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Decorating the clay pieces I made last month. I'm still working with an Asian-inspired theme: tiny landscapes, goldfish, and all embellished with beads and coins.
Making jewelry: earrings, necklaces, bracelets--using up more of my beads!
Being more present and aware with my social media friends: leaving comments on blogs, retweeting their tweets, and really getting to know who everyone is.
While I'll be busy online, I'm also taking a small break from all my various writing and art groups until February 2017.
Preparing more manuscript submission lists to agents and editors to use in the New Year. (Mindful submission is so much better--and more rewarding--than going willy-nilly through agents and editors A-Z "just because they're there.")
Goal planning. One of my favorite year-end tasks! I'll be deciding and finalizing what I really want to do in 2017. (Hint: it's going to include a lot of painting!)
And finally, despite the ginormous and very tempting sales in all the stores, I'm NOT buying any new journals, sketchbooks, or anyart and writing supplies for myself until I've used 100% of what I already have. And that's a promise!
I hope you've had a happy and miraculous 2016 and that you'll use the holiday season to unwind, relax, and enjoy all the wonderful moments of this beautiful season. I'm so grateful for everything that has come to me this year, and I'm grateful for all of you for sticking with me and reading my blog so faithfully. Thanks for visiting and I'll see you soon. Until then, drink cocoa, stay warm, and remember to stay creative every day! Tip of the Day: Celebrate the season with a special outing for your writing or art group. In my case I was able to spend a wonderful get-together yesterday with my writer friends at the oh-so-amazing St. James Tea Room here in Albuquerque. (Highly recommended if you're ever visiting New Mexico.) The decor was 100% English Victorian and the December menu was based on Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. It was all so authentic I thought I'd traveled to the UK--and without any jet lag! Find somewhere special in your own neighborhood to gather, rejoice, and share your 2016 successes and your 2017 goals.Add a Comment
The vibrant colors of Patricia Polacco's artwork brighten the winter months. Her family background, Eastern European and Jewish on one side, Irish and Christian on the other side, give her two rich cultures to explore.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats. Trisha loves Hanukkah and she loves the brightly colored animals her grandfather carves as gifts during the season. Trisha also loves her neighborhood and sharing her neighbors' traditions. When she visits her neighbors, she finds that many of them are sick with scarlet fever. There would be no Christmas for them. Then Grampa comes up with a wonderful idea.
Uncle Vova's Tree. Polacco visits her Eastern European background to tell a story about her Uncle Vova and his fantastic Christmas tree.
Christmas Tapestry. When a pastor's new church in Detroit is damaged by rain, his son helps him find a beautiful tapestry to hang on the wall for Christmas Eve services. The tapestry has a secret that leads to a real holiday miracle.
Welcome Comfort. Foster child, Welcome Comfort, finds it hard to believe in Christmas. But his new friend, Mr. Hamp, the school custodian, gives Welcome a wonderful surprise.
An Orange for Frankie. A young boy worries that his father won't return from a trip with the Christmas oranges. Remember Christmas oranges? My orange was always a bulge in the toe of my stocking, but Frankie's orange nestles with others on the mantelpiece. This is another story from Polacco's family. Add a Comment
It's time for holidays! Your suitcase is packed, you're ready to leave, and cannot wait to get a proper tan to show on social media. Mark Twain used to say that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”, but unfortunately the health problems we may come across while travelling are far less poetic. Danger is always lurking, especially in far-flung and unexplored destinations.
We Canadians love our summer holidays, and other than major holidays such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, it’s the only time when we can get together with our families and just chill. This begs me to ask the question: Is it possible to write during the summer months? Um. Yeah. It’s a toughie, but I did manage to get some writing done. And I have been busy editing the second book in my young adult time travel series, The Last Timekeepers and the Dark Secret. So there’s a thumbs up for that. But when I read a recent post from Mirror World Publishing’s blog entitled It’s Okay Not to Write, I decided to put aside any guilty feelings of ‘not’ writing regularly in the summer, and just enjoy this hot, sunny season and time spent with my family.
The first Monday in August is our Civic Holiday, which is a roundabout way of saying ‘Public’ Holiday. It’s not a statutory holiday in the province where I live (Ontario), but if your employer is on the generous side, then you can probably book that long weekend away with no problem. The Civic Holiday weekend also marks the middle of summer—halfway to fall and five weeks till school starts. Sorry, kids!
When we lived at our cottage, it seemed like the busiest weekend of the summer, and since we were on a medium-sized lake, you had to take turns going out water skiing or tubing. Our kids usually ambushed visited us that weekend for food and fun-in-the-sun, and somehow they left their children behind. LOL! Thankfully, there was a lot to do around the cottage for the grandkids with swimming, fishing, boating, tubing, canoeing, reading on the beach (yes, I have a few readers), watching movies, and campfires. We found that the week just flew by! I truly miss those days, and I’m grateful for those cottage memories with our family and friends.
