Tag Archives: beyond the book
This picture book is a total celebration—of family, of memory, of tradition, and of joy itself.
Its cover embodies the way the book invites engagement with the dear departed in a bright and buoyant way. The characters may be looking back at the particulars of those they’ve lost, but they are fully in the present of the party too—mingling with them as represented by delightful, dancing (not-at-all scary) skeletons!
You can always spot a book illustrated by Ana Aranda because of her signature vibrance, whimsy, washes of color, shapes, nature elements, fun creatures, and inventive details. Her art is infused with exuberance! And this time it’s exceedingly special because it’s her author-illustrator debut!
Our Day of the Dead Celebration truly captures the happiness of the holiday for children. Kids will pick out elements of Día de los Muertos to enjoy like marigolds, calaveras/sugar skulls, Papel picador, and ofrendas/altars as well as other celebratory touches: music, tamales, and almond cookies too! And they will surely be inspired to investigate and memorialize their own family and friend ancestry after reading how Sisters Paz and Mar learn about their relatives through their parents’ stories and how they choose different ways to honor them: through food or poems (also called calaveras) or accordion music.
But there are some things only Abuelita will know, and they wait for her arrival while preparing for their visitors—”the living and the dead”! Because in my mind, the real star here is Abuelita herself, keeper of family stories, who arrives at the fiesta in a glorious parade of monarch butterflies.
This is a book that honors a holiday and also a way of being and seeing death. Something not to shy away from, celebrating the lives of those we love by remembering them in meaningful, connective ways.
A perfect story for looking back, which can be bittersweet, but here is extremely sweet as well as full of warmth and creativity. A medium for capturing the spirit of those we love and modeling how to relive the best bits of “all the relatives we miss.”
¡Hola! My name is Ana Aranda and I am an author, illustrator and creator or colorful art for kids of all ages from Mexico City!
My book Our Day of the Dead Celebration is inspired in the Day of the Dead or Día de Muertos which is one of my favorite times of year when we celebrate and honor our beloved loved ones. It is a day when we feel their spirits close and we share stories about them, we build altars with their favorite things and foods, and we create poems.
This book is very special to me because it is inspired by my family, friends and it contains a lot of hidden stories and memories, such as my grandfather’s accordion, my grandmother’s cookies, my grandfather’s travels, my grandmother’s favorite color, and more.
With this book I wanted to honor those that I miss and share a story where kids (especially Mexican kids) can see themselves in and see their culture celebrated.
What I’m most interested in the Day of the Dead is celebrating and remembering. Telling stories so that they are shared for generations and generations to come. I am interested in why it is important to remember and what can we do to do keep the memory of those dear to us very close.
This book was created with a lot of love, watercolor, ink, gouache and pink Himalayan salt on watercolor paper. The setting is based in the beautiful town of Pátzcuaro, Michoacán in Mexico where there is a lake, and in that lake lives the island of Janitzio. I took a research trip there and drew and took a bunch of pictures for the book. I also talked to many people who were preparing for the Day of the Dead.
Today I wanted to share with you all a craft where you can both write and color.
For this special day, we will color a skull, similar to the sugar skulls used to decorate altars.
In this skull’s skeleton you will have room to write down what is called a poem or calavera (which translates as skull). This calavera can be about a memory from a departed loved one, about a departed famous person, or someone still with us and their fictional and humorous encounter with death or “la Catrina.”
What you will need:
*Download this page and print.
*Colors, markers, or crayons to color.
*Your favorite pencil or pen to write the poem.
Step 1: color the skull with your favorite colors.
Step 2: In the skeleton’s body, write down the poem for someone.
It can be as long as you wish and can rhyme as well.
For example, here are two of the calaveras from the book:
Your favorite color was green
The best color ever seen.
You loved the spring
And birds that sing.
We miss you and your sneeze.
Did it really almost blow down some trees?
3: Enjoy and have fun!
Thank you so much, Ana, for sharing your story, photos, and this activity with us!! And big thanks to Penguin Young Readers for a review copy and images.
Ana Aranda is a children’s book creator, illustrator, and art instructor born in Mexico and living in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been featured in galleries and museums in the United States, France, Mexico, Italy, Norway, and Japan. In San Francisco, she painted murals in the Mission District, for the Consulate General of Mexico, and for the prestigious de Young Museum.
