Louise Lockhart is the illustrator behind The Printed Peanut. Her style is retro, lively, and joyful and she brings all those qualities to this super fun activity book.
It’s the kind of thing that would’ve kept me occupied for weeks as a kid and thus, it’s perfect for summertime.
There are prompts for writing, for drawing, for experimenting.
Spot the difference on grocery shelves! Cut out and play a food memory game (yesss)! Learn about the types of pasta and follow a spaghetti maze! Tell food-related jokes to your friends! Draw faces on vegetables! Bake easy no-yeast bread! Design a bento box!
It goes on and on like that!
Draw toppings on pizza, one for you and one for your mom.
Color in ice cream and popsicles and design your own perfect lolly.
Learn about breads eaten in different parts of the world.
Write poems about eats using descriptive details.
Think of foods that start with each letter in the alphabet.
Experiment with eggs.
See what I mean? Food fun to sustain hours of exploration and entertainment.
I’m absolutely delighted to have artist, author, and educator Emily Neuburger on This Picture Book Life. She’s here to play with food!
Emily will take it from here:
When Danielle asked me to collaborate with her on a book review for this super fun book, it was an immediate yes, yes, yes! And, of course, I chose the project with the potatoes.
Oh, I love printing with vegetables. I really do. It is a perfect way to play with color and experiment with form and shape. Potato printing is one of my favorite kinds of vegetable printing. There is something so magical about turning a brown lump into a bright, colorful bit of art. I am always captivated by the way in which the print contains echoes of the original form, but with its own new, mysterious botanical shape.
What you need:
Small circular biscuit cutter (optional)
Paper (trimmed cardstock)
Slice the potatoes in half. This is a nice way for older children to practice using a knife. Of course, adult supervision is important as is teaching children proper knife safety.
Leave some potatoes as is because you can print with the halved potatoes just as they are. In fact, this is one of my favorite kinds of vegetable printing! I love when my paper is filled with imperfect, textured, colorful, wonky potato rounds.
Find a tiny biscuit cutter, and press it into one of the potato halves. This will create a perfectly round circle. Use your knife to trim away the excess potato.
Use your Sharpie to draw shapes on the potato halves – diamonds, squares, and triangles were fun to experiment with! Once the lines are drawn, use the knife to cut out the shape. Be sure to carefully trim away the excess potato. This will leave nice, clean lines.
Mix-up some punchy, fun paint colors. I like to experiment with adding white and black to my chosen colors. This creates lots of different shades of the same hue.
Use the paintbrush to coat the potato with a thin layer of paint. Then, place the potato down on the paper, and press firmly and evenly. The wobbly lines and grainy texture is what that makes it interesting to look at, so don’t feel the need to be exact when you cut and press and print.
Experiment with pressing very firmly and also very lightly. Try coating the potato with lots of paint, and then make repetitive prints until the print disappears. This will create a series of ghost prints.
Make Potato Kebabs in Playing with Food because this is outrageously fun and satisfying!
Print on small squares of cardstock, and you will have a new stash of gorgeous, curious gift tags and note cards.
Print, print, print everywhere.
Box up your potatoes, and share them with a neighbor or friend.
Many thanks to Emily for stopping by to make geometric, colorful potato kebabs! You can visit her full post here.
Emily Neuburger is a writer, artist, and freelance art and creative writing teacher. She is passionate about encouraging people to get pumped about creativity, especially when it comes to the intersection of words and art. She is the author of Show Me a Story(Storey Publishing) and an upcoming creative journaling book for kids, titled Journal Sparks (Storey Publishing). She writes regularly about creativity and unexpected treasures on her website, as well as in print magazines and around the web. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three children.
This picture book is zany and perceptive, a very good combination. Mostly, I loved Isabel, the girl with the parrot on her head—her emotions and her imagination.
It starts with a friendship: Isabel and Simon, “who was very good with newts.” They played together in the most imaginative ways, something we know only from illustrations of their treasure maps and pirate hats and funny props. But one day, Simon moves away.
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“For a while, Isabel hated everything.”
Isn’t that how it is after loss? Even the parrot leaves her head “to sit on top of the wardrobe.” Once she’s quieted herself, Isabel develops a system. And this is where things get really interesting. She puts all the items in her room into different boxes: castles, hats, cars, the wolves, the dark, a monster. We hear that the parrot is worried about the stuff in those boxes, especially the biggest wolf and we know the parrot is a proxy for Isabel’s own fears. Fears brought on by her best friend moving, by change, by being alone.
So Isabel must find a box big enough for that big wolf. But when she does, she finds another friend inthat box too. Chester. Chester helps, the way friends do when you’ve got a big problem (or wolf) you can’t figure out how to solve on our own.
And so the box is no longer necessary. It can become something a lot more imaginative, a lot more fun, a lot more…zany.
