January 10 – It’s International Quality of Life Month and Q & A with Deborah Sosin

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About the Holiday

How one achieves their definition of a good quality of life may differ for every person, but in general it encompasses being happy and satisfied with one’s relationships, work, living conditions, and self. Whether you find happiness and quality of life in outdoor or indoor pursuits, with others or alone, at work or at home, this month’s holiday gives you time to get in touch with your inner quiet place and reflect on changes or improvements to bring you more peace and happiness in life.

Charlotte and the Quiet Place

Written by Deborah Sosin | Illustrated by Sara Woolley

 

Charlotte is a girl who likes quiet who lives in a noisy world. Everywhere she goes, it seems, it’s impossible to escape from sounds that disturb her peace. At home the hallway creaks where “the floorboards groan,” the living room is like an arcade where the “TV bellows and blares,” and the kitchen is filled with Otto’s barks for his dinner. Even in Charlotte’s bedroom, “which is supposed to be a quiet place, the old steam radiator hisses, whistles, and whines. Where can Charlotte find a quiet place?”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

When Charlotte goes to school, things are no better. In the classroom kids are boisterous and bells ring; the lunchroom echoes with clattering trays and scuffing chairs; and the playground blares with big voices and stomping feet but also with the little squeaks and rattle of the swings. “Even in the library, which is supposed to be a quiet place, the children giggle, yammer, and yell. Where can Charlotte find a quiet place?”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

The outside world resounds with the din of jackhammers, horns, sirens, shouts, cars, music, and the “screeches, rumbles, and roars” of the subway. “Even in the park, which is supposed to be a quiet place, the leaf blower buzzes, blusters, and hums.” Charlotte puts her hands to her ears. “‘Nooo!’” she cries, “‘I have to find a quiet place!’”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

On Saturday Charlotte takes her dog for a walk in the park. Suddenly, Otto spies a squirrel and takes off running, wrenching his leash out of Charlotte’s hand. She chases after him down a hill, over a bridge, into the middle of a grove of trees. Out of breath, Charlotte and Otto sit beneath a tree. Gasping, Charlotte’s “belly rises up and down, up and down. Her breath goes in and out, in and out. Hooooo ahhhhh. Hooo ahhh.”

Slowly, Charlotte’s breath comes easier and “her mind slows down.” In this state, she discovers another, even quieter place. It is a place deep inside where her breath is soft and her “thoughts are hushed and low.” It is “a place as quiet as the small silence on the very last page of her favorite book, the silence right after ‘The End.’”

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

In a little while, Charlotte and Otto leave the grove, but now whenever home or school or the neighborhood is too loud, Charlotte remembers where she can find a quiet place. She simply closes her eyes and pays attention to that place deep in her belly and deep in her mind—“that quiet place inside.”

For so many children the world is a blaring, clattering place where their thoughts are drowned out by the noises around them. Deborah Sosin’s award-winning Charlotte and the Quiet Place validates these feelings and offers children a way to discover inner peace wherever they are. As a tonic to today’s hyper-stimulated environment, kids and adults alike will benefit from the method of mindful reflection Sosin presents. Sosin’s combination of evocative verbs and repetition makes the story fresh and an excellent read-aloud while also mirroring the sounds that are a part of our everyday life.

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Image copyright Sara Woolley, text copyright Deborah Sosin, Courtesy of sarawoolley.com

Sara Woolley’s beautiful watercolor illustrations vividly depict not only Charlotte’s world but the sounds that disturb her peace. Amid the fully realized home, school, and neighborhood environments, complete with realistic details kids will recognize, sharp cracks of equipment, blaring bells and whistles, high-pitched voices, and other noises spark the page. Portrayals of Charlotte, her hands over her ears and her eyes sad, express her distress in a way kids will understand. When Charlotte finds the grove of trees in which she first experiences inner peace, Woolley’s color palette turns softer, with peaceful tones of green, blue, and yellow where, previously, “louder” purples, reds, and golds predominated.

Charlotte and the Quiet Place is a very welcomed book for those times when peace seems elusive and will give comfort to children who prefer quiet places and have more introverted natures. The book would make a wonderful addition to all children’s book shelves as well as to school and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Parallax Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1941529027

Visit Charlotte and the Quiet Place on her own webstite! You’ll find resources, images and videos, news about events, and more!

Discover more about Deborah Sosin, her writing for children and adults, writing workshops, mindfulness services, and more on her website!

View a gallery of artwork for books, comics,  and other illustration work by Sara Woolley on her website!

International Quality of Life Activity

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Share a Smile Cards

 

Life is better when you share smiles with those you know—and those you don’t! Try it! When you’re out today at school or other places, look someone in the eye and smile. You’ll probably get a smile back—and you can be sure that you will have made the other person’s and your day better!

