October 14 – It’s Black Cat Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

If you look at an annual calendar of pet holidays, you’ll see that cats reign supreme. This month, though, we celebrate one particular kind of feline: the black cat. While black cats are just as cuddly and sweet as any other cat, the superstition that they bring bad luck make them the least adopted of all cats. If you’re considering adopting a cat or kitten, think about giving a black cat a forever home.

Bambino and Mr. Twain

Written by P. I. Maltbie | Illustrated by Daniel Miyares

 

On a particular November day in 1904, a crowd gathered outside the brownstone where Samuel Clemens, known to readers as Mark Twain, had recently come to live. Reporters, readers, and neighbors had come to wish Sam a happy birthday. But they were shooed away by his housekeeper, Katy. Since his wife, Livy, had died five months earlier, Samuel had not felt happy; he didn’t want to see anyone or even leave the house.

“From an upstairs window an old man with wild white hair and a black cat watched the crowd walk away. ‘Everyone wants to meet witty Mark Twain,’ the man said. ‘But tell me, Bambino, would they want to meet sad, old Samuel Clemens?’” Soon his daughter Jean entered the room and persuaded her father to come downstairs for cake and ice cream with the promise that Bambino, their black cat, could have some too.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

In the middle of the cake stood a single candle—a tradition that Livy had started so that Samuel would “‘never grow old.’” With a dish of ice-cream to himself, Bambino took the place of Sam’s older daughter, Clara, who couldn’t be with them that night. Friends had invited Sam for dinner, but he did not want to go. As winter settle in, so did Samuel. He rarely left his bed, littering the covers with papers and books—so many “that the cat had difficulty finding a soft place to sleep.”

As Christmas approached, instead of attending the parties he was invited to, Samuel wandered around his big house, gazing at pictures of Livy and playing games—like billiards—with Bambino. When spring arrived, Katy rushed around opening windows to air out the house. In a sunlit upstairs room, “Bambino attacked the sunbeam dancing on the wardrobe door. Sam opened the door. The sunbeam shone on a white suit. Bambino swatted at it.” Sam lifted the suit from the closet and looked at it fondly. While Livy was alive he had worn that suit every summer. “‘Those were happy days,’” he recalled.

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012, text copyright P. I. Maltbie, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Just then, outside the open window, Bambino saw a squirrel that had been chattering at him for days. With a leap Bambino was chasing the squirrel down the street. “‘Bamb-i-i-i-n-o-o-o!’ Sam’s voice echoed over the city noises.” Sam and Jean put up Lost Cat posters offering a $5.00 reward (a week’s wages) for Bambino’s return. Sam didn’t know how he would tell Clara that Bambino was gone, but Jean reassured him that someone would find their cat.

“Soon a steady stream of people appeared on Sam’s doorstep with cats and kittens of every size, color, and breed.” Seeing the crowd, Sam came out onto his stoop. One little girl offered to let Sam borrow their family’s cat until Bambino returned, and others brought him cats they thought would comfort him. But Sam thought Bambino would not “‘take kindly to finding a foreign cat in his kingdom.’” Reporters wanted to talk to this beloved author about Bambino too, “and this time Sam talked to them.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Four days later, Katy found Bambino on the doorstep as if nothing had happened. Sam was overjoyed. “‘To celebrate, we’ll feast on the fatted salmon,’” he said. Sam’s experience with his kindly friends, neighbors, and readers had given him a new perspective. He was ready to rejoin the world and enjoy what it had to offer. An announcement in the newspaper let people know that Bambino had returned, but they continued to drop by to wish Sam well. Now, Sam smiled and talked with them.

Sam had several white suits made, and they became his trademark. At his home in Connecticut, he held a musical gala and talked and joked the way he used to. Jean and Clara had not seen their father this happy in a long time. And Bambino? He just “blinked his eyes and purred.”

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Image copyright Daniel Muyares, 2012. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

P. I. Maltbie’s focus on a particular year in Samuel Clemens’ life provides a deeper portrait of this author known for his wit, wisdom, and social commentary. Maltbie’s detailed and compassionate storytelling reveals the stages and effects of grief and the way a pet or a good friend can help in a way that is accessible and understandable for children. His tracing of the passage of time from fall to summer allows readers to see that recovery from sadness or other events is a personal journey, but one that is made easier with the enduring love and reassurance of family and friends. Readers who love the stories and novels of Mark Twain will appreciate this touching glimpse into Samuel Clemens’ life.

