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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Poetry from Stones

Beach

[pho­to cred­it: Can­dice Ran­som]

Out­side my win­dow right now: bare trees, gray sky, a brown bird. No, let’s try again. Out­side my win­dow, the leaf­less sweet­gum shows a con­do of squir­rels’ nests, a dark blue rim on the hori­zon indi­cates wind mov­ing in, and a white-crowned spar­row scritch­es under the feed­ers. Bet­ter. Even in win­ter, espe­cial­ly in win­ter, we need to wake up our lazy brains, reach for names that might be hiber­nat­ing. 

Candice Ransom

[pho­to cred­it: Can­dice Ran­som]

In Novem­ber, I taught writ­ing work­shops at a school in a large­ly rur­al coun­ty. I was shocked to dis­cov­er most stu­dents couldn’t name objects in their bed­rooms, much less the sur­round­ing coun­try­side. With­out spe­cif­ic details, writ­ing is life­less. More impor­tant, if chil­dren can’t call up words, can’t dis­tin­guish between things, they will remain locked in win­try indif­fer­ence. Some blame falls on us.

Oxford Junior DictionaryA recent edi­tion of the Oxford Junior Dic­tio­nary swapped nature words for mod­ern terms. Out went acorn, wren, dan­de­lion, nec­tar, and otter. In went blog, bul­let-point, attach­ment, cha­t­room, and voice­mail. Updat­ing dic­tio­nar­ies isn’t new. And maybe cygnet isn’t as rel­e­vant as data­base, but it’s cer­tain­ly more musi­cal.  If we treat lan­guage like paper tow­els, it’s no won­der many kids can’t name com­mon back­yard birds.

When I was nine, my step­fa­ther taught me the names of the trees in our woods, par­tic­u­lar­ly the oaks. I learned to iden­ti­fy red, white, black, pin, post, and chest­nut oaks by their bark, leaves, and acorns. Label­ing trees, birds, and wild­flow­ers didn’t give me a sense of own­er­ship. Instead, I felt con­nect­ed to the plan­et. I longed to know the names of rocks, but they kept qui­et.

That same year we fourth graders were issued Thorndyke-Barnhart’s Junior Dic­tio­nary. I fell on mine like a duck on a June bug, enchant­ed by new words. My par­lor trick was spelling antidis­es­tab­lish­men­tar­i­an­ism, the longest word in the dic­tio­nary. Kids can Google the longest word in the Eng­lish lan­guage, but the expe­ri­ence isn’t the same as brows­ing through a big book of words. 

Emer­son wrote, “… the poet is the Namer, or Lan­guage-mak­er … The poets made all the words, nam­ing things after their appear­ance, some­times after their essence, and giv­ing to every one its own name and not another’s.” I believe young chil­dren are poets, assign­ing names and mak­ing up words to mark new dis­cov­er­ies. After they become teth­ered to tech­nol­o­gy, they par­rot words from com­mer­cials, pro­grams, and video games. That fresh lan­guage is lost.

The Lost Words: a Spell BookSo imag­ine my delight when I found a new book for chil­dren, The Lost Words: A Spell Book. British nature-writer Robert Mac­Far­lane paired with artist Jack­ie Mor­ris to res­cue 20 of the words snipped from the Oxford Junior Dic­tio­nary. Words like newt and king­fish­er are show­cased as “spells,” rather than straight def­i­n­i­tions. MacFarlane’s spells let the essence of the crea­ture sink deep, while Morris’s water­col­ors cre­ate their own mag­ic.

On their joint book tour through­out Eng­land, Mac­Far­lane and Mor­ris intro­duced chil­dren to words—and ani­mals. On her blog Mor­ris writes: “I was about to read the wren spell to a class of 32 six-year-olds when the book­sellers stopped me. ‘Ask the chil­dren if they know what a wren is, first, Jack­ie.’ I did. Not one child knew that a wren is a bird. So they had nev­er seen a wren, nor heard that sharp bright song. But now they know the name of it, the shape of it, so per­haps if one flits into sight they will see it, hear it, know it.”

The Lost Words makes me want to take chil­dren by the hand and tell them the names of the trees and birds and clouds that illus­trate our win­ter land­scape. By giv­ing kids spe­cif­ic names, they can then spin a thread from them­selves to the plan­et.

Ammonite

Ammonite [pho­to cred­it: Can­dice Ran­som]

Lan­guage is fos­sil poet­ry,” Emer­son con­tin­ues in his essay, “as the lime­stone of the con­ti­nent con­sists of infi­nite mass­es of the shells of ani­mal­cules, so lan­guage is made up of images, which now, in their sec­ondary use, have long ceased to remind us of their poet­ic ori­gin.”

Rock rasps, what are you?
I am Raven! Of the blue-black jack­et and the boxer’s swag­ger,
Stronger and old­er than peak and than boul­der, raps Raven in reply.

From The Lost Words

Let’s dig up lost words before they become buried beneath the rub­ble of STEM-wor­thy terms. Feel the shape of them, pol­ish their shells, let them shine.

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Skinny Dip with DeDe Small

DeDe Small

DeDe Small shares her enthu­si­asm about books, read­ing, and lit­er­a­cy with her stu­dents at Drake Uni­ver­si­ty in Des Moines, Iowa. We invit­ed DeDe to Skin­ny Dip with us, our first inter­view in the New Year.

When did you first start read­ing books?

I don’t actu­al­ly remem­ber learn­ing to read but I do always remem­ber hav­ing books. I even came up with my own cat­a­loging sys­tem in the lat­er ele­men­tary grades.

Din­ner par­ty at your favorite restau­rant with peo­ple liv­ing or dead: where is it and who’s on the guest list?

I don’t know where it is but I know I am eat­ing a real­ly good steak and we need a big table because I am invit­ing Barak Oba­ma, JK Rowl­ing, Buck O’Neill, St. Ignatius of Loy­ola, Jane Goodall, my par­ents, and my aunts.

All-time favorite book?

This is real­ly hard because there are too many to name! I loved it when my moth­er read The Secret Gar­den to me. As a young child, I loved read­ing Andrew Henry’s Mead­ow by Doris Burn. In upper ele­men­tary, Island of the Blue Dol­phins by Scott O’Dell was my favorite. All-time favorite might have to be the entire Har­ry Pot­ter series because it speaks to choos­ing kind­ness, love, and integri­ty over pow­er and fame.

DeDe Small's favorite books

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

I was cuck­oo for Cocoa Puffs.

What’s your least favorite chore?

Doing the laun­dry.

What’s your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

I love the feel­ing when every­thing starts click­ing and you can sense where the project might go. That sense of poten­tial is ener­giz­ing.

SocksBare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Bare­foot in warm weath­er and socks when it is cold. You will most often find me curled up on my couch with a book, doing school work or watch­ing a movie. The activ­i­ty changes but my loca­tion does not.

When are you your most cre­ative?

I am most cre­ative when I step back and take the time to let an idea per­co­late a bit.

Your best mem­o­ry of your school library?

My strongest mem­o­ry is actu­al­ly of my pub­lic library. We would go once a week. It became a great bond­ing expe­ri­ence with my moth­er and I came to think of the library as a spe­cial place. I now have four library cards.

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

Mint Chip.

Book(s) on your bed­side table right now?

Wishtree by Kather­ine Apple­gate, Wolf Hol­low by Lau­ren Wolk, and La Rose by Louise Erdrich.  I recent­ly read The Under­ground Rail­road by Col­son White­head, Refugee by Alan Gratz and Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.

Best inven­tion in the last 200 years?

Vac­cines

Which is worse: spi­ders or snakes?

Spi­ders. Way too many legs and eyes.

What’s your best con­tri­bu­tion to tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment?

Recy­cling

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

I find hope in the char­ac­ters of good books and real-life sto­ries. Lloyd Alexan­der was specif­i­cal­ly ref­er­enc­ing fan­ta­sy but I think it is true of all good sto­ries: “Some­times heart­break­ing, but nev­er hope­less, the fan­ta­sy world as it ‘should be’ is one in which good is ulti­mate­ly stronger than evil, where courage, jus­tice, love, and mer­cy actu­al­ly func­tion.” Books allow us to rec­og­nize our own human­i­ty in oth­ers and that makes me hope­ful. If we read more, con­nect more, and under­stood more, the world would be a bet­ter place.

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Gifts from the Trenches

Gifts from the TrenchesLife in the trench­es, a/k/a the class­room, is not for the faint of heart. In pre­vi­ous Bookol­o­gy arti­cles I’ve shared my take on many of the chal­lenges faced by teach­ers in today’s edu­ca­tion­al cli­mate. Lack of mean­ing­ful oppor­tu­ni­ties for the teacher’s voice to be heard, mount­ing pres­sure to pro­duce stu­dents who per­form well on high stakes tests, dis­trict man­dates to teach from a script­ed cur­ricu­lum, a desire to be all and do all for stu­dents, the list goes on and on. And that list can be exhaust­ing. Yet so many of us con­tin­ue to pur­sue the some­times elu­sive and ulti­mate goal; to make a pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence in the lives of our stu­dents. At times, it feels like the bal­ance between give and take is incred­i­bly lop­sided.