Here are some Smile Cards that you can share. Why not slip one into your dad’s pocket or your mom’s purse, put one in your friend’s backpack, or sneak one onto your teacher’s desk? You can even leave one somewhere for a stranger to find! Have fun sharing your smiles, and see how much better you and the others around you feel!

Click here to print your Share a Smile Cards.

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Photo by Kevin Day Photography

Q&A with Author Deborah Sosin

 

Today, I’m thrilled to talk with Debbie Sosin, a writer, editor, and clinical social worker who specializes in mindfulness-based psychotherapy, about her first picture book, her choral singing, and how kids respond to her presentations.

In your career you write for adults and children, work within the publishing industry, provide publicity services, and teach. How did you get started? Did you always want to write?

I kept a diary starting at around age ten and always loved writing for school or for fun. I started getting more serious about writing for publication in the past ten years, studied at GrubStreet, attended the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and eventually went back to school to get an MFA in Creative Writing. I wish I had started earlier, but it’s been rewarding to finally follow my true passion.

What influenced you to write Charlotte and the Quiet Place?

I wrote the book as an independent project as part of my MFA studies at Lesley University. They say “write what you know,” so I thought about my childhood growing up in kind of a noisy house, where my brother played the piano, my father had a radio and TV on simultaneously, and my mother was on the phone a lot. And then I thought about my longtime meditation practice and how tuning in to my breathing has helped me find a quiet place inside. So I wanted to write a story about children finding their own quiet place inside themselves.

You give school presentations on mindfulness and your picture book Charlotte and the Quiet Place for various ages. Is there an experience from any of these that you would like to share?

School visits are my favorite part of being an author! No matter what age the students are, they love to help me tell the story by repeating the “noisy” sounds and the “hoo ahh” breathing sounds. We usually do a few calming/breathing exercises together and, without fail, even the squirmiest group will settle into a beautiful, shared, often profound silence. Once, when asked where Charlotte finds her quiet place, one kindergarten girl said, “In her belly and in her brain, where it’s calm.” Many kids get that idea. What could be better? I also love showing them my early scribbles and illustrator Sara Woolley’s wonderful sketches and storyboards, and sharing the step-by-step process of publishing the book, from concept to completion

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Deborah Sosin reads Charlotte and the Quiet Place to students at Newton Montessori School. Photo courtesy of Newton Montessori School.

Can you talk a little about mindfulness and how it can benefit children?

Mindfulness has become a catchword these days, but my favorite definition is from Dr. Amy Saltzman: “Noticing what’s happening right here and now, with a friendly, curious attitude, then choosing what to do next.” Many top-notch scientific studies show that mindfulness can help kids with concentration, attention, self-soothing, anxiety, depression, sleep, mood, compassion, confidence…I could go on. Compared with adults, most kids are naturally mindful, that is “in the moment,” but kids do get stressed out and worried about the past or the future, so mindfulness helps. I sometimes worry that parents and teachers might use it for disciplinary reasons (“Enough! Go be mindful in the corner!”), which is not the point. It’s a whole-life practice, not a technique or intervention. And, as the book shows, mindfulness can lead us to a quiet place inside that we can access whenever we want.

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Students at the Cottage Montessori School in Arlington, Massachusetts play the Silence Game with director Karen Wagner, watching the sand in the hourglass. Photo courtesy of Stacey Moriarty.

Can you tell me a little about your work with Grub Street, a creative writing center in Boston?

I started taking classes at GrubStreet in 2008; my first class was “Six Weeks, Six Essays,” and from that class, I helped form a longtime regular writing group. I started blogging soon after and then submitted personal essays for publication, with some good luck. GrubStreet is a fantastic, inclusive community, with excellent faculty and a huge range of motivated, smart, and enthusiastic students, from beginners to veterans. After a few years, I applied to teach classes there and am proud to be on their instructor and consultant rosters now.

You are an accomplished choral singer, having performed at Lincoln Center, the United Nations, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and on an international tour. When did you begin choral singing? Do you have an anecdote you’d like to share from any of your experiences?

I’ve been singing my whole life and have been in choruses since elementary school. Singing with other people is extremely gratifying and, after all the “verbal”-type things I do, including my work as a psychotherapist, it’s a lovely change of pace. I spent about 15 years in the Zamir Chorale of Boston, which specializes in Jewish choral music. Our tours to Eastern Europe, Italy, and Israel were extraordinary. In 1999, when we sang at Auschwitz and Terezin, the sites of former concentration camps, it was hard to keep our emotions in check, but it felt important to revive the voices of the Jewish people that the Nazis had attempted to quell. A PBS documentary film, “Zamir: Jewish Voices Return to Poland,” chronicled our tour that summer. I think it’s still available through the Zamir Chorale website.

