June 29 – International Mud Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established in 2009 when the students of Bold Park Community School in Wembley, Western Australia teamed with the boys of the Nepalese Panchkhal Orphanage to “celebrate the visceral and primal connection we all share with Earth and the outdoors.” Since that day, schools, families, and early childhood education centers have worked to remind us that we all need to take time to play in the mud sometimes and reconnect with what makes us human. In 2015, the day was expanded to include the entire month of June to allow us to decompress from the high-tech, high-pressure world we live in and to connect with others.

Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball

Written by David A. Kelly | Illustrated by Oliver Dominguez

 

“Lena Blackburne wanted to be a famous baseball player.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t one of the greats. In fact starting in 1910, Lena moved around from team to team, playing a variety of positions. He made appearances at every base and played shortstop; he even had a go as pitcher. But he wasn’t a star at any of these positions. He was never going to make it to the Hall of Fame.

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

After he retired from playing, Lena became a coach. One day the umpire came to him with a complaint about the soggy baseballs. They were too hard to throw and too hard to see. Besides that, when they were hit, they didn’t soar very far. The problem was that new baseballs had a slick sheen to them, “so players soaked them in dirty water. It got rid of the shine. But it also made the balls soggy and soft.”

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

Players tried other methods to get rid of the shine, but they had drawbacks too. Shoe polish just turned the balls black, and “spit and tobacco juice…made the balls stink.” Lena Blackburne sat down and considered the problem. The answer came to him in a most unusual place—an old fishing hole where Lena liked to go when he was off the road and home.

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

While fishing one day, he happened to step into some dark brown mud. It sucked at his boot, and as Lena pulled his foot out he had an idea. The mud was “smooth and creamy like chocolate pudding. But it felt gritty.” At the ballpark, Lena rubbed the mud on the balls. When the mud dried, it was easy to wipe off. The mud left the balls with a good finish—not soggy, black, or smelly. At the next game, “the pitcher threw muddy fastballs, curveballs, changeups, and sinkers. The batters hit muddy singles, doubles, triples, and home runs.”

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

Lena returned to the fishing hole and dug up more mud. He put it into containers and began selling it. Teams all over the league bought Lena Blackburne’s Baseball Rubbing Mud. Lena’s famous mud is still used today and is officially the “only thing that’s allowed on major-league balls.” Lena Blackburne always dreamed of being in the Baseball Hall of Fame. While he didn’t make it there as a player, he is remembered for his contributions to the game he loved in a special exhibit for Lena Blackburne’s Baseball Rubbing Mud.

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, 2017, courtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

An Author’s Note including more about Lena Blackburne, his baseball statistics, and his special mud follow the text.

Kids who love baseball will be intrigued by David A. Kelly’s unique take on the game. By exploring a small detail that had large effects on the quality of play, Kelly, a masterful writer of sports books and mysteries for kids, including the much-loved Ballpark Mysteries and MVP series, presents a picture book mystery with a surprise ending for younger readers. Kelly’s inclusion of Blackburne’s disappointments shows children that each person’s unique contributions are often found in expected ways.

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Image copyright Oliver Dominguez, coiurtesy of oliver-dominguez.com

Kids get a front row seat at the baseball stadium in Oliver Dominguez’s stunning illustrations. As Lena swings and misses, readers can almost hear the smack of the ball in the catcher’s glove and the ump yelling, “Steee-rrriike!”  When Lena Blackburne becomes a coach and ponders the problem of the soggy baseballs, kids will enjoy seeing baseballs bobbing in a wooden bucket of water, laugh to see a player spitting on a new baseball, and wonder what idea has Lena so wide-eyed at the fishing hole. Baseball lovers will want to linger over the up-close views of players preparing for a game and celebrating their win.

For baseball and other sports fans, young inventors, creative thinkers, and anyone who loves history, Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball is a fascinating read and would be welcome in home, classroom, and library collections. 

Ages 6 – 10

Millbrook Press, 2013 | ISBN 978-0761380924

Find out more about David A. Kelly, his ballpark mysteries, and his other books on his website!

View a gallery of artwork and videos by Oliver Dominguez on his website!

International Mud Day Activity

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Make Your Own Sensory Sand

 

While this sensory sand may not be exactly mud, it’s sure as much fun to play with!

Supplies

  • 1 cup sand
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon dish soap
  • Water as needed – about ¾ cup
  • Bin or bowl for mixing dry ingredients
  • Bowl for mixing dish soap and water

Directions

  1. In the bin combine the sand and cornstarch and mix well
  2. In the bowl combine the dish soap and water until the water is bubbly
  3. Slowly add the water mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing and adding water little-by-little until the desired consistency is reached. The grain of the sand will determine how much water is needed.
  4. The sand can be formed with cookie cutters, molds, hands, etc. and is strong enough to stack.

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You can find Miracle Mud: Lena Blackburne and the Secret Mud that Changed Baseball at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

May 29 – 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.

Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines

Written by Sarah Aronson | Illustrated by Robert Neubecker

 

Famous inventors usually get that way by creating something new—something that people can’t live without, right? Well, it kind of was and wasn’t this way for Rube Goldberg—as you’ll see. Even as a very young boy, Rube Goldberg loved to draw. As a four-year-old he traced the cartoons in the newspaper and when he got older, he took art lessons. His dream was to be a cartoonist for a major newspaper.

