March 9 – It’s Read Aloud Month

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About the Holiday

From the moment babies are born, they are learning. Talking and reading aloud to babies from the very beginning are crucial parts of helping their developing brain learn language and improves literacy in the years to come. Reading aloud to babies and older children for only 15 minutes a day makes a tremendous and beneficial difference to their future. Make reading time a special time with your kids, and with so many wonderful books available—like today’s book—you’ll have as much fun as they do!

Rosa’s Very Big Job

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Sarah Vonthron-Laver

 

Rosa may be little, but she has big ideas about how to help. While Mama is out shopping for groceries for that night’s dinner, Rosa decides to surprise her by folding and putting away the laundry. The basket is piled high with fluffy dry clothes, sheets, and towels. Rosa watches her grandpa reading the newspaper. “‘Please help me, Grandpa!’” she says. She tugs on her grandpa’s hands, trying to pull him out of his chair. “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get up.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-rosa-likes-to-help

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Grandpa seems to have a little trouble managing: “‘It’s difficult to carry these enormous piles,’” he sighs. But Rosa knows that smaller armloads work better. Grandpa’s clothes come unfolded as he puts them in the drawer. “‘Be neat. Like me,” Rosa says, showing him her tidy stack. Poor Grandpa! He has to keep hanging up the same jacket over and over. “‘It’s difficult to keep this jacket from sliding off the hanger,” he says. Rosa has the answer: “‘Zip it up,’” she explains. “‘Then it stays on.’”

Grandpa sinks back into his chair. “‘You are terrific at doing laundry, Rosa. And I am exhausted,’” he says. But this is no time to quit—Rosa has big plans. As she steps into the now empty laundry basket, she exclaims, “‘Come on, Grandpa! Get in the boat. Help me sail back to there.’” Rosa points to the linen closet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-rosa-uses-basket-as-boat

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Suddenly, the floor swells with ocean waves teeming with fish. Grandpa channels his inner sailor as he holds aloft a sheet as a sail. As the wind billows and they come perilously close to the kitchen table, he says, “‘It’s difficult to sail around this enormous rock!’” Contemplating the rising sea, he exclaims, “‘It’s difficult to sail over this enormous wave!’”

There’s a dangerous storm ahead, warns Grandpa, “‘I can’t hold the sail in this strong wind.’” Rosa is there to help and grabs one side of the sheet. “‘Hold tight,’” she orders. “‘Use both hands.’” At last the seas die down and Grandpa is ready to steer the laundry basket back to port, but Rosa has a more entertaining thought. Spying a sock on the floor, Rosa wants to catch the “enormous fish.” Grandpa obliges and picks up a hangar for a fishing pole. He holds Rosa as she stretches out over the edge of the laundry basket to land her fish.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rosa's-very-big-job-sailing-with-sheet

Image copyright Sarah Vonthron-Laver, text copyright Ellen Mayer, courtesy of Star Bright Books, starbrightbooks.com

Just as Rosa nabs the fish, Mama comes home with her bags of groceries. She’s surprised to see that the laundry is not in the basket. Rosa runs to her and proudly explains, “‘We put all the laundry away. It was a very big job. We carried enormous piles. Grandpa dropped things. And I picked them up. It was very difficult for Grandpa. He got exhausted. But not me. I am terrific at laundry!’” Mama agrees that Rosa is a terrific helper. Then Rosa leads her mother to see the most surprising thing of all—the fish she has caught for dinner!

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In her series of Small Talk Books® Ellen Mayer presents exciting stories for preschoolers full of imagination and rich language learning. Rosa’s Very Big Job introduces Rosa, a sweet girl bubbling with enthusiasm and the desire to help. The close relationships between Rosa, her mother, and her grandpa promote cooperation as well as effective modeling of speech patterns and a way to introduce larger words in an organic manner through play and common chores. Rosa’s inventive idea to turn the laundry basket into a boat is delightfully enhanced by her grandpa’s willingness to share in the story and expand on it. Humor, cheerful banter, and the easy camaraderie between Rosa and Grandpa invite young readers to join in the fun as they build confidence in their language learning.