Ana’s biggest inspirations are her childhood memories, the vibrant colors of Mexico, and music. Her work focuses on transforming the everyday into fantastical situations, and often include images from nature and whimsical creatures. She has illustrated picture books published in France, Italy and the US, including The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra, by Marc Tyler Nobleman (Nancy Paulsen Books), Our Celebración!, by Susan Middleton Elya (Lee & Low), Moth & Butterfly: Ta Da!, by Dev Petty (Nancy Paulsen Books), and Our Day of the Dead Celebration, her debut as author and illustrator, released by Nancy Paulsen Books. Forthcoming titles include How to Make a Memory, by Elaine Vickers (S&S/Paula Wiseman Books, 2023)
Kamal’s Kes by Baljinder Kaur (2021).
This picture book absolutely blooms, like the flower of the main character’s name and the ones that grace her comb, hair, and surroundings in the pages.
Kes (kay-s) in Panjabi means hair. And this story is about Kamal’s hair.
It blossoms with honesty about Kamal’s feelings about her hair, her difficult but ultimately welcoming feelings. It blossoms with a captivating blend of text and design. It blossoms with evocative artwork, with colors that reflect the earth and flowers. It blossoms with imagination. And it blossoms with a journey toward self-love that kids need to experience.
Like every offering from independent publisher, Saffron Press, it’s made with so much intentionality (and I know from being friends with the founder how much intentionality goes into everything Saffron Press does, truly). From Baljinder Kaur’s dedication (“For every being who inspires me to strive for better”) and lotus endpapers to the gorgeous cover’s mix of gloss and matte and FSC-assured paper to that wonderful journal page at the back, “A letter to mySelf” for kids to reflect and write on, Kamal’s Kes is imbued with care for books and for those who read them.
Kid readers will recognize themselves in the story as they, too, either face or anticipate the prospect of growing up. Of changing. Of journeying into a different state from childhood and how jarring and painful that can be, especially when they don’t feel accepted for who they are as they change.
Once a source of pleasure and admiration, as it grows and appears elsewhere, Kamal’s hair becomes a sore spot. An unruly thing. A burden she wants to rid herself of because of “the stares” she receives. She begins to see herself in a distorted, disconnected way.
I love how Kamal’s portrayed as a monster, wild thing-esque. The portrayal reflects, to me, the way we feel when we’re lost in the suffering of rejection—from others, from ourselves. The middle of the book is a tumble of color and composition toward this next striking spread that puts us right there with Kamal in her desperation, her separation from herself, a painful place to be.
But Kamal is not there forever. She experiences hope. Acceptance. Self-love. The joy of being her.
“I am beautiful, Kamal whispered, and she dug her toes deeper into the earth, decorating herself with wisdom older than the sun.”
Kamal’s Kes is an incredibly joyful, hopeful, loving gift for children to embrace themselves and, like the earth and flowers, truly bloom.
Big thanks to Saffron Press for interior images!
I’m so thrilled that Baljinder Kaur, the incredible artist and author-illustrator of Kamal’s Kes!!, is here to share a companion craft for this picture book. It was so kind of her to answer my approach with a yes to the idea of creating something! And that something is is fitting, meaningful, lovely. I hope you and yours will make one too.
Over to Baljinder!
The word Kamal also means lotus flower and has great spiritual significance in Sikh thought as a metaphor for an aspiring state of being. Just as the lotus floats and blooms amidst the murky waters, so can our being in the murkiness of our worlds. In this craft we’ll be making our own lotus flowers to celebrate Kamal’s own blooming in the story. These paper flowers can be used as decoration and serve as a reminder that we can all bloom and rise in our own unique and beautiful ways.
Thank you, Baljinder, for this book and this wonderful companion craft!!
Baljinder Kaur is an illustrator nestled in the middle of England, UK. She is passionate about the power of children’s books and their ability to transcend barriers and transform our social landscapes. She enjoys exploring through themes of the fantastical, the allegorical and the enchantingly ordinary. Her work often, and intimately reflects through the lens of a Panjabi and Sikh diaspora existence.
