April 30 – It’s Jazz Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

Jazz Appreciation Month got its start at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001. The aim was to celebrate and educate people on the history of and continuing love for jazz. The holiday encourages people of all ages to become familiar with jazz music and the musicians of the past who created this original sound and those today who keep innovating jazz for new audiences. This year’s theme is “jazz beyond borders” and looks at the “dynamic ways jazz can unite people across the culture and geography.” In connection with this initiative, the Smithsonian Masterworks Orchestra will travel to cities in North America, Europe, and Asia as a way to use music to open dialogue about “diversity, identity, diplomacy, and innovation.” To celebrate jazz not only this month but anytime, attend a concert, listen to recordings, and read up on your favorite musicians or a new one. And don’t forget to share your love of jazz with your kids! A great place to start is with today’s book!

Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Written by Kathleen Cornell Berman | Illustrated by Keith Henry Brown

 

As a child, Miles Davis listens to the radio before school, clapping and swaying along to “Louis Armstrong’s soaring trumpet” and “Duke Ellington’s sensational big band.” The “swinging sounds of jazz / swirl together like / colors on a pinwheel.” When he’s older, Miles watches the riverboats on the Mississippi as they bring musicians from New Orleans to play in the East St. Louis clubs. At night he listens as “melodies drift down the street. / Some croon country, / some cry the blues. / Sassy saxophones wail / through the night.”

During the summer, Miles visits his grandfather’s farm in Arkansas. Here, he hears the music of horses’ hooves. On his walks through town, he listens to the sounds of guitars and singing, and at church he learns the notes of “soulful singing.” For his thirteenth birthday, Miles receives a trumpet. He takes lessons and practices again and again.

While he’s still in high school, Miles begins being paid to play at dance halls. His confidence grows and he begins to develop his own sound. A new form of jazz is attracting attention—Bebop: “far-out harmonies / with fast, flipping beats / that hop and bop.” He goes to clubsto listen to Charlie “Bird” Parker and Dizzy Gillespie play. He’s “blown away / by the energy of the music.”

Then one night, one of the band members doesn’t show up, and Miles—who always has his trumpet with him—is asked to fill the spot. In awe and a little intimidated in the presence of his idols, Miles’ playing “doesn’t shine.” But he knows that “jazz / is all he wants to play.” Miles moves to New York to go to school at Juilliard, but, really, to learn from Bird, Dizzy, and all of his idols. In the morning he goes to class, practicing between classes. At night he plays clubs throughout the city.

Soon, he leaves Juilliard to concentrate on playing and learning from the greats. His father advises him: “Don’t be like the mockingbird / that copies others. / Be your own man. / Be your own sound.” When Dizzy leaves Bird’s band, Miles takes his place. But he plays differently than Dizzy. “Some listeners put him down— / they want Dizzy’s rippling trumpet.” The criticism make Miles lose confidence and want to quit. But Bird encourages him.

With practice and patience, he discovers his own sound, holding and savoring perfect notes “just for the beauty of it.” He forms his own group with talented musicians who want to create new sounds. The nine musicians play “slowly and mysteriously…. Cool— / relaxed, / with a lighter, / lyrical feel.” Mile’s solos enchant audiences.

But the endless work takes its toll. He begins to lose gigs; his health declines. Miles doesn’t give up. “He climbs out / of his dark days / by playing his horn again.” Then in 1955 he takes the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival and begins to play. “…His mystical voice hangs / like a cloud, / leaving space / for each listener’s / imagination to wander.” The crowd cheers and applauds. Miles is back with his unmistakable sound and new ideas for the future of the music he loves.

Notes about Miles Davis from Wynton Marsalis, Kathleen Cornell Berman, and Keith Henry Brown as well as a selected discography and bibliography follow the text.

Kathleen Cornell Berman’s lyrical passages reveal a boy, a teenager, and a man who embodied music, listening to and absorbing the various sounds around him and incorporating them into his own, unique sound. Her evocative vocabulary (swirl, rollicking, croon, rumbling, far-out, rippling, blizzard of notes, itching to play) and phrasing that blends short staccato lines with longer sentences echoes the rhythm of jazz and will keep readers riveted to the story. Berman emphasizes the listening, practice, and experimentation that informed Miles Davis’s original sound, showing children that innovation is built on hard work, dedication, and even history. Her inclusion of Davis’s setbacks also demonstrates that perseverance is part of the success of any endeavor.

Keith Henry Brown’s gorgeous, detailed pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations take readers from Miles Davis’s living room, where he listens to the radio as images of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington swirl through his imagination, to an overlook on the Mississippi River and its paddlewheel steam ships to the clubs and jam sessions of New York and finally, to the Newport Jazz Festival. Brown’s color palette of cool blues, greens, purples, and browns, punctuated with Davis’s ever-present gleaming brass trumpet, brings Davis’s country and city experiences to life while mirroring the tone and feel of his unique sound. Quotes from Miles Davis are sprinkled throughout the story and set apart with type that looks handwritten, giving his words a personal touch.

Sure to inspire readers to learn more about Miles Davis and listen to his music, Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound would be an excellent accompaniment to school music programs, an inspiring book for biography lovers and young musicians of all types, and a beautiful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 8 – 12

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146909

Discover more about Kathleen Cornell Berman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Keith Henry Brown, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Meet Kathleen Cornell Berman

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In your author’s bio you say that you fell in love with Mile’s Davis’ music when you were 10 years old. Was there a particular spark that made you love his music?

As a kid I loved all kinds of music. When I first heard Miles’ trumpet sound, I fell in love. His trumpet sound was different. It wasn’t flashy, it was slow, haunting and very beautiful. I longed to hear it again.

Can you take readers on your journey of writing Birth of the Cool and having it published? What kind of research did you do? What was the most surprising thing you learned about Miles Davis?

I was thrilled when I got the email from Charlotte Wenger from Page Street. It’s beyond exciting when you find someone who loves your story as much as you do. And Charlotte was a dream editor to work with.

I read Miles’ autobiography and many other books about him, as well as journal and magazine articles. I listened to countless interviews and researched players in his band. And I listened to his music a lot. He went through many changes in his musical career. I realized I had to keep my focus on his early career. 

