopic about Annette Kellerman’s life starring Esther Williams, whose career was inspired by Kellerman.

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You can find Annette Feels Free at these booksellers at

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 29 – It’s National Ice Cream Month

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About the Holiday

Ice cream has a long and elite history, dating back to Ancient Greece when a rudimentary version of the confection was made of snow, honey, and fruit. It wasn’t until the 16th century, when Catherine de’ Medici introduced the treat again, that a true ice cream was created. One hundred years later, Charles I of England used his royal clout to proclaim ice cream the prerogative of the crown. He paid to keep the recipe secret and forbid the common people from eating it. He and future royals must have known a thing or two about proprietary information, as the first recipes for ice cream were not recorded until the 18th century.

This favorite dessert received its true recognition in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan established July as National Ice Cream Month. Today, indulge in your favorite flavor or sundae!

The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Revolution

Written by Lisa Robinson | Illustrated by Stacy Innerst

 

When you think of ice cream, does your mind immediately go to vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry? Or maybe you think a little fancier, like mint chocolate chip or fudge swirl. But there’s a whole other menu to choose from: “What about Wavy Gravy, Truffle Kerfuffle, or Chubby Hubby? What’s the scoop on those wacky flavors?” If you’re sweet on ice-cream, you’ll want to keep reading to find out!

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

It all started back in 1963 with two friends—Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield—who loved to eat. And they especially loved to eat ice cream. When they were in high school, Ben got a job driving an ice cream truck, and Jerry rode along to help scoop and tell “goofy jokes.” When they graduated, Ben and Jerry went off to different colleges and pursuits, but their careers didn’t turn out the way they planned. 

They were both feeling pretty down until they got together and decided to start a business together—a business where they’d be their own bosses and have fun. Since they both loved to eat, they first thought about a bagel delivery business, but it turned out to be too expensive. Then they thought about how much they loved ice cream and discovered that making it was much less expensive than making bagels.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Next, in Vermont, they found the perfect place to open shop and began fixing it up (it needed a lot of work!). But when they got to the plumbing job, Ben and Jerry didn’t have enough money to pay the plumber. That’s when Jerry had a brilliant marketing idea that the plumber jumped on. With the shop (and the plumbing) out of the way, Ben and Jerry began tinkering with their ice cream recipe.

“Teamwork was the answer. Jerry, the scientist, experimented with cream, milk, sugar, and eggs for the ice cream base. Ben, the artist, crafted clever combinations of chocolate, caramel, and cookies.” After a lot of trial and error, they hit upon the perfect combination of “rich, creamy, and chewy.” “Finally, on May 5, 1978, the doors of Ben & Jerry’s Homemade ice cream shop opened. And people came. Lots of people!” 

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Still, despite their success, there were still obstacles to overcome. One of the biggest was “making their flavors stand out” among all the others. They decided to give their flavors “cool names, like Chunky Monkey, Phish Food, and Dastardly Mash.” They even invited customers to submit ideas. And while most of Ben and Jerry’s flavors were hits, there were some clunkers among the batches. But Ben and Jerry knew how to make even these failures fun with the “Flavor Graveyard” that commemorates “dearly departed flavors” like Vermonty Python, Oh Pear, and Peanut Butter and Jelly.

As their ice cream grew in popularity, Ben and Jerry wanted to do more with their product. “They believed they could use ice cream to help make the world a better place.” They began with paying their workers well and moved on to inventing an environmentally safe carton. Their factory sported solar panels and they looked for ways to reduce waste.

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Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

To draw attention to world issues, they created special flavors: “Save Our Swirled to promote awareness of climate change; Imagine Whirled Peace to demand an end to war; I Dough, I Dough to support same-sex marriage; and Empower Mint to call attention to the unfairness of the growing gap between rich and poor.” They donated profits to causes they cared about and “formed the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to support ‘social and environmental justice around the country.'”

So now when you enjoy your favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, you’ll know that you’re also contributing to “making the world a better place.”

