June 25 – It’s National Insect Week

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About the Holiday

Insects are endlessly fascinating, and this week celebrates their diversity, purpose, and beauty. This week was established by the Royal Entomological Society to encourage people to learn more about insects, from those close to home to the exotic species around the world. This year the theme is Entomology at Home and people are invited to participate by learning about local species of insects and enjoying the resources on the National Insect Week website. There’s a photography contest, learning videos for all ages, access to Instar the Magazine for Young Entomologists, and so much more, including a mention of “the most bizarre use” of an insect ever imagined. To discover all of the resources and fun, visit the National Insect Week website.

Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for sharing a copy of A Way with Wild Things for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

A Way with Wild Things

Written by Larissa Theule | Illustrated by Sara Palacios

 

Poppy Ann Fields made friends with lots of bugs. She appreciated all of their natural talents—the way the cicadas formed a symphony, the way the ants marched in perfect lines, the way the shy roly poly said hello, and the “magnificent art” the spider wove. She could spend all day outside among these friends, “but when people came around, Poppy preferred to disappear into the background.”

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

At parties she dressed to blend in with the wallpaper or the brightly flowered rug. She could disappear into the framed landscape on the wall or behind the tree in the corner. To celebrate Grandma Phyllis’s 100th birthday, there was a big party. Poppy watched from behind the flowers and bushes. She watched as people strolled about, meeting and hugging, dancing and running. “They looked like colorful leaves falling into each other then drifting apart.”

A shimmering dragonfly drifted on the breeze and landed on the cake. “Her whole heart glad, Poppy clapped her hands.” She came over to look and that’s when Uncle Dan spotted her. His voice boomed, “‘Poppy Ann Fields, you wallflower, you. So that’s where you’ve been hiding this time.’” Everyone turned to look at Poppy. She froze. The dragonfly took off… “and landed in her hand.” No one could believe it; they smiled and stared in wonder. Then they moved in to get a closer look.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Poppy wished she could run away. She didn’t know where to look, so she gazed at the dragonfly. “She knew the dragonfly had come here for her.” She listened to the cicadas’ music wafting through the air and took a breath. Then she spoke, telling everyone the dragonfly’s scientific name. Grandma Phyllis clasped her hands and gave Poppy a hug. “‘You wildflower, you,’” she whispered. In her heart Poppy knew Grandma Phyllis was right. She was not a wallflower, but “a wildflower.”

An illustrated glossary of Poppy’s bug friends, along with their scientific name and a brief description follows the story.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2020, text copyright Larissa Theule, 2020. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Larissa Theule’s quietly comforting story is balm for those thoughtful, introverted children who interact with the world through observation, contemplation, and gentle interactions. With the soul of a poet, Poppy listens to, watches, and connects with nature, feeling its rhythms and wonder with her whole heart. Theule’s carefully chosen verbs and play on the idea of nature embrace Poppy’s personality. Poppy “preferred” to observe large, noisy gatherings from the sidelines while she “became” things that most people find lovely: landscapes, trees, rain, a group of animals.

When Uncle Dan’s loud voice turns everyone’s attention to Poppy, Theule’s simply stated “she was scared down to her toes” validates the feelings of kids who’d rather not be in the spotlight and gives children and adults an opportunity to talk about these emotions. The party-goers’ enthusiasm to hear what Poppy has to say and Grandma Phyllis’s loving and apt nickname for her granddaughter will reassure introverted readers that they are seen and appreciated for their unique strengths.

Sara Palacios festival of flowers—found outside, in Poppy’s home décor, and on party-goers’ clothing—surrounds Poppy and reveals that she is a part of and does fit in everywhere. One of the joys of A Way with Wild Things is finding Poppy on each page and appreciating Palacio’s creative genius in how she uses camouflage similar to nature. Her vivid, textured illustrations are joyous and full of love for nature, for life, and especially for Poppy who tenderly takes it all in and makes it uniquely hers.

Ages 3 – 6

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1681190396

Discover more about Larissa Theule and her books on her website.

To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Insect Week Activity

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Dragonfly Decoration

 

Your kids can bring the beauty of nature inside with this easy-to-make dragonfly craft.

Supplies

  • Wooden clothespin
  • Wax paper
  • Bright green craft paint
  • Bright blue craft paint
  • Green glitter
  • Blue glitter
  • Paint brush
  • Thread or fishing line (optional)
  • Adhesive magnet (optional)

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Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Paint the top part of the clothespin (to the point where the metal hinge crosses the wood) green
  2. Sprinkle green glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  3. Paint the bottom part of the clothespin blue
  4. Sprinkle blue glitter on the wet paint, let dry
  5. If the glitter doesn’t completely stick, apply a thin layer of glue with a toothpick and add more glitter

To Make the Wings

  1. Cut two 5-inch-by-3/4-inch strips from the wax paper
  2. Cut a curved edge at each end of the wax paper strips, cutting straight down from the top and curving around the bottom corner
  3. Cut curved notches in the center, top and bottom, of each wing to allow the wings to fit into the clothespin
  4. Open the clothespin and slip the wings in, curved edge down and allowing the top wing to overlap the bottom wing slightly

To Finish

Attach the thread or fishing line to the dragonfly to hang, or to make a refrigerator magnet, attach an adhesive magnetic strip to the back.

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You can find A Way with Wild Things at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

October 7 – It’s 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 Hispanics: Be Proud of Your Past, Embrace the Future. From 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 holiday was expanded to a month in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. learn more about the holiday, find resources for classrooms and homeschooling, videos, and more to use not only this month but throughout the year, visit the official Hispanic Heritage Month website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela!