As a child of immigrants, she’s keen to share stories that help us to connect deeper; stories that celebrate our differences as well as our wonderfully interconnected nature.
Baljinder recently graduated with distinction from Cambridge School of Art with a Masters degree in Children’s Book Illustration. She was also awarded the 2022 CSACBI Illustration for Older Fiction Prize. Her work has been published by Penguin Random House, Saffron Press and Mighty Khalsa.
Follow Baljinder Kaur on Instagram.
And follow Saffron Press.
Off-Limits by Helen Yoon (2021).
This picture book contains humor, invention and so much delight. Not only that, but fabulous surprises await both the main character and the lucky reader!
I would sum up the heart of Off-Limits this way: art and expression are all about following your curiosity—as well as sometimes getting messy and breaking the rules.
That’s exactly what the main character does. She follows her curiosity. She breaks the rule that her dad’s office is off-limits. She creates fun stuff, expressing herself while making not just a mess, but lots of JOY.
There is a wonderfully sneaky quality to the opening spreads of Off-Limits that builds throughout. The main character takes one curious, playful step into her dad’s off-limits space. And then another. She starts to tinker, to make, to play. First, one piece of tape, then whole a lamp scarf made of tape, then PAPER CLIPS AND BINDER CLIPS!
Each new office supply brings another moment of discovery. Of fun. Of creativity (and not a little bit of festive chaos). And just when the main character’s doing some more sneaking around, well, let’s just say there’s a BIG, JOYFUL SURPRISE! But I cannot give it away here. That’s for your own moment of discovery.
This new favorites shelf picture book had me engaged, captivated, delighted, and finally amazed and laughing aloud.
OFF-LIMITS. Copyright © 2021 by Helen Yoon. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
Off-Limits is such a perfect book to craft with, to make a beautiful mess with, to celebrate with! I’m so happy that my friend Mayel, paper artist extraordinaire, is here to show us how with an office supplies garland or two!
Over to Mayel!
Hello, my name is Mayel. I’m an artist, designer, creator of fun and pretty things at mayelcreates.com. I often create artful activities for kids to encourage making and life filled with art. This is my second craft here on This Picture Book Life (here’s my first one) and it’s my pleasure to collaborate with Danielle again.
Off-Limits is such a delightful book. My children are obviously welcome and encouraged to create whatever they want with all my supplies, and I have a lot of them. Though sometimes they are still attracted to create things out of the stuff you’d least expect, e.g. cardboard boxes, paper clips, staples. All are fun to see!
So here’s a couple of fun garland crafts you and your kid can do together with some office supplies you probably already have in your home.
Let’s get started!
What you’ll need:
Scrap paper (any old paperwork or school paper will do fine)
Stapler with staples
Step 1: First take one of your scrap paper and fold it accordion style about 4-5 folds like in A and B. I used old school work paper so I can repurpose them. You can use any used paper work.
Step 2: Cut the folded paper into 3 equal pieces (C). Then carefully cut out a heart shape with each piece. Make sure to not cut the sides that are connected to each other when cutting the heart out so the hearts will stay attached (D). Now you can unfold the piece and you’ll have your first garland. Repeat this process if you’d like a longer garland. You can staple the ends of your heart garlands together to make them into one long piece.
Let’s start with the heart garland.
Now, let’s play with the Post-Its.
Step 1: Take a few sheets of Post-Its in a stack, maybe 3-4, so you can design a few sheets at a time. Make sure to turn the sheets so the sticky tab part is at the top of your design. Use your scissors to make designs on the bottom of the Post-Its. I have different types of scissors. I have one that cuts patterns and one that cuts strips at one time. They are fancy, I know, but they are so much fun to have. You can get them at any craft store or online. If you do not have these fancy scissors, no worries, just use regular simple scissors and cut any design or lines you’d like on the Post-Its. For example, I just cut out triangles on picture I.
Step 2: Then, when you feel like you have enough Post-Its sheets to put a garland together, peel off each sheet from one another and line them up. Use the corners of the sticky sides to attach each sheet together like in picture J. Keep adding on sheets to make a longer garland.
