October 25 – International Artist Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2004 by Chris MacClure, a Canadian artist who specializes in Romantic Realism, National Artist Day celebrates the various forms of art, the artist, and the unique vision each one brings to their work and the world. Whether you like classic or abstract styles, watercolors or oils, sculpture or installations, why not take some time today to visit an art museum or gallery—or page through a collection of prints or a biography like today’s book!

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art

Written by Barb Rosenstock | Illustrated by Mary GrandPré

 

As a Russian child Vasya Kandinsky spends his days absorbed in learning math, science, and history. He takes piano lessons and attends formal dinners where the adults drone on and on. His life is polite, stiff, and colorless until the day his aunt gives him a small wooden paint box. “Every proper Russian boy should appreciate art,” Vasya’s aunt tells him while explaining how to mix colors.

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Image copyright Mary Grandpré, text copyright Barb Rosenstock. Courtesy of randomhouse.com

Vasya takes up the brush and combines red with yellow then red with blue. As the colors change to orange and purple, Vasya hears a whisper that grows into a noisy hiss. “‘What is that sound?’” he asks, but no one else hears anything. “The swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a magical symphony,” and “Vasya painted the sound of the colors.” A lemon yellow “clinked like the highest notes on the keyboard; a navy blue “vibrated deeply like the lowest cello strings.” Crimsons “blared” and greens “burbled.”

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Image copyright Mary Grandpré, text copyright Barb Rosenstock. Courtesy of randomhouse.com

Vasya runs downstairs to show his family what he has created. His mother, father, and Auntie look at the canvas with its swoops, shapes, and angles. “What is it supposed to be?” they ask, and send him off to art school to learn how “to draw houses and flowers—just like everyone else.” Vasya finishes school and becomes a lawyer. He leaves his paint box untouched and lives the way he is expected, but the sounds of the colors are always with him.

One evening as he listens to an opera, the music surrounds him with color—“stomping lines of vermilion and coral; caroling triangles in pistachio and garnet; thundering arches of aqua and ebony…” Vasya can hear the colors and see the music. He knows then what he must do. He quits his job teaching law and moves to Germany to be a painter. He surrounds himself with artists and takes classes with famous teachers, and yet people still look at his canvases and asked, “What is it supposed to be?”

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Image copyright Mary Grandpré, text copyright Barb Rosenstock. Courtesy of randomhouse.com

Once again he paints what is expected. His teachers love his houses and flowers, but Vasya does not. His friends understand. They too want to expand the meaning of art. They agree with Vasya when he says, “‘Art should make you feel.’” In his studio Vasya continues to paint the sounds he hears, to give music color and color sound. Bravely, he invites the public to view his paintings, which are named after musical terms—Composition, Accompaniment, Fugue, and more.

This is a new kind of art—abstract art—and it takes a long time before people understand. They look and still ask, “What is it supposed to be?” “It is my art,” Kandinsky replies “How does it make you feel?” 

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Image copyright Mary Grandpré, courtesy of randomhouse.com

An author’s note telling more about Kandinsky’s life and synesthesia, a genetic condition in which one sense triggers another, follows the story.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Kandinsky is one of my favorite artists, so I was excited to read this biography—I was not disappointed! With so many great artists, their work speaks for itself, but viewers wonder: How did it come about? What influenced the artist? Barb Rosenstock, with lyrical language and beautifully chosen descriptions, reveals the emotions and passion that fueled Kandinsky’s art from his earliest ages: as he walks through Moscow he can’t ignore “the canary-colored mailbox whistling as he rode to work. The scarlet sunset haze ringing above the ancient Kremlin walls.” Rosenstock’s inclusion of the conflicts and opposition Kandinsky faced and overcame will inspire children to listen to their inner voice and makes readers and lovers of his abstract art glad he never gave up.

Mary GrandPré’s unique style brilliantly depicts Kandinsky’s singular vision, allowing readers to experience the way he wielded his paint brush like a conductor’s baton. Vasya’s early life is painted in muted blues and grays, and the boredom on his face as he studies his schoolwork is obvious. Kids will appreciate his one-finger plinking at the piano and the rolled-eyed drowsiness of the formal dinner. Once Vasya is introduced to the paint box, however, GrandPré’s illustrations become vibrant, with swirling colors overlaid with the musical notes that Kandinsky associated with them. His uninhibited painting is gloriously shown as the young boy’s shirt comes untucked and the colors burst from the canvas upon his first painting.

