December 17 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with Art

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m featuring another interactive book that will get young readers excited about learning more about art—or in this case—architecture. A great book can help kids find role models from the past or today that they can connect with philosophically and creatively. A book that touches on, validates, and encourages a child’s talent or dream is a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright

By Patricia Geis

 

Artists can be endlessly fascinating not only for their work but for their lives, which influence where they get their ideas, how they create each piece, and what made them an artist in the first place. In Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright, readers get an opportunity to discover the backstory, the influences, the three architectural rules, the clients, and, of course, the buildings of this master architect, whose mother predicted his profession before he was even born and “surrounded his crib with drawings of cathedrals.” This deep dive into Frank Lloyd Wright’s life is accomplished not only through text, but with little fold-outs that are themselves illustrated booklets, 3D popups, illustrated panels that extent the pages, tabs, a portfolio of postcards, and more.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

But let’s get started! Young readers may wonder what Frank was like as a kid. Learning that his grandfather, Richard Lloyd Jones, a Welsh milliner who made “‘black cone-shaped hats that ended in a point, worn as much by witches when they flew on their broomsticks as by other Welshmen,” will only whet their appetite to know more, and they won’t be disappointed. In addition to the text that briefly outlines Wright’s ancestry and earliest work experiences and defines what an architect is, a child asks a few questions.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first speech bubble asks, “How was he as a kid?” Readers open it up to see a photograph of Frank at age 10 accompanying a description of the books he read, the activities he and his best friend did, the newspaper he created, and even why “he called himself Aladdin” for a while. Readers next meet him at 16 in a photo of his very large extended family, and they also get to see his Uncle James’ house where he spent eight summers working on the farm. The exterior photo of the house Wright made for his family. Two other speech bubbles introduce children to the house Wright designed and built for his family and a discussion of his favorite color, complete with full-color photographs.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

No artist is created in a vacuum, so author Patricia Geis includes a discussion of Friedrich Froebel, the creator of kindergarten and designer of twenty games that engaged children in geometry, creating dimensional shapes, building, and crafts and were influential in Wright’s development as well as in that of many well-known “artists, philosophers, and architects who would invent the abstract language of modern art.” A popup on the page replicates one of Froebel’s games.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Wright’s father was also influential in his son’s education. He taught him to love music and “see the composer as a builder. For Wright, music and architecture were constructed by means of a system of units: the notes in music and the bricks in a house.” Just as notes are written on a staff, an architectural drawing is created on a grid. A detailed popup of Unity Temple built in 1908 in Oak Park, Illinois demonstrates how the building is positioned on a grid while a fold-out panel presents images of a floor plan, a cross section, a perspective drawing, and two photographs—one of the exterior and one of the interior of this beautiful temple.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Wright is well-known for setting his buildings in harmony with their surroundings. In her chapter “The Landscape,” Geis explains that Wright believed all buildings should adhere to “‘organic architecture,’” which meant they should “be in harmony with the landscape, respect the materials of construction, and respond to the need of the client.” She goes on to talk about Taliesin, the house, studio, and farm where he opened a school of architecture in 1932,, and Taliesin West in Arizona. These two landmarks are presented first with small framed photos (which cleverly mirror pictures on an art gallery wall) that open up to show how the buildings blend in with the environment and second with foldouts that include interior and exterior photographs as well as accompanying text.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Fallingwater, built in 1936, is one of Wright’s most famous designs, and with the pull of a tab, readers can transform the waterfall that hosts this house into the showstopper it became. More photographs and text present Wright’s philosophy about the house and land as well as the level of detail that went into building it—even to his choice to paint “the upper part the same color as the underside of a rhododendron leaf.”

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

“Wright believed that every house should fit its inhabitants, like a made-to-measure suit.” To see just how he accomplished creating one-of-a-kind houses, readers can flip through a portfolio of five postcards, each of which presents a color photograph of the exterior of the house on the front and a description and interior photographs on the back. Visitors to the Guggenheim Museum in New York have experienced how Wright brought “the forms of nature to the city.” Shaped with the spiral of a snail’s shell, the museum showcases the art collection of Solomon r. Guggenheim, who bought “the works of such avant-garde artists as Kandinsky, Klee, Picasso, and Mondrian. Perhaps Wright’s connection with some of these artists through their common adoption of Froebel’s games early in their development is one reason the museum and the art work so well together.

A natural teacher, Wright would no doubt invite readers of this book to do some architectural exploration of their own, and so Geis has included sheets of card stock blocks, shapes, cubes to build, and other elements as well as a grid for children to play with.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Patricia Geis is an engaging and compelling tour guide on this absorbing survey of Frank Lloyd Wright’s life that spanned from 1867 to 1959 taking in Reconstruction, “the Industrial Revolution, the coming of electricity, two world wars, and the invention of television.” Her clear and straightforward storytelling draws readers in with intriguing details, information about his childhood, and sprinkled-in direct appeals for them to look closer at or notice something in the photographs. Geis does an excellent job of connecting Wright’s early influences to his later work and his architectural philosophies to his finished projects. Each two-page spread creates a chapter of sorts, making it easy for kids and adults to dip into the book as they wish or to read it all in one sitting. Charming illustrations of wanna-be architects on various pages invite kids along on this beautiful and beautifully done journey of discovery.

