Category Archives: Picture Book Crafts

count on me + math quest cards

Count on Me by Miguel Tanco (2019).

 

This picture book has math on its mind. And so does its main character who tells the story.

Though it takes her a minute to figure out that just like her family and classmates, she has a passion too! It’s not science or painting or playing the tuba. It’s math! And not only numbers, but all kinds of shapes, patterns, and concepts, which appear throughout the nuanced neutral watercolor illustrations.

 

 

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This story inspires in two ways. One, it tells us that everyone has a passion, it’s just a matter of finding the one unique to you. And two, that math is in so many more places than your textbook. It’s all around us. It’ll be hard for a reader to look at the world in the same way after a tour from this math-loving child. It just might turn math into the magic of the everyday. 

“Math is all around us. It’s often hidden, and I love finding it.”

 

Each spread is a veritable seek and find of math-related elements, even before it becomes the focus of the narrative. On the first page, the main character plays checkers (math!). Outside the window, bare tree branches adorn the landscape in delicate designs (math!).

 

And so it continues, with little bits to notice on this math expedition through the natural and human-made world, the pale, sandy and gray palette making shapes rather than color shine. You’ll also find a math glossary at the back titled “My math,” in honor of the notebook the character carries with her on certain spreads.

 

Count on Me is an inventive book that pays tribute a subject no one is ambivalent about and that shapes our surroundings in myriad ways. To math!

Big thanks to Tundra Books for images and a review copy!

 

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I knew there was a super cool math activity to go with this book, and I knew just the person to dream it up and show us how to do it. Cue Margaret, inspirational librarian and amazing crafter at Homemade City.

She’s sharing math quest cards with us today, perfect for that quote about math being hidden around us and the main character searching for it. This art project and math-in-nature search promises delight and discovery to anyone who makes and partakes of this project. Happy scavenger-hunting!

And, in exciting news, I must also mention that Margaret is the author of a picture book coming out from Charlesbridge in 2021, illustrated by Adam Gustavson: Flip: How the Frisbee Took Flight. Cannot wait!

Over to Margaret! 

 

The curly-haired heroine of Count on Me by Miguel Tanco has a special love for math. While her dad has a passion for painting, her mom science, and her brother music (he plays a tuba twice his size), the smallest member of the family sees shapes and patterns everywhere. She skips stones to see concentric circles form and tracks the trajectory of a paper airplane. She finds math everywhere.

Tanco’s sweet story is followed by a book-within-a-book: the heroine’s math notebook that illustrates math concepts like fractals, polygons, curves, solid figures, trajectories and sets (in terms clear enough that even can understand).

Inspired by the small heroine’s passion for math, I painted a deck of cards with basic concepts from the book to spark my own scavenger math hunt. If we take the time to notice, what patterns, polygons, circles, and curves can we discover in the world around us?

 

 

What you’ll need:

Art cards or index cards (I picked up these little Legion Paper samplers at my local craft store)

Pen, marker, and/or paint

The world!

I copied the math concepts illustrated in Count on Meand in an attempt to emulate Tanco’s delightful, watery illustrations, I used watercolor paint to tint them. However, young artists can skip the paint and get the job done easily enough with markers and crayons.

 

I drew and labeled the cards with a range of basic polygons, solid forms like cones and cylinders, patterns of concentric circles and curves, and other concepts to create a deck of 25 cards. Then my son and I went hunting through the house and around our neighborhood. This is some of what we found:

 

We discovered so many surprises: dandelion fluff fractals, milk carton polygons, the curved trajectory of a Frisbee in flight. What will you find? 

 



Thank you, Margaret, for this creative math scavenger hunt activity!

 

Margaret Muirhead is the author of Mabel One and Only (Dial Books for Young Readers) as well as Flip: How the Frisbee Took Flight, a nonfiction picture book slated for Fall 2021 with Charlesbridge Publishing. By day, you can find her wearing cat glasses and cardigans as a children’s librarian. In her free time, she makes wacky, colorful crafts at homemade city.

 

 

 

You might also like Margaret’s amazing pop-up paper craft for Blue Rider by Geraldo Valério. Check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

señorita mariposa + butterfly clothespin craft

Señorita Mariposa Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G), illustrated by Marcos Almada Rivero (2019).

