September 9 – It’s Family Meals Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday got its start in 2015 and was designed as a way to support families in enjoying more meals made with fresh ingredients together. Over the years National Family Meals Month™ has gained recognition and grown into a social movement that promotes family bonding and education. Studies show that children who eat meals as a family are happier, less likely to get into trouble, and do better in school. To learn more about the Family Meals Movement and how you can celebrate this month and all year around, visit the Family Meals Movement website.

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore | Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

 

A little girl stands at the stove watching her Nanni stir a big metal pot. She asks her Nanni what’s in the pot and learns that there are seeds inside. How can that be? She wonders. They are the “‘seeds that grew up to vegetables,’” Nanni tells her and then reveals that “‘there are also gardeners in the pot.’” That seems impossible the girl thinks. How can that be? So her grandmother tells her about the gardeners that raised the vegetables, the soil and rain, and the sun, the moon, and the stars that are also in the pot.

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

The little girl is catching on. She sees them all too and can hear the buzz of the bees that “pollinate the flowers, that grow up to be vegetables, planted by the gardeners, with their gentle hands.” She stands on tiptoe to see what else is in the pot. It swirls with the farm workers who “make footprints in the rich soil, carrying boxes full of vegetables to the, delivery trucks, boats, and trains.”

You might think that’s all the pot can hold, but there’s more. There are the merchants who “work in teams to bring the baskets of farm vegetables to the market” and the onlookers, “‘curious to see what they bought.’” The little girl thinks that must be everything, but Nanni takes another look and discovers a bus inside the pot. “‘A BUS, Nan! How can there be a bus inside the pot?’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

This is the bus Nanni took to the market. And what’s more, the bus driver, all the passengers, and everything they passed in all the neighborhoods they drove through on their way to the market are inside the pot too. “‘Wow, Nan!’” the girl exclaims. Could there be anything else? Nanni thinks and then a beaming smile crosses her face. Her granddaughter catches her excitement and asks “‘What, Nanni? What else did you see inside the pot?’”

“‘Love,’” Nan answers. The love of all the grandmothers and mothers who passed the recipe down through the generations just so she could make the soup for her own granddaughter. The little girl wants to learn the recipe too. But Nan tells her she must be able to remember everything that goes into the pot. I do know, the girl assures her. “‘The whole world.’”

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Image copyright Vikki Zhang, 2021, text copyright Hunter Liguore, 2021. Courtesy of Yeehoo Press.

Little ones will listen wide-eyed to Hunter Liguore’s whimsical tale that gently educates while building page upon page to a tender climax with plenty of humor along the way. The sweet and playful relationship between the girl and her Nanni will charm children and the idea of how the world is connected will resonate with kids beyond the soup pot and inform their view of the world. Liguore’s dialogue-rich text that reflects the cadences of real conversations with kids makes the story a perfect read aloud.

Juxtaposing illustrations with a retro vibe next to lovely fanciful drawings, Vikki Zhang mirrors the intergenerational theme of the story while more than satisfying readers curiosity about all of the quirky ingredients in Nanni’s soup. Kids are first invited into Nanni’s kitchen, a wonder that combines both old world and modern touches. In three clever illustrations, Zhang imagines the gardeners and a café inhabiting stylized cooking pots, and other “ingredients,” such as farm workers, modes of transportation, and nearby neighborhoods are presented in intricately detailed fantastical watercolors that kids and adults will want to linger over. A final image of Nan and the little girl’s heritage told through photographs, fine china, and jewelry is a loving look at all of the Nan’s, mothers, and daughters who have left a lasting legacy in their recipe.

A beautiful and fun book for adults—and especially grandparents—to share with children, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup would make a meaningful gift and a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Yeehoo Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1953458063

Discover more about Hunter Liguore and her books on her website. You can find a Teaching Guide and Lesson Plan Activity Kit for teachers, homeschoolers, or just to enjoy at home on Hunter’s site here.