A stunning book that any child—or adult—would cherish, Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright is highly recommended for anyone interested in architecture or any of the arts. I would also encourage readers to check out the other books in this series, including Meet the Artist! books about Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Vincent van Gogh, and Leonardo da Vinci. If you are looking for a unique gift for a teacher or someone on your list, you can’t go wrong with this book.

Ages 7 – 12 and up

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616895938

You can learn more about Patricia Geis, her books, and her art here.

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You can find Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 16 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with Art

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About the Holiday

Discovering new books about a favorite subject or one that presents a topic in a new and interactive way is one of the joys of reading. Today and tomorrow, I am featuring two new books that engage kids in the study of art in interactive and exciting ways. Getting to see the world in unique and creative ways is one of the purposes of art, and these books get readers thinking about the whys and hows of some of the world’s influential artists.

Art this Way

By Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford

 

As children—who are naturally creative—know, art is not static but interactive and thought-producing. In Art This Way, author-artists Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford invite readers to “see like artists” by introducing them to twelve works of art in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. The eye-catching cover with a cut-out window that frames Carmen Herrera’s Black and White screen print—a black-and-white-striped optical illusion—that, as children discover when they open the cover, looks the same upside down.

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Copyright Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

One photograph of Marisol’s sculpture Women and Dog—in which “each of the women is a self-portrait of the artist—can’t fully represent this piece, so readers are presented with three. These fold-out images allow children to “walk around” the sculpture to see the intriguing (and humorous) back and get an up-close view of one of the women’s head, which appears to be looking in all directions.

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Copyright Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Five screen prints from Andy Warhol’s portfolio Flowers demonstrate the impact of identical images of flowers rendered in different colors. Folding out the pages puts these paintings side-by-side so that kids can choose their favorite or discuss the differences. Sometimes art isn’t at eye level, but below our feet or above our heads. Two doors—one that opens down and one that opens up—reveal two such examples. A photograph by Helen Levitt of children creating chalk drawings on a sidewalk and a whimsical mobile by Alexander Calder will captivate readers.

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Copyright Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Lovers of comics and graphic novels will be drawn to the close-up and far-away views of an explosion by Roy Lichtenstein, which is composed of solid-color blasts and rays amidst clouds of red and blue dots. Cindy Sherman showed the personal side of art with photographs of “herself pretending to be different characters.” Kids get to try out their own artistic side with the mirror that beckons them to “look in” and try on the round glasses for size. Finally, one of the wrapped objects that have made Christo well-known around the world awaits readers, enticing them to guess what might be inside.

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Copyright Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford, 2019. Courtesy of Phaidon.

Each of the works of art presented here have been well-chosen by Tamar Shopsin and Jason Fulford to encourage young readers to discover art not only in museums but all around them and to explore their own creativity. Each page invites readers to talk about the piece and to try their hand at using it to inspire a piece of their own.

A wonderful and fun way to introduce youngest readers to the joys of creativity, Art This Way makes a unique addition to home, classroom, and public library board book collections.

Ages 2 – 4

Phaidon, 2019 | ISBN 978-071487721

To find a portfolio of work by Tamara Shopsin and in collaboration with her husband Jason Fulford, visit her website.

Celebrating New Book Month with Art Activity

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Make Art from Found Objects

 

Each person finds inspiration in different things, places, and people. Today, try to create something new from the materials around you. Boxes, bottles, wire, magazines, cloth, wood, sponges—almost anything—can be transformed with some imagination. With those old socks, corks, flower pots, candle stubs, bits of ribbon, clementine crate, paint, glitter, beads, and more, you can make something useful, a decoration for your room, or even a gift for a friend!

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You can find Art This Way at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

July 25 – It’s World Watercolor Month

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About the Holiday

World Watercolor Month was begun in 2016 by Charlie O’Shields, the creator of Doodlewash®, a blog, and a social artist movement dedicated to promoting and connecting watercolor artists from all over the world. The holiday also raises awareness of the importance of art and creativity to the world. Everyone from amateurs to professionals are welcome to participate—and if you’ve never painted with watercolors before, now’s a great time to try!

It’s a month to inspire people to paint with watercolor (watercolour, aquarelle) while raising awareness for the importance of art and creativity in the world. And anyone can join the celebration from master watercolorists to artists just starting out with watercolor! If you want to find prompts to inspire your work and other ways to enjoy the month and take your love of watercolor painting into next month and beyond, visit Doodlewash.

Painting Pepette

Written by Linda Ravin Lodding | Illustrated by Claire Fletcher

 

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

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, 2016, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding, 2016. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

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

“‘Those ears!’” he cried. “‘Never have I seen such majestic ears. I must paint this rabbit’s portrait!’” Pepette blushed at such an effusive compliment, and Josette exclaimed, “‘Magnifique!’” It appeared that Josette had found just the artist to create Pepette’s portrait. The painter waved his brush with a flourish, “declared his painting a ‘masterpiece,’” and held it up for inspection. Josette gazed at a Pepette with two noses and three ears. Diplomatically, she proclaimed the picture “‘nice’” but not quite Pepette. Her best friend agreed.

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, 2016, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding, 2016. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Just then a man with a thin, curved handlebar mustache spied the pair. Admiring Pepette’s whiskers, the artist begged to capture “‘the very essence of her rabbitness!’” He immediately set to work, and in no time a most unusual portrait emerged. Pepette seemed to melt from atop a tall red wall. Josette considered it—and her reaction—carefully. “‘It’s imaginative,’” she said. “‘But you’ve painted Pepette quite, well, droopy.’” Pepette agreed.