Sarah Vonthron-Laver depicts Rosa’s afternoon with her Grandpa with joy and the spirited energy young children bring to everything they do. Grandpa is happy to spend time with his granddaughter, yet shows honest feelings of tiredness and frustration that spur on the plot. The transition from doing laundry to using the basket as a boat is as seamless as a child’s imagination, and the way Rosa and her grandpa use household items to create “sails,” “rocks,” “fish,” and “fishing poles” will give readers great ideas for post-reading play. Bright colors, an adorable kitten, and familiar surroundings welcome young children into the world of reading and expanded vocabulary.

Rosa’s Very Big Job would be a welcome addition to a young child’s bookshelf, not only for its fun story that kids will want to hear again and again, but for its leap into imagination that kids will want to replicate.

Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development, provides tips for parents, grandparents, and caregivers following the text.

Ages 2 – 6

Star Bright Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1595727497

Discover more about Ellen Mayer and her books as well as book-related activities and literacy initiatives she’s involved with on her website!

To read an interview with Ellen Mayer about her books and her work, click here!

Find Sarah Vonthron-Laver on Facebook!

Read Aloud Month Activity

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Original illustrations by Saran Vonthron-Laver, Copyrights © 2016 Star Bright Books. Paper dolls created by AislingArt and Celebrate Picture Books, copyrights © 2016

Rosa’s Very Big Job Paper Dolls

 

After you read the story, you can continue the fun with these Rosa and family paper dolls! Rosa loves helping out at home. She’s terrific at doing laundry – folding and putting away the family’s clothes, socks, and linens. You are terrific at helping too! Can you help Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa get dressed and ready for the day with these printable paper dolls? You’ll even find a laundry basket, socks, and Rosa’s sweet kitty to play with! 

Supplies

Printable Paper Dolls, Clothes, and Extras

  • Card stock paper and/or poster board
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Directions

  1. Print dolls on regular paper or card stock paper. Dolls printed on card stock paper may stand on their own with the supplied stand cross piece. For dolls printed on regular paper, you can cut the supplied stand templates from poster board or card stock and glue the dolls to the backing.
  2. Rosa’s kitty and the laundry basket can also be attached to the supplied template if needed
  3. Print clothes for each figure
  4. Color the blank clothes templates any way you’d like
  5. Cut out clothes and extra items
  6. Fit outfits onto dolls
  7. Make up your own stories about Rosa, Mama, and Grandpa!

Picture Book Review

November 29 – It’s National Family Literacy Month

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About the Holiday

Today’s observance was established in 1994 to promote family and community involvement in teaching and supporting children to read more. Family members can make reading a priority at home by sitting down together every day with a wide range of books and other reading material. By taking trips to the library and bookstores, children will also naturally pick up a love of reading. But families can’t do it alone. Kids acquire a drive to read when they see connections between books and their wider world. Fun book-related activities at schools, libraries, science centers, museums, and other places capture children’s attention and make them curious about reading more. Whether children are attracted by fiction or nonfiction, picture books or chapter books, novels or graphic novels, they should be encouraged to read. Universal literacy is a goal that can be accomplished.

About Small Talk Books®

Ellen Mayer’s Small Talk Books® feature young children and adults conversing (or adults speaking to children who are not talking yet) while they have fun, do chores, shop, and bake together. Their conversations demonstrate the kind of excitement and close relationships that encourage learning and language advancement. Each Small Talk Book® includes an accompanying note from Dr. Betty Bardige, an expert on young children’s language and literacy development and the author of Talk to Me, Baby! How You Can Support Young Children’s Language Development. The introduction discusses how children connect actions, words, and meaning as adults speak to them while doing particular jobs or actions.

Other titles in the Small Talk Books® series include Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job. Each book makes a wonderful gift for baby showers, new parents, or anyone with young children in the family. They would be a welcome addition to any young child’s bookshelf as well as libraries and preschool classrooms.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-fish-to-feed-coverA Fish to Feed

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

Dad plans a fun trip into town with his young child to buy a pet fish. He says, we will get “a fish to swim in our bowl. A fish we can look at and feed.” The pair are excited to go together and have time to “walk…and talk.” The two head out and soon pass a store. In the window the child sees a T-shirt with the picture of a fish on it and points. “Look—fish! Fish! Fish!” Dad reinforces the observation—“Yes, I see the fish on the T-shirt too.”—and further explains: “That’s a fish to wear, not a fish to swim in our bowl.”

