November 4 – Zero Tasking Day

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About the Holiday

So that time of year has come around again—the time change, but the good one, the one where we gain an extra hour of sleep. But what to do with that extra hour? Should we really spend it sleeping when there are so many other things we can or should do? The people who instituted Zero Tasking Day says “Yes!” Or at least they think we should take it easy. So, instead of rushing around and filling up that extra hour, relax and take some time to really appreciate all the favorite things in your life—like the girl in today’s book.

Now

By Antoinette Portis

 

A girl, barefoot and with her arms raised high, runs through a field, feeling the exhilaration of the wind on her face. “This is my favorite breeze,” she says. She finds an apple-red maple leaf, which, at this moment, is her favorite. At the beach, she has dug hole after hole, but her favorite is the one she is making right now.

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Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

In the mud that has splattered her ankles, she finds a pink, wriggly worm that tickles her palms when she picks it up. As the girl stretches out on a hill to watch the clouds float by, she decides that her favorite is “the one I am watching.” The best rain is one that creates a river in the street for her paper boat—the one that was her favorite until it sailed into the grate

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-tree

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The most marvelous tree has sturdy branches for the girl to swing from, and a delicate, bell-shaped flower produces her “favorite smell.” There are many birds to feed at the park, but the one she likes the best is the one that comes close enough to eat out of her hand. Her favorite song is the one that swells inside her heart and bursts out with joy, and the most delicious gulp and bite are those that quench her thirst and calm her hunger.

Her favorite tooth leaves a gap in her smile “because it’s the one that is missing.” She and her squeezed-tight cat may differ on the best hug, but they probably agree that their favorite moon is the crescent outside the window tonight. But what is her favorite “Now?” It is this moment, because she is having it with you.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-boat

Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Antoinette Portis lends her unique perspective to this uplifting book that encourages kids—and, as readers see in the final image, adults—to live in the moment and become fully conscious of the present object, feeling, experience, or sensation. As the little girl’s favorites build on each other, readers become aware of a growing appreciation for all the small joys that make up a day. The theme of the book is revealed on the first page as the girl welcomes the refreshing breeze. The simply drawn, unencumbered illustrations mirror the simple pleasures that she finds everywhere. But look closer and there is more profound meaning in each.

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Copyright Antoinette Portis, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The veins in the maple leaf become the girl’s smile as she holds it to her face; her song radiates from her in a golden sun-shaped swirl; and the girl’s clothing changes through a year’s worth of experiences as it also matches the color of her feeling or activity, allowing her to become one with it. As readers reach the end of Now, they see two hands holding a book open to an image of an elephant and her calf, animals known for their strong family ties. This illustration leads into and strengthens the final page, where the girl and her mother sit reading that book together. The text and picture work in tandem to embrace the reader while letting both children and adults interpret the previous images in their own way.

Now is a beautiful, quiet book that reminds children and adults to slow down and truly enjoy the fleeting moments of life. It is a wonderful book to share and will open discussions of “favorite things” for home, classroom, and library story times.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626721371

To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her books, visit her website.

Zero Tasking Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-owls-maze

Sleepy Owls Sleepover Maze

 

One wide-awake owl wants to join friends as a sleepover. Can you help bring them together in this printable Sleepy Owls Sleepover Maze. Here’s the Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-now-antoinette-portis-cover

You can find Now at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 24 – It’s Happiness Happens Month

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About the Holiday

Happiness doesn’t have to be something we plan for, schedule into our calendars, or spend money on. In fact paying attention to those little moments during each day, going on spontaneous outings with friends or family, or taking time to do a favorite activity may be all you need to feel happier every day!

My Heart Fills With Happiness

Written by Monique Gray Smith | Illustrated by Julie Flett

 

A little girl gazes into her mother’s eyes as she sits on her lap wrapped in a big, soft blanket. She thinks, “My heart fills with happiness when…I see the face of someone I love.” Waiting for the bannock to bake, a mother and her children huddle close around the oven surrounded by the delicious aroma that fills their hearts with joy. Singing brings its own lightness and pleasure as it fills one’s soul.

