April 7 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate poets and the poetry they create to illuminate our lives in new and often surprising ways. National Poetry Month is a world-wide event, bringing together tens of millions of poets, readers, teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, and other poetry lovers in readings, school visits, and special events. To celebrate, check out some events in your area and enjoy reading the work of your favorite—or a new—poet. You might even try writing your own poetry!

Read! Read! Read!

Written by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater | Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

 

In twenty-three poems Amy Ludwig Vanderwater takes readers on a journey of…Reading, from when a child first recognizes that those “squiggles / make letters. / Letters / make words. / Words / make stories / that fly like birds…” through the world they discover as they take in the printed word in all its forms.

In Pretending, a little girl remembers “tracing my fingers / under each letter/ I used to pretend / I could read to myself.” At the library she would “pull from the shelf– / a rainbow of rectangles.” For days, weeks, months, she practiced. “Learning to read / felt like / learning to fly. / And one day / I took off. / I was swooping / alone / over words / once confusing / but now / all my own.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Cereal Box and Sports Page are placed side by side like the brother and sister eating breakfast together. But which sibling is reading “Recipes. / Stories. / Jokes. / Weird facts….the box” and which is “Scanning scores / studying stats / …checking on my team?”  Children will discover that there aren’t many things the little boy in I Explore has not done as he reveals, “I have stood upon a moonscape. / I have witnessed peace and war. / I have ridden a wild horse. / I’m a reader. / I explore.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Reading doesn’t just inform you, it reforms you, as An Open Book explains: “An open book / will help you find / an open heart / an open mind / inside yourself / if you’re inclined. / An open book / will make you kind.” Or maybe all that reading can give a younger brother a moment of power when he uses new-found information. “At dinner I ask— / Do you know / how many pounds of skin / a person sheds by age seventy? / My sister puts down her fork. / No. / One hundred five. / Oh. / She will not look at me. / She will not pick up her fork. / I keep eating. / I love reading.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Reading comes in many forms, from Maps, which “…fold / into themselves / like perfect beetle wings.” to Road Signs, in which the alphabet was once “like a secret code / for grown-ups / splashed / on every sign.” There’s also the Internet for Googling Guinea Pigs, where an eager pet sitter can “read about treats. / Read about exercise. / Read about safe holding” before the class pet comes home for the weekend. A Birthday Card with a poem from Grandpa, a Magazine that “…comes / by mail / twelve times / each year,” and Sunday Morning with the comics, where a loyal fan can “know every character / know every name” all bring joy to avid readers.

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

For readers there may be no more exciting time than Late at Night when a little lie—“I cannot sleep”—is exposed as Mom “…reaches out to touch my lamp. / The bulb is warm. / My mom knows why” and a special bond is formed with a mom who can empathize. A final cozy image closes the book in I Am a Bookmark, where a nighttime reader compares himself to a bookmark “holding the page between dark and light.”

Along the way Amy Ludwig Vanderwater also explores Reading Time, a lyrical Word Collection, a Field Guide, the emotional effect of Stories, how reading can be like leading a Double Life, the benefits of a Book Dog, and the Forever connection between real people and characters in books.

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s charming poems on the joys of a reading life will engage children just starting out on their own journeys or those who are better versed in this exceptional art. At once inspiring and homey, these poems open the vast world and the private pleasures of the written word. Vanderwater’s verses are in turn smooth, conversational, reflective, humorous, and fun to read aloud.

Ryan O’Rourke opens Read! Read! Read! with a beautiful image of squiggles turned letters turned words turned books that soar like birds over a young reader’s head. The image wonderfully carries readers into the rest of the book where fancies and facts enlighten young minds. O’Rourke’s imaginative interpretations of each poem enhance their effect and cleverly convey extended meanings and visual humor. 

For children who love poetry, reading, writing, and seeing the world through a lyrical lens, Read! Read! Read! would be a terrific choice for any story time or bedtime. The book would also be welcome in classrooms for teachers to dip into again and again.

Ages 5 – 10

WordSong, 2017 | ISBN 978-1590789759

Discover more about Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, her books, articles, and poetry on her website.

View a gallery of book, map, and editorial illustration by Ryan O’Rourke on his website.

National Poetry Month Activity

 

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Grow a Poem Craft

 

A poem often grows in your imagination like a beautiful plant—starting from the seed of an idea, breaking through your consciousness, and growing and blooming into full form. With this craft you can create a unique poem that is also an art piece!

