February 21 – World Anthropology Day

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About the Holiday

World Anthropology Day was established as a day when anthropologists around the globe can celebrate and share their discipline with students and others interested in the world around us. What is anthropology? The short answer would be: the study of what makes us human. And what does this entail? That answer is much longer and includes the things people do, what we eat, what we wear, the way we communicate, and even such subjects as economics, health, education, law, and genetics. It studies the past but also looks to the future. The field of Anthropology and one of its subsets archaeology are endlessly fascinating. To learn more about Anthropology and careers in the field, find podcasts, and learn about resources, visit the American Archaeological Association Website

This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World

By Matt Lamothe

 

Opening the book, readers are introduced to the seven children they will learn more about. From Codrignano, Italy comes eight-year-old Romeo who lives in a house with a vineyard in the back. Nine-year-old Kei is from Japan, and she lives in a house in Tokyo. Daphine is seven and lives in Uganda in a “house made of wood and mud in the village of Kanyawara. Eight-year-old Oleg lives in an apartment in Uchaly, Russia, “a mining town near the Ural mountains.” From Los Naranjos, Peru comes Ribaldo, who’s eleven and lives in a house his father built. Ananaya is eight and lives in an apartment in Haridwar, India, which is near the Ganges River. And from Gorgan, Iran comes Kian, who’s seven and who also lives in an apartment.

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Copyright Matt Lamothe, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Each child lives with their mom and dad and various siblings. The largest family is Ribaldo’s; he has two younger brothers and a younger sister who still live at home. He also has four older siblings who don’t live at home anymore. When they go to school, four of the children wear uniforms and three choose their own outfits. Breakfast may be different for each child—with foods such as cheese, fried rice, plantains, eggs, bread and fish on the menus—but every morning starts out delicious.

After breakfast, it’s time to go to school. Kei walks along neighborhood streets in Tokyo, while Ribaldo and his sister and brothers walk along the main road, “sometimes stopping to buy a snack of sweet bread from a fruit stand.” Kian rides with his mother or father through the city, and Ananaya is driven to school through busy streets “past hotels, shops, and cows that freely roam the roads.” Romeo takes a school bus, and Daphine must walk a half-hour on a path that meanders past “groves of eucalyptus and banana trees.”

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Copyright Matt Lamothe, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Each child enjoys learning different subjects with their friends. Ribaldo’s school in Peru is small, so the fifth and sixth graders study together in the same room, and in Russia Oleg has the same teacher and classmates from first through fourth grades. There’s time for lunch and then, after school, it’s time to play. Daphine likes to jump rope, Romeo and his friends have stone-throwing contests, and Ananaya plays “Rumaal Chor or ‘Hanky Thief’” in the part with her friends. Kei gets together with her friends at the neighborhood playground and plays “Koori Oni, or ‘Freeze Tag.’” Oleg is on a hockey team and practices almost every day.

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Copyright Matt Lamothe, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Each child also helps around the house doing chores, tending the garden, feeding pets, and other jobs. Dinner is eaten with siblings and parents. Some families eat around 6:00 or 7:00, while others don’t eat until 9:00 or 10:00. After dinner, the kids engage in various activities: Oleg plays chess with his dad, Ananaya plays the board game Carrom with her sister, Kei reads mysteries with her mom, and Romeo and his dad build model cars. Then it’s time to go to sleep in their own comfortable bed underneath the same night sky.

Back matter includes photographs of the families that Matt Lamothe followed in writing this book as well as a glossary of words found throughout the text. The endpapers contain a world map that shows where each child lives. Author’s notes provide insight into the text and his own experiences in researching the book.

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Copyright Matt Lamothe, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Matt Lamothe’s fascinating look at the lives of seven children from diverse countries of the world will captivate young readers. The snapshots of the children’s lives from breakfast to bedtime spotlight the subjects that kids are most interested in as they wonder what other children eat, what they wear, how they get to school and what they study, how they play, and what their bedtime routines are. In his straightforward text, Lamothe shows that children around the world are more similar than different with traditions that the readers themselves may share.

