Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Books 1 and 2

Gatsby's book1 9781616333508_p0_v1_s260x420Gatsby’s Grand Adventures:Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip

Barbara Cairns, Author

Eugene Ruble, Illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., Fiction, 2012

Suitable for Ages: 7-12

Themes: Cat, Art gallery, Famous paintings, Mischief

Opening:”Gatsby the cat lived in Miss Annabelle’s art gallery.  At night, he had the most peculiar habit. He jumped into famous paintings.” 

Synopsis: In Book 1, Gatsby was an art gallery cat who loved exploring famous paintings at night. One night his long tail twitched, his nose itched and his haunches hitched as he leaped into Winslow Homer’s Snap the Whip picture. He darted between the boy’s tripping and knocking four of them down. The boys chased Gatsby and he jumped out of the painting as the sun rose. Miss Annabelle was shocked to find the boys struggling to stand.  Gatsby returned repeatedly to fix the painting, but each attempt ended in another cat-astrophe.  Will Gatsby restore Homer’s painting so Miss Annabelle doesn’t think she has lost her mind?

Gatsbys 2 Book9781616333874_p0_v1_s260x420.jpg.Book 2 published 2013

Gatsby’s Grand Adventures: Auguste Renoir’s The Apple Seller

Synopsis: Ever since Gatsby leaped into his first painting, he wanted to visit another painting.  When he discovered Renoir’s Apple Seller, his tail  twitched, his whiskers itched and his haunches hitched. He jumped into the painting after absent-minded Miss Annabelle had gone to bed. The girls seated with the apple seller in the painting are excited to see a cat and stroked Gatsby’s head. When Jasper the dog barked at Gatsby, he ran and climbed up a tree. The girls caught their dog and Gatsby leaped out of the painting after the sun had risen. Oops! He looked back and the painting was a mess.  There would be more trips to restore this picture. Poor Miss Annabelle.

Why I like these  books: Barbara Cairns books  introduce children to art in a fun way.  Both books combine art history and education with adventure and humor. Children who enjoy animals and art will learn about an artist’s work through the adventures of a mischievous cat named Gatsby. His name suits him well because he is one cat with personality. I am sure there will be many more Gatsby adventures in this series. Eugene Ruble’s lovely pastel paintings are lively and colorful. He captures the essence of both famous artists with his own style.

Resources: The author has provided information about Homer and Renoir in the back of the book, along with helpful websites for children.  For activities check out a site Cairns suggested: Art Smarts 4 Kids.  These books are a great way to introduce children to famous artwork before they visit an art gallery.

Barbara Cairns is a former K-6 school teacher, a special education teacher for the deaf, and a retired elementary school principal. You can find interesting facts about Gatsby and cats on her website.

 

A Dance Like Starlight

A Dance Like Starlight9780399252846_p0_v1_s260x420.jpbA Dance Like Starlight

Kristy Dempsey, Author

Floyd Cooper, Illustrator

Philomel Books, Fiction, Jan. 2, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Ballet dancing, African-Americans, Discrimination, Janet Collins

Opening: “Stars hardly shine in the New York City sky, with the factories spilling out pillars of smoke and streetlights spreading bright halos around their pin-top faces.  It makes it hard to find a star, even harder to make a wish, the one wish that if I could just breathe it out loud to the first star of night, I might be able to believe it true.”

Synopsis:  A little girl living in Harlem in the 1950s has a dream of becoming a ballerina. Her mama works all day long and some times into the night for the ballet school, cleaning and stitching costumes for dancers. The girl spends a lot of time around costume fittings and rehearsals, watching every move and practicing in the wings. One day  the Ballet Master sees her talent and arranges for her join the lessons, even though she can’t perform onstage with white girls. When the first African-American prima ballerina Janet Collins performs at the Metropolitan Opera House, the aspiring dancer and her mother attend. The girl is inspired and realizes that she doesn’t need to wish on stars in the sky because dreams are possible.