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Daniel Miyares’ crisp, mixed-media and digital illustrations resonate with muted, yet saturated colors that reflect Samuel Clemens’ mourning. Perky Bambino is a constant presence, celebrating Sam’s birthday, playing billiards with Sam, and curled up on Sam’s bed. Bambino’s dramatic leap out the window will wow kids, and they will empathize with Sam as pages without the black cat reflect Sam’s feeling of loss. Young readers will be inspired by the little girl who offers her own family cat to comfort Sam and be cheered to see the positive effect Bambino’s return has on Sam as he again embraces the world dressed in the iconic white suit, which signals Sam’s lightening mood and regained good humor.

Bambino and Mr. Twain is an excellent biography to share with children at home and school to show that everyone undergoes good and bad times, but with faithful and loving family and friends, problems can be resolved and happiness restored.

Ages 5 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2012 | ISBN 978-1580892728 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1580892735 (Paperback)

To learn more about Daniel Miyares, his books, and his art on his website

Black Cat Awareness Month Activity

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Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These kittens all have a twin, but they got mixed up while playing! Can you find the pairs again in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

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You can find Bambino and Mr. Twain at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 7 – It’s Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation. From the military, to business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the commemoration was expanded to a month in 1988. You can learn more about today’s holiday, find classroom and other resources, and discover fun facts on the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise | Illustrated by Paola Escobar

 

In 1921 Pura Theresa Belpré left her home in San Juan to visit Nueva York and celebrate her sister’s wedding. “Words travel with her: stories her abuela taught her. Cuentos folklóricos Pura retold in the shade of a tamarind tree, in Puerto Rico.” Pura’s visit lengthened, becoming a new start in a new land. At first, she got a job in a garment factory, but then Pura saw that the library needed a bilingual assistant. Pura spoke Spanish, English, and French. She thought she was perfect for the job, and the library did too.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

But while she shelved books, she noticed that there were no books of folktales from Puerto Rico in the collection. “How lucky for the library that Pura has story seeds ready to plant and grow.” In the children’s room she sits with the kids around her and tells the story of a beautiful cockroach and a galant rat who loves her: “la cucarachita Martina and el ratoncito Pérez.

After sharing the story with the children at the library, Pura hopes to “plant her story seeds throughout the land.” Pura makes puppets and performs her folktales for families who come to listen “en inglés y español.” But Pura wants children to be able to readPérez y Martina and other cuentos de Puerto Rico.” She types up her story and sends it to the publisher Frederick Warne. He agrees to publish her book.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Now Pura travels from library to library and to schools, “churches and community centers…planting her story seeds in the hearts and mind of children new to this island who wish to remember la lengua y los colores of home.” She spends her time writing, traveling, and speaking until she meets and marries Clarence Cameron White. Pura decides to take a year off from working at the library to be a wife. But one year becomes many as she and Clarence travel, playing music and telling stories. They spend many happy years together. When Clarence dies, “Pura’s story must begin again.”

“It is 1961,” and Pura returns to the library. Now other storytellers share Pura’s stories with the children and “the seeds she has planted…have become a lush landscape into which she steps as though she has never left.”

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

An Author’s note reveals more about the life and work of Pura Belpré, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City and the author of the first mainstream Latinx storybooks published in America. Back matter also includes selected bibliographies, archival resources, titles of articles and films, a list of books for further reading, and more information on the four folktales mentioned in the book.

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Image copyright Paola Escobar, 2019, text copyright Anika Aldamuy Denise, 2019. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Anika Aldamuy Denise’s lovely and lyrical tribute to the trailblazing and prolific Pura Belpré is a fast-paced introduction to the influence this librarian, storyteller, and writer had on children and the community as the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York and the first published Latinx children’s author in America. By blending Spanish words and phrases and English into her evocative sentences, Denise reflects the immigrant experience while also embracing Belpré’s and her Latinx reader’s love for and pride in their culture. As children learn how Belpré brought Spanish-language programs and books to children and families in New York and beyond, they will be inspired to look for ways that they, too, can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

Mirroring the lush landscape of language that Pura Belpré tended, Paola Escobar infuses her illustrations with rich hues and enveloping details. Belpré’s love for San Juan and her heritage is shown through the sprinkling of flowers, rendered in the bright pastels of her native country, that float around her whenever she tells her stories. The whimsical images of Martina and Pérez, characters from her first published folktale, also follow her from page to page throughout the story. Spectacular images of the city and inside the New York Public Library will have readers lingering over the pages.

