April 26 – National Tell a Story Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to celebrate the art of storytelling. Highlighting the tradition of oral storytelling, the day encourages families to get together and have fun remembering and sharing family tales. Reading together is another wonderful way to discover your own stories and those of others around the world.

My Bison

By Gaya Wisniewski

 

The first time a little girl meets the bison she was walking with her mother through a field of tall grass. “‘Look!’” her mother said. “‘He’s back!’” Every day after that the girl went out into the field to see the bison, coming a little closer each time until she was able to pet him. Once, she even thought she heard him whisper an invitation to come closer.

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Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The little girl began to feed him food she’d made herself. Sometimes he didn’t like it, but he always tried it and that made her happy. One day it was time for him to move on with the rest of the herd. The girl walked with him as far as she could. When she said goodbye, the bison gave her a long look and she “knew he’d be back when snow covered the ground again.” The girl was lonely without him, but when winter returned she knew he had too without even seeing him. Now, seated together near the fire, the girl told him stories about the forest and what she’d done over the year while he, silent, “listened with tenderness.” She loved everything about him and loved him with her whole heart.

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Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The girl and the bison grew old together, winter to winter, never feeling the cold of the snow. Once, they talked all night about their mothers. The girl remembering the first time her mother had shown her the bison, how she had comforted her and taught her the lessons of nature. She missed her mother so much, she told him, and imagined he missed his mother too.

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Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

One winter the bison didn’t return and no amount of looking could find him. The girl, now an old woman, went home. She cried with missing him. And then just as in those winters so long ago when she felt his presence without seeing him, she knew he was with her. In her heart she “heard him say, ‘I am in every spring flower, every sound in the forest, and every snowflake.’” And she knew he was with her always.

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Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Gaya Wisniewski’s stunning and gorgeous story about a friendship between a little girl and a bison is deeply moving, it’s straightforward and metaphorical meanings blending in harmony to settle in a reader’s heart. The girl’s and bison’s relationship is one of mutual respect and trust, and they are in many ways alike. With her shaggy coat and tousled hair, the girl looks like a miniature bison, while the bison is perfectly comfortable sitting at the table near the fire sipping hot chocolate or snoozing in the cozy built-in bed  in the girl’s home. The girl loves the bison the way children love their pets, and the way she takes care of him replicates a mother’s tender affection and attention.

Here the text and images take on deeper meanings as the little girl offers the bison homemade food, holding her long-handled spoon to his mouth the way mothers the world over do for their babies. She walks with him to the edge of the clearing as he leaves in the spring, waving goodbye but with the promise of his return like a mother taking her child to the bus stop, seeing them off to college, or watching them move away.

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Image copyright Gaya Wisniewski, 2020, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

At other times the bison seems to take on the role of the mother. In the endearing illustration of the bison and the girl talking over cups of hot chocolate, the girl relates how the bison would listen to her stories. Later, readers learn that her mother made her hot chocolate when she couldn’t sleep, letting them imagine how the little girl might have told her mother about her day, about the things keeping her awake. The china cup also holds the bison’s memory of cuddling with his mother, their fur smudged and merging with the steam rising from the hot drink. This blending of roles subtly demonstrates the cycles of life and the reciprocal nature of love.

Readers don’t know when the girl lost her mother; but a snapshot of the girl playing Ring around the Rosie with her and her teddy bear, in which only the mother’s arms are visible at the side of the page and the circle of light highlighting this scene is surrounded by darkness, hints at the loss. As the bison and the girl grow old together and there comes the winter when the bison does not return readers discover that any great love is always with them.

Wisniewski’s charcoal and ink illustrations, punctuated with blue create a mystical, dreamlike atmosphere where the forest and the mountains, the girl and the bison reach out to embrace the reader and invite them into this world of a love like no other.

A tender story to share all types of unending love with children, My Bison would be a poignant addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Princeton Architectural Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1616898861

To learn more about Gaya Wisniewski, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Tell a Story Day Activity

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Tell a Story Maze

 

This puzzle may look like a regular maze, but there’s a secret to it! Within this maze is any story you’d like to make up. Why do you go left instead of right? Are you avoiding a zombie or a rain shower? Why do you go up instead of down? Is it because you can you float? What lurks in that dead end you’ve entered? There are as many cool stories as you can imagine right in those little pathways. And when you find your way to The End, you’ll have written a story with this printable puzzle!