Autumn means monarch butterflies migrating from Canada to Mexico and this vibrant picture book celebrates the amazing annual occasion with lyrical text in both Spanish and English to read or sing!

In fact, you can listen to the original song that inspired Señorita Mariposa right here.

 

 

 

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Señorita Mariposa does several things all at once. It pays tribute to one monarch butterfly, and the many like it who travel together, pollinating flowers along the way.

It shows the beauty of these magnificent marigold insects dancing through the sky by way of Marcus Almada Rivero‘s lush, crisp, and joyful illustrations.

It captures how those of us in the city or desert (my favorite spread!) or forest get to see this epic event if we look up to the sky in wonder.


And finally, it encourages love and care for the world around us, for these creatures who are part of a vast ecosystem that connects us all. The above spread in particular shows people doing just that through a community garden.

 


I love the way the text shows the lyrics in both English and Spanish and alternates in terms of which one is sort of singing lead (while always including translated text) on each spread.

 

A lively book that takes monarchs as its muse to inspire song and sweetness and science!

 

 

Big thanks to Penguin for the review copy and images!

 

 

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Not only that, but this book has also inspired a butterfly clothespin craft!

Kait Walsh is the visionary behind the Zinnia and the Bees pom-poms I’ve made with kids in libraries and bookstores for the last two years AND she devised a yarn bomb for us to do with young artists the week my book launched, so I’m already a big admirer and super grateful to her.

She’s a former teacher and illustrator who makes books for kids—you can check out her latest one, Don’t Cry Duck. She tells stories and facilitates crafts and does art-inspired community projects all over Los Angeles and I’m happy to have her on This Picture Book Life.

Over to Kait!

 

 

“Little butterfly you caught my eye” 

This craft was inspired by the beauty of one butterfly and the incredible journey they make when millions of them come together.

Making this with your family? Create butterflies in honor of your relatives and discuss how the butterflies migrate north over three or four generations.

Making this with your class? Use it as a lesson about working together. Have each student make a butterfly, attach the clothespins to yarn or a string, and hang it somewhere in your classroom as a bright and beautiful reminder of connectedness.

Allow your child or students to play and discover new and unique shapes as they paint the wings. But the real fun happens when you clip all the butterflies together in a group, reminiscent of the beautiful illustrations by Marcus Almada Rivero of the Sierra Mountain butterfly hibernation in the oyamel fir trees.

The sky’s the limit! xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much, Kait, for making this little butterfly come to life!

 

 

For almost a decade, Kait Walsh taught five and six year-olds in a classroom. Now she spends her days creating art and stories for kids and kids at heart. Her art is a love letter. A letter that has been sketched, painted, cut, carved, stamped, sewn, glued…everything but the kitchen sink! But like all the things she has ever worked on, the real magic happens in the spaces where it interacts with you! Follow Kait on Instagram for more art, more stories and more community.

 

 

 

 

the king of kindergarten + crown craft!

The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton (2019).

This picture book veritably bubbles with confidence, joy, triumph, and whimsy and was created by a dream team: Derrick Barnes, best known for the incredible Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and Vanessa Brantley-Newton, who has many gorgeous books under her belt. (The author and illustrator have collaborated before as well on Ruby and the Booker Boys.)

 

 

 

 

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“The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets.

It sits and shines behind your head—like a crown.”

 

 

Using the metaphor of a king going off to their kingdom for the first time, a child embarks on a first day of kindergarten. They’re buoyed by encouraging parents, a friendly teacher, and the knowledge that they’ve got this. And it’s especially nice to see a Black child as the focus of this empowering off to school book.

 

The King of Kindergarten sets a child’s mind at ease. It says that school doesn’t have to be scary, especially when you’re meant to be there, you have a place, you’re on a mission of soaking it up, of learning, and of kindness too.

 

 

The illustrations are as vibrant and reassuring as the words. Kindergarten is absolutely fizzing with fun and color, shapes and swirls. And that sun appears on many pages, shining behind the main character’s head—”like a crown.” Spotting the crown (there from the first spread on the character’s PJ’s!) and sun motifs is part of this delightful experience.

