April 20 – National Adopt a Greyhound Month

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About the Holiday

Established eight years ago by The Greyhound Project, National Adopt a Greyhound Month aims to promote the adoption of retired racing greyhounds. These smart and gentle animals make wonderful family companions. To learn more about adoption or how you might volunteer or help out, visit The Greyhound Project website.

A Greyhound, a Groundhog

Written by Emily Jenkins | Illustrated by Chris Appelhans

“A hound. A round hound” sleeps curled into itself like a smooth stone. He wakes and pokes his head in the air. “A greyhound.” Nearby is a hole, small and dark. A furry creature pokes his head in the air. “A groundhog.” The greyhound stretches and bows— his head down, his tail up. The groundhog also stretches—his arms lifted, his teeth exposed by a yawn.

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Image copyright Chris Appelhans, text copyright Emily Jenkins. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

“A groundhog, a greyhound, a grey little round hound. / A greyhound, a groundhog, a found little roundhog.” Round and round they run. They chase and lope and leap. “Around and around and around and around. The ground and a hog and some grey and a dog.” Like a whirlpool they spin and twirl and race and swirl, over and under.

The greyhound and groundhog pull up short from “around and around” to watch a butterfly that astounds. Then myriads astound, fluttering like confetti on the air. The greyhound and groundhog dash after them to “a bog and a sound / and a log on the ground”—an obstacle course and a playground for rolling “around and around and around and around!”

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Image copyright Chris Appelhans, text copyright Emily Jenkins. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Emily Jenkins’ twisting, twirling rollercoaster of a story is a euphoric celebration of carefree capering with a friend. Playing off the springy, bouncing sound of “ound” and the sharp, squat staccato “og,” Jenkins’ perfect read-aloud transports readers and listeners into the midst of an alliterative maelstrom that will leave them breathless and giggling. The momentary pause to marvel at the beauty of nature is superb suspension, leading to renewed exuberance and finally contented repose.

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Image copyright Chris Appelhans, text copyright Emily Jenkins. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The gorgeous mottled watercolors of Chris Appelhans’ sleek grayhound and perky groundhog meld and contrast on the page as the two frolic and tumble together then run and chase. Combined with the curved text, the images create the sense that the very pages are engaged in the swirling, spirited play of the greyhound and groundhog. The pair’s happy faces reveal the joy of being together, and the pastel backdrop of flowers, butterflies, and a mirror-still bog enhance the beauty of this joyful book.

A Greyhound, a Groundhog is a can’t-miss gift for any occasion and a wonderful addition to any child’s bookshelf for cheery, energetic story times.

Ages 3 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2017 | ISNB 978-0553498059

Discover more about Emily Jenkins and her books as well as book-related resources and activities on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Chris Appelhans on his website!

National Adopt a Greyhound Day Activity

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Graceful Greyhound Coloring Page

Greyhounds are one of the fastest animals on the planet, but don’t rush through coloring this printable Graceful Greyhound Coloring Page.

Picture Book Review

March 6 – International Ideas Month

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About the Holiday

The onset of spring with its  wide-open sunny days seems to beckon to us to open our minds to all sorts of new possibilities. International Ideas Month also invites would-be inventors and clever folk alike to think differently and pay attention to your brainstorms. You never know – there may be a book, a work of art, a new invention, or a solution to a need inside you just waiting to be let out! 

The Secret Subway

Written by Shana Corey | Illustrated by Red Nose Studio (Chris Sickels)

 

In the 1860s the streets of New York were…well, not to put too fine a point on it…disgusting. Made of cobblestone and filled with trash, waste, horse manure, dust, dirt, and throngs of people, the roads made for rough travel. Many people had ideas about what could be done to make the streets safer and cleaner. Some thought a moving sidewalk would work, others talked about double-decker roads or an elevated train system. But while there was a lot of talk, nothing ever got done.

