June 5 – It’s Great Outdoors Month and Interview with Author/Illustrator Paul Owen Lewis

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About the Holiday

Getting outside is one of the joys of summer! As schools close, leaving more time for leisure pursuits, it’s fun to explore the great outdoors through hiking, biking, swimming, camping, and just plain playing. Some people even give up their cold-weather vehicles and take to the open road on scooters and motorcycles. Having a variety of summer experiences gives you the opportunity to meet different people and make new friends—just like the mice in today’s book!

I received a copy of Motomice from Beyond Words Publishing to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m also happy to be partnering with Beyond Words in a giveaway of Motomice! Details are below.

Motomice

By Paul Owen Lewis

 

When you imagine a biker do you think of someone who wears black, looks tough, and roars through town on a loud motorcycle? Well, let’s take a ride and see what a colorful crew bikers really are! Did you know that some “bikers wear orange. They look like pilots” as they roll through the suburbs. Sometimes “their motorcycles are old.”

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Copyright Paul Owen Lewis, 2018, courtesy of Beyond Words Publishing.

Some “bikers wear pink” like Roxie, who zooms around the track or heads out on a winding country lane on her sleek, fast motorcycle. There are even grandmas and grandpas who are bikers. They travel all over on big, sturdy motorcycles that can carry loads of stuff for camping with friends. Have you ever spied someone in silver and blue with a fancy helmet who looks a bit like an astronaut, it’s a good bet they’re a biker too! And—look!—there’s Sparky refueling her green motorcycle at the electric vehicle charging station. She “cares about the environment.” Her motorcycle is quiet. Then all gassed up and ready to go, the group is off again. But where to? It’s a Motomice Reunion Rally, where “everyone is welcome!”

So whatever road you’re on, take a good look. “Bikers are every color, every style, and every kind of person. If fact, “they are just like you and me.”

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Copyright Paul Owen Lewis, 2018, courtesy of Beyond Words Publishing.

In his heartwarming story, Paul Owen Lewis introduces kids to the welcoming community of bikers, replacing the stereotype of the tough, leather-clad biker with the reality that bikers come from all walks of life. By using different colors, comparing the appearance of bikers and their motorcycles to other professions, and adding that even grandpas and grandmas are bikers, Lewis gives readers concrete ways to relate to bikers even if they’ve only seen bikers passing by on the street. Many kids, of course, have family members and friends who ride motorcycles. Motomice is a joyful book for them to share with their biker buddies.

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Copyright Paul Owen Lewis, 2018, courtesy of Beyond Words Publishing.

Lewis’s stunningly realistic depictions of a variety of motorcycles will thrill detail-oriented and vehicle-loving kids. As the mice roll through beautiful vistas—adding new friends along the way—each double-page spread mirrors the sweeping feeling of the open road. A clever image occurs when the biker dressed like an astronaut hails his friends from a rocky, lunar-esque mountain side. The image of the reunion rally, where motorcycles line both sides of the street as far as the eye can see, is full of cheer and camaraderie. On the final page, the crew welcomes a baby, happy and secure with Mom in her sidecar, to the Motomice family. Young readers will feel the warm embrace as well.

Ages 3 – 7

Beyond Words Publishing, 2018 | ISBN 978-1582706603

Discover more about Paul Owen Lewis, his books, and his art on his website.

Meet Paul Owen Lewis

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Today, I’m happy to be talking with Paul Owen Lewis, who always offers a unique perspective in his work, about being a biker, Northwest Coast Native carving, and how to answer the heart’s questions in a story.

What inspired you to write Motomice?

I was inspired when I discovered there were 25 million active riders in the US and their average age was 52, which means there are millions of grandparents riding out there. But there wasn’t a single quality kid’s book on the market anywhere to share with their grandkids about their passion for motorcycles, and the true nature of the community who ride them (as opposed to the negative stereotype in the media). And being both a biker and an author I thought I had just the credibility to create it.

For a more detailed account, go to http://www.paulowenlewis.com/motomice/behindthestory.html

In Motomice, the different bikers and their motorcycles are described by color. What color biker are you and why?