Why I like this book: This book is a keeper for any child who has a dream of becoming a dancer, musician or artist. Kristy Dempsey ‘s lyrical text is so beautiful with lines like “It’s like Miss Collins is dancing for me, only for me showing me who I can be,” and “You don’t need stars in the sky to make your dreams come true.” Janet Collins inspires the dreams of young ballerinas everywhere, showing them that talent and hard work, not the color of their skin, lead to success. Floyd Cooper’s lively and passionate illustrations are painted in hues of brown and pink and beautifully capture the child’s dream of dancing on the stage.

Resources:   There is an author’s note at the end of the book.  One interesting note, Janet Collins danced at the Met four years before singer Marian Anderson made her debut.  Visit Kristy Dempsey’s website.  This is a good book to pair with When Marian Sang by Pamela Munoz Ryan and Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell during black history month.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Sky Color

Sky Color9780763623456_p0_v1_s260x420Sky Color

Peter H. Reynolds, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Aug. 2012

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes:  Art, Creativity, Imagination,

Opening“Marisol was an artist.  She loved to draw and paint, and she even had her very own art gallery.  Not all her art hung in a gallery.  Much of it she shared with the world.”

Synopsis: Marisol’s teacher announces to the class they are going to paint a mural for the library.  Marisol wants to paint the sky.  She searches through the box of paints and can not find the color blue.  She wonders how she will paint the sky without blue paint.  On her way home from school Marisol stares out the bus window as the horizon changes.  She watches the sunset turn into night.  She realizes that maybe there are other ways to paint the color of the sky.

Why I like this book:  Another beautiful and original story about imagination and creativity from author/illustrator Peter Reynolds, who shows his young readers that the sky is the limit when you dream big and think outside of the box.  He encourages children to open their eyes and really look at their surroundings.  Is the sky really blue, the grass green, the sea blue and the moon white?  This is a great way to encourage kids to be daring and experiment with a  variety of colors.  What a great lesson in creativity for children.  This is the third story in his Creatrilogy series, which also includes The Dot and Ish.  Visit Peter H. Reynolds at his website.

Resource:  The website OMazing Kids  has some terrific ideas about encouraging creativity using many of Peter Reynold’s books.  Check out this July 6 post Inspiring Kids Creativity with Books, Art and Movement.

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The Museum

The Museum9781419705946_p0_v1_s260x420

The Museum

Susan Verde, Author

Peter Reynolds, Illustrator

Abrams, Henry N., Inc., Mar. 12, 2013 (Release)

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes:  Museums, Art Appreciation,  Creativity, Imagination

Opening“When I see a work of art, something happens in my heart.  I cannot stifle my reaction.  My body just goes into action.”

Synopsis:  A spirited girl visits a museum and is moved by the artwork she views.  Much to her delight, each painting evokes a different emotional response.  There is an unexpected encounter around every corner.  She twirls to the swirls in  Van Gogh’s Starry Night.   She strikes ballet poses, yoga postures, skips through fields of flowers and pauses to ponder Rodin’s The Thinker.  Picasso turns her mood blue and sad.  Cezanne’s apples makes her tummy rumble.  Miro’s lines and squiggles sends here into fits of giggles.  Munch’s painting evokes a shriek.   My favorite moment is when she stands before Ryman’s stark white canvas.  Puzzled and wondering if it’s a joke, she closes her eyes and imagines a beautiful creation in her own mind.  When the museum closes and it is time to leave, she comes to an important realization about the artwork.

Why I like this bookThe Museum is a creative, moving and enchanting story written in rhyme.  Debut author Susan Verde shows art as a personal and liberating experience for her inquisitive barefoot museum patron.  Peter H. Reynolds’s illustrations are lively, dramatic, whimsical, colorful and complement the narrative.  The girl dances across the pages.  A lot of teamwork went into bringing this endearing story to life.  Visit Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds at their websites.  Reynolds is the award-winning author and illustrator of The Dot, North Star and Ish.

