August 31 – It’s National Inventor’s Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine, this month-long holiday celebrates the imagination and talent of individuals who dare to think differently and create new products, services, and ways of doing things that make a positive contribution to the world. To join in, enjoy your favorite new inventions, and if you harbor dreams of being an inventor—on a large or small scale—look for opportunities to share your ideas.

Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas

Written by Anne Ameri-Siemens | Illustrated by Becky Thorns

 

When you jump in the car or turn on a lamp, the idea that these were someone’s inventions (and even the names Henry Ford and Thomas Edison) may flash through your mind. But what about when you slurp up delicious Raman noodles, watch your pet fish through the aquarium glass, or squeeze out the last bit of toothpaste in the tube? In Who Invented This? Anne Ameri-Siemens introduces young readers to the brilliant minds behind some of the things we use every day.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Take bicycles, for instance. You’ve probably seen pictures of those old bikes with a huge front wheel and a tiny back wheel. Was this the first bike? Not at all! Ameri-Siemens reveals that the first bicycle—called a “running machine”—had two wheels but didn’t have pedals. Invented by Karl von Drais in 1817, it had a steering bar in the front and was powered by the rider sitting on the seat and “running along the ground.” It may seem comical, but this invention led to more and more improvements until Pierre Michaux designed the first bike with pedals in the 1860s. You can read about all of the advancements in bikes and the other products it inspired too.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

As long as we’re talking about things that transport people here and there, have you ever thought about what drivers did before there were modern traffic lights? While the idea of indicating “stop” and “go” in red and green is universal across the world, the use of yellow for the transition came later from American policeman William Potts. “The first traffic lights in the world were built in London in 1868.” But they weren’t automatic. A policeman standing in the road had to move arms up and down to regulate the flow of traffic. “At night the arms were lit up in red and green.” Readers will find out more about how traffic lights progressed as well as how the timing of stop and go is controlled.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Sometimes inventors get their ideas from nature—this is called bionics—and kids will learn how George de Mestral was ingeniously inspired by those sticky burrs that cling to socks to create a product most of them use all the time. There are other everyday products that are so important that they were invented long, long, long ago. One of these? Toothpaste! While Washington Sheffield invented the first smooth paste in 1850 by adding glycerin to the powder then used—“a mixture of pumice stone, powdered marble, grated oyster shells, ashes, peppermint oil or sage, and some soap power”—and his son realized the toothpaste could be packed in tubes like artists’ paints instead of sold in foil bags, prehistoric humans also brushed their teeth. Kids will be fascinated to learn more about the history of this morning and nighttime routine and even examples from the animal kingdom.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Readers will be excited to learn about these inventions and many more that make up the fabric of our everyday lives and were conceived by talented inventors, scientists, and engineers. Some are the result of teamwork while some are the product of many years spent alone in a laboratory or even simply chance. In all, kids learn about 34 inventions that fall into diverse categories from transportation to communications, clothing to food, music to science and high-tech marvels.

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Image copyright Becky Thorns, 2021, text copyright Anne Ameri-Siemans, 2021. Courtesy of Little Gestalten.

Anne Ameri-Siemens’ conversational and engaging text will captivate readers interested in learning about how the world they know came to be. Ameri-Siemen’s storytelling beautifully balances the scientific and personal details of each invention to deliver compelling profiles. Interesting asides on each page reveal more about the inventions and the people who created them.

Accompanying each subject are Becky Thorns’ eye-catching illustrations that depict not only the invention but its creator or creators as well as how it is used or where it can be found. Thorns also employs clever ways to connect images on a page-spread that reinforcing their purpose and history. Each page spread offers plenty of ideas to spur research projects or extended lessons for classrooms and homeschoolers.

Packed with information on products, ideas, world-changing inventions, and the brilliant minds behind them, Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas will fascinate kids and spark an interest in further research, science, engineering, and technical studies. The book is highly recommended for young inventors, history buffs, and other creative thinkers as well as for classrooms and school and public library collections.