To learn more about Vikki Zhang, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Family Meals Month Activity

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Souper Maze!

 

You can’t eat soup without a spoon! Can you help the spoon get through the maze to the bowl in this printable puzzle?

Souper Maze Puzzle  | Souper Maze Solution!

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You can find The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 8 – It’s Friendship Month

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About the Holiday

Do you have friends you haven’t seen or talked to in a while? Is there someone new at work or school who could use a friend to show them the ropes or grab lunch with? If so, this month’s holiday gives you the opportunity to reach out and say hi. Instituted a decade ago by the Oddfellows organization in the UK, Friendship Month is a super time to show kindness to those you know and those you don’t—yet!  

All We Need

Written by Kathy Wolff | Illustrated by Margaux Meganck

 

In All We Need, Kathy Wolff and Margaux Meganck work in perfect harmony to show children that happiness resides in simple basics that satisfy our needs while nurturing us and bringing us together. Wolff’s lilting lyrical verses give Meganck a strong framework for her lovely illustrations that follow a group of children and their families from a park to a potluck community dinner. Each of Wolff’s verses are presented on two double-page spreads that invite readers to guess what necessity is being described before they turn the page. These poignant page turns also provide a short beat between around the answer that allows children to think a moment about its importance to them and others.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The book begins in a park with Maganck’s a mother, her toddler, and her daughter who is sitting against a tree and holding a dandelion in the foreground. The long view takes in a fountain splashpad. Wolff reveals, “All we need / is what’s found in the breeze, / in the stillness of nothing, in the rustle of trees, / when we take a deep breath, what’s not seen—but is there . . . / All we need . . ..” Turn the page and a close-up of the girl blowing the dandelion while her brother tries to capture the flying fluff reveals “. . . is air.”

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

The next page spread takes readers into the splashpad, where children cavort and a little girl is taking a drink break. An Asian mother watches her son enjoying the spray of the fountain. Turn the page and you can almost feel the cooling droplets as the kids revel in their fun. A couple of pages later, it’s time to leave and two families make their way down a city block towards home. Snapshots of the three main families cooking food will pique kids’ curiosity as to what they’re making and where they are going as following pages show them securing the meals for travel.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Readers discover that they are all going to the same place, and they greet each other with smiles and hugs. The kids help their parents decorate tables with flowers and set up the serving table with plates, bowls, and cups. Maganck’s illustration of the crowd that gathers to enjoy the food and camaraderie as well as Wolff’s appeal “to share” offers a welcome opportunity for readers and adults to talk about what kind of gathering it might be, when they have attended similar events, and what community events mean to them.

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Image copyright Margaux Meganck, 2021, text copyright Kathy Wolff, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

A heartening tribute to our universal bonds, All We Need is an eloquent invitation to appreciate life’s simple gifts and build community around them. The book would be a stirring addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1619638747

Discover more about Kathy Wolff and her books on her website.

To learn more about Margaux Meganck, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Friendship Month Activity

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Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle

 

In this printable Give Me Your Hand! Puzzle, everyone is welcomed with a handshake. Offering friendship to all, the interchangeable pieces can be mixed and matched as the animals become buddies with one another. 

Supplies

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Directions

  1. Print the puzzle: to make the puzzle sturdier: Print on heavy stock paper or glue the page to poster board
  2. Color the pictures with colored pencils or crayons
  3. Cut the pieces apart
  4. Switch the pieces around to make many alternate pictures

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You can find All We Need at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

August 2 – It’s National Farmers Market Week

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About the Holiday

In 1999, first National Farmers Market Week was held after the U.S. Department of Agriculture established the holiday to promote the idea of a direct farm-to-consumer way of selling the fruit, vegetables, meat, and other products grown and or made by farmers, ranchers, and other suppliers. The first week of August was chosen for the bounty that is available at this time of year and leading into the fall season with its delicious squash, root vegetables, leafy greens, apples, and more. Farmers markets are growing in popularity due to the freshness of their offerings and the community spirit they engender. According to the USDA, more than 85% of farmers market vendors travel fewer than 50 miles to sell at a farmers market, with more than half of farmers traveling only ten or fewer miles. To celebrate today, visit a farmers market near you and see what delicious bounty they have to offer. You can find a farmers market near you with this USDA listing.

Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market

Written by Michelle Schaub | Illustrated by Amy Huntington

 

Come spend a day mingling with the farmers, crafters, musicians, kids, dogs, and customers who make shopping local a fun community event—after all, “It’s market day. / Hooray, hooray! / Spy the wonders / on display: / rainbow carrots, / herb bouquets, / heaps of berries, / sample trays.” So “join the party; / don’t delay! / Come celebrate; / it’s market day!”

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Image copyright Amy Huntington, 2017, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2017. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

For the growers, the day starts before you are even awake. They are Early Risers who “toil by silver light. / Harvest, sort, / wash, and load. / Hop in trucks, / Hit the road. / Just as dawn / pinks the sky, / they arrive, stretch and sigh.” The farmers put up their booths and Pile Up their displays with meticulous care. Take Farmer Rick whose “cauliflower towers / take him eons to align. / His pyramids of peppers / show impeccable design….But when Miss Malory arrives, / Rick sports a wary smile— / she always picks her produce from / the bottom of the pile!”

In addition to fruit and vegetables, there is often a booth that entices with homemade bread and Delightful Bites. “Alluring aromas float over tent tops—a whiff of vanilla, a whisper of spice. / A hint of some cinnamon dusted on cupcakes, a sniff of plump blackberries tucked into pies.” There are loaves and croissants and muffins and more all waiting for you to try.

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Image copyright Amy Huntington, 2017, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2017. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

Part of the fun of a farmers’ market is the Necessary Mess. “It clings to boots / and radish roots / and smudges mushroom caps. / It likes to hide / tucked deep inside / all crannies, grooves, and gaps….This film of dust, / a thin brown crust— / a mess you can’t avert. / But don’t you know? / No crops would grow / without a lot of dirt.”

Sometimes it’s just too hard to wait to eat the goodies at the market. One nibble…well…maybe two or three—no one will ever know. Except perhaps for those telltale Clues in Blue: “Blue splatters on our T-shirts. / Blue speckles on our shoes. / Blue splotches on our baskets. / Our footprints? They’re blue too…. ‘Who gobbled up the berries?’ / We both were reprimanded. / We tried to hide the evidence— / but we were caught… / BLUE-handed.”

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Image copyright Amy Huntington,  2017, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2017. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

With twilight the market closes. The farmers pack their trucks, the honey sellers say good-bye, and “the musician’s notes have hushed.” The shoppers have gone home where their “cupboards brim with bounty, / while families dream away, / imagining the wonders / to come / next market day.”

An Author’s Note on “Fresh-picked reasons to spend a day at the market” follows the text.

In eighteen humorous, insightful, and evocative poems, Michelle Schaub takes readers to a farmers’ market to experience the sights, sounds, aromas, and fun of a day spent with a community of people in the open air. From the transformation of a vacant lot to checking off the traits of summer to an imagined conversation between a Green Zebra Tomato and Dinosaur Kale, Straub’s light touch and jaunty rhythms will make readers smile from the first page to the last. Kids and adults alike will be inspired to visit their local market again and again—in person and through these delicious poems.

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Image copyright Amy Huntington, 2017, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2017. Courtesy of Charlesbridge Publishing.

As envisioned by Amy Huntington, this farmers’ market is alive with gorgeous vibrant and subtle colors that invite readers to explore the crates of vegetables and fruit, drool over the home-baked pastries, dance along to the banjo and fiddle players, and follow the dogs who enjoy a day out as much as their humans. A diverse community of adults and children enjoy the fun in each illustration that will have readers lingering over every page.

