September 9 – It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month

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About the Holiday

Beginning on September 15th  and running through October 15th, National Hispanic Heritage Month celebrates the contributions of those who come from or whose ancestors immigrated from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. Each year the holiday adopts a particular theme. This year’s theme is Hispanic Americans: A History of Serving Our Nation. From the military, to business and industry to culture, sports, and entertainment Hispanic Americans have made an important and indelible imprint on our country. First observed in 1968 as a week-long holiday, the commemoration was expanded to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. To celebrate, learn more about Hispanic Americans who have influenced our culture, attend a special event, and enjoy great books by Hispanic authors like today’s book! You can learn more about the holiday at the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Written by Margarita Engle | Illustrated by Rafael López

 

Growing up in Venezuela, Teresa listened to her mother’s lullabies and learned how to play the piano from her father. It wasn’t always easy “to make the stubborn music behave as she practiced gentle songs that sounded like colorful birds…and powerful songs that roared like prowling jaguars, beside towering waterfalls in a mysterious green jungle.” But by the time she was six, she was composing her own songs and at seven, she played in the cathedral.

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

When Teresa was eight, however, her world was rocked by war, and she and her family escaped by ship to America. In New York, she felt lost among all of the strangers, who didn’t speak Spanish and gawked at her and her family as if they “belonged in a museum of oddities.” Even here, they had not escaped conflict as the Civil War waged, pitting the North against the South and family against family.

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Teresa found refuge in her new piano and began to make friends with musicians who came to her home to listen and play along. Teresa practiced all types of music, “her strong hands accepting the challenge of life’s many dark and light moods.” She became well known as “the Piano Girl” and performed with big orchestras and in theaters. She became so famous that she was even invited to play for President Abraham Lincoln and his family at the White House.

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

At the time Washington DC was awash in suffering, torn by war and weariness. President Lincoln’s young son had recently become sick and died. How, Teresa wondered, “could music soothe so much trouble?” Holding tightly to Papá’s hand, she entered the White House and was ushered into a room “as red as a storm or a sunrise.” As she sat at the piano, Teresa recalled past challenges and her discover that life was a “mixture of all sorts of feelings, happy and sad.”

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

She began to play, but the piano was out of tune, “making her music sound ugly.” She stopped, but then President Lincoln requested she play his “favorite song, ‘Listen to the Mockingbird.’” This was a song Teresa could play on this imperfect piano. “Her fingers leaped across all the dark and light keys, improvising the way mockingbirds do, the melody changing as she went along.” Lincoln closed his eyes and was taken away on the soaring notes.

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

When the song ended, the President rose and applauded. He smiled at Teresa and she smiled back, understanding that “her music had brought comfort to a grieving family, at least for one brief, wonderful evening of dancing hands.” Teresa continued to share her gift with the world, always bringing “beautiful dark and light moments of hope” to her listeners.

A Historical Note about the life of Teresa Carreño follows the text.

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Image copyright Rafael López, 2019, text copyright Margarita Engle, 2019. Courtesy of Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Margarita Engle’s soaring biography introduces readers to an astounding woman who, even as a child, had not only a prodigious talent for the piano but a gift for understanding life as well. Engle, the 2017 -2019 national Young People’s Poet Laureate, infuses her story with beautiful lyricism and stirring metaphors that evoke the power of music in Teresa’s heart and hands. On these pages, music becomes a living thing, capable of forming friendships, soothing grief, providing escape, and offering hope. Engle’s focus on the meeting between Teresa Carreño and Abraham Lincoln is significant and offers inspiration to young readers. Like Teresa, who, concerned with playing just right, was presented with an imperfect piano but encouraged by Lincoln’s kindness, they too can learn that with a steady and courageous heart, anyone can use their talents to overcome challenges.

