December 6 – Mitten Tree Day

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About the Holiday

The feel of a cozy mitten on freezing fingers is one of the luxuries of wintertime. But where did mittens come from? You might be surprised to discover that the word “mitten” comes from the French word mitaine, which was an old nickname for a cat, because early mittens were typically made of animal fur. The earliest mittens, dating to around 1000 AD, were used as sheaths for gloves, adding extra protection for cold hands. Today, I’m pleased to review the book in which Mitten Tree Day is said to have its origins! Originally published in 1997, the story has endured and continues to spark programs in schools, libraries, and communities around the country.

The Mitten Tree

Written by Candace Christiansen | Illustrated by Elaine Greenstein

 

In a small house at the end of a lane Sarah lives all alone. Her own children have grown and moved away, but as she watches the kids gather at the blue spruce tree to wait for the school bus she remembers all the years that she walked her son and daughter to this same spot. As she makes her way down the lane to her mailbox, she wishes the children will wave and smile, but they never seem to notice her. Still, it makes Sarah smile to see them.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

One winter morning Sarah notices all the kids throwing snowballs and making snowmen—all except one little boy dressed all in blue who lacks the mittens needed to join his friends. All day Sarah worries about the boy with no mittens. As the sun goes down Sarah digs “through the basket of yarn scraps she had saved for many years.” She finds her needles and four shades of blue wool. Then Sarah begins to knit.

With the rising sun Sarah hurries to the bus stop and hangs the new blue mittens on the spruce tree. Then she hides behind a hedge to watch. The little boy in blue is the first to arrive at the bus stop. When he sees the mittens hanging there, he tries them on and finds that they fit perfectly. With a big smile he makes “a perfect snowball” and throws “it high into the winter sky.” Soon Sarah sees a little girl with mismatched mittens. That night she finds the perfect color of wool and knits a pair to match the girl’s red coat.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Every morning Sarah watches the children, looking for any who have no mittens. During the day her needles are busy making gifts for these children. The next morning before anyone else is up she rushes to the spruce tree and adorns it with the mittens she has knitted. The children have warmed to the “game,” and each day search “under every branch and bough for another pair of mittens.” Once or twice Sarah thinks the boy with her blue mittens sees her, but his eyes don’t linger.

On the day before the school’s winter break Sarah fills her knitting basket with the latest mittens she’s knit. She heads out the door and down the lane. When she reaches the blue spruce, she hangs “mittens on every branch.” When the children arrive, they stand “very still for a few minutes looking at the mysterious, beautiful mitten tree.” As they board the bus, each child is wearing a new pair of mittens. Sarah sees them appear one by one in the bus windows, but none see Sarah.

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Image copyright Elaine Greenstein, 2009, text copyright Candace Christiansen, 2009. Courtesy of Fulcrum Publishing.

Sarah goes home feeling happy and with her heart as full as it was “when the sounds of her own children had filled her house.” But what awaits Sarah? As she climbs the stairs to her porch, she notices a “basket woven with thick brown vines and decorated with a large white bow.” She’s surprised to see that it is filled to the brim with balls of colorful yarn. Even today Sarah knits new mittens for all the children in town, and “every time her basket is empty, a new full one appears.” Sarah doesn’t know who brings the basket, just as the children don’t know who supplies the mittens. “But someone must….”

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Candace Christiansen’s heartwarming story of kindness given and reciprocated will inspire kids to see that anyone can make a difference in the lives of others by using their talents to fill a need. This gentle, quiet tale offers suspense that will pique readers’ curiosity from page to page, and the mystery surrounding the never-empty basket of wool provides a satisfying and moving ending that also reassures kids that deeds of thoughtfulness and compassion are noticed. The grandmotherly Sarah and familiar school bus stop setting and winter activities will resonate with readers.

Elaine Greenstein’s softly colored, folk-style illustrations give the story a cozy feeling—perfect for cold-weather reading, The variety of intricately knitted mittens, with their hearts, stripes, snowflakes and cables, are charming, and the enchanting image of the blue spruce decorated with mittens makes it easy to see how The Mitten Tree continues to inspire so many acts of kindness and charity.

Ages 3 – 7

Fulcrum Publishing, 2009 (paperback) | ISBN 978-1555917333

Mitten Tree Day Activity

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Mitten Match & Coloring Page

 

Mittens often get lost or mismatched in the fun of winter activities. Find the pairs in this printable Mitten Match & Coloring Page and then decorate them!