What’s the best part about writing for children?

After having focused almost exclusively on nonfiction for most of my writing career, it’s been wonderful to work in the very precise and rich world of picture-book writing with so many lovely, funny, imaginative, and supportive fellow writers I’ve met through SCBWI and the amazing Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, Mass.

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Debbie’s niece Mollie and a friend draw a noisy thing at The Oblong Bookstore event. Photo courtesy of AM Media Group

What’s up next for you?

I have a couple of Picture Book manuscripts in progress and I’m participating in Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo) this month, so I hope to generate more ideas and get some new work out there soon.

Since this is a holiday-themed blog, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you at least one question about holidays, so…

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Thanksgiving is probably my favorite, as it means getting together with my family, which is now spread far and wide, and having an opportunity to express our gratitude.

Thanks, Debbie, for stopping by and chatting! I wish you all the best with Charlotte and the Quiet Place and all of your future endeavors!

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You can find Charlotte and the Quiet Place at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Parallax Press |Porter Square Books (signed copies available)

Connect with Deborah Sosin on

Her Website | charlotteandthequietplace.com | Facebook | Twitter

Picture Book Review

November 15 – I Love to Write Day

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About the Holiday

I Love to Write Day was created by Delaware-based author John Riddle in 2002. He wanted to share his passion for writing with others and encourage them to pick up a pen or sit down at the computer and compose a poem, a short story, a journal entry, or whatever kind of written expression stirs their hearts. It’s fitting that today’s holiday comes in the middle of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, when novelists and would-be novelists strive to begin and finish a complete novel (well, at least a first draft) in one month. If you hold ambitions to write, why not start today? As today’s book shows, you’ll be part of a very honored, long-standing tradition!

I Am a Story

By Dan Yaccarino

 

Sometimes it seems that from nothing and out of nowhere a story comes. And yet storytelling also seems to be an inborn trait, passed down from generation to generation and discovered in daydreams, alternate realities, those “what if?” moments. In Dan Yaccarino’s book, a story relates its history, beginning with our oldest ancestors. “I am a story,” the narrator states. “I was told around a campfire. Then painted on cave walls.” The story travels over years and across miles, changing the way it is told but not its impact.

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Image copyright Dan Yaccarino, courtesy of harpercollins.com

Men inscribed words on papyrus; women used woodblocks, brushes, and ink to bring them to life. Tales were stitched into legend on beautiful tapestries that brightened dank castle walls, and they were transcribed in gilded lettering “into big books to illuminate minds.” Then a man discovered how to print the story so many people could read it, which led to the story being “acted out onstage.”

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Image copyright Dan Yaccarino, courtesy of harpercollins.com

Stories were bound into books and families began to collect them, creating “vast private libraries.” Then public libraries opened, and now stories are available for everyone—even in places so remote that the books are brought on donkeys, by camel, or even atop elephants. There are tiny libraries—not much bigger than a birdhouse; vending machines that dispense stories; and old telephone booths that have been transformed with shelves of books.

The story reveals its power to make “people frightened, excited, sad, and happy.” Some have felt and still feel that the story is dangerous, so they have “censored, banned, and burned” it. But the story “did not die.” Millions of people all over the world are inspired by the story every day. “I can go with you everywhere,” the story says, “and will live forever. I am a story.”

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Image copyright Dan Yaccarino, courtesy of harpercollins.com

Bibliophiles young and old will love the simply told and expressively illustrated timeline of the story from early oral traditions until today. Between the first page where ancient peoples interpreted the constellations and the last where a family of today tells stories around a campfire under the starry sky, the various forms that stories take are described with vivid, full-bleed pages of people toiling over manuscripts, inventing methods of mass production, and building collections all to ensure that the words continue no matter what changes occur.

Kids will love lingering over the details on each page, and every page could lead to a fun afternoon of discovering more about each stage in the story’s development. For teachers and homeschoolers I Am a Story is a wonderful jumping off book for an English or History unit, and it makes a beautiful addition to any library.

Ages 4 – 8

HarperCollins, 2016 | ISBN 978-0062411068

You know Dan Yaccarino from his TV shows The Backyardigans, Oswald and others as well as his many, many books. You can learn more about him and his work on his website!

Enjoy this I Am a Story book trailer!

I Love to Write Day Activity

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The History of the Story Bookmark

 

From cave paintings and hieroglyphics to the printing press and the computer, people have ensured that their thoughts were not forgotten. Here’s a printable The History of the Story Bookmark plus a blank one for you to fill in. Use them to mark your favorite stories!