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Image copyright Robert Neubecker, 2019, text Sarah Aronson, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Rube’s family was not so supportive, though. His father—who had moved to America from Germany so that his family could have a better life—believed his son would end up as a beggar if he pursued his art. So, Rube went to college and became an engineer for the Department of Water and Sewers in San Francisco—for six months. He gave up his good-paying job for a job as an errand boy at the San Francisco Chronicle at eight dollars a week. In between cleaning, emptying trash cans, and filing photographs, “Rube drew. And drew. And drew.”

Rube submitted his cartoons to the editor and most of the time they were rejected. When the editor “said yes, Rube sometimes got paid, but other times he just got out of the office tasks he didn’t like to do.” A year went by, and finally Rube was hired by the San Francisco Bulletin sports department, where he drew cartoons and wrote a column too. Then in 1906, the great earthquake hit San Francisco. Homes were lost, as were jobs. In the broken city, people couldn’t focus on their future or even feel hopeful. Rube “did the only thing he could do: He drew comics to cheer people up.”

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Image copyright Robert Neubecker, 2019, text Sarah Aronson, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Rube also decided to move to New York—the place he considered the “‘front row,’ the cartoon capital of the country.” For twelve days he showed his art to newspaper after newspaper and was finally hired by the New York Evening Mail as a cartoonist. “Right off the bat, Rube became a celebrity. People couldn’t wait to see what he had to say about all kinds of things.” He drew comics about sports, politics, and “the silliness of everyday life,” but the comics people loved the best were drawn by his alter ego, Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. The professor was known for his intricately complex inventions that made even the simplest action a “surreal and ridiculous” multi-step wonder that often defied physics.

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Image copyright Robert Neubecker, 2019, text Sarah Aronson, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

He invented a machine that employed a carrot-eating goat, a ghost, an egg-laying chicken, an archer, a target with a mechanical hand, an upright-shooting canon, and dough that cooked in the smoke of the cannon as a cannonball shot through the middle of it. Turning off the light, might just require the pull of a cord, but in Professor Butts’ world, it also required a banana-laden fishing pole, a monkey bouncing on a balloon, a fan that turned a bicycle wheel, a jack-in-the-box, a bucket, a bowling ball, and seesaw. Perhaps one of the silliest was a contraption for cutting your own hair.

Of course, these gizmos weren’t designed to really work—only to make people “look closer. And question logic. And tickle the imagination.” At a time when new discoveries were being made all around, Rube Goldberg’s cartoons “challenged people to use the most amazing machine in the universe: the brain!” Do you have aspirations, thoughts, and dreams that seem out of the mainstream and wonder if this same kind of success is still possible? The answer is: “You bet it is.” So “figure out what you want” then work hard and “have a great time getting there…. Just like Rube Goldberg!”

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Image copyright Robert Neubecker, 2019, text Sarah Aronson, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

The book’s endpapers depict eight of Rube Goldberg’s original invention cartoons, and an Author’s Note following the text reveals more about Goldberg’s amazing life as a cartoonist, artist, and political observer. The awards he won and the children’s game inspired by his contraptions are also mentioned.

For Rube Goldberg fans, young inventors and artists, and anyone with a dream, Sarah Aronson’s story of this beloved cartoonist’s life is a fast-paced trip into the past and the fine tradition of lampoonery. Goldberg’s one-of-a-kind imagination and unstoppable confidence in his dream are on full display as he quits a lucrative job for the uncertainty of an artist’s life. His success and long career is a tribute not only to Goldberg himself, but to all the employers and consumers who recognize innovation and embrace it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-just-like-rube-goldberg-brain

Image copyright Robert Neubecker, 2019, text Sarah Aronson, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Robert Neubecker’s stylized and entertaining illustrations take inspiration from and honor Rube Goldberg while also transporting readers to the early 1900s. Kids will particularly enjoy the clever design that takes text through underground maze of the San Francisco Department of Water and Sewers and the busy newsroom—complete with carrier pigeon—where Goldberg found a home as a cartoonist. In two-page spreads, three of Goldberg’s cartoons are rendered in color, giving readers plenty to linger over and giggle at, and the final images are sure to spark a new appreciation for the imagination and its power.

Sure to create new fans of Rube Goldberg’s work, Just Like Rube Goldberg would be an exciting addition to home, school, and public libraries for all of those unique thinkers out there.

Ages 3 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1481476683

Discover more about Sarah Aronson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Robert Neubecker, his books, and his art on his website.

National Inventor’s Month Activity

CPB - Inventor's Tool Kit II (2)

Inventor’s Tool Kit

 

Every idea begins as a jumble of seemingly unrelated parts. Gathering whatever types of material inspires you and keeping it in a box ready to go when inspiration hits is a great way to support innovation and spark experimentation.

Supplies

  • Small parts organizer with drawers or compartments, available at hardware stores and craft stores
  • A variety of parts or craft materials that can be combined, built with, or built on
  • Some hardware ideas—pulleys, wheels, small to medium pieces of wood, wire, nuts, bolts, screws, hooks, knobs, hinges, recyclable materials
  • Some craft ideas—clay, beads, wooden pieces, sticks, paints, pipe cleaners, string, spools, buttons, glitter, scraps of material, recyclable materials

Directions

  1. Fill the organizer with the materials of your choice
  2. Let your imagination go to work! Build something cool, crazy, silly, useful—Amazing!

