March 31 – National Crayon Day

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About the Holiday

If the aroma of crayons takes you back to your childhood or means that you know your kids are having fun and being creative, then today’s holiday is for you! Invented in 1902 by Edwin Binney, the Crayola crayon is a staple of young artists everywhere. With 120 different colors. many with imaginative names, everyone has a favorite color. What’s yours?

I received a copy of The Forgotten Crayon from Minedition for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own.

By Jakki Licare

The Forgotten Crayon

By Yoko Maruyama

 

Twelve brand new crayons are waiting at the store for someone to choose them. They are excited to find out who their new owner will be. The crayons are thrilled when they feel their box moving. They are finally going home. In his room, their new owner, Lucas, opens the lid and smiles down at the crayons.

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Copyright Yoko Maruyama, 2020. Courtesy of minedition.

Lucas uses a light green crayon to color grass. Then, he uses a brown crayon to draw a tree. Using the dark green and pink crayons, he adds in flowers and leaves for a springtime picture. “Those three crayons returned to the box a little shorter, but they seemed very happy.”

When summer comes, Lucas draws an ocean with a light blue crayon and makes a sail boat with the dark blue crayon. Even though the crayons are shorter, they return to the box happy. Fall comes and Lucas makes a Halloween picture using the orange, red, yellow, and black crayons. Happy to have been chosen, the crayons return to their box. “Day after day Lucas colored picture after picture, but he never chose the white crayon.”

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Copyright Yoko Maruyama, 2020. Courtesy of minedition.

Around winter time, Lucas tells his mom that he would like a new box of crayons. The white crayon, towering over his shorter boxmates is very upset that he was never used. One day Lucas’s family holds a yard sale, and the old box of crayons is put out with the rest of the unwanted items. People come by taking this and that, but nobody is interested in the crayons. Lucas’s mother tells him that if no one takes them then they will throw away the crayons. 

“As it grew later and darker, the crayons started to feel so sad they were near to tears.” Just when they feel certain they are going to be thrown out, a little girl opens them up. She is so excited. There is a brand-new white crayon in the box! “She cradled the old crayon box all the way home.”

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Copyright Yoko Maruyama, 2020. Courtesy of minedition.

Their new owner, Olivia, always starts her pictures with a white crayon. Then, using water colors, she paints the paper. The white crayon’s wax prevents the watercolors from sticking to it. So, wherever Olivia had used the white crayon, it remains white. She paints white stars in the sky, blue seas with white jellyfish, and forests with white unicorns. When the first snow of the year comes, “Olivia drew a picture using mostly the white crayon.” Returning to the box, the white crayon is now much shorter and all the crayons are happy.

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Copyright Yoko Maruyama, 2020. Courtesy of minedition.

 Yoko Maruyama’s soft-toned illustrations nicely complement her gentle narrative. The story starts off in a dark, quiet box where the colorful, tall, and happy crayons are waiting to be bought at the store. Her hopeful words, “Their hearts were filled with expectation,” start the story off on a happy and peaceful note.  The book ends with the crayons in the dark box once again, but this time they are all shorter and happy to have been chosen. 

The message of inclusivity is a beautiful theme woven throughout the book. Maruyama returns to the inside of the box several times, illustrating how the white crayon is the only crayon that doesn’t get used. The tall white crayon sticks out compared to the more colorful and shorter crayons. The white crayon’s simplistic sad face makes it easy for young readers to understand that the white crayon is sad from being excluded. Then, later Maruyama shows the white crayon smiling along with the rest of the crayons, shorter and happier from being included.

While a third of the book’s illustration take place inside the crayon box, Maruyama has created a beautiful tale about thinking outside the box. Olivia’s unique way of using the white crayon’s wax is very different from the way Lucas had created his drawings. Maruyama’s clever illustrations displaying crayon-resistant art can easily be replicated by young readers. The illustrations throughout the book play on the use of white space as well. The dark interior of the crayon box contrasts with bright light that appears when Olivia or Lucas open the box. This technique is also featured in the human world. For example, in Olivia’s house the dark interior contrasts sharply with the white snow outside.

My son loves this book! It has been in nightly rotation since we first read it a week ago. The Forgotten Crayon is a great book for helping children understand the importance of inclusivity and makes a creative addition for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 5-8

minedition,  2020 |  ISBN 978-9888341986

National Crayon Day Activity

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Jellyfish Painting

Have fun recreating Olivia’s jellyfish painting from your own crayon box! 

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print out stencil template
  2. Starting in the center of each figure cut out the jellyfish and the fish
  3. Place template on paper. Using your white crayon, trace and color in your jellyfish and fish
  4. Use blue watercolors and paint your paper
  5. Let dry

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You can find The Forgotten Crayon at these booksellers

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Picture Book Review

March 25 – National Little Red Wagon Day

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About the Holiday

In 2016 Radio Flyer established today’s holiday in anticipation of its 100th anniversary in 2017. That’s one hundred years of children enjoying the imaginative outdoor play a little red wagon provides! Whether kids are transporting their siblings, giving their pets or toys a ride, helping out in the garden, or participating in a community parade, the red wagon has been at the center of the action and a plaything that gets passed down from parent to child as a family grows. If you have little ones in your family, celebrate today by taking a little red wagon – or any wagon – for a spin.