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Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

Alfred Ely Beach, however, peered down from his high office room and studied the street below him. Alfred Beach was a thinker, a publisher, and an inventor. He put his clever mind to work and came up with a solution. He envisioned a train powered by an enormous fan that would travel underground. “People would get where they needed to go as if by magic!” he thought. He couldn’t wait to start building. There was just one problem—he didn’t own the streets. And getting permission to dig them up would be hard. “So Beach hatched a sneaky plan. He would propose building an underground tube to carry mail instead.” As he had imagined, no one objected to this project when he proposed it—not even Boss Tweed, who unofficially ran the city.

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Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

Given the okay, Beach rented the basement of Devlin’s Clothing Store. Every day he sent in workers to dig and every night wagons took away the debris. For 58 days and nights Beach’s men tunneled under the city, moving forward 8 feet each day. At last the tunnel was finished. It was 8 feet across and 294 feet long—large enough to hold a train full of people.

Beach then decorated the basement to be a beautiful, welcoming waiting room. Gaslight lamps and paintings dotted the walls, flowers added color, and a grandfather clock rang out the time. There was even a fountain with goldfish, a man playing a grand piano, and a delicious lunch. When everything was ready, Beach invited reporters, government officials, and distinguished citizens to join him on February 26, 1876 at the “Beach Pneumatic Transit Company.”

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Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

That first day Alfred Beach’s guests only admired the train, but they gave it glowing praise. Soon Beach opened his train to the public. With a WHOOSH from a gigantic fan, the train zipped down the track and then back again. “Beach’s train was a SENSATION! All winter while wagons slipped and slid on the slushy streets above, people poured into Devlin’s for the twenty-five-cent ride.”

While riders loved it, some people objected. Shop keepers didn’t want potential buyers underground. Property owners were afraid the digging would hurt their buildings, and some felt Beach wanted too much power. Even Boss Tweed no longer supported it since some of his friends had their own ideas on building a subway. When the governor of New York refused to let Beach expand his train, the project came to a halt.

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Image copyright Chris Sickles, courtesy of rednosestudio.com

The idea didn’t die, however, and “many years later drilling could be heard once again under the streets of New York City” as a train system powered with electricity was being built. Diggers discovered many unusual things buried under the city. Perhaps the most surprising was a brick wall behind which stood a little railroad car rusting in its tracks, a memorial to innovation and the future.

Alfred Ely Beach was one clever man, and Shana Corey tells his story with historical perspective, wit, and suspense. Corey’s language crackles with evocative alliteration, stealth, and action. Kids will be excited to learn of the intrigue and imagination that led to this remarkable snippet of America’s history.

Fans of Claymation will love Chris Sickels’ multimedia artwork that combines sculpted characters, specially built props, photographs, and illustration. Sickels’ characters are nothing short of astounding. Their period clothing, hairstyles, and expressive faces lend an engaging and realistic dimension to the vintage scenes. Sickels cleverly depicts early New York City and people’s alternative ideas to the traffic problem with sketched in schemetics. His use of color and lighting sets the perfect tone for this highly entertaining and educational picture book. Kids will want to linger over each page to catch all the details of The Secret Subway.

For kids interested in transportation, history, inventions, and claymation and other arts, The Secret Subway would be a wonderful addition to their home library.

Ages 4 – 10

Schwartz & Wade, Random House Kids, 2016 | ISBN 978-0375870712

Discover more about Shana Corey and her books for kids on her website!

You will be amazed by the art, books, and animation by Chris Sickels on his Red Nose Studio website!

This Secret Subway book trailer is just the ticket!

International Ideas Month Activity

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Chris Sickels’ Secret Subway

Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studio invites you to build your own Secret Subway with this printable play set, complete with Alfred Ely Beach and a passenger! Click here to download your printable Secret Subway Activity!

Build a Super Subway Car

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Every day, millions of people all over the world travel to work, school, and other activities by subway. Here’s an easy and fun way to build your own subway train from recycled materials. You can make just one car or make a few and connect them to create a long train worthy of any big city!

