November 16 – National Button Day

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About the Holiday

First designed in Germany in the 13th century, buttonholes revolutionized clothing, bags, and other objects that required closing and inspired a new art form. Designers and manufacturers took buttons to heart, making them not only functional but beautiful. Created from iridescent shells, sparkling glass, bone, and other materials, these little canvases were infused with paintings, intricate carvings, astonishing color, and more eye-catching features. To celebrate the artistic merits and popularity of buttons, the National Button Society was founded in 1938 and recognized button collecting as an organized hobby – something also celebrated in today’s collection of poems.

Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections

Written by Michelle Schaub | Illustrated by Carmen Saldaña

A girl finds herself with a conundrum. Her teacher has given the class an assignment to bring something they collect to school. While all the other kids cheer and talk about their collections, the girl sits at her desk, wondering. In My Collection Conundrum she thinks, “It seems that everyone BUT ME / knows just the thing to share. / ‘My jar of marbles.’ / ‘Arrowheads.’ / ‘My favorite teddy bears.’” The little girl has lots of random things at home, but they just don’t add up to a collection. She’s hoping that her family and friends can help.

At home, she asks her mom about her collection, and in My Mother’s Button Box, the little girl stands by mesmerized as her mom opens the box to show her. Inside are “shiny ones / of shell and glass. / Pearly circles, / swirls of brass…. / Daisies, paisleys, / bugs, and bows. / Bunnies saved / from baby clothes.” Each is so daintily different that it’s hard for her to choose a favorite.

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Image copyright Carmen Saldaña, 2019, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Next, the little girl tries to find inspiration in her dad’s train collection. In My Father’s Trains, she tells how she waits eagerly as he flips the switch and “round and round the crisscrossed lanes, / engines pull my father’s trains. / Box cars, tankers in a row, / circus cars with beasts in tow, / flatcars hauling toys and cranes….” / Signals flash and whistles blow. / I love to watch the dizzy show / when Daddy runs his model trains, / round and round.” Her sister and brothers have their own special collections, and her grandparents have both amassed items that bring them joy.

In Grampa’s Good Cents, the little girl talks about how her grandpa always keeps his eyes on the ground, searching for “a glint of silver / hiding in a sidewalk crack / or / a flash of copper / dropped in the street.” When he does see a coin, he stoops to pick it up and examines it carefully “hoping to find / a buffalo nickel, / a Roosevelt dime, / or some other bright prize / to make his set complete. / Gramps always says, / ‘Keep your eyes open wide— / for the treasure you seek / could be right / at / your/ feet.’”

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Image copyright Carmen Saldaña, 2019, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

The little girl searches the attic and visits her Auntie Kate, who has lived in states all across the country. She goes to see her friend Asher, who has a collection that moves, and her friend Meg, who collects animal figures of a certain color. While she appreciates their cool collections, for her these aren’t quite right either. Even her mail carrier has a collection. It’s not made up of objects he can put in a box, she relates, but things he sees daily along his route. Even when she and her family eat at Mae’s “Rise and Shine Diner,” she finds that Mae has a special collection too.

The girl does a little research and accumulates a few new vocabulary words that she’s eager to use. Then she takes a break to go outside and enjoy the warm evening, where she describes what she sees in Collecting Stars?: “sparks of starlight / dance around the yard,” playing catch us if you can. She tells readers, “I fill a mason jar / and watch the embers / flash and glow…” and then, unscrewing the lid, watches as these “specks of light” fill the sky again. In the morning, the girl sits at her desk in her classroom, happy and as enthusiastic to share the treasured collection she’s created. Can you guess what it is? 

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Image copyright Carmen Saldaña, 2019, text copyright Michelle Schaub, 2019. Courtesy of Charlesbridge.

Michelle Schaub’s charming poems about all kinds of collections will have kids looking at their world in a whole new way. While some readers may already have amassed a collection of their own, much of the delight of Schaub’s poetry is in realizing how many types of collectibles there are and even in what constitutes a collection. Each of Schaub’s poems—some rhymed, some free verse—hold little treasures of their own with enchanting onomatopoeia, evocative synonyms and metaphors, and even snappy dialogue. The array of family, friends, neighbors, and community members and their individual collections will keep kids coming back again and again to this special poetry collection.