A gorgeous read-aloud about a woman all children should know, Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré is a must for all school and public libraries and would make an inspiring choice for home collections as well.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2019 | ISBN 978-0062748683 | Spanish-language edition ISBN 978-1400212644

Discover more about Anika Aldamuy Denise and her books on her website.

To view a portfolio of work by Paola Escobar, visit her on tumblr.

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

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We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped We Are All Family Word Search! Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré at these booksellers

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

Sembrando historias: Pura Belpré: bibliotecaria y narradora de cuentos

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

Picture Book Review

Pk Review

 

September 10 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

There are so many perfect times to read a book and so many new books to fill those hours. Kids love reading or being read to in school or before going to sleep. And adults they try to snatch a few minutes here and there during lunch or a break or before turning out the light. Whether you read a newly published book, a book that’s new at your local library or bookstore, or a book that’s just new to you, grab your favorite kind of book and start reading!  

Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank’s Diary

Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Jordi Solano

 

On August 4, 1944, Miep Gies hears the worst sound she’s ever heard: “footsteps on the secret back stairs.” The sound is “worse than the World War II bomber planes…. Worse than the queen’s quivering voice on the radio announcing the invading Nazi army.” The sound means that Nazi officers have come to arrest the Frank family who Miep has been hiding for two years. Miep hears the van carrying her friends roar away. She knows that soon Nazi movers will return to take away all of the Frank’s possessions. She knows too that she could be arrested for keeping anything belonging to her friends, but there is one item she must rescue. “It calls silently from the musty rooms above.”

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It takes many hours before Miep can bring herself to enter the secret annex. With her husband, Henk, and a coworker, Elli, they enter the rooms. In the bedroom, Miep finds what she is looking for: a red checkered diary that holds the thoughts and hopes of the Franks’ young daughter Anne. Miep “knows Anne dreams of publishing it as a book after the war.” Elli gathers up more of Anne’s writing that lies strewn across the floor, and Miep “grabs…Anne’s delicate combing shawl, strands of her dark hair clinging to its fabric like silky noodles.”

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Miep hides Anne’s diary and combing shawl in the drawer of her desk, never reading it. Nine months go by then one day Henk rushes into their apartment with news that the war is over and that the Nazis have surrendered. Miep and Hank wait for their “friends and neighbors to return from the camps,” wondering if the Franks will be among them. One day, Miep sees a familiar figure approaching her door. It’s Mr. Frank. He is alone, his wife having died in the camp. He has no knowledge about Anne and her sister as they were sent to another camp. While Mr. Frank regains his strength with the help of Miep, he sends letter after letter trying to locate his daughters.

At last a letter arrives, but it “contains the worst possible news: Anne and her sister did not survive the war. The air in the office hangs as still and shattered as the day of the capture.” With a broken heart, Miep opens her desk drawer and retrieves “Anne’s diary, papers, and shawl.” As she hands them to Mr. Frank, he gasps. He takes them to his office and reads Anne’s diary. “He savors her tales of growing up in hiding, her bright calls for hope when all seems lost.” He urges Miep to read it too, but she feels that she “will drown in sorrow” if she does.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-miep-and-the-most-famous-diary-anne's-room

Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

With the help of a war historian, Mr. Frank has Anne’s diary published. But, still, Miep cannot read it. Years go by before Miep opens the cover of Anne’s book. As she reads Anne’s words, she feels “as if Anne is standing right beside her, chattering away. Within the pages of her diary, Anne expressed her gratitude for the “gift…of writing, of expressing all that is in me” and her desire to “go on living even after my death!” After reading Anne’s words, Miep’s sadness lessens and she realizes that by saving her diary, “her beloved Anne will live on and on.”

An Author’s Note about how this book came to be written as well as more about the life of Miep Gies follows the text.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Reading Meeg Pincus’s compelling first page, readers can almost hear the stomp of Nazi footsteps on the stairs leading to the secret annex and feel the constriction of Miep Gies’s heart as the Franks are arrested and taken away. Miep’s courage amid her sadness reverberates throughout this true story, tinted with the secrecy of grocery runs, the hurried collection of Anne’s most precious possession, and her ongoing mission to protect her friends. Pincus’s excellent pacing and evocative storytelling, which includes actual quotes from Miep’s writings and is punctuated with emotion will have children holding their breath as they listen or read on their own. Heartbreaking facts are portrayed candidly and with respect for the target age, allowing Anne’s boundless hope to shine through.

