SOL & Poetry Friday: Sometimes Snow…

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“The writer should never be ashamed of staring. There is nothing that does not require his attention.” 

~ Flannery O’Connor ~

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Like this blue jay and everyone else in the northeast, I’ve stared at plenty of snow this winter. So how hard could it be to come up with a poem for Carol Varsalona’s “Winter Whisperings” gallery? I had jottings about winter everywhere, a false start to a poem here, a line that definitely should be abandoned there. Nothing was coming together.

Taking a cue from Kate Messner, I decided to try to capture the many different moods of snow into one “Sometimes” poem.

“Sometimes Snow…”

Sometimes snow

whispers itself into the world,

falling gently to the ground,

muffling every sound.

Sometimes snow

ROARS through the air,

the north wind sculpting it

into undulating drifts.

Sometimes snow

settles on tree branches,

offering itself to

thirsty blue jays.

Sometimes snow

is blue in the moon’s glow,

catching stark shadows,

crisp as X-rays.

But then, come March,

snow begins to

melt.

At first just a trickle,

then a torrent,

filling brooks and

streams and rivers,

washing away

our winter weariness,

welcoming spring.

© Catherine Flynn, 2015

Be sure to visit Robyn Campbell for the Poetry Friday Round Up, and thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Don’t forget to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: Memories of the Model A

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Have you ever ridden in the rumble seat of a 1930 Ford Model A? For a ten year old, almost nothing is more exhilarating.

When I was a kid, our neighbor owned a tree farm. Neat rows of shrubs, pine, willow, and birch trees stretched for a quarter mile from the edge of his yard, creating a miniature forest in the midst of miles of cow pastures. Narrow lanes lined the perimeter of the nursery, and one or two paths cut through the center, allowing easy access to all the trees.

Uncle Jack, as everyone called him, was my best friend’s uncle. He and his mother lived in a ranch house close to the road, built there I’m sure so there would be more room for trees. Because Lisa’s grandmother lived there, she and her brother Johnny spent a lot of time there. Because this was right next door, I spent a lot of time there, too.

Most of the time, we played all sorts of typical kid games. But on certain days, beautiful sunny days that were clear and warm, we went out in the Model A. Uncle Jack’s 1930 Ford Model A was stored in the back of the garage under a musty brown tarp. Johnny, who was two years older, loved to drive this car around the nursery and Lisa and I loved to ride with him.

Sadly, I don't have a photo of Uncle Jack's car. This is the closest copyright-free image I could find. By GPS 56 from New Zealand (1930 Ford Model A Roadster) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, I don’t have a photo of Uncle Jack’s car. This is the closest copyright-free image I could find. By GPS 56 from New Zealand (1930 Ford Model A Roadster) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The blue paint was faded, and the seats were hard and cracked, but we didn’t care. To us, this old car was a chariot that whisked us away to adventure. As soon as the car was out of the garage, Lisa and I scrambled up into the tiny seat that appeared like magic from where the trunk should have been. Then we were off along the the pathways between the trees.

I’m sure we never went more than 20 or 30 miles per hour, and maybe we didn’t even go that fast. Of course the lanes were rutted and uneven. But bouncing over the bumps was part of the thrill. And what a thrill it was to be riding along with the wind in our hair, the sun on our faces, and not a care in the world.

It’s almost unimaginable to me now that we were allowed this kind of freedom, to be driven around by a twelve or thirteen year old! Yet we never had a mishap of any kind and no one ever got hurt.

Soon enough, we outgrew the Model A and our afternoon drives. We were off on adventures beyond the boundaries of the nursery. But we carried away fond memories of those joyous days, cruising along those tree-lined lanes.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: Welcome, Leslie Bulion!

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Today is an exciting day here at Reading to the Core! I’m so happy to welcome poet Leslie Bulion to talk about her third collection of nonfiction poetry, Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse (Peachtree, 2015). Leslie is also the author of At the Sea Floor Cafe: Odd Ocean Critter Poems and Hey There, Stink Bug!, as well as four books of fiction. You can read about all of Leslie’s work on her website.

