The first book was about forest animals who were afraid of the sights and sounds of the forest at night. Mama Elephant reassured them that the natural world was there to do its job and even nourish them. It was a lullaby of comfort.
In the follow-up, You’re Snug With Me, two bear cubs are born in the frozen north, in the den their mother has made them. They ask questions about the unknown outside their cozy home and their mother explains the seasons and the world, preparing them for what lies beyond and nurturing the need to take good care of it.
From the first book to the second, we go from summer to winter. Warmth to cold. Community to family. Forest to frozen north. Rich green to icy blue. While the setting has shifted and the cast of characters has gotten smaller, the comforting lullaby quality of security and snugness remains. These are perfect companion books, both grounded in nature and love and safety.
And… here’s the cover of You’re Snug With Me! In person, it glistens and sparkles like sun on snow!
And we’ve got a sneak peek of some beautiful interior spreads as well. Poonam Mistry uses the same exquisite style as the previous book, but this one with cool tones—butter yellow, lavender, crisp white, and ice-blue. And while the first book featured the dance of animals and natural elements on the page, this one zooms in on the relationship between mother and cubs, the sphere of family that feels to the very young like the whole world.
“The second story started with the idea of a hibernating polar bear and when I did the research to find out more, I fell in love with the scene of the cubs discovering their landscape for the first time. The challenge was to find elements that a polar bear cub should be introduced to and I had to go beyond the obvious – what’s underneath the ocean, what’s up in the sky. Also I couldn’t write about polar bears without worrying about the melting ice and somehow incorporating the role of every big predator in protecting it.”
“It was exciting working on You’re Snug With Me because it was outside of my usual comfort zone. I researched knitwear patterns and Inuit textiles and clothing and incorporated some of these patterns into my drawings so that it was different to the first book but there was still some continuity in the style of the artwork.
I don’t often work in pastel colours but it was important to reflect the wintry setting of the story and use these colours to highlight the beautiful landscapes of the Arctic.”
Breathtaking artwork and a beautiful story with a gentle environmental theme, this is a book to take in, to ponder, to read while snug with loved ones.
Look for it in October!
Chitra Soundar is an Indian-born British writer and storyteller. She is inspired by the rich epics and folktales of India, its diverse culture and its natural beauty. She has over 30 books in print worldwide and has been published by Otter-Barry Books, Walker Books and Red Robin Books.
Poonam Mistry is a UK-based illustrator of Indian heritage. Her work is heavily influenced by nature, folklore and traditional Indian art. With a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration, she produces artwork for clients around the world.
Big thanks to Lantana for images (and a review copy)!
You might want to check out the amazing paper star craft Poonam Mistry shared for the first installment in this series, You’re Safe With Me! There’s a template so you can make one too!
This book is a stunner—wordless and captivating. The colors! The cut paper! The journey from the uniformity of the everyday to the magic of story and art and imagination. All because of a book!
(click image(s) to enlarge)
The story is simple. A child finds a book with a blue horse on it on a city sidewalk. Back in her apartment building, we see her reading in her room, the rest of the windows around her opaque and beige. But she’s reading this bright blue book with a bright blue horse on the front.
And then, we glimpse the vibrant, exuberant horse inside! It’s mid-jump and kind of carries the girl away, and into the book. Out of everyday life. Pages continue like that—we are in the book with the child, the horse artwork getting more and more colorful and more and more abstract. Now, the child’s room (and world and imagination) are filled with art and color and shapes and possibility.
Geraldo Valério was inspired by the German Expressionist Group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) when making this book. It weaves in elements the group explored, like color and form having resonant meaning of their own. “The name ‘Der Blaue Reiter’ referred to Kandinsky and Marc’s belief that blue was the most spiritual color and that the rider symbolized the ability to move beyond.” (Quote found here.)
The child rider of the horse in the story certainly moves beyond—her surroundings, her modern, mundane world, her limits, by riding that horse out of the book and into her life. It moves her, it changes her, it shows her all kinds of possibility. Just the way reading and art can do.
I’m delighted to have Margaret from the wonderful literary kids’ craft blog, homemade city, here to share a truly exuberant Blue Rider craft with us! I’m a huge admirer of Margaret’s aesthetic and creations—her crafts are a must see (and make!).
Over to Margaret!
When you open the cover of Blue Rider by GeraldoValério, you’re met with delicious saturated color in an array of forms and shapes. It’s a treasure just like the book that the child character discovers on a city sidewalk in this wordless story. As the child opens the book, a blue horse leaps across the sky streaking the city’s gray grid with a spray of color.
