This picture book (created by a pair of brothers!) is sophisticated yet simple, celebratory, and circular in that its beginning connects to its whole and its close. It welcomes you in and gently ushers you along.
It’s the story of an old truck, but it’s also the story of a family, a girl who goes on to revive the truck, and a farm. Realistic with an imaginative interlude in the middle, it speaks to the beauty of days lived, of seasons passing, of moments and dreams and determination unfolding over time. It speaks, in a particular way, of love.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
The characters in this book are the old, red truck, of course, the farm, and the family—especially the little girl coming out of the barn in the spread above. The art, to me, is also a character. The geometric yet sweet, textured stamps give a wonderful quality to the pages—warm, homey, timeless, welcoming. The stamp illustration technique also brings to mind and mimics the hard work and process we see in the story on the farm and on the restored truck and the labor done by the truck itself. (See more of Jarrett and Jerome’s stamp-making behind the scenes here.)
The girl and the truck are parallels. They are the heart of this story.
“Part of the inspiration came from looking at books we consider timeless, books that we read when we were kids and that we still have. Even though they didn’t necessarily use stamps, the work of those mid-century illustrators had texture. It was trial and error — we tried different things, but in the end, stamps had that similar look.”
“We didn’t grow up in the inner city. We lived on places like farms and in the suburbs. Telling those stories is absolutely essential, because it adds some dimension to the lives that black kids live. Black kids are not just in cities. They live everywhere. I’m glad we could contribute to that.”
And in the end it’s spring. The flowers are blooming. The truck is running again thanks to the girl who’s grown up to be a farmer. And another little girl sits on the gate of the old truck ready to help, ready to love and be loved, ready to live seasons and days and moments, to let them unfold, to dream with determination. And we as readers have a sense that this story is not over. This story goes on and on.
When I saw the stamp artwork in The Old Truck, I knew I had to try my own kid-friendly version to honor this beautiful book! I hope this proves to be a fun activity for young readers to live with this story more deeply, to explore the artistic process of creating it, and to play with shapes and paint.
What you’ll need:
Sponges! The kind that are compressed and “pop up” when you put them in water
Paint (I used Crayola tempera paint)
Paper—some for tracing, some for stamping!
Paper towels or rags for wiping up
The first step is to cut out your shapes. I started by drawing shapes from the book onto printer paper—the truck body, its wheels, the sun, clouds, stems, and flowers. Then I transferred those shapes onto sponges with pencil (while the sponges are still compressed—flat and stiff). You can do this freehand or by tracing around the paper or both. Then, cut out the sponge shapes! You’re almost ready to paint with stamps.
Once your sponge shapes are ready, it’s time to make them pop up! Run each sponge under water and feel it expand, which is super cool! Wring out the water (they do not need to be all the way dry) and you’ve got your stamps.
I poured my paint colors onto aluminum foil (you might have another method that works). To lighten the blue, I added some white. To make pink, I combined red and white. I also lightened up the yellow a tad for the flowers. Then, place your stamp in the paint and do some tests on scrap paper to see what thickness you want and how the process works. When you’re ready, stamp your craft paper and make a scene from The Old Truck! Stamp, stamp, stamp some more!
That’s it! This is definitely a fun one, with lots of room for play, process, and creativity. Enjoy!
An exploration of the many reasons we cry with acceptance and understanding of them all.
Why now? All the feelings and ups and downs.
I Am Brown by Ashok Banker, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (2020).
A celebration of brown-skinned kids—the wide scope of their play and food and languages and aspirations and pastimes and possibilities. This picture book brims with vibrance and joy.
Why now? We always need to celebrate kids, their experiences, their moments, their futures, and to show kids themselves in books.
The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow (out August 2020).
This gorgeous book centers Haenyeo or women divers in South Korea who can hold their breath for up to two minutes, a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. The purple and orange sunset illustrations are breathtaking and the experience of Dayeon going diving with her grandmother captures the fear and relatable false starts of trying anything new.
Why now? Kids and all of us are facing new things, diving new depths.
This picture book explores the big bang by an astrophysics student—what we know, what we don’t know, and the possibility of what we might know someday—with epic illustrations of how our galaxy and planet came to be.
Why now? Absorbing the massiveness of the universe might help with taking the long view of time and circumstance.
The title of this picture book is four words we could all use right now.
