Be A Tree! BOOK GIVEAWAY & Craft

The Book Giveaway is closed. Our winner is Josie Clark-Trippodo! Congratulations, Josie! Enjoy this beautiful book.

“Be a tree. Stand tall. Stretch your branches to the sun.” Maria Gianferrari’s beautiful picture book begins with a simple metaphor that extends and expands, connecting the ecology of trees to a message about interconnectedness and our human responsibility to care for, build and sustain our communities. The illustrations by Felicita Salas are delightful. On a page with text that reads: “Your skin is bark; dead on the outside, protecting what’s within,” Salas adds a detail of matching tattoos–a heart inked on a grandfather’s forearm with a twin heart carved into the trunk of a tree.

To mark the publication of BE A TREE, I wanted to create a variation of that perennial school project, the Family Tree–but one that would celebrate the circles of community that kids experience in their lives instead of ancestry. Not all children know or live with biological relatives–but all of them have important people who matter to them. So, introducing . . . the TREE RINGS PROJECT!

Block printing with organic materials (because: trees) is a perfect pair for this project, filled with texture and messiness. Who doesn’t love a puddle of glue, paint, and the surprise of lifting up a print you made to see the result? If it’s too glue-y for you, you can also create a Tree Rings Project using markers and crayons with concentric circle shapes to trace.

Tree Rings Project

MATERIALS

  • Flat piece of cardboard (you can cut out a side of a cardboard box)
  • Yarn
  • White glue
  • Tempera or acrylic paint
  • Scissors
  • Brayer (printmaking roller) or paintbrush
  • Paper (I used 50% recycled construction paper)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Trace or draw concentric circles on cardboard. We had fun running around the house gathering cups, bowls and other round objects to trace. Your circles can be lopsided–the rings of a tree certainly are!
  2. Cut pieces of yarn that fit your circles.
  3. Now for the gluey, messy bit: squeeze a line of glue along your traced circles. Or, for smaller hands, pour a puddle of glue and use a popsicle stick to spread it on thick!
  4. Lay the yarn on your circles and let dry.
  5. Painting time! Once your block is dry, use a paintbrush or brayer to spread paint over the yarn.
  6. Turn it upside down on paper; press evenly.
  7. Lift carefully: you printed your tree rings!

Now for Step 8, the most important part . . . start at the middle of your tree ring and think about the place where you feel the most comfortable. It might be home or maybe school. In this central place, jot down the people there that help you grow strong. People you can count on and who can count on you. Move out to your next tree ring. This ring can represent another comfortable place–a grandparent’s house, a neighbor’s house, your after-school group. Who are your “people” there? Add them to your tree ring. Move your way out, considering other places and groups that help you or that you would like to help–the local animal rescue group or a community garden, for example. And voila! You’ve made your circles of community–your personal Tree Rings!

* Teens and grown-ups who don’t want to be left out of the fun but want more of a challenge: try creating a block print of wood grain. My attempt is pictured above and below. I free-handed the design, starting with interspersed spirals (knots of wood) and then adding lines of yarn (wood grain) around them.

To learn more about author Maria Gianferrari (pictured below “being a tree”), go to mariagianferrari.com. You can find illustrator Felicita Sala at felicitasala.com.

Read & Make: Play Like an Animal + Mud Painting

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*BOOK GIVEAWAY is now closed. Congratulations ecooperman!*

Kangaroos box. Rats wrestle. Wolves play tug-of war. In tumbling, rolling, rollicking prose, Play Like an Animal by Maria Gianferrari (with sweet illustrations by Mia Powell) describes how animals learn to hunt, escape and get along with each other through play. Play Like an Animal offers just the right amount of information and inspires young readers to go play, race, chase, spin and splash.

Which brings me to today’s maker challenge: making mud paint!

With everyone stuck at home and conducting work and school through our screens, it’s important to remember that we all need to get down in the dirt once in a while. Collared peccaries, rhinos and river otters love mud–and so do kids. It’s springtime. Mud is plentiful! And making mud paint is simple, sensory and weirdly satisfying to little ones and their grown-ups. Here’s what you need:

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Mud (I scooped some from my teeny-tiny urban backyard)

Tempera paint, also known as poster paint. Food coloring will work, too.

Containers (yogurt containers, bowls or Tupperware)

Paintbrushes, spatulas, spoons, forks (whatever you have on hand to spread, squish, or splatter with)

Thick paper or an outdoor surface like a smooth driveway or wood fence (any surface you can wash down). I didn’t have any card stock on hand so I used the inside of a paper grocery bag.

Other things you need: clothes you don’t care about. A get-down-and-muddy attitude. And maybe a tub of sudsy water for cleaning up afterward.

How to mix your paint:

Add tempera powder or a glob of wet paint. Mix in water slowly until you get the consistency you want. I mixed small amounts, but if you’re outside, you can make big batches. That’s it–enjoy!

For more information about author Maria Gianferrari, check out her website. To see more of Mia Powell’s art and illustrations, visit here.

And remember: *BOOK GIVEAWAY! ENTER NOW BY ADDING A COMMENT BELOW.*

I will select a name at random and notify you in 2 weeks if you’re the winner.

Read & Make: Count on Me + Math Quest Cards

When Danielle Davis of This Picture Book Life asked me to dream up a little math-y crafty to accompany Miguel Tanco’s picture book, Count on Me, I was ready. I could overcome my fear of all things arithmetic!

Unlike me, the curly-haired heroine of this beautifully illustrated book has a special love for math. While her dad has a passion for painting, her mom science, and her brother music (he plays a tuba twice his size), the smallest member of the family sees shapes and patterns everywhere. She skips stones to see concentric circles form and tracks the trajectory of a paper airplane. She finds math everywhere.

Count on Me cover

Tanco’s sweet story is followed by a book-within-a-book: the heroine’s math notebook that illustrates math concepts like fractals, polygons, curves, solid figures, trajectories and sets (in terms clear enough that even I can understand).

Inspired by the small heroine’s passion for math, I painted a deck of cards with basic concepts from the book to spark my own scavenger math hunt. If we take the time to notice, what patterns, polygons, circles, and curves can we discover in the world around us?

Materials:

  • Art cards or index cards (I picked up these little Legion Paper samplers at my local craft store)
  • Pen, marker, and/or paint
  • The world!

Count on Me supplies

I copied the math concepts illustrated in Count on Me and in an attempt to emulate Tanco’s delightful, watery illustrations, I used watercolor paint to tint them. However, young artists can skip the paint and get the job done easily enough with markers and crayons.

Count on Me Deck

I drew and labeled the cards with a range of basic polygons, solid forms like cones and cylinders, patterns of concentric circles and curves, and other concepts to create a deck of 25 cards. Then my son and I went hunting through the house and around our neighborhood. This is some of what we found:

We found so many surprises: dandelion fluff fractals, milk carton polygons, the curved trajectory of a Frisbee in flight. What will you find?

 

Pippi Stitches

Pippi Stitch

Lately I’ve been trying to summon more Pippi into my life: her strength and irreverence, her mismatched socks and gravity-defying braids. If you know and love Astrid Lindgren’s creation, you know what I mean. If you don’t, you’ll have to get yourself a copy of the classic (preferably the one with Lauren Childs’s paper-cut illustrations). On a recent night, my friend gathered a bunch of us and invited us to make something that would inspire us in the months to come. I decidedly to embroider–sloppily, unevenly, in Pippi fashion–one of my favorite quotations from the book: “I have never tried that before so I should definitely be able to do that.” Here’s to that!

Creative Kid: Ink Drinker Shoebox House

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.

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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.