I suppose I’m a little of all of them. Most true motorcycle enthusiasts would say they would like to collect and ride almost every style or genre (I would!). But the colors in Motomice are more or less arbitrary with the possible exception of Rat’s black bike. I chose black for him since it’s the go-to color of those who want to strike the bad-biker-boy image. And perhaps Roxy’s pink bike is meant to express associations with femininity (FYI, there are lots of female professional racers out there proudly sporting pink gear), but as for me, I’ve worn at least four of them in my 40 years of riding. So far I’ve had red, green, black, and orange motorcycles, café racers, cruisers, and sports bikes, and I wouldn’t rule out something blue and/or yellow in my future. What can I say? It’s an addiction.

As a fine artist, what attracted you to become a picture book author?

Right after art school, when I was doing my student teaching, Chris Van Allsburg’s books started appearing (Jumanji, The Polar Express, etc.) and I was struck by how solid, opaque, and strong his images appeared. Not at all like the usual dreamy, tentatively pencil-drawn images washed with faint tints of watercolor I was used to seeing in children’s book illustrations in my youth. And I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s what picture book art is like now? Awesome stuff. Maybe that’s what I’ll do with my artistic skills at some point; illustrate picture books in that in-your-face solid style that argues for its own believable reality.”

You have a very interesting artistic career that includes carving chests and totem poles in the Northwest Coast Native style. Can you describe how you began carving and a bit about your work? Are any of your carvings on public display?

In the early 90s I started noticing Northwest Coast Native art in and around Seattle. It seemed to be everywhere. And, being someone who is fascinated by the origins of things, I realized this was the unique art that originated from this unique region (as say, Egyptian art emerged from Egypt), and, being a “native” of the Northwest myself, felt like it was something I should know more about. Well, one thing led to another and soon I was taking carving lessons from some of the finest artists of the region. Then I thought to ask myself, “Has anyone done a picture book with this amazing cultural art?” So with the help and guidance of my artist friends and scholars, Storm Boy was soon born. After its publication in 1995 I became quite well-known among these circles and was offered many more opportunities to further my carving and cultural experiences. It’s truly been one of the great privileges of my life.

Your earlier books, including Storm Boy, Frog Girl, and Davy’s Dream, as well as your fine art (some examples can be seen on Paul’s website) seem to blur the distinction between earth and universe, wakefulness and dreams, allowing reality to be defined by the reader or viewer. Can you talk about your perspective a little and also why children are attracted to this perception?

Well, “blurring distinctions” is pretty much what a lot of art is about, or existing in a place in between realities. At least much of my art and interests are. I don’t think you have to look further than my own childhood for possible clues to its genesis. Both my parents succumbed relatively early in their lives to catastrophic illnesses. So, unlike so many of my middle class, suburban peers with stable home lives, I grew up with absolute uncertainty at home. And now that I’m no longer a child, I can see that I wasn’t unusual. I know now that lots of children, perhaps a majority of them, are struggling with similar questions and circumstances. So stories and art that reflect this circumstance, their reality of blurred distinctions, are bound to be of interest.

You’re well known for your inspirational school visits. Can you talk a little about your presentations? Do you have an anecdote from any presentation you’d like to share? Do you ever hear later from any of the kids that heard you speak?

When I speak at a school it is not merely to entertain (though they get that, too). I’m speaking to that kid who was me, that kid who finds him or herself in a confusing, complicated, even dangerous place and dreams of something better, but who has no way to express or see their way to it. So I tell them that writers write stories to answer the questions of their hearts. I steer them there and urge them to write the kind of story they would like to live, the kind of story that would answer the questions of their hearts.

I also tell them that writing is first storytelling, and every human being tells stories. It’s who we are. It’s what makes us human. So if you can tell a story you can write a story – and so, yes, you too can be a writer if you really want. For those who are intimidated by the writing process (words first, in sequence, on paper) I say don’t write first but tell; tell your story any way you can—whether that’s talking, acting, singing, or drawing—and capture the main points with notes, sketches, recordings, whatever, and then apply the beginning-middle-ending form of standard narrative sequence to it later. To illustrate I share slide images of myself working on my books onscreen, from first inspiration to sketching the main events to arranging them in order and then to writing the words. Once they see me do it, they feel confident that they can do it.

I’ve been a popular speaker at schools for 30 years. Now I meet teachers at schools who were once students who saw me years ago, and they can repeat back what I said to them verbatim. It’s unnerving!

