Tag Archives: art

Some days you’re the worm…some days you’re the bird

worm birdThis might be a fairy tale about having perspective on who you are and where you are in your life.  Maybe it’s about appreciating the world around you and the endless possibilities in front of us.  Then again, maybe it’s just about a worm that unwisely wants to seek out something new at the exact time a bird is waiting patiently for something different to happen.

Is it a picture book?  A graphic novel?  Something to give to jaded teens headed out into the wide world?

Really, I can’t claim to have any clear idea on this one.  It seems like more than a picture book.  Would it work for older kids, teens and adults?  I think so.  Categories might make it seem like less than it could be.

All I know is that it’s been sitting on my desk for four days, because I know I love it – the illustrations are so wonderful that I have a hard time finding appropriate adjectives to match my enthusiasm – but I don’t really know what to say about it.  It’s odd.  But please seek it out and see what you think.

The Worm and the Bird by Coralie Bickford-Smith

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Next time, just run.

van gogh deceptionThere is a lot of running in this book, mostly from bad guys.  Throw in a little amnesia, a lot of police officers, art thieves, and the occasional tranquilizer gun, and you’ll be swept up in it.

“Art” is a boy found in the National Gallery with no memory of his parents or why he’s there.  Over the course of a few chapters, we realize he’s somehow connected to a thrill-seeking bad guy who’s set up a plan to create what might just be the biggest fraud in history.  Fortunately, Art comes across Camille and her mom, and eventually figures out why people are trying to kidnap him.  Whew!

Definitely a fun, fast ride, and there are all kinds of mentions of great art and artists to boot.

The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks

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Two balls of clay

claymatesTake a deep breath and imagine what you’d do if you had two balls of clay.

This book would be my dream scenario, since honestly, no animals I’ve ever made from clay look remotely like this.  You could probably figure out my elephant from the anatomically incorrect long trunk, but otherwise, good luck.

And that’s why I love this book so much. It’s beautiful, packed with creative and easy-to-pick-out animals and shapes and things.  Kids will love it, too, because it’s kind of sassy and funny, and the unseen artist’s attempts to create one thing might turn into something else.  Definitely worth a look and possibly a great one for a kindergarten book lady day next year.

Claymates by Dev Petty and Lauren Eldridge

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Sculptures and graffiti and murals, oh my!

keith-haringThere’s a Keith Haring piece in the sculpture garden up the road from me.  Red, yellow and blue dancing figures are intertwined and turning around each other.  People like to take pictures there – I’ve done it, too—mimicking the actions of the figures.  There’s something bright and joyful about it, even on very gloomy and gray days.

This book is a little like that, twisting and turning through Keith Haring’s life.  What was it like for him growing up?  How did he end up doing murals and making graffiti and becoming a successful artist?  Examples of his work are scattered throughout the illustrations, and it’s a bright and joyful journey.  Take a look.

Keith Haring: the boy who just kept drawing by Kay Haring and Robert Neubecker

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Smartypants biographies with zing

You might not guess this from all the reading I supposedly do, but I have an extremely short attention span.  One of my former co-workers used to joke about how easily distracted I was by “shiny objects”.  We could be talking about some huge problem we were trying to solve, and suddenly my mind would make a connection to something about women’s history or a book I’d read a few weeks before.  Often the connection was not an especially clear one.  And there were not usually shiny things around.  Still, you get the idea.  I can be a little scattered.

As time has gone on, this has only gotten worse.  Not only do I live with two people who are constantly making references to movies, tv shows and music, but there’s all the technology.  Between the smart phones and iPads and Google Maps, getting through any adult nonfiction is pretty hard, and even middle grade books longer than 200 pages sometimes look overwhelming.

But lately, thanks to the Common Core movement, there have been a heap of new nonfiction picture books.  (I know many people loathe the Common Core, but hey—here’s one good thing about it!) These are perfect for me–pictures to look at, sometimes really amazing art, facts about people I either don’t know or don’t know much about, appendices with extra information, HOORAY!  I think every nerdy kid and adult should just make a pile of these and then sit and enjoy.  It’s hard to be distracted from this amazing stuff, whether it’s technical drawings or Matisse’s cutouts or art about the art of photography.

If you’re so inclined, the following three are especially good ones:

Antsy Ansel: Ansel Adams, A Life in Nature by Cindy Jensen-Elliot and Christy Hale.  You might wonder why you even need illustrations if you’re doing a book about Ansel Adams, but these take the story of his life to a whole different level.  It’s also a wonderful reminder of how we don’t all fit within the same educational boxes, and when someone special is set free to do what they need to do, the results can be amazing.

