September 15 – International Dot Day

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Picture Book Review

 

September 14 – Live Creative Day

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About the Holiday

Today, let your inner artist out! There are as many ways to be creative as there are people—that’s what makes today such a special event! Everyone sees, hears, and experiences the world in a different way. How do you? Grab the creative tool or instrument of your choice and let your friends, family, and even strangers see the creative genius inside you!

Crocodali

By Lucy Volpin

 

You open the book, expecting to be welcomed with open arms by the characters inside. Instead, who do you meet but a very busy crocodile. With not a little braggadocio he reveals that he is “Crocodali, the most talented painter in the whole wide world.” It seems you’ve stumbled into his studio, and he’s setting up to create a new masterpiece, leaving him no time to stop for a chat or even to give you an autograph.

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Copyright Lucy Volpin, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

But after he’s given you the brush off, so to speak, he suddenly needs your help. Crocodali just can’t get the canvas to sit straight on the easel. He asks if you wouldn’t mind tilting the book just a little to the right. Oh, no! Now it needs to go a little to the left. Can you tilt it back just a wee bit? Oh dear! Now the canvas and the easel have toppled over! Even the paint cans tipped on their sides, and some blue and yellow has splashed onto the clean, white canvas.

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Copyright Lucy Volpin, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Well! Crocodali is a little miffed! He wants you to just go on reading and leave the cleaning up to him. Wait, wait, wait! Did you turn the page? (Isn’t that part of reading, though?) Now the canvas is completely on its side and there are some splotches of red on it too. Crocodali is in a huff because now he’ll have to start all over. But he takes a second look and in the next moment has had a change of heart. Now he thinks “that looks quite nice. Maybe you’re onto something.”

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Copyright Lucy Volpin, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

He even invites you to “give the book a shake and see what happens.” What happens is that the paints, brushes, canvas, and even Crocodali himself are now rattling around the pages all topsy-turvy. When things settle down, the room and the great artist are covered in paint. Crocodali sets the painting back on the easel and steps back to take a look. Hmmmm…. He likes it! But maybe it’s upside down? He’s going to turn it over and add a few more details.

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Copyright Lucy Volpin, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

With a very dexterous tail and his right hand, he dabs on purple, brushes on yellow and red, and is then ready to “mix it all up.” Here’s where you come in again. Can you give the canvas a good rub? Wow! The painting looks amazing! Crocodali exclaims, “It’s a masterpiece! I really am the greatest painter in the world.” He’s the greatest painter in the world? Who did all the work? Whatever…. The painting now needs to dry, and Crocodali wants you to blow on it to speed up the process.

One…two…three…Blow! Huh! You have some power! You blew all the paint off the canvas and onto the wall! It looks incredible, through—and leaves the canvas blank to start all over again!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crocodali-on-its-side

Copyright Lucy Volpin, 2017, courtesy of simonandschuster.com

Kids will love Lucy Volpin’s feisty, boastful crocodile who comes to see that even mishaps can spark creativity. The giggles will begin on the first page as Crocodali (an inspired character and name) strolls into the studio sporting a Salvador Dali mustache and dismissing readers away with a wave of his hand. As children begin interacting with the pages, they’ll look forward to what comes next. Large images of the canvas allow children to really see the effects of their actions, and the two-page “shaken” spread is a delight of mayhem and color.

Kids will also enjoy turning the book around to see the various perspectives of the painting they’re creating throughout the story. Volpin gives readers lots of opportunities to discuss art, color, painting, and even teamwork, making Crocodali a joyful and inviting introduction to the creative process.

Crocodali would be a lively, playful opening to arts and crafts sessions in schools, libraries, and at home. For art lovers or energetic kids who like interaction with their reading, Crocodali is a wonderful choice.

Ages 3 – 8

little bee books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1499806335

Live Creative Day Activity

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Make Your Own Creative Supply Jars

 

When inspiration hits, you want to have all of your supplies close at hand! With this easy craft you can use your creativity to make a one-of-a-kind jar to keep all of your favorite things neat, tidy, and within reach! These make great gifts for friends too!