What’s up next for you?

I’m about to have surgery to reattach the bicep on my right arm—my writing and art making arm—and will be more or less out of action for six months. I’ve been meaning to take a break. I guess this is it.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

New Years. I like the idea of new beginnings. That maybe this year things will turn around, work out, etc.

Has a holiday ever inspired your writing or art?

Yes! See my counting book, P. Bear’s New Year’s Party.

Thanks, Paul! It’s been enlightening and inspirational chatting with you. I wish you all the best with Motomice and all of your work!

You can find Motomice at these booksellers 

Amazon | Beyond Words Publishing

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Motomice Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Beyond Words Publishing in this giveaway of

  • One copy of Motomice  by Paul Owen Lewis

To be entered to win, just Follow me on Twitter @CelebratePicBks and Retweet a giveaway tweet during this week, June 5 – 11. Already a follower? Thanks! Just  Retweet for a chance to win.

A winner will be chosen on June 12.

Giveaways open to US addresses only. | Prizing provided by Beyond Words Publishing.

Great Outdoors Month Activity

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Let’s Go! Maze

 

These four friends want to ride their scooters together. Can you help the girls find their way along the path to the boys?

Let’s Go! Maze | Let’s Go! Maze Solution

Picture Book Review

February 4 – National Sweater Day

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About the Holiday

Do you live in a place where winter means cold temperatures, snow, and sleet? Then you know how much comfort a cozy sweater can provide! But have you ever thought that sweaters can lower your heat bill? Today’s holiday reminds us that when we put on a sweater, we can turn down the thermostat, saving on fuel, which is beneficial for the environment. Knowing that you’re making a difference as you pull on your favorite sweater and lower that thermostat (even one degree can make a big difference) will make you feel warm inside and out!

Extra Yarn

Written by Mac Barnett | Illustrated by Jon Klassen

 

In the dulled world of winter, “Annabelle found a box filled with yarn of every color.” With it she knit herself a sweater, and because she had not run out of yarn, she knit a sweater for her dog, Mars, too. Afterwards, the two went for a walk, and Annabelle carried her box of yarn with her. They happened on Nate and his dog—dreary smudges against the monochrome landscape. “‘You two look ridiculous,’” Nate taunted. “‘You’re just jealous,’ said Annabelle.” Nate denied it, but after Annabelle knit him and his dog their own sweaters, they discovered she was right.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2012. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

These four sweaters hardly put a dent in the yarn in the box, so Annabelle took it to school. There, the kids in their dark, winter clothes couldn’t stop staring at and whispering about Annabelle. Their teacher, Mr. Norman, shouted for quiet. “‘Annabelle, that sweater of yours is a terrible distraction. I cannot teach with everyone turning around to look at you!’” Annabelle knew just what to do. The class—and even Mr. Norman—looked brighter with their new sweaters. “And when she was done, Annabelle still had extra yarn.”

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2012. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

She began knitting sweaters for everyone in town. Mr. Crabtree was the only exception. Since he wore shorts and a t-shirt in even the snowiest weather, Annabelle knit him a cap to keep his bald head warm. When all the people were snug, Annabelle fashioned sweaters for all the animals—from the tiniest birds to the biggest bears. “Soon, people thought, soon Annabelle will run out of yarn. But she didn’t. So Annabelle made sweaters for things that didn’t even wear sweaters.” Suddenly, the town was no longer drab and lifeless.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, text copyright Mac Barnett, 2012. Courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

 

Word spread about Annabelle and her endless box of yarn. People came from all over to meet her and see her sweaters. The news even reached a clotheshorse of an archduke, who sailed his ship into port and demanded to see Annabelle. He offered her one million dollars for her box of yarn, but Annabelle turned him down. He raised his offer to two million, but Annabelle shook her head. “‘Ten million!’ shouted the archduke. ‘Take it or leave it!’” “‘Leave it,’ said Annabelle. ‘I won’t sell the yarn.’”