In Rafael López’s crisp, stylish illustrations, Teresa Carreño’s love of music and its emotional power serves as a counter point to the distress of war and anguish of grief. Using vibrant greens, pinks, oranges, and blues, Lopez surrounds Teresa with lush vegetation, dazzling birds, and the security of home. Muted variations of  these colors depict the bleakness of war. A moving image, washed completely in gray except for an approaching vivid bird and a tinge of soft rose dawn shows a mourning Abraham Lincoln alone in his office but soon to be comforted by Teresa’s music.

A beautiful and uplifting biography for kids of all talents, Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln would be an inspiring addition to home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2019 | ISBN 978-1481487405

Discover more about Margarita Engle, her books, and her poetry on her website.

To learn more about Rafael López, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

CPB - Tortilla chips (2)

Homemade Baked Cinnamon Tortilla Chips

 

It’s easy to make these yummy tortilla chips at home! Why not invite your friends over and bake up a batch or two to enjoy while playing or reading together?

Ingredients

  • 2 10-inch flour tortillas
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • Butter

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine the cinnamon and the sugar in a bowl
  3. Butter the tortillas
  4. Sprinkle the tortillas with the cinnamon sugar mixture
  5. Cut the tortillas into 8 pieces
  6. Place pieces on a baking sheet
  7. Bake in 350-degree oven for 12 – 15 minutes
  8. Chips will become crispier as they cool.

Makes 16 chips

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You can find Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 11 – It’s Elvis Week

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About the Holiday

Each year during the week in August surrounding the date of Elvis Presley’s death, fans gather in Memphis and at Graceland, his home that is now a monument to The King to celebrate his music, movies, and legacy. Events include concerts, workshops, dances, the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, and more. The annual Candlelight Vigil, which attracts tens of thousands of fans, is held from the evening of August 15 to the morning of the 16th. Participants carry a candle as they walk up the driveway to the Meditation Garden, listening to his music and taking in memorials created by fans. To learn more about Elvis Week, visit the Graceland website.

Elvis Is King

Written by Jonah Winter | Illustrated by Red Nose Studio 

 

Elvis is King by Jonah Winter and Chris Sickels’ Red Nose Studio is an eye-popping wonder for fans of The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll wanting to share their love for Elvis with their kids. In short, lyrical chapters with dramatic titles that are cleverly reminiscent of the sensational headlines Elvis generated throughout his life (and even after), Winter peels back Elvis’s rags-to-riches story, encapsulating the depth of poverty, talent, and ambition that fueled his life. It’s all here—his birth “in a humble shack / on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, / the side where the poorest of the poor people live…;” his reason for being: singing; and the county fair talent show, where ten-year-old Elvis got his first taste of adoration and a “Fifth Prize!” award.

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Kids walk into the hardware store with Elvis’s barefoot mama, who “with pennies she saved…/ buys her eleven-year-old birthday boy / the most important gift he will ever receive. / It will be the key to his salvation.” Elvis plays that guitar everywhere, “All. The. Time.” There’s the moment Elvis overheard gospel singing coming from the African American Church and “The First Cheeseburger Ever Eaten by Elvis.” And that question: Why peanut butter and banana sandwiches? The answer’s here too.

When the family moves to Memphis, it’s up to teenage Elvis to make the money by “working nights as a ticket taker at a movie theater.” Then, suddenly during those years, Elvis finds the “Weird Teenage Elvis” inside him. He dyes his blond hair black and waxes it into a wave. At a thrift shop he buys green pants, a pink shirt, and a checkered jacket. Then at the high school talent show, he “KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD with his song.” And not only that “something happens, something big, when he’s up there: / He is no longer shy! / He can be whatever he wants to be—let loose, go crazy!”

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Along the way he falls in love, graduates from high school, and soaks up the sounds of the blues on Beale Street. For his mama’s birthday, he goes to Sun Studios, where anyone can record themselves singing. “(It also makes *real* records of big-time singers— / and Sly Elvis knows this.)” Elvis has his first recorded song for just $3.98. A bit later he gets the call he’s been hoping for from Sun Studios and discovers his signature sound and moves. The song—”That’s All Right”—plays on the radio, and where’s Elvis? Hiding out. Will people like it? Five thousand requests and fifteen replays in one night say Yes!

