Journey by Aaron Becker

Journey coverTake a little Harold and the Purple Crayon, a little Where the Wild Things Are, some glorious illustrations, and a world you’ll remember (and wish for!) long after finishing the book, and you have Aaron Becker’s wordless picture book, Journey. Tired of waiting for her family to put down their electronics, and for the neighbourhood kids to invite her into their games, Journey‘s protagonist sets off on her own adventure. Red marker in hand, she creates a door that leads her from sepia-toned reality to a grand and richly green forest. When a stream appears, the marker produces a small boat, and when the stream-turned-aqueduct suddenly ends, it provides a hot air balloon in the nick of time.

Making (literally) her own way along is only half the adventure, though. While floating above the city in her balloon, the girl notices a purple bird being caught and caged. Abandoning her meandering trip, the girl follows the hunters’ airship, determined to find and free the bird. Accomplishing her task might earn her what she’s wanted all along. It might also cost her everything.

I’ve been waiting for Journey since spring, and while I wasn’t disappointed, I was surprised. I’d anticipated something of an update on Harold, and wondered how such a personal journey would come around to the “act of tremendous courage and kindness” described in the publisher’s blurb. While the red marker does play a significant role in the story, the vast, detailed landscapes and distinct contrast between the girl’s travels and her family’s screen-and-cord-bound lives combine to make this a much more outward-focused journey than Harold’s from the start. And while the story is simple, I think that this is another one where rereading and discussing will reveal more to love about Journey every time.

Read about the book from a teacherly point of view at Reading, Teaching, Learning, or from a mom’s perspective at Everyday Reading.

Come join the Sharp-Schu Book Club on Twitter on Wednesday, September 25th to talk about Journey and ask Aaron Becker questions!

If the art is what grabs you in Journey, check out Becker’s guest post on Gurney Journey to find out how he did it.

In case you haven’t seen it already (and even if you have), you really need to watch this gorgeous book trailer:


Makerspace: International Dot Day

The Dot coverI love Peter H. Reynold’s The Dot. Not only is the main character named Vashti(!), but the story sends a fantastic message about sharing who you are through art.

If you haven’t read the story, here’s the gist (you’ll have to read the book for yourself to catch the illustrations): Vashti is frustrated by art class, because she believes that she has no artistic talent. Her teacher encourages her to make some kind of mark on her paper, and then asks her to sign it. When Vashti comes to class next, her signed dot is framed on the wall. Vashti decides that she can certainly make a better dot than that, so she sets out to outdo herself. By the end of the book, her fantastic profusion of dots is in an art show, and Vashti encourages a younger fan (with no artistic talent of his own) to make his own mark — and sign it.

The book has been around for ten years, now, and those inspired by it have instituted International Dot Day on the book’s publication date each year — September 15 — to allow people all over the world to share how they’ve taken up The Dot‘s challenge. It’s Dot Day that suggested the idea for a new monthly feature for Lemon-Squash. Makerspace will introduce a different project the first Friday of every month, and provide opportunities for you to share what you’ve done with it. In the spirit of makerspaces, the feature will be a great opportunity to learn about and try new things. Some months I’ll share what I know about a topic, and others I’ll invite a mentor to share what he or she knows. We hope you’ll find it inspiring — we can’t wait to see where you take it!

For this month, the project is simple: choose a way to observe International Dot Day. I’m working on a variation of this crocheted polka dot blanket with a bunch of leftover cotton yarn. This is what it looks like so far:
Dot Day Blanket start

The pattern is pretty simple, and the squares would work equally well for a scarf, a rug, or a full bedspread. If you’d like to give it a try, and need to brush up on (or learn) the crochet stitches needed, you’ll find them all on The Purl Bee’s Crochet Basics page.

Dot Day is all about finding your own way of expressing yourself, though, so try something that’s fun for you (or for the kids/teens you’re working with). Bake, draw, plant, decoupage, carve or write. When you’re done, consider sending us a photo. I’ll be posting a picture of my polka dot blanket on our Facebook page on September 15th, and we’d love to share your pictures, too!

Ten: Moody Books

Along with all their other powers, stories can have considerable influence on our moods. Whether you’re looking for something that reflects your current mood, or something that will change it, sometimes a good story is just the thing. The challenge is in knowing what book to pull off the shelf. You probably have a few reliable favourites for such purposes — I know I do! This week’s Ten focuses on picture books for their simplicity of focus, but I think most will appeal to readers of any age.

When you’re feeling disgusted by injustice
The Paper Bag Princess written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko
When a dragon burns down Princess Elizabeth’s castle and kidnaps the prince she was supposed to marry, she picks herself up, puts on the only thing left to wear (a paper bag), and sets off to correct the dragon and retrieve her prince. Whether Prince Ronald is worth keeping around post-rescue does nothing to diminish the value of Princess Elizabeth’s take-charge heroism. Continue reading

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

ImageRamon loves to draw. He draws anything, anytime  anywhere. That is, until his older brother teases him about his artwork, leaving him overly critical of his drawings. After that, his works never seem “perfect.” He draws and draws and draws again, but feels that his drawings are never good enough. He ends up crumpling them up and drawing them over again.

One day he notices his younger sister picking up one of his crumpled pieces of art. Chasing after her to get his drawing back, Ramon follows her into her room, where he finds all of his crumpled up drawings carefully hung on his sister’s walls. When a flabbergasted Ramon tells her that the drawings are not perfect artistic renditions, his little sister doesn’t even blink, saying that while his drawing of a vase doesn’t look like a vase, it still looks “vase-ISH.”

Ramon feels inspired once more as he starts to see things in an entirely new way. “They do look…ish,” he says. Feeling less burdened and newly energized, Ramon begins once again to draw freely, living “ish-fully ever after.”

This book shows readers that whatever someone says to them, not everything needs to be perfect. It provides an avenue to know that they can relax and stand by their ideas and or works and express themselves fully in adverse situations knowing that there is value in imperfection. Contemporary in its artwork, Ish is a story filled with emotion and warmth that will surely grasp the attention of readers young or old.

See a booktalk on YouTube.

Get to know a little bit more about Peter Reynolds on his website. Learn about his mission, read his blog, and browse through his photo album.

Find a classroom guide for this story as well as for the dot, another one of Reynolds’ books.