January 26 – It’s National Hobby Month

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About the Holiday

If you like to take a break from the routine or pressures of the work day and sew, garden, or read, play music, dance, or draw, or if you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill or develop a talent, then this month is for you! During National Hobby Month take some time to research a skill, art, or discipline that strikes your fancy and get started!

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.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

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, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. 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.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

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.

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2016, text copyright Michelle Edwards, 2016. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

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 Hobby Month 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 12 – It’s International Creativity Month

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About the Holiday

Are you an artist, a writer, a decorator, a chef? How about a floral arranger, a woodworker, a fashion designer, or a gardener? Inside almost every heart lies a desire to create. Whether you use your ingenuity in your job or as an escape from the routine, this month celebrates all that is innovative. Sometimes this comes not in something you can see or touch but in a new thought or novel way of solving a problem—as seen in today’s book!

Neville

Written by Norton Juster | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

A little boy stands on the sidewalk alongside his belongings and watches the moving van drive out of sight. “Now it was quiet, and there he was, where he really didn’t want to be.” It wasn’t as if anyone had consulted him about moving. He did not look forward to the next day at school with a new teacher and no friends. The boy sat dejectedly on his new front steps. His mom came out and sat with him. “‘Maybe you’d like to take a little walk down the block. You might even meet someone,’” she said.

The boy grumbled but got up and headed down the street, skeptical of meeting new friends that easily. As he walked, he looked around without much interest. “But then he stopped. He turned around slowly, put his head back, took a deep breath, and called out, NEVILLE….” When nothing happened, he tried it again, louder. “NEVILLE.”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, text copyright Norton Juster, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Suddenly, a boy about his age was standing next to him saying he should yell louder. He did, but the newcomer still didn’t think it was loud enough. He joined in and the two shouted, “but not very together.” A little girl appeared to tell them that no one could understand the overlapping words. Then “she raised her arms, counted to three and brought them down like a conductor. They all shouted at exactly the same time.”

Pretty soon kids were coming from all over the neighborhood. Many already knew the name and were shouting it before they even reached the group. They didn’t all yell together, but it was fun trying anyway. During a break in the yelling, one child said, “‘Hey, I don’t know anyone named Neville who lives around here. Is he new?’” The boy spoke up, “‘I guess so. Everyone has to be new sometimes, don’t they?’” 

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, text copyright Norton Juster, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The other kids wondered if Neville was a friend of the boy’s. He admitted that he was probably his best friend. One little girl thought the boy had to be pretty special if Neville liked him so much. And just like that everyone wanted to know more about Neville. They asked the boy question after question. “‘I like Neville already!’” someone cried out.” The group even broke up as some kids went to find Neville on the next block. By this time, adults were taking notice too. It was getting time to go home, and one by one the kids left, but only after a promise that they could continue looking for Neville tomorrow. The boy promised to be there, and everyone walked and skipped away happily.

As he watched them go, the boy listened to their conversations. Their voices floated toward him, saying “I hope we find Neville…. Even if we don’t, I like his friend a lot…. Maybe better!… Hey, what was his name?… Oh, we’ll have to ask hi tomorrow.” He started back to his new house, waving to one of the kids he’d met on his way.

When he reached his front door, he took a long look at his house. “‘Not so bad,’ he had to admit.” He ate dinner and got ready for bed. His mom tucked him in and whispered, “‘Good night, Neville, pleasant dreams…. ‘Good night, Mom,’ he whispered back, an in a moment he was asleep.’”

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Image copyright G. Brian Karas, 2011, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With perfect pitch and a timeless charm, Norton Juster presents a clever “new-kid-on-the-block” story that will enchant readers. The boy’s feelings on moving day are honestly portrayed and sprinkled with humor, and as he trudges down the street in search of new friends, children will be rooting for him. The boy’s creative method of attracting attention offers camaraderie and suspense in equal measure. The inclusive questions and comments from the neighborhood kids are touching, reassuring readers that Neville will fit in just fine.

As the story opens, G. Brian Karas presents Neville’s house and neighborhood in gray-scale tones. Only his belongings and the family car have color. At the encouragement of his mother, Neville walks off down the piano keyboard of a sidewalk toward a horizon of nothingness. The first attempts at calling “Neville” are gray and blue, but suddenly another child comes by, and the grass begins to turn green and the name becomes purple-and-blue plaid. When the little girl enters the scene, Neville (both the name and the boy) shine brighter and the atmosphere turns spring-like.