Mr. Matisse and His Cutouts by Annemarie van Haeringen.  Again, it seems like with Matisse’s art, you wouldn’t need much else to make a book pop.  But the way Matisse’s color and imagination exploded is so wonderfully displayed here!   I love the idea of Matisse in a wheelchair flying along, scissors reaching to the sky.  Ha!

Ada Lovelace:  Poet of Science by Diane Stanley and Jessie Hartland.  You had me at hello with that title, people.  Poetry and science AND math together!  Whew!  There’s so much good information in this book, too.  It deals with the reality of Ada Lovelace’s daily life at a time when women were kept out of scientific inquiries, but it also somehow expresses the sheer joy she found in learning new things and figuring stuff out.

So these are on my stack.  Find your own.  Learn a little.  Look a little.  Capture your quiet spot.  Make a pile.  And read, my friends.  Just read.

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Perspective is a funny thing. Really.


Imagine you are a dog or a flea or a mouse.  A cat looks really different, especially if you’re worried about getting eaten.

I took this one to a third grade class I visit, because I know they have a unit later in the year on perspective.   Lucky for me, though, they are also talking about perspective now, and it fit perfectly in with a lesson on how different characters might see the same situation.  Reading this book is an easy way to get that across, although I think most younger kids would love it just for the art.  The bees seem kind of pointillist.  The birds fly high above.  Does a skunk see in black and white?  That mouse is kind of freaked out, isn’t it?  There’s a lot to talk about.

They All Saw A Cat, Brendan Wenzel

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The Theory of All Small Things


Florian is always a fish out of water in a new place, and he’s seen a lot of them.  Fortunately, when he moves to D.C., he meets Margaret, a neighbor who happens to go to his new school and who quickly clues into the power of Florian’s TOAST – the theory of all small things.  They make a great team, it turns out, and begin to see things that add up to big trouble.  The F.B.I gets involved, there are international art thieves to find, and you might even come across a nifty gadget or two.  Yippee skippy!

Florian is a little like the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes.  Tiny details pile up until the obvious is overshadowed by a clear picture of what’s really going on.  He makes a few mistakes, but is aware enough to realize when he’s been had.  It’s super fun to follow along, and James Ponti sets it all up so that even regular mystery readers will miss the meaning of some of the details until they’re revealed.

Will there be more TOAST mysteries?  I’m thinking the big number one on the spine means a yes here.  Look at me, using my crime-fighting skills to decipher that.  Let’s hope so.  I’m definitely hungry for more.

Framed!: a TOAST Mystery by James Ponti

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Artsy fun

“Roy’s living room has a great big couch.  There is room for many friends.”  Roy’s House by Susan Goldman Rubin (with art by Roy Lichtenstein)

 I’m not an art teacher, but if I were, I would be tracking down Susan Goldman Rubin and demanding that she make books about all my favorites.  Apparently, she’s already checked Andy Warhol, Wayne Thiebaud, Jacob Lawrence, Henri Matisse & Rene Magritte off that list.  This one, chock full of Roy Lichtenstein’s furniture, food and even a sponge, is the perfect introduction to pop art.

Near, Far by Silvia Borando

Meanwhile, over at the zoo, Silvia Borando has been playing around with “near” and “far” as opposites.  There aren’t any words in this one, but you don’t need them, since you’re really just zooming in and out on extremely bright animals.  Can you figure out what they are?  (I was only right once, but I need a nap.  A three year old could probably get most of them with no trouble.)

Although they’re very different books visually, what’s nice about these two together is that just looking at them makes ideas bubble up.  What would your house look like in a comic book?  Can you make a near/far set of pictures that would fool people?  How can you use color and size to make things look interesting?  Where are my markers?  The nap can wait.

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3 for the art

some birds

I’ve been looking through books for a story time I’ll be doing in a few weeks, and I’ve come across a few which call out to the artist in me.  They’re very different books, yet the art in them all adds to and carries the story along.

Some Birds (by Matt Spink) is a rhyming book, but, as far as I’m concerned, the rhyme is just there to speed the bright color and visual jokes along.  The birds practically jump off the page at you in their busy flying, waddling, swooping and soaring, and the other touches bring it all together.  So fun!

Spot, the Cat (by Henry Cole) is a quite a contrast to Some Birds, incredibly detspot-the-cat-9781481442251_lgailed and with so much going on that it really is hard to spot Spot sometimes.  This is a book to linger over with a slightly older child, looking at all the extras on an unhurried afternoon.

The White Cat and the Monk (by JoEllen Bogart/Sydney Smith) is not your typical picture book for kids.  It’s based on a poem by an Irish monk writing in the 9th century.  The art compliments the story here, too, bringing a simple poem about a cat to one kind of reader, but a walk through the life of a religious person of a different age to another.  The art is both classic and cartoony, which somehow works wonderfully here.Groundwood Logos Spine


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