Category Archives: Picture Book Crafts
Sunflower Sisters by Monika Singh Gangotra and Michaela Dias-Hayes (2021). It’s out in the UK now and will be coming to the US as well.
This picture book is a story about bonds of love. The ones between best friends, Amrita and Kiki. The ones between mothers and their children. The ones made at special wedding celebrations. And, at its heart, the ones we have with ourselves. Amrita’s story encourages readers to beam like a sunflower, proud and bold. And to be a sunflower with and for others too.
It has captivating, joyful illustrations and a message that radiates affirmation, connection, and purpose.
Amrita is getting ready for a wedding in her South Asian family, and the bride is wearing face cream to lighten her skin. This, as well as a comment from Aunty about drinking tea, sets off discussion and discovery for the main character.
Amrita’s mum though, is a source of self-acceptance, a voice of encouraging Amrita to fiercely love herself as she is—and her skin tone that is beautiful as it is, always, as well as in a yellow lehenga, the color of a sunflower. In fact, it is Amrita’s yellow lehenga and effervescent sunflower-spirit that eventually convinces Aunty how beautiful she is wearing any color at all.
“…the skin we are in is EXACTLY as it is meant to be.”
Amrita’s best friend, Kiki, is at a wedding the same day as well. At the end, we see the girls unite and twirl together, vowing to love who they are as they bloom and grow. And we even get a glimpse on the last two spreads of how they do! (Hint: it has to do with being, doing, and also wearing what you love.)
Plus, there’s an explanation of colorism in the back for handy reference when speaking with kids about the book.
“From that moment on, the girls would make sure they felt like sunflowers every day.”
The author of this book has an effervescent sunflower-spirit herself, and I was lucky enough to be able to catch up with my friend Monika Singh Gangotra to ask her a few questions about Sunflower Sisters. She shares her wonderful answers below! Read on to hear what she has to say!
This Picture Book Life: What was the impetus for you to write Sunflower Sisters; what inspired the idea for this picture book and to explore colorism through family, friendship, and wedding celebrations?
Monika Singh Gangotra: Sunflower Sisters is a story that follows two best friends, Amrita and Kiki, on their journey through self-love, sisterhood and the power of loving one another. Specifically, this story focuses on the issue of familial colourism and how we can tackle this with love, kindness, acceptance, strength and honesty.
I wanted kids to have some books on their shelves that were rich in diversity, cultures of those they are growing up alongside, representative of multicultural communities, relatable characters, contexts and adventures, books that carried important messages for the world we live in and how they affect all of us. To empower readers to make positive change. Further, I wanted more representation for the way we live our lives. The buildings, our clothes, our neighbours whilst also addressing and raising awareness of cultural issues and cultural wonders that are still alive and present today.
Colourism is an issue that has followed me throughout my whole life and continues to do so to ALL South Asians in some way. With a deep-rooted history related to colonialism and caste, colourism has become incredibly engrained in the way South Asians view beauty and success. South Asian pop culture is saturated in colourism and our exposure and ideology is incredibly high. As I began to work in the beauty industry, what I was taught to believe about what is beautiful became incongruent with what I saw and felt for myself. And I wanted to create change. I feel social change is incredibly powerful through children and it is our responsibility as adults to help steer them in the direction of love.
In my experience, wedding celebrations have a large focus on beauty and the way a woman presents herself to the community. Much of my exposure in relation to colourism was in and around wedding celebrations. In saying that, I love weddings. The joy, the colours, the clothes! Weddings have always been occasions where I have felt I can truly express myself in terms of my style and felt would make a great setting for Amrita to be able to do the same.
TPBL: Sunflowers! Do you have a special connection to these radiant blooms?
Monika Singh Gangotra: I remember growing up and watching my mum walking around the front yard of our coastal home in the early morning. The sun high in the sky and the most beautiful and brightly coloured birds chirping loudly, eating from all her fruit trees she planted herself – pears, guava, peaches and a mango tree to name just to name a few.
