May 16 – Drawing Day

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About the Holiday

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

Tell Me a Tattoo Story

Written by Alison McGhee | Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages Birth – 6

Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452119373

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

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

National Tattoo Day Activity

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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

April 8 – Draw a Picture of a Bird Day

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About the Holiday

With the onset of spring, our feathered friends are busy building nests and hatching little ones. The return of birds to backyards, parks, and beaches as well as the increased activity gives budding nature artists the perfect opportunity to try their hand at sketching these favorite colorful creatures. Whether you prefer to make detailed renderings or simple line drawings, today’s holiday should inspire you to grab your pencil or paints and create!

Birds & Other Animals with Pablo Picasso

First Concepts with Fine Artists | Illustrations by Pablo Picasso

 

Pablo Picasso, “one of the most famous artists who ever lived,” was a prodigy who loved to draw animals of all kinds. Perhaps best known for his abstract portraits and his colorful canvases, Picasso also created line drawings, many of which were “inspired by poems about animals written by his friend Guillaume Apollinaire, a famous French poet.” The illustrations in Birds & Other Animals with Pablo Picasso come from Picasso’s notebooks and, combined, make a wonderfully conceived concept book for little ones.

Opening to the first page, readers meet three birds, one perhaps a little more steady on its feet than the others. Four more birds follow on the next page, a few gamely trying to stand on one leg like the regal flamingos behind them. From the tropical home of the flamingo, readers next travel to a snowy clime, where “penguins are birds who waddle over snow.”

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All artworks by Pablo Picasso © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2017. © 2017 Phaidon Press

“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” Don’t snooze! The rooster wants you to know that he is a bird too! Of course, “some birds fly,” and many insects have wings too. Flies fly and wasps fly. How about grasshoppers? They prefer to hop! Who else likes to hop? “Bunnies hop…especially to get away from hungry foxes. Does [the] fox look hungry to you?”

Some animals seem to be hungry all the time—like the squirrel on the next page (you know how squirrels are!) and the camel, whose “humps are small. When she eats, her humps will grow!” Do you like dogs? “This little dog has no humps—he’s long like a hot dog!” His friend is a big dog who can do tricks. Horses can learn tricks too and perform for people. They can even rear up and stand on two legs! You know who can’t stand on two legs? Right! Fish! “They swim! Turtles swim too.”

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All artworks by Pablo Picasso © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2017. © 2017 Phaidon Press

But we were talking about birds, weren’t we? There are some birds that are like fish. The pelican is a bird who likes to swim—of course, it likes to eat fish too. The ostrich is too big for either flying or swimming, but it can run—really fast! There are so many kinds of birds, aren’t there? Peacocks have long, colorful tail feathers, and owls like the nighttime. Yes, there are so many birds, “beautiful birds.”

The First Concepts with Fine Artists series by Phaidon Press is one of my favorite new collections for babies, toddlers, and even older kids. As an art lover, I’m impressed with the variety of styles and artists introduced to young children who will be attracted to the colors, shapes, and movement in the chosen artwork. As someone who works with words, I love the way the art is tied together with engaging and conversational text.

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All artworks by Pablo Picasso © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2017. © 2017 Phaidon Press

Birds and Other Animals with Pablo Picasso will enchant little ones with whimsical line drawings of animals that embody charming poise and personality. Each page invites readers to create stories of their own about the characters they see, and both children and adults will enjoy running a finger along the line to discover that most of the animals in this sturdy board book are created from one smooth stroke. Along the way, kids learn facts about certain animals, discover how shapes work together, and find objects to count. 

Line it all up and Birds and Other Animals with Pablo Picasso rewards readers with sophisticated fun. The book would make a lovely new baby gift or a delightful addition to young children’s home libraries.

Ages 2 – 5

Phaidon Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-0714874180

Draw a Picture of a Bird Day Activity

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Flight of Fancy Bird Drawings

 

Birds come in all shapes and sizes—which kind of bird is your favorite? With these two printables you can learn how to draw a bird and color a pair of birds who are busy collecting flowers!