I was surprised to learn he had slave ancestors who played music in the main house on a plantation. It was interesting to discover that Miles loved rural life (from his visits to his relatives’ farms). When he first moved to NYC, he visited the stables and asked to ride their horses. He had fond memories of riding them on his grandfather’s farm.

Keith Henry Brown’s pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are gorgeous and full of expression. Can you talk about your reaction to seeing the illustrations for the first time. Do you have a favorite spread?  

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Kathleen Cornell Berman and Keith Henry Brown at the book launch for Birth of the Cool and the Jazz Gallery in New York City.

My first reaction to Keith’s illustrations was like an “out of the body” experience. To see my words come to life was a wonderful feeling. His art illuminated Miles’ journey in a jazz inspired way. I was very happy when he accepted the job. I already knew he was a jazz fan, so he was a good choice.

Keith’s goal was to create drawings that weren’t too tight or realistic. He wanted to create a loose, abstract feeling. I think Keith achieved that beautifully. Kudos to his courage in creating illustrations in watercolor, a very unpredictable medium. It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite illustration, I really love them all.

Your inspirational biography highlights the ups—and downs—of Miles Davis’ early career. What message would you like readers to take away from the story?

Miles is a great example of how hard work pays off. Some kids today think it’s easy to play an instrument. For some it might be, but inventing your own sound, is extremely difficult. It takes perseverance and dedication to create your own voice on the instrument. That goes for anything you attempt, whether you become an architect, a visual artist, writer, or a singer. Unfortunately, many jobs don’t allow individuality, but finding something, anything that you’re good at can boost happiness.

I hope this story inspires kids to reach for the stars, to find their own voice, and never give up. I also hope kids will take time to listen to jazz; it’s America’s classical music. Listening to music has so many benefits, intellectually as well as emotionally.

I saw on your website that you like to collect words. Can you tell me five of your favorites and what you love about them? Do you remember where they first caught your eye—or ear?

I’m usually attracted to words that tickle the tongue and have a unique sound, like mesmerizing, prickly, crumpled, nuzzle, etc. There are so many. I love alliteration. When words are paired with another, they sing and make the text come alive. I usually have my wordbook at my side as I read any kind of book. I also use my phone memo to jot words as I hear them in daily life.  

Besides writing, you paint, and create assemblages from found objects. Your sculptures are gorgeous and fun and have so much personality! Which came first—writing or art? When creating an assemblage, do you start with one object or do you see how several of the materials you have can fit together?

Thank you very much. Creating found art sculptures is like therapy. I’ve always been into creating something out of ordinary things. The art and writing coincided with a strong desire to break out of the box of being a teacher.

I collect a lot of wood as well as words. When I find a piece that inspires me, I visualize what it might become and I begin the search for a complimentary piece. It’s kind of like doing puzzles.

Is there a similarity for you in constructing a sculpture and creating text for a picture book?

Yes, there is. I look for a seed of an idea that touches my senses or emotions. And in art I choose a piece of wood that inspires me visually. Then it all comes down to layering and adding details that make the story or art shine in a new way. Finally, adding the “just right” color or details can be compared to the continual revisions to discover perfect words that fit my story.

Birth of the Cool is your debut picture book. What are you looking forward to most as a picture book author?

Reading the book to children and getting them to reflect about their feelings. And, of course, introducing them to jazz.

I love writing picture book biographies. I also enjoy writing books that will amuse kids, as well challenge their thoughts about nature.

What’s up next for you?

I have a new picture book bio about another musician that I just started submitting. And I’ve started research on another interesting, relatively unknown musician that had a big impact on many.                                  

What is your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love the traditions and the history. Holidays are so important in bringing busy families together. As a former teacher,             Thanksgiving gave me the opportunity to discuss the importance of the Native American people. They taught us so much. At the Thanksgiving table, we as a family celebrate the Native American contributions to our country. I wish more people did the same.

You can connect with Kathleen Cornell Berman on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Jazz Appreciation Month Activity

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Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle

 

Jazz has a sound and vocabulary all it’s own! Can you find the twenty jazz-related words in this printable puzzle? Then have fun coloring it!

Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle | Cool Jazz! Word Search Solution

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You can find Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

April 23 – It’s National Dance Week and Interview with Author/Illustrator Anne Lambelet

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About the Holiday

The National Dance Federation wants everyone to fall in love with dance, and National Dance Week is just the time to do it! With so many types of dance, there are ways to enjoy this activity throughout one’s life. This week has been established to introduce the fun and benefits of dance in schools, community centers, dance studios, and through special performances. If you—or your kids—feel your toes tapping or a desire to get up and move as soon as the music starts, why not check out the opportunities for learning your favorite dance styles in your community?

Maria the Matador

By Anne Lambelet

 

Even more than “tea parties and dancing and wearing her hair in pigtails…Maria loved churros.” So when she saw that a lifetime supply of churros went to the matador who could remain in the arena with the bull the longest, she knew she had to enter the contest. But as “one of the smallest girls in all of Spain,” could Maria pull it off? She knew she couldn’t outrun the bull, intimidate him, or overpower him. So, what could she do?

Maria wandered through the streets of town, gazing at the posters on the walls advertising the brave matadors who would challenge the bull as well as the Feria de Mayo, with its beautiful dance performances, looking for inspiration. When the big day came and Maria walked into the room where the other matadors had gathered, they burst out laughing. “‘You should just give up now,’ they all agreed. ‘There is no way such a little girl could ever fight such an enormous bull.’”

Maria kept her mind on the grand prize even though she was growing worried. Soon the bullfight began. The fastest matador was quickly run out of the arena, the strongest matador was soon lying on the ground, and the biggest matador was nothing but a plaything for the big bull. At last it was Maria’s turn.

She entered the ring and saw “the most ferocious-looking bull she had ever seen, but she marched up to him anyway…and asked the bull to dance.” The bull was charmed by the little girl’s kind request and offered his hoof to her outstretched hand. The bull, it turned out, was a very good dancer. Around and around the ring they danced, and when the men carrying trays of churros entered the arena, “the crowd burst into thunderous applause.” And Maria and the bull? They enjoyed a churros tea party!