Ages 9 – 12 and up

Little Gestalten, 2021 | ISBN 978-3899551334

To learn more about Becky Thorns, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Inventor’s Month Activity

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Share Your Bright Idea! Page

 

Do you sometimes have a lightbulb moment when an idea seems just right? Use this printable Share Your Bright Idea! Page to write about or draw your idea!

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You can find Who Invented This? Smart People and Their Bright Ideas at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

July 20 – Celebrating Park and Recreation Month with Chana Stiefel

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Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 25 books for children, both fiction and nonfiction. Her most recent picture book is LET LIBERTY RISE (illustrated by Chuck Groenink, Scholastic, 2021), the true story of how children helped build the Statue of Liberty. Her next nonfiction picture book, THE TOWER OF LIFE, is the biography of Yaffa Eliach, a Jewish historian and survivor of the Holocaust who rebuilt her village in stories and photos to create the Tower of Faces in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC (illustrations by Susan Gal, Scholastic, 2022). Other picture books by Chana include MY NAME IS WAKAWAKALOCH!, illustrated by Mary Sullivan (HMH, 2019) and DADDY DEPOT, illustrated by Andy Snair (Feiwel & Friends, 2017).

You can connect with Chana Stiefel on Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Welcome, Chana! I’m really glad to have you joining me for a one-question interview this summer! As the Statue of Liberty National Monument is part of the National Park System, Let Liberty Rise! is a perfect book for celebrating Park and Recreation month, which encourages people to get out and enjoy America’s beautiful national parks and all they have to offer. 

I know how much you love to connect with your readers. Can you talk about a poignant thing that happened during one of your visits this year?

My newest picture book Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty (illustrated by Chuck Groenink) launched from Scholastic on March 2nd. Soon afterward, I received a phone call from the youth director at a local synagogue asking if I’d be interested in doing an in-person reading to children on a Circle Line Cruise to the Statue of Liberty.

I nearly dropped the phone. 

“It will be socially distanced and everyone will be masked,” she said. “The event will be on Passover [the holiday of freedom]. Maybe you can talk to the kids about the meaning of liberty?”

“So let me get this straight,” I replied. “You’re asking if I would like to read my book about the history of the Statue of Liberty to children in front of the statue herself?” Having received my second vaccine, my answer was an emphatic, “YES! OMG, YES!” 

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On April 1st, anchors away! My family and I joined over 100 people on the Circle Line’s maiden cruise in the wake of the Coronavirus, including Jim Morgan, owner of the Curious Reader bookshop, who helped me with a book signing. For the first time since the pandemic began, I shared with children (real, live children!) the story of how, in 1885, school children contributed their hard-earned pennies to build the pedestal of America’s most beloved statue. 

And then, there we were! Floating on a boat at the base of the Statue of Liberty. It was magical.

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On our return to dock, I shared with the children the story of my late mother-in-law, Hannelore Guthof Stiefel, who escaped Nazi Germany as a young child. She arrived with her parents in New York City in 1941. One of our family’s most cherished possessions is a full page of the Journal American newspaper from October 24, 1943. It shows 11-year-old Hannelore in a red and white striped dress as a new immigrant standing with her classmates in front of the Statue of Liberty! Hannelore grew up and married my father-in-law Arnold Stiefel, also a German Jewish immigrant, who then returned to Germany as an American soldier. They moved to Bergenfield, NJ, where they became the 18th family to join Congregation Bnai Yeshurun (CBY)—the very same synagogue that invited me on the boat cruise. CBY, by the way, now has over 600 families! 

So there you have it: At the tail end of this terrible pandemic, a live reading to children at the base of the Statue of Liberty with my family’s immigration story.

Talk about liberty!

What a fabulous, unforgettable experience – for you and the kids! Thanks so much for sharing it and your wonderful pictures! 

