September 24 – World Gorilla Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2017, the same year that the Karisoke Research Center, operated by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, celebrated its 50th anniversary, World Gorilla Day encourages people around the globe to honor these majestic beasts and take action to help protect them in the wild. An annual fund-raising initiative, “Gorillas on the Line…Answer the Call,” works with zoos, aquariums, schools, and other organizations to raise funds by collecting cell phones for recycling. To learn more about World Gorilla Day and ways that you can get involved or even adopt a gorilla, visit the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International website.

The Boy and the Gorilla

Written by Jackie Azúa Kramer | Illustrated by Cindy Derby

 

The sun casts long shadows as a little boy, his father, and a few mourners walk away from the cemetery. In the background a gorilla, strong and watchful, knows he’s needed. At home, the boy and his father sit on the sofa, aware of the family and friends gathered, but separated by grief. The gorilla waits silently nearby, filling some of the empty space. Escaping into the backyard, the boy kneels in his mother’s garden to pick a tomato. Now that he is alone, the boy acknowledges the gorilla, who asks if he can help. “Okay,” the boy says.

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Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Here, to this friend of his heart, the boy can express his deep sadness as well as the questions he has about death. “My mom died,” he says. Gently holding one and picking up another tomato, the gorilla answers, “I know.” As some of the routines of life return, the boy and his dad are separated by their individual thoughts and the tasks that need to be done. But the boy works through his questions about whether all people die, where his mom went, and if she can “come back home” with the gorilla. To each question, the gorilla offers honest answers as well as comfort. His mom won’t come home, the gorilla explains, “But she’s always with you.”

When the boy misses the things he and his mom did together, the gorilla quietly suggests that his dad might do them too. The gorilla reassures the boy when he needs to be alone or look for his mother in out of the way places. Finally, the boy asks the question that tugs at his mind: “Why did she have to die?” The gorilla acknowledges his pain, saying “It hurts not to be able to be with someone we love.” When the boy wonders when he’ll feel better, the wise gorilla says, “When you know she’s still with you.”

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Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

The boy is ready to see his mom in their shared activities, like baseball, baking, and gardening. Each of these are gifts from his mother that will stay with him forever, the gorilla reminds him. That day, the boy goes to find his father and tell him the feeling he’s been carrying: “I miss Mom.” His dad takes him in his arms and they share their grief. The gorilla embraces them with love and understanding. The boy and his dad sit together looking at photographs and talking about Mom. The gorilla watches them from across the room. Later, they plant new flowers together, and then as the sun sets and the gorilla ambles away across empty fields, the boy and his dad walk back to the house, hand in hand.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-swings

Image copyright Cindy Derby, 2020, text copyright Jackie Azúa Kramer, 2020. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

In her emotionally resonant story, Jackie Azúa Kramer gives adults a poignant way to talk with children—and readers of any age—about the feelings of sadness, confusion, and loss that fill their hearts and days after someone they love passes away. Beginning with general questions that children have about death, Azúa Kramer offers honest answers or acknowledgements that “no one knows” the answers. She then leads readers to ways they can accept a loved-one’s death and find comfort in memories, discover the constancy of their love in shared activities, and reach out to others. Told entirely in dialogue between the boy and the gorilla and, later, between the boy and his father, the story feels as personal as an embrace, allowing a grieving child to identify with it without any distancing. Beautifully paced, the story ends with a sense of acceptance, hope, and renewal.

Cindy Derby’s watercolor and mixed media illustrations will stir readers’ hearts with her touching depictions of the little boy and his father, both struggling in the wake of the loss of their mother and wife. The gorilla, painted in shades of purple and gray, is a hulking, yet soft, presence, a representation of the magnitude of the boy’s sadness but his capacity to understand too. Derby incorporates fragility and strength into her images that reinforce the boy and father’s changing awareness: On the day of his mother’s funeral, the boy goes into the garden to pick tomatoes. The gentle care the gorilla takes in helping hold these tender fruit reflects his mindfulness of the boy’s vulnerability. At the park, the chains on the swing set, where the boy and gorilla come to terms with the fact that his mother will not come back, as well as the climber appear precariously brittle, yet they are both capable of holding great weight. And a single branch, no thicker than a twig, supports them as they talk about why the boy’s mother died.