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Going into the store, Dad and his youngster find another item with a fish on it. On a shelf is a backpack with a picture of a gold-and-yellow fish on the front pocket. This is a “fish to wear on your back,” Dad says, before going in search of a “fish to feed.” Next, the two come to a toy store. The child points to another fish—a fish on a mobile. “Look—fish! Fish! Fish!” the toddler exclaims. Dad affirms his child’s remark and expands on it using complete sentences that model conversation and increase vocabulary. They linger in the shop, finding other examples of fish.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

“‘Now let’s go find a fish to feed,’ says Daddy.” They head out of the store and continue down the street. As they come to the Pet Shop, the little one shouts, “‘Look—fish! Fish swim!” Daddy echoes the excitement while praising his child. “‘You found a fish that swims!’” They take the goldfish home, where it swims happily in their bowl—a pet they “can love and feed.”

A Fish to Feed contains die-cut holes in the pages that kids will love peering through as they shop along on this adventure to find a special pet.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-fish-to-feed-dad-and-child

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s story of a dad and his child out for an afternoon together as they look for a pet to love offers adults and children such a sweet way to spend time with one another. The story, set in the familiar environments of home and stores and revolving around a close parent-child relationship, will engage even the youngest readers. The back-and-forth conversation between Dad and his child as they shop models ways in which adults can follow a child’s lead while providing language and literacy development. The abscence of gender-specific pronouns makes this a universal story.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations are vibrant and joyful. When Dad bends down to be at eye-level with his toddler as they talk, the close bond between them is obvious in their smiling and laughing faces. The shops are full of colorful toys, clothes, backpacks, and other items that will capture kids’ attention. Spending time looking at each page allows adults and children to point at the various items, name them, and talk about them.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727077

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-socks-coverRed Socks

Written by Ellen Mayer | Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu

 

It’s laundry day and the clothes are all dried and soft and ready to wear. “‘Here is your blue shirt, with the goldfish on it,’” Mama says, pulling the top out of the basket and bending down to eye level to show it to her baby. Next, Mama describes the “yellow and white striped pants” she puts on her child. “‘Let’s see what else is in the laundry basket,’” she says.

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Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Mama pulls a tiny red sock from the basket, but—“UH-OH!—where is the other red sock?’” Now it’s the baby’s turn to help. With a look down, the toddler shows Mama where the sock is. “‘You found the other red sock. Yay!’” she says, giving words to the baby’s action. She continues explaining while pointing to the sock poking out of the baby’s pocket: “‘It was hiding in your pants pocket!” Once the laundry is folded, Mama tells her child exactly what they will do next while she playfully slips the other red sock on the baby’s wiggling feet. “‘Let’s put that other sock on your foot. Then we can go play outside.’” As the baby flies in the swing outside, the red socks are brilliant dots against the blue sky.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-red-socks-pants

Image copyright Ying-Hwa Hu, text copyright Ellen Mayer. Courtesy of starbrightbooks.com

Ellen Mayer’s simple and charming story of a particular moment in a mother and child’s day will immediately appeal to even the youngest reader. Familiar words coupled with clear, vivid illustrations will engage toddlers who are pre-talking and just learning language and concept development. The mother’s use of complete sentences as well as step-by-step descriptions of the activities the child sees and is involved in demonstrates how adults can converse with their babies and young children to encourage strong language and literacy skills. Free of gender-specific pronouns, Red Socks is a universal story.

Ying-Hwa Hu’s illustrations show a mother and child interacting on a typical day while they complete common chores and go outside to play. The mother and child portray a range of emotions and gestures, giving further depth to the understanding of the ideas and conversation presented. Kids will giggle at the adorable puppy who causes a bit of mischief on each page.

Ages Birth – 5

Star Bright Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-1595727060

To learn more about Ellen Mayer and her Small Talk Books® (including other titles: Cake Day and Rosa’s Very Big Job) as well as to find activities to accompany each book, visit her website!

Discover more about Ying-Hwa Hu and view a portfolio of her illustration work on her website!

Red Socks and Too Small to Fail

Red Socks was chosen by Too Small to Fail, an early literacy initiative of The Clinton Foundation to feature in their Wash Time is Talk Time project. Wash Time is Talk Time serves underserved communities and provides resources to turn time spent at the laundromat into an opportunity for families to talk together, read together, and learn together. Language-rich literacy resources will be delivered to more than 5,000 laundromats across the country.

Here’s a video from one fun afternoon with families,  Ellen Mayer, and Ying-Hwa Hu during wash time!

