I like books…especially picture books. My childhood favorite was Each Peach Pear Plum because I could recite the rhymes as though I were actually reading the book. As a teacher, one of my favorites was Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin. When I taught second grade, my students created their own diaries as an animal of their choice. We started with a group brainstorming session to identify factual characteristics of the animals, such as their habitat and food. The students then incorporated these details into their fictional stories and added illustrations with captions. The results were so creative! I think every picture book has a creative, hands-on way to engage children beyond simply reading. See my ideas below.
Did you know there are picture book museums and exhibitions? I have seen a couple of exhibitions of children’s book art, including Over the Rainbow and Down Rabbit Holes at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 2008 and Monsters & Miracles: A Journey through Jewish Picture Books at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles in 2010. These exhibitions were completely different and both have moved on from these museums, but what I loved about them were the interactive elements. There were audiobooks playing from tall, green hedges, picture book libraries, and hands-on activities like designing book character masks and writing/drawing prompts to inspire your creativity. I even wrote my own library catalog card to file away for other visitors to discover. Plus, I got to create a monster!
Japan has about 20 museums that celebrate picture book art, but the U.S. has a limited number. One is the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Massachusetts, which has more artwork than just that of Eric Carle. ImaginOn in North Carolina is a collaboration between the award-winning county library system and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte with the mission of bringing stories to life. What picture book art exhibitions and museums have you seen?
1. Make a Book: As a kid I would staple together pieces of paper to create books. My favorite kind to make was a tiered, flap booklet where each flap was a little shorter than the next one so that a portion of each page of the book could be seen when closed. Unfortunately, I cannot find directions or a template on the Internet so here is my attempt.
- Cut a piece of paper in half lengthwise (hot dog).
- Fold one of those pieces so that 1 inch of the paper is exposed (half A).
- Fold the other piece so that 2 inches of the paper is exposed (half B).
- Line up the seams so that half A is inside of half B and staple at the seam.
2. Rhyme Time: Read Each Peach Pear Plum or another rhyming picture book. Create new rhymes for the story using your homemade booklet. The rhymes can be written on each tier.
3. Write your own Diary of a ___________ [hamster, hawk, lizard, etc]: Start by brainstorming factual characteristics of the animals that can be written into the stories, such as the animal’s habitat and food.
4. Act it out…have each family member choose a favorite character (from different stories) and act out what happens when these characters meet.
5. Create your own book museum!
- Choose 3-5 favorite books for your exhibit. (Older kids can try to design their exhibit based on a theme).
- Visit Amazon.com to find the cover artwork for your books and print them out OR draw them.
- Glue each little artwork on an index card and write a label for the book.
- “Hang” these artworks in a shoebox museum. You can even paint the walls first and add benches.
Itinerary: A Day of Dr. Seuss (San Diego)
Background: Theodor Seuss Geisel lived in La Jolla, California atop Mount Soledad. In 1954 he wrote The Cat in the Hat using only 236 words for beginning readers. His illustrations were said to have been inspired by the unique plants of Balboa Park’s cactus and desert gardens.
- Pack a picnic lunch, a few Dr. Seuss books, a sketch pad (one per child/person) and possibly a camera.
- Take a stroll through the desert garden or the cactus garden – grab a map from the Visitor Center for directions.
- Find a comfortable place to picnic and read Dr. Seuss classics.
- Using the illustrations in the books and your imagination, match the drawings to plants in the gardens.
- Sketch or photograph the actual plant that may have inspired Dr. Seuss OR let the plants in the garden inspire your own magical shapes and creatures.
Optional Excursion: Drive to the top of Mount Soledad in La Jolla, the site of Dr. Seuss’s home. Do you think he was inspired by these surroundings? Visit Geisel Library at UCSD. Check the exhibits calendar to see if his original artwork will be on view to the public.