April 20 – National Look Alike Day

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About the Holiday

Do people say you look like someone else—a family member or friend or maybe a celebrity or historical figure? If so, today is the day to embrace that dopplegänger and perhaps have a little fun with the resemblance. The holiday got started in 1980 when television news reporter Jack Etzel was looking for a feature story on a slow news day. Out on the sidewalk with his camera crew, Etzel spotted a man who looked like Humphrey Bogart. He stopped him and asked him who people said he looked like. Etzel and his crew went on to ask more people about their look-alikes. The next day, Etzel contacted the people who organize the Chase Calendar of Events and proclaimed April 20 as Look Alike Day. Why not join in the fun and go all out? Dress up as your look alike, talk and act like them, and enjoy a day of fame!

Quackers

By Liz Wong

 

Quackers, a little orange tabby, wants to say hello! “Meow.” Quackers is a duck. “He knows he’s a duck because he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks.” Not only that, but all of his friends are ducks. Sometimes, though, when he looks around at all the white feathers and orange beaks, he feels a bit out of place, and communicating is sometimes difficult. There’s also the issue of food—some of the things he’s given to eat are pretty slimy or tiny or hard to chew, and duckweed seems to be on the menu all the time. The worst, though? Getting wet.

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Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

One day, Quackers meets another duck who looks like him and sounds like him. In his joy, Quackers blurts out, “‘I’ve never met a duck who understands me!’” The gray kitten, Mittens, is confused at first and then understands and then laughs. At last, she invites Quackers to follow her. They end up at a farm where Mittens lives with “a whole flock of strange ducks. Ducks just like Quackers.”

Mittens shows Quackers how they “chase mice,” which Quackers prefers to swimming; “drink milk,” which is more delicious than duckweed; and clean themselves, which Quackers is a bit iffy on. Soon, Quackers is napping with his new friends. As much as he enjoys being a cat, Quackers starts to miss the duck pond. He even finds that he has a craving for duckweed. He scampers back and discovers that “most of all, he missed his friends.”

Now Quackers splits his time at the pond and the farm. Sometimes he’s a duck, and sometimes he’s a cat. But all the time “he’s just Quackers, and that makes him completely happy.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-quackers-liz-wong-ducks

Copyright Liz Wong, 2016, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers.

As mom to a cat who thinks he’s part person and possibly part dog, I fell in love with Liz Wong’s little Quackers and little readers will too. Kids will giggle as Quackers sits contentedly on a lily pad, accepts slugs and snails as snacks with a meow-nimum of fuss, and explains to Mittens that he’s a duck.  Readers, who are beginning to develop their own identity, will be cheered when Quackers embraces both his duck and cat sides. They’ll understand that it’s what’s inside a person that matters and that being yourself is the best thing you can be. Wong’s adorable kittens and ducks will charm kids, and her simple hand-lettered text and speech bubbles create a cozy reading experience that’s like a sweet hug in a book.

Full of humor, self-acceptance, and inclusion, Quackers should find a home on any child’s and classroom’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553511543

Discover more about Liz Wong, her books, and her art on her website.

National Look Alike Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-match-the-kittens-puzzle

Match the Kittens Puzzle

 

These adorable kittens all have a twin, but they’ve gotten mixed up while playing. Can you find the matching pairs in this printable Match the Kittens Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

April 12 – Walk on Your Wild Side Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to encourage people to have courage and do that thing inside them that might be a little different or way out there, but actually defines them. Without people who have explored those other possibilities, the world would be missing out on some amazing art, inventions, innovations, music, and, of course, books! To celebrate, unleash your inner you or go a little wild. Who knows? It might become a regular thing that makes you happy!

