Raising Star Readers relishes this chance to catch up with Ann Angel and her multigenerational Reading Team. For this entry, Ann was especially focused on how the words and visual art in picture books lead kids to think and to dream. Here’s how Ann describes it:
Long before I had kids and grandkids, I thought I’d grow up to be a visual artist. And, although my art turned to writing, I always, always, ALWAYS loved to share word play and the details of brilliant illustration in picture books with my children. Now that they’re grown with children of their own, I catch them perusing illustrations with their kids to find hidden, silly, or tiny images that tell a story within a story. These illustrations help all of us see how artists draw that story and move it from the words on the page to art that creates sub-plot and deeper meanings. Without a doubt, the discovery helps us to think more deeply about themes, and to dream about the details of our lives.
Many picture books use nuanced art so kids think about stories in ways that lead them to discover techniques to negotiate life and to dream about the magic and, sometimes, the silliness of the world.
I was reminded of that magic recently when I came across a dusty copy of Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna by Nancy White Carlstrom (author) and Jerry Pinkney (illustrator).
When my daughter Stevi saw the cover she commented, “I loved that book. It was one of my favorites.” In part, I think she loved the book because she looked a bit like Anna, but mostly, I think she fell into the botanical illustrations and the magic of nature. After all, this was the daughter who tried to keep pet worms in a plastic cup in her bedroom. She was also known in our family for playing with, and even kissing, frogs and toads while dancing through gardens and fields.
That favorite book discovery led to an afternoon with both daughters and grandkids. Daughter Amanda, a fifth grade teacher with a love of books (and a talent for writing and art herself), delighted in exploring illustrations with nephew Teddy and her son and daughter Andrew and Emma.
After reading Anna’s garden tale, Amanda pulled out Laundry Day, a book by writer/illustrator Jessixa Bagley.
(Of course, I joined in the fun with Laundry Day, which is our newest favorite.)
In this book, two bored badgers, Tic and Tac, help their mother hang laundry on a line to dry. They turn this into a game to hang the silliest things. I won’t give all the items away but they include a broom, a comb, a pail of water, even a mouse sitting in a soup ladle. The images led the grandkids to identify items they recognized and to learn about how some items might have been used by their parents and grandparents when they were kids.
Amanda ended up reading an entire stack of favorites while grandkids explored the pictures. Jessixa’s detailed art was definitely a top new choice.
In one case, because Vincent the cat who lives on a cargo ship looks like our grand-cat Finnegan, Amanda ended up pouring over details of ships, ports, and cities with Vincent Comes Home, co-created by Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley.
Another favorite is Wherever You Go, written by Pat Zietlow Miller and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.
This delightful picture book takes readers on a bicycle journey with a rabbit and his companion owl through tunnels, across bridges, into forests, and cities, and distant lands. We learn that we can always return home again. By the way, this book makes a delightful high school graduation gift ─ I gave it to my oldest granddaughter, Beth, who’s studying liberal arts in Washington State. (She’s not pictured because she’s savoring a mellow Washington climate while we’re surviving the cold Midwestern winter.)
Bookology is always looking for new Reading Teams to help us celebrate the joys of reading aloud together. Contact Lisa Bullard for further information if you’re interested in participating.