September 21 – It’s National Sewing Month

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About the Holiday

Sewing is one of the most popular hobbies around and has historically been one of the most important industries in this country and around the world. National Sewing Month was established in 1982 to encourage people to learn more about this craft and to try their hand at picking up a needle or sitting down at a sewing machine. To celebrate read up on the history of sewing and the textile industry and consider taking a sewing class or learning on your own. Sewing can be a fun and rewarding activity for adults and children.

Crafty Llama

Written by Mike Kerr | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

It was a gorgeous day and Llama knew she should concentrate on her “chores, this, that, and whatever,” but that big mound of fluff was calling to her. And because “it was such a beautiful day,” she wanted to do “something lovely.” So she took herself outside, and while she decided what to do with the day, she kept her hands busy with her knitting needles. “She felt like the answer was sitting right in front of her, but she just couldn’t see it.”

Pretty soon Raccoon dropped by with a string and beads, and then Rabbit came over with her embroidery, and Pony with the quilt he was stitching. It didn’t take long for almost all of Llama’s friends to join in with their own projects. When Beaver stopped by, he only wanted to make something that was useful. He studied Llama’s long stretch of knitting and wanted to know what it was. Llama hadn’t really thought about it. “She had just been having fun making.” She asked Beaver what he would do with it, but he didn’t know. Raccoon suggested a sail, Pony thought it would make a great rocket, and Rabbit opted for a hot-air balloon basket. But Beaver wasn’t convinced.

By now more of Llama’s friends had shown up, and they all found bits of her knitting very useful. Lion found a hairband, Elephant discovered a neat way to carry his trunk, and there was even “something for Turtle when he came out of his shell.” Llama was excited to see that “if you have fun making something, others are bound to enjoy it too.” All of Llama’s friends were sporting new, knitted somethings that were just right for them—“everyone but Beaver.”

Beaver wanted something…but what? What would be useful? He decided to do what always helped him think. He gnawed and gnawed and chewed and chewed on some trees while mulling over his options. At last, he and Llama took a break. Beaver’s break turned into a much-deserved sleep, because while Beaver was “‘thinking,’ he had made something special for everyone too.” Suddenly, Llama knew what her “crafty something” was useful for. She slipped a bit under Beaver’s head and covered him with a bit more, and Beaver continued snoozing cozily. Now when Llama and her friends get together for crafting, they love their brand new place to do it in!

Mike Kerr’s sweet tribute to the joys of crafting and imagination will delight little artists and makers of all kinds. Thoughtful Beaver and more free-wheeling Llama make good foils—and friends—in this story that introduces a full studio of artistic endeavors as well as different thought patterns that make each person unique. While many of Llama’s friends immediately recognize how to use the “crafty something” they choose, Beaver is more precise, wondering about logistics, practicality, and even safety. It turns out that Beaver is more like Llama than he might think as he also crafts a perfect gift for all of his friends.

Renata Liwska’s well-known adorable animals make the cutest crafting companions ever. Llama’s HGTV-worthy kitchen lets the sun shine in on her big ball of wool that’s just waiting to be spun into yarn. As one lovable friend after another joins the crafting party, young readers will be enticed to try all of their arts—from sewing to painting, stamping to terrarium making, basket weaving to needle crafts, and more. Little ones will wish they were in the midst of all the fun as Llama’s friends pick out just the right clever gift for their needs. They’ll want to linger over every page to see how each “crafty something” is used and to catch all of the details. When children spy Beaver’s beautiful pavilion, they’ll understand that giving is an art of its own.

For children enthusiastic about making things or who are looking to experiment with their own creative talent, as well as for anyone who is thoughtfully precise, Crafty Llama is an engaging story. The book would be a welcome addition to home libraries classroom bookshelves to accompany art and other creative lessons.

Ages 4 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681191218

Discover more about the art and writing of Mike Kerr and Renata Liwska on their website, RandMCollective.com.

To view a portfolio of work by Renata Liwska, visit her website

National Sewing Month Activity

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Got You in Stitches Dot-to-Dot Puzzle

 

Stitch the letters together to discover the picture in this printable Got You in Stitches Dot-to-Dot Puzzle.

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You can find Crafty Llama at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

March 28 – National Little Red Wagon Day

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About the Holiday

In 2016 Radio Flyer established today’s holiday in anticipation of its 100th anniversary in 2017. That’s one hundred years of children enjoying the imaginative outdoor play a little red wagon provides! Whether kids are transporting their siblings, giving their pets or toys a ride, helping out in the garden, or participating in a community parade, the red wagon has been at the center of the action and a plaything that gets passed down from parent to child as a family grows. If you have little ones in your family, celebrate today by taking a little red wagon for a spin.