As Josette and Pepette enjoyed a Parisian snack on the curb of Montmartre, a rakish young man happened along. He was arrested by Pepette’s nose, which he likened to “‘a faint star twinkling in a misty, velvet night.’” Josette had a good feeling about this artist and followed him across the square to his easel. Pepette posed on a red tufted stool as the artist painted a rabbit soaring through the clouds. He proclaimed the finished portrait “‘one of my best works’” as he displayed it to the crowd. Josette liked the clouds but told the painter that Pepette is afraid of heights and not fond of flying. Pepette agreed.

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, 2016, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding, 2016. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

By now Pepette was the most sought-after model in Paris, and another artist rushed up, captivated by her beauty. The balding man in a dapper suit and round spectacles peered at Pepette. “‘What a colorful lady—balloon blue, pansy pink, and radish red!’” Although a little suspicious of his vision, Josette allowed him to paint Pepette. “‘Ta da!’” the man exclaimed, revealing the magic of his brush. Josette studied the canvas with its vibrant dots, dashes, and splashes. While she admired the colors, she reminded the artist that Pepette isn’t pink. “‘Ah, yes,’” nodded the painter. “‘But through art we can see the world any way we want.’”

With the sun setting low in the sky, Josette politely said thank-you and goodbye to the artists. She and Pepette had enjoyed their day, but it was time to go home. Curled up once more on the window seat, Josette sighed. 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 had an idea! After gathering all of her art supplies, she created the perfect likeness—one as special as Pepette herself!

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Image copyright Claire Fletcher, 2016, text copyright Linda Ravin Lodding, 2016. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com

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 by the artists, Lodding nudges readers to appreciate that while art can reveal and obscure, reflect or transcend reality, ultimately the success of a piece—complex or simple—lies within the viewer’s heart. Children will also see that their creative endeavors, undertaken with love, are just as meaningful and appreciated as those of professional artists. Lodding’s lyrical language trips off the tongue and is a joy to read—as if readers are following Josette as she skips happily through Paris.

Claire Fletcher’s striking pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations pay delicate homage to cityscapes of a bygone Paris. Adorable Josette and her enchanting rabbit are the perfect tour guides through crowded Montmartre and this introduction to 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’s 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 Painting Pepette book 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.

National Watercolor Month Activities

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Painting Pepette Reading and Activity Guide

 

little bee books has created an interactive activity so you can continue to explore 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

 

Creativity is meant to be shared! Here’s an easy craft that you can make to give to your friends whether they live close by or far away. These magnets can used by themselves or to hold a picture-hanging wire. 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

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You can find Painting Pepette at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 29 – It’s National Inventor’s Month

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About the Holiday

Established in 1998 by the United Inventors Association of the USA, the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine, this month-long holiday celebrates the imagination and talent of individuals who dare to think differently and create new products, services, and ways of doing things that make a positive contribution to the world. To join in, enjoy your favorite new inventions, and if you harbor dreams of being an inventor—on a large or small scale—look for opportunities to share your ideas.

Just Like Rube Goldberg: The Incredible True Story of the Man Behind the Machines

Written by Sarah Aronson | Illustrated by Robert Neubecker

 

Famous inventors usually get that way by creating something new—something that people can’t live without, right? Well, it kind of was and wasn’t this way for Rube Goldberg—as you’ll see. Even as a very young boy, Rube Goldberg loved to draw. As a four-year-old he traced the cartoons in the newspaper and when he got older, he took art lessons. His dream was to be a cartoonist for a major newspaper.

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Image copyright Robert Neubecker, 2019, text Sarah Aronson, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Rube’s family was not so supportive, though. His father—who had moved to America from Germany so that his family could have a better life—believed his son would end up as a beggar if he pursued his art. So, Rube went to college and became an engineer for the Department of Water and Sewers in San Francisco—for six months. He gave up his good-paying job for a job as an errand boy at the San Francisco Chronicle at eight dollars a week. In between cleaning, emptying trash cans, and filing photographs, “Rube drew. And drew. And drew.”

Rube submitted his cartoons to the editor and most of the time they were rejected. When the editor “said yes, Rube sometimes got paid, but other times he just got out of the office tasks he didn’t like to do.” A year went by, and finally Rube was hired by the San Francisco Bulletin sports department, where he drew cartoons and wrote a column too. Then in 1906, the great earthquake hit San Francisco. Homes were lost, as were jobs. In the broken city, people couldn’t focus on their future or even feel hopeful. Rube “did the only thing he could do: He drew comics to cheer people up.”

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Image copyright Robert Neubecker, 2019, text Sarah Aronson, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Rube also decided to move to New York—the place he considered the “‘front row,’ the cartoon capital of the country.” For twelve days he showed his art to newspaper after newspaper and was finally hired by the New York Evening Mail as a cartoonist. “Right off the bat, Rube became a celebrity. People couldn’t wait to see what he had to say about all kinds of things.” He drew comics about sports, politics, and “the silliness of everyday life,” but the comics people loved the best were drawn by his alter ego, Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts. The professor was known for his intricately complex inventions that made even the simplest action a “surreal and ridiculous” multi-step wonder that often defied physics.

