October 25 – International Artists Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-cover

About the Holiday

Established in 2004 by Canadian Romantic Realism artist Chris MacClure, today’s holiday celebrates artists working in all mediums from painting to sculpture, photography to music, writing to dance, and many more. Creative expression is a universal language, and society benefits when art and artists of all types are embraced and celebrated. The goal of International Artists Day is to celebrate the contributions of artists and to raise their stature and visibility around the world. A love of the arts can start at the youngest ages by exposing children—and even babies—to a variety of creative mediums and allowing them to explore their talents. For more information about International Artists Day, visit the IAD  website.

My Art Book of Love

Written by Shana Gozansky

 

Don’t be surprised if you feel a flutter of the heart upon opening the cover of My Art Book of Love. Page after page of gloriously reproduced paintings from thirty-four artists from the past and working today demonstrate love in all of its actions, forms, colors, and meanings. Divided into six sections, the paintings touch on what love is, how love feels, what love looks like, and other qualities of this tender emotion.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-soft-snuggles

Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

Accompanying each painting is a lyrical phrase that describes its feeling or subject and combines with the others in the section to create a moving verse that will warm the hearts of  little ones—and even older children. To begin, “Love is… soft snuggles…” represented by a detail from Gustav Klimt’s The Three Ages of Woman, in which a mother and child sleep cuddled together with the mother resting her head on her child’s soft curls. Love is also “tender nuzzles,” and any animal lover or child with a pet will recognize the shared affection as a little girl strokes her pet in Pierre Bonnard’s Little Girl with Cat.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-slow-dances

Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

The comfort an older sister provides for her younger sibling tugs at the heart in Paul Gauguin’s Piti Teina (Two Sisters), and Alan Katz demonstrates that growing up with a bunch of sisters can be an adventure in The Ryan Sisters, in which four girls walk down the road barefoot with their arms around each other. As an African-American boy wears his dad’s fedora while getting a big hug in Emory Douglas’s Father and Son, “Love feels… Safe.” A father’s encouragement can make a little one feel “brave” as in Vincent Van Gogh’s First Steps, after Millet, where a father spreads his arms to welcome a baby toddling his way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-tender-nuzzles

Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

In all the ways it is expressed, “Love is Beautiful.” Salvador Dali captured the joy a father feels for his child in Fiesta at the Hermitage, a fragment of which spotlights a father playfully lifting his infant above his head. Henry Moore’s sculpture Family Group lets children visually experience the solidarity of the family unit as a mother, father, and two children are connected through touch. Two vibrant and familiar artworks close out this poignant tribute and remind readers that “Love is for everyone!” as the linked figures dancing around a red heart in Keith Haring’s untitled painting and the bold and boxed letters L-O-V-E in Robert Indiana’s Philadelphia Love beautifully demonstrate.

Back matter presents thumbnail images of each art piece along with information on the artist, the work, and which museum it can be found in.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-love-is-love

Courtesy of Phaidon Publishing, copyright 2018.

Exquisitely curated to offer a range of artistic styles, cultural touchstones, and emotional responses, My Art Book of Love is a sophisticated board book that is part museum, part love letter and a completely original and moving way to share and talk about love with babies, toddlers and older kids during quiet, cuddly story times. The book can also be used in classrooms to accompany reading, writing, and art lessons. The book makes an inspired choice as a gift or to add to any home, classroom, and public library.

Ages 2 – 4 and up

Phaidon, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714877181

International Artists Day Activity

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-blocks-craft

I Love Blocks

 

Bare wooden blocks can provide lots of artistic fun for both young and older kids. Painted with craft paint or chalk board paint, they can be written on or drawn on with chalk. They can be stacked to make sentences or towers or sculptures.

celebrate-picture-book-picture-book-review-blocks-craft-2Connected with glue or adhesive Velcro tape, blocks can become a robot or a giraffe, laid end-to-end they can be a train or a snake. Supply some cloth, play jewels, googly eyes, foam shapes, glitter, or other items and let kids play with their imagination and creativity!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-my-art-book-of-love-cover

You can find My Art Book of Love at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

October 24 – It’s Arts and Humanities Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squares-and-other-shapes-with-josef-albers-cover

About the Holiday

Established in 1993 as a celebration of culture and the arts, National Arts and Humanities Month encourages people to begin a lifelong love of exploring and participating in the arts. Throughout the month, special events are held by arts organizations in communities around the country. A terrific way to instill an appreciation of the arts and humanities in children is to share books like today’s with even the youngest readers.

