December 10 – Nobel Prize Day

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About the Holiday

When Alfred Nobel’s will was read after his death on December 10, 1896, his heirs were taken by surprise. Nobel had signed a new will the year before, leaving most of his wealth to create prizes recognizing those who had done their best to benefit mankind in the fields of physics, chemistry,  medicine, literature, and peace. Opposition to this will on the part of the family and those Nobel had chosen to award the prize delayed Nobel’s wishes until 1901. Today, the awards include a prize for economics and are announced in early October. The awards are presented on December 10 in Stockholm, Sweden, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is awarded in Oslo, Norway.

Jane Addams Day falls on the same date to commemorate her achievement in being the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her work to bring about social change, equality, and peace. Each year the Jane Addams Peace Association presents awards to outstanding children’s books that promote peace and justice. To learn more about Jane Addams and the Jane Addams Peace Association, visit janeaddamspeace.org.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams

Written by Tanya Lee Stone | Illustrated by Kathryn Brown

 

On a busy street stands a very special house where anyone is welcome and some find a home. In 1889 Jane Addams, a wealthy young woman, bought an elegant house in one of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Why? At just six years old on a trip with her father, Jane “noticed that not everyone lived like her family did.” Right then she vowed that when she grew older, she would live in a poor community and “find a way to fix the world.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane was brave and strong. Sometimes she and her stepbrother George would “sneak away at night to explore in nearby caves.” Jane was also smart and “read and read her father’s book collection,” which also served as the town library. Unlike most women at the time, Jane went to college. She attended Rockford Female Seminary and “graduated at the top of her class.”

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

After graduation, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, and when her father died that same summer, “Jane felt lost.” Two years later some friends invited her to travel to Europe with them. Although they went to the opera, museums, and many beautiful places, it was an experience in London that stuck with her. There she saw many “people in ragged clothes with outstretched hands, begging a cart vendor to buy his rotten fruits and vegetables that hadn’t sold at the market.” 

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

When Jane returned home, the question of how she could help nagged at her. She returned to London to learn about Toynbee Hall, where poor and wealthy people lived together and learned from each other. Here, skills, such as cooking, were taught to provide people with the education to find jobs. Toynbee Hall was called a settlement house, because the rich people who worked there lived there as well.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane now knew what she wanted to do. In 1889 Chicago was a diverse city with a large immigrant population. Many didn’t speak English, which made it hard for them to find jobs. “Large families were crammed into ramshackle houses with no running water.” Garbage lay in the street, and tough kids ran wild with nothing else to do.

Jane found a large house in the middle of one of these areas that had once belonged to Charles J. Hull and upon his death had been given to his cousin, Helen Culver.  When Helen discovered what Jane wanted to do, she donated the house for free. Jane left the house unlocked, letting people know that they could come there whenever they needed. In time, people did find their way to Hull House when they were hungry or out of work. Jane also had her own way of dealing with unruly children or those who didn’t understand her generosity. Once when a man broke into Hull House twice because he had no job and no money, Jane gave him a job.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane helped the neighborhood in other ways too. She built a public bath so that people could stay clean and avoid illness. She convinced “public officials to build more public baths.” Because children had nowhere to play, Jane convinced a neighbor to give her his unused lot near Hull House. She tore down the buildings and built Chicago’s first playground. For kids whose parents worked long hours, she started a morning kindergarten and after school clubs. She also began offering evening classes for children who worked during the day.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Jane had help with her endeavors. Her friend “Ellen Gates Starr was her partner from the start.” Many other people also helped. They moved into Hull House and “taught literature, art, English, math, science, and cooking.” Hull House continued to grow, and by 1907 Jane oversaw thirteen buildings, including “a gymnasium, coffee house, theater, music school, community kitchen, and an art gallery.”

By the early 1920’s more than 9,000 people visited Hull House every week. Jane’s work “changed a bad neighborhood into a great and strong community.” Today, you can still see Jane Addams’ commitment to others in the community centers that bring people together in nearly every city and town.