Seeming to take inspiration in color and tone from photographs on the front endpaper of Anne and her father flanked by Miep Gies and other helpers, Jordi Solano washes his illustrations in somber grays and greens, preserving bright spots for Anne’s red diary and her grass-green skirt that connects her to the colorfully clothed children who, on the final page, have come to visit the Anne Frank Museum. Miep’s grief at the arrest of her friends is palpable, and the Nazi officer who threatens her with arrest is depicted with sharp angles and an unrelenting stare. Children see Miep hide Anne’s diary in the back of a drawer and the approaching figure of Mr. Frank coming home from the detention camp. Solano portrays the moment when Mr. Frank, reunited with Anne’s diary and papers, clasps his daughter’s things to his heart. It is a poignant glimpse into this most private experience. As Miep finally reads Anne’s diary, Anne, herself, appears as she was, full of curiosity, joy, and love.

A must to be included in lessons about World War II, the Holocaust, and Anne Frank, Miep and the Most Famous Diary is also a poignant reminder of the crucial role of personal courage as well as the everlasting endurance of hope. The book should be included in all school and public libraries and would make a powerful addition to home libraries as well.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110250

Discover more about Meeg Pincus and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jordi Solano, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Initials Bookends

 

You can display your personality along with your favorite books with this easy craft! This makes a great gift too!

Supplies

  • Sturdy wooden letter blocks in the child’s first and last initials. Or, if the child would like to try on a new name or nickname, the first letter of their new name.
  • Chalkboard or acrylic paint
  • Colored chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the letters, let dry
  2. With the chalk write words that describe you or names of your heroines and/or heroes
  3. Display your bookends

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You can find Miep and the Most Famous Diary at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 30 – National Frankenstein Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates the birth of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who in 1818 at the age of 18, penned one of the most influential books of all time. Considered the first modern science fiction novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus incorporates elements of horror, psychology, love, abandonment, and acceptance. These themes and Shelley’s enthralling storytelling created a book that is always current. During this 200th anniversary year of the publishing of classic novel, discover (or rediscover) the spellbinding thrill of reading Frankenstein.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein

Written by Linda Bailey | Illustrated by Júlia Sardà

 

Mary was a dreamer. She liked to spend time alone, thinking and imagining “things that never were.” Mary called these daydreams “‘castles in the air.’” Mary loved to write stories too, but her daydreams were even more thrilling. When Mary wanted to read and dream, she went to the graveyard and sat next to her mother’s grave. Mary’s mother had died when Mary was only 11 days old.

While Mary loved her father, she didn’t like the way he punished her. Mary didn’t like his new wife, either. Mary’s father is friends with many famous people, and he invites them to visit. One night “a writer named Samuel Taylor Coleridge recites a strange, eerie poem—The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. Mary loves such poems.” Even though she was supposed to be in bed, she hid and listened, shivering “with fear at the spine-tingling tale of a ship full of ghosts.” Forever after, Mary remembered that night and that poem.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

By the time Mary was fourteen, she was unhappy at home and causing trouble. One night, when she was sixteen, she and her stepsister, Claire, ran away with a “brilliant, young poet” named Percy Bysshe Shelley. They traveled through Europe, one day finding themselves outside a “ruined castle. It’s called Castle Frankenstein. Such an interesting name! Does it stick in Mary’s mind?”

Eighteen months later, the three traveled to Switzerland, where they became friends with Lord Byron—the most famous poet in the world. One night as torrential storms crashed around Lord Byron’s house, he read ghost stories from Fantasmagoriana. After reading, Byron challenged his friends, who also included a doctor named John Polidori, to write a ghost story. Eighteen-year-old Mary, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and John Polidori accepted the challenge. But Mary could not think of a good story idea.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Soon, Shelley and Polidori gave up on their ghost stories, but their talk of new scientific experiments excited Mary. “Electricity can make the muscles of a dead frog twitch. Could it bring a dead creature to life? The idea is both thrilling and frightening.” The idea captured Mary, but instead of a frog, she imagined “a hideous monster, made of dead body parts, stretched out—and coming to life!” Mary suddenly realized she had the idea for her ghost story.