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You can find Just Like Rube Goldberg at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 9 – It’s National Inventors Month

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the creative minds who devise new products, better ways of performing tasks, faster methods of communication, and all kinds of innovative ways to interact with our world. Established in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine, this month’s holiday encourages people to embrace their creativity and go that extra step toward producing their invention. If you’re a tinkerer, who knows—your product or service could make the world a better place!

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe

Written by Katey Howes | Illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti

 

Every Friday, Magnolia Mudd’s favorite adult—her uncle Jamie—visited and spent time inventing with her. He always encouraged Magnolia to think big. One day, Magnolia and Uncle Jamie created their “greatest invention—the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe,” which ran on Mudd Power. Later, after just one experimental launching, Magnolia discovered that she had to build it all over again. When she called her uncle and told him they’d have to repair it next Friday, though, he said she would have to wait. Instead, he was bringing Miss Emily over because they “had ‘something to talk about.’”

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Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Magnolia didn’t want her time with Uncle Jamie taken up by Miss Emily. As far as Magnolia was concerned Uncle Jamie and Miss Emily had nothing in common, so on Friday when they told her they were getting married, Magnolia was surprised. When Miss Emily asked Magnolia to be their flower girl and showed her the fancy dress she’d wear, Magnolia thought, “no way!” Later, Uncle Jamie said maybe they could find a different way for her to be involved in the wedding.

Magnolia researched all the different things she could do, and experimented with some of them. She read that in India women decorate their hands with henna tattoos. She devised a henna tattoo-painting machine, but it went a little haywire. In Sweden, she learned, guests scared off trolls by bringing bouquets of stink weed. Magnolia built a troll trap, but only caught herself. And in a German tradition, guests throw plates at the couple’s door for good luck, but when Magnolia retooled her “Fantastic Frisbee Flinger,” she only caused a mess of broken pottery.

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Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Magnolia resigned herself to being “doomed to ruffles and roses.” She was just wishing she could launch the rose petals instead of scattering them when she had an idea. She showed Miss Emily her brainstorm for a bouquet-launcher that worked on Mudd Power. Miss Emily loved it. Together they began to invent. On the day of the wedding, they revealed their “new-and-improved Dual-Directional Super-Jumptastic Flower Launcher Deluxe (with Confetti Blaster),” and as Magnolia and Miss Emily jumped on the launch pad together, Magnolia realized that with Aunt Emily in the family, there was “way more Mudd Power” for inventing.

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Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Katey Howes’ humorous and clever story is as dual-purpose as Magnolia’s super launcher deluxe. Young readers will love seeing Magnolia’s gizmos that fire rockets, squirt paint, capture trolls, fling plates, and toss the bouquet (maybe a little too far!) while learning about some wedding traditions around the world. The heart of Howes’ story, however, lies in the ideas of family, relationships, communication, and acceptance. Readers will understand that Magnolia’s initial dislike of Miss Emily has more to do with her fear of a changing relationship with Uncle Jamie than with Emily’s dangly earrings or preference for sushi over pizza.

When Magnolia balks at being a flower girl, the adults allow her to be herself and work with her to find a job that makes everyone happy. As Magnolia gets to know Emily better, she takes a chance in suggesting a bouquet launcher and is rewarded when Emily (literally) jumps in with both feet (the fact that Miss Emily works at an art gallery hints at her ability to think creatively too). The final image of Magnolia, Uncle Jamie, and Aunt Emily hard at work in their lab reminds kids of the adage, “the more, the merrier”—or in this case, “the more Mudd power, the merrier.

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Image copyright Valerio Fabbretti, 2018, text copyright Katey Howes, 2018. Courtesy of Sterling Books.

Valerio Fabbretti’s bright, cartoon-style artwork is ideally suited to bring out the humor and emotions in Howes’ action-packed story. Magnolia’s and Uncle Jamie’s love of science is on display in both Jamie’s office and Magnolia’s room, where diagrams, chemical equations, test tubes and beakers, and retrofitted home appliances create an eclectic décor. Kids will laugh as Magnolia’s inventions go awry, and cheer when Magnolia and Miss Emily discover the perfect wedding job for Magnolia and complete it together. 

An entertaining and endearing story, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe is an inventive book to launch fun story times as well as discussions on individuality, inclusion, change, and family.

Ages 3 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1454921745

Discover more about Katey Howes and her books on her website.

To learn more about Valerio Fabbretti, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Inventors Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sparkle-test-tubes-II

Sparkle Test Tubes

 

Kids love inventing and experimenting, and these sparkle test tubes give children a fun way to be creative while making a cool way to relax and on those hectic days.