Back matter includes an Author’s Note, a Timeline, and a list of sources.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sweetest-scoop-foundations

Image copyright Stacy Innerst, 2022, text copyright Lisa Robinson, 2022. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams.

Lisa Robinson’s smooth-as-ice cream storytelling relates the facts of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield’s uplifting and inspirational career while infusing her biography with Ben and Jerry’s personalities with a conversational cadence and clever, but not intrusive, puns sprinkled throughout.

Standout aspects of the book include how, as young men, both Ben and Jerry used their disappointments as a springboard to a creative, satisfying, and influential career; how they found strength in their diverse but complimentary talents; and how they relied on their personal compasses to design a business model that is mindful of employees’ needs as well as important social and environmental issues. And Robinson does all this while making her book fun to read aloud and including a comical cow that pops up on several pages to tell kid-pleasing ice cream jokes.

Stacy Innerst’s watercolor and ink illustrations top off Robinson’s story like luscious whipped cream on a six-flavor sundae. Soft, yet vibrant each page spread pops with grape purples, pistachio greens, lemon yellows, and plenty of chocolate waves and swirls. Ben and Jerry are front and center on most pages, coming up with unique ideas to make their ice cream as iconic as Ben’s hat. Young readers will benefit from seeing how these two life-long friends have each other’s backs, whether its “scarfing down pizza” as teens, rising above discouragement after college, or repairing the old gas station that will become their ice cream shop.

Spying the adorable cow on a page holding a mic, riding a pogo stick, fixing an ice cream truck, and even hanging out with a skeleton, kids will eagerly anticipate each new joke. Seen through Innerst’s eyes, Ben and Jerry’s world is one where ideas are colorful clouds and clouds are shaped like ice cream cones. It’s a pretty sweet world we all get to live in.

Inspirational and uplifting, The Sweetest Scoop: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Revolution is an outstanding combination of biography, social activism, and the powers of positivity and creativity. The book would be a stirring and dynamic addition to home bookshelves and is a must for all school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Harry N. Abrams, 2022 | ISBN 978-1419748035

Discover more about Lisa Robinson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Stacy Innerst, his books, and her art, visit his website.

National Ice Cream Month Activity

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How Many Scoops? Ice Cream Stacking Game

 

How many flavors do you like on your ice cream cone? If you say “All of them!” then this game’s for you! 

Supplies

Directions

This game can be played with as many scoops as you like. Younger kids may only want to gather three or four scoops before a winner is declared. Older kids may want to earn six or even more scoops before they’re done. 

  1. Print out one ice cream cone and one set of scoop playing pieces for each player. The number of playing pieces you need will depend on how many scoops players determine it will take to win.
  2. Cut out the ice cream cone.
  3. Cut out and color the ice cream scoop playing pieces in your favorite flavors (or make up your own flavors!).
  4. Color the scoops on the die. The scoops on the die must correspond to the colors on the playing pieces. If more than six scoops are needed to win, print and color two die with 12 different colors/flavors. Kids can roll both dice at once or one at a time until all the flavors are gathered.
  5. Tape the playing die together.
  6. Choose a player to go first. That player rolls the die and places the color scoop shown on their cone.
  7. Play continues to the left.
  8. If a player rolls a color/flavor they already have, they lose the turn and play continues with the next player.
  9. Play continues until one person has collected the number of scoop playing pieces decided on to win.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-sweetest-scoop-cover

You can find The Sweetest Scoop at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 1 – National Dinosaur Day

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About the Holiday

Today, we celebrate dinosaurs—those beasts that, although they are of a distant past, remain ever present in our hearts. Their size, diversity, and shear awesomeness make them a favorite of kids, and ongoing discoveries continue to fascinate adults as well. To celebrate, visit a national history museum, watch your favorite dinosaur movies or TV shows, join your kids in playing with their dinos (you know you want to!), and pick up today’s book!

Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter!