Supplies

  • Printable Leaves Template
  • Printable Flower Template
  • Wooden dowel, 36-inch-long, ½-inch diameter, available in craft or hardware stores
  • Green ribbon, 48 inches long
  • Green craft paint
  • Green paper for printing leaves (white paper if children would like to color the leaves)
  • Colored paper for printing flowers (white paper if children would like to color the flowers)
  • Flower pot or box
  • Oasis, clay, or dirt
  • Hole punch
  • Glue
  • Markers or pens for writing words
  • Crayons or colored pencils if children are to color leaves and flowers

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. Print the leaves and flower templates
  3. Cut out the leaves and flowers
  4. Punch a hole in the bottom of the leaves or flowers
  5. Write words, phrases, or full sentences of your poem on the leaf and flower templates
  6. String the leaves and flowers onto the green ribbon (if you want the poem to read from top to bottom string the words onto the ribbon in order from first to last)
  7. Attach the ribbon to the bottom of the pole with glue or tape
  8. Wrap the ribbon around the pole, leaving spaces between the ribbon
  9. Move the leaves and flowers so they stick out from the pole or look the way you want them to.
  10. Put oasis or clay in the flower pot or box
  11. Stick your poem pole in the pot
  12. Display your poem!

Picture Book Review

March 25 – It’s National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Starting with Read Across America Day on the 2nd, the month of March is dedicated to reading. Special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities bring authors, illustrators, and educators together with kids to get them excited about this favorite past time. A love of reading is a life-long pleasure with so many benefits. Every day, avid readers wake up and just want to…

Hug This Book!

Written by Barney Saltzberg | Illustrated by Fred Benaglia

 

When you grab onto a book and open the cover, you know what to do! But did you know that books themselves may have some ideas on the subject? Today’s reviewed book has plenty of fabulous, page-turning suggestions and is happy to share them with you. Its first thought is a pretty big one: “You can read this book to a hippo.” I know!—wouldn’t that be a blast?

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

It seems that books watch how readers treat their pets, and they want in: “You can kiss and hug and smell this book. / That might sound sort of silly. / You can wrap this book in a sweater, / if it ever gets too chilly.” That sounds as cozy as enjoying hot chocolate in front of a fire—with this book, of course!

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

The book continues—“You can make up a story to tell to this book.” Hmmm… maybe books don’t like doing all the work all the time. Maybe they’d like to just relax and be entertained once in a while. I’m sure you can come up with something fantastic! And just to keep you on your toes, the book offers a few more challenges: “Can you read this book in the mirror? / Or sing the words in this book like a song? / If you sing it to the birdies, maybe they’ll sing along.” After completing those activities, it might be time for a nap. Don’t forget to take the book too, but be ready to giggle because… “Maybe you’ll hear it snore.”

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And when you wake up all refreshed you can try reading the book while dancing, twirling, leaping, skipping…you can even take it to lunch, “just do not try to feed it.” Then suddenly and all too soon the book comes to the last page. Don’t be sad, though. “Even though this book is over, / it isn’t really the end. / You can start at the beginning / and read it to a friend!”

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Image copyright Fred Benaglia, text copyright Barney Saltzberg. Courtesy of Phaidon Press

Barney Saltzberg’s love for books is infectious. His witty rhymes bubble with the thrill of reading and playfully challenge kids to take books along no matter where they go or what they do. The cadence of Saltzberg’s lines invite multiple readings—the way the rhythm of movement in hopscotch, jump rope, or dancing is inherent in the fun. Kids will giggle at the examples Saltzberg conjurs up—reading to a hippo, listening to a book snore, feeding a book—and you can bet that they will want to invent some of their own! Get ready to hug this book—and many others. After all isn’t that what best friends do?

Fred Benaglia’s adorable characters swim and paddle, snuggle and swing, play and imagine all the while with their nose in this book. The fanciful coloring and quirky landscapes enhance both the originality and universality of this tribute to book love. Benaglia’s artwork—from the fish nibbling at a child’s toes to the cars zipping through the cities—radiates personality and invites creative thinking. Readers will especially want to linger over the two-page spread of a smiling child conjuring up a host of stories to catch every imaginative detail in the chalk drawings. The big red heart on the  cover under the book jacket is a clever touch, connecting Hug This Book! to “this book” in the text.

