November 5 – It’s National Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Children benefit so much from close relationships to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family members. This month and next, as family gathers together for special holiday events, it’s fun for adults to share family history and their own funny stories of growing up with the younger generation. Letting kids know how much they’re loved by everyone in the family is important too. It helps them develop a sense of belonging, a good self-image, and confidence. Reading together is a perfect way to spend time together and get conversations started.

I received a copy of Love and the Rocking Chair from The Blue Sky Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with The Blue Sky Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Love and the Rocking Chair

By Leo and Diane Dillon

 

A couple, about to have a baby, “stood in a sea of chairs, searching for just the right one.” Across the store they spied a delicate bentwood rocking chair carved with hearts and knew it was perfect. Soon after the chair was delivered, the couple’s baby boy was born. When they brought him home from the hospital, “his mother sat in the rocking chair, singing softly to her baby.”

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

When the boy was a little older, his dad read to him in the rocking chair. As the boy grew, the rocking chair became a “wild horse racing across the plains.” The boy rocked and rocked until the chair moved across the floor. When the chair came to the wall, the boy started over again. A few years went by and soon school beckoned. Now, the boy had friends and homework while the chair sat laden with forgotten toys.

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

Years passed and the boy went off to college. “The chair was moved to the attic,” where it gathered dust. While the boy was growing older, so were his parents. His “father became ill” and “one sad day, he passed away.” His son came home “to say a last goodbye to his father and to comfort his mother.” When the boy came home again, he brought along his fiancé. His mother hugged her like a daughter.

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

The young couple married and moved in with the man’s mother. Soon, they were going to have their own child. As they decorated the nursery, the man thought of the rocking chair. He brought it down from the attic and “lovingly dusted it off,” placing “it back where it belonged.” After the couple’s little girl was born, her grandmother rocked her in the chair and sang to her. She wished her husband could see her.

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

When the little girl was older, she rocked across her room in the chair. She was a sea captain sailing her boat “across the clouds.” Soon, she knew, she would “go to school, and make new friends, and have adventures all her own.” She looked forward to someday rocking a baby of her own in the chair. She thought of her parents and her grandparents and knew that “the love of her family would always be there.”

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Copyright Leo and Diane Dillon, 2019, courtesy of The Blue Sky Press.

This last collaboration between two-time Caldecott Medal and Coretta Scott King Award winners Leo and Diane Dillon is a beautiful tribute to family and the longevity of love passed from one generation to another. Based on the Dillon’s own experience, the story reveals the bonds that keep people close through changes, additions, good times, and loss through the beloved rocking chair that becomes a touchstone for the family. The Dillon’s lyrical text is straightforward and honest, showing transitions for each family member as well as for the rocking chair.

Endearing illustrations of the parents reading and singing to their babies will resonate with little readers and reinforce the story’s message. The images, rendered in earth tones and blocked and framed with a white border, mirror family photographs or snapshots of transformative and unforgettable moments in a family’s history.

A treasure to share with your child or a child in your family while talking about your own traditions, Love and the Rocking Chair is a tender story to add to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 5

The Blue Sky Press, and imprint of Scholastic, 2019 | ISBN 978-1338332650

Love and the Rocking Chair Giveaway

I’m happy to be partnering with The Blue Sky Press, Scholastic, Inc. in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Love and the Rocking Chair, by Leo and Diane Dillon

To be entered to win:

This giveaway is open from November 5 through November 11 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 12.

Giveaways open to US addresses only | Prizing provided by Scholastic, Inc.

Family Stories Month Activity

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Reading Blanket

 

A special blanket to read with feels cozy and warm! With this craft you and your child can make a blanket for yourselves, a stuffed animal or even a pet! Children from ages 5 or 6 and up will enjoy helping to tie the tabs. For younger children, using fabric glue to attach the two pieces of fleece or cutting just one piece of fleece allows them to join in the craft fun.

Supplies

  • 2 pieces of fleece, solid, patterned, or a mix of both
  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Fluff or pillow (optional for pet bed)
  • Fabric glue (optional)

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Directions

  1. Lay out one piece of fleece and measure a size that will make a comfortable blanket for the stuffed animal or is large enough for your pet to lie on
  2. Add 3 inches to that measurement on each side for the tie tabs
  3. Cut the fleece
  4. Lay out the second piece of fleece and cut it to the same size as the first piece
  5. With both pieces of fleece together cut three-inch long by ½ – ¾ – inch wide tabs all along each side. (If using fabric glue omit this step.)
  6. At the corners, four tabs will be cut off on each side

To Make a Blanket

  • Tie the top and bottom tabs together on all sides

To Make a Pet Bed

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  1. Tie the tabs together on three sides
  2. Add the fluff or pillow insert
  3. Tie the tabs on the final side

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You can find Love and the Rocking Chair at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 21 – National Apple Day

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About the Holiday

It’s apple season! Honeycrisp, Cortland, Gala, Fuji, Macintosh—there are so many delicious varieties to choose from and enjoy! The bounty of apples allows bakers and chefs to create scrumptious desserts and dishes, and for purists, there’s nothing better than biting into a crisp apple. Orchards are open for picking, and farmers markets and grocery stores are packed with these red, green, and yellow treats. To celebrate today and all month long, take the family apple picking, make your favorite apple recipes, or discover new taste sensations.

