November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. Events include, the Big Hug, handing out Kindness Cards, and flash mobs showing and promoting kindness. The day spotlights good deeds—both individual and community—and focuses on “the positive power and the common thread of kindness which binds us.” It doesn’t take cost anything to celebrate today with a simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support to someone in need. Don’t limit your care and concern to just one day, either. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness

By Kerascoët

 

With smiles on their faces a family carries boxes from the moving van into their new home. The next morning the teacher introduces brown-skinned Vanessa to her new class, and she takes a seat in one of the two empty desks—the one separated from a straight-haired girl in a yellow dress by the other empty desk. During the lesson, Vanessa keeps her head down shyly as other kids raise their hands and answer questions. At recess, Vanessa sits alone on the bleachers while her classmates dribble basketballs, shoot baskets, and talk and laugh together.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

When the bell rings the kids pour out of the building, forming pairs and groups to walk home or play. Vanessa starts her route home by herself. At the crosswalk, a blond boy wearing a scowl approaches Vanessa and stops to talk. But he doesn’t offer friendly chit-chat. He sneers and taunts and points at her accusingly. Then with a huff, he turns and goes back the way he came.

The girl in the yellow dress has stopped with her friends by a tree. Instead of watching the squirrel scampering up the trunk, though, she sees and overhears the altercation between the boy and Vanessa. She looks as Vanessa stands a bit shell-shocked and then hurries across the road with tears in her eyes. Vanessa’s classmate is shocked too by what she’s seen. She feels sad and even sadder as Vanessa runs away and into her new home.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The girl returns to her friends and tells them what happened. They all react with surprise and sadness. All the way home, as her mom and dad cook dinner and her siblings watch TV, at bedtime and late into the night, the girl thinks about Vanessa. Vanessa has a sleepless night too.

In the morning, the girl gets dressed for school and heads to the table for breakfast. It’s while she’s drinking her orange juice that it hits her—what she can do. She grabs her lunch box and races out the door. She approaches a house and knocks on the door. Vanessa opens the door a crack and looks out. The little girl in her yellow dress talks to Vanessa and takes her hand. They walk down the sidewalk as other kids emerge from their own houses. A boy hails them and takes Vanessa’s other hand. Another boy joins the group and then a girl in pigtails. As more kids gather on the way to school, they come running to join Vanessa’s group.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The boy from the day before looks on with surprise. Soon the small group has become a wave as kids from all classes join in, streaming around the boy and passing him by. His face reddens and he sulks as the wave, led by Vanessa and her new friend enter the school building. In class, Vanessa takes her seat while the straight-haired girl moves to the desk next to her.

Backmatter includes advice for children on what they can do to help someone who is being bullied and helpful vocabulary to use when sharing the book with children.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Kerascoët’s perfectly constructed wordless picture book powerfully demonstrates the feeling of being overlooked and ignored, the emotional toll of being bullied, and how an act of bullying affects even those not directly involved. There is so much right about the details in this book from the empty desk between Vanessa and her soon-to-be friend on her first day of school to the suspense of  what the girl in the yellow dress says to her friends after witnessing the bullying and their reaction to the facial expressions on all of the characters faces.

Kerascoët’s use of color sets the tone as the background illustrations of the classroom and neighborhood is washed in a pale blue, putting the spotlight on the diverse classmates in their colorful clothes. A compelling double-spread center image gives vent to Vanessa and her classmate’s feelings through a stormy night with roiling black clouds and a torrent of rain. The two girls are connected by their lighted widows—the only bright spots in the darkened neighborhood. Turn the page and that glow is shining into the window from the sunny day. The homes are now lemon colored, with Vanessa’s house a standout pink.

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Copyright Kerascoët, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

As the little girl talks to Vanessa and holds her hand, you will feel tears spring to your eyes, and the gathering children with their smiles and waves will swell your heart. In the sense of motion caused by the children rushing to join Vanessa’s group, the bully is now the one overlooked, and as the small groups become a crowd all walking in the same direction, the bully—facing the other way and at the bottom of the page—is far outnumbered. As the wave of kids enter school, the bully appears in the bottom corner, red faced and frowning. The possibility the empty desk poses at the beginning of the story is fulfilled when the girl in the yellow dress moves there to sit next to Vanessa.