Squares & Other Shapes: with Josef Albers (First Concepts with Fine Artists)

Paintings by Josef Albers

 

Opening Squares & Other Shapes, readers encounter a vibrant magenta square nesting in an autumn maple leaf-hued square which floats in a square of clear, winter-sky blue. On the next page two orange squares beckon you to follow into the glowing, yellow center square. Could it be a doorway or window leading somewhere?

In another painting, a bold yellow rectangle and an equally bold blue rectangle host guests: “two little rectangles lying down for a nap.” But the calm is shattered on the next page as stacks of red and blue rectangles shake and tumble: “Watch Out! It’s raining rectangles!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squares-and-other-shapes-with-josef-albers-circle-circle-stop

Courtesy of phaidon.com

Now circles want a turn, and they want to have fun! In a large black rectangle a white circle and a red circle play stoplight: “Circle, Circle, Stop!” while on the next page blue, black and spirally circles jump and frolic—“Bounce, Circles, Bounce!” Turn the page—can you count all of the little circles in the rectangle or all of the baby circles in the rectangle on the right-hand page? Some of the babies are leaping away—or are they just joining the group? What do you think?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squares-and-other-shapes-with-josef-albers-hey-circles

Courtesy of phaidon.com

Next the black rectangle is back, but this time with two white squares inside. Wait a minute—how did those little yellow circles get into the bottom square? “Hey circles, get out of that square!” Of course triangles don’t want to be left out. Dusky triangles in many sizes connected tip to tip enjoy their light, white background, but on the next page they’re left in shadow—“Hey triangles, who turned out the lights?”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squares-and-other-shapes-with-josef-albers-sharp-triangles

Courtesy of phaidon.com

Be careful turning the page to look at the two intersecting triangles: “Ouch, these triangles look sharp!” Maybe it’s better to move on to the big, vivid triangle on the right. Oooh, so many colors! Nine, in fact! Hmmm… “Is this one big triangle, or lots of little triangles?” These paintings are getting more complex! Now there are “blue squares in pink squares, pink squares in blue squares; rectangles in rectangles, circles in circles, and more triangles in triangles. But here’s a different painting: the rectangles are perfect rectangles, but the squares are a little off, and what kinds of shapes do those curved lines make?—“Funny shapes in funny shapes!” And the last painting? Back to squares. Red, purple, and blue squares. “Beautiful squares.”

Following the paintings, the last page provides a captivating biography about Josef Albers’ life and work aimed at the book’s young audience.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squares-and-other-shapes-with-josef-albers-sunny-side-up-squares

Courtesy of phaidon.com

Imagine being able to own a stunning collection of famous paintings by a world-renowned artist and educator to teach your child about shapes, color, and art. With Squares & Other Shapes by Josef Albers you can! The second in the First Concepts with Fine Artists series, Squares & Other Shapes presents readers with more than 30 painting by Josef Albers, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Most well-known for his Homage to the Square paintings, Albers worked with color and shapes to challenge perceptions and promote creative thinking.

Shapes are one of the earliest concepts introduced to babies and young children. Even the youngest readers will be riveted by the beautifully reproduced paintings in this large board book that present squares, circles, rectangles, and trianges in clear but creative ways. The easily understood labels, repetition, and recognizable patterns offer key strategies that are known to build strong reading and comprehension skills. Kids will love the humorous text that brings the paintings to life, helping them to also see that art is not static, but active and open to interpretation by each viewer.

Squares & Other Shapes with Josef Albers is a wonderfully conceived concept book that can grow with children as it offers readers enjoyment and education on so many levels. The book would be an often-sought-out addition to home and library bookshelves and also makes a perfect present for baby showers and other gift-giving holidays.

Ages birth – 5 (and up)

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872568

National Arts and Humanities Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-shapes-coloring-page-circle

Shapes Art

 

To make art like Josef Albers, kids can use these printable shapes to create their own pictures!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the shape templates on white or colored paper
  2. Have kids color the shapes 
  3. Cut out the shapes and let kids put them together in various patterns. This is a fun activity for adults to share with younger children too!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-squares-and-other-shapes-with-josef-albers-cover

You can find Squares & Other Shapes with Josef Albers at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 21 – It’s National Sewing Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crafty-llama-cover

About the Holiday

Sewing is one of the most popular hobbies around and has historically been one of the most important industries in this country and around the world. National Sewing Month was established in 1982 to encourage people to learn more about this craft and to try their hand at picking up a needle or sitting down at a sewing machine. To celebrate read up on the history of sewing and the textile industry and consider taking a sewing class or learning on your own. Sewing can be a fun and rewarding activity for adults and children.

