Thursday, May 31, 2012

Water Paper Paint

I'm working on two children's books right now, one of them is watercolor art.  Working on the images inspired by the author's poetic words has been pure bliss.  The kind of joy that feels like you're floating, transported to another world, where everything is brighter and lighter and good.  The kind of joy that makes me say out loud, I hope I get to do this for the rest of my life.


I've been wanting to buy myself a good watercolor book as a reference, but didn't want something dry, traditional and uninspired.  Last week I found just what I was hoping for in Water Paper Paint: Exploring Creativity with Watercolor and Mixed Media by Heather Smith Jones.

Heather Smith Jones.
Don't you love that pic of her as a girl?  I love that love of art begins in childhood...
when we don't know that there is supposed to be a right way
It's an artist's kind of tutorial.  Full of whimsy and quirky and experimentation.  It's not filled with anything you must do, or should do, but just enough information, tips and motivation to make you want to have even more fun, with confidence.




Tiny art by Heather Smith Jones.
I love the title: "Climbing said mt. with a satchel of words"
That makes my mind go round in wonderful ways.
I love that watercolor is so intuitive and forgiving and in-the-moment.  Water Paper Paint embraces those qualities and makes me want to get out my paints and play.

If you'd like to see more of Heather's work or process, you can visit Heather's art journal on her website {here}

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

35 Children's Books for Summer!


School days are winding down and it already feels like summer here.  We're counting down the days.  We love to usher in each season with books!  Below is a list of books that reminds us of all the wonders of summertime -- beaches, boats, seashells and sand; heat and togetherness; bugs, bats and birds; ice cream and fruit; bike rides, vacations and baseball.  Hello, summertime!

Toy Boat by Randall de Seve
Illustrated by Loren Long
I first read Toy Boat right after its initial release, because I am a fan of the illustrator, Loren Long.  But the writing was a pleasant surprise.  Toy Boat is a modern classic -- a joy to read, full of boat noises and words that roll off the tongue.  I never get sick of reading this story of a boat that longed for independence only to discover that he was already exactly where he belonged.

Flotsam by David Wiesner
David Wiesner's illustrations are a master storytellers.  This wordless story is full of the wonder, whimsy, and the mystery of childhood, summertime and the depths of the ocean.  Don't miss out on this perfect summer experience.

When a Dragon Moves In  by Jodi Moore
Illustrated by Howard McWilliam
When a Dragon Moves In is a perfect book for summer.  My boys cannot get enough of this book.  Set at the beach, it is filled with the energy, delight and mischievousness of childhood.  And, of course, the imaginary (or not) dragon that moves in for the day.

Stick by Steve Breen
Stick is the story of a stubborn little frog who insists on doing every by himself.  This doesn't always work out for him.  The adventure that ensues had my boys giggling their heads off.  Set in sticky New Orleans, the pages are full of summer-ness.

by David Soman and Jacky Davis
In Ladybug Girl at the Beach , Ladybug Girl deals with her fear of the water in typical Ladybug Girl fashion -- with superhero bravado.  I love the colors of the ocean in this one.  This is a book that is simultaneously fun and beautiful.

All the World  by Liz Garton Scanlon
Illustrated by Marla Frazee
A 2010 Caldecott Honor Book, All the World is summer beautiful.  It celebrates the beauty and greatness, big and small, that make up all our wonderful world.

Blackout by John Rocco
A 2012 Caldecott Honor Book, Blackout tells the story of a power outage on hot summer night.  With out the distraction of technology, the loss of electricity draws a busy urban family --and neighborhood -- back into community.  It reminded me of the huge power outage of 2003, when our whole street gathered outside with unusual camaraderie.  A great reminder to deliberately, and simply, experience summertime with those you love.  My six year old though I should make this #1 on my list.  

How I Became a Pirate  by Melissa Long
 Illustrated by David Shannon
How I Became a Pirate is the book that made me fall in love with David Shannon's artwork.  His quirky playful expressions and evident brush strokes are as much a part of the story as Melissa Long's perfectly placed words.  Full of humor and great excuses to try out your best pirate accent, this is a great summer read.