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Image copyright Julie Flett, 2016. Courtesy of Orca Books Publishing.

A girl lifts her face to the sky and swirls around, her dress floating with a swish as she smiles to “feel the sun dancing on [her] cheeks.” Happiness can be the tickly feeling of “walking barefoot on the grass,” the freedom of dancing, and the security of holding a loved one’s hand. Hearing stories and making music can also set hearts racing with delight. When you think about joy, what do you see? “What fills your heart with happiness?”

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Image copyright Julie Flett, 2016, text copyright Monique Gray Smith, 2016. Courtesy of Orca Books Publishing.

Monique Gray Smith’s sweet book for little ones about the various types of happiness offers readers and listeners a moment to stop and share the connection that joy brings. Whether feelings of happiness come from outside influences or from deep within, Smith encourages readers to reflect on what really makes them happy. Such awareness can inspire future activities and improve your quality of life. Smith’s lyrical phrasing and choice of pleasures will delight little ones, who will recognize each as a bond of love.

Julie Flett’s beautiful illustrations of indigenous families spending loving moments together are infused with warmth and strength. In her vignettes of the unhurried occasions that allow for profound happiness, children and adults sit together, hold hands, and wrap their arms around each other. Little ones also discover the individual joys found in a sunbeam, a blade of grass, or the abandon of dance. 

My Heart Fills With Happiness would be wonderful quiet book to add to a little one’s bookshelf to start a happy day or invite sweet dreams. 

Ages 2 – 4

Orca Book Publishers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1459809574 

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-heart-fills-with-happiness-plains-cree-edition

My Heart Fills With Happiness / Ni Sâkaskineh Mîyawâten Niteh Ohcih, 2018 | ISBN 978-1459820180

Discover more about Monique Gray Smith, her writing, and speaking engagements on her website!

View a gallery of books and illustration work by Julie Flett on her website!

Happiness Happens Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-smile-cards

Happiness Cards

 

Happiness can happen anywhere, and you can help make someone’s day extra happy with these printable Happiness Cards. Just give them to a friend, someone in your family, or someone who looks as if they need a pick-me-up. It’ll make you feel happy too!

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You can find My Heart Fills with Happiness and My Heart Fills With Happiness / Ni Sâkaskineh Mîyawâten Niteh Ohcih at these booksellers

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

English/Plains Cree: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

February 20 – Love Your Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Whether you have a dog or cat, hamster or fish, parakeet, iguana, or llama, your pet is one of the most loved parts of your family. Animals’ funny antics, eager personalities, and unconditional love simply make life better. Today’s holiday encourages you to spend more time with your pet. A longer walk or playtime and a special treat will show your pet how much they mean to you. If you’ve been considering getting a pet, maybe today’s the day. Getting a pet can be life-changing—just as the man in today’s book discovers.

Seed Man

By Aiko Ikegami

 

“One day Seed Man came to town.” After he had dug a hole and chosen a seed from his bag, he planted it and then “called the fairies.” The fairies were very good gardeners. They tended the seed with special food and water and sang to it as it grew from a tiny sprout into a tall sapling and finally into a straight, strong tree.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Among its leafy branches, the tree bore fruit unlike any other. There was a toy bunny, bear, and duckling; a drum and a guitar; and a tricycle, train, and plane. There was even a puppy in a basket. When the fruit was ready, the fairies picked it and “delivered Seed Man’s gifts all over town” to the sleeping residents. “Even if someone didn’t know he needed a gift, Seed Man and the fairies knew.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-seed-man-plants-a-seed

Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

And that is how the man who lived alone with only a photograph of his wife and child to comfort him came to have the dog. When he awoke in his chair, holding the framed picture, he looked at the puppy sitting in her basket in front of him and said, “‘I don’t want a dog.’” As the puppy rolled over and wagged her tail and jumped to greet him, the man said, “‘Ay yi yi.’”  