An Author’s Note with more information on Jane Addams follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-the-house-that-jane-built-playground

Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015, text copyright Tanya Lee Stone. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Tanya Lee Stone brings the story of Jane Addams’ work in Chicago to children in a compelling biography that gives readers a fully developed portrait of this most amazing woman. Stone’s active and evocative language puts children in the Hull House neighborhood, allowing them to get a feeling for and understanding of the issues of the time. Stone’s excellent examples of how Jane Addams responded to a variety of problems facing her community and even Hull House itself, demonstrate how generosity, empathy, and kindness can make positive changes in people’s lives. Depictions of Jane’s early compassion and commitment give children a sense that they too can make a difference in areas that are important to them.

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Image copyright Kathryn Brown, 2015. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Kathryn Brown’s riveting illustrations capture Jane’s early moments of concern for others, bravery, and study that informed her adult life; times of decision and cooperation that led to the establishment of Hull House; scenes of poverty, upheaval, and need that touched Jane’s heart; and images of her successes in Chicago that inspired others around the country. Brown’s softly hued watercolors are beautifully infused with realistic period details and honest emotion that provide readers with a strong foundation for understanding and appreciating the life of Jane Addams.

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams is an inspiring choice for children with a philanthropic heart and to open discussions on how one person can make a difference. The book would be a welcome addition to home and classroom libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0805090499

To learn more about Tanya Lee Stone and her books, visit her website.

You can view a gallery of illustration work by Kathryn Brown on her website

Nobel Prize Day Activity

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Jane Addams Coloring Page Poster

 

Jane Addams is an inspiration to all! Print this Jane Addams Coloring Page and hang it in your room or locker to inspire you to make a difference and be a positive influence in your community!

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You can find The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 4 – Independence Day

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About the Holiday

Today, the United States commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 by delegates of the original 13 colonies, which asserted that the colonies considered themselves a new nation and no longer part of the British Empire. The day is traditionally celebrated with parades, picnics, and grand fireworks in cities and towns across the country. The holiday also provides the opportunity to remember and honor all the people who have come to America’s shores and have helped to build our nation.

Her Right Foot

Written by Dave Eggers | Illustrated by Shawn Harris

 

As you may know, one day, a Frenchman named Édouard de Laboulaye had the idea to celebrate the 100th birthday of the United States by giving the country a giant sculpture. He enlisted the help of artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi to design the statue. Bartholdi started by making a tiny version of the statue of Liberty and building bigger and bigger ones and “finally the one we know which stands 305 feet above the water.” He gave it a thin skin of copper—about as thick as two pennies.

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Image copyright Shawn Harris, 2017, text copyright Dave Eggers, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

It took many men to build the statue, as even just the hand was much bigger than a person. When all the parts were ready, the statue was constructed in Paris. “The Statue of Liberty stood there. High above Paris, for almost a year in 1884. In 1885, the statue was taken apart and placed into 214 crates that were shipped across the Atlantic. When the pieces reached New York, they were reassembled on an island that was then known as Bedloe’s Island. It took seventeen months to finish putting the statue back together.

You may not have recognized the Statue of Liberty when she was first erected. That’s because she was made of copper, and her outside was brown. Over thirty-five years of standing in all weathers, the Statue of Liberty oxidized, turning the greenish-blue we see today.

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Image copyright Shawn Harris, 2017, text copyright Dave Eggers, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

You may have learned about many of the historical and geological facts associated with features of the Statue of Liberty—for instance about the book and the torch she carries and the crown she wears. And perhaps you have heard some of the humorous stories about her—for instance, that Thomas Edison thought it would be a good idea to put a giant phonograph inside her so that she could talk.

But there is one point you may not know. “The point is that if you have seen a picture of the Statue of Liberty, or many of pictures of the Statue of Liberty, or even hundreds of pictures of the Statue of Liberty, you probably have not seen pictures of her feet. And even if you have seen pictures of her feet, you probably have not seen pictures of the back of her feet. In particular, her right foot.”

