Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ink, paint, crayons and lots o' water

Maia's got the scribbles. She marks up the white walls of the bathtub, she brushes ink on parchment, smacks her hands full of white paint on black paper. She draws fats circles and delicate lines, large swirls and sweeping arcs with fat brushstrokes. She concentrates, carefully watching her brush move through thick paint. She fills the page almost entirely and sometimes she is satisfied with large swaths of negative space. And when she is done, she is done. She moves on to the next project and never looks back.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Running from the brush

As a rule Maia does not like getting her hair brushed. Also as a rule Maia loves running around the dining room table with loud music and the dog yipping at her heels. For the bi-weekly hair brushing (yup), I usually have to hold her down with my leg around her waist as a "seat belt," spray her hair until it is dripping wet with detangler and gently brush it with the "nice brush." So when she turned the running around the table game into chasing me with a hairbrush game, I couldn't resist the role reversing chase. When she caught me, I had to relent, frightened as I was. The final "do" was not fit for publication and even though I could not see through the wisps of hair over my eyes, my hairdresser took pride in her work and did brush, most importantly, "very gent tel ley."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Reading Habits Part II

On a shelf above my sister's bunk bed were rows of Nancy Drew (yellow cover) and Hardy Boys (blue cover) books, which she would read one after the other, her head obscured by pictures of mysterious mansions, odd-looking characters in awkward positions. She read as if she could make the world disappear with the opening of a book and the occasional turning of the page. She took an interest in detective work and fancied herself a private investigator and had her own book of notations of the strange and unusual happenings that took place in and around the house.
But, she was credited with teaching me to read - in between the stacks at a library book sale.

When the letters finally merged into words and the words became meaning, I was transformed. The code was cracked. The black and white shapes now jumped from the page in simple, repetitive words: "Run Sally, Run!"
Part II of Reading Habits (my early memories of books and reading)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Reading Habits

I grew up surrounded by books. Book-shelves doubled as wall dividers separating makeshift bedrooms from the living and dining areas. The shelves reached high to the ceiling and displayed books of every color, heft, height and subject. Books lay in piles alongside beds, in stacks on the dining room table and were strewn across the hardwood floors. In our attic we housed a library - our collection of books bought at yard sales, thrift stores and church basements. We had over sized books with black and white photographs by Alfred Stieglitz, small paperback boxed sets by C. S. Lewis, Burial Grounds of Woodland Indians, the Beatles Songbook and Modern Toys. We had picture books, young adult novels, comic books, stories of Ernest Hemingway and poetry by Carl Sandburg. We were instructed to have clean hands, never to write in books or fold down the corners. Books were our friends we were reminded, only half in jest. We were read to and we read, with varying degrees of interest.

Excerpt from "Reading Habits" a zine project about early reading/book memories for my bookarts class.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I'm a little airplane

We took a spontaneous trip to Oshkosh last weekend to check out Julian's science Olympiad competition. Julian identified anoles, bull frogs and horned lizards, while other kids tested their knowledge in herpetology, anatomy, cell biology and meteorology. We popped in just in time to see the trajectory and Wright Stuff: a great catapult event and a not so successful airplane liftoff. Julian stayed over in the UW dorms the night before and came home on a bus later that evening.

Meantime, we took Mai to the EAA Air Venture museum to check out their collection of aircraft including sea hawks, monoplanes, a gyrocoptor and a gyro plane, a hang glider, a Wright Flyer replica, biplanes, triplanes and volksplanes and many others in their "assortment of over 20,000 historic aviation objects." We had the most fun in the Kid Venture Gallery exploring an airplane cockpit, doing flight simulators, blasting off rockets, playing with robotic arms and wind machines.

Julian would have loved it, so we'll have to go back when they have their annual Fly-In at the end of July.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

25 Things

1. I am addicted to blogs, coffee, naps and books
2. I am brain-dead by Friday evening
3. I "heart" thrift shopping
4. My secret guilty pleasures are watching bad reality tv shows and reading the tabloids (for shame).
5. I dislike housework
6. I have temper tantrums
7. I dislike schedule and seasonal changes
8. I "heart" kid shows and picture books
9. My favorite kind of book is the memoir
10. Sometimes I feel like I've lost my sense of humor
11. I am happier each year I get older
12. I went on my first date with my husband when I was 14 (we went to Rocky Rocco's and kissed on every corner on the walk home)
13. I love the feel of wool roving
15. I am a vegetarian by marriage
16. I am a coffee snob, french press please
17. I got to relive my childhood through my kids
18. I am intoxicated by the smell of the woods (pine needles, bark, fresh leaves and dirt)
19. I am sad that in some ways it feels like high school never ends
20. I have a love/hate relationship with pets and food
21. I wanted to be a school teacher when I was young
22. My reading comprehension sucked until college
23. I like baths and saunas
24. I wish I could draw better
25. I'd love being alone for part of the day everyday.