Crafty Llama

Written by Mike Kerr | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

It was a gorgeous day and Llama knew she should concentrate on her “chores, this, that, and whatever,” but that big mound of fluff was calling to her. And because “it was such a beautiful day,” she wanted to do “something lovely.” So she took herself outside, and while she decided what to do with the day, she kept her hands busy with her knitting needles. “She felt like the answer was sitting right in front of her, but she just couldn’t see it.”

Pretty soon Raccoon dropped by with a string and beads, and then Rabbit came over with her embroidery, and Pony with the quilt he was stitching. It didn’t take long for almost all of Llama’s friends to join in with their own projects. When Beaver stopped by, he only wanted to make something that was useful. He studied Llama’s long stretch of knitting and wanted to know what it was. Llama hadn’t really thought about it. “She had just been having fun making.” She asked Beaver what he would do with it, but he didn’t know. Raccoon suggested a sail, Pony thought it would make a great rocket, and Rabbit opted for a hot-air balloon basket. But Beaver wasn’t convinced.

By now more of Llama’s friends had shown up, and they all found bits of her knitting very useful. Lion found a hairband, Elephant discovered a neat way to carry his trunk, and there was even “something for Turtle when he came out of his shell.” Llama was excited to see that “if you have fun making something, others are bound to enjoy it too.” All of Llama’s friends were sporting new, knitted somethings that were just right for them—“everyone but Beaver.”

Beaver wanted something…but what? What would be useful? He decided to do what always helped him think. He gnawed and gnawed and chewed and chewed on some trees while mulling over his options. At last, he and Llama took a break. Beaver’s break turned into a much-deserved sleep, because while Beaver was “‘thinking,’ he had made something special for everyone too.” Suddenly, Llama knew what her “crafty something” was useful for. She slipped a bit under Beaver’s head and covered him with a bit more, and Beaver continued snoozing cozily. Now when Llama and her friends get together for crafting, they love their brand new place to do it in!

Mike Kerr’s sweet tribute to the joys of crafting and imagination will delight little artists and makers of all kinds. Thoughtful Beaver and more free-wheeling Llama make good foils—and friends—in this story that introduces a full studio of artistic endeavors as well as different thought patterns that make each person unique. While many of Llama’s friends immediately recognize how to use the “crafty something” they choose, Beaver is more precise, wondering about logistics, practicality, and even safety. It turns out that Beaver is more like Llama than he might think as he also crafts a perfect gift for all of his friends.

Renata Liwska’s well-known adorable animals make the cutest crafting companions ever. Llama’s HGTV-worthy kitchen lets the sun shine in on her big ball of wool that’s just waiting to be spun into yarn. As one lovable friend after another joins the crafting party, young readers will be enticed to try all of their arts—from sewing to painting, stamping to terrarium making, basket weaving to needle crafts, and more. Little ones will wish they were in the midst of all the fun as Llama’s friends pick out just the right clever gift for their needs. They’ll want to linger over every page to see how each “crafty something” is used and to catch all of the details. When children spy Beaver’s beautiful pavilion, they’ll understand that giving is an art of its own.

For children enthusiastic about making things or who are looking to experiment with their own creative talent, as well as for anyone who is thoughtfully precise, Crafty Llama is an engaging story. The book would be a welcome addition to home libraries classroom bookshelves to accompany art and other creative lessons.

Ages 4 – 8

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1681191218

Discover more about the art and writing of Mike Kerr and Renata Liwska on their website, RandMCollective.com.

To view a portfolio of work by Renata Liwska, visit her website

National Sewing Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Sewing MachineDot-To-Dot

Got You in Stitches Dot-to-Dot Puzzle

 

Stitch the letters together to discover the picture in this printable Got You in Stitches Dot-to-Dot Puzzle.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crafty-llama-cover

You can find Crafty Llama at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

September 15 – International Dot Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-dot-cover

About the Holiday

Usually, I match books to existing holidays. Today, though, I have the pleasure of posting a review of a book that established a holiday. On September 15, 2009 teacher Terry Shay introduced his class to Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. From that one event grew a national and then an international celebration of creativity and the freedom to make art with your heart. All around the world, school children and adults are inspired on this day to make their mark and celebrate creativity, courage, and collaboration.