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Copyright Matt Lamothe, 2017, courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Lamothe’s colorful illustrations clearly depict food and clothing, neighborhoods and landscapes, classrooms and playtime, families and homes. Children will want to linger over the pages to take in all the details. His portrayals of kids in action at school, at home, and at play will have readers excitedly pointing out, “I do that!” “We eat that!” and wanting to try some of the things that are new as well.

A thought-provoking book to spark stimulating conversations among kids about their world, This Is the Way We Do It is a book to dip into again and again at home and in the classroom.

Ages 5 – 12

Chronicle Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1452150185

To learn more about Matt Lamothe, his books, and his art, visit his website.

World Anthropology Day Activity

Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle

 

Saying “hello” to our friends and those we meet is something people do all around the world. Find the word for “Friend” in twenty-five languages in this printable puzzle.

Hello, Friends! Word Search Puzzle | Hello, Friends! Word Search Solution

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You can find This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World at these booksellers

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

Picture Books

 

February 20 – National Love Your Pet Day

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About the Holiday

Whether you have a dog or cat, hamster or fish, parakeet, iguana, or horse, your pet is one of the most loved parts of your family. Sharing your life with a furry friend and their funny antics, eager personalities, and unconditional love simply makes things better. Today’s holiday encourages people to spend more time with their pet or pets by taking a longer walk, extending playtime, and giving special treats that show your them how much they mean to you. If you don’t have a pet, but have been considering getting one, maybe today’s the day!

A Pet for Petunia

By Paul Schmid

 

You might say that “Petunia likes skunks,” but that wouldn’t be quite right because “Petunia LOVES skunks!” She loves everything about them from their nose to their tail, and the best thing of all is that they have stripes. Petunia loves stripes. Petunia likes sharing her love of skunks with everyone. Of course, Petunia doesn’t just love skunks, she wants one of her very own. Sure, her plush skunk is great, but “Petunia wants, wants, wants! a REAL pet skunk.”

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

She hops up and down and uses please and begs her parents for a pet skunk. Her parents try to explain, but Petunia has jumped in with her list of all the things she’ll do for her skunk. She’ll feed it everyday, and walk it, and play with it, and even empty the litter box. “‘Every week. Day! Hour! Whatever! Promise! Please, please, please may I have a pet skunk? Please!’”

Petunia is shocked when her parents say no. She can’t understand why not. “‘They stink,’ say her parents.” Petunia is incensed. She explodes in a tirade of how unfair it all is, she defends the aroma of skunks up and down, she compares her parents to Katie’s parents (who “would get her a skunk), and lets them know that she has to run away from home.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

She flees out the front door and towards the woods where she half hopes a bear eats her, knowing that then her lunkhead parents would get her a skunk. And, lo and behold, there on the path is a real-life skunk complete with “cute little nose. Big black eyes. Stripes.” They stare at each other, and “Petunia gives a joyful gasp.” But the gasp comes with a horrible smell. “Smell” isn’t even strong enough. “It is a STINK!” With tears in her eyes, Petunia turns and races back home.

After a little while in bed to contemplate, Petunia decides that “Skunks…are…so…AWESOME!” But looking at her cute little toy skunk, she also “decides she already has a perfectly awesome pet.” Until…well, you’ll just have to see….

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Paul Schmid’s pitch-perfect story of a little girl who just has to have a skunk for a pet will delight kids and adults with its adorably earnest Petunia and her realistic dialog. Petunia’s long list of promises leads into the perfectly shocked expression when she discovers that her parents are saying “no” to a pet skunk. A page full of bold, italics, fancy, and shrinking typefaces that lay out Petunia’s argument follows, mirroring the barrage of words that flow from this disappointed little girl. To her credit, when she is presented with (confronted by?) her heart’s desire and treated to its particular talent, Petunia makes a smart choice—until…. Kids will no doubt appreciate Petunia’s sincerity while adults will understand it on a more experienced level. And both will laugh at Petunia’s exasperation and stinky predicament.