And when Elvis walks on stage for the first time to sing his song, he’s met with an “AVALANCHE of screaming—in a good way!” Goggle-eyed girls just want to be near him, and it’s the same no matter where he travels. This “Good-Lookin’ Heartthrob Elvis” is soon to lose his “One True Love, / his little darlin’, Dixie Locke. He uses that feeling, though, in a song—”Heartbreak Hotel” that “rises to number 1 on the pop charts.” So “What Is This Crazy Music, Anyway?” It’s not exactly country and it’s not exactly rhythm and blues. “It’s… / ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, baby. / And Elvis is its KING…!”

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Image copyright Red Nose Studio, 2019, text copyright Jonah Winter, 2019. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Jonah Winter’s biography is in every way a loving tribute to Elvis Presley that also winks at his larger-than-life persona and the world’s obsession with him. Well-chosen adjectives presented in initial caps and attached to Elvis’s name, give titles to the phases of Elvis’s life and present an evocative way to show what and where he grew from and left behind on his rise to fame. Sprinkled with southern vernacular and touched with the cadence of a slow, considered southern drawl, Winter’s ingenious verses mirror song lyrics and echo themes that not only make up the country and blues standards that influenced Elvis’s music but that applied to his life. 

As always Chris Sickels’ Red Nose Studio artwork is nothing short of astounding. Each illustration is composed as a 3-D set handcrafted from polymer clay, wood, wire, fabric, and found objects. The intricate details and moving emotions, demonstrated in a look, by a gesture, and through perspective, give the illustrations a realism that goes beyond a photographic depiction to illuminate the heart of Elvis Presley’s story. Readers will want to linger over every page to absorb the cultural landscape and life-affirming moments that created The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

A joy to read aloud, Elvis Is King is an inspirational story for anyone with a dream, big or small. The personal, yet universal, story and phenomenal art make the book a stirring addition for home, school, and public libraries. 

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2019 | ISBN 978-0399554704

Discover more about Jonah Winter and his books on his website.

To learn more about the work of Chris Sickels and Red Nose Studio, visit his website.

Elvis Week Activity

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Elvis Coloring Page

 

Elvis wowed audiences and movie goers with his moves and flair. This printable coloring page shows Elvis in of his well-known dance poses. In honor of Elvis Week, why not share Elvis is King, this page, and some of Elvis’s songs or movies with your kids?

Elvis Coloring Page 

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You can find Elvis Is King 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

 

December 20 – Go Caroling Day

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About the Holiday

Caroling is a long-standing tradition of the holidays. Gathering with friends and neighbors as part of a professional singing group or just as amateurs and singing Christmas songs door to door, at nursing homes, and other community venues brings joy and cheer to all. Both hearing and singing favorite songs that only come around once a year makes caroling a much-anticipated activity. Today’s holiday celebrates the love of caroling and encourages people to raise their voices and join in. It’s also a perfect day to highlight the life of the man who wrote one of our most beloved carols—White Christmas—with today’s book!

Write On, Irving Berlin!

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

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

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

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

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

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

Irving never seemed to be without a tune in his head. He “wrote music for plays, for movies, for friends, for strangers. He scribbled ideas on napkins and on the sleeves of his shirt. He wrote songs in elevators and in taxicabs. He wrote songs in the bathtub.” During World War II, one of his older songs—“‘God Bless America’ became a HUGE hit.” In the winter of 1942, Irving wrote what he considered not only his best song, but the best song anyone had ever written: “White Christmas.” It’s sentimental words and catchy tune inspired the American soldiers engaged in battles around the world and helped them “remember all the things they were fighting for.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363803

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

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

Go Caroling Day Activity

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Musical Mice Coloring Page

 

Grab your crayons or pencils and have fun with this printable Musical Mice Coloring Page!