Derby also evocatively portrays how the boy and his father are each processing their feelings independently as two-page spreads allow for the boy to appear on one page while his father is on the other. They gradually grow closer—appearing on the same page, but in different places or rooms. When the little boy courageously approaches his dad, their reunion is moving, and to see them sitting next to each other after the page turn is uplifting and affirming. Derby’s use of color, especially touches of red, adds metaphorical depth to the story, and children will want to watch for the little red bird that seems to watch over this family from page to page, until the boy and his father reconnect and move forward.

For any child who has suffered a loss or knows a friend who has, or for families looking for a way to discuss death and the process of grieving, The Boy and the Gorilla is a must. The book also belongs in every school and public library collection.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-0763698324

Discover more about Jackie Azúa Kramer and her books on her website.

To learn more about Cindy Derby, her books, and her art, visit her website.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-boy-and-the-gorilla-cover

You can find The Boy and the Gorilla at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

Picture Book Review

September 22 – National Dear Diary Day

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

About the Holiday

Today we celebrate those journals that allow us to express our thoughts and feelings, record events both mundane and life-changing, and give us license to explore our creativity. If you’re a regular diary writer, honor the day with a new entry. If you’ve always considered keeping a diary, today’s a perfect day to start!

Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World

Written by Linda Elovitz Marshall | Illustrated by Aura Lewis

 

“All her life, Anne Frank wanted to be heard. Really, truly heard.” But sometimes no matter how loudly or entertainingly she talked, no one listened or seemed to understand. Anne’s family, “like many other Jewish families, had lived in Germany for centuries,” but when Adolf Hitler began to govern the country, Jewish families were in danger. When Anne was four years old, her family, hoping to find safety, moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands. Here, Anne lived happily, “making mischief with her friends, telling jokes, and having fun. “In school, she talked and talked.”

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

But in 1940, Hitler and his Nazi’s took over the Netherlands too, and life for Jewish people living there was no longer safe. Anyone who talked against the Nazis could be arrested, but Anne needed to express her opinions. On her 13th birthday Anne received a red plaid diary; she named it “Kitty.” In Kitty, Anne could share all of her thoughts and feelings about what was happening in her country. She wrote about the rules that restricted Jews from normal life, that made all Jews wear a yellow star that distinguished them from others. But Anne also wrote about school and other subjects. “Anne realized that by writing, she could speak her mind in a new way. She could really, truly be heard.”

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Then on a morning in 1942, Anne’s mother woke her, telling her that they needed to leave quickly and hide. Anne “packed her most treasured things.” Her diary was the first thing she packed. She and her family as well as four other people hid in a secret room in the warehouse where Anne’s father worked. Non-Jewish friends who also worked in the warehouse brought them food and supplies. While Anne tried to make the best of her life in hiding, she was lonely and always careful to whisper and tiptoe so the other workers in the factory did not discover them.

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Now, Anne’s diary was even more important to her. In Kitty she wrote about her fears and feelings, her days and the things she missed. “She wrote about wishing people could live together, in peace,” and Kitty “was always there to listen, always there to understand.” Anne also wrote stories about a teddy bear, a fairy, and a caring grandmother. Once water seeped in and soaked her diary. Anne rushed to hang the pages to dry. Anne wrote and wrote for two years. She hoped to publish a book about her experience.

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

“But on August 4, 1944, Nazi police discovered the secret hiding place.” Anne, her family, and all of the people living in the warehouse room were taken away. “One of their non-Jewish friends found Anne’s diary and writings and kept them safe,” hoping to return them to her. But just weeks before the war ended in 1945, Anne died. Anne’s father was the only one to survive. After the war ended, Anne’s father fulfilled her dream and published Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Anne’s book has been read by people around the world and continues to speak for her in the hearts of readers everywhere.

Back matter includes more about Anne, her family, the Nazis and how Anne’s diary was saved; a timeline of Anne’s family, the rise of Hitler, and the war years; an Author’s Note; and lists of sources, suggested further reading, and websites.

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Image copyright Aura Lewis, 2020, text copyright Linda Elovitz Marshall, 2020. Courtesy of Orchard Books.

