Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bookmaking Fun

Hooray! I'm celebrating the very first hand bookmaking workshop I've led since moving to Massachusetts this past summer. 


For years, I've led students in grades 4 through 8 in basic hand bookbinding techniques, through classroom visits and a great program called the Student Creativity Festival, run by Success Beyond the Classroom in the Twin Cities. 

Yesterday marked my first workshop with kids in the Bay State.

It took place at a really great public library in the area, Goodnow Library in Sudbury, MA, and was funded by the Friends of the Goodnow Library. Full disclosure: this is also the library where I work part-time in the circulation department and children's room, so I'm (a little bit) biased in its favor. 

The workshop was for ages 11-14, and we had a good group of about ten for a school vacation day event. After I showed some examples of books made from clay, papyrus, and parchment, we made three simple blank books: 


  • a skinny, small sewn sketchbook, based on Japanese side-sewn books
  • another variation on Japanese side sewing using a rubber band and coffee stir stick, instead of thread
  • a traditional sewn pamphlet style book with a velcro button closure


One surprise: the group was divided equally between boys and girls.
One disappointment: Scotch brand velcro buttons don't release easily enough from their backing
One lesson: pre-thread the needles next time!

FYI, if you want to know more about these crafts, check out my oldie-but-goodie book on the topic, co-written with Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Bookworks: Making Books by Hand (Carolrhoda Books, 1995). It's out of print, but still available in many libraries.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine's Day Picture Book Roundup


Story-slinger readers, here’s a Valentine of sorts—mini reviews of four picture books on love & friendship.

A Kiss Like This (Candlewick, 2012) by Mary Murphy gives very young readers (toddlers and up) a chance to lift flaps and discover bees, fish, mice, elephants, and others planting smooches.

I Haiku You (Random House, 2012) by Betsy Snyder is a personal favorite. It’s a collection of haiku poems, each dealing with some aspect of love—whether it’s a dog pining for his child-owner or  kids relishing favorite sticky-sweet treats.

The Ballad of Valentine (Dutton/Puffin, 2002) by Alison Jackson; illustrated by Tricia Tusa, tackles the thorny question of how to get someone’s attention when they’re totally clueless. The rhyming text follows the pattern of “My Darling Clementine,” and tells of a man’s repeated efforts to gain the attention and affection of a blissfully unaware woman named Valentine.

Bear in Love (Candlewick, 2012) by Daniel Pinkwater; illustrated by Will Hillenbrand, looks at the way in which friendship grows and how relationships widen and transform our world. Sounds like a lot to get across, but Pinkwater does it well in a very short text about a solitary bear and the bunny who leaves small gifts outside the bear’s den.

“Those thing you left first,” the bear said.
“Carrots,” the bunny said. “They are much favored by bunnies.”
“Imagine that,” said the bear.

Imagine that. Four good books on love and friendship. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Small, Wintry Delights


Yikes! The weather outside is chilly, and they're predicting snowfall in feet, not inches, for my area. So Story Slinger brings you books to share with someone small enough to fit on your lap. These are small but lovely stories on wintry topics:

I grew up on Snow Day (1962) by Ezra Jack Keats. I loved the art, even though as a country girl I couldn’t completely identify with the little guy exploring city snow. 

Tracks in the Snow (Henry Holt, 2003) is a perfect suburban-country-small town remake of Snowy Day. Artist and author Wong Herbert Yee beautifully captures the quiet wonder of exploring the woods just out the back door.

The illustration style has the soft, no-hard-edges quality of powdery, new snow.

I Am Small by Emma Dodd (Scholastic, 2010) has a cold, wintry setting, but the small pages pack a great deal of warmth. A young penguin laments, “The world is big and I am small.”  Other scenes and page spreads repeat the central idea: “The winter is long…and I am small.”  Still, this little bird isn’t alone. “I may be small,” the penguin tells its parent, “but I can see / the biggest thing to you…is me!”

Snowy Day, Tracks in the Snow, and I Am Small work well with very young children. The final small wintry delight is for more patient listeners. If you know a young person (say in first or second grade) who still enjoys a story told one-on-one, you’ll both love Twelve Kinds of Ice (Houghton Mifflin, 2012) by Ellen Bryan Obed with illustrations by Barbara McClintock.

Obed’s prose is spare, brisk, and even a little brittle as she describes how ice forms and changes throughout one northern winter—and how much joy something as simple as ice can bring:

The second ice was thicker. We could pick it up out of the pails like panes of glass. We would hold it up in our mittened hands and look through it. Then we would drop it on the hard ground to watch it splinter into a hundred pieces.

McClintock’s inked illustrations help place the story in an earlier era, and the book’s small size adds to its cozy appeal.

So as the temperature drops and the blizzard rages, grab two cups of cocoa, track down two or three of these books, and then invite someone small to sit and story-share.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Something to Talk About


R. J. Palacio’s first novel Wonder continues to impress me. Surprisingly, this book (reviewed here in an earlier post) did not receive any major awards at the recent American Library Association gathering. What it has gotten—and continues to get—is impressive word-of-mouth support from readers.

Here’s a quick example: Last night at the bookstore where I work in suburban Metrowest Boston, a girl (probably a fifth grader) came in with her father. She found the Dork Diary she was looking for, but that’s not the book that she wanted to tell her father about.

Instead, she picked a copy of Wonder off the shelf and proceeded to discuss it in detail. She was on page 180 and couldn’t wait to finish the book. This story, she explained, was told by different people. “August has all of this part at the beginning, then other people like his sister and Summer tell it too.”

Even more touching to me than hearing a fifth grader discuss narrative structure (how often does that happen??) was witnessing the obvious affection she had for the book and its characters.

While working at the bookstore, I’ve talked to many teachers about Wonder. They’ve spoken about it glowingly as well. A few times other customers have even chimed in.

So, if you haven’t thought about reading this book—or if you’ve decided you need only read the big award winners this time of year—think again. Wonder will give you something to talk about.