Anne Lambelet’s highly original story shows young readers that with motivation, confidence, and creative thinking they can accomplish their heart’s desires. With a pragmatic take on her situation, Maria realizes she’s not fast enough, strong enough, or big enough to best the bull the usual way, and lacking anyone to ask for advice, she comes up with her own solution. Lambelet’s storytelling is rich with examples of Maria’s courage in the face of adversity and her own misgivings, allowing kids to see that bravery comes in many forms. And Lambelet’s clever solution to Maria’s dilemma demonstrates that kindness wins out. The humorous frame of Maria’s churros obsession will resonate with kids, who all seem to have their own favorite motivators to rely on.

Lambelet’s stylized illustrations combine the texture of wood etchings with the colors and feeling of a small Spanish village. The brown, maroon, and purple palette sprinkled with bits of blue is striking and lends depth, light, and shadow to the tale. Kids will love the expressive crowd as they “ooh,” “ahh,” and gasp at the formidable bull. (One mother even shields her son’s eyes with her hand.) When tiny Maria marches out into the ring the crowd’s disbelief brings pointing and shocked faces, but cheers and celebration erupt as Maria and the bull take their bows.

Maria the Matador is a story that kids will embrace as it sparks ideas for creative problem solving with more than a dash of kindness thrown in. The book will be asked for again and again and would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146565

To learn more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Anne Lambelet

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I’m excited to be chatting with Anne Lambelet about art, influences, inspiration and what she might do to get her favorite treat!

What was the inspiration behind Maria the Matador?

Maria the Matador, as crazy as it might sound, actually started out as a dream I had about having to fight a bull! I woke up and instantly felt like that was the sort of silly idea that could, just possibly, be perfect for a children’s book. From there though, it had to go through a lot of development. I had to return to my roots and really examine my original picture book influences…The Story of Ferdinand, World-famous Muriel, Madeline, etc. Using those as inspiration, I figured out what it was that had made me love them as a child (silliness, whimsy, problem-solving, getting paid in food), and tried to combine that with what made them stick with me now that I’m an adult…(peaceful, fun solutions in situations where it seems like violence is the only answer, indictments of toxic masculinity, female empowerment, culturally immersive settings). Maria was a long road of editing and re-writing to try and get my favorite elements to co-exist in the same story.

You’ve enjoyed success as an illustrator since your college days. Can you talk a little about how you developed your style and how it’s changed over the years?

In high school I’d say my artistic style leaned more towards photo-realism. Like most high school students, I accepted a sort of un-original, generic idea of what it means to make a “good drawing,” and, although I wasn’t terrible at hitting that mark, I wasn’t making anything very special either. Without a real sense of artistic individuality and purpose, I shied away from going to college for art and instead chose to major in computer science after graduating. I was, perhaps unsurprisingly, miserable during most of those four years, and I ended up pouring all my free time into discovering new artistic outlets to assuage that misery. What I discovered (online t-shirt design competitions, lowbrow pop surrealism, street art, artists like Gris Grimly, Brandi Milne, Lori Early, Mark Ryden, etc.) gave me a new, darkly humorous and whimsical artistic voice as well as newfound confidence in my skills. 

So, I put together a portfolio of monsters and creepy, big-eyed women and returned to college to give illustration an honest shot. The classes I took at the University of the Arts exposed me to so many new influences. Each one opened my mind to new, fascinating approaches to illustration, and my style fluctuated dramatically in relation to whatever artist was my latest craze. As a result, most of my sophomore/junior work just looks like one bad rip-off after another. The more influences I accumulated though, the more I began to figure out what about each “rip-off” had worked with my own identity and what didn’t. I started cherry-picking little bits of each style I’d loved and mushing them together into an amalgam of aesthetics and techniques that could begin to be called a “unique style.” Instead of stealing everything from one artist I liked, I stole one thing from every artist I liked, and, by the end of my senior year, that resulted in basically what you see now!  Style takes a lot of failing and soul-searching and figuring yourself out. I feel like I’m still evolving and changing to this day, but the increments of change get smaller and smaller every time. 

What were your favorite books growing up? Who were your artistic influences when you were a child and now?

Oh wow, picking favorite books is so hard. There are so many to love, and it’s a struggle to narrow them down! I’ll try though! For picture books some favorites were World Famous Muriel by Sue Alexander, The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, Santa Calls by William Joyce, and The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base.  I also adored almost all Dr. Seuss books, but especially McElligot’s Pool and Happy Birthday to You. I liked picture books that were whimsical and imaginative while being infused with a sense of humor as well as emotional poignancy. Interactive elements like the letters in The Jolly Postman or the hidden picture puzzles in The Eleventh Hour were always great too.  

Then, as I grew out of picture books, I began a love affair with middle grade fantasy that has persisted to this day. Favorites then became Harry Potter, Brian Jacque’s Redwall series, Dinotopia by James Gurney, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce.  Also, although it’s not fantasy per se, I think Holes by Louis Sachar is one of the greatest kid’s books of all time. 

Because of my love for fantasy, I spent most of my childhood drawing dragons and fairies and other mythical creatures. As such, major artistic influences back then were Brian Froud, John Howe, Jan Brett and James C. Christensen. I also loved looking at my older brother’s Magic: The Gathering cards and watching Jim Henson movies like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, I lost sight of that important self-defining nerdy-ness in my high school art. I guess I was trying to be “too cool” or something, haha.  I re-discovered them again later, though, and incorporated them into new influences I’d found that also dealt with whimsy and nostalgia. My current greatest influences are Eyvind Earl, Carson Ellis, Julia Sarda, Rankin/Bass’s The Last Unicorn and Cartoon Saloon’s Song of the Sea

In Maria the Matador, Maria will do anything—even get in the ring with a bull—for lifetime supply of churros. What’s your favorite treat and what would you do for an endless supply?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think my greatest food weakness is doughnuts. If a doughnut enters my field of vision, I just can’t not be immediately hungry for doughnuts. I don’t know what I would do for them. Right now, I feel like the struggle is to stop myself from eating them, not to get more. I do really dislike public speaking and cleaning the toilet, but I think I’d probably clean the toilet while reciting the Gettysburg Address in front of a very large audience if I was promised a bunch of doughnuts afterwards! 