A perfect way to celebrate farms, community, and delicious eating all year round as well as a terrific take-along on a day’s outing to a farmers market, picnic, playground, or other jaunt, Fresh-Picket Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market should find a welcome spot on any classroom, public library, and home bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 9

Charlesbridge Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1580895477 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1623541705 (Paperback, 2020)

Learn more about Michelle Schaub, her books, and her poetry on her website!

Discover more about Amy Huntington and her books on her website!

You’re going to dig this Fresh-Picked Poetry book trailer!

National Farmers Market Week Activities

 

Celebrate all the fresh vegetables that farmers markets have to offer with these activities!

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Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

 

With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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Plant a Vegetable Garden Word Search

 

There are so many kinds of vegetables to plant in your garden and add to your diet! Can you pick out the names of twenty veggies in this printable Plant a Vegetable Garden Word Search? Here’s the Solution.

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You can find Fresh-Picket Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 30 – Talk in an Elevator Day

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About the Holiday

There are many moments in life when the opportunity arises to make a connection with someone you don’t know – even if only fleetingly. Today’s holiday highlights one of these – a ride in an elevator. Instead of standing quietly until you reach your floor, the founders of Talk in an Elevator Day wanted to encourage people to strike up a conversation, maybe lighten the day with a joke, or just say hi! whether their traveling companions are a friend, neighbor, or stranger. The community in today’s book certainly celebrates the spirit of today’s holiday!

Going Up!

Written by Sherry J. Lee | Illustrated by Charlene Chua

 

Sophie and her dad, Leonard, have been invited to Olive’s birthday party on the tenth floor of their apartment building. She and her dad bake their favorite cookies to bring—”molasses with jam in the middle. It’s my grandma’s recipe,” Sophie says. Sophie and her dad live on the first floor, so just before 2:00, they head for the elevator, where Sophie pushes the button to go up.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The elevator stops at the second floor, and when the door opens, “the Santucci brothers, Andrew and Pippo”—two biker dudes—get on. “‘Hey, Little Bit!’” Pippo says to Sophie. On the third floor, a couple and their dog, Norman, get on, along with a “Happy Birthday” balloon. On the fourth floor, Mr. and Mrs. Habib and their grandkids, Yasmin and Jamal, are waiting with a “big bowl of gulab jamun” which they made especially for Sophie and her dad.

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Things are getting pretty tight in the elevator by the time it reaches the fifth floor, so Leonard puts Sophie on his shoulders and Sophie holds the cookies on her head like a hat. The elevator door opens at the eighth floor to find Grace and Arnie standing there with a bass and a clarinet. Can they fit too? With a squeeze or two, they juuust make it. One more floor to go…. Will anyone else fit?

At last, the elevator reaches the tenth floor, and with a DING everyone runs, cartwheels, dances, and tumbles out—all to wish Olive a Happy Birthday. And who is Olive? Take the elevator up to see!

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Image copyright Charlene Chua, 2020, text copyright Sherry J. Lee, 2020. Courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Sherry J. Lee’s warm and welcoming story of a group of diverse neighbors getting together to celebrate the birthday of one of their favorite tenants will delight kids. With the thrill of riding a real elevator, readers will eagerly await the door’s opening on every floor, where they’re introduced to a new family or individual. Told from Sophie’s point of view and rich in dialogue, the story shines with inclusiveness as the neighbors greet each other enthusiastically.

Humor and suspense builds as the elevator stops on each floor and more and more people bringing food, instruments, pets, and housewarming gifts squeeze into the tiny space. The elevator provides a natural setting for fun math and observational engagement, and kids will love flipping back through the pages to count, add, talk about spatial relationships, and notice hints about the favorite talents and activities of each neighbor.

With her colored pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, Charlene Chua creates a vibrant apartment building community that works in perfect synchronicity with Lee’s story. Images of the diverse neighbors—from Black Sophie and Leonard to two supposed tough guys (who sport cat tattoos and carry the tiniest of kittens) to a same-sex couple and a South Asian family to Oliver’s owner, who uses a wheelchair—reflect readers’ urban, suburban, and rural experiences.