She’s made doodle cookies(!), which are perfect for this book in so many ways. They mirror the illustration style and the endpapers, which have little white circles with doodles in them (one with a cookie). They encourage creativity and imagination, right in line with Isobel. And they offer a place to draw the stuff a kid might like and even the stuff she might be afraid of (e.g. wolves).
Prepare cookie dough according to the recipe, chill it, roll it out, cut out circles, bake and let cool. Prepare royal icing according to the recipe. Tint some icing white. Prepare a decorating bag with the tip and fill it with some of the white icing. Tie closed with a rubber band.
Pipe a white outline on the circle cookies and let set. Thin the remaining white icing with drops of water until it’s of flooding consistency (that is, when overturned with a spoon, the icing slowly folds back into itself and the lines disappear). Fill an empty decorating bag with the icing, tie closed with a rubber band and snip the tip. Pipe to fill the circles of cookies with white icing. Let dry OVERNIGHT.
The next day, use food coloring pens to draw designs and doodles.
Gift idea! Package some cookies topped with dried icing in a cellophane bag, add a couple black food pens,and a copy of The Girl with the Parrot on her Head.
The final Elephant & Piggie installment by Mo Willems came out last month: The Thank You Book. Willems has a way of channeling children in a way that honors them while being hilarious and Gerald and Piggie have done that in spades. To celebrate the series’ close and continuation in the lives of children, Jordan Standridge is stopping by! He runs he children’s section of Powell’s Books in Portland. He’s a big fan of E &P and ever smart about kids’ books.
Over to Jordan!
A couple of months ago, one of my friends emailed to let me know she was going to be in Portland for a few days. I hadn’t seen her, and hadn’t talked much with her since our college graduation more than a handful of years ago in San Francisco. So the time came, and she, her boyfriend, and I got together for drinks and caught up. It was nice. I knew she had a kid, but this was the first real opportunity I had to sit down face to face and hear about her son. She told me that he wasn’t much of a reader yet, but she was partly to blame for having a busy work schedule. Knowing that I worked for Powell’s Books, and ran the Kids’ section, she asked if I had any book suggestions for her four year old.
“Yeah,” I said. “Have you ever read any Elephant & Piggie?”
They hadn’t, so I told her to stop in the store and pick one up before she flew back to the Bay Area. And she did, choosing one of my personal favorites, There is a Bird on Your Head!
The very next night, my phone starts blowing up. Text after text after text after text.
All from her.
The first was a picture of her son holding the book proudly in his arms, this beaming smile across his face. It was a stupidly adorable photo.
And the texts that followed read:
Blake’s new favorite book
I’m reading it for the third time in a row
He won’t stop laughing
He’s making me read it over and over
And if that didn’t already make my heart melt away into a warm puddle of goo, days later she texts me a screen shot of her Powell’s shopping cart with four more books (two more E & P’s, along with two other great picture book choices) and left me with the texts:
My son is addicted!!!
That book inspired him to read
This is what Elephant & Piggie is all about. They are the rock stars of picture books. And what’s even more incredible, they’re written to be early readers, too. Between the comedic-timing of the two characters, the way text is used to capture their voices and emotions, and of course Gerald’s epic freakouts, kids just go gaga over it (and the adults reading it get why; it’s actually brilliant). Coming from a guy who reads a lot of children’s books, let me tell you how infectious it is to hear a kid’s gut-busting, carefree guffawing over the new, silly, and creative situation our guy Mo puts his beloved Elephant and Piggie in.
But now, it’s coming to an end. Mo Willems is giving his series the Seinfeld treatment and they’re going to go out on top. And good for him. This May, he released The Thank You Book.
Finding out the title of it a while earlier, I had time to digest what was about to come my way in the very near future. And when that day finally came along, I grabbed a copy from off the delivery truck and brought it back to my desk to take it in, quietly and alone. The gist of the story is that Piggie wants to tell everyone ‘thank you,’ so you get to see the whole cast of supporting characters from over the course of the series pop in (from Brian Bat, to Ice Cream Penguin, to Snake, to Doctor Cat, to the Birdies, etc.), but when the Pigeon graces the pages of Elephant & Piggie, and the two series finally come together (and not just sneakily in the end pages!), I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed. It was so well done. Sheesh, the book as a whole hit all the right notes for the finale. It maintained all of the traditional back and forth, paraded in all of their friends one last time, and left us thanked for being loyal readers. It was incredibly bittersweet.
And while this is the end, and I’ll miss the way a brand new Elephant & Piggie can make me feel young and giggly and just flat out happy, I’ll look forward to the next wave of kids that will get to discover the series. And to the next wave of parents that will call Mo Willems “Mo Williams.” And to their shocking discovery that Piggie isn’t a boy, but a girl. And of course, getting to talk to people about the genius of We Are in a Book!, about the inner-torment that Gerald faces in Should I Share My Ice Cream?. To how the beautiful chaos known as Elephant & Piggie is about to be unleashed on their and their kids’ lives.