Linda Elovitz Marshall’s moving telling of Anne Frank’s life and dreams, focusing on her beloved diary will resonate with children, who, like Anne, want to be heard. In her evocative storytelling, Marshall creates a rich portrait of Anne as a vivacious child who was also smart and thoughtful. Mirroring the devastating disruptions in Anne’s and her family’s life, Marshall intersperses pages of straightforward text which describes the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and emphasizes ways in which they restricted and silenced the Jewish population, reinforcing her book’s theme. The examples Marshall gives—riding bikes, going to the movies, having to wear an identification star—will impress upon children the changes in Anne’s life.

When Anne and her family move to the Secret Annex, Marshall superbly reveals the conditions of their confinement through Anne’s writing and how her diary was her lifeline and her confidant. The family’s eventual discovery is written factually but with sensitivity, fitting for picture book readers. The final spread honors the influence Anne Frank has had on the world with her diary—her voice that could not be silenced.

In Aura Lewis’s emotionally resonant illustrations, readers first meet Anne Frank in a snapshot that shows her as kind, thoughtful, and seemingly wise beyond her years. Vibrant scenes of Anne with her family in Germany and later with family and friends in Amsterdam give way to somber, gray-toned images that reflect Hitler’s takeover and the dangers Anne, her family, and all Jewish people faced. Lewis clearly sketches Anne’s childhood enthusiasms and hope and, especially, her pleasure at receiving her diary. Also, readily recognizable are Anne’s feelings of fear, frustration, and sadness. Lewis portrays Anne in signature orange and plaid, reflecting the deep interconnection between Anne and her diary. This visual metaphor is then carried onto the final spread, where a variety of people of all ages read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

An excellent book to introduce young children to Anne Frank, a most influential and inspiring young girl, Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World would be a meaningful addition to home bookshelves and is a must for school and public library collections.

Ages 6 – 8

Orchard Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1338312294

Discover more about Linda Elovitz Marshall and her books, visit her website.

To learn more about Aura Lewis, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Dear Diary Day Activity

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Anne Frank and Her Diary Word Search

 

Find the twenty words associated with Anne Frank, her life, and her diary in this printable puzzle

Anne Frank and Her Diary Word Search Puzzle | Anne Frank and Her Diary Word Search Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-anne-frank-the-girl-heard-around-the-world-cover

You can find Anne Frank: The Girl Heard Around the World at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

September 19 – National Gymnastics Day

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About the Holiday

Initiated in the late 1990s, National Gymnastics Day encourages kids to explore this exciting sport. As part of this year’s National Gymnastics Day, gymnasts, families, friends, and enthusiasts from gymnastics clubs globally will participate in a variety of activities, including open houses, hand stand contests, carnivals, and fitness activities to build awareness of gymnastics and its benefits. Many clubs will use this as a way to provide opportunities for underprivileged children to participate in the sport. Why not find and attend a special event at a gym or gymnastics club today to celebrate!

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still

Written by Karlin Gray | Illustrated by Christine Davenier

 

“In the village of Oneşti, Romania, a country rich with forests and mountains” Nadia Comaneci could often be seen swinging from tree branch to tree branch. She was a little girl who loved to play. She was “feisty and fearless,” attempting new things on a whim and always with a sense of adventure. Once while trying on a pair of roller skates, she skated right out of the store! Another time she was so impatient to ride her new bike that she pedaled off before her father could even tighten the screws. The bike “fell apart as she rode away.” And one year her love of climbing trees extended to the family Christmas tree, which toppled over on her, pinning her to the ground.

To channel all that energy, Nadia’s mother enrolled her in gymnastics lessons. Nadia’s eyes lit up when she saw the room full of ropes, ladders, bars, mats, and trampolines to discover, but she didn’t leave her new skills at the gym. Nadia and a friend cartwheeled around the school playground, capturing the attention of Bela and Marta Karolyi, who owned a gymnastics school. They invited the girls to join.

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Image copyright Christine Davenier, courtesy of karlingray.com

Nadia was only 6 when she began studying with Bela and Marta. Immediately, she discovered that she liked gymnastics better than her school subjects. She progressed quickly from performing “a straight cartwheel on a line painted on the floor” to doing it on a low balance beam and finally to perfecting it on the high balance beam. She began learning harder and harder moves, “flying from bar to bar, from floor to vault, and high above the beam.”

At 9 years old, Nadia competed in her first National Junior Championship. Despite her skill and hard work, she fell from the high beam during a leap not once but three times. Nadia finished the competition in 13th place. Her disappointment only strengthened her resolve. She went back to the gym and continued to practice many hours every day. Her determination paid off, “and at the next National Junior Championship games, she won first place.”