Carmen Saldaña’s homey, textured illustrations give a personal touch to each page as people of all ages proudly display their passion for their chosen collectable. Kids will love lingering over the glass cases, gallery walls, and well-stocked shelves to take in all the details of each collection. Saldaña’s work also provides plenty of opportunities for math extensions in counting and sorting. Her lovely color palette shines with warmth and the joy that comes from sharing the individual and the communal pleasure of this favorite hobby.

Sure to inspire children to start a collection of their own or to learn more about the collections of others, Finding Treasure is a perfect book for home, classroom, or public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Charlesbridge, 2019 | ISBN 978-1580898751

Discover more about Michelle Schaub and her books on her website.

To learn more about Carmen Saldaña and view a portfolio of her art, visit her website.

National Button Day Activity

CPB - Button Coat

Pin the Button on the Coat Game

Pin the Button on the Coat is a fun game you can make yourself and play anytime! It’s great for a button-themed party or on any day that you’re holed up and wanting something to do! The game is played like “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” and the object is to get the buttons lined up as close to the center of the coat as possible. Have fun!

Supplies

  • Fleece or felt of your choice of several favorite colors, 2 pieces of 8 ½” x 11” to make the coat and smaller pieces or scraps to make buttons
  • Fabric glue
  • Scissors
  • Black marker
  • Clothes hanger
  • Clothes pins

CPB - Button Coat II

Directions

  1. Cut out a coat shape from the fleece
  2. Cut out a collar from a different color fleece (optional)
  3. With the fabric glue, attach the sleeves to the edge of the coat, and the collar to the top of the coat.
  4. Let dry
  5. Cut circles to represent buttons from the other colors of fleece or felt, as many as you need
  6. With the marker make dots to represent holes in the “buttons”
  7. When the glue on the coat is dry, attach it to the clothes hanger with the clothespins
  8. Have fun playing!

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You can find Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble| Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

February 7 – It’s Haiku Writing Month

The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers by Michael J. Rosen and Lee White picture book review

About the Holiday

National Haiku Writing Month—also known as NaHaiWriMo—encourages poets and poetry lovers to write one haiku a day for the entire month of February. Why was February chosen for this literary challenge? Perhaps the fact that the haiku is the shortest form of poetry and February is the shortest form of month makes them natural allies. While a haiku may be short, it is full of emotion and impact, not unlike its host month. If you have haiku inside of you, write them down and share them with others!

The Maine Coon’s Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers

Written by Michael J. Rosen | Illustrated by Lee White

 

Fortunately for poetry—and cat—lovers there are as many types of felines as there are ways to describe them. With wit and keen insight, this collection of haiku depicts the mystery, stealth, crouching, and curiosity of twenty breeds of cats.

The remains of a shredded plant elicits an unanswerable question in Ragdoll: “why today the cat / who sleeps beneath the ivy / halved the blameless hearts.”

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Image copyright Lee White, text copyright Michael J. Rosen. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Any cat owner who finds vases or lamps overturned will appreciate Siamese: “a toppled lamp shade / moon moth must be here somewhere / batted from the dark.” It is commonly known that cats own their domain, a fact acknowledged in British Shorthair: “paws plant mud-daisies / along the polished hillside / parked on the cat’s street.”

In these lines felines become baseball players, gymnasts, ghosts, and mist, as in Bombay: “paired shadows prowling / in nightfall, but just two lights / pierce that darkness” and Norwegian Forest Cat: “caught among branches / fog descends the trunk headfirst / one foot at a time.”

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Image copyright Lee White, text copyright Michael J. Rosen. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

While the haiku form is necessarily rigid, the supple rhythms of Michael Rosen’s phrases perfectly capture the vast array of quirks, moves, attitudes, and friskiness that make cats such favorite pets. These poems are in turn sweet, spirited, and humorous—just like their subjects.

Lee White similarly highlights the bounding, creeping, prowling, and snoozing postures of all manner and colors of the breeds represented here. The Turkish Angora, stealthily creeping across a room, is painted as transparent as it leaps through the door, becoming more opaque as it reaches mid-page and disappearing from the edge of the book, leaving only its back end behind. The Abyssinian plunks its head and whole body across the open book on its owner’s lap, its eyes closed in dreamy sleep, and the Scottish Fold indomitably maintains its perch in the magnolia tree, determined not to fall like the raining petals.