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Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty

Written by Chana Stiefel | Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

 

When Lady Liberty arrived in New York after a long voyage from France, her unassembled parts sat in crates instead of standing tall over the harbor. Why? No one wanted to pay for the pedestal needed to give her a strong foundation. Upset about people’s disinterest, Joseph Pulitzer announced that he would publish the names of every person who donated to the cause – no matter how much or how little they gave. Children answered the call, and their pennies, nickels, and dimes rolled in, eventually adding up to the $100,000 needed to build the pedestal.

Now everyone could see America’s monument to “freedom and hope,” and the Statue of Liberty welcomed the immigrants who sailed to our shores in steamships from around the world. Today, Lady Liberty still stands “thanks to the contributions of people all across America — and children just like you.” 

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Image copyright Chuck Groenink, 2021, text copyright Chana Stiefel, 2021. Courtesy of Scholastic.

Chana Stiefel raises children’s empowerment, excitement, and pride in what they can achieve in her uplifting true story of how children were instrumental in building the foundation for the Statue of Liberty. Her straightforward, conversational storytelling shines and the inclusion of quotes from children’s letters at the time will impress and charm today’s kids. 

Chuck Groenink’s delightful mixed-media illustrations inform readers on every page about the time period surrounding, the personalities involved in, and the scale of the project to build the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty. Images of kids donating their hard-earned change, knitting socks to sell, sacrificing candy and trips to the circus, and creating special clubs to raise money will remind today’s charitable readers that they are carrying on a proud tradition to make a difference to their community and their country. 

Ages 6 – 9

Scholastic Press, 2021 | ISBN 978-1338225884

Discover more about Chana Steifel and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Chuck Groenink, his books, and his art on his website.

Check out these other picture books and middle grade books by Chana!

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You can find Let Liberty Rise! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 9 – It’s International Clothesline Week

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About the Holiday

International Clothesline Week was established by Gary Drisdelle to encourage people to hang their laundry on outdoor clotheslines or indoor drying racks as a way to engage in and think about more sustainable living. Hanging up laundry has many benefits for you and the environment, from saving on electricity to providing natural exercise to cutting down on ironing. And that fresh, sun-dried smell can’t be beat. This week-long holiday also gives you a chance to appreciate that hamper or basket full of laundry sitting in your house right now. If you think laundry is drudgery now, wait until you learn how our long-ago ancestors handled it in today’s book!

A Brief History of Underpants

Written by Christine Van Zandt | Illustrated by Harry Briggs

 

Have you ever wondered, while you’re pulling on your underwear, where and how this whole tradition started? Well, you’re about to find out in four fun chapters that iron out the facts—no ifs, ands, or… well, you know! Chapter 1: Crusty Old Buns takes readers back in time when our earlies ancestors “needed protection from spiky plants, curious bugs, and the weather.” We come from some pretty smart stock, it seems, as these prehistoric people made undergarments from “natural plant and animal materials.” How do we know? Archaeologists have dug up the evidence and continue to find more examples all the time. You’ll also find out how early ancestors of the Inuit kept their buns warm and how the first Europeans protected themselves too.

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Image copyright Harry Briggs, 2021, text copyright Christine Van Zandt, 2021. Courtesy of becker&mayer! kids, Quarto Knows.

In Chapter 2: Underpants around the World, readers travel to ancient Egypt to learn about the schenti—a kind of wrap-around loincloth. While the common folks’ schenti was made from rough fabric, pharaohs’ fannies were graced by more gentile cloth. “King Tut’s royal rear was covered with a fancy, silky” schenti, and “because this famous Egyptian pharaoh believed in life after death, he was buried with 145 pairs of underpants.” After all, who “wants to be stuck doing laundry in the afterlife?”

Between 1000 and 1500 warriors in Mongolia and Knights in Europe discovered that the right kind of underwear offered protection from pointy arrows and long, bouncy horse rides. And what about women during this time? European women kept their bottoms bare under their long skirts, but they did have to contend with washing everyone else’s “once or twice a year on Wash Day.” Washing—clothes and people—was inconvenient to say the least in those days, but a good soak in “ashes mixed with pee helped remove stains, brighten colors, and degrease spots” and a vigorous scrubbing on rocks in the river did the rest.