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You can find The Mitten Tree at these booksellers

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

Celebrate Picture Books

November 1 – National Author Day

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About the Holiday

What would we do without authors? Through their imagination we’re transported into new realms, learn fascinating facts about the world around us, and laugh, cry, and come together as we collectively embrace their characters. Today’s holiday was established in 1928 by Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, who was an avid reader and grateful owner of a signed copy of a story by Irving Bacheller. To show her thanks, she instituted Author’s Day. The holiday was officially recognized in 1949 by the US Department of Commerce. To celebrate, people are encouraged to write a note of appreciation to their favorite author.

Up the Mountain Path

By Marianne Dubuc

 

In all her many years, Mrs. Badger has “seen many things.” A small collection of things on her kitchen shelves reminds her of all the places she’s been. But every Sunday, Mrs. Badger goes on an adventure that is always the same and always different. She walks the path that leads from her home to the top of a small mountain.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

On her way out of her garden, she says hello to Frederic, a white-throated sparrow. She picks mushrooms for Alexander the fox, careful to avoid the poisonous ones, and if she encounters someone who needs help, she lends a hand before moving on. This Sunday, though, “she has a feeling she is being watched.” Without turning to look, she says “‘There’s enough for both of us, if you’re hungry.’” Out of the bushes bounds a kitten. They eat together and Mrs. Badger tells the kitten about Sugarloaf Peak. The little one would like to see it too, but is afraid of being too small.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Even though Mrs. Badger reassures her new friend, the kitten stays put, so Mrs. Badger continues on her way. In a moment, the kitten is by her side. Lulu is her name, she tells Mrs. Badger. They find walking sticks and travel over a stream, through trees, and along the path. Lulu asks lots of questions, but “Mrs. Badger teaches Lulu how to listen instead, how to help others, and that life is made up of many choices.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

When they come to a fork in the path, Mrs. Badger lets Lulu decide which way to go. She knows “that you have to listen to your heart.” On the way, they sing songs and stop to rest beside a blue pond. As the path grows steeper, they know they are near the top of Sugarloaf Peak. Will, a turkey vulture who has known Mrs. Badger for a long time welcomes them. When they reach the top, Mrs. Badger gives Lulu a hand to scramble up the last few feet.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

They sit together at the top looking out over the tree tops to the horizon. “Lulu doesn’t say a word. She’s on top of the world.” After that, Lulu became Mrs. Badger’s constant companion on her Sunday hikes. They see many things, and Mrs. Badger teaches Lulu about the plants and creatures along the way. In time, it is Mrs. Badger who needs to rest beside the blue pond and needs help scrambling up the last few feet of Sugarloaf Peak. But at the top, they both still think “‘It’s wonderful!’”

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

One Sunday when Lulu comes to Mrs. Badger’s house, she “doesn’t have the strength to climb Sugarloaf Peak,” so Lulu goes alone. Her solo journeys continue week after week, and every time she returns to Mrs. Badger’s to tell her “all about her discoveries. She also brings new treasures” for Mrs. Badger’s shelves. “Gradually, Mrs. Badger’s mountain becomes Lulu’s mountain.” One day, Lulu finds a path she’s never taken; she also has the feeling that she is being watched. Without looking, she offers to share her snack—and then to share the path to the top.

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Copyright Marianne Dubuc, 2018, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Marianne Dubuc’s poignant story about one’s path through life celebrates the gathering of knowledge and experience and the passing on of this acquired wisdom to younger generations. In her quiet, straightforward storytelling, Dubuc builds a deep understanding of Mrs. Badger through her kindness, philosophies, and willingness to share. Her excellent pacing—which sees Mrs. Badger as a lone traveler then accompanied by Lulu and finally happy to hear about Lulu’s solo adventures as Lulu then takes up the mantle with a new friend of her own—movingly demonstrates the cyclical nature of life.

Duboc’s charming illustrations, rendered in greens and browns sprinkled with bright color are adorable and as endearing as a hug. The sweet smiles and connections between characters mirror the patience, kindness, and understanding we all want our children to experience on their journey. Up close images of Mrs. Badger’s treasures combined with the vast vista from the top of Sugarloaf Peak reveal that happiness springs from paying attention to the small details as well as the big picture.

A heartwarming, uplifting, and life-affirming book, Up the Mountain Path—which was named a Best Picture Book of 2018 by Publishers Weekly—is a treasure to add to home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Princeton Architectural Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1616897239

To learn more about Marianne Dubuc, her books, and her art, visit her website

National Author Day Activity

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Dear Author Notepaper

 

Today’s holiday encourages people to write letters thanking their favorite authors. If you wrote a letter to your favorite author, what would you say? Color the book and then jot down your letter on  this printable Book Notepaper. 