As more and more birds began to come to our house to eat and party, Mum felt there wasn’t enough fruit on the trees to feed them all so she began to buy large bags of bird seed to scatter on the front yard. This bird seed mix had sunflower seeds and before we knew it, we had these incredible sunflowers growing in our front yard. As tall as can be. These were some of the best days and the most beautiful images of my mum that I carry in my heart and can see ever so clearly when I close my eyes and think of home.
This image of my mum and her sunflowers is how this came to be. I feel that sunflowers grow their best when they are surrounded by the warmth of the sun. I also noticed in her flowers that some of the sunflowers looked towards one another. This is the imagery that I have used in the book to describe the important relationships between Amrita, Kiki and their mothers.
Amrita looks up towards her mother for love and guidance (as the sun). Her mother provides her with a safe environment to grow full of warmth and love. Sisterhood is explained through Amrita and Kiki being sunflowers for themselves and also one another. That at times when their sun isn’t there, they can look towards each other and know they will always be there for one another – unconditionally.
TPBL: Both you and Michaela Dias-Hayes have relationships with fashion and textiles, and your Instagram often features your radiant, joyful wardrobe in exuberant photos. How did both your passions for fashion inevitably infuse Sunflower Sisters?
Monika Singh Gangotra: The story follows Amrita and Kiki in their journey to open their own fashion house, just as I have been so lucky to have done so in my own. Fashion is such a huge part of my personal expression.
Michaela incorporated prints from clothes she had seen from my own personal wardrobe in social media. That is why my most favourite page is the very last. The colours, the diversity, little hints of my own story and journey in the colours and prints used. My heart sang when I first saw that page and Owlet Press lovingly gifted me a framed copy of this spread to hang on my wall.
Thank you, Monika, for spending this time and sharing with us, and to you and Owlet Press for review copy and images!
This sunflower hair clip is playfully easy to make with no-bake modeling clay and will remind the wearer that, like Amrita and the Sunflower Sisters, they have their own ability to beam like this golden bloom. It could be used in a child’s hair or worn on some item of clothing or accessory or affixed to a piece of furniture or carried in a bag or pocket.
Any no-bake modeling clay (I used yellow, orange, pink, and brown and Crayola’s Model Magic variety.)
A hair clip on which to fasten the bloom.
Some gold thread if you’d like to add flecks of it as I have done.
Hot glue gun (to be used by the adult present).
From there, it’s just a matter of starting with the sunflower center by rolling a ball of clay and slightly flattening it Then, you shape a whole bunch of petals, mixing clay colors if you’d like, and then kneading each one onto the center so it’s attached. Layer by layer, petal by petal, however you like! I cut small pieces of gold thread to embed into some petals as well, taking inspiration from the sunflowers on the cover of Sunflower Sisters.
The finally step is attaching the flower to the clip. Before you glue it, wait until your clay is dry. The timing may be different depending on what kind you use, but if you wait 24 hours, I’m sure that’ll do the trick in any case. Simply affix it with a dollop of hot glue, hold a few seconds, wait, and wear!
This picture book is pure genius. First of all, it’s narrated by a chair!
Funny, inventive, and super kid-centric, The Bad Chair is a story for anyone who’s ever felt lonely and left out and maybe gone about trying to be part of things in not-the-best way.
You see, “More than anything, Chair wanted to be in on the game.” And while it’s never stated, the game is hide-and-seek. Vivi plays hide-and-seek every night. Only she plays it with Monkey, not with Chair.
Each character is illustrated for us as though they are real, they are animate. They have eyes and expressions. But still, this is Vivi’s world, the world of a child’s imagination. She (may have been!) orchestrating this whole thing—it’s up to you to decide. Vivi arranges objects in a certain way. She leads investigations with about where Monkey is with the objects. She dances with her stuffed monkey. She reminds me of myself when I was a kid. She might also remind you of you.
But still, it is Chair we really feel for. Feeling left out, left behind, left in the dark. And then, when Chair handles their feelings by doing something not so great, we get to experience Chair’s desperation and despair, and then, regret. But really, The Bad Chair isn’t bad. We understand that Chair wants to be in on the game. We all get that.
