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Creating a picture book, behind the scenes

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My picture, Who Laid the Egg? is free on Amazon today!
To celebrate, I thought it would be fun to explain a bit about what it takes to write a picture book—at least, according to my experience!

The original idea hatched on a cold, early morning in November…
I was making breakfast, and my toddler was helping me ‘count’ the eggs we were using. We were practicing numbers. One egg, two eggs, three eggs.
Where do we get eggs?
Well, the store, usually—but do you remember gathering eggs at Oma’s?
Did you know frogs also lay eggs? Here, let me find you a picture of frog eggs…
Hey, that’s almost like a guessing-game: ‘Who lays eggs?’
Of course, the idea needed a couple weeks to incubate, but somewhere around the end of November, I decided abruptly that I was going to make a book.
I’m not a professional artist, but I’ve some art training over the years, and this idea seemed fun—and doable. So, I got out my sketchbook and started planning.


Writing a picture book—for me anyway—can be a bit of a chicken-a…

Paint Printing: Finger Painting Part 4

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Most preschool art books mention some form of paint stamping: paint a leaf or an apple half, and press it down on paper to create a shape.

Then there are stamp and ink pad sets, and thumbprint bunny rabbits.

But what if you don't feel like cutting up apples and ruining them with purple paint?

What if you wanted to create a design with paint and copy it instantly?

I tried that idea out recently, and as a result, here is my version of a preschool-and-toddler-friendly printing press.

You will need:
Finger paintsA sheet of glossy paper or cardboardWhite paper

First help your child create a picture on the glossy paper. Keep is simply and chunky. The printing-process will smudge the paint a bit, so small details won't transfer well. (I chose to paint a speckled monster that looks oddly like an upright crocodile. The main 'small' detail in my design was a white daub of paint for its eye.)



Once your picture is ready, spread a sheet of white paper over the design, pressing down …

The crows are coming!

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Last week, we were trapped in our house by a crow.



Well, sort of.
There were actually two crows, and we weren’t in any serious danger.
I went outside earlier than usual that morning—my kids were riding on their trikes in the driveway, and I decided to sit outside with them while I sorted through some papers. After a while, though, I noticed that two crows kept flying back and forth in the trees behind me and screeching.
One would land on a branch just above my head, scream at me for a moment, snap off a twig and drop it, then fly across to the other tree. And repeat.
And repeat…
…and repeat.
It felt odd, but hey—I don’t look that much like a scary predator, right? So, why were they picking on me?
Then a neighbor kid came over and told me that he had seen a baby crow on the ground—about five feet from where I was currently sitting.
Well, whoops.
I guess the crows did have some reason to be concerned, after all?
When I started looking around, there was the baby crow—huddled back in th…

Brushes and Shields: Finger Painting Part 3

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Back in December--when I was looking for Christmas stories--I discovered Tomie DePaola's picture books. We started with his Old Befana, loved Little Grunt, and then found The Knight and the Dragon (mentioned in my post about dragon stories).

We were reading The Knight and The Dragon while we were doing another finger painting project--the same day, co-incidentally, that I had cut a couple of paper bags up for jackets.* Since the knight in the story had to create his own armor, and since the jackets did look rather like breastplates, I started to wonder whether we could also create shields from the paper bags.

We could, and we did.

This is, as usual, a fairly simple project.

Paper-bag shields:Take a paper-bag. Any grocery store bag with handles will work, though one with less printing works a bit better.Help your kids detach the handles from the top of the bag.Fold the bag down flat and fold the end over, taping or stapling it down to create a small, sturdy rectangle.Then, attach th…

Trees, seeds, and growing (stories) for spring

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It's spring, and seeds are sprouting all over our yard right now--peas, maple trees, and dozens, and dozens, and hundreds of weeds. This week, I wanted to share some of the picture books about seeds and growing things that we've enjoyed reading.
"Spring, spring, spring! sang the robin." ~ Home for a Bunny, Margaret Wise Brown
Do you have any favorite spring stories for preschoolers? Here are some of ours...

Who Will Plant a Tree? By Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Tom Leonard How do animals (and people) help to plant trees? This is a fun read with lots of repetition, showing a wide variety of seeds and the different ways they spread.

Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move, by JoAnn Early Macken, illustrated by Pam Paparone This one is similar to Who Will Plant a Tree, but maybe a bit more science-y? It explains a little more explanation about the seeds and plants, and where they grow.

A Seed Is Sleepy, by Dianna Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long I found Aston’s An…

Picture...a dragon!

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I’ve loved quirky dragon stories eve since reading Donita K. Paul’s DragonSpell
Miniature fainting dragons?

Yep. I’ll read books like that.
So, it’s not really surprising that we’ve read a fair number of dragon stories recently. (No, we haven’t read Dragons Love Tacos—I know it’s the popular dragon book of the moment, but we haven’t made it to that section of the library shelf yet.)
Here are five picture books about dragons, though, that we’ve read in the past year:
The Knight and the Dragon, by Tomie dePaola  Take one knight who has never fought a dragon. Add one dragon who has never fought a knight. Mix it up with a goofy fairy-tale parody, in a nearly wordless children’s book. (Optional: add sound effects to the wordless sections of the story.) My kids love it.

I found dePaola’s books back in December. We’ve only read 3-4 so far, but I love his stories and plan to find more of them. (Bonus recommendation, see Little Grunt and the Big Egg.) The Reluctant Dragon, by Kenneth Grahame …

Puppets and Stories: Finger Painting Part 2

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Preschool art series, continued...
As a kid, I played with puppets a lot and came up with a fair number of wacky stories in the process. Since then, I have created a lot more stories, but have done very little oral storytelling. As a result, introducing my kids to puppets has been fun--and stretching.
The first part, creating a puppet, is super easy:Start with a paper lunch bag.Decorate it! You can just use paint, or you can add other materials--glue on feathers, clothes with markers, or glue paper arms onto the bag.Use triangles or semi-circles to add ears, and ovals to add arms.Add a face: eyes and a mouth. We used white paint on top of the other paint to create our puppets' faces: one thumbprint per eye, and a curvy line underneath for the mouth. You could also cut out paper shapes, and add more details too.
(Preschool art tip: if you are working with 2-3 year-olds, you may need to cut out the shapes and show them where to place the ears, eyes, etc. With 4-5 year-olds, you might…