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

November 10 – World Science Day for Peace and Development

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About the Holiday

This annual, internationally observed day highlights the importance of science in and for society and is sponsored by the United Nations. Its aim is to promote education and awareness of scientific issues that affect the world and its sustainability as well as to underscore the role that scientists play in improving our lives and developing solutions for the future. This year the theme is “Celebrating Science Centers and Science Museums.” To celebrate, grab the kids (or go alone!) and head out to your local science center!

How the Meteorite Got to the Museum

By Jessie Hartland

 

A science teacher leading her students through a science museum stops at the display for the Peekskill Meteorite that fell to Earth in New York state on October 9, 1992. As she explains a bit about meteorites, one student raises his hand and asks, “But how did the meteorite get here—to the museum?” With that question the students—as well as readers—are off and running on an adventure of astro-nomical proportions as the teacher begins: “Hundreds of mllions of miles from Earth, in deep, dark, cold outer space, there are vast fields of space debris flying around.” The smaller rocks are called meteors, and a meteor that falls to Earth is called a meteorite.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

The teacher sets the scene: “Here in outer space is a meteor…flying around and around and around”—for over four billion years! Then for some unknown reason the meteor changed direction and entered “Earth’s atmosphere over the state of Kentucky.” With a Hissssss and a Crack! the zipping meteor alerts a sleeping dog, who begins to bark at it. The space rock, trailing a fiery tail, zooms over a burger stand in Virginia, attracting the attention of some late-night snackers.

In Pennsylvania, a few seconds later, a high school football game suddenly turns historic as the meteorite, hissing and crackling through the sky attracts the attention of video cameras throughout the stands. Yes, this is the same celestial body “which was spotted by the Virginians, and yelped at by the dog as it zipped toward the Earth.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

With a Crash, Bang, Boom, the rock hurtles downward. “Here is the teenager, who had been watching late-night TV at her house in Peekskill, NY, when she heard a tremendous CRASSHHH! She has rushed outside and discovered a huge dent in the trunk of her car and a smoking ‘rock’ nearby.” Wanting to discover the culprit of this vandalism, the teenager calls the police who summon firefighters to cool down the “rock.”

After hosing down the ‘rock’ the firefighters “start to suspect that the rock may really be a meteorite.” A geologist is called from Columbia University to examine the rock. “He confirms that what smashed the car is, indeed, a meteorite, which was cooled by Firefighters, investigated by Police, found by the Teenager, gawked at by Sports fans, buzzed about by Virginians, and arfed at by a dog as it raced toward the Earth.”

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

Next, the Curator of Meteorites from the Museum of Natural History in New York City visits the geologist, hoping to obtain this special specimen for the museum. Soon, a Cosmologist develops a program about the meteorite that she presents at a museum symposium, explaining how this 26-pound meteorite crossed over 400-500 miles in just 40 seconds and collided with a car—a-one-in-a-billion chance. The Museum of Natural History secures the meteorite for its collection, and the Exhibits Team designs the “lighting, signage, and diorama for their newest acquisition.”

Which brings us back to the Ross Hall of Meteorites at the museum and the complete story of “the Peekskill Meteorite, which was…barked at tby the Dog, witnessed by Virginians, filmed by Sports Fans, found by a Teenager, poked at by Police, sprayed with water by Firefighters, validated by the Geologist, obtained by the Curator of Meteorites, summed up by the Cosmologist, presented by the Exhibits Team, and explained by the Science Teacher who says: ‘…and that’s how the meteorite got to the museum.’”

An Author’s Note following the text explains more about meteors and introduces Dr. Mark Anders, the Geologist mentioned in the book. A photograph of the car hit by the meteorite offers fascinating viewing.

In her entertaining and informative telescoping text, Jessie Hartland reveals in easy-to-understand steps the people and actions involved in bringing together a museum exhibit for a meteorite. The repetition of the important characters in this true, history-making drama combined with Hartland’s deft command of a vast array of synonyms makes reading each page a joy. Suspense grows as each stage of the meteorite’s trajectory from space rock to “star” exhibit builds on the previous one, exciting kids not only for the tale of the meteorite, but also for the displays they see when visiting a museum.

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Image copyright Jessie Hartland, courtesy of Blue Apple Books

Hartland’s folksy two-page spreads are a perfect match for the rhythmic text—both humorous and educational in their details. The meteor—zipping through the dark blue night sky dotted with stars, over a small town, above an out-of-the-way burger joint, and through the cheering sounds of a football game—leads readers on a page-turning chase until it crash lands on the bumper of the teenager’s car. Here, as the police write up their investigation on the left-hand page, the firetruck can be seen hurrying to the scene, siren blaring, on the right, even as raccoons and a cat take the opportunity of the distraction to make mischief.