Red Wagon

By Renata Liwska

 

When Lucy got a new red wagon, “she wanted to play with it immediately.” Her mother thought she could take her wagon to the market. That didn’t sound like much fun to Lucy, but she headed to the market with a list anyway.

When she came to the big hill, her friends Hedgehog and Squirrel jumped in. That made the wagon “pretty heavy.” Fortunately, Rabbit came along to help push. At the top of the hill, they stopped for a snack with Bird and Raccoon, but “it started to rain! Oh, brother.” Lucy pushed the wagon to the bottom of the hill, but by now the rain was a torrent. That was okay, though, as the wagon had transformed into a ship, and Raccoon, in his umbrella, had become a pirate captain.

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Copyright Renata Liwska, 2013, courtesy of Philomel Books.com.

When the rain stopped, the friends went on their way in their red Conestoga wagon. Bunny, in his ten gallon hat, pushed while Sheriff Lucy pulled. Hedgehog held the reins, and Raccoon road her horse alongside. “At last Lucy arrived at the market.” As Hedgehog rolled their circus wagon into the center, Bunny toddled tall on stilts, Lucy juggled rings, and Raccoon blew a horn.

Lucy gathered all the vegetables on her mother’s list and started toward home. The train engine chugged, pulling the vegetable car up the steep hill. They were almost home “when the wagon hit a rock” and rocketed into space amid vegetable planets. When they landed, Lucy “gathered the vegetables and put them back into her wagon.

Lucy’s mom was happy to see her when she got home and thanked her happily for helping. “Finally, Lucy was free to play with her wagon,” which now made a perfect spot for a nap.

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Copyright Renata Liwska, 2013, courtesy of Philomel Books.com.

Snuggling up with your little one and Renata Liwska’s Red Wagon is such a sweet way to spend story time. As young children so often do, adorable Lucy turns a chore into imaginative playtime as she and her friends rapidly use mishaps, bumps, and their changing surroundings as springboards for their supple creativity.  Liwska’s simple story is the perfect frame for her beautiful, soft-hued, and detailed art as this group of cute friends become cowboys and cowgirls, sailors, pioneers, circus performers, and mom’s helpers.

A rich story for the youngest readers, Red Wagon would be a perfect baby gift and a much-loved addition to any toddler’s bookshelf.

Ages 1 – 3

Philomel Books, 2013 | ISBN 978-0399162398 (Board Book)

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

National Little Red Wagon Day Activity

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Take a Ride in the Little Red Wagon Maze

 

Everyone wants to ride in the wagon. Can you help these friends find their way in this printable maze?

Take a Ride in the Little Red Wagon Maze | Take a Ride in the Little Red Wagon Maze Solution

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You can find Red Wagon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

January 31 – Inspire Your Heart with Art Day

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About the Holiday

Today we celebrate the feeling you get inside when you create or experience art. Art can inspire, gladden, sadden, anger, teach, and compel action. It can also provide joy and inspiration when you need it most. Celebrate today’s holiday by visiting a museum, bookstore, library, concert, or gallery.

Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Written by Lindsey McDivitt | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 6 – 10

Sleeping Bear Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-1585364053

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

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

American Artist Appreciation Month

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Nature Coloring Pages

 

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

Meadow Coloring PageOcean Coloring Page

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

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

Picture Book Review

 

January 17 – Kid Inventors’ Day

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About the Holiday

Today’s holiday celebrates all those ingenious kids who have improved the world with their inventions. This date was chosen to commemorate another child inventor—Benjamin Franklin—who designed the first swim fins when he was just 12 years old! (Seriously, is there nothing this man didn’t or couldn’t do?) With their supple minds and can-do attitudes, kids have changed the ways things are done in the fields of medicine, technology, communications, and even food—as today’s book shows! To learn more about the day and find resources for young inventors, visit the K.I.D website.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut

Written by Pat Miller | Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

 

In 1844 at the tender age of 13, Hanson Gregory left the family farm and went to sea as a cabin boy on the schooner Isaac Achorn. He quickly became the cook’s assistant and also learned how to rig the sails and “steer a ship over trackless waves by sun and stars.” By the age of 19 Gregory had become the captain of the schooner Hardscrabble, and within a few more years was racing “his cargo from Maine to California as commander of a clipper, the fastest ship on any ocean.”

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Hanson Gregory may have been one of the best captains to sail the seas—once awarded a medal for heroism for rescuing seven shipwrecked Spanish sailors even though his own ship and crew were endangered. But his greatest achievement was not attained because of his seafaring skills—it was his ingenuity in the galley that people remember.

On June 22, 1847 as a 16-year-old cook’s assistant, Hanson was rustling up the crew’s breakfast—coffee and fried cakes, the same as every morning. While the pot of lard bubbled on the stove, Gregory formed balls of sweetened dough and dropped them in. They sizzled and crisped—at least around the edges. The centers were raw, heavy with grease, and they dropped like cannonballs in the stomach. “Sailors called them Sinkers.” But this morning Gregory had an idea. He removed the lid from the pepper can and cut out the center of the balls. “Then he tossed the rings into the bubbling lard.”