Tell a Story Maze | Tell a Story Maze Solution 

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You can find My Bison at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

 

November 26 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

All families have stories—some funny, some poignant—about family members, friends, and events from the past and even just last week or yesterday! Today’s holiday encourages people to gather together and share their stories, Oral storytelling has been part of people’s lives and culture since ancient times. It’s a wonderful way to stay connected to your own family heritage and build bonds that last forever. The stories your children will be telling start now in the everyday and special moments they share with others.

The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope

Written by Danielle Davison | Illustrated by Anne Lambelet

 

Whenever Liam’s father came home from the sea, he told his son wonderous tales of “the faraway places he’d been and the curious things he’d seen.” Someday, Liam thought, he would join his father and have his own tales to tell, but for now he enjoyed sharing his father’s stories with others. One day, though, Liam’s father didn’t return. “Liam thought of the stories he hadn’t heard, the ones he’d never hear again, and the adventures they would never take.” He didn’t feel like telling his father’s stories any more.

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Even though Liam knew his father wouldn’t return, he spent his days at the harbor in the company of the sailors there who told their stories; but none were as good as his father’s had been. One day, a very old man appeared on the dock. His name was Enzo, but the sailors called him “‘the Traveler.’” Liam had never seen anyone like him before. He talked of wonderous voyages, and as he did his beard grew and grew, “until each story he told wove from his face like a tapestry.”

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

People traveled from all over to see the Traveler and his beard. Many thought it was strange or odd, but Liam thought it was perfect. One day, just before the Traveler was about to set off on what he said was his last voyage, he announced that he was looking for a “worthy companion” whom he could pass his gift on to. Many people on the dock raised their hand and Liam did too, although he didn’t think the Traveler would pick him. The Traveler did choose him, though, and before he knew it, Liam was setting sail. “‘I feel like my heart might burst from my chest!’ said Liam.”

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

The Traveler taught Liam how to truly observe and listen to the world around him. They traveled to places not on any map and saw many unusual creatures. “But after many suns had set, Enzo’s soul grew weary.” As Liam sat with him, Enzo told him he’d like to give him a gift. Enzo asked Liam to close his eyes and tell him a story. After giving it some thought, Liam talked about his father, about his friend, and about all of their adventures. “Liam’s words wove splendid pictures, the way his father’s once had.”

As he talked, the magic of storytelling came back to him, and the Traveler bestowed his gift. Liam’s hair grew and grew, unfolding like a tapestry.

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Image copyright Anne Lambelet, 2019, text copyright Danielle Davison, 2019. Courtesy of Page Street Kids.

Danielle Davison’s mystical ode to storytelling and life relived and revived through words unwinds with the wonder of traditional tales tinted with the curiosity and imagination of children. While Liam misses his father and the adventures he thought they would have together, he is also open to new experiences and friendships—a quality that allows him to restore the future he had for himself.

Anne Lambelet’s rich and unique illustrations, appearing as if they have been hewn from wood, convey all of the mystery and wonder of the story. Through colorful ribbons teeming with ships, pirates, unicorns, mountains, trees, castles, cities, marvelous creatures, and more, Lambelet connects the gift of storytelling that Liam’s father, the Traveler, and, finally, Liam possess. The color fades to gray as Liam learns of his father’s loss, but even here, his sadness is diffused by just the hint of sun or the glimmer of candlelight. Lambelet’s use of color and black-and-white imagery also reveals Liam’s growth.

Lambelet’s ocean and dockside illustrations are gorgeous and extend to the front and end endpapers that each tell a part of Liam’s life. Lambelet’s lush color palette adds beauty to each page, and the people and objects that appear in the stories by Liam’s father, the Traveler, and Liam will keep readers lingering over the pages to what they are, where they come from, and how they are connected.

A book for thoughtful story times that celebrates the regenerative and enlivening power of imagination and keeping one’s heart open, The Traveler’s Gift would be a distinctive addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624147654

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

Family Stories Month Activity

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I Love My Family! Portrait

 

What is one of your favorite family stories? Use this printable heart-framed I Love My Family! Page to write or draw about that story!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-traveler's-gift-cover

You can find The Traveler’s Gift: A Story of Loss and Hope at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review