For all book lovers, Hug This Book! is a fun, funny romp and will be a welcome, often-asked-for addition to a child’s library.

Ages 2 – 7

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872841

You’ll love discovering all the books, music, and videos on Barney Saltzberg‘s website!

Cuteness abounds on Fred Benaglia‘s website, where you’ll find book illustrations and so much more!

You’ll love this Hug This Book! book trailer?

Book Lovers Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-book-bag-craft

Book Lovers Book Bag

 

Whether you’re buying new books at your local bookstore or checking some out at your library, carry those treasures home in their own special bag! This kid-sized bag was made from recycled materials!

Supplies

  • Printable Templates: Books to Read Template | Books to Love Template
  • Small cloth bag, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the bag that sheet sets now come in
  • Cloth trim or strong ribbon, available from craft or sewing stores—Recyclable Idea: I used the cloth handles from shopping bags provided from some clothing stores
  • Scraps of different colored and patterned cloth. Or use quilting squares, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Pen or pencil for tracing letters onto cloth
  • Scissors
  • Small sharp scissors (or cuticle scissors) for cutting out the center of the letters
  • Fabric glue
  • Thread (optional)
  • Needle (optional)

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-books-bag-craft

Directions

  1. Print the sayings and cut out the letters
  2. Trace letters onto different kinds of cloth
  3. Cut out cloth letters
  4. Iron cloth bag if necessary
  5. Attach words “Books to Read” to one side of bag with fabric glue
  6. Attach words “Books to Love” to other side of bag with fabric glue
  7. Cut cloth trim or ribbon to desired length to create handles
  8. Glue (or sew) handles onto the inside edge of bag

Picture Book Review

February 3 – It’s Library Lovers Month

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About the Holiday

Book lovers love the library! The stacks of books, the reading tables, the stacks of books, the quiet study nooks, and…did I mention the stacks of books? Spending time at the library—whether in story time, perusing the shelves, or reading in a comfortable chair—is a fun way to wile away a morning or afternoon. To celebrate this month, check out the special events at your library, and take an extra moment while checking out your books to thank your librarian!

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

Written by Lisa Papp

 

Madeline does not like to read—anything. “Not books. Not magazines. Not even the menu on the ice-cream truck.” Madeline especially doesn’t like to read out loud. At school the teacher tells her to keep trying, but the words often don’t make sense, sentences get stuck in her mouth “like peanut butter,” and other kids laugh when she gets things wrong.

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Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Madeline would love to get a star sticker or even a smiley face for reading, but she only ever gets “Keep Trying” stickers. “Stars are for good readers, Stars are for understanding words, and for reading them out loud.” But Madeline knows that stars are also for making wishes, so she wishes for her very own star. All week Madeline waits for her star, but by Friday she still doesn’t have one.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-wishes

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

On Saturday Madeline’s mother takes her to the library, where Madeline reminds the librarian that she doesn’t like to read. Mrs. Dimple tells her that today they have something she might enjoy. The librarian asks her, “‘Madeline Finn, would you like to read to a dog?’” Madeline looks into the reading room to see kids and all kinds of dogs—big and small—on the reading rug.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-rug

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Mrs. Dimple introduces Madeline to Bonnie and tells her that Bonnie is a very good listener. Madeline thinks “Bonnie is beautiful. Like a big, snowy polar bear.” Madeline chooses a book and begins to read. At first the letters get “mixed up, and the words don’t sound right.” Madeline looks at Bonnie and Bonnie gently looks back at her. She doesn’t giggle like the kids at school, and Madeline feels better. She begins again. When Madeline gets stuck on another word, Bonnie doesn’t mind. She just puts her paws in Madeline’s lap and waits until she figures it out. After that, Madeline and Bonnie “read together every Saturday. It’s fun to read when you’re not afraid of making mistakes,” Madeline thinks.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-meets-bonnie

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Bonnie teaches Madeline to be patient—even about getting a star sticker. Pretty soon it’s time to read aloud at school again. Madeline goes to the library on Saturday to practice with Bonnie, but neither she nor Mrs. Dimple are there. Back at home, Madeline worries. But her mom tells her that Bonnie was just busy and that she will do fine at school. She suggests, “Just pretend that you’re reading to Bonnie.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-with-bonnie