Supplies

  • Plastic test tubes with tight-fitting screw cap, available at craft or science supply stores. Having two or three will allow for more experimentation
  • Glitter glue
  • Hot water
  • Fine glitter
  • Chunky glitter
  • Small glass beads (optional)
  • Neon food coloring (optional)
  • Test tube stand (optional)
  • Whisk
  • Mixing bowl
  • Teaspoon

Directions

  1. Fill a test tube 1/3 full of hot water and pour the water into the mixing bowl
  2. Add 1 – 2 teaspoons of glitter glue (the more glitter glue that is added the thicker the liquid will be and the more the objects will be suspended in the liquid. To allow the objects to flow more freely when the test tube is shaken, add less glue
  3. Whisk the water and glitter glue together
  4. Add chunky glitter, glass beads, or try other small objects
  5. Pour into test tube
  6. Add more water to within a ½ – 1 inch of the top to allow for shaking
  7. Experiment with amount of glitter glue, glitter, and colors

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You can find Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe at these booksellers

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

 

 

Picture book review

 

 

April 30 – It’s Jazz Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

Jazz Appreciation Month got its start at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in 2001. The aim was to celebrate and educate people on the history of and continuing love for jazz. The holiday encourages people of all ages to become familiar with jazz music and the musicians of the past who created this original sound and those today who keep innovating jazz for new audiences. This year’s theme is “jazz beyond borders” and looks at the “dynamic ways jazz can unite people across the culture and geography.” In connection with this initiative, the Smithsonian Masterworks Orchestra will travel to cities in North America, Europe, and Asia as a way to use music to open dialogue about “diversity, identity, diplomacy, and innovation.” To celebrate jazz not only this month but anytime, attend a concert, listen to recordings, and read up on your favorite musicians or a new one. And don’t forget to share your love of jazz with your kids! A great place to start is with today’s book!

Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Written by Kathleen Cornell Berman | Illustrated by Keith Henry Brown

 

As a child, Miles Davis listens to the radio before school, clapping and swaying along to “Louis Armstrong’s soaring trumpet” and “Duke Ellington’s sensational big band.” The “swinging sounds of jazz / swirl together like / colors on a pinwheel.” When he’s older, Miles watches the riverboats on the Mississippi as they bring musicians from New Orleans to play in the East St. Louis clubs. At night he listens as “melodies drift down the street. / Some croon country, / some cry the blues. / Sassy saxophones wail / through the night.”

During the summer, Miles visits his grandfather’s farm in Arkansas. Here, he hears the music of horses’ hooves. On his walks through town, he listens to the sounds of guitars and singing, and at church he learns the notes of “soulful singing.” For his thirteenth birthday, Miles receives a trumpet. He takes lessons and practices again and again.

While he’s still in high school, Miles begins being paid to play at dance halls. His confidence grows and he begins to develop his own sound. A new form of jazz is attracting attention—Bebop: “far-out harmonies / with fast, flipping beats / that hop and bop.” He goes to clubsto listen to Charlie “Bird” Parker and Dizzy Gillespie play. He’s “blown away / by the energy of the music.”

Then one night, one of the band members doesn’t show up, and Miles—who always has his trumpet with him—is asked to fill the spot. In awe and a little intimidated in the presence of his idols, Miles’ playing “doesn’t shine.” But he knows that “jazz / is all he wants to play.” Miles moves to New York to go to school at Juilliard, but, really, to learn from Bird, Dizzy, and all of his idols. In the morning he goes to class, practicing between classes. At night he plays clubs throughout the city.

Soon, he leaves Juilliard to concentrate on playing and learning from the greats. His father advises him: “Don’t be like the mockingbird / that copies others. / Be your own man. / Be your own sound.” When Dizzy leaves Bird’s band, Miles takes his place. But he plays differently than Dizzy. “Some listeners put him down— / they want Dizzy’s rippling trumpet.” The criticism make Miles lose confidence and want to quit. But Bird encourages him.

With practice and patience, he discovers his own sound, holding and savoring perfect notes “just for the beauty of it.” He forms his own group with talented musicians who want to create new sounds. The nine musicians play “slowly and mysteriously…. Cool— / relaxed, / with a lighter, / lyrical feel.” Mile’s solos enchant audiences.

But the endless work takes its toll. He begins to lose gigs; his health declines. Miles doesn’t give up. “He climbs out / of his dark days / by playing his horn again.” Then in 1955 he takes the stage at the Newport Jazz Festival and begins to play. “…His mystical voice hangs / like a cloud, / leaving space / for each listener’s / imagination to wander.” The crowd cheers and applauds. Miles is back with his unmistakable sound and new ideas for the future of the music he loves.

Notes about Miles Davis from Wynton Marsalis, Kathleen Cornell Berman, and Keith Henry Brown as well as a selected discography and bibliography follow the text.

Kathleen Cornell Berman’s lyrical passages reveal a boy, a teenager, and a man who embodied music, listening to and absorbing the various sounds around him and incorporating them into his own, unique sound. Her evocative vocabulary (swirl, rollicking, croon, rumbling, far-out, rippling, blizzard of notes, itching to play) and phrasing that blends short staccato lines with longer sentences echoes the rhythm of jazz and will keep readers riveted to the story. Berman emphasizes the listening, practice, and experimentation that informed Miles Davis’s original sound, showing children that innovation is built on hard work, dedication, and even history. Her inclusion of Davis’s setbacks also demonstrates that perseverance is part of the success of any endeavor.

Keith Henry Brown’s gorgeous, detailed pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations take readers from Miles Davis’s living room, where he listens to the radio as images of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington swirl through his imagination, to an overlook on the Mississippi River and its paddlewheel steam ships to the clubs and jam sessions of New York and finally, to the Newport Jazz Festival. Brown’s color palette of cool blues, greens, purples, and browns, punctuated with Davis’s ever-present gleaming brass trumpet, brings Davis’s country and city experiences to life while mirroring the tone and feel of his unique sound. Quotes from Miles Davis are sprinkled throughout the story and set apart with type that looks handwritten, giving his words a personal touch.