The Catawampus Cat

Written by Jason Carter Eaton | Illustrated by Gus Gordon

 

On a regular Tuesday morning, the catawampus cat came into town “slightly askew.” Everyone was busy, so no one saw him until Mr. Grouse, the grocer, noticed his unusual walk and “tried to straighten him out.” His wife Lydia, who for twenty years had been chilly to her husband, asked what was wrong with the cat, and they both tilted their heads to study him. There, under the vegetable stand, they saw Lydia’s wedding ring lost twenty years before, and suddenly Mr. Grouse noticed that Lydia looked just as she did when they first met. “They kissed and on walked the catawampus cat, still askew…”

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Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

The bored barber, “Bob Long, who was giving a woman a long bob,” saw the catawampus cat from his window and was so startled he snipped, and clipped the woman’s bangs at an angle. She loved it, and the catawampus cat continued on. He passed Tom who was painting the Mayor’s house in the usual way until he tilted his head to get a better look and scribbled a diagonal stripe down the front of the house. “‘Brilliant!’ Exclaimed Mayor Meyer. ‘A work of art!’”

The town daredevil made a world record after spotting the cat. The town librarian had a life-changing revelation after seeing the cat. And little Bushy Brows Billiam, suddenly understood his lesson better by looking at things a bit differently.

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Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

All through town, people began tilting their head and even walking at a slant. Architects began building homes, apartments, and stores that leaned, and car makers designed “off-kilter” vehicles. The effect on the town and the people was amazing. They found favorite possessions they thought lost forever, “and rediscovered old friends they thought they’d never know again.” The first Tuesday of the year was designated “Catawampus Cat Day.” Confetti was flung at an angle, a band played off-key, and the crowd was entirely catawampus.

“‘Well? What do you think of it?’” Mayer Meyer excitedly asked the catawampus cat. “‘We’re all different now, just like you.’” The catawampus cat gazed at him thoughtfully, then stretched, “straightened himself out…and walked out of town, once again uniquely catawampus.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-catawampus-cat-school

Image copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, text copyright Jason Carter Eaton, 2017. Courtesy of Crown Books for Young People.

In his delightfully inventive story, Jason Carter Eaton rejoices in all those people (and cats) who walk their own way through life. He encourages young readers to embrace their uniqueness, telling them it’s a good thing to view the world with a different perspective. Even as the catawampus cat inspires the townspeople, Eaton strikes a humorous cautionary note about the nature of fads. He also happily reminds readers that the truly innovative will always find a way to be different.

Gus Gordon’s adorably confident cat sets off his chain reaction of “uniqueness” in detailed mixed-media illustrations that provide lots of opportunities for kids to discover new (and old—sometimes even antique) perspectives as they watch the catawampus cat walk through this diverse town in his own particular way. Surprising and funny details drawn in along the way will also have readers lingering and giggling over each page. Cat lovers will recognize some endearing cat-titudes in the catawampus cat that make feline friends so loveable. The endpapers provide a map of the catawampus cat’s route through this very lucky town.

Smile- and laugh-inducing from cover to cover, The Catawampus Cat would be a favorite and often-asked-for choice for home and classroom libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Crown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553509717

To learn more about Gus Gordon, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Walk on Your Wild Side Day Activity

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

A Little Ball of Kitten Love

 

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

April 9 – International Unicorn Day

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About the Holiday

If you ask a child—maybe even an adult—to name a magical creature, chances are they’ll say, “a unicorn!” Unicorns have been part of legend since ancient times, undergoing changes from an image of fierceness and power to a representation of strength and true love to today’s more glittery superstar. To celebrate, learn more about the history of these mystical animals and check out your favorite unicorns of book, TV, and toy fame!

Thelma the Unicorn

By Aaron Blabey

 

“Thelma felt a little sad. / In fact, she felt forlorn. / You see, she wished with all her heart / to be a unicorn.” Thelma was a little pony—brown and short and overlooked. Her best friend Otis told her, “‘You’re perfect as you are,’” but when Thelma compared herself to the sleek white mare on the farm, she said, “‘I’m not.’” Then she saw a carrot left over from dinner and had an idea.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-wishing

Copyright Aaron Babey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

She tied the carrot to her forehead and told Otis, “‘I’ll say that I’m a unicorn! / It might just work… / who knows?’” At this very moment a truck driver passing by caught sight of Thelma and careened off the side of the road. “As Thelma watched the swerving truck, / it very nearly hit her. / Would you believe that truck was filled / with nice pink paint and glitter?”