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The words “gross” and “riddles” in the title of this collection will automatically lure readers who wouldn’t ordinarily pick up poetry. In the opening poem, Leslie invites readers to “Riddle Me This:”

“Of course you have a body,

But do you have a clue,

Where all the body parts you’ve got are found

And what they do?”

Leslie delivers on her promise of grossness. In “Lunchtime,” kids will learn which body part has “Mucus [oozing] from deep inside” and which makes “gobs of mucus disgusty.” (“The Gatekeeper”) Leslie’s poems are full of humor, and allusions to Shakespeare’s plays are woven into every poem. Side notes include the kinds of fascinating facts kids love. For example, did you know your kidneys are the size of a gerbil?

Mike Lowery’s appealing illustrations blend cartoon-like drawings with photos and antique anatomical prints. Leslie included a glossary, as well as notes about the poetic forms used and the Shakespearean references. There is also a list of resources for further investigation.

Without further ado, welcome, Leslie!

Thanks so much for inviting me to your blog, Catherine!

Photo by Jen Schulten

Photo by Jen Schulten

I’m always interested to learn where authors get their ideas. What made you decide to write a poetry collection about anatomy?

A week of summer entomology camp for grown-ups sparked my science poetry journey as I thought about pairing two wonderful things that come in small packages: hundreds of millions of years of evolution packed into a critter the size of a beetle, and a poem’s elegant arrangement of words and ideas. From HEY THERE, STINK BUG, the next obvious stop for me was AT THE SEA FLOOR CAFE: ODD OCEAN CRITTER POEMS, since I have a graduate background in oceanography. I always mine my subjects for their full grossness potential, so moving on to body parts was–well–a no-brainer.

One aspect I love about the collection is that each poem contains an allusion to one Shakespeare. Why?

In my collections, I am always working from what I call my “big idea.” In RANDOM BODY PARTS, the big idea is riddles, since the subject matter is fairly familiar. I am carefully selective about the forms of poetry I use for each individual subject. One obvious place to start this collection was with a sonnet about the heart. I chose Shakespeare’s Sonnet #18 as my mentor text. Fun! I decided to keep playing with Shakespeare’s words and moved on to “Grumble, grumble, roil and rumble” inspired by the witches’ speech in Macbeth. Shakespeare’s rich words and phrases are part of our English lexicon and will be enjoyed over and over again during the lifetime of any reader–it’s never too early to start sampling the banquet!

Can you describe the process you used to research these poems?

I read GRAY’S ANATOMY and other reference books, used many excellent online sources, and my favorite: I watched the UC Berkeley online “General Human Anatomy” lectures given by the inimitable Dr. Marian Diamond (here’s a link to a NYTimes article about the class http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/18/education/edlife/18anatomy-t.html?_r=0 ). Back to school! YAY! I reread Shakespeare, and read many recent reference books about Shakespeare’s language, and combed through lists of quotations, revisiting the original sources when something caught my eye.

I became a dedicated list-maker: lists of disembodied parts, lists of favorite Shakespeare lines, phrases and his wealth of invented words, lists of poetic forms I wanted to include. Then I played the match game. Some of the Shakespeare references are more obscure than others–the process was a challenge!

What advice can you give to teachers and students who are inspired to use Random Body parts as a mentor text and write their own collection of nonfiction poems?

In all of my collections, I try to include a range of poetic forms. Some forms are simpler and some are more complex. They all use some sense of rhyme and/or rhythm, and those aspects touch on math and music as well as language. This may seem counter-intuitive, but paring a body of science research down to a coherent and elegantly brief poem is a wonderful way for students to seek and demonstrate an integrated understanding of their subject matter. Rather than listing “facts,” I suggest finding the juicy nugget of story you’d like to communicate about your particular subject. What is the most interesting thing you’ve learned in your research? What was surprising? What connections have you made? Those are the ideas that give science poems their shape. I love the readers’ theater possibilities with poetry, and especially with poems for two (or more) voices. Also, writing and solving riddles taps all kinds of other skills, and provides many classroom possibilities for learning fun. On the illustration side of things, I think the book’s multi-layered design and Mike Lowery’s illustrations provide endless mentor art possibilities–so accessible, fun, and visually literate!

