October 18 – It’s National Friends of Libraries Week

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About the Holiday

When you think of friends, you think of people and places you can go to for laughter, information, intrigue, a welcoming atmosphere, and smiles—you think of a library! All this week we are celebrating the people and groups that promote and protect this amazing institution that allows you to take books home for free! What would we do without these cozy buildings and kind, helpful librarians? The Friends of Libraries Groups work to make sure we never find out by organizing fun activities and annual fund drives so that libraries can continue to offer new books, resources, and programs for everyone. To celebrate this week, visit your local library and consider making a donation or joining a Friends of Libraries group!

Read! Read! Read!

Written by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater | Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke

 

In twenty-three poems Amy Ludwig Vanderwater takes readers on a journey of…Reading, from when a child first recognizes that those “squiggles / make letters. / Letters / make words. / Words / make stories / that fly like birds…” through the world they discover as they take in the printed word in all its forms.

In Pretending, a little girl remembers “tracing my fingers / under each letter/ I used to pretend / I could read to myself.” At the library she would “pull from the shelf– / a rainbow of rectangles.” For days, weeks, months, she practiced. “Learning to read / felt like / learning to fly. / And one day / I took off. / I was swooping / alone / over words / once confusing / but now / all my own.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Cereal Box and Sports Page are placed side by side like the brother and sister eating breakfast together. But which sibling is reading “Recipes. / Stories. / Jokes. / Weird facts….the box” and which is “Scanning scores / studying stats / …checking on my team?”  Children will discover that there aren’t many things the little boy in I Explore has not done as he reveals, “I have stood upon a moonscape. / I have witnessed peace and war. / I have ridden a wild horse. / I’m a reader. / I explore.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Reading doesn’t just inform you, it reforms you, as An Open Book explains: “An open book / will help you find / an open heart / an open mind / inside yourself / if you’re inclined. / An open book / will make you kind.” Or maybe all that reading can give a younger brother a moment of power when he uses new-found information. “At dinner I ask– / Do you know / how many pounds of skin / a person sheds by age seventy? / My sister puts down her fork. / No. / One hundred five. / Oh. / She will not look at me. / She will not pick up her fork. / I keep eating. / I love reading.”

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Reading comes in many forms, from Maps, which “…fold / into themselves / like perfect beetle wings.” to Road Signs, in which the alphabet was once “like a secret code / for grown-ups / splashed / on every sign.” There’s also the Internet for Googling Guinea Pigs, where an eager pet sitter can “read about treats. / Read about exercise. / Read about safe holding” before the class pet comes home for the weekend. A Birthday Card with a poem from Grandpa, a Magazine that “…comes / by mail / twelve times / each year,” and Sunday Morning with the comics, where a loyal fan can “know every character / know every name” all bring joy to avid readers.

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

For readers there may be no more exciting time than Late at Night when a little lie—“I cannot sleep”—is exposed as Mom “…reaches out to touch my lamp. / The bulb is warm. / My mom knows why,” and a special bond is formed: “I’m sure my mom / read past her bedtime / under blankets / at my age.” A final cozy image closes the book in I Am a Bookmark, where a nighttime reader compares himself “here in bed / between two sheets / crisp-cold / and white” to a bookmark “holding the page between dark and light.”

Along the way Amy Ludwig Vanderwater also explores Reading Time, a lyrical Word Collection, a Field Guide, the emotional effect of Stories, how reading can be like leading a Double Life, the benefits of a Book Dog, and the Forever connection between real people and characters in books.

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Image copyright Ryan O’Rourke, 2017, text copyright Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. Courtesy of WordSong Publishing.

Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s charming poems on the joys of a reading life will engage children just starting out on their own journeys or those who are better versed in this exceptional art. At once inspiring and homey, these poems open the vast world and the private pleasures of the written word. Vanderwater’s verses are in turn smooth, conversational, reflective, humorous, and fun to read aloud.