Ages 5 and up (any cat lover will enjoy these poems)

Candlewick Press, 2015 | ISBN  978-0763664923

Get to know Michael J. Rosen and discover books for kids and adults, poems, videos, work for radio and TV, and more on his website!

View a beautiful gallery of artwork for books and personal illustration by Lee White on his website!

Haiku Writing Month Activity

CPB - Cat Bookmark (2)

Hang in there, Kitty! Bookmark

 

Do you love to read? Do you love to write? If you said yes to either or both of these questions, then here is a kitty that wants to hang out with you! 

Supplies

  • Printable Hang in there, Kitty! bookmark template
  • Card stock paper
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Print the Hang in there, Kitty! bookmark (printing on card stock will make a sturdier bookmark)
  2. Color the bookmark
  3. Cut around the toes of the front paws, leaving the top of the paws attached to make flaps that will hang over the page you want to mark

Picture Book Review

January 12 – Poetry at Work Day

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka picture book review

About the Holiday

Sometimes your work in school, in the office, outside, or at home inspires you to translate what you’re doing into writing. What better way to express the fun—and folly—of homework, room cleaning, report writing, lunchtime, tests, and all the work that makes up a day than in a poem?! To celebrate today’s holiday try to put the rhythms of your work into poetry! 

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems

By Bob Raczka

 

When you envision a poem in your head, what do you see? A block of lines? A square or a rectangle? Well, sweep that image from your mind because in Bob Raczka’s Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems, verses become actions, objects, puzzles, and natural phenomena. Not only are the poems shaped to illustrate their theme, the titles use clever imagery as well.

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Text and image copyright Bob Raczka, courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

As you encounter the poem hanger you’ll see that “han” has broken away and is dangling from the hook of g in “ger.” The words of the poem itself are shaped like a hanger and contain a giggle-invoking twist: “I hang out in blue jeans and comfy old shirts. I hang out in blouses and long frilly skirts. I hang out in sport coats and sweaters and shawls. I even hang out with no clothes on at all!”

You might want to get your baseball mitt out before you read homer, in which the first line zooms straight as a pitch and the second—written backwards and at an upward angle—soars like a homerun hit: “The pitcher hurls his hummer toward the slugger squeezing lumber CRA / CK! The slugger slams the hummer toward the bleachers for a homer.”

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Text and image copyright Bob Raczka, courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

But don’t put that mitt away just yet! You may need to catch the o, which has escaped from the title p p-up. And if you’ve ever played t-ball, baseball, softball, or even wiffleball, you’ll cringe in recognition of this short but pointed poem.

The sky darkened by night in Dipper and by clouds in Lightning holds two poems expressing very different thoughts. In the title Dipper, the second p has floated to the top of the page where it hangs like a miniature reflection of the dipper-shaped poem, which reads: “Way down there on earth you hold firefly jars, filled up to their lids with light. Up here in the sky, I’m a vessel of stars, my brim overflowing with night.” In the title LIGHTNING, the L strikes the I to create the familiar jagged crack echoed in the shape of the verse: “from a bad mood sky, / tears, / then a jag- / ged slash- / ing flash of anger, / ear- / splitting, / obnoxious, / a cloud tantrum”

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Text and image copyright Bob Raczka, courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

Any writer will love poeTRY which is such a clever take on the word as well as the revision and editing process:

“poetry is about taking away the words you don’t need

poetry is taking away words you don’t need

poetry is words you need

poetry is words

try”

Put simply, Bob Raczka’s concrete poems will make you smile. Even more than that, you’ll find yourself wanting to carry this book around, saying “Look at this!” to everyone you meet. Raczka calls these poems “word paintings”—because a poet “uses words like colors to paint pictures inside your head.” If creativity is the talent to present the world in new and surprising ways, making connections that enhance life, then Wet Cement is creativity at its best!

Wet Cement: a Mix of Concrete Poems is one poetry book that belongs on your child’s bookshelf! The combination of subjects, expression, and images will make it an often-read favorite.

Ages 5 – 9 and up (adults will enjoy these poems as much as kids)

Roaring Brook Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1626722361

Discover a full bookshelf of books by Bob Raczka on his website!

