Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bugs and Swirls...Times to Explore

It is time for digging in dirt, watching flowers bloom, and looking for tadpoles swimming.  My oldest daughter was looking for pill bugs yesterday.  Pill bugs, potato bugs, roly-polies, whatever you call them most children are fascinated by them.  They are benign little things: no bites or stings or bad smells.  Who doesn't love them?  I am not sure if they have emerged from their winter nests quite yet, but why not head out on a pill bug hunt and enjoy the books below for school-age children. 

I'm a Pill Bug, by Yukihisa Tokuda, illustrated by Kiyoshi Takahashi.  This Japanese import from Kane/Miller is one of my favorite non-fiction books for children.  It is aesthetically so appealing, very well-designed, and fun to read!  Told from the point of view of a pill bug, this book follows the adorable creatures through gardens, stone walls, winter nests, and all the stages of bug-life.  It's creative and informative.

Swirl by Swirl: Swirls in Nature by Joyce Sidman was my 2011 Caldecott Award pick.  Alas, Ms Sidman did not win the award.  As an illustrator, I marveled at her compositions.  Illustrating the great swirl of the universe is no small task...Sidman tackles it brilliantly.  Swirl by Swirl describes the smallest swirls in nature from hibernating chipmunks to flower petals.  Swirls grow larger--waves--and larger yet--tornadoes and finally the universe itself.  Sidman's picture book reads like poetry and is beautifully illustrated, but it is ultimately about science.  I love the idea of talking to children about science as something that requires creativity, imagination, and love...just like art.

While writing this post my mind went wild with the art and activity possibilities.  For pill bugs...Takahashi's collages are perfect inspiration for torn-paper "habitat" collages.  Mini-terrariums anyone? 

Children of any age will enjoy examining flower and leaf buds (dissecting them or watching them unfurl over the course of a day or two).  Tornadoes in a jar for older children, white glue swirled on black construction paper and allowed to dry before coloring for very young children.  Ask children to decorate a paper plate like a wave, snake, comet, or other swirl described in the book...then cut it into a 3-D swirl to hang. 

I thought about Van Gogh's Starry Night and an entire day spent on stars.  Hmmm,  I guess that's a post for another day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


 The weather has been spectacular here in Pittsburgh--I mean, 70s-and-sunny spectacular--and it has been impossible to sit inside and type.  It is time for a sunshine and flowers storytime!

I have been waiting for a year to use Susan Marie Swanson's book, To Be Like the Sun.  This is the story of a sunflower, from seed to golden blossom, and while it doesn't offer any surprises, it is a well-told story.  Perfect for toddlers or preschoolers, it will hold the attention of any elementary school audience or family group.  Parents are guarnteed to appreciate the beautiful illustrations by Margaret Chodos-Irvine.  I get exuberant about Chodos-Irvine's illustration--downright giddy!  Her work is nostalgic, but still modern and fresh.  She creates richly colored and textured prints that make every book she illustrates positively pop.

Happily, Chodos-Irvine has another project underway.  Check out 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast to read more about her newest book!

I really like the idea of pairing this story of a growing flower with Susan Shea's (author) and Tom Slaughter's (illustrator) Do You Know Which One Will Grow.  While Swanson's book is quietly told and will lull your group into a meditative hush, this story will wake everyone right up.  This question and answer book with it's folding pages, inviting children to guess and/or use their rhyming-skills, and Slaughter's brightly-collaged pictures will make for a lively program indeed.


Paper Plate Sun Flowers
Paper plates, yellow paint, brushes, glue, sunflower seeds, green paper
Have the children paint their paper plates yellow to make 'flowers'. When plate is dry put glue on plate and glue sunflower seeds on the middle of their plates. Attach them to green paper stems to create a sunflower garden.

Magic Bean
At the bottom of a white piece of paper - glue on a lima bean. Then ask children to draw what they would like to grow from the bean. It is a great project to use the imagination!