That night the archduke sent robbers to steal Annabelle’s box of yarn, and when they had it, the archduke sailed away under the dark cover of night. In his shadowy castle, the shady archduke opened the box. It was empty. In a fit of rage, he flung the box out the window into the sea, cursing Annabelle with eternal unhappiness. But the box found its way onto an ice floe, and it rode the current back to Annabelle, who was forever after happy.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, courtesy of harpercollinschildrens.com

Mac Barnett’s extraordinary story of a box of yarn and a little girl that keeps giving despite teasing, challenges, and attempts to strip her of her gift is an uplifting reminder that even the simplest of gestures can create profound change. With the lilt of a fairy tale but the anchors of reality, Barnett’s tale offers a universal lesson that children and adults can use their individual talents to improve their own lives and those of others. The title of the book may be Extra Yarn, but the question remains: is it the yarn or Annabelle who is special? The final scene proves that goodness and kindness always win out and will find its way back to the giver.

Jon Klassen’s brown, stolid town seems poised to suck readers in to its close, silent emptiness until Annabelle discovers the box of yarn and knits herself a rainbow to wear. With Mars similarly outfitted, they return to the somber outside. Annabelle, at first the only bright spot in the town and school, quickly transforms her classmates and neighbors into colorful individuals with sweaters as unique as they are. After the homes, buildings, mailboxes, and birdhouses acquire their own cozies, the town looks open and inviting. Once the archduke arrives on the scene, the pages turn dusky and gray, but there is one point of light: in the black, nighttime sea the little box floats on an icy raft that shines in the full moonlight.

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Image copyright Jon Klassen, 2012, courtesy of macbarnett.com

Klassen adds plenty of visual humor here too, as when Mars tangles his yarn leash around a grove of trees, and the archduke demonstrates a penchant for monogramming all of his possessions. Kids will be delighted to see some of their favorite Klassen characters so dandily dressed, and the images of the students and townspeople connected by a leading thread of yarn may help them see that Annabelle not only knit them sweaters but made them a much closer-knit community as well.

Ages 3 – 8

Balzar + Bray, HarperCollins Childrens, 2012 | ISBN 978-0061953385

Want to see what other books Mac Barnett has written? Visit his website and find out!

You can find a gallery of picture books and other artwork by Jon Klassen on tumblr!

National Sweater Day Activity

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Design Your Own Sweater

 

If you could design your own sweater, what would it look like? Would it have stripes? Polka dots? A picture of a puppy, kitten, train, truck, or the logo of your favorite sports team? Use this printable Design Your Own Sweater template and have a bit of fashionable fun!

Picture Book Reviews

November 30 – It’s Sleep Comfort Month

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About the Holiday

There’s nothing that refreshes quite as much as a good night’s sleep. That’s why, during Sleep Comfort Month, people are encouraged to take stock of the amount of sleep they get each night. If you lie awake late into the night (or even early morning) and feel sluggish the next day, you may want to consider changing your nightly routine. Limiting light and screen time before bed, keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, and having a set pre-sleep activity like reading or journaling can help you fall asleep quickly and deeply. Children, especially, benefit from a nighttime routine.

The Way Home in the Night

By Akiko Miyakoshi

 

A mother rabbit carries her little bunny home down familiar lamp-lit streets. As they pass the bookshop and the restaurant, they see the workers closing up for the night. The streets are quiet and deserted, adorned with a golden patchwork of light from the windows along the way. Through the windows the bunny sees and hears the neighbors. A phone rings at Mr. Goat’s, the delicious aroma of a pie wafts from Ms. Sheep’s. “A light flickers” where perhaps “someone is watching TV,” and next door “it sounds like there is a big party.”

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The bunny peers into one window just in time to see two mice saying goodbye. As they approach their own house, the little rabbit’s father joins them. Soon, the bunny knows, it will be time to be tucked into bed. At home Daddy Rabbit pulls up the blankets on his dozing child. Out the window, a crescent moon lights the sky. “Snug under my covers,” the bunny thinks “about the way home. Are the party guests saying goodnight? Is the person on the phone getting ready for bed?” The cook may be taking a long, hot bath, and the bookseller may be “reading on the couch.”

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The bunny wonders if the pie is being shared and whether all the lighted windows are now dark. The last thing the bunny hears before drifting off to sleep are soft footsteps going by and imagines the mouse is walking to the station to take the train home. Throughout town the bright checkerboard windows keep watch as the long, illuminated trains speed past. “Some nights are ordinary, and other nights are special. But every night we all go home to bed.”