The wordless quality of this book allows for readers to volunteer what they think is happening and what is being said. It also allows for deep discussions of similar experiences and can lead into an expanded lesson on kindness, empathy, and how to handle bullying.

I Walk with Vanessa is a moving portrait of how a simple act of friendship multiplies and changes lives and is a must for home, classroom, school, and public libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1524769550

To learn more about the husband and wife team Kerascoët and their work, visit their website.

National Kindness Day Activity

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Kindness Cards to Share

 

On World Kindness Day people are encouraged to give out Kindness Cards to friends, family, and especially those who look as if they need cheering up. Here are some printable cards for you to use!

Kindness Cards to Share

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You can find I Walk with Vanessa at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 10 – It’s Family Stories Month

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About the Holiday

The Thanksgiving holiday—with all of it’s shopping, decorating, cooking, and hosting of family and friends—offers lots of opportunities for adults and kids to share their funny, sad, and even embarrassing stories with each other. Learning about others’ triumphs and foibles is a wonderful way to build bonds, and when multiple generations get together it’s also a great time to pass down family traditions. Today’s holiday encourages people to engage in the art of oral storytelling as a way to stay connected to their family heritage. To celebrate elicit your child’s help in the holiday preparations—and get talking!

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Jill McElmurry

 

In a cozy home, preparations are being made for Thanksgiving. A little boy is eager to help out and is excited for the day. As his mom bustles around the kitchen, he urges, “Mama, fetch the cooking pot. / Fetch our turkey-cooking pot. / Big and old and black and squat. / Mama, fetch the cooking pot.” With the fat turkey snugged into the pot, the little boy knows just what comes next.

He hauls a basket of kindling to the stove, remind his daddy that he needs to make the fire “blazing hot.” But Thanksgiving dinner isn’t just about the turkey, so the boy ties on an apron to help his sister make the bread. “Sister, knead the rising dough. / Punch it down, then watch it grow. / Line your loaves up in a row.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Big brother also has a job to do to make sure the dinner comes out perfectly tasty. His younger sibling watches carefully as the older boy brushes the turkey with juices, basting the delicious-smelling bird until it’s golden. Grandpa and Grandma also get their instructions from their precocious grandson. With the recipe for the cranberries memorized, the little boy guides his grandfather through the process and has a particular wish for Grandma’s pie: “Grandma, bake your pumpkin pie. / Whip the topping light and high. / High enough to touch the sky. / Grandma, bake the pie.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With all the yummy aromas wafting through the kitchen, it’s getting hard for the little one to wait: “Baste. Boil. Bake a treat / When do we sit down to eat?” But it’s not quite time. As more family members arrive, they are also pressed into service. Auntie’s job is to fix the potatoes. How? The little tyke knows they should be mashed “just like Grandma taught you how” and topped “with butter from our cow.” Uncle’s here too with the cider jug ready to fill all the proffered mugs.

One family member’s job may be the hardest. Who is that? The baby! As the boy gently rocks the cradle, he whispers, “Baby, be a sleeping mouse. / Such a peaceful, sleeping mouse. / Snug and happy in our house. / Baby, be a mouse.” The house is alive with all the rushing around and excited voices, and while the little boy is looking forward to eating, he also knows that with “food and loved ones, we are blessed.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

With the dinner well underway, it’s time to turn attention to the table decorations. Homemade Pilgrim hats are just the thing for clever placemats. Finally, the food is cooked, the candles on the table are lit and it’s time for one last thing. The boy stands on his chair “to raise a hearty shout. / A happy, hungry, hearty shout. / ‘COME AND GET IT! /  DINNER’S OUT!’”

But the adults are so slow! The boy sits in his chair eyeing all the scrumptious food to come as Mom and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa, Aunt and Uncle, and even his sister and brother mill about, seeming to never find their proper place. At last everyone has gathered around the table, grace has been said, and it’s time to “share the risen bread. / Our made-with-love Thanksgiving spread.”