When kids from all over join up, they bring with them a riot of color in their unique clothing and the voices. The image showing the kids on the grass, peppering Neville with questions is heartening, and as the children head home, the scene pans out to show the diverse neighborhood in full color. Even Neville’s house is painted and has a flower basket hanging out front. His bed is cozy, moonbeams shine through the window, and sweet dreams are close at hand.

Neville is a terrific book for kids experiencing a move to a new home or school, joining a new group, or who love a clever and humorous story. It would make a fun read-aloud for home or the classroom.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2011 | ISBN 978-0375867651

Creativity Month Activity

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Personalized Organizing Jar

 

With your own creativity you can make a personalized organizer jar that looks cool on your desk while keeping things tidy.

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth plastic jar, like a peanut butter jar
  • Chalkboard paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

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Directions

  1. With the chalkboard paint, paint a shape to write your name in
  2. With the acrylic paint, make a border around the chalkboard shape or get more creative—make a roaring dinosaur, for example!
  3. When the paint dries, add your name with the chalk
  4. Add your favorite pens, pencils, markers, bookmarks, stickers, and other supplies

Picture Book Review

 

December 3 – It’s a Supermoon

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate not so much a holiday as an event—the Supermoon! Today’s full moon will be the only supermoon to occur during the entire year of 2017. What makes tonight’s moon special? A supermoon occurs when the full moon coincides with the day on which the moon is closest to the earth. Because of  this proximity it appears larger and reflects more light. According to National Geographic, today’s supermoon will be 16 percent brighter and 7 percent bigger than usual. For star-gazers and night-sky enthusiasts, the supermoon gives you a great (big) reason to get outside and enjoy this autumn evening.

City Moon

Written by Rachael Cole | Illustrated by Blanca Gómez

 

A mother and child take advantage of fall’s early darkness to take a walk around their neighborhood. Cozy in pajamas and a coat, the little one is eager to leave home behind for a bit “to look for the moon.” When they get to the park, where people are out walking their dogs, they gaze into the sky, but the moon “is hiding. Where is it?”

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Suddenly, they see it rising above the tall buildings. The child points and exclaims “Oh…there it is! The moon!” They watch it as people pass on their way home from work. As they continue on their way, the moon disappears. The child sees “glittery dots in the sky” and wonders if those are also moons. “‘Theyre stars,’ says Mama. Oh, stars.”

As they turn the corner around the fruit and vegetable stand, the moon appears again. But is it a different moon, the little one wonders. Mama explains that there is only one moon. “Oh, the same moon,” the child understands. At the crosswalk, the child sees the moon in a puddle. Could it have fallen in? Mama tells her curious child that it is the moon’s reflection. “Oh…a reflection.”

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

They cross the street and the moon vanishes again. Here the street is busier, with people rushing home, busses and cars zooming by, and a fire engine wailing as it speeds along. They join the throng, keeping their eyes on the sky, but the moon is nowhere to be seen. Then, a little farther on, “there it is. Bright and light and round and glowing.” They “stop and look.”

The child is mesmerized by the moon, but “why doesn’t everyone look?” Mama says that they are busy. In the windows they can see people cooking dinner, reading, and playing. Others jog and stroll on the sidewalk, while still others ride bikes home after a long day. Mama bends down and whispers, “‘And it is also time for us to go to bed.’” They head home and once more see the moon, full and bright. 

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

It plays hide-and-seek peeking out from its hiding place behind a cloud just as the little one becomes too sleepy to walk along. Mama carries her child home, to their stairs and the stoop. Inside they take off their coats and shoes, and the child is tucked into bed. The full moon shines through the window. “‘Can we keep the curtain open?’” the little one asks before falling asleep in the gentle glow of the natural nightlight.

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Rachael Cole’s delightful evening stroll is the perfect antidote to a busy day. At once lyrical and perceptive, the story is told from the child’s point of view and tenderly reflects all the wonder and magic that children find in being outside at night. Young readers will revel in the precise observations and step-by-step chronicle of the mother and child’s walk. The playful game of hide-and-seek from page to page will enchant little ones. Cole’s lovely language also echoes the way children learn—by asking questions, repeating new words and ideas, and taking time to stop and see.

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Image copyright Blanca Gómez, 2017, text copyright Rachael Cole, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Blanca Gómez infuses City Moon with exquisite illustrations that are as genuine and nuanced as life itself. The rhythms and habits of diverse city life and depicted with meticulous care in stylish vignettes rendered in a sophisticated and textured palette. A variety of perspectives bring the post-working day hustle and bustle close while hinting at the quieter comfort to come. Readers—both children and adults—will love peeking in the windows to see what people are up to.  With so much to see and experience,

A warm hug that embraces family and neighborhood, City Moon gives readers so much to see and experience during leisurely bedtime or daytime story times. The story will also inspire families to take similar evening walks. City Moon is highly recommended as a wonderful  gift and a must for any child’s bookshelf or classroom library.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553497076

Discover more about Rachael Cole, her books, and her work on her website.