Now that we live in the ‘Banana’ belt of Canada (think Florida weather), and farther from some of our family, we see the kids less. Most of the grandchildren have their own lives now. Sigh. The bright spot is we do get to see our youngest grandchild (now ten), and have her for the week of the Civic Holiday. Yay! So I’ve compiled a list of things to do around in this area to keep the little minion busy, happy, and motivated. Read on…
Now, if we play our cards right, our granddaughter will look like this each night:
Nighty, night. Sleep tight.
I hope you have a safe and happy holiday with your family or friends, and enjoy the rest of your summer! Remember life is short, and no one who is on their death bed says that they wished they could have spent more time at work. Think about it. Relationships truly matter. Cheers and thank you for reading my blog!
The encroaching summer season in the northern hemisphere is filled with long weekends, vacations, and family get-togethers. In the Ledwith house, we have a sure-fire recipe that is guaranteed to fill your guests and family members’ bellies when they come a-calling during their holidays. We’ve used this recipe time and time again, and it has never disappointed even the fussiest eater. I hope you share this wonderful feast with your family, no matter what season it is!
Note: The total prep time takes 6 hours which includes marinating the pork tenderloin plus another 20-25 minutes to cut up the veggies and fruit. This kabob recipe serves approximately 6 – that’s with 2 kabobs a piece. Baked potatoes and corn on the BBQ make for excellent sides, and this mouth-watering meal is always a crowd pleasure on those hot summer days!
What You Need:
2 Tbsp. Asian Sesame Dressing (we use Kraft® brand dressings)
2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. grated fresh gingerroot
1 pork tenderloin (1 lb./450 g)
What You Do:
MIX all ingredients except pork; cut meat up into 1- 1½ inch cubes, and pour marinade over meat in a large plastic bag. Seal bag and turn to evenly coat meat. Refrigerate for 6 hours to marinate. We find marinating the longer the better, so if you prefer, mix the marinade the night before.
PREPARE pork kabobs with your favorite veggies and fruit. Remove the meat from plastic bag and discard the marinade. We use an orange and red pepper, a sweet onion, and pineapple chucks to create our kabobs. You can use 3-4 pieces of pork, depending on your tastes and desires.
PREHEAT barbecue on high, then lower heat. Cook potatoes first. Corn can be put on with kabobs.
BARBECUE kabobs approximately 20 minutes or until meat is done. Make sure pork is thoroughly cooked.
DIG in and enjoy this feast with your family or friends!
That’s it! Easy-peasy, right? Now what will you do with all that time on your hands while the pork tenderloin is marinating in the fridge? How about relaxing in the sun, and indulging in one of my books from The Last Timekeepers series? Wink. Wishing you a safe and happy summer! Cheers!
Holidays, Festivals and Celebrations: Memorial Day
By Trudi Strain Trueit; illustrated by Ronnie Rooney
In searching out picture books for Memorial Day, I try to find those that both give a historical background of the day, how it morphed from Decoration Day, following the Civil War to around 1890, when it became known as Memorial Day.
I try to find picture books that spotlight all the components and elements of time honored traditions, celebrations, speeches, places, symbols, and even poetry and songs, that are an integral part of the Memorial Day tribute to those that sacrificed their lives for our freedoms.
Trudi Strain Trueit has put together a picture book that, I think, collects all these elements for picture book readers’ understanding of Memorial Day. And Ronnie Rooney’s art perfectly complements the narrative, portraying the historical progression of this traditional American holiday.
Though there were some things that I knew of concerning its origins and observations, there were others that were both informative and humbling, when looked at thought the prism of time, which is the true leveler and test of what is enduring in a culture.
There is a quiet question that lingers as you shut the pages of this book. And it is this. What is it that we want our children and future generations to glean from the marking of Memorial Day?
Is it the start of the summer season? Is it barbecues and family gatherings? Is it the word Memorial Day Sale, writ large at malls across America? Or is it something more than all of these put together, though they indeed each have their place in the celebration?
I suppose in some sense, I want to say they are not, and shouldn’t be, the defining reason for the marking of Memorial Day.
In this small, simple, eight chapter book, parents will find a delightful and densely packed picture book with information that will help their child understand the meaning and morphing of Memorial Day, both as it stands today…and how it evolved. A memorial, as the book states is “a lasting tribute.”
It helps us to remember
an important person, group
They will learn that the day was created, and initially called Decoration Day, where, during the Civil War between the North and South, families found themselves on opposite sides in the war. Father fought against son, and even brother against brother. “In these sad times women in the South began decorating the graves of southern Confederate soldiers with flowers. They decorated the graves of northern Union soldiers, too.”
By 1865 the Civil War ends, with some 600,000 soldiers killed in a war fought on both economic and slavery issues.
1868 finds Union General John Alexander Logan declaring that each May 30th will be a day to remember those who died in the Civil War.
And the first national day of celebration is, as I said, initially termed Decoration Day, and was held at Arlington National Cemetery; a military cemetery in Virginia.