Hartland’s depictions of the geologist’s office as well as the American Natural History Museum give readers a peek behind the scenes at the tools and displays used by scientists and museum workers. For kids who love museums, science, and fun wordplay, How the Meteor Got to the Museum is an absorbing addition to home bookshelves as well as school, classroom, and other libraries. Jessie Hartland’s other titles in this series—How the Dinosaur Got to the Museum and How the Sphynx Got to the Museum—are also highly recommended.

Ages 4 – 9

Blue Apple Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1609052522

Discover many more books by Jessie Hartland as well as other artwork on her website!

World Science Day for Peace and Development Activity

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Astronomy Buffs Find the Differences Puzzle

 

These kids are looking for stars and planets, but can you find the 15 differences between the two pictures in this printable Astronomy Buffs Puzzle?

Picture Book Review

November 9 – National Aviation History Month

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About the Holiday

If you look back in history you see that people have always been fascinated with flight. The first kite was invented in 1000 BCE in China; around 400 BCE Archytas of Tarentum developed a steam-powered pigeon; and most people are familiar with the designs of flying machines the Leonardo de Vinci created in the late 1400s. An important discovery that led inventors in the right direction came in 1680 when an Italian mathematician determined that human muscles were incompatible with flight.

Zip ahead about 100 years and the first hot-air balloon flight was undertaken, which led to more and more complex technology, resulting in Wilbur and Orville Wright’s flight in 1903. From there, it seemed, the sky was the limit. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a trans-Atlantic Ocean solo flight in 1932, and in 1947 Charles Yeager broke the sound barrier. But it’s astounding to think that from that modest 12-second first flight by the Wright Brothers to the first man in space—Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin—it took only 58 years! Today astronauts from countries around the world live and work in the International Space Station, and spacecraft are traversing deep space.

Wind Flyers

Written by Angela Johnson | Illustrated by Loren Long

 

With pride a young African-American boy tells the story of his great-great-uncle who was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II. His uncle was “a smooth wind flyer. A Tuskegee wind flyer…,” the boy says. He knows well his uncle’s history—how like a bird, his uncle believed he was born to fly. “With his arms flapping, he jumped off a chicken coop at the age of five,” and when he was only seven he soared from a lofty barn into a pile of hay. His first real flight came at the age of eleven, when he paid 75 cents to be a passenger with a barnstormer.

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Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Flying over lakes and fields, his uncle felt as if he were in Heaven, among clouds “like soft blankets, saying, ‘Come on in, get warm. Stay awhile and be a wind flyer too.’” The experience changed him forever. In fact he “cried when they landed because then he knew what it was like to go into the wind, against the wind, beyond the wind.” As a young adult his uncle contributed his dream and his skills to the World War II effort, becoming a Tuskegee Airman, one of the first black pilots in the United States military.

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Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

As the pair sit in the uncle’s barn, surrounded by his military uniform, leather jacket, and other memories of his flying career—after the war to continue flying he became a crop duster—the pair look through old photographs, seeing once more those young and brave pilots—the Tuskegee wind flyers. Planes are different now, Uncle says, but the clouds remain the same. The boy and his uncle climb to the highest point of the uncle’s barn to watch the jets—and in those moments they once more become the smooth wind flyers, flying into the wind and beyond.

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Image copyright Loren Long, courtesy of Simon & Schuster

In her soaring, rhythmic language, Angela Johnson captures the dreams and yearning of a young boy whose greatest desire is to fly among the clouds. Her combination of straight narration with lyrical lines as he joins the Tuskegee Airman in World War II enhances the sense of achievement and pride the young pilots felt. The structure of the story is well chosen, as relating the uncle’s life from childhood through old age through the eyes of his nephew strengthens the themes of strong familial relationships as well as shared dreams across generations.

Loren Long gives Wind Flyers additional power with his strong, vibrant paintings. Two-page spreads provide a sense of the vastness of the skies that so enticed the young would-be pilot. Even the clouds echo the emotion of the page—fluffy, floating, and alive in the flight scenes while linear, flat, and stationary when the plane and the uncle are earthbound. Realistic portrayals of the boy, his uncle, and the other Tuskegee Airmen are reminiscent of the WPA murals of the 1940s while still setting this book firmly in today for a new generation.

Wind Flyers is a wonderful book to share with aviation buffsm budding historians, and dreamers of all types and would make a welcome thoughtful book for quiet story times.

Ages 4 – 9

Simon & Schuster Books for Young People, 2007 | ISBN 978-0689848797

To learn more about Angela Johnson‘s books for all ages, visit her website!

View a gallery of artwork for picture books and other media by Loren Long, visit his website!