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Image copyright Robert Neubecker, 2019, text Sarah Aronson, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

He invented a machine that employed a carrot-eating goat, a ghost, an egg-laying chicken, an archer, a target with a mechanical hand, an upright-shooting canon, and dough that cooked in the smoke of the cannon as a cannonball shot through the middle of it. Turning off the light, might just require the pull of a cord, but in Professor Butts’ world, it also required a banana-laden fishing pole, a monkey bouncing on a balloon, a fan that turned a bicycle wheel, a jack-in-the-box, a bucket, a bowling ball, and seesaw. Perhaps one of the silliest was a contraption for cutting your own hair.

Of course, these gizmos weren’t designed to really work—only to make people “look closer. And question logic. And tickle the imagination.” At a time when new discoveries were being made all around, Rube Goldberg’s cartoons “challenged people to use the most amazing machine in the universe: the brain!” Do you have aspirations, thoughts, and dreams that seem out of the mainstream and wonder if this same kind of success is still possible? The answer is: “You bet it is.” So “figure out what you want” then work hard and “have a great time getting there…. Just like Rube Goldberg!”

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Image copyright Robert Neubecker, 2019, text Sarah Aronson, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

The book’s endpapers depict eight of Rube Goldberg’s original invention cartoons, and an Author’s Note following the text reveals more about Goldberg’s amazing life as a cartoonist, artist, and political observer. The awards he won and the children’s game inspired by his contraptions are also mentioned.

For Rube Goldberg fans, young inventors and artists, and anyone with a dream, Sarah Aronson’s story of this beloved cartoonist’s life is a fast-paced trip into the past and the fine tradition of lampoonery. Goldberg’s one-of-a-kind imagination and unstoppable confidence in his dream are on full display as he quits a lucrative job for the uncertainty of an artist’s life. His success and long career is a tribute not only to Goldberg himself, but to all the employers and consumers who recognize innovation and embrace it.

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Image copyright Robert Neubecker, 2019, text Sarah Aronson, 2019. Courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Robert Neubecker’s stylized and entertaining illustrations take inspiration from and honor Rube Goldberg while also transporting readers to the early 1900s. Kids will particularly enjoy the clever design that takes text through underground maze of the San Francisco Department of Water and Sewers and the busy newsroom—complete with carrier pigeon—where Goldberg found a home as a cartoonist. In two-page spreads, three of Goldberg’s cartoons are rendered in color, giving readers plenty to linger over and giggle at, and the final images are sure to spark a new appreciation for the imagination and its power.

Sure to create new fans of Rube Goldberg’s work, Just Like Rube Goldberg would be an exciting addition to home, school, and public libraries for all of those unique thinkers out there.

Ages 3 – 8

Beach Lane Books, 2019 | ISBN 978-1481476683

Discover more about Sarah Aronson and her books on her website.

To learn more about Robert Neubecker, his books, and his art on his website.

National Inventor’s Month Activity

CPB - Inventor's Tool Kit II (2)

Inventor’s Tool Kit

 

Every idea begins as a jumble of seemingly unrelated parts. Gathering whatever types of material inspires you and keeping it in a box ready to go when inspiration hits is a great way to support innovation and spark experimentation.

Supplies

  • Small parts organizer with drawers or compartments, available at hardware stores and craft stores
  • A variety of parts or craft materials that can be combined, built with, or built on
  • Some hardware ideas—pulleys, wheels, small to medium pieces of wood, wire, nuts, bolts, screws, hooks, knobs, hinges, recyclable materials
  • Some craft ideas—clay, beads, wooden pieces, sticks, paints, pipe cleaners, string, spools, buttons, glitter, scraps of material, recyclable materials

Directions

  1. Fill the organizer with the materials of your choice
  2. Let your imagination go to work! Build something cool, crazy, silly, useful—Amazing!

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You can find Just Like Rube Goldberg at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

May 1 – It’s Children’s Book Week & Interview with Jodi McKay

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About the Holiday

Children’s Book Week, a celebration of reading and books, turns 100 this year! Founded in 1919, this longest-running literacy initiative in the US, was a collaborative effort by Franklin K. Matthiews, the librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, Frederic G. Melcher, the editor of Publishers Weekly, and Anne Carroll Moore, the Superintendent of Children’s Works at the New York Public Library. In 1916, the American Booksellers Association and the American Library Association, in conjunction with the Boy Scouts, sponsored the first Good Book Week.

When the Children’s Book Council was established in 1944, they assumed responsibility of running this important initiative. The holiday is celebrated with special events in schools, libraries, bookstores, and communities across the country with the participation of authors, illustrators, publishers, librarians, teachers, and booksellers. This year the theme of the week is Read Now, Read Forever. To find out more about the week as well as activities to download and locations of events in your area, visit Every Child a Reader.

I received a copy of Pencil’s Perfect Picture from Albert Whitman & Company for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m thrilled to be partnering with Albert Whitman & Company in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Pencil’s Perfect Picture

Written by Jodi McKay | Illustrated by Juliana Motzko

 

Pencil loves his dad so much that he wants to do something special for him. He thinks about baking him a cupcake or giving him a bouquet of flowers, but then he hits on just the right thing. Pencil decides “I’ll draw him the greatest, the best, the most perfect picture he has ever seen!” But there’s a hitch, Pencil doesn’t really know what that is. He heads off to the Art School to find out.

