Everyone Can Draw

Everyone Can Draw
Fifi Kuo
Boxer Books

Having been a foundation stage teacher for many years, I know that within each and every young child is an artist; this is what is celebrated in Fifi Kup’s upbeat book wherein she calls upon that innate creative spark, a spark that we adults need to nurture and do our utmost to make sure is never extinguished.

As she states and shows in her wonderful scenes of artists at work however, people exhibit different preferences when it comes to drawing. Some like drawing characters whereas others would rather draw scenes.

Then there are those who favour black and white drawing in contrast to those whose preference is for bright colours.

There are a variety of tools that can be used for drawing as the increasing number of enthusiastic artists demonstrate – scissors, parts of the body such as hands or feet; and some people favour needle and thread drawing.

If you don’t enjoy drawing alongside others, you can find your own special corner or even draw in your dreams.

The most important consideration of all though is saved until last

– or almost last.

Finally comes a question addressed to us all – ‘What will you draw?’

Fifi further explores different tools for drawing on the endpapers for which she uses childlike images akin to those a four or five  year old might create.

Crayons, pens, paints, scissors, pencils, inks ready. Everybody draw! First though immerse yourself in this joyful book.

Playing with Collage

Playing with Collage
Jeannie Baker
Walker Books

I still have a treasured copy of Jeannie Baker’s exemplary Where the Forest Meets the Sea as well as several more of her books, and so was excited to learn of this one.

Following introductory spreads on basic tools, some key tips and ‘playing with materials’, the author has divided her books into four main sections, Paper, Out in Nature,

On the Beach and In the Kitchen.

In each one she offers practical tips for assembling your chosen materials, advising readers to look closely, let the items themselves and their textures act as a guide be they scraps of torn or cut paper, leaves and lichens or shells and seaweed.

I like the way she guides rather than instructs and that her examples give the impression of being unfinished and totally unintimidating, albeit exciting and beautiful.

This is a perfect book to encourage playfulness with materials right from the early years (when children generally are that way inclined anyway) through to adulthood when that creativity may have got buried and need re-awakening.

The clear photographic illustrations, that leave plenty of space on the page, along with succinct captions, help make the entire topic approachable and fun. To add to the book’s playfulness, there’s a final collage quiz.

Highly recommended as a resource for home and school use.

I Have an Idea!

I Have an Idea!
Hervé Tullet
Chronicle Books

Is there perhaps a science of ideas? Or a special skill for finding them?

If so, genius finder of ideas Hervé Tullet could be the right person to demonstrate it and he certainly provides a great way to show young readers the elements, and how they might work.

The whole thing starts, so Tullet says with a single moment …

and he then goes through the entire process – looking and keeping on looking till you get beyond the nothing, the boredom or blind alley and suddenly there it is – something new.

‘It’s a little like finding a seed, …’ we learn …

Sometimes though, ideas are messy, bubbly and require time to work, so here’s what to do …

until there emerges that ‘good idea!’ And it contains ‘a seed of madness.’

Cultivation is crucial; but ideas are to be found all over the world, what’s needed is curiosity, looking, listening, touching, tasting, smelling, learning …

What though is the purpose of all this collecting of information and idea cultivation? Is it truly worthwhile? Tullet enlightens readers with possibilities “just for the fun of it’ perhaps or ‘to change the world’.

It is for sure, despite the challenges, a worthwhile endeavour no matter which you decide for rest assured if you look, you will, eventually find. Hurrah! Tullet shows this by scattering small red, blue and yellow ideas among the frenetic black lines of the world, there for those prepared to look closely, ready to grow into something bright and beautiful.

Play, have fun, seek and … find: then treasure your ideas. That’s the message one hopes youngsters will take from this book.
It’s also a message that teachers need to take notice of in their often unrealistic expectations of even quite young children in this results driven educational climate.

Field Trip to the Moon

Field Trip to the Moon
John Hare and Jeanne Willis
Macmillan Children’s Books

A class goes on a field trip to the moon and almost all the visitors follow their teacher, one particularly curious member of the group lags behind. This student is carrying drawing materials and decides to sit down and make use of them, watched by the residents, one of which narrates the rhyming story.

The student ‘Earthling’ drops off to sleep and wakes up to discover that the spaceship on which the party came has departed. I don’t know what the irresponsible person in charge was thinking of, not doing a head count first. The now sad-looking Earthling starts drawing again as the lunar inhabitants cautiously approach.

The initial surprise of a face-to-face encounter rapidly gives way to a creative session with human and lunar dwellers brightening up each other,

sheets of paper and the moonscape with colourful designs.

 

Meanwhile back comes the spaceship prompting the lunarians to hide themselves away though they re-emerge to wave a fond farewell to the departing young earthling who has been rather unfairly chastised, I think, by the group leader.
An experience neither side will forget, for sure.