National Aviation History Month Activity

CPB - Biplane side

Head in the Clouds Box Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying, you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! Use your creativity to decorate your plane while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. Younger children will have fun sharing this activity with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons 
  • 2 mini buttons
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

CPB - Biplane front

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

CPB - Biplane bottom

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick between the wheels at the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

Display your biplane!

Picture Book Review

Picture Book Review

November 4 – Fountain Pen Day

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About the Holiday

Today we spend some ink to extol the virtues of the fountain pen. Designed in 1636 (a mere 22 years after William Shakespear wrote his last play), the fountain pen sported two clever improvments over the quill pen. First, it contained a reservoir of ink that made frequent dipping in the inkwell unnecessary. Second, it’s metal nib didn’t require cutting the way a feather did to retain sharpness. While there are now many alternatives to fountain pens, there are those who prefer its smooth elegant lines for writing everything from notes to novels. Fountain pens are also collectable, and craftsmen around the world create beautiful, innovative works of art on these functional canvases.

 

Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

Written by Jane Sutcliffe | Illustrated by John Shelley

 

“In 1606 London was a bustling, jostling, clanging, singing, stinking, head-chopping, pickpocketing wonder of a city.” With that phenomenal sentence Jane Sutcliffe begins this fascinating and ingenious look at the Globe Theatre and the experience of attending a play in William Shakespeare’s time.

In addition to all the qualities of London mentioned above, the town was also a “play-going city.” Every day of the week except Sunday, a play—or maybe even two or three—was performed, and as many as 18,000 people attended plays every week! They just couldn’t get too much of a good thing!*” And everyone loved the plays written by William Shakespeare!

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Image copyright John Shelley, text copyright Jane Sutcliffe. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

How did a day at the theater begin? Well, at 1:00 a banner was raised from the roof of the playhouse, and men, women, and children streamed through the streets toward the Globe. It cost a penny to get in, but if you paid more you got a chair, and if you paid a little more than that you were seated in the Lord’s Rooms. The Lord’s Rooms were actually for fashionable people who wanted to be seen but didn’t really care what they were seeing.

All the actors were…well…actors. There were no actresses in those days. Men played women’s parts as well as men’s. And if you think phones and talking are problematic in today’s theaters, you would have been aghast at the audiences back then! They were not well behaved at all!

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Image copyright John Shelley, text copyright Jane Sutcliffe. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

There were plays to please all tastes—comedies, tragedies, histories, and romances—all full of complicated plots and plenty of twists and turns. While the stories may have been intricate, the sets were not. But the bare-bones sets were made up for in gorgeous costumes and even some special effects accomplished with trap doors and ceiling holes. Sounds full of amazement, right? Good thing too because these plays could go on for hours, and most people stood through the whole thing, rain or shine!

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Image copyright John Shelley, text copyright Jane Sutcliffe. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

William Shakespeare’s plays didn’t end when the last line was spoken. In fact theatre-goers repeated the lines they’d heard long after they left the Globe. They used Will’s words so much that his new phrases became part of the common language, and we still use them today!

Jane Sutcliffe inserts a tongue-in-cheek apology before the main text, explaining how she wanted to tell the world about the Globe Theatre in her own words, but that William Shakespeare’s words kept getting in the way. Yes, using another writer’s words is a no-no—but if they’re Shakespeare’s words? Words we use every day? Hmmm…Sutcliff’s lively history of the Globe Theatre and Old London’s theater culture is conversational, humorous, and highly informative.

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Image copyright John Shelley, text copyright Jane Sutcliffe. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

The left-hand page tells the story of the Globe with phrases and words coined by William Shakespeare sprinkled throughout and set in bold type. On the right-hand page readers learn the meaning of those words and phrases (some have changed a bit since Will’s time) and which play they come from. A final note from Sutcliffe at the end of the book reveals a bit more about the playwright. A timeline of Shakespeare’s life and a bibliography are also included.

John Shelley’s incredible illustrations of London and the Globe Theatre will take your breath away. The streets teem with vendors, knights, shoppers, kids, Ladies, and Lords. If you look closely at the intricate paintings you’ll also spy the seamier side of Old London—a pickpocket, a criminal in the stocks, a tavern brawl, a cat snatching a free meal, a woman about to empty a chamber pot on her unsuspecting downstairs neighbor’s head, and…could that be a dead rat?— and that’s only on the first page!!

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Image copyright John Shelley, text copyright Jane Sutcliffe. Courtesy of Charlesbridge

Subsequent pages show the waterfront with its sailing vessels, a peek into Shakespeare’s study and a look at the printing press, an aerial view of London, the Globe Theatre with its thatched awning, the actors donning wigs and costumes, and the audiences enjoying the plays and the fun of a day out. Each illustration is alive with color and movement, texture and design, expressive faces, and all the sights, sounds, and aspects of Old London. Kids will love lingering over each page picking out the funny events going on in the lanes, in the theater seats, and on stage.