In the blink of an eye Thelma was doused in sparkles and had become what she always dreamed of. She was a unicorn and “special now!” Crowds lined up at the farm gate to see the pink unicorn. The media descended with their cameras and video recorders, and Thelma quickly became a world-wide phenomenon. Everywhere she went fans screamed her name, took pictures, waved signs, and wanted to be near her. She even got her hoofprint on the Walk of Fame.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-becomes-unicorn

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Thelma sailed to foreign ports on a ship named The Fairy Princess, attended by stewards who fulfilled her every wish. “But soon she found that so much fame / was kind of tricky, too….” Her fans mobbed her with crushing zeal; chased after her wherever she went, screamed, cried, laughed, and pointed whenever they saw her; and hounded her day and night for her autograph. “It NEVER EVER stopped.”

When Thelma asked “the screaming crowd” not to chase her anymore, they said “‘We’ll chase you all we want….We’re fans, so it’s allowed.’” Then there were  the people who “were not her fans at all. / No, some were really mean. / And some just did the meanest things / she’d really ever seen.” Some threw eggs while she roller skated for charity and others held up signs reading “I don’t like unicorns” where she was sure to see them.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-adoring-crowds

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Back in her fancy hotel room, all alone and bedraggled, soaked in egg, and with her “horn” losing its luster, Thelma looked at a photo of Otis. “…she felt quite sad, / this famous little pony. / She said, ‘I thought that I’d feel great… / but all I feel is lonely.’” Right then, she decided to make a change. She washed off all the pink paint and sparkles and removed her horn.

She left and “walked right past the crowd. / They didn’t even notice / She thought how nice that it would be…to see her lovely Otis.” Back at the farm, Thelma happily stood underneath a tree with Otis, When he asked her about her trip, she simply said, “‘Oh, it was fun, but I’d rather be just me.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-being-chased

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Aaron Blabey’s cautionary tale of a pony who is granted her wish to be “more” than she is, deftly reveals the pitfalls of abandoning your true nature for what appears to be the perks of celebrity with a splash of humor and some no-nonsense honesty. Through Blabey’s smoothly flowing rhymes, readers see that being special is not based on a sparkly appearance that pleases false friends. Instead, each person is remarkable for their unique personalities and talents that true friends will appreciate.

Today’s social media-savvy children will recognize Blabey’s screaming crowds and overzealous fans and will come to understand, with Thelma, that being “in the pink” can be short-lived and that glitter soon fades.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-thelma-the-unicorn-carrot-horn

Copyright Aaron Blabey, 2017, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Blabey’s distinctive illustrations portray Thelma’s transformation from “regular pony” to celebrity unicorn and back again with flair and all the bling that goes along with superstardom. The crowds are giddy, awed, obsessive, and adoring until the backlash starts, which Blabey portrays with candid examples. His final spreads in which Thelma goes unrecognized by her fans and is then lovingly welcomed back by Otis beautifully sum up the theme of the story.

Aaron Blabey’s light touch coupled with his encouragement to be true to yourself makes Thelma the Unicorn a great choice for  home and classroom libraries.

Ages  3 – 7

Scholastic Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1338158427

Scholastic Press sent me a free copy of Thelma the Unicorn to check out. All opinions are my own.

Discover more about Aaron Blabey, his books, and his art on his website

International Unicorn Day Activity

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Magical Unicorn Coloring Page

 

Grab your crayons—and your glitter—and make this printable Magical Unicorn Coloring Page sparkle!

Picture Book Review

March 22 – National Goof Off Day

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About the Holiday

Just as the name sounds, today is a day to relax, let some things slide, and goof off! When the stresses and strains of everyday life get to be a little too much, letting go and having fun can put you in a better frame of mind and give you new perspectives. The holiday was established in 1976 by Monica Moeller Dufour of Davidson, Michigan. Now that you have permission to goof off and a whole twenty-four hours to do it in, plan some wacky events – or just snuggle in with a good book. There are no rules—so enjoy!