This list is subject to revision at any time

Brian tagged me, and Christi, your it!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Picture Books - Recent Favorites

Kirkus Reviews : This second Bebe-y-Mama outing (Bebe Goes Shopping, 2006) takes the team to the beach for a day filled with sand, sun and some more Spanish-language fun. While a bikini-clad Mama tries to soak up "el sol," her toddler is "ready to roll." Playing in "la arena" with his bucket and "pala," he is soon tasting slimy "alga marina" and breaking apart someone's carefully sand-sculpted surfboard. This bouncing, energetic toddler gets into all sorts of mischief before finally napping on his towel: "Mama gets a break now. "At last, descansare!" / But who had the best time of all? / Sweet bebe!" With her signature Spanish/English rhymes, Elya introduces a gracious plenty of Spanish words interspersed in bold throughout the easily recited text. Salerno's retro-style, full-colored paintings complement and enhance the linguistic clarity. A glossary provides extra support, particularly for pronunciation.
When Liza's mother takes away her beloved crayons, her world suddenly goes gray. How does the budding artist repond? She squirts her toothpaste angrily and stomps through mud puddles. Through these acts, Liza inadvertently creates art-and eventually discovers color in the world around her.Liza loved her crayons. She treasured turquoise, adored apricot, and flipped over fuchsia.

Sparks literally fly as Devon makes the leap from observer to creator. With the help of the Metal Man, can Devon weld a sculpture of his own, or will the scrap metal amount to a pile of junk as his Mom suspects? The unique voice and gritty illustrations capture the urban atmosphere and the heat of the welder's torch.

From School Library —A little boy learns from Harry, a dachshund, how to treat an unfamiliar dog safely and politely. Harry's friendly, gentle voice reminds the child to ask for the owner's permission to pet the dog, allow the animal to sniff his hand, and approach from the side. The pooch coaches the boy as he encounters an excited puppy, a guide dog, and an unfriendly canine. Cues such as growling and tail wagging are explained. Straightforward guidelines and a positive, encouraging tone make this book appealing and practical. Young dog lovers will delight in the variety of breeds shown in the bright, clear illustrations. Harry's advice will certainly come in handy, and dogs will appreciate the safety and consideration shown by readers who put the techniques into practice.—

Pelle has a lamb whose coat grows longer and longer, while Pelle's Sunday suit grows shorter! Pelle shears the lamb, and the wool is carded, spun, dyed and woven. Finally, the tailor makes a new suit for Pelle.

From Kirkus ReviewsA classic nuclear family shares their own Christmas Eve tradition, leaving their conventionally decorated ranch house in Dad's pickup to deck a live tree in the woods with popcorn and fruit for the forest creatures. It's all deliberately cozy--the constant smiles; the hot chocolate and songs (the boy, who narrates, chooses a carol but little Nina wants ``Old MacDonald''); the boy tucked in at the end under a Christmas quilt that echoes the forest scene. A warm Christmas card of a book, in the best sense; Rand's moonlit watercolors are sure to be as popular as the conventional but warmhearted story.

From Publishers Weekly:This welcome sequel to the Caldecott Medal title The Hello, Goodbye Window knowingly describes a child's conflicting personalities. "Sometimes I'm Sourpuss," a multiracial girl admits. "And sometimes I'm Sweetie Pie." Her grandparents, Poppy and Nanna, accept her dueling dispositions, but when she visits they like to know whom to expect. "Poppy, it's me, Sweetie Pie," she promises, keeping her alter ego at bay. She does acknowledge her mercurial moods ("Sometimes you can go from Sourpuss to Sweetie Pie so quick," she admits, in a six-stage Hyde to Jekyll transformation), and her grandparents gently tease her ("Pleasant dreams, girls," they joke at bedtime). Both the sunny moments and the tantrums will ring true for readers of any age. Raschka (see Peter and the Wolf, below) devises competing motifs of light daubs and glowering smears, pairing Sweetie Pie's upbeat sky blue, gold, cantaloupe and pink with Sourpuss's grumpy scarlet, mucky green and purple-blue. Sweetie Pie's balletic, floaty postures contrast with Sourpuss's dramatic scowls and defiant stances; the two personas appear virtually side by side for maximum effect