Written by Sophia Gholz | Illustrated by Dave Shephard

 

Growing up in Montana, Jack Horner was lulled to sleep by the “crunch, swoosh. Crunch, swoosh” of his father’s gravel business, and as soon as he was big enough to hold a shovel, he began digging. He loved being outdoors, searching for dinosaur bones. He dreamed of being a paleontologist when he grew up. His digging usually only produced rocks, sticks, and dirt, but once he “spied a peculiar rock” and when he had carefully swept the sand aside, he discovered a clamshell. His first fossil find made him look at his backyard differently – as “an ocean covering the land millions of years ago–an ocean filled with ancient beasts.” Jack wanted to find more fossils.

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Image copyright Dave Shephard, 2021, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Jack taught himself how to “search for clues among the rocks: irregular textures, colors, and shapes.” He found lots of fossilized shells, but he really wanted to find a dinosaur. He went fossil hunting “in the woods and near the mountains.” Then one day while hiking up a cliff, Jack saw “an odd rock nestled in the ground.” With his tools he brushed the sand aside and uncovered the skeleton of a duck-billed dinosaur. 

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Image copyright Dave Shephard, 2021, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

While Jack was quickly becoming an expert on fossils and the landscapes that hid them, he struggled with reading in school.  His teachers told him that if his grades didn’t improve, he’d never be able to become a paleontologist. He took to experimenting in his basement, winning awards for his science projects even as he was failing his classes. One prestigious university, however, did admit Jack on the strength of one impressive project, but just as before Jack was unable to keep up in class. He dropped out and was drafted soon after to join the Vietnam War. 

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Image copyright Dave Shephard, 2021, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Here, he decided that when he got home, he would try to work closely with paleontologists, if he couldn’t actually be one himself. He was hired by Princeton University’s natural history museum, where he “assembled and cataloged exhibit, working closely with scientists.” His colleagues recognized that Jack was an “expert at reading fossils.” He got a promotion that allowed him to work in the field. 

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Image copyright Dave Shephard, 2021, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It was during one of these trips into cliffs that Jack “spied something odd. Heart thumping like the tail of an Ankylosaurus, he leapt into action.” When Jack swept the sand away, he and his team discovered a nest of fossilized dinosaur eggs – the first such find in North America. Jack went on to find more fossilized eggs, “proving dinosaurs nested in colonies;” name a new dinosaur species; and become an expert on dinosaur behavior and social structure. He even shared his special expertise when a famous movie producer filmed one of his great blockbusters. Jack had succeeded in his dream to be a “world-famous paleontologist.”

Back matter includes an Author’s Note, more about Jack Horner’s life, and a Dino Lab, that invites readers to design their own dinosaur and provides mix-and-match Greek and Latin words to help kids name their dino.

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Image copyright Dave Shephard, 2021, text copyright Sophia Gholz, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Dinosaur lovers and anyone with dino-sized dreams will be instantly hooked by Sophia Gholz’s immersive biography of Jack Horner, who forged his own path to becoming one of the world’s most influential paleontologists. His self-confidence, unstoppable drive, and ultimate success will inspire all readers to define themselves by what they can do – not by what they may struggle with – and to trust their instincts on the way to achieving their goals. Gholz tells Jack’s story clearly and with the kind of repeated phrasing that builds suspense while also replicating the types of life experiences that create expertise. 

Dave Shephard’s bold illustrations will enthrall kids as they join Jack in the cliffs of Montana to brush away the sand from a duck-billed dinosaur fossil, see the underground strata where fossils lurk, and discover the nest of fossilized eggs. Shephard also depicts Jack’s struggles in school, where his undiagnosed dyslexia causes words and equations to become a jumbled stumbling block to his education. The vibrant format with clear typography will appeal to fans of graphic novels as well as to reluctant readers.

Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! is an exceptional biography of a boy and man who never gave up on finding a way to accomplish his goal. The book will captivate children on its own or as an introduction to a wide range of classroom lessons and is highly recommended for all home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111196

Discover more about Sophia Gholz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Dave Shephard, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Dinosaur Day Activity

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Searching for Dinosaurs Puzzle

 

Hunt for 16 types of dinosaurs in this printable puzzle!

