Category Archives: Picture Book Crafts
The main character from the title is a mail carrier, only he delivers letters he finds floating in bottles found at sea.
What a fanciful idea for a picture book!
(According to press materials I received, Michelle Cuevas got the idea when she read: “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I had created a formal role of the ‘Uncorker of Ocean Bottles’ to make sure that naval secrets sent via bottle did not fall into the wrong hands.”)
The illustrations alternate between and sometimes combine the green-blue of the sea and the rusty yellow rays of the sun. I can almost smell the seaweed and salty air. And the language is full of poetry.
The main character is a man who delivers ocean bottle-mail, but believes he will never receive any himself. But how he wants to! The Uncorker doesn’t even have a name. He is lonely.
“…for a letter can hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl.”
One day, The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles collects a letter from the sea with no recipient named. It’s a party invitation, for tomorrow evening at the seaside—and so The Uncorker’s quest begins!
This is a story of kindness repaid, of connection made, of community convening. Of a heart, once empty, now “a glass vessel filled to the brim.” Everyone deserves some music and a seaside dance, don’t you think?
Big thanks to Dial Books for images!
I’m delighted to be hosting crafter and author, Margaret Bloom—her son was her assistant and you’ll see his hands in the photos! Margaret’s come up with a sweet, enchanting ocean bottle necklace craft.
Over to her!
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles celebrates not only the joy of sending and receiving letters, but also the joy of acceptance within a community. This is a perfect story to share with children in anticipation of Valentine’s Day when all are encouraged to create and deliver their own messages of friendship and love.
There are many beautiful lines in this book, but one of the sweetest reminds us that “a letter can hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl.” And so in each little necklace-bottle created by my son, he placed a pearl… a tiny treasure hidden among the glittering ocean within each bottle. And when he offers these necklaces on Valentine’s Day, they will be accompanied by small, hand-written messages of his own, expressing friendship and love.
Tiny glass bottles, 2 cm tall (we used these)
Thin cord or ribbon
Glitter or tiny confetti
Paper scrap, approx. 3 cm x 6 cm
First, curl the paper scrap around the tip of your finger and secure with adhesive tape in the shape of a small funnel. Then hold the tip of your funnel in the mouth of the bottle and pour in a small bit of glitter (or tiny, iridescent/metallic confetti). Drop in a pearl bead. Insert cork into top of bottle (glueing the cork in place is optional), and seal with a wish.
Then measure a length of ribbon long enough to loop over a person’s head, plus extra for tying knots (we cut our ribbons approx. 40 cm long). Wrap the mid-point of the ribbon 2-3 times around the neck of the bottle and knot tightly. Then knot the ends of the ribbon together.
Last, write a note to accompany your gift, and delight a friend by giving them a magical necklace on Valentine’s Day (or any other day!).
Margaret Bloom has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and is the author of two books: Making Peg Dolls (Hawthorn Press UK, 2013), and Making Peg Dolls & More (Hawthorn Press UK, 2015). She lives with her husband & children in a small cottage beneath the great oak trees of Northern California, and when she is not busy reading, buttering toast, and searching for lost socks, she spends her time working on a third book. You can visit her at We Bloom Here to read about more things which bring her joy and inspiration.
Many thanks, Margaret!
The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear and Chris Turnham (2016) is a wonderful book about a boy named Charles looking for a wish tree in the woods while accompanied by his sled, Boggan. It’s a book about journeying, about wishing, and about kindness.
I’ve been fond of wish trees for a long while, so I thought it would be nice to make one for the new year and, inspired by The Wish Tree, one that adds in picture books that touch on the idea of wishing or hoping in some way.
Each of these 25 picture books contains a wish—a hope or dream or undertaking. So, in this craft, there’s a prompt for a wish to write inside each book that hangs on the tree, one that goes along with each story, something in line with its spirit.
You and your kids or classroom could read one or a few of these books every day, or once a week, or just sometimes.
To see what I mean, here’s the PDF template of book covers with wish-activity instructions I made so you’ve got everything in one place:
THE BOOKS AND WISHES:
The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear and Chris Turnham (a wish to find a wish tree): write something kind you would like to do.
Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats (a wish to learn to whistle): write something new you want to learn.
Wish by Emma Dodd (a wolf parent’s wishes for their pup): write a wish you have for someone else.
Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Rafael López (a wish to create a vibrant and connected neighborhood): draw something to make a space more beautiful and hang it up.
Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell (a wish to give hugs): write the names of someones you’d like to hug (and hug them!)
Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka (a wish for nature): write down a seed you want to plant this year (a literal seed or a different kind of seed).
Ursa’s Light by Deborah Marcero (a wish to fly): write down something you’d really like to do someday.
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López (a wish to be courageous, and to overcome boundaries): write down something you wish to have courage about.
Let Me Finish! by Minh Lê, illustrated by Isabel Roxas (a wish to read): write the name of a book you’re excited to read.
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (a wish for a name of one’s own while not losing connection to one’s family): make a wish on behalf of someone in your family.
Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (a wish for a granddaughter and grandmother to connect): write down a way you wish to connect with someone else this year. (Or else a pet you wish to own!)
Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton (a wish for something extraordinary): write down something you want to see that’s “extraordinary.”
Follow the Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So (a wish to help turtles find their way home): write down a way you can help animals this year.
The Ugly Duckling, illustrated by Rachel Isadora (a wish to belong): write down your favorite place to be.
Anna Carries Water by Olive Senior, illustrations by Laura James (a wish to learn to do something new): write down a goal.
The Storm Whale by Benji Davies (a wish to help): write down a story you want to tell someone. (Then tell them.)
Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBlox, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (a wish for peace in the smallest ways): write down an action you can take to help create peace.
The Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin (a wish to keep a promise): write down a promise you wish to make to someone or to yourself.
Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato (a wish to be noticed): write down something you wish to be noticed for—a talent or hard-try.
A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (a wish, a dream, a hope to dance): write down a dream you wish to come true.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Sprite of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (a wish—and lots of brave, brave action—for voting rights): write down a way you wish to speak out about something important.
The Storm by Akiko Miyakoshi (a wish for a storm to pass): write down something you wish to happen in the future.
Where’s the Party? by Ruth Chan (a wish to have a party with friends): write down a wish for cake (what kind?).
Brave Girl by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (a wish for and action toward fairness for workers): write down a wish for justice (and perhaps a way you can make the world more fair).
The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett (a wish for a bicycle): write down something you have that you’d like to give away.
What you need:
2 pieces of foam board as backing
The printable PDF with book covers and wish prompts:
First, make your tree by placing washi tape on a poster board in a tree shape. I used a double layer for the trunk and then embellished single-layer branches with clear, patterned tape (a bit like snow). But the sky’s the limit for how you design your wish tree! Next, tape together two foam boards (using clear/regular tape) and tape the poster board with the tree to those. (The double layer behind the tree is so the push pins don’t poke through the back when you attach them to the tree—be careful about that!)
Print the PDF template. Then, cut around the rectangles so you have mini books with front covers and back covers that contain the instructions. Then fold the papers in half so you have miniature books with a cover, a back cover with instructions, and space in the middle of the “book” to write.
Finally, pin the books to the tree and tape or prop the tree up somewhere. Ideally, you’ll have access to the book/books you’re reading that day and can read the book and then follow with discussion of the wish or hope or undertaking aspect before writing in the mini books.
Enjoy reading and wishing!
This picture book is about creativity. About how it can solve problems in unexpected ways. About how—and this is the most important thing—it can solve a problem you’re having with yourself.
Filled with the signature creativity of its creator, this one’s fun and full of flair.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
Bob has long, skinny legs. (They are good for walking.) Bob likes them. But then, others tease him about those legs and his perception begins to change. He tries to alter his legs, to make himself different. (You might guess his attempts don’t work.)
So Bob does what he always does: goes for a walk.
I like that Bob goes for a walk. It seems simple enough, but it does so much. It shows how walking or movement or taking a break—I’m a firm believer in this—is integral to figuring stuff out.
Bob brings his attention from his legs to his beak: something he can change. But not because he doesn’t like it. Because his beak can be his canvas.
At the beginning, Bob is a bird with skinny legs. At the end, he is an artist. He discovers himself. And he discovers that a physical attribute others mock doesn’t make a lick of difference when he’s found what makes him really tick. And while that thing may be on the outside, it comes from the inside, from his own creativity.
Big thanks to Laurence King Publishing for images!
Let’s design our own artsy beaks the way Bob did! They can double as party hats!
Marion Deuchars is all about encouraging kids to make art so that they can be artists—like the great masters, like her, and like Bob, so this craft fits the bill. (haha.)
What you need:
Tape (double-sided works best)
A one hole punch
Your artistic imagination!
First, cut out a party hat shape in cardstock (I loosely followed this template). After you test that it will wind up like a cone, lay it flat again and get creating. Draw whatever design you like. Then roll up the paper and tape it so the beak/hat sticks together. Then make a hole on each side and thread elastic through the holes. Tie the elastic through each hole and around it, making a knot. (Make sure the length of the elastic is just right to fit you or yours.) And, voila!