From Publishers Weekly - In this companion to Dawn and Rain Rain Rivers, Shulevitz uses text as spare as a December landscape to cast a spell of winter magic. Despite predictions to the contrary ("'No snow,' said radio"; "'It'll melt,' said woman with umbrella"), a boy and his dog spy a single snowflake and rush outside in gleeful anticipation. Sure enough, one snowflake turns into two, two into three, and before long snow is "dancing, playing,/ there, and there,/ floating, floating through the air." ... The Caldecott Medalist works a bit of visual alchemy as the tale progresses, gradually transforming the chilly gray watercolor washes with flecks of snow, until his cityscape is a frozen fairyland. Pure enchantment from start to finish. Ages 3-up.

Minnesota Author!
From Booklist - Winter? Cold? It's all in the way you look at things as this imaginative book makes clear. A boy proclaims that summer notwithstanding, his world is warmest in winter. His puffy jacket is cozy, and a fire burns in the fireplace. Comparisons between summer and winter come in clever pairs: jelly sandwiches turn into grilled cheese; cool swims turn into hot baths. Nor is it just the boy who feels the difference: the cat cuddles on laps instead of stretching out on the windowsill. In a linguistic rhapsody, the boy explains how "sleeping radiators awake to their dragon selves, banging and hissing and pouring heat." It takes special art to accentuate the evocative words, and Stringer, who has illustrated many books for others, provides distinctive pictures for herself. With fascinating perspectives that sometimes start on the ceiling, the deeply hued acrylic artwork ranges from friendly to joyous, as in a two-page spread of a party filled with fun and music. A special book worthy of many readings, this radiates warmth. Ilene Cooper

"Just outside my window, / There are tracks in the snow. / Who made the tracks? / Where do they go?" Keen to find out, a little girl follows the tracks throughout her rural neighborhood. Yee cleverly lets the white of the paper stand in for snow, rendering the other elements in soft colored pencils and an almost pointillistic style: ice-blue footprints; woodland flora and fauna in muted browns and grays; and the little girl herself, whose bright-red hooded coat (reminiscent of Peter's in The Snowy Day) adds cheer to the otherwise muted scenes. The singsong text, however, isn't quite as effective; certain lines ("Is that a hippopotamus?") serve the demands of the rhyme scheme more than they advance the story. Even so, this unassuming book will be enjoyed for its petite trim size, its wintry charm, and the gently humorous solution to its small mystery: the girl finally realizes that the tracks were made yesterday by someone she knows very well--herself. Jennifer Mattson

"Every word is a sound in illustrator Johnson's authorial debut, and the pictures tell the story. In his signature style of frosted, crystalline textures and muted tones, Johnson's art shows a young boy waking on a snowy morning and preparing for school, while snow is being cleared away outside. The fun comes from the onomatopoeic text: the "snore" and "purr" of the cozy first image, showing the sleeping boy and his cat, to the "jingly clink vroom" of the closing scene's school bus. Johnson uses visual techniques to amplify each word's meaning. The predawn "hush" appears in dove-gray letters that almost fade into the background, while later, after everyone is awake, the school bus' "honk" is printed in sharp red. This book has a quiet charm that will span age groups. Preschoolers will simply enjoy repeating the sounds and inventing their own, while teachers may want this for early elementary poetry units. Pair the book with Kate Banks' The Great Blue House (2005), which also celebrates sounds and the words that describe them." Gillian Engberg (Booklist)

From Publishers Weekly:"Niemann introduces readers to 33 Chinese characters via an ingenious, breezy tale about a spunky heroine named Lin who's searching for her runaway pet dragon. Throughout Lin's quest, Niemann superimposes bold, black Chinese characters over key images or other elements in his super-smooth digital graphics. When Lin herself is introduced, for example, the character for person is overlaid on her figure, allowing readers to see how it evokes the outline of a body and two legs. Unlike authors of conventional primers, Niemann doesn't try to directly incorporate the special vocabulary into his story (the text doesn't refer to Lin as a person). Nor does he adhere to the expected icon-to-object correspondence every time: as he notes in his genial introduction, some of the match-ups reflect his own imagination at play (the character for work takes the shape of an I-beam at a construction site). As a result, the pages reflect not only Niemann's cleverness, but also his sense of discovery and his enthusiasm"