Red Wagon

By Renata Liwska

 

When Lucy got a new red wagon, “she wanted to play with it immediately.” Her mother thought she could take her wagon to the market. That didn’t sound like much fun to Lucy, but she headed to the market with a list anyway.

When she came to the big hill, her friends Hedgehog and Squirrel jumped in. That made the wagon “pretty heavy.” Fortunately, Rabbit came along to help push. At the top of the hill, they stopped for a snack with Bird and Raccoon, but “it started to rain! Oh, brother.” Lucy pushed the wagon to the bottom of the hill, but by now the rain was a torrent. That was okay, though, as the wagon had transformed into a ship, and Raccoon, in his umbrella, had become a pirate captain.

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Copyright Renata Liwska, 2013, courtesy of Philomel Books.com.

When the rain stopped, the friends went on their way in their red Conestoga wagon. Bunny, in his ten gallon hat, pushed while Sheriff Lucy pulled. Hedgehog held the reins, and Raccoon road her horse alongside. “At last Lucy arrived at the market.” As Hedgehog rolled their circus wagon into the center, Bunny toddled tall on stilts, Lucy juggled rings, and Raccoon blew a horn.

Lucy gathered all the vegetables on her mother’s list and started toward home. The train engine chugged, pulling the vegetable car up the steep hill. They were almost home “when the wagon hit a rock” and rocketed into space amid vegetable planets. When they landed, Lucy “gathered the vegetables and put them back into her wagon.

Lucy’s mom was happy to see her when she got home and thanked her happily for helping. “Finally, Lucy was free to play with her wagon,” which now made a perfect spot for a nap.

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Copyright Renata Liwska, 2013, courtesy of Philomel Books.com.

Snuggling up with your little one and Renata Liwska’s Red Wagon is such a sweet way to spend story time. As young children so often do, adorable Lucy turns a chore into imaginative playtime as she and her friends rapidly use mishaps, bumps, and their changing surroundings as springboards for their supple creativity.  Liwska’s simple story is the perfect frame for her beautiful, soft-hued, and detailed art as this group of cute friends become cowboys and cowgirls, sailors, pioneers, circus performers, and mom’s helpers.

A rich story for the youngest readers, Red Wagon would be a perfect baby gift and a much-loved addition to any toddler’s bookshelf.

Ages 1 – 3

Philomel Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-0399162398

To view a portfolio of books by Renata Liwska, visit her website.

National Little Red Wagon Day Activity

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Take a Ride in the Little Red Wagon Maze

 

Everyone wants to ride in the wagon. Can you help these friends find their way in this printable maze?

Take a Ride in the Little Red Wagon Maze | Take a Ride in the Little Red Wagon Maze Solution

Picture Book Review

December 31 – No Interruptions Day

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About the Holiday

Perhaps on this last day of the year you’re suffering from a little stimulation overload. Everywhere you go, it seems, there is something else begging for your attention, whether it’s flashing signs, sale advertisements, that chore you haven’t gotten to, or just coworkers, family members, or others wanting to say hi or needing help. On No Interruptions Day you’re allowed to take a little time for yourself to decompress and enjoy a bit of silence and relaxation. Sure, you can party later, but for now—Ahhhhh….

The Quiet Book

Written by Deborah Underwood | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

 

Quiet comes in many guises, for many reasons, and with many internal emotions attached to it. Each type of quiet is unique, compelling, and special. If you are lucky enough to enjoy a “first one awake quiet,” you have a bit of time to compose yourself for the day because you never know if you might experience “jelly side down quiet,” “thinking of a good reason you were drawing on the wall quiet,” or even “last one to get picked up from school quiet.”

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, text copyright Deborah Underwood. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Suspense is full of quiet—like “hide-and-seek quiet,” “pretending you’re invisible quiet,” and bubbling “top of the roller coaster quiet.” There are times when quiet is required, for instance “sleeping sister quiet” and “right before you yell ‘SURPRISE!’ quiet.” Experiences in nature inspire quiet awe, like “swimming underwater quiet,” “first snowfall quiet,” and “don’t scare the robin quiet.”

Concentration, commiseration, and companionship all contain their own depth of quiet, and the end of the day brings comfortable moments of quiet in story time, tucking in time, bedtime kisses, and finally “sound asleep quiet.”

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, text copyright Deborah Underwood. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

In her sweet tribute to the wondrous moments of quiet, Deborah Underwood is always surprising. Her original examples of quiet times are both ingenious and familiar, lending depth, humor, and insight to those times of the day that may defy definition but are felt in the heart.  The Quiet Book is perfect for bedtime, but also for any time when quiet reigns. It’s a beautiful book for children who are more reflective and for whom quiet times are treasured.