Supplies

  • Printable Subway Car Template
  • Medium or long toothpaste box
  • Silver paint
  • Glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the toothpaste box with the silver paint, let dry
  2. Cut out the windows, doors, and stripe templates
  3. Trim the stripes to fit your box
  4. To make the little sign near the door, trim a small aquare from one of the stripes
  5. Glue the templates to the box

Picture Book Review

March 5 – It’s Save Your Vision Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of March people are encouraged to think about their eye health. This year the American Optometric Association is promoting awareness of digital eyestrain and the issues of extended exposure to blue light. According to 2016 AOA Eye-Q survey data, the average American spends seven hours per day using digital devices. Overexposure to the blue light emitted by smartphones, tablets and other technology can cause vision damage, sleep problems, and more. If you or your children don’t get regular eye exams, consider making an appointment this month.

Douglas, You Need Glasses!

By Ged Adamson

 

Something may be amiss with Douglas. When Nancy and her playful pooch go out to chase squirrels, Douglas takes after a falling leaf while the squirrel escapes up a tree. It’s not the first time this has happened, either. You see, Douglas is a bit nearsighted. Sometimes he mistakes the stair post for Nancy, and his difficulty gets in the way of things (well, mostly Douglas gets in the way of things).

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

He also misses important signs—like the one that would have prevented him from tracking wet cement all over the skate park, where there are NO DOGS allowed—and he’s always causing something of a ruckus. Sometimes he even enters the wrong house! But when a game of fetch nearly creates a buuzzzz of disaster, Nancy decides something must be done.

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

She takes Douglas to the eye doctor where he reads a most dog-friendly eye chart and discovers that he needs glasses. He peruses the shelves of Dog Glasses and puts some on. Each one makes him feel different. In one pair he’s a rock star; in another a scholar; and in yet another a hippy. He tries them all until he finds the perfect pair!

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

On the way home he sees the world in a whole new way. “‘Wow! Everything looks amazing!’” Douglas says. And it is!

Ged Adamson’s funny look at a dog with an all-too-human malady will make kids laugh from the first page to the last. Earnest Douglas, going about his doggy days under a bit of a skewed perspective, is so endearing that readers will immediately take him to heart even as they giggle at his exploits.

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Image and text copyright Ged Adamson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Adamson’s vibrant multi-hued trees, colorfully clothed kids, and vivid backgrounds with stylish, sketched-in details give the book a fresh, jaunty appeal for a lively, fun story time. Kids facing the prospect of wearing glasses will also find much to give them reassurance and confidence in this book. Douglas, You Need Glasses! is a great addition to any child’s bookshelf!

Ages 3 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, Random House Kids, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553522433

Visit Ged Adamson’s Website to learn more about him and his books!

Save Your Vision Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spool-puppy-craft

Spool Puppy

 

No matter where you go and whether you have a real dog or not, you can take this little guy along with you. And just as you would pick out your favorite from an animal shelter, you can make this puppy look any way you’d like!

Supplies

  • Printable Ears and Nose Template
  • 2-inch round wooden spool, available at craft stores
  • 1 skein of yarn in the color you choose. Yardage needed will depend on the thickness of the yarn.
  • Felt
  • Thin gauge wire
  • Craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Fabric or strong glue
  • Dowel or pencil to wrap wire around to make glasses

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Directions

  1. Paint the dowel the color you want your dog to be, let dry
  2. Trace the ears on the felt and cut out (or draw your own ears)
  3. Trace the nose on the felt and cut out
  4. When the spool is dry glue the ears to the body of the spool, allowing the ears to stick up from the top of the spool
  5. Wind the yarn around the spool back and forth until the dog’s body is the size you’d like
  6. Glue the yarn in place with fabric or strong glue

To make the face

  1. Glue the nose over the hole on one end of the spool
  2. Draw the mouth and tongue under the nose with a marker
  3. You will draw the eyes on after the glasses are in place

