What really stuck out to me about this picture book is the language. It’s fun. It’s snappy. It’s clever. And it tells the story of this penguin turned Penguinaut named Orville perfectly.
Sure, it’s about the big adventure he longs to have and his ensuing trip to the moon. But more than that, it’s about something even bigger: his friends.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
Orville has big friends. Orville wants to do something BIG. Orville wants to do it himself. (Notice “flippered out” on that spread. That’s a taste of the terrific, inventive language I’m talking about.)
Orville does have a big adventure. The biggest. But just when he’s overcome with loneliness in spite of it, a note from his friends falls out of his pocket. And that note brings him home, the place where stories of adventure are told: together. And as anyone who’s ever had an adventure and then had the pleasure of telling a friend about it, that’s a pretty big deal.
A cheerfully zippy story with a vibrantly sweet heart.
Zoe of Northwest Felts and I met on Instagram a while back and so when I read this book and thought, “felt craft!” I also thought of her wonderful felt creations that are so perfect for not only crafting, but for storytelling too. She was kind enough to make a felt storytelling craft for Penguinaut, and is giving it away!
Take it away, Zoe!
When I first read Penguinaut, I was struck by the amazing outer space scenes. Danielle and I both agreed that they should be featured in whatever craft I created. Most of my crafting is done with felt as the medium, and it seemed like the right choice for the Penguinaut craft, too!
I wanted to make something that could be manipulated and played with after the actual craft was complete, almost like a felt story. I also wanted the craft to bring to life the “do it yourself” struggle all children and parents (and Penguinauts) inevitably go through.
What you’ll need:
Fabric glue (I normally sew my creations, but glue works too!)
*Children’s scissors are my secret weapon for cutting felt.
**I used photocopies from pages of the book in order to get the characters just right. If you’re skilled at drawing, you could easily draw the characters instead.
In order to make this a craft that older children can do by themselves, I would suggest getting photocopies of the main pieces from the story (the Penguinaut and the space ship are the two that I focused on, but get photocopies of whatever you want to create).
You can use the photocopies in two ways. The first is to trace the photocopy onto the felt and cut out the traced image. The second way is to safety pin the photocopy onto the felt and cut out around the photocopy. I used the second option because it creates cleaner lines.
To create a cleaner finish, you can glue penguinaut’s feet in between his white tummy piece and the rest of his body.
Now that we have a penguinaut, we can work on his space suit. I wanted him to fit inside the suit, so I made a suit that can open and close. I did this by first cutting long, thin strips on orange, to create hinges. Next, I glued them, half to the white backing of the suit, and half to the orange front of the suit. Finally, I folded the suit over so the hinges were hidden on the inside.
I also wanted Penguinaut to be able to get into and out of his spaceship, so I glued an extra piece of beige felt to the back. This created a little nook that penguinaut can sit in during his space adventure.
For the background, I chose to do the outer space scene. I loved the colour contrasts and the twinkling stars. Some of the pieces are glued down (Earth, the Moon, the clouds and stars) while other pieces are left unglued so that they can be moved and played with (the spacesuit, Penguinaut, and the flag).
Have fun with this part! I wanted to stay true to the illistrations in the book, but you can create different scenes based on your favourite part of the book (or your favourite part of space)!
I love the idea that you get to choose what to glue down and what to leave free to move around. Giving these choices can create a fun experience that can be revisited over and over again.
When the craft is done and you’ve finished exploring and playing with it, I love the idea of storing it on the wall as art. If you put it up on a felt board, a child can take it down and play with it whenever they want.
Thanks for following along!
Zoe is the maker at North West Felts. She loves using felt stories to create literacy experiences through play. Zoe’s favourite Felt set is Slippery Fish! She is a huge fan of children’s literacy and loves reading stories with her 2.5-year-old and her 8-month-old. Zoe is currently on maternity leave but will return to work as an Early Childhood Educator in the Spring. When she isn’t reading, she is using books as inspiration for her felt creations. Find her on Instagram and Facebook @northwestfelts.
Good news! We’re giving away a copy of Penguinautand Zoe’s felt craft set to go with it!
I thought it would be nice to round up a list of books that capture small, still moments. Moments to pay attention to. Moments to savor.
All Around Us by Xelena González, illustrated by Adriana M. Garcia (2017).
Alia of Read it Real Good first brought this book to my attention in her guest post. A grandparent and grandchild see the circles—both literal and figurative—in nature and life and family against a backdrop of beautiful, noteworthy illustrations.
Without their video game, a child becomes immersed in the outside world instead. “Why hadn’t I done these things before today?” they wonder as the book affirms curiosity and play and unencumbered time.
It captures moments of exploring the outdoors.
I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Ashley Bryan (2018).
A collection of poems by Nikki Giovanni that explore many things: social justice, pride, music, quilts, and cats. But they all exude love, for self and for others.
A boy and his grandmother pick berries (written in English with Cree vocabulary) and thank the clearing before leaving it. Contemplative with endearing details and a recipe for blueberry jam at the back.
A beautiful, triumphant book full of the most expressive portraits throughout. It’s, as the title suggests, about getting a haircut. But it’s about much more than that too.
“It’s the look your English teacher gives you when she hands you your last test with a bright red 97 slapped on it. It’s how your mother looks at you before she calls you beautiful. Flowers are beautiful. Sunrises are beautiful. Being viewed in your mother’s eyes as someone that matters—now that’s beautiful.”
It captures moments of pride.
You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Danielle Daniel (2017).
