July 21 – It’s National Culinary Arts Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of July we honor those professional chefs who provide us with tantalizing dishes at our favorite restaurants. In addition to cooking old favorites, chefs also stay up on trends and create new recipes to make life deliciously fresh and surprising. To celebrate, visit your local restaurants and try something new! If you like to cook at home, gather some different ingredients and see what you can create! This month is also a great time to explore foods and cuisine from other countries!

Chow Mein and Potstickers

Written by Liselotte Schippers | Illustrated by Monique van den Hout

 

A little boy named Chan has just moved here from China and is hoping to make new friends. He tells a little about himself: “I moved to this country with my father, / my mother and my sister. / My mother is starting a new job here. / She’s an astronaut and someday she’ll go to the moon!” He reveals that his favorite food is potstickers and chow mein. He’s just about to go door-to-door to meet his neighbors. He wonders if kids here like to play and how “things work around here.”

Next door at Number 6, Chan meets Mila, who is from Bosnia. Chan thinks “she looks like a princess from a country far away.” Chan and Mila play soccer until they “get tired and hungry!” Then they eat Mila’s “favorite dish / Bosnian ćevapĉići—rolls of ground / meat.” At the end of the day, they say goodbye: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Doviđenja!’”

The next day Chan meets Rani, who was born in Indonesia. Even though Rani is younger, Chan says that “you can tell he is very wise. / Rani’s father is a famous musician. / He has to travel a lot, touring with his band. / His mother works at the hospital and helps people who are sick.” Rani shows Chan how to play marbles. Afterward, they enjoy Rani’s “favorite foods: satay and kroepoek. / That’s meat on a stick and shrimp crackers.” Later, they wave good-bye and say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Sampai jumpa!’”

Across the street lives a little girl named Jamila, who is originally from Afghanistan. “‘Salaam!’” she greets Chan. Jamila plays the guitar, and the two sing and dance along. Chan says: “After a while we get tired and hungry. / Jamila and I eat Afghan qabuli—rice and lamb. / That brings us to the end of our day. / As we wave good-bye, we say: “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Khodahafez!’”

Twins Kim and Coen live at Number 10. They are from Belgium. “Their father is a master chocolatier. That means he / makes fancy chocolates. When he is working, the house / smells wonderful. / Their mother sells the chocolates in a  / special shop. We get to try some. I’ve never tasted / anything so delicious!” After roller skating, they eat frietjes, which are like French fries served with mayonnaise. “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Tot ziens!’”

In the tall yellow house next to the church on Chan’s street, Chan meets Basu, who came here from South Africa. His mother is a minister and his father is a fireman. Chan thinks that maybe he’d like to be a fireman too when he grows up. “Basu loves to paint and draw.” He and Chan “get busy with brushes, paints and pens.” When their “masterpiece is finished,” Chan says, “We have paint splatters on our clothes and in our hair!” All that creating has made them “tired and hungry.” They “eat South African bobotie… / a dish made with seasoned ground meat.” Before Chan goes home, the boys say:  “‘Zàijiàn!’” and “‘Totsiens!’”

Chan is excited to discover that his street is full of other children to play with. In other homes live Ania from Poland, Nuray from Turkey, Clifton from Suriname, Gracy from England, and Nino from Italy. On one special day, Chan invites all of his new friends to go to the playground with him, and Chan’s father brings chow mein and potstickers for everyone to enjoy. At the end of the day, the air rings with each child’s special way of saying “good-bye.”

Liselotte Schippers free verse poetry opens the door to a world of children for young readers. Each poem gives children the kind of information they want to know about kids from around the world. What do they like to do? What are their families like? What do they eat? Every poem includes the words “hello” and “good-bye” in the native language of the child as well as a favorite dish from each country. Little Chan makes a delightful and enthusiastic tour guide to his multicultural neighborhood, and shows young readers that even though people may come from different countries, their dreams, desires, games, and even jobs are the same. The country that Chan has moved to is never named, making “here” everywhere.

Monique van den Hout’s beautiful illustrations combine the ethereal with realistic portrayals of the happy, bright-eyed children that Chan meets in his neighborhood. Each poem is presented on a two-page spread in which Chan and his new friend are surrounded by colorful images of symbols from that child’s native country. Following each poem, a short dictionary defines and gives a pronunciation guide to the greetings and food introduced.

