Tag Archives: artist

Draw Me A Star by Eric Carle

6 May

Draw Me a Star Cover

Draw Me A Star is a picture book about an artist that is requested to draw a star. Throughout the story the artist is told to draw flowers, a house, night and a woman and man. This is a beautiful story as all of Eric Carle’s stories are. It piques imagination in young readers and is sure to capture their attention.


This book is moving. Eric Carle never ceases to amaze with his beautiful illustrations and accessible narrative for young readers. I love the rhythm of this story—mesmerizing and calming. My two-year old daughter loves to listen to this story before bedtime.

Suggested Library Activity:

For younger readers (age 4-7) have students make a booklet of their own drawings. Include elements from Draw Me a Star such as flowers, stars, night, day, etc. Have students color their book and make a cover. Collect the student-made books and place in a basket.  Place the basket in an accessible location in the library. For older students, be sure to include describing words in the book under the pictures—possibly even a segway in to poetry. Use colors, numbers and other emotive and moving descriptions.

Bibliographic Citation:

Carle, E. (1992). Draw me a star. New York: Philomel Books.

Additional Book Review:

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 4– A young boy is told (readers are not sure by whom) to “Draw me a star.” The star then requests that the boy draw it a sun; the sun asks for a “lovely tree,” and throughout his life the boy/man/artist continues to create images that fill the world with beauty. The moon bids the now-elderly artist to draw another star, and as the story ends, the artist travels “across the night sky” hand-in-hand with the star. This book will appeal to readers of all ages; its stunning illustrations, spare text, and simple story line make it a good choice for story hour; but older children will also find it uplifting and meaningful. Especially pleasing is a diagram within the story, accompanied by rhyming instructions on how to draw a star: “Down/ over/ left/ and right/ draw/ a star/ oh so/ bright.” An inspired book in every sense of the word.
– Eve Larkin, Middleton Public Library , WI


Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

27 Apr

Tales From Outer Suburbia Cover

Tan’s Tales From Suburbia is sure to heighten children’s imagination and make adults remember what it was like to be a child. This book is a compiling of short stories set in suburbia. Tan captures the essence of surburbia with childlike eyes and in a narrative format using images that call upon the common American landscape.

On rare occasions, some especially insistent piece of writing will escape into a backyard or laneway- Be blown along a roadside embankment and finally come to rest in a shopping center parking lot-as so many things do-It is here that something quite remarkable takes place-

The book’s illustrations portray mundane communities that can be found across the United States; their identical houses, green lawns, alongside car laden highways. What is interesting and noteworthy about this book, is that Tan manages to create whimsical  tales amidst a backdrop that lacks any real luster or uniqueness. This book is sure to entertain any adult or child and will call to mind the wonder of  imagination and the creativity that lies within the human spirit.


These short stories are imaginative and whimsical. They remind me of being a child and making fortresses using the dining room table and chairs. Kids live in such a different reality from grown ups. As a grown up now, this book lets me catch a glimpse of of how I use to see the world. You must read this one!

Suggested Library Activity:  

In a school library setting, this book could be used as a segway to an imaginative writing lesson. This book will encourage students to find the extraordinary in the ordinary every day details. Read this story first and then brainstorm creative writing ideas taking ideas from students’ everyday life.

Bibliographic Citation: Shaun, T. (2008). Tales from outer suburbia. New York: Author A. Levine Books.

