October 5 – National Do Something Nice Day

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About the Holiday

Similar to Random Acts of Kindness Day, National Do Something Nice Day encourages people to think of others and do nice things for them. These don’t have to be big or expensive; in fact, small gestures or thoughtful actions can make all the difference in the way a friend, family member, or stranger feels. These acts of kindness will make you feel good too! To celebrate today, keep an eye out for ways you can lend a hand, times you can share a smile or a conversation, or ways you can make a new friend. Kids may enjoy sharing the encouraging cards found below with friends, siblings, and teachers or by leaving them at school, the library, shops or anywhere that someone may find them.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice

Written by Maggie C. Rudd | Illustrated by Kelly O’Neill

 

It seems like being nice should be easy, but there are so many emotions that often surround that one little word that sometimes doing the considerate thing is really hard. How hard? Like smiling and saying “that’s okay” when “your mom says you have to share” your favorite toy with a friend, sibling, or cousin and they break it. Like sitting through your brother or sister’s boring performance, game, or recital when you’d rather be somewhere else—anywhere else. Or like eating your least favorite food and thanking the cook for the meal because you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In fact, “sometimes being nice takes practice” like when a little brother or sister destroys your stuff and you yell at them, but then later you realize they didn’t really understand what they were doing. Or like when visiting someone you love in a nursing home or new place is scary and you hang back, not wanting to see them but then decide you won’t be scared next time you visit. And then there are times like these on the playground “when you have been waiting in line for the big slide, and a kid jumps in front of you because he didn’t see you standing there. And your mom says that the polite thing to do is to let him go first. But it’s your turn so you go anyway. Somehow it isn’t as fun. Next time you’ll let him go first.”

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Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

So what does all that practice lead to? The good feeling you get when you are nice. Like when you let your baby brother sit with you as you play a video game, “and he claps for you the whole time.” There’s also the great feeling you get when you’ve cleaned up after playing and your parents really appreciate it, or “when you’re late for soccer practice and your mom can’t find her keys, so you help her look for them . . . and find them in the doorknob! And your mom says she doesn’t know what she would do without you!”

While these examples may be hard because you feel slighted or tired or rushed or scared, there are times when being nice takes all your courage—like when you befriend the new kid or the kid everyone picks on and find out you have lots in common. Or when the bullies come around and you stand up for your new friend even though it’s scary and you end up in the principal’s office. So why would you want to be nice? Because “it’s worth it.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-it's-hard-to-be-nice-playground

Image copyright Kelly O’Neill, 2021, text copyright Maggie C. Rudd, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Maggie C. Rudd’s excellent primer to the emotions and circumstances around being nice presents children with realistic scenarios involving family members and friends, favorite toys and activities, and common situations at school that often require extra effort to respond to in a positive way. Rudd’s conversational writing style directly engages the reader, and while every example may not be an exact match to the reader’s experience, many will be spot on and the others easily recognized and adaptable.

Rudd’s four-step progression acknowledges that showing kindness or even just good manners can be difficult, but that it can become easier—especially when a situation seems unfair or is disappointing—with practice and perspective. Rudd’s examples of when being nice feels good are sprinkled with humor and warm family feelings that will bring smiles that support her point. A thread involving a favorite Galactic Star Crusher action figure ties several of the vignettes together, adding a sense of relationship and connectedness among the characters.

Kelly O’Neill illustrates each example for readers with clearly depicted scenes involving kids like them playing video games, visiting with grandparents, playing on the playground, helping their parents, and standing up for another child. In every instance, the children’s emotions are easily understood, which opens up many opportunities for adults and kids to discuss the feelings and issues surrounding how one treats others from both a child’s and adult’s perspective and experience. O’Neill’s bright colors, familiar settings, and uncluttered, well-conceived pages put the focus on her engaging children and elegantly complement Rudd’s important message.

Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice is a superb read aloud for honestly addressing the complexities and rewards of showing kindness and being nice. It is a book that families, teachers, and caregivers will find themselves turning to again and again in helping children navigate and learn this important social skill. The book is a must addition to home, classroom, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company | ISBN 978-0807575734

Discover more about Maggie C. Rudd and her books as well as an Activity Kit for educators and parents on her website.

To learn more about Kelly O’Neill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Do Something Nice Day Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

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You can find Sometimes It’s Hard to Be Nice at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 30 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

You’ve heard the saying “Too Many Books, Too Little Time,” right? Well, this truism has spawned not only one, but two Read a New Book Month celebrations! Both September and December have been designated as times to make special plans to search out and read new books. These can be books that are newly published or books that are new to you. And if you find yourself putting a few old favorites in the pile, that’s okay too! Today’s book bridges both months because It’s never too early to think about adding books to those upcoming holiday gift lists!