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2019, text copyright Jodi McKay, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

He finds Brush doing a headstand in a paint can, and after Brush adds a golden swoop to a sunset painting, Pencil asks if that’s what makes the picture perfect. “Perfection?” Brush answers. “Pah! I paint for pleasure.” This answer doesn’t really help, so Pencil goes in search of Marker.

Marker shows Pencil all the fancy moves he uses when drawing. Pencil loves the action in Marker’s work and wonders if that’s what makes it perfect. Marker’s not that interested in perfection though, just in doing his best. Pencil then thinks he’ll go ask Pastel for her opinion. He finds Pastel practicing yoga before she creates. Then she faces her blank paper and in a few minutes has a picture that makes Pencil “feel happy.” Could this be the secret to perfection? Pastel says peace is her aim, but Pencil counters, “I don’t think I’ll find peace until I know how to draw a perfect picture” and walks off to find the crayons.

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2019, text copyright Jodi McKay, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

The little crayons have all been working hard on their drawings and are proud to show them off. Pencil thinks they’re all perfect and asks how they achieved it, but their teacher reveals that they just “draw because it’s fun.” Pencil’s still no wiser when he meets up with Chalk, but in describing his frustrations, Pencil has a brainstorm.

He hurries home to try a little bit of everything he’s learned. He stands back to take a look at his drawing just as his dad comes in. Pencil explains that he wanted to make a special drawing for him, but he’s just not sure it’s…. His dad studies the drawing and says, “Wow, this picture is PERFECT!” Pencil is excited and wants to know why. As they gaze at the drawing in which Pencil and his dad are smiling and have their arms around each other, Pencil’s dad says, “It’s perfect because YOU drew it for me.”

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Image copyright Juliana Motzko, 2019, text copyright Jodi McKay, 2019. Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company.

Jodi McKay so sweetly taps into the desire of little ones to show their parents, grandparents, or other caregivers how much they love them while including that lump-in-the-throat moment adults experience when it happens. Through Pencil’s unwavering determination to find the answer, kids are introduced to all their favorite drawing tools and lots of ways to look at art or any pursuit. Pencil’s enthusiasm is infectious and charming, and readers will be happy to take the journey with him. When Pencil puts his own spin on what he’s learned and creates the drawing for his dad, little ones will see that they too have great creative ideas. The reaction of Pencil’s dad is reassuring and teaches an important lesson about anything children pursue—that “perfection” is personal and in the eye of the beholder.

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Opening the cover of Pencil’s Perfect Picture is like stepping into a classroom full of color and joyful kids eager for fun. Juliana Motzko’s adorable Pencil with his stick arms and legs and expressive smile and eyebrows is just the kind of friend readers would love to spend time with. Cleverly, Motzko depicts the other drawing tools as other influences that children meet along their way in life—teachers, coaches, and classmates. Readers will love seeing all of the drawings these artists create and may even want to try drawing some of them themselves (in their own style, of course!). Every page will make kids and adults smile, and the final spreads in which Pencil and his dad stand with their arms around in real life and in the portrait make for the perfect ending.

Sprinkled with humor, Pencil’s Perfect Picture is an adorable and endearing read that would quickly become a favorite on home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 3 – 5

Albert Whitman & Company, 2019 | ISBN 978-0807564769

Discover more about Jodi McKay and her books on her website.

To learn more about Juliana Motzko, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Jodi McKay

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Jodi McKay lives in Michigan with her husband, son, and two furry friends. She is the PAL coordinator for SCBWI-MI, and is active in several online writing groups. She has two books published by Albert Whitman & Co., WHERE ARE THE WORDS? (2016) and PENCIL’S PERFECT PICTURE (May, 2019). Jodi is represented by Linda Epstein of Emerald City Literary Agency.

Today, I’m excited to chat with Jodi McKay about Pencil’s origin, how adults can help kids develop and keep their own style, and some of the best parts of book events.

What inspired you to write Pencil’s Perfect Picture?

I actually wrote Pencil’s Perfect Picture thinking that it would be a companion book to my first book, Where Are The Words? That story ends with the characters asking Pencil to draw them pictures for the story they just wrote. I figured book number two would show Pencil trying to draw pictures for them, but not just any pictures, they had to be perfect. That idea came from watching my son struggle with drawing something “just right.” He had developed a sense of perfection when it came to his art and that broke my heart a little. I realize that kids start to compare themselves to their peers or others as they grow up, but I didn’t want that to affect how he approached his creativity. I had to make sure the story addressed that idea of perfection especially when it comes to art. My editor suggested that I change who Pencil draws his picture for to include more of a family theme which I loved. It adds a layer of heart that is relatable to kids as they often draw pictures for their parents or loved ones.

I love the message of Pencil’s Perfect Picture. As you say, children seem to learn so quickly to compare their work and themselves to others. What are a couple of ways that adults can help them appreciate and embrace their unique view of the world.

Yes, agreed! I know it has to do with some developmental stage where the self becomes less important and peer opinions more important, but it’s imperative not to lose that sense of self. We have to celebrate our individuality, explore what makes us unique, and find ways to express ourselves with our imaginations. Parents have a special job when it comes to fostering all of that, and for me it really comes down to creating a judgement-free zone not just with art, but with all aspects of life. For the sake of time let’s stick with art here.