When did you become interested in writing and illustrating picture books? Can you describe your journey to publication?

Since before I can remember, I’ve always been making up stories and characters and illustrating them, but, like I said, I didn’t always believe in my ability to leverage those skills into a viable career. I think what really changed my mind was being introduced to online t-shirt design competitions where I got hooked on having to design around certain prompts and parameters, meet deadlines, and then sometimes (miraculously) even get paid for my work! I realized the potential to build a career on doing that professionally and that’s when I officially decided to go back to school for illustration.  

Then, throughout all that soul-searching for style I previously mentioned, I discovered that a key, defining aspect of my art is nostalgia. I realized that, all along, every drawing had been an attempt to re-open the floodgates of imagination that had flown so freely in my childhood games of pretend. At some point in my time at the University of the Arts, I figured that if childhood was where my heart was, then the people that I should make illustrations for were children!

After that I joined SCBWI which provided me with a ton of essential resources for embarking on the journey to publication. I got an agent through a local SCBWI pitch day and we workshopped Maria a little bit but ultimately made the mutual decision to go our separate ways. I regrouped after that setback, used the SCBWI handbook to create a small list of dream agents, and sent my portfolio out to all of them. A little while later, I got an email from Stephanie Fretwell-Hill at Red Fox Literary and immediately felt like she was a great fit. Stephanie helped me re-visit Maria and while we were polishing that up together, I attended the SCBWI winter conference in New York where I went to a breakout session hosted by Kristen Nobles of Page Street Kids.  She said she was on the hunt for new manuscripts so almost as soon as I got back, Stephanie and I made sure to get Maria in front of her. Luckily, she liked it, and within a few months, we’d signed a contract for my very first author-illustrated picture book!

You have another book coming soon from Page Street called Dogs and Their People. Can you give readers a sneak peek? In your bio you mention that you have a dog Eevee (that’s such a cute name!). What kind of dog is she, and is she like you or anyone in your family? If so, how?

Dogs and Their People is basically an anthology of different types of people-dog relationships tied together by who the narrator sees on her walk home from school. There are small people with tall dogs, people and dogs who share ice cream, and even pairs with matching mustachios. Some people are just like their dogs and some are very different, but no matter what, each person and each dog is clearly with their very best friend.  When the girl finally makes it home, the best friend that she has waiting for her provides a surprising comedic twist to the story’s end.

My dog, Eevee is a chowbrador (a mix between a labrador and a chow-chow). I definitely think she and I have a lot in common. She’s a little aloof for a dog, and it takes her a little while to warm up to new places and new people. However, once you’re “in” her enthusiasm to hang out with you will verge on embarrassing. She’s completely comfortable spending time alone, but she’s still very excited when she gets to have all her favorite people in one place. And lastly, like me (and Maria for that matter), she is highly food motivated and loves her snacks!

What advice would you give a young person who would like to pursue art as a career?

Never be ashamed of what you love even if—actually especially if—it’s something that you feel like no one else loves. Your personal combination of unique interests is going to be what makes your artistic style something the world has never seen before. Also, understanding why you love that thing that no one else loves will be a big clue to figuring out your ultimate purpose as an illustrator and/or author and the types of messages you want to convey. 

What’s up next for you?

After Dogs and their People, I illustrated another picture book called The Traveler’s Gift by Danielle Davison. That’s set to hit shelves in October of this year. I’ve also just begun work on two new picture books, How to Build an Insect by Roberta Gibson for Millbrook Press and The Poisoned Apple, my third author/illustrated book with Page Street Kids. Both of those are set to come out fall of 2020. I’m super excited about both of them!

What’s your favorite holiday

Oh boy…another hard choice to make.  It might be cliché, but I’ve always loved Christmas. I love the decorations and the lights and the food, and I love spending time with my family and re-visiting all the good memories and traditions we’ve built since I was small. I also consider myself a champion gift-giver and getting to see other people open gifts from me is way more fun (in my opinion), than getting to open my own.

A close second, though, would be Halloween. Once I’ve thought of a costume idea I really like, I feel giddy anticipation about it for weeks to months in advance. 

Do you have any anecdote from a holiday that you’d like to share? (Alternately, has a holiday ever influenced your work?)

I remember one Christmas Eve when I was very little, my mom was reading me a bedtime story. Meanwhile, my dad went outside, stood under my bedroom window and shook a set of sleigh bells. My mom convinced me that it was the sound of Santa’s sleigh flying by overhead.  It was probably one of the most magical moments of my life, and I love that my parents were so enthusiastic about making the magic of Christmas seem real for me. One of my favorite things about both Christmas and Halloween is that, as a kid, they made me feel like there was actually magic tucked away in the unseen corners of the world…whether that be toy-making elves at the North Pole or a ghost in an old, abandoned house or just the promise that if you put on a mask, you can become whoever you want. I think the best children’s books bring that same promise of magic to the world, and that will always be something that motivates what I create.

Thanks, Anne for this amazing talk and the reminder that people should always embrace their uniqueness and be true to themselves. I wish you all the best with Maria the Matador and all of your upcoming projects!

National Dance Week Activity

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Get up and Dance! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are so many different kinds of dances to learn and enjoy! Can you find the sixteen styles in this printable puzzle?

Get up and Dance! Word Search Puzzle | Get up and Dance! Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maria-the-matador

You can find Maria the Matador at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 15 – National Rubber Eraser Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday marks the date in 1770 when Joseph Priestly developed a vegetable gum that could remove pencil marks. He named the substance rubber. In the same year Edward Nairne created the first marketed rubber eraser. Erasers became more durable when Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanization in 1839. In 1858, Hyman Lipman received a patent for a pencil with an eraser at the end. But how did people fix their mistakes before rubber erasers? Wax was a popular material, and if you didn’t have that? Crustless bread did a good job of rubbing out mistakes—and hunger!

