January 27 is Family Literacy Day! I had some fun with the letters in the word PLAY to illustrate some activities for this year’s theme: “Learn at play, every day”. You can download the activities in English or French here.
Family Literacy Day® is a national awareness initiative created by ABC Life Literacy Canada in 1999 and held annually on January 27 to raise awareness of the importance of reading and engaging in other literacy-related activities as a family.
As Honorary Chair of FLD I will be celebrating the fun of reading together all month long, with events at libraries in Toronto. How will you celebrate?
Special activities to Learn at Play
Picture the Sky has been named to the 2017 First and Best list by the Toronto Public Library – hooray! Chosen titles are the top 10 picks of the best Canadian children’s books for building reading readiness in kids under five. Click here to learn about all the titles. I couldn’t be happier to be sharing shelves with these books. Got a library card? Ready, set, read!
First and Best Books 2017
Learning to read opens the door to a universe of ideas, possibilities, imagination, learning and fun. Here is a letter I wrote to the Scholastic SeeSaw Reading club about how I leaned to read. Enjoy!
In a way, pictures were my first language. Before I could read words, my mum read to me. I loved chapter books that were sprinkled with illustrations. Books like The Wind in the Willows, Owls in the Family and The Borrowers. I could hardly wait for the page to turn so that I could “read” a picture. In between, I listened to the story and imagined my own pictures.
I remember the first word I learned to read. It was “cow” in the book Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman. I had learned a new language! From then on, I read EVERYTHING. Cereal boxes, comics, and books, books, books. I picked library books that had illustrations by artists I knew. It turned out those artists chose some pretty wonderful stories to illustrate. My favourite illustrators and authors became the teachers that taught me how to draw and write.
I still love reading pictures and words, and I use both languages to make my own stories.
Letter to readers
Have You Seen Birds? has been in print for over 30 years! Joanne Oppenheim’s lively verse doesn’t name the birds; they are instead described by characteristics. I couldn’t be happier with this new paperback edition, with the addition of a key to the names of all the birds in the book, to satisfy both young artists and scientists.
Canadian Materials Magazine recommends: “If Have You Seen Birds? is not already in your library, it is definitely one to add!” See the full review here.
New! Key to illustrated birds.
I’m delighted to see ****/4 stars in the sky from Canadian Materials for Picture the Sky:
||Picture the Sky.
Toronto, ON: North Winds Press/Scholastic Canada, 2017.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.99.
Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 3-8.
Review by Dave Jenkinson.
There is more than one
way to picture the sky.
In Picture the Sky, Barbara Reid, who pioneered the use of plasticine as an illustration medium, uses modelling clay to take her art to yet a new level in this remarkable visual ode to the omnipresent sky that is above and around us. Readers’ visual sky experiences begin with the joyous cover art which finds a boy launching himself into the sky on his tire swing and continues into the opening endpapers which offer 40 “thumbnails” of different skies. Understandably, young readers may want to hurry past the endpapers and get right into the book, but they need to be brought back to these pages later as each of these small images truly merits its own careful attention. Adult viewers may recognize Reid’s homage to the skies of Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch while children will enjoy an insect’s and a whale’s sky perspective.
Reid’s illustrations definitely confirm the promise made by her opening text (reproduced in the excerpt above). They range from the commanding double-page spread of an endless prairie sky, pp. 4-5) to skies constrained by towering forests (p. 6) or soaring urban structures (p. 7). There are skies of day (p.8) and night (p. 23) and calm (p. 28) and storm (pp. 20-21). There are skies of reality (dawn over a city, p. 3) and those of imagination (a pair of children in a hammock finding animals and other objects in the clouds, pp. 12-13). As Reid reveals, not everyone wants the same sky. A farmer whose crops need moisture (p. 15) would be only too happy to swap his sunny sky for the rain not being enjoyed by the tent-bound campers (p. 15). One of my favourite illustrations is the foggy sky scene (p. 22) wherein objects fade into obscurity.
What continues to amaze me about Reid’s illustrations is her ability to create the impression of texture. For example, when I look at the book’s cover, I can “feel” the grooves in the repurposed tire, or when I look at the melting snowman (p. 17), I can sense the change in the snow’s “wetness”. Reid also populates her scenes with little details that may not be seen on a first reading but which add layers of interest on rereadings. Reid is also masterful at capturing motion. The spread on pages 10 and 11 sees a rural yard being buffeted by the wind. Exactly how hard the wind is blowing can be gauged by the angle of the clothes drying on the clothesline. Reid also incorporates bits of subtle humour. On. p. 24, the text reads: “Artists see a masterpiece”, the words referring to a magnificent sunset that is being captured by three photographers while a fourth person uses her cell phone to take a selfie, with the sunset as background.