Wave by Suzy Lee
My firstborn first met the ocean when he was twenty months old.  He called it, The Big Water.  Suzy Lee's wordless book, Wave, reminds me of his precious first encounter with the vast, powerful blue that covers most of the earth.  While I don't know if its as fabulous as the hype or exposure its getting, I couldn't not put Wave on my summer list.  There is a beauty and art to the simplicity of Lee's depiction of this battle of the wills between girl and water.

A House for Hermit Crab  by Eric Carle
My son is in love with this one.  The text isn't earth-shattering, but it's hard to go wrong with the artwork of Eric Carle.  And hermit crabs are strangely endearing. 

The Birdwatchers by Simon James
I'm a sucker for this type of book -- and so is my oldest.  The loose ink-and-watercolor art is perfectly paired with simple, sweet and subtly funny text.  A birdwatching grandfather relishes telling tall tales about his adventures.  Curious, his granddaughter tags along one day.  She discovers that, though things are not quite as mystical as her grandpa described, they are magic none the less.  In the end, she brings things full circle and reveals she can spin a tale or two herself.

Bee & Bird by Craig Frazier
A colorful, bold graphic book that plays with pattern and perspective.  

Should I Share My Ice Cream?  by Mo Willems
If my kids were in charge, Mo Willems would fill every booklist I make.  Elephant & Piggie are beloved friends around here.  And what's more summer-y than ice cream and friendship?  Gerald and Piggie always bring out the giggles and the word "again!"

Swimmy  by Leo Lionni
One of the Caldecott Honor books from 1964, Swimmy stands the test of time.  My kids love Swimmy, and so do I.  The illustrations are unique, especially for their time.  Swimmy's refusal to let the tragedies of life stop him (or those around him) from experiencing life in all its fullness is inspirational.  Great one to pair with an art project.

Bat Loves the Night  by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies
Bat Loves the Night proves non-fiction books don't have to be boring.  Last summer we had an incident with a bat in our house, which led to a boyhood love-affair with furry nocturnal creatures.  When we think of warm summer nights, we think of bats silhouetted against the sky -- and miraculously -- I no longer shutter.  This book is lyrical and beautiful, and no one in this house gets sick of it.

Zen Shorts  by Jon J. Muth
Zen Shorts  is a great read all year long, but I especially like it in the summertime.  Jon J. Muth is one of my favorite watercolorists, and he paints summer in all its beautiful green glory.  One of the morals of the story is forgiveness -- letting go of the burden of what other people have done to us.  Right now it goes over my boys' heads, but the message "Don't you think you've carried it long enough?" with the image of the little boy spitefully loaded down with pool toys comes to this grown-up's mind all-the-time.  And even though my kiddos don't get the deeper meaning, they are completely in love with the panda, Stillwater.

Zen Ties  by Jon J. Muth
Zen Ties  is the follow-up to Zen Shorts.  Stillwater's panda nephew, Koo, comes to visit for the summer.  It's a story about relationships, loving others and looking beyond the image people present to the world.  Along with Koo and Stillwater, a cantankerous neighbor lady and the three children from the first book make an interesting cast of characters.  Muth uses Haiku, clever word play, gorgeous color washes and quiet confidence to weave this story.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McClosky
Another classic.  Every now and then, I like to expose my kids to some of the oldies but goodies.  It's good for them to appreciate a slowly told story with traditional illustrations.  Though they won't vote it #1, both boys enjoyed the interaction of both sets of mommas and babies in the story.  Read it with a blueberry snack for maximum enjoyment.

Bugs Galore by Peter Stein
Illustrated by Bob Staake
A silly, rhyme-y book filled with quirky bugs.  Read it before a good, old-fashioned bug hunting expedition.

Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan
Illustrated by Mark Astrella
A young girl experiences the beauty of the ocean with all of her five senses.  The saltiness of the ocean, the softness of the sand.  The photo-realistic paintings are beautiful and transport you into the setting.  Makes me want to start driving toward the coast.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
The Curious Garden is a whimsical story of hope, community, rebirth -- centered around a miracle that begins with one boy, one plant and an abandoned train track.  A great, non-traditional story to accompany a summer gardening experiment, or to make yardwork seem more interesting.