Musical Mice Coloring Page

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You can find Write On, Irving Berlin! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

December 3 – Make a Gift Day

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About the Holiday

Nothing says “I love you” quite like a homemade gift. But what if you’re not crafty and baking’s not really your thing either? A gift doesn’t have to be something you unwrap. There are plenty of ways to share your talents with those you love to show them they’re important to you. Are you handy around the house? Find a project that needs doing and go to work! Are you a dancer? Why not teach a young family member some steps or a short routine? If you sing or play and instrument, invite friends and family to your holiday concert or perform for them during a holiday get together. Whatever your talent is, others will be excited and happy to receive your “homemade” gift!

A Tuba Christmas

Written by Helen L. Wilbur | Illustrated by Mary Reaves Uhles

 

Ava came from a musical family, and the time had come for her to choose an instrument to learn. If she started practicing now, she’d be ready for the family’s holiday concert. Her father suggested the piano like her mother played. Her mom suggested the flute or maybe the violin like her dad played. But Ava wasn’t interested in these—or in following in her bothers’ steps with the cello or clarinet.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Ava knew what instrument she wanted to play and proudly announced, “‘I want to play the tuba.’” Her family was surprised but signed her up for lessons. Her teacher, Rodney, played the tuba in the high school marching band. Since a full-sized tuba was much too big for Ava, “Rodney found a tuba that fit nicely in her lap and made her only a little lopsided when she carried it.” Ava loved everything about her tuba, but there was one problem. While Ava could make noise on her tuba, she couldn’t make music.

Ava practiced every day. At dinner, her parents always asked how her tuba playing was going while her brothers laughed and told her she would ruin their concert. Even the kids at school made fun of her choice of instruments, but Rodney told her, “‘Forget about them. The tuba is a noble instrument.’” But when she tripped over her tuba and fell in the cafeteria in front of all the laughing kids, she told Rodney she was quitting.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Rodney told her that was too bad because she’d miss being in the holiday concert—a first of its kind in the area. Ava perked up on hearing about the concert and vowed to keep practicing. As the days went on, “The notes came a little easier and sounded just a bit better every night.” Her tuba even seemed lighter to carry. When the posters went up announcing a surprise concert, everyone wanted to know what it was about, but Ava just told them they’d have to wait and see.

Ava’s brothers couldn’t believe she could be in a concert. They told her she’d “hit the wrong notes.” Rodney reassured her though that playing in an ensemble was a “great chance to learn.” He told her “if someone misses a note, other players will hit the right one and no one will know.” Ava felt better and on the day of the concert she ignored the butterflies in her stomach as she joined all of the other tuba players in decorating her tuba and donning an elf hat.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

When the audience saw that the orchestra consisted only of tubas, they looked around skeptically. Rodney explained that the tubas would play each song twice: once alone and then for everyone to join in singing. Everyone smiled when they recognized the first song, Jingle Bells. On the second go-round, the whole audience was soon singing. The tubas played lots of familiar songs. “the concert was loud and it was fun. At the end everyone cheered and cheered.” Even Ava’s brothers were proud to point her out and claim her as their sister. And just as her parents had promised, her father presented Ava with her very own tuba and a welcome to “the new musician in our family.”

An Author’s Note following the story reveals the origins of Tuba Christmas concerts, which take place all around the world. A description of the tuba, how it works, and other instruments in the tuba family is also included.

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Image copyright Mary Reaves Uhles, 2018, text copyright Helen L. Weber, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Helen L. Weber’s original holiday story will delight any child who sees life a little differently from their friends and family. Ava’s perseverance in playing the tuba despite the teasing and from her brothers and friends and a bit of skepticism on the part of her parents, will embolden readers who are met with similar reactions to their desired pursuits. Ava’s teacher, Rodney, gives sage and reassuring advice that provides positive perspective and will encourage kids to continue working on their skills despite setbacks or nervousness. Through her characters’ honest, realistic dialogue and emotions, Wilbur reveals the ups and downs of beginning any new activity, hobby, or vocation and offers children support and inspiration on their journey.