The Christmas Crumb

Written by Lou Treleaven | Illustrated by Alex Willmore

 

“Way up in the clouds, where the air is much thinner, / A giant royal family ate Christmas dinner.” The turkey and ham were simply enormous, and the bowl of potatoes so large and so deep that a child from Earth down below “could get in and hide.” But the most magnificent thing was the Yule log dessert that lay on the platter like, well, a freshly cut tree. As the giants gobbled their cake, one crumb fell to the floor. It bounced and it rolled right out the door.

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Image copyright Alex Willmore, 2021, text copyright Lou Treleaven, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

The giant princess apologized for losing the crumb, but her mother assured her that the crumb was so tiny no harm had been done. But the crumb had kept rolling, and it fell through the clouds then crashed through the door of a “tumbledown cottage” where “Pip sat with his mother. / They didn’t have much, but they did have each other.” Pip was ecstatic; this Christmas dessert could replace their “thin gruel.” He dug in with gusto, sending a smaller crumb flying.

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Image copyright Alex Willmore, 2021, text copyright Lou Treleaven, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

Pip was upset that he’d lost even a morsel, but his mom reassured him that it was “‘only a crumb. / So dinky, so diddy, it’s not worth the fussing. / It’s inconsequential – it really is nothing.’” By now that tinier crumb had found a new home in a mouse hole where “a dozen mice pups / Were getting quite desperate for food to turn up.” They swarmed on that crumb—their great Christmas feast that would feed them for weeks.

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Image copyright Alex Willmore, 2021, text copyright Lou Treleaven, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

In all of the scarfing, a small crumb came loose. It rolled off the table and through a crack in the floor. A couple of bounces left it out in the snow, where a group of red ants was about to eat leaves. But they gave up the cuttings as quick as a wink when this surprising treat—“almost as big as [their] nest—fell into their midst. They hugged and they celebrated; they had food for the winter, they were “‘going to survive!’” They cheered, “‘This Christmas bonanza has just saved our lives.’” Was that it, then? All the sharing that first crumb could do? You might think what was left was too tiny, too wee, but one ant “passed his share down to an overjoyed flea.” So this Christmas (and all through the year) remember that what one person thinks small, someone else will hold dear.

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Image copyright Alex Willmore, 2021, text copyright Lou Treleaven, 2021. Courtesy of Maverick Arts Publishing.

Like the Christmas season itself, Lou Treleaven’s story of a treat that keeps on giving is full of charm, surprise, and cheer. Her set up of a royal giant family enjoying their holiday feast lends a magical plausibility to the idea of a crumb large enough to pass down and down and down again to feed multiple families—an idea that brings new delight each time a crumb escapes and finds a new home. Treleaven’s whimsical storyline soars on her jaunty rhyme scheme and her superb word choices that are humorous and heart-tugging at the same time.

Her deft messaging will appeal to children’s natural empathy as well as their awareness today of need in their communities as in each household the child apologizes for losing even a crumb. The adults’ repeated response, while providing a fun phrase for readers to join in on, can also lead to deeper discussions about the importance and rewards of giving.

Accompanying Lou Treleaven’s story are Alex Willmore’s hilarious and heartening illustrations that set the Christmas scene with fresh color tones and captivating details that show the impact the “crumb” has on each family. Spying a child hiding in the giants’ big bowl of potatoes will elicit giggles, and the characters’ facial expressions—from the princess’s delighted gasp at seeing the Yule log to the mother’s look of impending doom as the crumb barrels through her home—are priceless.

Willmore’s work with perspective is worthy of special note. Underlying Treleaven’s message that something’s worth is all in ones perspective, Willmore’s scenes employ close-up and distant views; commonly recognized items are juxtaposed to the giants, Pip and his mom, the mice, the ants, and finally the flea to show scale; and the runaway crumb becomes smaller and smaller but is always just the right size. Math-oriented kids will enjoy pointing these out, and some may like replicating scenes by physically arranging similar items. In a final spread, the princes, Pip, the mice, the ants, and even the barely perceptible flea line up with their crumbs in a meaningful demonstration of how something small to one person is big to another.

An utter delight from beginning to end, The Christmas Crumb offers a sweet message about giving and perspective that’s perfect for the holiday season and all year around. Adults and kids will love sharing this rollicking read aloud again and again. This is a book you’ll want to buy for your home, school, or public library shelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Maverick Arts, 2021 | ISBN 978-1848867765

Discover more about Lou Treleaven, her books, plays, and other work on her website. You’ll also find activities to print.