Searching for Dinosaurs Puzzle | Searching for Dinosaurs Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-jack-horner-dinosaur-hunter-cover

You can find Jack Horner, Dinosaur Hunter! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 21 – International Day of Forests

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About the Holiday

International Day of Forests was instituted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2011 to raise awareness of the importance of trees in vast woodlands or in your neighborhood or yard. Trees contribute to the quality of the air we breathe, improve the local climate, reduce noise pollution, shelter wildlife, and provide food for people and animals. This year’s theme is “Forests and sustainable production and consumption.” So many aspects in our lives – from the materials for building homes, making tools, developing new household items, and more to the medicines we take, the water we drink, and the clothes we wear rely on healthy and sustainable forests. This year’s theme encourages people to think about the ways forests benefit not only human life but the wildlife and the earth as a whole. For more information visit the UN International Day of Forests website and The Geneva Environment Network.

Thanks to Boyds Mills for providing a digital copy of The Leaf Detective for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Reviewed by Dorothy Levine

The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets in the Rainforest

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Jana Christy

 

As a child, Meg was quite shy to make friends. She spent lots of time studying and playing with wildlife: “Meg wrapped herself in nature, like a soft blanket.” As she continued to grow, so did her passion for leaves, trees, and nature. Meg attended Sydney University in Australia. In 1979, she became the first person at her graduate school to study the rainforest. Through her studies Meg learned that people had been all the way to outer space to study, but nobody had ever ventured to the tippity top of a canopy tree. Instead, they studied trees from far away through binoculars. Oftentimes scientists would spray trees with chemicals so that the harmed leaves and animals would drop to the forest floor where people could study them up close. Meg sought to change this.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

“In the dark, damp forest the trees rose up to distant rustling, squawks and screeches, shadows in the treetops. How could she get up there?” Meg Lowman created her own slingshot and harness and inched up a coachwood tree. When she reached the canopy, she knew she’d found the perfect place to study and explore. Meg is quoted saying, “From then on, I never looked back…or down!”

Meg continued to create new strategies to study the canopy, as a scientist does. And in doing so she made so many discoveries, such as: “We now believe the canopy is home to approximately half the plant and animal species on land.” Many people tried to stop Meg along her journey. They told her she couldn’t take science classes, climb trees, or make inventions because she was a woman. But Meg ignored them. She continued to investigate.

She knew that rainforests were (and are) in danger, and that so many creatures rely on the rainforest ecosystem. People all over the world were cutting down large parts of the rainforests for wood, rubber, paper, and farmland. This worried Meg; she wanted to find a way to protect rainforests before they all disappeared. “She wondered, How can one leaf detective make a difference? How can I save the trees?…Then an idea crawled into Meg’s thoughts—a way to speak for the trees.”

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Meg traveled around the world. She spoke to people across many different countries; taught them how to climb trees, build canopy walkways—she showed people the many gifts rainforests have to offer. Meg educated communities on how they could share their rainforest with outsiders, showcase its beauty to create revenue rather than chopping them down for resources. By using her voice and creative mind, Meg helped implement systems that have saved many trees and creatures across the world.

Meg Lowman continues to study trees, save rainforests, and teach people how to shift their economies to center around ecotourism and sustainable crops rather than resource extraction. She has used her voice to save rainforests across the world, and yet she still says, “If only I could have achieved as much as the tree!… But I have not. I have whittled away at relatively small goals in comparison to the grander accomplishments of a tree.”

Backmatter includes an author’s note detailing Heather Lang’s visit to meet Margaret Lowman in the Amazon rainforest in Perú. The note includes more information on Dr. Lowman’s advocacy work and is followed by an illustrated educational spread on the layers of canopies, and species featured throughout the story are labeled in the final spread, for readers to learn more about specific animals that make their homes in the rainforest.