On the journey from the first floor to the tenth, Chua includes a cornucopia of humorous, sweet, and “oh no!” clues that define personalities, add to the suspense, and hint at the identity of the birthday girl. The pull-out page as everyone tumbles out of the elevator is a showstopper that will have readers of all ages pointing, giggling, and appreciating all the residents of this special home. Opportunities to visualize and discuss math concepts occur with each push of the button or turn of the page. After taking this trip, kids will eagerly look for and welcome the diversity and individuality in their own neighborhoods.

Clever, sweet, and organically inclusive, Going Up! is a book kids will want to read again and again. As a charming story on its own and with so many applications for discussion and cross-curricular activities, the book is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 7

Kids Can Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1525301131

Discover more about Sherry J. Lee and her books as well as a fun Going Up! Activity Kit on her website.

To learn more about Charlene Chua, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Talk in an Elevator Day Activity

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Bake up Some Fun! Word Search Puzzle

 

Any party is more fun with lots of treats! Can you find your favorite in this baking pan puzzle?

Bake up Some Fun! Word Search PuzzleBake up Some Fun! Word Search Solution

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You can find Going Up! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 20 – Celebrating Park and Recreation Month with Chana Stiefel

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Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 25 books for children, both fiction and nonfiction. Her most recent picture book is LET LIBERTY RISE (illustrated by Chuck Groenink, Scholastic, 2021), the true story of how children helped build the Statue of Liberty. Her next nonfiction picture book, THE TOWER OF LIFE, is the biography of Yaffa Eliach, a Jewish historian and survivor of the Holocaust who rebuilt her village in stories and photos to create the Tower of Faces in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC (illustrations by Susan Gal, Scholastic, 2022). Other picture books by Chana include MY NAME IS WAKAWAKALOCH!, illustrated by Mary Sullivan (HMH, 2019) and DADDY DEPOT, illustrated by Andy Snair (Feiwel & Friends, 2017).

You can connect with Chana Stiefel on Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Welcome, Chana! I’m really glad to have you joining me for a one-question interview this summer! As the Statue of Liberty National Monument is part of the National Park System, Let Liberty Rise! is a perfect book for celebrating Park and Recreation month, which encourages people to get out and enjoy America’s beautiful national parks and all they have to offer. 

I know how much you love to connect with your readers. Can you talk about a poignant thing that happened during one of your visits this year?

My newest picture book Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty (illustrated by Chuck Groenink) launched from Scholastic on March 2nd. Soon afterward, I received a phone call from the youth director at a local synagogue asking if I’d be interested in doing an in-person reading to children on a Circle Line Cruise to the Statue of Liberty.

I nearly dropped the phone. 

“It will be socially distanced and everyone will be masked,” she said. “The event will be on Passover [the holiday of freedom]. Maybe you can talk to the kids about the meaning of liberty?”

“So let me get this straight,” I replied. “You’re asking if I would like to read my book about the history of the Statue of Liberty to children in front of the statue herself?” Having received my second vaccine, my answer was an emphatic, “YES! OMG, YES!” 

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On April 1st, anchors away! My family and I joined over 100 people on the Circle Line’s maiden cruise in the wake of the Coronavirus, including Jim Morgan, owner of the Curious Reader bookshop, who helped me with a book signing. For the first time since the pandemic began, I shared with children (real, live children!) the story of how, in 1885, school children contributed their hard-earned pennies to build the pedestal of America’s most beloved statue. 

And then, there we were! Floating on a boat at the base of the Statue of Liberty. It was magical.

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On our return to dock, I shared with the children the story of my late mother-in-law, Hannelore Guthof Stiefel, who escaped Nazi Germany as a young child. She arrived with her parents in New York City in 1941. One of our family’s most cherished possessions is a full page of the Journal American newspaper from October 24, 1943. It shows 11-year-old Hannelore in a red and white striped dress as a new immigrant standing with her classmates in front of the Statue of Liberty! Hannelore grew up and married my father-in-law Arnold Stiefel, also a German Jewish immigrant, who then returned to Germany as an American soldier. They moved to Bergenfield, NJ, where they became the 18th family to join Congregation Bnai Yeshurun (CBY)—the very same synagogue that invited me on the boat cruise. CBY, by the way, now has over 600 families! 

