Read & Make: Strollercoaster + Rainbow Scratch Paper

Strollercoaster by Matt Ringler with art by Raul the Third and Elaine Bay is an exuberant celebration of urban street life (as well as the exuberance of a toddler on a rollicking ride right before she falls asleep for a much needed nap). Raul the Third is known (in his Vamos series and the Lowriders in Space graphic novels) for packing his drawings with details-silly scribbles, sly references, and delightful oddities. Strollercoaster is no different: there are many treasures tucked in each streetscape. Then there’s this: a cover beneath the cover! Young readers will be fascinated to find Raul’s earlier pencil drawing under the rainbow riot of the dust jacket (thanks to Elaine Bay’s coloring instincts).

I love this fast-paced, “speedy” scene as Papa corre/runs down the sidewalk! I was inspired when the stroller duo ducks into a dark tunnel (with the word “oscuro” graffitied on its wall). Those rainbow outlines popping through the black reminded me of one of my fave childhood art projects! So I set to work . . .

PROJECT: Make Rainbow Scratch Paper to create your own magic drawings!

MATERIALS:

  • Card stock paper
  • crayons in fun colors
  • tempera or acrylic black paint
  • paintbrush
  • wooden skewer (something to scratch with)

DIRECTIONS:

Using crayon in bright, rainbow hues, your paper *entirely* with patches of color. (I tried both crayon and oil pastels or cray-pas and ended up liking the crayon much better. The paint stuck to the cray-pas, making it harder to scratch).

Next, cover your paper entirely with black paint (I used acrylic. It covered well and scratched off well).

Once dry, start scratching–drawing or writing words, whatever. It’s all magic as your lines reveal bits of bright teal, emerald, fuchsia, goldenrod–all the more gem-like in contrast with the black.

Read & Make/ Unbound: The Life + Art of Judith Scott

This book! If you are looking for a story about self-expression, creativity, the deep river of sisterhood, AND the experience of a person living with a disability, Unbound ticks all the boxes and then some. Joyce Scott and her twin Judith, who is born with Down’s Syndrome and also deaf, are keenly, wordlessly connected as children. Their effortless bond, subsequent devastating separation and much later reunion form the backbone of the story, all written in beautiful, heartfelt vignettes. Joyce’s determination to nourish Judith’s mind and spirit lead them to a studio called the Creative Growth Art Center, and eventually to a “new language” for Judith–an art form that’s intricate, entwined, intriguing, and all her own.

Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet is the perfect illustrator for this picture book. Sweet often uses found objects in her playful, color-filled art, a nice correlation with Judith’s sculptures. Sweet makes sure to note that she is *interpreting* Judith’s art in her illustration. There’s only one photo of Judith’s sculpture in the end notes so make sure to look up more examples of her amazing work!

PROJECT: Wrap and weave string around twigs, sticks or other found objects, just like Judith!

MATERIALS: Use what you have or can find, such as:

  • twigs
  • wooden spools or popsicle sticks
  • cardboard tubes or flat cardboard shapes
  • embroidery floss
  • fabric scraps
  • yarn
  • twine or string

I gathered some sticks outside and added a wooden spool and clothespin. I used embroidery floss, fabric pieces, yarn, and cotton loops from a potholder loom kit. I tucked in loose ends and occasionally knotted some ends. I didn’t try to simulate Judith’s sculptures, I just did my own thing. The project involved more decision-making than I anticipated–it was very engrossing to wrap new colors and connect different objects into the shape/form I wanted. I took an early photo but I kept going since–I wasn’t quite done! Even though I didn’t try to recreate Judith’s art, it gave me insight and respect for her art. If you try it, send me a pic!

MORE TO EXPLORE:

Penguin Random House information about Unbound

Melissa Sweet’s website description of Unbound

“Textile artist Judith Scott: Uncovering innate talent,” textileartist.org

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.

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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?

 

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.