Tag Archives: science picture book

normal norman + tissue paper collage craft from homemade city

Normal Norman - coverNormal Norman by Tara Lazar, illustrations by S. Britt (2016—out today!).


This is a book about trying to define “normal” by way of science—measurements and observations and interview. And I don’t think I’m giving anything away to say that, well, normal is not so easy to pin down. In fact, there may be no such thing as normal at all.



Allow me to introduce - full spread ( w words)

(click image(s) to enlarge)

The narrator, lab coat on and clip board in hand, proceeds to examine Norman, an orangutan. What I love is that the reader can already tell Norman isn’t normal. I mean, he’s purple and, I adore this detail—he’s wearing glasses. It’s like the reader already knows where this is going and we get to watch as the narrator figures it out.

Norman doesn’t like bananas (he likes pizza). Not normal. He doesn’t make animal noises (he speaks English). Not normal. He doesn’t live in the jungle or sleep in a pile of leaves (he sleeps in a bunk bed). Could that be normal?

Dune Buggy spread
The more we find out about Norman, the more he surprises us. And so do his animal friends. And this is when S. Britt’s illustrations start to remind me of Jolly Roger Bradfield‘s wonderful, imaginative books from the 60s! Those spreads match Norman—they’re colorful and offbeat, full of pizazz and unpredictability. A tiger on a motorcycle, a rhino painting a portrait.

The narrator herself abandons her project and makes music and dances and has a rambunctious time with the others.

One last thing I love is how the narrator’s science teacher stands by in many scenes. He appears at first to be the arbiter of the narrator’s performance while her project falls apart. But in the end, it’s as though he’s orchestrated this whole thing. He wasn’t looking for a definition of normal—he was looking for her to illustrate its elusiveness. Its absurdity as a notion at all.

There is no normal. Just look at Norman!


Thanks to Sterling Children’s Books for images!

Reprinted with permission from Normal Norman © 2016 by Tara Lazar, Sterling Children’s Books, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. Illustrations © 2016 by Stephan Britt.



I’m so pleased to host  Margaret Muirhead of Homemade City as craft-maker extraordinaire!

Margaret loves both picture books and crafts, so mixing the two together sends her over the moon. She is the author of Mabel, One and Only (Dial Books for Young Readers) and a devoted maker of wacky, colorful crafts at Homemade City. By day, you can find her wearing cat glasses and cardigans as the children’s librarian at Hardy Elementary School in Arlington, Mass.

Over to her!


Norman is my kind of guy. A dune-buggy-driving, jet-pack-flying, tiara-toting, out-of-the-box orangutan dude.

Norman’s multi-hued self is decidedly not orangutan normal, but it is fun-loving, just like the big guy. And tissue paper collage seemed the best way to capture Norman’s coat of many colors. Tissue paper collage is also great because it’s very forgiving in less experienced kid hands–you can smudge, rip, and layer exuberantly, and still the results are delicious.


What you need:

Tissue paper in fun colors

Mod Podge

Paint brush

White card stock

Stick-on googly eyes

Paper fasteners

Popsicle sticks

tissue-paper-kids-craftTrim the tissue paper into 1″ squares. (We sorted our tissue squares for easy use: purples, blues, and greens in one bowl, yellows and oranges in another.)

Next trace Norman’s orangutan bulk, his adorable eggplant-shape head, and his two longish arms onto card stock. (If that step seems onerous, we traced some basic shapes for you here.)


Brush a layer of Mod Podge onto a small area of your shape and cover with tissue squares. Make sure to overlap squares to create new hues. Seal the squares by brushing another layer of Mod Podge over the top of them. Continue in small areas until you’ve covered the shape.


Give your collage time to dry. Once dried, cut along the outlines of each shape. Adhere the face with glue or Mod Podge and attach the arms with paper fasteners (to give them a little orangutan swing).

Now for the best part: accessorize!

Add goggly eyes, brown specs, a teeny tiara and tutu, or even a dual-rocket jet pack (Norman’s preferred not-normal way to get around). Attach a popsicle stick to the back of your creation to make a puppet. Do not forget to make some friends for Norman: a magenta clarinet-playing hippo, a rollerskating giraffe, a top-hatted snake!



Big thanks to Margaret for contributing this incredible, colorful craft! You can see more photos of tissue-papered Norman and other wonderful stuff over at Homemade City.


Come find me on twitter for a giveaway of the book! (@writesinla)

Check out the other blogs Normal Norman is visiting this month too:

NN Tour Schedule - Sized for Twitter




tiny creatures: the world of microbes + microbe brooches!

tiny-creatues-picture-bookTiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Emily Sutton (2014).