National Family Literacy Month Activity

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Child’s Sensory Board

 

Toys or objects that provide many opportunities for sensory experimentation and observation stimulate a baby and young child to learn while having fun. You can make a sensory board for your own child using household items and that have a variety of textures, sizes, shapes, and movement. When you create your own sensory board, you can personalize it for your child by adding their name, pictures of family members, and other special items. While you play with your child, take time to talk about all of the objects on the board, what they do, and how they work. Count the objects. If you include words or your child’s name, spell them outloud and say them. There are so many ways to use a sensory board. Even if children can’t yet talk, they are listening and soaking in the rich language learning you are providing!

**When making your board always ensure that you use items that are not a choking hazard or can catch tiny fingers. Make sure that items are firmly attached to the board. Never leave a baby unattended while playing.**

Supplies

  • A board large enough to hold the items you want to attach. Boards that can be used include: those found at hardware stores or craft stores; large cutting boards; shelves; old table tops; etc.

Sample items for your sensory board can be age appropriate and include:

  • Large swatches of various textured material. (I used fur, a scrubbing sheet, and a piece of carpeting)
  • Wooden or thick cardboard letters and numbers, painted in a variety of colors. Letters can be used to add a child’s name to the board.
  • Figures cut from sheets of foam or wooden figures found at craft stores in a variety of numbers that you can count with your child (I used sets of 1, 2, and 3 fish cut from foam to go along with the numbers 1, 2, and 3)
  • Mirror
  • Push button light
  • Chalk board to write on
  • Castor or other wheel
  • Door latches
  • Door knockers
  • Mop heads
  • Paint rollers
  • Cranks
  • Drawer handles
  • Hinges (I attached a tennis ball to a hinge that children can push back and forth)
  • Pulleys
  • Paint in various bright colors
  • Paint brushes
  • Scissors
  • Screws
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Velcro
  • Super glue

Directions

  1. Assemble your items
  2. Paint wooden or cardboard items
  3. Arrange item on the board so that your baby or child can easily reach or manipulate each one
  4. Attach items with screws, nuts and bolts, or super glue
  5. Push button lights or other objects that take batteries can be attached with strong Velcro. Ensure items attached with Velcro are large and not a choking hazard.
  6. Set up board where you and your baby or child can enjoy playing with it together

Picture Book Review

September 8 – International Literacy Day

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About the Holiday

In 1966 UNESCO (United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture) established International Literacy Day on this date to “actively mobilize the international community to promote literacy as an instrument to empower individuals, communities, and societies.” Marking its 50th anniversary, International Literacy Day is this year celebrating the theme “Reading the Past, Writing the Future” to commemorate five decades of efforts to increase in literacy rates around the world and the progress made. “It also looks to innovative solutions to further boost literacy in the future.” With a focus on innovation, International Literacy Prizes are also awarded to people with outstanding solutions that can drive literacy towards achieving future goals.

The World Literacy Foundation also celebrates today’s holiday with the 2016 campaign “The Sky’s the Limit,” which aims to eliminate the digital divide for students in the developing world.

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read

Written by Curtis Manley | Illustrated by Kate Berube

 

One summer Nick, Verne, and Stevenson did everything together. Nick is a little boy and Verne and Stevenson are two very different cats. Nick and Verne loved to spend time near the water—Stevenson tolerated it. Nick and Verne slept happily in a tent under the stars—Stevenson barely shut his eyes. While Nick rode his bike Verne eagerly sat in the front basket—Stevenson hunkered down in a box on the back. But when Nick sat down to read, both cats had their own ideas of fun—like lying on top of the book—and Nick could hardly read a sentence.

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Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

“So Nick decided to teach them how to read. He made flash cards and started with easy words” like “ball,” but Verne and Stevenson just wanted to play with the ball. While the three had a picnic on the lawn, “Nick pointed to the word food. The cats ignored him.” When the cats snoozed Nick woke them with a sign. “‘This is no time for an N-A-P!’” he said. Neither cat responded well, so Nick tried a new tactic. He made word-shaped flash cards. Verne took a nibble of “F-I-S-H,” but Stevenson hid under the bed.