I hope you feel inspired like Bob!
This picture book is full of the narrator’s problems. Which means they’re the penguin kind. But basically they’re the kinds of problems anyone can relate to. The kind that stem from being bummed out about every little thing and how the world and our place in it sometimes feels completely utterly wrong, wrong, wrong.
Luckily, this little guy is hilarious.
Penguin’s problems include a cold beak and a lack of fish, the too-salty ocean, the inability to fly, and the way everybody looks the same. This narrator even mistakes the wrong penguin for his own mother. See?
The voice here is downright hysterical and as a reader you’re right there with the narrator’s list of grumbles. Until. There’s a big until in this book. The until is for a walrus. When the walrus talks, the whole tone changes. No more clipped complaints. Instead, a long zen speech about mindfulness ensues. And you know what? It works! It works in the book as a technique and it works for our little penguin’s problems. Well, sort of. You know how it is when you’re trying to be mindful and grateful and stuff. Your beak might still get cold.
A perfect prescription for a grumbly kind of mood or a book for when you want a good laugh. Penguin Problems is super clever and amusing at the same time and one of my top-shelf picture books in recent memory.
My favorite part of the book (aside from the waddle demonstration) is the “Everybody looks the same as me” section. So, I thought this craft called for not just one penguin, but many penguins. The kind that all look pretty much the same. Enter, penguin paper dolls!
(Extra points if you spot one that’s slightly different!)
What you need:
Black marker; orange marker
Black colored pencil or marker
Fold an 8 1/2 by 11” sheet of paper into quarters long ways and then cut along the folds. With one long strip, fold in half and in half again until it’s all folded like a book. Then, unfold and refold accordion style.
Draw half a penguin shape along the left/folded edge of the top of the accordion booklet making sure its wing extends beyond the edge of the paper. Cut around that shape and unfold to see your paper doll penguins! Then, draw in the eyes and belly and color in. Voila! Penguins holding hands. (Repeat if you want more penguin chains.)
These would be cute on a wall, in a doorway, or as company any place. It’s nice to have company when you’re dealing with so many problems, right?
Could there be a more perfect summer reading tribute? This picture book is about the joy of reading—alone. Only in this case, the main character can never get to the alone part. That’s because this lively, clever story is full of spoiler alerting animals. Without the alerts and just the spoilers. Any reader can relate.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
All the boy wants is to dive into and finish his book without being disturbed. But no matter how hard he tries, some animal who loves to read comes along and spoils all the juicy parts.
So he finds an unspoiled book and sneaks away. But things don’t go as planned.
Can we talk about Isabelle Roxas’s illustrations? The oversized glasses. The grape rhino. In a cave, in ice, or in a jungle, the colors and patterns pop on the page. And the hide and seek animals! There’s more to those yellow tree trunks than at first meets the eye. There are so many storytelling details like that. The art starts in muted, earthy tones of yellow and brown. And when things get going, when something crucial changes, the palette turns to blues and purples. There is so much style and substance in this artwork.
That dragonfly there? He’s important. He’s the only one who doesn’t get to give anything away. But if he’d finished his sentence, he would have. Let’s just say our main character is about to engage in the story in a pretty big way.
This book celebrates the way reading can be an immersive experience. You might just get soaked.
Thanks to Isabel Roxas for images!
You know what every reader needs? Reading glasses. And not necessarily the kind that help you see better. The kind that let everyone know you’re reading alone and not to be disturbed (or have the story spoiled).
So, I give you pipe cleaner Do Not Disturb Glasses!
All you need is pipe cleaners, that staple of kids crafts, and a pair of scissors. Then, shape and bend and and twist and cut away! A kid can make the glasses while a grownup is probably better suited to make the letters (and make the cuts). But anyone can wear them once they’re done! You can even custom-size a pair to its owner. One tip is to connect the letters to one another to form a kind of base/underline. That way, you can more easily twist them onto the glasses. Another tip—the round lenses are actually a double layer of pipe cleaners in order to keep the front edge tidy, not showing the fastening of letters to lens. Big thanks to my dude, Todd Davis, for crafting the glasses with more finesse than I could ever muster.
I’m giving away a copy of Let Me Finish! that’s autographed by both Minh Lé & Isabel Roxas! (And there will be a few other goodies in the winner’s envelope as well.)
Here’s to soaking up the rest of summer reading!