Ryan O’Rourke opens Read! Read! Read! with a beautiful image of squiggles turned letters turned words turned books that soar like birds over a young reader’s head. The image wonderfully carries readers into the rest of the book where fancies and facts enlighten young minds. O’Rourke’s imaginative interpretations of each poem enhance their effect and cleverly convey extended meanings and visual humor. 

For children who love poetry, reading, writing, and seeing the world through a lyrical lens, Read! Read! Read! would be a terrific choice for any story time or bedtime. The book would also be welcome in classrooms for teachers to dip into again and again.

Ages 5 – 10

WordSong, 2017 | ISBN 978-1590789759

Discover more about Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, her books, articles, and poetry on her website.

View a gallery of book, map, and editorial illustration by Ryan O’Rourke on his website.

National Friends of Libraries Week Activity

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Libraries Are the Best! Coloring Page

 

If you love libraries, you’ll enjoy this printable Libraries Are the Best! Coloring Page. Hang it over your home library or decorate and give to your favorite librarian.

Picture Book Review

January 18 – Thesaurus Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate that most marvelous, stupendous, spectacular, cool, awe-inspiring, remarkableand—one from my early youth—groovy book, the thesaurus! Without its incredible cross-referenced lists of synonyms and antonyms, the world would be much more boring, dull, lackluster, monotonous place. Today, spice up your speech and writing with the perfect word to express all the nuances of life!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus

Written by Jen Bryant | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

While just a young child, Peter, along with his mother, his uncle, and his baby sister Annette, travel to their new home following the death of his father. It would not be his first move, and in the absence of long-time friends, Peter found companionship in books. When he was eight years old, he began writing his own book titled: Peter, Mark, Roget. His Book. But this was not a book of stories or even one story; it was a book of lists. The first list was divided in two. On one side were the Latin words he knew; on the other were their definitions.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Peter’s mother hovered and worried over her son, and he always told her he was “fine.” “Although, to be honest, Peter thought, fine wasn’t quite the right word.” As the years went by, Peter added lists to his book, prompting his mother to complain about his constant “scribbling.” But Peter looked at his lists differently. “Words, Peter learned, were powerful things. And when he put them in long, neat rows, he felt as if the world itself clicked into order.”

As a teenager Peter was shy, preferring to wander the London gardens alone, “making lists of all the plants and insects,” as in one of his favorite science books by Linnaeus. His “mother didn’t approve, and Peter told her not to worry—but “perhaps worry wasn’t quite the right word. What was the right word? Peter began a new list: Worry, fret, grieve, despair, intrude, badger, annoy, plague, provoke, harass. Enough to drive one mad. How wonderful it felt to find just the right word.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

An idea crept into Peter’s mind for a book where “all the ideas in the world could be found in one place,” and people could “find the best word, the one that really fit.” When Peter was 14 he entered medical school in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon graduation at 19, his uncle told him that patients would be wary of a doctor so young. To gain a bit of experience and maturity, Peter became a tutor to two teenage boys.

At last Peter set up his medical practice in Manchester, England, where he took care of the factory workers, who “were poor and often sick.” At night Peter worked on his book of lists, and in 1805 he declared it finished. “It had about one hundred pages, one thousand ideas, and listed more than fifteen thousand words!” Eventually, Peter moved back to London where he joined science societies and attended lectures. “Before long, he was asked to give lectures too,” and once-shy Peter astonished his audiences with his knowledge of math, magnetism, and other scientific subjects. He even invented a portable chess set.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

When Peter was 45 years old, he married Mary Hobson, and they had two children, Kate and John. As he grew older, he visited fewer patients, but he continued to take walks and work on his lists. While some other writers had published their own word lists to help people “to speak and to write more politely,” Kate and John “thought their father’s book was much better. Peter agreed.” For three years he rewrote his book. “He made it larger, more organized, and easier to use. Long ago Peter had discovered the power of words. Now he believed that everyone should have this power—everyone should be able to find the right word whenever they needed it.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, text copyright Jen Bryant, 2014. Courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

“In 1852, Roget published his Thesaurus, a word that means ‘treasure house’ in Greek.” It was an instant best seller, and Peter became a popular author. But he never stopped making lists.