Young readers will hear of Moina Michaels and her desire, following WWl, after hearing the John McCrae poem, “In Flanders Fields,” a determination to make and wear a silk poppy as a symbol for fallen soldiers. It was later expanded to honor all soldiers in the armed forces who died in wartime, and this small idea and enterprise of poppy making and sales has generated over $200 million for veterans groups in the United States and England.
In 1948 she was honored with a stamp by the United States Postal Service.
From the explanation of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington, to the year 2000’s Congressional creation of a National Moment of Remembrance at 3P.M. on Memorial Day, when all Americans are asked to pause and remember the “nation’s fallen soldiers,” this remembrance continues through both time, and generations of Americans, young and not so young.
Young readers will learn the meaning of the color concept surrounding the American flag, figured so prominently in parades and on porches that day.
Did you know that it is a tradition to lower the American flag to half staff until noon on Memorial Day, as a sign of respect? Here are what the flag’s colors symbolize:
White stands for purity and innocence
Red stands for valor and hardiness.
Blue stands for vigilance, perseverance
Sidebars on each page of this picture book are filled with quotes from presidents including Lincoln, Reagan, Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as historical figures quoted from General Robert E. Lee, General John A. Logan, and Nathan Hale.
Young readers can read about “Joining in the Spirit of Memorial Day” at the close of the book, suggesting some seven ways to participate in the day, and honor those, including their own relatives, who may have died in the line of duty.
I guess my favorite part is the last chapter; the poems and songs that evoke the essence of Memorial Day. Some I knew, some I had forgotten or never knew in their completeness.
But “Taps,” with words in their entirety, is featured in the “Song” portion. Played by a single trumpet as the traditional music played at funerals of fallen soldiers, it’s pureness and poignancy in sound and symbol is what Memorial Day is about.
And here are the words:
Fading light dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar drawing nigh comes the night.
Day is done, gone the sun.
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky.
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
words and music by Major
General Daniel Butterfield (1831-1901)
*Here is “Taps,” played at Arlington National Cemetery, both in summer, and in a driving snow storm.
In this interview with The Open Book, guest blogger Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, Director of Not in Our School, shares the organization’s latest video release about families and family structures. Not in Our School is part of the larger organization of Not in Our Town and focuses on empowering students to create safe, inclusive, and empathetic communities.
“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”—from “Human Family” by Maya Angelou (listen to Maya Angelou read the poem here)
At Not In Our Town, we are extremely pleased to be sharing our film, “Our Family,” with the Lee & Low Open Book Blog community. Our hope is for our film to become part of the growing collection of resources that educators are using to create identity safe classrooms where children of all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging. These classrooms should not be colorblind spaces, where differences are ignored or where students must leave their identities, stories, and experiences at the door. It is our belief that belonging is created through drawing on the diversity in every classroom as a resource for learning. And quickly, we learn that, as Maya Angelou so aptly pointed out, we are more alike than different.
LEE & LOW: What inspired you and your team to create this video focusing on family configuration and family diversity? Put another way: Why create a film about family configuration and diversity from an organization that fights prejudice, bullying, and discrimination?
Part of fostering a sense of belonging for children is creating an environment where they feel fully accepted for who they are. Even from a young age, children are aware of and have many aspects that make up their social identities. That includes: how they look, the language(s) they speak and the way they express themselves, as well as their culture, religion, race, and gender identity. Their families, a huge part of their lives, form a crucial part of their identities.
Children need to see themselves reflected in the curriculum, on the walls, and throughout their school life. They need to see others like them and they need to learn to appreciate those who are not like them. That does not always happen. My daughter announced at age four that she wanted a sex change operation to become a boy. At that time, we had no idea where she heard about this (she is now 33) because nobody was talking about transgender issues and back then. She did get strange reactions at preschool when she told people she was a boy. I remember she loved doing Mexican dancing, but when they insisted she wear the girl’s outfit, that was the end of her preschool dancing career. As she grew up we did not counter her feelings or ideas. However, now, married and openly a lesbian, she says she does not feel that way anymore, but that she always knew she was different in some way.
Some children grow up and never see a family like theirs celebrated in any way. They may be teased for being adopted, for having two moms or two dads, or for having a mixed-race family. A child whose mother has different color skin than he or she does may experience rude comments or stares. I raised my oldest daughter, who was from my husband’s first marriage. She had dark skin and we got many stares and she heard some rude remarks as people looked from her dark skin to my light skin and asked, “Is that your mother?”
We are approaching Mother’s Day. I wonder about all the children who don’t have mothers. How do they feel when their classrooms are making gifts for their mothers? (At Not In Our Town, we suggest that you celebrate Caregiver’s Day and children can honor those who care for them.)
We made this film for elementary students to see themselves reflected and hear the voices of children like themselves, and to see validation of those who might be different. They also can see how all these families can join together and be friends, and have fun. We kept the film short so teachers can show the film and then open a discussion with the students. We also have our Lesson Guide with activities for students at different grade levels to celebrate their families.