Eraser

Written by Anna Kang | Illustrated by Christopher Weyant

 

The little pink eraser sporting two side ponytails looks at the math problem Pencil has just completed. She clears her throat and motions to the 11 under the 4 + 5 line. Pencil chuckles uncomfortably and says she was just testing Eraser. By the time Pen comes around to grade the work, Eraser has cleaned up the mess and the correct answer is proudly displayed. Pencil smiles, taking all the credit for the perfect score she receives.

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At the lunch table, all of Pencil’s friends—Pen, Highlighter, Marker, a couple of paint brushes, and a few crayons—congratulate him on getting an A+ on the test. Eraser overhears them and says, “Everyone thinks Pencil and her friends are the creative ones. It’s not fair.” On the other side of the lunch room, Tape and Glue are holding a jam session and everyone’s singing along. And then there’s Paper, whom everyone loves, and Scissors, who gets respect because “she’s just kind of scary.”

Eraser wonders what she brings to the table when all she does is “take things away.” Her friends think she does a good job of making everyone look good, but Eraser feels like she is more than just the clean-up crew. After lunch the teacher calls everyone to gather around for a science project meeting. When Eraser starts moving to join the group, Highlighter stops her and tells her this meeting is only for creative types only.

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That night Eraser is busy rub, rub, rubbing across a sheet of paper. The next morning she presents her version of the science project—a drawing made entirely out of eraser shavings. Ruler and Pencil Sharpener love it, but when Glue comes near to check it out, he sneezes, sending the shavings everywhere.

Later, everything’s beginning to come together, but when Pencil sees Eraser trying to help, she and Highlighter joke that she can’t make anything but a mess. Everyone laughs. Eraser has had enough. She packs her bag and asks Ruler and Sharpener to launch her far away. She flies through the air and lands in the wastepaper basket.

When the crumpled papers filling the basket see her, they greet her as a hero and tell her they love her work and are big fans. She can’t believe it. They go on to explain that they’re all first drafts and without them and her “there’d be nothing to hang on the fridge door.” Suddenly, she gets it. She is creative. She “creates second chances.” “Mistakes,” they all agree, “make us great!”

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Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Meanwhile there are plenty of mistakes going on over on the desk. At the same time, Pencil realizes that she hasn’t checked her math homework and Pen is coming around to grade it. Pen marks a big red X at each of Pencil’s answers and gives her an F. Pencil is so upset that she scribbles all over the newly painted science fair picture.

Just in the nick of time, Eraser comes flying in on a paper airplane, followed by a fleet of planes carrying first drafts. Glue, Ruler, Sharpener, and the rest cheer and tell Eraser that they’ve missed her. Pencil approaches, apologizes for her behavior, and asks if Eraser will help her. “You bet!” Eraser answers. The next day, the Rainforest Science Project looks amazing—especially with the big A+ on it. At lunch everyone celebrates and talks proudly about their role in the project. And Pencil makes a toast to her partner Eraser.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-eraser-apology

Image copyright Christopher Weyant, 2018, text copyright Anna Kang. Courtesy of Two Lions.

In her heartfelt story, Anna Kang reminds kids that every member of a group has important contributions to make and that making mistakes is part of the creative process. Realistic dialogue and honest emotions coupled with clearly expressive characters, make this a story that readers will identify with and learn from. Sprinkled with puns—and a couple of Kumbaya moments that adults will appreciate—Eraser strikes just the right tone of humor and camaradarie that will make it a favorite for story times.

Christopher Weyant brings all the energy and enthusiasm of a classroom to the desktop on which adorable Eraser and her friends are doing homework and creating a science project. Kids will love seeing familiar antics of a typical day played out by expressive, funny, and creative writing and drawing tools.

Eraser is a sparkling story to share during writing workshops or before any creative project to reinforce the idea that mistakes and do-overs are part of the process and lead to a better finished product.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2018 | ISBN 978-1503902589

Discover more about Anna Kang and her books on her website

To learn more about Christopher Weyant, his books, and his art, visit his website.

It’s no mistake to check out this Eraser book trailer!

National Rubber Eraser Day Activity

icture-books-picture-book-review-dancing-with-eraser

Fun with Eraser! Coloring Pages

 

You can have fun over and over again with these printable coloring pages!

Dancing with Eraser and PencilEraser and Friends at School 

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You can find Eraser at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 6 – National Dress Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted by Ashley Lauren in 2016, the day encourages people to relive and celebrate their best dress memories. It’s also a day to honor those designers who design the styles that create a splash, feel comfortable, and make a statement. To celebrate today, get together with friends and talk about your favorite dress memories then go shopping and get ready to make some more!

Abrams sent me a copy of Along Came Coco to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be partnering with Abrams in a giveaway of the book. Details are below.

Along Came Coco: A Story about Coco Chanel

By Eva Byrne

 

Coco Chanel, born in 1883, grew up in an orphanage, “a strict convent tucked away in the French countryside.” While the girls wore identical uniforms and followed the nuns’ rules, Coco always found a way to be herself: when she learned how to sew, she used her creativity to make dolls for her friends, and each night as she brushed her curly hair the required one-hundred times, she vowed that when she grew up she’d cut her hair short.

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Copyright Eva Byrne, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Sometimes Coco was allowed to visit her grandparents in Moulins and her Aunt Louise in Varennes. During these trips she saw fashionable ladies strolling through the city and watched her aunt transform simple hats into fabulous creations. Coco wanted to make hats too. As soon as she was grown, she said au revoir to the convent and opened a hat shop. Then she began making clothing inspired by the sights all around her. She especially liked the “stripy tops of the local fisherman” and “sewed her own version.”

In 1914, Coco opened in the beachside town of Deauville. The summer was hot, and Coco created a stylish and cooler bathing suit so women could enjoy the shore. “She was one of the first designers who knew exactly what women wanted.”

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Copyright Eva Byrne, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Soon she had a waiting list of women who wanted to wear her designs. She converted men’s fashions into stylish clothes for women and was the first to add pockets to women’s outfits. Her clothing was so popular that she was able to buy an entire building in Paris to sell her dresses, hats, and jewelry. She enjoyed the theater and opera, and one night as she was getting ready to go out, a gas lamp exploded. Her dress was ruined and her hair was burned. Coco was not about to miss the opera, so she cut her long hair short and discovered that it framed her face in a most delightful way.