Supplies

  • A wide-mouth plastic jar, such as a peanut butter jar
  • Paint or markers for plastic
  • Multi-surface chalkboard paint (optional)
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk (optional)

Directions

  1. Design your jar
  2. If you are planning to use chalkboard paint, paint that section first
  3. Paint or decorate with markers
  4. Let dry
  5. Fill with your art of other creative supplies

Picture Book Review

August 29 – It’s American Artist Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the artists who interpret the unique history, culture, and people of America in ways that bring new meaning and insight to those who interact with it. To celebrate, visit your local art museum or take a trip to another city to view peices you’ve never seen before. The dynamics of seeing art up close provides new perspectives and appreciation.

Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

Written by Jeanne Walker Harvey | Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk

 

As a child, Maya Lin loved playing and interacting with nature near her home. She and her brother liked to run over what Maya had named “the Lizard’s Back”—a hill behind her house—and into the woods. Sometimes Maya went into the woods alone and “sat as still as a statue, hoping to tame rabbits, raccoons, chipmunks, and squirrels.” She liked to play chess with her brother and build towns from scraps of paper, boxes, books, and other things she found around the house.

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya’s “parents had fled China at a time when people were told what to be and how to think.” They did not want the same for their children and always encouraged Maya to be and think what she wanted. Maya grew up surrounded by art. Her father worked with clay, and her mother was a poet. Maya also liked to make things with her hands. The beautiful library where she went to college inspired Maya to become an architect.

To learn about different buildings, Maya traveled all over the world. When she was only a senior in college, “Maya entered a contest to design a memorial to honor soldiers who died during the Vietnam War.” The contest stated two rules: the memorial had to fit in with a park-like setting, and it had to include the 58,000 names of the soldiers who had died in the war. These rules resonated with Maya. She “believed that a name brings back all the memories of a person, more than a photo of a moment in time.”

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya visited the site where the memorial would be built. As she looked at the gently rolling hill, she envisioned a simple cut in the earth that would support a polished wall covered in names. Not only would the wall reflect those who died, but also those who came to visit and the surrounding nature. At school, Maya worked with mashed potatoes and then with clay to help her create the perfect monument. When she had finished her drawings and plans, she wrote an essay to accompany them. She wrote that her monument would be “a place to be experienced by walking down, then up past names that seemed to go on forever.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maya-lin-artist-architect-of-light-and-lines-with-parents

Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

More than 1,400 artists and architects—many of them famous—entered the contest. The designs were hung in an airplane hangar anonymously for judging. Finally, the day came for the announcement of the winner. When the judges called out Maya Lin’s name and she came forward, they were surprised to find that she was so young. Maya was excited to have won, but then some people began to object to her design. Some said her “design looked like a bat, a boomerang, a black gash of shame.”

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Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

Maya was hurt by these comments, but she defended her design and, finally, it was approved. Maya worked with the architects and engineers who excavated the land and built the wall. As each granite panel was polished, engraved with the soldiers’ names, and set in place, Maya looked on. The memorial opened on Veterans Day in 1982. Thousands of people came to see it and to find the names of loved ones they had lost. As Maya approached the wall, “she searched for the name of the father of a friend. When she touched the name, she cried, just as she knew others would.” Every day since then visitors come to the wall to remember.

Maya Lin has gone on to design many more works of art and architecture that can be seen inside and outside. Each piece has a name and a particular vision. Maya wants people to interact with her art—to touch it; read, walk, or sit near it; or think about it. After each piece is finished, Maya thinks about her next work and how she can inspire the people who will see it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-maya-lin-artist-architect-of-light-and-lines-Vietnam-War-Memorial

Image copyright Dow Phumiruk, 2017, text copyright Jeanne Walker Harvey, 2017. Courtesy of us.macmillan.com.

An Author’s Note about Maya Lin and the Vietnam War Memorial follows the text.