Following the text, a timeline of principal events in Peter’s life as well as world events allow readers to better understand the historical period in which Peter worked. Extensive Author’s and Illustrator’ Notes also expand on Roget’s biography, and resources for further reading and research are included.

Jen Bryant’s biography of a brilliant boy who grew up to give the world its most fascinating and comprehensive collection of word lists, is a spritely telling of Roget’s life and revelation into his personality, which was perfectly suited to his scientific and written accomplishments. Children will appreciate Roget’s reactions to his mother’s worries as well as the message in his well-rounded pursuit of science and writing. Through Bryant’s captivating and lyrical storytelling, children will be inspired by Roget’s journey from shy child to much-accomplished adult.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, 2014, courtesy of Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.

Melissa Sweet beguiles readers with her mixed media, collage, and watercolor illustrations that are as jam-packed with ideas, images, portraits, and typography as Roget’s thesaurus is full of words. In the early pages describing Peter’s childhood, the pages contain simple framed pictures of Roget and his family. As he grows, however, his lists of words are transformed into vibrant artwork that jostles for position from corner to corner of the pages. In the midst of these, delicate watercolors portray Peter as he strolls through a garden, takes his young charges to Paris, treats his patients, lectures, marries, and finally publishes his thesaurus. A special mention must be made of the typography, which at times in the text runs down the center of the page in one- or two-word lines, mirroring Roget’s love of lists, and in the illustrations presents the myriad synonyms in a mixture of colorful block letters, fine print, and calligraphy.

For bibliophiles, wordsmiths, scientists, and history buffs, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus is just the right book for home libraries.

Ages 6 – 18

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014 | ISBN 978-0802853851

Discover more about Jen Bryant and her books as well as news, contests, and events, visit her website!

Learn more about Melissa Sweet and her books and have fun with the downloadable activities you’ll find on her website!

Watch this The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus book trailer!

Thesaurus Day Activity

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Word Words Word Search Puzzle

 

When you’re looking for just the right word, where do you go? To the thesaurus of course! Can you find the 25 synonyms for “Word” in this printable Word Words Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

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You can find The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 12 – Poetry at Work Day

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka picture book review

About the Holiday

Sometimes your work in school, in the office, outside, or at home inspires you to translate what you’re doing into writing. What better way to express the fun—and folly—of homework, room cleaning, report writing, lunchtime, tests, and all the work that makes up a day than in a poem?! To celebrate today’s holiday try to put the rhythms of your work into poetry! 

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems

By Bob Raczka

 

When you envision a poem in your head, what do you see? A block of lines? A square or a rectangle? Well, sweep that image from your mind because in Bob Raczka’s Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems, verses become actions, objects, puzzles, and natural phenomena. Not only are the poems shaped to illustrate their theme, the titles use clever imagery as well.

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Text and image copyright Bob Raczka, courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

As you encounter the poem hanger you’ll see that “han” has broken away and is dangling from the hook of g in “ger.” The words of the poem itself are shaped like a hanger and contain a giggle-invoking twist: “I hang out in blue jeans and comfy old shirts. I hang out in blouses and long frilly skirts. I hang out in sport coats and sweaters and shawls. I even hang out with no clothes on at all!”

You might want to get your baseball mitt out before you read homer, in which the first line zooms straight as a pitch and the second—written backwards and at an upward angle—soars like a homerun hit: “The pitcher hurls his hummer toward the slugger squeezing lumber CRA / CK! The slugger slams the hummer toward the bleachers for a homer.”

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Text and image copyright Bob Raczka, courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

But don’t put that mitt away just yet! You may need to catch the o, which has escaped from the title p p-up. And if you’ve ever played t-ball, baseball, softball, or even wiffleball, you’ll cringe in recognition of this short but pointed poem.