Chow Mein and Potstickers is an enticing introduction to the global community for children. Each poem could be used to spark more discovery about the countries presented and their children. The book’s inclusion of languages and foods makes it a perfect addition to school, classroom, and homeschool libraries for social studies units as well as a fun book for personal bookshelves.

Ages 4 and up

Clavis, 2017 | ISBN 978-1605373287

National Culinary Arts Month Activity

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Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page

 

It’s fun for friends to create new recipes or just cook up some favorite treats! Have fun with this printable Let’s Bake Together Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

June 26 – It’s Adopt a Cat Month

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About the Holiday

Just as it sounds, this holiday celebrates all the benefits of owning cat. With so many beautiful breeds of cat to choose from, there’s a perfect pet waiting for you! If you’ve been considering adding a cat or kitten to your family, why not visit an animal shelter and give one – or even two – cats a purr-fect home?

The White Cat and the Monk

Retold by Jo Ellen Bogart | Illustrated by Sydney Smith

 

In the nighttime a white cat approaches a monastery. He slips through a window and pads along a darkened corridor and down stone steps. He creeps behind a barrel, a vase, and a pitcher standing in a row and adds his shadow to the black mosaic on the floor. He leaps the last few steps and hurries along to the doorway that is leaking a bit of light.

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, text copyright Jo Ellen Bogart. Courtesy of Groundwood Books.

He slips his paw under the door. This a secret signal alerts the occupant of the room, who opens the door to this playful feline. “I, monk and scholar, share my room with my white cat, Pangur,” the old man explains. He lifts Pangur into his arms and strokes him before releasing him to pursue his “special trade.” The monk also returns to his trade—studying ancient manuscripts to understand their meaning.

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The  monk is a dedicated scholar, revealing, “Far more than any fame, I enjoy the peaceful pursuit of knowledge. I treasure the wealth to be found in my books.” Pangur is a dedicated scholar of another kind, studying “the hole that leads to the mouse’s home.” In that moment both man and cat become hunters—one for meaning and the other for prey.

The two do not disturb each other for each is content in his pursuit. Pangur at last “finds his mouse” as the monk finds “light in the darkness.”

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Image copyright Sydney Smith, text copyright Jo Ellen Bogart. Courtesy of Groundwood Books.

Jo Ellen Bogart’s quiet and graceful retelling of Pangur Bán, a beloved Irish poem from the 9th century is a welcome respite in this age of multitasking and mega-activity. With sparse, but compelling and lyrical language, Bogart uncovers the companionable relationship between the monk and his cat as each follows their heart together.

The fine textured pages of Sydney Smith’s illustrations recall the beauty of parchment as the smooth gray-and-gold line drawings of the monastery’s architecture and characters give way to the vibrant colors of ancient manuscripts and the natural environment. The contentment and friendship of the monk and the cat are sweetly drawn in the characters’ mirrored actions as well as in the depictions of a long-held affection between man and beast in the panels of the manuscript the monk studies. As the monk states, “Ours is a happy tale.”

Reassuring and reaffirming, The White Cat and the Monk honors the individual challenges and quests that make us who we are and would be a wonderful addition to regular quiet-time reading.

Ages 4 and up (this book will be enjoyed by both children and adults)

Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1554987801

You’ll find a gallery of artwork by Sydney Smith on his tumblr!

Adopt a Cat Month Activity

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Fishing for Playtime Cat Toy

 

Cats love to chase after bouncing, sliding objects, and they love fish. While this toy may not taste as good as fish, it sure smells better and doesn’t require worms or hooks to attain!

Supplies

  • Old or new child’s sock
  • Fiber Fill
  • Yarn or string
  • Fabric paint or markers
  • Small bell (optional)
  • Catnip (optional)

Directions

  1. Paint or draw fins and eyes on the sock
  2. Fill the sock with fiber fill
  3. Add a teaspoon of catnip (optional)
  4. Add a small bell (optional)
  5. Use the yarn or string to close the opening with a strong knot
  6. Leave a long section of yarn or string to pull or dangle the toy

Picture Book Review

May 25 – National Tap Dance Day

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About the Holiday

Starting out as an assignment on Congressional legislation for George Washington University graduate student Linda Christensen, Tap Dance Day has become an international celebration of this quick-stepping, staccato-rhythmed art form that is a favorite in movies, on the stage, and in dance schools. Established in 1989, Tap Dance Day brings together professionals and amateurs in shows, workshops, and tap jams around the world. Why not take in—or even perform in—a tap dance show to celebrate?

Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing

Written by Marilyn Singer | Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

 

The rhythms of dance and the cadence of poetry create a natural pairing as these seventeen poems that celebrate the moves, music, and thrill of dances from around the world demonstrate with toe-tapping joy.

In Cha-Cha a boy attending his Uncle Nate’s birthday party learns the cha-cha from his grandma. At first he says “I don’t / know these moves. / My fee / feel like hooves.” But then “something clicks! / Okay, it’s old school. / I say, / cha-cha’s cool!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

While the kids at school brag about their parents’ jobs, one boy has them beat in Hip-Hop: “No fumbling, no bumbling, / my pops is tops at tumbling. / He’s elastic, so fantastic. / Papa’s so gymnastic!” But while Dad “will swipe and windmill” and “slide on his knees, / do lots of flares and coin-drops” and “boomerang and freeze,” the boy adds “…wait / until you see my mom!”

Is it meringue or Merengue? Maybe a bit of both…because doing it right means “Moving sideways, / turning wrists, / while we do / our pretzel twists. / We sway our hips, we shift our legs, like we’re whipping / lots of eggs.”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, test courtesy of Marilyn Singer. Courtesy of kristivaliant.com

It’s fun to let go when learning the Salsa. All you need is to “Feel the beat / in your feet, / in your heart. / Then you start.” So “Don’t be shy. / Come on try. / In this class, / show some sass.” If only shopping could be so entertaining…. But, wait! Maybe Conga is the solution. “We’re at the MALL. / I’m very BORED. / I hate the STORES, / I hate the HORDE…. / ‘Just one more SHOP’ / turns into FOUR. / I’m gonna SCREAM, / I’m gonna ROAR.” Then music starts and a line grows long—“Uh uh uh, KICK! / You cannot WHINE / when you are ON / a conga LINE! / Uh uh uh, KICK! / A flash mob BALL! / Keep shopping, MOM! / I love the MALL!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

The library may be a quiet, staid place most of the time, but Swing Dance takes over one special library. “On the plaza in July, / underneath the summer sky / where you can get to hear good bands, / kick your feet, wave your hands, / we’re gonna swing. / That’s our new thing / We’re gonna swing!” A boy and his mom have joined lots of other dancers having fun on the square— “We step…step… / rock step. / we’re full… / of pep. / We Lindy hop. / Bibbidy-bop! / We Lindy hop!”

And for those kids who look at the Square Dance unit in PE with trepidation, this girl feels the same: “Got a partner, lost my shoe. / Allemande left? I haven’t a clue….Did that caller give a cue? / Don’t promenade me. Shoo, boy, shoo!…Bow to Francisco, bow to Sue. / One more swing. It’s over! Whew! / I tried real hard, but alas, it’s true. / I’m flunking out of square dance!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

Other poems introduce the Foxtrot, Hora, Samba, Two-Step, Argentine Tango, Waltz, Bhangra, and Polka. Notes about each dance, giving a description, a bit of history, and basic rhythms and steps, follow the text. A CD of dance music is also included.

Marilyn Singer begins her exuberant celebration of dances from around the world with a pair of the reverso poems for which she is well known: All Over the World, Dancing is Joy and Joy is Dancing All Over the World. With this start, Singer invites readers to put on their dancing shoes and enter ballrooms, classrooms, and outdoor spaces filled with music. From birthdays to bar mitzvahs to weddings to spontaneous parties, Singer imbues each experience with the beats, steps, and sometimes missteps of dance with expressive vocabulary and humorous asides. Reading the poems aloud offers its own special treat as the meter of each poem reflects the rhythm of the dance described.

Kristi Valiant’s vibrant two-page spreads put kids in the center of the action where individuals, couples, and groups enjoy groovin’ to the music in their own style. Dancers swirl, stomp, hop, twirl, sway, dip, and kick up their heels on sunny days and under glowing nighttime light. So join in—no experience or partner necessary!