Learn to Draw a Bird | Birds Carrying Flowers

Picture Book Review

March 11 – It’s Youth Art Month

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Fun Framed Drawing Page

 

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

Picture Book Review

January 19 – It’s Creativity Month

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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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!

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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

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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

November 22 – It’s Picture Book Month

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About the Holiday

Picture Book Month is an international literacy inititive put together by a group of authors and illustrators to raise awareness of the importance of print picture books. Througout the world libraries, schools, booksellers, authors, illustrators, and those who love picture books celebrate the wonder of this art form enjoyed by children and adults. The complexity of picture books is astounding. They contain some of the most beautiful art and compelling stories being created today. To learn more about the importance of the picture book visit Picture Book Month: A Celebration! to find daily posts by authors, illustrators, and experts in the field as well as fun activities!

The Whisper

By Pamela Zagarenski

 

A little girl loves stories and the magical realms they can take her to. One day while waiting for school to be dismissed, she spies a book on a shelf. Her teacher allows her to take it home with her, and the little girl happily runs off with it when the clock strikes 3:00. On the way home, she doesn’t notice that all the letters are escaping from the book or that a wily fox is catching them in a net.

At home she secludes herself in her room, excited to read the mysterious book. She turns the pages, awed by the beautiful pictures. But by the time she has finished, she has tears in her eyes. “Where were the words? Where were the stories?” The girl flips through the book again, but this time she hears a small whisper: “Dear little girl, don’t be disappointed. You can imagine the words. You can imagine the stories.”

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The whisper seems so knowing that the girl does at it suggests. She turns to the first page where a blue bear followed by a beekeeper walks under a honeycomb sun toward a brown bear. The girl stares at the picture and thinks of a title: Blue Bear’s Visit. Her story begins: “Blue Bear arrived on the first day of spring. He promised…”

Warming to the idea of creating stories, the girl examines the second picture. She notices the same white rabbit that was in the first picture. In the foreground a “magnificent ox” is listening to a man whispering into its large, soft ear. The Secret, the little girl titles this story, which starts: “Mr. Ox, you must please promise not to tell anyone, but we need your help. Last week…”

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

With the third picture the words tumble out more easily, forming sentences that give life to the massive white elephant, regal lion, and that rabbit again who are traveling the sea in a long, open boat. The Quest, she calls it. In Tigers Prayer, preparations are being made: tea is brewing, a clown with a pointed hat plays his accordion, a windhorse jumps through hoops, and the rabbit rides a golden ring as a lion hears what Tiger has to say. A Birthday Party comes next, and it seems Pan has planned a very secret party. An owl perches in the crook of a tree asking for the password with a “Hoo, Who?” which is answered quickly because the vanilla cake with raspberry filling and vanilla cream frosting holding 6 candles must be delivered.

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The Magical Cloak sees the little girl’s imagination truly take flight as she decides the man in the “elaborate coat” is a wizard or magician whose bubbles come to life once released from the blower. Enormous whales now fill the harbor. They are beautiful, but something must be done….Next, hurry to meet the owl! He is picking up passengers at midnight. But what does the golden key in his beak open? Only the story The Golden Key locked in the little girl’s mind will tell.

Hours go by as the little girl creates tales for each picture in the book. As the night grows late, she sleeps, carried into slumber on dreams woven from the pictures and stories she imagined. When she wakes up, the girl wishes to spend more time with her new friends, but it’s time for school so she gathers up the book and hurries away.

On the path to school she meets a fox who is carrying a bag. “Excuse me, little girl,” says the fox. “I believe I have the words to your book.” The fox then explains how he caught the words as they spilled from the pages the day before. The fox gives her his parcel, but asks for a favor. The girl is happy to oblige and lets the fox stand on her shoulders to reach a bunch of grapes dangling from a nearby vine.

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Copyright Pamela Zagarenski, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The girl rushes into school and apologizes for being late. She relates the story of the fox and the words and the magical night she has spent making up tales for the pictures in the book. “I have so many stories to tell you,” says the girl to her teacher. “‘I can’t want to hear,’” the teacher replies with a smile.”