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Image copyright Jana Christy, 2021, text copyright Heather Lang, 2021. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Heather Lang’s lyrical writing matches the carefulness with which Meg studies leaves, trees, and the rainforest canopy. Her compelling storytelling is rich with facts and sensory imagery that immerse readers in the environment and Meg’s determination to understand and, later, save it. Scattered images of leaves drop fun facts and definitions for readers about the rainforest, canopies, transpiration, herbivores, and more. Quotes from Dr. Lowman are thoughtfully placed throughout the story in a manner that neatly flows. The Leaf Detective urges readers to understand that “a tree is not just a tree” but rather “a shelter for animals and people, / a recycler and provider of water, / a creator of food and oxygen, / an inventor of medicine/ a soldier against climate change.”

Jana Christy’s digital drawings contain stunning detail and show an accurate scale of one small person in comparison to the vastness of the rainforest. Her mesmerizing wildlife creatures and immersive watercolor blues and greens transport readers right into the rainforest with “Canopy Meg.” The lush greens of the rainforests contrast strikingly with the spread on deforestation, in which fallen trees lay scattered on the bare, brown ground. Readers will also be interested to see the innovations that have made the trees more accessible to people. One can read the book over and over and notice new details every time. It is a book to treasure, to study, to read and re-read again. 

Come unearth the secrets of the rainforest with Margaret Lowman in this book that’s budding with knowledge, empathy, and magic, and is a tale of how one person can make a difference. The intriguing facts, poignant quotes from Dr. Lowman herself, and beautiful poetic writing will leave readers of this book inspired with wonder and with a hunger for advocacy. The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest is an urgent must-read for all ages.

A portion of Heather Lang’s royalties for this book go to TREE Foundation—an organization that funds field trips for children to get into nature, canopy projects, and science book distribution for children with limited access to STEAM, girls especially. 

Ages 6 – 10

Calkins Creek, 2021 | ISBN 978-1684371778

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jana Christy, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Heather Lang

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Heather Lang loves to write about real women who overcame extraordinary obstacles and never gave up on their dreams. Her research has taken her to the skies, the treetops of the Amazon, and the depths of the ocean. Her award-winning picture book biographies include, QUEEN OF THE TRACK: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion, THE ORIGINAL COWGIRL: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall, FEARLESS FLYER: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine, SWIMMING WITH SHARKS: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark, and ANYBODY’S GAME: Kathryn Johnston, The First Girl to Play Little League Baseball. When she is not writing, she enjoys going on adventures with her husband and four children. Visit Heather at www.heatherlangbooks.com.

Today I am thrilled to be interviewing author Heather Lang about her new biographical picture book The Leaf Detective: How Margaret Lowman Uncovered the Secrets of the Rainforest. Heather provides some thoughtful notes for shy readers, riveting stories from the rainforest and insight into the importance of exploring and caring for nature.

Can you tell us a little bit about what made you decide to write The Leaf Detective?  

We’ve caused enormous harm to our planet over the last few centuries, and I’m especially concerned about our rainforests. I knew I wanted to write a biography that was also a science book about the rainforest. When I read about Meg’s pioneering work and deep passion for trees, I was hooked! I couldn’t wait to find out how this quiet, nature-loving child, who didn’t know women could be scientists, became a world-class scientist and conservationist.

In the story you talk about how Meg was shy to make playmates with other kids. Were you also a shy kid growing up? Do you have any advice for readers who may relate to this aspect of Meg’s childhood? 

Like Meg, I was very shy as a child and remember wishing I were more outgoing. But as I grew older, I began to recognize the many advantages to being shy! My shy nature led me to sit back and observe. And that led to deeper thinking and understanding, a strong imagination, and creativity. Shy people often think more before they speak. They make their words count, which coincidentally is an important part of writing picture books. This also makes shy people good listeners and thoughtful friends. 