For kids who love music and dance and for those who love poetry of all kinds, Feel the Beat; Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing is a fun addition to home libraries—and may spark an interest in learning how to perform these dances.

Ages 5 – 9

Dial Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-0803740211

Discover more about Marilyn Singer and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Kristi Valiant on her website!

Tap Dance Day Activity

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Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle

 

People all around the world love to dance! Can you find the names of twenty types of dances in this printable Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

 

April 19 – Banana Day

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About the Holiday

It seems people are somewhat split on this most appealing holiday—is it a day for enjoying the tasty tropical fruit or a day for goofing off? Why not do both?! Bananas offer plenty of nutrition and flavor in their own tidy, take-along package, and they’ve been the subject of humorous skits as long as people have been tossing the peels to the ground. Today, grab a bunch and head out to have some fun at a park, playground, shoreline, or even back deck near you!  

Bananas in My Ears: A Collection of Nonsense Stories, Poems, Riddles, and Rhymes

Written by Michael Rosen | Illustrated by Quentin Blake

 

Things may go from the ridiculous to the sublime or from the sublime to the ridiculous, but the rhymes, stories, poems, and jokes in this collection are both ridiculous and sublime. Divided into four sections—The Breakfast Book, The Seaside Book, The Doctor Book, and The Bedtime Book—these bite-sized tales will nibble at your funny bone.

Each book includes six to seven short pieces that humorously reveal the inner workings of familial and community relationships. Recurring titles “What if…,” “Things We Say,” and “Nat and Anna” sibling stories tie the books together. The tone for Bananas in My Ears is set with aplomb in the very first offering, “Breakfast Time,” which reveals the chaos of early morning with its spilled milk, banging trash cans, pets on the table, school clothes ruined, and “I think I’m going crazy!” shenanigans. 

“What If…” (Breakfast Book) combines kids’ natural penchant for rhyming with their unbounded imagination and a bit of stream-of-consciousness to boot. Just as a little boy is to bite into a piece of toast, he has this thought: “What if / a piece of toast turned into a piece of ghost / just as you were eating it / and you thought you were going to sink your / teeth into a lovely crunchy piece of hot toast / and butter and instead this cold wet feeling / jumps into your mouth / going, / ‘Whoooooooooooooooooooo!’ / right down into your stomach…”

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Image copyright Quentin Blake, text copyright Michael Rosen, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Adding speech bubbles and expressive art to commonly used phrases in “Things We Say” transforms throw-off lines like “My hair’s a mess,” “Look what I found,” “You can’t lie there all morning,” and “Now what seems to be the trouble?” into self-deprecating humor all can relate to.

Four stories of Nat and his older sister Anna zero in on particular moments that illuminate the sibling relationship, At once opposed and in sync, Nat and Anna negotiate moments in which Anna is put in charge of watching Nat at breakfast with topsy-turvy results; a frightening story that Anna tells Nat about jellyfish somehow backfires; a trip to the doctor turns into a competition about future professions; and a “who’s-on-first” type banter allows Anna to enjoy some alone time.

“Three Girls” is a clever take on outwitting-an-ogre tales. Three girls walking on the beach come across a cave. One girl goes in and “sees a pile of gold sitting on the rocks, so she thinks, ‘Yippee, gold, all for me!’ And she steps forward to pick it up and a great big voice booms out ‘I’m the ghost of Captain Cox. All that gold stays on the rocks.’” Afraid, she runs out of the cave. The second girl is braver. She enters the cave, sees the gold, hears the same booming voice and is also chased away. Undeterred, the third girl walks into the cave, sees the gold, and hears the booming voice of Captain Cox. Instead of running away, however, she says, “‘I don’t care. I’m the ghost of Davy Crocket, and all that gold goes in my pocket.’” With her treasure secured she hightails it out to join her friends.

Among other fun stories in this volume are: “These Two Children,” with a lively recitation of familiar bedtime routines; “Fooling Around,” that offers light rhymes on children’s names; and another “What If” (the Breakfast Book) that will have kids cracking up —“What if / hard-boiled eggs turned into hard-boiled legs / just when your dad was eating his egg / and he says, / ‘Hey, what’s this?’…”

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Image copyright Quentin Blake, text copyright Michael Rosen, 2012. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Michael Rosen understands, as kids do, that sometimes nonsense makes perfect sense and that even the commonplace is quite absurd when you think about it. This collection of witticisms is sure to resonate with children. Just hand a child this book and get ready for giggles—and, oh yes, adults will chuckle too.