Jeanne Walker Harvey has written an inspiring biography of Maya Lin that reveals not only her creativity but the importance of creative freedom for children. Lin’s confidence that led her to enter the contest and then defend her winning design will encourage readers to pursue their dreams. Harvey’s lyrical storytelling reflects Maya Lin’s quiet, introspective nature, the influences that nurtured her creative spirit, and her dedication to inviting others to be part of her art.

Dow Phumiruk’s graceful, soft-hued illustrations allow children to follow Maya Lin as she grows from a girl discovering nature, constructing cardboard cities, and learning the arts from her parents to a young woman who draws inspiration from the world’s buildings and relies on her own sensitivity to guide her. Back-to-back pages of the landscape of Vietnam and the site of the memorial connect the two places for children’s better understanding. Phumiruk’s depictions of the Vietnam War Memorial also give children an excellent view of this moving monument. Her images of Lin’s other architectural work will entice young readers to learn more about her and to explore where each of these pieces can be found.

Ages 4 – 8

Henry Holt & Company Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-1250112491

Discover more about Jeanne Walker Harvey and her books on her website!

Learn more about Dow Phumiruk, her art, and her books on her website!

American Artist Appreciation Month Activity

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Fantastic Frame

 

Every great work of art deserves the perfect frame to display it. With a frame ready to decorate from a craft store and a few materials, you can create a Fantastic Frame for any of your drawings or photos!

Ideas for Decorating

  • Stickers
  • Decorative buttons
  • Small objects
  • Shells
  • Markers, crayons, or paint
  • Stencils
  • Washi Tape

Picture Book Review

August 25 – It’s American Artist Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

This month we honor the artists of the past and those currently creating work that represents, reflects, and translates the world we live in. There are as many ways of making art as there are artists, so take some time this month to visit an art museum or gallery, to look online or read a book and discover life in a whole new way.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

By Javaka Steptoe

 

“Somewhere in Brooklyn, between hearts that thump, double Dutch, and hopscotch / and salty mouths that slurp sweet ice, a little boy dreams of being a famous artist.” All day Jean-Michel sits surrounded by colored pencils and “a storm of papers” and draws. As he sleeps his dreams swirl with images. When he wakes he adds to his drawings, scribbling away. What he creates is “sloppy, ugly, and sometimes weird, but somehow still beautiful.”

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Image and text copyright Javaka Steptoe, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young People

Jean-Michel’s talent comes from his Puerto Rican mother, who has a natural sense of style and design and who always makes time to draw with her son, lying on the floor next to him. She takes Jean-Michel to art museums and theaters and reads poetry to him, but she also shows him the art of the city—its sounds, sights, style, and “patchwork” colors. Jean-Michel loves to visit the museum and read about the artwork and the artists. From these stories he “learns what it means to be a famous artist.”

When Jean-Michel is seriously injured in a car accident, his world seems scary and confusing. His mother gives him an anatomy book, which he memorizes. It erases his fears and becomes influential in his work. After returning home, his life changes when his mother suffers a breakdown and can no longer live at home. “He tries drawing the terrible out of his blues, but things are not the same.” Jean-Michel visits his mother when he can, “always bringing his artwork to show, telling her that one day it will be in a museum, ‘when I am a famous artist.’”

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Image and text copyright Javaka Steptoe, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young People

As a teenager, Jean-Michel follows his dream, moving from Brooklyn to New York City. There he stays with friends, painting, creating collages, and writing poems on paper strewn about him. At night he paints on city walls, trash cans, and other urban canvases. His art, signed ‘Samoo,’ attracts attention. People wonder: “‘Who is Samoo?’”

Soon his art can be found in art galleries and hanging in the homes of the people who buy his work. Jean-Michel continues to create, listening to “a sound track that is all his own.” Through talent, inspiration, and his mother’s loving influence, Jean-Michel Basquiat conquered the art world, becoming a king among artists, and fulfilling his desire to be a famous artist.

An extensive Author’s Note about Jean-Michel Basquait’s life, including his struggles with addiction and his death in 1988; the motifs and symbolism in his work; and a personal comment on the impact Basquait’s art had on the author, follow the text.