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Nick began to see that Verne liked stories about cats and fish. “Verne loved fish. He followed along as Nick read, learning the sounds of the letters.” He even read by himself, discovering new stories, especially 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea. But Stevenson? When Nick spelled words for him, he merely ran under the porch, hissing. By this time Verne was reading so many books that he got his own library card and Nick needed help carrying all of his books home. Nick and Verne had fun acting out their favorite stories, but they missed Stevenson.

One day “Verne discovered a treasure under the bed—a great stack of Stevenson’s pirate drawings. “‘Wow!’” Nick whispered. “‘Stevenson drew a story.’” Nick and Verne put the pages together and began to write words to go with them. When the story was finished, Nick, Verne, and Stevenson “squeezed under the porch, gave Stevenson an eye patch, and read The Tale of One-Eyed Stevenson and the Pirate Gold. Stevenson listened and followed along. He didn’t run away. Or hiss. Not even once.”

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Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

 

Suddenly, Stevenson couldn’t get enough of books.  Even before Nick woke up, Stevenson could be found with his nose in Treasure Island or another adventure book, and whenever Nick and Verne played pirates, Stevenson joined in. He helped bring down “scurvy mutineers” and found buried treasure. Now the three readers do everything together. They “hunt for dinosaurs in the lost world behind the garden…race around the yard in eighty seconds…and journey to the center of the basement.” And while they all like to read on their own, they also like it when someone reads to them. “Hmmm…,” Nick thinks, maybe next he could teach his cats to talk. “‘Meow,’ says Stevenson.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-summer-nick-taught-his-cats-to-read-grumpy-stevenson

Image copyright Kate Berube, text copyright Curtis Manley, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Curtis Manley’s adorable tribute to reading and learning to read using cats, with their variety of personalities, is inspired. Just as some people respond more to the words while others are attracted by the pictures, Verne and Stevenson have their own relationships with books. The names of the cats and their preferred reading material are also reminders that books are personal, and disinterest in one type of story does not reflect disinterest in all stories. Manley’s text makes for a joyful read-aloud as his language and phrasing is evocative, lyrical, and imaginative.

In perfect accompaniment, Kate Berube brings this creative story to life, illustrating the tender relationship between Nick and his pets as well as emphasizing the humor and distinct personalities inherent in orange striped Verne and smoky gray Stevenson that influence their journeys to literacy. Depictions of the various books Verne and Stevenson are drawn to highlight the literary references in the trio’s further play. Readers will want to stop and peruse the page of library shelves, where such books as “Harry Picaroon and the Swashbuckler’s Stone”, “Harold and the Purple Canon”, “Millions of Rats”, and “Where the Wild Pirates Are” wait to be checked out in the Pirates section.

Kids will eagerly want to adopt The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, and it will snuggle in nicely on children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-1481435697

Discover “the facts, fictions, poems, and numbers” of Curtis Manley on his website!

View a gallery of Kate Berube‘s art on her website!

International Literacy Day Activity

CPB - Cat Bookmark (2)

Feline Fine about Reading Bookmark

 

This want-to-be literary lion feels fine about reading! Let it hold your page while you’re away! Print your Feline Fine about Reading Bookmark and color it!

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-a-child-of-books-colorful-monster

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-i've-got-the-reading-bug-books-to-read-list

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.

September 6 – Read a Book Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-six-dots-a-story-of-young-louis-braille-cover

About the Holiday

Avid readers, rejoice! Today is your day – a whole 24 hours dedicated to the fine pursuit of perusing an old favorite or a newly discovered book! To celebrate visit a local bookstore or library then find a cozy nook or shady spot and settle in for a good, long read.

Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

 

When Louis Braille was born he was so small that no one in town expected him to live. But he did! Louis thrived and with his curious eyes took in everything around him. Louis was smart, too, with a prodigious memory for names and stories. His father worked with leather, making harnesses and bridles. Louis wanted to be just like him and often reached for the sharp tools on the workbench, but his father always warned him away.

One terrible day, however, when Louis’ father glanced away, Louis grabbed an awl and tried to work it into the smooth leather, but it slipped. Louis’ damaged eye was bandaged and he was told not to touch it. But when the bandage began to itch, young Louis couldn’t help himself and spread the infection to his other eye. By the age of five, Louis was left in darkness, unable to see the faces of those he loved or the attractions of home.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, courtesy Alfred A. Knopf

Louis learned the sounds of the world. He discovered the number of steps around his house, to the outbuildings, and eventually to the shops and businesses in town. His brother taught him how to whistle and use the reverberations to avoid obstacles. He also learned to feel the shapes of letters made of straw, leather, or nailed replicas made by his family. He played dominoes by feeling the dots with his fingers.

