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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stitchin'-and-pullin'-a-gee's-bend-quilt-cover

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stitchin'-and-pullin'-a-gee's-bend-quilt-puzzling-the-pieces

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stitchin'-and-pullin'-a-gee's-bend-quilt-understanding-comes-later

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stars-quilt-coloring-page

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-cover

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-interior-art-at-home

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-interior-art-be-kind

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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-tell-me-a-tattoo-story-interior-art-longest-trip

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

March 11 – It’s Youth Art Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-cover

About the Holiday

Youth Art Month was established in 1961 by the Crayon, Water Color, and Craft Institute in conjunction with the National Art Education Association to emphasize the value of participating in art for all children. Involvement in the visual arts improves problem solving, observation, creativity, and communications skills. The observance continued to grow, later including secondary school students in 1969 and the creation of the Council of Art Education to oversee the month’s events in 1984.

Art shows, special exhibits, school and community events, and fundraisers are all part of the celebration. The highlight of the month is the School Flags Across America…Flying High competition in which students design a flag around a particular state theme. The flags are judged and the winning flag from each state is made into an actual flag and flown with the others in Washington DC. A child’s love of art often begins early as they are exposed to a variety of beautiful images in picture books, such as today’s original concept book.

Opposite Surprise

By Agnese Baruzzi

 

Opposite Surprise poses a series of  questions that invite young children to ponder various opposites while also challenging their perceptions. For instance, is the blue truck on the opposite page small or big? Well, in comparison to what, you might ask. A flip of the half-fold flap answers this question and allows readers to say that the blue truck is small when compared to the big digger behind it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-small-or-big-

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-truck-flap

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-small-or-big-open-flap

Image copyright Agnese Baruzzi, courtesy of Minedition

Is there one sheep on the next page or many? It seems that the gray sheep is standing alone, but pulling the flap reveals a whole flock of diverse sheep. Now, how about that fancy, blue box—is it empty or full? Empty you might reply quickly, but perhaps…. With a tug on the page, kids discover that this container is not a box but an aquarium teeming with fish of all sizes! Toot, toot! A little train is chugging along on the next page. Is it short or long? With just an engine and a caboose, the train appears short. In reality, though, there’s plenty of room for passengers in the train’s two long cars.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-short-or-long-train

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-short-or-long-open-flap

Image copyright Agnese Baruzzi, courtesy of Minedition

Look at that cute orange caterpillar! Is it straight or curvy? Opening the flap will make kids giggle to see just what a wiggly guy this is! The next one is easy-peasy! Hot or Cold? Anyone can see that the sun is hot, hot, hot! But wait! A gentle pull exposes two delicious (and dripping) ice pops! There’s a little bit for both neatniks and messy-types on the next page as the crisp, clean red shirt suddenly becomes dirty with the flick of the flap.

Turning the page reveals a window. Are the shutters closed or open? It would appear they are closed, shutting out the view. But with a simple pull they open, letting in the sun for the plant and the bird on the windowsill. Now, seriously, must we debate slow or fast when a tiny turtle is the subject of the question? Apparently so, because readers discover that nothing is what it seems when they open the flap to find the turtle transformed into a jet plane soaring through the sky. And finally, readers come to a yellow pencil. Is it thin or wide? Standing straight and tall, it hardly takes up more room than a pinky finger. But with the page stretched out, that thin pencil becomes the sides of a bridge wide enough to span a river.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-hot-or-cold-sun

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-opposite-surprise-hot-or-cold-open-flap

Image copyright Agnese Baruzzi, courtesy of Minedition

Agnese Baruzzi’s unique concept books goes beyond the usual clear-cut definitions of opposites to present a new way of looking at and interacting with the world. Her smart, colorful illustrations invite little readers to answer not only the prompted question, but to explore further. The little blue truck is small, yes, but it is also smaller than the digger. This one page also invites adults to talk about the idea of “in front of” and “behind.” Throughout the book there are opportunities to count, talk about direction and spatial relationships; discuss why the ice-pops are melting; and explore many more topics that are the building blocks for reading, speech, and math literacy.

Opposite Surprise would be a fantastic baby shower or new baby gift; a wonderful take-along for car rides, outings, or wait times; and an excellent addition to toddler’s bookshelves as well as library and classroom collections.

Ages birth – 5

Minedition, 2017 | ISBN 978-9888341375

Youth Art Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-drawing-page

Fun Framed Drawing Page

 

Use this printable Fun Framed Drawing Page to make your own creation, family flag, or story!

Picture Book Review

January 27 – It’s Creativity Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stitchin'-and-pullin'-a-gee's-bend-quilt-cover

About the Holiday

January is a time for reflection and new beginnings. What better time to start thinking creatively and finding your inner artist, scientist, inventor, thinker? Go ahead and do the thing you’ve always wanted to do!