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Image copyright Jill McElmurry, 2015, text copyright Pat Zietlow Miller, 2015. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Through her child’s-eye view of an old-fashioned Thanksgiving day, Pat Zietlow Miller captures the excitement and endearing impatience of children on this special family holiday. Young readers will recognize the little boy’s tone of urgency as he exhorts his family members to do their particular jobs to make the meal a success. This ready identification makes Zietlow’s story always up-to-date while connecting children with the past. Little ones, who love to be involved in holiday preparations, will love to hear this gentle, rhyming tale that flows as smoothly as the well-organized kitchen portrayed.

Jill McElmurry’s homey illustrations glow with golden hues that invite readers into the old-fashioned kitchen to take part in one family’s happy Thanksgiving dinner. Clothing, hairstyles, a cast-iron stove, and an old hand-pump faucet set the story in yesteryear, but the smiles, plump crispy turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and convivial hustle-bustle tell readers that this is a story as current as today. Children will love lingering over the details on each page and trying to guess who is going to show up for dinner next.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2015 | ISBN 978-0307981820

Discover more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website.

To learn more about Jill McElmurry and her books for kids, visit her website.

Homemade Bread Day Activity

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My Family’s Recipe Box, Label, and Cards

 

Holidays are a perfect time for kids to learn traditional or favorite family recipes. With this easy craft and printable label and recipe cards, children can create their own unique recipe box.

Supplies

  • A tea bag box, such as Tetley Tea or another appropriately sized box with a lid that overlaps the front edge
  • Printable Recipe Box Label | Printable Recipe Cards
  • Washi tape
  • Heavy stock printing paper
  • Adhesive printing paper (optional)
  • Glue (optional)

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Directions

  1. Cover the box in washi tape
  2. Print the label on adhesive printing paper or regular paper
  3. Stick label to box or attach with glue
  4. Print recipe cards on heavy stock paper
  5. Write down favorite recipes and store them in your recipe box

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You can find Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 14 – National Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

Do you love that you think differently? That when you look at a leaf, you see a poem or that when you hear the wind, you imagine a painting? And don’t you love those days when you can just let your creative mind take over and you can make something new—no matter what it is? Well, today is one of those days! National Live Creative Day was established to encourage people to embrace their innovative side. There are so many ways to be creative from the arts, to science and math, to what you make for dinner. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “creative type,” enjoy looking at things at work and home in a different way. One of the best ways to celebrate the day is to spend time with a child. Kids are naturally creative and are just waiting for ways to express it!

Douglas, You’re a Genius!

By Ged Adamson

 

While Nancy and Douglas were playing ball in the backyard, the ball rolled through a hole in the fence. A pile of leaves on the other side prevented Nancy and Douglas from seeing where the ball went. But just as they were about to pronounce the ball “a goner,” it rolled back at them. “Nancy and Douglas called into the hole. ‘Thank you!’ But there was no response.” Even a whistle and a bark only brought silence.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Douglas really wanted to know who was on the other side of the fence, so he and Nancy got out their train set and built a track into the hole. They sent the train engine chugging down the track with a note that said, “Hello! We are Nancy and Douglas J” While they waited and waited they made music on pots and pans, danced to a record on the record player, and built a house of cards.

Finally the train made a return trip with another note that said, “¡Hola! ¡Queremos conocerte!” Neither Nancy nor Douglas knew what the words meant, but they increased the pair’s curiosity. The fence was much too tall to climb, but Nancy had a plan. Her plan included her rubber band collection, a trampoline, a helmet, a camera, and… a bouncing, flying Douglas who would take a picture of their neighbor. Douglas thought the plan was dangerous, but Nancy said, “‘Nonsense. You’ll be fine!’” Douglas ran and launched himself into the air and into… a tree.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Douglas said he had a plan, but Nancy was already ready with another of her own. This one was explosive. Douglas grumbled, but Nancy chastised him for having no sense of adventure. The contraption was set in motion and “Douglas moved astonishingly fast, but unfortunately, not in an upward direction.” A little dazed and droopy, Douglas asked if they could try his plan, but first Nancy wanted him to try pole vaulting, kite flying, and many more.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

At last, Douglas shouted, “It’s my turn!!” Nancy conceded, and Douglas started digging. He dug and dug until his plan was finished. There, up against the fence was a mountain of dirt—a mountain they could climb! “‘Douglas, you’re a genius!’” Nancy exclaimed. When they got to the top, they saw the most surprising thing. The neighbor’s yard was littered with discarded contraptions, and there, standing on an equally tall mound of dirt was a boy and his dog. “Hello!” Nancy said. “¡Hola!” the boy said. “Woof!” said Douglas. “¡Guau!” said the boy’s dog.