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

On Monday, Madeline is nervous as she gets up to read. “The first sentence goes pretty well,” but in the next Madeline makes a mistake, and then another. She hears someone giggle. Madeline takes a deep breath and pretends that Bonnie is next to her. Before she knows it, she’s at the bottom of the page. Madeline looks “at her teacher, and she has a big smile on her face.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-reading-in-class

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Holding her star in her hand, Madeline exclaims, “I did it! I got my star!” On Saturday, Madeline shows Mrs. Dimple her star. She’s excited for Madeline then tells her that Bonnie has a surprise for her too. Mrs. Dimple opens the door to the reading room and asks, “Madeline Finn, would you like to read to Bonnie–and her puppies? Yes, please!” Madeline says. “Nice and loud.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-madeline-finn-and-the-library-dog-puppies

Copyright Lisa Papp, 2016, courtesy of Peachtree Publishing.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is a gentle and uplifting story for all children—whether they are reluctant or avid readers. Lisa Papp’s moving portrayal of a little girl struggling to read, keep up with her classmates, and attain a gold star is filled with honesty and heartfelt emotion. Papp’s pacing is excellent, demonstrating Madeline’s ongoing efforts, and Bonnie’s absence right before reading day allows for Madeline to find within herself the courage and confidence to read in front of her class. Papp’s story is a good reminder that a nonjudgmental environment is best for anyone trying to learn a new skill.

Papp’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully represent her story with realistic portrayals of the kids at school, Madeline’s frustrations at “messing up” words and sentences, and Madeline’s hopeful nature and perseverance to achieve reading success. The calm, quiet tone to Papp’s illustrations echo the acceptance that Bonnie offers to Madeline. Kids will love the sweet reading therapy dogs and are sure to pick out the one they would most enjoy reading to.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog is an encouraging story for reluctant or struggling readers at home and a thoughtful addition to classroom libraries.

Ages 5 – 8

Peachtree Publishing, 2016 | ISBN 978-1561459100

Discover more about Lisa Papp and her books on her website

Library Lovers Month Activity

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Reading Buddy Bookmark

 

Puppy’s make great reading companions! With this printable Reading Buddy Bookmark you’ll always have a friend to read with!

Picture Book Review

February 1 – World Read Aloud Day

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About the Holiday

Sponsored by global non-profit LitWorld and Scholastic, World Read Aloud Day encourages reading aloud to children not only today but every day. Reading aloud to children from birth is one of the best ways to promote language development, improve literacy, and enjoy bonding time together. Millions of people celebrate today’s holiday all across the United States and in more than one hundred countries around the world. Special events are held in schools, libraries, bookstores, homes, and communities, and authors and illustrators hold readings and visit classrooms. To learn more about World Read Aloud Day  and to find stickers, bookmarks, posters, and a reading crown to decorate, visit LitWorld.

Read the Book, Lemmings!

Written by Ame Dyckman | Illustrated by Zachariah Ohora

 

On the whale ship S. S. Cliff, first mate Foxy quietly reads a book about lemmings. “‘Huh!’ he said. ‘Says here, lemmings don’t jump off cliffs.’” But even though Foxy emphasizes the word “don’t” the lemmings sitting on the railing only hear the word “jump.” “‘Jump? I’ll jump!’ said a lemming. ‘Me too!’ said a second. ‘Ditto!’ said a third.” And with a long Geronamoooooo! the three lemmings jumped overboard.

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Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Polar Bear Captain PB, engrossed in his newspaper, had just one thing to say. “‘Huh…I guess they didn’t read the book.’” Foxy looked over the side and heard the first lemming shout out “‘Wet! Very wet!’” “‘Me too!’ called the second. ‘Ditto!’ called the third” With a sigh, Foxy took Captain PB’s bucket (with a stern warning not to let the lemmings eat his fish) and hauled the lemmings out of the sea.

On deck, Foxy gave each lemming a name and a hat “so he could scold them properly.” The first jumper was, appropriately, named Jumper; the second was called Me Too; and the third was named Ditto. Foxy held up the book about lemmings and said, “‘Read the book, lemmings!’” The lemmings seemed surprised by what they saw, and Foxy was glad they understood. But did they? Not so much. As soon as Foxy mentioned the word “jump,” it was “Geronimoooo” all over again.

Captain PB was pretty sure they hadn’t read the book. “‘Help! I need help!’ called Jumper. ‘Me too!’ called Me Too. ‘Ditto!’ called Ditto.” Captain PB handed over his bucket with the now lemming-flavored fish, and Foxy once more retrieved Jumper, Me Too, and Ditto from the ocean. He gave them a harsh talking to and was just about to say the fateful word again when he stopped himself and told them to just read the book themselves.