To make the glasses

  1. Wind the wire around a ½-inch dowel, thick pencil, or rounded handle to make two circles.
  2. Leave about two inches on either side of the circles for the ear pieces of the glasses.
  3. Adjust the size of the circles to fit the spool as glasses.
  4. Put the glasses on the face of the spool, tucking the ear pieces into the yarn on each side
  5. Draw eyes in the center of the glasses

To make the tail

  1. Cut a small square of felt and stuff the edges into the hole on the other end of the spool
  2. You can make the tail as long as you like

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Picture Book Review

January 20 – Penguin Awareness Day

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About the Holiday

Who can resist those little black-and-white waddlers from a frozen realm? Today’s holiday gives us a chance to enjoy and learn more about one of the world’s favorite animals. To celebrate, research penguins or visit an aquarium, and, of course, read a great penguin book!

Little Penguins

Written by Cynthia Rylant | Illustrated by Christian Robinson

 

A tiny penguin stands at the window star-struck by the snowflakes floating gently down. Four more penguins join her to see this marvelous sight. There are so “many snowflakes.” Gathered around the window in their igloo home, the penguins are excited that “Winter is coming!” They rush to collect their cold-weather supplies. Out of the basket they pull mittens—a pair for each, red, blue, green, yellow, sage—“and matching scarves.”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, text copyright Cynthia Rylant. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

With abandon the penguins raid the bureau, scattering socks like colorful confetti. Warm, dry boots get to leave their cubbies after a looong nap. Bundled up, the penguins tumble out into the winter wonderland. They sled and slide on the deep snow. In places they find the snow is top-of-their-boots deeper, and then suddenly waist-high, “very deep.”

Uh-Oh! Suddenly the landscape is blank-page white! Four of the little penguins look in all directions. “Where’s Mama?” No need to fret—Mama’s coming, skimming down the hill on her belly with the fifth tiny penguin. But the sky is darkening and it’s time to head for home. “In the door and off, off, off, off, off!”

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

On go the jammies then warm cookies and filled “sippies” satisfy the tummy. Finally, it’s time to snuggle tight under colored blankets and watch the flurries fly because “Winter is here.”

Cynthia Rylant captures the exhilaration kids feel upon the first snow of winter in her delightful concept book. The flurry of activity to dig out the accoutrements of winter provide little readers the perfect opportunity to learn or—in the case of a bit older kids—to show their knowledge of cold-weather apparel, colors, counting skills, and other ideas. Rylant’s gifted way with even the simplest words turns the question-and-answer format of Little Penguins into a lyrical frolic little ones will love.

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Image copyright Christian Robinson, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

In Christian Robinson’s cozy igloo, the eager brightness of the little penguins is highlighted against the mottled textures of sage walls and reflected in the gleaming gray-blue floor. The little home with its fish weather vane and tall chimney sits at the edge of an icy peninsula, perfectly placed for winter play. The five penguins joyfully don their mittens, wave their scarves and toss socks to and fro in their hurry to get dressed and get outside and enjoy the fat, fluffy snowflakes.

Once there, the penguins become tiny dots on the vast, white hill as they sink waist deep, glide on their bellies, and welcome Mama, who’s joined the fun. As the penguins remove their snow gear back home, Robinson cleverly stripes the two-page spread in the favorite colors of the individual penguins, creating a striking counterbalance to the snug kitchen to come. An old-fashioned stove, retro accents, and fish, whale, and boat décor wrap up the comfy charm of this superb book for young readers.

With its sweet characters and beautiful illustrations, Little Penguins would be a happy and often-asked-for addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 2 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553507706

To learn more about Cynthia Rylant and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of illustration art by Christian Robinson on his website!

Penguin Awareness Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-spice-bottle-penguin-craft

Copyright Celebrate Picture Books, 2017

Spicy Cool Penguins

Don’t throw away those empty spice bottles—instead make these cute penguins with their colorful hats who are just waiting to play!