Additional Book Review:

“Tales From Outer Suburbia” is a collection of illustrated stories about, among other things, a water buffalo who hangs out in a vacant lot and gives directions to local kids; stick figures who get beaten up by neighborhood bullies; a giant du gong that appears on someone’s lawn; and the lonely fate of all the unread poetry that people write — it joins a vast “river of waste that flows out of suburbia.” This last story, by the way, is presented as a flotilla of random scraps that “through a strange force of attraction” come together, the word “naturally” meeting the phrase “many poems are” and then “immediately destroyed…”

Lindgren, H. (2009, November 5). Everyday weirdness. Message posted to http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/books/review/Lindgren-t.html

Strega Nona by Tomie de Paola

17 Mar

A Caldecott Honor Book

Strega Nona is a classic tale about a “Grandma Witch”  that needs assistance with her house and garden. Strega Nona hires Big Anthony and gives him specific instructions to not touch her magic pot. During Strega Nona’s excursion to see her friend Strega Amelia, Big Anthony decides to make the most of his boss’ departure. Sure enough, Big Anthony goes and repeats the magic words that make the pot bring forth glorious noodles. To his dismay, Big Anthony cannot make the pot stop producing noodles and the noodles fill up the house and overflow out of the house. The noodles continue growing and begin to fill up the town.  Upon Strega Nona’s return, she magically ends the never ending pasta. Big Anthony learns a lesson when Strega Nona graciously offers him a fork to begin cleaning up his noodle mess. The illustrations in this story are captivating and hold the reader’s attention. This story is especially enjoyed by a younger audience (age 4-8), perhaps those students needing more visual reinforcement. Tomie de Paola’s story and illustrations are classic and not to be missed.


Strega Nona is the grandma we all secretly long for. She teaches her moral lessons silently, letting us learn by making mistakes through experience and trials. My favorite aspect of this story are the illustrations. The illustrations call to mind Medieval paintings-with their flat 2dimensional appearance. This story is a classic, delighting both young and old.

Suggested Library Activity:

Begin a multiplication lesson reading this story. Have students put one elbow pasta in to the pot. Retrieve two elbow pasta magically out of the pot. Relate this to multiplication. Write the multiplication sentence on chart paper. Do this again and again doubling the elbow pasta each time. Record on the chart to share whole group. Have students illustrate their own pots and record what comes out of their pots.

Bibliographic Citation:

DePaola, T. (1975). Strega nona: An old tale. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall.

Additional Book Review:

“From my old review: “Strega Nona lives by her lonesome in a small cottage in Calabria, Italy. A witch by trade, she cures the townspeople of their ailments, warts, and headaches. When Big Anthony is hired on as Strega Nona’s servant she gives him very strict instructions on what he is required to do, and what is forbidden. Quoth Strega Nona, ‘The one thing you must never do is touch the pasta pot’. You see where this is going. After watching the witch conjure delicious cooked pasta fully formed from the pot, Anthony is eager to show this miracle himself to the people of the town. When Strega Nona leaves on a trip, Anthony speaks her spell and feeds everyone in the vicinity delicious, piping hot pasta. Unfortunately, Anthony didn’t quite catch the trick to making the pasta stop flowing. As the villagers attempt to prevent the growing threat from destroying their town, Strega Nona arrives just in time to put everything right again. Anthony receives a just comeuppance and all is well in the world.”

Apropos of nothing, I always thought that Big Anthony was kinda cute.  This is why I’ve been careful to avoid marrying any picture book characters.  I have terrible taste in their men.

Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results. (2009, April 14th). Strega Nona: an old tale [Review of the book Strega Nona]. School Library Journal Online.

Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McGully

8 Feb

Book Cover

Mirette on The Wire by Emily Arnold McGully makes me remember what it is to dream as a child. This story set in nineteenth century Paris focuses on Mirette, a little girl raised in a hotel. Mirette catches a glimpse of the great Bellini, an accomplished high wire walker and upon seeing Bellini on the high wire Mirette is mesmerized. Mirette is determined to walk across the wire, but she soon realizes it is more challenging than it looks. Determined to walk the wire Mirette practices and practices to learn the skills it takes and develop the courage she needs to succeed. This story is simply enchanting in setting, characters and illustrations. The illustrations are pure whimsy conveying the playfulness of the story and the beautiful imagery of nineteenth century Paris. This story was awarded the Caldecott in 1993. Recommended.

Suggested Library Activity:

Use this book to introduce and discuss Impressionistic painters. Have students create their own painting of something they have always wanted to learn and accomplish.