Let’s see them all together! I’ve placed my garlands on a blank wall. The Post-It garlands will fortunately stick on by themselves. I made a few different ones here, some alternating colors, some the same color and design. Then, add on the heart scrap paper garlands you’ve made on top with pieces of tape on the ends.
Now you have fun decor out of office supplies!
Hope you’ve enjoyed this crafting activity with ordinary office supplies and had fun with your kids at the same time. See more of my activities and crafts on Insta: MayelCreates.
Till next time!
Thank you, Mayel!!!
You may want to check out Mayel’s first craft on TPBL, Don’t Worry Little Crab paper crab puppets + coloring page!
ABC of Feelings written and illustrated by Bonnie Lui (2020).
This picture book is, as the title suggests, an alphabet depicting 26 different feelings, from anxious to zany with delightful illustrations. It’s a useful compendium for kids to learn the names of specific emotions and to understand the breadth of theirs—and how that spectrum of feelings is totally okay, expected, important to name and know and explore.
In a few instances of Bonnie Lui’s book, the two sides of a spread serve as question and answer or are related in some way—and those are most effective and engaging. For example, kids who are SCARED on their own at a campout experience the feeling of being TRUSTING on the opposite side when they join a parent, snuggly in bed together.
My favorite spread is the pairing of WISHFUL and XENIAL, the second a word I didn’t know, because it tells a complete story that is unexpected, sweet, and magical.
Overall, ABC of Feelings shows kids that feelings come in all kinds and that they’re part of life—to be noticed, celebrated, expressed, and sometimes soothed.
Big thanks to Penguin Random House for the review copy and images!
And ABC of Feelings is also a good jumping off point to explore more books and feelings with kids!
Here are 20 picture books that explore feelings of all kinds either directly or embedded in the story: longing, grief, disappointment, love, hurt, pride, sadness, loss, uncertainty, fear, worry, misery, hope, inspiration, happiness, curiosity, and joy. These titles (and others) may be useful for discussions with kids about how they’re feeling.
You might ask a child: “What is the character feeling? How do you know? Do you ever feel like that? What are you feeling today, right now? Would you like to draw your feeling? To write about it? To sing a song? To tell me how it feels or why it might be here? I will share my feelings too.”
In a recent Washington Post article by Lakshmi Gandhi, “Books Can Be An Entry to Talking About Sadness with Your Child,” the writer interviews Erin Entrada Kelly, Tracy Subisak (creator of Jenny Mei Is Sad from this list), and Christine Day about their children’s books and the difficult feelings they explore with authenticity and compassion.
Books, indeed, are conduits of connection to the internal lives of characters that reflect the internal lives of us all.
Here’s the list:
I Wish You Knew written by Jackie Azúa Kramer illustrated by Magdalena Mora (2021).
When I See Red by Britta Teckentrup (2021).
Jenny Mei Is Sad by Tracy Subisak (2021).
Wounded Falcons by Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yockteng (2021).
Saturday by Oge Mora (2019).
My Love for You Is Always written by Gillian Sze, illustrated by Michelle Lee (2021).
Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelley Anand, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (2020)
Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and David Litchfield (2020).
Bindu’s Bindi’s by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Parvati Pillai (2021).
The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (2018).
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, art by Hatem Aly (2019).
Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna (2018).
Birdsong by Julie Flett (2019).
Don’t Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton (2020).
The Happiness of a Dog with a Ball in Its Mouth by Bruce Handy and Hyewon Yum (2021).
Boogie, Boogie, Y’all by C.G. Esperanza (2021).
I hope you’ll share some feelings-related books in the comments too! What is a picture book you know and love that explores emotions?
Make Meatballs Sing: The Life & Art of Corita Kent, words by Matthew Burgess, pictures by Kara Kramer (2021).
This picture book emobies bold inspiration! It bursts with color. With art. With creativity and the impulse to share it. With love. And most importantly, with “plork“!—a term Corita coined, her portmanteau in the service of making work and play one undertaking.
And it certainly does sing, with vibrant illustrations, striking design, and explosions of Corita’s wonderful quotes. It’ll teach you about her life and her art, and it’ll teach you to embrace both for yourself.
“The person who makes things is a sign of hope.”