The sky darkened by night in Dipper and by clouds in Lightning holds two poems expressing very different thoughts. In the title Dipper, the second p has floated to the top of the page where it hangs like a miniature reflection of the dipper-shaped poem, which reads: “Way down there on earth you hold firefly jars, filled up to their lids with light. Up here in the sky, I’m a vessel of stars, my brim overflowing with night.” In the title LIGHTNING, the L strikes the I to create the familiar jagged crack echoed in the shape of the verse: “from a bad mood sky, / tears, / then a jag- / ged slash- / ing flash of anger, / ear- / splitting, / obnoxious, / a cloud tantrum”

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Text and image copyright Bob Raczka, courtesy of Roaring Brook Press

Any writer will love poeTRY which is such a clever take on the word as well as the revision and editing process:

“poetry is about taking away the words you don’t need

poetry is taking away words you don’t need

poetry is words you need

poetry is words

try”

Put simply, Bob Raczka’s concrete poems will make you smile. Even more than that, you’ll find yourself wanting to carry this book around, saying “Look at this!” to everyone you meet. Raczka calls these poems “word paintings”—because a poet “uses words like colors to paint pictures inside your head.” If creativity is the talent to present the world in new and surprising ways, making connections that enhance life, then Wet Cement is creativity at its best!

Wet Cement: a Mix of Concrete Poems is one poetry book that belongs on your child’s bookshelf! The combination of subjects, expression, and images will make it an often-read favorite.

Ages 5 – 9 and up (adults will enjoy these poems as much as kids)

Roaring Brook Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-1626722361

Discover a full bookshelf of books by Bob Raczka on his website!

Poetry at Work Day Activity

CPB - Pocket Poem Craft

Pocket Poem Carrier

 

Choose a part of your school or work day and write a poem about it. You can even try writing a concrete poem to give more shape to your thoughts! Then make this pocket poem carrier so you can tote your favorite poem with you to show your friends and family—today and every day!

Supplies

  • An old pair of pants or shorts with back pockets
  • A decorative shoelace
  • Thread or fabric glue
  • Needle
  • Paper
  • Your favorite poem or a poem you write yourself
  • Pen

Directions

  1. Cut one back pocket out of an old pair of pants or shorts, including the back of the pocket
  2. Use the shoelace at its full length or cut to desired length
  3. Inside each edge of the pocket sew or glue the ends of the shoelace to make a strap
  4. Print your favorite poem on the paper
  5. Insert the poem into the pocket poem carrier
  6. Take your poem with you and share it with your friends!

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

October 16 – Dictionary Day

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About the Holiday

Dictionary Day honors Noah Webster, who wrote the first American dictionary. He was born in 1758 to a family that loved learning and knew the importance of a good education. Even as a boy Noah Webster loved words. He went on to become a lawyer, newspaper editor, Connecticut and Massachusetts legislator, and he helped found Amherst College in Massachusetts.

He is most well-known, however, for compiling the first American dictionary that is synonymous with his name and still the most popular dictionary in use. His work, first published in 1828, revolutionized the way language and words were presented and remains always current by every year adding new words that come into common use through new products, fads, and slang.

Wordsmiths the world over celebrate both the amazing accomplishment that is the dictionary, and I would imagine, their own well-thumbed and well-loved copies of this remarkable resource.

W is for Webster: Noah Webster and His American Dictionary

Witten by Tracey Fern | Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

 

Noah Webster was always different. Tall and thin with bright red hair, he liked to use big words when he spoke and wanted to do homework instead of goof around in school. Unfortunately for him school was in session for only a few months a year and goofing around seemed to be the major course of study. Of course, Noah didn’t call it “goofing around,” he called it “‘playing roguish tricks.’”