To learn more about Alex Willmore, his books, and his art, visit his website

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Mini Accordion Book

 

With this craft you can make a little book for your own writing, pictures, or stickers. With a holiday-themed cover, you can use it as an advent calendar or holiday wish list. This little book would also make a fun gift to make for your friends.

Supplies

  • 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper – single or double sided
  • Decorative scrapbooking paper, wrapping paper, or a page of the child’s own writing or drawing
  • Cardboard
  • Stickers, pictures
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

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Directions

  1. Draw a 3-inch border around the edge of the 12-inch by 12-inch sheet of scrapbooking paper. This will make a 6-inch square in the center of the paper
  2. Draw a line from the top of the paper to meet the left edge of the 6-inch square. The line will be 3 inches from the left side of the paper.
  3. Draw a 3-inch line from the top center of the 6-inch square to the center of the square

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To Cut the Paper

  1. Beginning with the line at the top of the piece of paper, cut down the left edge of the 6-inch square.
  2. Cut across the bottom of the square.
  3. Cut up the right side of the square
  4. Cut across the top of the square to the line in the center.
  5. Cut down the 3-inch center line to the middle of the square

To Fold the Pages

  1. Draw light or dotted lines every 3 inches along the strip of paper
  2. Starting at the top of the strip, fold the paper on the lines accordion style.
  3. Make the first fold by folding the first 3-inch section down towards you.
  4. Fold the second 3-inch section back away from you
  5. Continue folding the 3-inch sections down and back until the strip is entirely folded

To Make the Cover

  1. Cut two 3 ½ -inch squares from the cardboard
  2. Cut two 4 ½-inch squares of from the decorative paper, wrapping paper, or child’s writing or drawing
  3. Cover the cardboard with the paper, folding the excess paper over the edges and securing with glue

To Assemble the Book

  1. With the strip of paper completely folded, glue one cover to the top 3-inch square
  2. Glue the second cover to the end 3-inch square

Fill the book with writing, drawings, stickers, whatever!

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You can find The Christmas Crumb at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 13 – Bald Is Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday honors those who through choice, illness, medication, or heredity sport bald heads. Baldness for both men, women, and children can show courage, beauty, and an independent spirit. To commemorate today, give a shout out or support to your friends who are bald.

What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair?

Written by Norene Paulson | Illustrated by Camila Carrossine

 

“Bea wore hats everywhere.” But unlike her friend Shaleah, who sometimes wore hats too, she didn’t have to worry about “hat hair.” Why? Well, while Bea had been born with hair, she began losing it and “before Bea turned four, she was bald.” Bea didn’t remember having hair, and her family and friends loved her, so she just took it in stride—usually.There were times when she wished she could style her hair like Shaleah and felt sad when “a classmate called her a mean name.” And then there was Silly Spirit Week at school. Friday was Silly Hair Day. Bea wondered how she could participate. Shaleah reassured her that they’d think of something.

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Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Shaleah’s first thought was a wig, so on Saturday Bea’s mom took them to a costume shop and Bea tried on lots of different wigs—but none seemed right. The next day they tried crafting hair with yarn and pompoms. It was silly, but still not right. Bea was getting discouraged. Maybe, she said, she should just stay home on Friday. But Shaleah reminded her that if she did she’d miss the Spirit Week picnic. And Shaleah vowed that if Bea stayed home, she’d stay home. Bea didn’t want Shaleah to miss the picnic, so they started thinking again.

For Monday’s Silly Costume Day and Tuesday’s Silly Backwards Day, Bea had great ideas. “On Wednesday Bea won the Wackiest Hat Award,” but she still didn’t have an idea for Silly Hair Day. Then during Silly Feet Day, she saw a temporary tattoo on the principal’s leg that gave her an idea. But first, she needed to get Shaleah and the principal’s approval. When they both said Yes, Bea was excited.

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Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

After school and late into the night, Bea and Shaleah worked on the idea. The next day they got to school early and put up a new sign. It read “FRIDAY: Silly Hair or Head Day.” The kids wondered what that was all about. Then Bea and Shaleah approached in hoodies and lowered the hoods to reveal colorful tattooed and bejeweled designs on Bea’s head and a skullcap for Shaleah. “‘Because now everyone can participate!’ Bea and Shaleah said together. Even the principal joined in with her own decorated cap. And all the kids—including Bea—enjoyed the Silly Spirit Week picnic.