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Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

“‘Ahhhhh!’” said the lemmings as they went off with the book. Captain PB was impressed. “‘Good thing you didn’t say jump,’” he told Foxy. Six ears perked up, and….” Geronimooooo!” The three lemmings were sinking fast, so Foxy did what any good first mate would. “Cannonball!” he yelled as he dove into the water. Foxy rescued the lemmings and flopped back on deck.

“‘Saved! I’m saved!’ said Jumper. ‘Me too!’ said Me Too. Ditto opened his mouth. ‘I love you!’” Foxy blinked and said “‘Thank you.’” Still, he wanted to know why the lemmings hadn’t read the book. “‘Can’t! Can’t read!’ said Jumper. ‘Me neither,’ said Me Too. ‘I can burp the alphabet,’ said Ditto.” Captain PB thought this was a good start.

For the rest of the day, Foxy practiced reading with the lemmings until they had it down: “Lemmings… don’t jump…off cliffs.” Foxy was satisfied and went back to reading his book. But the captain could not find his newspaper until…. The paper airplane zoomed by with three lemmings on board, shouting, “‘We fly!.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-read-the-book-lemmings-saved

Image copyright Zachariah Ohora, 2017, text copyright Ame Dyckman, 2017. Courtesy of Little Brown Books for Young Readers.

Ame Dyckman’s laugh-out-loud story is pure genius, filled with personality and characters that make Read the Book, Lemmings! a perfect book for dramatic and spirited read-aloud story times. The sweet, reactive lemmings offer plenty of hilarity and opportunities for kids to chime in, while Foxy and Captain PB are terrific foils for the frolicking lemmings and their foibles. The nod to literacy is given a light touch that is sure to resonate with young readers, and which in the end reveals a truth worth repeating: with the ability to read, anyone can soar.

Zachariah Ohora’s little balls of fluff are as adorable as they come. Who can fault them for having so much fun following their instincts as they jump overboard with a gusty “Geronimoooo!”? Clever details, such as a whale as a fishing trawler and the life ring sporting the name S. S. Cliff, are inspired. Readers will love the graphic novel elements that make it easy to follow the dialog and the expressive characters who, as Ditto reveals, love each other.

Read the Book, Lemmings! is highly recommended and would be an often-asked-for addition to home, classroom, and library shelves. The book would also make a much-appreciated gift.

Ages 5 – 8

Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0316343480

Discover more about Ame Dyckman and her books on her website.

Learn more about Zachariah Ohora and his books and view a portfolio of his work on his website.

Jump right into watching this Read the Book, Lemmings! book trailer

World Read Aloud Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-chocolate-chip-mug-cookie-from-genius-kitchen

Chocolate Chip Mug Cake

 

There’s really only one activity that is just right for today! So, why not make some hot chocolate or a chocolate chip mug cookie and settle in for a night of reading together? Here’s a recipe for a delicious mug cookie from geniuskitchen.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk (2% works well)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 (or more) tablespoons of dark chocolate chips (I use milk chocolate, the amount used may depend on the size of the chips)

Directions

  1. Place butter and milk in a mug and microwave for 30 seconds or until butter melts
  2. Stir in brown sugar
  3. Stir in vanilla and salt
  4. Add flour and stir until smooth
  5. Stir in 2 tablespoons chocolate chips
  6. Add more chocolate chips on top if desired
  7. Bake in microwave oven on High for about 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds, depending on the consistency you like
  8. Can top with ice cream, if desired.

Picture Book Review

December 29 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

There are so many ways to read a new book! Some people like to share the experience with others, reading a book as a group and discussing it as they go along, while some like nothing better than to snuggle in for a good, long solitary read. Then there are others who have very special reading buddies, as shown in today’s book!

A Book for Benny

Written by Judith Koppens | Illustrated by Marja Meijer

 

It’s a rainy day and Sam is cozy on the couch reading…well, she would be if her dog, Benny, wasn’t pulling at her arm, wanting to play. “‘I’m not going to play with you. I’m reading.’” Sam tells Benny. She tries to show him how much fun reading is, but Benny doesn’t seem interested in the book Sam has. Maybe, Sam thinks, Benny would like a different book. “‘Come, Benny. We’ll go to the library. We’ll pick out a nice book just for you,’” Sam says. She grabs her raincoat from the hook, and Benny finds his leash.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-book-for-benny-couch

Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

They reach the library and hurry in through the revolving door to get out of the rain. Just then they hear a voice coming from the front desk. “‘I’m sorry, young lady, but dogs are not allowed in here!’” When Sam explains, the woman thinks that a book just for Benny sounds fun, but she still can’t allow Benny to stay. Sam takes Benny outside and returns to the shelves to look for the perfect book.