So there you have it: At the tail end of this terrible pandemic, a live reading to children at the base of the Statue of Liberty with my family’s immigration story.

Talk about liberty!

What a fabulous, unforgettable experience – for you and the kids! Thanks so much for sharing it and your wonderful pictures! 

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Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty

Written by Chana Stiefel | Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

 

When Lady Liberty arrived in New York after a long voyage from France, her unassembled parts sat in crates instead of standing tall over the harbor. Why? No one wanted to pay for the pedestal needed to give her a strong foundation. Upset about people’s disinterest, Joseph Pulitzer announced that he would publish the names of every person who donated to the cause – no matter how much or how little they gave. Children answered the call, and their pennies, nickels, and dimes rolled in, eventually adding up to the $100,000 needed to build the pedestal.

Now everyone could see America’s monument to “freedom and hope,” and the Statue of Liberty welcomed the immigrants who sailed to our shores in steamships from around the world. Today, Lady Liberty still stands “thanks to the contributions of people all across America — and children just like you.” 

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2021, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2021. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Chana Stiefel raises children’s empowerment, excitement, and pride in what they can achieve in her uplifting true story of how children were instrumental in building the foundation for the Statue of Liberty. Her straightforward, conversational storytelling shines and the inclusion of quotes from children’s letters at the time will impress and charm today’s kids. 

Chuck Groenink’s delightful mixed-media illustrations inform readers on every page about the time period surrounding, the personalities involved in, and the scale of the project to build the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Images of kids donating their hard-earned change, knitting socks to sell, sacrificing candy and trips to the circus, and creating special clubs to raise money will remind today’s charitable readers that they are carrying on a proud tradition to make a difference to their community and their country. 

Ages 6 – 9

Scholastic Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1338225884

Discover more about Chana Steifel and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Chuck Groenink, his books, and his art on his website.

Check out these other picture books and middle grade books by Chana!

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You can find Let Liberty Rise! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 23 – It’s National Homeownership Month

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About the Holiday

Owning a home is a major goal for many people, and while home ownership provides security for individuals and families, it’s also good for cities and towns, offering stability, economic benefits, and community cohesion. To that end, today’s holiday was established as a week-long observance in 1995 by then-President Bill Clinton as a way to increase homeownership by helping people negotiate the sometimes confusing elements of finding and purchasing a home. In 2002, President George Bush extended the holiday to a full month. A home is so much more than just a building, and each person has their own idea about what makes a home—or a neighborhood—perfect. Sometimes you can’t really put your finger on it—it’s just a feeling. Today’s sweet book shows how one community welcomed its newest member.

Thanks to Tundra Books for sending me a copy of Mr. Mole Moves In for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Mr. Mole Moves In

By Lesley-Anne Green

 

Mr. Mole was new to Juniper Hollow and couldn’t wait to meet his neighbors. “Now, Juniper Hollow doesn’t get too many new residents, so when they do, boy oh boy, do these critters get excited!” In fact, Raccoon had been playing close to Mr. Mole’s house, just waiting for him to come outside. When he did, Raccoon ran over, introduced himself, and stuck out his paw. Mr. Mole was happy to meet Raccoon, but instead of shaking Raccoon’s hand, he grabbed a branch from the bush next to him and gave “it a good shake.” Although a bit confused, Raccoon took it in stride and figured that’s just how things were done in Mole Town.