An Author’s Note discussing hair loss due to Alopecia—as Bea has—and some cancer treatments, including online resources that can provide more information follows the text. Bea also offers readers some fun tips on applying temporary tattoos.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-party

Image copyright Camila Carrossine, 2021, text copyright Norene Paulson, 2021. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Norene Paulson addresses childhood alopecia and hair loss due to cancer treatments or other causes in her sensitive and uplifting story. While briefly mentioning bullying, Paulson focuses on a common school spirit week event that leaves Bea out. By empowering Bea and her best friend Shaleah to devise a solution, Paulson invites young readers to both empathize with Bea and see how true friends support each other. Two foundations of Bea’s strong self-confidence and positive self-esteem are revealed in two short, important, and instructive sentences: “Her family loved her.” And “Her friends didn’t care.” Underlying the mystery of how Bea will solve her problem, Paulson provides an excellent way for parents, teachers, school administrators, and other caregivers to discuss inclusivity, acceptance, and friendship.

Camilla Carrossine’s engaging illustrations mirror Paulson’s story, allowing readers to understand and empathize with Bea’s experience and join in on Bea and Shaleah’s close friendship. Children will love the silly wigs Bea tries on, the playful updo of yarn Bea and Shaleah create, and the vibrant tattoos that Bea, Shaleah, and the principal all sport.

A unique and welcome book that allows children with alopecia and/or undergoing cancer treatment to be seen with new understanding from their peers, What’s Silly Hair Day with No Hair? is highly recommended for home bookshelves and for all school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807506080

Discover more about Norene Paulson and her books on her website. You’ll also find reading questions, a curriculum guide, and other resources for the book on her site here.

To learn more about Camilla Carrossine, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-what's-silly-hair-day-with-no-hair-cover

You can find What’s Silly Hair Day With No Hair? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Nobel | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

September 10 – It’s Children’s Good Manners Month

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About the Holiday

As kids go back to school and will be interacting with other students, teachers, coaches, group leaders, and others, this month is dedicated to the kinds of manners that promote good relationships and cohesive gatherings. Thinking about how one’s actions will affect others is part of being a great friend, teammate, or participant in any activity. Family life with parents and siblings is also better when everyone treats each other with good manners and respect.

Sonny Says Mine!

Written by Caryl Hart | Illustrated by Zachariah OHora

 

Sonny and his friends are playing on the playground when he spies a stuffed pink bunny in the sandbox. “Ooh! SO soft. SO cute. SO cuddly. I’ll call you Bun-Bun!’ he says.” But Meemo runs up to Sonny, interested in the bunny too, but Sonny pulls Bun-Bun away with a determined, “Mine!” Sonny plays with Bun-Bun, feeding her, dancing with her, reading her a story, and finally putting her to bed under a sand blanket.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sonny-says-mine-Bun-Bun

Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But then Honey and Boo come over and Boo is crying because she’s lost her bunny doll Suki. While Boo sits sadly on the bench, Honey looks all over for Suki. Sonny says nothing and tells Meemo to stop barking. Then Honey directly asks Sonny if he’s seen Suki. “No!” he says, hiding the doll behind his back. Honey and Boo go back to their search. Sonny is so happy with Bun-Bun. “He LOVES Bun-Bun SO much.”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

But Meemo scolds Sonny and tries to take Suki. Sonny hides Bun-Bun and goes to play with Boo and Honey. But Boo is too sad to play pirates or to eat chocolate cake. “Now Sonny feels sad too.” What will he do? He goes to his hiding place and retrieves Bun-Bun. He hides Bun-Bun behind his back as he walks near Honey and Boo. Then he gives Bun-Bun to Boo and apologizes. Now everyone is happy! “Woof!” says Meemo. “Hooray!” says Boo. And what does Sonny say? He wants you to “Come back soon!”

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Image copyright Zachariah OHora, 2021, text copyright Caryl Hart, 2021. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Sharing something can be hard. Giving back something you’ve found and LOVE to its rightful owner can be even harder. Caryl Hart understands these strong tugs on the heart and in her tender and realistic tale shows little ones the other side of the story—the sadness a friend experiences over losing a beloved toy or other object. Each of the characters demonstrate different actions and emotions providing adults and kids opportunities to discuss feelings and various roles of friendship. With their natural empathy, kids will identify with both Sonny and Boo and learn how in this type of situation real happiness and peace of mind are found.