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Image copyright Harry Briggs, 2021, text copyright Christine Van Zandt, 2021. Courtesy of becker&mayer! kids, Quarto Knows.

In Central and South America, North America, Australia, and New Zealand, a person’s social standing was instantly recognizable by the style, material, color and adornments of their loincloth. And in India, Mahatma Gandhi used his dhoti as a powerful symbol in the country’s fight for independence from Britain in the early to mid-1900s.

Chapter 3: Cheeky Inventions takes kids on a fast-paced, surprising history of innovations large and small that revolutionized the making and wearing of undies—and perhaps most importantly the time spent in the bathroom. Chapter 4: Tushes Today Worldwide reveals a few ways people have fun celebrating and strutting their underwear, and if you’ve ever wondered how the astronauts in the International Space Station handle the whole underwear thing, you’ll find the answers here.

So, that takes us up to current times, but we’re not done yet! Kids learn how to make and wear a Japanese fundoshi, worn by Samurai warriors, they’ll find a couple of jokes to share, and there’s a list of books for further reading.

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Image copyright Harry Briggs, 2021, text copyright Christine Van Zandt, 2021. Courtesy of becker&mayer! kids, Quarto Knows.

Full of puns and cheeky asides, Christine Van Zandt’s A Brief History of Underpants uncovers fascinating facts about these garments we take for granted while also revealing tidbits of historical, cultural, and societal traditions from earliest times to the present. Van Zandt’s breezy writing, punctuated by lots of “ewww”-inspiring descriptions, will keep kids laughing and learning and even the most reluctant reader riveted to the pages.

Harry Briggs’ silly cartoon illustrations will have kids laughing out loud as a self-assured King Tut struts across the desert past a pyramid of undies while a less-fortunate Egyptian whips up a vat of red dye made of “sheep poop and rotten olive oil;” Genghis Khan safely pulls a poisoned arrow from his silk under-armor; and downtrodden women gather at the riverbank on the annual Washing Day. A naked caribou, flaming underwear, and a pair of underpants that stretches to fit eleven people are just a few of the funny images that will keep kids turning the pages. Readers will have fun turning the wheel on the front cover to give the kid a revolving evolution of underwear.

Witty, intriguing, and informative, A Brief History of Underpants will captivate any child and makes a unique addition to history or social studies lessons for teachers and homeschoolers.

Ages 4 – 8

becker&mayer! kids, 2021 | ISBN 978-0760370605

Discover more about Christine Van Zandt and her books on her website.

To learn more about Harry Briggs, his books, and his art, visit his website.

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You can find A Brief History of Underpants at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

May 18 – It’s National Mystery Month

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About the Holiday

Have you felt something odd, eerie, or just plain puzzling in the air lately? That’s to be expected as May is all about mysteries! Established in 2009 by Booklist, which is part of the American Library Association, Mystery Month highlights all things mysterious and offers webinars, articles, awards, recommendations, and more! Mysteries, with their unusual situations, puzzling clues, usual suspects, and plenty of unexplained phenomena, are great for getting kids—even reluctant readers—to fall in love with books. With so many classic and new mysteries to investigate, this month’s celebration may just last all summer! And if you like your mysteries fun and educational, you’ll love today’s book!

Thanks to Chronicle Books for sending me a copy of Sleuth & Solve History for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Sleuth & Solve History: 20+ Mind-Twisting Mysteries

By Victor Escandell 

 

Historical fiction allows us to revisit real-life events in the past through characters and stories that resonate with today’s readers. The mysteries presented in this clever book do just that! Inspired by actual civilizations, people, inventions, and circumstances, each mystery asks you to tackle a perplexing or thought-provoking question and come up with an answer. The puzzlers are divided into two types: those that require a bit of logical thinking, and those that prompt you to use your imagination. They’re also graded on a point system from very easy to very difficult to give your brain a good workout. Each difficulty level is worth a different number of points from 10 to 60.