Yes, lop­sided. Com­plete­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate. It’s not even a con­test when I com­pare how much my buck­et has been filled to the num­ber of buck­ets I may have filled. You see, in my 30 years as a teacher, the gifts I have received far out­num­ber those I have been lucky enough to share with oth­ers. And so, in the spir­it of the sea­son, rather than share a list of what I wish for this Christ­mas, I invite you to take a peek at the trea­sures that have been bestowed upon me. The high­lights that have inspired me over the years and have kept me going. My gifts from the trench­es.   

The Kids

The first cat­e­go­ry of gifts comes from the rea­son we all entered the hon­or­able pro­fes­sion of teach­ing in the first place. The kids. Every sin­gle cherub that I’ve encoun­tered on my teach­ing and learn­ing jour­ney has a place in my heart. How­ev­er, despite my desire to nev­er play favorites when sur­round­ed by kids in the class­room, I must con­fess that when I look back, there are some that stand out just a bit more. These kids have pro­vid­ed some of my great­est gifts, my proud­est moments and mem­o­ries as a teacher.

First, there was the sad lit­tle guy who had lost his moth­er as a kinder­garten­er and was often in a fight or flight mode. Yet thanks to a class read-aloud of The Lemon­ade Club by Patri­cia Polac­co, he became the dri­ving force behind the “Lemon­ade Stand Project” my group of first graders launched in an effort to raise mon­ey for a very sick boy in our com­mu­ni­ty. When­ev­er I think back to those busy days with six- and sev­en-year-olds who were so intent on doing a good deed for some­one they didn’t even knows, my heart melts. This extra­or­di­nary expe­ri­ence reminds me that when mag­ic hap­pens in the class­room, it most like­ly does not come from a text­book or piece of cur­ricu­lum. It comes from the heart and usu­al­ly the heart of a kid.

The Lemonade Club

The Lemon­ade Club

Then there was a qui­et, freck­le-faced, sec­ond-grade girl who shined with cre­ativ­i­ty and kind­ness yet strug­gled to read with suc­cess. I didn’t know much about dyslex­ia at the time but my instincts told me I need­ed to learn more so I could help fig­ure out the source of her dif­fi­cul­ties. I found and read the book Over­com­ing Dyslex­ia by Yale neu­ro­sci­en­tist Sal­ly Shay­witz. I shared the book and my con­cerns with this bright young lady’s par­ents who were eager to do what­ev­er they could to help her. That con­ver­sa­tion led them to lots of research, a for­mal diag­no­sis, and enroll­ment in a school that spe­cial­ized in work­ing with dyslex­ic stu­dents. Over the next decade we stayed in touch and I was thrilled to hear of my for­mer student’s con­tin­ued suc­cess. The best gift came when I received this mes­sage last spring from that cre­ative and kind young woman:

Hi Mrs. Rome! I hope all is well with you! I just want­ed to share some excit­ing news with you. I have been accept­ed into a few dif­fer­ent grad­u­ate schools to earn my Edu­ca­tion­al Psy­chol­o­gy license to become a school psy­chol­o­gist … I think of you and how for­tu­nate I was to have you as my sec­ond-grade teacher, and how dif­fer­ent my life would have been had I nev­er met you. You changed my life. I don’t think I would be pur­su­ing grad­u­ate school, let alone be attend­ing col­lege, had you not sug­gest­ed that I might be dyslex­ic …

Words can­not express how much a mes­sage like this means to a teacher. Goose­bumps and a lump in my throat instant­ly mate­ri­al­ize every time I re-read this mes­sage. What a life-chang­er this future school psy­chol­o­gist and her fam­i­ly were for me. No ques­tion that the bal­ance between give and take is lop­sided, and this sto­ry illus­trates just how much one stu­dent can give to a teacher.

The Col­leagues

In addi­tion to gifts from many spe­cial kids, I have also been blessed with some of the finest col­leagues any­one could ask for. I was a mem­ber of one par­tic­u­lar­ly spe­cial team that will always have élite sta­tus in my book. We dubbed our­selves The Dream Team, not because we want­ed to be boast­ful, but because it was like a dream come true for each of us, to feel such a sense of har­mo­ny and col­lab­o­ra­tion.

The Dream Team

The Dream Team

Although our time togeth­er was far too short, just one school year, it was like noth­ing I had ever expe­ri­enced in all my years of teach­ing. I mar­vel at the engage­ment and inspi­ra­tion our joint efforts cre­at­ed for our stu­dents as well for each oth­er. The many gifts that I enjoyed with my Dream Team includ­ed:

  • a shared com­mit­ment to putting kids first
  • a mutu­al love of lit­er­a­cy
  • dai­ly “col­lab time” to share ideas, ques­tions, and con­cerns
  • hon­est com­mu­ni­ca­tion
  • an abun­dance of vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and trust
  • a desire to learn and grow togeth­er

I hon­est­ly don’t know if these attrib­ut­es can be cul­ti­vat­ed or if they sim­ply hap­pen when the stars are aligned just so. I do know that it is a rare and beau­ti­ful thing to love not only the work you do, but also the peo­ple you get to do it with. What a gift these ladies were!

The Authors and their Books

The last of my gifts from the trench­es is a trib­ute to the lit­er­a­cy heroes that have impact­ed me, both per­son­al­ly and pro­fes­sion­al­ly. Much more than just a list of favorite authors and books, these writ­ers and their char­ac­ters have had a pro­found effect on my teach­ing and learn­ing:

  • Mo Willems, author of Pig­gy and Ele­phant books, changed the way I help kids build foun­da­tion­al skills like decod­ing and flu­en­cy but, more impor­tant­ly, these play­ful gems teach us lessons about friend­ship, loy­al­ty, courage, and fun.

Mo Willems

  • Patri­cia Polac­co, mas­ter sto­ry­teller, offers rich tapes­tries of fam­i­ly tra­di­tions, strug­gles and cel­e­bra­tions, year after year. Thank you, Mr. Falk­er cap­tures Polacco’s ago­niz­ing efforts to learn to read. It is a sto­ry that res­onates deeply with teach­ers and is one many kids can relate to.
Patricia Polacco

Patri­cia Polac­co

  • Kwame Alexan­der, leg­endary poet and word­smith, brings a lev­el of pas­sion and excite­ment to a day at school that is beyond one’s wildest expec­ta­tions. Thanks to a gen­er­ous grant I received from Pen­guin Ran­dom House and dozens of copies of Crossover donat­ed by Scholas­tic, my Dream Team and I wit­nessed the trans­for­ma­tive pow­er of a great book, one that actu­al­ly can change lives.
Kwame Alexander and the Dream Team

Kwame Alexan­der and the Dream Team

I must admit that there is one thing that remains on my Christ­mas wish list. That wish is for every teacher read­ing this essay to receive his or her own gifts from the trench­es. May your kids, your col­leagues, and your favorite authors and books, bring you the con­tent­ment that comes from know­ing you make a dif­fer­ence every sin­gle day!

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Forgetting How to Drive

Writing Road Trip | Forgetting How to DriveYou always hear it around the time of the first fall snow­storm in Min­neso­ta: “It’s like peo­ple have for­got­ten how to dri­ve!” It refers to the fact that even dri­vers who are diehard Minnesotans—as evi­denced by the Min­neso­ta Vikings flags fly­ing from their pick­up antennas—don’t seem to have the tini­est clue how to dri­ve on snow-packed roads. It’s as if they’ve nev­er seen win­ter before.

I guess we just get spoiled dur­ing the oth­er six months of the year, when the dri­ving is “easy.”

I find that writ­ing can be like that, too. No mat­ter how many years I’ve flown the “writer” flag from my anten­na, there are times when the writ­ing comes easy, and times when it feels like I’ve “for­got­ten how to write.”

It’s true for me as a long­time writer, and I’ve found it’s true for young writ­ers who are just start­ing out as well. So what can help to steer a writer out of a cre­ative sea­son that’s fore­cast­ing bliz­zard con­di­tions? Some­times a sim­ple writ­ing warm-up can melt the cre­ative brain-freeze!

I’ve shared sev­er­al writ­ing warm-ups that work well for stu­dents and class­rooms in past posts; you might want to check some of them out. Anoth­er of my favorites helps jump­start the writ­ing process by putting actu­al words into the hands of young writ­ers. It’s super-sim­ple and fun: I share out words from Mag­net­ic Poet­ry Kits, hand around old cook­ie sheets, and ask stu­dents to “cook up” a poem to warm things up. I’ll often remind them about some of the poet­ry-writ­ing basics that we’ve cov­ered in past ses­sions (this varies based on the age of the stu­dents, but might include con­cepts such as using all five sens­es, allit­er­a­tion, fig­u­ra­tive lan­guage, and pay­ing atten­tion to the sound of the words).

Hav­ing preprint­ed words in hand, added to the sim­ple fun of play­ing with mag­nets, works as a kind of anti-freeze. Before you know it, the writ­ing fore­cast is for clear and sun­ny.

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Let It Snow!

Phyl­lis: The first real snow has fall­en overnight, and the qual­i­ty of light when I wake up is lumi­nous out­side the win­dow. Sol­stice approach­es, and we’ve turned our thoughts to books about win­ter and snow. So many to choose from! Here are a few.