Who are your poetic influences? Favorite poets?

There are so many wonderful poets writing now that I’m going to limit my answer to the poets who set me on this path from my childhood (thought I didn’t know it at the time): A.A. Milne and Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss.

You say on your blog that even though you wrote poetry when you were younger, you didn’t always want to be a writer. What finally helped you decide to become a writer?

My friend Pam told me to. That’s the real answer. She is a writer and editor and has been my friend since I was 12. Well into adulthood I wrote her a long letter about making choices as a parent, and she asked me to write for the magazine PARENTS. Somewhere along the way I told her a story about something that happened to one of my daughters and she said, “That would make a good children’s story.” I’ve never looked back since.

Leslie, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions! I know teachers will be happy to include this collection in their health/anatomy units.

It is absolutely my pleasure, Catherine. I am so excited to add this new collection to my body of work!

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Today I’m also joining Alyson Beecher of Kit Lit Frenzy and other bloggers who feature nonfiction picture books each Wednesday. Thank you, Alyson, for this round up of terrific new nonfiction!

Slice of Life: Honeysuckle

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The word challenge is a appropriate on so many levels for this Slice of Life Challenge! How do I make the time to write everyday? How to read all the terrific posts being shared? How do I come up with an idea of what to write about Every. Single. Day.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas. It’s that they don’t always cooperate, or I don’t have the time I need to develop them. So what to do on those days?

A few months ago, I received an intriguing postcard advertising Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing (Roost Books, 2010) by Karen Benke. The jacket copy goes on to say that the book “Includes wordplay, open-ended writing experiments, encouragement from writers and poets, and enough blank pages to let your words roam…” I ordered it immediately.

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To say that this book is full of inspiration is an understatement. I could open up to any random page and have a topic to write about in under a minute. Today’s slice is courtesy “Favorite Words,” a page with sixty random words. Benke describes this as “a list of some of my favorite words to snack on.” I chose the word “honeysuckle,” which unleashed this:

This is the magic…

A word.

Honeysuckle,

d

  r

    i

      p

        p

          i

           n

              g

with sweetness,

conjures a memory

of summer afternoons,

walking through meadows

lined with masses of

yellow and orange blossoms.

Vying with bumblebees

and hummingbirds

darting

     in

and

     out,

        hovering

in mid air,

to steal

the nectar stored inside.

Liquid sunshine.

© Catherine Flynn, 2015

By Aftabbanoori (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Aftabbanoori (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The potential of this book for classroom use is endless. I can’t wait to see what my students come up with based on their favorite words!

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

SOLC: Happy Book Birthday, A Rock Can Be!

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11454297503_e27946e4ff_hYesterday, I wrote about the ripples created by sending blog posts out into the world. This is true of tweets, too. One of the connections I made last year thanks to blogging and tweeting was meeting Laura Purdie Salas. Laura is a prolific poet, and her new book A Rock Can Be… (Millbrook Press) was published yesterday! Congratulations, Laura!  A Rock Can Be… is a companion book to Water Can Be… and A Leaf Can Be… All three of these books are gorgeously illustrated by Violeta Dabija.

“A rock is a rock, our Earth in your hand."

“A rock is a rock,
our Earth in your hand.”

In A Rock Can Be…, Laura turns her attention to an object that, at first glance, may seem mundane, even a little boring. But, look with Laura through her poet’s eye, and rocks turn into objects of beauty, useful tools, and more. Laura’s rhyming text is full of scientific truths (“lava flow-er” and “desert dune”) as well as whimsy (“lake skimmer” and “hopscotch marker”). Dabija’s inviting illustrations make you want to jump in and join the fun.  A Rock Can Be… will inspire children to look at rocks in a new and creative ways.