Applesauce Day

Written by Lisa J. Amstutz | Illustrated by Talitha Shipman

 

As a girl and her family have breakfast, she spies the tall pot that means it’s applesauce day. Her younger sister Hannah cheers, and her little brother “bangs his spoon.” After breakfast they head to the orchard outside the city. There, the air smells of ripe apples and it’s quiet. “There are no sirens or screeching tires. Only the buzzing of bees and the rustling of leaves in the wind.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Hannah calls to her big sister for help. She shows Hannah how to twist and pull the apples from the tree. Mom and Dad pick the apples high in the trees while Hannah, her big sister pick low apples. Ezra helps by putting the apples in a basket. He can’t resist taking a bite of one.

Soon all of the baskets are full of apples “ready to be smooshed into sweet, tangy applesauce.” After the car is loaded up, they drive to Grandma’s house. When they get there, Grandma’s waiting with a big smile and a hug. They “lug the apples into the kitchen” and each take their place. This year even Ezra gets a spot. After Dad washes the apples, Grandma cuts them up. Ezra gets to drop the apples into the tall pot. “Thunk, thunk, thunk.”

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

While they work, Mom talks about how she used to help Grandma bring home the apples and how “they cooked the apples in this very pot when she was a little girl” in Ohio. Then Grandma tells how “she helped her mother pick apples from the old apple tree behind their house on the windy Iowa prairie.” They also cooked the apples in this very same pot. The older girl looks at the pot and wonders what kinds of stories it could tell if it could talk.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

As the apples cook, they release a sweet scent into the air and the red peels turn pink. Then with a ladle, Mom pours the apples into the food grinder. Hannah and her sister take turns cranking the handle. “Crank! Squish. Crankity! Squish!” The applesauce squeezes through the strainer while the seeds and peels are left behind. They mix in a bit of sugar and put the applesauce in containers to store.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

It’s lunchtime now and the family sits down to sandwiches and a bowl of warm applesauce with cinnamon sprinkled on top. They take big servings and then seconds. “Ezra licks the bowl.” After lunch there’s more peeling, cutting, and cooking until all the apples are gone. They put the containers in Grandma’s extra freezer and take some home for themselves.

It’s dark by the time they finish and head home, “sticky but full of stories and smiles and applesauce.” As they drive home the older sister thinks about their special pot and how when she grows up, she’ll cook in it on Applesauce Day.

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Image copyright Lisa J. Amstutz, 2017, text copyright Talitha Shipman, 2017. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming story that lovingly explores the continuity of family heritage, you’ll want to share Lisa J. Amstutz’s Applesauce Day with your kids. Told through the viewpoint of the oldest daughter, the story takes readers from that first spark of recognition of a tradition through the actions that make it so special to the knowledge that they will be the ones to carry it on in the future. Excitement and pride flow through Amstutz’s pages as the children eagerly help pack the car, pick apples, and take their usual positions in Grandma’s kitchen.

The passing on of the tradition and skills involved in Applesauce Day are depicted in ways that will delight kids as the oldest sister shows the younger how to twist the apples from the tree and the little brother gets to participate for the first time. When the children’s mother and then their grandmother both tell how they helped with Applesauce Day when they were young, readers get a sense of generations and how far back traditions extend. Amstutz’s storytelling is homey and detailed and brimming with family camaraderie. The Introspective ending with appeal to kids thinking about their own place in their family.

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Talitha Shipman’s bright illustrations invite kids along for a day of apple picking and cooking. The siblings’ eyes shimmer with excitement as they partake in this favorite fall tradition. Like most kids on a day like this, Hannah, Ezra, and their older sister are in constant motion—picking apples, hugging Grandma, cranking the food mill—and working together. Shipman’s rich portrayals of these events will sweep readers into the action and inspire them to want to and learn more about their own family traditions or start new ones. Applesauce Day looks like so much fun that you can bet children will be eager to make a batch of this delicious fall treat themselves.

A perfect autumn (or anytime) read-aloud for families to share, especially as the holidays roll around or during intergenerational get-togethers, Applesauce Day would be a favorite on home bookshelves and in school and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2017 | ISBN 978-0807503928

Discover more about Lisa J. Amstutz and her books on her website.

