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?
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.
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!
read the book, make an ocean bottle necklace for a friend!
You might remember my post on Deborah Marcero‘s first picture book, Ursa’s Light, a shining debut. (There were Ursa cookies from Kellie at The Kaleidoscope!)
I’m a big fan of Deborah’s textured illustrations and the insight with which she tells and talks about stories.
Today, I’m delighted to present you with a first glimpse of the cover of her next picture book, Rosie & Crayon!
Through rich illustrations and language to match, this story of love and loss explores the way a dear pet can add every color of the seasons to your life. The way everything can seem to turn gray if you lose that pet. The way a heart, with time and just the right nudge, can open again to something new, something different but just as dear.
Look for the book’s release in early April! Just wait ’til you see the spreads inside!
Here’s what Deborah Marcero had to say about creating that sweet cover:
The idea for the cover came initially from an interior sketch. I wanted to showcase Rosie and Crayon embracing to highlight the love and connection between them. I also wanted to include a part of the setting important to the story, and decided to use the forest in the background. “R + C” carved into one of the trees also symbolizes how love can make its mark on our lives in a way that endures. The message of this story is meant to show children how when a loved one or pet is no longer with us, our lives are changed, bigger and more beautiful because of having known them. In coloring Rosie’s life, Crayon becomes part of her story. In this way, the ones we lose live on in us because of how they touched our lives and helped make us who we are.
My process initially involved lots of pencil work. I would draw and re-draw to get the proportions, scale, type, character designs, and emotional expressions just right. After those were set, I used a light table and inked over the lines with a brush and India ink onto a fresh piece of paper. I then chose a color palette using my two favorite media: watercolor and gouache. Since this book in many ways is also about color and the seasons, for the cover I wanted to focus on a spring palette – not only because the book is a spring release – but also in the end, I hope the reader is left with a renewed sense of hope and resilience.
Deborah Marcero grew up in Michigan where from a very young age drawing, writing, and reading filled her time. After teaching in Chicago Public Schools as a Literacy Specialist, Deborah realized that writing and creating books for kids was how she wanted to spend her life. So far Deborah has worked with Peter Pauper Press, Greenwillow (HarperCollins), and G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin).
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 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.
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!
(If you end up doing this activity, I’d love to see photos! You can find/tag me on Twitter or Instagram for that.)
One year, I made a picture book gift guide for grownups. This year, I wanted to share recent picture books that could be read by the young, the grown, or a combination of the two. Perhaps you’ll consider them as gifts for a family that has both!
These are books that can be appreciated for their art, their history, their inspiration, their windows into human experience. Picture books with adult appeal! And several of these are among my favorites of 2016, which I’ll make a note of.
Here goes (in no particular order)! And I hope you’ll add to the list in the comments.
The Journey by Francesca Sanna (*one of my favorite books of 2016). This is a story of a family seeking refuge when displaced by violence, based on interviews the author-illustrator collected. The way Sanna uses darkness to both illuminate and shield us from the terrible things that happen is gentle and effective. And she weaves in whimsical fantasy elements in a way that feels like an offering of hope.
“Every summer we used to spend many weekends at the beach. But we never go there anymore, because last year our lives changed forever.”
A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney, pictures by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson (*a favorite from 2016). A perfect tribute to The Snowy Day(1962), to its author-illustrator, Ezra Jack Keats‘s life, and to its main character, Peter, who was based on a newspaper clipping of a little boy that Keats kept for twenty years. This is indeed a poem for Peter and for all the children who saw themselves reflected in him for the first time.
“Brown-sugar boy in a blanket of white. Bright as the day you came onto the page. From the hand of a man who saw you for you.”
Some Things I’ve Lost by Cybèle Young (2015). This is a a bit hard to describe. It’s a catalogue of lost everyday objects that, when each page folds out, we find transformed into something else, something that resembles the original object but is now magical, one of Young’s exquisite paper sculptures. An imaginative gem.
Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis (*a favorite of 2016). A book that feels truly original, truly new. I mean, invented bug language! But those silent musical interludes are just as mesmerizing.
The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan (*a favorite of 2016). I’ve never read a Shaun Tan book I didn’t love, and this newest project (though a departure) is no exception. Grimm’s fairy tale synopses paired with Tan’s sculptures—strange, wonderful, haunting, powerful.
Where Do We Go When We Disappear? by Isabel Minhós Martins and Madalena Matoso (2013). One of the ones I’m collecting for a post on existential picture books someday, this explores the way things disappear and reappear and reshape and shift. The artwork really shines and the book cover also works well as decor. A book ostensibly about death and change, but also about the adventures socks go on when they’re “lost.”
Women In Science by Rachel Ignotofsky (2016). Admittedly, I haven’t read this one yet, but I wanted to include it because it seems a perfect fit. Illustrations! Women! Science! Yessss!
Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh (2014). This terrific book documents the case Mendez vs. Westminster School District, ten years before Brown vs. Board of Education, that desegrated schools in California. But it does more than that. It tells the story of Sylvia Mendez and her family who struggled and fought for what was right, for their rights, for the rights of Latino-Americans to have an equal and not separate education from white Americans. This is a disturbing, enlightening, important, and inspiring book for anyone of any age (especially if, like me, they didn’t know about the case before!). I especially like Tonatiuh’s artwork, “inspired by Pre-Columbian art, particularly that of the Mixtec codex.”
Out of the Woods by Rebecca Bond (2015). A boy lives at the hotel his mother runs in the woods of Canada, home to lumberjacks, trappers, and miners. That boy is the author-illustrator’s grandfather. This is his story, specifically of a day in 1914 when a fire broke out, threatening the hotel and the forest, and everyone retreated to the lake. People. Animals. The boy, Antonio. Together. This book is wow, told and illustrated in a perfect way to suit itself.
The Surprise by Sylvia Van Ommen (2007). This is such fun! It has style and humor and, you guessed it, the whole wordless book ends in a surprise to try and predict along the way.
The Wolves of Currumpaw by William Grill (*a favorite of 2016). A gripping true tale—of a legendary wolf and of a man who had the capacity for change. It is only through a great undertaking and mistake that Ernest Seton Thompson learned to value wolves and protect them. It is by reading this heartbreaking story of Lobo the wolf that any reader will value and want to protect them, too.
The Surfer of the Century by Ellie Crowe, illustrated by Richard Waldrep (2007). A fascinating and inspiring biography of Duke Kahanamoku, an Olympic swimmer considered the father of modern surfing who introduced the Hawaiian sport to the world and demonstrated grace in the water and on land.
What Is a Child? by Beatrice Alemagna (*one of my favorites of 2016). Alemagna explores what it’s like to be a child in a way that honors children and their experiences.
“Children want to be listened to with eyes wide open…”
“You need kind eyes to console them. And a little nightlight by the bed.”
The King of the Birds by Acree Graham Macam and Natalie Nelson (*a favorite of 2016). An imaginative take on Flannery O’Connor‘s life as a child and a biography of her birds. The voice, the collage art, the peacock, the pink cake, the zingers—all inventive and charming.
Toto’s Apple by Mathieu Lavoie (2016). I read this with my husband at our local indie bookstore and laughed a whole bunch. I think it’s odd, hilarious, well-designed, and clever, and that other grownups might think so too. (Also, terrific surprise ending.)
Drawing from Memory by Allen Say (2011). Say’s illustrated biography is for anyone who loves to draw, who loves comics, or who has had a teacher that mentored them and made everything possible. Like Say’s stories and fiction, his memoir brings me to tears.
Wild Berries by Julie Flett (2014). This one is beautiful—the art, the story of a grandmother and grandson picking blueberries together, the evocative details, the use of bilingual vocabulary from a dialect of the Algonquian Cree language. My favorite part is that the pair thank the clearing when they leave it (as well as the recipe for blueberry jam at the back).
The Sound of All Things by Myron Uhlberg and Ted Papoulas (2016). A memoir of a hearing child and his deaf parents on a day spent on Coney Island in the 1930s. A boy describing the way things sound to his father, and, eventually, turning to the library and literature to find the tools to do so with tenderness and precision.
“I sat on my windowsill, listening to sounds that my parents would never hear…I knew my father would ask me to describe them. I slowly turned the pages of my new book. I couldn’t wait to tell him about the sound of all things.”
Are You An Echo? by David Jacobson, Sally Ito, & Michiko Tsuboi, illustrated by Toshikado Hajiri (2016). A poignant biography of Japanese poet, Misuzu Kaneko, that gives us her poems following and weaved into her history, which was both remarkable and difficult. Her poems are distinguished by their empathy for everything, even like in the spread above, her empathy for snow. It’s a treasure of a book.
Cloth Lullaby by Amy Novesky, pictures by Isabelle Arsenault (*a favorite of 2016). A biography of the artist Louise Bourgeois that is as captivating in words as in pictures (and combines two of my favorite artists in the same book).
Beloved Dog by Maira Kalman (2015). A tribute to and compilation of dogs in Kalman’s life and work. With her signature bold and wonderful paintings and handwritten notes, she tells her own history with dogs too, from fear of them to finally getting one after her husband passed away.
“And it is very true, that the most tender, uncomplicated, most generous part of our being blossoms, without any effort, when it comes to the love of a dog.”
This Bridge Will Not Be Gray by Dave Eggers, art by Tucker Nichols (2015). This one’s a love letter to The Golden Gate Bridge, the amazing things humans make, to collage art and color, and to caring about something that will have a daily impact.
Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead (2016). A book about the artistic process. And walks. And neighbors. And war. This is how one creates, isn’t it? By collecting ideas in your little corner of your world. By caring about people and problems and what’s going on big and small. By chasing the beautiful, mundane blue horse made from spilled paint on the sidewalk. By noticing it.
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.
His legs take him to an art museum, and there, he’s inspired (by Matisse! by Jackson Pollock!). Getting out of our own heads and experiencing something new often is inspiring, isn’t it?
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.
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!