Though the picturebook lacks a true plot, Reid’s illustrations frequently invite readers to create their own stories. A spread of a beach boardwalk (pp. 18-19) carries the text, “There may be a sky in your mind’s eye.” Via thought bubbles, Reid shows the sky that each of the seven humans and two dogs imagines based on its present circumstances. A rain cloud hovers over the head of a little boy who has just dropped the ice cream from his cone, but the dog that is lapping up the unexpected treat has a thought rainbow over it. My favourite part of this spread is found on p. 19 where a man is sitting up, asleep, on a bench, his left hand resting on a stroller containing a sleeping toddler. The man’s other hand holds a lidded styrofoam cup precariously resting on his knee. He’s wearing a dark grey hooded sweat shirt (hood up) and light grey sweat pants. So far, that description doesn’t really invite storytelling, but what he’s put on his feet definitely does. On his left foot is a blue running shoe, but he’s wearing a furred brown bedroom slipper on his right. And his sky bubble is just grey. What was last night like for him and the child?
Picture the Sky is also perfectly tied together. On the first page, as storm clouds begin to dissipate and bits of sky reappear, a boy in a hooded yellow raincoat looks at his reflection in a rain puddle while, on the closing page, he leaps in the air at a rainbow’s appearance. And on the second page, as dawn breaks, a boy remains asleep, his knitted owl beside him, and the book’s penultimate page finds him off to bed, his woolen owl still with him.
I could go on and on about the excellence of Picture the Sky, but, instead, I’ll just say it is a must-buy by school and public libraries serving an early years audience. The book would also be an excellent home or gift purchase.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB, where he enjoys glorious prairie sunsets.
I’ve been busy in the studio for many months, although my head was in the clouds as I worked on the illustrations for my new book Picture the Sky. The idea for the book began when I was working on the Picture a Tree because the more I looked at trees, the more I noticed the sky. The more I looked at the sky, the more I noticed about how it looks, as well as the feelings it can inspire and how it is reflected in art. I also noticed how often the sky is pictured in children’s artwork. The biggest challenge has been trying to fit all the ideas and pictures into the book!
Now all the artwork is finished, it has been photographed and is off to the printers. Picture the Sky will be published this September – I can’t wait to see it!
Picture the Sky, by Barbara Reid. Published by Scholastic Canada.
The Art of Parenting show opened Friday, June 17 at the beautiful Carnegie Gallery in Dundas Ontario. It’s a great opportunity to see and buy original artwork by Canadian children’s illustrators Hilary Leung, Derek Douglas – and me! Opening night was a lively mix of long time friends, new friends and young readers.
The show continues through Saturday, June 24, when there will be a special free event for kids and parents from 11:30 am -2pm. Meet and talk with the artists, and enjoy movies, art activities, book signing, snacks and juice. Hope you can join the fun!
Illustrators Derek Douglas, Barbara Reid and Hilary Leung open the show
Samples from the show by Barbara and Dereck
Thirteen illustrators bring their talents to Heather Patterson’s text to celebrate Canada in the gorgeous picture books I Am Canada/ Le Canada c’est moi. I’m feeling lucky to be included in the baker’s dozen along with the brilliant Jeremy Tankard, Ruth Ohi, Jon Klassen, Marie-Louise Gay, Danielle Daniel, Ashley Spires, Geneviève Côté, Cale Atkinson, Doretta Groenendyk, Qin Leng, Eva Campbell, and Irene Luxbacher. I’m celebrating with a half dozen traditional Canadian treats. I will share, but hurry…
Two original illustrations from Sing a Song of Bedtime have travelled to Jaffa, Israel to join in a group show of plasticine art at the Old Jaffa Museum. It is an honour to be part of this group of outstanding clay artists including Edgar Alvarez and Irma Gruenholz. I have enjoyed making connections with plasticine artists from around the world through social media, and been inspired by the range of art that can be created from this basic medium. I’m sorry that I can’t attend the show in person, but knowing some of my work is there brings me one degree closer to these artists and their work!
Curators Limor Margules and Sarah Jane describe the show as: “An extensive international exhibition that places the familiar and beloved raw material, CLAY, at it’s center.
Hundreds of colourful, sensational and inspirational works by leading Israeli and international artists created for this exhibition will be exhibited in the framework of the exhibition, which will take place from April 7-August 31, 2017.
PLASTALINA ART invites visitors to discover, thrill, visualize, create and enable Plasticine to give them wings to the areas of inspiration, imagination and creativity.
The exhibition presents works from various fields of activity that use the raw material of PLAYLINA-CLAY:
Illustrations for children’s books, TV series, animation films, film and photography, painting, sculpture, advertising and branding, social projects and unique plasticine stabilizers.”
As well as the originals for Diddle Diddle Dumpling, My Son John, and The Wise Old Owl, digital images from Picture a Tree will be displayed.
Jaffa Museum Clay exhibit poster, artwork by Irma Gruenholz
DidleDiddle Dumpling, My Son John
Wise Old Owl
Preparations for the opening of Barbara Reid Public School in September 2017 included creating a video to share with the new school community. I was delighted to meet four future students for an interview and discussion. What a group! Bright, enthusiastic, articulate and fun, each one. I would have liked to chat all day. You can see for yourself by watching the resulting video here. We are off to a great start!