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-seed-man-calls-fairies

Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

But then the man patted the dog and smiled at her. He poured milk into a bowl, and let the puppy sit on his lap. Everything was going well until a butterfly fluttered through the window and captured the dog’s attention. With a leap and a bound, the puppy chased after it, shaking the table and upsetting the coffee cup, the vase of flowers and the framed photograph.

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Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

They all crashed to the floor, shattered.  “The man looked at the broken picture” and sent the dog away. Later, the sky darkened and rain pelted the window. The man wondered what the puppy would do. He picked up his umbrella and “went to look.” The sidewalks were crowded and he couldn’t see the dog anywhere. But the fairies knew right where to find her. They brought her back to the old man.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-seed-man-fairies-sing

Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The man was so happy to see her, and she was happy to see her. He picked her up, and she licked his nose. The Seed Man watched the old man and the puppy together and “knew it was time.” The fairies carried the bag of seeds to the old man’s home and knocked on the door. Now a new Seed Man, his puppy, and the fairies are coming to town.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-seed-man-grown-tree

Copyright Aiko Ikegami, 2018, courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Aiko Ikegami’s enchanting story offers young readers much to consider about the nature of love and its power to broaden horizons and overcome loneliness, fear, and other emotions. For the old man, the companionship of the puppy opens his heart and reopens his eyes to the world around him. Previously focused on his own feelings and sadness, the man finds in the puppy someone else to care about, a compassion that soon extends to others. As Ikagami’s fairies know, each person has unique needs and responds to different inspirations.

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Ikegami’s whimsical illustrations fill in and expand on her story, the simplicity of which cleverly leaves it open to personal interpretations. Discussions may revolve around the gift of talent, how the seed of love grows when well planted and tended, and how the childlike fairies remind us that children are our greatest gift. And then there’s the Seed Man himself. Is he a mystical figure or can he be anyone paying kindness forward?

Ikegami clearly depicts the emotional transformation the old man experiences. At first stooped with sadness, his change of heart when he accepts the puppy comes with smiles and crinkled eyes, and when he is designated as the new Seed Man, his dramatic change in appearance and disposition shows children that love and purpose found lead to a happy life.

For opening discussions about many aspects of love and happiness, Seed Man is an original story that would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363797

Discover more about Aiko Ikegami, her books, and her art on her website.

Love Your Pet Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wooden-bead-cat-craft

A Little Ball of Kitten

 

This sweet little kitten is easy to make and can keep you company on your desk or shelf! Since every kitten is different, you can make yours to look just the way you want. Here’s how I made mine:

Supplies

  • Wooden ball with a flat bottom, available in craft stores and in different sizes
  • Craft paint in any color kitten you’d like (I used red and yellow and mixed it to make a mottled orange)
  • Craft paint in pink or white for the inner ear
  • Scrap of fleece for the ears. Fleece is easily shaped to the rounded ball and when painted is stiff enough to stand up on its own.
  • Thin, colored wire in several colors for the tail (string or twine, wrapped wire, fleece, stiff paper, and other materials could also be used)
  • Paint brush
  • Permanent marker for making the face
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue

Directions

  1. Paint the wooden ball and let dry
  2. Paint the scrap of fleece to match the wooden ball, let dry
  3. Cut out small triangular shapes for the ears. Round the bottom of the ears slightly so they fit the shape of the ball
  4. If making a tail from several colors of thin wire, twist them together, leaving one end untwisted
  5. With the glue gun or strong glue attach the ears to the top of the head
  6. With the glue gun attach the tail to the back of the wooden ball in the center near the base
  7. With the marker, draw eyes, nose, and mouth for the face and semicircles near the bottom for the paws

Picture Book Review

January 27 – National Seed Swap Day

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About the Holiday

If you love to garden, you may want to get involved with National Seed Swap Day! The first Seed Swap Day was held in Washington DC in 2006. Since then it has grown to be a nation-wide event as gardeners get together to trade the seeds from their best plants. Not only does this improve the biodiversity in your local area, it’s a great way to make new friends! To learn more about what events are planned in your area, visit the official National Seed Swap blog.