  • Provide your child with different types of art supplies: markers, crayons, paint, fabrics, clay, etc. Let them pick what they want to use and how they want to use it (watch where those small pieces go!).
  • When your child is finished, talk to him or her about what they made, how it made them feel, what is their favorite part about their art project. Keep it positive.
  • Remember, art is never wrong. Emphasize that to your child. It is awesome because they imagined it and brought it to life. No one else can make that same picture.
  • Consider creating with your child. I think kids love to see their parents use their imaginations so grab a marker or a crayon and draw together! Need a fun idea? Try to draw a perfect picture together.

Here’s what you will need:

  • Paper
  • Pencil, crayon, marker, whatever is fun to draw with

Instructions:

One person starts by drawing something simple, a shape, a line, etc. Take turns adding elements to the picture until you both decide it’s perfect. Enjoy your masterpiece!

Another wonderful aspect of your book is that you include so many different personalities in Brush, Marker, Pastel, and the Crayons. Which do you identify with most and why?

I really like this question! It’s taken me a minute to think about it and the one I have chosen is not an obvious answer if you know me. I think I’m most like Marker. I’m not particularly sporty or a fan of sweat bands, but I am organized like him. He’s a “First, Next, Last” kind of guy which is how I can be when it comes to tackling a project. Also, his motto, “Do your best” resonates with me.

When my son was young, he and his friends took to sharpening old pencils down to the eraser to see how small they could get them. We loved those cute nubbins! Your first book, the very clever Where Are the Words? also has a pencil character. Do you have a special place in your heart for pencils, a favorite pencil or a special memory involving pencils or writing instruments?

I know, it must seem like I have a thing for pencils, but I’m sorry to say that I don’t. I used to draw a ton with pencils, color and plain. Lots of doodles in the margins of notebooks, drawing pads full of patterns, cartoons, likenesses. I never write with pencils though, I use pens for the most part which makes one wonder why I didn’t include a pen in the story, right? I do have a favorite pen—it has a sloth on it, which makes me very happy.

On your website you mention that The Story of Ferdinand was your favorite book as a child. Me too! In fact, I just found a boxed edition for $3.00 at my wonderful local used book store and snapped it up. I really identified with Ferdinand, but there’s also so much sage advice in that book. What is about that book that made it a favorite for you?

There is so much to love about that book—the sense of calm I feel when I read it, the way pacing is used to create both tension and ease, the words Leaf chose that paint beautiful pictures (smelling flowers under a cork tree), and how Ferdinand stayed true to himself. LOVE it!

One fun part of being a children’s author must be visiting schools and holding other events. What do you like best about meeting your readers? Do you have any anecdote you’d like to share?

Yes! I love meeting readers and chatting with them about books—what they like, what they don’t like, and listening to their story ideas. It’s such a great feeling to see kids get excited about writing and reading, it makes me think that I’ve done my job as an author.

Some of my favorite moments happen when I see a young reader connect with the humor in my books. I love the laughs and the, “aha!” moment of understanding the joke. Some of my funnier experiences have happened during school visits. There’s always the question, “How old are you?” and the follow up comment, “My mom is that old!” or the looks I receive when the kids walk into the room and say, “That’s her!” and “She’s the author!” I’ve never seen myself as that person and hearing their whispers is funny to me. Of course, there are also sweet moments filled with hugs and thank you’s from the students.

What’s up next for you?

At the moment I am busy preparing for upcoming book-signing events as well as a few future events for the Michigan SCBWI members. Otherwise, I am still writing, writing, and writing some more. I have a couple of stories ready to send to my agent, one ready for submission to editors (fingers crossed!), and a bunch waiting for revisions or reworking.

What’s your favorite holiday?

Christmas all the way. I love the joy of the holiday, the shared excitement, the smells and sounds, and the colorful, glittery décor. It’s all about family, love, and giving. There’s not much better than that!

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Christmas definitely has inspired some stories (surprise!), however I was informed that holiday, Christmas specifically, stories are really hard to sell. I’m not giving up hope though, I will just need to find the right spin on a holiday theme and maybe it will become one of those few that are chosen.

Thanks so much Jodi! This was fun! I wish you all the best with Pencil’s Perfect Picture, Where Are the Words, and all of your future projects!

You can connect with Jodi on

Her website | Facebook | Twitter | You can email her at Jodi@JodiMcKayBooks.com

Pencil’s Perfect Picture Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Jodi McKay in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) signed copy of Pencil’s Perfect Picture, written by Jodi McKay | illustrated by Juliana Motzko

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from May 1 through May 7 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on May 8.

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts. 

Children’s Book Week Activities

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Pencil’s Draw Your Own Picture Page

 

Are you eager artist? Then Jodi McKay and Pencil have a treat for you—a page where you can create their own “perfect picture!” Download it here and get drawing!

Draw Your Own Picture Page

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Surprise Ferocious Beings Paper Project

 

Today, Jodi’s also sharing one of her favorite craft ideas courtesy of Janette Nyberg’s Craft Whack website. If you love to draw—and add an element of surprise to your work—you’ll love this clever idea! After your kids do this one, they’ll want to take a look at all of the fun ideas on this fantastic site!