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Copyright Paul Schmid, 2011, courtesy of HarperCollins.

Schmid is well-known for his expressive illustrations, and Petunia is a shining example. Schmid’s simple line drawings combine just-right body poses, skipping, jumping, somersaulting, and eventually running with sweet smiles, wide grins, and surprise to create a lovable and loving child that readers of all ages will embrace. Her pet skunk is adorable too—and, like all favorite toys, possesses a true personality of its own. Tinted with purple and a hint of orange, the clean, black-and-white images put the spotlight on endearing Petunia.

For pet lovers, toy lovers, and book lovers, A Pet for Petunia is a charming and captivating story to add to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2011 | ISBN 978-0061963315

To learn more about Paul Schmid, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Love Your Pet Day Activity

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A Sweet Match! Puzzle

 

These sweet skunk twins got separated! Can you help them find their match again in this printable puzzle?

A Sweet Match Puzzle

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You can find A Pet for Petunia at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 19 – It’s Bird-Feeding Month

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About the Holiday

Have you been noticing more bird activity in your yard or neighborhood? Maybe you’ve been awakened by birdsong that you haven’t heard in many months. During February, as temperatures creep up, birds begin returning to their homes to nest and mate. But the effects of the long winter still make it hard for these little creatures to find enough to eat. Recognizing a need, John Porter created a Congressional resolution in 1994 recognizing February as National Bird-Feeding Month. One-third of Americans have backyard feeders that provide the sustenance birds need to survive when natural resources are scarce. To celebrate this month, if you have feeders make sure they are well stocked. If you don’t have a feeder in your yard, consider hanging one and enjoy the beauty and songs of the birds in your area. 

Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat

By Laurie Ellen Angus

 

All birds get hungry, but not all birds eat the same thing, of course. Did you know that a bird’s feet are important in determining what they eat? Let’s find out how different kinds of feet help birds find the right food for them. “If you had webbing between your toes, you could… Paddle like a swan to dabble for pond plants.” Long legs and toes could help you “wade like a heron to sneak up on a school of fish.”

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Birds who have long, strong legs can run and catch their dinner, and birds whose feet have sharp claws can climb tree trunks and hunt for insects in the bark. Birds with “small flexible toes” find their feet handy for perching on branches of trees and bushes to pick berries or—like towhees—to scratch in the dirt for bugs. There are also those birds that have “powerful feet with sharp talons” to snatch a meaty meal for themselves or their babies.

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

There are many kinds of birds in the world, and each one has just the right kind of feet that help them move through their environment, find or catch food, and survive.

Extensive back matter that offers many opportunities to extend STEM learning in the classroom or at home includes

  • a detailed and illustrated exploration of each bird mentioned in the text, complete with a description of their feet and how they help the bird procure food. Kids will also enjoy learning the fun fact about each
  • A description of the bird that inspired the book
  • A discussion of adaptations, with a chart categorized with facts on habitat, feet, and beaks for seven birds and suggestions for a creative activity 
  • Common characteristics of birds
  • A discussion on predators
  • Bird-watching tips
  • More resources for further learning
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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

In her engaging text, Laurie Ellen Angus takes kids out to the pond, desert, forest, and backyard to watch as a variety of birds catch or gather their dinner. Using evocative verbs, Angus reveals not only the action of getting a meal, but the way each bird goes about it—through stealth, quick motion, pecking, scratching, and more. Specific examples of bird/feet combinations give readers a starting point for further exploration. Each category also includes a partially hidden predator, such as a fox, bobcat, snake, and hawk, that the particular bird is warned about and which readers will want to join in pointing out.

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Copyright Laurie Ellen Angus, 2018, courtesy of Dawn Publications.