Resources:  Both Susan and Peter hope their story inspires children to visit their local art museum and notice how art makes them feel.   Show your children pieces of famous artwork, give them a pad of  paper and encourage them to draw a picture about how a painting or sculpture makes them feel.  Check out the Educators Guide  for The Museum on Susan’s website.

Book Launch Party:  Susan Verde and Peter Reynolds will celebrate the launch of The Museum on Saturday, March 9, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at The Blue Bunny, 577 High Street, Dedham Square, Dedham, MA.   You are invited to stop by and meet them.  They will be signing the first copies of their book.

Interview Mar. 11:  On Monday, Beth Stilborn will interview Susan Verde on her blog, By Word of Beth.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Song of Sahel Event Launched

Today is a special day for the members of a blog I follow On the Plum Tree, as they respond to a crisis in Africa with the launch of a book, music and art.   Dr. Niamh Clune and a group of very talented international poets, artists, photographers and musicians have created a beautiful anthology,  Song of Sahel, which can be purchased on Amazon.

This labor of love was inspired after Dr. Clune’s husband was asked to respond to a crisis last spring in Niger to set up refugee camps to cope with those pouring across the Malian border in hopes of escaping the civil war.

She began to share her husband’s experiences in Sahel with members of Plum Tree.  Many were inspired to write poetry about the pain and suffering that was occurring in Sahel.   The response from the group nudged Dr. Clune to make a call across her social networks for poets, musicians, artists and photographers to submit a piece of work about the poverty, famine, and disease that was occurring in Sahel.  The response was remarkable.  The project grew wings and the Song of Sahel took flight.

Today is the official launch of Song of Sahel, which will run for 48 hours.   This is an important global project, as I have seen some of the poetry, artwork and listened to the music of a very talented group of artists.  Join them on Facebook where event will be hosted on Plum Tree Books.   The music will be available for download at Juno.  Click here to visit the beautiful art auction .   All proceeds from the sales will go directly to a very worthy cause — SOS Sahel. 

I hope you will take time to visit the site.  Song of Sahel is inspiring and a  feast for the soul.

The Dot — International Dot Day

The Dot

Peter H. Reynolds, author and illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 15, 2003

Suitable for: Ages 5 and up

Themes:  Art, Imagination, Self-Confidence, Inspiration

Opening/Synopsis “Art class was over, but Vashti sat glued to her chair.  Her paper was empty.  Vashti’s teacher leaned over the blank paper.  ‘Ah! A polar bear in a snow storm,’ she said. ‘  ‘Very funny!  said Vashti.  ‘I just can’t draw!”  Her teacher asks Vashti to just make a mark.  Vashti angrily gives the paper a jab.  She asks Vashti to sign it.  One morning Vashti walks into art class and sees her signed “dot” hanging in a frame behind the teacher’s desk.  She decides she can make a better dot and begins to paint dots of all colors and sizes.

Why I love this book:  Peter Reynolds has written and illustrated an inspirational book that encourages children of all ages to be brave and “make their mark.”  There is no right or wrong way.   He wants kids of all ages to imagine, dream and create.  And this week over 500,000 children in all 50 states and around the globe  will be participating in International Dot Day, whether in their classrooms or at home.   Many kidlit bloggers will be making their dots this week.  My dot is below.

Resources:  Create your own dot.  Visit http://www.thedotclub.org/dotday/ to learn more about International Dot Day, activity suggestions, resources, a global map showing participants and a peek at the dots being created by celebrities.  There also is a Facebook page devoted to International Dot Day with frequent updates.   There also is a teacher’s resource guide for Reynold’s The Dot and Ish.  Below is the dot I created on my iPad with ArtRage.  Check out the dot made by my colleague  Beth Stilborn , who also encouraged bloggers to post their dots.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

My Dot

Patricia Howe Tilton 2012

International Dot Day – Sept. 15, 2012

More than 620,000 children worldwide have signed up to celebrate International Dot Day in their classrooms around September 15.  And, I’m sure that number will grow as the day approaches.  In the U.S., kids in all 50 states have signed up.  It’s inspiring that so many children (and grown-up kids) will be using their imaginations to draw special dot creations during this global event.  And, this is a perfect time to issue a challenge to all the KidLit bloggers to make and publish a dot on their websites Sept. 15-ish.

