November 22 – It’s National Farm City Week

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About the Holiday

Celebrated during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, National Farm City Week recognizes the partnership between farms and towns and cities where produce, meat, wool, and other products are prepared, marketed, retailed, and consumed. Ensuring that farming remains an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable way of life for future generations is also an important aspect of this week-long observance because only through the hard work of farmers and their enterprises—both large and small—that the country’s health and well-being are maintained.

Construction Site: Farming Strong All Year Long

Written by Sherri Duskey Rinker | Illustrated AG Ford

 

The warmer days of spring have arrived and “six tough trucks rise with the sun.” They’re headed for a farm in the distance, where there’s lots of work to do. Before they even get to the farm, they come upon a section of the road where dirt from a “springtime washout” blocks their way. With Bulldozer and Dump Truck’s help, the road is quickly cleared, and the trucks are on their way.

First, the fields must be plowed and Big Tractor knows just what to do. “She churns the soil, rips up weeds— / prepares the ground for planting seeds!” Then “Little Tractor plants the crop / She rolls along as big seeds drop.” But the animals need tending too, and Little Skid Steer is right there to clean up and get the pens ready for the cows and horses, the lambs, chickens, and pigs.

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Image copyright Sherri Duskey Rinker, 2022, text copyright AG Ford, 2022. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

As summer comes, each truck has its job to ensure the crops grow and the animals are well taken care of. But there’s an even bigger job to do, and Excavator, Bulldozer, Skid Steer, Crane Truck, Dump Truck, Cement Mixer, and Flatbed Truck all work together to build a new barn, just in time for the cooler weather of fall.

Now it’s Combine’s turn to shine. “She rolls on hills and through the fields, / harvesting what each row yields.” But she can’t do it alone: “The Tractor pulls grain carts behind. / She rolls with Combine, all aligned.” As they drive side-by-side, Auger, collects and pours the grain into the carts. Then it’s on to the pumpkin patch to gather everyone’s favorite autumn treat.

There may be no crops to plant and pick as winter settles in, but the farm trucks are still busy clearing snow, making repairs, and making sure the animals have warm hay and plenty of food for the long, cold months. Before the “hardworking farming teams” take to their garage bays for a well-deserved sleep, they give thanks for the “friends they have and work they do” and another good year.

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Image copyright Sherri Duskey Rinker, 2022, text copyright AG Ford, 2022. Courtesy of Chronicle Books.

Sherri Duskey Rinker’s well-known rhymes and dynamic rhythm carry this story of ten vehicles working together throughout the year to keep a farm from planting season to buttoning up for the winter. Rinker’s inclusion of extra equipment and attachments in addition to the ten vehicles will wow kids while teaching them how one machine is able to handle many types of jobs and how different types of machinery complement each other to do complex tasks. As the story ends and the vehicles give thanks for a good year, children can also join in by adding what they’re thankful for and ways their day was good. The final spread welcomes bedtime with lulling rhythms of “good night” and “sweet dreams.”

AG Ford’s lovely and vibrant illustrations brim with the beauty and always changing weather, atmosphere, and duties of a farm. Ford’s use of varying perspectives gives kids an idea of just how big a farm can be, and his saturated colors show readers the richness of the soil, a sun-drenched summer, and the mellower temperatures of spring and fall. But front and center are his realistic settings that depict how each vehicle works and all the different jobs they do. The machinery’s eager expressions as well as images of the various farm animals will charm kids, and when bedtime comes, Ford’s deep somnolent dusk blue sky and drowsy vehicles will soothe and welcome kids to sleep.

Whether your child loves cars, trucks, and big machinery; anything to do with farming; or just a story well-told, they’ll enthusiastically embrace Construction Site: Farming Strong All Year Long. This is a book that will enjoy “favorite” status at home and in classrooms and be in constant rotation in school and public library collections.

Ages 2 – 4 

Chronicle Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1797213873

Discover more about Sherri Duskey Rinker and her books, book events, and how to order signed books on her website.

To learn more about AG Ford, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Farm City Week Activities

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Build a Tractor Jigsaw Puzzle

 

With this printable jigsaw puzzle, you can color and build a tractor of your own! Just print the Tractor Template, color, cut, and have fun putting it together!