Angus beautifully employs collage-style illustrations to give her birds and environments texture, color, and movement. Her use of various perspectives, lets readers wade into the pond with the heron, chase after the roadrunner that is trotting off the edge of page, cling to a tree trunk with a woodpecker, and come in for a landing with an owl. 

A visually stunning book, Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat is a science book that will attract the attention of young learners and excite them to learn more about the wonders of the natural world.

Ages 4 – 8

Dawn Publications, 2018 | | ISBN 978-1584696131 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1584696148 (Paperback) 

To learn more about Laurie Ellen Angus, her books, and her art on her website.

Wild Bird Feeding Month Activity

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When you put up a bird feeder in your yard, you’ll see so many different types of birds come to visit! Find the names of twenty types of birds in this printable Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle.

Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Puzzle | Let’s Go Birding! Word Search Solution

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You can find Paddle Perch Climb: Bird Feet Are Neat at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

It’s Random Acts of Kindness Day and the beginning of Random Acts of Kindness Week. Today offers a terrific time to begin or reconfirm your commitment to doing nice things for those around you. When you become a RAKtivist (Random Acts of Kindness Activist), you can change people’s lives. Simple gestures of kindness make anyone feel better and create a bond that bring a community closer. If you see someone having a bad day, give them a smile. Is someone struggling with a box, a bag, or keeping their stuff in their locker? Give them a hand. Does someone always eat lunch alone? Offer to sit with them and have a conversation. You’re also encouraged to give others a card to brighten their day. You’ll find some to print out at the end of this post!

There are as many ways to be a RAKtivist as there are people on the planet. You can  learn more about this uplifting holiday and find free resources—including downloadable teachers’ lesson plans for K-8 grades, posters, a calendar full of ideas on how to incorporate kindness into your life, kindness quotes, and more—on the Random Acts of Kindness Website!

Be Kind

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jen Hill

 

At school during snack time when Tanisha spilled grape juice on her new dress, the class burst out laughing. One student remembered that their mom always taught them to be kind and tried to make Tanisha feel better by saying, “Purple is my favorite color.” The student thought Tanisha would smile, but she just ran away. All during art class, Tanisha’s classmate thought about what they should have done instead, wondering, “What does it mean to be kind anyway?”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

They think, “Maybe it’s giving.” Like baking treats for someone who lives alone, or giving away old clothes to someone who can use them. Helping out might also show kindness. For instance, “putting dirty dishes in the sink” or taking care of a pet. Paying attention to others could be another way to show you care. Like noticing someone’s new shoes, offering to be the new girl’s partner in class, or even just listening to someone’s stories—even if you’ve heard them before. Sometimes being kind is easy, but there are other times when it can be challenging or even scary—“like sticking up for someone when other kids aren’t kind.”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

The child decides that maybe all they can do for Tanisha is to sit near her and paint her a picture of purple and green—of pretty violets. They hope that small acts like these will join with other people’s and that they will expand, fanning out from school into the community, across the country, around the world, and back. “So we can be kind. Again. And again. And again.”

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Image copyright Jen Hill, 2018, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2018. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Miller’s tender prose is perfect for planting the seeds of kindness and opening discussions about what it means to be caring and compassionate. With more and more children speaking up and creating change, Miller’s gentle and affirming story shows readers that it’s often the little things that count the most. Some of the examples she gives are acts that many children may do already, confirming their innate sensitivity, while others may spark new ideas and expand readers’ definition of kindness.

Jen Hill’s soft-hued illustrations beautifully depict the emotional tug at the heart that Tanisha’s spilled grape juice sets in motion for the protagonist and young readers. As one caring child wonders what kindness really is, Hill clearly portrays diverse children helping out at home, at school, and in their community locally and—as the kindness spreads—around the world. Hill draws the caring student with gender neutral clothing and hair, allowing all children to relate to the story’s main character. 

Be Kind is a lovely perceptive and sensitive book that would be an asset to any home or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 6

Roaring Brook Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1626723214

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jen Hill, her books, and her art, visit her website.