Noah begged to go to a harder school. “His pa knew Noah would make a terrible farmer. Noah spooked the cows by reciting Latin and spent too much time reading Ames’ Almanack under the apple trees.” His pa agreed, and in 1774 at the age of 16 Noah went off to study at nearby Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut. Yale had strict rules. Students had to rise at 5:30 a.m. and study for two hours before class. They were also fined “two shillings for making ‘tumult, noise, hallooing,’ or otherwise goofing around. Noah thought Yale was wonderful.”

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, text copyright Tracey Fern. Courtesy of macmillan.com

Noah hadn’t been at Yale long before the American Revolutionary War broke out. Although Noah signed up to fight, he recognized that he was “‘ill able to bear the fatigues of a soldier,’” which was “Noah’s big way of saying he was a lousy soldier.” He returned to Yale and graduated in 1778, but he left the school with no job and no prospects. Even his pa told him to leave home to find work.

Noah became a teacher, but he found the British textbooks “‘defective and erroneous.’” He believed the students should have American textbooks that better reflected their diverse experiences. With the Revolutionary War at an end and America victorious, Noah wanted to help “hold his new, complicated nation together.” He believed that America needed a language different than the English spoked in Britain. “‘A national language is a national tie,’ Noah insisted to all who would listen, and to many who wouldn’t.”

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov. Courtesy of macmillan.com

He began the work himself with a speller. Right from the start Noah’s speller was different than the British books. It included everyday words “like scab, grub, and mop.” He also simplified the spelling by taking out unpronounced letters or spelling words phonetically. He also added pictures to every page and presented lists of rhyming words. He also priced his book so almost anyone could afford it. Noah’s speller became a bestseller.

Still, Noah had bigger ideas. He wanted to write a patriotic dictionary with uniquely American words. He took his idea on the road to make money for the venture, lecturing wherever he could. But Noah’s know-it-all tone of delivery, his “prickly personality,” even his “‘porcupine hair’” put people off. And what’s more, they didn’t like the idea of his dictionary. People thought he was a “lunatic” for wanting to replace British words with American ones.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, text copyright Tracey Fern. Courtesy of macmillan.com

In 1806 Noah went ahead and published “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language. It was a flop, but Noah wasn’t discouraged.” The next year he started working on a bigger dictionary. He copied words out of British dictionaries and added American words and he traced the roots of all the words and wrote definitions, sometimes including quotes from famous people to show differences in meaning. He figured the whole dictionary would take 5 years to finish—eight to ten, tops.

But five years later, Noah was still on the letter A. With no money coming in and a growing family, Noah took a variety of jobs, but he always seemed to rub someone the wrong way, and he lost job after job. He decided to sell his fancy house and bought a farm. Here he was able to gather books, books, and more books around his unusual donut-shaped desk. Standing inside the center of the desk, he spun around and around reading the books and finding words to include in his dictionary.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov. Courtesy of macmillan.com

By 1822 Noah had exhausted all the books in his study. He took to traveling to other American libraries, moved his family to New Haven to use the Yale library, and in 1824 even sailed to Europe to explore books found in the National Library in Paris and at the University of Cambridge in England.

Finally, in 1825 Noah finished his dictionary.  With more than 70,000 words, An American Dictionary of the English Language was the largest English dictionary ever written. “Many people thought it was the best English dictionary ever written.” Why the change of heart? Well, one reason might have been that the President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, “was a common man and a bad speller.” Another might have been that the timing was just right.

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Image copyright Boris Kulikov, text copyright Tracey Fern. Courtesy of macmillan.com

However it came to be, Noah was now lauded as a hero by states and newspapers. Congress even adopted the dictionary as its standard reference book. Noah had not only succeeded in writing an American dictionary, he had “created a new American language for a new American nation.” One that is still beloved today.

An Author’s note as well as a list of resources follow the text.