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Mary Reaves Uhles captures all of the heart of this one-of-a-kind story in her vivid and action-filled illustrations that reveal Ava’s enthusiasm for her shiny, coiled instrument. Images of Ava practicing while the cat covers its ears and the neighbor’s dog howls as the notes go awry add humor, but also reinforce Ava’s determination to learn the tuba. Ava’s interactions with Rodney are uplifting and will boost young readers’ confidence in their own abilities. The cheerful double-page spread of the tuba orchestra decked out for the holiday concert will have kids wanting to attend a Tuba Christmas concert—or take up the tuba themselves!

A heartening story for any child who marches to a different…tuba, A Tuba Christmas is a book that cheer and reassure kids at any time of the year.

Ages 5 – 7

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363841

Discover more about Helen L. Wilbur and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mary Reaves Uhles, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Make a Gift Day Activity

CPB - Hot Chocolate trio (2)

Friendship Hot Chocolate Jar 

 

There’s nothing better than sipping hot chocolate with a friend or family member during the cold months ahead! Here’s an easy way to make a special gift for someone you love!

CPB - Hot Chocolate from above with whisk

Supplies

  • Mason jar, canning jar, or any recycled jar from home
  • Canister of your favorite hot chocolate mix
  • Bag of mini marshmallows
  • Bag of chocolate chips
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Piece of cloth
  • Shoelace, string, elastic, or ribbon
  • Paper or card stock to make a Friendship Tag
  • Hole punch
  • Scissor

Directions for Filling the Jar

  1. Wash and completely dry the jar
  2. Drop a handful of mini marshmallows into the bottom of the jar. With the spoon push some of the marshmallows tight against the glass so they will show up when you add the hot chocolate mix.
  3. Measure 1/3 cup of hot chocolate mix and sprinkle it on top of the marshmallows. With the spoon gently spread the mix over the marshmallows.
  4. If you wish, add a layer of chocolate chips.
  5. Continue layering marshmallows and hot chocolate mix until you get to the top of the jar.
  6. At the top add another layer of chocolate chips and marshmallows.
  7. Put the lid on the jar and secure it tightly.

Directions for Decorating the Lid and Adding the Tag

  1. Cut a 6-inch circle from the cloth. To make the edges decorative, use a pinking sheers or other specialty scissor.
  2. Cover the lid of the jar with the cloth and secure with an elastic or rubber band.
  3. Tie the string, shoelace, or other tie around the rim of the lid.
  4. If using a Mason jar, place the cloth between the disk and the screw top
  5. Create a Friendship Tag and add your name and the name of your friend.
  6. Use a hole punch to make a hole in the Friendship Tag, slide it onto the tie, and knot it.

Directions for Making the Hot Chocolate

  1. With a spoon measure 1/2 cup of the hot chocolate, marshmallow, chocolate chip mix into a mug
  2. Fill the mug with boiling water, hot milk, or a combination of both
  3. Enjoy!

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You can find A Tuba Christmas at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 16 – National Biographers Day

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About the Holiday

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

Write On, Irving Berlin!

Written by Leslie Kimmelman | Illustrated by David C. Gardner

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585363803

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

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

Write On, Irving Berlin! Giveaway

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

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

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

A winner will be chosen on May 23.

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

National Biographer’s Day Activity

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I Am…  Biography Page

 

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

 

Picture Book Review

April 29 – International Dance Day

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About the Holiday

International Dance Day was founded in 1982 by the Dance Committee of the International Theater Institute. This date was chosen to commemorate the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, who was born in 1727 and is credited with creating modern ballet. Today’s holiday encourages people to celebrate dance and “revel in the universality of this art form.” There are so many styles of dance to watch and participate in. Today, enjoy a performance or find a venue where you can kick up your heals in your favorite kind of dance!

Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing

Written by Marilyn Singer | Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

 

The rhythms of dance and the cadence of poetry create a natural pairing as these seventeen poems that celebrate the moves, music, and thrill of dances from around the world demonstrate with toe-tapping joy.