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Image and text copyright Javaka Steptoe, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young People

Javaka Steptoe’s compelling biography of this complex, brilliant artist who people called “radiant, wild, a genius child” beautifully brings to life the inspirations and motivations that fueled his unique and intense talent. Steptoe delivers the story in staccato and flowing sentences, using consonance, assonance, and repetition—the rhythms of a poet. He shows how Basquiat maintained his focused determination, self-confidence, and persistence from childhood into adulthood. This perseverance reveals to readers that success is not a matter of luck, but of belief in oneself despite obstacles. Steptoe sensitively addresses the serious injury Basquiat suffered, his mother’s mental illness and Basquiat’s continued love for her, and his unsettled teenage years to complete this far-reaching life story.

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Image and text copyright Javaka Steptoe, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young People

Steptoe’s mixed-media paintings were created on found wood from neighborhoods across New York City. While Steptoe does not reproduce any of Basquiat’s work, he states that readers will find “original pieces that were inspired by him and my interpretations of his paintings and designs.” As befitting his subject, Steptoe offers pages that burst with vibrant color and intricate details and beat with the pulse of the city, the people, the dreams, and the imagination that Basquiat transcribed onto paper, walls, and canvas. Part collage, part fine art, Steptoe’s illustrations will fascinate children and entice them to linger and take in the emotion and meaning in each. The final spread, a crowd scene made up of photographs, sets Basquiat in the midst of people whom he and his art continue to inspire.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat offers children an inspirational model of creativity, compassion, and confidence no matter where their talents lie. The book is an excellent choice for school, public, and home libraries.

Ages 6 – 10

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016 | ISBN 978-0316213882

Learn more about Javaka Steptoe, his books, art exhibitions, and life on his website!

American Artist Appreciation Day 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!

Picture Book Review

August 2 – It’s American Artist Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

Celebrating art is always a great thing! This month we celebrate art created in America. The unique history, landscape, population, and cultural influences of the United States fosters artwork that is distinctively American. This month gives us the opportunity to explore pieces dating back to the founding of our country as well as the paintings, sculpture, crafts, pottery, and other arts being created today. Take the time to visit museums, galleries, arts and craft shows, and theaters to discover old favorites and new inspiration.

Seen Art?

Written by Jon Scieszka | Illustrated by Lane Smith

 

A little boy has arranged to meet his friend Art at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-third Street in New York City. When he arrives, however, Art isn’t there. The boy asks a woman nearby, “‘Have you seen Art?’” The lady points him in the direction of a beautiful new building further down the street. When he gets there, the boy doesn’t see Art, but he does meet an official-looking gentleman. “‘You seen Art?’” the boy inquires.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

“‘MoMA?” the man asks. The boy thinks, didn’t the lady ask the same thing? Figuring it’s some kind of code word, he answers, “‘Yes.’” Great news! The building is just opening, the man tells him. After giving another woman the code word, the boy is led upstairs. She stops in front of a painting with blue swirls, writhing trees, and a moon glowing over a quiet village. “‘Can’t you just feel the restlessness? The color? The emotion?’” The boy can feel it, but he’s more interested in finding Art.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

A little man standing nearby seems to know where to go, and he leads the boy through a room filled with more paintings and sculpture. The man stops in front of a painting. “‘Look at that red! Look at that open box of crayons inviting us in. The grandfather clock? It has no hands. Time is suspended.’” The boy sees all this too. But, really, what he wants to know is—“‘is Art here?’”

A little girl across the room knows what he means. She can show him art. She takes him past a fur-covered teacup and spoon to a painting of an eye. But this is no ordinary eye. Instead of blue, brown, or green, this eye is clouds. “‘Your dream can be what is real,’” she explains. They see another painting with a melting clock in which time is messed up too, but it’s still not Art.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Suddenly, a painter hugs the boy for his astute observation. He asks, is art “‘trying to capture dreams? Or is it making images everyone can recognize?’” Next, a lady shows the boy an alarming painting of a woman with whom she identifies, and a baby points out a picture of a brown “‘moo moo’” cow. It seems that in every corner there is another person expounding on a painting in front of them: the shapes, the mystery!, the composition, the color, the atmosphere.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

But each time the boy answers, “‘Not exactly the Art I was looking for.’” Perhaps, he is interested in the Bell-47D1 helicopter hanging from the ceiling. Is it art? The boy strides past more pieces; they are puzzling, personal, playful, provocative and powerful. Art is not just paintings, he is told. Finally! They seem to be getting it. He begins to ask one more time about his friend, but he’s shown more photographs, sculpture, objects, and films.