The Dot

By Peter H. Reynolds

 

At the end of art class, Vashti looked at her paper. It was still as blank as it was at the beginning of art class. Her teacher came over and took a peek. She saw right away that Vashti had drawn “‘a polar bear in a snowstorm.’” Vashti wasn’t fooled by the joke. “‘I just CAN’T draw,’” she said. But her teacher had a suggestion. “‘Just make a mark and see where it takes you.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-dot-vashti-jabs-paper

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti jabbed at the paper with a marker, making a dot right in the center. Her teacher studied her drawing carefully then told Vashti to sign it. That, at least, was something Vashti could do. She signed her name and gave the paper to her teacher. At the next week’s art class, Vashti was stunned to see her dot framed and hanging above the teacher’s desk. She looked at the tiny mark and decided that she could do better than that.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-dot-teacher

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Vashti opened her watercolor set and began. She “painted and painted. A red dot. A purple dot. A yellow dot. A blue dot.” Then she discovered that blue mixed with yellow made a green dot. Vashti went to the easel and began painting lots of little dots in all sorts of colors. She realized if she could make little dots, she could make big dots. She knelt down on the floor with a big piece of paper and a big brush and created a huge dot.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-dot-experimenting-with-dots

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Then on an enormous canvas Vashti “made a dot by not making a dot.” At the school art show, Vashti’s dot paintings covered two walls and were quite a hit. Coming around the corner a little boy spied Vashti. He came close and told her, “‘You’re a really great artist. I wish I could draw.’” Vashti was encouraging, but the little boy said he couldn’t even “‘draw a straight line with a ruler.’”

Vashti wanted to see. She handed the boy a blank sheet of paper. With a quivering pencil, he drew a line and handed the paper back to her. Vashti studied the wavy line for a minute, and then gave the paper back. “‘Please…sign it,’” she said.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-dot-art-show-II

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Peter H. Reynold’s classic story of a little girl who believes she can’t draw is inspirational for anyone at any age who listens too closely to that voice in their head that stops them from letting go and doing. Whether it’s painting, writing, changing the décor of one’s house, updating a wardrobe, getting healthy, or even taking a class, the project often seems insurmountable. But what if you could start with a YouTube video, one step, a pair of earrings, a pillow, a word, or…a dot? Reynolds says you can! With his straightforward storytelling, Reynolds gives readers permission to play, experiment, and feel free.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-dot-little-boy

Copyright Peter H. Reynolds, 2003, courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Reynold’s familiar line drawings that sketch out adorable Vashti and her wise teacher are punctuated by the colorful dots that Vashti draws in profusion. Even Vashti, herself, is surrounded by circular auras of color throughout the story, reflecting her talent and creative spirit. The final scene of the art show gallery is a revelation, showing readers that one’s work or life work adds up to an impressive display of the self.

Through and through The Dot is charming, moving, and encouraging. It is a must addition to home libraries, public libraries, and classrooms.

Ages 5 and up

Candlewick Press, 2003 | 978-0763619619

Discover more about International Dot Day, download an Educator’s Guide, and see a gallery of projects on thedotclub.org.

You’ll learn more about Peter H, Reynolds, his books, and his art as well as find lots of inspiration and creative tips on his website!

International Dot Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-dots-coloring-page

Decorate the Dots Coloring Page

 

How would you color these dots? Grab your favorite paints, markers, or crayons and let your imagination fly with this printable Decorate the Dots Coloring Page.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-dot-cover

You can find The Dot at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 10 – It’s New York Fashion Week

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-cover

About the Holiday

A full month of attention to new fashions worldwide begins this week in New York with the 2019 Spring/Summer fashion collections shown to buyers, the press, and the public. Created in 1943 as Press Week, the New York show aimed at diverting attention away from the Paris event during World War II, when “fashion industry insiders were unable to travel to Paris,” and hoped to highlight American designers, whose innovations had largely been ignored. Showcasing the world’s most highly skilled and creative designers, famous models, and plenty of eye-catching styles, Fashion Week is a favorite event for celebrities and fashion lovers alike. As the show in New York winds down on September 14 , eyes will turn to London from September 14 to 18, Milan from September 19 to 25, and, finally, Paris from September 25 to October 3.

little bee books sent me a copy of Polka Dot Parade: A Book about Bill Cunningham to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also excited to be partnering with little bee in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Polka Dot Parade: A Book about Bill Cunningham

Written by Deborah Blumenthal | Illustrated by Masha D’yans

 

As Bill Cunningham bicycled through New York City in his trademark blue jacket, tan pants, and black shoes with his ever-present camera, he was forever searching for beauty. And he found it wherever he went. He saw “‘sheer poetry’ in the drape of an evening dress” and “delight in the swoosh of a knife-pleated skirt.” He clicked away as Hermès bags, plaids, stripes, polka dots, and even fanny packs and “fancy-pants dog clothes” paraded by. And the people wearing all of this? “‘I don’t really see people, I see clothes,’ Bill said.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-sheer-poetry

Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2018, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

For Bill, all of these colorful clothes and creative styles told stories about the people who wore them—people daring enough to be creative whether they were rich or poor. “People who looked like leopards in their leopard prints, cool cats in their hats, dudes in dots and spots.” The New York Times newspaper published Bill’s photographs, letting the world see these stories too.