Katy and the Big SnowWhen my grown daugh­ter saw a copy of Katy and the Big Snow by Vir­ginia Lee Bur­ton on my book­shelf, she cried, “Oh! Katy!” Since it was first pub­lished in 1943, this book has been beloved by chil­dren and grown-ups alike. Katy, “a beau­ti­ful red crawler trac­tor,” works as a bull­doz­er in the sum­mer and even pulls a steam­roller out of the pond when it falls in. In win­ter, Katy’s bull­doz­er is changed out for her snow plow, but she is “so big and strong” that she must stay in the garage until enough snow falls for her to plow. When the Big Snow final­ly does pile up with drifts up to sec­ond sto­ry win­dows, the oth­er plows break down and Katy comes to the res­cue. She plows out the city’s roads so the mail can get through (remem­ber when mail was a main way to com­mu­ni­cate?), tele­phones poles can be repaired, bro­ken water mains fixed, patients can get to hos­pi­tals, fire trucks can reach fires, air­planes can land on cleared run­ways, and all the side streets are plowed out. “Then … and only then did Katy stop.” I’ve lived in Min­neso­ta through enough win­ters to see hous­es on the prairie buried by snow­drifts and trick-or-treaters strug­gling through the three-foot deep Hal­loween bliz­zard. Thanks to Katy and her kin, we get around even­tu­al­ly, and thanks to Vir­ginia Bur­ton we can share in Katy’s tri­umph. And what child doesn’t love big machines?

Jack­ie: Big machines are auto­mat­ic atten­tion-grab­bers. And I love the cer­tain­ty of this world. There are prob­lems to be solved in this big snow and Katy can solve them. So, the mail gets through, the sick peo­ple get treat­ed, the fire trucks put out fires. It feels safe. And that is such a good feel­ing for a child—and for all of us. We adults may know that things don’t always work out that neat­ly, but it’s nice, even for us, to vis­it a world where they do work out.

Small WaltPhyl­lis: Small Walt by Eliz­a­beth Verdick with pic­tures by Marc Rosen­thal has just been pub­lished, and Katy’s descen­dant Walt waits, too, for a chance to plow snow. Unlike Katy who must wait for a big snow, Walt, the small­est plow in the fleet, must wait and wait for some­one will­ing to take out “the lit­tle guy” when a snow­storm buries the streets and all the big plows and their dri­vers go out to clear the roads.. Enter Gus, who checks out Walt and dri­ves him on his route. Walt chugs along, his engine thrum­ming his song:

My name is Walt.
I plow and salt,
They say I’m small,
But I’ll show them all.

And Walt does, until they con­front a high hill with drifts big­ger than Walt has ever seen. Gus sug­gests they can let Big Buck behind them plow the hill, but Walt is deter­mined. He “skids, slips down, down…He shud­ders, sput­ters.” When they final­ly make it to the top of the hill and down, dawn has arrived and they head back to the city lot where Big Buck says, “The lit­tle guy did a bet­ter job than I thought.” Replete with ono­matopo­et­ic sounds, rhythm, and syn­tax, this is a won­der­ful read-aloud. The art is rem­i­nis­cent in col­or and line of Burton’s art, and Walt, like Katy, is a jaun­ty red. A great pair­ing of books when the snow piles high.

Jack­ie: This is such a sat­is­fy­ing sto­ry. And as you said, Phyl­lis, the lan­guage is won­der­ful. My favorite, and I may adopt it this win­ter, is, “Plow and salter. Nev­er fal­ter.” There are days when it’s good to remem­ber not to fal­ter, whether or not salt is in the pic­ture.

Over and Under the SnowPhyl­lis: Over and Under the Snow by Kate Mess­ner with art by Christo­pher Silas Neal chron­i­cles a win­ter day ski­ing where a “whole secret king­dom” exists out of sight under the snow that a child and par­ent glide, climb, and swoosh over. Fat bull­frogs snooze, snow­shoe hares watch from under snow-cov­ered pines, squir­rels, shrews, voles, chip­munks, queen bum­ble­bees hide under the snow where deer mice “hud­dle up, cud­dle up. And a bushy-tailed red fox leaps to catch the mouse that his sharp ears detect scritch­ing beneath the snow. Exten­sive back mat­ter offers sci­en­tif­ic infor­ma­tion about how the ani­mals sur­vive win­ter. Read­ing this book makes me want to strap on skis and go glid­ing through a snowy world over a secret king­dom.

Jack­ie: I had that same thought—“where are my skis? Where is the snow?” It’s so much fun in this book to see into places we don’t usu­al­ly see, the vole’s tun­nel, the beavers’ den, the place in the mud where the bull­frog lives. It’s like being giv­en a mag­ic pill that makes us small enough to get into these places, usu­al­ly locked to us. And I love the back infor­ma­tion. The more we know the more we see when we look. And the more con­nec­tion we have to what is under the snow.

Has Winter Come?Phyl­lis: Anoth­er old favorite in our fam­i­ly is Wendy Watson’s Has Win­ter Come? I love Wendy Watson’s work, and this book, text and art, enchant­ed me when we first read it and still does.

On the day that it start­ed to snow,
Moth­er said,
“Win­ter is com­ing now.
I can smell it in the air.”

The wood­chuck chil­dren sniff but can’t smell win­ter. As the fam­i­ly gath­ers “acorns and wal­nuts, hick­o­ry nuts and hazel­nuts, sun­flower seed and pump­kin seeds … apples and corn, and pears and parsnips” and piles up wood to keep them warm the chil­dren keep try­ing to smell win­ter. When the snow stops falling their moth­er gath­ers a star for each of them from the star­ry sky. As they get ready for bed the lit­tle wood­chucks smell “warm beds, and pine cones burn­ing, and apple cores siz­zling on the hearth.” As their par­ents tuck them under warm down quilts, the chil­dren say, “We smell sleep com­ing, and a long night … Is this win­ter?”

Yes, their par­ents whis­per. “This is win­ter.” The soft­ly col­ored illus­tra­tions cap­ture falling snow, the trunks and roots of the wood­chucks’ wood­land home, and the small lumi­nosi­ties of the stars that the lit­tle wood­chuck clutch in their paws as they fall asleep. Who wouldn’t want such a win­ter nap, cozy, and well-fed, lit by starlight and watched over by lov­ing par­ents?

Father Fox's PennyrhymesJack­ie: Wendy Wat­son has always been one of my favorites. Her books tell a tale of fam­i­ly love and, like Geopo­lis, always present read­ers a won­der­ful world to vis­it. At our house we spent many con­tent­ed hours enjoy­ing the pic­tures and por­ing over the rhymes in Father Fox’s Pen­nyrhymes, writ­ten by Clyde Wat­son and illus­trat­ed by her sis­ter, Wendy.

As a result of work­ing on this col­umn I have vis­it­ed Wendy Watson’s web page and espe­cial­ly love her blog, with its fam­i­ly tales and recipes.

Winter is the Warmest SeasonPhyl­lis: Lau­ren Stringer’s Win­ter is the Warmest Sea­son offers proof in spare text and exu­ber­ant illus­tra­tions that, con­trary to what we might think, win­ter is indeed our warmest time. Puffy jack­ets, hats that “grow earflaps,” hands wear­ing wooly sweaters, a good cup of some­thing warm to drink, cats that curl in laps, cozy blan­kets and star­ry quilts to snug­gle under, fires and can­dles, hot baths, and a book to read cud­dled close by peo­ple who love us will all warm our hearts as the snow piles up out­side.

Jack­ie: This is an ode to the joys of win­ter. It reminds me of the appre­ci­a­tion we all have for hot choco­late (which of course tastes best, when one is a lit­tle chilled), fire­places, and the sweet­ness of being warmed after being cold. This book begs read­ers to cre­ate a companion—Summer is the Coolest Sea­son. This would be a fun class­room writ­ing assign­ment.

Snow CrystalsWe start­ed this col­umn with mounds of snow that had to be cleared away for vil­lage life to con­tin­ue. We looked under the snow, found win­ter, and found it to be warm. I’d like to add a look at indi­vid­ual snow crys­tals. Because Snowflake Bent­ley is on our list of addi­tion­al books [Thanks Phyl­lis!] I want to men­tion that his book of snow crys­tal pho­tographs is still in print—Snow Crys­tals—and is pub­lished by Dover Pub­li­ca­tions. Also, Voyageur, in 2006 pub­lished Ken­neth Libbrecht’s A Field Guide to Snowflakes, pho­tographs of snow crys­tals tak­en with a more mod­ern cam­era than Bentley’s.

Phyl­lis: Whether you are tucked under a warm blan­ket or glid­ing through snowy woods over crea­tures tucked in beneath your feet, we wish you the warmth of loved ones, the won­der of snow crys­tals, a pile of books to read, and a peace­ful time as the earth tilts into win­ter and toward the sol­stice light.

Snowflake BentleyA few more of the bliz­zard of books about snow and win­ter:

  • Brave Irene by William Steig
  • Snowflake Bent­ley by Jack­ie Brig­gs Mar­tin (Jack­ie might not men­tion this book, but Phyl­lis will) and Mary Azar­i­an
  • Snowflakes Fall by Patri­cia MacLach­lan and Steven Kel­logg
  • Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
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Revisions Part IV

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Skinny Dip with Kelly Starling Lyons

Kelly Starling Lyons

Kel­ly Star­ling Lyons (pho­to: Lundies Pho­tog­ra­phy)

You may know Kel­ly Star­ling Lyons for One Mil­lion Men and Me or Tea Cakes for Tosh or Ellen’s Broom, mem­o­rable pic­ture books, but we’re cel­e­brat­ing her new chap­ter books star­ring Jada Jones! Thanks, Kel­ly, for tak­ing a Skin­ny Dip with us in Decem­ber.