You can read this book or use it in various ways too, from solving each puzzle by yourself or making a game out of it for family fun night or in teams with friends or in a classroom. You’ll find mysteries old and new from Prehistoric times (200,000 – 4000 B.C.), the Old Ages (4000 B.C. – A.D. 476), the Middle Ages (A.D. 500 – 1400), the Modern Era (A.D. 1400 – 1800), and the Contemporary Era (1800 – Today).

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Copyright Victor Escandell, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Each two-page mystery is introduced with a snippet of nonfiction information about a tradition, event, person, ideology, or innovation. The problem to be solved is then told as a story in numbered steps that contain clues and are easy to follow. The mysteries are also accompanied by Victor Escandell’s humorous cartoon illustrations that readers will want to study carefully, because they also contain cunning hints that will help readers find the answer. Have you read the historical paragraph? Digested the story? Scoured the illustrations? Devised an answer? Then it’s time to divulge your thoughts and see if you’re right! Each answer is revealed under a pull-down flap on the second page.

Younger kids will enjoy solving the Stone Age case of the missing meat, discovering the Mona Lisa’s real name, and showing off their good sense of direction by helping out Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men. Older kids and adults will want to match wits with an Egyptian pharaoh, the great Athenian statesman Pericles, and even Sherlock Holmes. They can also decipher a secret code from World War II and discover a Space Station astronauts new password.

Future detectives can mull over the trickiest conundrums that occur during a Mesolithic Era hunting expedition, a Babylonian bargaining, a Barbarian chase, and a Parisian jewel robbery. They can even conjure up solutions to challenges from Thomas Edison and Harry Houdini.

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Copyright Victor Escandell, 2020, courtesy of Chronicle Books

Victor Escandell’s easy-going storytelling will spark kids’ interest in learning more about long-ago times which still influence our lives today. Sleuth & Solve History would be a fun and engaging way to start off classroom or homeschool lessons in history, science, and logic. The book’s appeal to a wide age range of readers, makes it a perfect addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves. You’ll also want to check out the original Sleuth & Solve: 20+ Mind-Twisting Mysteries for more fun!

Ages 8 – 12 and up

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452180076

Discover more about Victor Escandell, his books, and his art on his website.

Mystery Month Activity

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Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle

 

Do a little sleuthing to find the twenty mystery-related words in this printable Mysterious Mystery Word Search Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Sleuth & Solve History at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 16 – Collect Rocks Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday allows anyone who just can’t resist picking up a particularly pretty or unusual stone to indulge their whims and fancies. Rock collecting can be a fun and educational hobby as each type of stone has its own fascinating history and science to learn about. Why not go on a hike today and discover the unique shapes, colors, and feel of the rocks below your feet.

I received a copy of Old Rock (is not boring) from G. P. Putnam’s Sons for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Old Rock (is not boring)

By Deb Pilutti

 

It seemed that Old Rock had been sitting in the same spot forever. Tall Pine and Spotted Beetle thought being a rock must be pretty boring. Hummingbird wondered, “‘Don’t you ever want to go anywhere?’” She knew she would be if she couldn’t fly all over the world and taste exotic nectars. But Old Rock had flown once, and he began to tell his story.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

It was during the time when he was surrounded by darkness, but then the volcano erupted and Old Rock “‘soared through a fiery sky into the bright light of a new world.’” Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird weren’t very impressed. They still thought Old Rock must be bored. Spotted Beetle told him how much he might see if he climbed to Tall Pine’s very highest branch.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Old Rock countered that he had seen a lot. He’d watched dinosaurs pass by and had even hidden a spinosaurus from a hungry T. rex. He’d traveled in a glacier and been left teetering on a ridge overlooking a vast desert, where he “could see the place where the sky touches the earth.” Spotted Beetle and Hummingbird were intrigued, but Tall Pine dismissed these experiences as “ages ago.” He wanted to know about now. Didn’t Old Rock feel like moving? Tall Pine showed Old Rock how his limbs could dance in the wind.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

While Old Rock couldn’t dance, he did recall how he’d turned somersaults off the ridge, landing in a prairie where mastodons grazed near a lake. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird were mesmerized by Old Rock’s story and wanted to know what had happened next. Out of the prairie, sprang a pine forest, Old Rock revealed. And from one of the pine trees a pinecone fell and a seed was released. That seed grew “to be the tall pine who dances in the wind and keeps me company.” Sometimes, he continued, a spotted beetle and a hummingbird meander by. Old Rock was very pleased with his spot, and the others had to agree that it was “very nice” and “not boring at all.”