Before Bill taught himself the art of photography, he worked as a hat maker and then as a fashion writer. He believed that an individual’s sense of fashion was a kind of freedom. Bill found subjects to photograph at “posh parties,” Paris Fashion Week, and even on the streets of New York. His favorite New York corner was Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Seventh Street. He blended in to the hustle and bustle to snap pictures of passersby in all weather and seasons.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-style

Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2018, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

The people he photographed and those he worked for all loved Bill and his singular vision. In 2008, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor, and Bergdorf Goodman department store celebrated his work with a “lavish display in their Fifth Avenue window.” But Bill shunned the spotlight, preferring that others be recognized. When Bill died in 2016 at the age of 87, the fashion world mourned. But his life and his work live on in his “glorious pictures of clothes and the power they lend us…as we dress each day for the runway called life.”

An Authors Note giving more details about Bill Cunningham’s life follows the text,

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-freedom

Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2018, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

With lyrical storytelling and staccato phrasing like the beat of a camera’s shutter, Deborah Blumenthal frames Bill Cunningham’s life in snapshots of the color, patterns, people, and philosophy that fueled his talent and his passion. Cunningham’s appreciation for the unique, quirky, and original is celebrated throughout and will inspire young readers to embrace their own identity and display it in their own, particular way.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-camera

Image copyright Masha D’yans, 2018, text copyright Deborah Blumenthal, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

Visually stunning, Masha D’yans’ vibrant watercolor and mixed-media illustrations float across the pages with the beauty and flow of the runway as well as the hustle, bustle, and stories of the street. Just as in real life, Cunningham fades into the background, but his camera is always focused on the fashion and what it tells him. Images of Cunningham’s photographs scattered across the newspaper page, strings of negatives hanging like party streamers in his darkroom, and the gray treasure boxes in his stark apartment, provide readers with a deeper understanding of his work and world.

For children fascinated by fashion or who follow their own muse—or want to, Polka Dot Parade is an inspirational book to add to any home or classroom library.

Ages 4 – 8

little bee books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1499806649

Discover more about Deborah Blumenthal and her books on her website.

To learn more about Masah D’yans, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Polka Dot Parade: A Book about Bill Cunningham Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with little bee books in this giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of Polka Dot Parade: A Book about Bill Cunningham written by Deborah Blumenthal | illustrated by Masha D’yans

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, September 10 – September 16. Already a follower? Thanks! Just retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on September 17.

Giveaway open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by little bee books.

New York Fashion Week Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-hanger-photo-hanger-craft

Decorative Hanger Photo Hanger

 

A colorful plastic hanger, some washi tape, a few clothespins, and your own photos or pictures can make a one-of-a-kind way to display your art and personality!

Supplies

  • Plastic Hanger
  • Washi tape – 2 patterns (optional)
  • 3 to 4 clothespins
  • Craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Photos or pictures

Directions

  1. Wrap the washi tape around the hanger. If using two patterns of tape, wrap the hook and neck of the hanger with one pattern and the body of the hanger in the other
  2. Paint the three or four clothes pins with one or more colors, let dry.
  3. Clip the clothespins to the hanger
  4. Insert photos into the clothespins

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-polka-dot-parade-cover

You can find Polka Dot Parade at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 22 – It’s American Artist Appreciation Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nature's-friend-the-gwen-frostic-story-cover

About the Holiday

From the earliest days of the exploration and settlement of America, artists have been creating works that reveal the beauty, complexity, and meaning of this country and her people. Over the years American artists have developed innovative styles and delved into universal subjects in new ways. This month we celebrate these artists of the past and present who, through their work, make us see the world in fresh ways.

Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Written by Lindsey McDivitt | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

“Gwen followed her brothers and sisters everywhere, like a small fawn follows its herd.” Even though an illness in babyhood had left her hands and one foot weak and her speech slurred, Gwen grew up confident that she could do anything. Born in 1906, Gwen, as a child with disabilities, would normally have stayed home instead of attending school. But her mother had been a teacher, so she sent her to school and “pushed her to learn.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nature's-friend-the-gwen-frostic-story-young-gwen

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The other kids giggled and whispered behind her back, and while she wanted to hide, she instead “gathered up knowledge like a bird builds a nest.” Her teachers thought she would never be able to write. To strengthen her hands, her mother encouraged her to draw, keeping a drawer full of supplies within reach. As Gwen sketched, her grip grew firmer.”

While making friends was difficult, Gwen found companionship in nature. She loved to spend time outdoors watching the unfurling ferns and frogs that “lapped up bugs with long, quick tongues.” From nature, Gwen learned, “‘all things are vital to the universe…all are equal…and at one…different.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nature's-friend-the-gwen-frostic-story-school

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

A move to Detroit when she was twelve introduced Gwen to the buildings and people of a big city. In high school, Gwen, now stronger, took mechanical drawing and shop class. Later, in art school, Gwen was introduced to linoleum, in which she carved intricate images for printmaking. Gwen’s dream was to be an artist, but she also knew she needed to earn money to pay expenses.

She started a business making objects from hammered metal. Word of her art spread quickly. It was bought by leading Detroit families, and Gwen was invited to exhibit her art at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. When World War II broke out, Gwen went to work building bombers. She even designed tools for building the planes. Contributing to the war effort was important, but Gwen still “longed to create art.” She bought a printing press and opened “Presscraft Papers stationery company.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nature's-friend-the-gwen-frostic-story-gwen-in-nature

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Gwen began to miss the nature she loved so much, so she packed up and moved back to Michigan. There, “she walked deep into the wetlands” and began carving linoleum blocks, recreating nature as she saw it. “She wanted others to see nature as she did, to recognize the value of plants, trees, and animals.” She made prints from her linoleum blocks and created greeting cards on her press. Her beautiful artwork reminded people of nature’s bounty at a time when the environment was threatened with pollution. People came from all over to her shop in the Michigan woods to buy her art that spoke to them: “‘Love this earth, / Love it’s waters… / Care enough to keep it clear.’”

An Author’s Note reveals more about Gwen Frostic’s life and provides a sketching craft for readers.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nature's-friend-the-gwen-frostic-story-drawing

Image copyright Eileen Ryan Ewen, 2018, text copyright Lindsey McDivitt, 2018. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Lindsey McDivitt’s superb biography of Gwen Frostic—an artist, inspiration, and pioneer for career women and the disabled—introduces children to a woman who, through persistence and confidence, lived life on her own terms. McDivitt’s lyrical prose infuses the story with the poetry of nature that Gwen internalized and translated into the art that people continue to admire and seek out. McDivitt’s thorough storytelling and excellent pacing allow for a full understanding of Gwen Frostic’s achievements. Young readers will be fascinated by the life work of this talented and determined artist.

Screen Shot 2018-08-21 at 6.54.39 PM

Eileen Ryan Ewen captures Gwen Frostic’s strength of character, can-do attitude, and love of nature in her stunning artwork. Full-page illustrations follow Gwen from her beloved Michigan woodlands to Detroit to art school and through her life as an artist and business woman. Images of Gwen carving a linoleum block, sketching designs for new tools as she sits next to a fighter plane and the woman installing rivets, working an old printing press, and greeting visitors at her shop broaden readers’ understanding of the times and Gwen’s work.

An exceptional picture book that provides encouragement and inspiration, Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story is a must for classroom libraries and would make a positive impact on young readers as part of their home library.

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585364053

Discover more about Lindsey McDivitt and her books on her website.

To learn more about Eileen Ryan Ewen, her art, and her books, visit her website.

American Artist Appreciation Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nature-coloring-page

Nature Coloring Pages

 

If you love nature like Gwen Frostic did, you’ll enjoy these printable Nature Coloring Pages.

Meadow Coloring PageOcean Coloring Page

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nature's-friend-the-gwen-frostic-story-cover

You can find Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

August 3 – It’s National Back to School Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-idea-jar-cover

About the Holiday

It may seem like summer vacation just began, but it’s already time to start thinking about the new school year. The stores are stocked with clothes, supplies, and plenty of gear to make the new school year the best ever. But the stuff of going to school is just part of getting ready. Kids are looking forward—eagerly or maybe with a little trepidation—to meeting new friends, having new teachers, and exploring new subjects and ideas. Making the transition to a different grade easier and exciting is what National Back to School Month is all about.

Simon & Schuster sent me a copy of Idea Jar to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also thrilled to be partnering with Simon & Schuster in a giveaway of a copy of Idea Jar. See details below.