Sure to inspire readers to learn more about Miles Davis and listen to his music, Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound would be an excellent accompaniment to school music programs, an inspiring book for biography lovers and young musicians of all types, and a beautiful addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 8 – 12

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146909

Discover more about Kathleen Cornell Berman and her books on her website.

To learn more about Keith Henry Brown, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Meet Kathleen Cornell Berman

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In your author’s bio you say that you fell in love with Mile’s Davis’ music when you were 10 years old. Was there a particular spark that made you love his music?

As a kid I loved all kinds of music. When I first heard Miles’ trumpet sound, I fell in love. His trumpet sound was different. It wasn’t flashy, it was slow, haunting and very beautiful. I longed to hear it again.

Can you take readers on your journey of writing Birth of the Cool and having it published? What kind of research did you do? What was the most surprising thing you learned about Miles Davis?

I was thrilled when I got the email from Charlotte Wenger from Page Street. It’s beyond exciting when you find someone who loves your story as much as you do. And Charlotte was a dream editor to work with.

I read Miles’ autobiography and many other books about him, as well as journal and magazine articles. I listened to countless interviews and researched players in his band. And I listened to his music a lot. He went through many changes in his musical career. I realized I had to keep my focus on his early career. 

I was surprised to learn he had slave ancestors who played music in the main house on a plantation. It was interesting to discover that Miles loved rural life (from his visits to his relatives’ farms). When he first moved to NYC, he visited the stables and asked to ride their horses. He had fond memories of riding them on his grandfather’s farm.

Keith Henry Brown’s pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations are gorgeous and full of expression. Can you talk about your reaction to seeing the illustrations for the first time. Do you have a favorite spread?  

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Kathleen Cornell Berman and Keith Henry Brown at the book launch for Birth of the Cool and the Jazz Gallery in New York City.

My first reaction to Keith’s illustrations was like an “out of the body” experience. To see my words come to life was a wonderful feeling. His art illuminated Miles’ journey in a jazz inspired way. I was very happy when he accepted the job. I already knew he was a jazz fan, so he was a good choice.

Keith’s goal was to create drawings that weren’t too tight or realistic. He wanted to create a loose, abstract feeling. I think Keith achieved that beautifully. Kudos to his courage in creating illustrations in watercolor, a very unpredictable medium. It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite illustration, I really love them all.

Your inspirational biography highlights the ups—and downs—of Miles Davis’ early career. What message would you like readers to take away from the story?

Miles is a great example of how hard work pays off. Some kids today think it’s easy to play an instrument. For some it might be, but inventing your own sound, is extremely difficult. It takes perseverance and dedication to create your own voice on the instrument. That goes for anything you attempt, whether you become an architect, a visual artist, writer, or a singer. Unfortunately, many jobs don’t allow individuality, but finding something, anything that you’re good at can boost happiness.

I hope this story inspires kids to reach for the stars, to find their own voice, and never give up. I also hope kids will take time to listen to jazz; it’s America’s classical music. Listening to music has so many benefits, intellectually as well as emotionally.

I saw on your website that you like to collect words. Can you tell me five of your favorites and what you love about them? Do you remember where they first caught your eye—or ear?

I’m usually attracted to words that tickle the tongue and have a unique sound, like mesmerizing, prickly, crumpled, nuzzle, etc. There are so many. I love alliteration. When words are paired with another, they sing and make the text come alive. I usually have my wordbook at my side as I read any kind of book. I also use my phone memo to jot words as I hear them in daily life.  

Besides writing, you paint, and create assemblages from found objects. Your sculptures are gorgeous and fun and have so much personality! Which came first—writing or art? When creating an assemblage, do you start with one object or do you see how several of the materials you have can fit together?

Thank you very much. Creating found art sculptures is like therapy. I’ve always been into creating something out of ordinary things. The art and writing coincided with a strong desire to break out of the box of being a teacher.

I collect a lot of wood as well as words. When I find a piece that inspires me, I visualize what it might become and I begin the search for a complimentary piece. It’s kind of like doing puzzles.

Is there a similarity for you in constructing a sculpture and creating text for a picture book?

Yes, there is. I look for a seed of an idea that touches my senses or emotions. And in art I choose a piece of wood that inspires me visually. Then it all comes down to layering and adding details that make the story or art shine in a new way. Finally, adding the “just right” color or details can be compared to the continual revisions to discover perfect words that fit my story.

Birth of the Cool is your debut picture book. What are you looking forward to most as a picture book author?

Reading the book to children and getting them to reflect about their feelings. And, of course, introducing them to jazz.

I love writing picture book biographies. I also enjoy writing books that will amuse kids, as well challenge their thoughts about nature.

What’s up next for you?

I have a new picture book bio about another musician that I just started submitting. And I’ve started research on another interesting, relatively unknown musician that had a big impact on many.                                  

What is your favorite holiday?

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love the traditions and the history. Holidays are so important in bringing busy families together. As a former teacher,             Thanksgiving gave me the opportunity to discuss the importance of the Native American people. They taught us so much. At the Thanksgiving table, we as a family celebrate the Native American contributions to our country. I wish more people did the same.