An illustrated timeline of Old Rock’s life from 18 billion years ago to the present day follows the text.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

So much clever thought went into Deb Pilutti’s Old Rock as she reveals to kids what a fascinating and active life the rocks and boulders we see every day have had. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird’s skepticism keeps the suspense building as Old Rock rolls out stories of his various travels and talents. Once he has them hooked, they—like young readers—want to hear more, leading to the just-right ending that sweetly encompasses shared history, happiness with one’s place in life, and friendship. The trio’s questions to Old Rock and their related experiences also engage children to think about issues and opinions from a variety of perspectives.

Pilutti’s mixed-media illustrations are nicely textured to bring out Old Rock’s grainy surface while highlighting nature’s vivid colors. Her vignettes from the dinosaur eras, the ice age (where the skeletons of dinosaurs are also swept up and away in the same glacier as Old Rock), and beyond impress upon readers the long time-frame involved, how the earth has changed, and even the fascinating science of the fossil record.

A multi-layered story, perfect for general story times or as a lead in to science lessons and to promote discussion and research in the classroom, Old Rock (is not boring) would be an original and exciting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518181

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Collect Rocks Day Activity

CPB - rock painting craft

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give talented artists like yourself a natural canvas for your creativity! So collect some rocks and use your imagination to design rocks to leave for people to find on paths or sidewalks, near a store, or anywhere in your neighborhood. You may even want to leave one outside your local library. That’s where I found the rock pictured here!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

  1. Find stones in your yard or neighborhood or buy them at a craft store or garden center
  2. Wash and dry rocks as needed
  3. Design and paint an image on the stone
  4. Have fun finding spots to leave your works of art!

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You can find Old Rock (is not boring) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 12 – Anne Frank Day

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About the Holiday

Seventy-five years ago today, Anne Frank received a diary for her 13th birthday. That diary went on to hold the thoughts, feelings, fears, and hopes of the young girl as she hid from the Nazis in a secret annex with her family for two years. It went on to become one of the most famous and widely read books in the world. Today, we honor Anne Frank, her remarkable work, and the woman who who saved Anne’s diary, Miep Gies. To learn more, visit the Anne Frank House Museum website.

Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Rescued Anne Frank’s Diary

Written by Meeg Pincus | Illustrated by Jordi Solano

 

On August 4, 1944, Miep Gies hears the worst sound she’s ever heard: “footsteps on the secret back stairs.” The sound is “worse than the World War II bomber planes…. Worse than the queen’s quivering voice on the radio announcing the invading Nazi army.” The sound means that Nazi officers have come to arrest the Frank family who Miep has been hiding for two years. Miep hears the van carrying her friends roar away. She knows that soon Nazi movers will return to take away all of the Frank’s possessions. She knows too that she could be arrested for keeping anything belonging to her friends, but there is one item she must rescue. “It calls silently from the musty rooms above.”

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

It takes many hours before Miep can bring herself to enter the secret annex. With her husband, Henk, and a coworker, Elli, they enter the rooms. In the bedroom, Miep finds what she is looking for: a red checkered diary that holds the thoughts and hopes of the Franks’ young daughter Anne. Miep “knows Anne dreams of publishing it as a book after the war.” Elli gathers up more of Anne’s writing that lies strewn across the floor, and Miep “grabs…Anne’s delicate combing shawl, strands of her dark hair clinging to its fabric like silky noodles.”