To learn more about Blanca Gómez and her artwork, visit her website.

Supermoon Day Activity

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Gazing at the Moon Maze

The moon is super bright! Can you follow the sight line from the telescope to the moon to see it in this printable Gazing at the Moon Maze? Here’s the Solution.

November 24 – National Day of Listening

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About the Holiday

The day after Thanksgiving was chosen by StoryCorps for family and friends to tell and record their unique and collective stories for themselves and future generations. The mission of StoryCorps is to “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” StoryCorps even provides an online archive of individual and family stories that enrich our culture for anyone to listen to. Whether you share your stories with others or record them for your own family, remember that every story counts and should be heard. To learn more about StoryCorps, hear fascinating stories, or upload your own, visit StoryCorps.

Wee Sister Strange

Written by Holly Grant | Illustrated by K. G. Campbell

 

“They say there’s a girl / Who lives by the woods / In a crooked old house / With no garden but gloom.” Because she has no parents or even a name of her own, the townspeople “call her Wee Sister Strange.” During daylight she stays to herself, but as evening approaches she climbs out of the window and goes into the dangerous woods. She delights in the darkness, and “drinks up the moon / like a cat drinking cream.”

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She talks with the owls and rides a “fierce bear” through “groves golden-leafed.” But when the wild wolves catch her scent, she climbs into high branches as they “prowl down below.” From her high perch she scans the wide world and “peels back the clouds… / As through keyholes one peeks.”

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She’s searching for something she just cannot find, so she “dives into the bog. Here, way down below, she continues to look amid the odd creatures, and she checks “every snail / As a mermaid counts pearls.” But even here she does not see what she’s looking for. She climbs out on the bank into thorny, twisting vines and in the distance sees a bright light.

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

She tiptoes closer and finds a little stone house “with one window aglow.” She peeks in through the pane and sees “you in your bed / With this book ‘neath your nose.” She listens where the window is open a crack and hears a murmur: “‘They say there’s a girl / Who lives by the woods…’” The girl’s eyes light up bright; her search is now ended. She’s found what she sought: “A wee bedtime story!”

“Her ears gobble the rhymes! / They sop up the poem-crumbs!” Sister grows sleepy and next to the house, she blankets herself with golden leaves as her eyes close and she starts to dream.

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Holly Grant’s Wee Sister Strange is a magical story of such mystery and beauty that it opens a world of unbounded imagination as the plot plays out. Combining just the right balance of realism and fantasy, Grant’s wonder-full tale allows each reader the freedom to interpret her poem in their own way.  When Sister at last finds the house and hears her own story echoed back to her, her restless yearning is satisfied, suggesting that our life stories are what make us knowable to ourselves and others. As the little girl of color and her mother share the bedtime story of the girl in the woods, Sister’s given name helps us understand that we are all sisters (or brothers) through our collective stories. Grant’s gorgeous language and original metaphors are further causes for celebrating this glowing, dreamy modern fable.

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Image copyright K. G. Campbell, 2017, text copyright Holly Grant, 2017. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

In K. G. Campbell’s luminescent watercolor-and-colored-pencil illustrations, Wee Sister Strange is as delicate and glowing as the autumn leaves, as buoyant as the bog creatures, and as human as the little girl in the house. On her nightly hunts, she traverses landscapes that are recognizable yet are also the terrain of dreams. Children will find much to discuss in the similarities and differences in the two girls’ homes as well as the identity of  Wee Sister Strange. Campbell’s paintings beautifully convey the cyclical nature of this tale that offers the comfort of knowing that our stories unite us while keeping the wolves at bay.

Embodying the mystical elements that children love best in a bedtime story, Wee Sister Strange is an inventive marvel that should find a home on any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2017 | ISBN 978-0553508796

To learn more about K. G. Campbell, his books, and his art, visit his website

National Day of Listening Activity

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Tell Your Story Page

 

Everyone has their own story to tell! Use this printable Tell Your Story Page to write an original story or a story from your life. Then tell your story at bedtime!

Picture Book Review

June 17 – It’s Great Outdoors Month

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About the Holiday

This month-long holiday encourages people to get outside and explore. There’s so much to see, from the delicate details of a flower to the wonders of the big open sky. If time permits, take a walk alone, with your kids, or with friends and really look at what you are passing. If you’re walking with children, stop to examine and talk about the marvels you see. Sometimes the most familiar sights turn out to be the most surprising!