The Bad Seed

Written by Jory John | Illustrated by Pete Oswald

 

A sunflower seed stares right off the page and admits it: “I’m a bad seed. A baaaaaaaad seed.” He knows that all the other seeds feel the same way. They point him out and mumble, “There goes a baaaad seed.” You might wonder just how bad a seed he can be. Pretty bad…he’ll tell you himself. Are you ready? Take a listen: “I never put things back where they belong. I’m late to everything. I tell long jokes with no punchlines.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Heard enough? Still think this seed may not be so bad? Well, what if you knew he was unhygienic, a little untruthful, and sometimes a lot inconsiderate. Why does he do this stuff? You know…he’s “a bad seed. A baaaad seed.” Was he always this way, you might wonder. The answer’s No. In fact, he “was born a humble seed on a simple sunflower in an unremarkable field.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He just hung out with his big family of seeds until the flower began to droop, the seeds scattered and then…there was this bag. The seed was almost eaten by a giant with a big, scary mouth but was “spit out at the last possible second.” He landed under the bleachers, and when he woke up he found his life changed forever. He had “become a different seed entirely.” He’d “become a bad seed.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

He was in unknown territory, by himself. He’s happy to share the sad details: “I stopped smiling. I kept to myself. I drifted. I was friend to nobody and bad to everybody. I was lost on purpose. I lived inside a soda can. I didn’t care. And it suited me.” That is it did suit him until recently. This seed did some soul searching, and decided to be better.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

So now he still does some of that bad stuff (did you hear someone talking during a movie? That was probably him), but he does some good stuff too—like having good manners and smiling at people. Now, he says, “even though I still feel bad, sometimes, I also feel kind of good. It’s sort of a mix.” He’s just going to keep trying, and thinking, and readjusting his behavior and his view of himself. And now when he’s walking down the street, he still hears, “There goes that bad seed.” But he also hears, “Actually, he’s not all that bad anymore.”

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

Jory John’s sly look at bad behavior is a sophisticated psychological thriller for the youngest set. John’s humorous take on the “bad seed” descriptor gives him full reign to explore some of the more serious life events that can cause sadness, loneliness, and even personality changes. As the once-happy seed loses his home, scatters from family, and ends up a bit bruised and battered, he sees his once sunny life turn dark.

With a hardened heart, he goes about his days, acting badly and letting the comments of others define him. To his credit, however, this seed has the presence of mind—and enough honesty—to recognize his bad behavior and also to know that only he can change it. The niceties that the seed foregoes will have kids and adults laughing out loud as his reputation seems a bit more roguish than the reality. And the authentic ending holds a reassuring kernel of truth—life is a bit of a mix, but happiness often wins out.

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Image copyright Pete Oswald, 2017, text copyright Jory John, 2017. Courtesy of HarperCollins.

It’s understandable if you don’t quite believe the sunflower seed when he says he’s a baaaad seed in Pete Oswald’s adorable illustrations. Sure, he scowls and furrows his brow, butts in line, and gets a bit stinky, but underneath that hard shell, really lies the heart of a softie. The other seeds in the neighborhood—pistachios, peanuts, almonds, chestnuts, cashews, and more—are fed up, though, registering fear, dismay, and even anger over the sunflower’s behavior. When the sunflower seed has a change of heart, however, others take note, and he gets another crack at life.