Opening a book by Pamela Zagarenski is to fall into an alternate realm of such beauty and imagination that you forget the real world exists.  Her paintings are composed of rich, regal hues swirling with images and designs that overlap and float to create the kind of experience only the deepest, most complex dreams allow. The characters and details follow page to page uniting the pictures and, subtly, the stories the little girl discovers in them: The teapot, once introduced, waits under a tree on the next page and rides the waves of the whale-filled sea in the next. The bees and the rabbit are constant companions on each spread, and the animals will fill the reader with awe.

The little girl’s imagined stories are tantalizing with just the right mix of the mysterious and the tangible to entice readers to add more. The frame of the Aesop Fable The Fox and the Grapes is inspired and could lead to a conversation about how “life is what you make it.”

The Whisper is a book readers will want to linger over and dip into again and again, and would be especially fun on those days when there’s “nothing” to do. It makes a beautiful gift for any occasion and would be a welcome addition to any home library.

Ages 4 – 9 (this book would also appeal to adults)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015 | ISBN 978-0544416864

Picture Book Month Activity

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I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate

 

Do you want to let everyone know which books are yours? Or just declare your love of books? Then display this printable I Have the Reading Bug Book Plate in your books. on your wall, or in your locker!

Picture Book Review

November 2 – Look for Circles Day

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About the Holiday

Today is one of those days that gets you really observing the world in a new way. As you go about your day at the office, at school, at shops, or just while driving here and there, be aware of all the different circles you see. Sure, there are the obvious ones—the tires on your car, the signals on a stoplight, the lid of your water bottle or coffee cup…but how about all the less-seen circles? Knots on trees, a lemon slice, the center of a flower, the ripple of a raindrop or pebble dropped in a puddle… Whether you look for circles through the eye of geometry or they eye of art, be fully aware of the shapes around you!

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

Paintings by Josef Albers

 

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

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

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

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

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

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

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

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

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

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Image courtesy of phaidon.com

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

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

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

Ages birth – 5 (and up)

Phaidon Press, 2016 | ISBN 978-0714872568

Look for Circles Day Activity

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Circle of Shapes Puzzle

 

Build a circle from different shapes with this puzzle that grows as you add pieces! You can also use these shapes to create your own art!

Supplies

Directions

  1. Print the shape templates
  2. Cut out the shapes
  3. Trace shapes onto different colored paper
  4. Cut out the colorful shapes
  5. Build the puzzle from the central square to the edges of the circle (It may be easier to keep the puzzle in place by sticking the pieces down with a little tape applied to the back of the pieces)

You can also use the shapes to create your own art!

Picture Book Review

 

October 25 – International Artist Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2004 by Chris MacClure, a Canadian artist who specializes in Romantic Realism, National Artist Day celebrates the various forms of art, the artist, and the unique vision each one brings to their work and the world. Whether you like classic or abstract styles, watercolors or oils, sculpture or installations, why not take some time today to visit an art museum or gallery—or page through a collection of prints or a biography like today’s book!

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art

Written by Barb Rosenstock | Illustrated by Mary GrandPré

 

As a Russian child Vasya Kandinsky spends his days absorbed in learning math, science, and history. He takes piano lessons and attends formal dinners where the adults drone on and on. His life is polite, stiff, and colorless until the day his aunt gives him a small wooden paint box. “Every proper Russian boy should appreciate art,” Vasya’s aunt tells him while explaining how to mix colors.

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Image copyright Mary Grandpré, text copyright Barb Rosenstock. Courtesy of randomhouse.com

Vasya takes up the brush and combines red with yellow then red with blue. As the colors change to orange and purple, Vasya hears a whisper that grows into a noisy hiss. “‘What is that sound?’” he asks, but no one else hears anything. “The swirling colors trilled like an orchestra tuning up for a magical symphony,” and “Vasya painted the sound of the colors.” A lemon yellow “clinked like the highest notes on the keyboard; a navy blue “vibrated deeply like the lowest cello strings.” Crimsons “blared” and greens “burbled.”