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Image copyright Mary Grandpré, text copyright Barb Rosenstock. Courtesy of randomhouse.com

As the adults look at his work, the room is again swathed in somber colors. The text revealing that Vasya attended regular art classes to learn to draw houses and flowers is set above a single wilting flower in a vase. The personal tug-of-war Kandinsky experienced even into adulthood is wonderfully rendered: Colors flow into his ears at the opera; he studies his own landscape and still life paintings with misgiving in a hazy studio, and the joy and freedom of his abstract art is demonstrated with wild abandon while a dove escapes its cage. The final image of a child sitting in front of a Kandinsky painting reinforces the idea that his art lives for all and for all time.

Ages 4 – 9

Alfred Knopf, Random House Children’s Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-0307978486

International Artists Day Activity

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I Love Art! Word Search 

 

There are twenty-five art-related words for everyone to love in this printable I Love Art! word search puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

July 22 – National Hammock Day

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About the Holiday

Holidays don’t get more leisurely than this one! Perhaps invented by the Ancient Greeks, perhaps created by people in South America according to Christopher Columbus’s journals, hammocks are the epitome of relaxation. What better time is there to kick back and lounge than during the hot, hazy days of July? So enjoy—and read a book, like today’s collection of poetry!

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

Selected by Paul B. Janeczko | Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

 

Firefly July is perfect for lazy summer days when light, but still meaningful reading enjoyed in a hammock or under a shady tree is relaxation at its best. Paul B. Janeczko has collected 36 short (none are over eight lines long) poems from some of the best poets of today and yesterday. Haiku, free form, and rhyming verses illuminate the seasons of the year and encapsulate unforgettable sights, sounds, and feelings.

A girl’s spring’s respite spent gazing into the bay from shore is depicted in Lillian Morrison’s The Island:

“Wrinkled stone / like an elephant’s skin / on which young birches are treading.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of amazon.com

A nighttime train trip provides mystery and ongoing changes in Carl Sandburg’s Window:

“Night from a railroad car window / Is a great, dark, soft thing / Broken across with slashes of light.”

Joyce Sidman’s A Happy Meeting likens a summer rain to romance and life:

“Rain meets dust: / soft, cinnamon kisses. / Quick noisy courtship, / then marriage: mud.”

At the seashore, beach birds are industrious in April Halprin Wayland’s Sandpipers:

“Sandpipers run with / their needle beaks digging—they’re / hemming the ocean.”

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Image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of amazon.com

Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser ask such a beguiling question for autumn:

“What is it the wind has lost / that she keeps looking for / under each leaf?”

And the rising giants of city life inspired Susan Nichols Pulsifer in Tall City:

“Here houses rise so straight and tall / That I am not surprised at all / To see them simply walk away / Into the clouds—this misty day.”

Along the way readers will encounter a pickup truck loaded with old rotary fans and another rusting in a field; fog that decorates and creeps; animals and insects that share our space; our past, our present, and our future. And when it’s time to close the book, Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser reveal:

“A welcome mat of moonlight / on the floor. Wipe your feet / before getting into bed.”

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image copyright Melissa Sweet, courtesy of melissasweet.net

I can only wish I’d been able to visit Melissa Sweet’s studio while she created the illustrations for this book! Each painting is as unique in style, beauty, and emotional effect as the poems they interpret. Her renditions of each poem help readers—especially children unfamiliar with metaphor and abstract imaging—to fully understand and appreciate each poem while also leaving room for personal reflection.

The first thing that strikes a reader when opening Firefly July is the gorgeous juxtaposition and mixture of vibrant color. Her illustrations take readers on a journey from an aqua farm house with a patchwork garden to a serene elephantine rock island to the deep turquoise ocean traversed by ships while the full moon beams down upon them. Readers ride crowded subways, gaze out moving train windows, and visit cities bright in daylight and glowing at night. They frolic through fields of delicate grasses and vibrant flowers, quietly walk snowy paths, and take their place among the stars.