Who knew a book about the tiniest organisms on earth could be so beautiful and fascinating? Nicola Davies did.

Get out your microscope because the illustrations are just as wondrous as the subject matter.





(click image(s) to enlarge)

Aren’t they wild and beautiful? Just seeing these images might make a future scientist out of a reader. (Or an artist.)


This picture book opens up a whole new world, one we never see but is always there. Yeah, microbes are small. So small “millions could fit on [an] ant’s antenna.” And on our own skin? Billions. More than all the people on Earth.

While this could have a major yuck factor, not with how it’s done here. The only factor I felt (and I’m kind of a germaphobe) was fascination. Plus, while some stuff microbes do is damaging (e.g. making us sick) most of their work described in this book is crucial and key.


Tiny inside1


Tiny inside2




Thanks to Walker Books for images!



I love it when I randomly come across something that fits perfectly with a picture book I admire. Enter the work of felt artist, Hiné Mizushima.

Get this: she’s created a series of giant felt microbes. It’s true! And they’re for sale in her etsy shop as wearable brooches! What better gift for the scientist in your life (or yourself)?! Complete with their own little petri dishes!! They. Are. Cute.

Mizushuima’s felted giant Daphnia remind me of adorned birds and reindeer all at once.






What first got you interested in microbes?

I’m not sure but the beautiful transparent models of microbes at American Museum of Natural History in New York in 1980s might have been the first things to get me interested.

Hiné Mizushima


What draws you to microbes as subjects?

They are pretty and look weird! I am always fascinated by old educational scientific stuff, so I wanted to make my own twisted little guys. I also just wanted to use petri dishes and specimen labels for my work!

—Hiné Mizushima



And if you want a giant paramecium, she’s got that as a beautiful brooch too! It’s just like the one pictured in the book except this one’s got sweet button eyes and looks a bit like a raincloud.



So remember, bacteria aren’t always bad! This book and these brooches say so.


To microbes! Show your appreciation by wearing one on your sweater! 




on a beam of light + genius fall fashion

9780811872355On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, pictures by Vladimir Radunsky.


I loved Jennifer Berne‘s first book about an extraordinary person, Manfish: A Story of Jacques Cousteau. And this most recent one, about Albert Einstein, is just as good.




Pages from OnABeam Interior MECH

It takes us from Albert’s birth and childhood, during which he “hardly said a word at all” to the day his father gave him an object that sparked his curiosity: a compass. It takes us through school and young Albert’s questions and differentness and fascination with mysteries. To the time he rode his bicycle in sunlight and wondered about riding on one of those beams. All the way to the person we think of as Albert Einstein. The genius one. The atoms one. The speed of light and space and universe one. The E = mc squared one.


Pages from OnABeam Interior MECH-2


But what I like most about it is how the book shows Einstein’s personality. The other stuff that defined him. His sailboat. His violin-playing. His love of ice cream. His wardrobe. Yes, his famous lack of socks. His “comfy, old saggy-baggy sweaters and pants.” Even the illustrations have a raw, disheveled quality that capture him perfectly.


Pages from OnABeam Interior MECH-3

 Thanks to Chronicle Books for the images.



Einstein was really on to something, don’t you think?  With joie de vivre. With his ever-questioning mind. And with that comfy yet fashionable wardrobe. I mean, I love a short, slouchy pant and sweater pairing for fall (and winter and spring).

Einstein inspiration

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That adorable Einstein Doll in the top left corner? It’s by scootscootxtine on etsy.


These Albert Einstein wardrobe pieces are all at J. Crew (or perhaps some similar are already in your closet). I like these Einstein ensembles for everyday, but one could be a clever Halloween costume with a nice white shock of hair and mustache!

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men’s: sweater and pants; boy’s sweater and pants; girl’s sweater and pants.

The following are sweater/pant combos that aren’t strictly Einsteinian, but they’re contemporary counterparts for women. And they’re pretty, cozy things to covet, no?

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top one: Chinti and Parker triangle sweater; bottom one: Black Crane in mustard; top two: Rotterdam Porcelain sweater by Babasouk; bottom two: Match Suite pants by Just Female.


These kids’ sweaters all have a little Einstein wink factor which I quite like.

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clockwise: 1. Christopher Fisher ice cream cone sweater; 2. sailing boat t-shirt jumper by internaht on etsy; 3. Oscar et Valentine Einstein Sweater; 4. vintage boys bicycle sweater on etsy @ fuzzymama. 


And of course, we can’t forget Einstein’s accessories. Oxfords with no socks!

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men: oxfords by Deer Stags; ladies: oxfords by Seychelles; girls: oxfords by Venettini; boys: oxfords by Cole Haan


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