Supplies

  • Printable Tractor Template
  • To print garden plot and vegetables, see links in game below.
  • Card stock paper, poster board, or cardboard (optional)
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • Scissors
  • Glue (optional)
  • Tape (optional)

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Directions

  1. Print the Tractor Template. For a sturdier puzzle, print on card stock or glue the pieces to poster board or cardboard before cutting.
  2. Color and cut out the pieces
  3. Put the tractor together

Grow a Vegetable Garden Board Game

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With this fun game you and your family and friends can grow gardens inside! Roll the dice to see whose garden will fully ripen first!

Supplies

Directions

Object: The object of the game is for each player to fill their garden rows with vegetables. Depending on the ages of the players, the required winning number of rows to fill and the number of vegetables to “plant” in each row can be adjusted.

  1. Print one Game Board for each player
  2. Print one set of Playing Cards for each player (for sturdier playing items, print on card stock)
  3. Print one Vegetable Playing Die and assemble it (for a sturdier die, print on card stock)
  4. Cut the vegetables into their individual playing cards
  5. Color the “dirt” on the Garden Plot with the crayon (optional)
  6. Choose a player to go first
  7. The player rolls the die and then “plants” the facing vegetable in a row on the game board
  8. Play moves to the person on the right
  9. Players continue rolling the die and “planting” vegetables until each of the number of determined rows have been filled with the determined number of vegetables.
  10. The first person to “grow” all of their veggies wins!

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You can find Construction Site: Farming Strong All Year Long at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 21 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

There’s still time to celebrate one of the best months of the year—Picture Book Month! If you’re in shopping mode, be sure to put plenty of picture books on your list for the kids in your life. You know what they say—and it’s really true: A book is a gift you can open again and again!

Penguin and Penelope

By Salina Yoon

 

One day while taking a walk, Penguin saw a baby elephant stuck in the mud. “Her name was Penelope.” Penguin helped her out of the mud then gave her food, water, and a much-needed bath. Penguin noticed elephant tracks on the ground, and he and Penelope followed them, hoping to find Penelope’s herd. But when they came to a break in the tracks, they found a wide ravine through which a river flowed. “‘Oh dear,’ said Penguin. ‘We’d better find another way.'”

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Copyright Salina Yoon, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

They walked for days trying to find a way around the ravine, but couldn’t find one. “The world is so big!” Penelope said when they slept under the stars, blanketed with Penelope’s long scarf. The days of searching turned into weeks, and “over time, their friendship grew and grew, and so did Penelope.” One afternoon as they were lying on a beach watching the birds in the sky, Penelope said that she wished she could fly. This gave Penguin an idea.

They went down to the river’s edge. Penguin dived in, but Penelope only waded in carefully. “Penguin asked her to trust him. And she did.” To Penelope, swimming felt like flying. When they reached the other bank, they discovered elephant footprints. They followed them a long way until, finally, they found Penelope’s herd. Penelope and Penguin hugged goodbye with promises never to forget each other, and Penguin gave Penelope his scarf to remember him by. 

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Copyright Salina Yoon, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Penelope’s family was so happy to see her. “‘How we’ve missed you!’ they cried.” Penelope was happy to be back with her herd, but she also missed Penguin. One day, Penelope went back to the riverbank where she and Penguin had come ashore. She found him there, and once again they “flew like the birds” together.

A panel on the back of the cover jacket holds images of Penguin and Penelope for children to cut out and play with. The front and back endpapers offer a river backdrop, where kids can play with Penguin and Penelope while engaging their imagination.

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Copyright Salina Yoon, 2022. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Salina Yoon’s latest Penguin adventure begins with a surprise discovery that leads to a fast and forever friendship as Penguin helps Penelope find her way home. Penguin’s kindness and pluck are unwavering as the search extends over time, during which Penelope grows in size and experience while following her new friend. After being welcomed home with excitement and much love, Penelope is happy to be back with her family. Her longing to see Penguin again, however, spurs her to set out on her own adventure, one that demonstrates her growing independence while still guided by her family’s footsteps. This development as well as a beautiful fold-out page that shows Penelope’s family lovingly watching over her from a distance as she swims with Penguin will cheer and reassure young children.

Yoon’s storytelling is gentle and sprinkled with dialogue that conveys the characters’ emotions in ways that even the youngest child will appreciate and understand. Penguin is as adorable as ever, and Penelope is sweet and expressive as Penguin feeds her, makes her giggle while giving her a tickle-y bath, and discovers how big the world is. Yoon’s imagery, drawn with vibrant colors and boldly outlined dynamic shapes highlights adorable Penguin and Penelope, and little ones will laugh when Penguin—with just an “Oof!”—lifts Penelope out of the mud. Penelope’s homecoming is poignant, and the panoramic fold-out will thrill readers.

