Category Archives: Holidays and Celebrations

Recommended books and activities for holidays and celebrations throughout the year.

Happy Birthday, Duke Kahanamoku!

Today is the birthday of Duke Kahanamoku, the first Hawaiian ever to swim in the Olympics. He was born on August 24, 1890 in Honolulu and was an incredible swimmer with a passion for surfboarding. By the end of his twenty-year Olympic career, he was a six-time medal winner! He also introduced the art of surfing to Australia and the east and west coasts of the United States. You can read more about Duke in Surfer of the Century: The Life of Duke Kahanamoku by Ellie Crowe and illustrated by Richard Waldrep.

Continue reading

Where can you see Bill Traylor’s artwork?

Traylor drawing
Bill Traylor draws on a street corner in a scene from “It Jes’ Happened”

Bill Traylor’s story is the stuff of legend: he was born into slavery in Alabama, lived most of his life as a sharecropper, and started drawing at the age of eighty-five, while living homeless in Montgomery, Alabama. His drawings once decorated a street corner; now he’s known as one of America’s most important folk artists.

You can learn more about Traylor’s life story in our picture book biography, It Jes’ Happened, but there’s nothing like seeing Traylor’s artwork in person. Most of it is concentrated at a few museums in the southeast, but luckily, right now there’s a traveling exhibition making its way around the US with over 60 of Traylor’s works. The paintings, borrowed from permanent collections at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, represent some of the best examples of Traylor’s unique folk art style. Here’s where the exhibit will be:

Continue reading

Bryce Moore’s Guide to Slovakia, Part II

guest bloggerIn this guest post by Vodník author Bryce Moore, Bryce continues to share his favorite things to see, do, and eat when visiting Slovakia.

What to See

In my last post, I gave a rundown of some of Slovakia’s best castles. But Slovakia’s more than just castles:

Bratislava is the capital of the country. It’s a gorgeous old city, and it’s only 45 minutes away from Vienna–they make excellent cities to tour together. Bratislava has much of the same refined culture that you see in Vienna, but it’s at a fraction of the price. (I once went to the state opera and got box seats for $4. Prices have gone up significantly since then, or course.) Check out the markets in the old square, where craftsmen from around the area come together each day to sell their wares. Great stuff.

Tatra Mountains, Slovakia
Tatra Mountains, Slovakia

Banska Stiavnica is a fascinating old mining city. It’s a drive to get there, but once you arrive, you find a city that’s essentially been left alone for the last few hundred years. (One of the tragedies of many places in Slovakia is that Communists made it a point to tear down or change a lot of the historical landmarks. Banska Stiavnica must not have been deemed important enough to warrant Communist attention.) It’s got mines that are over 700 years old, a series of reservoirs, fantastic old churches–and some of the steepest hills I’ve walked up and down. Bring your hiking shoes! (And make sure to check out the Chateau in St. Anton, a town right next to the city. It’s honestly better than any of the attractions I went to in Vienna. Much more authentic—it really gives you a sense of how the Hapsburgs lived.

Continue reading

Three Great Books to Celebrate the Olympics

It’s Olympics time! Have you all been glued to your televisions and various electronic devices for the last 5 days? Or, conversely, have you been dodging your televisions and electronic devices, trying to avoid spoilers?

Either way, the Olympics are one of my favorite things. And while it’s tons of fun rooting for all the current big names (Michael Phelps! Kerri Walsh! Gabby Douglas!) it’s also worth spending a few minutes remembering some great Olympic athletes from the past who paved the way. Here are three to start with:

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds1. Sammy Lee (Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds): Diver Sammy Lee was born on August 1, 1920 in Fresno, California. Growing up, Sammy was barred from the public pool six out of seven days of the week because he was not white; despite that, Lee became a world-class diver and at the 1948 Olympic Games in London, became the first Asian American to win a gold medal. There’s a great picture of Sammy Lee, now 91, in this now-and-then piece on athletes from the last London Olympics.

Continue reading

What does Ramadan celebrate?

from Sharing Our Homeland
from Sharing Our Homeland

Today marks the first day of Ramadan, a month-long celebration for Muslims around the world. Ramadan occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and is a time for prayer, fasting, and self-reflection. According to Islamic tradition, Ramadan is when Allah, God, revealed the first verses of the Qu’ran, the holy book, to the prophet Muhammed.

Continue reading

One More Sensational Summer Read Aloud!

For the last installment in our series on Sensational Summer Read Alouds, literacy expert Jaclyn DeForge shares one final title that has a high student-interest level, can be used to hit multiple Common Core learning standards, and is super rich in terms of content, just like A Full Moon is Rising and Silent Star.

Balarama: A Royal ElephantToday’s Pick: Balarama: A Royal Elephant

Continue reading

Why Do You Love Ferris Bueller’s Day Off?

Ferris Bueller coverFor those of you who didn’t know, Cat Girl’s Day Off takes place on the set of a remake of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Since its release in 1986, this movie has achieved the status of cult classic and become the source of countless pop culture references and movie quotes (Bueller? Bueller?)

For me, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off evokes fond images of playing hooky in sunny Chicago, adventures you could only have with your best friends, and the loveable Ferris himself. I would love to be Ferris
Bueller!! But what exactly is it about the movie that makes it an all-time favorite?

Cat Girl's Day Off CoverAuthor Kimberly Pauley tells us her top five reasons why she chose the film to tie in to Cat Girl’s Day Off:

Continue reading

What Are Your Top 3 Beach Reads?

In celebration of July 4th and all of summer’s fun activities, I asked a few Lee & Low authors and staff members what their favorite beach reads are. I’m sure it was difficult to pick just three, but here’s what they came up with:

Don Tate, author of It Jes’ Happened, says: “Reading here has been slow lately. But here’s what’s tops on my summer reading list, books written by friends and critique partners in my local writing community.”

  1. Laugh With The Moon by Shana Burg
  2. Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith
  3. Think Big by Liz Garton Scanlon

 Jaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, explains why she made her choices:During the summer, despite my best intentions, I seldom actually make it to the beach, so here are my favorite travel-centric reads that help me imagine I’m on vacation.”

  1. A Sense of Direction:  Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful by Gideon Lewis-Krauss
  2. Continue reading

Happy First Day of Summer!

Image from Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Que Rico!

Continue reading

Happy LGBT Pride Month!

June is LGBT Pride Month, and throughout this month people everywhere (including President Obama) have been celebrating the positive impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people have had in the world. The fight for LGBT rights has always been a matter of civil rights and equality, as our publisher noted in a recent post, and it’s nice that we live in an era when that’s acknowledged by so many people.

Continue reading