Surprise Ferocious Beings Paper Project

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You can find Pencil’s Perfect Picture at these booksellers

Albert Whitman & Co. | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

February 25 – Museums Advocacy Day

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About the Holiday

Today is a day when we can show our museum curators and government representatives how much we value museums. Museums are vital parts of our communities and economy. Did you know that more than 850 million people visit American museums every year? This is more than the number of visitors to all major-league sporting events and theme parks combined. Museums across the country employ more than 726, 000 workers and contribute $50 billion to the economy. While museums enjoy overwhelming support among people, advocacy is needed to ensure that museums continue to receive funding and governmental protections so that they can continue to grow while  preserving and teaching about our history, culture, and scientific achievements. Show your support for museum funding by contacting your city and state representatives and by visiting and/or donating to your favorite museum!

The Museum

Written by Susan Verde | Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

 

A lanky young girl enters an art museum and goes right up to an abstract painting of sunlight yellow circles. She says, “When I see a work of art, something happens in my heart.” The painting makes her feel like dancing and leaping, and in front of a painting of a ballerina, the girl lifts up on her toes and raises her arms gracefully.

Van Gogh’s Starry Night makes her “all twirly-whirly” and she spins around like the painting’s swirling winds. She sees off-beat sculptures that inspire her to turn upside down and become a human work of art with bent legs and pointed toes. She sits face to face with The Thinker, contemplating “the whos and whats and wheres and whys.” A woman’s abstract face painted in blues makes her sad, while a plate of apples reminds her she’s hungry.

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Image copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2013, text copyright Susan Verde, 2013. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers.

The girl skips past a wall lined with paintings of flowers, mirrors The Scream, and makes “silly faces at a guy” by Picasso. Paintings of squiggles make her burst out in giggles. But then she sees a wall-sized painting that makes her stop and stare. The canvas is completely blank. She looks long and hard, then shuts her eyes and says, “I start to see things / in my head, / yellow, blue, then green / and red, / circles, lines, all kinds of shapes, / faces, flowers, and landscapes.” The idea of a world that’s hers to fill anyway she wants leaves her elated, and as she walks out the door at the end of the day, the girl is happy and content because, she says, “The museum lives inside of me.”

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Image copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2013, text copyright Susan Verde, 2013. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Through one girl’s trip to a museum Susan Verde celebrates the emotions and dreams that experiencing art can stimulate in visitors. Her jaunty rhymes and conversational rhythm create an atmosphere of active participation for her happy museum-goer as well as for readers, leading them to the realization that not only a canvas, but their life itself, is a unique work of art.

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Image copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2013, text copyright Susan Verde, 2013. Courtesy of Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Peter H. Reynolds’ fluid, uninhibited line drawings are ideally suited to Verde’s inspirational story. As the girl flits, twirls, and skips from gallery to gallery and mimics the paintings and sculpture she sees, readers’ imaginations will also take off, remembering art that they’ve seen and conjuring up some of their own. Reproductions of famous works of art give younger kids a chance to learn about some pieces of world art and allows older children the opportunity to show their knowledge.

A smart and stylish tribute to art museums, the feelings expressed in The Museum are also fitting for any child who finds inspiration in a museum of history, natural science, science, or any discipline. The book makes a beautiful gift, a stirring addition to home bookshelves, and a terrific book to pair with museum trips, art classes, and inspirational story times in any classroom.

Ages 5 – 7 (and up)

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013 | ISBN 978-1419705946

Discover more about Susan Verde and her books on her website.

To learn more about Peter H. Reynolds and view a gallery of his books and art, visit his website

Museums Advocacy Day Activity

CPB - Cookie Jar Museum (2)

Create a Museum Exhibit

 

Every item has a story. Is there a funny anecdote behind that knick-knack on the shelf? Does your favorite serving dish hold sentimental value? A fun and educational way for kids to learn family stories and interact with their own history is to create a museum exhibit of objects in your home.

For teachers this can be a fun classroom activity that incorporates writing, art, and speaking, and categorizing skills. Students can use objects in the classroom or bring items from home to set up museum exhibits. This activity can be done as a whole-class project or by smaller groups, who then present their exhibit to the rest of the class.

Supplies

  • A number of household or classroom items
  • Paper or index cards
  • Markers
  • A table, shelf, or other area for display

Directions

  1. To get started have children gather a number of items from around the house to be the subjects of their exhibit. An exhibit can have a theme, such as Grandma’s China or Travel Souvenirs, or it can contain random items of your child’s choice, such as toys, plants, tools, even the furniture they see and use every day.
  2. Using the paper or cards and markers, children can create labels for their exhibit items. Older children will be able to write the labels themselves; younger children may need adult help.
  3. Spend a little time relating the story behind each object: where it came from, how long you’ve had it, when and how it was used in the past, and include any funny or touching memories attached to the item. Or let your child’s imagination run free, and let them create histories for the objects.
  4. When the labels are finished, arrange the items on a table, shelf, or in a room, and let your child lead family members or classmates on a tour. You can even share the exhibit with family and friends on social media.
  5. If extended family members live in your area, this is a wonderful way for your child to interact with them and learn about their heritage.

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You can find The Museum at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 31 – Inspire Your Heart with Art Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrating art is always a great thing! Today we champion that feeling you get inside when you create or experience art—no matter what kind is your favorite. Paintings, books, music, sculpture, quilts, photography, and other arts show you a bit of the world in a new way—a way, perhaps, you’ve never thought of before. Art can inspire, gladden, sadden, anger, teach, and compel action. It can also provide joy and inspiration when you need it most—as you’ll see in today’s book. Celebrate today’s holiday by visiting a museum, bookstore, library, concert, or gallery.