In his colorful pen and ink drawings the inimitable Quentin Blake enlivens each piece with rakish kids, wide-eyed parents, sloppy messes, bouncing, jumping joy, and all the silliness that contributes to having a great day. “An accident waiting to happen” doesn’t begin to describe the bedlam ensuing in “What Happens Next?” as each character and object is set up to play their part in an oh-so-human game of dominoes. Kids will love seeing themselves and the world around them so candidly drawn, and adults will appreciate the whimsical sophistication of the same.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-0763662486

Banana Day Activity

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Banana Banana Bread recipe, courtesy of allrecipes.com.

Banana Banana Bread

 

How can you go wrong with a recipe that includes so many bananas they have to be listed twice in the name? You can’t! This simple, yet delicious banana bread from Allrecipes satisfies the munchies at breakfast or snack time! Try it toasted—you’ll be sure to cheer B-A-N-A-N-A-S! Click here to begin enjoying Allrecipes Banana Banana Bread.

Picture Book Review

April 17 – International Haiku Poetry Day

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About the Holiday

We all know about the 5-7-5 rule of haiku poetry: the first line contains 5 syllables, the second line consists of 7 syllables, and the third line follows with 5 syllables. It seems easy as we count off the sounds on our fingers while we compose and say them. But haiku poems are so much more than the sum of their syllables. In those tiny nuggets of language are poignant emotions, unique observations of nature, and life’s wisdom. To celebrate today, read some haiku from the masters—or try your hand at this beautiful form of poetry.

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons

By Jon J Muth

 

Jon J Muth’s beloved Zen panda, Koo, tumbles into a year of poignant, funny, and surprising kid-inspired moments in this lighthearted and spirited collections of haiku. As Hi, Koo opens, the gentle panda reaches for a golden, falling leaf that seems to be racing others as they softly plummet to earth. With his paw stretched into the air, Koo wonders, “Autumn, / are you dreaming / of new clothes?”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

As autumn turns blustery and rainy, Koo strolls outside with his umbrella, taking time to spin and twirl and recreate an iconic pose of joy on a lamp post before returning home. Koo licks his lips remembering his day: “Dance through cold rain / then go home / to hot soup.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

With winter come snow and mysteries and irresistible impishness. Rising from the piles of white fluff, a traffic sign is a tempting target: “snowball hits the stop sign / Heart beats faster / are we in trouble?” The storm leaves snowbanks hip-high on Koo—but smaller creatures? “In the snow / this cat vanishes / Just ears…and twitching tail.”

Winter’s early nightfalls and dusting snow showers invite quiet play and contemplation as “shadows getting Long / snowfall flutters around / the outside lamps.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Finally, warm weather soothes the sky, bringing “New leaves / new grass new sky! / spring.” The reawaking world inspires long walks in the lush forest, complete with food for the mind and little friends: “Reading aloud / a favorite book / an audience of sparrows.” But sometimes a step goes wrong, triggering a twinge of remorse that sensitive readers will recognize: “killing a bug / afterward / feeling alone and Sad.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

Summer ousts all remnants of the coolness of spring, offering gleeful freedom both day and night. The deep,  inky skies provide a backdrop to “Tiny lights / garden full of blinking stars / fireflies.” On a trip to the shore, even the sea becomes a playmate: “Water catches / every thrown stone / skip-skip splash!”

As autumn promises to roll around again, it is time to ponder another year. Just you “becoming so quiet / Zero sound / only breath.”

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Image and text copyright Jon J Muth, 2014, courtesy of Scholastic Press.

In his introductory Author’s Note, Jon J Muth discusses the haiku form, which originated in Japan and “was made up of seventeen sound parts called on—divided into three lines with five, then seven, then five on. He reveals that English syllables and on are not equal and that haiku directly translated into English are often shorter than the 5-7-5 lines we are used to. In Hi, Koo! Muth employs this looser structure, capturing an instant in time “using sensory images.”

Muth’s verses will delight readers with their wisdom, wit, and winks to fleeting childhood ideas and actions that tend to be remembered long afterward—even into adulthood. Muth’s lovely watercolors—snapshots in various perspectives—tenderly depict the magical moments that make up a child’s year.

