August 22 – It’s American Artist Appreciation Month

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About the Holiday

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

Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Frostic Story

Written by Lindsey McDivitt | Illustrated by Eileen Ryan Ewen

 

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

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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

 

August 6 – It’s International Assistance Dog Week

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About the Holiday

International Assistance Dog Week was established by Marci Davis, the author of Working Like Dogs: The Service Dog Guidebook, host of PetLifeRadio.com’s internet radio show “Working Like Dogs, and a paraplegic, to honor these loyal companions that through training and constant love transform the lives of those with disabilities. The holiday also promotes awareness and educates the public about service dogs and recognizes those who raise and train them from puppyhood. To commemorate today’s holiday, learn more about assistance dogs and the heroic deeds they perform. To learn about events in your area, visit the International Assistance Dog Week website.

Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

Written by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes | Illustrated by Scott Magoon

 

When the puppy, Rescue, a Seeing Eye dog in training, heard his trainer say “‘You aren’t meant to be a Seeing Eye dog,’” he worried. His family had always been Seeing Eye dogs, and he didn’t know what else he could do. But his trainer did. “‘The service dog team is better for you,’ his trainer said. ‘Service dogs work beside their partners, instead of in front of them.’” Rescue hoped he would make a good service dog. “He didn’t want to let anyone down.”

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

In the nearby city, a girl named Jessica had been hurt. Her right leg seemed to be healing, but “the doctors had to remove part of her left leg so she could be healthy again.” The doctors told her that she would have to use a wheelchair or prosthetic leg for the rest of her life. Jessica worried about how she would walk and do things by herself. “She didn’t want to let anyone down.”

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Meanwhile Rescue was learning all of the skills he’d need as a service dog. He learned how to fetch things and open doors. Jessica was also learning new skills. She practiced using a wheelchair, getting out of bed, putting on her prosthetic leg, and walking. Even though she made progress every day, Jessica felt frustrated about the things she could no longer do.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

One day, a visitor brought her service dog to meet Jessica. Jessica was so impressed by everything the dog could do, that she filled out an application to receive a dog of her own as soon as her visitor left. After Jessica left the hospital, she “got some very exciting news. Rescue got exciting news too.”

At last, the day arrived for Jessica and Rescue to meet. They liked each other immediately. After Rescue showed Jessica all the things he could do, they went back to the city to begin working together. Rescue brought her things she needed, he barked when Jessica needed someone, he could even push the walk button at street crosswalks.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Even though Rescue was a strong worker, Jessica knew he was also a dog who liked to have fun. “She made sure that Rescue had playtime every day.” Then one day, Jessica’s “doctor told her that her right leg would have to be removed too. She would need to wear two prosthetic legs.” Jessica was very sad, but Rescue knew just what to do to help her. As Jessica slept, Rescue cuddled up next to her.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of Candlewick Press.

Once again, Jessica and Rescue went into training together. “They did chores together, played together, and snuggled together.” Both Jessica and Rescue felt happy. “‘You changed my life, Rescue,’” Jessica told her companion. “‘I couldn’t have done this without you.’” Rescue was proud of them both.

An Author’s Note from Jessica Kensky and her husband Patrick Downes, both injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, follows the text and provides more information about the story, their Service Dog, Rescue, and the NEADS organization.

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Image copyright Scott Magoon, 2018, text copyright Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes. Courtesy of scottmagoon.com.

Based on Jessica Kensky’s real-life partnership with Rescue, Rescue & Jessica offers children a thoughtful and honest portrayal of loss, hope, and recovery. Jessica’s story will touch young readers while answering questions that many have as they interact with and see similar partnerships of Service Dogs and children or adults with physical disabilities. The Boston Marathon bombing is never mentioned in the story, leaving it up to adult readers to explain the details depending on the age and sensitivities of the listener. The addition of Rescue’s point of view gives readers a window into the intelligence and loyalty of these valiant animals. While not shying away from the difficulties that Jessica faced, each page is infused with courage and the resiliency of the human spirit.

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Scott Magoon’s realistic, digitally created illustrations will rivet children to the story with clear depictions of Rescue’s training and Jessica’s stay at the hospital. As Jessica suffers grief and worry, she is surrounded by darkness, but even here, spots of light are given in images of her parents’ vigil at her hospital bedside, a physical therapist’s encouragement, and the comfort Rescue provides on a starlit night. As Jessica learns to walk again with her prosthetic leg, black storm clouds give way to gray showers seen outside the therapy room window and the city—her home and ultimate destination is seen across the river in the distance.

A sunburst accompanies Jessica’s first experience with a Service Dog, and as she and Rescue become partners, the gray-tone images acquire a bit of green grass that blossoms into spring and then full-fledged summer when Jessica resumes some of her past activities with her family. The final two-page spread of Jessica, with Rescue by her side, leaving gray skies behind and walking across a bridge toward home and the glowing promise of a sunny day is moving and triumphant.

A poignant and uplifting story, Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship is highly recommended for any young reader and a must for pubic and school or classroom libraries.

Candlewick, 2018 | ISBN 978-0763696047

To learn more about Scott Magoon, his books, and his art, visit his website.

International Assistance Dog Week Activity

CPB - Dog Biscuits

Homemade Dog Biscuits

 

These homemade dog biscuits are fun to make and a special treat for your dog at home, a neighbor’s pet, or dogs waiting for forever homes at your local shelter. Why not get together with your friends and make a batch? Then share them with your pets or dogs who need a little extra love.

Children should get help from an adult when using the oven.

Supplies

  • 1 large bowl
  • Large spoon or whisk
  • Cookie cutters – shaped like traditional dog bones or any favorite shape

Ingredients

  • 3 cups Buckwheat flour
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted
  • 1 egg beaten

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Add buckwheat flour to bowl
  3. Add powdered milk to bowl
  4. Add salt to bowl
  5. Stir to mix dry ingredients
  6. Add water
  7. Add melted margarine or butter
  8. Add egg
  9. Stir until liquid is absorbed
  10. Knead for a few minutes to form a dough
  11. If the dough is too dry, add a little more water, one Tablespoon at a time
  12. Place the dough on a board
  13. Roll dough to ½ inch thickness
  14. Cut into shapes with cookie cutters
  15. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes
  16. Biscuits will be hard when cool.

Makes about 40 biscuits.

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You can find Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review