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Image copyright Shawn Harris, 2017, text copyright Dave Eggers, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

When you look at the Statue of Liberty’s right foot, you notice that she is taking a step. “She is on the move.” Now, for years people have talked about her crown and her gown, her torch and the serious look on her face, but no one has wondered where she is going. Could she be headed into downtown Manhattan? Or maybe New Jersey? Doubtful. If you look closely, you’ll see that around her feet are broken chains, “implying she had freed herself from bondage.”

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Image copyright Shawn Harris, 2017, text copyright Dave Eggers, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

This is a truth the Statue of Liberty understands. “Liberty and freedom from oppression are not something you get or grant by standing around like some kind of statue. No. These are things that require action. Courage. An unwillingness to rest.” The Statue of Liberty was not built to welcome immigrants only from one country on one particular day, but to welcome people from all over, every day. “After all, the Statue of Liberty is an immigrant too,” and she does not stand still to welcome people to our shores. She is striding out into the sea to meet them.

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Image copyright Shawn Harris, 2017, text copyright Dave Eggers, 2017. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Seamlessly transitioning from droll to thoughtful, David Eggers succinctly tells the history of the Statue of Liberty’s coming to America and then invites readers to focus on and think about just one feature—her striding right foot. Timely and timeless, Egger’s story is a call to action, reminding readers of the promise of America in a most moving way.

Shawn Harris’s striking paper-cut collage images complement Egger’s conversational storytelling with personality, vibrant color, eye-catching perspectives, and—most importantly—the people the Statue of Liberty is welcoming.

Combining a perfect package of storytelling and art, Her Right Foot is an entertaining and compelling addition to home bookshelves for kids interested in history, travel, and social issues as well as for classrooms for story times and to stimulate conversations about the history and meaning of America.

Ages 6 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452162812

Discover more about Dave Eggers and his books for children and adults on his website.

To learn more about Shawn Harris, his books, his art, and his music visit his website.

Independence Day Activity

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Statue of Liberty Coloring Page

 

Grab your crayons or pencils and enjoy this printable Statue of Liberty Coloring Page

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You can find Her Right Foot at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 16 – National Biographers Day

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About the Holiday

National Biographers Day commemorates a very special meeting that led to one of the most celebrated biographies in English literature. On May 16, 1763, James Boswell met with Samuel Johnson for the first time in a Covent Garden, London bookshop. Thirty years later, Boswell, who was also a poet, essayist, editor, literary critic, and lexicographer, published his biography of Samuel Johnson. Today’s holiday honors all those who delve into the life of others to bring their often fascinating and inspiring stories to readers. To celebrate today, read up on one of your favorite people and introduce your kids to biographies—like today’s book—that can encourage them to follow their dreams.

Write On, Irving Berlin!

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

In September of 1893 Moses and Lena Baline and their six children, including 5-year-old Israel, sailed into New York Harbor hoping “to start a new life in a new country.” They came from Russia, where their home had been burned down by “gangs of angry men” who “rode from village to village in pogroms, destroying Jewish homes and hurting the people who lived in them.” In America, the Balines had a small apartment, little money, and little food. But they did have freedom.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

At school, Izzy—as Israel was nicknamed—paid less attention to his schoolwork than to the music in his head. When Izzy was only thirteen, his father died. Izzy knew that money was tight, so he moved out and made his own living singing in saloons, in the chorus line of New York shows, and even as he waited tables.  Irving as Izzy now called himself, became a professional song writer when he was paid 37 cents for his first song.

Irving continued to write the tunes that filled his head. When Ragtime was all the rage during the early 1900s, Irving tried this new, jazzy kind of music, and his “‘Alexander’s Ragtime Band’ was a smash.”  Irving married, but his wife died only a few months after their wedding. Irving consoled himself by writing. He became an American citizen, and when he was drafted into the US Army during WWI, he wrote songs to encourage his fellow soldiers. When he married again, he was inspired to write a song called “Always” about a love that lasts forever.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Irving never seemed to be without a tune in his head. He “wrote music for plays, for movies, for friends, for strangers. He scribbled ideas on napkins and on the sleeves of his shirt. He wrote songs in elevators and in taxicabs. He wrote songs in the bathtub.” During World War II, one of his older songs—“‘God Bless America’ became a HUGE hit.” In the winter of 1942, Irving wrote “White Christmas.” It’s sentimental words and catchy tune inspired the “American soldiers fighting fierce battles all around the world.”