“The new friends got busy right away on a new plan.” This one was the most elaborate yet. And all the kids in the neighborhood agreed that “it was the most genius plan of all.”

A glossary of the Spanish words and phrases used in the story precedes the text.

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Copyright Ged Adamson, 2018, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Ged Adamson’s contraption-filled celebration of curiosity, creativity, and diversity reunites readers with Nancy and her sweet pooch, Douglas in a story that suspense, laughs, and a surprising ending. Douglas’s ingenious solution to their dilemma is a truly unexpected, rib-tickling delight, and the discovery that Douglas has an equally intelligent new friend will enchant readers.  Nancy’s eagerness to share her ideas and acknowledgement of Douglas’s success will resonate with kids. These interactions also provide good talking points about cooperation and listening to others. The relationship between Nancy and Douglas is sweet and heartwarming. Extending that friendship to their neighbors and the community is an exciting development in their story—and hopefully future stories. The addition of Spanish characters to the series is a welcome inclusion, and the dual-language plan the kids devise will inspire readers to learn new words.

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Adamson’s Nancy and Douglas are as enthusiastic and adorable as ever. As they work to overcome the formidable fence, Adamson’s use of perspective and action will spark plenty of giggles. Nancy’s graphed-out Rube Goldberg-style contraptions will enthrall young engineers and fans of slapstick humor, and snapshots of Douglas warily trying them all will trigger laugh-out-loud moments.

For old and new fans of Douglas and Nancy, Douglas, You’re a Genius! is a no-brainer for inclusion on home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Schwartz & Wade, 2018 | ISBN 978-1524765309

To learn more about Ged Adamson, his books, and his art, visit his website.

National Live Creative Day Activity

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Contraption Crazy! Maze

 

Can you follow the marble through the crazy track in this printable maze?

Contraption Crazy! MazeContraption Crazy! Maze Solution

Want to make a Douglas of your own? Click here!

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You can find Douglas, You’re a Genius! At these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 10 – National Eye Exam Month

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About the Holiday

Founded in 1989 by Sears Optical, National Eye Exam Month encourages people to think about their eye health. As kids get ready to go back to school, an eye exam is an important thing to add to the list of preparations. Seeing clearly is crucial to success in class and extracurricular activities. If you and your children have not had an eye exam this year, consider calling your ophthalmologist 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!

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

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

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!

National Eye Exam 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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-douglas-you-need-glasses

You can find Douglas, You Need Glasses! at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

August 8 – National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

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About the Holiday

So, it’s that time of year! If you’re a gardener, you know what I’m talking about. A couple of weeks ago, you might have been filled with that giddy happiness as your squash plant produced its first zucchini. Maybe it went into a salad or pasta dish. Then came the second one—maybe two—a few days later, and you found a great recipe for those too. But now? You’re harvesting them by the bushel, and…well…you’re just not sure what to do with them all! That’s where today’s holiday comes in! Hasn’t it been a while since you did something really nice for your neighbors? A surprise bag of zucchini or yellow squash left on their porch might be just the thing! What’s that? They all garden too? Hmmm…. Then try the delicious chocolate chocolate-chip zucchini bread recipe below!

Sophie’s Squash Go to School

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller | Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

 

Backed up by her parents and clutching her best friends, two squash named Bonnie and Baxter, Sophie peeks into her classroom on the first day of school. She sees kids running everywhere, talking and laughing. Her parents assure Sophie that she’ll make a lot of friends and have tons of fun, but Sophie is adamant: “‘I won’t,’” she says. And Sophie’s right. “The chairs were uncomfortable. The milk tasted funny. And no one appreciated her two best friends, Bonnie and Baxter.”