I’m still shy in many ways, and my recommendation to readers who might identify with this is to embrace your shyness! At the same time, don’t let it stop you from doing things you want to do. Meg Lowman told me she used to get so nervous before presenting in graduate school that she’d get physically sick. But with practice, practice, practice, she’s become a captivating presenter and educator. If you watch a few of her FUN FACTS FROM THE FIELD videos on my website, you’ll see what I mean! 

How would you describe your connection to nature? Would you consider yourself a “detective” in any ways? 

I’m constantly in awe of nature and its countless gifts and surprises. Nothing sparks my curiosity more than our natural world, and my curiosity is probably my most important tool as a writer. Being open-minded and asking questions not only generates ideas, but also leads me to think more deeply about a topic and examine it closely from lots of different angles. And of course that generates more detective work and more learning about my topic and myself. Being a detective is one of my favorite parts of writing books.

Do you have a favorite rainforest tree or creature? If so, tell me about it a bit!

When I arrived in the Amazon rainforest, I couldn’t wait to see a sloth! But during my time there I became fascinated with ants. They are everywhere in the rainforest, even in the canopy. I think it’s amazing how such tiny creatures can be so hardworking and organized. Their teamwork is unbelievable. And they are invaluable to the health of our rainforests. Among other things, they’re in charge of waste management on the rainforest floor, and they disperse seeds and aerate the soil!

What was the most rewarding part of writing The Leaf Detective?

This writing project was filled with rewards every step of the way! I learned so much about our rainforests and trees and gained a true understanding of how interconnected we all are—plants, animals, and humans. Getting to really know Meg Lowman and learning from her firsthand was thrilling and strengthened my writing in many important ways. It was also really rewarding to stretch myself as a writer and find a way to effectively write a book that seemed ambitious at first—a biography and conservation book that wove in quotes and science facts. 

Are there any stories from your trip to meet Meg that you did not get the chance to include in your author’s note that you’d like to share?

While I was on my Amazon adventure with Meg, I had many exciting moments. I loved learning from the Indigenous people how to use a blow gun, make clay, and braid palm leaves to make thatched roofs. The local shaman taught me how he uses different plants in the rainforest to treat and prevent injuries and illnesses—from bronchitis to poisonous snake bites. He also helped me confront my fear of snakes by bringing one over for me to touch. I even let it gently coil around my neck! But my favorite moments were exploring with Meg, especially at night and early in the morning when there’s so much activity in the rainforest.

Thanks so much for chatting with me Heather! I had a lovely time hearing about your inspiration, stories, writing process and tips for shy readers. Looking forward to learning and reading more from you in the months and years to come.

International Day of Forests Activity

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Climb a Tree! Word Search

 

There are so many kinds of trees that make our world beautiful. Can you find the names of twenty threes in this printable puzzle?

Climb a Tree! Word Search Puzzle | Climb a Tree! Word Search Solutio

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You can find The Leaf Detective at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 17 – It’s Black History Month

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About the Holiday

Black History Month celebrates the achievements and contributions of African Americans in United States History. Originally a week-long observance initiated by writer and educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson in1926 and occurring during the second week in February to commemorate the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, Black History Month was officially established in 1976 by then president Gerald Ford. The holiday is now celebrated across the country with special events in schools, churches, and community centers.

The theme for 2022 is “Black Health and Wellness” and focuses on the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also on alternate ways of practicing medicine throughout the African Diaspora. The 2022 theme considers activities, rituals, and initiatives that Black communities engage in to live healthy lives.

To learn more about Black History Month, find information on this year’s events, access resources for more research, and find content for teachers, visit the BlackHistoryMonth.gov

The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford | Illustrated by Laura Freeman

During the summer of 1962, when Elijah Cummings was eleven years old, he and other African American children marched for the integration of a Baltimore city pool. They were met with a white mob who shouted at them to “‘Go back where you came from!'” and threw rocks and bottles at them. This protest, organized by civil rights lawyer Juanita Jackson Mitchell, inspired Elijah to consider becoming a lawyer also.