It took nine months for Mary to finish her story. When it was published, some people thought it had been written by Percy Bysshe Shelley—they didn’t “believe young Mary could have done it! How could a girl like her come up with such a story?” But she was a writer, assembling bits and pieces, ideas, and scientific changes in her imagination until they turned into the book Frankenstein. In the two-hundred years since the novel was first published, the story has become a classic. It has sparked movies, inspired other writers, and become a favorite all around the world.

An extensive Author’s Note about Mary Shelley, her life, and inspiration as well as Linda Bailey’s thoughts on the story behind Frankenstein follows the text. A full-page portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and a list of sources rounds out the informative backmatter.

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Image copyright Júlia Sardà, 2018, text copyright Linda Bailey, 2018. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

With atmospheric and riveting details, Linda Bailey captures the life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the influences on her imagination that resulted in Frankenstein. Bailey’s use of the present tense is inspired as it reflects the continued currency of the novel while encouraging today’s readers to embrace their “castles in the air.” Facts about Mary’s travels, new scientific discoveries, and favorite books sprinkled throughout the story inform readers on how the imagination combines experiences to create art.

One look at Júlia Sardà’s spellbinding cover tells readers that they are in for an extraordinary reading experience. Muted tones of red, green, gold, blue, and plum cloaked in black create a thrilling backdrop to Bailey’s story. Ghostly winged creatures fly over Lord Byron’s home on a stormy night, smoky monsters emerge from Fantasmagoriana, a frog sits up in its coffin, and the spectre of the monster leans over Mary and sleeps at her feet as she writes her novel. At once spine-tingling and cozy, Júlia Sardà’s illustrations will draw children into this superb story of a ghost story.

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is sure to spark the imagination of children who love literature, art, and writing. The book would be a thrilling addition to classroom libraries for literature and writing classes as well as an inspiring favorite on home bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Tundra Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1770495593

Discover more about Linda Bailey and her books on her website.

To learn more about Júlia Sardà, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Frankenstein Day Activity

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Monstrously Good Puzzle

 

See if you’re a Frankenstein scholar by filling in this printable puzzle full of words and phrases about the novel!

Monstrously Good Puzzle | Monstrously Good Puzzle Word ListMonstrously Good Puzzle Solution

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You can find Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

August 11 – It’s Elvis Week

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About the Holiday

Each year during the week in August surrounding the date of Elvis Presley’s death, fans gather in Memphis and at Graceland, his home that is now a monument to The King to celebrate his music, movies, and legacy. Events include concerts, workshops, dances, the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, and more. The annual Candlelight Vigil, which attracts tens of thousands of fans, is held from the evening of August 15 to the morning of the 16th. Participants carry a candle as they walk up the driveway to the Meditation Garden, listening to his music and taking in memorials created by fans. To learn more about Elvis Week, visit the Graceland website.

Elvis Is King

Written by Jonah Winter | Illustrated by Red Nose Studio 

 

Elvis is King by Jonah Winter and Chris Sickels’ Red Nose Studio is an eye-popping wonder for fans of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll wanting to share their love for Elvis with their kids. In short, lyrical chapters with dramatic titles that are cleverly reminiscent of the sensational headlines Elvis generated throughout his life (and even after), Winter peels back Elvis’s rags-to-riches story, encapsulating the depth of poverty, talent, and ambition that fueled his life. It’s all here—his birth “in a humble shack / on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, / the side where the poorest of the poor people live…;” his reason for being: singing; and the county fair talent show, where ten-year-old Elvis got his first taste of adoration and a “Fifth Prize!” award.

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Kids walk into the hardware store with Elvis’s barefoot mama, who “with pennies she saved…/ buys her eleven-year-old birthday boy / the most important gift he will ever receive. / It will be the key to his salvation.” Elvis plays that guitar everywhere, “All. The. Time.” There’s the moment Elvis overheard gospel singing coming from the African American Church and “The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis.” And that question: Why peanut butter and banana sandwiches? The answer’s here too.

When the family moves to Memphis, it’s up to teenage Elvis to make the money by “working nights as a ticket taker at a movie theater.” Then, suddenly during those years, Elvis finds the “Weird Teenage Elvis” inside him. He dyes his blond hair black and waxes it into a wave. At a thrift shop he buys green pants, a pink shirt, and a checkered jacket. Then at the high school talent show, he “KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD with his song.” And not only that “something happens, something big, when he’s up there: / He is no longer shy! / He can be whatever he wants to be—let loose, go crazy!”