When Danielle suggested I make a craft for Blue Rider, I happily took up my scissors and glue stick. But how best to reproduce the surprise and pleasure that a reader, like the child in Blue Rider, can find just by opening a book? How about a pop-up? With collaged bits of jewel-hued paper. And a blue horse, of course.
What you’ll need:
Card stock or construction paper
Paint color sample cards
First, fold a piece of paper in half. I used an 8 1/2 x 11″ sheet of dark blue card stock. Set it aside.
On a different piece of paper, trace and cut out a circle on stiff paper. I traced a circle about 4″ in diameter using a tin coffee can. Cut a spiral into your paper circle. It’s OK to freehand, lopsided spirals are as beautiful as uniform ones. (Spirals are the simplest way to create a pop-up–and their shape adds whimsy and movement as you open the fold.)
Dab glue to the center of your spiral. Place your circle (side with glue facedown) inside of your folded paper.
Apply glue to an inch or two of the exposed tail of your spiral. Press the folded paper closed so that the glued tail will adhere to the other half of the paper. When you open the card, the spiral will pop up like a spring!
Now for the fun—cut shapes or hole-punch dots or stars or flowers from your paint sample color cards. If you want to write a message, trace letters and cut them out—whatever pleases you!
Glue your shapes to the spiral, making sure nothing peeks out when you fold the paper closed.
I cut out a blue horse and fashioned a rainbow mane like the one that canters across the city sky in Blue Rider. Then I added abstract shapes to the dark blue background, inspired by Valerio’s pages of rich color and collage. It was so delightful, I quickly made another with abstract bits and tiny hole-punched blooms. No horse this time, just color, shape, and surprise.
Thank you, Margaret! This craft is bursting with joy!
Margaret 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 2019 with Charlesbridge Publishing. By day, you can find her wearing cat glasses and cardigans as the children’s librarian at Hardy Elementary School in Arlington, Mass. In her free time, she makes wacky, colorful crafts at homemade city.
I’m so delighted to feature Julie Flett here! She is a Cree-Metis artist, illustrator, and author from Canada, creating some of the most beautiful children’s books ever.
Her art is so distinctive—the play of smooth solids and patterns, of muted tones and vibrant accents of color, all with ever present clean lines, bold shapes, and collage. Her projects explore and celebrate Native people and include themes of history, family bonds, culture, and nature. You know when you’re holding one of her books in your hands—her illustrations communicate so much feeling and connection to others and the world around us. Each one truly tells a story.
Julie Flett wrote and illustrated this one in which a boy and his grandmother pick blueberries in the woods. This book is filled with small, still, contemplative moments and details as well as bilingual vocabulary from the Cree language. Plus, there’s a recipe for wild blueberry jam at the back.
A lullaby to a little one, bursting with love and joy.
I’m interested in the everyday experience, in the intimacy of my subject matter. For Little You, I thought a lot about my son as a baby and toddler. The page with the hole in the mother’s sock reads, “Let’s all dance, let’s all sing,” and the image for this page came to me right away. I often played music for my son when he was a baby and we would dance around the kitchen or living room together.
This book fills my heart with happiness and is a wonderful exploration of the connective and special while simple things in life, incorporating elements of Native culture. Beautiful.
As an adult, I attended art school at Concordia University, where my major was studio art. The work I was producing at that time was installation based, painting, sound, and some film work. After graduating, I worked as an advocate and outreach worker in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver. During that period, my sister, who worked for First Nations publisher Theytus Books, asked me if I’d like to illustrate a book. They were looking for an illustrator for a children’s story and asked me to submit draft drawings. It all happened so quickly that I didn’t have much of a chance to really think about not having experience as an illustrator. I discovered a love for this.
“Just look at the joy and the smile of the child on the cover! That kid is loved, and that’s what I want for Native kids! To feel loved by words, by story, by books. We Sang You Home is a board book that, with very few words on each page, tells a child about how they were wanted, and how they came to be, and how they were, as the title says, sang home where they’d be kissed, and loved, and… where they, too, would sing.”
My mom was a textile artist. She had a weaving shop when we were growing up, in the 1970s, and later a consignment-clothing store with a focus on vintage clothing from the ’20s and ’30s. I was around textiles a lot as a child. My sister and I used to spin wool for the weaving shop, and I developed a love for patterns, dyes, and materials. I think I approach the collage work similarly to composing a haiku. My collage imagery is often pared down, emphasizing simplicity, intensity, and direct expression. I’m also inspired by painters, filmmakers, and children’s bookmakers from earlier periods. I especially like Ezra Jack Keats, Eric Carle, artist Sonia Delaunay, Inuit print-maker Pitseolak Ashoona, and filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, to name a few.