A sweet story of friendship found and never forgotten on life’s journey, Penguin and Penelope will enchant fans of the series as well as those just discovering it. The book is a must addition for school and library collections and for anyone looking for a charming and tender story their child will want to hear again and again.

Ages 3 – 6 

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1681193441

Discover more about Salina Yoon, her books, and her art on her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

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Penguin and Penelope Activity Kit

 

You can join Penguin and Penelope in some fun with the coloring page, maze, and connect-the-dots page  you’ll find on Salina Yoon’s website!

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You can find Penguin and Penelope at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 18 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

Children benefit so much from close relationships to grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and other extended family members. This month and next, as family gathers together for special holiday events, it’s fun for adults to share family history and their own funny or moving stories of growing up with the younger generation. Letting kids know how much they’re loved by everyone in the family is important too. It helps them develop a sense of belonging, a good self-image, and confidence. Reading together is a perfect way to spend time together and get conversations started.

Thanks to Amazon Crossing Kids and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of My GrandMom for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

My GrandMom

By Gee-eun Lee | Translated by Sophie Bowman

Gee-eun’s Grandma sits on the floor, holding her sobbing granddaughter in her lap. Breakfast is on the table and toys are strewn about. A gray cat comes to see what’s going on. “‘Dear me, your mom will have to take a boat to work to get across all these tears,'” she says. Grandma, who Gee-eun calls Halmoni in Korean, distracts her by letting her help make kalguksu. She gives Gee-eun a bit of the noodle dough, and while Halmoni rolls out the dough and slices the noodles, Gee-eun fashions little figures of her, her mom, dad, grandma, and their cat, Mari. When it comes time to make the kalguksu, Gee-eun’s dough family goes into the boiling pot along with the other ingredients. “‘…You tell them to hang on tight to the noodles so they stay afloat,'” Halmoni says.

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Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Gee-eun has been waiting and waiting for Family Sports Day to arrive, but when it does, her mom has to work and can’t go along as she had promised. Gee-eun was looking forward to doing the cheer dance, the tug-of-war, and the running race with her. Now who can she go with? Halmoni tells her granddaughter that she will go. She then relates tales from her own childhood, when she was so strong at tug-of-war that she “could pull all the other kids over with only one arm,” she was such a fast racer that they called her “Speedy Horse,” and was such a good dancer that it “goes without saying.” Then she shows Gee-eun some of her moves.

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Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

At Family Sports Day, Gee-eun feels confident in her and her grandma’s chances. But things don’t pan out exactly as she’d hoped, and Halmoni even trips and falls during the race.  Gee-eun is so disappointed that her tears flow freely. Walking home, Halmoni and Gee-eun get a curry bun—and then a second one that is their secret. “No matter how you may be feeling, curry buns are always delicious, especially when shared with Grandma,” Gee-eun says.

They then buy mackerel, bean sprouts, and eggs for dinner, while Gee-eun’s grandma assures her that her father would easily beat a mackerel in a swimming race, that she once bought a bean sprout as big as Gee-eun to season just for her mom, and that a hen always misses her eggs. “‘Halmoni,'” Gee-eun then asks, “‘when will Mom get home?'” The food is on the table when her parents get home, and she runs to the door to greet them so they can eat dinner together…because “nothing beats a mean made by Grandma.”

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Copyright Gee-eun Lee, 2022, translation by Sophie Bowman, 2022. Courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids.

Gee-eun Lee’s story is infused with those types of events in life, both inconsequential and significant, that are filled with emotional power that make them memorable. From Gee-eun’s meltdown at her mother’s leaving to her grandma’s quick thinking that leads to bonding over food and creativity to the bravado and disappointment of the Family Sports Day, Lee invites readers into the touching and humorous relationship between Gee-eun and her grandmother. Wily, proud, comforting, and understanding, Gee-eun’s grandmother is the heart of the family, bridging the generations with her wisdom and constant love. Lee’s storytelling draws readers in with her warm and familiar dialogue that ingeniously pivots back and forth in time, tying together moments in Gee-eun’s mother’s life, her grandmother’s life, and Gee-eun’s experiences. 