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Along the way he falls in love, graduates from high school, and soaks up the sounds of the blues on Beale Street. For his mama’s birthday, he goes to Sun Studios, where anyone can record themselves singing. “(It also makes *real* records of big-time singers— / and Sly Elvis knows this.)” Elvis has his first recorded song for just $3.98. A bit later he gets the call he’s been hoping for from Sun Studios and discovers his signature sound and moves. The song—”That’s All Right”—plays on the radio, and where’s Elvis? Hiding out. Will people like it? Five thousand requests and fifteen replays in one night say Yes!

And when Elvis walks on stage for the first time to sing his song, he’s met with an “AVALANCHE of screaming—in a good way!” Goggle-eyed girls just want to be near him, and it’s the same no matter where he travels. This “Good-Lookin’ Heartthrob Elvis” is soon to lose his “One True Love, / his little darlin’, Dixie Locke. He uses that feeling, though, in a song—”Heartbreak Hotel” that “rises to number 1 on the pop charts.” So “What Is This Crazy Music, Anyway?” It’s not exactly country and it’s not exactly rhythm and blues. “It’s… / ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, baby. / And Elvis is its KING…!”

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Jonah Winter’s biography is in every way a loving tribute to Elvis Presley that also winks at his larger-than-life persona and the world’s obsession with him. Well-chosen adjectives presented in initial caps and attached to Elvis’s name, give titles to the phases of Elvis’s life and present an evocative way to show what and where he grew from and left behind on his rise to fame. Sprinkled with southern vernacular and touched with the cadence of a slow, considered southern drawl, Winter’s ingenious verses mirror song lyrics and echo themes that not only make up the country and blues standards that influenced Elvis’s music but that applied to his life. 

As always Chris Sickels’ Red Nose Studio artwork is nothing short of astounding. Each illustration is composed as a 3-D set handcrafted from polymer clay, wood, wire, fabric, and found objects. The intricate details and moving emotions, demonstrated in a look, by a gesture, and through perspective, give the illustrations a realism that goes beyond a photographic depiction to illuminate the heart of Elvis Presley’s story. Readers will want to linger over every page to absorb the cultural landscape and life-affirming moments that created The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

A joy to read aloud, Elvis Is King is an inspirational story for anyone with a dream, big or small. The personal, yet universal, story and phenomenal art make the book a stirring addition for home, school, and public libraries. 

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2019 | ISBN 978-0399554704

Discover more about Jonah Winter and his books on his website.

To learn more about the work of Chris Sickels and Red Nose Studio, visit his website.

Elvis Week Activity

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Elvis Coloring Page

 

Elvis wowed audiences and movie goers with his moves and flair. This printable coloring page shows Elvis in of his well-known dance poses. In honor of Elvis Week, why not share Elvis is King, this page, and some of Elvis’s songs or movies with your kids?

Elvis Coloring Page 

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You can find Elvis Is King at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 7 – National Lighthouse Day

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About the Holiday

Lighthouses have been in use since the earliest days of sea-going vessels. Built to warn sailors of dangerous and damaging rocks and reefs, these sentinels are a picturesque and fascinating part of history. From man—and woman—tended lights to today’s automated systems, lighthouses are a beacon of inspiration and imagination.

Miss Colfax’s Light

Written by Aimée Bissonette | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

In 1861 when Harriet Colfax’s brother fell ill and decided to leave Indiana, Harriet had two options: she could leave with him—after all she had come to Indiana with him and worked with him at their newspaper—or she could stay on as the lighthouse keeper of the Michigan City Lighthouse, making $350 a year. Most women might have chosen to leave, but Harriet did not want to give up her independence or leave her best friend, Ann. She took the job as lighthouse keeper even though many in town thought she was too weak or too inexperienced to do the work.

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Harriet knew the ships on the sometimes wild waters of Lake Michigan—one of the northern United States’ Great Lakes—relied on the lighthouse to keep them from danger. Twice every night she had to carry “whale oil in a bucket up narrow stairs to the top of the lantern tower” to refill the light and then polish the Fresnel lens. During the day, she “cleaned and painted…varnished the woodwork and shined the brass…and wrote notes in her log.”