Zachariah OHora’s instantly recognizable illustrations bring a cute, comforting, and completely relatable vibe to the story. Sonny’s instant love for Bun-Bun is palpable and little ones will know exactly what’s at stake when he’s asked to give the bunny up. On the other side, Boo’s grief is also evident as tears stream from her eyes and the usual fun of playtime and snacks offer no cheer. Meemo and Honey have their own reactions too, which give kids more perspectives to consider. As Sonny contemplates what to do, children will empathize with both Sonny and Boo as they know one of them will be left unhappy. But Through OHora’s touching illustrations, they’ll see that Sonny makes the right choice—and how it really makes him feel.

The first in the new Sonny Says series, which introduces preschoolers and kindergarteners to universal experiences, Sonny Says Mine! is a multilayered story that is as adorable as it is encouraging and educational. The book will captivate young readers just beginning to venture out into the world and make friends and is highly recommended for home, classroom, and library shelves.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2021 | ISBN 978-1547605804

Discover more about Caryl Hart and her books on her website.

To learn more about Zachariah OHora, his books, and his art, visit his website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sonny-says-mine-cover

You can find Sonny Says Mine! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 3 – National Food Bank Day

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About the Holiday

National Food Bank Day was established by St. Mary’s Food Bank, the world’s first food bank, which was founded by John van Hengel in Phoenix, Arizona in 1967. The idea spread throughout the country, and now St. Mary’s Food Bank distributes 250,000 meals daily with the help of staff, volunteers, and partner agencies, making it one of the largest food banks in the United States. Food banks across the country help millions of men, women, and children who live with food insecurity due to job loss, illness, and other circumstances. Many food banks offer educational opportunities that help people change their situation and begin anew. Often, those who have benefited from the programs return to volunteer and contribute to the very food bank that staved off hunger to do the same for others. To learn more about St. Mary’s Food Bank, visit their website. To find a food pantry in your area for help, to donate, or to volunteer, visit the Ample Harvest website.

I’d like to thank Albert Whitman & Company for sharing a copy of Saturday at the Food Bank with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Saturday at the Food Pantry

Written by Diane O’Neill | Illustrated by Brizida Magro

 

When Molly came to the table for dinner, she saw that they were having chili—again. She and her mom had eaten chili for two weeks straight. But there was “fancy milk too.” Molly smiled as her mom measured sugar and cinnamon into her glass and added milk.” There was only a splash of milk left when Mom put it back into the almost-empty refrigerator.

Tomorrow, Mom said, they’d go shopping. “Molly’s eyes lit up” as she imagined “chicken and spaghetti and ice cream.” But Molly’s mom tempered her expectations, saying that they’d be going to a food pantry. A food pantry, she explained, is “‘a place for people who need food…. Everybody needs help sometimes,’” she added. That night there was no warm milk before Molly went to bed and her stomach growled.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

In the morning when Molly and her mom got the food pantry there was already a line waiting for it to open. Molly had brought paper and crayons and sat down to draw. Then she saw a girl who was in her class at school. She called out hi, but “Caitlin looked away.” When Molly ran over, Caitlin told her she didn’t want anyone to know that she and her grandmother needed help.

Molly went back to her mom, wondering if there was “something wrong with needing help.” She wanted to go home, but she was also hungry. Molly’s mom suggested she draw a picture, and the woman in front of them asked if she’d draw one for her too. Then everyone in line seemed to want a picture. Molly ran back to Caitlin to ask for help. Caitlin sat down and began to draw too.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

When the door opened, Molly and Caitlin each had a picture for the woman who welcomed them in too. Molly noticed that her mom had to sign in before she got a cart and they could begin shopping. They didn’t do that at the grocery store. The shelves at the food pantry were stocked with items she recognized from the store they usually shopped with. She ran over and took a box of sugar cookies off the shelf, but her mom told her “‘They—the people in charges—they’ll want us to take sensible stuff.’” Molly felt embarrassed and couldn’t understand why the cookies were there if they couldn’t take them. She sadly returned them to the shelf. As they went to look for food, Molly thought her mom didn’t want to be seen there, either—just like Caitlin. In a whisper, Molly reminded her that everyone needs help sometimes.