The boy decides he needs to find Art on his own. He discovers a majestic painting as long as two rooms, a slippy-slidey chair, images of soup cans that make him hungry…the café…and sculptures of a family and a goat. Soon itvs time to leave. Back on the sidewalk and feeling dejected, the boy thinks he’ll never find his friend. “‘Hello, again,’” he hears. It’s the lady he met that morning. “‘Did you find art?’” she asks.

The boy is about to say no, but he remembers everything he has seen. “‘Yes,’” he answers. And when he finds Art waiting for him, the two go through MoMA again.

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Image copyright Lane Smith, 2005, text copyright Jon Scieszka, 2005. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

Notes on each piece along with thumbnail images follow the text.

With clever word play, a humorous nod to the juxtaposed ideas “I know what I like/I like what I know,” and a wink at the world of art criticism, Jon Scieszka takes readers on a tour of the art collection at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The simple misunderstanding of the word Art in the story introduces children to the nature of interpretation and the variety of forms it can take. Through the many people the little boy meets, Scieszka presents a fabulous opportunity for adults and children to talk about opinions and how each person can have their own while accepting those of others. Scieszka’s rich language is as enticing as the art presented and gives kids and adults a vast vocabulary to use in talking about what art—and life—has to offer.

Lane Smith’s simple line-drawn and abstract figures are the perfect tour guides to the reproductions of famous paintings, sculpture, installations, and other art found at MoMA. Printed in full, vibrant color, the artwork dazzles, drawing readers in to stop and explore each image. An excellent survey of classic and modern pieces will delight and fascinate kids.

For art lovers and those just discovering the world of creativity, Seen Art? is an absorbing book that will entice both children and adults to learn more about art. The book would be a fun and engaging addition to school art programs or units as well as for home libraries.

Ages 3 – 8 and up

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2005 |ISBN 978-0670059867

Discover more about about Jon Scieszka, his books, and other fun stuff on his website.

View a gallery of book illustration and other artwork by Lane Smith on his website.

American Artists Appreciation Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-crayon-craft

Rainbow Crayon Art

 

With this cool project you can create an art piece that’s as colorful as a rainbow and as unique as you are! Adult help is needed for children.

Supplies

  • Box of 24 crayons
  • White foam board or thick poster board, 8 inches by 17 inches
  • A small piece of corrugated cardboard, about 5 inches by 5 inches (a piece of the foam board can also be used for this step)
  • A small piece of poster board, about 5 inches by 5 inches
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife (optional)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Hair dryer
  • Old sheets or towels, newspapers, a large box, or a trifold display board

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celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-rainbow-crayon-craft

Directions

  1. Remove the various red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet hued crayons from the box of crayons
  2. Strip the paper from the crayons by slicing the paper with the x-acto knife, or removing it by hand
  3. Line them up in order at the top of the white foam board
  4. With the hot glue gun, attach the crayons to the board with their tips facing down 
  5. Cut an umbrella or other shape of your choice from the poster board
  6. Trace the umbrella or other shape onto the corrugated cardboard or a piece of the foam board and cut out
  7. Glue the umbrella or other shape to the foam board, about 4 ½ inches below the crayons, let dry
  8. Set up a space where you can melt the crayons. The wax will fly, so protect the floor and walls by placing the art piece in a large box or by hanging newspapers, old sheets or towels on the walls and placing newspapers on the floor. A trifold display board and newspapers works well.
  9. Stand the art piece upright with the crayons at the top
  10. With the hot setting of the hair dryer, blow air at the crayons until they start to melt
  11. Move the hair dryer gently back and forth across the line of crayons from a distance of about 6 to 12 inches away. The closer you are to the crayons, the more they will splatter.
  12. The crayons will begin to melt and drip downward
  13. You can experiment with aiming the hair dryer straight on or at an angle to mix colors
  14. Wax that drips onto the umbrella or other shape can be chipped off after it dries or wiped off to create a “watercolor” effect on the shape
  15. Once the hair dryer is turned off, the wax cools and dries quickly
  16. Hang or display your art!