The ultimate recognition of her skill came when she was chosen to be part of the 1976 Romanian Olympic team. The games were held in Montreal, Canada, and all eyes were on the returning gold medalists from Russia, Olga Korbut and Lyudmila Turischeva. But excitement soon filled the venue as Nadia performed on the beam, the floor, and the vault where she scored 9.9, 9.75, and 9.7 on a scale of 1 (the lowest score) to 10 (a perfect score). The next event was the uneven parallel bars on which Olga Korbut had just scored a 9.9. “Nadia mounted the bars. Now fourteen years old, she was a long way from the forests in Romania. But she swung around as easily as she had jumped from branch to branch as a little girl. The audience gasped as she twirled and whipped and flipped.”

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Image copyright Christine Davenier, courtesy of karlingray.com

Nadia dismounted and landed perfectly on the mat below as the audience “exploded with applause.” Nadia returned to her team to wait for her score. And wait…and wait. Finally, the score appeared on the board—1.00. The worst score. How could that be? “‘What is Nadia’s score?’” Bela asked the judges. “One of the officials held up ten fingers as a voice announced over the loudspeaker: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, for the very first time in Olympic history, Nadia Comaneci has received the score of a perfect ten!’”

Because no one had ever achieved a 10 before, the scoreboards were programmed only for a high of 9.9. Nadia couldn’t bask in her accomplishment for long, however. She moved on to her next event—and her next perfect 10! “When the competition ended, she had earned seven perfect 10s.” At the medal ceremony both Olga and Lyudmila congratulated their competitor as the new Olympic champion. In all Nadia won five medals and became the youngest ever Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics.

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Image copyright Christine Davenier, courtesy of karlingray.com

Nadia became a darling of the press. They surrounded her, asking “how it felt to have the world’s attention, if she had been confident she would win, and when she would retire.” She answered each reporter with enthusiasm and confidence, and promising that she was a long way from retiring. When she returned home, it seemed that all of Romania had come out to welcome her and her teammates—even the country’s president.

Now Nadia was famous all over the world. She returned to practicing and inventing new routines, preparing for other competitions and the 1980 Olympic Games. She had come far from swinging branch to branch in the trees of Oneşti, but she would always be that little girl who couldn’t sit still.

Karlin Gray’s compelling biography captures all the spunk and spirit of Nadia Comaneci that made the world fall in love with her at the 1976 Olympic Games. Adults of a certain age well remember watching her in astonishment as she seemed to effortlessly swirl, twirl, and flip through her routines, flashing her sweet smile as she waved to fans. In the first pages Gray reveals anecdotes of Nadia’s adventurous nature that will captivate readers even as they giggle at her predicaments.

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Image copyright Christine Davenier, courtesy of karlingray.com

The straightforward narration of Nadia’s trajectory from playground cartwheeler to Olympic champion enhances both the gritty determination of her studies with her coaches as well as the suspense of her competitions. All children—no matter what their talent—will draw inspiration from Nadia’s story, which includes disappointments as well as unbounded accomplishments. Gray’s lyrical language flows as smoothly as Nadia flew through the air and will land in readers’ hearts as a perfect 10.

From the cover, which sports Nadia in her iconic floor exercise pose, to the last page, Christine Davenier depicts the world of gymnastics with beauty and the kind of realistic details that create a classic. The two-page spread of the gym where 6-year-old Nadia learns to love gymnastics portrays the enormity of the space and the equipment for a small girl—as well as the enormity of her achievement.

Kids will love the almost “play-by-play” illustrations of how Nadia learned to perform her feats, from starting with a line on the floor to perfecting the high beam and more. Nadia is shown leaping, somersaulting, doing handstands, and even wavering and falling as she practices and competes. The thrill of the Olympic Games, from the opening ceremonies to the rapt and cheering audiences to the awards ceremony are drawn with stirring action, color, and attention to the specifics of that very special 1976 summer in Montreal.

An Afterword expands on Nadia Comaneci’s courageous life choices and career post-gymnastics and includes a timeline, notes, a selected bibliography, and websites for further study.

Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still will fascinate kids and would be a very welcome addition to school classroom—as well as home—libraries.

Ages 5 – 10

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544319608

Visit Karlin Gray‘s website to learn more about her and to download fun activities!