Webster’s dictionary is intrinsically woven into every American child’s life through language and vocabulary development. Tracey Fern’s captivating story reveals the charm and foibles of its author, a man with just the right temperament and perseverance to tackle and complete such an overwhelming task. Fern’s exceptional storytelling skills and deft turns of phrase allow for a comprehensive review of Webster’s life that is full of exhilaration, empathy, and a good dose of the “big” words Webster loved. Fern builds suspense and tension while offering an insightful look at early American history by including details of the staggering research required and the adverse reactions to Webster and his work.

Boris Kulikov’s expressive illustrations perfectly capture the complex personality of Noah Webster, late-1700s-to-early-1800s American society, and the obstacles Webster faced in writing his dictionary. Fittingly, words, books, or ink blots abound on every page, pouring from the air, sprouting from the ground, stacked like the skyscrapers that would come, and surrounding Noah Webster the way they must have swarmed through his brain. Kulikov infuses humor into his paintings, as when Noah tears at his hair wondering how he will support himself after college, shrugs nonplussed at his students’ shenanigans, and buys himself quiet work time by handing out sweets to his kids. Visual metaphors for the hard, backbreaking and mind bending work also enhance this beautiful biography.

Ages 5 – 10 (adult’s will also enjoy this biography)

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015 | ISBN 978-0374382407

Visit Tracey Fern’s website to learn more about her and her books!

Discover a gallery of artwork by Boris Kulikov on his website!

Dictionary Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-big-words-vocabulary-word-search-puzzle

“Big Words” Word Search

 

Knowing and using a wide range of words allows you to express yourself in exact—and often—fun ways. Find the 26 “big” words—one for each letter of the alphabet—in this printable “Big Words” Word Search puzzle. Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

October 8 – World Octopus Day

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About the Holiday

With fossils dating back 300 million years, the octopus is one of the world’s oldest and most fascinating creatures. It’s also one of the smartest as more than 500 million neurons fire information through an octopus’s brain and arms, allowing them to learn from experience and solve problems. Octopuses are versatile and are found in all the world’s oceans. While most prefer warmer waters and living along the ocean floor, some species swim in shallower, cooler waters. Octopuses have an excellent sense of touch and sense of vision—some even see in color. They fool predators by hiding or camouflaging themselves but can defend themselves by shooting an inky substance at their pursuers. To celebrate today’s holiday, plan a visit to an aquarium or other sea life center!

Also an Octopus

Written by Maggie Tokuda-Hall | Illustrated by Benji Davies

 

“Every story starts with nothing.” But as you think about your story, you imagine a character. This character can be anyone or anything—maybe a little girl, or a bunny, or an octopus. Maybe even an octopus that plays the ukulele. Yes! Now, by itself that seems kind of boring, so the octopus has to want something like a sandwich or a friend. Hey! Didn’t you think of a little girl? Maybe she could be the friend. But wait! How about if the octopus wants a “totally awesome shining purple spaceship capable of intergalactic travel?”

Now there’s a story! It’s not? Oh…too short? Too ehh? What if the octopus builds the rocket ship from stuff around the house? Easy-peasy! Oh dear, it doesn’t work. It can’t even get off the ground. Maybe that bunny from your earlier imagination can help. I’m sure that rabbit is great at building rockets—carroty ones anyway. Not exactly what the octopus had in mind though, huh? What’s an octopus to do beside feel “heartbroken”…beside feel “despondent?”

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Image copyright Benji Davies, text copyright Maggie Takuda-Hall. Courtesy of candlewick.com

Maybe the octopus’s sorrows can be drowned in music. A few strums on the ukulele might be soothing. Not a bad idea! Doing this changes things completely! “People come to listen to the ukulele-playing octopus.” What a turn of events! Some of the people are rocket scientists who can help construct a spaceship and who “also play the saxophone, tambourine, trumpet, and lute!” Now this is getting interesting! “So what happens next?” Well, that is up to you!

But you say “I’ve got nothing”? That’s all you need—“because every story starts with the same thing: just a little bit of nothing.”