The Hiding Game

Written by Gwen Strauss | Illustrated by Herb Leonhard

 

It was October of 1940, and after moving from place to place to stay “one step ahead of the German soldiers,” Aube and her family had found a home where they could “live together until it was their turn to flee to safety. The Villa Air-Bel was rented by Varian Fry—a magician—and his assistant Danny Bénédite and served as a place to hide those looking to escape the war-torn country. On Sundays, the house was full of “thinkers, artists and writers who had to hide from the German soldiers because of their ideas of freedom and liberty” like Aube’s parents.

On those days, everyone played games, danced and made collages. One of Aube’s favorite games was Cadavre Exquis, in which a piece of paper was folded and each participant drew a design on one fold. When the whole paper was unfolded, amazing, artistic pictures emerged. These games and entertainment, Aube’s father told her, were their ways of fighting against fear. Because of the danger, many things had to be hidden at the Villa, including the radio and the cow that provided milk. Many ingredients for cooking were scarce. But even then Aube’s father used art to lighten the mood, leaving a drawing of a roast beef in the pantry where a real roast should have been.

Because the authorities were reading Varian and Danny’s mail and were listening to their phone calls, they had devised a way of hiding messages in toothpaste tubes that escaped the guard’s searches. The messages went to other people helping along the escape route to tell them who to expect next. Everyone in the house also had to have a special hiding place in case the police came. Aube chose the an old cabinet in the kitchen.

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Image copyright Herb Leonhard, 2017, text copyright Gwen Strauss, 2017. Courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

Whenever a new group of people were scheduled to “make the dangerous journey to a new country, they held a Sunday party and art sale to raise money.” Canvases painted by famous artists were hung among the branches of a large tree on the Villa grounds. When winter came, the Villa was so cold everyone had to wear all of their clothes to stay warm. They kept their spirits warm, too, by singing their favorite songs.

During the winter Danny visited camps where people were being held under terrible conditions. “Aube understood now that the danger was that they would be sent to the camps,” where people were dying of starvation and disease. They had little clothes and no blankets even though it was snowing. The people, Danny said, were going to freeze. Aube thought of the game freeze tag and worried about all of those “people freezing, waiting for someone to set them free.”

One day in December, the police raided the Villa. They took away all the men, including Danny, Varian, and Aube’s papa. Aube cowered in the kitchen cabinet with their dog in fear. The next week, the men were released, but they knew that the police would be back. Danny and Varian began to plan their escape. Before they all left, Aube’s father devised one more game. Each artist would paint their own version of a playing card to create a collective work of art. “The cards would remind them that they had laughed together and stayed free in their hearts even during the darkest times.”

Aube’s family were placed on a ship sailing to South America, and on February 18, 1941 they left the Villa and Danny and Varian behind and made the one-month-long journey to freedom. Several months later, Varian was “forced to leave France and return to America.” Danny went underground and “helped another 300 people escape France.” In 1943, however, Danny was “arrested by the Nazis and sentenced to death.” Just as he was facing the firing squad, soldiers fighting the Nazis burst through the gates of the camp and freed him and the other inmates.

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Image copyright Herb Leonhard, 2017, courtesy of Pelican Publishing Company.

Gwen Strauss includes extensive backmatter on this true-life story about her great-uncle Danny Bénédite. A detailed account of the work by Varian Fry, Danny Bénédite, and the American Rescue Committee, complete with photographs, as well as short biographies of some of the artists who visited the Villa (and a compelling list of others) plus resources for further study round out this compelling book.

Clearly written and with details from a child’s point of view that will resonate with readers, The Hiding Game is an absorbing tribute not only to two men involved in the Nazi resistance movement but to the resilience that uplifts people during the darkest times. This fascinating true story also offers a glimpse into the important role that artists and writers play in shining a light on history, interpreting it, and fighting against forces that destroy. Rich with the atmosphere of intrigue, suspense, and simple pleasures enjoyed, Strauss’s dynamic storytelling will thrill children. The Hiding Game will prompt them to learn more about this time period and will inspire in them their own acts of heroism.

Herb Leonhard’s realistic drawings of the Villa Air-Bel, the families who stopped there on their way to freedom, the moments of joy that sustained them, and the secret measures necessary for people’s safety take readers into the heart of the story and allow them to witness the danger and the creativity that swirled side-by-side within the Villa and the people living there. Largely depicted in somber tones of gray and green, the pages brighten with glowing yellows during times of laughter, games, and creativity. An illustration of the mammoth tree hung with canvases by famous artists will impress children, and the final image will leave an indelible and thought-provoking impression on young readers and adults.

An excellent book for facilitating discussions about World War II and the Holocaust with children at home and in the classroom as well as offering opportunities for cross-curricular learning in history, art, reading, and more, The Hiding Game is a superb choice to add to home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 7 – 12

Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 | ISBN 978-1455622658

Discover more about Gwen Strauss and her books on her website.

To learn more about Herb Leonhard, his books, and his art, visit his website.

Inspire Your Heart with Art Day Activity

I Love Art! Word Search Puzzle

 

Art has a language all its own! Have fun finding the twenty-five art-related words in this printable puzzle.

I Love Art! Word Search Puzzle and I Love Art! Word Search Solution

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You can find The Hiding Game at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review