Without mentioning them outright, this book takes on the topic of Canadian residential schools in which Indigenous children were sent away to government facilities in order to assimilate into Canadian/European/English or French-speaking culture. “In all, about 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Métis children were removed from their communities and forced to attend the schools.” The conditions were terrible, and the children were isolated from their families, cultures, and languages for most or all of the year.
In this story, a child asks her grandmother a series of questions about her daily life and practices—her bright clothes, her long braid, her Cree words that “sounded just like a poem.” The answers illuminate the injustice of her grandmother’s past as well as the way she then and now strives to reclaim her heritage, pride, and self, courageously and poignantly. It’s an eye-opening, sad, and important book that’s perfectly crafted in a way for young readers to engage with.
Here’s an article that includes quotes from Julie Flett about the process of creating When We Were Alone.
Admittedly, I haven’t been able to get a copy of this one to read myself, but wanted to include it because it’s another book Julie Flett has written as well. A counting book that’s gorgeously illustrated and helps kids not only count, but learn the Cree language. Win, win, win.
Good news! Thanks to the generosity of Orca Books and Highwater Press, I’m giving away a pack of four of Julie Flett’s books to one lucky winner! One person will win all four books pictured (My Heart Fills With Happiness; Little You; We Sang You Home; When we Were Alone. Enter through the Rafflecopter below.)
This picture book is the story of baby animals in the forest, afraid of the startling sights and sounds of the night, wind, and rain. And it’s the story of Mama Elephant who comforts them, telling them the ways the elements that appear scary are actually necessary—natural parts of the world that deliver good, wondrous things too.
“You’re safe with me,” Mama Elephant says again and again, as comforting as any lullaby. That refrain, and all her stories of the world around them, put the animals peacefully right to sleep.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
This story is blanketed by the most beautiful illustrations by Poonam Mistry. The dance of dark and light, the glow of gold—this exquisite art dives into each element being explored by Mama Elephant. From her website, Mistry says the following about her work:
“My style incorporates my love of nature and explores the relationships between pattern, shapes and colour creating beautifully intricate illustrations.
Being brought up surrounded by Indian fabrics, paintings and ornaments have heavily influenced my work.”
“You’re Safe With Me was inspired by the rich oral storytelling tradition I grew up [in]. My grandmother and her sister told me stories from Hindu epics and my mother made up stories whenever I asked for a new one.
I visualised Mama Elephant as a storyteller who tells a little story for each of the elements of the thunderstorm to help the little animals deal with their fear, and at the same time reassures them that she’s there to look after [them] no matter what.
And that to me is the role of a storyteller too – they guide us through dangerous imagined worlds, all the while holding our hands.”
You’re Safe With Me is a book for soothing a little one to sleep, a book for embracing the natural world in new ways, a book for cherishing our loved ones who make us feel safe in any storm.
Big thanks to Lantana Publishing for the review copy and images, and to Poonam and Chitra!
The illustrator herself, Poonam Mistry, has designed a corresponding craft for You’re Safe With Me!
Mirroring her intricate artwork in the book, she’s here to show us how to make our very own paper stars! And she’s got printable templates too.
Over to Poonam!
What you’ll need:
The printed templates [find links to both here and here]:
Coloured card or paper
Gel pens, felt tips or pencil colours
Optional – foil and a permanent marker to draw on the foil
String to hang it
Print and cut out the templates using the scissors. (Templates found here and here.) Trace around these on the coloured card or paper using a pencil. It is best to use 2/3 colours.
Cut around these and stick together in order using glue (3 should be on top with 1 at the bottom).
Add triangles or circles on the points of the star using pencil colours, felt tips of pencil colours. I used a gold gel pen in this example.
Cut out smaller shapes in coloured card/paper and glue these to add more patterns. Triangles work best. You could add foil shapes if you wanted to make your star sparkle.
Add the last patterns and details on top drawing geometric shapes and spirals.
Finally, Put a hole through one point of the star. Thread the string through it and tie a knot at the ends to hang it.
(Here I used foil and a permanent marker to add patterns. White gel pen was used to add details onto the black card.)
Thank you so much, Poonam, for designing and sharing this special star craft!