Firefly July is as stunning as any coffee table book and is a must for a young reader’s—or any poetry lover’s—library.

Ages 4 and up

Candlewick Press, 2014 | ISBN 978-0763648428

Take a look at more books and artwork by Melissa Sweet on her website!

National Hammock Day Activity

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Lazy Days Coloring Page

 

Coloring can be so relaxing—perfect for a day dedicated to kicking back! Color this printable Lazy Days Coloring Page and dream of lounging beside the lake, with the gentle breeze gently rocking the hammock, while you drift off to sleee….zzzz…..

July 17 – National Tattoo Day

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About the Holiday

As an emerging holiday, National Tattoo Day gives us an opportunity to learn about and appreciate this very personal form of art. As the Smithsonian reports, tattoos have been found on human remains dating to Ancient Egypt and is believed to have been designed for therapeutic reasons similar to acupuncture. Body art has long been associated with soldiers and sailors, seeing a surge in popularity during the American Civil War, with the establishment of modern tattoo artists, and World War II. Today people of all ages and cultures embrace body art as a way of self-expression, and as today’s book shows, each tattoo tells its own story.

Tell Me a Tattoo Story

Written by Alison McGhee | Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

 

A little boy tugs on his dad’s T-shirt, wanting to see his tattoos—again. His dad sits down with his son and patiently goes through them, like the pages of a favorite book. In fact, the tattoo on his shoulder—a dragon flying above mountain peaks—is from the book his mom read to him in childhood. “Did she read it to him over and over and over? She sure did,” he says.

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk

The elaborate design on the dad’s wrist reads “Be Kind,” advice his father used to give him. An intricate depiction of a carnival, complete with a Ferris wheel, fireworks, and flowers reminds him “of the day I met a pretty girl.” His son asks what made the girl so pretty, and his dad responds, “That’s a good question, little man. I’d have to say it was her smile.” In answer to his son’s wondering if he has ever met this girl, Dad looks at his wife and says, “You sure have.”

The tattoo picturing a globe and monument that covers the dad’s right side is from “the longest trip I ever took.” He reminisce—Did I miss home while I was there?”—and confesses, “I sure did.”  The last tattoo the little boy asks about is a small heart festooned with a banner that reads “7● 22 Two Thousand Twelve.” Father and son engage in banter that is most likely familiar to them both, with the boy asking the questions he already knows the answers to but loves to hear again and again: “Those numbers inside it? Just somebody’s birthday, I guess. Whose birthday? / Oh some little man I know, is all. / What do you mean, this one’s your favorite? This dinky little heart?” Then leaning in to learn a secret, the boy rediscovers that that tattoo is his dad’s favorite too.

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk

Alison McGhee’s Tell Me a Tattoo Story is such a sweet, original homage to the love between father and son. The use of body art to reveal not only seminal events in the dad’s life but the trajectory of his child’s birth is inspired. The minimal text highlights the deep emotion, giving the boy in the story as well as young readers the information they are really looking for. The soft-spoken dad is such an appealing character—emotionally available, honest, and offering just the right tone of humorous repartee—for today’s family dynamic.

Beautifully rendering McGhee’s text into art, Eliza Wheeler creates a homey atmosphere that emphasizes the theme of the book while creating tattoos that are immediately accessible to children. The dragon tattoo could come from The Hobbit or Harry Potter, kids will recognize the fun and excitement represented by the Ferris wheel, and the little heart is simplicity at its finest. While the pages depicting the dad’s tattoos are minimally hued, the father’s reminiscences burst with color and details—providing an overall feeling of warmth and affection. The image of the dad in his military uniform over the hot, golden sands on “the longest trip he ever took” will bring a tear to your eye.

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Image copyright Eliza Wheeler, courtesy of abramsandchronicle.co.uk

The originality of the story and gorgeous illustrations make Tell Me a Tattoo Story a must for children’s bookshelves and will become an often-asked-for read during quiet story times or for bedtime.

Ages Birth – 6

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452119373

To discover more books for children and adults by Alison McGhee, visit her website!

View Eliza Wheeler’s portfolio and other books on her website!