But what would she wear? She cut and sewed a new evening gown that broke all the rules—it had no corset. “And with every stitch, Coco changed the way women dressed forever.” Her dress was black, simple, and elegant, without all the frills and poofs of the dresses of the time. “Coco dreamed that all women should have a black dress.” And thus the “little black dress was born” and women’s fashions and lifestyle changed forever.

An Author’s Note and more information on Coco Chanel, her life, and work follow the text.

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Copyright Eva Byrne, 2019, courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Eva Byrne weaves a fascinating biography of Coco Chanel that reveals the early influences and experiences that informed her creativity. Byrne infuses her text with Coco’s precocious spirit through examples of her dreams of the future, good-natured “rule breaking,” and fashion innovations. Coco’s natural talent, modern vision, and confidence to buck the system are all evident in Byrne’s engaging storytelling that will have kids marveling over women’s fashions of the time and appreciating Coco’s contributions not only to women’s clothing choices but to the way they lived. The story of how the first little black dress came to be will amaze both children and adults.

From the beginning of the book, where a pair of hands stitch the name Coco onto the title page, to the end, where Coco, needle and thread in hand, winks at the reader, Byrne treats kids to beautiful illustrations of Coco, her surroundings, and her fashions. Her fresh, vivid watercolors are light and airy as they take readers down French boulevards and to the beach. Readers will love lingering over the pages to study the styles of the time and how Coco’s designs stood out as revolutionary. Removing the gilded casewrap reveals a stunning canal-side landscape and the inspiration for Chanel’s famous striped look.

A superb book for kids who love fashion and fashion students as well as readers interested in history, the arts, biographies, and a well-told story, Along Came Coco makes an excellent gift and exciting addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1419734250

To learn more about Eva Byrne and see a gallery of her artwork, visit her website.

Along Came Coco Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Abrams Books for Young Readers in giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Along Came Coco: A Story about Coco Chanel, by Eva Byrne

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from March 6 through March 12 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 13.

Prizing provided by Abrams.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts. 

National Dress Day Activity

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Hanging on Fashion Word Search Puzzle

 

Fashion design has its own special vocabulary. Can you find the twenty fashion-related words in this printable puzzle?

Hanging on Fashion Word Search Puzzle | Hanging on Fashion Word Search Solution

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You can find Along Came Coco at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

February 11 – National Make a Friend Day

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About the Holiday

Friends make our lives better! They’re there to share in life’s adventures with a laugh, a shoulder to cry on, and an understanding ear. Friends feature in our best memories and are always up to making new ones. Today, look around and see who you might add to your list of friends then introduce yourself, invite them for a coffee or a chat, and start a friendship that may last a lifetime!

Making a Friend

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Alison Friend

 

“Beaver was good at making lots of things.” He could build, he could knit, and he knew a bit about engineering. But he was not so good at making friends. He tried hard to do nice things, but something always seemed to go wrong. Then, one day, the snowflakes falling from the sky gave Beaver an idea. “Hmm! Maybe this is what I need to make a friend,” he thought.

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He began rolling a huge snowball. While he was working, Raccoon came by to watch. When Beaver told him that he was making a friend, Raccoon said that it “takes two to make a friend.” Beaver was a bit disappointed until Raccoon did some math and showed him that Raccoon plus Beaver made two.

Working together Beaver and Raccoon made a cute snow friend. They added eyes, a nose, a smile, and two stick arms. But something was still missing. Raccoon said that thing was “pizzazz.” So they added a hat, a boa, some socks, and even a swim mask until their friend looked just right. But their friend just stared back at them. “This friend was not much of a friend at all. In fact, he seemed rather cold.”

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2018. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Then Beaver and Racoon looked at each other. They talked about what fun they’d had building the snow friend together. And they realized that they had become friends. Now they make lots of things to share, but they agree—“the best thing they made was a friend.”

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins

Tammi Sauer unlocks the secret to friendship in her clever story in which making a friend leads to making a true friend. While Beaver tries to extend the hand of friendship and do nice things for others in the forest, his efforts miss the mark. But when he meets Raccoon, their personalities, talents, and ideas of fun click and they build a real friendship. Young readers will understand Beaver’s feelings of disappointment and confusion when his overtures of friendship are not reciprocated and see that collaborating with someone—either in play or toward a common goal—often brings friends together naturally.

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Image copyright Alison Friend, 2018, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Little readers will fall in love with Alison Friend’s adorable Beaver who’s so good at creating a playhouse complete with water slide but has trouble making friends. Cheerful and enthusiastic, Beaver is a sweetheart as he begins rolling the snow into a ball. When Raccoon comes by, Beaver quickly shares the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing and learn from the images of companionship and give-and-take as Beaver learns a little math and a new word from Raccoon and Raccoon discovers that he likes the raisons Beaver offers him on their way to creating their snowman.  Full of color, smiles, and endearing moments, Friend’s pages are sure to delight kids.

Making a Friend is a charming read aloud, a celebration of creativity, and a gentle lesson on friendship all rolled into one. To share with children learning to navigate new friendships and those who love doing everything with their best buddy, the book makes a sweet addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2018 | ISBN 978-0062278937

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

Make a Friend Day Activity

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Snow Buddies

 

This is a great craft for kids to share with a friend. Grab a pair of socks and have fun making these snow buddies! 

Supplies

  • White dress ankle socks
  • Polyester Fiber Fill
  • Tiny buttons
  • Fleece or ribbon, enough for a little scarf
  • Toothpicks
  • Twigs
  • Orange craft paint
  • Cardboard
  • White rubber bands, one or two depending on the size of the snowman
  • Fabric or craft glue
  • Small hair band (optional)

Directions

To Make the Snowman

  1. Cut a circle from the cardboard about 2 inches in diameter for the base
  2. Place the cardboard circle in the bottom of the sock
  3. Fill the sock with fiber fill about ¾ full or to where the ribbed ankle cuff begins. Pack tightly while making a sausage shape. You can make your snowman different shapes with the amount of fill you use.
  4. Stretch out the cuff of the sock and tie it off near the top of the fill either with a loop knot or with the hairband.
  5. Fold the cuff down around the top of the filled sock to make the hat.
  6. Wrap a rubber band around the middle of the sock to make a two-snowball snowman. For a three-snowball snowman, use two rubber bands. Adjust the rubber bands to make the “snowballs” different sizes.