The Bad Seed is a funny book that kids will love to hear again and again. It also provides many teachable moments for those times when life gets a little discouraging. The book would make a great addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2017 | ISBN 978-0062467768

Discover more about Jory John and his books on his website

Learn more about Pete Oswalk and view a portfolio of his artwork on his tumblr.

How good is this The Bad Seed book trailer? Take a look!

National Seed Swap Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-carrots-seeds-coloring-page

Seed Packet Coloring Pages

 

All of your favorite veggies come from seeds, of course!, and those seeds come in packets that are little bits of art. Grab your crayons or pencils and color these printable Seed Packet Coloring Pages.

Carrots Seed Packet | Peas Seed Packet | Broccoli Seed Packet | Corn Seed Packet

Picture Book Review

December 23 – National Roots Day

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About the Holiday

As families gather for holidays this month, National Roots Day encourages people to talk about their collective histories, look at old photographs, and tell family stories. Sharing laughs, traditions, and those “remember when…?” stories with children helps give them a sense of connection and belonging and ensures that important events, customs, and relationships aren’t lost to time.

Sing, Don’t Cry

By Angela Dominguez

 

Once a year, Abuelo came from Mexico to visit his family in America. “He always brought his guitar,” and he sang to his granddaughter and grandson every night. Abuelo would talk about his life, and if the children were sad, his advice was “‘Sing, don’t cry. Because singing gladdens the heart.’”

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

One of the stories Abuelo told was about a time when he was very young and his family “had to travel a long way to find a new home.” Just like his granddaughter and grandson’s family. He said that “singing made the distance seem smaller.” He also knew that when bad things happen, singing can make them better. “‘Some things may be lost forever,’” he said, “‘but maybe that makes room for new and wonderful things to be found.’”

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When you feel alone, Abuelo said, singing can attract friends. When there are days that are hard or when people are mean, singing—“even if it is only in your soul”—can cheer you. As Abuelo strummed his guitar and sang to his precious grandchildren, he reminded them that “‘I will always be singing with you.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-singing-uplifts

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Angela Dominguez pairs her heartwarming text with images that are at once simple and complex as they hold images that span the generations while also bringing them together. As Abuelo arrives as his daughter’s house, his grandchildren greet him enthusiastically with signs and balloons. The children are excited to see Abuelo get out his guitar, and as he sings, readers see that each child is comforted in different ways by their interactions with their grandfather.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-singing-attracts-friends

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

A sepia-hued portrait on the wall of Abuelo as a young man as well as clothing choices offer color-coded clues to Abuelo’s history and reassurance for events in the lives of his grandkids. As Abuelo reveals the restorative power of singing, Dominguez portrays examples of three situations on a tri-paneled page. The top, sepia-colored image depicts a boy sick in bed as a worried mother looks on; the second image is rose-colored and shows a single teddy bear; and in the aqua-toned third, a boy sits forlornly on the sidelines of an American football game.

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Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of angeladominguezstudio.com.

Turning the page, these three panels are more fully developed, letting young readers experience each characters’ disappointment in events that will resonate with them. Turn the page again, and children see that Abuelo’s assurance of brighter days comes true for all. Abuelo’s positive outlook is further revealed in cherished framed photographs, and the final image of the whole family gathered around Abuelo and his guitar is joyful.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sing-don't-cry-family

Copyright Angela Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of angeladominguezstudio.com.

An Author’s Note includes the lyrics from Cielito lindo that inspired the story as well as a brief biography of Angela Dominguez’s grandfather, Apolinar Navarrete Diaz, that provides a deeper understanding of the story and the significance of Abuelo’s guitar.

An inspiring and uplifting story, Sing, Don’t Cry would be a welcome read for those times when encouragement is needed both at home and in a classroom setting.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt and Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1627798396

Learn more about Angela Dominguez, her books, and her art on her website.

National Roots Day Activity

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I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages

 

What are some of the favorite things you love about your grandmother and grandfather? Fill out, draw your and your grandparents’ faces, and color these printable I Love Grandma and I Love Grandpa Pages. They even make nice gifts that your grandparents’ will appreciate!