Supplies

  • Empty glass or plastic spice bottle with cap
  • Black paint
  • White paint OR White fleece or felt
  • Black paper
  • Yellow foam or heavy paper
  • Googly eyes
  • Styrofoam ball (optional)
  • Glue
  • Paint brush
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Paint the inside of the glass or plastic bottle with the black paint, let dry
  2. From the white fleece, cut an oval for the penguin’s belly and glue it on. Alternatively, paint a white oval on the jar to make a belly. Fleece may be a better option for younger children, as the paint can scratch off glass and plastic surfaces.
  3. Glue googly eyes near the top of the jar, but below the cap
  4. Cut a triangle of yellow foam or paper for the beak and glue it on
  5. Cut two tear shapes for the wings from the black paper. Glue the top of the shape to the body of the penguin, overlapping the belly a little. Fold the tips up
  6. Give your penguins Styrofoam ball snowballs to play with!

Picture Book Review

January 15 – National Hat Day

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About the Holiday

Hats are one of the coziest parts of winter! Whether you like stocking hats, felt hats, hats with earflaps, or hats that just hide a bad hairdo, this is the perfect season to indulge your fashion fancies!

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love

Written by Michelle Edwards | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

One of the first gifts Sophia received when she was a baby was a knitted hat from her neighbor Mrs. Goldman. Now that Sophia is more grown up, she helps Mrs. Goldman make pom-poms for the hats she knits for other babies, friends, and neighbors. “‘Keeping keppies warm is our mitzvah,’ says Mrs. Goldman, kissing the top of Sophia’s head. ‘This is your keppie, and a mitzvah is a good deed.’”

One day in late autumn Sophia and Mrs. Goldman walk Mrs. Goldman’s dog Fifi. While Fifi is kept warm in a dinosaur sweater and Sophia is cozy in the fuzzy kitten hat and mittens that Mrs. Goldman made them, Mrs. Goldman’s head and ears are unprotected in the icy wind. When Sophia asks her friend why she doesn’t have a hat, Mrs. Goldman tells her “‘I gave it to Mrs. Chen.’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Michelle Edwards. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Sophia begins to worry about Mrs. Goldman. Who will knit a hat for her? “Not Mrs. Goldman. She’s too busy knitting for everyone else.’” Last year Mrs. Goldman had tried to teach Sophia to knit, but it was too hard and took too long, so she decided to stick with making pom-poms. But Sophia thinks maybe it’s time to try again. She goes to her knitting bag and pulls out the hat they had started together. “The stiches are straight and even. The soft wool smells like Mrs. Goldman’s chicken soup.”

Holding the needles, Sophia thinks about what she was taught. Even though she drops stitches, she continues to knit. “She wants to make Mrs. Goldman the most special hat in the world.” The next day snow falls on Mrs. Goldman’s head as they walk Fifi. Sophia frets, and at home she begins knitting morning, noon, and night to finish her hat. Winter has set in and one day when the pair walk Fifi, “Mrs. Goldman wraps Mr. Goldman’s scarf around her head like she’s a mummy.” But the wind grabs it and rips it away. Sophia catches it, but shivers at the thought of how cold Mrs. Goldman must be.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Michelle Edwards. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

At home Sophia knits in a frenzy, adding row after row of stitches until the hat is finished. When Sophia looks at it, though, she finds holes where they shouldn’t be and lumpy and bumpy areas. She thinks what she has made looks more like a monster than a hat. Sophia takes out the box containing all the hats Mrs. Goldman has made for her, but they are much too small for Mrs. Goldman to wear. While Sophia’s mama and papa have hats made by Mrs. Goldman, she knows she can’t give those away.