Peter H. Reynolds, author and illustrator,  published The Dot, on Sept. 15, 2003.  The book is about a girl who doesn’t think she can draw.  The idea for International Dot Day grew out of this powerful story and has become an annual event, with more kids participating each year.  This is a wonderful opportunity to help kids open their eyes to the world of creativity and self-worth,” says Terry Shay,  Dot Day Ambassador.  Shay is a teacher who is passionate about the event and the enthusiastic educators who make this event happen in their schools.

If you are a teacher and want to participate, there is still time to sign up your  students at  http://fablevisionlearning.com/dotday/signup.html.  If you are a student  and want to participate, talk with your teacher and parent.

Visit http://fablevisionlearning.com/dotday/ to learn more about International Dot Day, activity suggestions, resources, a global map showing participants and a peek at the dots being created by celebrities.  There also is a Facebook page devoted to International Dot Day with frequent updates.

Cool Ali

Cool Ali 51Q8TF9B7AL__SL500_AA300_Cool Ali

Nancy Poydar, author and illustrator

Margaret K. McElderry Books, Fiction, 1996

Suitable for:  Ages 4-7

Theme:  Art, Summer heat, City life,  Neighbors

Opening/SynopsisAli loved to draw.  She drew all the time.  One summer day, her mother said, “Ali, Ali, it’s just too hot to be indoors!”  That’s when Ali took her box of fat chalk outside.   It hadn’t rained in weeks and Ali beat the summer heat by drawing cool scenes on the sidewalk and buildings .   She drew grass and flowers, a lake under Mrs. Frye’s chair, a beach umbrella on the wall  to shade Ira, the North Wind for Mr. Boyle,  a Polar Bear and  a snow storm.  A crowd gathered and found pleasure in Ali’s drawings and forgot the heat until something happens.

Why I like this book:  Nancy Poydar has written a fun book that will ignite a child’s imagination.  There is also a sense of neighborhood and everyone (young and old) dealing with the heat wave together.  Her illustrations are expressive and colorful.  She uses watercolors and oil pastels.   This is a cool end-of-the summer read for kids.  Check out Nancy Poydar’s website for the many books she’s written and illustrated.  Each of her picture books tells of a child who gives gifts of storytelling through art.

The Art of Miss Chew

The Art of Miss Chew

Patricia Polacco, Author and Illustrator

G.P. Putnam’s Sons,  April 2012, Fiction

Suitable for: Ages 5 and up

Theme: Artistic Expression, Autobiographical, Learning Disabilities, Self-esteem

Opening/Synopsis:  “I discovered how much I loved art the summer I spent with my grandmother and father in Michigan.  Grandma was an artist; she drew and painted so beautifully!  Grandma even told me that I was a natural artist, so I couldn’t wait to take Art at school next fall when I got home to California.  I only had one problem left –tests.  I just couldn’t seem to pass them.”  Trisha loves school, but she has a lot of trouble reading.   Her new teacher, Mr. Donovan, recognizes that she is smart, but needs more time taking test.  He gives her that time and she begins to pass them.  He also discovers her artistic talent when he sees one of her drawings.  Since there isn’t an art program in her school, Mr. Donovan arranges for Trisha to study art with Miss Chew, head of the high school art department, twice a week.  Miss Chew inspires Trisha “to see” an object before she draws.  Trisha carries her sketch book with her everywhere.  One day Mr. Donovan’s father dies and he has to leave for Ireland.  The stern substitute teacher sees no value in art and attempts to derail Trisha’s art classes.  But, Trisha and Miss Chew have a plan to outsmart the new teacher.