I Love Grandma | I Love Grandpa

Picture Book Review

December 16 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

With so many gift-giving opportunities this month, December is the perfect time to discover new books for any age! The delight, wonder, and shared experiences of great books is one of the best presents you can give. This month visit your local bookstore and pick out a special book for the loved ones on your list. (And don’t forget to treat yourself!)

The Glassmaker’s Daughter

Written by Dianne Hofmeyr | Illustrated by Jane Ray

 

Have you heard about the wondrous city built on water? “Its palaces floated like birds in nests on the the sea and its lamplight danced like fireflies across the ripples.” In one of these beautiful buildings lived Daniela, the glassmaker’s daughter. You might think that Daniela would be happy to be surrounded by so much loveliness, but instead she spent her days staring glumly into the canal. Her father, wanting his daughter to be happy, offered a glass palace to the person who could make his daughter smile.”

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Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Right away he had his glassmakers begin construction. “They blew and pulled and pinched the molten glass into sliver-spun walls with pineapple-topped turrets and winged-dragon doors.” Soon people where coming from all over to try to make Daniela smile. First was Maestro Barbagelata, who could breathe fire, swallow swords and snakes, and do tricks on a tightrope. But his performance just made Daniela “gloomier than ever.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the glassmaker's-daughter-glum

Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Next the mask maker Donna Violetta Rufina Zangara arrived with a carriage full of masks made with jewels, birds’ eggs, shells and pearls, and peacock feathers. But Daniela was not enticed by these masks; in fact, they made her “glummer than ever.” Leonardo Leonino Grandi brought his fierce lion, which instead of amazing Daniela caused Leonardo to topple from his gondola into the water. “But even this didn’t bring a smile to Daniela’s lips.”

So many tradespeople, performers, tricksters, and adventurers were sure that they could make Daniella smile, but none of them succeeded. Daniela’s father was at a loss. But down in a corner of the glassmaker’s workshop Angelo thought he knew just what to do. He “longed more than anyone to make Daniela smile.” As he removed the hot glass from the furnace and began blowing it, he whispered, “‘Flux and fire.’” As he laid the glass flat and spread slivers of silver mercury on the surface, he chanted, “‘Mercury and tin,’” As he smoothed the slivers, he said, “‘Foiled and finished. And polished thin,’” When he finished “he sang his secret song again.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the glassmaker's-daughter-glass-palace

Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

The other glassmakers scoffed when Angelo told them he was making something that would make Daniela smile. But with his gift carefully wrapped, Angelo went in search of Daniela. When he found her and she saw the glass in his hand, she rejected his gift. But Angelo told her to “‘Look again, Principessa. This is no ordinary piece of glass. It’s different. Look into it.”

Daniela did as she was told, and when Angelo asked her what she saw, Daniela described “a creature with a mouth like an upside-down slice of lemon and the eyes of a cross dragon.” She thought it was the funniest face she had ever seen. And right before her eyes, the face changed. The lips turned up and the eyes began to shine. “Daniela burst out laughing.” As she laughed, the newly made glass palace began to splinter and crack until the “entire palace fell to smithereens.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the glassmaker's-daughter-sword-swallower

Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Daniela’s father promised to build Angelo another palace if he would only tell him how his “magic glass” had made his daughter smile. But Angelo told him that Daniela had changed herself. “‘My glass only reflects what’s already there,’” he said. “‘Happiness is inside all of us. You only have to discover it.’” Daniela agreed, and laughed once more as she peered into the glass. The sound of her laughter set every bell in the city ringing. Men, women, and children began to laugh with her. They danced and played. Even the Grand Doge emerged from his palace to join in the celebration.

So if you hear the bells of Venice ringing, you know that Daniela is laughing, and if you “peep into a looking glass,” you will most likely see a smile on your face too.