Written by Alexandra Alessandri | Illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

 

Ava Gabriela and her mamá and papa were visiting her grandmother’s farm for the New Years holiday. Her aunts, uncles and cousins were there too, but she had never met her tías and tíos or primas and primos before, and they “didn’t feel like familia yet.” When her mother prompted her to say hola, Ava Gabriela nervously opened her mouth, but no words came out. And when Abuelita asked if a mouse had nibbled her tongue, Ava hid behind Mamá. But then Tía Nena approached with her hand extended and asked, “‘Want to help us make buñuelos?’ Ava hesitated. But the fried cheesy fritters were her favorite.” Ava took Tía Nena’s hand and went into the kitchen.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

There she found her cousins Sarita and Javier. Together they made the dough. As Tía Nena rolled it out, Sarita and Javier laughed and talked, but Ava watched silently. Even when Tía Nena sprinkled flour in her hair, Ava couldn’t call for a food fight like she wanted to but only giggled. After the buñuelos were finished, Ava’s cousins ran outside. Ava wanted to call after them to wait, “but her voice hid like a mouse in its hole” so Ava explored the farm by herself. When she found her mamá talking with Abuelita, she quietly asked her why she was so shy. Mamá reassured her that when she was ready, her voice would “come out and play.” After a hug, Ava felt a little better.

In another part of the house, Ava found her primo Pedro blowing up balloons for “el Año Viejo,” the balloon doll they would pop when the old year turned into a new year. When Pedro asked if she’d like to help, her words stuck in her throat again, but Pedro invited her to build the Año Viejo while he blew up balloons. When the doll’s clothes were all stuffed, Pedro handed Ava the marker to add the face. In her heart she was saying thank you, and then she realized that “she could say thank you. ‘Gracias,’” she said. “The word was whispery soft but tasted sweet like dulce de leche.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The next morning, when Ava saw Mamá and Abuelita filling cups with twelve grapes that would bring good luck in the new year, Ava “plucked one and said a silent wish: Please let me not be shy today.” Then she ran outside. This time when her tía and Pedro talked to her, she answered back, but when Tío Mario called out, her voice disappeared again. Soon it was time to change for the celebration. Outside, lanterns twinkled and the table was spread with delicious food. While everyone else talked and played, Ava sat next to the Año Viejo. “Don’t you want to play? It seemed to ask.”

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Just then fireworks burst across the sky. Ava ran out into the yard. Her cousins came out too and asked if she’d like to play tag. Once again she knew she could and would say yes. “With her heart galloping, Ava blurted, ‘Sí.’ Her cousins cheered.” As she ran off with her primos, Ava felt feliz. When midnight came, Ava helped pop the Ańo Viejo and joined in as they all called out “‘¡Feliz Año Nuevo!’”

In an Author’s Note, Alexandra Alessandri reveals more about the Christmas season, which is celebrated from December 7 through January 6, in her native Columbia and across Latin America and the Caribbean. She describes the food, music, traditions, and superstitions associated with New Year’s Eve and talks about the significance of the Año Viejo. A glossary of words and phrases used in the story is also provided in the back matter.

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Image copyright Addy Rivera Sondo, 2020, text copyright Alexandra Alessandri, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Alexandra Alessandri’s lovely story organically combines Spanish and English to create a smoothly flowing story that brings to life the Columbian traditions of New Years and el Año Viejo while acknowledging how big gatherings of family and friends can be intimidating for some children. Through beautiful, lyrical language that incorporates imagery from Spanish idioms, food, animals, and musical instruments, Alessandri portrays a realistic picture of the emotions shyness can cause in children – and adults. Readers will be charmed by sweet and thoughtful Ava Gabriela and empathize with her feelings as she has small successes as well as setbacks on her way to feeling comfortable and finding her voice with her family. Hesitant and shy children will recognize themselves in Ava and welcome Alessandri’s sensitive depiction of her inner conflict. The understanding Ava’s mamá gives her is full of heartfelt love and models the kind of support that helps shy children thrive.

Addy Rivera Sonda’s fresh, cheerful illustrations will captivate readers with details that paint an enchanting portrait of this loving family and Abuelita’s tidy farmhouse from the opening scene, in which Ava’s family is welcomed home, to the tiled accents, chickens in the yard, and preparations for the New Year’s celebration. Sonda does an excellent job of portraying Ava’s fluctuating emotions—giggling at silly things but then too hesitant to say the words on the tip of her tongue and wandering the farm alone when she’d like to be playing with her cousins. Children who celebrate el Año Viejo will be excited to see their fun and meaningful tradition depicted here and kids who are not familiar with it will be intrigued to learn more. As Ava’s family gets ready for New Year’s Eve, children will also enjoy seeing other parts of the celebration that are aimed at bringing good luck for the next year.

A beautiful and superbly composed book rich in Columbian and Latin American culture that can also ease discussions about shyness, Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! will be a favorite on home bookshelves for all kids. The book would also spark fun and educational cross-curricular activities, making it a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807504505

Discover more about Alexandra Alessandri and her books on her website.

To learn more about Addy Rivera Sonda and view a portfolio of her work, visit her website.

Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Albert Whitman & Company in a giveaway of:

One (1) copy of Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela, written by Alexandra Alessandri | illustrated by Addy Rivera Sonda

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks 
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Reply with a holiday tradition for extra entry. Each response gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from October 7 through October 13 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 14.

Prizing provided by Albert Whitman

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

Hispanic Heritage Month Activity

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We Are All Family English/Spanish Word Search

 

Find the names of family members in both English and Spanish in this printable heart- shaped word search puzzle.

We Are All Family Word Search PuzzleWe Are All Family Word Search Solution!

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You can find Feliz New Year, Ava Gabriela! at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review