To Make the Scarf

  1. Cut a strip of fleece or ribbon 8 to 10 inches long by ½ inch wide
  2. Tie the fleece or ribbon around the neck of the snowman
  3. To Make the Nose
  4. Dip one end of the toothpick into orange paint, let dry
  5. Cut the toothpick in half
  6. Stick the toothpick into the head or top portion of the snowman

To Make the Arms

  1. Insert small twigs into each side of the body of the snowman
  2. You can also use wire or cardboard to make the arms
  3. Attach two mini-buttons to the face for eyes with the fabric or craft glue
  4. Display your Snow Buddy

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-making-a-friend-cover

You can find Making a Friend at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

February 6 – It’s Black History Month

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About the Holiday

Black History Month, also known as National African American History Month, celebrates the achievements and contributions of African Americans in United States History. Originally a week-long observance commemorating the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln on February 12 and Frederick Douglass on February 14,  Black History Month was officially established in 1976 by then president Gerald Ford. The holiday is now celebrated across the country with special events and commemorations in schools, churches, and community centers.

I received a copy of A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks from Sterling Children’s Books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

Written by Alice Faye Duncan | Illustrated by Xia Gordon

 

“SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks. / Sing it loud—a Chicago blues.” This remarkable biography of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet opens with these soaring lines which introduce eight-year-old Gwendolyn who, seeing a flower in the midst of the city, wonders how it will grow. Already she was observing the world with insight and originality.  “Her head is filled with snappy rhymes. / She writes her poems in dime store journals.” Even something as “simple” as a clock does not escape Gwendolyn’s consideration. In The Busy Clock she writes, in part: “Clock, clock tell the time, / Tell the time to me. / Magic, patient instrument, / That is never free.”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Out in the neighborhood, she stands quietly and watches the other kids laughing and playing—girls jumping rope and boys playing basketball. Gwendolyn’s father is a janitor and her mother stays at home with her and her brother, who is also her best friend. Gwen spends her time sitting on her porch, looking and listening to the sounds and the conversations of the neighborhood women and men. The “children call Gwen—‘ol’ stuck-up heifer!’”

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Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

“SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks. / Her mother believes. / Her father believes. / But sometimes—Gwendolyn doubts her radiance, / When jarring, crashing, discordant words, / Splotch and splatter her notebook paper.” And what does Gwen do with these poems that just don’t work? She buries them under the snowball bush in the backyard. Once, unbelieving, a teacher accuses Gwendolyn of plagiarism. Her mother takes her daughter back to school, and there on the spot, she composes a poetic answer to the charges: Forgive and Forget. It makes Gwen feel proud, she believes in herself and feels the sun shining on her.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-song-for-gwendolyn-brooks-parents

Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

During the Great Depression, when jobs and money are scarce, Gwendolyn’s “parents are wise and see her light.” They give her time to write and she hones her words and her craft through draft after draft. With each completed poem, Gwen’s confidence grows. The Chicago Defender publishes some of Gwendolyn’s poems, and now she has an audience. Her parents believe that one day their daughter will be a famous poet.

Soon, Gwendolyn finds her way to a group of poets who meet in a South Side community center. She studies under Inez Stark and meets Henry Blakely, who will become her husband. She enters her poems in contests and wins first place over and over. When she and Henry move into their own two-room apartment, Henry goes to work, leaving Gwendolyn to translate the neighborhood into poetry that she types “in a crowded corner.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-song-for-gwendolyn-brooks-typing

Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Readers swarm to buy her books. “Gwen paints poems with paintbrush words, / And Gwen takes home a Pulitzer Prize.” Henry and their son celebrate, and Gwen’s parents “…cry tears of joy. / They praise her shine.” For they had always known and had “…Planted love and watered it. / Gwendolyn believed. / She found her light. / And— / A furious flower / GREW!”

An extensive Author’s Note detailing more about the life of Gwendolyn Brooks and her work as well as a timeline and suggested readings follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-song-for-gwendolyn-brooks-pulitzer

Image copyright Xia Gordon, 2019, text copyright Alice Faye Duncan, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With her own sterling verses, Alice Faye Duncan celebrates the life of Gwendolyn Brooks—the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature—taking readers to the Chicago neighborhoods that informed and inspired Brooks’ ideas and the words and rhythms with which she defined them. Along an arc that takes Gwendolyn from a child contemplating the potential of a flower to becoming that blossom herself, Duncan pays tribute to those who recognized Gwen’s genius and helped her fulfill her talent. For readers who themselves may be poets, writers, or other types of artists, Duncan’s beautifully crafted phrases about the artistic process of revision are inspirational and welcome. Standing side-by-side with Duncan’s storytelling are four of Brooks’ poems—The Busy Clock, Forgive and Forget, Ambition, and the children of the poor—Sonnet #2. From cover to cover, Duncan’s book sings with Gwendolyn Brooks’ positivity, confidence, uniqueness, and love for life that made her a unique voice for her time and always.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-song-for-gwendolyn-brooks-portrait

From the portrait of Gwendolyn Brooks that graces the title page and throughout the book, Xia Gordon’s distinctive artwork creates a masterpiece of motion and stillness that mirrors Brooks’ penchant for watching and listening to the sounds and sights that filled her mind and ultimately her notebooks. Downy swoops of violets, pinks, browns, and grays provide backdrops to images of Gwendolyn as a young girl and an adult rendered in lines that show her as down to earth but soaring in her thoughts. Her intelligence and spark shine through on every page. Gwendolyn’s parents appear often, always watchful and supportive. Her friends, her husband, her son, and her readers also populate the pages, giving the book an embracing warmth.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks is a must for school, classroom, and public library collections, and for children who are discovering their talents and the parents who nurture them, the book would be an inspirational and invaluable addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454930884

Discover more about Alice Faye Duncan and her books on her website.