In Also an Octopus Maggie Tokuda-Hall encourages budding writers and other creative kids to trust their imaginations and let the ideas fly. With humor Tokuda-Hall demonstrates how characters, needs or wants, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution come together to make a whole story. Readers will see how one randomly chosen element can spark an entire work of art—one that is unique to its creator. Tokuda-Hall’s Octopus is a sweet, appealing character who just wants a spaceship (and a story) to take them wherever their heart desires.

Benji Davies’s adorable Octopus, sporting a red knit cap, immediately forms a bond with readers with sweet smiles, a determined work ethic, and a sad, dejected ukulele performance on a lonely curb. Davies’ vibrant purple, yellow, and orange palette highlights the gray octopus, making this would-be astronaut the star of each page. The rocket scientists who come to listen to, jam with, and help Octopus are a welcome diverse group of adults, and the final spreads show kids that with any object or idea, the sky’s the limit.

Ages 3 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763670849

Learn more about Maggie Tokuda-Hall and her work on her website!

You’ll discover a colorful world of illustration and kids books on Benji Davies’ website!

World Octopus Day Activity

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Cute Sock Octopus Craft

 

Who wouldn’t like to have a cute octopus for a pet? With this fast and easy craft you can make your own little cephalopod to hang out on your bed, your shelves, or on your desk!

Supplies

  • Child’s medium or large size sock, white or colored
  • Polyfiber fill, available at craft and sewing stores
  • Ribbon
  • 2 Small buttons
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue or strong glue

Directions

  1. Fill the toe of the sock with a handful of polyfiber fill
  2. Tie the ribbon tightly around the sock underneath the fiber fill to separate the head from the legs
  3. Tie the ribbon into a bow tie
  4. With the scissor cut up both sides of the sock almost to the ribbon
  5. Cut these two sections in half almost to the ribbon
  6. Cut the four sections in half almost to the ribbon
  7. Glue the eyes to the lower part of the head
  8. To display, set the octopus down and arrange the legs in a circle around the head

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You can find Also an Octopus at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 5 – World Teachers Day

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About the Holiday

Teachers are amazing! They dedicate their lives to connecting students to the wider world and opening doors to opportunities for a bright future. Today’s holiday celebrates all the work, thought, and planning that teachers put into every day’s lessons as well as the care and concern they have for every one of their students. Wherever you are, thank your teacher or teachers for everything they do to help you write your own story and ultimately your own ticket—like the sharp heroine of today’s book!

Little Red Writing

Written by Joan Holub | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

One day in pencil school Ms. 2, the teacher, tells her class that they are going to write a story. Her students are excited, and each one has an idea of what to write. The birthday pencil, wearing a bright pink cone-shaped hat, yells “‘Yippee! I want to write a happy story!’” The state pencil, sporting a map of Pencilvania on its eraser end, wants to tell a nonfiction tale about its state, and the basketball pencil with a small replica basketball topper imagines writing a sports story.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Little Red, looking sharp in her shiny scarlet coat of paint chooses to “write a story about bravery because red is the color of courage. But what would a brave pencil do?” she wonders. She decides to go in search of unusual characters that will give her a chance to fight evil and save the day. Ms. 2 gives “Little Red a basket of 15 red words to use in case she ran into trouble” and reminds her that “it’s ok to wander a little, but stick to your basic story path so you don’t get lost.”

Little Red takes her basket full of nouns and sets off. In her notebook she begins to describe her journey. “As she walked along…” she writes and then stops. “Walking is boring,” she decides. To discover some action she heads for the gym, where other pencils are twisting, throwing, catching, swinging, and jumping. Little Red bounces and boogies and cartwheels “right off the page into a deep, dark, descriptive forest.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

The adjectives lay thick on the gnarled, flowery, shadowy path. The towering trees smell piney and their verdant, russet leaves hide squirrelly creatures. The forest is beautiful, but suddenly Little Red feels “bogged down, hindered, lost!” Remembering her basket, she reaches in and pulls out scissors. They help her “cut through all this description and stick to the story path.” Back on the straight and narrower, Little Red encounters a bottle of “conjunction glue” with just the right kinds of words to help her. She gives the bottle a squeeze, but now finds that her sentences go on and on without saying anything important. All seems lost until “Suddenly” arrives.

