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Due to the COVID surge, it looks like our winter holidays will be a one-household affair this year. So let’s celebrate by making art and music at home. After reading these new performing-artist biographies, families can create their own holiday magic.
The Show Must Go On
In Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin by Tracy Newman, young readers encounter a child who wanted to play the violin at age three, but had his life interrupted by a disease that didn’t have a cure (although a polio vaccine was finally developed years later). At age five, he was able to play music again and perform for others—like young musicians can do at home this holiday season with cell phones and webcams.
How to Build an Orchestra by Mary Auld was created in association with the London Symphony Orchestra and its conductor, Simon Rattle. In this fictionalized story, readers see how Simon builds an orchestra by selecting music and auditioning musicians who play different instruments. Families can build their own orchestra by making instruments from recycled materials and playing favorite songs.
After reading Una niña llamada Rosita, Anika Aldamuy Denise’s story of a girl who came to the U.S. from Puerto Rico and grew up to be Hollywood actress Rita Moreno, families can hold a sing-off battle like Rita did in her role as Anita in West Side Story. Family members can sing from opposite sides of the room or sing to another branch of the family using Zoom.
Lady Gaga: Making a Difference as a Musician by Katie Kawa shares the story of a girl who was bullied as a kid and grew up to sing and support others in their struggles. Young readers can do the same by performing holiday songs for neighbors at a safe social distance and helping others in need this holiday season.
Tell Me a Story
Little Audrey’s Daydream: The Life of Audrey Hepburn by Hepburn’s son and daughter-in-law, Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Karin Hepburn Ferrer, tells a story of a child hiding in the basement as bombs fell during WWII. Her daydreams while stuck at home not going to school foreshadow what her life would be like later as a dancer and an actor in better times. Young readers can make a mini-book of their own daydreams of better times.
Hello, Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers by Matthew Cordell is the only authorized picture-book biography of this sensitive creator of children’s TV programming, who encouraged children to talk about their feelings. After reading this book together, families can make a simple stick puppet theater with a small box, scissors, craft sticks, paper, markers, and glue.
With rhyming couplets, Carole Boston Weatherford’s picture book biography RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, tells the story of a singer who grew up in church and became an icon. Inspired by her life, readers can change the song lyrics like she did and write their own song.
Hello, Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers. By Matthew Cordell. Illus. by the author. 2020. 40p. Holiday/Neal Porter (9780823446186). Gr. 1–3. 791.4502.
How to Build an Orchestra. By Mary Auld. Illus. by Elisa Paganelli. 2020. 48p. Interlink/Crocodile (9781623718718). Gr. 1–4.
Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved the Violin. By Tracy Newman. Illus. by Abigail Halpin. 2020. 40p. Abrams (9781419741104). Gr. 1–4. 787.2092.
Lady Gaga: Making a Difference as a Musician. By Katie Kawa. 2020. 24p. Greenhaven/KidHaven (9781534534780). Gr. 3–5. 782.42164092.
Little Audrey’s Daydream: The Life of Audrey Hepburn. By Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Karin Hepburn Ferrer. Illus. by Dominique Corbasson and François Avril. 2020. 56p. Princeton Architectural (9781616899912). Gr. 1–3. 920.
Una niña llamada Rosita. By Anika Aldamuy Denise. Illus. by Leo Espinosa. 2020. 40p. Harper (9781400212224). K–Gr. 2. 791.43.
RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. By Carole Boston Weatherford. Illus. by Frank Morrison. 2020. 48p. Atheneum (9781534452282). K–Gr. 2. 782.421.
Anastasia Suen reads, edits, and writes books for all ages from her makerspace at home in Northern California. She has been teaching children’s book writing workshops since 1999, writing for Booklist since 2004, and managing the Carnival of Children’s Literature since 2010. Follow her on Twitter at @AnastasiaSuen.
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