Not only is it a masterful story illustrated with striking, vivid art, it’s also an exploration of fear and of what it’s like to take little steps through fear. Little Crab shows us that everyone has the capacity to be stronger and braver than they think they are, to take on new challenges, and to experience gratification and growth around navigating waves and charting new waters.
Little Crab’s story is full of hope, and it could also be a way into talking to kids about fears they may have right now as well as the stuff that’s potentially still there in every moment even as there is so much anxiety and unknown and tragedy—little bits of beauty, the natural world, and their own ability to weather the waves.
When Little Crab and Very Big Crab first set out from their tide pool, headed to the ocean, Little Crab is full of confidence. “I can go anywhere!”
But then the first wave comes. “WHOOSH!” Turns out, the sea is very big, a lot bigger than Very Big Crab. And pretty scary, too. Little Crab doesn’t like it.
But Very Big Crab encourages Little Crab. They hold tight. They stick together. They let the wave whoosh and swoop and hurtle over them. They are okay. Little Crab is okay. But still, Little Crab wants to go home. Wouldn’t you? Especially when each new wave is bigger than the last.
There are more waves. There is more holding tight. There is more whoosh and swoop and hurtling. But Very Big Crab tells Little Crab that they’re together. That it will be OK.
And then, they dive under the very biggest wave. The feeling captured is so familiar to anyone who’s had the good fortune of being at the ocean, of diving into and under a wave, of the anticipation and apprehension of not knowing exactly what will happen next. Of hoping that in being swallowed up, you are still somehow safe.
And then, finally, there is the ocean—the down below sea! Little Crab, it turns out, does love the ocean and all the underwater creatures and a colorful game of hide and seek. Little Crab can go anywhere! In fact, Little Crab doesn’t want to stop adventuring in order to go home. Because there are wonderful things to be found at the end of some of the most challenging journeys. And even along the way.
Unlike Little Crab, we cannot go anywhere right now. Quite the opposite, in fact. We can stay home. Or we can go to an essential job with great care. We can go on a walk. Children, especially, cannot just go anywhere. They are more confined than ever. But all of us can always go places—anywhere, in fact—in our imaginations. In our minds. In our ability to, like Little Crab, have courage on the journey to the unknown.
I connected with Mayel through Instagram (of course!) and am a big admirer of her creations. Her gift with paper crafting makes her a perfect person to pair with Don’t Worry, Little Crab, and she was kind enough to make something amazing for us that you can share with the kids in your life. Behold, her wonderful Paper Crab Puppets and Coloring Craft to match!
Over to Mayel!
Hello, my name is Mayel. I’m an artist, designer, creator of fun things at mayelcreates.com. I’m so delighted Danielle asked me to do a craft specifically for Don’t Worry Little Crab; it’s a simple, colorful way to talk about feelings with our littles and how sometimes things are not as we thought. I hope you’ll enjoy the process of making this craft and have fun with the end result.
Let’s get started!
What you’ll need:
5 sheets of 8.5 x 11 colored paper in different colors. Suggestions would be fuchsia, violet, purple, yellow and orange.
Cut pieces of your colored paper to sizes below. Save the scraps for the Little Crab later; you’ll need the same colored paper.
Step 1. The Big Crab’s body.
Cut the corners of your 3 in. x 4 in. paper diagonally with the top corners being slightly bigger than the bottom like in picture A. The cut doesn’t have to be perfect—imperfections add character!
Step 2. The claws.
Take the 2 in. x 4 in. paper and fold in half horizontally (see picture B). Cut a triangle shape in the middle of the open end, away from the folded side, like in picture C. Cut about to halfway of the paper so the claw will look big enough. Tip: If you feel like the claws are too big for the body, you can shape to your desired size by trimming the sides. Lastly, cut the folded part of the paper to make 2 claws, see picture D. Put the pieces aside.
Step 3. The legs.
Take one of the .75 in. x 4 in. papers and fold each one into a “V” shape (see picture E). Do the same to the other piece. Set aside.
Step 4. Now for the eyes.Take the 2 in. X 2 in. square paper and fold in half. Draw a long upside down “U” shape like in photo F. Keep the paper folded and cut the “U” shape out (see picture G). You should now have 2 pieces of “U” shaped paper.
Step 5. Base of the eyes.
Take the .5 in. X 2 in. paper and lay on top of one of the “U” shape papers. Cut to the size of the bottom of the “U” (see picture H). This will be the base of the eyes. Do the same to the other “U” shape.
Step 6. Put it all together.
