Tag: art

5 Great Books About Art

My kitchen counter is currently submerged beneath a rising tide of art supplies. This means only one thing in our home: a new school year approaches! While I wrest the counter free from the clutches of colored pens and puck tempera, I’ll leave you with this post: an old one, but one of my very favorites. Though I’ve found several noteworthy art books since this post appeared in November 2014, the books on this list remain my trusty sidekicks in the art room. May your first weeks of the school year be colorful (but only in the best way)!


I am a writer. An artist. A musician. A singer of ridiculous songs. Drinker of tea. Dedicated fan of Foyle’s War. I am not—or had always maintained that I was not—a teacher. But then God said, “Ha!” And now I’m a teacher.

I mentioned before that my daughter attends a small university model, Classical school and that I am the makeshift librarian there. But as of this year, I am also the art teacher, a plot twist that I have enjoyed quite a lot and that now means that not only are there books on every available surface of our house but also pans of watercolors, oil pastel trays, and paintings laid flat to dry on our counters and tables and floors.

5 Great Books About Making Art | Little Book, Big Story

I test a lot of lesson plans (translation: I paint a lot!), but I also read a lot of picture books about art, because I’m finding that books are a great way to introduce an art lesson (or anything else, really) to a group of kids. And I’m finding that there are some really excellent books about art out there. In a departure from our usual fare (we seem to be making quite a few of those lately, which must mean that I’ve reviewed most of my very favorite books and am now looking elsewhere for inspiration), I have decided to share a list of my five favorite finds from the art section of our school’s small library:

1. MIX IT UP!, BY HERVE TULLET

Mix it Up! | Little Book, Big Story

How do you teach color theory to kids when they don’t have paint on hand to mix for themselves? Tullet gives us the next best thing: a book that the kids can interact with.

Mix it Up! | Little Book, Big Story

I read this book to all three of my classes, grades pre-K through 4, walking up and down the desks so that each student got a turn to press, smear, and shake the book, and I just loved watching how differently the students responded to it. One thing was universal: they adored it. One kindergartener looked at me wonderingly and said, “That book is really magic.” (I let her take it home for the weekend.)

2. LINES THAT WIGGLE, BY CANDACE WHITMAN

Lines That Wiggle | Little Book, Big Story

This playful book introduces children to the many, many ways we use lines both in art and everyday life. I just can’t get enough of the illustrations. The colors! The creativity! The wiggly lines!

Lines That Wiggle | Little Book, Big Story

I haven’t read this one to the students yet (or to my own children, one of whom is a student after all), but I am definitely looking forward to sharing it with them.

3. PANTONE COLORS

Pantone Colors | Little Book, Big Story

I didn’t immediately see the appeal of this book: at first glance, it looks like a slightly-larger-than-normal board book about colors with no discernible story line at all. But the magic of Pantone Colors is in the color squares: they have lovely names like “Orangutan Orange” or “Mitten Purple” and practically beg you to sit with your kids and study them.

Pantone Colors | Little Book, Big Story

We like to name our favorite color on each page, or guess each other’s favorite color, or choose our favorite color name (mine? “Wet Sidewalk Gray,” followed closely by “Grandma Gray.” Also, “Teapot Blue”). I originally bought a copy of this book for the school, but then . . . we kept it. So I had to buy a different one for the school.

4. BEAUTIFUL OOPS!, BY BARNEY SALTZBERG

Beautiful Oops! | Little Book, Big Story

This book is a tremendous gift for kids who struggle with perfectionism in drawing, as it explores mistakes and the various opportunities they provide. It’s a charming book, full of pop-ups, overlays, and clever three dimensional pages, like this one:

Beautiful Oops! | Little Book, Big Story

Beautiful Oops! encourages us to view mistakes as unexpected opportunities, and that is sage advice (delivered in a creative package).

5. SACHIKO UMOTO’S ILLUSTRATION SCHOOL SERIES

Illustration School | Little Book, Big Story

These books are great for slightly older kids (or adults, for that matter. I originally bought these for myself). Sachiko Umoto’s illustrations are fun to duplicate, and she walks readers through each one step by step. One thing I specifically appreciate about this series is that even though she draws stylized illustrations of people, plants, and animals, she pays special attention to the anatomy of the object under study: she doesn’t teach readers how to draw flower, but how to draw a poppy, or a hyacinth, or a daffodil.
Illustration School | Little Book, Big Story

Likewise, she not only teaches how to draw a person or a dog, but demonstrates the underlying skeleton, so we readers can see how the figure should move and why the limbs are placed the way they are. Her lessons are simple, but thorough.