She finds one about knights and takes it to the big wall of windows to get Benny’s approval. She shows Benny the pictures. “Benny looks up at Sam, but then he pees against the tree.” Perhaps a circus book would be more appealing; after all, “Benny loves to do tricks with the ball.’” But when Benny sees this book, he simply turns his back on Sam.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-book-for-benny-in-rain

Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Sam searches through the bins of books. “‘Yes, this is the one!’ Sam suddenly cries.” She runs to the window and finds “the best picture to show Benny. Benny looks at the book and starts to wag his tail. He barks and licks the window…again and again” even though it’s dirty. Sam rushes to the desk to check out Benny’s book. When the woman picks it up, she “reads the title out loud. ‘I Love Sausages: 101 Recipes.’”

The librarian is surprised, but Sam tells her that this is the book Benny likes best. Back home, Sam settles in on the couch once more and begins reading again. “And Benny?” He stretches out, closes his eyes, and “has lovely dreams about his book.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-book-for-benny-showing-books

Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Judith Koppens’ endearing story about a little girl who wants to share her love of reading with her pet will enchant animal lovers and may inspire some child/furry friend reading time at home. Benny’s humorous displays of disapproval and approval will have kids giggling, and the book that Benny ultimately chooses will be appreciated with a laugh by dog owners. Benny’s choice also demonstrates that everyone finds different books appealing, and that sometimes it takes a little trial and error and alternate thinking to find just the right fit for reluctant readers.

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Copyright Marja Meijer, 2017, courtesy of marjameijer.nl.

Marja Meijer’s cartoon-style illustrations are just right for this lighthearted tribute to a love of reading. Sam’s home is warm and cozy with pictures and photos of the most valued family member on the wall, a comfy couch, and a fuzzy rug. The blue watercolor world outside plinks with raindrops and splashes with puddles, while inside the library, the colorful stacks of shelved books offers refuge that is recognizable to all book lovers. Benny’s slobbery assent to the book Sam chooses will have readers wondering about the title, and the cover reveal will make them laugh. As Sam and Benny settle in to read, the clearing skies show that happiness really is a good book.

Dialogue driven,  A Book for Benny makes a great read aloud for home or classroom storytimes.

Ages 4 – 6

Clavis Publishing, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373522

Discover more about Judith Koppens, her books, illustrations, and other creative endeavors on her website.

To learn more about Marja Meijer and her art, visit her website.

Read a New Book Month Activity

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Doggie Bookmark

 

If you love dogs, you’ll like this printable Doggie Bookmark that you can color and use to mark your place in your favorite books!

Picture Book Review

December 21 – National Flashlight Day

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About the Holiday

In a clever bit of cause and effect, the founders of Flashlight Day chose the Winter Solstice to put a bit more…light, shall we say?…on today’s honored object. As the first day of winter is the shortest of the year, people may find that a flashlight comes in handy during that extra bit of darkness. If you’re wondering about the history of the flashlight, it all goes back to the invention of the dry-cell battery in 1887. These portable power sources inspired new products, such as the flashlight or torch (as it’s called outside of North America), which was invented in 1899. So indispensable is the flashlight, that it is even incorporated into our phones! To celebrate today’s holiday, why not turn off the lights tonight and tell stories, play games, or go exploring illuminated only by your flashlight!