Illustrated by David Small
I love funny books.  When Dinosaurs Came with Everything  cracks us up.  The text is funny.  The illustrations are funny.  I love the simultaneous exasperation on the mom's face, and pure glee on the boy's, whenever they are gifted with another dinosaur.  I love reading this one with over-the-top expression.

The Raft  by Jim LaMarche
We love this book.  Jim LaMarche creates glorious-ness.  Look at the evening light above.  In The Raft , a boy spends the summer with his artistic grandmother.  The raft teaches him a lot about his grandmother, himself, nature and the artist inside.  Someone used the word resplendent to describe this book; I say, Yes.  

The Summer Visitors  by Karel Hayes
The Summer Visitors tells the story of two families enjoying their summer simultaneously.  One is a family on vacation and the other, a family of bears.  Hayes keeps you wondering who the real visitors are and who is really borrowing from who until the very end.  

Randy Riley's Really Big Hit by Chris Van Dusen
We visit Randy Riley's Really Big Hit at our local bookstore quite often; it's one of the boys' new favorites.  Though he loves baseball, Randy Riley strikes out more than he hits.  However, he soon finds that there is more than one way to save the day.  And there is more than one way to hit a home run.  The plot involves a giant fireball and a home run hitting robot.   Randy Riley is our kind of hero -- the kind that uses his brain.

Bugs by the Numbers  by Sharon Werner
You may already know how much I love Alphabeasties .  Well, Bugs by the Numbers , is the encore -- same thing, only with bugs and numbers, instead of animals and letters.  Beautiful graphics.  I wish I was cool enough to have created it myself.


We're Going on a Bear Hunt  by Michael Rosen
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
A fun modern classic.  I love the loose illustrations paired with the text.  It's a rollicking good time that requires acting out.  Find a copy with the song included (or look it up on YouTube) for maximum fun for the whole family.  If your child is in school, he probably knows this one.

Duck On A Bike by David Shannon
It's David Shannon and bikes are the epitome of summer -- need I say more?  

Horsefly and Honeybee by Randy Cecil
Horsefly and Honeybee is a cute little story about a pair of feuding insects -- whose fighting isn't pretty.  In the end, they learn to depend on one another and become friends as they fight, instead, for survival.  I've been a Randy Cecil fan since I found Looking for a Moose at a library long ago.

by Linda Oatman High, Illustrated by Ted Lewin
Girl on the High-Diving Horse  is loosely historical.  Last summer my six-year-old and I loved this story.  The illustrations feel like vintage photos and the story is both interesting and informative.  It's longer than a typical picture book, a great transition to chapter books.

Caps for Sale  by Esphyr Slobodkina
Another classic you shouldn't miss.  For years I was reluctant to read Caps for Sale .  To be honest, it looked boring to me.  It falls into the "Don't judge a book by its cover" category.  In actuality, it's hilarious.  My kids laugh their heads off and giggle like nuts when I read this one.  The more you get into it, acting out the parts, the more hilarious it becomes.  Great fun.

Beetle Bop by Denise Fleming
Beetle Bop is worth it for the artwork.  Full of colorful beetles and rhythmic text, this is another great book to initiate the summer bug jar.  

An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long
I love beautiful non-fiction for kids.  Especially science books.  An Egg Is Quiet is filled with beauty -- beautiful words and beautiful watercolor art.  It reminds us that for a while an egg is very quiet, but eventually -- it is very noisy.  Also don't miss A Butterfly Is Patient by the same author/illustrator team; it is an equal treasure.

Hurricane by David Wiesner
Hurricane is one of Wiesner's early books.  On the surface is a book about a hurricane, but really it's a book about brotherhood and the glory of our imaginations that bind us together on memorable summer days that we will remember forever.

Bats at the Beach by Brian Lies
My boys are always in the mood for one of Brian Lies's bat books. Bats at the Beach is typical of the popular series -- detailed, fantasy-filled paintings paired with humorous, informative verse.  While I don't prefer verse in a read aloud, my kids --like most-- love it.

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Check out our Spring booklist {here}.  There are many summer cross-overs, especially bird books, that you might enjoy.  What are your family favorites???  I would be so happy if you let me know in the comments!  Happy summertime, everyone!