Poetry at Work Day Activity

CPB - Pocket Poem Craft

Pocket Poem Carrier

 

Choose a part of your school or work day and write a poem about it. You can even try writing a concrete poem to give more shape to your thoughts! Then make this pocket poem carrier so you can tote your favorite poem with you to show your friends and family—today and every day!

Supplies

  • An old pair of pants or shorts with back pockets
  • A decorative shoelace
  • Thread or fabric glue
  • Needle
  • Paper
  • Your favorite poem or a poem you write yourself
  • Pen

Directions

  1. Cut one back pocket out of an old pair of pants or shorts, including the back of the pocket
  2. Use the shoelace at its full length or cut to desired length
  3. Inside each edge of the pocket sew or glue the ends of the shoelace to make a strap
  4. Print your favorite poem on the paper
  5. Insert the poem into the pocket poem carrier
  6. Take your poem with you and share it with your friends!

Picture Book Review

August 21 – Poet’s Day

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About the Holiday

Today celebrates the poet—that special person who looks at the world and transforms it into lines of rhyme, rhythm, metaphor, and meaning that make readers experience life and sometimes even the most common occurrence in a whole new way. Some poetry is poignant, some evocative, and some silly, but it all provides different perspectives and enriches our lives—even the youngest among us!

A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young

Written by Michael Rosen | Illustrated by Chris Riddell

 

Before children learn to speak and in order for them to become literate and proficient readers, they discover the sounds of language. The poems in A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young are all about those snappy, rhyming, musical syllables that make up speech and text. The collection’s 35 poems replicate the progression of language learning from the first offering—Tippy-Tappy, with its staccato repetition of “ippy, appy, eppy, oppy, uppy sounds—to Gruff and Dave and The Slow Train that provide longer, more detailed storytelling.

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Image copyright Chris Riddell, courtesy of Candlewick Press

The subjects are familiar to even tiny children whose worlds include the buttons, parties, pets, music, and other topics treated with innovation in this collection. The juxtaposition of words, concepts, questions, and nonsense, will keep kids laughing even as they are (probably) unconsciously soaking in the rich learning.

I Went is an example in which multiple concepts combine to create a funny travelogue with double meaning twists:

“I went to Lapland / I saw a reindeer on the loose. / I went to Canada / I saw a chocolate mousse.  I went to the river / I saw a big green frog. / I went to New York / I saw a hot dog.”

Bendy Man describes a rather unique fellow with special talents that kids would love to get to know. It starts like this:

“Bendy Man, Bendy Man / He’s a long leggy man. / Bendy Man, Bendy Man / In a baked-bean can. Bendy Man, Bendy Man / Wraps round trees / Bendy Man, Bendy Man / Can’t find his knees.”

Along the way there are also poems to validate kids’ emotions, which come in shades of happiness, bounciness, anger, satisfaction, and frustration among others, as well as to comfort them when they get hurt or scared as in the poem Mo: “Mo’s in a muddle / She slipped in a puddle / Mommy gives Mo / A great big cuddle.”

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Image copyright Chris Riddell, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Let Me Do It is an exuberant tribute to a child’s eagerness to help: “Let me do it, let me do it / Let me blow up the balloon / Let me do it, let me do it / Let me go to the moon.                 Let me cook the beans / Let me lick the jar / Let me kick the ball / Let me drive the car.” But as often happens with inexperience, the tasks become a bit confused later in the poem: “Let me drive the beans / Let me kick the jar / Let me lick the ball / Let me cook the car.”

Michael Rosen’s love of language and quirky, kid-like personality are on full display in A Great Big Cuddle, much to the benefit of his young fans. Rosen is able to tap into and capture those fleeting ideas and “wouldn’t it be cool if…” moments that fuel kids’ imaginations and actions. Life is much too long and much too short not to spend some of it in absurd hilarity, and Rosen provides a book full of that respite here.

Chris Riddell infuses each of the poems with the personalities of enthusiastic children, adorable monsters, familiar animals, and high-spirited action. The large, full-bleed pages allow for full-size fun and a variety of typography. The bold colors will attract even the smallest reader and keep them riveted to the sounds and sights of this excellent poetry collection for young children.

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Image copyright Chris Riddell, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Older kids will also find much to enjoy in the humorous spirals taken by the lines in A Great Big Cuddle. Some poems, such as  I Am Hungry, in which a bear in a bib states everything he will eat, would make a great teaching tool about what can and cannot logically be consumed.