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

That’s a tough ques­tion. I loved all of my teach­ers. But two that stand out are Dr. Kupec at Beech­wood Ele­men­tary and Mr. Pow­ell at Mil­liones Mid­dle School.

Dr. Kupec was my sec­ond grade teacher and lat­er prin­ci­pal of the school. I looked for­ward to going to her class to see what won­ders were in store. Would we sing? Act? Read books that took us to oth­er worlds? She knew how to cap­ti­vate kids and make learn­ing fun.

Anoth­er favorite was band direc­tor and teacher Mr. Pow­ell. Bril­liant, cre­ative and exact­ing, he taught me the pow­er of prac­tice and feel­ing what you’re play­ing. Under his direc­tion, I couldn’t just blend into the back­ground. I had syn­the­siz­er solos that put me in the spot­light. He even wrote a song that show­cased my play­ing called “Kelly’s Blues.” I’ll always remem­ber how amaz­ing that made me feel.

Something BeautifulAll-time favorite book?

A children’s book that made a big impact on me was Some­thing Beau­ti­ful by Sharon Den­nis Wyeth. In the sto­ry, an African-Amer­i­can girl learns that the pow­er to cre­ate beau­ty lives in her. I looked at her face full of won­der and saw girls I know and lit­tle me. That was the first time I saw a black char­ac­ter on the cov­er of a pic­ture book.  It called me to write for kids and will always have spe­cial mean­ing.

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

Break­fast is my favorite meal. On week­ends, we would sit around the table and mar­vel at the spread made by my grand­ma and mom. The table was filled with favorites—fried apples, scram­bled eggs with cheese, home­fries, link sausage, home­made muffins, banana pan­cakes with warm maple syrup. It was a feast of food and love.

Your best mem­o­ry of your library?

My local Carnegie Library was mag­i­cal. All around, sto­ries wait­ed to be read and explored. It was a place where adven­tures and dreams came to life. Read­ing was like being on anoth­er plane, out­side of time and space. Those sto­ry­telling jour­neys meant every­thing to me. I feel blessed to be cre­at­ing them for chil­dren today.

Your favorite toy as a child?

I trea­sured my home­made Raggedy Ann doll. In stores, I just saw white ones. But a rel­a­tive made one with skin the col­or of mine. It was more than a toy. It was an affir­ma­tion, a love let­ter. It’s one of the few keep­sakes I’ve held onto from child­hood. Today, it’s my daughter’s.

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The Grinch

I’m just going to say it. Go on the record.

I do not like The Grinch. I do not like the book. I do not like the char­ac­ter. I do not like the sto­ry of How The Grinch Stole Christ­mas. I do not like the bril­liant the­ater pro­duc­tions of the sto­ry (though I acknowl­edge the bril­liance.) I do not like the TV spe­cial, which I grew up watch­ing, and which I did not let my kids watch. I do not like the movie or the song. I do not like any of it, Sam-I-Am.

Lest you think I’m sim­ply grinchy about all things Grinch, I will tip my hand here at the begin­ning and say that I love the name “Grinch.” It’s per­fect. As per­fect as Ebe­neez­er Scrooge’s name, and let’s be hon­est, How The Grinch Stole Christ­mas is real­ly just a knock-off of Dicken’s A Christ­mas Car­ol. It’s just not as well done. It lacks…subtlety, among oth­er things.

Scrooge is afflict­ed with his own per­son­al bah hum­bug­ness, but you sus­pect even before all of the Christ­mas Ghosts vis­it that he could be a dif­fer­ent man with a lit­tle ther­a­py and some home­made Christ­mas cook­ies. But the Grinch is just mean. He’s not all “Bah hum­bug!” when Christ­mas friv­o­li­ties get on his nerves—he’s all “I MUST stop this Christ­mas from com­ing.”

Dude. Take your two-sizes-too-small heart and get back to your cave.

I’m tired of mak­ing excus­es for the grinch­es of the world. He takes the stock­ings and presents, the treats and the feast of the wee Whos! He takes the last can of Who-hash, for heaven’s sake! And then The Tree—he shoves the Whos’ Christ­mas tree up the chim­ney! Who does that?!

It’s Cindy­Lou Who and her sweet trust­ing nature that just undoes me. 

San­ty Claus, why…Why are you tak­ing our Christ­mas tree? WHY?”

The Grinch pos­es as San­ta Claus—can we agree this is an abom­i­na­tion?

He tells her there’s a light that won’t light, and so he’s tak­ing it back to his work­shop to fix. Sweet Cindy­Lou believes him—she trots back to bed with her cold cup of water. My heart! And the Grinch takes the very log for the fire; then goes up the chim­ney, him­self, the old liar.

We did not have this book grow­ing up. We watched the TV spe­cial but I’d nev­er read it until I babysat a fam­i­ly who had it. They had three boys, ages nine, six, and three. They were wild. Dif­fi­cult. Not kind to each oth­er. And they were exhaust­ing to put to bed. I think this is why their par­ents went out.

I sug­gest­ed a few books to wind down one sum­mer night, and the six-year-old demand­ed that I read How The Grinch Stole Christ­mas.

YEAH!” said the nine-year-old. “It makes babies cry!” And as if on cue, the three-year-old start­ed to whim­per. I said we weren’t going to read a book that made any­one cry. And besides, it wasn’t even Christ­mas.

But two hours lat­er, after the old­er two had passed out, the three-year-old brought How The Grinch Stole Christ­mas down to me and asked me to read it. His eyes were huge. His thumb was in his mouth. He said he had to go pot­ty first. Then he need­ed a cold cup of water—just like Cindy­Lou Who.

When we final­ly sat down to read the book, we did not get past the first page before huge tears welled in his eyes. I told him I could not in good con­science read him a book that made him so sad. He sug­gest­ed we just look at the pic­tures. And so we did. We talked through the pic­tures, and he trem­bled as we did. He obvi­ous­ly knew the sto­ry.

And it did not mat­ter one bit that The Grinch could not final­ly take away Christmas—that Christ­mas came in fine style even with­out all the trap­pings he’d stolen. It did not mat­ter that The Grinch’s heart grew three sizes in the end and that he him­self carved the roast beef. This, I sup­pose, is meant to be the “les­son,” the take-away that makes the rest of it all okay. Too lit­tle too late, I say.

I had a three-year-old on my lap try­ing so hard to brave, try­ing not to be The Baby his broth­ers told him he was. His lit­tle heart ham­mered as we turned those pages and by the time we were done, I was done with The Grinch.

So there.

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Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award Committee

Sigurd Olson Children's and Young Adult Literature ConferenceWe’re in the midst of award sea­son, when best of the year lists and spec­u­la­tion about award win­ners pro­lif­er­ate on the social media plat­forms swirling around children’s and teen books. In Novem­ber, we attend­ed the award cer­e­mo­ny at the Sig­urd Olson Envi­ron­men­tal Institute’s Chil­dren and Young Adult Lit­er­a­ture Con­fer­ence, which takes place at North­land Col­lege in Ash­land, Wis­con­sin (on the awe-inspir­ing south shore of Lake Supe­ri­or). Inspired by the authors, nat­u­ral­ists, and librar­i­ans who speak at this con­fer­ence, we inter­viewed the ded­i­cat­ed com­mit­tee who select this impor­tant award each year.

How do you select the award­ed books?

We have a com­mit­tee of eight mem­bers who all have an inter­est in pro­mot­ing both the nat­ur­al world and high qual­i­ty lit­er­a­ture for chil­dren. Because com­mit­tee mem­bers remain on the com­mit­tee from year to year we have a ded­i­cat­ed, knowl­edge­able group of pro­fes­sion­als. Each mem­ber first ranks books and then those results are tal­lied. The top ranked books becomes the focus of a com­mit­tee meet­ing. A final vote is tak­en with numer­i­cal rank­ings fol­low­ing that in-depth dis­cus­sion.

What are the cri­te­ria for this award?

The Sig­urd F. Olson Nature Writ­ing Award for Children’s Lit­er­a­ture is giv­en to a pub­lished children’s book of lit­er­ary nature writ­ing (non­fic­tion or fic­tion) that cap­tures the spir­it of the human rela­tion­ship with nature, and pro­motes the aware­ness, preser­va­tion, appre­ci­a­tion, or restora­tion of the nat­ur­al world for future gen­er­a­tions. (Here’s a full list of SONWA books since 1991.)

How do you gath­er the books?

Since most, if not all, pub­lish­ers are on Twit­ter, we estab­lished a SONWA Awards Twit­ter account two years ago (@sonwa_awards). For the past two years, we’ve pro­mot­ed the awards through our feed and by direct­ly tweet­ing to pub­lish­ers. We also post to the SOEI (Sig­urd Olson Envi­ron­men­tal Insti­tute) Face­book feed peri­od­i­cal­ly.

We active­ly ask pub­lish­ers to sub­mit books that fit the cri­te­ria. Since we’re one of the few nature writ­ing awards for young adult and children’s lit­er­a­ture, the pub­lish­ers of this type of book are aware of us.

What selec­tion cri­te­ria do you apply?

First of all, as the name of the award sug­gests, the book has to be about some aspect of nature and writ­ten for chil­dren appro­pri­ate to the age group. In addi­tion, it has to be writ­ten in the year pri­or to the year the award is received.