Gee-eun Lee’s soft colored pencil and paint illustrations are delightfully childlike, as if the character Gee-eun had drawn them. In that vein the expressive depictions of Gee-eun’s adult grandma fiercely besting a dozen children at tug of war, her smooth dance and nimble dance moves, and her and Gee-eun’s “set and ready” stance at the track while other mother/child pairs stretch, play, and tie laces are comical joy. The theme of bridging generations also appears cleverly in the image of Gee-eun’s dough family floating together in the soup and the portrait of Gee-eun brushing her doll’s hair while her grandmother brushes and braids Gee-eun’s, among others.

 Written with a unique voice that echoes universal truths about family relationships, My GrandMom is a humorous, poignant, and heartening read aloud that will quickly become a favorite for parents, grandparents, other caregivers, and children to share. The book is highly recommended for home and classroom libraries and a must for school and public library collections.  

Ages 3 – 7

Amazon Crossing Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1662508257

About the Author

Gee-eun Lee is an award-winning Korean author/illustrator. She recently won the prestigious BolognaRagazzi Award in the comics category for her book, The Story of How the Korean Shaved Ice Dessert Was Born, and is also a top winner of the Korean Young Illustrator Award. She studied design and illustration in Korea and the UK. Her first picture book, Paper Dad, was made into a children’s musical in Korea. My GrandMom is the second book she both wrote and illustrated and is based on her own grandmother.  You can connect with Gee-eun on Instagram: @studio_geeeun

About the Translator

Sophie Bowman is a PhD student at the University of Toronto, studying Korean literature. She was awarded the ICF Literature Translation Fellowship at Ewha Womans University. In 2015, she won the Korea Times Modern Korean Literature Translation Award grand prize for poetry with her translations of Jin Eun-young and co-translated Kim Bo-Young’s I’m Waiting for You and Other Stories. She recently translated the picture book Magic Candies by Heena Baek, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Follow her on Twitter @SophieOrbital.

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You can find My GrandMom at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 15 – Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day

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About the Holiday

The holidays are coming, and today’s holiday offers the perfect opportunity to really look deep into your fridge and toss any of those leftovers or nearly empty jars to make way for the special dinners and treats to come. This season of favorite foods won’t be complete, though, without the newest book in the beloved Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series to share!

Thanks to Josh Funk for sharing a digital copy of The Great Caper Caper with me for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

The Great Caper Caper (Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast #5)

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Brendan Kearney

 

It was still nighttime “deep in the fridge” when Sir French Toast woke Lady Pancake with a scream. When she sleepily meets him in the living room, Toast tells her that the Great Light has disappeared. She doesn’t believe him at first. “‘Nonsense,’ said Pancake. ‘Crack open the drapes.’ / But as she gazed out, she exclaimed, ‘Oh, my crêpes!’” It was true. “All of the fridge was consumed by the dark. / From Lentil Soup Springs up to Passionfruit Park.”

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Then Pancake noticed a light shining in the distance. They hurried toward it and found themselves in Las Veggies, where a gleaming Tower dominated the landscape. As soon as Sir French Toast and Lady Pancake entered the door, they demanded to know who was in charge. “A salty green bud with an odor of brine, / Answered the question: ‘This tower is mine!’” He introduced himself as Count Caper, “the richest, most powerful food” and mocked Pancake’s idea that he had stolen the Great Light. Then he threw them out of Las Veggies Tower. On the way home, French Toast seemed distressed, but Pancake told him she had a plan all figured out.

Back in their rooms, Pancake and Toast assembled a team of eight friends they’d made through their many adventures together, and Pancake explained the scheme she had in mind. The crew set right to work, infiltrating Count Caper’s inner sanctum for reconnaissance, gathering the supplies they’d need, and devising a creative diversion. At last the time came to put their plan into motion, and the team descended surreptitiously on a Las Veggies Tower showroom. Disguised as audience members, Croissant, Tofu, Pancake, and Toast took their places close to Count Caper’s table as the Beets took the stage. In a moment they had unboxed a commotion of animal crackers that sent Count Caper’s guards running, and Pancake’s plan progressed without a hitch.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

They had just gained access to Count Caper’s office and discovered the hidden Great Light when Count Caper appeared. When confronted with his crime he caved, relating that he’d been scorned all his life and left in the shadows. He’d decided he’d had enough and wanted to bask in the star-making glow of the Great Light. Having confessed, he then ordered his guards to capture Pancake, Toast, and their friends.

But before they could, one of Pancake’s team member from Caper’s own inside circle stepped forward and gave his boss with an alternate scenario—and future. Count Caper looked around at the ten he had captured. They were smiling and hopeful, true friends all together. Again Caper relented and told them to just take the light. He “…then let out a moan. ‘Leave me to sulk in the dark all alone.’” This time, it was Lady Pancake who had an offer to make, and she invited Count Caper to help them reinstall the Great Light to its proper place. Now with the light safe and secure, it was time to go on with the show.