So Few of Me

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

Leo knew how to multitask. He could mop the floor and feed the bird at the same time (so…well… maybe the seed did miss the cage by a bit). But “no matter how hard he worked, there was always more to do.” Leo thought making a list would be a good idea. But once he started writing, the “list of things to do grew and grew.” For a moment, Leo wished there two of him. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-few-of-me-four-leos

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

When Leo opened the door, he, himself, was standing on the other side. The new Leo was keen to get started on the list. Two Leos was helpful, but the new Leo noticed more things to be done, so “a third Leo joined the two.” Three was fine, but four was even better. They shopped, swept up, went to the library for more books, and made important phone calls.

If four could get so much done, just imagine how productive five would be. The Leos did imagine it, and a fifth Leo joined the group. The Leos could now wash the windows, make a birdhouse, water the flowers, do the laundry, and make some notes. Those notes became a more organized job chart when the sixth Leo appeared. “After meeting for hours, they decided they needed a seventh.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-few-of-me-nine-leos

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

But it didn’t quite work out that way. “With seven Leos, there was seven times as much work!” Leo decided they needed one more just to stay afloat. These eight Leos mopped and baked, played soccer and carted laundry, organized and took notes that led to needing another Leo. Surely, these boys could get it all done. So one typed while another played soccer and another washed the cat. The fourth Leo swept while the fifth walked the dog and the sixth practiced violin. The seventh made important phone calls and the eighth checked the list while the ninth went grocery shopping.

Things were getting done and yet there was still more to do. So one more Leo was added, and each was “busier than the next.” At last, the ten Leos stopped for a minute to take stock. They reviewed the list and the progress they were making. They discovered that there was “no time to stop, no time to rest!” The first Leo, though, “was exhausted. He slipped away to take a nap.”

When Leo opened his eyes, he saw eighteen other eyes staring back at him. “‘What were you doing/’” The nine Leos demanded. When they heard that Leo had been dreaming, “they roared, ‘Dreaming is NOT on the list!’” But Leo only smiled, and “the Leos disappeared one by one.” Leo had a new thought. He wondered what would happen if he did less, but did his best. This solution made him happy, and with the list abandoned, Leo ran and played and became “just me, just one…with time to dream.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-so-few-of-me-one-leo

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2006, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynolds’ books for young readers celebrate the wonders of childhood—those years that are so important in the development of the adult to come. Always encouraging of the interior voice of creativity and individuality, here Reynolds adds a tribute to time—the time needed to think, dream, contemplate, devise, and become.

With his usual flair, Reynolds uses watercolor, ink, and tea to show readers—both kids and adults—what all that over-scheduled running around looks like from the outside. As the Leos proliferate, the pages go from sparse to full to packed until one page isn’t enough, and the list and the Leo’s spill over into a double spread. When Leo wakes from his nap and realizes one is enough, the white space around him provides a sense of freedom and lightness. As the pages of the list fly out of Leo’s hands and he plops down in a grassy spot, the end papers reflect Leo’s liberation. Whereas the opening endpapers of college-rule notebook pages are full of chores, meetings, and exhortations to do more, the final  notebook-page endpapers are blank, giving readers a sense of Ahhhhh!

Adding So Few of Me to home or classroom bookshelves and reading often can be a good reminder that time relaxing is time well spent.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick, 2006 | ISBN 978-0763626235

Learn more about Peter H. Reynolds, his books, his art on his website

National Goof Off Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chore-matching-card-game

Sweep Away Your Chores! Matching Game

 

Match the chores to get them done. See how quickly you can pair up these chores and get them finished so you can run off to play.

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print two copies of the Chore Cards for each player
  2. Cut the Chore Cards apart’
  3. Lay them face down and scramble them
  4. Turn over one card and try to find its match by turning over another card
  5. If the cards match, put them aside
  6. If the cards do not match, lay them face down again and pick another card
  7. You win when all the cards have been matched

Picture Book Review

March 9 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Hosting Read across America Day, March is the perfect month to celebrate reading! Reading is one of life’s great joys! Reading with children every day is one of the best ways to develop language and literacy skills that promote future success in school and beyond. Even if your child isn’t talking yet, they’re listening and learning about their language as you read to them. You can get kids enthusiastic about reading by setting up a bookcase specially for them and letting them choose the books they want to read. To celebrate this month, why not go on a book hunt and bring home some new books to enjoy together?