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

The cook and the sailors took one look at this odd concoction and…ate them up! “The cakes were brown, and sweet, and fully cooked. Sighs of delight rose above the noisy sea. A new breakfast tradition was born.” Gregory told his mom about his invention, and she fried up large batches of these ‘holey cakes’ that became a sensation at a friend’s store and on the docks.

You might think this is a pretty interesting tale in itself, “but sailors like their stories bold” and so they “spun legends worthy of such a delicious treat.” One tale had Captain Gregory inventing the doughnut while he saved his ship from disaster. Another told how Gregory, distraught over the drowning of five sailors pulled to the ocean floor by their “sinker” breakfast, punched holes in every cake to make them look like life rings and vowed, “‘Never again!’”

Captain Gregory had a sense of humor about his accomplishment. During an interview he once stated that “he had invented ‘the first hole ever seen by mortal eyes.’” Gregory lived to be 89 and is buried “overlooking the sea where stormy weather can be spotted as readily as it once was from the quarterdeck of the Hardscrabble.”

An author’s note expanding on the story of Captain Gregory, the doughnut, doughnut shops, a timeline, and a selected bibliography follow the text.

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Image copyright Vincent X. Kirsch, courtesy of vincentxkirsch.com

Doughnuts have never been so evocative! In Pat Miller’s humorous, informative history of this favorite pastry treat, readers can smell the salt air, feel the ocean swell and roll under their feet, and even ache a little for those poor sailors forced to eat “sinkers.” Seamlessly interwoven into this foodography is a fascinating look at the early days of sail. Miller’s language is immediately stirring: the Ivanhoe bucks and plunges, the sea becomes a monster, and Captain Gregory spears a sinker on the wheel spoke. Kids will marvel at a 13-year-old going off to sea and becoming an inventor at 16.

Vincent X. Kirsch provides just the right touch to this captivating true story with his cartoon-inspired watercolor and cut paper artwork. Ingeniously incorporating Hanson Gregory’s innovation of removing the center of the fried cakes, Kirsch’s illustrations are “cored” to allow for text, while the extracted section appears on the facing page as a glimpse through a porthole. The maritime atmosphere—from ship to shore—of the mid-1800s is beautifully represented in the folk-style sketches, and the humor that is so intrinsic to this story is wonderfully embraced.

The Hole Story of the Doughnut will delight foodies and history buffs alike and would make a fun gift and a delectable addition to personal libraries for all ages.

Ages 5 – 12

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 | ISBN 978-0544319615

Vincent X. Kirsch’s website is full of illustrations from his books for children—take a look at his portfolio!

Spend some time with Pat Miller on her website that offers activities, tips, resources and many more books!

Kid Inventors’ Day Activity

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CD (Compact Doughnuts) Decoration

 

Are some of  your CDs a little passé? Not if you can turn them into cute décor like this doughnut hanging.

Supplies

  • Unused CDs
  • Craft paint in tan, black, pink, yellow, white (or any colors you want for the doughnut and the icing)
  • Ribbon, any color and length you want
  • Fine-tip markers in bright colors
  • Glue
  • Glue dots (optional)
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint a wavy edge around the CD, let dry
  2. Paint the center of the CD, leaving the clear circle unpainted
  3. When the icing paint is dry, draw sprinkles on the icing with the markers
  4. With the ribbon make a loop hanger and attach it to the back of the CD with glue or glue dots
  5. Hang your decoration

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You can find The Hole Story of the Doughnut at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

December 17 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with Art

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About the Holiday

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

Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright

By Patricia Geis

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-frank-lloyd-wright-postcards

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

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

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

Ages 7 – 12 and up

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616895938

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

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

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

Picture Book Review

December 16 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with Art

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About the Holiday

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

Art this Way

By Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 2 – 4

Phaidon, 2019 | ISBN 978-071487721

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

Celebrating New Book Month with Art Activity

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Make Art from Found Objects

 

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

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You can find Art This Way at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

November 27 – It’s National Knit a Sweater Month

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About the Holiday

Inspired by NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, knitters have designed their own challenge – NaKniSweMo. At the beginning of the month, dedicated knitters got out their needles and yarn with the idea of creating a 50,000-stitch—or sweater-size—garment. As the month comes to a close, knitters are finishing up their last stitches on a new sweater that will keep them cozy this winter.

Crafty Llama

Written by Mike Kerr | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

 

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

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2018, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

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

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2018, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

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

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

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Image copyright Renata Liwska, 2018, text copyright Mike Kerr, 2018. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

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

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

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

National Knit a Sweater Month Activity

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Stand Out from the Flock! Coloring Page

 

You’ll always stand out from the flock in a hand-knit sweater! Give this unique sheep your own personal touch in this printable coloring page.

Stand Out from the Flock! Coloring Page
celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-crafty-llama-cover .

You can find Crafty Llama at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review