They went through the store taking one can, bag, or box of the food they needed. Then Molly’s mom reached for a box of powdered milk. They could have fancy milk that night. When they got to the checkout desk, Molly and Caitlin found their drawings hanging on the wall. The man at the counter bagged their groceries and then handed Molly’s mom a box of sugar cookies. “‘Saw your little girl looking at these. She can have them, if that’s okay with you, ma’am,’” he said. Molly noticed that her mom looked like she might cry.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

As they were walking home, Molly saw Caitlin and her grandmother coming the same way. They were all happy to discover that they were neighbors. Molly’s mom explained that she’d been looking for work since the factory closed, and Caitlin’s grandma said she’d been sick. Caitlin understood, but wished they didn’t have to shop at a food pantry. But then Molly told her that “everybody needs help sometimes” and reminded her that they had helped make the man at the checkout counter feel happy with their drawings. Caitlin hadn’t thought about it that way. She smiled. Then Molly invited her and her grandmother to have lunch with them—with sugar cookies for dessert.

A note for adults, parents, and other caregivers from Kate Maehr, the Executive Director and CEO of the Greater Chicago Food Depository about food insecurity, including recent statistics and a resource where people can find help and more information, follows the text.

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Image copyright Brizida Magro, 2021, text copyright Diane O’Neill. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Diane O’Neill’s well-executed story about two families who need the help of a food pantry is a poignant reminder of the many people—perhaps even readers’ classmates—who face food insecurity every day. Through the experiences of Molly and her mother and Caitlin and her grandmother, readers discover what it’s like to go to bed hungry, miss out on treats, and feel ashamed to ask for help. As this is Molly and her mother’s first trip to a food pantry, Molly’s questions and observations well reflect children’s own or reassures those who are familiar with these important resources. O’Neill’s straightforward storytelling emphasizes the fact that at one time or another everyone needs help and demonstrates simple ways that children make things better through their generosity, optimism, and acceptance. Molly and Caitlin’s budding friendship makes for an uplifting and hopeful ending and may spur readers to recognize need in their midst and extend kindness.

Through her realistic illustrations of two families in need of assistance from a food bank, Brizida Magro helps children see and understand what food insecurity and food pantries look like. At home, Molly and her mom eat small portions of leftover chili and the last full glass of milk. When Molly’s mom puts the carton in the refrigerator, the shelves are nearly empty, and Molly lies awake in bed, too hungry to fall asleep. The line outside the food pantry is made up of people from all walks of life, and inside the displays of food replicate a grocery store with the exception of signs asking shoppers to take one item only. These images can lead to meaningful discussions on the enormity of the issue. When Molly and Caitlin draw pictures that cheer up everyone in line as well as the food pantry workers, kids will recognize not only different ways of helping but their own role in making the world a kinder place.

Empathy shines on every page of O’Neill’s necessary and welcome story. Saturday at the Food Pantry is timely, heartfelt, enlightening and a must-buy addition to home, classroom, and school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Albert Whitman & Company, 2021 | ISBN 978-0807572368

Discover more about Diane O’Neill and her work on her website.

You can connect with Brizida Magro on Instagram.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-saturday-at-the-food-pantry-cover

You can find Saturday at the Food Pantry at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 11 – Making Life Beautiful Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established by Apriori Beauty in 2015 to recognize all those people who make life more fun, meaningful, joyful—more beautiful—for someone else. This can be done in so many ways. Spending more time talking with someone lets them know you care. Sharing your talent for baking, art, music, gardening, home repair, or any skill with a friend, family member, or coworker brings joy to them and you. Even just giving a smile to those you meet can brighten someone’s day. Making someone else feel good will make life more beautiful for you too!

The Color Collector

Written by Nicholas Solis | Illustrated by Renia Metallinou

 

A boy notices a new girl, Violet, at school. He knows what it’s like to be the new kid, so he waves to her as she sits on a bench alone, reading. She gives him a small smile—he thinks—but doesn’t say anything. He knew that Violet lived near him because they always “walked home the same way,” although he “was on one side, she on the other.” She was “always quiet. Always alone.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It was always the same until one day when the wind blew a red candy wrapper Violet’s way and the boy watched her pick it up and put it in her backpack. When she looked up, Violet saw the boy watching. “She looked at me,” he says. “She waved. Then her eyes went down and she turned the corner.” Now, the boy noticed how many things Violet picked up along the way home. “Bright blue cookie wrappers. Yellow pieces of paper. Green bottle caps. Red fall leaves. All disappearing into the gray backpack.”