World Kindness Week Activity

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Say Something Nice! Cards

 

Do you want to give someone a nice surprise? Print out these cards and give one to a friend, to someone you’d like to know, or to anyone who looks like they need a pick-me-up! If you’d like to make your own cards, print out the blank template and write and/or draw your own message! You can also print these on adhesive paper and make your own stickers.

Say Something Nice! Cards | Say Something Nice! Cards Blank Template

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You can find Be Kind at these booksellers

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

 

Picture book review

February 16 – National Do a Grouch a Favor Day

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About the Holiday

It’s probably safe to say that everyone knows a grouch. And if we’re being honest, it’s probably safe to say that we’ve all been a grouch at one time or another. Some days (weeks?) are just like that. Today’s holiday aims to make life just a little better for those who are having a grouchy day. If you know someone who’s grumpy or complainy try giving them a smile or a little special treat. Even doing something goofy or surprising might make them laugh in spite of the doldrums. Perhaps there’s something going on in their life that they’d like to talk about. Spending a little time listening as a friend, may help brighten their day too. Sometimes, though, no matter how much we try to help, all the grouch really wants is for us to…

BE QUIET!

By Ryan T. Higgins

 

Rupert, a scholarly little mouse is so excited to be writing a book in which he will be the starring character. It’s going to be great—a wordless book that is “very artistic.” But just as he gets started his friend Nibbs, pops over and wonders what Rupert is doing. Rupert tells him, “Shhh. Be QUIET. This book does not have words.” When Nibbs hears this, he wants to help, but there’s supposed to be no talking and he’s talking. In fact, he’s “talking about talking.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Rupert wants to throw his friend out of the book, but Nibbs begs and pleads to be included. He’ll even be “extra wordless” if he can just stay. Rupert is beside himself. “I said BE QUIET. This book is wordless!” Just then their friend Thistle drops by wondering what all the shouting is about. Nibbs tells him in some detail what’s going on and why he can’t talk about it.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Thistle thinks a wordless book sounds perfect and also wants to be included. Nibbs says sure, but says they won’t tell Rupert because they’re not supposed to be talking. Rupert, though, is keeping count of all these words, and there are too many of them. Thistle rubs his hands in glee: it’s going to be such fun. But Rupert takes him to task. His book is going “to be more than FUN. It will be visually stimulating.” Nibbs isn’t sure what that means, so Thistle explains that it means they’re going to “poke our readers in the eyeballs with pictures.”

After a bit of strong-man silliness, Nibbs and Thistle buckle down to find “strong-but-silent types.” Nibbs suggests a very familiar bear, but Thistle thinks he looks too grumpy. Rupert thinks a cute kitten would be a good addition, but those claws? And those teeth? On second thought perhaps a cucumber would be better. With just a squiggly smile and some googly eyes, the cucumber makes a great vegetarian character. Thistle tries to explain about vegetarians, and Rupert is in a fury over all this nonsense clogging up his “brilliant piece of wordless literature.”

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Oh! Well, if “serious” is what Rupert wants, how about a portrait of Vincent van Mouse? Too esoteric? Then maybe the three mice should be converted into three potatoes. Rupert yells that he doesn’t even like potatoes. Action is what’s needed, says Thistle. A silent superhero, like “Captain Quiet the Vocabulary Vigilante. Bam! Pow! Kaboom!” No, no, no! Rupert is hopping mad. “No superheroes and no onomatopoeia either.” Say what? “I’m-a-gonna-pee-a?” asks Nibbs “What’s that mean?” Thistle thinks Rupert “should have gone to the bathroom before the book started.”

Really, Thistle and Nibbs just want to help. What about mimes? Nibbs comes up with a great routine, flapping arms and all. Thistle tries to guess what he is, and Rupert can’t understand how they don’t know what “quiet” means. Oh!, say Nibbs and Thistle. Like that saying about the tree in the forest. Is that what quiet is? With a chain saw and a nearby tree, they try it. But Rupert is screaming so much they can’t hear if it makes a sound or not.