Our organization features communities of all backgrounds who come together to stand up to bullying, hate, prejudice and intolerance. We have always been proactive in seeking to create safety, acceptance, and inclusion. For this film, we partnered with a wonderful organization, Our Family Coalition, which focuses on supporting schools and communities to create acceptance for LGBTQ families. Our shared goal with the film is to support children from all kinds of families.
The best way to address hate and prejudice is by creating identity safety, and preventing hate and prejudice before they rear their ugly heads. Researchers have known for a long time that getting to know people who are different from you will reduce prejudice. New research has shown that it also will reduce implicit biases—the unconscious attitudes we all pick up from living in a society that has much underlying racial bias. According to the article, “Long-term Reduction in Implicit Race Bias,” fostering empathy is another way to reduce prejudice and implicit bias. Children can learn to be empathetic, but it will only stick if they also see empathy and acceptance expressed and modeled by all the adults in their world on a regular basis.
LEE & LOW: How can schools encourage children to appreciate their own family’s configuration and diversity?
The best way to celebrate families is to open the doors of the school and invite all the families in. Other activities include times where students invite their caregivers to volunteer or share expertise in one area or another. Also, students can write about their families, read books (like the excellent collection from Lee & Low), and use family diversity lesson plans and materials from the organizations Welcoming Schools and Teaching Tolerance. In our Lesson Guide we suggest having a Family Diversity Extravaganza where students organize an event and everyone gets involved and has fun together. When students experience acceptance of all kinds of families, they feel pride in their own families and their awareness is built for others.
LEE & LOW: What is at stake if parents, educators, and administrators do not purposely model tolerance and inclusion for children?
We are at a frightening moment in our nation’s history. While many gains have been made to promote equity in our country, our current climate and electoral process is rife with hate rhetoric. In a recent online survey by Teaching Tolerance, educators shared that many of their students—especially immigrants and Muslims—have expressed concerns or fears about what might happen to them or their families after the election. Educators also reported they have witnessed an increase in anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant sentiment in their schools.
Much is at stake for all of us if we do not make it a priority to teach empathy, and model positive attitudes towards those who are different from ourselves. We need to openly discuss and work together to find ways to address all forms of intolerance. We made our film freely accessible on Youtube in hopes that it goes viral and the voices of children are shared. PLEASE SHARE WIDELY! I close with the wise words of young Nathan, a student in our film:
“It is important to have diverse children, to have diverse families in a school so you know how to include everyone… you don’t just go to the people who are like you, you reach out and embrace everyone.” —Nathan, student, Peralta Elementary School, Oakland, CA in “Our Family”
Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas is the co-author, with Dorothy Steele of Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn published by Corwin Press. Currently as director of Not In Our School, she designs curriculum, coaches schools and produces films on models for creating safe and inclusive schools, free of bullying and intolerance at the national non-profit, the Working Group. She presents internationally at conferences and provides professional development in schools and districts. Dr. Cohn-Vargas began her 35-year career in early childhood education at the Multicultural Center in Sonoma County, California. She did community service in the Guatemalan Highlands and produced educational films for the Nicaraguan Ministry of Education. She returned to California and worked as a teacher and principal in Oakland, a Curriculum Director in Palo Alto, and as Superintendent in San Jose. In each setting, she focuses on educational equity and effective strategies for diverse populations. Dr. Cohn-Vargas and her husband live in El Sobrante, California and have three adult children. With her husband, she is developing an environmental research center on their private reserve in the Nicaraguan rain forest.
Further reading and learning from Not in Our School:
At the end of the panel discussion, all attendees will receive a FREE, ready-to-go toolkit with tips and strategies from American Immigration Council, MommyMaestra, Spanish Playground, and LEE & LOW. Additionally, proof of attendance and participation is available for professional development credit.
Title: Celebrating Día at School
Date: Thursday, April 14, 2016
Time: 04:00pm Eastern Daylight Time
Duration: 1 hour
Recommended for: Educators, Caregivers, and Community Coordinators teaching K-5 students in traditional and non-traditional classroom settings
Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language for second through sixth grade in Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in the Bay Area, CA where she became passionate about best practices for supporting English Language Learners and parent engagement. In her column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book blog, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
The comic book holiday calendar is getting crowded, and here’s a new one: Dark Horse Day, which will be held on June 4th to mark the 30th anniversary of the publisher. Events will be held at comics shops around the country and a commemorative Dark Horse Day Sampler comic is but one of the promotional […]
Families. They challenge us. They shape us. They define us. Here in Ontario, Canada, we’re celebrating Family Day today. Although not a statutory holiday, Family Day was originally created to give people a day off to spend with their families because of the long period of time between New Year’s Day and Good Friday. Common Family Day activities include skating, playing hockey, snowboarding/skiing, snow shoeing, and going to various winter festivals. So I figured, after a day spent doing fun things with your family, there’s nothing better than coming home to a big crock pot of homemade savory sausage soup!