You can connect with Kathleen Cornell Berman on

Her website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Jazz Appreciation Month Activity

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Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle

 

Jazz has a sound and vocabulary all it’s own! Can you find the twenty jazz-related words in this printable puzzle? Then have fun coloring it!

Cool Jazz! Word Search Puzzle | Cool Jazz! Word Search Solution

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You can find Birth of the Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

March 14 – It’s National Women’s History Month

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About the Holiday

National Woman’s History Month was established by the United States Congress in 1987 to recognize and celebrate the achievements of American women in the past and today. This year’s theme is “Balance for Better,” which encourages true gender equity in the workplace, in government, and at home. Only when all people are heard and treated equally will communities thrive. There’s no better time than now to get involved to ensure that all have the same rights and standing in all areas of their lives.

I received a copy of Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be partnering with Sterling in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor

Written by Laurie Wallmark | Illustrated by Katy Wu

 

In 1938 people were lining up to see Hedy Lamarr in her first English-language movie Algiers. Hedy was the talk of Hollywood, and journalists and photographers captured her every move—almost. What movie-goers and the press didn’t know was that Hedy Lamarr was also a brilliant inventor. Instead of attending fancy celebrity parties, after a long day on the set, “Hedy hurried home to work on her latest invention. Her brain overflowed with idea after idea for useful inventions.” While she never tried to sell her ideas—like the collar to help find lost pets or the “flavor cube that changed plain water into soda”—she designed and redesigned them to perfection.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2019, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

But how did Hedy get her start? She was born in Austria and as a child took apart mechanical objects just to see how they worked. Hedy’s father also loved science, and he encouraged his daughter to hold onto her dreams. In addition to science, Hedy loved movies and would use her dolls to reenact the scenes she saw.

When she got older, Hedy got a job as a script girl and then worked as an extra in a movie. She loved acting and once said, “‘I acted all the time…. I was a little living copybook. I wrote people down on me.’” While playing the lead in a stage play, the Hollywood producer Louis B. Mayer saw her and offered her movie contract. Hedy moved to America. It only took her six months to land a starring role in Algiers. After that she starred in many movies with some of the most famous actors and actresses. 

By now, the world was at war. One day, Hedy met George Antheil, a former weapons inspector who now composed music. Hedy remembered a “discussion she had overheard back in Europe about a problem with the guidance system for torpedoes. The guidance system couldn’t prevent the enemy from jamming the weapon’s radio signals” and sending it off course. She learned from George Antheil that the US Navy had the same problem.

They decided to team up to see if they could figure out a solution. Hedy was also an accomplished pianist, and she and George often played musical games on the piano. Once, while they played the same song in different octaves, Hedy had a brainstorm for building “a secure torpedo guidance system.” At the time, torpedo guidance systems only worked if the ship launching a torpedo and the torpedo were on the same frequency.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2019, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Hedy thought that if the ship and the torpedo could switch between a series of different frequencies, the enemy would be foiled. “Hedy called her discovery ‘the hopping of frequencies.” Working together, she and George devised a way to implement Hedy’s idea. When they presented their idea to the National Inventors Council, they were told the “idea had ‘great potential value.’”

There were still some issues to overcome to make the system automated, but Hedy and George answered those too. They applied for a patent, and a year later on August 11, 1942 it was granted. When they gave the idea to the United States Navy, “Hedy was proud her frequency-hopping idea might help America win the war.” But embroiled in the middle of the conflict, the Navy didn’t have “the time or money to implement a new system….”

Hedy, who still wanted to help America defeat the Nazis, was undaunted. She helped raise 25 million dollars by selling war bonds and volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen, where servicemen soon to be deployed gathered. Hedy went on to make more than twenty movies and continued to work on her inventions.

In the 1980s, the US Navy declassified Hedy’s frequency-hopping technology, meaning anyone could use it. Because the patent had long-ago expired, no one needed to give Hedy and George credit for the idea. “Companies raced to include frequency hopping in their own devices.” In 1997, Hedy and George were finally recognized when they “received the Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation for their significant contribution to computers.”

A timeline of Hedy Lamarr’s life, a description of how Hedy and George’s frequency-hopping technology worked, additional resources for further reading, and a list of Hedy’s movies follow the text.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2019, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2019. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Laurie Wallmark knows how to weave a riveting tale that draws readers in to the lives of fascinating and scientifically minded women throughout history. Her detailed biography of Hedy Lamarr will wow kids with the twists and turns of how a vital feature of the electronics they use every day came to be. A history not only of this famous woman but of the times and policies that denied Hedy Lamarr the recognition and profits she deserved, the story is sure to spark plenty of discussion. The inclusion of a few of Hedy’s ingenious ideas as well as quotes on acting, inventing, and her views on life give children a glimpse into the mind of this unique woman.

Katy Wu takes readers back to the 1940s with her stylish illustrations reminiscent of magazine images of the time that depict both Hedy’s glamourous and inventive sides. Even as Hedy steps out of a limo to the glare of flashbulbs, acts under stage lights, and watches movies thrown by a projector’s beam, she’s dreaming of going home to work on her inventions in the light of a desk lamp. When the story turns to Hedy’s frequency-hopping idea, Wu clearly portrays the problems with the torpedo guidance system and the way single-frequency and multiple-frequency communications work. The way player pianos were controlled and how Hedy and George Antheil used this idea is also well portrayed. The final images of people using Hedy’s technology today lets kids fully understand the impact that Hedy Lamarr has had on their lives.