In Cha-Cha a boy attending his Uncle Nate’s birthday party learns the cha-cha from his grandma. At first he says “I don’t / know these moves. / My fee / feel like hooves.” But then “something clicks! / Okay, it’s old school. / I say, / cha-cha’s cool!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

While the kids at school brag about their parents’ jobs, one boy has them beat in Hip-Hop: “No fumbling, no bumbling, / my pops is tops at tumbling. / He’s elastic, so fantastic. / Papa’s so gymnastic!” But while Dad “will swipe and windmill” and “slide on his knees, / do lots of flares and coin-drops” and “boomerang and freeze,” the boy adds “…wait / until you see my mom!”

Is it meringue or Merengue? Maybe a bit of both…because doing it right means “Moving sideways, / turning wrists, / while we do / our pretzel twists. / We sway our hips, we shift our legs, like we’re whipping / lots of eggs.”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, text courtesy of Marilyn Singer. Courtesy of kristivaliant.com

It’s fun to let go when learning the Salsa. All you need is to “Feel the beat / in your feet, / in your heart. / Then you start.” So “Don’t be shy. / Come on try. / In this class, / show some sass.” If only shopping could be so entertaining…. But, wait! Maybe Conga is the solution. “We’re at the MALL. / I’m very BORED. / I hate the STORES, / I hate the HORDE…. / ‘Just one more SHOP’ / turns into FOUR. / I’m gonna SCREAM, / I’m gonna ROAR.” Then music starts and a line grows long—“Uh uh uh, KICK! / You cannot WHINE / when you are ON / a conga LINE! / Uh uh uh, KICK! / A flash mob BALL! / Keep shopping, MOM! / I love the MALL!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

The library may be a quiet, staid place most of the time, but Swing Dance takes over one special library. “On the plaza in July, / underneath the summer sky / where you can get to hear good bands, / kick your feet, wave your hands, / we’re gonna swing. / That’s our new thing / We’re gonna swing!” A boy and his mom have joined lots of other dancers having fun on the square— “We step…step… / rock step. / we’re full… / of pep. / We Lindy hop. / Bibbidy-bop! / We Lindy hop!”

And for those kids who look at the Square Dance unit in PE with trepidation, this girl feels the same: “Got a partner, lost my shoe. / Allemande left? I haven’t a clue….Did that caller give a cue? / Don’t promenade me. Shoo, boy, shoo!…Bow to Francisco, bow to Sue. / One more swing. It’s over! Whew! / I tried real hard, but alas, it’s true. / I’m flunking out of square dance!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

Other poems introduce the Foxtrot, Hora, Samba, Two-Step, Argentine Tango, Waltz, Bhangra, and Polka. Notes about each dance, giving a description, a bit of history, and basic rhythms and steps, follow the text. A CD of dance music is also included.

Marilyn Singer begins her exuberant celebration of dances from around the world with a pair of the reverso poems for which she is well known: All Over the World, Dancing is Joy and Joy is Dancing All Over the World. With this start, Singer invites readers to put on their dancing shoes and enter ballrooms, classrooms, and outdoor spaces filled with music. From birthdays to bar mitzvahs to weddings to spontaneous parties, Singer imbues each experience with the beats, steps, and sometimes missteps of dance with expressive vocabulary and humorous asides. Reading the poems aloud offers its own special treat as the meter of each poem reflects the rhythm of the dance described.

Kristi Valiant’s vibrant two-page spreads put kids in the center of the action where individuals, couples, and groups enjoy groovin’ to the music in their own style. Dancers swirl, stomp, hop, twirl, sway, dip, and kick up their heels on sunny days and under glowing nighttime light. So join in—no experience or partner necessary!

For kids who love music and dance and for those who love poetry of all kinds, Feel the Beat; Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing is a fun addition to home libraries—and may spark an interest in learning how to perform these dances.

Ages 5 – 9

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0803740211

Discover more about Marilyn Singer and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Kristi Valiant on her website!

International Dance Day Activity

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Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle

 

People all around the world love to dance! Can you find the names of twenty types of dances in this printable Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review