Setting is a big deal here, of course, seeing as Chair is part of the setting. The whole book takes place essentially in the living room of Vivi’s home, with all of its objects. Dasha’s artwork is perfect for this: bright, cheerful, some sketched, some painted, cloudy washes of color, so many fun, colorful patterns. Every item is thoughtfully crafted: Vivi’s sleuthing hat, the cat’s blank, white silhouette and long eyelashes, kettle’s upturned nose, all the different plants.
Huge thanks to Groundwoods Books for the review copy and images!
The cover of this book alone hinted it might beckon for a craft. And it did! So I invited Meg of Finding Stuff Club to make a super special craft for The Bad Chair that could also be a game. She delivered big time!
Over to Meg!
In The Bad Chair – all Chair wants to do is play a game of hide-and-seek. This craft gives The Bad Chair an opportunity to do exactly that! Follow the simple instructions below to make your very own The Bad Chair: Hide & Seek Game Craft. Hide the chairs around your home and see if a friend or family member can find them all!
What you’ll need:
6 pieces of 8.5 x 11 construction paper or colored cardstock
Crayons and paint
Place your paper down horizontally. Make a 4″x 5″ rectangle in the middle of your sheet of paper. Draw two rectangles on either side of the square, 2.5″ wide. Draw a 1″ flap at the top of the rectangle, about 1″ flap at the bottom of the square. Cut out your shape and fold along the edges of the square. Glue the side and bottom flaps together to create an envelope. Is that too much of a mouthful? Take an envelope apart and see how it is constructed to help.
Step 2: Decorate your paper
Pick out pieces of paper that match colors you see in the book. Be inspired by the different patterns! Draw stars, dots, and stripes that mimic what you see. The patterns should cover the entire sheet of paper.
Step 3: Make your chair template
Draw a flat chair template that fits within the 4″x 5″ rectangle of the envelope. The chair should be a square with 4 legs of equal size and a back. When you cut it out and fold it, it should stand up straight (like a chair!).
Step 5: Trace your chair
Flatten your chair template. Trace the chair shape on each piece of patterned paper.
Step 6: Cut out your chairs
Cut out your chairs and fold them to make sure they can stand up.
Step 7: Play the game!
Hide the chairs around your house. Play with one person to see if they can find them all or play with a group to see who can find the most. Store in your envelope when done!
Thanks so much, Meg!
Meg Eplett is a Creative Director and Illustrator living in Brooklyn. She loves working on kid projects, kid brands, kid anything (because kids stuff is way more fun). You can see her work at eplettdesign.com or visit @findingstuff.club—a kids’ resource she founded with her friend to help parents during COVID and beyond.
I’ve featured Dasha’s work before, in this post from 2015 on A Year Without Mom, her middle grade graphic novel.
And you might also like Count on Me math quest cards!
This picture book (created by a pair of brothers!) is sophisticated yet simple, celebratory, and circular in that its beginning connects to its whole and its close. It welcomes you in and gently ushers you along.
It’s the story of an old truck, but it’s also the story of a family, a girl who goes on to revive the truck, and a farm. Realistic with an imaginative interlude in the middle, it speaks to the beauty of days lived, of seasons passing, of moments and dreams and determination unfolding over time. It speaks, in a particular way, of love.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
The characters in this book are the old, red truck, of course, the farm, and the family—especially the little girl coming out of the barn in the spread above. The art, to me, is also a character. The geometric yet sweet, textured stamps give a wonderful quality to the pages—warm, homey, timeless, welcoming. The stamp illustration technique also brings to mind and mimics the hard work and process we see in the story on the farm and on the restored truck and the labor done by the truck itself. (See more of Jarrett and Jerome’s stamp-making behind the scenes here.)
“Part of the inspiration came from looking at books we consider timeless, books that we read when we were kids and that we still have. Even though they didn’t necessarily use stamps, the work of those mid-century illustrators had texture. It was trial and error — we tried different things, but in the end, stamps had that similar look.”