After that, we look at:

  • Human Rela­tion­ships with Nat­ur­al World: Does the book cap­ture the spir­it of the human rela­tion­ship with nature?
  • Lit­er­ary Val­ue: Does the book take on ele­ments such as char­ac­ter devel­op­ment, metaphor, cli­max, allu­sion, theme, motif, etc?
  • Val­ues: Does the book pro­mote the val­ues for nature this award seeks to pro­mote for future gen­er­a­tions: aware­ness, preser­va­tion, appre­ci­a­tion, restora­tion?
  • Illus­tra­tions: When books meet all the above cri­te­ria, then illus­tra­tions and the art­work are con­sid­ered.

What is the impe­tus you feel for donat­ing your time to this award process?

Liv­ing in the North­woods, whether an out­door per­son or not, cre­ates a strong con­nec­tion to the earth and con­cern for its future. Our com­mit­tee is also well aware of how lit­er­a­cy can impact our human­i­ty. This award process allows us to com­mit to two efforts that are impor­tant to us. We hope the chain from writ­ers to pub­lish­ers will be val­i­dat­ed for their efforts. And we hope the read­er will be enriched in mul­ti­ple ways.

You are housed with­in, and spon­sored by, the Sig­urd Olson Envi­ron­men­tal Insti­tute. Why is this a good fit for a nature-writ­ing award?

The mis­sion of the Sig­urd Olson Envi­ron­men­tal Insti­tute is to pro­mote expe­ri­ences of wild­ness and won­der, while also work­ing to pro­tect wild­lands for future gen­er­a­tions. Lit­er­ary depic­tions and accounts of wild nature and the won­der it evokes in peo­ple often inspire read­ers to seek sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences, or, if they’ve already had those expe­ri­ences, the lit­er­ary works help to fur­ther affirm the val­ue of those expe­ri­ences.

Sig­urd F. Olson’s writ­ing is one of the rich­est and most influ­en­tial parts of his lega­cy, and the nature writ­ing award is one of the ways that we car­ry that lega­cy for­ward.

Northland College

You’ll find the Sig­urd F. Olson Envi­ron­men­tal Insti­tute on the cam­pus of North­land Col­lege, Ash­land, Wis­con­son (in the fore­ground of this pho­to). That’s Lake Supe­ri­or in the back­ground.

Your focus was ini­tial­ly region­al­ly writ­ten adult books. Why did you devel­op a spe­cif­ic award for children’s books?

In part this was a cir­cum­stan­tial deci­sion: each year pub­lish­ers were sub­mit­ting children’s books, even though they didn’t meet the cri­te­ria we had estab­lished for the orig­i­nal adult award. Although we could not con­sid­er these sub­mis­sions for the adult award, we were impressed by their qual­i­ty and want­ed to rec­og­nize and pro­mote the work of the authors and illus­tra­tors of the children’s books.

Of course, we also rec­og­nize how impor­tant it is to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tions of chil­dren and the role that sto­ries can play in shap­ing their val­ues and visions for them­selves and their future. We want chil­dren to grow up hav­ing and valu­ing expe­ri­ences of wild­ness and won­der in their lives, and the children’s nature writ­ing award, as well as our children’s lit­er­a­ture con­fer­ence, help us to real­ize this goal.

Hav­ing read so many nature-themed children’s books, what trends are you notic­ing?

We do see top­ic trends from time to time. A few years ago it was whales and then water the next year. Just like pub­lish­ing in oth­er areas, the trends tend to fol­low what is going on in the world. This year we have a few hur­ri­cane books. Often times, grand­par­ents are depict­ed as nur­tur­er, guardian, or sto­ry­teller of nature.

 We are see­ing more diver­si­ty and inclu­sion. There are more pic­ture books with more white space but with detailed author notes or sup­ple­men­tal added val­ue. In recent year, non­fic­tion books for old­er read­ers will have side bars, graph­ics, cap­tioned pho­tos, and more along­side the main body. This can be either an enhance­ment or a dis­trac­tion.

What themes or top­ics do you wish were being addressed in children’s books?

We are always look­ing for books that have a strong rela­tion­ship to human inter­ac­tion with the nat­ur­al world. Books for old­er chil­dren with this aspect are not as read­i­ly avail­able. There are always some that stand out in this area but we would hap­pi­ly wel­come more.

___________________

Thank you for your com­mit­ment to read­ing and rec­om­mend­ing the very best in nature writ­ing for chil­dren and teens. Your focus on human inter­ac­tion with the nat­ur­al world is crit­i­cal to the lives of our chil­dren and our plan­et. Impor­tant work you’re doing!

[The sub­mis­sion dead­line for 2018 award con­sid­er­a­tion is Decem­ber 31, 2017. Learn more.]

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Stopping by the Diner

Writing Road Trip by Lisa Bullard | Stopping by the DinerMy dad has a pas­sion­ate hatred of olives on, in, or even in the gen­er­al vicin­i­ty of his food. He’s con­vinced their mere pres­ence con­t­a­m­i­nates any­thing else on his plate. So when he eats at his favorite small-town din­er, he’s always care­ful to tell the serv­er that he wants his din­ner sal­ad with­out the black olives they usu­al­ly include. Except this time the brand-new teenage serv­er plopped it down in front of him com­plete with a gen­er­ous help­ing of his much-loathed food.

I’m sor­ry,” he said, “I asked for the sal­ad with­out olives.”

She thought a moment, said, “No prob­lem,” reached out to scoop the olives out with her bare hand, and walked away hold­ing them.

Here are the answers to the three ques­tions you’re now ask­ing: No, he didn’t eat the sal­ad.

No, we haven’t stopped laugh­ing yet.

No, he didn’t call over the man­ag­er to rat her out. But the next time he went in, he pulled aside one of the more sea­soned servers and asked her to make sure the young woman under­stood there might be a dif­fer­ent way to han­dle the sit­u­a­tion.

There are dif­fer­ent ways to han­dle a writ­ing revi­sion as well. Revi­sion is the least favorite part of the writ­ing process for most young writ­ers. So hav­ing dif­fer­ent approach­es on hand is a good way to keep stu­dents com­ing back to this all-impor­tant process.

The com­mon approach is to sim­ply work one’s way through the first draft, mak­ing cor­rec­tions and tak­ing out the “olives” as you go. But this isn’t always the best tac­tic. Some sea­soned writ­ers rec­om­mend that for a sec­ond draft, you go back and start fresh, rather than mere­ly fix what’s already on paper. It sounds counter-intuitive—don’t you lose what was good about the orig­i­nal, along with what wasn’t work­ing? But the truth is, this more rad­i­cal approach can give young writ­ers per­mis­sion to “col­or out­side the lines” of their orig­i­nal drafts. Hav­ing writt‚en the first draft still informs the new ver­sion in an impor­tant way, but it doesn’t lim­it it. Some­times this approach can ele­vate the writ­ing to a whole new lev­el.

As my dad might say, once his food has been touched by olives (not to men­tion some­one else’s fingers), he sim­ply can’t eat it. The only answer is to start with a whole new sal­ad.

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True Story

Recent­ly I attend­ed a writer’s con­fer­ence main­ly to hear one speak­er. His award-win­ning books remind me that the very best writ­ing is found in children’s lit­er­a­ture. When he deliv­ered the keynote, I jot­ted down bits of his sparkling wis­dom.

At one point he said that we live in a bro­ken world, but one that’s also filled with beau­ty. My pen slowed. Some­thing about those words both­ered me. The crux of his speech was that as writ­ers for chil­dren, we are tasked to be hon­est and not with­hold the truth.

After the applause pat­tered away, the air in the ball­room seemed charged. Every­one was eager to march, unfurl­ing the ban­ner of truth for young read­ers! If we had been giv­en paper, we would have start­ed bril­liant, authen­tic nov­els on the spot.

The keynote’s mes­sage car­ried over into break-out ses­sions. Pan­elists admit­ted to crav­ing the truth when they were kids, things par­ents wouldn’t tell them. Par­tic­i­pants agreed. We should show kids the world as it real­ly is! The impli­ca­tion being that chil­dren lead­ing “nor­mal” lives should be aware of harsh­er real­i­ties and devel­op empa­thy. Kids liv­ing out­side the pale would find them­selves, maybe learn how to cope with their sit­u­a­tions.

I stopped tak­ing notes.

Here’s my truth: I was born into a bro­ken world. By age four, I’d expe­ri­enced scores of harsh­er real­i­ties. At sev­en, I learned the hard­est truth of all: that par­ents aren’t required to want or love their chil­dren. I spent most of my child­hood field­ing one real-world chal­lenge after the oth­er. I did not want to read about them, though few books fifty years ago explored issues of alco­holism, home­less­ness, and domes­tic vio­lence.

Christ­mas Day when I was 11 with my sis­ter and my cousins. I was already a writer at this age.

I read to escape, delv­ing into sto­ries where the character’s biggest chal­lenge was find­ing grandmother’s hid­den jew­els, as in The Secret of the Stone Griffins. Fluff? So what? In order to set the bar, I had to seek nor­mal and didn’t care if Dick-and-Jane fam­i­lies weren’t real. Even Mo, the alien girl in Hen­ry Winterfield’s Star Girl who’d tum­bled from her space­ship, lived a nor­mal life with her fam­i­ly on Asra, climb­ing trees on that far­away plan­et like I did on Earth.