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

One day the boy crosses the street and asks Violet what she does with the things she picks up. Violet invites him to come see. They come to a brownstone and up a few flights of stairs, Violet takes him inside her home and opens the door to her room. “Here in her room, the sun comes to shine,” the boy says. “It reaches in and makes her glow. It makes her collection glow as well.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-colorful-items

Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What the boy sees—on the walls, the ceiling, the door—is “her sky, her beach, her village” recreated from the wrappers, paper, leaves, caps, and other bits she’s found. “We came here for a better life,” Violet tells the boy. “I miss home, though. I miss the sounds and smells. And I miss the colors.” The boy tells her the mural is beautiful. Then Violet tells him stories about her village, the people there, and the ocean. The boy and Violet “sit and talk. Then laugh. Then talk some more.” The boy sees that Violet is not so sad or alone anymore, and he’s glad to be her friend. When he leaves, he and Violet wave goodbye and “smile the same.” One the way home, the wind blows a red leaf his way. He picks it up and puts it in his backpack.

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Image copyright Renia Metallinou, 2021, text copyright Nicholas Solis, 2021. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Poignant and honest, Nicholas Solis’s multilayered story touches on friendship, loneliness, new experiences, immigration, creativity, and how acts of welcome, empathy, and kindness can change perspectives and bring joy to life. Told from the boy’s point of view in short, straightforward observations, the story captures readers’ emotions and curiosity as they walk with him and Violet, waiting to see why the reason for her collection. As days and maybe weeks or months pass before the boy speaks to Violet, readers on “both sides of the street” (those who are hesitant to talk and share as well as those who would like to get to know someone better) learn that friendship takes time, patience, trust, and sincere interest. 

Renia Metallinou adds visual eloquence to the story with his gray- and dun-hued illustrations, which pick up increasing hints of color as Violet and the boy grow closer to Violet’s house and finally explode with vibrancy when she opens the door to her room. The first clue of the importance of color to the “new girl” is in her name, and to punctuate this fact, Metallinou gives Violet purple hairbands for her braids. As Violet walks home on a parallel track to the boy, purple tints the pots and flowers decorating the sidewalk, a woman’s purse, and her dog’s collar as if to show that Violet is already assimilating and contributing to her new community.

After she picks up the red wrapper, red flowers, and accents dot the next page, and after the boy describes the blue, yellow, and green items she finds, the trees gain red and yellow leaves, container gardens overflow with greenery, an orange cat watches a trio of red-bellied birds, and blue curtains hang in a downstairs room. But it’s when Violet opens her bedroom door that the real magic happens.

Readers are treated to one more two-page spread of suspense, heightened by the boy’s look of wonder and Violet’s proud gaze. Surrounded by light, Violet smiles. Her gray-and-white-striped shirt turns green and yellow, her brown skin glows with joy. Then readers turn the page and, like the boy, step into a sun-drenched coastal village with candy-colored buildings, lush foliage, a sparkling sea, and a woman – perhaps Violet’s grandmother – looking toward the horizon, maybe looking for Violet herself. Metallinou has made Violet’s mural a masterpiece of art, life, longing, and love. As Violet’s stories pour forth, she and the boy discover how to let their true colors show.

A beautiful and evocative story about the power of friendship, empathy, and kindness, The Color Collector provides a unique and highly effective way for kids and adults to talk about feelings of loneliness, homesickness, making new friends, opening up to others, and many other feelings kids experience. The book could spark meaningful art projects for classrooms and homeschoolers and would be an excellent addition to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 6 – 9 

Sleeping Bear Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1534111059

Discover more about Nicholas Solis and his books on his website.

To learn more about Renia Metallinou, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Making Life Beautiful Day Activity

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Initial Bookend or Decoration

 

Today’s holiday is all about making someone feel special. With this easy craft, kids can make a gift for a family member, friend, or teacher that shows them why they think the person makes the world more beautiful. And don’t forget to make one for yourself too!

Supplies

  • Wooden letter block of the recipient’s first initial or both initials
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Chalk
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden letter with the chalkboard paint, let dry
  2. With the chalk, write words on the letter that you think best describe the person you’re giving it to
  3. Wrap and give your letter!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-color-collector-cover

You can find The Color Collector at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 4 – National Teacher Day

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About the Holiday

This school year has been like no other – for students and teachers. Switching from in-person, in-the-classroom learning to virtual learning and zoom classes to hybrid models has been a head-spinning experience for all. Yet our teachers have adapted, designing new lesson plans and devising creative ways to engage their students online. This week (National Teacher Appreciation Week) and today in particular, we honor and thank the teachers that make a difference in our and our children’s lives. Teachers open the world to their students by instilling a love of learning through their enthusiasm, caring, and creativity. Before you move on to a new class next year, don’t forget to tell your teacher or teachers how much they’ve meant to you. You can find 51 ways to thank your teacher on Waterford.org and a Teacher Appreciation Week toolkit, complete with virtual and printable thank-you cards and certificates and other ideas to download on the National PTA website.