Ages 4 – 8

Scholastic Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0545166683

International Haiku Poetry Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-bookworm-bookmark

Friendly Bookworm Bookmark

 

If you love to read and write, you might think of yourself as a bookworm! Here’s a printable Friendly Bookworm Bookmark to keep you company while you read and mark your page when you have to be away.

Picture Book Review

April 6 – It’s National Poetry Month

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About the Holiday

National Poetry Month was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to highlight the achievements of poets, past and present; to promote the reading and writing of poetry in schools and by individuals; and to encourage people to discover the joys poetry can bring all year round. Poetry Month is now celebrated in April in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, with other countries holding their own events during other times of the year.

A Song About Myself: A Poem by John Keats

Written by John Keats | Illustrated by Chris Raschka

 

1

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / He would not stop at home, / He could  not quiet be—” So this adventurous boy packed his knapsack with “a Book / Full of vowels / And a shirt / With some towels—” He added a comb and a brush, a cap to protect himself both day and night, and an extra pair of stockings for when the old ones got threadbare. With his knapsack buckled on tight, the little boy headed North

2

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / For nothing would he do / But scribble poetry—” With ink stand and pen he ran away “to the mountains / And fountains / And ghostes / And Postes / And witches / And ditches.” In the winter he wrote with his coat on, not fearing contracting gout; and when the weather was warm, he abandoned his coat while he captured the charm of the North.

3

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / He kept little fishes / In washing tubs three.” Not fearing the maid’s or his granny’s displeasure, this mischievous boy would rise with the sun “And go / By hook or crook / To the brook” to catch minnows “The size / of a nice / Little Baby’s / Little fingers—” These tiny darters swam in his bucket—“A Kettle / Of Fish a pretty Kettle / A Kettle!”

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Copyright Chris Raschka, courtesy of Candlewick, 2017

4

“There was a naughty Boy, / A naughty boy was he, / He ran away to Scotland / The people for to see— / Then he found / That the ground / Was as hard, / That a yard / Was as long, / That a song / Was as merry,… /…That a door / Was as wooden / As in England—” Which made him think. “So he stood in his shoes / And he wonder’d, / He wonder’d / He stood in his shoes / And he wonder’d.”

In an Illustrator’s Note, Chris Raschka reveals that John Keats—one of the greatest romantic poets—wrote this poem in a letter to his sister, Fanny, while he was walking through Scotland on a tour that he imagined would inspire “the grand poetry that he knew was inside him.”

This quirky poem that follows the travails and travels of a little boy filled with wanderlust, a gift for writing, and insight beyond his years is a perfect match for Chris Raschka’s art. Topsy-turvy perspectives, vivid colors, and evocative and action-packed vignettes beautifully represent the boy’s “naughtiness” and precocious imagination. As he dashes across the yard, his house—red capped and with a mustache-shaped lintel over the door—seems to watch through window eyes; the boy’s mighty pen stands taller than he is; and ghosts, witches, castles, and fountains are framed in the hills that he passes on his journey. Bold swatches of yellow, green, and red that split the pages in half serve as directional arrows, roads, and verse dividers while also leading readers to the book’s final wisdom.

Kids will find it fun to explore the endpapers that present a bird’s-eye-view of the expanse from Scotland to New York over “Much Water.”

A Song About Myself: A Poem by John Keats is a joyous treat that celebrates the whimsy of childhood and the wonders of the imagination. For poetry lovers or those who enjoy a good story, this book would make a charming gift or addition to home bookshelves.

Ages 6 – 10

Candlewick, 2017 | ISBN 978-0763650902

You can view a gallery of artwork by Chris Raschka on tumblr!

National Poetry Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-reading-bug-bookmark

I Have the Reading Bug Bookmark

 

If you love reading, then print out this I Have the Reading Bug Bookmark that can mark your page with style! For a sturdier bookmark, print on card stock or heavy paper.

Picture Book Review

September 7 – Buy a Book Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 2012 Buy a Book Day promotes an appreciation for physical paperback and hardbound books. Whether you’re cracking open a brand new release or gently turning the pages in a well-worn volume, holding an actual book in your hands is an unforgettable connection between you, the author, and another world—real or imaginary. Today, drop into your local bookstore and peruse the shelves—you’ll be sure to find a fascinating book to buy.

