And our February pick is...
The Together Tree by Aisha Saeed, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
February Pick -- The Together Tree
Join us as we see the power that every bystander --no matter how small-- has to extend kindness and stand up in the face of intolerance. At his new school, quiet Rumi feels small and unwelcome, and a few kids bully him for being different and wearing bright shoes. He finds refuge beneath the old willow tree by the playground and builds his own world of hope and dreams of belonging. One day, when Rumi is made a target again, one of his classmates bravely steps in to defend him. It's in that moment of solidarity Rumi's class finally realizes that under the shade of the willow tree, all are welcome, and they create a space where they can all play in--together.
Aisha Saeed is an award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of books for children. Her books, including the middle grade novel Amal Unbound, the young adult novel Yes No Maybe So (co-written with Becky Albertalli), and the anthology Once Upon an Eid (co-edited with S.K. Ali) received multiple starred reviews. Amal Unbound was selected as a Global Read Aloud for 2018 and was the winner of the South Asian book award. Her picture book, Bilal Cooks Daal received an APALA honor. Aisha is also a founding member of the nonprofit We Need Diverse Books™. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her family. Aisha has written so many beautiful stories but, Grounded, a middle grade novel (cowritten with Huda Al-Marashi, Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, and S. K. Ali) is one of our favorite books to read & donate in our Little Free Libraries!
LeUyen Pham has illustrated more than fifty (!!!) books, including board books, picture books, chapter books, and graphic novels. Her work has been recognized with numerous honors, including the Society of Illustrators Los Angeles Bronze Medal in the Children’s Book category, and Best Books of the Year lists in publications such as Kirkus Reviews, The Horn Book Magazine, and Comic Book Resources. Born in Vietnam, LeUyen came to the United States at the end of the Vietnam War when she was only two. She studied illustration at The Art Center College of Design, and for a short period of time worked at DreamWorks Animation as a layout artist before turning to illustration full time. She lives with her husband (who is also an artist) and two sons in Los Angeles. We just recently read Outside, Inside which is about people living in the pandemic & our kid's loved it. Visit her online at LeUyenPham.com.
Below you will find our monthly craft; printable activity sheets; and our community outreach activity where we will be leaving small kindness reminders throughout our community. For more books to read this month, don't forget to check out our friendship book list:
We really hope you enjoy this month of book club as we try to keep our nationwide book club free & accessible for all. Each book is intentionally handpicked with each activity and outreach curated to engage and enrich our youth's experiences. Through these diverse and inclusive reads, working and playing together, and giving back to their own community, we hope to instill empathy, understanding, & kindness in our kids. If you didn't receive a copy of the book, don't fret. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a virtual storytime reading of The Together Tree, read by our co-founder, Kara Cecchi.
Let's Craft: cardboard friendship hearts
The Together Tree displays acts that unfortunately happen everyday in schools, on playgrounds, on the bus -- acts of bullying. We want to make sure that kids understand that bullying is not okay AND feel comfortable standing up for themselves & others in the face of injustices. We also want to make sure that they feel safe enough to speak with an adult -- a parent, a guardian, a teacher, a bus driver, a chaperone, a monitor, an aunt or uncle -- about anything. We sadly see bullying everyday online, but it is our duty to help raise a generation of anti bullies. There are so many ways we can teach our kids to be brave and kind, and to say no to bullying. It's very important while reading this story & crafting with kids that we create that safe space to talk about bullying & their experiences. We have noticed that children tend to open up more in spaces with their peers, a safe adult, & a craft busying their hands.
Light cardboard (think cereal boxes, granola bar boxes)
With this craft, you can modify based on developmental level OR based on what skills you are working towards. We are working on our fine motor skills & grasp with painting. Some children may need thicker-handled paintbrushes to optimize an appropriate grasp pattern. If you are working towards bilateral coordination (using both hands together) and visual motor/perceptual skills, you can have the child cut out their own cardboard heart. However, they may need some assistance in cutting as we are using cardboard. Have them work on cutting the straight lines, making sure they use both hands (one to hold scissors, one to hold & turn the cardboard), while an adult helps with curves. If they are unable to draw their own hearts, have them trace a cardboard template. That way they are still working on the craft independently, with minimal assistance.
Easy: Pre-cut & glue cardboard heart on cardboard square. Allow child to paint freely. May need assistance.
Moderate: Allow child to draw own cardboard heart independently or with a cardboard tracer. May need assistance cutting. All child to paint freely.
Hard: Allow child to create independently -- drawing heart, cutting heart, & painting freely.