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Copyright Ryan T. Higgins, 2017, courtesy of Disney-Hyperion.

Poor Rupert! All he wants is for them to “be quiet for just one page!” He can’t hold his frustration in any longer. He goes on a tirade of words. Nibbs quietly interrupts him. “WHAT?!” yells Rupert. “Shhh. Be Quiet. This book does not have words,” Nibbs reminds him just as the book ends. Now that the book is finished, Thistle and Nibbs think it came out pretty good and hope they can do another one.

Ryan T. Higgins’ laugh-out-loud book about best intentions gone awry is a definite day brightener. Kids and adults will recognize the zany truth of control lost to the unexpected or the oblivious. While we may often feel Rupert’s frustration in real-life situations, Higgins reminds us that it’s good to step back and see the humor in it all. Higgins’ action-packed illustrations and rakish mice ramp up the fun. Kids will enjoy seeing a glimpse of their favorite grumpy bear, Bruce, and discovering what the three mice have been up to since they transformed Bruce’s home into a hotel.

Clever wordplay, realistic dialogue, and sweet characters make BE QUIET! a perfect read-aloud book that kids will want to hear again and again. It would be a funny and fun addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 6

Disney-Hyperion, 2017 | ISBN 978-1484731628

Discover more about Ryan T. Higgins and his books on his website!

Do a Grouch a Favor Day Activity

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Smile If You’re Grouchy! Word Search Puzzle

 

Do you feel grouchy, grumpy, cantankerous? Then maybe a smile would help! Find all twenty words in this printable Smile if You’re Grouchy! puzzle. You’ll be smiling when you do!

Smile if You’re Grouchy! Word Search PuzzleSmile if You’re Grouchy! Word Search Solution

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You can find BE QUIET! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

February 15 – National Wisconsin Day

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About the Holiday

Following the week of Independence Day in 2017, National Day Calendar instituted a weekly celebration of each state in the order in which they entered the union. Today, we recognize Wisconsin, which became the 30th state on May 28, 1848. In 1634, while searching for a Northwest passage to China, Jean Nicolet explored the area. Mining for copper and lead brought Europeans to the region and gave the state its nickname. Wisconsin became known as The Badger State not for the animals but for the habit of miners to build their shelters into the hillsides instead of erecting more permanent homes. Now, Wisconsin is known for its dairy farms and delicious cheeses. Kids will have fun learning about Wisconsin’s largest city with today’s book!

Lulu & Rocky in Milwaukee

Written by Barbara Joosse | Illustrated by Renée Graef

 

Lulu and Pufferson receive a letter from Aunt Fancy inviting them for an adventure. Included are two tickets for the Lake Express to Milwaukee and instructions to go to the Pfister Hotel, where Lulu’s cousin Rocky will be waiting for them. Lulu and Pufferson pack quickly, and in no time they’re aboard the ferry and crossing Lake Michigan. Norman, the doorman at the Pfister, ushers them into the lobby. Rocky is standing in the middle of the lobby, where “there’s gold everywhere and everyone smells like perfume.” He waves and Lulu rushes over and gives him a hug.

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Image copyright Renée Graef, 2018, text copyright Barbara Joosse, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

They head out to explore the city. First, they take “canoes from the Urban Ecology Center and see Milwaukee from the river.” All that rowing has made them hungry, so they hit the Historic Third Ward for fried cheese curds that “taste like melted sunshine.” The next day is busy too and includes a trip to the North Point Lighthouse, Discovery World, and the Harley-Davidson Museum. Dinner is rip-roarin’ fun with a fish-fry enjoyed while a polka band plays.