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Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

While Raccoon was relating this story to the Rabbit family, Mr. Mole ran into a fence post and apologized to it. Rabbit was impressed with Mr. Mole’s manners and hurried after him to introduce herself and her bunnies. They caught up with him at the general store, where he was talking to Giraffe. “‘What a beautiful baby!’ Mr. Mole said, looking sweetly at the watermelon Giraffe was holding.” When Mr. Mole went inside the store, Giraffe and Rabbit discussed what had happened. They decided that watermelons must be very prized in Mole Town. Inside the store, Cat and Chicken were talking about Mr. Mole too.

Mr. Mole stocked up on cans of worms and approached the counter, where Rabbit introduced herself and her bunnies. He was so thrilled to meet them that he immediately reached for a jar on the counter. “‘Bear, I will also take three of these candies for the little ones,’” Mr. Mole said as he handed them around. The bunnies looked at the erasers in their paws and decided to keep them for later.

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Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Watching all of this, Cat and Chicken decided that they would plan some kind of special event to welcome their wonderful new neighbor to Juniper Hollow. Everyone wanted to help. The next day they all went to visit Mr. Mole, and called out that they wanted to welcome him to town. A little nervously, Mr. Mole went out onto his front porch. All the critters had made him a welcome basket of all his favorite things.

Then “the littlest bunny hopped over to Mr. Mole and handed him her extra pair of glasses.” Mr. Mole was surprised and thanked her profusely. He had lost his glassed while moving, he told them, and couldn’t “‘see a THING without them.’” After the get-together, Mr. Mole took his basket inside and found—along with a handknit sweater and a pie—branches, erasers, and watermelon. Hmmm… he thought. “‘I guess that’s just how they do things in Juniper Hollow.’”

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Copyright Lesley-Anne Green, 2021, courtesy of Tundra Books.

Lesley-Anne Green’s story of friendship and acceptance charms with humor, clever misunderstandings, neighborliness, and one particularly sweet and empathetic bunny. Green’s enchanting storytelling immerses readers in the world of Juniper Hollow, a gentle, easy-going community that welcomes readers with the same warmth it extends to Mr. Mole. Kids will be especially pleased to see that the littlest bunny understands Mr. Mole’s plight and knows just how to help. Green’s adorable needle-felted critters, decked out in dapper outfits, shine with personality, conveying the critters’ confusion as well as their enthusiasm to embrace their newest resident and desire to make him feel at home. Her handmade backgrounds will also captivate readers with their rustic appeal, and readers will want to spend some time in the General Store exploring its well-stocked shelves.

The second book in Lesley-Anne Green’s Juniper Hollow series, Mr. Mole Moves In is a story with depth and charm and inspiring illustrations that will be asked for again and again. The book is a top choice for home, school, and public library bookshelves. You’ll also want to check out Fox and Raccoon, the first Juniper Hollow book.

Ages 3 – 7

Tundra, 2021 | ISBN 978-1101918029

You can connect with Lesley-Anne Green on Instagram.

You can watch Lesley-Anne Green talk about her work and create an adorable critter on Tundra Illustrator Studio.

National Homeownership Month Activity

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Pop Up Houses Play Set

 

You can own your own home with this printable Pop Up Play Set thanks to Education.com. It has a house for you and one for a friend! Give your houses some color, plant the trees and move in! Print on heavy paper to make the figures sturdier.

Pop Up Houses Play Set

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You can find Mr. Mole Moves In at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

March 2 – Read Across America Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday, established by the National Education Association in 1997, encourages children all across the country to celebrate reading and all of its joys and benefits. The NEA strives to create a nation of diverse readers and to provide teaching resources that promote diversity and inclusion. In NEA’s digital Read Across America calendar, the theme for March is “Cultivate Compassion.” This year teachers and parents can connect with authors, discover ideas for virtually celebrating Read Across America, and find lots of resources for a full year of reading. A love of reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures and a powerful force for future success. Celebrate today by reading with a child or on your own. There are fabulous worlds and stories waiting to be discovered. Just take a look into today’s book1 For more information on Read Across America, visit the NEA website.

