Tag Archive: creativity


scraps

The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert

This nonfiction picture book allows readers a glimpse into Ehlert’s creative process as well as her personal history.  The book begins with a very young Ehlert and how she was raised by parents who enjoyed making things with their hands.  She even had her own art space in the house.  After art school, she worked on her own art in the evenings and in an art studio by day.  She wasn’t creating books right away, but when she started she found inspiration right in her own life.  At this point, the book focuses on Ehlert’s previous work and the process she uses to create her beloved books.  This is a colorful and delightful visit to an artist’s studio.

Ehlert approaches this biographical book just as she does her fictional picture books.  The pages are scattered with scraps, cut out objects, designs from her previous work, and photographs from her past.  The result is a book that shines with her own personal style and energy.  This could be no one else’s studio and no one else’s art.  Ehlert invites young readers not only to explore her own history and approach to art, but also to seek out their own and create things themselves. 

Bright, beautifully messy, and wonderfully creative, this book will be inspiring to young artists and authors.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane.

one busy day

One Busy Day by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Jessica Meserve

The siblings from One Special Day return a little bit older in this follow-up picture book.  Mia wants to play with her older brother Spencer, but he’s too busy playing on his own.  So Mia starts being busy herself.  She paints pictures, dances, explores caves, makes mudpies, and builds castles.  Slowly as Mia plays, Spencer starts joining in with her, until they are playing together side-by-side.  That’s when Mia’s castle needs defending from a dragon!  And the two played together until bedtime. 

Such a positive approach to getting an older sibling to play.  The two children don’t have any negative interactions, it’s just that Spencer is simply not interested in playing with Mia right then.  This gives Mia the space to react without anger, instead enticing Spencer to join her.  I always appreciate a book that shows no fighting between siblings but also isn’t the picture of perfection either.  This picture book has a much more complex approach to sibling interactions and it’s a welcome change.

Meserve’s illustrations add a warm richness to the story.  As Mia plays, she does something in real life then the page is turned and you can see what she is doing in her imagination.  So on one page she is making mudpies and on the next they are grand cakes and pies.  Empty boxes become pirate treasure chests.  The freezer is an icy mountain.  The images of the backyard are filled with details just like Mia’s imagination.  So there is no lack of lushness in reality, especially when Spencer plays too.

A positive and affirming look at the joy of playing together as siblings and the power of imagination.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

nowhere box

The Nowhere Box by Sam Zuppardi

George just can’t get away from his little brothers.  They follow him everywhere, even into the bathroom!  George has had enough.  So when he finds the box from the new washing machine, George builds himself a way to travel far away.  In fact, he goes to Nowhere.  Nowhere is wide open and empty, but George quickly fixes that by dumping things out of his box.  In no time at all, Nowhere is incredibly fun.  But wait, there are no dragons to fight and no pirates to sail the seas.  Perhaps there is room in this new space for a few more people to play.

Zuppardi takes a classic story of imaginative play and makes it rambunctious and fun.  George’s frustration with his younger brothers is tangible in the early pages as is the relief of being alone for awhile.  The story is simply told with a frankness and with the images and George’s own imagination carrying the tale forward.

The images are a huge part of what makes this book worth reading.  They have a similar energy level to the “No, David” books.  As the box becomes more of the story, cardboard is incorporated into the scenes, forming the ground and most of the objects.  The images are bright and bold, perfect for high energy kids.

A story of imagination and being an older sibling, this book will be enjoyed by any child who has loved a big box.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

words with wings

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes

Gabby has always been a daydreamer, but when her parents started fighting and then separated, she started retreating into her daydreams more and more.  Now Gabby lives with just her mother, who is not a daydreaming type at all.  So the two of them clash.  Gabby also gets in trouble at school due to her dreamy ways and not paying attention to what is happening in class.  But along the way, readers will see that Gabby is much more than a daydreamer, she is a poet.  Eventually, her mother will come to terms with her way of thinking and she will find that she has a teacher who not only supports Gabby’s daydreaming but makes it part of his curriculum. 

Grimes writes in short free verse, some of the poems only a handful of lines long.  Yet because these are poems written by a master poet, they each speak truth.  There are poems that talk about moving and autumn, others that celebrate family members, and at the heart of the book are the many poems that celebrate dreaming, lingering and Gabby herself.  Grimes was clearly the sort of child who also daydreamed, since she captures it so well. 