—Jerome Pumphrey from this Horn Book interview
“We didn’t grow up in the inner city. We lived on places like farms and in the suburbs. Telling those stories is absolutely essential, because it adds some dimension to the lives that black kids live. Black kids are not just in cities. They live everywhere. I’m glad we could contribute to that.”
—Jarrett Pumphrey from this Horn Book interview
And in the end it’s spring. The flowers are blooming. The truck is running again thanks to the girl who’s grown up to be a farmer. And another little girl sits on the gate of the old truck ready to help, ready to love and be loved, ready to live seasons and days and moments, to let them unfold, to dream with determination. And we as readers have a sense that this story is not over. This story goes on and on.
p.s. There’s an old truck in real life Jarrett Pumphrey restored to check out as well!
When I saw the stamp artwork in The Old Truck, I knew I had to try my own kid-friendly version to honor this beautiful book! I hope this proves to be a fun activity for young readers to live with this story more deeply, to explore the artistic process of creating it, and to play with shapes and paint.
What you’ll need:
Sponges! The kind that are compressed and “pop up” when you put them in water
Paint (I used Crayola tempera paint)
Paper—some for tracing, some for stamping!
Paper towels or rags for wiping up
The first step is to cut out your shapes. I started by drawing shapes from the book onto printer paper—the truck body, its wheels, the sun, clouds, stems, and flowers. Then I transferred those shapes onto sponges with pencil (while the sponges are still compressed—flat and stiff). You can do this freehand or by tracing around the paper or both. Then, cut out the sponge shapes! You’re almost ready to paint with stamps.
Once your sponge shapes are ready, it’s time to make them pop up! Run each sponge under water and feel it expand, which is super cool! Wring out the water (they do not need to be all the way dry) and you’ve got your stamps.
I poured my paint colors onto aluminum foil (you might have another method that works). To lighten the blue, I added some white. To make pink, I combined red and white. I also lightened up the yellow a tad for the flowers. Then, place your stamp in the paint and do some tests on scrap paper to see what thickness you want and how the process works. When you’re ready, stamp your craft paper and make a scene from The Old Truck! Stamp, stamp, stamp some more!
That’s it! This is definitely a fun one, with lots of room for play, process, and creativity. Enjoy!
While you’ve got your paints out, you might enjoy this Señorita Mariposa butterfly clothespin craft!
Don’t Worry Little Crab by Chris Haughton (2020).
The title of this picture book is four words we could all use right now.
Not only is it a masterful story illustrated with striking, vivid art, it’s also an exploration of fear and of what it’s like to take little steps through fear. Little Crab shows us that everyone has the capacity to be stronger and braver than they think they are, to take on new challenges, and to experience gratification and growth around navigating waves and charting new waters.
Little Crab’s story is full of hope, and it could also be a way into talking to kids about fears they may have right now as well as the stuff that’s potentially still there in every moment even as there is so much anxiety and unknown and tragedy—little bits of beauty, the natural world, and their own ability to weather the waves.
When Little Crab and Very Big Crab first set out from their tide pool, headed to the ocean, Little Crab is full of confidence. “I can go anywhere!”
But then the first wave comes. “WHOOSH!” Turns out, the sea is very big, a lot bigger than Very Big Crab. And pretty scary, too. Little Crab doesn’t like it.
But Very Big Crab encourages Little Crab. They hold tight. They stick together. They let the wave whoosh and swoop and hurtle over them. They are okay. Little Crab is okay. But still, Little Crab wants to go home. Wouldn’t you? Especially when each new wave is bigger than the last.
And then, they dive under the very biggest wave. The feeling captured is so familiar to anyone who’s had the good fortune of being at the ocean, of diving into and under a wave, of the anticipation and apprehension of not knowing exactly what will happen next. Of hoping that in being swallowed up, you are still somehow safe.
And then, finally, there is the ocean—the down below sea! Little Crab, it turns out, does love the ocean and all the underwater creatures and a colorful game of hide and seek. Little Crab can go anywhere! In fact, Little Crab doesn’t want to stop adventuring in order to go home. Because there are wonderful things to be found at the end of some of the most challenging journeys. And even along the way.