Owl Sees Owl

Written by Laura Godwin | Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

 

An adorable baby owl, wide awake in the full moonlight while its family sleeps, gazes out from its nest in a tree at the surrounding forest. The night is filled with “Home / Mama / Brother / Sister.” The little owl ventures out onto a sturdy limb. It knows “Tree / Nest / Hop / Look.” From its perch with a “Jump / Flutter / Flap / Fly,” the owlet soars through the deep blue sky, its white face shining like the stars. It floats over autumn leaves while in the “Moon / Beam / Eyes / Gleam.”

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Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

Down below other nocturnal animals have come out to play. On the farm the barn is quiet and dark, but someone is stirring in the house. The baby owl passes them by with a “Soar / Glide / Swoop / Swoosh.” Something glistens in the midst of the forest, and the owl descends to investigate. “Owl… / Sees / Owl” in the rippled rings of the small pond.

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Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

After a moment the owlet takes off with a quick “Swoosh / Swoop / Glide / Soar,” reversing its nighttime flight. Once more the curious baby passes over the star- and moonlit field, feeling bolder: “Scamper / Mice / Twinkle / Stars.” Deer perk up their ears and stare alert to the nearly silent woosh of the owl’s wings above. “Yellow / Red / Leaves / Fall as the owl zooms with a “Fly / Flap / Flutter / Jump toward “Sister / Brother / Mama / Home,” where Mama waits wide awake for her little one’s return.

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Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

Inspired by reverso poetry, Laura Godwin’s lovely Owl Sees Owl is a language- and emotionally rich story to share with young children. With only four words per two-page spread, Godwin tells the detailed adventure of an inquisitive baby owl who leaves home for a nighttime caper through woods and over farmland to a pond where it sees itself reflected in the mirror-like surface. In a minute the owl is back in the air for the trip home, reversing its path and also the order of the words. Godwin’s dynamic, lyrical words are joyful to read and allow for readers to linger over each page and talk about what they see, what the little owl is doing, and even whether a sentence such as “Fall / Leaves / Red / Yellow” is active or descriptive. The reverse nature of the story brings the baby owl’s adventure to a sweet, satisfying conclusion that children will love.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-owl-sees-owl-fall-leaves

Image copyright Rob Dunlavey, 2016. Courtesy of robd.com

Rob Dunlavey’s illustrations transfer the most beautiful clear, moonlit night to the page, creating a perfect quiet time or bedtime book for young children. The lush, dark woods rendered in deep olives, rusts, browns, grays, and blacks as well as the indigo sky highlight the gleaming moon, twinkling stars, and white feathers of the owl. In one spread deer appear in silhouette in the background as mice scamper over pumpkins in the foreground; in another fiery red, yellow, and orange autumn leaves make a spectacular backdrop to the owl’s outstretched wings. The central spread in which the owl sees its own reflection offers readers much to talk about. Is the owl startled? Wondering? Happy? Is the owlet going home for comfort or to tell of its amazing discovery? Kids will love lingering over each page to think and talk about all that is there.

Owl Sees Owl makes a wonderful gift for young children or children who love poetry and art. The book would be a welcome and often read addition to home libraries.

Ages 2 – 7

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553497823

To see a gallery of illustration work for picture books, nature sketches, and other artwork by Rob Dunlavey, visit his website!

Great Outdoors Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cattails

Creative Cattails

 

Cattails are one of nature’s wonders! They’re sleek and sophisticated, soft and fuzzy! Here’s a simple craft for making cattails that can help you bring the look of the great outdoors inside!

Supplies

  • 6-inch by 5/8-inch craft stick
  • 3/16–inch by 12-inch dowel
  • Chunky brown yarn,  
  • Green origami paper, 8-inch square
  • Green craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Glue gun

Directions

To make the cattail:

  1. Paint the dowel green, let dry
  2. With the glue gun, attach the craft stick to the dowel, overlapping 1 inch, let dry
  3. Glue an end of the brown yarn to the bottom of craft stick where it overlaps the dowel
  4. Wind the yarn upward around the entire craft stick to the top. You will leave the 1/2 –inch curved part of the craft stick open.  Then reverse.
  5. Wind the yarn downward, going past the end of the craft stick about ½ inch to make the tapered end of the cattail
  6. Wind the yarn upward once more to the top
  7. When you reach the top, put glue on either side of the curved top of the craft stick and pull a little of the existing yarn onto the glued area, pinching it closed.
  8. Cut the end of the yarn from the skein and tuck the end into the glued top.