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Image copyright Mary Grandpré, text copyright Barb Rosenstock. Courtesy of randomhouse.com

Vasya runs downstairs to show his family what he has created. His mother, father, and Auntie look at the canvas with its swoops, shapes, and angles. “What is it supposed to be?” they ask, and send him off to art school to learn how “to draw houses and flowers—just like everyone else.” Vasya finishes school and becomes a lawyer. He leaves his paint box untouched and lives the way he is expected, but the sounds of the colors are always with him.

One evening as he listens to an opera, the music surrounds him with color—“stomping lines of vermilion and coral; caroling triangles in pistachio and garnet; thundering arches of aqua and ebony…” Vasya can hear the colors and see the music. He knows then what he must do. He quits his job teaching law and moves to Germany to be a painter. He surrounds himself with artists and takes classes with famous teachers, and yet people still look at his canvases and asked, “What is it supposed to be?”

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Image copyright Mary Grandpré, text copyright Barb Rosenstock. Courtesy of randomhouse.com

Once again he paints what is expected. His teachers love his houses and flowers, but Vasya does not. His friends understand. They too want to expand the meaning of art. They agree with Vasya when he says, “‘Art should make you feel.’” In his studio Vasya continues to paint the sounds he hears, to give music color and color sound. Bravely, he invites the public to view his paintings, which are named after musical terms—Composition, Accompaniment, Fugue, and more.

This is a new kind of art—abstract art—and it takes a long time before people understand. They look and still ask, “What is it supposed to be?” “It is my art,” Kandinsky replies “How does it make you feel?” 

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Image copyright Mary Grandpré, courtesy of randomhouse.com

An author’s note telling more about Kandinsky’s life and synesthesia, a genetic condition in which one sense triggers another, follows the story.

In the spirit of full disclosure, Kandinsky is one of my favorite artists, so I was excited to read this biography—I was not disappointed! With so many great artists, their work speaks for itself, but viewers wonder: How did it come about? What influenced the artist? Barb Rosenstock, with lyrical language and beautifully chosen descriptions, reveals the emotions and passion that fueled Kandinsky’s art from his earliest ages: as he walks through Moscow he can’t ignore “the canary-colored mailbox whistling as he rode to work. The scarlet sunset haze ringing above the ancient Kremlin walls.” Rosenstock’s inclusion of the conflicts and opposition Kandinsky faced and overcame will inspire children to listen to their inner voice and makes readers and lovers of his abstract art glad he never gave up.

Mary GrandPré’s unique style brilliantly depicts Kandinsky’s singular vision, allowing readers to experience the way he wielded his paint brush like a conductor’s baton. Vasya’s early life is painted in muted blues and grays, and the boredom on his face as he studies his schoolwork is obvious. Kids will appreciate his one-finger plinking at the piano and the rolled-eyed drowsiness of the formal dinner. Once Vasya is introduced to the paint box, however, GrandPré’s illustrations become vibrant, with swirling colors overlaid with the musical notes that Kandinsky associated with them. His uninhibited painting is gloriously shown as the young boy’s shirt comes untucked and the colors burst from the canvas upon his first painting.

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Image copyright Mary Grandpré, text copyright Barb Rosenstock. Courtesy of randomhouse.com

As the adults look at his work, the room is again swathed in somber colors. The text revealing that Vasya attended regular art classes to learn to draw houses and flowers is set above a single wilting flower in a vase. The personal tug-of-war Kandinsky experienced even into adulthood is wonderfully rendered: Colors flow into his ears at the opera; he studies his own landscape and still life paintings with misgiving in a hazy studio, and the joy and freedom of his abstract art is demonstrated with wild abandon while a dove escapes its cage. The final image of a child sitting in front of a Kandinsky painting reinforces the idea that his art lives for all and for all time.

Ages 4 – 9

Alfred Knopf, Random House Children’s Books, 2014 | ISBN 978-0307978486

International Artists Day Activity

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I Love Art! Word Search 

 

There are twenty-five art-related words for everyone to love in this printable I Love Art! word search puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review