Picture Book Review

May 21 – “I Need A Patch for That” Day

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About the Holiday

Celebrated annually on May 21, “I Need a Patch for That” Day gives a little love to patches of all kinds. Have you been out working in your garden patch? Fabulous! Did you just finish all the requirements for a scouting patch? Good job! Waiting on a fix for the latest software kerfuffle? Who isn’t? Are you a pirate keeping one eye ready for the dark? Argghh! Do you need to patch up a misunderstanding? Good luck! Or maybe you’re a quilter like the amazing women in today’s book who create a patch to remember each of life’s important, inspirational, and formative events. 

Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt

Written by Patricia C. McKissack | Illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

 

In this story told through poems, a little girl begins telling readers about her life, starting with a recitation on Gee’s Bend Women: “Gee’s Bend women are / Mothers and Grandmothers / Wives / Sisters and Daughters / Widows.” They are every kind of woman you know, doing every type of work and activity. “Gee’s Bend women are / Talented and Creative / Capable / Makers of artful quilts / Unmatched. / Gee’s Bend women are / Relatives / Neighbors / Friends— / Same as me.”

In Who Would Have Thought, the girl muses on how perceptions change. “For as long as anyone can remember,” she says, the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama have created quilts that were slept under, sat on, and wrapped around the sick or cold. But now those same quilts are “…hanging on museum walls, / their makers famous….”

When she was just a tot “Baby Girl” reveals in Beneath the Quilting Frame, she played under the quilting frame, listening to her “mama, grandma, and great-gran / as they sewed, talked, sang, and laughed / above my tented playground.” She remembers the “steady fingers  /[that] pieced together colorful scraps of familiar cloth / into something / more lovely / than anything they had been before” as her mother sang her a lullaby.

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Something Else, “Baby Girl” is growing too big to play underneath the frame. Her legs are becoming longer and her mind is full of “recipes for eleven kinds of jelly…how to get rid of mold…and the words to a hundred hymns and gospel songs” while she waits for her turn at the frame. At last, her time does come, and in Where to Start?, the girl asks her mama how to begin. Her mother answers, “‘Look for the heart. / When you find the heart, / your work will leap to life… / strong, beautiful, and… / independent.’”

In Remembering, the girl thinks about how her mama has told her that “cloth has a memory.” As she chooses the cloth that will become her quilt she recounts the life and the history in each. 

Nothing Wasted sees Grandma pulling apart a red-and-white gingham dress stitch by stitch. Suddenly, the girl knows that this cloth will become the patch that “will be the heart of my quilt.” In Puzzling the Pieces the girl and her grandma stand over the quilting frame fitting the squares together in the perfect way to tell the girl’s story. Her quilt comes together piece by piece to tell the history of Gee’s Bend in The River Island. The brown strips along three sides mirror the muddy waters surrounding her town. The fourth side is a green strip—“a symbol of the fields where my ancestors / worked cotton from can to can’t— / can see in the morning until / can’t see at night.” Lined up next to the green strip are six squares representing the small communities “where families with / the same name / are not kin by blood / but by plantation.”

Being Discovered is portrayed with “a large smoke-gray square”—the color of the Great Depression and the 15 minutes of fame Gee’s Bend garnered when discovered “by sociologists, historians, / educators, and journalists” who came and went, leaving Gee’s Bend “the way it had been / before being discovered.”

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Image copyright Cozbi A. Cabrera, courtesy of Random House Books for Young Readers

In Colors, the girl’s grandma explains the meanings and feelings behind each colored cloth. “Blue cools. / Red is loud and hard to control, / like fire and a gossiping tongue.” Green, orange, yellow, white, pink, and all the others have their own personalities. “Grandma says, / ‘Colors show how you / feel deep down inside.’”

