May 25 – National Photography Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pictures-from-our-vacation

About the Holiday

Established in 1987 by the United States Congress to commemorate the importance of photos to present and future generations, National Photography Month encourages photographers to really look at their subjects and become more intentional about making photos that will be meaningful in the future. Once you’ve taken your pictures, don’t just leave them on your phone, in the cloud, or on your hard drive. Print them and document the place, people, and time of each picture for future generations.

Pictures from Our Vacation

By Lynne Rae Perkins

 

Just before a family leaves on vacation, a girl and her brother each receive a Polaroid camera and a notebook from their mom so they can document their trip. The first picture the little girl takes is of her feet by mistake. During the two-day trip to the old farm where their dad grew up, the kids play with games from the activity bag and look out the window at the passing landscape. Her second photo taken through the car window reveals “there was not anything to look at out there,” although she does see an orange truck labeled “Yellow” and a motel with a red roof. 

She thinks that if she owned a motel it would be called the Blue Motel, and she begins to imagine in detail the accommodations she would offer. In the Jungle Cottage people would sleep in hammocks and shower under a waterfall. In the Sun Cottage, the bed would glow like the sun but turn off for sleeping. The floor of the Flower Garden Cottage would be real grass, and she thinks up many more.

Her reveries last until the family begins searching for a real motel. They stop at the Shangri-La, which advertises POOL, but as the girl’s photograph shows, “it didn’t have water in it.”

When the family reaches the farm, Dad sees happy memories everywhere. They find an old badminton set with warped racquets (shaped like potato chips, the girl says in her picture’s caption) and begin to play. But one minute into the game the rain comes down. It rains for days and the family spends the time playing cards, reading, and drawing.

After the rain stops, Dad takes the family to a hidden swimming spot. They forge their way through the now-overgrown secret path only to find a KEEP OUT sign and a guard dog.  They backtrack to the car and drive around and around, having trouble finding the lake. They stop at a park, where the girl takes a picture of hills that were built in ancient times to look like a snake from the air and one of a leftover Chinese food container where a squirrel was eating before it ran away.

At last they find the lake and run out to the end of the dock. But a boy warns them of an impending storm. Suddenly, the storm breaks and as the family shelters in the dock gazebo, the girl learns that tomorrow they are attending a memorial service. The next day the old farmhouse fills up with relatives who have traveled there for a memorial service for Great-aunt Charlotte.

At the service family members tell stories about Charlotte’s brave escapades and afterward the whole crew go back to the farmhouse to spend a several days. They eat dinner and tell more stories, and the cousins play. They roll down the hill, climb trees, and explore. That night as the kids sleep upstairs, murmurs of continued conversation float up through the grate. After a few days, the families disperse and only the girl and her brother and parents stay behind, but the memories and feeling of the full house remain.

Finally the girl’s family leaves too, and as they drive home she looks at the pictures she has taken. “‘These don’t remind me much of our vacation,’” she says. She snaps one last picture as they pass a row of huge electrical towers along the highway. When she looks at the photograph, however, the towers don’t look like the giant robots she imagined. She realizes that “it’s hard to take a picture of a story someone tells, or what it feels like when you’re rolling down a hill or falling asleep in a house full of cousins and uncles and aunts. There are a lot of things like that. But those kinds of pictures I can keep in my mind.”

Lynn Rae Perkins’ paean to formative old-fashioned vacations in which extended family members gathered to pass on history and traditions through stories told around the picnic table is a welcome reminder in this digital age that some “pictures” are better stored in one’s memory than on a device. Perkins’ choices of details seen on the two-day road trip, the incessant rain, and the changed landscape that lead to wrong directions are just the kinds of childhood events that often stick in a person’s memory for life. The story is charmingly told from a child’s point of view with realistic dialogue and a tone of heartfelt nostaligia.

Perkins’ realistic drawings of the family are homey and evocative. The kids lounge in the backseat of the car while the little girl conjures up the décor of her Blue Motel; the old house and fields of the family farm are rendered in warm golds and greens with humor and comfort; and you can almost hear the shouts and laughter of the family members gathered on the lawn at the reunion. This is a vacation kids will love to take.

Ages 4 – 8

Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins, 2007 | ISBN 978-0060850975

National Photography Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frame

Fantastic Frame!

 

Your photographs show your unique personality, why shouldn’t the frame you put them in? Today, you can make a frame that perfectly suits your décor or snapshot!

Supplies

  • Cardboard or bare wood frame, available at craft stores
  • Stickers
  • Buttons
  • Jewels
  • Beads
  • Glue
  • Paint in your favorite color
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint the frame (optional), let dry
  2. Attach stickers, beads, buttons, or other objects
  3. Fill with your favorite picture

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