What you Need:
1½ pounds sweet Italian sausage
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small onions, chopped
2 (16 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes
1¼ cups dry red wine
5 cups beef broth
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 zucchini, sliced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 (16 ounce) package spinach fettuccine pasta (or plain, whatever your heart desires)
Salt and pepper to taste
What you Do:
IN a large pot, cook sausage over medium heat until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon, and drain on paper towels. Drain fat from pan, reserving 3 tablespoons. If desired, instead of ground sausage, cut sausages in thin slices.
COOK garlic and onion in reserved fat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, wine, broth, basil, and oregano. Transfer to a slow cooker, and stir in sausage, zucchini, bell pepper, and parsley.
COVER, and cook on LOW for 4 to 6 hours.
BRING pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Break pasta into smaller pieces, then cook in boiling water until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain water, and add pasta to slow cooker. Simmer for a few minutes, and season with salt and pepper before serving.
SERVE topped with grated parmesan.
This is a fantastic soup to serve to your crew, and freezes well. Salad, hard rolls, and wine (red or white) complete this meal! You can make it 24 hours ahead of time without the noodles and wait to add noodles until soup is reheated for serving. Whatever you decide to do this Family Day (or any other holiday), enjoy your time with your loved ones, and cherish the memories you create! Cheers and thank you for reading my blog!
We’re a day late (blame atrocious Boston weather) but we’re wishing a happy Year of the Monkey to all who celebrate Lunar New Year! Eat some dumplings and share a book from this list of titles featuring the holiday, all recommended by The Horn Book Magazine and The Horn Book Guide.
Set in long-ago China, Ying Chang Compestine’s The Runaway Wok tells of Ming Zhang and his poor but deserving family. On New Year’s Eve, Ming buys a magical wok, which promptly sets out to transfer riches from the greedy Li family to the Zhangs, who share it with others. The detailed, vigorous illustrations by Sebastià Serra reflect the mischievous wok’s energy. A recipe and Chinese New Year festival facts are appended. (Dutton, 2011)
Also by Ying Chang Compestine, Crouching Tiger stars Vinson, whose grandfather, visiting from China, calls him by his Chinese name, Ming Da. Grandpa teaches his impatient grandson the slow, careful exercises of tai chi, and eventually he and Ming Da play a pivotal role in the Chinese New Year parade. Yan Nascimbene’s realistic, luminous watercolor illustrations show the family’s balance of the traditional and the modern. (Candlewick, 2011)
In Yu Li-Qiong’s A New Year’s Reunion, Little Maomao and her mother prepare both for Chinese New Year and for her father’s annual return home (he works far away). Zhu Cheng-Liang’s harmonious gouache paintings use lots of red and bright colors. This award-winning import is an excellent introduction to Chinese New Year in China and a poignant, thoughtful examination of the joys and sorrows of families living apart. (Candlewick, 2011)
In Bringing in the New Year by author/illustrator Grace Lin, a Chinese American girl describes her family’s preparations for the Lunar New Year. Her impatience for the big moment moves the story along until the dragon dance, depicted on a long foldout page, finally ushers in the new year. Illustrations featuring Lin’s signature clean, bright gouache patterns accompany the tale. An appended spread supplies additional information about the holiday. A board book edition was published in December 2013. (Knopf, 2008)
Counting book Ten Mice for Tet by Pegi Deitz Shea and Cynthia Weill offers a simple description of the activities surrounding the celebration of Tet, the Vietnamese lunar new year (“1 mouse plans a party / 2 mice go to market”). A section at the back provides facts about the holiday and explains the importance of the details in Tô Ngọc Trang and Phạm Viết Ðinh’s vibrantly colored embroidered art. This playful look at a cultural tradition can be used with a wide age range. (Chronicle, 2003)
Mary Dodson Wade’s humorous folktale adaptation No Year of the Cat explains why the Chinese calendar uses specific animal names for the twelve years. The emperor, bemoaning that “we cannot recall the years,” devises a race — the first twelve animals to finish will have a year named after them. Both text and the ornate illustrations by Nicole Wong give personalities to each of the animals, the emperor, and his devoted advisors. (Sleeping Bear, 2012)
In The Race for the Chinese Zodiac by Gabrielle Wang, the ancient Jade Emperor tells thirteen animals that they will race; the “first twelve animals to cross the river” will have a year named after them. The animals line up and, each in its own unique fashion, cross the river. Sally Rippin’s Chinese-ink, linocut, and digital-media illustrations are exuberant and fluid, evoking mood and furthering the whimsical tone of this retelling. (Candlewick, 2013)
In Janet S. Wong’s This Next New Year, a spare narrative enhanced by Yangsook Choi’s festive, richly colored illustrations relates a Chinese-Korean boy’s reflection on what Chinese New Year means to him. By sweeping last year’s mistakes and bad luck out of the house, he hopes to make room for “a fresh start, my second chance.” Concepts of renewal, starting over, and luck will resonate with young readers in this imaginative appreciation of the emotional aspects of the holiday. (Farrar/Foster, 2000)