Somewhere Else

By Gus Gordon

 

There are birds that fly north and those that fly south. There are birds that take the bus and those that don’t care how they travel just so long as they go somewhere. And then there’s George Laurent. “George never went anywhere.” He told himself that he liked his home and his garden and, especially, the pastries he baked in his oven better than anything or anywhere else.

It wasn’t like he never saw anyone. His “friends were always dropping by on their way to somewhere else” to enjoy his delicious treats. And they often invited George to fly away with them. When Penelope Thornwhistle was reminded of the Andes while eating one of his éclairs, she asked George to go with there with her. But George had potentially award-winning brownies in the oven. When Walter Greenburg tasted George’s apple strudel and thought about Paris, he was ready to take George to see the city of lights, but George had ironing to do. And a trip to the Alaskan tundra with a flock of other ducks had to be postponed because of yoga class.

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Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

As time went on, everyone stopped asking George to share their adventures. They knew he was too busy anyway. When winter came, “George found himself alone.” At least until Pascal Lombard, came knocking, looking for a place to spend the snowy months. When the bear wondered why George wasn’t sunning himself on some Caribbean beach, George said he was learning Flamenco songs on his guitar, catching up on the TV series Lost in Space, and typing out his memoirs.

But Pascal reminded George that he didn’t have a guitar or a television and that he hadn’t yet done anything worthy of a memoir. It was then that George made his confession: he didn’t know how to fly. When all the other ducks had learned to fly, he said, he had been too busy with something else. “He had been making excuses not to fly, ever since.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-andes

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Well, Pascal was ready to remedy the situation. Fortunately, he had an “uncanny knack for solving tricky problems.” They tried reading books, taking wing on a kite, and using a crane. But nothing worked. “It turned out Pascal Lombard didn’t have much of a knack for solving tricky problems after all.” Both George and Pascal felt disappointed as they read by the fire, until George happened to peek at Pascal’s newspaper and see an announcement for a hot air balloon ride in Paris.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-making-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

George was intrigued. And Pascal said, “‘I am remarkably good with my hands! We can build it!’” So they set to work, but it was harder than they thought, and “it took all winter (it turned out Pascal Lombard wasn’t actually very good with his hands).” Finally, though, they were flying! They flew their red patchwork balloon for months, seeing the Eiffel Tower, floating over the Arctic Circle, soaring through Madagascar, and experiencing places that were “more exciting than they had ever imagined.” But still, they missed George’s homemade pie. So they flew home, enjoyed tea and pie, and planned next year’s “anywhere somewhere else” adventure.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-flying-in-balloon

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gus Gordon’s tenderhearted and funny story about missed opportunities that can lead to more missed opportunities, excuses, and sometimes isolation tackles a common predicament not often seen in children’s books. George’s amusing tales of loads of laundry, Flamenco lessons, and yoga classes as well as his real talent for baking will endear George to readers, making his admission a moment for true empathy and encouragement. More silliness ensues as Pascal tries to help out, and kids will cheer when the two finally get off the ground.

Gordon’s reassurance that there’s no shame in making mistakes or not knowing something is also found in Pascal’s bravado and subsequent asides to the contrary. As George and Pascal work together to teach George to fly, kids see that help can be as close as a good friend—and as fun. A welcome undertone to the story is the idea that it’s also okay to be yourself: the first page abounds with very unique birds flying here and there; for Penelope an éclair reminds her of the Andes and for Walter, strudel reminds him of Paris—and who’s to say they’re wrong?; and when George and Pascal miss home and homemade goodies, they return to their favorite place.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-somewhere-else-george-in-kitchen

Copyright Gus Gordon, 2017, courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Gordon’s illustrations are a treat too. Full of visual humor and word play, the mixed-media, collage-style images bring together snippets of old advertising, photography, and traditional mediums and invite readers to linger to catch all the humor included. The page on which George finally makes his confession is worthy of special note. Here, in contrast to the other pages, the background is white, a saddened George is simply sketched with a blue outline, and the stack of firewood he was carrying lies haphazardly at his feet. The image gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about feelings of embarrassment, doubt, or uncertainty.