It didn’t matter if Harriet was tired or sick or if winter storms rocked the shore, Harriet’s work went on. In 1871 a beacon light was installed at the end of the Michigan City east pier. Now in addition to the main lighthouse, Harriet had to keep this signal lit too. To do so required a long walk down a wooden catwalk that jutted far out into the lake. At times the freezing water roiled and splashed over the catwalk, making the walk tricky and dangerous. By this time lard had replaced whale oil as fuel. While it was cheaper and easier to get, it also had to be heated to pour. Sometimes on frigid winter nights “the lard oil hardened in the cold and Harriet had to fight back through the wind to reheat the oil” on her stove.

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In 1874 the beacon light was moved to the west pier—farther away. Instead of being within walking distance, Harriet now had to “row a small boat across a creek, hike the far shore, and cross a longer catwalk to light the beacon light.” One night in 1886 storms raged as Harriet made her way down the west pier. “Driving sleet covered her coat with ice. Sand from the dunes along the lake pelted Harriet’s face, stinging her cheeks. Her boots slipped and slid on the catwalk.” Only moments after she finished filling the beacon light and stepped off the catwalk, “a deafening screech filled the air” as the beacon tower “ripped from its moorings and crashed into the lake.”

Harriet’s dedication to the Michigan City Lighthouse continued every day and every night for 43 years. People in town came to call the landmark “Miss Colfax’s Light,” and ship captains named it “Old Faithful.” Over the years her vantage point on the tip of the shore allowed Harriet to experience more than stormy seas. She also saw “brilliant sunsets, lunar eclipses, and silent, dancing northern lights. She saw tall-masted schooners with white sails give way to steamships of iron and steel.”

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In 1904, when Harriet was 80 years old, the Michigan City Lighthouse underwent a renovation. It acquired a fog signal, and the oil-burning mechanism was replaced with a steam engine and boilers with huge coal-fired furnaces that required several keepers. Although Harriet was sad to leave her life as a lighthouse keeper behind, she understood. With the same bravery that had brought her to the lighthouse, she opened the door and stepped out to what came next.

An author’s note about Harriet Colfax follows the text along with a glossary of terms used in the book.

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Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2016, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

The life of Harriet Colfax needs no embellishment to reveal the kind of determination and dedication it took to keep the Michigan City Lighthouse shining. Aimée Bissonette tells this brave woman’s story straightforwardly, focusing on particular moments when her duties were increased or her resolve challenged. Harriet’s personal motto that kept her going: “I can do this” is repeated throughout the book, echoing the revolving beacon that shines continuously on the shore of Lake Michigan. Actual entries from Harriet’s log punctuate the text, lending authenticity and Harriet’s voice to the story.Children will be fascinated by this snapshot of American (and world) history.

Eileen Ryan Ewen’s action-filled paintings of Harriet and her work beautifully demonstrate to readers Harriet’s incredible will and perseverance under the most difficult circumstances. The narrow stairs of the lighthouse pose daunting in the middle of the night; the seas of Lake Michigan surge and lap at Harriet and the winds buffet her as she navigates the catwalk; and an exhausted Harriet stands at the stove melting lard to light the lens. Children interested in ships and the sea will find much here to excite their imaginations.

A captivating biography of a woman who lived life on her own terms long before there was support for her choices, Miss Colfax’s Light will inspire today’s kids and is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1585369553

Meet Aimée Bissonette and learn more about her books and work on her website!

To view Eileen Ryan Ewen‘s portfolio, sketchbook, and other books, visit her website!

National Lighthouse Day Activity

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Shining Lighthouse Maze

 

Lighthouses protect ships from rocks, fog, and other dangers. Can you help the beam from the lighthouse reach the tugboat that is approaching in this printable Shining Lighthouse Maze? Here’s the Solution.

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National Archives Lighthouses from the Collection

 

If you’re fascinated by lighthouses, you’ll love exploring these drawings from the United States National Archives. Click below to download a pdf of lighthouses from around the country. 

The National Archives of the United States Coloring Book of Lighthouses

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You can find Miss Colfax’s Light at these booksellers

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

August 2 – National Coloring Book Day

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About the Holiday

A few years back adults discovered (or rediscovered) what kids already know—that coloring is fun! Not only is it fun, but letting your creativity turn a page from black-and-white to full-color is relaxing and satisfying. Today’s holiday was established in May 2015 by Dover Publications, a leader in the coloring book industry. In fact, Dover published the first coloring book for adults—Antique Automobiles Coloring Book—in 1970. You know how to celebrate today! Grab your box of crayons, your kids, and your friends and have a coloring party! To learn more about the holiday and download a free mini coloring book visit the Coloring Book Day website. You can find more coloring pages to download on the Crayola website. To learn more about the man who invented crayons, keep reading!