“Suddenly,” she hears a throaty roar that begins to chase her. Little Red runs without stopping, throwing out any word she can grab from her basket until she can escape to the next page. Here, however, she discovers a “long, tangly tail” and decides to investigate. The tail winds all along the school corridors, passing the cafeteria, the music room, the art room, and the auditorium. It even meanders by the math room and the after school clubs room into the principal’s office.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Little Red knocks on the door. Inside, Principal Granny, her long tail tangled behind her, roars her greetings. Little Red is suspicious, but she continues to explain the growly voice she heard. In fact, she says, “It sounded kind of like yours.” “The betterrr to be hearrrd on the school interrrcom,” the principal states. Little Red also reports the tangly tail, to which the principal answers, “the betterrr to get charrrged up for my school duties when my batteries are rrrunning low. All at once Red notices the principal’s big sharp teeth. “The betterrr to chomp little pencils like you and grrrind them up!”

With that Little Red realizes that this isn’t Principal Granny but the “Wolf 3000: the grumpiest, growliest, grindingest pencil sharpener ever made!” The Wolf 3000 begins to chase Little Red around the office, and just when there seems no hope, in walks Mr. Woodcutter, the janitor—who immediately faints. There is only one thing left to do. Little Red grabs her last word and hurls it at the Wolf 3000. “KABLOOEY” goes the dynamite, reducing the Wolf 3000 to a pile of parts.

Principal Granny emerges from the rubble shortened but okay and declares Little Red a hero. Little Red rushes back to her classroom in time to hear the other pencils’ stories and to share her own brave adventure.

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, text copyright Joan Holub, courtesy of chroniclebooks.com

Joan Holub’s delightfully clever tribute to writing draws on the Little Red Riding Hood story to get kids excited about using the various parts of speech that make writing so fun and reading so enjoyable. The metaphorical “story path” that Little Red traverses brings her into contact with characters that provide immediate understanding of the concepts. When Little Red squeezes the bottle of conjunction glue, out squirt the words so, but, and, although, yet, and or, which are incorporated into the illustrations on the page. Readers’ familiarity with the original fairy tale increases suspense in this fractured version. The Wolf 3000 electric pencil sharpener makes a perfect nemesis, and the fainting janitor leaves Little Red to sharpen her wits and defeat the beast. Dynamite—at least the word itself—truly is mightier than the sword.

Holub’s nibble talent with puns and wordplay elevates Little Red Writing from simply a book about the subject of grammar and writing to a captivating story kids will love to hear again and again.

Grammar has never looked as enticing as in Melissa Sweet’s vivacious illustrations of adorable Little Red on the story path to prove her bravery. Sweet’s pages, combining pencil drawings, watercolor, and collage, burst with animated typography, scraps of vivid red nouns, and expressive characters in a detailed and fully realized pencil school. Little Red’s final battle with the Wolf 3000 gives full range to Sweet’s rousing visual humor in a highly satisfying climax to the story.

For kids who love reading, writing, and a really good story, Little Red Writing would be a welcome addition to their bookshelves. Teachers will find the story enhances any unit on writing, grammar, and literature.

Ages 5 – 9

Chronicle Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-1452152097

You will find children’s books for all ages as well as fun videos, activities, and teachers’ resources on Joan Holub‘s website!

Discover books, things to make, and lots of fun on Melissa Sweet‘s website!

World Teachers Day Activity

CPB - Pencil Maze

Pencil It In Maze

 

Writing a story is like completing a maze – you must stay on the right path from the beginning to the end to write a satisfying tale. Find your way through intricacies of this printable Pencil It In Maze

Picture Book Review