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 of 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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stitchin'-and-pullin'-a-gee's-bend-quilt-puzzling-the-pieces

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

In Something Else, “Baby Girl” is growing too big to play beneath the frame. Her legs becoming longer and her mind 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 her turn at the frame. Finally, in Where to Start? her time comes. The girl asks her mama how to begin and she 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 sees the life and the history in each. 

Nothing Wasted sees Grandma pulling apart a red-and-white gingham dress stitch by stitch to become a quilting square that the girl suddenly knows “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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stitchin'-and-pullin'-a-gee's-bend-quilt-understanding-comes-later

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 Pinky, the harrowing facts of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama frame the story of one marcher, Mr. Willie Quill who broke horses for the Alabama State Mounted Patrol and was saved from the Police attacks when one of the horses he’d trained knew his voice. In Dr. King Brings Hope, the little girl adds a “Patch of bright pink / to remember Pinky’s story. / Next to it I sew / 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. There were buyers for the handmade quilts, but stipulations. The girl asks her grandma if she was part of the Bee, to which she replies, “‘Yes, / 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, on 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 side mirror a dot of a house comes into view, 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 and delved into again and again, making it a wonderful choice for home libraries and a must for school, public, and other 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!

Creativity Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-stars-quilt-coloring-page

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

January 24 – It’s National Hobby Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-igami-cover

About the Holiday

The idea of hobbies—something useful, purposeful, and fun done in one’s spare time—has been around at least since 1676 when Sir Matthew Hale wrote in Contemplations Moral and Divine that “Almost everyone hath some hobby horse or other wherein he prides himself.” Later, in the mid-1800s when work ceased to consume every hour of the day, and people had more time for leisure pursuits, hobbies became more popular. Today, it may be interesting to consider that many of our current hobbies—knitting, sewing, woodworking, candle making, etc.—were once the work of our ancestors. To celebrate this month’s holiday, try a new activity—it may turn into a favorite!

More-igami

Written by Dori Kleber | Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

 

Joey was a little boy with a particular fascination. He was captivated by all things folded. At home he had a collection of “old road maps,” the bellows on an accordion made it his favorite instrument, and he even tucked himself into a foldaway bed at night. One day Joey witnessed the most amazing thing at school. Sarah Takimoto’s mother came to his class, and—right before the students’ eyes—folded, flipped, and pulled a plain white piece of paper “until it became…a crane.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-igami-mrs-takimoto

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

“Joey’s eyes popped. His jaw dropped. Mrs. Takimoto called it origami.” Joey was smitten. “‘I want to make origami,’” Joey told Sarah’s mother. “‘Will you teach me?’” Mrs. Takimoto  answered that while she could teach him the right folds, it would take practice and patience to become an origami master. Joey raced home that afternoon and began folding. When he ran out of notebook paper and construction paper, he used his homework…the newspaper…his sister’s sheet music…gift wrap… even “Aunt Vivian’s pineapple surprise” recipe card. But when he folded up all thirty-eight dollars in his mom’s purse, she put her foot down.

“Joey drooped.” His cranes were still coming out wrinkled and crooked, and he’d never be able to become an origami master without practicing. To soothe his disappointment, he headed next door to Muy Mexicana for some fajitas. Right away Mr. Lopez noticed Joey’s disgruntlement. When Joey explained that everyone was losing patience with him, Mr. Lopez said, “‘Many artists are misunderstood, amigo.’ Especially when they are just learning.’” Mr. Lopez went into the kitchen, and when he came out with the sizzling fajitas, he was delighted to see a napkin pyramid sitting on the table.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-igami-folding-sheet-music

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Joey apologized, but Mr. Lopez thought it made the table look fancy. In fact, he liked it so much that he had Joey fold every napkin on every table. After that, Joey went to Muy Mexicana each day following school and folded the napkins into decorative shapes. One day he made fans, the next candlesticks, and the day after that, crowns. He patiently worked until each one was perfect.

Finally, he felt ready to attempt his original challenge. “He took a crisp napkin. He folded. He flipped. He pulled.” When he was finished, a perfect crane sat in front of him. Just then a girl with a paper fan walked in. Her eyes widened as they zeroed in on Joey’s crane. Joey offered to show her how to make it, but warned, “‘It takes practice—and lots of patience!’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-more-igami-crane

Image copyright G. Brian Karas, text copyright Dori Kleber. Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Dori Kleber’s unique multicultural story of a little boy who finds the perfect creative outlet for his singular interest will captivate kids who are just beginning to try their own hands at favorite hobbies, schoolwork, or other pursuits. With humor and honest depictions of Joey’s frustration and persistence, Kleber shows readers that practice and patience really do pay off. As Joey meets another folding enthusiast, kids will see that there are always others with whom to share favorite pastimes.