Natasha Yim’s entertaining Goldilocks takeoff Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas is set during the Chinese New Year celebration, when Goldy Luck takes a gift to her panda neighbors. Familiar incidents follow — featuring (rice) porridge, a broken chair, and a nap — all portrayed with zest in the illustrations by Grace Zong. In an ending that suits the setting, Goldy has second thoughts and returns to apologize. New Year facts and a turnip cake recipe are included. (Charlesbridge, 2014)
For Taiwanese-American Pacy, sorting out her ethnic identity is important, and she wonders what she should be when she grows up. Writing and illustrating a book for a national contest makes her think that perhaps she can become an author of a “real Chinese person book.” In The Year of the Dog, author/illustrator Grace Lin offers both authentic Taiwanese-American and universal childhood experiences, told from a genuine child perspective. (Little, Brown, 2006)
SequelThe Year of the Rat brings major change for Pacy, as her best friend moves away. Pacy also starts doubting her resolution to become a writer/illustrator. Lin deftly handles Pacy’s dilemmas and internal struggles with sensitivity and tenderness, keeping a hopeful and childlike tone that will inspire empathy. Appealing line drawings appear throughout. (Little, Brown, 2008)
Artie brags to his tough cousin Petey about providing all the fireworks for Chinese New Year in The Star Maker. With time running out before the celebration, Artie’s uncle Chester makes a gracious sacrifice to help his nephew save face. The easy-to-follow story introduces readers to Chinese New Year traditions. Author Laurence Yep’s preface explains that the 1950s-set tale is based on his own childhood memories. (HarperCollins/Harper, 2011)
In Ying Chang Compestine’s alphabet book D Is for Dragon Dance, each letter is accompanied by one or two sentences very briefly introducing an aspect of the Chinese New Year celebration — I for incense, J for jade, K for kites. Chinese characters in various calligraphy styles make an eye-catching background for the attractive textured illustrations by YongSheng Xuan. An author’s note offers a few more facts as well as a dumpling recipe. (Holiday, 2006)
With colorful photographs and simple, informative text, Celebrate Chinese New Year by Carolyn Otto details the traditions and rituals of Chinese New Year, including travel, family, gifts, plentiful food, and decorations. The use of “we” throughout feels welcoming and inclusive. Appended are instructions for making a Chinese lantern, a recipe for fortune cookies, and information on the Chinese calendar. (National Geographic, 2008)
A suitable addition to any multicultural holiday collection, Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz’s collection Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities and Recipes includes folktales, recipes, and activities for celebrating Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming and the Cold Foods Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Accompanying the stories and activities are Meilo So’s stylized watercolors, some of which evoke the brushwork of Chinese calligraphy. (Harcourt/Gulliver, 2002)
Here Comes Valentine Cat
by Deborah Underwood; illus. by Claudia Rueda
Preschool Dial 88 pp.
12/16 978-0-525-42915-9 $16.99 g
Valentine’s Day has its haters, and Cat (Here Comes the Easter Cat, rev. 3/14, and sequels) is one of them. Cat can’t think of anyone to grace with a Valentine, and new neighbor Dog doesn’t seem a likely candidate, what with all the bones he annoyingly keeps lobbing over the fence. Using this series’ trademark format — offstage narrator addresses nonverbal Cat, who responds with humorous placards and body language — the book shows Cat’s escalating plans against Dog (starting, but not ending, with a few not-so-sweet Valentines), and then shows that Dog may not deserve such poor treatment. Rueda’s ink and colored-pencil illustrations, surrounded by white space, once again convey lots of information via Cat’s facial expressions and other simple cues. Young listeners should enjoy the simply delivered misunderstandings, as well as the opportunities to yell emphatically at the main character (“You can’t send Dog to the moon!”).
Explain that the Chinese dragon represents strength and goodness. The dragon appears at the end of the New Year parade to wish everyone peace, wealth, and good luck. Have students draw a picture of a Chinese dragon and describe the dragon in a paragraph. Instruct students to draw the dragon so it has the features of several creatures. Chinese dragons often have the scales of a fish, the beard of a goat, the claws of an eagle, and the body of a snake. For an excellent and more detailed lesson on drawing a Chinese dragon, check out the Art Institute of Chicago.
Provide students with construction paper, tissue paper, colored cotton balls, crayons, safety scissors, glue, and other art supplies to make their own lanterns, masks, flags, and other items for a Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. Several students may even wish to work together to make a lion or a dragon. Let students carry their creations and hold their own parade. You may wish to download some Chinese music to play during the festivities.
For the New Year, Chinese children are given red envelopes with brand-new money inside. Make a solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar and 1/4 cup salt in a nonmetal bowl. Let students drop pennies into the solution, wait a few minutes, then remove and dry the coins with a paper towel. Students will have shiny “new” pennies to wrap in red paper and give as gifts to their friends and families.
The Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar as opposed to the solar calendar. Have students investigate the two calendars and compare them using a Venn diagram. Why does the Chinese New Year fall on a different date each year?