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The other kids surround her with questions about Bonnie and Baxter. “‘Are they toys? Do they bounce? Can we EAT them?’” Sophie has had enough. “‘No, no, no! I grew them in my garden. They’re my FRIENDS.’” And then there’s Steven Green. He sits near Sophie at circle time, plays near her on the playground, and stands over her breathing down her neck during art time. Ms. Park, the teacher, tells Sophie Steven is just being nice, but Sophie isn’t interested.

Steven does not give up so easily. He returns to show Sophie his best friend—Marvin, a stuffed frog that he got when the toy was just a tadpole. “‘Then you don’t need me,’” Sophie says and decides “that’s that.” But that isn’t that. The next day Steven is back, building a block tower near Sophie, reading her book over her shoulder, and even offering facts about fruit and vegetables during Sophie’s show and tell.

When her parents hear about Steven, they encourage Sophie to make a friend, but Sophie just clings tighter to Bonnie and Baxter. “Still, Sophie knew that Bonnie and Baxter wouldn’t last forever,” so when the other kids dance, spill their milk, or tell jokes, Sophie considers joining in. On the playground Sophie plays hopscotch while the other kids play tag, jump rope, and play other games together. When Steven asks if he can join Sophie, Bonnie, and Baxter, she refuses, leaving Steve and Marvin to sit alone.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

When the weekend comes Bonnie and Baxter look “too tired to hop. Or build towers. ‘It’s time,’” says Sophie’s mother. Sophie digs a hole to make “a garden bed and tucked her squash in for their winter nap. ‘Sleep tight,’” she says. “‘See you soon.’ But spring seemed very far away.” On Monday Ms. Park asks the class to tell her what makes a good friend. The kids answer that friends play with you, help you, and think you’re funny. Steven answers “‘They like what you like.’” Ms. Park sends the kids off to draw pictures of their friends.

When Steven wants to see Sophie’s drawing of Bonnie and Baxter, the two get into a scuffle over the paper and it tears in half. “‘You are NOT my friend,’” Sophie says as she walks away. On the way home from school, Sophie tells her mom what happened. “‘Sweet potato,’” her mom says. “‘That adorable boy didn’t mean to tear your picture.’” But Sophie’s not so sure.

The next morning Sophie finds Marvin and a note in her cubby. She ignores it, and by lunchtime, Marvin is gone. Later that night, though, Sophie and her dad discover Marvin and the note inside her backpack. The note contains a drawing of Bonnie and Baxter as well as a packet of seeds.  “‘Do friends really like the same things you like?’” Sophie asks her dad. When he answers “Sometimes,” Sophie begins to think. She takes Marvin outside and sits near Bonnie and Baxter to think some more.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

The next day Sophie runs up to Steven to tell him the great idea that Marvin had. They then tell Ms. Park. The next day, Ms. Park hands each child “a cup, some dirt and one small seed.” “‘Can we EAT them?’” a classmate asks. “‘No!’” says Sophie, and Steven adds, “‘You never eat a friend.’” The kids plant the seeds and put the pots on the windowsill. Soon tiny shoots appear in the cups and Sophie and Steven invite the kids to do a new-plant dance.

“‘See?’” Sophie tells Steven. “‘Sometimes growing a friend just takes time.’”

Pat Zietlow Miller’s sequel to her award-winning Sophie’s Squash is a heartfelt story for kids for whom the definition of friendship runs deep. Sophie’s hesitancy to join in the freewheeling play of other kids echoes the feelings of many children entering new classrooms, joining unfamiliar groups, or meeting any new challenge. The excellent pacing of the story as well as Sophie’s honest emotions allow for development of the theme that sometimes friendship takes time. Steven’s persistence sets a positive example for not passing judgement too quickly. Sophie’s transition from squash friends to human is treated sensitively and with cleverness. In the end Sophie learns how to make a friend while still staying true to herself.