View a gallery of artwork by Christine Davenier on her website!

Discover more about Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still on the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt website!

National Gymnastics Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rhythmic-gymnastics-ribbon-craft

Rhythmic Gymnastics Ribbon

 

You can recreate the grace of rhythmic gymnastics with this easy craft! The swirling beauty of the ribbon makes any movement fun!

Supplies

  • 12-inch dowel
  • 6-foot length of ribbon
  • Paint the same color as the ribbon
  • Hot glue gun or strong glue
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the dowel and let dry
  2. Glue the edge of the ribbon to one end of the dowel. Wrap the ribbon about ½ inch around the dowel and secure with glue. Let glue dry.

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You can find Nadia, the Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 18 – National Respect Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established to help people focus on how they can be more respectful of others—family, friends, and strangers. It’s also a day to think about yourself. Do you respect yourself and your abilities? Self-respect is crucial for achieving your goals, both personal and professional. There are many ways to show respect. Good manners, listening to others, acknowledging others with a “thank you” or “great job,” and inclusion are only a few of the ways that people can start building the kinds of respectful relationships that lead to success.

Aretha Franklin (Little People, Big Dreams)

Written by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara | Illustrated by Amy Blackwell

 

With a mother who was a gospel singer and a father who was a preacher and “believed that music could move not just people’s hearts, but the world,” Aretha Franklin was born to sing. Even though her mother left the family while Aretha was still young, Aretha found friendship and inspiration from the many musicians who often came to visit.

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Image copyright Amy Blackwell, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

When she was a bit older, Aretha began singing in the gospel choir at her father’s church. Her voice was “powerful and as smooth as silk” and made “the whole congregation [feel] that tomorrow would be a brighter day.” recognizing her talent, Aretha’s father took her on tour from church to church. Her poise and voice moved people wherever she went.

As much as she loved singing in church, though, Aretha dreamed of making records. It was a dream that came true, and soon Aretha’s songs were topping the charts. Her most popular song “was called ‘Respect.’” It had been written by Otis Redding, but “suddenly, the words of a tired working man became an anthem for African American women demanding equal respect.” She also lent her voice to the fight against racism, standing alongside her friend Martin Luther King Jr.

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Image copyright Amy Blackwell, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Aretha didn’t just sing, she wrote and produced her own songs too in nearly every genre from “jazz, doo-wop and pop, to rhythm and blues.” While she wrote and sang many different types of songs, they all had one thing in common: “They had to talk about everyday ups and downs.” Aretha Franklin was in many ways a pioneer in music. She was the first woman to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and she influenced many female artists. But she considered her greatest honor to sing at the inauguration of Barak Obama—the first African American president of the United States. Aretha was unique in so many ways. That little girl with the big voice who “won the R-E-S-P-E-C-T of millions.”

A timeline and more information about Aretha Franklin’s life follows the text.

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Image copyright Amy Blackwell, 2020, text copyright Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, 2020. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara’s biography of Aretha Franklin will inspire all young singers—or artists of any kind—who dream of sharing their gift with the world. Her engaging storytelling will captivate little readers with descriptions of Aretha’s uplifting voice who could move people to cry, dance, and feel that positive change would come. This heartfelt depiction of Aretha Franklin’s amazing life will entice young children to discover or rediscover her music and follow her example.

Amy Blackwell’s bright and energetic illustrations are full of the joy that Aretha found in music and singing. Her interactions with choir congregation members show an early maturity and assurance that will inspire little readers. Images of a dance club and a performance of her signature song give kids portray the flair of the times, while pictures of her writing and a few of her many albums will impress children with her prolific talent. A later image of Aretha singing at President Barak Obama’s inauguration can inspire readers to watch this historic event once more.

Inspiring and uplifting, Aretha Franklin (Little People, Big Dreams) would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 7

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-0711246867

To learn more about Amy Blackwell, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Respect Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-kindness-cards

Kindness Cards

 

One way to show someone respect is to tell them how much they mean to you. These printable cards, make it easy for kids to tell a friend or family member how special they are.