An important story about an extraordinary woman, Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor will inspire children to follow and accomplish all of their dreams. The book will spur creative thought across subject matter and would be a motivational addition to home, classroom, and public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1454926917

Discover more about Laurie Wallmark and her books on her website.

To learn more about Katy Wu, and view a gallery of her book and art, visit her tumblr.

Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Sterling Children’s Books in a Twitter giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor written by Laurie Wallmark | illustrated by Katy Wu

This giveaway is open from March 14 through March 20 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on March 21.

Prizing provided by Sterling Children’s Books

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Women’s History Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-women-in-stem-coloring-book

Women in STEM Coloring Book

 

Discover five women who broke barriers  and made important contributions to the science, technology, engineering, and math fields in this printable  Women in STEM Coloring Book created by the United States Department of Energy.

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You can find Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 28 – Digital Learning Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2012, today’s holiday raises awareness of the advances in educational technology for classrooms and teachers and to spread opportunities to schools and communities across the country for all youth to use. Digital Learning Day also highlights innovative educators who are using technology to enhance their lessons and bring the latest information and learning tools to students from kindergarten through high school. For more information on today’s holiday and to find resources for using technology in the classroom visit the Digital Learning Day website.

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code

Written by Laurie Wallmark | Illustrated by Katy Wu

 

As Grace Hopper finished writing a computer code to guide Navy missiles, she noticed that there was a certain string of code that she had repeated many times. “Grace snorted. What a colossal waste of time! There had to be a better way. Why not make the computer do the work?” Grace figured out a way for the computer to store pieces of a program and then find them again to create another program. Grace was the first computer programmer to do this.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2017, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Even as a child Grace loved to tinker with mechanical things. She once opened all the clocks in the house to figure out how they worked. What did her mother say when she saw that? “…all she could do was laugh. After all, Grace was just being Grace.” Later, she built an electric elevator for her dollhouse. She reveled in difficult problems, and while the girls in her class “wore frilly dresses and learned to be young ladies, Grace studies math and science.”

Studying hard, Grace finished high school two years early, and while she had the grades in math and science to go to college, she failed Latin. Without passing Latin, she couldn’t go to college. Grace buckled down and the next year she was off to Vassar College. Grace passed up taking classes such as “Husbands and Wives” and “Motherhood” to take math and physics. But Grace did a lot more than just study. “Her personal motto was ‘Dare and Do,’ and she took it to heart. She flew in a barnstormer airplane.

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2017, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Grace went on to graduate school at Yale and then took a job teaching at Vassar. She knew how to make her classes fun and informative. At this time America was at war and needed mathematicians. She tried to join the Navy, but they told her she was too old and too thin. She kept asking, however, and after a year, the Navy agreed to let her join. She “was assigned to write programs for one of the first computers ever built, the Mark I. Only a few people had ever programmed before, so she had to learn how to do it on her own.”

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Image copyright Katy Wu, 2017, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Then one day Grace learned that “the new computer, the Mark II, had stopped working.” Grace and her coworkers searched and searched for an error in the code, but they found none. Then Grace thought that maybe the problem wasn’t in the code but in the computer itself. They looked inside the huge machine for loose wires or electrical shorts. Nothing. Then they saw it—a moth had gotten inside and was blocking a switch.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grace-hopper-queen-of-computer-code-computer

Image copyright Katy Wu, 2017, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

With a tweezer, a worker removed the moth and the computer started up again. Grace taped the moth into the log book and wrote, “‘First actual case of [a computer] bug being found,’” and the term “computer bug” was born. Grace also revolutionized programming when she “invented a program that let people use words to tell the computer what to do” instead of pages and pages of 1s and 0s.

When Grace turned sixty, the Navy made her retire. Within six months, they asked her to return and she worked for them for another twenty years. She retired again at the age of eighty as the Queen of Computer Code. As many people called her, she really was “Amazing Grace.”

A timeline of Grace Hopper’s life as well as a list of honors awarded her and resources for further reading about Grace and other women in STEM.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-grace-hopper-queen-of-computer-code-coil

Image copyright Katy Wu, 2017, text copyright Laurie Wallmark, 2017. Courtesy of Sterling Children’s Books.

Laurie Wallmark’s engaging biography of Grace Hopper will delight kids as they see her grow from a precocious and innovative child to a woman who used her intelligence and imagination to lead the computer revolution. Specific examples of Grace’s successes and the support she received at home will encourage other engineering-minded kids, and the inclusion of her failure in Latin demonstrates that everyone has areas of weakness that can be overcome with hard work. Grace’s perseverance in getting the Navy to accept her is also a good lesson for children on not giving up on their dreams. The provenance of the term “computer bug” will surprise and amuse readers.

Katy Wu’s charming illustrations of events in Grace Hopper’s life take readers back to time when computers were new. Children will marvel over the size and design of early computers. Grace’s sense of adventure and humor are on display is colorful and action-packed images. Uplifting and encouraging sayings by Grace Hopper that will inspire children are sprinkled throughout the pages.

A book to motivate children to reach for their dreams and spark pride in individual accomplishment, Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code would be an influential book to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5 and up

Sterling Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1454920007

Discover more about Laurie Wallmark and her books on her website.