I deeply appreciate that this book does not “fix” Gabby’s daydreaming.  Instead it is the adults who adopt a new attitude towards her once they realize that she is thinking and processing and writing in her head.  Gabby is expected to change some of her behaviors in class and is supported in doing this by a very engaged and kind teacher who promises that she will have time to dream and to record those dreams she has.  Gabby is the sort of heroine that one loves immediately, and she is also one that readers will cheer to see succeeding on her own terms.

Beautiful and strong poems support a world where imagination and creativity is accepted and poets survive their childhood intact.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

battle bunny

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers

Gran Gran has given Alex a very saccharine sweet birthday book filled with bunnies as a gift.  But Alex is clearly not a fan of the original book since he takes his pencil and makes lots of changes so that it’s a book that he wants to read.  Birthday Bunny is turned into Battle Bunny, complete with helmet, utility belt and walkie talkie.  His goal is to unleash his evil plan on the forest and the world that only a boy named Alex can prevent.  Expect danger, cut-down trees, epic battles and much more as Alex tries to defeat the evil that is Battle Bunny!

Told and drawn in layers, this book is something very special. First you have the rather sickly sweet story underneath that celebrates Birthday Bunny’s birthday with lots of dancing and balloons.  It’s silly, friendly and pure sugar.  Over the top of that comes the brilliance of the writing of Scieszka and Barnett who manage by changing a few words in every sentence to make an entirely different story.  Most sentences just have a few words changed, but others towards the end are more edited to really let the story flow.  It works so well that one can forget the words underneath until you eye snags on one and you just have to read a bit of the silly story that has been edited. 

Myers’ art is equally successful.  He takes a dance scene and deftly turns it into an epic battle but one where you can still see the dancing underneath.  On some pages little comics are added in the white space so that more story can be told.  The cutesy nature of the underlying story is captured in his illustrations and one can feel the glee with which he reworked them just as a little boy would.

These three gifted book creators truly channeled their inner children to create this book.  It is funny, smart and immensely creative.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

fraidyzoo

Fraidyzoo by Thyra Heder

It’s the perfect day to go to the zoo and the whole family is excited.  Well, maybe not the whole family.  Little T certainly is not, in fact she is frightened of the zoo.  But she can’t remember what in the zoo scares her.  So her family set out to find out what might be scaring her.  They start out at the beginning of the alphabet and acting out the animals.  It’s not alligator, bat or camel.  As they go on, the costumes they use become more and more elaborate and they all help act them out with plenty of laughter and silliness.  They make it all the way to zebras and still Little T can’t remember why she is scared of the zoo.  So they decide to go the next day.  But there is something very frightening at the zoo, and her older sister might just find it a little too scary.

Heder does a superb job here of creating costumes out of boxes and ropes that look like they just might work in real life.  As the costumes grow more and more outrageous and complex, they also get more beautiful.  Along the way, Heder does not name any of the animals being portrayed, so the book has a guessing-game element to it as well.  The ending is funny and satisfying.

Heder’s art really is the majority of the story here.  The text is almost secondary to the full-page images that gallop and dash across the page.  They are filled with motion, color and smiles.  This is art that will inspire children to play with boxes and rope.  Expect your living room to be strewn with cardboard and ideas.

Creative and a joy to read, this is much more fun than any visit I’ve had to the zoo.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books for Young Readers.

whale shines

Whale Shines: An Artistic Tale by Fiona Robinson

Published November 5, 2013.

Whale is a living billboard, swimming slowly through the ocean with a poster to advertise the upcoming art show.  Along the way, he passes all sorts of sea creatures creating art.  The hammerhead shark is working on sculptures from sea debris.  Eel is forming lines in the sand.  Octopus, cuttlefish and giant squid were scaring each other to collect their ink.  Whale mutters to himself that he wishes he could make something too.  That’s when the plankton around him tell him to try.  But whale just can’t think of anything that he’d be able to do.  After all, he doesn’t squirt ink, and he can’t slither in the sand.  It’s going to take a lot of creativity and some risk for whale to even try creating art.