Kindness Cards

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-aretha-franklin-little-people-big-dreams-cover

You can find Aretha Franklin (Little People, Big Dreams) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 17 – Constitution Day and Citizenship Day

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About the Holiday

On this day in 1911 schools in Iowa first celebrated Constitution Day, commemorating the date in 1787, when our Founding Fathers signed the Constitution of the United States. in 1952 Citizenship Day was moved from May to coincide with Constitution Day. In addition to honoring our constitution, Americans are also encouraged to reflect on the rights and responsibilities of citizenship and what it means to be a U.S. citizen. We also recognize those who are taking steps to become U.S. citizens and all those who are seeking a better life here.

Thanks to Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers for providing me with a digital copy of A Vote is a Powerful Thing for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

A Vote is a Powerful Thing

Written by Catherine Stier | illustrated by Courtney Dawson

 

Ms. Trask is teaching about elections and voting to her class. When she says that “‘a vote is a powerful thing…. Powerful enough to change the world,’” Callie pays particular attention, so she can tell readers all about it. In the election coming up in November, “one vote, combined with other votes…,’” Ms. Trask explains, “‘is what puts mayors, governors, senators, and even the president of the United States into office.’” To demonstrate the power of voting, Ms. Trask is going to hold a classroom election about an issue that she thinks will pique the kids’ interest.

Callie has already been introduced to the idea of campaigning and voting through her grandmother, who is working to save the local wilderness park, where, Callie says,  “I saw my first mountain laurel in full bloom, my first turtle in a pond, my first swallowtail butterfly.” Ms. Trask goes on to tell the class that not only are elections about people, they’re about “‘important issues as well.’” 

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Image copyright Courtney Dawson, 2020, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers.

The next morning Ms. Trask reveals the issue that the class will vote on—where they’ll take their next field trip. The candidates are the cookie factory and the wilderness park. Some kids love the idea of the free samples at the cookie factor, while others like the walking trail at the park. As they discuss the options, Callie realizes that where the class goes is important to her. She raises her hand and asks if she can “‘campaign in support of the wilderness park.’” At home, she creates posters and writes a speech. Lynn is campaigning in favor of the cookie factory.

On election day, Lynn gives her speech first. She talks about what the class could learn about food and science—and reminds her classmates about the free cookies. Even Callie agrees that the factory is a good option. Then it’s Callie’s turn. She tells the class about how special the park is and describes some of the animals she’s seen. Callie also reveals what scientists say are the benefits of being outdoors.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-vote-is-a-powerful-thing-Ms-Trask

Image copyright Courtney Dawson, 2020, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers.

After the speeches, everyone receives a piece of paper, writes their choice on it, and places it in the ballot box. As Ms. Trask holds up the last ballot, she congratulates Lynn and Callie on their campaigns. She says they both did such an excellent job “‘that the election is tied now, with just one vote left to count.’” She unfolds the slip of paper and reads…Wilderness Park.

On the day of the field trip, the kids explore the rocks and plants. They even see a fox. The kids are all excited and want to share the experience with their families. Their enthusiasm gives Callie hope that people will vote to fund the park during the town’s election. On voting day, Callie’s happy to stand next to her grandma at the polling place with a sign to “Vote Yes!” because she knows how valuable just one vote can be.

Extensive back matter discusses the concept of voting, who can vote, and how citizens vote as well as gives a timeline of United States voting rights from 1870 to 1990. A list of resources for further reading and research is also included.

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Image copyright Courtney Dawson, 2020, text copyright Catherine Stier, 2020. Courtesy of Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers.

Catherine Stier’s comprehensive and engaging story outlines facts about elections and the importance of voting—not only for candidates, but also about important issues—in an easy-to-follow and organic way. Stier’s use of two high-interest issues, both of which have educational merit, gives children a glimpse of the difficult choices voters are faced with. Callie’s appreciation for Lynn’s opinion and Lynn’s enthusiasm for the wildlife park field trip show readers that disagreements can be handled respectfully and amicably. Through her first-person storytelling that is rich with dialogue, Stier creates a personal narrative that will resonate with children, many of whom most likely have issues that are important to them. As the last vote counted breaks a tie, readers learn how important it is for everyone to vote.

Courtney Dawson’s bright illustrations of a diverse classroom learning about elections and voting give children snapshots of historical events in US voting history that may surprise them spur them to learn more as well as images that are recognizable from community activism. As Callie prepares her speech and posters, readers see the wildlife and scenery that makes the issue of the field trip so important to her and come to understand the time and effort that candidates put into their campaign. Clear images of the children—and later, their families—casting their ballots reinforces the concept of this valuable right. The final image can empower children to get involved in their own community or school to make a difference in issues that are important to them.