Paragraphs giving factual information about each use of rocks mentioned throughout the book is included. There is also a glossary and a short list or resources for further reading.

Teachers, librarians, and others who spend time with kids in Kindergarten through second or third grade will want all of these beautiful books for their collections. Each will encourage students to, in the words of Naomi Shihab Nye, pay “attention to the world.”

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A rock can be…a pyramid! I found this rock on the shore of Beddington Lake in Maine.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: Ripples

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“The miracle is this: The more we share, the more we have.”

~ Leonard Nimoy ~

Last week, I shared Jacqueline Woodson’s heart-breaking Each Kindness (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012) with a fourth-grade class to begin a series of lessons on theme. As I read these words, “This is what kindness does, Ms. Albert said. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world,” the image sending Slice of Life posts out into the world came into my mind. There’s an important difference, though. When you share a Slice of Life post, the ripples of kindness return to you in wonderful and surprising ways.

I wrote my first March Slice of Life Challenge post without much forethought to what a month of blogging EVERY DAY would entail. I certainly didn’t have a plan. I know that I NEVER anticipated the way my posts would ripple back to me.

Through this warm, supportive community, I’ve made so many friends I’m afraid if I start to mention you all, I’ll forget someone. When I was NCTE’s national convention last November, I don’t think there was a single session when I didn’t sit with a friend made through Slice of Life or blogging. The truth is, the kindness sent out by this community is overwhelming. Thank you to all of you who have influenced me and helped me grow as a teacher, writer, and human being.

Bruce Coville wrote in his poem, “Ripples” that

“Words and gestures ripple outward,

What shores they reach we cannot name.”

I can’t wait to see where this year’s ripples take us. Happy Slicing, everyone!

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each day during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Poetry Friday: Dear Mr. & Mrs. Eagle

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At the beginning of the month, Michelle Barnes shared a terrific interview with David Elliot on her blog, Today’s Little Ditty. David challenged readers to write a “letter poem to a bird, animal, or other object of our choice.” I have been thinking about this challenge all month, but couldn’t decide what or whom to write to until today when a friend shared a link to this video on Facebook.

I was hooked. After watching the video several times, scrolling through the other photos posted on this site, and, as David suggested, doing some research, I drafted this letter poem to Mr. and Mrs. Eagle.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Eagle,

The world has snatched the privacy

of your tree-top aerie;

While on a clutch of eggs you brood,

to our TV screens we’re glued.

We marvel at your fortitude,

braving wind and snow in solitude,

to tend your unborn chicks with care

one hundred feet up in the air.

Taking turns to hunt and fish,

you bring your mate a tasty dish.

Now it’s your shift on the nest;

roll those eggs, then get some rest.

We’ll be watching all month long,

waiting to hear your newborns’ song.

Sincerely,

Your Nosy Neighbors

© Catherine Flynn, 2015

Thank you, Michelle and David, for this challenge! Please be sure to visit Michelle’s blog to read more letter poems, and don’t forget to visit Heidi Mordhorst at My Juicy Little Universe for the Poetry Friday Round Up.

Read Across America is Coming!

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At Sherman School, we make March a month-long celebration of reading. We always pay homage to Dr. Seuss on March 2nd by reading old favorites such as Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat. But we also use this day to launch a month-long theme related to reading. What better way to celebrate Read Across America than by doing just that…reading about each of the 50 states.

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This year we’re incorporating Laura Purdie Salas’s new book, Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems, into the festivities! This wonderful collection of poems is as diverse as the country it celebrates. There are poems about geography, geology, and weather. There are poems about ecosystems, food chains, and history. In short, there is something for everyone in Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems.

Each class will choose a poem that supports a topic they have been studying. For example, second grade might choose “Wisconsin: Catch!” This poem, about a bald eagle’s swooping down to the water of the Mississippi to catch a fish, is a natural for their study of food chains.  Students could illustrate Laura’s poem or use this as a mentor for their own food chain poem. The form, cinquain, is very accessible for second graders.