While Louis listened to others read to him, he longed to be able to read on his own. Whenever he asked if there were books for blind people, however, the answer was always, “No.” A noblewoman who lived nearby heard of Louis and invited him to study at the Royal School for the Blind in Paris. At the age of 10 he moved to the boarding school.

The Royal School was anything but sumptuous. Louis’ room was crowded, damp, and dark. His uniform itched, and meals were meager and cold. He so wanted to return home, but the promise of books for the blind kept him there. Those books were reserved for the best students, and Louis vowed to be one. Finally, Louis was led to the library. A book thudded onto the table in front of him. “‘Voila! There it is,’” the guide said.

Louis opened the book. To read it he had to feel the raised letters, but the letters were huge and a page only held a few sentences. To make matters worse, the book consisted of only a few pages. “‘Is that all?’” Louis asked. The guide told him there were others but that they were all the same. More than ever Louis wanted to go home.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, courtesy Alfred A. Knopf

In the morning Louis was shaken awake; the headmaster had an important announcement.  It seemed that a French army captain had devised a secret code read by touch instead of sight. This code could be used at the school, the headmaster said. The code consisted of raised dots set in patterns that represented various sounds. The boys learned the new code then learned how to write it, using an awl-like implement that punched dots into paper.

While the code was a breakthrough, it was hard to learn and all the other boys in the school had given up—but not Louis. Still, reading the code was not like reading a book with letters, words, and sentences. Louis asked the headmaster if the army captain would work with him to improve the code, but when the headmaster asked, the answer was “No.”

Louis knew what he had to do. Night after night he punched dots into paper with the awl-like tool—just as he had watched his father do with leather. He tried “hundreds of ways to simplify the captain’s code.” Three years passed, and Louis turned 15. Finally, he had a workable solution. He asked the headmaster to read to him a book he had never heard. As the headmaster read, Louis copied his words, punching letters onto paper. Louis’ “new code used just six dots, arranged in two columns, like dominoes. Each dot pattern stood for a letter of the alphabet.”

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, courtesy Alfred A. Knopf

When the headmaster finished reading chapter 1, Louis turned his pages over and “reading by touch, recited the entire chapter.” After that “word spread quickly. The other students rushed to try it. Si facile! ‘So easy!’ Et si vite! ‘And so fast!’ ‘We can read words and write letters like everyone else,’” the other boys exclaimed.

As Louis watched his friends read he remembered watching his “Papa in his shop, bent over rough strips of leather, making them useful. I had become like him, after all,” Louis thought.

An Author’s Note, more fascinating biographical information about Louis Braille’s life and other inventions, resources, and the Braille alphabet follow the text.

In her Author’s Note Jen Bryant says she wanted to express what it felt like to be Louis Braille. In Six Dots she succeeds in bringing the story of this very young inventor and genius to life with details of his accidental blindness, family support, school experiences, and ultimate victory. Told from Louis Braille’s point of view, the story has an immediacy that presents Braille’s frustrations, challenges, and achievements sensitively and honestly. His perseverance against all odds will inspire readers and give them a new perspective on the unique person Braille was, the importance of books for all, and what children not much older than the readers of Six Dots can accomplish.

Boris Kulikov’s mixed media illustrations take readers back to the France of the early 1800s, depicting with soft colors and period details the town, people, and influences in Louis Braille’s life. Braille’s initial accident is treated with thoughtful consideration of the book’s audience, and his blindness and dreams are portrayed with transparent outlines on a black background. Readers will be interested to see how Louis’s family and friends supported and helped him (an unusual occurrence of the time). As Louis grows, readers discover his other talents for music and sewing, and the tools Louis used to produce his Braille pages are clearly shown.

Ages 4 – 9

Alfred A. Knopf, 2016 | ISBN 978-0449813379

View Jen Bryant’s website for activities, videos, and links related to Six Dots—you’ll also discover more of her books too!

To see a gallery of images by Boris Kulikov for books and other illustration work, visit his website!

Read a Book Day Activity

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I Love the Library! Coloring Page

 

Today is a perfect day to visit your library and check out some awesome books! Here’s a printable I Love the Library! Coloring Page for you to enjoy too!