So hurry to get your own copy of Will’s Words and enjoy it to your heart’s content! You will definitely get your money’s worth!

*Italicized words were invented by William Shakespeare

Ages 6 – 10 and up (Anglophiles and Shakespeare lovers will enjoy this book)

Charlesbridge, 2016 | ISBN 978-1580896382

To learn more about Jane Sufcliffe and her other picturebooks and books for early and middle grade readers visit her website!

View a portfolio of picture book illustration and other work by John Shelley on his website!

Fountain Pen Day Activity

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Write Like Shakespeare

 

William Shakespeare might have missed out on the new technology of fountain pens, but he sure did a great job with the quills of the day. Try your hand at making a quill pen—you may not be able to write with it, but it sure will look cool on your desk!

Supplies

  • Medium to large size feather with quill, available at craft stores
  • Clay, oven-bake or air-dry, in various colors if desired
  • Wire, beads, paint, and/or markers for decorating     
  • Scissors
  • Baking pan for oven-bake clay

Directions

  1. Roll clay 2 ½ inches to 4 inches long 
  2. Push the quill end of the feather into the clay
  3. Add bits of clay or roll sections of the clay between your fingers to give the clay shape
  4. To make the twisted shape pen, twist the length of clay around itself before adding the feather
  5. Shape the end or cut it with scissors to make the pointed writing nib
  6. If using air-dry clay: Add beads and/or wire and let clay dry around feather
  7. If using oven-bake clay: Add beads and other layers of clay before baking then carefully remove feather. Bake clay according to package directions
  8. Add wire and other decorations after clay has baked and cooled
  9. Reinsert feather into clay

November 2 – Look for Circles Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squares-and-other-shapes-with-josef-albers-cover

About the Holiday

Today is one of those days that gets you really observing the world in a new way. As you go about your day at the office, at school, at shops, or just while driving here and there, be aware of all the different circles you see. Sure, there are the obvious ones—the tires on your car, the signals on a stoplight, the lid of your water bottle or coffee cup…but how about all the less-seen circles? Knots on trees, a lemon slice, the center of a flower, the ripple of a raindrop or pebble dropped in a puddle… Whether you look for circles through the eye of geometry or they eye of art, be fully aware of the shapes around you!

Squares & Other Shapes: with Josef Albers (First Concepts with Fine Artists)

Paintings by Josef Albers

 

Opening Squares & Other Shapes, readers encounter a vibrant magenta square nesting in an autumn maple leaf-hued square which floats in a square of clear, winter-sky blue. On the next page two orange squares beckon you to follow into the glowing, yellow center square. Could it be a doorway or window leading somewhere?

In another painting, a bold yellow rectangle and an equally bold blue rectangle host guests: “two little rectangles lying down for a nap.” But the calm is shattered on the next page as stacks of red and blue rectangles shake and tumble: “Watch Out! It’s raining rectangles!”

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Now circles want a turn, and they want to have fun! In a large black rectangle a white circle and a red circle play stoplight: “Circle, Circle, Stop!” while on the next page blue, black and spirally circles jump and frolic—“Bounce, Circles, Bounce!” Turn the page—can you count all of the little circles in the rectangle or all of the baby circles in the rectangle on the right-hand page? Some of the babies are leaping away—or are they just joining the group? What do you think?

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Next the black rectangle is back, but this time with two white squares inside. Wait a minute—how did those little yellow circles get into the bottom square? “Hey circles, get out of that square!” Of course triangles don’t want to be left out. Dusky triangles in many sizes connected tip to tip enjoy their light, white background, but on the next page they’re left in shadow—“Hey triangles, who turned out the lights?”

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Be careful turning the page to look at the two intersecting triangles: “Ouch, these triangles look sharp!” Maybe it’s better to move on to the big, vivid triangle on the right. Oooh, so many colors! Nine, in fact! Hmmm… “Is this one big triangle, or lots of little triangles?” These paintings are getting more complex! Now there are “blue squares in pink squares, pink squares in blue squares; rectangles in rectangles, circles in circles, and more triangles in triangles. But here’s a different painting: the rectangles are perfect rectangles, but the squares are a little off, and what kinds of shapes do those curved lines make?—“Funny shapes in funny shapes!” And the last painting? Back to squares. Red, purple, and blue squares. “Beautiful squares.”

Following the paintings, the last page provides a captivating biography about Josef Albers’ life and work aimed at the book’s young audience.

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

Imagine being able to own a stunning collection of famous paintings by a world-renowned artist and educator to teach your child about shapes, color, and art. With Squares & Other Shapes by Josef Albers you can! The second in the First Concepts with Fine Artists series, Squares & Other Shapes presents readers with more than 30 painting by Josef Albers, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Most well-known for his Homage to the Square paintings, Albers worked with color and shapes to challenge perceptions and promote creative thinking.