Somewhere Else is an original story with heart, humor, and an uplifting lesson that would make a sweet and meaningful addition to classroom and home libraries.

Age 4 – 8

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626723498

Discover more about Gus Gordon and his books on his website.

National Reading Month Activity

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Reading is Super! Maze

 

A boy wants to bring books to his friends so they can all read together. Can you help him get through this printable Reading is Super Maze to reach his friends?

Picture Book Review

 

February 13 – Get a Different Name Day

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About the Holiday

It can be fun to try out new names or special nicknames in forming your identity. For those who are not so fond of their birth name, choosing a new name offers comfort, control, and happiness. Actors, writers, and other creative types sometimes change their name to something that is more memorable, easier to say, is flashier, or has more cred. To celebrate today’s holiday, try on a few different names. If you were going to change yours, what would you pick?

My Name Is Not Isabella: Just How Big Can a Little Girl Dream?

Written by Jennifer Fosberry | Illustrated by Mike Litwin

 

Mom opens her daughter’s bedroom door with a cheery “‘Good morning, Isabella. It’s time to get up and out of bed.’” But the little girl yawns and stretches and most emphatically states, “‘My name is not Isabella!’” Mom plays along, wondering who has then been sleeping here. “‘My name is Sally,’” Isabelle states, “‘The greatest, toughest astronaut there ever was!’” Having Sally Ride in the house is fine with Mom, as long as she puts on her space suit and comes down for breakfast.

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010, text copyright Jennifer Fosberry, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

When the little girl comes to the table, it seems she is no longer Sally. Hmmm… her mother says. She doesn’t know who will eat the delicious waffles she has made. Annie, the greatest, fastest sharpshooter, grabs the syrup and aims for her target.

Soon it’s time for school, but when the bus arrives, Annie is nowhere to be found. In her place is “‘Rosa, the greatest, bravest activist that ever was.’ ‘Well, Rosa’” her mother says, “‘March over there and take your seat on the bus.’” School ends, but the bus doesn’t drop off Rosa. Instead, the freshly made chocolate chip cookies will be enjoyed by “‘Marie, the greatest, smartest scientist who ever was.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-name-is-not-isabella-rosa-parks

Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010, text copyright Jennifer Fosberry, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

Her mom is happy to see Marie and offers to get the cookies while Marie discovers the answers to her homework. Well, the cookies must fill Marie up, because when dinner rolls around, Elizabeth Blackwell shows up to set the table. At bath time, Elizabeth doesn’t feel like soaking in the relaxing bubbles, so she sends “‘Mommy, the greatest, sweetest mother who ever was,’” instead.

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Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

With pajamas on and teeth brushed the “little girl climbed into bed, [and] the mother says, “‘Good night, Mommy.’” But Mommy is standing near the starlit window, so who is sleeping in the little girl’s bed? “‘Isabella, the sweetest, kindest, smartest, bravest, fastest, toughest, greatest girl that ever was.’” And as she sleeps, she “dreamed about who she would be tomorrow.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-name-is-not-isabella-annie-oakley

Image copyright Mike Litwin, 2010. Courtesy of Sourcebook Jabberwocky.

In Jennifer Fosberry’s inspiring story, it’s not that the little girl doesn’t want to be Isabella, it’s that she wants to be the best Isabella she can be. In thinking about her role in the world, she’s chosen to emulate five of the most amazing women the world has ever known—and that’s just on day one. Fosberry’s ending, with its view toward tomorrow, allows children to consider all of the influential women throughout history and working today as role models. Her inclusion of “Mommy” as one of Isabella’s heroines is a welcome tribute to the job of motherhood. After all, it’s clear from the way Isabella’s mother supports her daughter’s alter egos without a “Sally who? or a “Rosa who?” that she has taught Isabella about these “greatest” women. It’s just one lesson this mother—and all mothers—teach their children.