1. Gather materials. Pre-cut cardboard to create ~5in square/rectangles.
2. Allow child to draw heart on cardboard square.
3. Cut the heart out. Child may need assistance depending on developmental level.
5. Paint the heart first.
6. Paint the background square/rectangle.
7. Allow to dry. Display or gift to a friend!
Remember: After you are done reading the book (if you received a copy from us!) & making your crafts, please have your kids sign the library card located in the front of the book (first names only!). Let's bring back a little bit of fun from our childhood. Also, please donate your book to your local public library, to your school library, or to a little free library in your area so more kids can enjoy a new diverse & inclusive read.
printable activity sheets:
We have created a few printable activity sheets to go along with our theme of kindness & anti-bullying. Below you will find a packet with -- a sheet to color the willow leaves (just like the one Asher gives Rumi when he apologizes & the one Rumi invites Asher to play with) & write/have an adult write a few kind things you have done for yourself & others; an anti-bully pledge written by The Ever Co (see more about them below) with a color your own badge; & a kindness word search with the answers on the following page. Click below to download & print!
The Ever Co was created by husband & wife duo Blake & Amy Hawthorne! They have an incredible online shop that has turned into a beautiful community. Amy has created Anti-Bully Club pins (we just bought some to wear to our meetups!) & developed the anti-bully pledge. They have a nonprofit organization Mission 31 which raises $310 for chosen families with military ties, suffering from the heartbreaking loss of a child or walking the painful journey with a child diagnosed with a serious illness. They also accept family nominations for families tied to the military going through difficult and trying times. Additionally, Mission 31 donates to families and organizations who are making an impact locally or globally, doing good deeds to make the world a more beautiful, inclusive, and loving place. They select a new family /org each month to gift $310. This project is in honor of Quinley Tyree, their first Mission 31 recipient and is dedicated to LTC (Ret) James Lee Farris, Amy's father who passed away on September 25th 2017, just three months shy of The Ever Co launch. Mission 31 allows their legacies to live on forever. To date, The Ever Co has donated over $58,000 to families and organizations in their local community. To support Mission 31, you can purchase any of The Ever Co's printables!
Community Outreach: Spreading Kindness
This month, we are spreading kindness! There are a few ways that you can do this collectively. We want to be a sign of hope, of affirmation, of positivity with this outreach. The goal is to have each child write an affirmation or something they believe someone may need to hear. For example, our 5yo really believed that someone out there needs to know that they are loved, more than pizza. Then take those words & spread them throughout your local community. You can put them in your neighbors mailboxes. You can hang them on a community board in a local coffee shop. You can ask to put them in the post office by the mailboxes. You can put them up in your local library near checkout. Just make sure you ask the establishment prior to placing. Leave extra blank ones to encourage community members to take what they need & to write their own. You never know who may need that word of encouragement, that affirmation, that positive thought. There is power in words. Let's teach our kid's the importance of empathy, of understanding, of uplifting those around us.
Now, you can make watercolor hearts like we did -- you can watercolor an entire sheet of watercolor paper & cut out hearts. You can use sticky notes with some washi tape. You can hang them on a stick in a vase (see below). You can stick them on an already existing community board. You can create a small board using an old frame, taking the glass out, & sticking the notes to the exposed backing. I think we may do this in our local coffee shop meetups.
Note: You can also take to spreading cheer outside with chalk on sidewalks, with sticks & drawings in the snow or dirt, with painted stones, with a donation to a local Little Free Library, by paying for the person behind you, any act of kindness you can do to make someone smile.
Please do not skip this activity. We truly believe this outreach activity is a vital part of childhood & an opportunity to raise kind kids. Teaching our youth the importance of helping others, especially someone they may not know or someone they may not know is suffering is a vital life skill. One that can help create more empathetic, accepting kids who understand that power of their words, the power of their actions. To raise anti-bullies. To raise those willing to stand up when witnessing an injustice. To raise those who will help change our world for the better.
YAY! Another MOSS Kids Book Club pick, craft, printable sheet, and community outreach activity. We would love to see when you receive your books and all the beautiful hearts your kids create. You do not need to share kid's faces. Please be sure to tag us on Instagram @mosskidsbooks & use #mosskidsbookclub. Sharing about MOSS Kids Book Club is a way for your community to learn more about what MOSS Kids has to offer & for them to know where they can find the book you're donating. By doing so, we can reach & help more kids across the country. We'd also love to hear any feedback you may have, please email us at email@example.com. We appreciate you all so much for taking the initiative to bring kids together to read diverse books & hopefully learn vital life skills to help make our world a better place.
did you miss out on a chance at the book this month & want to sign up for next month?
All you need to do is fill out the google doc below & you'll be entered to win next month's book. TEN lucky winners will receive a copy for their book club to read together that month & then donate to their local school library, public library, or a little free library in their area!
Don't Forget: We Have Local moss kids book club locations in eastern north Carolina!!
Saturday, 2/10: MOSS Kids Book Club at Books and Beans in Rocky Mount at 10am
Sunday, 2/25: MOSS Kids Book Club at Larema Coffee House in Rocky Mount at 2pm
Monday, 2/26: MOSS Kids Book Club at Wilson County Public Library in Wilson at 430pm
we're currently working on transitioning our Tarboro location to their local library!
Other February events:
Thursday, 2/15: Picture Books on Tap: an adult picture book club at Larema Beverage at Rocky Mount Mills at 7pm
Saturday, 2/24: Storytime & Stand at Golden Organic Farm at 2839 Bynum Farm RD, Pinetops at 10am-12pm