Because A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young is perfect for dipping into again and again, you’ll be happy to have it close it hand on your shelves.

Ages Birth – 6

Candlewick, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763681166

Visit Michael Rosen’s website to see his amazing range of books, poems, events, TV and radio programs and more!

Follow the Cycling Fish through a tour of Chris Riddell’s artwork!

Poet’s Day Activity

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A Pair of Bears (Pear of Bears? Pair of Bairs?) Coloring Pages and Poem Prompts

 

The two bears in these coloring pages are having different days—one is grumpy while the other is happy. Color the printable A Pair of Bears Coloring Pages and then write one or two poems about them!

Bear 1

Bear 2

Picture Book Review

July 22 – National Hammock Day

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About the Holiday

Holidays don’t get more leisurely than this one! Perhaps invented by the Ancient Greeks, perhaps created by people in South America according to Christopher Columbus’s journals, hammocks are the epitome of relaxation. What better time is there to kick back and lounge than during the hot, hazy days of July? So enjoy—and read a book, like today’s collection of poetry!

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

Selected by Paul B. Janeczko | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Firefly July is perfect for lazy summer days when light, but still meaningful reading enjoyed in a hammock or under a shady tree is relaxation at its best. Paul B. Janeczko has collected 36 short (none are over eight lines long) poems from some of the best poets of today and yesterday. Haiku, free form, and rhyming verses illuminate the seasons of the year and encapsulate unforgettable sights, sounds, and feelings.

A girl’s spring’s respite spent gazing into the bay from shore is depicted in Lillian Morrison’s The Island:

“Wrinkled stone / like an elephant’s skin / on which young birches are treading.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of amazon.com

A nighttime train trip provides mystery and ongoing changes in Carl Sandburg’s Window:

“Night from a railroad car window / Is a great, dark, soft thing / Broken across with slashes of light.”

Joyce Sidman’s A Happy Meeting likens a summer rain to romance and life:

“Rain meets dust: / soft, cinnamon kisses. / Quick noisy courtship, / then marriage: mud.”

At the seashore, beach birds are industrious in April Halprin Wayland’s Sandpipers:

“Sandpipers run with / their needle beaks digging—they’re / hemming the ocean.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of amazon.com

Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser ask such a beguiling question for autumn:

“What is it the wind has lost / that she keeps looking for / under each leaf?”

And the rising giants of city life inspired Susan Nichols Pulsifer in Tall City:

“Here houses rise so straight and tall / That I am not surprised at all / To see them simply walk away / Into the clouds—this misty day.”

Along the way readers will encounter a pickup truck loaded with old rotary fans and another rusting in a field; fog that decorates and creeps; animals and insects that share our space; our past, our present, and our future. And when it’s time to close the book, Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser reveal:

“A welcome mat of moonlight / on the floor. Wipe your feet / before getting into bed.”

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image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of melissasweet.net

I can only wish I’d been able to visit Melissa Sweet’s studio while she created the illustrations for this book! Each painting is as unique in style, beauty, and emotional effect as the poems they interpret. Her renditions of each poem help readers—especially children unfamiliar with metaphor and abstract imaging—to fully understand and appreciate each poem while also leaving room for personal reflection.

The first thing that strikes a reader when opening Firefly July is the gorgeous juxtaposition and mixture of vibrant color. Her illustrations take readers on a journey from an aqua farm house with a patchwork garden to a serene elephantine rock island to the deep turquoise ocean traversed by ships while the full moon beams down upon them. Readers ride crowded subways, gaze out moving train windows, and visit cities bright in daylight and glowing at night. They frolic through fields of delicate grasses and vibrant flowers, quietly walk snowy paths, and take their place among the stars.

Firefly July is as stunning as any coffee table book and is a must for a young reader’s—or any poetry lover’s—library.

Ages 4 and up

Candlewick Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0763648428

Take a look at more books and artwork by Melissa Sweet on her website!

National Hammock Day Activity

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Lazy Days Coloring Page

 

Coloring can be so relaxing—perfect for a day dedicated to kicking back! Color this printable Lazy Days Coloring Page and dream of lounging beside the lake, with the gentle breeze gently rocking the hammock, while you drift off to sleee….zzzz…..