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Image copyright Brendan Kearney, 2022, text copyright Josh Funk, 2022. Courtesy of Union Square Kids.

Returning to Josh Funk’s imaginative world with this fifth book in the Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast series is just like peering into your own refrigerator with a bad case of the munchies and finding your favorite dessert waiting just for you. The first glimpse into Funk’s fridge immediately welcomes readers back to the clever food-inspired landscape and the promise of a surprising adventure to come. This time, Pancake and Toast team up in a buddy heist escapade that spools out with the same charm, humor, and camaraderie that makes this genre a favorite.

Funk’s nimble wordplay and smart rhymes give the story a brisk energy that will keep kids guessing at how Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast will resolve their dilemma while staying true to the series’ focus on friendship and welcoming new pals to the fold. And all wrapped up with the eagerly anticipated group party at the end.

Speaking of that party, Brendan Kearney once again gets everyone out on the dance floor with a twinkling disco ball, shining spotlights, and VIP tables sprinkled near the stage where a very special guest gets ready to sing. Leading up to this celebration, Kearney takes kids back to this one-of-a-kind fridge, with its rolling hills, wide lakes, deep valleys, and—who knew?—the glitz, glamour, and Great Light of Las Veggies! Count Caper’s office is, appropriately, furnished with others of his ilk, including jarred pickles, peppers, and pearl onions. And his desk? A tin of “extra briney” anchovies.

Kids will have fun joining in on the subterfuge as disguised (but still recognizable to young readers) Croissant, Fruitcake, Brie, and the others spy on Count Caper. When he’s caught, the cheerful group dynamics extends companionship not only to Count Caper but to readers—who will enthusiastically accept—as well.

Shining a light on friendship and second chances, The Great Caper Caper provides lively, high-style hijinks entertainment and will be a favorite read aloud on home bookshelves, whether you’re adding to the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series or discovering it for the first time. For school and public library collections, this book and the others in the series are a must.

Ages 4 – 8

Union Square Kids. 2022 | ISBN 978-1454943631

About the Author

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Josh Funk Headshot-Credit Carter Hasegawa

Josh Funk is the co-creator of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, including Lady Pancake and Sir French ToastThe Case of the Stinky StenchMission DefrostableShort & Sweet, and The Great Caper Caper. His other works include, How to Code a Sandcastle, Lost in the LibraryAlbie Newton, and more. Josh lives in Massachusetts and invites you to learn more about him by visiting joshfunkbooks.com.

About the Illustrator

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Brendan Kearney is the co-creator of the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, including Lady Pancake and Sir French ToastThe Case of the Stinky StenchMission DefrostableShort & Sweet, and The Great Caper Caper. Brendan also is the author-illustrator of ForestThe Night the Moon Went Missing, and Fish. He currently lives in the UK with his family and invites you to learn more about him by visiting brendandraws.com.

Snack on this book trailer for The Great Caper Caper

There’s no expiration date on all the fun in these fantastic blogs! See what’s inside!

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Clean Out Your Refrigerator Day Activity

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Friendship is Illuminating! Maze

 

You can solve almost any dilemma with friends! In this maze these two friends want to shine together! Can you help the lightbulb at the top find a way through the maze, while picking up some pals along the way in this printable puzzle?

Friendship is Illuminating! Maze and Solution

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You can find The Great Caper Caper at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 11 – It’s Children’s Book Week

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy program in the United States. The history of the holiday goes back to 1913, when Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, toured the country to promote a higher standard in children’s books and proposed a Children’s Book Week. He then enlisted the help of Frederic G. Melcher, editor of Publishers Weekly, who believed that “a great nation is a reading nation,” and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library to help spread the word. This year’s theme is “How Do You Book?” The thought-provoking theme encourages readers to think about what they read, where they read, and how they read. To learn more about this literary holiday, visit Every Child a Reader to find out more about the week, how to join online, and lots of bookmarks and activities to download.