To share their learning with the rest of the school, each class will decorate their classroom door to highlight their study of Laura’s poem and how its related curricular topic. I can’t wait to see what each class comes up with. The possibilities are limitless. Best of all, the classes that create the best doors will Skype with Laura later this spring.

I’m really excited to be pairing Laura’s poems with Read Across America, and will be posting photos of the doors and the kids’ work throughout the month here and on Twitter.

Laura also shared our plans on her blog today. Please pay her a visit to learn more about Wacky, Wild, and Wonderful: 50 State Poems and the other poetry collections in Laura’s “30 Painless Classroom Poems” series.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnna, and Beth for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

 

Poetry Friday: One Boy Told Me

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“One Boy Told Me”

by Naomi Shihab Nye

Music lives inside my legs.

It’s coming out when I talk.

I’m going to send my valentines

to people you don’t even know.

Oatmeal cookies make my throat gallop.

Grown-ups keep their feet on the ground

when they swing. I hate that.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Children are full of priceless observations. My own boys made their fair share of pronouncements that brought a smile to my face. Nye’s poem made me wish I had written down some of their comments. Ah well, sometimes a picture truly is worth a thousand words.

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Please be sure to visit Linda at Teacher Dance for today’s Poetry Friday Round Up.

Nonfiction 10 for 10: Lives of the Artists

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“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination…”

~ Mary Oliver ~

When I was a senior in high school, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time. It was pure coincidence that Monet’s famous Water Lily paintings were starring in the exhibit “Monet’s Years at Giverney” at the time of this visit. Seeing those paintings was a revelatory experience. My appreciation and love of art began on that spring day.

Le bassin aux nymphéas Claude Monet , 1919 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Le bassin aux nymphéas Claude Monet , 1919 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Although nothing compares to standing in front of a magnificent work of art, kids don’t have to visit a museum to learn about art and artists. Gorgeous picture books about artists and their work abound. These books will inspire young artists to pick up a paint brush, scissors, or clay and begin creating their own art.

I searched for the origin of the trend of picture books about artists, but couldn’t find a definitive answer. The first picture book about an artist I remember (probably not a coincidence) is Linnea in Monet’s Garden, (R&S Books, 1985) by Christina Björk and illustrated by Lena Anderson. Björk blends the fictional account of a young girl’s pilgrimage to Monet’s home in Giverney, France with facts about Monet’s life and art. Illustrations of Linnea’s trip are combined with photos of Monet, his masterpieces, and the his beloved gardens that inspired so many of his paintings. A timeline of Monet’s life, a family tree, and a description of the museums Linnea visits in Paris are included, as well as a very brief bibliography are included.

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One of the most recent picture book biographies of an artist is The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art (Alfred A. Knopf, 2014) by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre. This 2015 Caldecott Honor book introduces   young Vasya Kandinsky as a proper Russian boy, who is bored by his studies and his monochromatic life. Vasya’s world is changed when his aunt presents him with a “small wooden paint box.” Suddenly, colors swirl around him, creating a cacophony of sound. Kandinsky had synesthesia, which enabled him to “hear the hiss of the colors as they mingled.” Discouraged by his family from following his dream, Kandinsky persevered, capturing the music the colors created. In the process, he “created something entirely new–abstract art.”

An Author’s Note includes additional information about Kandinsky’s life, as well as information about synesthesia. There is also a list of sources and websites for additional information.

Another recent title that will inspire young artists is Lois Ehlert’s autobiography, The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life (Beach Lane Books, 2014). This joyous book is filled with Ehlert’s signature collages, photos of Ehlert’s family, collections, and her inspirations from nature. Ehlert parents, both of whom “made things with their hands” shared their tools and materials with young Lois. She describes finding “ideas in the world around” her, and is full of encouragement for young artists. “An egg in the nest doesn’t become a bird overnight,” Ehlert states. Good advice for us all.