The child’s body language, and that of the host populace in Jeanne Willis’ lunar scenes speak as loud as Hare’s verbal narrative of this expedition. Were the illustrations created using 3d models one wonders; they’re highly effective and likely to inspire children’s own creative efforts – perhaps to create their own group lunar landscape. There’s much potential for classroom activities, as well as for individuals after a sharing of this unusual book.

If you missed it the first time around, coming in June from Macmillan, is a special 50th Anniversary Moon Landing paperback edition of a book previously reviewed on this blog:

The Darkest Dark
Chris Hadfield and The Fan Brothers

Little Frida

Little Frida
Anthony Browne
Walker Books

Who better than the inimitable, brilliant Anthony Browne to create a picture book about another brilliant artist, Frida Kahlo? And what a wonderful and surreal (it is Anthony Browne after all) story he tells. It was inspired by her ‘magic friendship’ and her “The Two Fridas’ self-portrait that she painted in 1939.

From the start our young narrator Frida says, her physical difference made her an outsider, often lonely but not unhappy at being ‘separate’, which she quite liked.
The wish to fly filled both her night-time dreams and her daydreams but her birthday dream of a toy plane is dashed when instead her parents give her a pair of wings. Rather than show her disappointment, alone in her room the young girl lets her imagination take flight.

She runs and runs and when all her energy is spent she stops by a dairy. Finding no way in, she’s about to return home, another door opens,

cascading her down, down to the earth’s depths and there she meets a strange but seemingly familiar girl.

This girl then begins a magnificent dance of life and while she does so, Frida shares with her, her own secret worries

and a close friendship is forged.

All too soon the time comes for Frida to bid farewell to her friend from the dairy and return to her own reality a much happier child than before, and ready to begin her artistry with a paintbrush.

Iconic Frida truly was, so too in his own way is, Anthony Browne. Allowing the imagination to take flight and soar so you become free is what Frida did and what Anthony has done here in his magnificent magical scenes, every one of which is packed with images that will inspire in readers further flights of their own fancy.

I’d love to show every single illustration but to see the rest, you will need to get your own copy of this stunning, out-of-this-world picture book.

Matisse’s Magical Trail

Matisse’s Magical Trail
Tim Hopgood and Sam Boughton
Oxford University Press Children’s Books

Matisse the snail confines his creative endeavours to the night-time when there’s nobody about; but during the day the world feels scary and much of his time is given over to preventing himself from being squashed by walkers.

One night in the middle of the city Matisse discovers the ideal place for some drawing and sets to work …

Come morning one of his creations is discovered by a little boy, Leo who adds his own marks to the design on the stone and showing it to Matisse, he introduces himself. Leo’s friends are impressed and eager to learn who the artist is; Matisse though has now disappeared.

Off go the children, returning later with many more items for Matisse to work his creative magic upon, and by the next morning our artistic snail has created a trail; a trail that leads to their school wall.

When their teacher sees what the children are looking at, it sparks a wonderful idea in her. Before you can say, ‘art’ the children are hard at work transforming the wall with their own creative endeavours

and they don’t stop at just a single wall. The school becomes a truly wonderful sight attracting great attention from passers by.

That night Matisse however, realises that his work in this particular place is done; it’s time to move elsewhere; first though he has one final piece of art to create for Leo and his fellow pupils. Teachers and other adults will be able to guess what that is.

Look out for snail magic on walls wherever you go; you might not find Matisse but it’s likely you’ll discover some snail magic.

A super story, beautifully told by Tim and illustrated by an exciting newcomer to the picture book scene, Sam Boughton, this book has SO much to offer. It demonstrates to children the importance of looking carefully and noticing small things – things that can lead to big changes. It also shows the importance of creativity and self-expression and is a smashing starting point for art at home or in schools. For imaginative teachers this could prove inspirational.

Ada Twist and the Perilous Pantaloons

Ada Twist and the Perilous Pantaloons
Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Amulet Books

Ada Twist returns with a high-flier of STEM adventure in the second of her chapter books series. As always her head is full of questions: why does her mother’s coffee smell stronger than her father’s? Why do her brother’s tennis shoes stink so badly?

Each of her questions leads to further questions, hypotheses and experiments, one of which links her involvement in the Great Backyard Bird Count activity with working out how to rescue Rosie’s Uncle Ned who, thanks to his helium-filled pantaloons, is floating around in the sky unable to get down.

Ada combines her ‘what if’ curiosity, brainpower, and knowledge of molecules, air pressure, temperature and forces, with that of friends Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck to work out a plan to bring Uncle Ned back to earth.

Andrea Beaty’s amusing twisting, turning narrative is irresistible and sweeps readers along like the hot air that powers those pantaloons of Uncle Ned, while David Roberts’ detailed illustrations, be they full page or smaller, are full of humour and provide a great complement to the text.

With credible inspiring characters, believable relationships, information aplenty, including, after the story concludes, reasons for studying birds and the ‘think about this’ pages on the threat posed to rainforests by palm-oil plantations, a poem even, this book is a thoroughly engaging read, a super model of scientific questioning and thinking, and a demonstration that creative problem solvers and scientists don’t always get things right first time. Terrific!