An excellent book to introduce the concept of elections and voting for candidates and issues, with many opportunities within the text and illustrations to initiate discussion, A Vote is a Powerful Thing would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0807584989

Discover more about Catherine Stier and her books, visit her website

Read a New Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-vote-word-search-puzzle

Vote! Word Search Puzzle

 

Can you find the twenty words related to elections in this printable word search puzzle?

Vote! Word Search Puzzle | Vote! Word Search Solution

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You can find A Vote is a Powerful Thing at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 16 – Collect Rocks Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday allows anyone who just can’t resist picking up a particularly pretty or unusual stone to indulge their whims and fancies. Rock collecting can be a fun and educational hobby as each type of stone has its own fascinating history and science to learn about. Why not go on a hike today and discover the unique shapes, colors, and feel of the rocks below your feet.

I received a copy of Old Rock (is not boring) from G. P. Putnam’s Sons for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Old Rock (is not boring)

By Deb Pilutti

 

It seemed that Old Rock had been sitting in the same spot forever. Tall Pine and Spotted Beetle thought being a rock must be pretty boring. Hummingbird wondered, “‘Don’t you ever want to go anywhere?’” She knew she would be if she couldn’t fly all over the world and taste exotic nectars. But Old Rock had flown once, and he began to tell his story.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

It was during the time when he was surrounded by darkness, but then the volcano erupted and Old Rock “‘soared through a fiery sky into the bright light of a new world.’” Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird weren’t very impressed. They still thought Old Rock must be bored. Spotted Beetle told him how much he might see if he climbed to Tall Pine’s very highest branch.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Old Rock countered that he had seen a lot. He’d watched dinosaurs pass by and had even hidden a spinosaurus from a hungry T. rex. He’d traveled in a glacier and been left teetering on a ridge overlooking a vast desert, where he “could see the place where the sky touches the earth.” Spotted Beetle and Hummingbird were intrigued, but Tall Pine dismissed these experiences as “ages ago.” He wanted to know about now. Didn’t Old Rock feel like moving? Tall Pine showed Old Rock how his limbs could dance in the wind.

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Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

While Old Rock couldn’t dance, he did recall how he’d turned somersaults off the ridge, landing in a prairie where mastodons grazed near a lake. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird were mesmerized by Old Rock’s story and wanted to know what had happened next. Out of the prairie, sprang a pine forest, Old Rock revealed. And from one of the pine trees a pinecone fell and a seed was released. That seed grew “to be the tall pine who dances in the wind and keeps me company.” Sometimes, he continued, a spotted beetle and a hummingbird meander by. Old Rock was very pleased with his spot, and the others had to agree that it was “very nice” and “not boring at all.”

An illustrated timeline of Old Rock’s life from 18 billion years ago to the present day follows the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-time-line

Copyright Deb Pilutti, 2020, courtesy of G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

So much clever thought went into Deb Pilutti’s Old Rock as she reveals to kids what a fascinating and active life the rocks and boulders we see every day have had. Tall Pine, Spotted Beetle, and Hummingbird’s skepticism keeps the suspense building as Old Rock rolls out stories of his various travels and talents. Once he has them hooked, they—like young readers—want to hear more, leading to the just-right ending that sweetly encompasses shared history, happiness with one’s place in life, and friendship. The trio’s questions to Old Rock and their related experiences also engage children to think about issues and opinions from a variety of perspectives.

Pilutti’s mixed-media illustrations are nicely textured to bring out Old Rock’s grainy surface while highlighting nature’s vivid colors. Her vignettes from the dinosaur eras, the ice age (where the skeletons of dinosaurs are also swept up and away in the same glacier as Old Rock), and beyond impress upon readers the long time-frame involved, how the earth has changed, and even the fascinating science of the fossil record.

A multi-layered story, perfect for general story times or as a lead in to science lessons and to promote discussion and research in the classroom, Old Rock (is not boring) would be an original and exciting addition to home, classroom, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020 | ISBN 978-0525518181

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Collect Rocks Day Activity

CPB - rock painting craft

Rock This Craft!

 

Smooth stones can give talented artists like yourself a natural canvas for your creativity! So collect some rocks and use your imagination to design rocks to leave for people to find on paths or sidewalks, near a store, or anywhere in your neighborhood. You may even want to leave one outside your local library. That’s where I found the rock pictured here!