Since Irving was too old to fight in the war, he developed a show called “This is the Army” that he took around the world to entertain the troops. His “cast was completely integrated—black and white soldiers lived, ate, and traveled together, which was rare in those days.” Even after the war ended, Irving continued to write songs that people still love today.

An Author’s Note about Irving Berlin and his songs as well as books for further reading follow the text.

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Image copyright David C. Gardner, 2018, text copyright Leslie Kimmelman, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Leslie Kimmelman brings to life the story of one of America’s most prolific and beloved song writers with enthusiasm and wit and the kinds of details that capture kids’ attention and inspire them to learn more. Timely for this year’s 100th anniversary of the writing of “God Bless America” and the 80th anniversary of its public appearance, Write On, Irving Berlin would make an excellent centerpiece of school music units when paired with Berlin’s songs, many of which kids will recognize. Berlin’s success, as revealed in Kimmelman’s well-paced, upbeat, and converstional storytelling is a powerful motivator for any child with big dreams.

David C. Gardner’s beautiful, softly-washed and detailed paintings take readers from the New York neighborhoods, restaurants, and dance halls of the early 1900s to the battlefields of World Wars I and II to the bright lights of Broadway, where his last musical, “Annie Get Your Gun” is advertised on the marquee. Along the way, kids see Irving as a child, a young man, and an older professional, always with a pencil and paper in hand. Images of the Statue of Liberty seen throughout the book tie together the theme of the immigrant’s experience, Berlin’s love of America, and one of his most famous works, “God Bless America.”

Write On, Irving Berlin! is an excellent biography that should find a home in classroom, school, and public libraries as well as on home bookshelves for children who love history, music, and biographies and who have big ideas of their own.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363803

Discover more about Leslie Kimmelman and her books on her website.

To learn more about David C. Gardner, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Write On, Irving Berlin! Giveaway

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I’m thrilled to partner with Sleeping Bear Press in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Write On, Irving Berlin!

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, May 16 – 22. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on May 23.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

National Biographer’s Day Activity

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I Am…  Biography Page

 

How well do you know yourself – or your friends? This printable I Am… Biography Page can be fun to fill out and share with friends. Make a game of it and see if you can answer the questions for someone else in your family or among your friends!

 

Picture Book Review

February 14 – International Book Giving Day

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About the Holiday

February 14th is all about love! Sharing Valentines, sharing hugs, candy, and fun, and… sharing books! There’s no better way to show a child how much they mean to you than by giving them a book. Unfortunately, many children don’t have access to or own books. International Book Giving Day was established to encourage people to buy, share, and donate books so that the children in their lives and communities can know the pleasure and educational benefits of reading. To learn more about today’s holiday and to find some tips on easy ways to get involved, visit the official International Book Giving Day website.

A Different Pond

Written by Bao Phi | Illustrated by Thi Bui

 

A little boy yawns and rubs the sleep from his eyes as his dad wakes him even before the sun has risen. His dad has already made sandwiches and packed the car for their fishing trip. As they drive out of town, the streets are silent and a chill tinges the air. The little boy’s father entertains him with stories. As he listens, the boy thinks of the kid at school who says his dad’s “English sounds like a thick, dirty river.” To him, though, his father’s “English sounds like gentle rain.”

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Image copyright Thi Bui, 2017, text copyright Bao Phi, 2017. Courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

Even at this early hour the bait shop is open while the Mexican restaurant next door is dark. The bait man comments that the pair are earlier than usual, and the boy’s father explains that he has to work at his second job later that morning even though it’s Saturday. The little boy carefully carries the bag of minnows, feeling them “swim like silver arrows in my hands.” They stop the car along the road, climb over the guard rail, and gingerly make their way “through the tangle and scrub” to the pond.