A brief and fascinating history of glassmaking and mirror making precedes the story.

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Written in the style of classic fairy tales, Dianne Hofmeyr’s story has a very contemporary message—one that is a timely reminder and allows young readers to embrace their power to determine their own happiness. Children may smile at the various attempts to please Daniela, but they—like Angelo—will also appreciate and understand that Daniela was searching not for outward but inward happiness all along.  

Jane Ray’s lush illustrations mirror the colors and atmosphere of Venice, as the performers don carnival masks and costumes, gondolas are poled along the canals, and the dark glassmaker’s workshop glows with molten glass. The delicate and lovely glass palace depicted at the beginning of the story shatters into shimmering shards in a two-page spread which makes dazzling use of iridescent paper accents. This stunning image is a beautiful metaphor for Daniela’s warmth breaking through her seemingly cold and fragile exterior when she finally smiles and laughs.

Ages 4 – 8

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1847806765

Discover more about Dianne Hofmeyr and her books on her website

Learn more about Jane Ray, her books, and her art on her website.

Read a New Book Activity

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I Love to Read Coloring Page

 

If you love books as much as this little bookworm, you’ll like coloring this printable I Love to Read Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

August 8 – Happiness Happens Day

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About the Holiday

Happiness doesn’t have to be something we plan for, schedule into our calendars, or spend money on. In fact paying attention to those little moments during each day, going on spontaneous outings with friends or family, or taking time to do a favorite activity may be all you need to feel happier every day!

My Heart Fills With Happiness

Written by Monique Gray Smith | Illustrated by Julie Flett

 

A little girl gazes into her mother’s eyes as she sits on her lap wrapped in a big, soft blanket. She thinks, “My heart fills with happiness when…I see the face of someone I love.” Waiting for the bannock to bake, a mother and her children huddle close around the oven surrounded by the delicious aroma that fills their hearts with joy. Singing brings its own lightness and pleasure as it fills one’s soul.

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Image copyright Julie Flett, 2016. Courtesy of Orca Books Publishing.

A girl lifts her face to the sky and swirls around, her dress floating with a swish as she smiles to “feel the sun dancing on [her] cheeks.” Happiness can be the tickly feeling of “walking barefoot on the grass,” the freedom of dancing, and the security of holding a loved one’s hand. Hearing stories and making music can also set hearts racing with delight. When you think about joy, what do you see? “What fills your heart with happiness?”

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Image copyright Julie Flett, 2016, text copyright Monique Gray Smith, 2016. Courtesy of Orca Books Publishing.

Monique Gray Smith’s sweet book for little ones about the various types of happiness offers readers and listeners a moment to stop and share the connection that joy brings. Whether feelings of happiness come from outside influences or from deep within, Smith encourages readers to reflect on what really makes them happy. Such awareness can inspire future activities and improve your quality of life. Smith’s lyrical phrasing and choice of pleasures will delight little ones, who will recognize each as a bond of love.

Julie Flett’s beautiful illustrations of indigenous families spending loving moments together are infused with warmth and strength. In her vignettes of the unhurried occasions that allow for profound happiness, children and adults sit together, hold hands, and wrap their arms around each other. Little ones also discover the individual joys found in a sunbeam, a blade of grass, or the abandon of dance. 

My Heart Fills With Happiness would be wonderful quiet book to add to a little one’s bookshelf to start a happy day or invite sweet dreams. 

Ages 2 – 4

Orca Book Publishers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1459809574

Discover more about Monique Gray Smith, her writing, and speaking engagements on her website!

View a gallery of books and illustration work by Julie Flett on her website!

Happiness Happens Day Activity

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Happiness Cards

 

Happiness can happen anywhere, and you can help make someone’s day extra happy with these printable Happiness Cards. Just give them to a friend, someone in your family, or someone who looks as if they need a pick-me-up. It’ll make you feel happy too!

Picture Book Review