Sophia imagines all the hats she makes with her neighbor and how Mrs. Goldman always tells her that her pom-poms add beauty, and that “‘that’s a mitzvah too.’” Sophia’s heart swells. She finds red yarn—Mrs. Goldman’s favorite color—and her pom-pom making supplies and goes to work. When she is finished and the pom-poms are attached, “Mrs. Goldman’s hat is the most special hat in the world.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Sophia runs next door and surprises Mrs. Goldman with her gift. Mrs. Goldman hugs Sophia and tears come to her eyes. “‘Don’t you like it?’” Sophia asks, but she needn’t worry. “‘I more than like it, I love it,’ declares Mrs. Goldman. ‘Gorgeous. Like Mr. Goldman’s rosebushes. And you know how I love his roses.’” With a kiss for Sophia, Mrs. Goldman begins counting the twenty pom-poms on her hat—“each one made with love.” Mrs. Goldman slips the hat on her head. Now when she and Sophia take Fifi for a walk, Fifi wears her dinosaur sweater, Sophia wears her kitty hat and mittens, and “Mrs. Goldman wears her Sophia hat. Her keppie is toasty warm. And that’s a mitzvah.”

Michelle Edwards’ heartwarming story of a little girl who sees that her friend is in need and determines to help draws on children’s natural generosity and shows readers that their efforts are recognized and appreciated. Edward’s gentle and well-paced storytelling allows readers to understand the events and thoughts that bring Sophia to once again attempt knitting. Sophia’s solution to use the pom-poms she knows she makes well (and with love) to cover the holes demonstrates not only the ingenious creativity of kids, but also the idea that love can fill the voids in life.

Brian Karas imbues the story of Sophia and Mrs. Goldman with a magical wonder that floats from page to page like the fluffy snowflakes that are the catalyst for Sophia’s mitzvah. A combination of full-page illustrations and snapshot images show days spent with Mrs. Goldman as well as the moments, hours, and days that adorable Sophia spends knitting her special hat. Sophia, tongue sticking out in determination, wields her knitting needs; she ponders her holey hat while imagining a frightened Fifi; and scraps of red yarn dot the floor and even sit atop Sophia’s head as she creates pom-pom after pom-pom. When Mrs. Goldman pulls the hat over her own head, kids will feel cheered, while adults may feel a small lump in their throat.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman is a gem. Its tender portrayal of kindness, love, and close personal relationships makes it an outstanding choice for any child’s home library.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497106

Discover more about Michelle Edwards and her books, plus activities, recipes, and information on knitting on her website!

Enter a gallery of books, sketches, blog essays, and more by G. Brian Karas on his website!

National Hat Day Activity

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Winter Hat Match Puzzle

 

These kids have all lost their hats! Can you follow the paths in this printable Winter Hat Match Puzzle to reunite each child with the right hat?

Picture Book Review

January 11 – Learn Your Name in Morse Code Day

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About the Holiday

With today’s instantaneous communications systems, it’s almost impossible to think of a time when all messages had to be delivered by hand. That changed when Samuel F. B. Morse, physicist Joseph Henry, and Alfred Vail developed a code that used dots and dashes to represent letters and was transmitted through electrical pulses. The ability to send quick messages revolutionized communication and led to a more connected world.

Jackrabbit McCabe & the Electric Telegraph

Written by Lucy Margaret Rozier | Illustrated by Leo Espinosa

 

Anyone who looked at the baby with legs “so long they looped like a pretzel” and required a stroller with “an extra axle” knew that he’d been born to run. In fact, his legs grew so fast that if his mother dressed him in long pants in the morning, they were shorts by that evening. Little Jack McCabe used those legs to chase “whatever would run: hogs, dogs, even his own shadow” and “as he got older, he raced trains flying past his house in Windy Flats. By the time he turned eighteen, he’d beat every stagecoach, antelope, and locomotive in the territory.”

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, text copyright Lucy Margaret Rozier. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The people of Windy Flats called him Jackrabbit and relied on him to deliver messages that were urgent. On Sundays he joined the horses on the track, making money when people bet on him to come in first. One day, though, the electric telegraph came to Windy Flats. The poles and wires already crossed the eastern part of the country. Each connected city had “a telegraph and an operator who sent and received messages in Morse code, an alphabet of dots and dashes.”

