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.

Make: Doughnut Discs

Time to celebrate! My picture book, Flip! How the Frisbee Took Flight, will be published next month, and it will be spring. I'm feeling a sense of hope and possibility I haven't felt in a while. So for my first Frisbee-based maker activity, I combined two of the best possible things: flying discs AND doughnuts. Doughnut discs are super easy to make and can even be tossed inside the house on a rainy day without major damage to home or humans. Here's what you need:

Materials
Paper plates 
Scissors
Glue stick
Markers, paint, construction paper
Recommended: Eating real doughnuts while working 

First, trace and cut a circle in the middle of the paper plate to create the Doughnut disc hole. To decorate, use markers, paint or paper to design your doughnut on the back side of the plate. What is your favorite flavor? Do you like chocolate covered, blueberry swirl, lemon burst or strawberry glazed? 

I cut concentric circles of paper to create a dough base with a frosted top and then paper-punched and cut out paper sprinkles in rainbow colors to glue on top. You could also sprinkle with mini pom-poms, sequins or stickers. Glue stick seemed to work well for adhering the paper layers to each other and to the plate. That's it. You're ready to give your Doughnut disc a flick and watch it fly!
Check out www.margaretmuirhead.com for more information about Flip! You can pre-order your copy at Indiebound, Target, Barnes & Noble, Amazon or at your favorite neighborhood book shop. 

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.

Make: Tiny Tea Set

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These petit plates are about the size of a penny. They please me to no end. And I mean that: to no end. I have no idea why I made them, except I did. The instructions are from the delightful Ann Wood at annwoodhandmade.com, my new favorite place to visit to look at miniatures & antique French fabrics.

The central ingredient needed to make these is paper clay, which is a lightweight material you can mold and then it hardens with air exposure (but not to be confused with Model Magic, which is lesser stuff). You may or may not appreciate the help of a cat.

The little bottles and glue sticks are for pressing interesting patterns into the clay. When they dry, you can sand them smooth. My plates also kind of warped. Charmingly so?

I made these a couple of months ago but only recently painted them. The ridiculously small paintbrush was intimidating (especially to this near-sighted/far-sighted person) and I didn’t know what kind of pattern to make. I went with tiny fruit, of course.

Make: Clothespin Doll Bed

A while back, I fashioned a box-and-clothespin doll-sized bed for a library craft to accompany the many versions of Princess and the Pea that I read with my students. Then I tripped onto Ann Wood’s wondrous miniature creations. Those Lilliputian pillowcases in antique fabrics! The tufted tiny mattress! All the things Ann makes make me so happy.

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So . . . I felt compelled to make more little beds. Ann’s clothespin-framed fabrications seemed a little complicated for me and my characteristic impatience so I stuck with a simple construction: top of jewelry box or other small box covered in pretty paper with clothespins hot-glued to corners for bed posts. (My clothespins are “weathered” by the actual weather that they experienced on the job hanging clothes on the line.) I sewed small covers out of fabric squares and felt.

One of these beds now lives on a low shelf in my library. No one has noticed it yet (unless the kids are thinking that their librarian is bonkers and they don’t want to bring that up). I’m willing to wait them out. Who will discover the wee family tucked among the books?