National Tattoo Day Activity

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Design Your Own Tattoo

 

Tattoos can be simple or elaborate, but they are always personal. They tell a story, commemorate an event, or reveal an emotion. What would your tattoo look like? Design your own body art on this printable Design Your Own Tattoo Template!

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You can find Tell Me a Tattoo Story at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

June 8 – National Best Friends Day

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About the Holiday

What would we do without our best friends? They’re the ones we go on adventures with, laugh with, commiserate with, even cry with. And no matter what, we know they’ll always be there for us. Best friends can be people we’ve known all our lives or ones we’ve just met; they can live far away or in our own home. Best friends don’t even have to be people—beloved pets or favorite toys are sometimes just what we need. Today is the perfect time to celebrate your best buddy. Get together with them, call, or text. Relive some favorite memories or make some new ones!

Painting Pepette

Written by Linda Ravin Lodding | Illustrated by Claire Fletcher

 

If you peek in the great room window of the grand yellow house at #9 Rue Laffette in Paris, you will most likely see cuddled on the comfortable seat Josette Bobette and her beloved stuffed rabbit Pepette. It’s their favorite place. Looking past them you will see that the great room is filled with fine art. On the walls hang portraits of the family—Josette’s mother is there as well as grand-mère and grand-père, the three Bobette sisters, and even their schnoodle Frizette.

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“One day Josette noticed something strange. There was no portrait of Pepette!” Josette determines to find an artist to paint a special portrait of her best friend. The pair heads out to Montmartre, where the all the best artists set up their easels to paint and sell their work. It doesn’t take long for a man in a striped shirt to stop them.

“‘Those ears!’” he cries. “‘Never have I seen such majestic ears. I must paint this rabbit’s portrait!’” Pepette blushes at such an effusive compliment, and Josette exclaims, “‘Magnifique!’” It appears Josette has found just the artist to create Pepette’s portrait. The painter waves his brush with a flourish, declares his painting a “masterpiece,” and holds it up for inspection. Josette gazes at a Pepette with two noses and three ears. Diplomatically, she proclaims the picture “nice” but not quite Pepette. Her best friend agrees.

Just then a man with a thin, curved handlebar mustache spies the pair. Admiring Pepette’s whiskers, the artist begs to capture “the very essence of her rabbitness!” He immediately sets to work, and in no time a most unusual portrait emerges. Pepette seems to melt from a tall red wall. Josette considers it and her reaction carefully. “‘It’s imaginative,’” she says. “‘But you’ve painted Pepette quite, well, droopy.’” Pepette agrees.

As Josette and Pepette enjoy a Parisian snack on the curb of Montmartre, a rakish young man happens along. He is arrested by Pepette’s nose, which he likens “‘a faint star twinkling in a misty, velvet night.’” Josette has a good feeling about this artist and follows him across the square to his easel. Pepette poses on a red tufted stool as the artist paints a rabbit soaring through the clouds. He proclaims the finished portrait “‘one of my best works’” as he displays it to the crowd. Josette likes the clouds but tells the painter that Pepette is afraid of heights and not fond of flying. Pepette agrees.

By now Pepette is the most sought-after model in Paris, and another artist rushes up, captivated by her beauty. The balding man in a dapper suit and round spectacles peers at Pepette. “‘What a colorful lady—balloon blue, pansy pink, and radish red!’” A little suspicious of his vision, Josette allows him to paint Pepette. “‘Ta da!’” the man exclaims, revealing the magic of his brush. Josette studies the canvas with its vibrant dots, dashes, and splashes. While she admires the colors, she reminds the artist that Pepette isn’t pink.

“‘Ah, yes,’” nods the painter. “‘But through art we can see the world any way we want.’”

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With the sun setting low in the sky, Josette politely says thank-you and goodbye to the artists. She and Pepette have enjoyed their day, but it’s time to go home. Curled up once more on the window seat, Josette sighs. She had so hoped to have the perfect portrait of Pepette—one that showed her velvety grey listening ears, her heart-shaped nose, and her soft arms that give tight hugs. Suddenly, Josette has an idea! Gathering all her art supplies, she creates the perfect likeness—as special as Pepette herself!