If You Come to Earth

By Sophie Blackall

 

In Sophie Blackall’s beautifully—and often whimsically—illustrated If You Come to Earth, a child named Quinn who wears a red elfin hat writes a letter about Earth to any visitor from Outer Space who may venture to our planet. Quinn starts out with a map of sorts to guide the visitor through the cosmos to our “greeny-blue” home and, closer still, to the cities, towns, and villages where we congregate. A patchwork image shows the visitor the variety of houses people live in—from huts to trailers, castles to houseboats, cabins to treehouses to a familiar lighthouse. One space is also dedicated to those who have lost their homes “in a fire. In a flood. In a war.”

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Turn the page to a sunny-day picnic and Quinn reveals that in those homes live “all kinds of families.” Sometimes people are quiet, but Quinn tells the visitor, “inside our heads, we are usually thinking. You can’t see our thoughts, but sometimes we show our feelings on our faces.” What kinds of feelings? Blackall’s portraits show sadness and glee, confusion and surprise, frustration and calm. The child mentions clothing, weather, and transportation. “I’m a kid,” Quinn says, “and kids go to school to learn stuff, so we’ll know what to do when we’re grown up.” Quinn’s class is seen drawing space aliens while they talk together and share colored pencils. One boy is making a face and another is sleeping on his blank piece of paper.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

What will these kids grow up to be? Forty snapshots of adults—including a beekeeper, potter, astronaut, tennis player, barber, chef, dancer, chess player, construction worker, veterinarian, doctor, singer, and scientist—will give the visitor an idea of the vast array of jobs people do “to make the world work.” There are ideas for leisure time too. And as a large group sits around table laden with all kinds of food, Quinn says that we “eat when we are hungry” and that “some of us have more food than others,” but that “we all need food and water to survive.”

From this introduction, the visitor learns about the ocean, which appears empty but “actually it’s full.” A stunning montage of sea creatures depicts what the child means. Likewise, the land hosts animals, which bound, creep, and lope across the pages, and the sky is home to birds of all colors and sizes.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Quinn talks about the music in the world, made by animals and people, about deaf people who talk with their hands, and about blind people who read with their hands and includes images of the sign language and braille alphabets. He tells about things created by nature and those made by people; things that are big and things that are small and even things that are invisible but make a big impact. One of these is germs, which “can make you sick” just like “eating a woolly milkcap toadstool or breathing in smoke or getting spat on by a slow loris.”

Quinn reveals different ways people interact and how they grow up from babies to older people. He admits that “there are lots of things we don’t know…. But right this minute, we are here together on this beautiful planet.” Quinn ends his letter with some questions for the possible visitor from Outer Space and an invitation to stay in his room if, indeed, they come to Earth.

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Copyright Sophie Blackall, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Every page of Sophie Blackall’s mesmerizing and welcoming look at life on our planet invites readers to explore her detailed illustrations and imagine what their own additions would be to each topic. Blackall’s straightforward text is sprinkled with humor and poignancy and each line opens up a world of possibilities and the gifts of our rich diversity, both natural and human. The subjects Blackall chooses flow from each other like a long strand of yarn teased from a sweater with an intricate design and are sure to lead to fun, fascinating, and thoughtful discussions. Blackall’s ending will inspire as much as it makes you smile.

Accompanying Blackall’s text are her exquisite illustrations that are fresh and fun and, in many cases, will take your breath away. Both kids and adults will want to spend time carefully studying and talking about each page, as there is so much to see, so many connections to make, and so many secrets tucked away in each of them. Readers will notice allusions to other books and will want to point out all of the things that are “just like me!” Pages dedicated to transportation, birds, animals, sea creatures, and jobs will enthrall kids with these particular interests. Artists, collectors, and philosophers will also find pages to excite them too.

A book kids and adults will want to dip into again and again as well as an excellent read to spark writing workshops, nature studies, and social studies classes for schools and homeschoolers, If You Come to Earth is a must for home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 5 – 8 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452137797

To learn more about Sophie Blackall, her books, and her art, visit her website.

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You can find If You Come to Earth at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review