In our school library, we’re back at it–creating new shoebox rooms to go with our favorite stories. Last year we made a fairy-tale themed high-rise. This spring we used a mishmash of recyclables to make a crypt (and aboveground graveyard!) for the Ink Drinker, Eric Sanvoisin’s ink-slurping, book-swilling vampire.
The Ink Drinker, a book about discovering an appetite for books, is beloved in our school. The kids supplied the crypt with coffins for the Ink Drinker (and a couple guests), books for guzzling, wallpaper made from words, and plenty of headstones.
If you haven’t encountered it yet, this skinny early-chapter book is well-pitched for a third-grade read-aloud. (Read it to second graders at your own peril. Those littles tend to FREAK OUT about the vampire element.) Because it’s slight, you can read the whole thing aloud in about 30 minutes.
If you find your audience is hooked, follow up with the next three stories in the series (A Straw for Two, The City of Ink Drinkers, and Little Red Ink Drinker). The stories are translated from the French somewhat choppily but I choose to believe that the bumpy translation adds to its charm.
*Publisher giveaway* for U.S. residents–The giveaway offer has now ended. Congratulations to Erin Ellis!
You can clean your eyeballs with your tongue (if you happen to be a gecko). Or you can use your tongue as a lance (if you’re a woodpecker impaling a larva). And if you’re a snake, you can smell with your tongue.
I learned about these fun tongues in Maria Gianferrari’s playful, informative picture book, Terrific Tongues! (with spirited, bright illustrations by Jia Liu). An inviting read-aloud, the simple text keeps the audience guessing at each turn of the page: Which tongue (with which function) belongs to which animal? Sidebars and back matter offer more detailed information about the unusual abilities of tongues.
If you (or a young someone you know) would like to take a turn unraveling your tongue just like a North American bullfrog, here’s a project to try.
What You Need:
party blowers (in red or pink)
1 sheet of card stock green paper
color paper (construction, origami, whatever you have)
Frog Party Blower template
optional: googly eyes
Using the template above, trace the frog shape onto your green card stock. Cut along the outline. Use a hole punch to cut out the circle/mouth hole. Trace and cut out the cheeks, eyes and pupils onto color paper of your choice. Glue the eyes and cheeks to the frog. Insert the blower into the mouth & voila. You are a bullfrog! Perfect for a birthday party or a book celebration of Terrific Tongues!
To learn more about author Maria Gianferrari, go to http://mariagianferrari.com/ or visit her on Facebook or Instagram.
This book. I’m not sure which is more beautiful: the words or the pictures. Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois (written by Amy Novesky; illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault) was published a couple of years ago, but my appreciation for its cross-hatched reds and blues hasn’t abated, nor has my admiration for its quiet telling about an emerging artist.
For me, the illustration’s delicate inky stitches brought to mind sashiko, a Japanese form of embroidery that I’ve been spotting online a lot lately.
Sashiko is usually a running stitch; the word sashiko translates to “little stabs.” My attempt at sashiko was my own improvised version. I used fabric scraps I had on hand, denim pieces from old jeans and worn cotton patches I rescued a while back from a disintegrating quilt. I grabbed embroidery floss for thread and the sharpest needle I could find.
I didn’t make anything in particular. I’m not sure I will. But I found the stitching meditative and love the way the stitches & patches look: imperfect, wobbly, delicate, salvaged. I think the simplicity and improvisation would appeal to kids, too (although I’d probably use thinner cotton so that the “little stabs” are easier to make). I’m going to try it out in my school library after reading Cloth Lullaby aloud–I’ll let you know how it goes . . .
January is a wooly time of year. And if you can’t knit (like me) some mittens for your kittens, the least you can do is read those kittens some knitting-themed books. Hand-knit hats will keep your keppie toasty according to Mrs. Goldman in A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by G. Brian Karas. This warm story will remind readers to look for ways to practice good deeds (and accept interesting gifts graciously).
In my experience as designated reader, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett is a perfectly paced fable that packs a lot of drama (and humor) into very few words. Jon Klassen’s yarn-textured illustrations are droll and wonderful. In this story, knitting is a gentle act of generosity with the power to transform a drab, chilled world.
Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosnol fits my wintry mood exactly. A person will go to great lengths for a little space (in this story, space as in outer space)–only to want to return to the warm heart of home and family (armed with woolens for everyone).
For middle-grade readers (knitters and non-knitters alike), Danielle Davis’s Zinnia and the Bees is a quirky, sweet yarn-bomb of a book (see my earlier review here).
I still can’t knit, but I did recently attempt some French knitting/spool knitting (I found some good instructional photos at Lion Brand Yarns). It’s pleasantly addictive to do while watching Netflix although I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with the long ropes of yarn I was creating. Captain Wonderpaws seemed to like his rainbow collar . . .
I’m not a knitter. Nor a crocheter (besides some basics, which I learned just last winter). But the charming middle-grade novel Zinnia and the Bees by Danielle Davis made me want to be both. Zinnia is a seventh-grade yarn bomber intent on putting an “exuberant sweater on the whole world.”
But when her yarn habit gets her into trouble, she finds that her beloved older brother and frequent accomplice has gone MIA. And her mother, Philomena Flossdrop, D.D.S., seems more devoted to dental hygiene and do-gooder community activism than to Zinnia.
Things unravel further when a swarm of runaway bees take up residence in the messy nest of curls atop Z’s head. She manages to disguise her beehive from most eyes but a boy named Birch takes notice. The story tangles and twists in unexpected ways before Zinnia, with a little help from her friends, comes to a new understanding of hive and home.
(By the way, these magical, sweater-clad trees can be found in a grove along the Minuteman Bikeway in Arlington, Massachusetts thanks to a community art project and a gaggle of nimble makers known at the Arlington Knitters Brigade (which includes a few of my friends–you know who you are, Jennifer and Janet–and Holly!)