What I like about this book:   This is a heartwarming  autobiography of author/illustrator Patricia Polacco and the people who nurtured her artistic abilities, including two real teachers she names in the book.  This book is a lovely tribute to the educators who spotted her talent and encouraged her in that direction.  Patricia Polacco is an outstanding storyteller.  Her story is an important read for young aspiring artists, and for kids who have trouble reading.   Her colorful and bold illustrations evoke a lot of emotion and fun.  She has created over 50 picture books.  In a note to her readers, Polacco says “The tragedy is that today, too often monies are no longer available in many public schools to support art, music, drama, or descriptive arts programs.  How could this be?  Art teaches us to speak a language that originates in the heart, the soul and earliest memories.  How could any course be more important?”  Click here to visit Patricia Polacco’s website.

Activities:  Encourage your children to do art projects at a young age.  Introduce them to a variety of art supplies, crayons, colored pencils, chalk, paints, drawing pads and molding clay.    Many recreation centers, YMCA’s and art galleries have art and craft programs throughout the summer and year.  Visit art galleries, topiary gardens and concerts.  Create a space in your home to showcase your child’s artwork and let your child know how much joy his/her drawing brings you.

Additional Resources:  Colleague Beth Stilborn featured the “Arts and Books on Vacation” series on her blog last summer.  She focused on a variety of art programs for youth in New York City, Los Angeles, Canada and London.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.  Perfect Picture Books will be going on vacation after today’s posts,  and all the contributors will resume again September 7.    I will continue to publish book reviews and do some interviews throughout the summer, perhaps with some breaks.

Books that Celebrate our Uniqueness and Diversity

I want to share children’s books that celebrate our uniqueness and diversity.  The books I’ve selected are gems that children will love, easily grasp their meaning and want to read again.  All three books are great books for home and in the classroom.

All the Colors of the Earth, is written and beautifully illustrated by Sheila Hamanaka.  She reveals through soft verse that despite our physical differences, children everywhere are lovable and all the same.    The book opens with “Children come in all the colors of the earth…”  Hamanaka creatively uses the colors of the earth to depict how closely we are all related, even through nature.  Children come with hair like lambs and hair that flows in water.  They come in all colors of love of their families, and in cinnamon, wheat and caramel and chocolate and honey bees.   Their vibrancy and innocence has a valuable impact on our land, and unite us as one.   Her book leaves one hopeful for our future.   I also appreciate that Hamanaka  carefully includes children with special needs in her illustrations.   Her book is inspired by her own two children’s multi-ethnic heritage.

Whoever You Are, is written by Mem Fox and richly illustrated by Leslie Staub.  Fox’s book focuses on the differences between people around our planet, and the similarities that unite us, such as love, pain and joy.  It is a beautiful celebration of  all human life.   Her message is simple –there are children just like you all over the world living in different homes, attending different schools, speaking different languages,  and living lives that are culturally different.  But no matter where they are, they all smile, laugh, cry and love.  Such a powerful story.

The Colors of Us, is written and boldly illustrated by Karen Katz.   Lena’s mother is an artist and she very creatively explores and teaches her daughter the many differences in the color of their friend’s skin through her paint palate.   Lena describes her mother as the color of French toast.  Her mother shows Lena how to mix the right paint combinations that will match her own skin.  Lena is a shade of brown, so her mother takes her for a walk to show her the beautiful colors of skin.  She finds friends who are the colors of creamy peanut butter, honey, reddish-brown, butterscotch, golden brown like pizza crust, bronze and amber.  Lena is very excited with all she observes and begins to see each friend as a beautiful shade of color.  Lena ends the day with all of her paints and begins to mix the colors so she can paint a picture of all her friends — “the colors of us.”   Great read!