Idea Jar

Written by Adam Lehrhaupt | Illustrated by Deb Pilutti

 

On the teacher’s desk sits an Idea Jar that holds her student’s story ideas. The teacher “says a story can be about anything” the kids want it to be. Like maybe “a space robot” or a “horseless cowgirl” or, yes, even that Viking who is trying to hoist himself over the edge of the jar to freedom. See, “there’s no such thing as a bad story idea,” and there are so many ways to tell your story.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-idea-jar-space-robot

Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

You can even combine your own ideas or make up a story with a friend. And maybe even that Viking in the back of your mind would make a good character too. He certainly thinks so. His motto is “Everything is better with a Viking”—even a giant badger who has lost her pink dress.

There is one thing about the Idea Jar, though. “It’s important to create stories for your ideas, or else your ideas get rowdy.” Just look at that Viking, who’s poking…at…the…jar! “Oh no! The ideas!”  They’re all loose! Now the robot is shooting his laser eyes and the dragon is swishing its enormous tail and the ideas are running amok!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-idea-jar-bored-giant-badger

Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

“These ideas need a story. Will you help?” Great! Should we? Should we start with the Viking? What if he gets into a battle with the space robot? Then gets rescued by the dragon? Who’s ridden by the horseless cowgirl! What? You’d like to change some ideas around? Go for it! This is your story, after all! “Wow! You were awesome!” You made all of those story ideas very, very happy. But it’s time that they went back in the jar to meet some other ideas for next time.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-idea-jar-bored-viking

Image copyright Deb Pilutti, 2018, text copyright Adam Lehrhaupt, 2018. Courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As the award-winning author of Warning: Do Not Open this Book, Please Open this Book, This is a Good Story, and many others, Adam Lehrhaupt knows a thing or two—or three—about corralling ideas into a story. By appealing directly to students and any story creator, the narrator of the madcap Idea Jar will excite kids to pay attention to the ideas rattling around and flashing through their minds and inspire them to write, draw, or tell their own stories. The persistent Viking, who gives story suggestions throughout the book and nudges the story along, will delight kids and can serve two purposes for teachers or other writing coaches.

With his infectious enthusiasm, the Viking is that great idea that knocks at your consciousness until it is used. His whispered recommendations may also remind writers and artists of that little self-editor who so often can keep great ideas from running free. Learning to manage both of these is what great storytelling is all about. As the Viking sails into the classroom portrayed in the book, kids will jump at the chance to turn on their imaginations and give him—and their own characters—a story full of suspense, humor, and unexpected twists and turns.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-idea-jar-viking-climbing-out-of-jar

Image copyright Deb Pilutti, courtesy of simonandschuster.com.

As a space robot rockets from the Idea Jar, a horseless cowgirl lifts herself over the edge, and a big, scaly arm reaches from within to pull out the words “dragon” and “giant,” kids will be instantly invested in these characters without a story…yet. Deb Pilutti’s vibrant and dynamic illustrations show the creative process in action, whether a child’s talent lies in writing, drawing, or even reciting ideas aloud. The crafty Viking makes a frequent appearance—just like any good idea does—to prod the ideas in the jar (including the horseless cowgirl, the space robot, and the dragon as well as a pirate, a unicorn, a giraffe, a monster, and various animals) to unleash their inventive power. As the story comes together, the students and teacher cheer as they see their creation come to life. 

Kids will love answering the call to create a story and interacting with the ideas in Idea Jar. Idea Jar is infused with the natural spontaneity and inventiveness of children’s imaginations, making it a winner for jump-starting writing or art lessons in classrooms and inspiring creativity at home for kids and adults.

Ages 4 – 8 (and up)

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 2018 | ISBN 978-1481451666

Discover more about Adam Lehrhaupt and his books on his website.

To learn more about Deb Pilutti, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Deb Pilutti

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-deb-pilutti-intreview-chased-by-t-rex

Today I’m excited to talk with author/illustrator Deb Pilutti about her new book Idea Jar with Adam Lehrhaupt, her branding work inspired by vintage signs, and the old Creepy Crawlies Thingmaker, a toy which I was surprised and delighted to discover we both loved as children.

Readers will love the way the characters interact with each other and with the kids writing and drawing stories in Idea Jar. Can you describe your journey from when you first received Adam Lehrhaupt’s manuscript for Idea Jar to the finished book?