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Mike Litwin will enchant readers with his colorful illustrations of Isabella and her transformations. Whimsical details and even the way Isabella’s stuffed toy mouse changes into a real companion for Sally, Rosa, Annie, Marie, and Elizabeth mirrors the power of imagination and education in the formation of a child’s identity and the discovery of their particular talents. Isabella is adorable with her purple hair—just another proof of her individuality—and inspirational in her can-do attitude

Short biographies and portraits of Sally Ride, Rosa Parks, Annie Oakley, Marie Curie, and Elizabeth Blackwell follow the text.

A book that will charm as well as educate, My Name is Not Isabella is a classic that makes a great introduction to the women mentioned in the story and can spur further discovery for younger readers. It would be a welcome addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2010 | ISBN 978-1402243950

Discover more about Jennifer Fosberry and her books on her website.

Learn more about Mike Litwin, his books, and his art on his website.

Get a Different Name Day Activity

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First and Last Initials Bookends

 

You can show your pride in your name (or play with changing it) with this easy craft that will keep all your books tidy on their shelf! This makes a great gift too!

Supplies

  • Sturdy wooden letter blocks in the child’s first and last initials. Or, if the child would like to try on a new name or nickname, the first letter of their new name.
  • Chalkboard or acrylic paint
  • Colored chalk
  • Paint brush

 

Directions

  1. Paint the letters, let dry
  2. With the chalk write words that describe you or names of your heroines and/or heroes
  3. Display your bookends

Picture Book Review

February 7 – Girls and Women in Sports Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating its 32nd anniversary, National Girls and Women in Sports Day honors all of the girls and women involved in sports at all levels and highlights their extraordinary achievements. It also raises awareness of the positive influence sports can have on those who participate. This year’s theme is “Play Fair, Play IX,” providing a reminder of Title IX, which “ensures that all students receive educational opportunities free from discrimination based on sex.” While programs have expanded for female athletes since the inception of Title IX, many schools still do not provide equal opportunities for girls to participate in the sport of their choice. To learn more about National Girls and Women in Sports Day, find resources, and perhaps get involved yourself, visit ngwsd.org.

The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, the First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon

Written by Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee | Illustrated by Susanna Chapman

 

“Bobbi loved to run. Into the woods, over the hills, through fields and by streams, Bobbi’s feet flew across the earth.” When Bobbi was little, she and her friends ran and played together. But as they grew older, her friends found other pursuits while Bobbi still loved to run. She took to the fields with her dogs, “going higher and higher, / just her and the sound of the wind in the fire.”

When Bobbi was grown, her father took her to watch the Boston Marathon. She loved the camaraderie of “hundreds of people moving as one. Kindred spirits, all running miles together.” Immediately, she wanted to participate too. When Bobbi told her parents that she wanted to run in the marathon, however, they thought her idea was strange. They told her she would hurt herself and that it was unladylike.

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

But Bobbie wanted to run. She didn’t know if she could run that far but was determined to try. She trained in the woods, running “further and further, and she ached and perspired, / and the world whooshed on by, like the wind in the fire.” Because she knew her parents disapproved, Bobbi set out on her own across country to train. Every day she ran in a new place—“lush forests in Ohio and Indiana, vast plains in Nebraska and Kansas, majestic mountains in Wyoming and Montana.” She even ran with wild horses out west and up steep Rocky Mountain trails. At night she camped, “tired and happy.”

All of her training seemed for nothing, however, when Bobbi received a letter rejecting her application for the Boston Marathon. The letter said that women were incapable of running marathons, that it was against the rules for a woman to run, and that the rules had been written to protect women from injury. Bobbi was not deterred, however. She went back home and told her parents what she wanted to do. Her father thought she was crazy to attempt it.