To add the leaf:

  1. Cut a thin triangle from one side of the origami paper, starting with a 1-inch base and angling to the top of the paper
  2. Glue the base of the triangle to the dowel about 1 ½ inches from the bottom
  3. Wind the paper upward around the dowel, leaving 5 inches unwound
  4. Glue the paper to the dowel, letting the 5-inch section stick up

Picture Book Review

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May 30 – Loomis Day

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About the Holiday

On Loomis Day we remember Mahlon Loomis, a Washington DC dentist working in the mid-1800s who had a very inventive mind. Not only did he invent artificial teeth, he also had some revolutionary ideas on communication. He understood about the electrical properties of the atmosphere and experimented with sending signals long distances using kites flown many miles apart but at the same height. In July of 1872 he received a U. S. patent for “An Improvement in Telegraphing” on wireless telegraphy. Further research revealed that while his wireless telegraphic system worked, it did not work the way Loomis thought. His experiments, however, advanced the science at the time, leading to one of the world’s most transformative discoveries and an ongoing quest for better and faster communications.

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!

Loomis 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

May 23 – It’s National Pet Month

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About the Holiday

During the month of May we take time to be extra mindful of our pets. As the weather becomes hot, pet owners are encouraged to ensure that their pets have the proper care to keep them cool, hydrated, and healthy—and remember, never leave pets unattended in cars with the windows rolled up. Now that nice days are ahead of us, enjoy the opportunity to take dogs on long, leisurely walks or to the dog park and to spend extra time with indoor pets. If you are thinking of adopting a new pet, there are shelter animals that are looking for forever families.

Daisy Gets Lost

By Chris Raschka

 

Daisy, a sweet, energetic puppy, is enjoying a game of fetch with her little girl. She’s chased her blue ball into the woods where she happens upon a bushy-tailed squirrel gathering acorns. The squirrel knows the jig is up and, tossing away the acorn, takes off running with Daisy close at its tiny heels. Deeper and deeper into the woods they go until the squirrel leaps onto a tree trunk and with some quick scrambling is gone.

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Copyright Chris Raschka, courtesy of Scwhartz & Wade

Daisy stops at the base of the tree and peers into the high branches. What does she see? It suddenly occurs to her who she doesn’t see. Where is her little girl? At the same time, the little girl is wondering where Daisy went. “Daisy!” she cries; but Daisy, surrounded by trees, can’t hear her. The little girl begins to search for her pet. She finds the blue ball, but no puppy. “Daisy?” she asks. She picks up the ball and looks right, left, and all around.

Meanwhile, Daisy is trying to find her way out of the forest. She runs right, left, and all around then realizes she is lost. She hunkers down and lets out a plaintive “Aaawoooooooooooooooooooo.” The little girl hears Daisy’s distress signal and rushes toward her, calling “Daisy!” Daisy hears the little girl’s joyful exclamation and bounds forward. They meet in a sweet, tight hug. And while Daisy gives her little girl kisses and the girl holds her close, who does Daisy see spying on them from high in the tree?

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Copyright Chris Raschka, courtesy of Scwhartz & Wade

In this nearly wordless sequel to A Ball for Daisy, Chris Raschka once again tells a tale of emotional heft that will resonate with young readers. With a few wavy lines and several expressive smudges, Raschka creates one of the most loveable puppies to ever run across the pages of a picture book. As Daisy, with her ball clasped between her teeth, and the squirrel, with its acorn grasped in its paws, stare each other down, kids will know that the game’s afoot.

But when Daisy and the little girl realize that Daisy is lost, readers will understand their worry and fear, not only for the characters, but on a personal level. Raschka’s bold lines and dense colors depict the impenetrable forest as well as the intensity of Daisy’s and the girl’s feelings. The endearing reunion of Daisy and her little girl will reassure children that their loved ones are never far away. The sly squirrel, reappearing at the end, adds a bit of humor and gives kids an opportunity to extend the story as they imagine Daisy’s next move.

For kids with pets or who love animals, those looking for reassurance, or anyone who enjoys a great story artfully told, A Ball for Daisy would be a wonderful addition to any child’s bookshelf.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2013 | ISBN 978-0449817414

You’ll find a gallery of artwork by Chris Raschka on his tumblr!

National Pet Month Activity

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Find the Pet Maze

 

This detective and her sidekick are searching for a lost pet! Can you help them find a path through the maze to the lost corgi in this printable Find the Pet Maze? Here’s the Solution!