Tag Archives: deborah marcero illustrator

in a jar + memory jar craft

In A Jar by Deborah Marcero (2020).

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. 


If you enjoy wrangling adventures into jars, you will most likely enjoy other things on Rebecca’s blog Sturdy for Common Things. You can also follow her on Instagram @lovesreading


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!






ursa’s light + cookies from kellie at the kaleidoscope

UrsasLight-CVR-72Ursa’s Light (2016) by Deborah Marcero.


This picture book is out this month, coincidentally the same time of year the Ursa Major constellation is most visible in the night sky. And a bear who shines is another way of describing this main character. A gleaming debut all around!




URSAp2-3_72“There were all the bears. And then, there was Ursa.” Ursa is different. Just look at her lying in the green grass, rainbow sweater-adorned. She’s a dreamer. Even on the first spread, she’s already looking at the sky.


URSAp10-11_72Ursa goes big and thinks out of the box with every undertaking. When her focus turns skyward again, she decides she wants to fly! She applies all her other attributes—observing, making, trying—to the dream of flight.



There are many fantastic details in this book. Ursa’s little sibling who serves as sidekick, for example, whose shirt says what’s on big sister’s mind. Ursa’s own spirited outfits. And I love how her name reminds us of the bear constellations, how it brings us immediately to the clouds and stars above.

I also love the illustrations. Aren’t they delightfully engaging? The book alternates from dark spreads to light, spanning all the times of day in beautiful ways. And the texture of the dark bits, including the night sky and the bears own faces has a speckled quality that gets me thinking immediately of stars in the city.


URSAp18-19_72Ursa takes cues from pigeons, dandelion seeds, and bats, all fly-ers. But it’s only when she finds her own medium, her own opportunity, that she truly learns to soar in her own way.


URSAp24-25_72I’ll let you read the book to find out what that is! And as Deborah Marcero reminded me when we talked about this post, there’s always a “feeling of ‘flying’ when you do something that’s totally YOU and you do it well.” That’s it’s own kind of flying as well and sometimes, as in Ursa’s case, it takes some trial and error to get there. Which makes the feat that much sweeter.

I think you’ll want to read Deborah’s blog post about the process of creating the artwork in this book. She has a lot in common with Ursa herself!


Big thanks to Peter Pauper Press for images!



We are so lucky to have Kellie as crafter in the picture book kitchen today! She’s an artist and book lover I admire. You may already follow her on Instagram, but if not, I highly recommend her delightful feed: The Kaleidoscope. (She made some fantastic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland cookies too!)

Over to Kellie!



With four little boys, reading and snacking go hand in hand. Thanks to Danielle, I am excited to share a fun little project inspired by Ursa’s Light.

Ursa is a unique little bear. I didn’t think my regular bear face cutter would do her justice, so I sketeched a little picture of her onto a heavy card stock paper. After cutting her out, I used this recipe for the cookie dough.

glo-star-cookiesWhile the dough was setting in the fridge, I decided to make salt dough stars. I used this recipe and a small star cookie cutter. I used a paper straw to make holes in the dough for stringing after.  By the time I had finished baking the stars, my cookie dough was ready to roll out.

Once you have rolled out your cookie dough, I used a butter knife to cut along the paper shape.

For painting the cookies, I used icing sugar, a splash of milk and the most important part is cream of tarter, which helps it set. I used a paintbrush, just small plastic brushes you can get at any dollar store. The most important part of painting your cookies is waiting for the icing to dry before you add on details. I started with my base coat, in this case it was black and red. Once the icing has set, you can add the eyes, and pink for the ears and nose.


After the stars had cooled, and while I waited for my icing to set, I painted the dried stars with some glow in the dark paint and strung them together with some bakers twine.

We hung them above the bed, and it’s the perfect inspiration for reading and dreaming about how we can dream big like Ursa.

About Kellie:

In University, she studied children’s literature, minored in child development, and went on to complete her fine arts degree. She is fond of picture books and painting. She’s always sharing her love of books in her community and through the online community (where we were lucky enough to meet!).


Thank you, Kellie for these Ursa cookies! I’m in heaven gazing at them! 



viva-frida-kahlo-dollYou may want to check out Kellie’s Frida Kahlo peg doll from last year’s Viva Frida post too!