That’s as lovely a consolation prize as I’ve ever seen.
This series, man… This series.
Thanks for all the laughs, Mo. Truly.
Jordan Standridge lives in Portland, OR. He’s worked at Powell’s for a handful of years and is the Kid’s Books Lead. He also facilitates a YA book club at the store and reads to local elementary school students from time to time. He is partial to coke-cherry-coke-cherry slurpees.
read the books, thank Elephant & Piggie for all the laughs!
I’ve been wanting to put together a list of recent (published in the last couple of years) picture books that fall into the fairy tale, folk tale, fable, or myth categories and are also first-rate. And here it is!
The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers. Grimloch Lane is forever changed by the gardener who shapes trees into whimsical animals overnight. And so is young William.
Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small. An unusual fairy, a girl, a kingdom in disrepair, and mud. This tale tells us: “…there is no such thing as an ordinary girl” and that magic can be found in the most commonplace materials and in the willingness to be open and work hard.
The Only Child by Guojing. Wordless with expressive drawings and lots of wonder, this reminds me of the kind of story a child might invent for herself or dream about.
Little Red by Bethan Woollvin. I’ve talked about this retelling’s A+ qualities before.
The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakashi. A contemporary fairy tale complete with a girl’s trek through the woods to her grandmother’s house. But the animal characters aren’t scary in this one—on the contrary, they’re magical, welcoming, and have plenty of pie to share.
The Song of Delphnie by Kenneth Kraegel. A bit of a Cinderella in the savannah story, Delphine the palace servant’s singing attracts giraffes to her window each night. It also brings her freedom.
The Ugly Dumpling by Stephanie Campisi, illustrated by Shahar Kober. A dim sum restaurant take on “The Ugly Duckling” that’s substantial and sweet! (See Bonnie from Thirsty for Tea‘s recipe from my original post on the book here.)
Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bidner, illustrated by Jake Parra. The inspiring story of a large-spirited person who cleaned the city with purpose and pizazz before the storm and helped piece it together after.
Abukacha’s Shoes by Tamar Tessler. The quirky collage illustrations really shine in this passed down folktale about a man whose discarded giant shoes always return to him. It’s special in part because the historical photos included are of the author/illustrator’s family members who perished in the holocaust as a way to honor their memories.
The Tiger Who Would be King by James Thurber, illustrated by Joohee Yoon. This fable features a tiger who’s thirsty for power at any cost. It’s boldly illustrated and doesn’t shy away from vivid and violent (though stylized) depictions to make its point about the futility of contests and war.
Louis I, King of the Sheep by Olivier Tallec. A lighter take on the lure of power. A paper crown blows onto Louis the sheep’s head while going directly to his head.
Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka. An environmental fable/fairy tale about cities and nature and how to balance both. Also, magic beans. (I interviewed both author and illustrator here.)
Echo Echo: Reverso Poems about Greek Myths by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse. This series of poem-pairs is quite a feat! The first tells the story from one character’s perspective and the next reverses the lines to tell the story from the other’s.
From Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs by Hudson Talbott. A “myth of origin” (based on research) about how wolves were tamed, developed a symbiotic relationship with humans, and became the dogs we know and love today.
Your turn! Any recently published fairy tales, folk tales, myths, or legends to add to this list?
Grandad is going on a journey and he invites Syd along. They embark through Grandad’s attic, which serves as portal. It makes sense that the attic is the portal. It’s full of all Grandad’s things, fragments of the adventures and obsessions of a well-lived life.
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They sail together to an island. But only Syd will return home (with the kitten).
“…I’m thinking of staying.”
“Oh,” said Syd. “But won’t you be lonely?”
“No…no, I don’t think I will,” said Grandad, smiling.
Grandad will stay in the jungle on his island with all kinds of creatures, his book and tea, his phonograph. It’s wonderful on Grandad’s island. What a vibrant place for Syd to imagine his Grandad hanging out.
This saying-goodbye story shows how our imaginations can help us cope with loss while commemorating a loved one. While Grandad’s final adventure is on his island, Syd will carry that adventurous spirit with him every time he himself sets sail.
Gus and Ida are friends. They’re also polar bears who live at the zoo in a big city. The city is another character in this book, a backdrop whose heartbeat Gus and Ida hear and that’s beautifully weaved into the illustrations.
“You don’t have to see it to feel it,” said Ida.
These two spend every day together in this zoo, in this city. Until the day Ida gets sick and the zookeeper tells Gus he will need to say goodbye. I love the sadness and anger these two bears express. The growl and stomp and snarl. It feels no good to have to say goodbye.
But then, they start to. They snuggle and laugh and comfort. They growl some more. They spend time alone and together. This portrayal of letting go feels so true to life, so true to love.
And then, a goodbye is never final. Because you don’t have to see someone to feel them. They’re there. Always.