The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons

Written by Natascha Biebow | Illustrated by Steven Salerno

 

Edwin Binney was an inventor who truly appreciated all the colors around him. In fact, “color made him really, really HAPPY!” Perhaps he loved color so much because all day long in the mill where he worked he was surrounded by nothing but black: “black dust, black tar, black smoke, black ink, black dye, black shoe polish. His company sold carbon black, a new kind of pigment, or colored substance, make from the soot of burning oil and natural gas.” Edwin worked with his cousin C. Harold Smith, and their company was called Binney and Smith.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

While Harold was the salesman, Edwin was the tinkerer who had made better pencils for writing on slate and a wax crayon that wrote on both paper and wood. His wife, Alice, thought he was just the person to create better crayons for kids. The existing crayons were too big and clunky, and artists’ crayons were too expensive.

Edwin gave it some thought and started experimenting with wax for substance and rocks and minerals for color. Then he and his workers fine-tuned their batches, adding only “a pinch of this pigment, a sploosh of that one, a little hotter, a little cooler…and voilà, LOTS of different shades!” Now, instead of being covered in black dust at the end of the day, “Edwin came home covered in color.”

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

At the factory, Edwin’s team worked on their top-secret formula and finally poured the mixtures into “thin, crayon-shaped molds” to make crayons that were just the right size for children. Finally, in 1903, Edwin had the product he wanted. “He’d invented a new kind of colored crayon” and wanted a new name to go with it. Alice had just the right suggestion, and Crayola crayons were born.

The first boxes contained eight colors and sold for a nickel. As they shipped out to stores, Edwin wondered if the kids would like them. Children loved their fine points, clear lines, and long-lasting color. By this time, inexpensive paper was also available, so kids didn’t have to draw or write on slate tablets anymore.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

At the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, Edwin’s Crayola crayons won a gold medal. As time went on, Edwin and his team made even more colors, many inspired by nature and even the flowers in Edwin’s own garden. Some of the colors you’ll find in a box today were given their names by children, including “macaroni and cheese” and “robin’s egg blue.” Now, kids all around the world can create just the picture they want, with lots and lots of color.

Back matter includes an illustrated description of the process of making Crayola crayons, an extended biography of Edwin Binney, and a bibliography of resources.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Natascha Biebow’s quickly paced biography of Edwin Binney and the invention of Crayola crayons is a deft portrait of the man and his times that were on the cusp of and central to so many innovations that created the modern world. Biebow’s emphasis on Binney’s willingness to listen and match his inventions to people’s needs is a lesson on collaboration and the true spirit of invention for today’s future pioneers. In her fascinating and accessible text, Biebow relates the problems with late 1800s writing and drawing mediums while also building suspense on how Binney and his team created the new crayons. Children will be awed to discover the thought, experiments, and materials that went into those first thin sticks of color. Short paragraphs that explain more factual information about topics in the story, including carbon black, the availability of paper, European crayons, and pigments are sprinkled throughout the pages.

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Image copyright Steven Salerno, 2019, text copyright Natascha Biebow, 2019. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Steven Salerno’s color-drenched pages are beautiful tributes to the man who brought a new age of color into children’s lives. In a clever page turn, Edwin Binney stands in his garden with his arms outstretched appreciating the rainbow of flowers, the deep-blue sea, the light-blue sky, and a fiery red cardinal flying by. The next page takes kids into Binney’s mill, where he stands in the same position, but now seeming to bemoan the sooty environment. Salerno brings the time period alive for kids through hair and clothing styles and school and home furnishings. Several pages give readers a field trip into Binney’s secret lab to see the mechanics of making crayons at work. The front and end papers invite kids to give the wrapper-less crayons pictured a name based on their colors and then to make a drawing of their own.

A high-interest biography of the man who changed the way kids could interpret their world, The Crayon Man is a must for young inventors, artists, and thinkers as well as for classroom story times, social studies lessons, and art classes. The book would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 9

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1328866844

Discover more about Natascha Biebow and her books on her website.

To learn more about Steven Salerno, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Coloring Book Day Activity

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Cool Coloring Pages

 

You know what to do on Coloring Book Day! Here are three coloring pages for you to print and enjoy!

Cave kid Coloring Page | Dragon Coloring Page | Mermaid Coloring Page

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You can find The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review