To learn more about Xia Gordon, her books, and her art, visit her website.

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in this Instagram giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks written by Alice Faye Duncan | illustrated by Xia Gordon

It takes just these two steps to enter:

A winner will be chosen on February 12.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books.

Black History Month Activity

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My Writing Journal

 

With this easy craft, kids can make a journal that will reflect their personality and inspire them to jot down ideas for poems or stories. 

Supplies

  • Two 9-inch by 6-inch pieces of foam or heavy paper
  • Plain or lined 8½ by 11 paper, as many pieces as you’d like
  • Twine or ribbon
  • Foam letters and objects, stickers, play jewels, or other decorations
  • Small scissor, paper hole puncher, or other instrument to make a hole through the foam and paper

Directions

  1. Fold the plain or lined 8½ by 11 paper in half
  2. Place the paper between the sheets of foam
  3. Make a hole through the foam covers and paper near the top and bottom for the twine to tie the journal together
  4. Slip the twine or ribbon through the holes and tie the journal together
  5. Decorate the cover
  6. Start writing!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-song-for-gwendolyn-brooks-cover

You can find A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 18 – National Thesaurus Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that most marvelous, stupendous, spectacular, cool, awe-inspiring, remarkableand—one from my early youth—groovy book, the thesaurus! Without its incredible cross-referenced lists of synonyms and antonyms, the world would be much more boring, dull, lackluster, monotonous place. Today, spice up your speech and writing with the perfect word to express all the nuances of life!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

While just a young child, Peter, along with his mother, his uncle, and his baby sister Annette, travel to their new home following the death of his father. It would not be his first move, and in the absence of long-time friends, Peter found companionship in books. When he was eight years old, he began writing his own book titled: Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. But this was not a book of stories or even one story; it was a book of lists. The first list was divided in two. On one side were the Latin words he knew; on the other were their definitions.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Peter’s mother hovered and worried over her son, and he always told her he was “fine.” “Although, to be honest, Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.” As the years went by, Peter added lists to his book, prompting his mother to complain about his constant “scribbling.” But Peter looked at his lists differently. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them in long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.”

As a teenager Peter was shy, preferring to wander the London gardens alone, “making lists of all the plants and insects,” as in one of his favorite science books by Linnaeus. His “mother didn’t approve, and Peter told her not to worry—but “perhaps worry wasn’t quite the right word. What was the right word? Peter began a new list: Worry, fret, grieve, despair, intrude, badger, annoy, plague, provoke, harass. Enough to drive one mad. How wonderful it felt to find just the right word.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-fine

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

An idea crept into Peter’s mind for a book where “all the ideas in the world could be found in one place,” and people could “find the best word, the one that really fit.” When Peter was 14 he entered medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon graduation at 19, his uncle told him that patients would be wary of a doctor so young. To gain a bit of experience and maturity, Peter became a tutor to two teenage boys.

At last Peter set up his medical practice in Manchester, England, where he took care of the factory workers, who “were poor and often sick.” At night Peter worked on his book of lists, and in 1805 he declared it finished. “It had about one hundred pages, one thousand ideas, and listed more than fifteen thousand words!” Eventually, Peter moved back to London where he joined science societies and attended lectures. “Before long, he was asked to give lectures too,” and once-shy Peter astonished his audiences with his knowledge of math, magnetism, and other scientific subjects. He even invented a portable chess set.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

When Peter was 45 years old, he married Mary Hobson, and they had two children, Kate and John. As he grew older, he visited fewer patients, but he continued to take walks and work on his lists. While some other writers had published their own word lists to help people “to speak and to write more politely,” Kate and John “thought their father’s book was much better. Peter agreed.” For three years he rewrote his book. “He made it larger, more organized, and easier to use. Long ago Peter had discovered the power of words. Now he believed that everyone should have this power—everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-right-word-roget-lecturing

Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

“In 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus, a word that means ‘treasure house’ in Greek.” It was an instant best seller, and Peter became a popular author. But he never stopped making lists.

Following the text, a timeline of principal events in Peter’s life as well as world events allow readers to better understand the historical period in which Peter worked. Extensive Author’s and Illustrator’ Notes also expand on Roget’s biography, and resources for further reading and research are included.

Jen Bryant’s biography of a brilliant boy who grew up to give the world its most fascinating and comprehensive collection of word lists, is a spritely telling of Roget’s life and revelation into his personality, which was perfectly suited to his scientific and written accomplishments. Children will appreciate Roget’s reactions to his mother’s worries as well as the message in his well-rounded pursuit of science and writing. Through Bryant’s captivating and lyrical storytelling, children will be inspired by Roget’s journey from shy child to much-accomplished adult.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet beguiles readers with her mixed media, collage, and watercolor illustrations that are as jam-packed with ideas, images, portraits, and typography as Roget’s thesaurus is full of words. In the early pages describing Peter’s childhood, the pages contain simple framed pictures of Roget and his family. As he grows, however, his lists of words are transformed into vibrant artwork that jostles for position from corner to corner of the pages. In the midst of these, delicate watercolors portray Peter as he strolls through a garden, takes his young charges to Paris, treats his patients, lectures, marries, and finally publishes his thesaurus. A special mention must be made of the typography, which at times in the text runs down the center of the page in one- or two-word lines, mirroring Roget’s love of lists, and in the illustrations presents the myriad synonyms in a mixture of colorful block letters, fine print, and calligraphy.

For bibliophiles, wordsmiths, scientists, and history buffs, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is just the right book for home libraries.

Ages 6 – 18

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0802853851

Discover more about Jen Bryant and her books as well as news, contests, and events, visit her website!

Learn more about Melissa Sweet and her books and have fun with the downloadable activities you’ll find on her website!

Watch this The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus book trailer!

Thesaurus Day Activity

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Word Words Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re looking for just the right word, where do you go? To the thesaurus of course! Can you find the 25 synonyms for “Word” in this printable Word Words Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review