Encourage students to describe a New Year’s celebration that they spent with their families. What kind of activities took place? How did they celebrate?
Have students write an original story about a holiday they celebrate.
Many video clips of Chinese Lunar New Year parades are available online. One example is from the History Channel. If possible, let students view one or more of these to see a real parade. Have students describe the excitement, preparation, and festivities of the parade.
Teach students about the history of Chinese Americans. When did they first immigrate to the United States? What were the reasons they left their homeland? In which cities did they settle? What were the origins of Chinatowns? What challenges did Chinese people and Chinese Americans face in the United States? One place to learn more is the timeline of Chinese in America from the Museum of Chinese in America.
Have students locate China on a map or globe and tell students that China is one of the largest countries in the world. Have students mark the capital of China, as well as their location in the United States. On what continent is China? Which countries border China? What are some major rivers in China? What seas and ocean border China?
Students may enjoy learning how to write the Chinese characters for the numerals 1 through 10. Here are the characters for 1 through 10 from the BBC for students.
Write the Mandarin numbers, their pronunciations, and their numerical equivalents on the whiteboard. Have students practice saying the number words until they are familiar with their pronunciations and meanings. Then give students simple math problems to solve using these number words. For extra challenge, encourage students to write a simple math problem in Chinese and share with their peers to try.
SPOTLIGHT: The Magical Monkey King: Mischief in HeavenThis is an adaption perfect for elementary schools of one of China’s favorite classics, Journey to the West. This Monkey is arrogant, bold, clever, and hilarious.Every child in China grows up listening to stories of the irrepressible Monkey King. Join Monkey as he wins his title as King of the Monkeys, studies with a great sage to learn the secrets of immortality, and even takes on the job as a royal gardener in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Chinatown AdventureA young Chinese American girl is spending the day in Chinatown with her mother. With so many interesting things to buy, how will she spend her money?
Sam and the Lucky MoneySam can hardly wait to go shopping with his mom. It’s Chinese New Year’s day and his grandparents have given him the traditional gift of lucky money. Yet, Sam discovers that sometimes the best gifts come from the heart.
The Day the Dragon DancedSugar and her Grandma are going to the Chinese New Year’s Day parade, but Grandma is skeptical about New Year’s in February and scary dragons.
The Dragon Lover and Other Chinese ProverbsThese proverbs are used in everyday Chinese life to illustrate moments of humor or clarity in our actions. Each of the five stories collected here feature animals that help readers shed light on the truths of human nature.
The Monster in the MudballWhen Jin’s little brother is kidnapped by the monster Zilombo, Jin teams up with Chief Inspector of Ancient Artifacts Mizz Z on the streets of England to find him and defeat the monster.
The Wishing TreeEvery Lunar New Year, Ming and his grandmother visited the Wishing Tree. Grandmother warned him to wish carefully, and sure enough, Ming’s wishes always seemed to come true. But one year—when Ming made the most important wish of his life—the tree let him down.
(Download the full book list and activities as a PDF here).
Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Specialist, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language for second through sixth grade in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in the Bay Area, CA as a Teach for America corps member where she became passionate about best practices for supporting English Language Learners and parent engagement. In her column for Lee & Low’s The Open Book blog, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
A few reminders for Martin Luther King Day today. As always, the 1956 Martin Luther King “Montgomery Story” Comic Book is available free to download and read in this link. March Book One and Book Two by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell continues the story of the fight for civil rights via […]
We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the 3rd Monday of January by honoring the life and legacy of the man who brought hope and healing to America. Here are some resources you may find helpful in talking about this great man’s life and contributions with young children.
I Have a Dream,by Martin Luther King, Jr. and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. This book is a powerful way to share Dr. King's famous speech at the March on Washington. Kadir Nelson's paintings are not only a moving tribute, they provide a way for children to reflect on the meaning of King's words. A CD is included with a recording of Dr. King's speech.
Martin’s Big Words, by Dorreen Rappaport, illustrated by Brian Collier. This picture book biography is an excellent way to introduce children to Dr. King's life and work. I love the way Rappaport weaves quotes from Dr. King throughout the story, giving readers a real sense of the power of his words.
Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. When Dr. King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington, he asked gospel singer Mahalia Jackson to sing for the crowd, to lift their spirits, to inspire them with her voice. This picture book tells the story of both Martin and Mahalia, as they each found their passions and their voices. Part picture book biography, part story of a historic moment--this is an evocative picture book.
We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song, by Debbie Levy, illusrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. The song "We Shall Overcome" became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, but it has gone on to represent the fight for equality and freedom around the world. This picture book tells the history of the song, from its beginnings in America's harsh times of slavery through gospel songs of the early 20th century, to the protest movements of the 1960s.
Websites and online resources:
The King Center is both a traditional memorial and an active nonprofit committed to the causes for which Dr. King lived and died. Browse the digital archives; have students reflect on quotes.