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Akiko Miyakoshi sleepy, atmospheric bedtime story reflects all the comfort and mystery that nighttime inspires in little ones. The loving child/parent relationship is sweetly depicted in the beautiful, understated acts of the bunny’s being carried home through the softly lit streets and tucked into bed under warm covers. The glimpses into the neighbor’s windows provides a unifying sense of community as do the final pages that pan out to include the entire town and the idea of the wider world traversed by the bright trains coming and going from the station.

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

Miyakoshi’s black, gray, and sepia-toned pencil, charcoal, and gouache illustrations are set aglow with the welcoming light emanating from windows and streetlamps and accented with spots of color in clothing and homey touches. The windows frame cozy vignettes of family life, and young readers may like to imagine their own stories of what is happening in each. Gender neutral clothing and a lack of pronouns makes this a universal book.

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Copyright Akiko Miyakoshi, 2017, courtesy of Kids Can Press.

The Way Home in the Night is a cozy, quiet book that is just right for soothing little ones to sleep while giving them the happy assurance of love, commitment, and connection to their world. An exquisite addition to bedtime books, The Way Home in the Night would make a wonderful gift and a favorite choice on any child’s home bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 6

Kids Can Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1771386630

To learn more about Akiko Miyakoshi, her work, and her books, visit her website.

Sleep Comfort Month Activity

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Snuggle Buddy Craft

 

It’s easy to make your own snuggle buddy with a few pieces of fleece, some fiber fill, and a needle and thread or fabric glue. The great thing about creating your own friend is you can personalize your pal anyway you want!

Supplies

  • 1 8-inch by 11-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the body (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project). A larger piece of fleece can be used to make a larger buddy
  • 1 5-inch by 8-inch piece of fleece in the color or your choice for the hair (or scraps if you have some from an earlier project)
  • 1 small piece of fleece or other material for a pocket, clothes, or blanket
  • Small scraps of fleece or other material for the face
  • Fiber Fill
  • Thread and sewing needle OR fabric glue
  • Scissors

Directions

To Make the Body

  1. Fold the large piece of fleece in half lengthwise and sew along the open side and along the bottom. Alternatively, if using a larger size piece of fleece, fold upward and sew or glue the two sides closed.
  2. Turn the form inside out

To Make the Hair

  1. Cut a piece of fleece as wide as your buddy and about 7 – 8 inches long
  2. Fold the fleece lengthwise
  3. Insert both ends of the fleece into the opening at the top of the body
  4. Sew or glue the opening shut, securing the hair
  5. Cut strips about ¼-inch wide from the top of the hair to close to where the hair is sown into the body

To Make a Pocket or Clothes

  1. Cut a piece of fleece in the shape of a pocket, shirt, pants, diaper, or blanket
  2. Sew or glue the pocket or clothes to the buddy

To Make the Face

  1. Cut eyes, a nose, and a mouth in whatever way you would like your buddy to look. 
  2. Sew or glue the face to the buddy
  3. Snuggle up!

Picture Book Review

November 13 – World Kindness Day

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 1998 by a coalition of nations, World Kindness Day is an international celebration that encourages people around the world to be mindful of others through mutual respect, inclusion, empathy, and gratitude. To celebrate, people are asked to perform acts of kindness—big or small. A simple “hi,” a smile, or an offer of help or support goes a long way in making the world a kinder and better place to live in. But don’t limit your care and concern to just one day. Promoters of the holiday hope that kindness becomes infectious, inspiring good relationships every day of the year.

Most People

Written by Michael Leannah | Illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris

 

The world is full of people, and if you look around and really look, you’ll notice something amazing: most people are the same! Do you like to smile? Do you like to laugh? Yeah, me too. So do most people! In fact, “most people love to see other people smile and laugh too.” But how about when someone’s sad? Well, “most people want to help when they see someone crying” or when someone is in trouble. “Most people want to make other people—even strangers—feel good. Most people are very good people.”

Sure there are some people who do bad things, but the good people far outnumber the bad people. And bad people can change if they allow the “seed of goodness inside them…to sprout.” Actually, people are a lot like a garden. They love the Earth, and they love being warmed by the sun. Sometimes people “feel like a sour grape in a bunch of sweet grapes.” But you can help make them feel better just by being nice.