To learn more about Talitha Shipman, her books, and her art, visit her website/

National Apple Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Apple-Turn-Over-Matching-Puzzle

Apple Turn Over! Matching Puzzle

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You can find Applesauce Day at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 10 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

The Thanksgiving holiday—with all of it’s shopping, decorating, cooking, and hosting of family and friends—offers lots of opportunities for adults and kids to share their funny, sad, and even embarrassing stories with each other. Learning about others’ triumphs and foibles is a wonderful way to build bonds, and when multiple generations get together it’s also a great time to pass down family traditions. Today’s holiday encourages people to engage in the art of oral storytelling as a way to stay connected to their family heritage. To celebrate elicit your child’s help in the holiday preparations—and get talking!

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

 

In a cozy home, preparations are being made for Thanksgiving. A little boy is eager to help out and is excited for the day. As his mom bustles around the kitchen, he urges, “Mama, fetch the cooking pot. / Fetch our turkey-cooking pot. / Big and old and black and squat. / Mama, fetch the cooking pot.” With the fat turkey snugged into the pot, the little boy knows just what comes next.

He hauls a basket of kindling to the stove, remind his daddy that he needs to make the fire “blazing hot.” But Thanksgiving dinner isn’t just about the turkey, so the boy ties on an apron to help his sister make the bread. “Sister, knead the rising dough. / Punch it down, then watch it grow. / Line your loaves up in a row.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Big brother also has a job to do to make sure the dinner comes out perfectly tasty. His younger sibling watches carefully as the older boy brushes the turkey with juices, basting the delicious-smelling bird until it’s golden. Grandpa and Grandma also get their instructions from their precocious grandson. With the recipe for the cranberries memorized, the little boy guides his grandfather through the process and has a particular wish for Grandma’s pie: “Grandma, bake your pumpkin pie. / Whip the topping light and high. / High enough to touch the sky. / Grandma, bake the pie.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With all the yummy aromas wafting through the kitchen, it’s getting hard for the little one to wait: “Baste. Boil. Bake a treat / When do we sit down to eat?” But it’s not quite time. As more family members arrive, they are also pressed into service. Auntie’s job is to fix the potatoes. How? The little tyke knows they should be mashed “just like Grandma taught you how” and topped “with butter from our cow.” Uncle’s here too with the cider jug ready to fill all the proffered mugs.

One family member’s job may be the hardest. Who is that? The baby! As the boy gently rocks the cradle, he whispers, “Baby, be a sleeping mouse. / Such a peaceful, sleeping mouse. / Snug and happy in our house. / Baby, be a mouse.” The house is alive with all the rushing around and excited voices, and while the little boy is looking forward to eating, he also knows that with “food and loved ones, we are blessed.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With the dinner well underway, it’s time to turn attention to the table decorations. Homemade Pilgrim hats are just the thing for clever placemats. Finally, the food is cooked, the candles on the table are lit and it’s time for one last thing. The boy stands on his chair “to raise a hearty shout. / A happy, hungry, hearty shout. / ‘COME AND GET IT! /  DINNER’S OUT!’”

But the adults are so slow! The boy sits in his chair eyeing all the scrumptious food to come as Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle, and even his sister and brother mill about, seeming to never find their proper place. At last everyone has gathered around the table, grace has been said, and it’s time to “share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Through her child’s-eye view of an old-fashioned Thanksgiving day, Pat Zietlow Miller captures the excitement and endearing impatience of children on this special family holiday. Young readers will recognize the little boy’s tone of urgency as he exhorts his family members to do their particular jobs to make the meal a success. This ready identification makes Zietlow’s story always up-to-date while connecting children with the past. Little ones, who love to be involved in holiday preparations, will love to hear this gentle, rhyming tale that flows as smoothly as the well-organized kitchen portrayed.

Jill McElmurry’s homey illustrations glow with golden hues that invite readers into the old-fashioned kitchen to take part in one family’s happy Thanksgiving dinner. Clothing, hairstyles, a cast-iron stove, and an old hand-pump faucet set the story in yesteryear, but the smiles, plump crispy turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and convivial hustle-bustle tell readers that this is a story as current as today. Children will love lingering over the details on each page and trying to guess who is going to show up for dinner next.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2015 | ISBN 978-0307981820

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jill McElmurry and her books for kids, visit her website.

Homemade Bread Day Activity

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My Family’s Recipe Box, Label, and Cards

 

Holidays are a perfect time for kids to learn traditional or favorite family recipes. With this easy craft and printable label and recipe cards, children can create their own unique recipe box.

Supplies

  • A tea bag box, such as Tetley Tea or another appropriately sized box with a lid that overlaps the front edge
  • Printable Recipe Box Label | Printable Recipe Cards
  • Washi tape
  • Heavy stock printing paper
  • Adhesive printing paper (optional)
  • Glue (optional)

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Directions

  1. Cover the box in washi tape
  2. Print the label on adhesive printing paper or regular paper
  3. Stick label to box or attach with glue
  4. Print recipe cards on heavy stock paper
  5. Write down favorite recipes and store them in your recipe box

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You can find Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review