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Image copyright Renée Graef, 2018, text copyright Barbara Joosse, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The third day is spent at the lakefront peddling a surrey bike and visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum with its rooftop brise soleil—a wing-like structure that opens slowly like a swan taking flight. Lulu says she feels like she’s “riding in the swan! Higher than the clouds! Higher than the wind!” The sculpture and paintings in the museum inspire Lulu and Rocky to paint pictures of their day. The next morning it’s time to go home. Lulu and Rocky give Norman their pictures to remember them by. Lulu and Pufferson board the ferry that will take them home and wave goodbye to Rocky and Milwaukee.

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Image copyright Renée Graef, 2018, text copyright Barbara Joosse, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

An illustrated guide to the sites Lulu and Rocky visited with more information about what there is to see and do at each, plus a long list of even more things they will do on their next trip, follow the text. The title page shows an aerial-view map of the city with major landmarks noted.

Barabara Joosse’s Lulu and Rocky are enthusiastic tour guides through some of Milwaukee’s hot spots that offer sightseeing, exercise, music, inspiration, and yummy treats. Sprinkled with a few old-fashioned phrases and references to new-fangled technology, the story is as warm, friendly, and fast-paced as any enjoyable trip should be. Lulu’s observations highlight kid-favorite fun and will entice in readers a desire to discover not only Milwaukee but their own nearby cities as well.

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Image copyright Renée Graef, 2018, text copyright Barbara Joosse, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Renée Graef’s adorable fox cousins will charm children as they introduce kids to Milwaukee. From the letter that Aunt Fancy sends to the cutaway image of a ferry full of excited travelers to realistic depictions of the city center, lake front, and museums, readers will enjoy lingering over the pages to take in all the details. Humorous additions—as well as Norman’s “wooly bear caterpillar” eyebrows—will also keep kids giggling as they take this enchanting tour-in-a-book.

This first book in a new series—the Our City Adventures—will excite children to learn more about areas around the country and what makes them unique. An engaging introduction for young explorers or armchair travelers as well as an accessible resource for teachers. Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee would be just the ticket to add to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1534110175

Discover more about Barbara Joosse and her books on her website.

To learn more about Renée Graef, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Wisconsin Day Activity

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Wonderful Wisconsin Coloring Page

 

Kids will enjoy learning some facts about Wisconsin with this printable coloring page.

Wonderful Wisconsin Coloring Page

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You can find Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

February 14 – Valentine’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate love! Love for family, friends, and our special valentines. Begun as a religious feast day, Valentine’s Day became a day of romance with the bloom of courtly love during 14th century. During the 18th century in England those in love began showing their affections by giving flowers and candy and making valentine’s cards. Now, Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest holidays on the calendar and a favorite of adults and kids alike.

XO, OX: A Love Story

Written by Adam Rex | Illustrated by Scott Campbell

 

Ox has finally gotten up the courage to write to his heart’s desire. He sits on the edge of his bed, lap desk upon his knees scribbling away. “Dear Gazelle, For some time now I have wanted to write a letter to tell you how much I admire you.” He goes on to praise her gracefulness and remarks that even when she is “running from tigers you are like a ballerina who is running from tigers.” He ends with a declaration of love and XO, OX.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Gazelle, lounging on her daybed and admiring herself in a mirror nonchalantly hands her response to her assistant. “Dear Ox, Thank you for your letter. I hope you understand that I have many admirers and cannot reply to each one personally.” She says “Au revoir” with the gift of a signed photograph and moves on to the next letter in the overflowing box of fan mail.

The ever-optimistic Ox writes back while sitting on a park bench and enjoying a cup of steaming coffee. Gazelle’s picture is propped against a guitar, and little friends gather nearby. In his letter, Ox reveals that he does understand about the many other admirers and that makes it all the more meaningful that she responded to his letter personally. He signs off “XO, OX.” In return, Gazelle shoots off her standard letter and encloses another signed photo.