Building an Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chávez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash

Written by Carmen Oliver | Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

 

As a child, Favio Chávez looked to music as an important touchstone. When he grew up, he was still involved with music, but his profession was as an environmental engineer. He was given a job in “Cateura, Paraguay—a small village built on a landfill—to try to help the families who lived and worked amid the hills of trash.” When trucks came and dumped load after load of trash, recyclers, called gancheros, filled bags of items they could resell. The air was choked with the stench of garbage, and anywhere the gancheros walked “they waded through filth.” It made Favio sad to think of people living this way.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

As Favio supervised the gancheros, he “became friends with them and their children. He worried about what kind of lives they would live when they grew up. Besides his job at the landfill, “Favio conducted a youth orchestra in a nearby village.” One day, the people he worked with came to listen. They wondered if their kids could also learn to play instruments. Favio was excited by the prospect. 

He even brought his own guitars and violins for the children to play, but soon he had more kids in class than he had instruments. But there was another problem too. The instruments were valuable and could attract thieves to the homes of his students. He needed another idea, and while watching Nicolás “Colá” Gómez, a talented carpenter, picking through the trash, he thought of something that might work. 

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Colá began searching through the piles for anything that he could use to make instruments. He collected cans and pipes, crates and buttons, even X-ray film and eating utensils. As he looked at his materials, Colá envisioned how he could create a violin. Finally with violins and other instruments for each child, Favio began teaching them how to play and how to read music. They practiced and practiced until they were ready to perform for their parents.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

At a local church, with the audience packed and excited, the notes of the children’s first song ‘”New York, New York’ floated out the windows and into the warm night air.” The adults were overcome with happiness. While their lives had been only about survival, they now “had hope in their hearts and dreams for a better tomorrow.”

Back matter includes further information about Favio Chávez and the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura from 1975, when Favio was born in Argentina to 2006, when he arrived to work at the Cateura landfill to today, when the Orchestra supports more children and families with building projects, food, computers for school, scholarships, and many more humanitarian efforts. A selected bibliography is also included.

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Image copyright Louisa Uribe, 2022, text copyright Carmen Oliver, 2022. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

From its earliest days the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura has inspired musicians, authors, movie makers, and listeners from around the world. In Building an Orchestra of Hope, Carmen Oliver tells the story through the lens of a hope fulfilled. As Favio Chávez begins his new job at the landfill educating the gancheros on how to work more efficiently, his initial thought is for the future of the children of the village. Oliver shows how Chávez not only supervised the workers but became their friend, honored to be included. While relating Chávez’s eagerness to share his love of music with the children, Oliver hints at what’s to come with lyrical descriptions of the sounds the glass, metal, and plastic makes as the gancheros rake through the piles of trash. She also includes pertinent facts that allow readers to understand the challenges the community faced and what a monumental undertaking the idea was.

While this story revolves around Favio Chávez, his idea could never have been brought to fruition without the talents of Nicolás “Colá” Gómez, who could envision the instruments and even hear their sound as he pored through the trash for materials. Oliver provides a satisfyingly detailed list of the types of items Colá repurposed and later reveals which items were used to create violins, drums, violas, flutes, saxophones, and trumpets, pages that are sure to pique young crafters’ interest. The emotional ending to this true story will swell the hearts of readers—those who already know about the orchestra and those being introduced to it for the first time.

Louisa Uribe’s soft-hued illustrations realistically depict the village of Cateura and the landfill it is built upon. They meet Favio Chávez and Nicolás Gómez and witness the idea of creating instruments from trash come to life. Uribe’s close up of a violin lets kids see how disparate items are used creatively to replicate each part of the instrument. As instruments are made, the number of children filling the courtyard grows until their hard work and practice is rewarded on a real stage, a microcosm of the growth and impact of one man’s caring and creativity.

Special Note: The inspirational back matter, worthy of its own picture book, will astound readers with just how far-reaching one idea when explored in collaboration with others can be. Themes of the vital importance and life-changing impact of the arts, persistence, determination, overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges and odds, and the power of hope are what this true story is built on, and this factual back matter is sure to affect readers and get them thinking about how they can make a difference to a cause they believe in.

Powerful, accessible, and impactful, Building an Orchestra of Hope is a must for all home, school, and library collections, not only to tell this compelling, ongoing story but to remind them that their actions, too—from a single kind word or smile to large community effort—can change lives. 

Ages 4 – 9 

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2022 | ISBN 978-0802854674

You can learn more about Luisa Uribe, her books, and her art on her website.

You can connect with Carmen Oliver on Twitter.

Children’s Book Week Activity

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Bookworm Bookmark

 

Are you a bookworm? If so, then this bookmark is for you! Just print, color, and cut along the dotted line. This little worm will happily save your page for you!