Book Notepaper

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You can find Up a Mountain Pass at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 8 – Lost and Found Day

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About the Holiday

Doncha hate when you lose something? You know…you just had it and now it’s nowhere to be seen. Where is it? The last place you look, of course! But what if you never find it? Perhaps someone else found it and turned it in to a lost and found department. Oh, it’s all very disconcerting. Don’t give up hope! Today’s holiday was established just to give people an opportunity to really stop what they’re doing and look for that long-lost object. Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte was the mastermind behind the idea of a Lost and Found? In 1805 he opened the world’s first Lost and Found Office in Paris and encouraged people to bring in items they found in the street. From there the idea spread! So if you’ve lost something, take a bit of time today to find it!

Hooray for Books!

By Brian Won

 

Turtle was looking everywhere for his favorite book. He took off his shell and searched it through and through. He found a pile of toys, games, hats, and puzzle pieces. There was one swim fin, a red wagon, an apple core, and even a wrapped gift box, but no book. Turtle thought hard, then remembered. “Aha! Maybe I shared it with…Zebra!” After imagining how much Zebra probably enjoyed the book, Turtle couldn’t wait to read it again himself. He dashed off to Zebra’s house, shouting, “‘Hooray for Books!’”

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Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

But Zebra didn’t have Turtle’s book. Instead, while munching on a carrot, Zebra offered him two others about unicorns. Turtle wanted his book, though. He thought some more and decided that maybe Zebra had shared it with…Owl! The two friends marched off to find out, cheering, “‘Hooray for Books!’” Owl was busy reading…but not Turtle’s book. Owl was paging through a book about eagles. While Turtle thought it might be interesting, it was not as interesting as his own book “‘I like my book!’” he said. “Maybe you shared it with…Giraffe!”

So Turtle and Zebra and Owl took off with their books in tow to find Giraffe. Giraffe had a stack of books, but had already passed on Turtle’s book to someone else. Giraffe did have a rollicking roller skating book, however, if Turtle was interested in that one. Turtle was having none of it, and suggested that maybe Giraffe had “shared it with…Elephant!” With Owl carrying the tall stack of books with a little help from Giraffe, and Zebra happily reading the roller skating book, Turtle led the way to Elephant’s house.

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Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

Elephant did not have Turtle’s book either. “‘It was a very good story,’ Elephant said. ‘Now I can share these with you.’” Elephant held up a book about juggling. Turtle was growing dejected. He wondered if Elephant could possibly have shared it with Lion. Just then Lion approached carrying a very, very tall stack of books. Turtle was so excited to see his own book at the bottom of the pile. He rushed over and pulled it out, sending the rest of the books flying.

“Turtle cheered, ‘I finally found my favorite! Hooray for Books!’” He went to a quiet spot and read his book three times. Meanwhile Owl, Zebra, Elephant, and Giraffe were sharing all of their books. Turtle heard them talking and laughing. Then he heard Lion say, “‘I bet Turtle would love this one.’” Intrigued, “Turtle came closer” and asked if everyone would like to read his book again because it was about friends. Then he asked, “‘Will you share your favorites with me?’”  

Everyone was excited and cheered, “‘Let’s read together!’” So they sat down surrounded by all of their favorite books and celebrated, “‘Hooray for Story Time!’”

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Copyright Brian Won, 2017. Courtesy of brianwon.com.

Brian Won’s sweet group of friends return in a story of togetherness and the joys of sharing favorite books. Won’s dialogue-rich text makes this a perfect read-aloud that allows little ones to join in on the repeated phrases, are full of the emotions that children will recognize. The gentle suspense that propels the story is delightfully cheerful with “Hoorays” and smiles and humor as the friends’ pile of books grows with each stop. Won’s ending is comforting and satisfying, allowing young readers to see that they can enjoy their own favorites and share in the favorites of others as friends build strong bonds.

Children will be happy to see Won’s familiar characters in another adventure. The enthusiasm of Zebra, Owl, Giraffe, Elephant, and Lion to help Turtle is infectious, and readers will giggle at the precarious pile of books that grows and grows. Kids will love predicting what will happen to that stack. As Turtle searches his home for his book, kids will recognize and be happy to point out items from Won’s Hooray for Hat! and Hooray for Today! The final two-page vertical spread is an adorable celebration of story time and friendship.

Hooray for Books! is a joyful addition to any home or classroom bookshelf and would make a fun gift for inspiring many story times to come.

Ages 4 – 7 

HMH Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0544748026

Discover more about Brian Won, his books, and his art on his website.

Lost and Found Day Activity

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I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate

 

Books are great to share with friends, but sometimes it’s hard to remember who you’ve lent them to or who you’ve borrowed them from. With this printable personalized I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate, you can make sure your books never get lost!

Picture Book Review