In Dr. King Brings Hope, the little girl adds “a spotless white patch for the hope Dr. Martin Luther King / brought to the Bend” and goes on to tell how her grandma saw Dr. King at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church and what it meant to her. By and By follows the girl as she adds “golden thank-yous, for James Reeb,” a “bright blue piece of velvet for Viola Liuzzo,” and a “big plaid people circle of white, black, brown, yellow, and red for Reverend Dr. King, all “killed for believing in justice.”

In the 1960s, The Sewing Bee tells, Gee’s Bend quilters were once again discovered. Joining the Bee provided buyers for the handmade quilts, but there were stipulations on the types of quilts that could be made and sold. The girl asks her grandma if she was part of the Bee, to which she replies, “‘more money. Less freedom. I chose to stay free.’”

At last all of the patches are laid out and the time comes to stitch the girl’s quilt. Five women stand at the frame “all stitchin’ and pullin.’” They work “in a slow and steady rhythm” relaxing and enjoying being together until the quilt is finished. In Finished, the last stitch is sewn, and the thread bitten and knotted. The girl has hundreds of ideas for future quilts. “Quilts that are about me, / the place where I live, / and the people / who have been here for generations.”

Further poems unite the history of “Baby Girl,” her family, and neighbors, and an Author’s Note about quilting and the women of Gee’s Bend follow the text.

Patricia McKessack’s free verse poems capture the close relationships and camaraderie of the generations of women who join around the quilting frame to share and pass down their art and their heart. McKessack’s conversational verses, connected page after page like the patches of a quilt, reveal the complexity of this handmade art form in the way intimate talks between friends unveil a life. Readers learn not only about the little girl and her own thoughts, but the history and influence of her immediate family, world events, inspirational figures, and deeply held beliefs that make her who she is and ties her to the other Gee’s Bend women.

Cozbi A. Cabrera’s stunning acrylic paintings take readers inside the heart of the Gee’s Bend women, depicting the girl’s home, the table-sized quilting frame where the women collectively work, the plantations, the protests, and the changes that came but did not unravel the convictions, values, and love of the little girl’s family. Readers can almost hear the talking and singing of the Gee’s Bend women as they stitch their quilts, and the comforting, embracing environment is evident on every page. Cabrera’s portraits of the little girl, her mama, and her grandma are particularly moving. For What Changed, Cabrera depicts a yellow school bus appearing on the dirt road from the right hand corner of the page. In the  driver’s side mirror, a dot of a house is reflected, reminding readers that no matter how far these women are from home, Gee’s Bend is always with them.

Children—and adults—will find Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt inspirational and uplifting. This volume of poetry can be read at one sitting or delved into again and again, making it a wonderful choice for home libraries and a must for school and public libraries.

Ages 5 – 12

Dragonfly Books, Random House, 2016 (paperback edition) | ISBN 978-0399549502

View a gallery  of fashion designs, dolls, and other handmade art work by Cozbi A. Cabrera on her website!

“I Need a Patch for That” Day Activity

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Design a Quilt Coloring Pages

 

Quilts are so much more than pieces of material sewn together—they’re life stories! Here are two quilt coloring pages for you to design and color. What does each piece mean to you? As you color each section, write a sentence about an event or thought that is important to you.

Quilt Template 1 | Quilt Template 2

Picture Book Review

May 16 – Drawing Day

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About the Holiday

Drawing day was established to remind us that all of the creative thoughts inside us are worthy of being shared. It also brings awareness to and appreciation of the artists and illustrators of all types who translate our world into meaningful images through which we understand people, events, and objects in different ways. Today, indulge your inner artist! Grab a pencil, pen, marker, paints or chalk, some paper or canvas, and create!

Tell Me a Tattoo Story

Written by Alison McGhee | Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages Birth – 6

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452119373

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

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

National Tattoo Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-design-your-own-tattoo-template

Design Your Own Tattoo

 

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

Picture Book Review