Bibliographic Citation:

McCully, E. (2007). Mirette on the high wire. New York: G.P. Putnamʼs Sons.

Additional Book Review:

K-Gr 4– Mirette’s mother keeps a boardinghouse that attracts traveling performers . The girl is intrigued by one silent visitor, Bellini, who has come for a rest. She finds him next morning walking a high wire strung across the backyard. Immediately, she is drawn to it, practicing on it herself until she finds her balance and can walk its distance. But she finds the man unusually secretive about his identity; he was a famous high-wire artist, but has lost his courage. He is lured by an agent to make a comeback, but freezes on the wire. Seeing Mirette at the end of it restores his nerve; after the performance the two set off on a new career together. As improbable as the story is, its theatrical setting at some historical distance, replete with European architecture and exotic settings and people, helps lend credibility to this circus tale. Mirette, through determination and perhaps talent, trains herself, overcoming countless falls on cobblestone, vaunting pride that goes before a fall, and lack of encouragement from Bellini. The impressionistic paintings, full of mottled, rough edges and bright colors, capture both the detail and the general milieu of Paris in the last century. The colors are reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec, the daubing technique of Seurat. A satisfying, high-spirited adventure. –Ruth K. MacDonald, Purdue Univ . Calumet, Hammond, IN

School Library Journal (October 1992)

A Tree Is Nice by Janice Udry

7 Feb

The simplicity of Janice Udry’s story published in 1956, should not be considered irrelevant for today’s young reader. This story captures  many wonderful things about trees and does so in a way kids know and recognize. For most adults, the story is not immediately seen, but to a young reader the story is known–trees are amazing things and we are surrounded by them. Udry portrays trees as things to play on, things we grow, things that have limbs and trunks, and things that whisper. It is a simple, well-written book easily understood by young readers. Marc Simont’s watercolor sketches highlight the narrative and do so with vivid, bold colors alternating with muted colors from page to page.

Book Cover

This book was awarded the Caldecott in 1957 and the illustrations are still loved by children today.


Many authors that write books these days always seem to want their books to convey some deep, symbolic meaning or grapple a controversial issue. This book–not so much. It is a quiet and simple book for young readers with the apt title, “A Tree Is Nice.” Children today are always wanting to be entertained through video games, t.v., music or some electronic device that does nothing for the imagination. This book has a distinct quietness, with its beautiful illustrations and simple message of appreciating and admiring things in life for their simple beauty. This story with its simple text and beautiful illustrations is one of my favorite stories. No hidden messages– just a good solid read.

Suggested Library Activity:

After taking students on a walk outside, let them create their own trees using watercolors and various media. A book of different leaf rubbings is another activity students can do.

Bibliographic Citation:

Udry, J. (1956). A tree is nice. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Additional Book Review:

A Tree is nice seems rather too plain for a title for children. Nothing fancy or funny. But its this quality that’s held in all earnestness up until the end that also makes the book enjoyable, without laboring to interpret or analyze.

The book is a Caldecott winner and this calls for dissecting the illustration. Color and black-and-whites alternate; ink drawings draped in gray, follow and precede beautiful watercolors. Especially the watercolors, they glorify the foliage in varying seasons with splurges of warm greens, sometimes with flaming reds and bright yellows in their midst. The book is 11×7 inches in size. This allows for generous detailing of the trunks and twisted branches in varying dimensions, in browns that remind us of barks of dark chocolate. Something about the book gives us that warmth – the thick dirty white paper with rawness resembling recycled material, and the uncomplicated content of the drawings and writing, I think. The fact that is was published in 1956 connects the dots.

Book Review A Tree Is Nice.  (2011, April 22). Message retrieved from http://www.saffrontree.org/2011/04/tree-is-nice.html

Publishers Weekly (June 12, 1987)

The Caldecott award-winning book that speaks simply and elegantly of the many pleasures a tree provides. Ages 4-8. (June)