Tag Archives: picture book activity

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!















24 days of story: picture book advent calendar + printable template

I’m so excited about this project: an advent calendar that brings picture books to life! Count down all 24 days to Christmas by reading a seasonally-themed picture book and an activity that goes with it—and I promise they’re super simple. Scroll down for the details!



The beauty is that you can do the activity without each book in case you or your library doesn’t have them. But ideally, it’s all about celebrating book-brought-to-life magic. (Of course your calendar can be in whatever order you like or with books you choose too!)

advent-calendar-flagsEach paper flag has a book title and a simple craft or activity—from making a paper snowflake to writing a letter to a friend to giving away something you own. And I put together a template you can print to make it as easy as possible!





What you need:

24 candy sticks (I got mine here in Los Angeles, but you can buy them online or use readily available candy canes as well)


Glue gun


Marker (silver or whatever you like)

Printable template

Optional: rice


Print out the template. Cut along the lines so you have 24 paper slips, one for each book/activity.

Fold each slip in half and cut a triangle shape out of one end (you can make some right and some left-facing flags if you like). Write the corresponding number on the paper (or save this step for last).

Using a glue gun, glue each paper flag around a candy stick.

Put your candies in a cup or vase or mug. I poured rice in the bottom to elevate the sticks so I could see more of those colorful stripes.





Here’s how I’ve broken down the calendar (and remember, you can follow this without the craft part too).


No Two Alike by Keith Baker.



Fox’s Garden by Princess Camcam.



Dear Yeti by James Kwan.



At the Same Moment around the World by Clotilde Perrin.



Toys Meet Snow by Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky.




The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers.



The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.



A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh.



The Wonderful Fluffly Little Squishy by Beatrice Alemagna.



Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad.



Julia, Child words by Kyo Maclear, pictures by Julie Morstad.



Santa Through the Window by Taro Gomi.



Peace is an Offering words by Annette LeBox, pictures by Stephanie Graegin.



Making a Friend by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal.



Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins and G. Brian Karas.



A Penguin Story by Antoinette Portis.


a-letter-for-bearA Letter for Bear by David Lucas.



Sparkle and Spin by Ann & Paul Rand.



Penguin & Pinecone by Salina Yoon.



The Steadfast Tin Soldier retold by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Jen Corace.


stars-picture-bookStars by Mary Lyn Ray and Marla Frazee.


something-extraordinary-ben-clantonSomething Extraordinary by Ben Clanton.



imogene's-antlersImogene’s Antlers by David Small.




Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jane Dyer.


I’ll be counting down the days, doing many of the activities. You can follow along on my Instagram @writesinla to see!



Wishing you a joyful holiday season full of books and other wonderful things!



snow_queen_advent_calendarYou might also like last year’s 12 Days of Story: The Snow Queen Advent Calendar.







feathers: not just for flying + handmade book craft from avery and augustine

FeathersFeathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen (2014).

Birds are the only animals with those special plumes. But did you know that feathers have many other functions besides flying? I’d never thought about it before, but this book brings just that to light.


Feathers 8-9_300(click image(s) to enlarge)

Feathers 16-17_300

Feathers keep warm. Feathers cushion like a pillow. They provide shade or float or clean or hide. Feathers are incredible, no?

Feathers 18-19_300


Feathers 22-23_300




Along the way, kid readers will learn a lot about specific kinds of birds, perhaps one or two they’ve seen before in person!


Big thanks to Charlesbridge for images!



When I think of kids books and stylish, beautiful photos, I immediately think of Michelle at Avery and Augustine. And she’s joining me here to share a handmade book craft that has a learning bonus. Over to Michelle!

Feathers Blog 1

Hi, I’m Michelle of Avery and Augustine.  Thank you to Danielle for inviting me to collaborate on this post!  I’m excited to share a simple project to go along with this wonderful book.  My daughter Avery and I made our own little feather book to summarize what she learned from Feathers.  Summarizing is an important academic and life skill that helps children recall the salient information from what they read in their own words and in a way that’s meaningful for them.  This is a skill that they will use time and time again throughout their school years and especially when they hit high school and college.