Flashlight Night

Written by Matt Forrest Esenwine | Illustrated by Fred Koehler

 

Three brave explorers—a boy, a girl, and a little brother—set out from their tree house at night armed only with their flashlight. In the golden beam, the picket fence turns dilapidated and overgrown as it weaves in and out among the gnarled trunks of a dense forest. The children follow “past old post and rail / along a long-forgotten trail / into woods no others dare, / for fear of what is waiting there.” Soon, they find a crawlspace under the deck of their house and venture in. They can hear the sound of rushing water and the yowl of a big cat. Before joining his friend and her little brother, the boy shines his flashlight around the yard, illuminating a wild waterfall and a tiger on the prowl where a tabby had dozed just minutes ago.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

The three friends crawl deep into the dusty crevices of the tunnel, where the flashlight shows them bones and lost treasures of ancient Egypt “as inky shadows rise and fall, / dancing… / to no sound at all.” They come to “a peculiar door that opens to… / a foreign shore.” From the pool stairs they step into a rubber boat and sail across the sea to the pirate ship dead ahead in the circle of light. A parrot swoops low and a kraken reaches its writhing tentacles from the roiling waves just as the treasure chest is found.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

With the ship engulfed and sinking, the stream of light from the “shows a stealthy way to flee—….” The three kids run across the sandy beach and around the umbrella palm then scramble up a steep slope. But the angry pirate, brandishing his sword, is looking for his treasure; the kraken has scaled the wall and nabbed the girl; and the tiger approaches with a hungry look in its eyes.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Quickly, the older boy swings himself onto the ramparts of an old stone castle and reaches for the outstretched hand of his friend as she dangles upside down in the kraken’s arm. Her brother distracts the beast with his teddy bear, which transforms into a mighty grizzly that scares off the tiger, the pirate, and the astonished kraken. The littlest explorer is hailed as a hero as he is lifted through the window to safety.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Happily back in the tree house, the three snuggle under a blanket, reading 20,000 Leagues under the Sea while flanked by stacks of the classics, including Around the World in 80 Days, Treasure Island, and Mysteries of Egypt. And even though “weary eyes fight off the sleep, / adventure lingers, stirs about— / “until a voice says, ‘Shhh…lights out.’”

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Flashlight Night is that perfect combination of text and illustrations that creates a reading experience that immerses a reader in an alternate world. Matt Forrest Esenwine’s rhyming story entrances with an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue created with language that sets the imagination racing—inky shadows, time-forgotten tomb, slyly sneak, and craggy mountainside is just the beginning.

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Image copyright Fred Koehler, 2017, text copyright Matt Forrest Esenwine, 2017. Courtesy of mattforrest.com.

Accompanying this beguiling narration are Fred Koehler’s masterful, dual-duty illustrations. Outside of the flashlight’s beam, charcoal-colored images depict the reality of the children’s yard and treehouse. Inside the beam, the children’s imaginary game is fully illuminated. At the sharp edges between the two, reality and imagination blend together as seamlessly as children traverses both worlds. Under the deck, a forgotten baseball meshes with the rounded body of Egyptian pottery, the wall of the deck morphs into a rocky cliff, the stern of the rubber raft gives way to a wooden dinghy, and the top of the treehouse stretches to become the ledge on a castle.

The classic stories the children read in their tree house inform the friends’ nighttime jaunt and come to life in Koehler’s engrossing illustrations that are themselves scavenger hunts for small details, foreshadowing clues, bits of humor, and literary allusions.

Flashlight Night is a beautiful tribute to adventure classics. It is a fantastic book to cuddle up with for cozy bedtime reading (flashlight highly recommended), to take along for campfire storytelling, or to spark imaginary play. Flashlight Night would be a great gift and welcome addition to any child’s home bookshelf or classroom library.

Ages 4 – 8

Boyds Mill’s Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1629794938

Discover more about Matt Forrest Esenwine and his books on his website.

To learn more about Fred Koehler, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Flashlight Day Activity

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Flashlight Fun Maze

 

Three friends want to do a little nighttime reading. Can you help the glow of the flashlight reach them so they can enjoy their favorite book in this printable Flashlight Fun Maze? Here’s the Solution.

Picture Book Review

November 7 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

If you love picture books, you know the thrill of holding a new or a new-to-you book in your hands and opening up to that very first page. The children’s sections of bookstores and libraries draw you in with humor, fairy tales, poetry, biographies, science, and so much more—a whole universe of creativity, thought, knowledge, and imagination—that enlightens and entertains. This month take time to indulge your passion for picture books!

Books! Books! Books! Explore the Amazing Collection of the British Library

By Mick Manning and Britta Granström

 

Everyone knows you can fit a book into a library, but how do you fit a library into a book? Mick Manning and Britta Granström have very tidily discovered a way to translate the content and atmosphere of the incredible British Library into their visually stunning and packed-full-of-knowledge picture book. Opening with a brief history of the library building and its holdings, the authors then invite readers inside to take a look.