As the boy holds his father’s calloused hand, he wonders why they still need to fish for food if his father has a second job, and his dad answers that “everything in America costs a lot of money.” Sometimes, they meet other men fishing at the pond, but today they are alone under the stars that look “like freckles.” While his father sets up their equipment, the boy gathers sticks and rocks and makes a small fire ring to provide warmth.

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Image copyright Thi Bui, 2017, text copyright Bao Phi, 2017. Courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

The little boy wants to help with the fishing, but he can’t bring himself to put the minnow on the hook. His father smiles, understanding how he feels. For breakfast they eat the bologna sandwiches the father made. “‘I used to fish by a pond like this one when I was a boy in Vietnam,’” the dad tells his son. The boy looks into his father’s face and asks if he fished with his brother. His father “nods, then looks away.” The boy knows that his father and uncle fought in the war side by side until the day when his dad’s “brother didn’t come home.”

When the bobber dips, the boy’s father pulls in a crappy and soon after, another. This time the boy holds the fish between his hands “to help guide the fish into the bucket. The fish feels slimy and rough at the same time,” and the boy makes a face that makes his dad laugh. His father is happy because they caught “a few fish and he knows [they] will eat tonight.”

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Image copyright Thi Bui, 2017, text copyright Bao Phi, 2017. Courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

As they walk back to the car, the boy wonders “what the trees look like at that other pond in the country [his] dad comes from.” The sky is just brightening as they reach home and show Mom the fish they’ve caught. She smiles, even though she’s tired, and asks her son to help with the fish before she too goes to work. Their praise for his help in catching that night’s dinner, makes the boy feel that he is growing up.

The little boy waves to his mom as she bicycles away to her job comforted by the knowledge that he, his brothers and sisters, and his mom and dad will all be together again that night around the dinner table. They’ll share crispy fried fish, rice, and funny stories. Then later they will go to sleep and “dream of fish in faraway ponds.”

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Image copyright Thi Bui, 2017, text copyright Bao Phi, 2017. Courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

As deep and quietly moving as a fishing pond, Bao Phi’s tribute to family, parental sacrifice, and the profound understanding of children wrenches your heart with its beautiful and honest language and touching details. Phi uses the fishing trip—which at first seems to be simply a fun outing for father and son, but is in fact an act of survival—to relate one family’s relationship with their adopted country while also delving into the universal bond between children and parents or other adults. Taken before sunup, the trip provides moments—both spoken and unspoken—for the little boy to learn and internalize the stories, feelings, and history of his heritage at a time when his own identity is dawning. The camaraderie at the dinner table is one more time to connect with and be connected to family and traditions old and new.

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Image copyright Thi Bui, 2017, text copyright Bao Phi, 2017. Courtesy of Capstone Young Readers.

Thi Bui’s detailed illustrations are washed in the mysterious and hopeful blues and grays of early morning sprinkled with stars and lit with the glow of streetlamps. The pond shimmers with moonlight—a unifying link to that other pond so far away. A No Trespassing Keep Out sign that marks the place where the little boy and his father pull over to access the pond offers an opportunity for readers to reflect on wider immigration and refugee issues. Bui’s captures the nuanced expressions passed between the loving parents who are doing everything they can to provide a better life for their children, and their  equally loving children who are dreaming of and learning what that life is. 

Extensive notes from Bao Phi and Thi Bui follow the text.

A Different Pond is an exquisite story with wisdom and insight that will impact readers during quiet story times at home and in the classroom. The book would be a warm and welcome addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 9

Capstone Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1623708030

Discover more about Bao Phi and his books on his website.

Learn more about Thi Bui, her books, and her art on her website.

You’re invited to go fishing in this A Different Pond book trailer!

International Book Giving Day Activity

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International Book Giving Day Bookmark and Bookplate

 

Get the official bookmark and bookplate of today’s holiday! With this energetic little character in your books, you’ll always have a fun reading buddy nearby! Poke around the website and find more great bookmarks and bookplates from previous years available for download too!

International Book Giving Day Bookmark | International Book Giving Day Bookplate

Picture Book Review