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

Bobbi knew that the only way she could run would be “to blend in with the men.” Dressed in men’s shorts and a baggy hooded sweatshirt to hide her hair and wearing men’s running shoes (running shoes were not made for women), Bobbi was ready to go. Her father refused to drive her to the race, though. He stormed out of the house, and drove away. Bobbi thought her dream was dashed until her mom came to her room, car keys in hand, and said, “‘Let’s go.”

Hiding in the bushes at the starting line, she sprang out and joined the pack of runners with the bang of the starting pistol. “So she ran with the pack, going higher and higher, / the world whooshing by, like the wind in the fire.” As she ran, she realized that the men around her had seen through her disguise. Bobbi was worried, but the men were supportive. “‘Hey! Are you running the whole way?’ one asked.” She told him she hoped to, but in that sweatshirt, she was getting hotter and hotter. She was afraid that if she took it off, she’d be thrown out of the race.

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

The men around her said they wouldn’t let that happen, so Bobbi took off the sweatshirt. “Word spread quickly throughout the course. A girl was running! They couldn’t believe it!” All along the route, the crowd cheered and encouraged her. Hearing the roar motivated Bobbi to ignore the hard ground and her stiff shoes and face the last steep hill. “Closing her eyes, she imagined she was back in Montana running up the mountains, the soft earth under her feet.”

Her feet were blistered and she was parched with thirst, but she crossed the finish line—ahead of nearly half of the men. Photographers, reporters, and radio presenters swarmed around her to hear her history-making story. From that day on “hearts and minds were forever changed.”

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

The story of Bobbi Gibbs is one that every girl and boy should know, and Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee’s excellent biography will have readers awe-struck by how she changed the way the world viewed women and their capabilities. A pioneer for women’s rights in every way—from her traveling the country alone to rejecting the prevailing ideas to competing on her own terms—Bobbi Gibbs is an inspiration for achievers everywhere. Poletti and Yee’s conversational storytelling is both lyrical and honest, not stinting on the obstacles Bobbi had to overcome, including race officials, her own parents, and even the fact that running shoes weren’t made for women.

As the marathon approaches, readers will be enthralled by the building suspense. They’ll feel Bobbi’s determination, her disappointment, and her fear that she will be discovered and thrown out of the race, and will cheer along with the crowd at her victory.

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Image copyright Susanna Chapman, 2017, text copyright, Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee, 2017. Courtesy of Compendium.

Susanna Chapman’s gorgeous illustrations are infused with Bobbi’s boundless energy and spirit as she soars over grassy dunes with her dogs at her heels, zips through shady woods, and runs alongside wild horses in the shadow of the Rockies all the while trailing a red swish, representative of the fire within her. The turmoil surrounding Bobbi’s desire to run the Boston Marathon is depicted in words of rebuke, recrimination, and rejection printed in large, emphatic typefaces that swirl around her like a tornado.

The inclusion of the image of Bobbi’s mother with the car keys in hand on the morning of the race is a welcome reminder of the many unknown women of earlier generations who  contributed to the fight for women’s equality. A beautiful double gate-fold illustration of Bobbi crossing the finish line to cheering crowds and the waiting media puts the focus fully on Bobbi and the fire that spurred her on.

An Afterword tells more about Bobbi Gibb, and a timeline of seminal events in the Boston Marathon from 1896 to today, is a fascinating must-read.

The Girl Who Ran is an inspirational biography and revealing history from the not-so-distant past that offers encouragement and triumph. It would be a wonderful addition to home, school, and public libraries.

I received a copy of The Girl Who Ran from Compendium to check out. All opinions are my own.

Ages 8 – 12

Compendium, 2017 | ISBN 978-1943200474

Discover more about Kristina Yee, her books, and her films on her website

Learn more about Susanna Chapman, her books, and her art on her website

Girls and Women in Sports Day Activity

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Pioneering Women in Sports Word Scramble Puzzle

 

In every sport there have been women who have overcome barriers, incredible odds, set records, and inspired others. Using the clues and a little research, can you unscramble the names of these twelve awesome athletes?

Pioneering Women in Sports Word ScramblePioneering Women in Sports Word Scramble Solution

Picture Book Review