Robinson has created a simply gorgeous book here.  Her writing is lovely, slow-paced and languid just like Whale floating by displaying his advertisement.  Whale is a solitary figure in the story, lone and distant from the others.  As he drifts past, he is separate from everyone else.  Robinson successfully manages his transformation from wallflower to fully-engaged artist in a way that rings honest and doesn’t seem rushed.

Her art is lovely, filled with the deep colors of the ocean.  It is green and blue hues that shine.  Popping against those are the bright colors of the creatures and the coral in reds and yellows.  The result is a picture book with stunning visuals that truly evoke life underwater. 

A luminous picture book with glowing underwater scenes, this book will speak to all artists, even those reluctant to reveal themselves.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams Books for Young Readers.

moose that says moo

A Moose That Says Moo! by Jennifer Hamburg, illustrated by Sue Truesdell

Sitting near the laundry drying on the line, a little girl is reading books about animals.  She starts to think about having a zoo of her very own and what sorts of animals it would have.  It’s guaranteed that no other zoo has animals like hers!  There is a moose that says “moo,” bears that drive cars, tigers that swing in the trees, and sharks that read books.  At night, the animals have a big pillow fight that turns into one silly brawl with awakened goats, tap-dancing pigs that startle easily, tripping turtles, and even groundhogs that protest.  It will take one smart young girl to get everything put back together again even in this imaginary zoo.

Written in a rollicking rhyme, this book really celebrates the ridiculous and the silly.  Hamburg manages to create zoo animals with wild qualities that make the book a surprise on each page.  The result is a book that dances on the edge of losing control, but the firm hand Hamburg takes with the rhyme and rhythm keeps it within control and makes for a book that begs to be shared aloud.

Truesdell does an amazing job of managing to take all of the wild chaotic silliness of the book and turn it into illustrations that help it all make sense.  At the same time, she too revels in the silliness on the page and adds to it with small touches like a reading shark accidentally eating a book, the offer of many tissues to a sneezing tiger, and goggled bears in cars. 

Pure silliness, this book could merrily be wedged into many storytime themes.  Use it as a finisher since even antsy children will sit still for this wild ride.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

how to

How To by Julie Morstad

This “how to” book does not describe mechanical endeavors, instead it is a luminous look at an eclectic collection of activities.  They include how to look like a mermaid, how to see the wind, and how to go slow.  Others are straight-forward ideas but the image shows a more inventive solution.  How to wash your socks has children dancing in a puddle wearing socks.  How to make friends is the cover image of a child drawing people with chalk.  The result is a book that is an elegant and lovely exploration of the creative.

Morstad creates beautiful books and this is no exception.  Here again she mixes a quiet sense of wonder into the book and combines it with gorgeous illustrations.  She uses fine lines, particularly when drawing the children on the pages.  Their hair and faces shine with the attention she has given them.  The ideas in the book are all creative and inviting.  This is a book that will entrance some children while others will be looking for more action.

Ideal for creative children who look at the world from a more whimsical point of view.  They will make friends in these pages.  Appropriate for ages 3-5, perfect for adults too.

Reviewed from library copy.

journey

Journey by Aaron Becker

This stunning wordless picture book tells the story of a young girl who is very lonely.  Her parents are busy doing things and she has no one to play with.  Then she discovers a red crayon on her bedroom floor and draws a door on her wall that she can open.  She finds herself in a forest light with strings of lights, a river running by.  Her red crayon is in her hand, so she draws a boat that she can use to travel down the river.  Her incredible journey is just beginning and you will want to be along.

Done first in sepia tones with bursts of red, the book quickly changes to full color once the girl opens the magic door into another world.  Happily, this is not a world that readers will have visited before.  It is a dynamic mix of steampunk, fancy castles, and wondrous creatures.

Becker’s art is incredible intricate, inviting closer inspection.  Just the castle alone had me gazing for some time to see it all.  HIs art is also very beautiful.  The depth of color is lovely, particularly the colors of the sky and the landscape.

Beautifully done, this book is a gorgeous testament to the power of creativity and the amazing places that great art can take us.  Appropriate for ages 4-7.

You can see some of this incredible journey on the book trailer:

Reviewed from library copy.

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