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Image copyright Anne Wilsdorf, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Anne Wilsdorf’s cartoon-inspired illustrations perfectly depict the world that Sophie reluctantly inhabits. Her classroom is boldly colorful, full of books, toys, separate spaces, and of course all sorts of kids. Sophie’s reactions to the comments and actions of her classmates are clearly registered on her face and will make kids giggle even while they recognize her feelings. Steadfast Steven is, as Sophie’s mom says, adorable, and readers will empathize with his plight in just wanting to make a friend. The nighttime scene beautifully sums up Sophie’s dilemma and provides her and readers a moment to reflect on the story’s ideas.

On so many levels, Sophie’s Squash Go to School makes a wonderful addition to children’s and school bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553509441

Discover much more about Pat Zietlow Miller and her books on her website!

National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day Activity

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Two Peas and Their Pod Chocolate Zucchini Bread 

 

Got some zucchini that you’ve grown yourself or that was snuck onto your porch? This scrumptious bread is doubly chocolate and as melt-in-your-mouth delicious as chocolate cake. I’m sharing this Chocolate Zucchini Bread recipe from the cooking, baking, and entertaining blog Two Peas and Their Pod. Check out more of their delectable recipes at twopeadsandtheirpod.com.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/4 cup canola, vegetable oil, or melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups packed shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divide

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, add the eggs, melted butter, oil, vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Stir until smooth. You might have a few small brown sugar clumps and that is fine.
  4. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, don’t overmix. Stir in the shredded zucchini until just combined. Stir in 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips.
  5. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate chips over the top of the bread. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out mostly clean, you might have some melted chocolate chips on the toothpick and that is fine. You just don’t want a lot of gooey batter.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a wire cooling rack. Let the bread cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the bread and carefully remove from the pan. Let the bread cool on the wire cooling rack until slightly warm. Cut into slices and serve.

If making muffins, bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Note-if you use coconut oil, make sure it is melted and slightly cooled. The bread will keep on the counter, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 4 days. This bread also freezes well. To freeze, cool the bread completely and wrap in plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 1 month. Defrost before slicing.

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You can find Sophie’s Squash Go to School at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

July 22 – It’s National Blueberry Month

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About the Holiday

Why do we celebrate bees and honey during National Blueberry Month? Because—as Fred, the beekeeper in today’s book knows—the fragrant blossoms on blueberry bushes provide nectar that bees make into some of the most complex, sweet, and delicious honey around. If you’re lucky enough to find blueberry honey on your grocery store shelves—or even better, at your local farmers market—don’t hesitate to try it! While you’re at it, grab some plump, delectable blueberries and make blueberry pancakes to put that honey on!

The Honeybee Man

Written by Lela Nargi | Illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker

 

At dawn on a July morning, Fred awakens to begin his day with his “enormous” family. His morning routine consists of a cup of tea and a climb back upstairs and through a hatch in the ceiling that takes him to the roof. “All around is quiet Brooklyn city—brownstones and linden trees, a tall clock tower, and bridges in the distance.” But nearby is another, tiny city. It consists of only three houses, but inside are “thousands of tiny rooms made of wax.”

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Image copyright Kyrsten Brooker, 2011, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The summer morning smells of “maple leave and gasoline and the river and dust. He turns to the tiny city and inhales its smaller, sweeter smell—a little like caramel, a little like ripe peaches.” He bends down to the three houses to wake their residents. “‘Good morning, Queen Mab. Good morning, Queen Nefertiti. Good morning, Queen Boadicea,’” he calls before greeting the rest of his family: “‘Good morning, my bees, my darlings!’”

Inside the houses the bees are busy. The queens are laying eggs while the workers build wax rooms, nurse bees feed the babies, and others are getting ready to find fields of flowers for nectar. Fred dreams of the marvelous flowers the bees may find to flavor their honey. He imagines the bees flying low over the flowers moving among them and wishes he could soar with them too.