Written in both English and Plains Cree, an absolutely wonderful book embodying kindness and respect. The starting point was for “healing and Reconciliation” in response to the history of oppression of Indigenous people, particularly in regards to Residential Schools in Canada.
It captures moments of community and relationships.
A gripping story filled with descriptive imagery and glowing illustrations of a boy and his father going fishing early one morning in order to feed their family—a story of this pond and the one the boy’s father left behind.
It captures moments of family.
Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (2016).
A story of a big day followed by bedtime. A story of twenty yawns.
What I like best about this picture book is the original and inventive format that uses “or” for two different options at every plot turn. Let me show you what I mean (see that “or” in the corner?):
The whole story uses this format of one thing could happen OR another thing could. That’s what moves the story along. It’s a great technique for suspense and humor with a bit of a guessing element. And I could see it being used to teach storytelling to kid writers to.
At its heart, this is a kind of adventure story for Squirrel that ultimately brings Squirrel back to the character who set off the whole adventure: Squirrel’s friend Moose.
I asked Cathy Ballou Mealey, the author, about “or” situations in her own writing journey and about her debut picture book.
This Picture Book Life: Did you have a significant this “OR” that moment in your own writing journey, a fork in the road that determined your path?
Cathy Ballou Mealey: Absolutely! Joining a critique group in the metro Boston area was the fork in the road that made all the difference in my writing journey. Green as a leaf in springtime, I had already enrolled in SCBWI and written at least a dozen “not ready for prime time” picture book manuscripts. I was eager for feedback on my work, but I learned the most from actively observing the working rhythms of this cohesive, supportive and experienced group.
So if you could: Read, research, write and revise alone,
Collaborate with talented, thoughtful and engaged writers and illustrators who love books.
I highly recommend that you choose the *OR*!
TPBL: How did you come up with the idea for this story, and specifically the super inventive format?
Cathy: While our family was enjoying a woodsy hike, an unusual Crash! led us to speculate whether a tree had fallen or an animal was coming our way. We froze, listening for clues. Heart pounding, I tried to recall whether to hide, run, or confront whatever wild creature might appear. “It must have been a tree,” we reassured the kids after a long silence. As we hiked on I wondered, What if the falling tree had scared a bear, or frightened a deer? Thus the initial seeds of this story were planted in my brain.
TPBL: What was the process of developing the method of having “or” in the corner of each page as the text and illustrations were plotted out in picture book format?
Cathy: To emphasize the *OR* and ensure that it would lead directly to a funny or surprising page turn, I inserted plenty of white space into my manuscript around the word itself. In my early drafts, I brainstormed to generate as many potential *OR* consequences as possible. That led to a door-sized diagram of sticky notes, plotting events that could lead from one thing to the next with increasing intensity! Ryan Thomann was the talented art director at Sterling who developed the curled page corner effect, which I think adds so much to the *OR* page turn!
Big thanks to Cathy for talking with me and to Sterling for images!
I am Sonia Sotoymayor by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulous (2018) is part of the “Ordinary People Change the World” series that highlights incredible individuals in a comic book biography format for kid readers.
It covers her childhood in New York City, her Puerto Rican family, and the injustices she could already see around her. First, she wanted to be a detective like Nancy Drew, but felt like her diabetes would hinder her. Then she wanted to be a judge like Perry Mason. She was valedictorian of her high school class and attended Princeton, a place where she took refuge in books. In 2009, after a career as a prosecutor and a federal judge in New York, she was nominated by Barack Obama and sworn into the Supreme Court, becoming the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.
Because Sotomayor is such an inspiration, I thought I’d share with you some inspiring photos and quotes to celebrate her as a force for justice.
Sonia Sotomayor has also written a book for kids, in her own words: Turning Pages by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Lulu Delacre (2018). I’ll leave you with quotes from that one about books and reading, the through line of her life story.
Today, I’m happy to dive into Sean Quall‘s picture book life! I’ve been following his career and have been a big admirer of his artwork for a long time so this is a neat chance to showcase some of his projects for kid readers and viewers.
When I think of Qualls’s work, I think of smooth yet textured layers. I think of pastels and pencil lines. I think of muted pinks and purples and blues that still pop. I think of shapes—circles and winking stars—on abstract backgrounds. Vibrant. Impacting and engaging. Dreamy. Beautiful.
Sean Qualls has illustrated 20 books for children (and I might even be missing a couple)!
He’s a painter and you can see a sampling of that work here.
He sometimes collaborates with his partner, Selina Alko. (See all of herbooks.) I wonder if (and hope!) they’ll keep making art for picture books together. When they make work together, Alko brings more collage into the mix.
He’s illustrated projects by Toni Morrison, Spike Lee, and Young People’s Poet Laureate, Margarita Engle.
“After getting my kids off to school, I spend some time (usually in cafes) journaling/self reflecting. I also use that time to figure out what projects to spend my time on that day/week. Green tea is my drink of choice.”
I studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for about a year and a half and then dropped out. Later, I took a few continuing education classes at SVA (School of Visual Arts) but much of my training has been trial and error.
KidLitTV has a wonderful video featuring both Qualls and Alko. It’s a very special studio visit that shows the pair painting together while they speak about collaboration, expressing yourself, facing your fears, and more.
“Each time I sit down and make a piece of art…that fear comes up, that fear of not being liked or not knowing that people will accept me or the art or what I’m trying to say. But I think it’s important to keep on creating even though you may be afraid because in the end you’re only you, you’re yourself…that’s all we have is who we are and that’s all we can really share with the world…”