Archives for January 2015


Author & Illustrator:  Aaron Becker

review-of-the-day-journey-by-aaron-beckerThis is a beautiful book; a beautiful wordless book. Perhaps you have enjoyed other picture books without words including Flotsam by David Weisner, Chalk by Bill Thomson or The Red Book by Barbara Lehman.   If you were a fan of Harold and the Purple Crayon, I’m pretty sure you will delight in Journey – a story of a young girl and a red marker.

Before I go any further, I must confess… I am late coming to the wordless picture book party.   I’ve been known to shake my head in disgust once I realize that the book in my hand contains no words , and quickly return the “unfinished” book to its home on the bookstore shelf.

I’ve felt paralyzed when I’ve found myself in a read aloud position in a rocking chair with a grandchild on my lap only to find that I have mistakenly grabbed a wordless book out of the book bin.   How does one “read” a wordless book????   Impossible!

Then my CCS Explorations friend, Ruth Brown conducted a reading intervention and introduced me to Journey by Aaron Becker.   (I’m happy to report that the intervention was successful and I have also purchased and am enjoying Quest by Becker.)

The illustrations in Journey are magical and drive the story – no words needed.  Journey is about a girl who can’t get anyone in her family to play with her.  She goes to her room feeling sad but discovers a bright red crayon and decides to make her own adventure.   She draws a door in the wall that takes her to a beautiful forest with a winding river. She draws a boat and sails to a city made of castles where men are trying to capture…

Time for you to check this literary treasure out of your local library or purchase it for your home, so that your family might also have the opportunity to enjoy this delightful, visual “journey”.


Aaron Becker offers these tips for sharing books without words:

  • As you and your kids look at the first page, start with this basic question.  What do you see?  Get the obvious out of the way.  Then ask, “What else do you see?”  Encourage children to hunt for clues.
  • Encourage them to become active participants.  Ask questions such as, “How do you think (a character) is feeling?”  At moments of tension, ask “What would you do?”
  • Take your time.  Without a script to follow, it’s easy to rush, but don’t!  You’ll miss out on the most rewarding part of sharing a wordless book, allowing your child to discover a story of her very own!

Here’s another print resource from Reading Rockets:  Sharing Wordless Picture Books

Deni Corbett

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Colorful Kandinsky

kandinsky_the_summer_landscape_1909_946_tIf you read the book  The Noisy Paintbox or enjoyed Mary’s review on the Fireflies blog from January 23, you probably remember that artist Vassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) “heard” colors in music and pioneered abstract art! Much of his later work is very abstract and not categorized as recognizable as anything but abstract.  However, in his earlier years, 1903-1908, he created some recognizable and very beautiful landscapes.  His bold use of color and abstract design elements are delightful!
The definition of landscape according to Google is:  “All the visible features of an area of countryside or land, often considered in terms of their aesthetic appeal.”
1.  In “Summer Landscape,” what do you see?
2.  What color is the hill or grass?
3.  Where is the viewer standing?
4.  Is this a realistic landscape?  Why or why not?
The colorful landscapes of Kandinsky will be explored more deeply with young students of Circle Christian School Explorations on Wednesday January 28, 10:00am-11:30am with a second opportunity on Thursday January 29 from 3:30pm to 5:00pm at Coffee and Canvas art studio in Longwood, FL.
Students will paint their own Kandinsky-style landscape after instructor modeling and learn techniques in color to make their paintings “pop.”  Join us for this exciting opportunity!
 Laura Bird Miller | Owner, Artist
Coffee and Canvas art studio and gallery
2401 W SR 434, #163; Longwood, FL 32779

A Splash of Red

Author:  Jen Bryant
Illustrator:  Melissa Sweet (winner of Caldecott Honor)

13642622Horace Pippin once said, “Pictures just come to my mind. . . and I tell my heart to go ahead.” Perhaps that is why people always liked his drawings and paintings-because he drew from his heart.  Before he reached for a brush or a pencil, Horace planned each new scene in his head.  But how did this grandson of a slave get started?

Even as a young boy Horace had a lot of chores.  But at night, after he’d piled wood for the stove, he would find a scrap of paper and a piece of charcoal, and draw pictures of what he’d seen during the day. Horace just loved to draw. He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across his paper on the floor.  “Paint a picture for us, Horace!” his sisters cried. And Horace did. He painted everyday scenes in natural colors; then he added a splash of red.


When Horace grew up he joined the Army and fought in WWI.  Even then, if the fighting stopped for awhile, Horace would put down his gun and pick up a pencil and draw for his soldier friends.  But one day a bullet badly damaged his right arm.  When it healed, he couldn’t lift or move it like he used to. Now when someone said, “Make a picture for us, Horace!” . . . Horace could not.

After the war, Horace returned home, but because of his injured arm, he couldn’t find a job.  He longed to paint all the pictures in his mind.  But how could he . . .?

Remember when I said that Horace loved to draw? Horace also once said, “If a man knows nothing but hard times he will paint them, for he must be true to himself. . .”

You might be surprised at how Horace began to paint again and how long the journey took for him to complete his first painting.  He had no thoughts of becoming famous, but he certainly did!  Perhaps it was those little splashes of red, or more certainly because people could see he painted from his heart.


Mary Kline

1.  Can you list three examples that show how Horace persevered in his life?

2.  What is meant by the phrase, “A man must be true to himself?”

3.  How did the president of the local artists’ club help Horace become famous?


A look at the artwork of Horace Pippin to the music of Art Tatum (piano) and Ben Webster (tenor saxophone) with Red Callender; bass, Bill Douglass; drums; Jerome Kern; composer. Recorder September 11. 1956



Crayons & Circles

What fun!    Food & an art project to share with  your children after reading
The Noisy Paint Box.

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Fast – Easy – Fun – Delightful

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  • Candy melts (food coloring if using white)
  • Rold Gold Honey Wheat Braided Twists
    (or break regular pretzels in half)
  • Colored paper (thinner colored paper works best)
  • Tape

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Prepare the candy melts according to the directions on package.

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Dip both sides into the melted candy. (I actually used a small spoon to pour a small amount on each end.)  Shake off the excess and lay on the waxed paper to dry.

photo (79)Note:  The store only had these Rold Gold pretzels which came yogurt covered.  DON’T use these – the candy didn’t want to adhere to the yogurt covering and it is totally unnessary to spend the extra money on these.  However, they are the perfect size for this project – just buy the regular Rold Gold pretzels.

While pretzels are drying, print the pretzel crayon wrapper templates onto colored paper. Cut out the wrappers.

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Wrap the pretzels with the colored wrappers and close with transparent tape.  I put the tape on one end of the wrapper before wrapping around the pretzel.

photo (81)Seriously – aren’t these adorable?

If you want to go all out, then why not create a crayon box?   There are lots of crayon box templates available online! (Go for it – I will the next time we make crayon pretzels.)

Wrapper Templates
I printed mine on lightweight construction paper.
Card stock or regular construction paper is too stiff to wrap around the pretzels.

red crayon – blue crayon – yellow crayon


KANDINSKY Art Projects

A Kandinsky art project for young children.
All you need is some lids and tempura paint

For older children – a video demonstrating how to use oil pastels.