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: 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.

fullsizeoutput_1312

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?

 

Summer Making

This is a little post for me to look at come February. I read that book (so good!) & drank that coffee, all the while sitting next to that delicious bowl of blue water. Ah.

In between reading and swimming and strawberry binges, my niece and I tie-dyed a mess of T-shirts. She was a perfect helper at age 11. My advice is don’t bother with younger kids–it’s too tricky and intensive. Can you spot the blue raspberry Coolatta camouflaged perfectly with one of our dyed creations? Forgive me, folks. I’m an imperfect guardian of nutrition. We also dyed spiral designs (not truly hard and they impress people), accordion folds (like the one pictured here), and sunburst designs. I’ve done this project for many, many summers and it’s always satisfying when you unfold the dripping bundles and reveal what you made.

During a post-lunch slow minute, we also made these sun catchers, inspired by the glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. There are many Chihuly lookalike projects online. This one seemed the simplest, plus we happened to have the materials: Sharpies and translucent plastic cups.

We colored stripes and designs on the cups (weirdly enjoyable in a sensory way) and popped them in the oven at 350 degrees. I think 1-2 minutes creates a more dimpled, wavering Chihuly-type bowl but we may have left ours in for 3-4 minutes. Ours were more like tiny Frisbees. They condensed like Shrinky Dinks. We punched holes in them and hung them in the windows. Everyone thought it was fun, even my nephew who doesn’t usually like anything that might be considered artsy or crafty.

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.

fullsizeoutput_39b

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.

 

Read & Make: Cloth Lullaby & Sashiko

fullsizeoutput_173

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.

fullsizeoutput_169For 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.

fullsizeoutput_16e

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 . . .