I am a fan of Adam’s Warning: Do Not Open this Book! so I was quite excited when Paula Wiseman at Simon & Schuster asked me if I would like to illustrate IDEA JAR. Who wouldn’t want to illustrate a book with a Space Robot, a Viking, a cowgirl and a Dragon as the main characters? Adam left a lot of room for me to play. He did not specify what the other ideas in the jar would be, only the characters he had written into the text. It was fun to develop additional characters and their relationships and mini-side stories, like the developing friendship between the Yeti and the small dog, and the mouse driving a race car.

Kids’ imaginations are always so full of possibilities, and they can make such funny and amazing leaps of character and plot. What are some steps you’d give young writers and illustrators for capturing those snatches of imagination and developing an idea into their own story?

Keep a journal. I have several that I write or doodle in. If there is something I find interesting, like an idea or a character, I go back to it and try to work out a story. I start by asking questions of the character or situation. What would happen if… type of questions.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-deb-pilutti-interview-hello!-ice-cream-truck

Your branding work for Sea World, Warner Brothers, artists, food trucks, and more are infused with such a fun vintage vibe. Do you have a favorite decade to draw design ideas from, and why?

I absolutely love vintage signage and type from the 50s and 60s. Some of it is so campy while others can be evocative or elegant. The colors used were bold and saturated.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-deb-pilutti-intreview-studio-toys

Before you began illustrating and writing for children, you designed toys, and in your recent release The Secrets of Ninja School, the main character makes dragon stuffies for all of her classmates. Why do you think playing with traditional toys is so important for children? What was your favorite toy when you were a child?

Mostly because it’s fun. I also think it’s a way to navigate the world, but that isn’t something I thought about as a child. When I was young, I loved making Creepy Crawlers, which was an incredibly dangerous toy at that time. You pored possibly toxic goop into a metal mold and cooked it in a blisteringly hot ThingmakerTM oven, which resulted in many scorched fingers. But totally worth it, because once the plate cooled, you would have an army of colorful and stretchy bugs.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-deb-pilutti-intreview-srudio-desk

My cousin is a graphic designer and whenever I visited her as a child I loved seeing her special corner of the house. It was so full of color and knick-knacks (inspiration, really, I guess) and works in progress, that I developed a fascination with artists’ studios. Do you mind describing your work space a little? What is your favorite thing in it?

My studio is in a small bedroom. I have a long table with a computer and extra monitor set up on it, and I sometimes sketch here as well. A painting easel is in the corner of the room. It’s a very messy place, with papers everywhere and knick-knacks and toys and bits of shiny things on every surface. I like all of my toys, but my favorite one is a realistic toy model of a T-rex with a moveable jaw.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-deb-pilutti-intreview-studio-knick-knacks

What’s the best part of being a children’s illustrator and author?

I have always loved books. To be involved with the art of bookmaking is a wondrous thing. My favorite part of the process is making the final illustrations.

Do you have any anecdotes from a reading or event that you’d like to share?

I was visiting a school last April and had a blast creating stories with the students using an Idea Jar. We made some pretty silly stories together. One student came up with a zombie tomato for a character, which was brilliant!

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently working on final illustrations for two books. The first is Old Rock (is not boring). A story about a rock sounds like it could be boring, right? At least Old Rock’s friends think so. Old Rock reveals her own surprising story, slowly and languidly, as rocks do. I’m also illustrating a sequel to Ten Rules of Being a Superhero. It’s called Ten Steps to Flying Like a Superhero. I had so much fun with the characters from the first book that they are back for another adventure. Lava Boy’s superhero toy, Captain Magma, wants to fly more than anything. They devise a plan, which does not go as anticipated.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Summer Solstice. I live in Michigan, which is quite lovely, but the cold and dark of winter can get a bit old. I miss the light. Our summer nights are very long. On Summer Solstice, I try to stay outside until the last vestiges of daylight disappear at around 9:45.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Yes, I illustrated The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan, illustrated by Susan Collins Thoms.

Thanks so much for chatting, Deb! I wish you all the best with Idea Jar and all of your books!

National Back to School Month Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-books-review-adam-lehrhaupt-create-your-own-idea-jar

Make Your Own Idea Jar

If you have lots of ideas looking for a place to hang out, discover how to make your own Idea Jar and find some cool starter ideas from Adam Lehrhaupt! Make your own IDEA JAR!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-books-review-deb-pilutti-5-methods-to-generate-stories-logo

Dream up Story Ideas

Do your kids (or maybe you!) want to think up awesome story ideas? Check out Deb Pilutti’s 5 Methods of Generating Story Ideas

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-idea-jar-cover

You can find Idea Jar at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review