In a fam­i­ly of non-read­ers, I broke free of the norm. Not only did I read con­stant­ly, but decid­ed to be a writer at an ear­ly age. I’d write the kind of books I loved, books where secrets involved buried trea­sure, not things I had to keep qui­et about; books where kids felt pro­tect­ed enough to embark on adven­tures.

My moth­er and step­fa­ther regard­ed me with odd respect, as if unsure what plan­et this kid had come from. So long as “sto­ry-writ­ing” didn’t inter­fere with school­work (it did), my moth­er excused me from chores. Only once did she declare read­ing mate­r­i­al inap­pro­pri­ate.

I was nine and fresh out of library books. I found a True Sto­ry mag­a­zine and was deep into sto­ry about an abused boy when my moth­er caught me. She thought I was learn­ing about sex. I was out­raged by the injus­tice: pun­ished for read­ing about a kid my age! Now I think about the irony.

Judy ScuppernongThen I grew up and wrote children’s books. Most of my fic­tion was light and humor­ous. Yet some brave writ­ers tack­led seri­ous sub­jects. My col­league Bren­da Seabrooke wrote a slen­der, ele­gant verse nov­el called Judy Scup­per­nong. This com­ing-of-age sto­ry touch­es on fam­i­ly secrets and alco­holism. The for­mat was per­fect for nav­i­gat­ing dif­fi­cult sub­jects.

I sat down and wrote a poem called “Nobody’s Child.” More fol­lowed, until I’d told my own sto­ry. My agent sub­mit­ted my book Nobody’s Child. One edi­tor asked me to rewrite it as a YA nov­el. “You’ve already done the hard part,” he said. He was wrong. Each time I revised (many times over the years), I had to crawl back into that dark place. Some peo­ple said that by telling my sto­ry, I’d be able to put it behind me. They were wrong. I nev­er will.

The truth is, I wrote Nobody’s Child to find answers. I already knew the what and the how. I want­ed to know why. But by then every­one involved was gone, tak­ing their rea­sons with them. If I were to fic­tion­al­ize my sto­ry to help anoth­er child in the same sit­u­a­tion, I couldn’t make the end­ing turn out any bet­ter.

In the fan­tasies and mys­ter­ies and books about ani­mals I read as a kid, I fig­ured out I’d prob­a­bly be okay. When I looked up from what­ev­er library book I was read­ing, or what­ev­er sto­ry I was writ­ing, I noticed the real world around me. Not all of it was bro­ken. There were woods and gar­dens and cats and birds and, yes, at last, peo­ple who cared about me.

Author Peter Altenberg said, “I nev­er expect­ed to hold the great mir­ror of truth up before the world; I dreamed only of being a lit­tle pock­et mir­ror …one that reflects small blem­ish­es, and some great beau­ties, when held close enough to the heart.”

Valiant children’s writ­ers will flash the great mir­ror of truth in bold­er works than mine. I’m con­tent to shine my lit­tle pock­et mir­ror at small truths, no big­ger than a starling’s sharp eye, from my heart to my reader’s.

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Skinny Dip with Sarah Aronson

Sarah AronsonSarah Aronson’s most recent books, The Worst Fairy God­moth­er Ever (The Wish List #1, Beach Lane Books) and Keep Calm and Sparkle On! (The Wish List #2) are at once light­heart­ed and serious—stories that are fun to read and encour­age work­ing for caus­es that mat­ter to the world. Sarah is wide­ly known in the children’s book writ­ing com­mu­ni­ty as an enthu­si­as­tic and effec­tive writ­ing instruc­tor. Thanks, Sarah, for tak­ing a Skin­ny Dip with us in Decem­ber!

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

This is an easy one! My favorite and most influ­en­tial teacher dur­ing those first years of school was my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Dan Sigley.  

It was a year that began with mixed emo­tions. At that time, I didn’t real­ly feel pas­sion­ate about books. Oh, I liked books, but the­ater was my favorite sto­ry medi­um. I had also just returned from 8 months in York, Eng­land. I went to school there and was intro­duced to new set­tings (that you could vis­it) as well as writ­ers like Charles Dick­ens. I read Enid Bly­ton. More impor­tant, I watched my friends take the 11 plus exam, effec­tive­ly track­ing and divid­ing them for dif­fer­ent kinds of futures.

The PearlMr. Sigley awak­ened my cre­ative spir­it in many ways. He got me hooked on books in three dis­tinct ways. First, our class read and per­formed Romeo and Juli­et—unabridged! He showed me that even if I didn’t under­stand the indi­vid­ual words, I could infer mean­ing in a text! Sec­ond, he tire­less­ly hand­ed me books—he was deter­mined to make me a read­er. The book that did it was John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. That end­ing blew me away! It made me think! This was what I want­ed from books! A chance to think about injus­tice and rela­tion­ships and fam­i­ly … and how I could make it bet­ter. Last, he taught us how to make books—from writ­ing to illus­trat­ing to bind­ing. This first home-made book, The Adven­tures of Prince Charm­ing, con­nect­ed the dots. Books were like the­ater. Books were unique for each read­er. I loved get­ting into the heads of my char­ac­ters. I loved hold­ing a book, too.

About the time Head Case was released, Mr. Sigley moved to the house next to my par­ents, so I got to see him many times and thank him for every­thing he taught me. He was a gen­tle, cre­ative man. He was the first per­son who held me account­able and awak­ened my imag­i­na­tion.

All-time favorite book?

The word, favorite, is my least favorite word ever! Here are the books I keep on my desk—they are the books I love. They are the books I reach for when I’m stuck. These are the books that have taught me how to write.

  • The Story of Ferdinand, The Rag and Bone Shop, Sandy's Circus, What Jamie SawOliv­er Twist (Charles Dick­ens)
  • The Rag and Bone Shop (Robert Cormi­er)
  • Mon­ster (Wal­ter Dean Myers)
  • Clemen­tine (Sara Pen­ny­pack­er)
  • Bun­nic­u­la (James Howe, Deb­o­rah Howe)
  • What Jamie Saw (Car­olyn Coman)
  • The Car­rot Seed (Ruth Krauss, Crock­ett John­son)
  • The Sto­ry of Fer­di­nand (Munro Leaf, Robert Law­son)
  • Har­ri­et the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh)
  • Blub­ber (Judy Blume)
  • Offi­cer Buck­le and Glo­ria (Peg­gy Rath­mann)
  • Charles and Emma (Deb­o­rah Heilig­man)
  • Sandy’s Cir­cus (Tanya Lee Stone, Boris Kulikov)

What’s your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

When I am in pre-writ­ing mode, noth­ing counts! (I am one of those weird writ­ers that deletes her first dis­cov­ery draft!!!) I love writ­ing with­out expec­ta­tions! It doesn’t feel like work. It is all dis­pos­able!

ShoesBare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

You have to ask? I write books about fairy god­moth­ers! I like shoes. Always shoes. I love shoes and boots and would even wear glass slip­pers if I didn’t think I’d trip and break them.

When are you your most cre­ative?

First thing in the morn­ing. Best advice I can offer: hide your phone. Be a word producer—not just a con­sumer. Get out of bed and cre­ate. Get some­one to make you a cof­fee. Jour­nal every morn­ing. Or doo­dle. Get the pen to the paper. Find a way to tran­si­tion from the real world to your imag­i­na­tive state. The world and social media can wait!

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

In the win­ter: choco­late

In the sum­mer: peach

But the gela­to place around the cor­ner makes Greek Yoghurt gela­to. It’s sweet and sour and tangy! Yum.

(File under: this author has prob­lems with favorites.)

Book on your bed­side table right now?

I’m cry­ing over Matyl­da, Bright and Ten­der, by Hol­ly McGhee, rec­om­mend­ed by Olivia Van Ledt­je, also known as @thelivbits

Sarah Aronson's elephantWhat’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I can turn any­thing into a writ­ing les­son.

Also: I can draw an ele­phant from behind.

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

Young peo­ple give me hope. They val­ue kind­ness. And the envi­ron­ment. They stick up for one anoth­er. They exhib­it a strong sense of good­ness and a will­ing­ness to speak out against injus­tices.

That is what I have seen and learned from readers—to kids and teens—even the shy ones who wait until they can email me to ask a ques­tion. Our young peo­ple are grow­ing up in a time where there are no bar­ri­ers to infor­ma­tion. Yes, there is a lot of mis­lead­ing stuff, but the good stuff is at our fin­ger­tips, too. I could com­plain a lot about phones and the inter­net, but tech­nol­o­gy is also equal­iz­ing. We live in a time when we can inter­act with just about any­one. There are so many ways to learn.

In young peo­ple, I see moti­vat­ed kids like Nora (from The Wish List). They want to make the world bet­ter. They believe in good­ness. They are not afraid to speak out. They sup­port each oth­er. That gives me hope.

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The Kindness of Teachers

Miss Rosemary Follett and David LaRochelle

Miss Rose­mary Fol­lett and David LaRochelle

I loved first grade.

Fifty-one years lat­er, I still have vivid mem­o­ries of my teacher, Miss Fol­lett. She played the piano every day. She read to us from her giant book of poet­ry. She showed us pho­tos of her trips to exot­ic places, like Alas­ka and Hawaii.

At Hal­loween we screamed in ter­ror and delight when she hob­bled into our class­room dressed as a witch. At East­er we fol­lowed “bun­ny tracks” through­out the school till they led us to a chest filled with panora­ma sug­ar eggs that Miss Fol­lett had hand­made, one for each of us. On our birth­days we sat at the spe­cial birth­day desk that was dec­o­rat­ed with crêpe paper stream­ers and bal­loons. Miss Fol­lett would light the can­dles on the plas­ter of Paris birth­day cake and the entire class would sing.