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Alexander Calder, who “invented the very first mobiles,” is another artist whose parents nurtured his creativity from a young age. Tanya Lee Stone’s Sandy’s Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder (Viking, 2008; Author’s Note and a list of sources included), illustrated by Boris Kulikov, describes Calder as a boy who always had a workshop and tools. He used scraps of wire, wood, and other materials to create jewelry and toys for his friends. After art school, Calder, nicknamed Sandy, used these same materials to create a “magical, moveable circus,” which he performed in New York and Paris. Calder’s exuberance shines through in Kulikov’s illustrations. Children of all ages will be inspired to “turned ordinary objects into extraordinary art,” just as Calder did throughout his lifetime.

Watch a performance of “Sandy’s Circus:”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6jwnu8Izy0

You can also view how one school was inspired by Sandy’s Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder to create their own circus:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr9bbuNvezc

I had never heard of Calder’s circus before, but his whimsical creations immediately reminded me of the art of Melissa Sweet. Sweet’s illustrations vividly recreate the world of Horace Pippin in Jen Bryant’s biography, A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013). This Schneider Family Book Award winner also won the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children and was named a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book. Young Horace loved to draw, “loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive again in front of him.” Self-taught, Pippin pursued his artistic vision through a life of physical pain and hardship to become widely known and admired. His paintings now hang in museums around the country. Bryant and Sweet both include notes about the origins of this beautiful book, and an extensive list our resources is included.

You can read more about this book and view the book trailer here.

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Henri Matisse is another visionary artist who never gave up on his art, despite physical hardships. In The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2014), Patricia MacLachlan poetically relates the origins of Matisse’s vivid colors and natural subjects. Hadley Hooper’s illustrations are saturated with the same monochromatic blues and warm reds, oranges, and golds that Matiesse used in his paintings. Notes are included from both MacLachlan and Hooper, and there is also a list of books for additional reading.

One of those is Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors (Grosset & Dunlap, 2002) by Keesia Johnson and Jane O’Connor, with illustrations by Jessie Hartland. This book, from the “Smart About Art” series, is a more complete biography of Matisse, as it might be written by a fourth or fifth grader. It includes information about different phases of Matisse’s career, including his final collages, which he began creating after he became ill and could no longer stand long enough to paint.

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Another volume in this accessible series is Mary Cassatt: Family Pictures (Grosset & Dunlap, 2003), by Jane O’Connor and illustrated by Jennifer Kalis. Children are naturally drawn to Cassatt’s impressionistic paintings of the everyday lives of children and families.

Childhood memories are the inspiration for the work of Wanda Gág, (rhymes with jog, not bag, as I learned in the Author’s Note) author of the beloved picture book, Millions of Cats. Deborah Kogan Ray’s Wanda Gág: The Girl Who Lived to Draw (Viking, 2008), recounts Gág’s life, beginning with her childhood in Minnesota. “A love of art was valued above all else in the Gag home” and Wanda was moved to draw everything around her. Overcoming hardships seems to be a theme among many artists, and Gág is no exception. Like Pippin, Calder, and other, Wanda Gág didn’t give up on her dream of becoming an artist or her father’s advice to “Always look at the world around you in your own way.”

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Seeing the world in your own, unique way is the theme of No One Saw: Ordinary Things Through the Eyes of an Artist (Millbrook Press, 2002). Prolific poet Bob Raczka has selected sixteen famous artists and one of their iconic paintings and paired it with a simple sentence such as “No one saw stars like Vincent Van Gogh.” Each large reproduction gives kids a chance to pore over the details of these paintings, observing and noticing the details that make these masterpieces instantly recognizable. The simplicity of this book belies its power, which Raczka sums up perfectly in this final line: “Artists express their own point of view. And nobody sees the world like you.

In this age of standardization, these beautiful books give children the important message that their vision of the world matters. From the lives of these artists, children learn that if they open their imagination to the beauty that surrounds them and follow their dreams, anything is possible.

Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 is a “celebration of nonfiction picture books” organized by Cathy Mere, and Mandy Robek. Thank you, Cathy and Mandy for hosting! Please be sure to visit the Picture Book 10 for 10 Community to find lists of other wonderful nonfiction picture books.

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