Unlike Little Crab, we cannot go anywhere right now. Quite the opposite, in fact. We can stay home. Or we can go to an essential job with great care. We can go on a walk. Children, especially, cannot just go anywhere. They are more confined than ever. But all of us can always go places—anywhere, in fact—in our imaginations. In our minds. In our ability to, like Little Crab, have courage on the journey to the unknown.
You can take a further peek into the book as well as the book trailer at Chris Haughton’s website.
DON’T WORRY, LITTLE CRAB. Copyright © 2019 by Chris Haughton. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.
I connected with Mayel through Instagram (of course!) and am a big admirer of her creations. Her gift with paper crafting makes her a perfect person to pair with Don’t Worry, Little Crab, and she was kind enough to make something amazing for us that you can share with the kids in your life. Behold, her wonderful Paper Crab Puppets and Coloring Craft to match!
Over to Mayel!
Hello, my name is Mayel. I’m an artist, designer, creator of fun things at mayelcreates.com.
I’m so delighted Danielle asked me to do a craft specifically for Don’t Worry Little Crab; it’s a
simple, colorful way to talk about feelings with our littles and how sometimes things are not as we thought. I hope you’ll enjoy the process of making this craft and have fun with the end
Let’s get started!
What you’ll need:
5 sheets of 8.5 x 11 colored paper in different colors. Suggestions would be fuchsia, violet, purple, yellow and orange.
A black marker
A pair of scissors
2 popsicle sticks
White paper to print the background on
This PDF with the ocean background
Let’s start with the Big Crab.
Cut pieces of your colored paper to sizes below. Save the scraps for the Little Crab later; you’ll need the same colored paper.
Cut the corners of your 3 in. x 4 in. paper diagonally with the top corners being slightly bigger than the bottom like in picture A. The cut doesn’t have to be perfect—imperfections add character!
Step 2. The claws.
Take the 2 in. x 4 in. paper and fold in half horizontally (see picture B). Cut a triangle shape in the middle of the open end, away from the folded side, like in picture C. Cut about to halfway of the paper so the claw will look big enough. Tip: If you feel like the claws are too big for the body, you can shape to your desired size by trimming the sides. Lastly, cut the folded part of the paper to make 2 claws, see picture D. Put the pieces aside.
Step 3. The legs.
Take one of the .75 in. x 4 in. papers and fold each one into a “V” shape (see picture E). Do the same to the other piece. Set aside.
Step 4. Now for the eyes.Take the 2 in. X 2 in. square paper and fold in half. Draw a long upside down “U” shape like in photo F. Keep the paper folded and cut the “U” shape out (see picture G). You should now have 2 pieces of “U” shaped paper.
Step 5. Base of the eyes.
Take the .5 in. X 2 in. paper and lay on top of one of the “U” shape papers. Cut to the size of the bottom of the “U” (see picture H). This will be the base of the eyes. Do the same to the other “U” shape.
Step 6. Put it all together.
Lay all your pieces out and make your composition like picture I. Glue the pieces together to make it look like picture J. Tip: Only put a little bit of glue on the edges of the eyes and legs, then glue them onto the back of the body. For the claws, put glue on the edge away from the triangle then attach onto the front of the body.
Step 7. Dot in the eyes.
Now it’s time to draw in the eyes; see picture J. Think of where you’d like the crab to look—are they looking up or looking down? Place the dots where you’d like the big crab to look.
Step 8. Turn it into a puppet.
Grab the popsicle stick and glue onto the back of your big crab. Viola! You have your own crab puppet.
Step 9. The Little Crab.
Now, let’s do the same steps again to create the smaller crab. All you have to do is cut the leftover colored paper, only smaller sizes this time. You can make the pieces about 1 inch smaller than the big crab or even smaller if you’d like. When you get to Step 7, try drawing the eyes at a different spot than your big crab so they can look at each other or at different places.
Step 10. Let’s color the ocean!
Hope you enjoyed this craft activity. I hope that you and a loved one can do it together and use it to talk about feelings during these unprecedented times. Even though some new things could be scary at first, if you keep giving it a try, you might find new and exciting ways to have an adventure.