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Image copyright Jennifer E. Morris, 2017, text copyright Michael Leannah, 2017. Courtesy of Tilbury House Publishing.

When you walk around your neighborhood or play at the park or go to the store, you see people doing the same things. They run and dance and hug their dogs; they read and sing and talk. When people like what someone is doing or wearing or saying, they compliment them. And it’s pretty hard to find someone who doesn’t “smile when they see a baby.”

Most people even like to hear the same words. I bet you know what those are. Right! “Most people glow when they hear or say ‘I love you.’” So when you’re out and about, it’s good to remember that you’re really among “very good people.”

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Copyright Jennifer E. Morris, 2017, courtesy of Tilbury House Publishing.

In today’s world with so many media and social media outlets, bad news often overshadows good news. It can be easy to begin thinking the worst—of things, places, and people. Michael Leannah and Jennifer E. Morris provide a reality check with their book that encourages children and adults to look around and make up their own minds about what they see. In his straightforward text, Leannah gives children easy-to-identify examples of emotions and behavior that they have themselves and can see in other people. He understands that shared experiences and feelings go beyond different clothing, hairstyles, or language to unite us.

This is where Jennifer E. Morris’s detailed and cheerful illustrations of a diverse community come in. Each spread offers a glimpse into a home or neighborhood to see what people are up to. The first pages invite readers into an apartment, where a mom, a little girl, and her baby brother are having breakfast. Out the big picture window, the sun is just creeping over the rooftops of other nearby apartment buildings. On the windowsill a mitten-shaped cactus seems to wave at the world.

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Copyright Jennifer E. Morris, 2017, courtesy of jemorris.com.

The next spread shows a little boy laughing with his grandpa and grandma. The third spread takes these two families out into the neighborhood and reveals that the little girl and boy are friends. This is a busy community where many different people are engaged in various examples of kindness and inclusion. As the story progresses, children follow these characters as they go about their day. In this way, readers may have preconceived notions challenged—that biker with the tattoos? He’s really just a softy who watches out for an elderly woman—and they’ll see plenty of thoughtfulness deeds that make a difference.

In the evening, it’s time to go back home to the boy’s apartment, where the décor includes a stone sculpture of a face that reminds readers of our common human history, Finally, up on the rooftop, the two friends’ families eat dinner together, while in the illuminated windows of the apartments below, the neighbors are seen enjoying their night.

Most People is an inspiring choice to start a discussion on diversity, empathy, and kindness as well as on analyzing what we hear and see in and on the news. The positive perspective is welcome and provides young readers with comfort and examples of how people in general and they specifically can make a difference with even simple heartfelt gestures. Most People is an excellent book for home, classroom, and library bookshelves.

Ages 5 – 8

Tilbury House Publishers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0884485544

Learn more about Michael Leannah and his books on his website.

You’ll find a gallery of illustration art by Jennifer E. Morris as well as activity pages on her website.

World Kindness Day Activity

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Share a Smile! Cards

 

Being kind to someone is as easy as sharing a smile. With these printable Share a Smile! Cards, you can give someone a smile that they can carry with them all day long!

Picture Book Review

November 4 – It’s Historic Bridge Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

Bridges can do so much more than just take vehicles and people over waterways or highways. Many are beautiful structures that enhance the skyline or environment in which they’re found. Covered bridges, stone bridges, and soaring steel and cable bridges all inspire awe in their own way. Unfortunately, many older bridges are slated for destruction or replacement. To honor this month’s holiday, visit a historic bridge in your area or research famous bridges of the past and present.

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

Written by Dave Eggers | Illustrated by Tucker Nichols

 

“In the beginning there was a bridge.” Well, to back up a bit there was a bay that led to the Pacific Ocean. The opening between the two shores that enclosed the bay was called the Golden Gate. “On one side of the Golden Gate was the Presidio, a military base at the top of the city of San Francisco. On the other side there were only hills, green and yellow, rising high above the sea.” Beyond these hills towns dotted the coastline.