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, text copyright Deborah Underwood. Courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Renata Liwska’s soft, enchanting illustrations are as cuddly and comforting as a favorite blanket. Her little furry, spiky, and feathery animals navigate their day, experiencing those occasions of calm or turmoil with faces registering thoughtfulness, sadness, resignation, or cheer. Each page contains details, such as a bunny with an ear bandaged in solidarity with her friend who has a hurt tail and head, a bear holding a hiccupping rabbit upside down, and a cactus whose shadow is transformed into a monster, that will give even the youngest readers much to discover.

While the text on each page is sparse, the feelings they elicit are intimate and profound. Offering readers—both children and adults—much to discuss, The Quiet Book is a must for children’s home bookshelves.

Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, 2016 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0544809048

Discover the world of books by Deborah Underwood, including picture books, books for older readers, and nonfiction on her website!

View a gallery of picture book artwork by Renata Liwska on her website!

No Interruptions Day Activity

Quiet Time 

 

Finding opportunities to spend time in quiet contemplation or creativity is rejuvenating. Teaching children to appreciate down time and listen to their own thoughts is a gift that can bring them happiness and success that follows them into adulthood.

Today, set aside 15 minutes (or an appropriate amount of time for your child) and do one—or both—of these activities:

  1. You can do this with or without a piece of paper and pencil. Sit still and quietly in a place with no distractions and listen to what you hear. If you’d like write down the answers to these questions or just consider them:
  • What do you hear inside?
  • What do you hear coming from outside?
  • Can you tell how close or how far away the sound is?
  • In what way might you be a part of the sounds you hear?
  • Pick one sound and expand on its meaning
  1. Listen carefully to your own thoughts. What do you “hear” or “see”? On the paper draw or write whatever comes to mind, without changing it or erasing anything.

Picture Book Review

April 9 – Cherish an Antique Day

Once Upon a Memory by Nina Laden and Renata Liwska Picture Book Reivew

About the Holiday

When you look at an antique chair with its faded upholstery or a brooch handed down from your great-great-grandmother, do you ever think about the day when it was new? Imagine the excitement of sitting in the chair for the first time or opening the jewelry box on a shining pin. Today we remember our collective and individual treasured past, held in the objects of days gone by. Cherish an Antique Day is a perfect time to learn more about the stories of any antiques you may own.

Once Upon a Memory

Written by Nina Laden | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

 

This stunning, quiet book is so evocative in its premise that certain lines can bring a lump to your throat even before you reach the endearing end. A little boy sits in his playroom surrounded by his stuffed toys and pet dog, enjoying a tea party. A feather blows through the window, eliciting the question, “Does a feather remember it once was…a bird?” and then more musings: “Does a book remember it once was…a word?”

The simple patterned phrasing and rhyming couplets lend the story a surprising suspense as the reader tries to guess what one-time material or emotion transformed into another before the clever answer is revealed: “Does a statue remember it once was…stone? Does an island remember it once was…unknown?”

In the last pages the queries become more personal—“Does love remember it once was…new? Does a family remember it once was…two?” Adult readers will recognize where the reflective path leads, giving this book a deeper level of meaning for both adults and children: “Does the world remember it once was…wild? Will you remember you once were…a child?”

The question is not an idle one. In these busy, stressful times it’s good to remember what it meant—and means—to be a child.

Nina Laden’s subtly anthropomorphic world invites readers into a new realm of imagination as well as reality. Readers and listeners receive a new perspective on life as Laden’s poetic voice opens up a wide world of possibilities.

Renata Liwska’s illustrations are simply adorable and represent each couplet with depth and imagination. The feather that blows in the little boy’s window comes not from some single, random bird, but from a happy barber shop where an owl is getting a haircut. “Book” is both the volume lovingly read by the boy and the word painted on a busy bookshop sign. Liwska’s sweet bears, squirrels, beavers, birds, raccoons, bats and more as well as the tiny boy are rendered in gauzy browns, grays, reds, and yellows that are as soft and comforting as a favorite memory.  Once Upon a Memory would be a perfect companion on a walk, a trip, or during times of waiting, where readers and listeners could make up their own “once was” pairs. Its cadence also makes it a nice, comforting bedtime book.

Ages 4 – 7

Little Brown and Company, 2013 | ISBN 978-0316208161

Cherish an Antique Day Activity

CPB - Antique Day

Share the Stories of Your Antiques

 

Whether you have old photographs of great-great-grandparents or special heirlooms, today’s holiday is a wonderful time to share them and the stories behind them with children. The feeling of being part of several generations or holding history in your hands is exciting and comforting and can lead to more understanding and closer relationships.

Adults can collect a few family heirlooms and/or photographs to share with children. Children can choose which of their toys, books, or other favorite objects they think will last to become a cherished antique in the future.

Take time to get together and discuss the objects you’ve collected with a cup of tea or hot chocolate and some special treats.