Lay all your pieces out and make your composition like picture I. Glue the pieces together to make it look like picture J. Tip: Only put a little bit of glue on the edges of the eyes and legs, then glue them onto the back of the body. For the claws, put glue on the edge away from the triangle then attach onto the front of the body.
Step 7. Dot in the eyes.
Now it’s time to draw in the eyes; see picture J. Think of where you’d like the crab to look—are they looking up or looking down? Place the dots where you’d like the big crab to look.
Step 8. Turn it into a puppet.
Grab the popsicle stick and glue onto the back of your big crab. Viola! You have your own crab puppet.
Step 9. The Little Crab.
Now, let’s do the same steps again to create the smaller crab. All you have to do is cut the leftover colored paper, only smaller sizes this time. You can make the pieces about 1 inch smaller than the big crab or even smaller if you’d like. When you get to Step 7, try drawing the eyes at a different spot than your big crab so they can look at each other or at different places.
Hope you enjoyed this craft activity. I hope that you and a loved one can do it together and use it to talk about feelings during these unprecedented times. Even though some new things could be scary at first, if you keep giving it a try, you might find new and exciting ways to have an adventure.
Mayel Wei is an all around creative person. Once upon a time, she was an Advertising Art Director and Graphic Designer creating campaigns for Hollywood shows, but traded that glamorous life for a quiet one in the burbs: kids, picket fence and all. She creates whatever comes to mind with her minimalistic style and drawings. See more from Mayel on Instagram: mayelcreates, www.mayelcreates.com and on Minted.com.
Huge thanks to Mayel for creating this vibrant, playful, comforting craft!!
I’ve been thinking about creating this post since the spread of coronavirus and the changes it’s brought to our lives. By chance, many of the titles in a recent stack of books I received for review from publishers spoke specifically, I thought, to this theme of comfort in one way or another.
You’ll find here some brand new books and some forthcoming as well as a few from recent years—and one classic that rings true for me in any difficult season (and always).
My intent is that some of these titles bring comfort to kids (and to you). If you’re someone who is hunkering down right now, thank you for taking compassionate action for the greater good by keeping physical distance from others as an act of care. If your job outside your home is vital and necessitates being out, thank you for providing community services that we all rely on with the work you do.
Each of these books speaks to and offers comfort in one way or another, some in seriousness and sincerity and some through a rest from seriousness in favor of silliness.
Wishing you soothing, strength, health, hope, and picture books.
This one outlines what we do and what animals do when a storm comes—and readers can apply this to any kind of storm. We prepare, we hunker down, and then, when the storm passes, we go outside, we survey, we repair, we help those who need help. “What do you do when the storm has passed—when the sun comes out and it’s calm at last?”
This is about a stone that sits still and what that stone is to other animals in different lights or seasons or from different perspectives. It speaks to me of permanence and transience, of being of use to others, of being present to what is—now. “A stone sat still with the water, grass, and dirt and it was as it was where it was in the world.”
A beautiful picture book that contains a series of wishes for a child as they grow that are deep and kind and full of love, with artwork that warms every page with washes of moon-hues and sky-hues: oranges, golds, blues. From the author: “Every line, or wish, in the book is inspired by the Quran, the Muslim holy book, which offers guidelines on how to live a thoughtful and grounded life filled with fairness, charity, justice, and most of all, love.”
You’ll know the tune of this one! It’s been transformed slightly to be more about our roles in the world and captures the joy and connection and small moments we have with one another. These magical spreads will truly buoy your heart with hope!
Sweet indeed! A clever mother enlists the help of imaginary animals to coax her child to sleep as the child embodies each one with playful abandon. Rich, patterned, collage illustrations; lyrical language; and a wonderful bedtime routine.
“Lilah Tov” is a Hebrew lullaby and this family embarking on a journey—one that has echoes of those taken by refugees—repeats those words to all the bits of nature and the world they pass on their way to toward a new home.
Now I need to warn you that this one is about death, and it’s quite frank. It details the way animals say goodbye when one of them dies. The way animals grieve. And it tells us something about what we do when one of us dies. The way we grieve. It is beautiful. It is deep. It is real. And it is full of the comfort of being loved and then sent off with love before returning to the earth in a connected way when the time comes.
Over the Moon by James Proimos, illustrated by Zoey Abbott (2020).
A girl is adopted by wolves, raised by wolves, and then finds her own kind, but still returns to her ever-present and sometimes hilarious wolf-parents. It’s the embodiment of safety found when safety’s needed. A strange, beautiful, and funny fable with the most charming, spirited pastel illustrations.