People traveled between these shores by boat or by driving way out of their way. Many times people had thought about building a bridge across the bay, but they were afraid it would ruin the beauty of the land. At last it was decided that a bridge should be built. The year was 1928 and Joseph Strauss, an expert on bridges, was hired to design it. What he came up with looked more like the skeleton of a roller coaster, and while it would be strong, it would also be ugly.

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Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

People agreed that for such a beautiful spot, a beautiful bridge was needed. Joseph Strauss then asked for help in developing a plan for the bridge. Leon Moisseiff, known for designing the Manhattan Bridge in New York, came on board. Leon’s idea was for “a suspension bridge, one with swooping lines and tall towers.” The drawings were light and airy and…beautiful. People liked it very much.

“But still the bridge appeared a bit stern in style. So Joseph and Leon asked another person, named Irving Morrow, to help out.” Irving and his wife Gertrude had a different idea about what the bridge could be. With vertical fluting, “art deco flourishes,” pedestrian walkways, and curved lamps lighting the way, “the bridge could be both a bridge and something like art.”

Steelworkers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey built the pieces of the bridge. They were shipped to California by train and by boat. Finally, it was time to construct the bridge. Men had to dive deep into the icy waters of the Pacific Ocean and climb high into the sky while constructing it. It was estimated that it would take 4 years and thousands of workers to finish it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-bridge-will-not-be-gray-irving-morrow

Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

First the tall towers were constructed. The day they were finished was one of “jubilation” and awe as“sometimes the things humans make baffle even the humans who make them. One aspect of the bridge that had not been decided was the color, and many people had opinions on that. “The Navy thought it should be yellow and black so that ships and planes could easily see it.”

“The Army wanted it to look like a candy cane for the same reason the Navy wanted it to look like a tiger with jaundice: so that it would be easily seen by planes and ships.” Most people, though, thought the bridge should be painted black, white, or gray like most other monuments, towers, and buildings. Right now, the bridge was orange—coated with a special anti-rust paint. As Irving Morrow watched the bridge go up, he thought this orange was a beautiful color.

He suggested that the bridge be allowed to stay this color. Others thought he was “nuts.” Never had there been an orange bridge before, “and for a good portion of the human race, because something has not already been, that is a good reason to fear it coming to be.” But the people of San Francisco began to see things Irving’s way. Still, gray seemed to be the safe choice.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-bridge-will-not-be-gray-people-talking

Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

Irving, who was usually a shy and quiet sort, began to get vocal about his color preference as the completion date of the bridge came closer. Other’s began to echo his thoughts and arguments. “This bridge will not be gray!” they said. At last “the powers that be” agreed with Irving. The bridge remained orange: International Orange, in fact.

But because the wind, rain, and sun are harsh on the orange bridge, it needs to be repainted every year. Every day some part of it is being painted by dedicated workers. Is that crazy? Maybe, “But people love to paint it, and people love to look at it. The Golden Gate Bridge, which is orange, is the best-known and best-loved bridge in the world” because it is “bold and courageous and unusual and even strange.”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-this-bridge-will-not-be-gray-golden-gate-bridge

Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

San Francisco resident Dave Eggers has written a loving tribute not only about the very distinctive Golden Gate Bridge but to the equally distinctive, quirky, and even courageous Irving Morrow, other architects, and people of the Bay area who saw and championed art where others may only have seen function. Passages of straightforward narration are joined by rivets of whimsically inserted dialogue, soaring description, and moving insight to construct a lyrical story of vision and inspiration that both kids and adults will find fascinating.  

Tucker Nichols’ paper cut illustrations are as playful and full of imagination as a kindergarten classroom. Using simple shapes and a gorgeous palette Nichols crafts portraits, collages, and landscapes that are movingly effective in depicting the San Francisco Bay area, the rising Golden Gate Bridge, and the personalities involved in this fun history of a beloved monument.

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray is a must for school and public libraries, a wonderfully inspiring addition to children’s bookshelves, and a colorful coffee table book for any home.

Ages 4 – 10 and up

McSweeney’s, 2015 | ISBN 978-1940450476

Click here to learn more about Tucker Nichols and his work.

Historic Bridge Awareness Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-golden-gate-bridge-coloring-page

Golden Gate Bridge Coloring Page

 

Get out your markers, colored pencils, or crayons and color this printable Golden Gate Bridge Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review