An author’s note on the last page describes the creative atmosphere of 1920s Paris, home to writers, artists, musicians, and fashion designers, that gives a frame to her story. The artists that Josette meets are inspired by Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Marc Chagall, and Henri Matisse.

In Painting Pepette Linda Ravin Lodding has written a multi-layered story of love, friendship, and unique vision. Through the sweet relationship between Josette and Pepette and with a sprinkling of humorous self-congratulation on the part of the artists, Lodding nudges readers to appreciate that while art can reveal and obscure, reflect and transcend reality, ultimately the success of a piece—complex or simple—lies within the viewer’s heart. Lodding’s lyrical language trips off the tongue and is a joy to read—it’s like following Josette as she skips happily through Paris.

Claire Fletcher’s striking pen and ink illustrations pay delicate homage to cityscapes of a bygone Paris. Adorable Josette in her white pinafore over red-dotted dress, red shoes, and big red bow along with her enchanting rabbit are the perfect tour guides through crowded Montmartre and an introduction of art history. Soft tones of yellow, rose, and green illuminate the apartments and cafes of the square where colorful shoppers and artists mingle. Fletcher’s renderings of Pepette’s various portraits will not only make kids giggle, but entice them to learn more about each artistic style. The final endpapers reveal that the four fine-art portraits now hang in the Muse of Paris, while readers already know that Josette’s perfectly perfect portrait of her well-loved friend has taken its rightful place on the wall in the Bobette great room!

Painting Pepette is a beautiful addition to any child’s bookshelf and a lovely way for teachers to initiate a discussion of art history and get kids excited about artists and different art styles.

Ages 4 – 9

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801361

Follow Josette through Paris as she searches for just the right artist to paint a portrait of her best friend Pepette and comes to a surprising discovery in this beautiful trailer:

Discover more books by author Linda Ravin Lodding on her website.

Illustrator Clair Fletcher invites you to find more of her artwork by visiting her online gallery.

Best Friends Day Activities

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Painting Pepette Reading and Activity Guide

 

little bee books has created an interactive activity so you can continue exploring Josette’s world and your own artistic talent! Just click here—Painting Pepette Reading and Activity Guide—to start having fun!

Stuck on You Magnets or Picture Hanger

 

Best friends stick together whether they’re near or far, right? Here’s a fun craft that you and your friends can make to show how magnetic personalities attract each other! If your best friend or friends are far away, why not make them one too? Or make the alternate picture hanger! Be creative—use inside jokes, favorite characters, or shared experiences to make these  crafts personal!

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For Magnets

Supplies

  • To get you started, here are two printable Best Friends Templates! Template 1 Template 2
  • Poster board
  • Large, 1 ½-inch clear glass stones (decorative fillers), available in craft stores
  • Markers or colored pencils OR find images online to print out
  • Medium to large flexible magnets, available in craft stores
  • Super glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Scissors

Directions

  • Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  • Draw your design in the circle on the poster board
  • Cut out the circle
  • With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the design side of the circle
  • Attach the circle to the flat side of the stone, let dry
  • Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  • Attach the magnet to the back of the cardboard with glue

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For Map Picture Holder

Supplies

  • Use a mapping program to find a map of your town and your friend’s town
  • Poster board
  • Large, 1 ½-inch clear glass stones (decorative fillers), available in craft stores
  • Twine
  • Super Glue
  • Toothpicks
  • Scissors
  • Heavy duty mounting squares

Directions

  1. Find maps of your and your friend’s towns
  2. Zoom in so the name of your and your friend’s towns are displayed well. You will be using about a 1-inch area around the towns’ names.
  3. Take a screen shot of the maps
  4. Print the maps
  5. Place the glass stone on the map and trace around it
  6. Place the glass stone on the poster board and trace around it
  7. Cut out the circles on the map and poster board
  8. With the toothpick, glue the map to the poster board, let dry
  9. With the toothpick, apply glue around the very edge of the map side of the circle
  10. Attach the circle to the flat side of the glass stone, let dry
  11. Trim the cardboard circle if needed
  12. Repeat with the other map
  13. Attach a length of twine to the back of each glass stone
  14. Attach heavy duty mounting squares to the back of each glass stone
  15. Attach stones to the wall and hang pictures on the twine