Read this one before school starts to get any young reader “ready to reign” (and play and learn and share and nap).

 

Big thanks to Penguin for review copy and images!

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The crown, sun, and colorful swirls of the art in this book were our inspiration for a crown craft to match. I enlisted Jen Pino from Vroman’s (who once contributed some picture book gems to this blog) because she is a passionate book person, a super talented craft person, a bookstagrammer, and a friend.

 

Over to Jen!

Hi! First off, I want to say a huge thank you to Danielle Davis for letting me be a part of celebrating this joyous book! I am a huge Vanessa Bantley-Newton fan and when I heard that Danielle wanted to do a craft around The King of Kindergarten, I immediately had to join in. A little about me: I absolutely adore crafting, but am not the greatest with providing instruction. However, I also believe that there are many different ways to create, so for those who are like me, this one’s for you.

 

We are going to make a crown worthy of a royal kindergartener.

 

What you’ll need:

Scissors

Colored paper

Something round

Puffy paint and markers

Glue

Craft twine

Pencil

Tape

To start off, I took craft twine and strung it around the top of my head as a sort of measuring device. I guess you could also use a tape measure. I then cut the twine at the right place and taped it to the table where I was working. From there, I lined up all of my yellow paper, glueing each at the seams, until it appeared that I had enough. A ruler would also be helpful for this process, if you have one on hand. I didn’t and so I drew a line where the twine ended on my paper and folded over the excess to meet that line. Then I was able to draw a straight line up and use that to cut that excess off.

After I had the right length, I drew the outline of a crown and then erased all lines that I didn’t need. Because I didn’t have a ruler, I again used the straight edge of another piece of paper to draw a line where the bottom of the crown should be.Then I proceeded to cut out the crown and the length that would wrap around my head.

Next, I got to work on a sun. Vanessa Brantley-Newtwon illustrates all these gorgeous suns throughout the book and I wanted to make sure I had one on my crown. This would be for the back, so that the crown could be worn on either side. Use any circular object and trace the top to get the base of your sun. Then you can draw some sun flares to cut out as well. After I had everything cut out, I glued all the pieces of the sun together and used my puffy paint and markers to give it a smile and blushed cheeks.


For the front of the crown, I wanted to include lots of swirls and pops of color, like Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s, whenever the characters are thinking or imagining. I drew out some blue swirls and a red blob and glued them to my crown, cutting off all excess paper. Next, I took my gold puffy paint and swirled it over the crown with my fingers (make sure you have something underneath your work!). I then added some white puffy paint details, a rainbow with my markers, some cut-out letters and another green swirl. Finally, when everything was glued down and had time to set (make sure your paint has time to dry), I glued both ends of my crown together.

 

And that’s it!

 

 


Thank you for this royal crown for this royally delightful book, Jen!!

Jen Pino works at the oldest and largest independent bookstore in Southern California, Vroman’s Bookstore. She’s worked there for almost 9 years and loves all things related to children’s books. Currently, she is the Book Buying Department Administrative Assistant and School Coordinator. Check out her bookstagram: Confessions of a Starstruck Bookseller (@coasbookseller), where she shares what’s new at Vroman’s Bookstore, reviews books, features gift guides, and showcases booksellers! Or take a look at her blog!

 

most marshmallows + marshmallow craft!

Most Marshmallows by Rowboat Watkins (2019).

This picture book exudes creativity, both in the story and the illustrations that help tell it—photos of marshmallow-people in various scenarios!

It’s the simple story of “most marshmallows.” The ones who watch TV and celebrate birthdays and go to school and all that stuff most people do too. But it’s also a story of those marshmallows who aren’t like most. Because some marshmallows secretly know that all marshmallows can dream big. And this book tells them to do just that.

 

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The art is where you really spend your time with this one. The adorable marshmallows. And the vignettes, mostly cut paper, but all sorts of other items that are fun to identify and wonder at.

 

Most Marshmallows is creative, quirky, unusual, and encouraging. It demonstrates with both text and visuals that most things are done a certain way—books even!—but that some marshmallows dream up ways to do things differently. Daringly. Imaginatively.