Bookworm Bookmark Template

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You can find Building an Orchestra of Hope at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 9 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

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

I’d like to thank Page Street Kids for sending me a copy of Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles

Written by Mike Allegra | Illustrated by Jaimie Whitbread

 

The air in the rainforest rang with “squeaks, squawks, grunts, growls, hisses, harrumphs, and frenetic feather-and-fur-flying fury. It was quite the rumpus.” But all of these sounds didn’t make the animals happy, in fact, they were miserable and, even worse, all the noise “made them feel very alone—even though they weren’t alone.” But then one day, a visitor emerged from the river with sounds of her own—sounds the other animals had never heard before, like a “fwippa fwip of flickering ears” and a “shookita shimmy of a shaking booty bottom.” 

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Image copyright Jaimie Whitbread, 2022, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Books.

Suddenly, the rainforest was silent as the animals stared at this unusual interloper as she yawned and stretched. A river turtle was the first to approach and ask what, exactly, she was. The answer came quickly (a capybara)—and with an invitation to “join my Sleepy Happy Copy Cuddle.” The turtle rebuffed this invite, thinking it would in some way soften his shell. When the capy reassured the turtle that he would stay as tough as ever, he relented. 

So they cuddled next to each other, and the river turtle had to agree that he felt better. “‘That makes me happy,’ said the capy. So she floofed. Floof!” Hearing this FLOOF, an iguana came by to see what was happening. The iguana did not want to get so close, and the capy let the iguana know this was perfectly all right. So she had another happy cuddler and enjoed another happy FLOOF. All this FLOOFing started to attract more and more animals, each wanting to cuddle in their own way. The capy agreed that all these ways of cuddling were valid and just perfect.

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Image copyright Jaimie Whitbread, 2022, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Books.

At last, all the rainforest animals were content. Then a dark shape came slowly moving into view just below the surface of the river, and in a moment a crocodile splashed onto shore with a “ROOOOOOAR!” Undaunted, the capy asked if the crocodile would like a cuddle. The crocodile was baffled, bewildered, and even a bit alarmed. But then he was touched, if a little confused. “‘No one ever wants to cuddle me,’ the crocodile sniffled.” The capy assured the crocodile that she did. Now everyone was capy cuddle happy. 

But what was this? More dark shapes and burbling bubbles were swimming their way. Was it? It was! “‘More Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddlers!'” Lots of them! Now there were plenty of cuddles—and FLOOFS—to go around for everyone!

In a short note Mike Allegra tells a little more about capybaras and includes a photo of the adorable cuddlers.

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Image copyright Jaimie Whitbread, 2022, text copyright Mike Allegra, 2022. Courtesy of Page Street Books.

Mike Allegra, a very funny writer well versed in the magical gymnastics of language, dazzles with sentences energized with alliteration, assonance, and delightfully gleeful onomatopoeia. Add to that his recurring “sleepy happy capy cuddles” and infectious “Floofs,” and this is one story that will have kids and adults smiling from page one and long after the story is over. (Of course, adults should be ready to close the cover just to open it again immediately for at least one “one more time!”) What’s even more ingenious, perhaps, is that along with this giddiness comes some thought-provoking truths about feeling alone among a crowd, the diversity of ways to feel comforted, comfortable, and happy, how the most prickly of personalities may need love the most, as well as an education on capybaras and their behaviors.

Jaimie Whitbread brings this transformed rainforest to life with her realistic depictions of a wide variety of animals in all their glorious color and raucous, curmudgeonly, chill, or playful personalities. Her bold imagery clearly shows the difference in the stressed-out tension that existed pre-floof and the relaxed contentedness bestowed by the capy cuddles. Animal lovers and kids eager to do more research on the rainforest will find Whitbread’s illustrations particularly fascinating while the final floof-a-rama super cuddle is sure to inspire group snuggles at home.

A masterful combination of comical and educational that’s sure to be a favorite for kids and adults alike, Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles is a joyful read aloud and a must for any home, classroom, school, and public library collection. If you’re looking for a gift for any child, this book is a superb choice.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2022 | ISBN 978-1645675594

Discover more about Mike Allegra and his books on his website.

To learn more about Jaimie Whitbread, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Picture Book Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-take-a-bookworm-trek-maze

Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze

 

These two friends love reading! Can you help them through the maze to meet the bookworm? 

Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze Puzzle | Take a Bookworm Trek! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-sleepy-happy-capy-cuddles-cover

You can find Sleepy Happy Capy Cuddles at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 8 – Young Readers Day

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About the Holiday

Falling each year on the first Tuesday in November, Young Readers Day highlights all of the benefits that babies, kids, tweens, and teenagers reap by reading and being read to. The holiday celebrates parents, teachers, and other caregivers who make sure that children are connected with books that capture their minds and hearts and lead to a lifetime love of reading. People are also encouraged to stop by their local bookstore and let their kids pick out a new book to enjoy.  Today is also National STEM/STEAM Day, which aims to get kids exploring the fields of science technology, engineering, art, and math – subjects that are the backbone of discovery and the type of innovation needed to design a better future for us all. Today’s book incorporates both of these holidays! 

Count on Us! Climate Activists from One to a Billion

Written by Gabi Snyder | Illustrated by Sarah Walsh

 

In her book aimed at inspiring children to discover what they can do to help protect and care for the environment, Gabi Snyder invites them to count the ways they can help and travel through the alphabet, beginning with “1 Action. One small person taking one small step towards Big changes.” But that one action and one person don’t need to stand alone. Snyder shows kids how a single expression of caring for the environment can influence a growing number of people to engage with conservation in diverse ways.

Counting from one to ten, Snyder demonstrates how small groups of people of varying generations can start to come together to “grow a movement” and come up with “inspiring ideas” while also introducing “5 Environmentalists” who are working around the world “to protect nature from being harmed by human’s waste and pollution” and “8 Healthy Habitats” from mountains to jungles to the ocean, and more.

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Image copyright Sarah Walsh, 2022, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2022. Courtesy of Barefoot Books.

After the number 10 is reached, Snyder begins counting by tens, and readers see how quickly the environmental movement can grow. Now “20 Kids for conservation” are planting gardens, picking up litter, riding bikes, and rescuing animals harmed by pollution, while 30 light bulbs have been replaced by energy-saving LED bulbs. And remember those 20 kids? They’re now part of “40 Mighty Marchers” carrying the banners made at number 2.

The “5 environmentalists” and “8 habitats” have spawned dozens of places and species that are being protected as well as products that can be recycled or repurposed and ways science can help. From 100, the number of those involved explodes exponentially to 1,000… 10,000…100,000… all the way to one billion with all those people doing what they can, described from T through Z, to make the world a cleaner, safer, and healthier place for all.

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Image copyright Sarah Walsh, 2022, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2022. Courtesy of Barefoot Books.

Four pages of back matter discuss in more depth the definition of Activism and why it’s so important for people to come together to voice their opinions on climate change and protecting our planet. Snyder provides two examples of young activists who are making a difference in different ways that are most meaningful to them. She then invites readers to do some thinking about what issues they care most about.

Snyder also provides short bios of the five environmentalists she introduced earlier in the story. At number 9 Snyder mentions “Inspiring Ideas,” and here she goes into more depth on each one that is pictured on the page. She finishes up by giving kids and adults a week’s worth of thoughtful ideas on how they can make an impact in their own home and community.

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Image copyright Sarah Walsh, 2022, text copyright Gabi Snyder, 2022. Courtesy of Barefoot Books.

Gabi Snyder’s eye-opening book gives kids an idea of how important individual as well as group actions are in the movement to protect the earth from climate change while empowering them with specific examples of good ideas for combating the dangers our planet faces. Sharing Count On Us! with kids offers teachers, homeschoolers, clubs, and other organizations many opportunities for discussion, research, and the type of activism required to make a difference.

Sarah Walsh’s striking illustrations will capture children’s attention with depictions of friendship, cooperation, and the kind of growing enthusiasm that fuels real change. As the pages become more and more crowded with activists, readers will understand that not only are increasing numbers of people needed, but also more ideas and more helping hands. Adults can use Walsh’s images as jumping off points to get children talking about and/or drawing the various habitats, native plants and animals, and threats to the environment in their area and even devising solutions or inventions to help.

Count on Us! Climate Activism from One to a Billion would be a welcome addition to home, school, and public libraries to inspire and energize environmental involvement and change.

Ages 4 – 9 

Barefoot Books, 2022 | ISBN 978-1646866243

Discover more about Gabi Snyder, her books, and where to   on her website.

To learn more about Sarah Walsh, her books, and her art on her website.

Young Reader’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-we-love-to-read-maze

We Love to Read! Maze

 

Help the kids pick up books and find their way through the library in this printable maze.

We Love to Read! Maze Puzzle | We Love to Read! Maze Solution

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-count-on-us-cover

You can find Count on Us! Climate Activists from One to a Billion at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support you local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review