Thursday, December 18, 2008

Roberta Lavadour on Artists Books

There is an excellent introduction to what an artists book is in an interview with Roberta Lavadour on Oregon Public Broadcasting. Her work and her studio are great to see and she speaks eloquently about artists books and the creative process.


Roberta's website

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Word-A-Day Journal

I have always loved the idea of faithfully keeping a journal with something written or drawn for each day of the year. In practice it has never worked. I decided that I might have a chance if I only had to write one word a day and that it was important to keep it small and simple so I wouldn't be tempted to start more elaborately and then quit because I couldn't live up to the expectation. I designed a series of small books, one for each month, that go in a box made from a cereal box. My plan is to write the word at around the same time every day, probably before I start to get dinner ready. I like the idea of deciding on the word that will sum up the day. We shall see.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Giving Thanks Accordion Book

I was inspired by the book Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message to make this book for Thanksgiving. Chief Jake Swamp says in his author's note: "The words in this book are based on the Thanksgiving Address, an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants. These words of thanks come to us from the Native people known as the Haudenosaunee, also known as the Iroquois or Six Nations."

Since the accordion has four pages, I chose to reflect on each of the four seasons and write about what I give thanks to. I used the front panel of a grocery bag folded in half the long way with the writing inside. It made an accordion substantial enough to not need a cover. I used cut and torn paper for the illustrations and a fine black sharpie marker. This would be a good project to keep the kids busy on Thanksgiving morning while the adults are involved in cooking or in the classroom.

Giving Thanks Teachers Guide

You are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving
Interactive website for children with a teacher's guide from Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, MA

People of the First Light: Teacher Resources on Native American History and Culture
developed by the Children's Museum of Boston
Take a look at the Professional Development for workshops related to Wampanoag culture if you are in the area.

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe website

Paper Clip Thank You

I received a wonderful accordion book thank you after I gave a workshop to a graduate class at Framingham State College. As I am always talking about how the recycling approach promotes creativity, I was especially taken by this use of paper clips.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Spirit Book Workshop

In conjunction with the exhibition Artists and Books at the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, MA, I gave a Book of the Spirit workshop related to my Spirit Books Series. This is one place where I have not gone recycled and we used handmade paper from Bhutan. I have also made the books with grocery bags which are quite nice but do not have the elegance of ones with handmade paper. Fourteen women gathered on a beautiful fall day to connect with nature and the creative experience. After a brief talk and look at the Spirit Books in the exhibition, they gathered sticks, leaves, needles, cones and bark on the beautiful grounds of the museum. After making four simple sections from handmade paper from Bhutan, they spent the rest of the afternoon stitching, stamping, gluing, and enjoying the camaraderie and contentment of creating.

Artists and Books features the work of 28 artists from New England and New York and runs through January 25, 2009.

There are photos here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Sticker Poem Book

This book is a variation on the stick and elastic book. Because the plastic piece from the socks has a place for the elastic, I was able to wrap the elastic in the curves and run it along the inside of the folded pages.

As I made sample books for the Homes for Poems workshop at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Lowell, I had fun playing with recycled materials. This book used the side panels from a grocery bag for the pages, a plastic piece that came with a purchase of a pair of socks and an elastic for the binding, and candy wrappers, fruit stickers, and the left over sticky paper from red and green dot stickers that were left over from jurying at the Newburyport Art Association to decorate the pages. The poem was inspired by the fruits the stickers were on. You can view the entire book here.

As I was preparing for the workshop, I spent some time selecting a collection of poetry anthologies for children. You might not always want to write an original poem for your book; sometimes it's fun to use one of your favorite poems. Here is an annotated list in no particular order.

A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children
Caroline Kennedy, paintings by Jom J Muth. New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2005.
I like the collection of poems and Caroline Kennedy's reminiscences about reading and reciting poetry aloud with her family.

Around the World in Eighty Poems
Selected by James Berry, illustrated by Katherine Lucas, San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2002.
Poems from more than fifty countries include traditional poems and songs and ones by contemporary poets. A nice introduction by James Berry closes with "Perhaps the poems in this anthology will build bridges for you. This collection offers you fresh poems as new acquaintances, which I hope will become new friends."