Miss Fol­lett was also seri­ous about learn­ing. That was fine with me. One of the rea­sons I want­ed to start first grade was because I des­per­ate­ly want­ed to read. Words were all around me; I want­ed to know their secrets.

Humpty Dumpty

Hump­ty Dump­ty

I also remem­ber Hump­ty Dump­ty, Miss Follett’s form of behav­ior man­age­ment. The Hump­ty Dump­ty cook­ie jar sat on the cor­ner of Miss Follett’s desk. If our class was very, very good, Hump­ty Dump­ty might (mind you, might) be mag­i­cal­ly filled with cook­ies for us. No one ever want­ed to do any­thing that would dis­please Hump­ty.

When I became a children’s author, Miss Fol­lett attend­ed one of my pub­li­ca­tion par­ties. It was a proud moment for both of us. When I auto­graphed her book, I includ­ed doo­dles of my favorite first grade mem­o­ries.

Years passed.

This last spring I came home from run­ning errands to find a large box wait­ing in front of my door. When I removed the lay­ers of bub­ble wrap, I dis­cov­ered Miss Follett’s Hump­ty Dump­ty cook­ie jar inside, along with this note:

Dear David,

Now that I am mov­ing to senior hous­ing and need to down­size,
it’s time for Hump­ty to find a new home. I thought
he might enjoy liv­ing in your stu­dio.

Your First Grade Teacher
Rose­mary Fol­lett

Miss Fol­lett did indeed teach me to read. But she taught me a lot of oth­er things as well. She taught me that adults can be both seri­ous and play­ful. She taught me that art and music and poet­ry make life more beau­ti­ful. She taught me that the world is full of fas­ci­nat­ing places, and that I can go vis­it them. She taught me that you are nev­er too old to use your imag­i­na­tion.

And she taught me that teach­ers nev­er stop car­ing about their stu­dents.

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Biography: How to Decide
What Goes into the Soup Pot (and What Doesn’t)

It is cold up here in the north coun­try, so late­ly my thoughts have turned to cre­at­ing a steam­ing pot of soup. For soup, you have to hit the high­lights; the chick­en, onions, a car­rot or two. If you toss in too many ingre­di­ents, noth­ing will stand out and the result will be a mud­dled mess. You must also have a spe­cial ingre­di­ent. The quick taste that says, mmm, what is that? A dash of nut­meg? A spoon­ful of car­away seed?

Bold Women of MedicineWhen I wrote the short pro­files in Bold Women of Med­i­cine: 21 Sto­ries of Astound­ing Dis­cov­er­ies, Dar­ing Surg­eries, and Heal­ing Break­throughs, I real­ized they required a sim­i­lar focus. I need­ed the high­lights; birth, fam­i­ly, edu­ca­tion. The pro­files also need­ed that spe­cial some­thing to stand out.

Oth­er than bio­graph­i­cal assign­ments in school, I hadn’t writ­ten many biogra­phies. But often it is in the doing that we learn. When I researched and wrote my (look­ing for a home) pic­ture book biog­ra­phy Step by Step: The Sto­ry of Eliz­a­beth Kenny’s Fight to Treat Polio, I learned a few lessons.

I had been fas­ci­nat­ed by Sis­ter Ken­ny ever since my father’s stay at the Sis­ter Ken­ny Insti­tute after his stroke. Who was this brash woman who had found­ed the insti­tute famous in Min­neapo­lis? Not just Min­neapo­lis, for in fact, she was once vot­ed the most influ­en­tial woman in Amer­i­ca, beat­ing out Eleanor Roo­sevelt.

Research­ing and writ­ing the life of some­one famous can be daunt­ing. I didn’t have the space to write about every­thing in her life, and I didn’t want to bore young read­ers with unin­ter­est­ing facts.

The Min­neso­ta His­tor­i­cal Center’s Gale Fam­i­ly Library held her secrets in the form of let­ters, cards, and pho­tographs packed into box­es. See­ing Sis­ter Kenny’s hand­writ­ing helped me to imag­ine her sit­ting at a desk com­pos­ing a let­ter. The pho­tographs let me look into her simul­ta­ne­ous­ly kind and deter­mined eyes. It was an odd sense of the past, her past, com­ing to life. And yet, since she died in 1952, I knew more about her fate (and lega­cy) than she did.

Sis­ter Ken­ny even­tu­al­ly became the sam­ple chap­ter I includ­ed in my pro­pos­al for Bold Women of Med­i­cine. The Chica­go Review Press Women of Action Series intro­duces young adults to women and girls of courage and con­vic­tion.

As I sift­ed through these lives I won­dered, what spurred these women on to a life in med­i­cine?

With­in the frame­work of the women’s lives (birth, edu­ca­tion, career, and fam­i­ly), I began to see pat­terns lead­ing them to med­i­cine. My goal was to keep the sto­ry mov­ing for­ward.

Sis­ter Ken­ny (pho­to: State Library of Queens­land)

For exam­ple, Sis­ter Ken­ny real­ized suc­cess with one patient inflict­ed with cere­bral pal­sy, caus­ing paral­y­sis. She said, “Although my spe­cial life’s work had not yet real­ly begun, I always think of this peri­od as my start­ing point.” Dis­cov­er­ing each woman’s moti­va­tion helped me to cre­ate a tighter focus. In oth­er words, I lim­it­ed the ingre­di­ents I placed into my soup pot and at the same time found that spe­cial some­thing.

What fac­tors influ­enced Sis­ter Ken­ny to prac­tice med­i­cine? Was it an event, a per­son, or a need to be help­ful? I am a lin­ear thinker (some­times a hin­drance) but in this case, point A of a woman in medicine’s life often led to point B. Some­times I had to back­track much like you do when fol­low­ing a hik­ing trail, and often when I back­tracked I dis­cov­ered anoth­er, more intrigu­ing part of her sto­ry.

Research is a tricky beast no mat­ter what the sub­ject is, and the most dif­fi­cult part of research is know­ing when to quit. Not every­thing from your fridge must be a part of your din­ner.

I searched for anec­dotes that would inter­est a young read­er. What hap­pened in Sis­ter Kenny’s child­hood that shaped her inter­est in sci­ence? What char­ac­ter traits did she pos­sess that led to suc­cess or fail­ure? What impact did she have on his­to­ry? Pulitzer Prize win­ning writer David McCul­lough says, “I believe very strong­ly that the essence of writ­ing is to know your subject…to get beneath the sur­face. You have to know enough to know what to leave out.”

I read as much as I could on each woman, until I found the sto­ry and pat­tern with which to begin. Each of these women lived full lives, and in the cut­ting of some of their life events I strength­ened the fla­vors, high­light­ing their pow­ers of hope, edu­ca­tion, and per­se­ver­ance. And as I write this on a cold day, it’s time to pull out the pot and fig­ure out the best ingre­di­ents for my soup!

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Cloth and the Picture Book:
Storytelling with Textile Techniques

Author and illus­tra­tor Debra Frasi­er was invit­ed to lec­ture on this top­ic to the West­ern North Car­oli­na Tex­tile Study Group, and the pub­lic, in mid-Novem­ber 2017. This is the bib­li­og­ra­phy that accom­pa­nies Debra’s pre­sen­ta­tion, with book selec­tions by Debra Frasi­er and Vic­ki Palmquist.

If you would like to invite Debra to give this pre­sen­ta­tion to your group, please con­tact her.

Down­load a print ver­sion of this bib­li­og­ra­phy.

Books are list­ed in order of appear­ance in the pre­sen­ta­tion.

INTRODUCTION TO THE PICTURE BOOK FORM

Spike: Ugliest Dog in the Universe  

Spike, Ugli­est Dog in the Uni­verse
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed 
by Debra Frasi­er
Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schus­ter,
2014.

Col­laged worn blue jeans with oth­er tex­tiles and papers.

THREE HISTORICAL INSPIRATIONS

Stitching Stars  

The Lady and the Uni­corn, as seen in the Musée de Cluny, Paris, France.

The Bayeux Tapes­try, writ­ten by David M. Wil­son, “The Com­plete
Tapes­try in Colour with Intro­duc­tions, Descrip­tion and com­men­tary by David M. Wil­son,” Thames & Hud­son, 2004.

Stitch­ing Stars, The Sto­ry Quilts of Har­ri­et Pow­ers, Lyons, Mary E, African-Amer­i­can Artists and Arti­sans series, 1993, Charles Scribner’s & Sons, his­tor­i­cal overview of late 1860’s, slave life, and Ms. Pow­ers’ works and his­to­ry.

A QUIRKY SURVEY OF TEXTILE TECHNIQUES 
USED IN ILLUSTRATIONS
FOR CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS

QUILTED INSPIRATIONS

Alphabet Atlas

 

The Alpha­bet Atlas
writ­ten by Arthur Yorinks
illus­trat­ed by Adri­enne Yorinks
Winslow Press, 1999

Machine quilt­ed, col­laged con­ti­nents

Hummingbirds  

Hum­ming­birds
writ­ten by Adri­enne Yorinks and Jean­nette Lar­son

illus­trat­ed by Adri­enne Yorinks
Charles­bridge Pub­lish­ing, 2011

Non­fic­tion com­bined with myth­ic, all quilt­ed

Patchwork Folk Art  

Patch­work Folk Art, Using Appliqué & Quilt­ing Tech­niques
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Janet Bolton
Sterling/Museum Quilts Book
Ster­ling Pub­lish­ing Co, 1995

Not a children’s pic­ture book but an excel­lent intro­duc­tion to nar­ra­tive in patch­work col­lage.