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Ox is overjoyed to receive a second letter. The “coincidence” of the exact wording to the preceding letter only reinforces his opinion that Gazelle is “very smart” and has “a tidy mind.” He urges her to reject the idea that he only loves her because she is pretty. He also loves that she is smart. Gazelle receives Ox’s letter (sealed with a big, red heart) while floating on a raft in the pool, a tall, cool drink floating nearby on its own poof. Her response is a departure from the usual, but only because she is insulted that anyone would think her “repetitive.” While she admits to many faults, this is not one of them. It seems she couldn’t be much clearer when she ends her letter with, “There is no need to write me again.”

Ox reads and rereads Gazelle’s note. Ignoring the last line, he focuses on the “ridiculous” thought that she has many faults. Ox assures her that she only has “one or two.” Gazelle takes offense and from her vanity table tells Ox that his “clumsy brain” has led him away from the usual response to her self-deprecation, which is that she has no faults. She then can’t help but mention the faults of other animals, such as being “too large and too stout” and having “strong smells about them and clumsy brains.”

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

Ox does not have such a “clumsy brain” and humbly accepts Gazelle’s criticism. In fact he states that he is glad to know what his faults are and tells Gazelle “you make me want to be the best Ox I can be.” His love for her—“the unflattering light of my life”—is undimmed, and he is looking forward to her next letter. Gazelle puts an end to it once and for all. She writes that there will be no next letter, clarifying that “this letter doesn’t count.”

HaHa, thinks Ox when he reads this. He quickly pens a note telling Gazelle how much he loves her sense of humor. Gazelle is brutal. She orders Ox to stop and tells him he is wasting his time. She lays out her reasons: “I could never love a clumsy thing. I could never love a smelly thing.” She goes on to list all of the aforementioned faults and adds that she could never love someone “so thick and ungraceful and awful and unlovely. And unlovable.”

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Image copyright Scott Campbell, text copyright Adam Rex. Courtesy of Roaring Brook Press.

You might think Ox would be devastated, but in this tirade he finds one of Gazelle’s faults—and he tells her that her ability to reveal it to him only makes him love her more. He closes with his usual XO, OX and includes a photograph of himself. Gazelle is incredulous. She rips the picture into bits, but then gazes at the pieces again and smiles. “Dear Ox,” she scribbles as she sits on the edge of her bed, lap desk upon her knees and with the taped-together photograph of her beau looking on.

There’s something for every age in Adam Rex’s XO, OX: A Love Story. Little ones will find the snooty Gazelle and humble Ox funny in their persistent writing and reactions to each letter. Older kids will understand the dynamics at work and will get the sly wordplay, the twist on whom exactly is “thick, ungraceful, and awful”, and the idea that perhaps the lady doth protest too much. And adults will never make it through without out loud guffaws on almost every page. Wondering how Ox will respond to each of Gazelle’s letters is such delicious suspense, and his kindness in the face of her derision will tug at readers’ hearts.

Scott Campbell’s softy colored line drawings offer hilarious touches to fill out the details of the homes and lives of these smitten pen pals. In a stroke of genius, Gazelle’s personal assistant is a sunglasses-wearing mole, suggesting Gazelle’s own perception of her dazzling brilliance. Clever contrasts in the lifestyles of barrel-bodied Ox, who writes at a rustic desk and relaxes by a pond, and lithe Gazelle, who writes from her elegant vanity and lounges in her pool, demonstrate that their similarities may outweigh their differences. The touching ending that brings the relationship between Ox and Gazelle full circle as he sends her a photograph and she responds is satisfying and sweet.

XO, OX: A Love Story would be a funny, fantastic addition to anyone’s home library—one that can provide laughs or balm for feeling hearts. 

Ages 4 and up

Roaring Brook Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1626722880

Discover the world of Adam Rex, including his art, picture books, and books for older kids, on his website!

View a gallery of illustration by Scott Campbell on his website!

Valentine’s Day Activity

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Monster Love! Maze

 

Help the Love Monster collect all the valentines in this printable puzzle.

 Monster Love! Maze | Monster Love Maze Solution 

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You can find XO, OX: A Love Story at these booksellers

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

 

Picture Book Review