To learn more about Katy Wu, her books, and her art on Tumblr.

Digital Learning Day Activity

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Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle

 

Digital communication has a language all its own! Open this laptop and find the twenty-two Internet-based words in this printable word search puzzle.

Trendy Trending Word Search Puzzle and Solution

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You can find Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 17 – Kid Inventors’ Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all those ingenious kids who have improved the world with their inventions. This date was chosen to commemorate another child inventor—Benjamin Franklin—who designed the first swim fins when he was just 12 years old! (Seriously, is there nothing this man didn’t or couldn’t do?). With their supple minds and can-do attitudes, kids have changed the ways things are done in the fields of medicine, technology, communications, and even food—as today’s book shows! To learn more about the day and find lots of resources, including a list of books, contests, tips, and teachers’ guides, visit the K.I.D website.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

Written by Julia Finley Mosca | Illustrated by Daniel Rieley

 

If you feel different and sometimes discouraged, the story of Temple Grandin may help you see that everyone has a talent and their own place in the world. Temple was born in Boston and “unique from the start, / an unusual girl, / she loved spinning in circles / and watching things twirl.” Loud sounds, big crowds, bright lights, and scratchy clothes disturbed her. And she did not like to get a “big squeezy hug.”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

When she became overloaded with stress and frustration, Temple was known to “kick, holler, bang, shrieeeeek! Yet, still, by age three, not one word did she speak.” People told Temple’s parents that she’d never be normal and to send her away, but her mother would not hear of it. With a lot of work, special teachers helped Temple learn to talk. “And that thing with her brain… / it was AUTISM, see? / She was ‘different not less,’ / they all finally agreed.”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

While Temple was like her peers in many ways, she interacted with words differently. “If something was mentioned, / for instance, a fly, / in her mind, she’d see dozens / of PHOTOS buzz by.” Her different view point made it hard for her at school. The other kids chased her and teased her for the way that she acted and for “…saying things / over and over. / and over… / and over… / AND over.” When she had finally had enough, “she threw a book at a kid / and was kicked out of school!” No one understood Temple and Temple couldn’t understand them.

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

Her mother then sent her to visit her aunt, who lived on a ranch out west. Here, among the animals, Temple felt better. Her favorites were the cows, so silent and sweet. “At a NEW school that fall, / Temple found more support / said a teacher who taught her: / ‘You’ll never fall short.” That teacher was right, and at engineering and science she felt right at home.

Her first invention—made from memory—was “a machine / like she’d seen on some farms, / an INVENTION that hugged her / with boards, and not arms.” In this device she felt snug and calm, just like the cows. As she began to succeed, Temple came to see that her attention to detail was a benefit, and she began to feel special. Then she learned about farms where the cows were not treated kindly and resolved to change that.

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

She went on to college and became an expert on farms, earning three degrees. Telling people about her ideas for farming improvements was sometimes scary because they ignored her and, well…weren’t very sweet. But she didn’t give up. She learned more about cattle, like why they circle and moo. “To build better farms / was her goal—she would do it. / ‘Be KIND to our creatures. / They have FEELINGS!’ She knew it.”

It took time, but people began to see that Temple was right, and farm after farm implemented her ideas. She won awards for this work and other ideas, a movie was made about her life, and she now travels the world telling her story and teaching: “‘Each person is special– / so UNIQUE are our minds. / This world needs YOUR ideas. / It takes brains of ALL kinds!”

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

A letter from Temple Grandin to young readers, extensive information about Temple and tidbits from her interview with the author, a timeline of her life, and resources follow the text.

Julia Finley Mosca’s insightful biography of Temple Grandin offers inspiration and encouragement to children at those times when life seems difficult or if they feel misunderstood. Childhood can be filled with moments—both small and large, short or long—when comfort and reassurance are needed. Mosca’s rhyming verses make Temple’s story accessible to a wide age range of readers while providing an inclusive way to show how autism creates a different way of experiencing the world. Temple’s supportive teachers are role models for all educators. Temple Grandin’s fascinating life demonstrates that there is a niche for everyone and that through understanding, perseverance, and acceptance, all children can go far.

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Image copyright Daniel Rieley, 2017, text copyright Julia Finley Mosca, 2017. Courtesy of The Innovation Press.

Daniel Rieley’s cartoon-style illustrations will resonate with readers as Temple takes in everything she sees with wide-open eyes and interprets it in her own way—even before she can speak. The separation between Temple and the other students at her first school is poignantly communicated in a two-page spread in which pointing hands and a lobbed ball of paper appear from the left-hand margin and Temple reads alone on the far side of the right-hand page. Temple’s ability to think in pictures is demonstrated throughout the book with inset images. Readers see some of the farming practices Temple wanted to change, her original drawings, and the resulting equipment now used on farms to improve the conditions of the animals raised there.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is a moving and motivational story for all children and is a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

The Innovation Press, 2017 | ISBN  978-1943147304 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1943147618 (Paperback), 2018

Discover more about Julia Finley Mosca and her Amazing Scientists series on the Amazing Scientists website.

Learn more about Daniel Rieley, his books, and his art on his website.

Kid Inventors’ Day Activity

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Inventing Is Fun! Coloring Page

 

If you love to invent as much as these kids do, grab your crayons, markers, or pencils and give their lab a bit more color in this printable Inventing Is Fun! Coloring Page!

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You can find The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review