Time for Kids: One Dream -- 17 people remember the March on Washington. Time for Kids has an excellent mini-site dedicated to honoring Dr. King's work and legacy. I particularly like the One Dream video, with reflections of people including Representative John Lewis, Clarence Jones (speechwriter for Dr. King), Joan Baez and many others.
As our communities struggle with the impact of racism near and far, it is important that we take time in our families and in our classrooms to reflect on Dr. King's message. I am inspired by the work of the artists and authors who share that message through their own work. And I am inspired by the thoughts my students have shared this week as they reflect on their hopes and dreams for a more just, more peaceful, more equitable society.
The review copies came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
Like Caudill's story, "Silver Packages" takes place in Appalachia. A rich man shows gratitude to the people who helped him in his time of need by tossing silver wrapped packages from the caboose of a train that wends its way through the mountains right before Christmas. A boy yearns for one particular toy. He never receives it. The presents he does open each Christmas morning are things he needs to stay warm and healthy. And one day he returns to the mountains to repay that debt.
It was a good choice for read/telling out loud. If you get a chance, look for these books at your library. Read "For Being Good" from "Children of Christmas".
I am so sorry. I have no idea what happened, which is what happens when you take time off and don’t check in. I had a post to go up at midnight on the 1st, but it never posted. I just love technology, as long as I don’t get complacent. Here is the post you …
Merry Christmas from everyone at the Beat to all of you. Wishing you a peaceful, happy holiday and all the presents you asked for. If you seeking something to do between presents and turkey here are a few diversions, including a holiday greeting from Luke Cage and Danny Rand via Sanford Green. You know I […]
From Weasley sweaters to Invisibility cloaks. From the Great Hall and its 12 towering Christmas trees to the cozy kitchens of Number 12 Grimmauld Place and the Burrow. There are many reasons and ways that make Christmas truly magical throughout the Harry Potter series.
Harry spent most of his Christmases at Hogwarts–playing wizards chess with Ron (and getting destroyed, literally) or dancing the night away with two left-feet at the Yule Ball during his fourth year, at the Twiwizard Tournament.
Christmas is also a time to gather with loved ones: friends and family. Harry became an adoptive son to the Weasleys, and he got his first real Christmas gifts from Mrs. Weasley (a yearly Christmas sweater–one with his first initial, one with a Hungarian Horntail on it, one with with a Gryffindor lion). Sirius made a grand entrance into his grandson’s life, by anonymously gifting Harry his Firebolt in his third year. Sirius was later abel to host Christmas in Harry’s 5th year, with all of Harry’s family: Lupin, Tonks, the Weasleys, and Hermione.
Pottermore is also celebrating Christmas, and its importance in real life and the Wizarding World. They have put together a beautiful hi-res hi-def Pottermore “Moments” 2016 calendar, available for Muggles and No-Maj alike to download here.
Christmas is a time for love and joy, a grand celebration with friends and family. Even with our/your Dursley-like relatives (though, we hope none of you are gifted a tooth pick or a single tissue). From all of us to all of you, we wish you and yours very happy, merry, and safe Christmas!
Going to see The Nutcracker ballet is a special holiday tradition for many families. These two picture books celebrate the classic story in different ways: a beautiful retelling and a look at how this ballet came to be a holiday tradition.
Set in Victorian times, this large picture book version of the Nutcracker is a beautiful, lush introduction to the story and the ballet. Jeffer's illustrations bring alive a sense of wonder and enchantment, with their romantic, detail-rich scenes.
"'Come,' said the Prince. They walked through falling snowflakes to a waiting boat that flew them through the night."
Jeffers captures the story with just a few lines of text per page, allowing children to savor the illustrations as the ballet comes to life in their imaginations.
When the three Christensen brothers learned ballet, they not only fell in love with dance, they also loved the show-stopping way it entranced audiences. Fast forward to 1940s when the brothers were in charge of the San Francisco Ballet, searching for a big production that would draw in crowds and they staged the first American full-length production of what was soon to become an American tradition.
"After the closing number 'Waltz of the Flowers,' two hundred or so dance students and young musicians got a standing ovation from the crowd. Willam would remember that response."
This well-researched history helps children see that what we love as classics today were actually the result of hard work and inspiration by real people.
The review copies came from our home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.
It's December 29th and most of you are on holiday or traveling around or sitting at your desk counting the minutes until you can leave. I'm in the middle group—traveling— and for those of you in the latter group, today were just posting some fine reading. The provenance of some of these is, um, hazy, but no judgements. Just entertainment!
Black Santa's Revenge from David F Walker on Vimeo. If you’re in the mood for something a little more cheeky for your holiday viewing, here’s a short film warrant and directed by David F. Walker, writer of Cyborg and Shaft. Black Santa’s Revenge stars Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead) as a Santa of the […]
It's becoming a tradition like plum pudding and A Christmas Story: Kate Beaton's annual comics about her family from her trip home for Christmas. I'm not sure how they're tagged but if you click around her Tumblr you'll see them all. Kate's family is no more odd or endearing than anyone's and that what's make these so universal. IF these don't give you that fuzzy holiday feeling, nothing will.