Shapes are one of the earliest concepts introduced to babies and young children. Even the youngest readers will be riveted by the beautifully reproduced paintings in this large board book that present squares, circles, rectangles, and trianges in clear but creative ways. The easily understood labels, repetition, and recognizable patterns offer key strategies that are known to build strong reading and comprehension skills. Kids will love the humorous text that brings the paintings to life, helping them to also see that art is not static, but active and open to interpretation by each viewer.

Squares & Other Shapes with Josef Albers is a wonderfully conceived concept book that can grow with children as it offers readers enjoyment and education on so many levels. The book would be an often-sought-out addition to home and library bookshelves and also makes a perfect present for baby showers and other gift-giving holidays.

Ages birth – 5 (and up)

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872568

Look for Circles Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-circle-puzzle

Circle of Shapes Puzzle

 

Build a circle from different shapes with this puzzle that grows as you add pieces! You can also use these shapes to create your own art!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the shape templates
  2. Cut out the shapes
  3. Trace shapes onto different colored paper
  4. Cut out the colorful shapes
  5. Build the puzzle from the central square to the edges of the circle (It may be easier to keep the puzzle in place by sticking the pieces down with a little tape applied to the back of the pieces)

You can also use the shapes to create your own art!

Picture Book Review

 

October 27 – Black Cat Day

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About the Holiday

Sure, there’s that superstition about having bad luck if a black cat crosses your path, and it’s fun to indulge it and feel a little scared around Halloween, but, really, black cats are just like other cats. They’re beautiful, sleek, stealthy, and have lots of love to give—or not (they are cats, after all). If you are thinking of adopting a cat into your home, consider choosing a black cat. Because of the superstition, they are less likely to be adopted from shelters, leaving many precious kitties without families.

Black Cat, White Cat

By Silvia Borando

 

“Ever since he was a kitten, Black Cat has been entirely black….from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail.” White cat is entirely white “from the tip of her nose to the tip of her tail.” Black Cat likes to roam during the day and watch the black swallows swoop through the sky. White Cat prefers nighttime when the twinkling stars gleam.

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Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

Black cat becomes curious about the night, though, and asks his friend Blackbird what he could see in the darkened sky. Blackbird doesn’t know because he is asleep in his nest during the night. Blackbird suggests that Black Cat go out when the sun goes down and “see what you can see.” At the same time White Cat wonders what the daytime holds. She asks her friend Snowy Owl, but Snowy Owl doesn’t know because she is always asleep by the time the sun comes up. Snowy Owl suggests White Cat go out during the day and “see what she can see.”

Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick

Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

With good wishes from their friends, both Black Cat and White Cat head off on their new adventures, and somewhere between day and night, Black Cat meets White Cat. They tell each other where they are going and invite the other along with them. They agree, and so “White Cat takes Black Cat to discover the night.” Then Black Cat introduces White Cat to the day.

“The night is full of wonder. ‘Purr, purrrr, look at those glittery, fluttery fireflies,’” Black Cat says. “And the day is full of surprise. ‘Meow, look at those busy, buzzy bumblebees,’”  White Cat exclaims. Black Cat shows White Cat all of his favorite daytime things, such as “daisies, doves, and butterflies…” while White Cat dishes up the most delicious nighttime goodies—“snakes, bats, and mice.”

From then on Black Cat and White Cat are inseparable whether it’s daytime or nighttime. “So inseparable, in fact, that they have one, two, three, four, five, SIX… KITTENS! And can you guess what color they are? Orange!”

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Copyright Silvia Borando, courtesy of Candlewick Press

In her adorable book that proves opposites really do attract, Silvia Borando presents two cute cats that live in only half the world until their curiosity and friendship broaden their horizons. Borando’s gentle, lyrical language elevates this concept book to include the ideas that treasures can be found outside one’s comfort zone and that mutual sharing of one’s life and favorite things leads to strong relationships–even magic and sometimes the seemingly impossible! The soft curves of the figures and stark white-on-black and black-on-white pages make for striking illustrations that will delight even the youngest child.  The final spread of the six orange kittens will delight little readers.

Wonderful for story time or bedtime, Black Cat, White Cat is a sweet addition to home libraries for young readers.

Ages birth – 5

Candlewick, 2015 | ISBN 978-0763681067

Whether it’s day or night, watch this Black Cat, White Cat book trailer!

Black Cat Day Activity

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Cute Cat Coloring Page

 

Today is black cat day, but you can color this printable Cute Cat Coloring Page any way you’d like to!

Picture Book Review