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Miep hides Anne’s diary and combing shawl in the drawer of her desk, never reading it. Nine months go by then one day Henk rushes into their apartment with news that the war is over and that the Nazis have surrendered. Miep and Hank wait for their “friends and neighbors to return from the camps,” wondering if the Franks will be among them. One day, Miep sees a familiar figure approaching her door. It’s Mr. Frank. He is alone, his wife having died in the camp. He has no knowledge about Anne and her sister as they were sent to another camp. While Mr. Frank regains his strength with the help of Miep, he sends letter after letter trying to locate his daughters.

At last a letter arrives, but it “contains the worst possible news: Anne and her sister did not survive the war. The air in the office hangs as still and shattered as the day of the capture.” With a broken heart, Miep opens her desk drawer and retrieves “Anne’s diary, papers, and shawl.” As she hands them to Mr. Frank, he gasps. He takes them to his office and reads Anne’s diary. “He savors her tales of growing up in hiding, her bright calls for hope when all seems lost.” He urges Miep to read it too, but she feels that she “will drown in sorrow” if she does.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

With the help of a war historian, Mr. Frank has Anne’s diary published. But, still, Miep cannot read it. Years go by before Miep opens the cover of Anne’s book. As she reads Anne’s words, she feels “as if Anne is standing right beside her, chattering away. Within the pages of her diary, Anne expressed her gratitude for the “gift…of writing, of expressing all that is in me” and her desire to “go on living even after my death!” After reading Anne’s words, Miep’s sadness lessens and she realizes that by saving her diary, “her beloved Anne will live on and on.”

An Author’s Note about how this book came to be written as well as more about the life of Miep Gies follows the text.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2019, text copyright Meeg Pincus, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Reading Meeg Pincus’s compelling first page, readers can almost hear the stomp of Nazi footsteps on the stairs leading to the secret annex and feel the constriction of Miep Gies’s heart as the Franks are arrested and taken away. Miep’s courage amid her sadness reverberates throughout this true story, tinted with the secrecy of grocery runs, the hurried collection of Anne’s most precious possession, and her ongoing mission to protect her friends. Pincus’s excellent pacing and evocative storytelling, which includes actual quotes from Miep’s writings and is punctuated with emotion will have children holding their breath as they listen or read on their own. Heartbreaking facts are portrayed candidly and with respect for the target age, allowing Anne’s boundless hope to shine through.

Seeming to take inspiration in color and tone from photographs on the front endpaper of Anne and her father flanked by Miep Gies and other helpers, Jordi Solano washes his illustrations in somber grays and greens, preserving bright spots for Anne’s red diary and her grass-green skirt that connects her to the colorfully clothed children who, on the final page, have come to visit the Anne Frank Museum. Miep’s grief at the arrest of her friends is palpable, and the Nazi officer who threatens her with arrest is depicted with sharp angles and an unrelenting stare. Children see Miep hide Anne’s diary in the back of a drawer and the approaching figure of Mr. Frank coming home from the detention camp. Solano portrays the moment when Mr. Frank, reunited with Anne’s diary and papers, clasps his daughter’s things to his heart. It is a poignant glimpse into this most private experience. As Miep finally reads Anne’s diary, Anne, herself, appears as she was, full of curiosity, joy, and love.

A must to be included in lessons about World War II, the Holocaust, and Anne Frank, Miep and the Most Famous Diary is also a poignant reminder of the crucial role of personal courage as well as the everlasting endurance of hope. The book should be included in all school and public libraries and would make a powerful addition to home libraries as well.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1534110250

Discover more about Meeg Pincus and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jordi Solano, his books, and his art, visit his website.

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You can find Miep and the Most Famous Diary at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 11 – Veterans Day

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About the Holiday

Veterans Day is observed each year on this date to honor and thank all members of the military who are currently serving or have served in the United States Armed Forces. The official ceremony begins at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery and then continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations and comments by dignitaries. While an official government holiday, some schools remain in session, holding special ceremonies of their own and inviting veterans to relate their experiences.

Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War

Written by Mireille Messier | Illustrated by Kass Reich

 

When a train full of soldiers stopped in a small town, they met a girl named Daisy and her goat, Billy. “The soldiers were going to war and they thought Billy would bring them luck.” Although Daisy loved her pet, she said they could take Billy with them if they promised to bring him back. During the bus ride to training camp for the Fifth Battalion, Billy endeared himself to the men with his antics, and they began calling him Private Billy. “And that’s how Billy joined the army.”

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Image copyright Kass Reich, 2019, text copyright Mireille Messier, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Billy trained with the soldiers and encouraged them with a push when they fell behind. When the soldiers were sent to England, they snuck Billy on board the ship. “And that’s how Private Billy crossed the ocean.” As time went on, the Fifth Battalion was sent to France. “Mascots were strictly forbidden at the front,” but the men hid Billy in an empty orange crate and “that’s how Private Billy went to the front lines.” Billy seemed to be the perfect solider. He didn’t mind the adverse conditions, the “foul food” or “even the rats.”

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Image copyright Kass Reich, 2019, text copyright Mireille Messier, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Billy celebrated victories and comforted soldiers during defeats and loneliness. The soldiers even wrote home about their beloved mascot. Even though food rations were short, Billy was happy with socks, napkins, or once even secret documents. For that misdeed, the colonel “placed the goat under arrest. And that’s how Private Billy went to jail for being a spy.” While Billy was locked up, the soldiers became bored, discontented, argumentative, and unhappy. So Billy received a pardon and was returned to the troops.

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Image copyright Kass Reich, 2019, text copyright Mireille Messier, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

After many brave deeds, such as capturing an enemy guardsman and saving some “soldiers’ lives by head-butting them into a trench seconds before a shell exploded right where they had been standing,” private Billy was promoted to Sergeant Billy. Billy knew he could always count on the soldiers, and the soldiers knew they could always count on Billy. For his “exceptional bravery,” Billy was awarded the Mons Star. The war raged for years, but, finally, peace was declared. The soldiers—and Billy—were ready to return home. They traveled over land and across the ocean and brought Billy back to Daisy, just as they had promised.

An Author’s Note explains more about animal mascots and the way animals were used during WWI. Readers can see photographs of Billy, Daisy, and the soldiers he served with as well.

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Image copyright Kass Reich, 2019, text copyright Mireille Messier, 2019. Courtesy of Tundra Books.

Mireille Messier’s charming storytelling brings to life the extraordinary World War I experience of a goat and the soldiers who loved him. Her easy-to-follow timeline, containing humorous incidents, clever ploys to move Billy from place to place, and harrowing exploits, will capture readers’ attention and hearts. Along the way, children learn about conditions and events of war. Messier’s repeated phrasing “And that’s how Billy…” moves the story forward while contributing to the cumulative effect of Billy’s positive influence on the troops and his role in battle.

Kass Reich’s captivating illustrations immerse readers in the wartime atmosphere while focusing on Billy and his endearing personality. Seeing Billy giving a tired soldier a nudge with his horns, being smuggled from place to place, comforting a soldier, and nibbling on secret documents allows children not only to visualize these events but to understand how important Billy was to the morale of the men, whose emotions are honestly depicted. Images of Billy happily wallowing in mud, playing with rats, and gobbling down anything he finds will have kids giggling while those of Billy saving lives and getting medals will wow them. His safe passage back home to Daisy is a delightful and satisfying ending.

A superbly told story, Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War, is highly recommended. The book would make an excellent addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for general story times and especially those around Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and other patriotic holidays.

Ages 4 – 8

Tundra Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-0735264427

Discover more about Mireille Messier and her books on her website.

To learn more about Kass Reich, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Watch the Sergeant Billy book trailer!

Veterans Day Activity

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Happy Veterans Day! Word Search Puzzle

 

Can you find the twenty-one Veterans Day related words in this printable puzzle?

Happy Veterans Day! Word Search Puzzle | Happy Veterans Day! Word Search Solution

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You can find Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review