This book is hilarious! It captures a creative kid and an exasperated parent during a guessing game of “What am I?” that is inventive and funny and relatable and kind of never-ending in the best way. Let the guessing begin!
This book embodies kindness, joy, and respect for others with engaging, tender, pink-cheeked illustrations. It came out of the author’s desire for “healing and Reconciliation” in response to the history of oppression of Indigenous people, particularly in regards to Residential Schools in Canada.
I Am Loved, poems by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Ashley Bryan (2018).
A collection of poems that exude love for oneself and for others.
A stunning book that follows the journey of poi being made, from farming to family and community coming together for a lū’au. An uplifting ode to kale or taro and to its centrality in Hawaiian culture and life.
This is in all honesty my favorite picture book ever and has been since I first discovered it. A picture book that explores what it’s like when the world seems upside-down, when you feel lost and disoriented and down. A book that, even in the middle of all that, still contains vivid hope.
I’m thrilled to present Ekua Holmes’s picture book life today! Ekua Holmes is an artist and illustrator and assistant director at the Center for Art and Community Partnerships at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She’s shown work at numerous galleries and museums and her work is in private collections.
Her website bio starts this way: “Ekua Holmes is a native of Roxbury, MA and a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, who has devoted her practice to sustaining contemporary Black Art traditions in Boston, as an artist, curator of exhibitions, and as an active member of Boston’s art community.”
“My sense of home is very important to me; home nourishes the essence of my art. But what is the place without the people? I treasure knowing that some of the most significant people of the last century walked the same streets I have walked all my life, touching the lives of those in both the Roxbury community and throughout the country and the world.”
Ekua Holmes received the 2013 NAACP Image Award and the following year she created a Google doodle of Martin Luther King, Jr. (You can purchase a print of her MLK collage image here and there’s an assortment of breathtaking prints available on her website as well.)
And let’s talk about her picture book art! Holmes is known for mixed media collage. Collage that is vibrant. Bold. Beaming with rays of color and light, dripping with movement and energy like lava, patterned in peacock-feathered fans.
“…each book is its own universe and the restrictions of the page, accommodating text, and other things help me to stretch as an artist, and try new things on and off the page.”
This is a remarkable book about a truly remarkable woman, a biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, beacon of voting rights activism, told in poems and sunlit collage pieces.
“I primarily use collage techniques with acrylic paint. Collaging is basically glueing things onto a surface – photos, newspapers, lace- whatever helps to tell the story. My work is made of cut and torn paper and paint. I am also a proud and committed thrifter. I am always at the flea markets and thrift stores picking up things that speak to me. Just as I was about to work on the image of the doll Fannie Lou Hamer’s mother bought for her, I ran across these two old handmade dolls at a thrift store in Salem, MA. They seemed to be just the kind of dolls that Fannie Lou Hamer would have received from her Mother. They were so authentic! It was as if the universe had provided just what I needed.”
This picture book contains 20 poems that celebrate poets throughout history—Naomi Shihab Nye, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Sandra Cisneros, Billy Collins, Rumi, and more—a compilation of words and verse and creativity, of history and wonder and heritage.
Ekua Holmes illustrated this poem about the beginning and unfolding of the universe as well as you and me with mesmerizing marbled paper collage—a book that stuns and shines and connects us all to everything.
“In addition to bringing an aspect of science to children at a young age, this story reminds us that we all come from the same place and are made from the same stuff, no matter how divided the world may seem.
The story begins with the empty void of the universe and comes down to the simple reality that love fuels everything.”
This latest one is, so far, my favorite picture book of 2020 (and it may remain that way!). The narrator acknowledges that black is not a color found in rainbows, but sings the song of the color black and where it’s found in nature and then goes on to sing the song of Black history and people, Black artists, Black culture. “Black is a color. Black is a culture…Black is a rainbow, too.”
Ekua Holmes’s artwork here looks more two-dimensional with primary colors that pop on many pages, all the spreads full of patterns, lines, and shapes—look out for diamonds, a shape that, in some ways like a rainbow, shimmers, reflects, intersects, and connects.
Thanks to the generosity of Candlewick Press and Roaring Brook Press, we’re giving away four Ekua Holmes-illustrated picture books!! Enter below to win OUT OF WONDER, VOICE OF FREEDOM, THE STUFF OF STARS, and BLACK IS A RAINBOW COLOR! (U.S. only.)