Elijah’s parents had moved to Maryland from South Carolina in the 1940s, where they had worked the land where their parents had once been enslaved and where “Blacks were beaten for seeking voting rights. Elijah, his parents, and his six siblings lived in a four-room row house, where his mother and father – having only a fourth-grade education – stressed the importance of schooling. But for inquisitive Elijah, the nuts and bolts of reading and writing were elusive. Because of the cramped conditions at home, Elijah took to studying at the library, where the librarians tutored him after their shifts and made it possible for Elijah to succeed.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2022, text copyright Carole Boston Weatherford, 2022. Courtesy of Random House Studio.

Through hard work, scrimping, and saving, Elijah’s parents were able to buy a house with more room and a yard. Here, Elijah’s mother became a preacher and grew her small group of women who met in their home’s basement into a small church, the Victory Prayer Chapel. In addition to leading services, Elijah’s mother lived what she believed by helping those in need. Elijah’s father inspired him to become all that he could be. 

Even as a young boy, Elijah worked hard and, on Sundays after church, he listened to Rev. Martin Luther King’s speeches by transistor radio. He watched as African American boys were put into reform school, and he vowed to become a lawyer, but his high school guidance counselor tried to dissuade him. With the help of his parents and the pharmacist at the drug store where he worked, Elijah attended Howard University, where he was a standout student and leader. He became a lawyer and in 1983 was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2022, text copyright Carole Boston Weatherford, 2022. Courtesy of Random House Studio.

“In 1996, Elijah Cummings was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives,” and later became the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. “He spoke out to ensure that everyone was treated fairly and equally.” Even though he was a leader in Washington DC, Elijah continued to live in his inner-city Baltimore neighborhood, and during the protests against police brutality in 2015, he appealed for calm as he walked “with residents singing an African American spiritual: ‘This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.'” Before his death in 2019, Elijah Cummings was named chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, where, as he had for his entire career, he advocated for change now and for the future our children will inherit.

Quotes by Elijah Cummings on his inspirations, work, and beliefs included throughout the story allow readers to hear in Cummings’ own words his passion and dedication to creating a more equitable and caring America for all. 

A Foreword reprints remarks given by Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi at Elijah Cummings’ funeral on October 25, 2019. Back matter includes an excerpt of the statement from the Congressional Black Caucus upon Cummings’ death on October 17, a Timeline of his life and work, a Bibliography, and Source Notes for the Cummings’ quotes found throughout the story.

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Image copyright Laura Freeman, 2022, text copyright Carole Boston Weatherford, 2022. Courtesy of Random House Studio.

Carole Boston Weatherford’s moving biography of Elijah Cummings highlights the strong and supportive family unit that inspired and sustained Elijah as he grew from a thoughtful and hardworking boy into an empathetic and influential leader. Her focus on formative events in Cummings’ life depict how early experiences often shape the person children become while continuing to inform their opinions, beliefs, and occupations. Through his own words, Weatherford reveals Cummings’ commitment to the children who will read this biography as well as to all young people who will benefit from and carry on his work.

In her rich and expressive illustrations, Laura Freeman recreates pivotal events, touching examples of the Cummings’ family solidarity, and community-based actions inspired by the family’s religious faith to paint a portrait of Elijah’s youth and young adulthood. As he rises to the highest levels within the US Congress, while never losing touch with the neighborhood and people he loved, Freeman’s striking images will entice readers to learn more about Elijah Cummings’ legislative legacy and the workings of Congress and to, perhaps, become involved in their own community.

A masterful biography of Elijah Cummings that deftly interweaves the internal and external influences of his youth with their lifelong effects on his principles, his work, and his lasting influence, The Faith of Elijah Cummings is highly recommended for home bookshelves and a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9 

Random House Studio, 2022 | ISBN 978-0593306505

Discover more about Carole Boston Weatherford and her books on her website.

To learn more about Laura Freeman, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-faith-of-elijah-cummings-cover

You can find The Faith of Elijah Cummings at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review