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Image copyright Kyrsten Brooker, 2011, courtesy of Schwartz & Wade

Fred watches the young bees uncertainly leave the hive and swirl off into the air. The older bees “zip out of the hives and throw themselves at the air, embracing it with their wings.” When a few land on Fred’s arm, he gently flicks them on their way. He spies on them from his rooftop as they disperse into his backyard garden, other neighborhood gardens, and perhaps, if Fred is lucky, to “blueberry bushes somewhere across town.” He sees the bees “dive into sweet pea and squash flowers. If he were closer, he could see them using their tubelike tongues to drink in flower nectar, which they store in honey sacs inside their bellies.”

The bees fly slowly home weighted down with their treasure. Fred knows that inside the hive the bees will go to work, some will do the waggle dance that tells other bees where the flowers are, some will take the nectar and store it in the wax rooms, and others will fan “their wings to evaporate the water from the nectar so it will turn to honey.”

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Image copyright Kyrsten Brooker, 2011, text copyright Lela Nargi, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

At the end of August Fred knows it’s time to collect the honey. He carefully enters the tiny houses, removing the honeycomb from the top. In his own home he cuts the wax caps of the comb and the honey begins to flow. A special spinning machine squeezes every drop from the honeycomb. He pours the honey into jars and labels them “Fred’s Brooklyn Honey, Made by Tireless Brooklyn Bees.” In the evening Fred sits on his stoop chatting with the neighbors. He gives each a jar of golden honey.

As night falls Fred opens a jar of honey as the bees huddle “back in their own city, waiting for the rays of tomorrow’s sun to call them up and away over Brooklyn.” Fred dips a finger into the honey and tastes. “It is sweet, like linden flowers. It is sharp, like rosemary. It is ever-so-slightly sour. “‘Ah,’ says Fred, absorbing these happy flavors. ‘Blueberries!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-honeybee-man-fred-flies

Image copyright Kyrsten Brooker, 2011, text copyright Lela Nargi, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

Lela Nargi’s lovely city-based nature book brilliantly likens the tightly packed, exhilarating environs of Brooklyn to the stirring realm of the beehive. Through Fred’s love of his bee family, Nargi lyrically and with marvelous metaphors and verbs reveals the fascinating world of bees as well as the rich and satisfying life of one particular beekeeper. Readers organically learn fascinating facts about the ways bees collect nectar and transform it into delicious honey as well as why honey can have so many flavors.

In her gorgeous illustrations, Kyrsten Brooker uses the golden hues of honey to paint not only the beehive but Brooklyn as well, giving the two “cities” a sense of cohesiveness and equality. Fred, older, with his cup of tea and blue slippers is shown gently and lovingly taking care of his bees, even as he still has their spirit of adventure. Brooker’s combination of oils and collage fuse the dreamy quality of the text with the concreteness of its facts to create a unique book that would be perfect for quiet story times, rainy afternoons, or bedtime.

If there is such a thing as a child’s nature cozy, The Honeybee Man is it. The book would make a wonderful gift and a delightful addition to any child’s or classroom library.

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Image copyright Kyrsten Brooker, 2011, text copyright Lela Nargi, 2011. Courtesy of Schwartz & Wade.

The endpapers provide detailed diagrams of the various types of bees, beehives, flowers, the waggle dance, and even a bee’s stinger. Nature lovers will relish the two pages of “amazing facts about honey, honeybees, and beekeepers” that follow the story.

Ages 5 – 10

Schwartz & Wade, 2011 | ISBN 978-0375849800

You can find books for children, articles for adults, and so much more on Lela Nargi’s website!

To learn more about Kyrsten Brooker, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Blueberry Month Activity

CPB---Busy-Buzzy-Bee-Maze

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze

 

Can you help the little bee find her way through the maze to get to the flower and her friend?

Busy Buzzy Bee Maze | Busy Buzzy Bee Maze Solution!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-honeybee-man-cover

The Honeybee Man can be found at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

June 10 – National Children’s Day

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About the Holiday

On National Children’s Day, parents, grandparents, and other family members and caregivers are encouraged to spend the day with their children, celebrating each child’s unique qualities, listening to their children, and recommitting the family to core values of love and acceptance.  Spend the day doing an activity that is meaningful to your family. This can even be as simple as taking a walk around the neighborhood—as in today’s book.

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.

National Children’s 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.