A Child of Books

By Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

 

A little girl sits on a log raft with a parchment sail, dangling her feet into the water that swirls around her legs in an eddy made of words that read: “Once upon a time there was a child who loved to read…,” while the rest of the words disperse and float away. In fact, the girl is reading now—a book with a keyhole in the middle. “I am a child of books,” she reveals. “I come from a world of stories.” The wind catches the sail of her raft and the girl is off on an adventure, rising and dipping with the cresting letters that make up waves coming from the deeper sea of straight lines of excerpted text from classics including The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle, Robinson Crusoe, The Swiss Family Robinson, and Kidnapped.

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

The waves bring her to shore, where riding atop one she towers over a small boy. The girl asks if he will sail away with her. He peers into the window of his house where his father sits reading the newspaper. Headlines announce “Serious Stuff,” “Facts,” “Important Things,” and “Business.” And indeed just a glance at the articles will inform readers that “A group of serious people passed on concerns about a serious document that has been lost by a serious organization….”; that “Scientists have discovered a new fact. In one test, nearly half the subjects proved the fact, it was revealed….”; and that “an important company is to stop producing some important stuff by later this year. It said no one wanted this particular bit of important stuff.” The father’s glasses glint with numbers that rim the frames like tears.

The girl says that “some people have forgotten” where she lives, but that she can lead him on the way. The two follow a path of words from Alice in Wonderland, and the boy watches worriedly as the girl confidently climbs down a hole in the lines. There is more climbing to be done, however, and the girl, in her blue and white sailor dress, holds the boys hand as they traverse mountains made of Peter Pan that reach into the sky. By the time the friends row their dinghy into a dark cave created from the story of Treasure Island and discover a wooden chest, the boy is eager and excited for the journey.

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

The girl and boy play hide-and-seek among tall trees made of books, where titles and lines of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red-Cap, The Golden Goose, Tom Thumb, and more jut out as leaf-covered branches. They leave the woods and come to a haunted castle that is being attacked by a monster made dark and hairy with the words of Frankenstein and Dracula. This time the boy holds a line of Rapunzel as the girl deftly shimmies to the top of a turret.

Tuckered out, the pair of friends ascend ladders to clouds of lullabies and drift into dreamland where they stand on the moon so they can “shout as loud as we like in space.” But perhaps it is not the moon but, instead, their own imaginary world made of color and characters, palaces and possibilities where stories may end but creativity lives on because “we’re made from stories…” and “our house is a home of invention.”

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Image copyrights Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston, courtesy of oliverjeffers.com

If any book invites readers to linger over the intricacies of its pages, A Child of Books is it. A perfect combination of Oliver Jeffers’ homage to the power of storytelling and Sam Winston’s artistry with typography, A Child of Books summons readers of all ages to leave the weariness of the “serious” world and enter the realm of the imagination.

The lilting lines of Oliver Jeffers’ prose poem flow with the stream of consciousness that allows thinkers to journey to nooks and crannies, participate in majestic vistas, and create the unknown of their own fancies. In Sam Winston’s hands sentences and paragraphs describing classic sea voyages swell into waves; lines from other classics crowd in upon each other, solidifying into a hidden inlet or forming a horned creature; and soft yellowed pages return to replicate the trees they once were. In the end a rainbow of characters spin out from a revolving globe, depicting our full color world.

Maps laid out by the storytellers of the past may show us routes to take but as A Child of Books reveals, there is so much white space yet to be discovered. For bibliophiles young and old, A Child of Books makes a beautiful gift and will be a welcome addition to personal library shelves.

Ages 4 and up

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763690779

Visit Oliver Jeffers’ website to view his wide-ranging work in picture books, paintings, film, and more. You can follow a paper airplane to fun games based on his picture books in Oliver Jeffers’ World.

To see the unique perspective of Sam Winston, view his books, projects, and archives on his website!

Watch the Child of Books book trailer!

 

Buy a Book Day Activity

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I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy List

 

Do you love to read? Do you have a wish list of books you want to read next? Me too! Use this printable I’ve Got the Reading Bug! Books to Buy sheet to keep track of those great book ideas.