Mrs. Noah's Patchwork Quilt  

Mrs. Noah’s Patch­work Quilt
A Jour­nal of the Voy­age with a Pock­et­ful of Patch­work Pieces
writ­ten by Sheri Safran
illus­trat­ed by Janet Bolton
Tan­go Books (Eng­land), 1995

Presents a how-to along with the sto­ry of Mrs. Noah’s quilt, and a back pock­et includes pat­terns of quilt pieces appear­ing in the illus­tra­tions.

Tar Beach  

Tar Beach
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Faith Ring­gold
Crown Pub­lish­er, 1991

Based on one of Ringgold’s quilts held by the Guggen­heim Muse­um. The sto­ry arc and quilt bor­ders all car­ried over to the pic­ture book so, in this case, the book is inspired by the quilt.

Quiltmaker's Gift  

Quiltmaker’s Gift
writ­ten by Jeff Brum­beau
illus­trat­ed by Gail de Mar­ck­en
Scholas­tic Press, 2001

In which the cre­ation of a quilt changes the heart of a greedy king. Each page fea­tures a dif­fer­ent quilt block that fits into the con­text of the sto­ry.

The Keeping Quilt  

Keep­ing Quilt
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Patri­cia Polac­co
Simon & Schus­ter, 1988

A quilt made from a family’s cloth­ing is passed down in var­i­ous guis­es for more than a cen­tu­ry, a sym­bol of their endur­ing love and faith.

CLOTH AND THINGS IN THE SEWING BASKET

Pat the Bunny  

Pat the Bun­ny
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Dorothy Kun­hardt
Gold­en Book, 1940

Spi­ral bound with a small trim-size, this clas­sic book uses actu­al bits of fab­ric to “feel” and “lift.”

Wag a Tail  

Wag A Tail
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Lois Ehlert
Har­court, Inc, 2007

Col­laged papers and cloth, with but­tons and “pink­ing shear” edg­ing through­out.

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf  

Red Leaf, Yel­low Leaf
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Lois Ehlert
Har­court Brace & Com­pa­ny, 1991

Burlap, kite tails, string and bits of cloth are used in the col­lages.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat  

Joseph Had a Lit­tle Over­coat
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Simms Taback
Viking/Penguin Put­nam Books for Young Read­ers, 1999

The main character—a dimin­ish­ing coat—is actu­al cloth and is col­laged with oth­er bits of cloth cur­tains, rugs and cloth­ing, and then all adhered to a paint­ed sur­face.

Mama Miti  

Mama Miti
writ­ten by Don­na Jo Napoli
illus­trat­ed by Kadir Nel­son
Simon & Schus­ter Books for Young Read­ers, 2010

Nel­son has com­bined cloth with paint­ing for both land­scapes and cloth­ing.

Hands  

Hands
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Lois Ehlert
Har­court Brace & Co, 1997

Ehlert has used actu­al objects: work gloves, apron swatch, sewing tools, scis­sors, pat­tern tissue—in this ode to mak­ing things as a child.

PAPER TREATED AS CLOTH

Paper Illusions  

Paper Illu­sions, The Art of Isabelle de Borch­grave
by Bar­bara and Rene Stoeltie
Abrams, 2008 (Eng­lish edi­tion)

Lav­ish pho­tographs of life-sized paper cos­tumes made to match Renais­sance peri­od cloth using paint­ing, fold­ing, glu­ing, stitch­ing to cre­ate the illu­sion of cloth.

Mole's Hill  

Mole’s Hill: a Wood­land Tale
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Lois Ehlert
Har­court, 1994

Inspired by Wood­land Indi­ans rib­bon appliqué and sewn bead­work, the paper is often dot­ted and pieced as if stitched and bead­ed. An author note describes this hand­work and how it inspired her approach.

Seeds of Change  

Seeds of Change
writ­ten by Jen Culler­ton John­son
illus­trat­ed by Sonia Lynn Sadler
Lee & Low Books, 2010

Dis­tinc­tive Kenyan-styled flower print dress pat­terns are used as the inspi­ra­tion for paint­ings of dress­es and mir­rored in land­scapes.

STITCHING

Fabric Pictures  

Fab­ric Pic­tures
A Work­shop with Janet Bolton, Cre­at­ing a Tex­tile Sto­ry
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Janet Bolton
Jacqui Small LLP, Aurum Press, 2015

Not a children’s pic­ture book but an excel­lent work­shop-in-a-book on cre­at­ing nar­ra­tives with appliqué.

Baby's First Book  

Baby’s First Book
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Clare Beat­on
Bare­foot Books, 2008

Hand sewn felt, vin­tage fab­rics, but­tons, and stitched let­ter­ing col­laged for a baby’s com­pendi­um of sub­jects. ALL items and back­grounds made of cloth.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves  

Snow White and the Sev­en Dwarves
adapt­ed by Joan Aiken
illus­trat­ed by Belin­da Downes
A Dor­ling Kinder­s­ley Book
Pen­guin Com­pa­ny, 2002

Downes uses fine fab­rics appliquéd with rich embroi­dery, incor­po­rat­ing a con­sis­tent run­ning stitch to out­line and embell­ish.

CLOTH AS SUBJECT

Cloth Lullaby  

Cloth Lul­la­by, The Woven Life of Louise Bour­geois
writ­ten by Amy Novesky
illus­trat­ed by Isabelle Arse­nault
Abrams Books for Young Read­ers, 2016

The illus­tra­tor uses woven lines, [sim­i­lar to some of Bour­geois’ lat­er draw­ings] to cre­ate a tex­tile sen­si­bil­i­ty in the illus­tra­tions amid the ear­ly years, and then the same vocab­u­lary is used to visu­al­ly describe the sculp­ture of her adult artist years.

Pattern for Pepper  

A Pat­tern for Pep­per
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Julie Kraulis
Tun­dra Books, Ran­dom House/Canada, 2017

From Her­ring­bone to Dot­ted Swiss, from Argyle to Toile—a vis­it to a tailor’s shop becomes a com­pendi­um of fab­ric pat­terns with each fab­ric sam­pled in the hunt for the per­fect pat­tern for Pep­per. Oil paint and graphite on board.

THREE-D CLOTH AND FELT

Pocketful of Posies  

Pock­et­ful of Posies, A Trea­sury of Nurs­ery Rhymes
col­lect­ed and illus­trat­ed by Sal­ley Mavor
Houghton Mif­flin Har­court, 2010

64 tra­di­tion­al nurs­ery rhymes are illus­trat­ed with hand-sewn fab­ric relief col­lages, includ­ing dozens of fig­ures.

Felt Wee Folk  

Felt-Wee-Folk, 120 Enchant­i­ng Dolls
“New Adven­tures”
by Sal­ley Mavor
C&T Pub­lish­ing, 2015

This is a how-to book for cre­at­ing char­ac­ters and scenes as pic­tured in Pock­et­ful of Posies.

Pride & Prejudice  

Cozy Clas­sics
Jane Austen’s Pride & Prej­u­dice
by Jack and Hol­man Wang
Chron­i­cle Books, 2016

Entire­ly illus­trat­ed by felt­ed 3-D char­ac­ters that are set in an envi­ron­ment, superbly lit, and pho­tographed to tell clas­sic tales in one word page turns. Sev­er­al clas­sic titles are includ­ed in this series.

Roarr Calder's Circus  

Roarr, Calder’s Cir­cus
a sto­ry by Maira Kalman
pho­tos by Donatel­la Brun
designed by M&Co for
the Whit­ney Muse­um of Amer­i­can Art, 1991

Using bits of Calder’s spo­ken text from the film of his hand manip­u­lat­ed cir­cus, Kalman expands the lan­guage and char­ac­ter­i­za­tions. Calder’s cir­cus char­ac­ters of wire and cloth are pho­tographed and then col­laged across the dou­ble-page spread.

THE DYED BOOK

We Got Here Together  

We Got Here Togeth­er
writ­ten by Kim Stafford
illus­trat­ed by Debra Frasi­er
Har­court Brace, 1994

Shi­bori, a resist dye­ing method, is used to pat­tern Japan­ese gampi tis­sue paper (long fibered tis­sue) as ocean and rain, in both pipe resist and braid­ed resist tech­niques, respec­tive­ly. Shi­bori tis­sue paper is com­bined with Japan­ese dyed sheets in col­lages on illus­tra­tion board.

SPECIAL GUEST

Catharine Ellis  

Catharine Ellis, self pub­lished, three titles:

Cape Cod: The Present, Blue, and Map­ping Col­or (writ­ten by Nan­cy Pen­rose, illus­trat­ed by Catharine Ellis). Find Catharine’s resources and pub­li­ca­tions here.

(Each of these chap­books is illus­trat­ed using pho­tographs of nat­ur­al dyed fab­rics, some­times addi­tion­al­ly stitched on the sur­faces, while abstract­ly defin­ing the text.)

What are your favorite books illus­trat­ed with tex­tiles? Send us your rec­om­men­da­tions.

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