Mayel Wei is an all around creative person. Once upon a time, she was an Advertising Art Director and Graphic Designer creating campaigns for Hollywood shows, but traded that glamorous life for a quiet one in the burbs: kids, picket fence and all. She creates whatever comes to mind with her minimalistic style and drawings. See more from Mayel on Instagram: mayelcreates, www.mayelcreates.com and on Minted.com.
Huge thanks to Mayel for creating this vibrant, playful, comforting craft!!
This picture book has illustrations that are pure magic while the story is about the magic of the natural world, of friendship, and of memories—those we treasure and those we share.
(click image(s) to enlarge)
“Llewellyn was a collector. He collected things in jars.”
So simply starts In a Jar. We take in Llewellyn collecting all kinds of things from the world around them and cherishing them, remembering the moments they contained, and still do.
Then Llewellyn and Evelyn meet. They collect things—together. But they’re not things really, they’re snippets, souvenirs, strands of their experiences. And that’s where the magic comes in. Sunsets, the sound of the ocean, snowball fights, seasons. These are the things they collect in jars. It feels like they’re not owning these elements, but honoring them.
Their jars are the language of their friendship, the stuff of it. The bits they’ll keep in the vessels of their minds.
And when Evelyn needs to move away, there is pain, but there is also the joy of sharing new experiences, had separately, and letting friendship hold those too.
Deborah Macero‘s artwork shimmers with color and light, sketched lines and watercolor swishes. She has a special knack for skies, as evidenced in another picture book of hers, Ursa’s Light, and its celestial scenes.
A book for anyone yearning to hang on to moments, to savor and cherish them, and for anyone who loves someone who is separated by the distance of miles, but connected by memories—even new ones still traded and shared.
Big thanks to Penguin Young Readers for the review copy and images!
Don’t you want to collect your own memories in a jar now? Rebecca Zarazan Dunn from Sturdy for Common Things is the ideal person to make a craft for this book because she is someone with a special way of capturing moments, memories, and seasons in her own life. She’s a former librarian, a maker, a reader, and from what I’ve observed, has a deep connection with nature and people.
Over to Rebecca!
In a Jar is a tenderhearted tribute to friendship and the power of shared experience.
What I found moving about Llewellyn and Evelyn’s story is how the two friends collected their shared experiences. They savored sights and sounds and adventures, bottling them up like prized trophies. I thought to myself how wonderful it would be to capture long shadows on a summer’s eve or a snowy day with a friend.
Recently, two young siblings had an eventful Saturday. From early on it felt special, so as the day unfolded they collected bits and pieces of their day into a mason jar. For moments they didn’t have objects for they wrote a note or drew a picture. Once all the memories were captured in the jar, they made it a label and placed the jar on a shelf– A not-too-high shelf so they can unscrew the jar and recall the day all over again any time they pleased.
Just like friendship or adventures of any sort, you don’t need much to have them. It’s the same with making a Memory Jar.
Here’s what you’ll need:
*A jar. Any old jar. We reused a mason jar. I also found a few more jars at our local thrift store.
*Paper, scissors, tape, and a writing utensil for labeling the jar.
*And most importantly, memories! Little objects or tokens or drawings or words that will remind you of the moment.
A memory jar is a time capsule of an hour, a day, an event, or an entire season. It can be a play date with a friend, a holiday, a new life experience, or a Saturday spent with family. You can make one alone, but like Llewellyn learns in the story, the best memories are made with someone dear to you.
Memory is a funny thing. We store so much information in our brains and beautifully small details often get pushed into a dark corner. Creating a memory jar has the potential of time-travel, resurrecting a once shadowed memory to the light. Time spent with those we love is ephemeral, and capturing these fleeting moments in a jar preserves the love and joy felt, especially if the person we shared it with isn’t always near.
Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing this meaningful craft and your reflections on the book and on memories with us!
You might like the post I collaborated on with Kellie at The Secret Society of Books on a few years ago. She made the loveliest bear cookies for Deborah Marcero’s book, Ursa’s Light!