The people of Windy Flats didn’t think this newfangled contraption could carry messages faster than Jackrabbit, so the telegraph man suggested, “‘How ‘bout a race between your fella and this here electric telegraph? Sandy Bluff’s just got themselves an operator, That’s pert near twenty-five miles, as the crow flies.’” Jackrabbit was all for it.

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, text copyright Lucy Margaret Rozier. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

On the day of the race, the whole town of Windy Flats came out with flags, banners, and even a brass band. “The mayor carefully wrote down the same message on two slips of paper. He handed one to the telegraph man and the other to Jackrabbit.”  On the shout of “GO!” the telegraph man plunked his finger on the key sending the pulses through the wire while Jackrabbit took off down the road toward Sandy Bluff “like a tornado.”

The townspeople watched as in only a few moments “a reply came clattering back as that telegraph key jumped and smacked all on its own.” The telegraph man read the code and yelled, “‘Message received. Stop. Sandy Bluff Operator.’” But where was Jackrabbit McCabe? Although he made it to Sandy Bluff in only 9 ½ minutes, it was still too long to beat the telegraph. When he stopped short at the door of the depot, he was met by a telegram tacked to the door. Jackrabbit read it and then pulled the paper that contained the mayor’s message out of his pocket. The two were the same.

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, text copyright Lucy Margaret Rozier. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Riding home in a stagecoach, “Jackrabbit felt lower than a snake’s navel.” The mayor also felt pretty low, thinking of Jackrabbit, until he realized that if Jackrabbit’s fingers were as fast as his legs, he’d make an excellent telegraph operator. When Jackrabbit stepped out of the stagecoach and heard the mayor’s offer, he whooped with joy. It didn’t take long for Jackrabbit to learn the new code, and soon “his fingers flew like a banjo player’s strumming that telegraph key.” Every day he sent and received messages. He even “teamed up with the local typesetter, who printed the news that came over that wire, linking Windy Flats to the whole entire country,” and whenever a telegram or the newspaper needed to be delivered, Jackrabbit was there in a flash!

An Author’s Note outlining the pivotal event that sparked Samuel F. B. Morse’s interest in a quicker communication method and the history of the telegraph as well as a Morse code key and a riddle to translate follow the text.

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Image copyright Leo Espinosa, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Lucy Margaret Rozier has written a funny and fact-based addition to the fine American tradition of tall tales with Jackrabbit McCabe & the Electric Telegraph. From her folksy delivery to her humorously exaggerated details, Rozier presents an engaging history of the telegraph through the story of one man affected by this new technology. Kids will love the fast-paced story full of crackling dialog and gripping suspense.

Leo Espinosa infuses his brightly-colored, vintage-style illustrations with the charm and innocence of the mid-1800s while highlighting the humor of Rozier’s yarn. Jackrabbit’s looong legs take up a whole page—sometimes two—as he runs with dogs and hogs, sprints past steam trains, speeds off at the starting line, and wedges himself into the stagecoach, with one foot hanging out the window. The small town of Windy Flats and the townspeople are decked out in period details, and the enthusiasm of the time is infectious.

Jackrabbit McCabe & the Electric Telegraph will become a favorite read lightening quick. The book would make a fun addition to children’s bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015 | ISBN 978-0385378437

Discover more about Lucy Margaret Rozier plus book-related resources on her website!

View a gallery of illustration work by Leo Espinosa on his website!

Learn Your Name in Morse Code Day Activity

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Morse Code Decoder

 

Sending secret messages in code is cool! Use this printable Morse Code Decoder to learn how to write your name and those notes you don’t want anyone else to read in this early method of communication.

Picture Book Review

December 14 – It’s Human Rights Month

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About the Holiday

December is Human Rights Month, an observance established by the United Nations in order to raise awareness of, promote, and protect the equality of the world’s citizens. It takes vigilence, compassion, dedication, and determination, but achieving the goal of equal human rights is a responsibility we all share.