BONUS

Here is my favorite series to work from while creating lesson plans for art class:

20 WAYS TO DRAW A CAT (OR A TREE, Tulip, MUSTACHE, AND MORE)

20 Ways to Draw a . . . | Little Book, Big Story

The 20 Ways to Draw  . . . series is fun because it doesn’t actually tell you how to draw a shark, but instead gives you a double-page spread of twenty different sharks, shown from various angles and drawn in various styles, to use as inspiration for drawing your own shark (or jellyfish or pine cone or fern).

20 Ways to Draw a . . . | Little Book, Big Story

I pull from these books when looking for a clear, simple way to draw, say, an apple, and my girls love to flip through them and request lessons on how to draw a specific picture. (On a related note, I have drawn a lot of cats since we got that book.)

LASTLY

If you would like more artsy inspiration, you can follow me on Pinterest. My feed is chock full of art for (and by) kids!

Carrot Top Paper Shop GIVEAWAY

One of my favorite aspects of the picture book is the way it connects word and image. Chapter books unfold in what is essentially a private place (our imagination), even when we read them aloud as a family. We may build a shared memory of having read the book together and may even pull a few favorite lines into the family lexicon, but we’ll all still picture Green Gables a little differently or hear Pa’s laugh in a slightly different way.

And that is as it should be.

But picture books draw both parent and child (and baby doll and long-suffering cat) into the same visual world, adding details from beyond the text to give our own imaginings color and structure.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Print, from Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

Our oldest readers still enjoy a good picture book, and I’m thankful for that. But as they move more solidly into the realm of the chapter book, I find myself looking for ways to strengthen their imaginations, to give them images and beautiful artwork to nourish their own visions of the text. I sketch scenes for the younger ones while their papa reads aloud; I hand-letter favorite quotes for our walls, so that the words themselves become beautiful. And I look for lovely prints by other artists that will broaden and deepen the way they see each story.

Jane Eyre bookmark, by Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

When, in my quest for those prints, I discovered that one of this blog’s very own readers ran an Etsy shop filled with gorgeous, literary-themed art, well. A giveaway seemed in order.

Jenny Williams of Carrot Top Paper Shop opened her shop after an unfruitful search for bookish art for her daughter’s nursery compelled her to create her line of Literary Heroine prints. I fell for those immediately. Also, her hand-lettered quotes make me wish I had an extra wall in our house just to display them. (Wouldn’t that be lovely? To have a wall dedicated only to words?)

Laura Ingalls Wilder Quote, from Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

I settled for buying her print of Jo March for our Josephine, though I have a hunch that all four girls might find a print from Jenny’s shop in their stockings this year.

Enter to win an 8x10 print and a set of Literary Heroine bookmarks from Carrot Top Paper Shop! (Giveaway open until 8/26) | Little Book, Big Story

Because I love those prints so much and because Jenny just launched her newest literary heroine (along with a whole slew of wonderful new things—greeting cards and even this gorgeous mug!), we’re doing a giveaway! If you win—and two of you will win—you’ll receive an 8×10″ print of your choice, as well as a set of her Literary Heroine bookmarks.

Elizabeth Bennett bookmark, by Carrot Top Paper Shop | Little Book, Big Story

But Jenny’s also offering a little something for the rest of us: until Friday, 8/26, Little Book, Big Story readers get 25% off anything in her shop! Just use the code THEASENTME at checkout.

Giveaway Details

Enter your info into the form below and complete as many of the possible options as you like: share, follow, or comment away! The giveaway closes at midnight on 8/26. Two winners will be randomly chosen and notified by email.

 

If you live outside the US, you are welcome to enter! But please note that you are responsible for customs or import taxes that may apply to the transport of your artwork.

Best of luck to you all!

Teaching Art to Kids (Video)

For the last two years, I’ve taught art to the growing handful of students at our daughters’ school. We draw, we paint, we make messes! We talk theology! It’s glorious.