August 9 – Book Lovers Day

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About the Holiday

For readers today’s holiday might be the best day of the year! With so many fantastic books to discover, one day doesn’t seem like enough! To make the most of it get up early and go to bed late, call in sick (Shhh…don’t tell them I told you to), order take out for lunch and dinner or read in a favorite restaurant, hire a baby sitter, go to the library or local bookstore….Just find a way to have quiet time to yourself—like Roger in today’s book!

Roger Is Reading a Book

By Koen Van Biesen | Translated by Laura Watkinson

 

Roger is a minimalist. His room consists of a black padded stool, a hook holding an orange coat, scarf, and umbrella, an extendable lamp jutting from the wall, and a basset hound pining for its leash crumpled on the floor. And—oh yes—there is Roger. Roger is sitting on the stool, reading. The little volume is engrossing, and Roger, in his tweed cap, plaid bowtie, green sweater vest, white shirt, orange outlined pants, and blue striped socks tucked into white shoes, is pondering a page.

Suddenly from the other side of the wall/left-hand page comes a resounding BOING BOING. It’s Emily bouncing a basketball! Roger flips his lid and the dog’s ear springs to attention. Emily, herself, and her room are a sight to behold. Emily’s thick unruly hair sports an enormous butterfly, she wears a number 2 on her pink dress, and her room is cluttered with the trappings of her hobbies. Roger rises, sets his book on the stool, and knocks on the wall while his dog offers his leash with hope. Emily stops her bouncing to listen.

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Image copyright Koen Van Biesen

Ah! Silence reigns once more and Roger goes back to his book. But what’s this?! Emily is singing. The song is “LALALA” loud! Once again Roger knocks—“KNOCKITY KNOCK.” His dog wags his tail at the door. Okay, order has been restored and Roger, a little distracted, goes back to reading. What on Earth??!! “BOOM BOOM BOOM” Emily is playing the drum. The noise shakes Roger to his core. A shoe flies off, the lamp leaps upward, the book bounds away, Roger whips his head around. “KNOCK KNOCK KNOCKITY KNOCK” Ugh! Thinks Emily. Not this too!

“POK POK POK” Emily juggles colorful clubs while poor Roger rubs his eyes, his book languishing in his hand. Even the basset hound has a paw over his snout. “TRIP TRIP TRAP” Emily is now practicing ballet. Despondent Roger has turned his back on the whole thing—as has his dog and his lamp. The book lies abandoned in the corner. “BAF BAF BAF” Emily is boxing! Something must be done! Roger paces. “Is Roger reading? No, Roger is not reading now.”

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Image copyright Koen Van Biesen

“Book down. Coat on. Scarf on. Light off. Roger has made up his mind.” “KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK.” Roger knocks on Emily’s door. With a package. Emily tears it open. “OH…A book.” Roger returns to his room and his coat and scarf to the hook. He turns on the lamp and sits down on the stool. “Shhhh! Quiet. Emily is reading. Emily is reading a book.” It’s about juggling and basketball and other things. She holds her stuffed giraffe for company. “Shhhh! Quiet. Roger is reading. Roger is reading a book.” His failthful dog lies nearby for company.

Late into the night they read, their rooms illuminated only by a single lamp. “WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF ….” Both Roger and Emily jump, startled out of their reverie. There’s only one thing to do. Roger and Emily take the dog for a walk.

With just a glance at the cover of Koen Van Biesen’s Roger Is Reading a Book, readers know they are in for a treat. The distinctive artwork defies simple explanation. Part outline, part optical illusion, the illustrations combine the immediacy of an art installation with the humor of a New Yorker cartoon. You feel for Roger, who just wants to sit quietly and read his book. But perhaps also for Emily, alone, who is trying to fill the empty hours. And of course for Roger’s basset hound, who has a very real need to go out.

The trio’s circumstances come together on a rainy afternoon to create escalating hilarity and finally the perfect solution. The minimal text, displayed in various sizes and colors of type, enhances the droll nature of Roger and Emily’s contest of wills and allows for the illustrations to depict Roger’s growing discontent and Emily’s dedication to her activities. Roger’s basset hound and lamp are funny foils empathizing with Roger’s pain.

The unique art and fun animated read-aloud opportunities presented in this picture book make Roger Is Reading a Book a must for kids’ (or adults’) libraries.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2015 | ISBN 978-0802854421

Book Lovers Day Activity

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Read aLOUD Bookmark

 

Make some noise for your favorite book with this bell-tastic bookmark! It’s easy to make, and everywhere you go you’ll give your book a ringing endorsement!