I Wish You Knew/Ojalá Supieras

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Magdalena Mora

 

As a little girl approaches her school building, she tells the reader, “Our school wraps around a hundred-year-old oak tree.” The students mark the passage of time by the changes in the leaves. The school has a garden with cabbages, tomatoes, and sunflowers that the girl’s father helped her class plant. “One day,” the girl says, her father told her “that because he wasn’t born here like me, he must return to his native country.”

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Image copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Before he left he hugged her and said, “Te quiero mucho, Estrella…my little star.” He promises to come back one day “to see the sunflowers bloom. Until then, Estrella skips between the tall flowers and “think[s] of his smile.” In her thoughts she addresses her teacher: “I wish you knew that when I forget my homework or sit alone at lunch or cry over little things, it’s because I miss him.” And it is not only these things that have changed. Everything at home, for her mother and her brother, too, is different.

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Image copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

As Estrella’s teacher enters the classroom one day, she says she is also proud that her school surrounds the old oak tree. Her favorite place is in her classroom, where her students are busy and curious. She also loves to watch them play on the playground. The students may not realize it, but the teacher sees when they are sad and understands when they are without their homework. She wishes they knew that “they are not alone.”

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Image from Ojalá Supieras, copyright Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

The teacher starts a new tradition, a “sharing circle called I Wish You Knew.” There the kids can tell their classmates how they are feeling, what they’re thinking about, and other “secrets” they are ready to share. Estrella’s teacher lets her students know she’s there if they need help. One student reveals that they are “hungry a lot.” Another student’s mom is in the military and another explains that he lives in a shelter.

But not all of the children’s sharing is sad. Estrella likes to talk about all the things her dad taught her and what they did together. And while she waits to be together with her father again, she and her friends plant more sunflower seeds and “wait for them to bloom.”

I Wish You Knew is also available in a Spanish Version with the title Ojalá Supieras.

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Image copyright Ojalá Supieras, Magdalena Mora, 2021, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2021. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

In her moving story Jackie Azúa Kramer embraces the many children affected by hardships, whose parents are absent for a variety of reasons, or who live with difficult family situations. Through Estrella, whose father has been deported, Kramer dives deep into the hearts of children grappling with strong feelings, hunger, homelessness, and otherwise disrupted home lives while still trying to succeed in school. Using “I wish you knew” from a variety of points of view, Kramer first draws children into Estrella’s confession as she directly addresses the reader. With the tenor of a confidant, Estella gives readers a tour of the favorite parts of her school. It is here, among the sunflowers that she feels comfortable talking about her father. During lunch, Estrella wishes her teacher knew what had happened at home.

The perspective then shifts to the teacher who shows her favorite parts of the school while revealing that, while she may not know the exact situation, she does recognize when something is wrong and hopes her students understand she is there to empathize and help. These two storylines merge when the teacher establishes the sharing circle and three students share their wishes straightforwardly, addressing the reader as much as their teacher and creating a poignant reading experience for all. Echoing the resilience of children, Kramer ends her story with a message of hope.

Magdalena Mora uses warm earth tones in her evocative mixed-media illustrations, mirroring the ideas of growth and renewal found in Kramer’s story. Estrella’s school building is a green-and-glass structure that looks out on the old oak tree, a symbol of steadfastness and strength for the students and teachers alike. The events and situations the children share are rendered in gray, giving them a feeling of distance from the children’s school day. Mora’s stylized sunflowers grow in profusion, framing the students and teacher on various pages and appearing in the background on others, an ever-present reminder that friendship and understanding are nearby and that better days lie ahead.

A moving story of empathy, sharing, and kindness, I Wish You Knew is a must for classrooms and is highly recommended for home and public library collections to help children and adults initiate difficult discussions about emotions and events or experiences affecting their lives.

Ages 4 – 7 

Roaring Brook Press | ISBN 978-1250226303 (I Wish You Knew) | ISBN 978-1250814784 (Ojalá Supieras)

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Magdalena Mora, her books, and her art on her website.

I Wish You Knew Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Jackie Azúa Kramer in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of I Wish You Knew written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | illustrated by Magdalena Mora

To enter:

This giveaway is open from May 4 to May 10 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 11. 

Prizing provided by Jackie Azúa Kramer.

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i-wish-you-knew-cover      celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-ojalá-supieras-cover

You can find I Wish You Knew at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

You can find Ojalá Supieras here

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order I Wish You Knew from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Order Ojalá Supieras here

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review