May 29 – It’s Gifts from the Garden Month

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About the Holiday

Many of us – and perhaps even more this year – spend the summer digging, planting, and tending our garden and yard. We look forward to all of the delicious vegetables and fruit our gardens provide and the hours of fun we have playing or lounging in the yard. But if you look closely, these areas offer up other gifts too. That profusion of dandelions may seem like bothersome weeds, but their sunny flowers and puffball seeds also create beauty and unforgettable childhood moments. Watching industrious insects reminds us of the wonder of nature below our feet or pollinating our crops. And – as today’s book shows – with some imagination and creativity that garden or yard can be transformed into a work of art. So, get outside and see what your gifts are sprouting in your backyard.

I received a copy of Leafy Critters from Blue Dot Press for review consideration. All opinions are my own. 

By Jakki Licare

Leafy Critters

By Yvonne Lacet

This creative and imaginative earth art book by Yvonne Lacet an artist and photographer, whose work incorporates urban environments, landscapes, and nature play, will inspire children to look at nature in a whole new light. Yvonne Lacet uses petals, twigs, stems, and leaves to create “Leafy Critters.” Simple items from nature are arranged together to become different animals: foxes, polar bears, butterflies, mice, and more.

Not only is the artwork stunning but on many pages Lacet shows readers the before and after photos which makes it simple for kids to duplicate her animals. My kids enjoyed pointing out the different items in the before photos and discovering how Lacet used them in her completed artwork. A leaf, for example, transforms into a head or a wing.

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Copyright Yvonne Lacet, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Kids Press.

One of the extraordinary things about this book is not only that any child can find the natural materials needed in their backyard or local park, but the artistic eye Lacet uses to create the eighteen creatures presented. The piglet (pictured on the front cover) is simply six pink petals arranged together. Yvonne takes it a step further, though, and uses the portions of the petals that are near the pistil and have a darker pigment to add shading and detail that  transform into the pig’s hooves and snout.

The image of the polar bear also shows how contrasting colors can create a whole new scene. With the black paper background and white petals sprinkled over the page, we are suddenly transported into an arctic snowstorm at night! The great thing about Leafy Critters is that it makes young readers think outside the box. If you don’t have white petals on hand, then rice could make a great substitution. 

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Copyright Yvonne Lacet, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Kids Press.

My boys are often frustrated with art projects because they cannot create “realistic art.” Earth art, however, is an easy way for kids to explore colors and composition without the frustration of being limited by their skills. It only requires a little nature and a creative eye. So take Leafy Critters outside! You’ll be surprised to discover what creatures creep, crawl, swim, and lurk in your own backyard. 

A DIY page at the back gives kids tips on how to search for materials, gather them, and look at the colors, shapes, and sizes of leaves, petals, seeds, and more to spark their imaginations. Younger children will enjoy the creativity in each design on the pages while older children and even teens and adults will be inspired to create their own works of art.

Whether you are looking for a fun home art project or inspiration for your elementary art students, Leafy Critters will make a creative addition to your library.

Ages 3 and up

Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1733121224

Discover more about Yvonne Lacet and her work on her website.

Gifts from the Garden Month Activity

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Natural Art Note Card

Send a special note to a loved one with your own leafy critter. This idea could be a great card for Father’s Day too! Just write in Dad after otter!

Supplies

  • Natural Materials (I used brown leaves, bark, clover flowers, and stems)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Marker
  • Paper

Directions

  1. Gather your natural materials outside

  2. Arrange your pieces together to make an otter shape

  3. Cut any pieces that need to be shaped or trimmed

  4. Glue your otter down

  5. Write “There’s no OTTER like you!”

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You can find Leafy Critters at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million 

To support your local independent bookstore, order from 

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

 

September 21 – It’s National Sewing Month

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About the Holiday

Sewing is one of the most popular hobbies around and has historically been one of the most important industries in this country and around the world. National Sewing Month was established in 1982 to encourage people to learn more about this craft and to try their hand at picking up a needle or sitting down at a sewing machine. To celebrate read up on the history of sewing and the textile industry and consider taking a sewing class or learning on your own. Sewing can be a fun and rewarding activity for adults and children.

Crafty Llama

Written by Mike Kerr | Illustrated by Renata Liwska

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ages 4 – 8

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

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

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

National Sewing Month Activity

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Got You in Stitches Dot-to-Dot Puzzle

 

Stitch the letters together to discover the picture in this printable Got You in Stitches Dot-to-Dot Puzzle.

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You can find Crafty Llama at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review