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Copyright Mick Manning and Britta Granström, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

First on display are “ancient handmade books like the St. Cuthbert Gospel, found in a coffin!” this little book is the oldest surviving book to have been produced in Europe that still has its original covers and binding, dating to before 687 CE. After being trekked around England in the coffin—just one step ahead of invading Vikings—it was removed from its hiding place, kept by a private collector, and finally bought by the British Library for nine million pounds in 2011.

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Copyright Mick Manning and Britta Granström, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Any English major knows all about the thrilling Scandinavian story of Beowulf—“the oldest surviving long poem in Old English.” The copy found in the British Library is “three thousand lines long” and “was hand-written in the eleventh century.” Here too is the Magna Carta—one of the most influential legal documents in the world. And the Canterbury Tales may just be something assigned in high school to some people, to others it is a technological marvel—“the first book ever printed in English using an amazing invention: moveable type and a printing press.”

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Copyright Mick Manning and Britta Granström, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

“Big book” doesn’t begin to describe the Klencke Atlas which was made for England’s King Charles the Second. It is so “ginormous” at 7 feet x 5 feet 10 inches (2,1 x 1.78 meters) that “it takes six people to lift it!” What’s the smallest book, you ask? That would be Lady Jane Grey’s Prayer Book. Measuring just 2 ¾ x 3 3/8 inches (70 x 85 millimeters), it accompanied her to her execution after she ruled England for only nine days. Then there are books of all sizes that “are so valuable that they are kept in bombproof strong rooms, deep underground.”

Britain has produced many of the greatest writers of all time, and their books can also be found here. Authors such as Jane Austin; Emily, Charlotte, and Anne Brontë; and Charles Dickens. Any good library offers books of all types—not just fiction—and the British Library is no exception. You’ll find cookbooks, medical books, and scientific books, like writings by Leonardo da Vinci, Oliver Goldsmith, and Charles Darwin.

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Copyright Mick Manning and Britta Granström, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

There’s the fantastic—like Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—and the mysterious—like the cases of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Some writings don’t come in a book, but they move people all the same. That’s why the British Library also has collections of sheet music from the world’s greatest composers and “a copy of every newspaper published every day in Britain and Ireland since 1869, as well as many more going back to the seventeenth century.”

How does one library hold so many books? Well, many of them are contained in vaults, and if you were to order one for viewing or to check out, it would come on “an automatic conveyor system, like a little railway.” That’s the way one library can hold so many books, and now you know how one book can hold an entire library!

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Copyright Mick Manning and Britta Granström, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Mick Manning and Britta Granström’s text-and-illustration collaboration creates a masterful tour of one of the world’s most treasured institutions. Choosing which books and authors to highlight, must have been an awesome task (in both senses of the word), and Manning and Granström more than succeed with their collection of the fascinating, familiar, and fantastic. Leading off with a book preserved in a coffin is a combination of comic and creepy genius that kids will eat up, and ending with perennial favorite, Sherlock Holmes, who is known to all ages, is elementary brilliance. Each book or type of book is presented on a two-page spread that includes a brief history and description of the work or collection, a bit about the author, and, where appropriate, a snippet from the story.

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Copyright Mick Manning and Britta Granström, 2017, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Dynamic collage-style illustrations employ era-appropriate colors, typefaces, and images for each book introduced, allowing readers to clearly see the authors, subjects, characters, and themes each work encompasses. A skeleton lies in a dark casket, his bony hand holding the St. Cuthbert Gospel; Beowulf rips the arm off a Grendel created from pages written in Old English; Lady Jane Grey’s shadow portrays her executioner; old-style anatomical drawings inform the discussion of medical books; as Charles Dickens walks past a wall plastered in broadsides of his book covers, could that be little Oliver Twist pickpocketing his pocket watch?; and Lewis Carroll sits at the table with Alice, a Dormouse, the White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter.

More information about the works and their authors as well as a glossary follows the text.

For book lovers, every page of Books! Books! Books! brings a smile. It would be a welcome addition to home bookshelves and a fantastic resource for school or classroom libraries.

Ages 8 – 12

Candlewick Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763697570

Discover more about the books produced by Mick Manning and Britta Granström on their website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Book Jacket Bookmark

 

If you can’t get enough of reading, print out one—or more!—of this printable Book Jacket Bookmark. Why not add the title of a story you would write to the spine then color it before slipping it between the pages of your book?

Picture Book Review