Supplies

  • 3 novelty shoe laces or three strands of thin ribbon in different designs
  • 6 small jingle bells

Directions

  1. Cut the shoelaces or ribbon to the length you want for your books
  2. Knot the three shoelaces or strands of ribbon together at one end
  3. Braid the three shoelaces or strands of ribbon together
  4. Knot the strands together at the top, leaving about two inches of unbraided shoelace or ribbon hanging
  5. Thread the bells on a piece of string or cord
  6. At the knot tie the bells around the shoelaces or ribbon

Picture Book Review

March 2 – Dr. Seuss’s Birthday | Read Across America Day

The Sneetches and Other Stories Picture Book Review

About the Holiday

Read Across America was designed by the National Education Association as a day to raise awareness of the importance of reading and to motivate people to read more. What better day could they have chosen to celebrate the joys books can bring than March 2—Theodor Seuss Geisel’s birthday! With 46 children’s books to his name, Dr. Seuss is one of the world’s most beloved authors, and one whose imagination has entertained generations of readers.

For more information on the Read Across America program visit www.nea.org/grants/read-across-background.html

The Sneetches and Other Stories

By Dr. Seuss

 

If you love reading chances are Dr. Seuss has something to do with it! He wrote so many stories that there are fantastic and fantastical creations to fit everyone’s fancy! Today I’m reviewing my favorite collection of Dr. Seuss tales—I hope you’ll like it too!

The four stories in this collection touch on such topics as individualism, prejudice, stubbornness, fear, and just the ridiculous. Perhaps the best-known tale is The Sneetches, in which a community of Sneetches, some of whom sport stars on their bellies and some who do not, fall prey to a slick salesman and his star-on and star-off machines. The Sneetches run themselves ragged trying to be popular and keep up with the fad of the moment. In the end, Sylvester McMonkey McBean has made monkeys of them all and drives away with a smile and all their cash. He thinks they’ll never learn, but he’s wrong—the Sneetches are actually richer for McBean’s visit and become a closer-knit community.

In The Zax, a North-going Zax and a South-going Zax are strolling along on their individual tracks when they meet face to face in the middle of nowhere. Neither one will move the slightest inch to the left or the right to let the other pass. They stand “toe-to-toe” in unbreakable stalemate, even if it means the whole world must halt along with them. “Of course the world didn’t stand still,” Dr. Seuss tells us. The middle of nowhere became somewhere. Buildings went up, people moved in, and a highway was built right over the Zax, who are probably standing there still.

Ah, the poor mother in Too Many Daves! If only she’d had a little more imagination and forethought in the name department she may have saved herself a lot of trouble. One after one, however, she named her sons Dave—all 23 of them! Too late she thinks of all the other names she could have used, and here is presented a list of names that far outshines any baby naming book on the market. Be ready for giggles when you get to “Stinky.”

My very favorite story is What Was I Scared Of?. It has just the right combination of spookiness and humor to satisfy any budding mystery buff. One night while picking berries the hero of the story spies a “pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them.” The pants begin to show up in the oddest of places, no matter how hard the storyteller tries to escape them. The pants are rowing on the river, riding a bicycle, and walking the same path. When the pants and the narrator peek around the same bush, however, they’re both in for a surprise. “Why, the pants were just as scared as I,” the narrator reveals. Instead of gloating or running away, our intrepid hero learns that feelings are often shared and he becomes a friend to the pants that once so frightened him.

Of course these stories are all told with Dr. Seuss’s inimitable word choice, rhymes, names, and rhythm accompanied by his whimsical characters and landscapes.

Ages 4 – 9

Random House, New York, 1961 | ISBN 978-0394800899

Dr. Seuss’s Birthday/Read Across America Day Activity

CPB - Reading Bug Book Plate (2)

I Have the Reading Bug Bookplate

 

There’s no better feeling than leafing through the pages of your own book! Now, to keep precious books from getting lost, you can dress them up with this printable I Have the Reading Bug Bookplate!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the I Have the Reading Bug Bookplate
  2. Cut out the bookplate
  3. Write your name on the line at the top
  4. Using glue dots or removable mounting squares attach the bookplate to the inside front or back cover