Opening More-igami to the first page where Joey sits gazing lovingly at a taco with a folded napkin next to his plate, readers will know they are in for something special. As always, G. Brian Karas’s characters are enthusiastic, encouraging, and adorable. Readers will empathize with Joey as they watch him folding and folding, and giggle at the many, many practice cranes that litter his home, even perching atop his sister’s music stand and appearing in his mom’s purse.

Karas makes full creative use of the origami theme in his clever page designs and illustrations, beginning with the square shape of the book itself and the origami paper-styled endpapers. Vivid, solid-color background pages are divided diagonally, vertically, or horizontally with subtle changes in hue or nearly invisible lines. In depictions of Joey’s school, home, and favorite restaurant, diagonals, angles, and sharp edges predominate: tables and floors create triangles on the page; windows, walls, and doors divide pages into shapes associated with the steps of origami’s folded creations; and floor tiles, the sidewalk, and even Joey’s shirt portray grid lines. The color schemes of each page, inspired by the patterns and shades of origami paper, are dazzling and unite the varied aspects of this special book.

For any child undertaking a new activity or venture, More-igami is a charming and encouraging companion on the way to proficiency—one that would make a wonderful home library addition.

Ages 4 – 8

Candlewick Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0763668198

To learn more about Dori Kleber and her writing, visit her website!

G. Brian Karas has a whole gallery of illustrations, books, information, and “what nots” on his website!

National Hobby Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-origami-penguin-template

Origami Pets

 

Origami is a fun hobby that can grow in complexity as you gain skill. Here are two templates to get you started! All you need is a square piece of paper and—if you’d like to decorate your piece—some markers or colored pencils.

Puppy Template | Penguin Template

Picture Book Review

January 19 – It’s Creativity Month

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-painting-pepette

About the Holiday

As the cold and snowy weather keeps us inside more and more, what are we to do? Why not create?! Whether you like writing, drawing, cooking, woodworking, gardening, photography, dance, or other pursuits, January is the perfect time to begin a new project. Stock up on supplies, get those ideas going, and create!

Painting Pepette

Written by Linda Ravin Lodding | Illustrated by Claire Fletcher

 

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-painting-pepette-great-room

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-painting-pepette-pepette-with-bunny

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-painting-pepette-pepette-at-home-and-in-paris

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

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-painting-pepette-pepette-at-montmartre

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

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

In Painting Pepette Linda Ravin Lodding has written a multi-layered story of love, friendship, and unique vision. Through the sweet relationship between Josette and Pepette and with a sprinkling of humorous self-congratulation by the artists, Lodding nudges readers to appreciate that while art can reveal and obscure, reflect or transcend reality, ultimately the success of a piece—complex or simple—lies within the viewer’s heart. Children will also see that their creative endeavors, undertaken with love, are just as meaningful and appreciated as those of professional artists. Lodding’s lyrical language trips off the tongue and is a joy to read—as if readers are following Josette as she skips happily through Paris.

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

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

Ages 4 – 9

little bee books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1499801361

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

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

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

Creativity Month Activities

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-painting-pepette-activity-guide

Painting Pepette Reading and Activity Guide

 

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

Stuck on You Magnets or Picture Hanger

 

Creativity is meant to be shared! Here’s an easy craft that you can make to give to your friends whether they live close by or far away. These magnets can used by themselves or to hold a picture-hanging wire. Use inside jokes, favorite characters, or shared experiences to make these  crafts personal!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-friends-magnets-craft

For Magnets

Supplies

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

Directions

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

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

For Map Picture Holder

Supplies

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

Directions

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

Picture Book Review

January 2 – Motivation and Inspiration Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-radiant-child-cover

About the Holiday

While Motivation and Inspiration Day was instituted in reaction to the 9/11 attacks, the holiday’s influence and meaning has grown and now includes world-wide participation. Falling on the second day of the year, it encourages us to reflect on our lives—where we are and where we want to go. Take some time to consider what motivates and inspires you and follow those inner and external voices to help you achieve your dreams.

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.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-radiant-child-beautiful-art

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. He 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.’”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-radiant-child-drawing

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 that now is displayed in museums around the world and sells for millions of dollars, and a personal comment on the impact Basquait’s art had on the author follow the text.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-radiant-child-studio

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, repetition, the rhythms of a poet. Taking the reader from Jean-Michel’s childhood to adulthood to show how maintaining his focused determination, self-confidence, and persistence over many years led to his ultimately becoming a famous artist demonstrates 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.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-radiant-child-boxing-image

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 to take in all 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!

Motivation and Inspiration Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-motivation-and-inspiration-day-craft

Found-Item Crafts

 

 

Each person finds motivation and 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