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

Written by Laurie Ann Thompson | Illustrated by Sean Qualls

 

A baby is born in Ghana, West Africa with bright eyes, healthy lungs, and tiny, clasping fingers—but with only one strong leg. Most people think the baby will grow up to be a burden or worse—a curse. His father leaves the family, but his mother keeps the faith. Her name is Comfort and she names her child Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

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Image copyright Sean Qualls, text copyright Laurie Ann Thompson. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

As Emmanuel grows, his mother encourages his independence. He learns how to crawl and hop to complete his daily work all with one leg. Most kids with disabilities don’t go to school, but Comfort carries her son back and forth until he becomes too heavy. From then on Emmanuel hops the two miles each way all by himself. At first the other kids won’t play with him, but Emmanuel is clever. He buys a soccer ball with the money he earns shining shoes and when he offers to share it, the kids include him. On crutches he is a fierce competitor and earns his classmates’ respect. Riding bikes is another favorite activity. Can Emmanuel pump those pedals with only one leg? He practices and falls, practices and falls some more until he masters the technique.

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Image copyright Sean Qualls, text copyright Laurie Ann Thompson. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

When Emmanuel is 13 years old, his mother becomes ill. As the only family member capable of working, Emmanuel takes a train to a city 150 miles away to find a job. He doesn’t see his family again for two years. Because of his disability it is hard for him to find work. Finally, a food stand owner hires him and gives him a place to live. Over time Comfort grows sicker. When Emmanuel goes to be with her, she tells him to never beg and never give up. He takes these words to heart.

Emmanuel has an idea to show the world that “disabled does not mean unable”—all he needs is a bike. When the Challenged Athletes Foundation learns of his plan to bike around Ghana, they give him a bike, a helmet, and clothing. He trains and receives a blessing from the king of his region. Then accompanied by people who will document his trip, he takes off. “He pedaled through rain forests, over rolling hills, and across wide, muddy rivers….He pedaled as trucks roared past on the narrow highways and wild animals stalked his thoughts….He rode up, down, across, and around his country, proudly wearing the colors of its flag on a shirt printed with the words “The Pozo” or “the disabled person.”

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Image copyright Sean Qualls, text copyright Laurie Ann Thompson. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Emmanuel talks to others with physical challenges and to those without. He meets farmers, landowners, government officials, and reporters. He wants everyone to learn of his message. People begin to pay attention—they ride and run alongside him; people with disabilities come out of their houses to see him (some leaving home for the first time ever). Emmanuel is becoming a national hero! Emmanuel completes his journey—nearly 400 miles—in only 10 days. In that short amount of time he proves that anyone can do great things and that one person is enough to change the world.

An Author’s Note expanding on Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah’s life since his bike ride follows the text.

Laurie Ann Thompson tells this story of courage and achievement in straightforward language that highlights the difficulties and prejudices Emmanuel overcame to live the full life his mother envisioned for him. The details Thompson reveals—both within the school setting and in the world beyond—will inspire anyone who reads this special and moving true story.

Sean Qualls renders the story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah in the vibrant colors and patterns of his native West Africa, giving energy and spirit to the fire that burned inside the young boy who rose above his disability and the expectations of his community. His relationship with his strong, supportive mother is drawn with obvious love and compassion. The use of a folk-art style combined with scenes of African markets, landscapes, and traditional tableaus, effectively sets the story for children. One particularly touching illustration shows a tiny Emmanuel hopping off to school as his mother, shown larger in the foreground, watches.

Ages 4 – 9

Schwartz & Wade, Random House, 2015 | ISBN 978-0449817445

Discover more about Laurie Ann Thompson and her books on her website!

To view a gallery of picture book illustration by Sean Qualls, visit his website!

Human Rights Month Activity

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Change Your World Coloring Page

 

You can make a difference in your school, your town, and the world around you. Here’s a printable Change Your World message that you can color and hang in your room or locker to remember how much power you have.

Picture Book Review