As part of a series of videos about our school, I was recently interviewed about why art is important and how I approach it as a teacher, and I thought I’d share the video here, giving you a peek at what I do when I’m not writing book reviews:

Trinity Classical School: Art from Ben Bender on Vimeo.

If you’re interested, you can watch interviews with our Latin and Kindergarten teachers here.

On Writing Stories for Your Children

This post is my 100th post on Little Book, Big Story!  Finding books to share with you is just my cup of tea, and I can’t tell you how it warms my heart to hear that some of these books have found their way onto your own bookshelves. Thank you all for reading this blog! I love hearing from you and look forward to finding another hundred books to share with you.

To celebrate hitting the hundredth post, I dug up one of my favorite posts from the last two years, fixed it up and added a little something extra at the end. (One thing I didn’t change but could have: I still write on the couch. Somehow, writing at a desk never took.)


For the first time in years, I have a writing desk. It is little and white and looks like a dresser when closed, but once opened, that desk is a tiny work space in a house full of daughters and cats and wing back chairs and one very patient husband. That tiny space is mine and I don’t have to share.

Until now, I’ve written at the dining room table, on the couch, or in the aforementioned wing back chairs. When I can, I write in coffee shops or at my favorite bar. But now, I have a desk. It is glorious.

Writing Stories for Your Children (It's Easier Than You Think) | Little Book, Big Story

In all of those places, I’ve written for you: stories about other stories that we have grown to love. But I’ve also written for my family, and that’s what I really want to tell you about today. You see, it suddenly dawned on me that those two realms might intersect. Here’s how:

You must enjoy reading to your children or you wouldn’t be here. But have you ever considered writing for them? Not “writing for children” in a sense that implies ambition, rejection, publication and book tours, but writing stories for your own children, the way Tolkien did when he wrote Roverandom and A.A. Milne did when he wrote Winnie-the-Pooh. Have you ever thought about doing that?

Writing Stories for Your Children | Little Book, Big Story

Here’s what I mean: when I discovered that Lydia enjoyed chapter books but struggled to find one suited for both her reading level and her age level, I wrote one for her. It’s cute and probably not that great by grown up standards, but what child doesn’t love recognizing herself (and her baby sister) in the pages of a story? She was thrilled to identify with the main character, even though I changed her name. I borrowed graphics from The Graphics Fairy, used Blurb to bind the book and ordered a paperback copy for around $15. Now The Oldest Crow lives on our shelves like a “real” book.

The Oldest Crow | Little Book, Big Story

Other books followed. There’s a collection of poems about our family in the style of A Child’s Calendar, and a picture book, illustrated with photos of girls acting out “Little Red Riding Hood” (for fun, I included that whole story in the slider below).

When Lydia’s favorite doll went missing for a few days, she and I collaborated on a story about what Maggie did while she was away and called it The Story of Maggie (and Blankie). There’s the classic “So Long, Binkie!”: A Story About Sarah, written in Sharpie and bound with Elmer’s glue and washi tape (you can read an abridged version of that one, too, at the bottom of this post).

Writing Stories for Your Children | Little Book, Big Story

The newest story, A Tale of 3 Sisters, tells the story of Phoebe’s addition to our family (you can read the whole story here).

All of these books have won a place in our girls’ hearts, despite being mostly first draft efforts that would not pass muster at a writing group, much less win the hearts of a wider audience. But my audience is small—just two—and they have a soft spot for the characters.

Writing Stories for Your Children | Little Book, Big Story

Perhaps having my own desk has gone to my head, you protest. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time on Pinterest and am taking the meaning of DIY to an unwholesome level. Perhaps.

But don’t tell me that you can’t write or draw, because you know who doesn’t care? Your kids. They’ll be thrilled to have a story written just for them, even if you do pinch the plot of a classic fairy tale or pepper the whole thing with stick figures.

You might not think it’s much but they’ll be delighted, I promise, especially if you’re able to include them in the process somehow. Writing stories for our children has merit, for us and for them, and so I thought I’d throw the idea out there this week as a review of The Book Yet Unwritten. You will write it, won’t you?

Read Little Red Riding Lu

You probably know this, but just in case it’s not immediately obvious, you can use the dots below the sliders to navigate from page to page.

Read So Long, Binkie!

So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg So Long, Binkie!, by Thea Rosenburg