Corita grew up a reader. A kind person. A draw-er. A dreamer. Influenced by her father, she followed her heart. She also became a nun: Sister Mary Corita. (But she wasn’t a nun forever.) In the role, she taught art to young children. Then to older ones.
“Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.”
Corita made viewfinders (that she called finders) with her students to “look at ordinary things until the little details came alive.” She made screen prints and pop art. She made celebrations. She plorked and helped others do the same!
She made statements about social justice. She pushed for reform. And she left her vows because of it.
I hope you get to read Make Meatballs Sing for yourself. I hope it inspires some plorking, some making, some spirited singing in your own life. And don’t forget to follow that little blue bird that accompanies Corita through the book!
You can learn more about this artist and educator and activist at the Corita Art Center.
Big thanks to Enchanted Lion Books for review copies and images!
Ready to plork away?! It might be impossible not to want to make something fun after reading this book! Lucky for us, artist Anna Totten is here to inspire. Just like Corita’s students (and her little buddy the blue bird in Make Meatballs Sing), you can make a decorated paper finder (and more!) with the children in your life too! Anna’s craft is a burst of joyful creativity!
Over to Anna!
YOU’RE INVITED TO PLORK!
Let’s open our eyes to a new perspective. First, you will learn to make a finder like Corita and her students used. Second, you will learn how to make stamps from an ordinary object. Finally, you will create art with your new tools and plork away!
Cut card stock in half (unless you want a giant finder). Lay your sheets vertically. You need to cut a square in the top half of each sheet. I’m going to share my technique for making squares without using a ruler. Trace a circular object on the top section of each sheet. Pinch your paper in the middle of the circle but not to the edges. This pinch gives your scissors some paper to grab and allows the first cut to begin. Using the circle as your guide, cut straight lines parallel from the top, bottom, left, and right of the circle.
Now that you have your finder, hold it away from your face and look through it. A finder focuses your attention on smaller areas of what we usually see. For example, can you use your finder in a busy store to focus on only the letters on a can? What about the street where you live, the playground, or your bedroom? Do you notice any new details? A finder gives us another way to see the world. How can your finder views inspire your art?
Look at your sponge before you cut. Can you imagine the shape you want to create? Do you want to create a shape that already has a name, or would you like to invent a new shape? If you’d like a guide to follow as you cut, use a marker to draw a line on your sponge.
Cut the sponge and then stop and look at your shape. Are you done, or do you want to cut more? Repeat until you have a shape or many shapes you like. Remember, not all scraps are trash! Do you have any leftover sponge for a smaller stamp?
Sponges are just one item you can use for stamping. Are there other everyday items around you or in the recycling bin that could become a stamp? The lip of a milk jug or a cinched paper towel roll? Experiment! It’s okay if it doesn’t work out the way you thought it would. That’s all part of the process.
For printing with stamps:
Squirt some paint on a bigger surface so you can spread your paint around. I used paper this time but scrap cardboard, a paper plate, or a washable tray are other items I often use when stamping. Dab one side of your sponge up and down in the paint a few times to coat the underside of your stamp. Then pick up your stamp and place it paint side down on your paper (or finder, scraps, cardboard, etc.). If you have a lot of paint on your sponge you can probably stamp more than once. Dab your sponge back into the paint and repeat as often as you like. Are you placing your shapes randomly? Can you make a pattern? If you need more paint, dab it around or you’ll likely get a gloop of paint on your artwork. But as Corita believed—there are no mistakes, just make! You can use more than one color to stamp and be open to mixing colors. It’s fun, sometimes surprising, and definitely a great way to PLORK!
A decorated finder discovers new views.
There are no rules on what supplies you use for this art: layer paint, tissue, stamps, collage, and more to allow surprises. Tissue paper is easy to cut and tear for all ages and adds beautiful saturation to art. Old magazines or newspaper advertisements are an excellent source for texture, imagery, and type. Don’t throw out that box; make it into art! Cardboard is sturdier than paper and takes material well. Remix art supplies from where you live.
Anna Totten is an illustrator and designer who works at the intersection of creativity and kids. She writes and illustrates stories, instructs art, and organizes community art projects. She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina where her murals are popping up where kids learn and play.
Thank you, Anna, for truly bringing this picture book to life with an inspiring tour through your “plork away” activity!