Supplies

  • Smooth stones in various sizes
  • Paint or markers
  • Small magnets, available at craft stores
  • Jewelry pins, available at craft stores
  • Paint brush
  • Strong glue

Directions

  1. Find stones in your yard or neighborhood or buy them at a craft store or garden center
  2. Wash and dry rocks as needed
  3. Design and paint an image on the stone
  4. Have fun finding spots to leave your works of art!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-old-rock-is-not-boring-cover

You can find Old Rock (is not boring) at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

BookshopIndieBound

Picture Book Review

September 14 – National Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts, to science and math, to what you make for dinner. Little ones seem to know this inherently as they go about exploring and interacting with all the new things they see, hear, and do every day. Introducing kids to all kinds of hobbies, subjects, and professions expands their definition of creativity and their outlook on the future. Reading today’s book with them is a great place to start! To celebrate today, take time to look at things in a different way. You may be surprised at how creative you really are!

Thanks to Quarto Publishing for sending me a copy of ABC What Can I Be? For review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own.

ABC What Can I Be?: You Can Be Anything You Want to Be, from A to Z

By Sugar Snap Studio

 

A whole world of possibilities is open to kids as they grow and learn. Introducing them to a wide range of careers is as easy as ABC in this bright, oversized board book that demonstrates the joy of working at something you love. Each profession is described with one compelling sentence that presents the substance of the occupation through rich vocabulary. Bold typography displays the letter of the alphabet along with its namesake career while charming and high-interest illustrations depict a person actively engaged in working and the equipment they use.

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Copyright Sugar Snap Studio, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing.

These vivid images give little learners many opportunities to ask questions, recognize similar objects in their own homes, at school, or when out with parents or caregivers, and make connections with professionals they meet when going to the doctor, the dentist, farmers markets, zoos, and museums.

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Copyright Sugar Snap Studio, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing.

A highlight of this book is the inclusion of lesser-known careers that will pique kids’ interest as well as the emphasis—told through the illustrations—that anyone of any gender can pursue the work that speaks to them and uses their talents. A peek inside finds Landscape Architect at L: “I design gardens, parks, and open spaces for people to enjoy.” If your little one loves the water, they may want to dive into O for Oceanographer. This scientist says, “I study life in the ocean and take samples back to my lab.”

What career begins with Q? Quantitative Analyst—who uses “mathematics to look for patterns and [studies] data.” Children who love collaborating with other kids may be interested in being a Youth Director, who says that they “care for children and tach them important life skills.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-abc-what-can-i-be-E

Copyright Sugar Snap Studio, 2020, courtesy of Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing.

An exciting and world-broadening way to learn the alphabet, ABC What Can I Be? will be a favorite on family bookshelves and would be an excellent addition to classroom and public library collections. The book also makes a welcome gift for baby showers, babies, and young children.

Ages 3 – 6

Walter Foster Jr, Quarto Publishing, 2020 | ISBN 978-1600588822

To learn more about Sugar Snap Studio, visit their website.

National Live Creative Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-magnetic-can-craft (2)Creativity is Magnetic! Fun Can-tainer

 

A can with a lid can make a creative kit if you fill it with magnetic pieces that can be used to make scenes, faces, or even poems. Make the magnets yourself and you can create a kit that is uniquely yours! Make a kit to put in the car too!

Supplies

  1. Can with a lid, available at craft stores or with various types of tea
  2. Small craft magnets and/or magnetic strips
  3. A variety of small items such as:
  • Foam or felt shapes
  • Scrap booking stickers 
  • Googly eyes in various sizes
  • Felt or heavy paper
  • Small charms
  • Small toys

Directions

To Make Scenes

  1. Attach magnets to shapes, stickers, or small items
  2. Arrange them into a scene or design on the side of the can

To Make Faces

  1. Attach magnets to googly eyes
  2. Make noses and mouths out of the felt or heavy paper
  3. Attach magnets to facial features

To Make Poems 

  1. Use Magnetic Sheets, leaving the white paper on
  2. Write words on the white paper
  3. Cut out words
  4. Arrange them into a poem on the side of the can

Store your magnetic pieces inside the can

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-abc-what-can-i-be-cover

You can find ABC What Can I Be? at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review