 

And you, little marshmallow reader, you can too.

Big thanks to Chronicle Books for the review copy and images!

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Rowboat Watkins’s books often shout craft (as in the one I made for Rude Cakes). In this case, marshmallows? Yes, please.

Rowboat was kind enough to share some tips about how he created those marshmallows. Mainly: let the marshmallows get stale first! That way, they harden and become an easier surface to draw on. He also let us in on the pen he used: a brown Micron 01. I opted for a thin, brown marker instead as I found it a little easier to maneuver and plus, my marshmallows were only 0ne-week stale. Little hands might find a marker easier as well.

 

What you’ll need:

Stale marshmallows (I used jumbo)

A marker or pen (I used these from IKEA in brown, but I’m sure there are many that would work)

That’s it! But you can also use construction paper, tape, and markers to whip up party hats if you would like.

 

I left my marshmallows out on a plate for about a week. Then, I was ready. I simply drew on each one, trying to get them at least somewhat like the book version. Then, I cut some circles from construction paper and rolled and taped them into party hats.

 

 

 

 

 

You may also like this Beekle marshmallow craft!

 

 

 

 

 

wallpaper by thao lam + paper creature craft!

Wallpaper by Thao Lam (2018).

The first thing you’ll notice about this picture book is that wallpaper from the title. Beautiful, Layered. Nostalgic. Full of wonder. It’s at the heart of this mostly wordless story and contains a whole world that imagination makes possible. A world in which a shy girl gains just the courage she needs through her own creativity and resourcefulness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re introduced to a character who’s just moved to a new house and is unpacking her room. Outside her window, there’s a treehouse with other kids in it. They wave. They’re friendly. But waving back is not so easy when you feel out of place or out of sorts. Shy or scared or sad.

(click image(s) to enlarge)

 

Crouching—hidden—below the window, the character peels back some wallpaper, releasing a flock of lemon-yellow birds! (And they just so happen to match her shirt.)

She peels back more wallpaper and follows the birds into a whole world of wallpaper, including a creature who is super scary, but who, it turns out, is actually not scary all. The creature is merely unfamiliar. The creature wants to be friends.

The character and creature frolic in fields and play with clouds, all provided by this magical wallpaper. And when she’s back in her room, alone again, the wallpaper isn’t just one pattern anymore. It’s been peeled to reveal all the layers she’s experienced,.

 

Those layers help her remember that she doesn’t have to be so scared, or that she can be scared and still experience new things. They help her remember that unfamiliar might not be ominous after all. And that by peeling back a layer or two, everyone wants to be seen, welcomed and, accepted. Just like her.

And that leads to hello, and to more possibility.

This is an original, artful, hopeful picture book that invites the reader to dive into paper creations and possibility and what it means to reach out to someone unfamiliar and turn them into a friend.

 


Big thanks to Owlkids Books for images and a review copy!

 

 

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Such beautiful papers and such a spirited creature can only mean one thing. Paper craft! I wanted to make that creature and I wanted to make sure the creature could move. Really, you could make all kinds of paper stuff from this book! I chose the creature and yellow birds and used brads so they could change position.

 

 

 

What you’ll need:

Sturdy white paper (I used watercolor paper)

Pencil

Eraser

Scissors

Brads

Pastels or crayons or markers (I used pastels for the creature, marker for the birds)

I started by tracing the creature on a thin sheet of computer paper. Then, with my watercolor paper behind that, I pressed firmly with pencil to leave an indentation I could then trace on the actual paper I wanted to use. Or you can draw the creature free hand! I did the body, arms, and legs as separate pieces, then cut them out. Be sure to leave the pencil lines and make some white space outside the pencil lines to mimic Thao Lam’s style.

Next, I colored in the creature! And after that, I attached the limbs with metal brads. You can poke holes by either pressing the scissor ends into the paper or folding a bit and making a tiny cut. It’s that simple! Now you have a creature you can move about!

And it’s the same process for the birds if you choose to make those, and there are many shapes that would be fun to draw, cut out, and color from the book. The sky’s the limit!

 

 

 

 

And check out this gif of the creature moving around!