Feathers Blog 2

To make the book, cut one piece of card stock and several sheets of paper in half, lengthwise.  Fold them in half and punch holes along the fold of your pages (a group of pages is called a signature or section in bookbinding).  We used this Fiskars 1/8 inch circle hand punch tool.  You can also use a regular-sized hole punch to make it easier for young children to do the sewing on their own.

Feathers Blog 3

Cut a piece of yarn and wrap one end of it with tape to make it easier to pull through the holes.  Sew the yarn through the holes of the book, using a simple stitch.  Tie a knot at the top hole of the book, stitch your way down, then stitch your way back up, filling in the blank gaps.  Tie a knot at the last hole to secure the yarn.  Cut out feathers from colored paper (I did it freehand, no template) and attach them to the front of the book.

Feathers Blog 5

When we were done making our book, Avery paraphrased the important points from Feathers and drew pictures for each.  It’s good to practice summarizing books regularly and it gets easier the more you do it!  If you need another reference, a great DIY book tutorial can be found on this blog.

Feathers Blog 9

Feathers Blog 10

You can see Michelle’s work and read about her two young children and their first forays in cooking, art, and everything in between at Avery and Augustine.


hooray for hat + super festive hat giveaway


hoorayforhatHooray for Hat! by Brian Won (2014).


Ever been grumpy? This book will address that. It’s practically the definition of joy.


Each animal character starts out in a grumpy mood, signified by a black scribble above his head. What helps every single one dump the grumps? A hat! From a friend!







click image(s) to enlarge


I love this picture book for its pops of color. For its wild hat(s). For the way it celebrates the true uplift of friendship and kindness. For its perfect design and beautiful type. For the way that original stacked-up-amazing hat appears in a box at elephant’s door without explanation.










It’s not exactly the hat that solves everything (though hats are awesome). It’s the gift part and the giving.


Seriously good, right?! HOORAY FOR HAT!



 Thanks to Brian Won for images!



I was inspired to make a crazy fun whimsical hat to hooray for after reading Hooray For Hat! So with major help from my guy, davishandmade, we did! And we’re giving it away to one reader of This Picture Book Life!

I recently won a fabulous party supply giveaway from Meri Meri through Design Mom, so we invented ways to use those supplies, gathered stuff from around our apartment, and took one quick trip to the 99Cents store.

And …TA DA!


It’s one giant hat. Or three separate hats. With lots of little details hidden around! Come see.


We were inspired by the cup holder sticking out of elephant’s hat and the bird cuckoo-ing from the other side. So we kind of combined them and stuck a straw and bird on ours.


Yup, there’s a bird’s nest hidden inside and you can only see it if you peep through the hole on one side. The nest is raffia and the eggs are felt balls. As this project’s been sitting on my desk for a couple of weeks, I’ve peered in on that nest a number of times to peek at those pretty eggs.


And another hat surprise! Say hello to panda underneath the coned shaped hat! She’s queen of that stripes on stripes cap.


The top cone-shaped party hat is straight from Meri Meri, only we added a feather to the top.



We had so much fun with the little details: ribbon, cut paper, washi tape, and twine.


It’s vaguely child-sized; the top hat opening measures about six inches across.

Comment on this post and tell us who you’d give this hat to wear for a chance to win!

A birthday girl or boy? A classroom helper? Do tell!

I’ll contact the randomly chosen winner by email for your mailing address.

(Enter until Monday, August 11 at midnight; open to North American residents only—sorry about that, far flung international readers!)

And if you want to make your own party hats, Brian Won’s got an activity page on his website with hat instructions; the sky’s the limit with what you can round up for supplies! And you must see Brian’s recent book party where incredible replicas of hats from the book were worn by all!