Talking Like the Rain: A Read-to-Me Book of Poems
Selected by X.J. Kennedy and Dorothy M. Kennedy, illustrated by Jane Dyer. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1992.
This delightful collection of poems for children is organized in the following sections: Play; Families; Just for Fun; Birds, Bugs, and Beasts; Rhymes and Songs; Magic and Wonder; Wind and Weather; Calendars and Clocks; Day and Night. The poems are great for reading aloud.

The Random House Book of Poetry for Children
selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Arnold Lobel. New York: Random House, 1983.
This was the poetry anthology we had in our library when my kids were young. There are lots of great poems organized in sections like The Four Seasons, Dogs and Cats and Bears and Bats, I'm Hungry!, and Alphabet Stew.

A Jar of Tiny Stars: Poems by Ncte Award-Winning Poets
edited by Bernice E. Cullinan, illustrated by Andi MacLeod. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong, Boyds Mill Press, 1996.
Poems by David McCord, Aileen Fisher. Karla Kuskin, Myra Livingston Cohen, Eve Merriam, John Ciardi, Lilian Moore, Arnold Adoff, Valerie Worth, and Barbara Esbensen are accompanied by a portrait of the poets, their writing about writing poetry, and a short biography.

This Place I Know: Poems of Comfort
selected by Georgia Heard, illustrated by eighteen renowned picture book artists including William Steig and Melissa Sweet. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2002.
Georgia Heard was asked by a friend who is superintendent of District 2 schools in Manhattan to gather poems of comfort for New York schoolchildren who had witnesses the World Trade Center tragedy. These poems can bring comfort to all children, and adults, in whatever trying times they find in their own lives.

Hey, You!: Poems to Skyscrapers, Mosquitoes, and Other Fun Things
selected by Paul Janeczko, illustrated by Robery Rayevsky. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.
A selections of poems from humorous to serious written to things: sneakers, mosquitos, snowflake, buffalo, hat hair, the Vietnam Memorial. In the preface, the editor suggests writing your own poems to things and these are great inspirations to get started.

Talking to the Sun: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems for Young Peopleselected and introduced by Kenneth Koch and Kate Farrell. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985.
A wide-ranging selection of poems ranging across time and place are illustrated with works from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A feast of words and images.

Sing A Song Of Popcorn: Every Child's Book Of Poems
selected by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, Eva Moore, Mary Michaels White, and Jan Carr, illustrated by Marcia Brown, Leo and Diane Dillon, Richard Egielski, Trina Schart Hyman, Arnold Lobel, Maurice Sendak, Marc Simont, and Margot Zemach. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1988.
The well-chosen poems are grouped by theme and illustrator: themes and illstrators include Fun with Rhymes illusterated by Trina Schart Hyman, Mostly Weather illustrated by MArcia Brown, Mostly Animals by Arnold Lobel.

The Kingfisher Book of Family Poems (Kingfisher Book Of)
selected by Belinda Hollyer, illustrated by Holly Swain. New York: Kingfisher, 2003.
The family poems in this volume are broad in scope. They go from humorous to sad and include all kinds of families. A poem called I wish I was (an only child) is followed by I have none.

Heart to Heart : New Poems Inspired by Twentieth-Century American Art
edited by Jan Greenberg. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 2001.
American poets were invited to choose a work of twentieth -century American art and write a poem inspired by it. The results were organized into four categories: Stories (poems about the art that tell an aanecdote or conjure a memory), Voices (poet steps inside the painting and assumes the voice of the person or object), Impressions (poets paint word pictures of the work of art), Expressions (poets explore aspects of visual form that concern the nature of art and the artist). The book is wonderful to look at and view and also can make a starting point for a collaboration between art and language arts teachers or for a visit to the museum.

Massachusetts Poetry Festival Workshop

I gave a workshop called Homes for Poems at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in Lowell, Massachusetts last weekend. It was a great success. One of the things that I find fascinating about some my public workshops is that it isn't all children. Lots of adults come by themselves and make books. It is wonderful to see a room filled with people of all ages busy with creative activity.

You can see photos of the workshop here.

The Massachusetts Poetry Festival will be an annual event. Keep it in mind for next fall.

500 Handmade Books Podcast

Lark Books has just published 500 Handmade Books: Inspiring Interpretations of a Timeless Form (500 Series). Part of their 500 series, it is a visual exploration of the form. After a brief introduction by juror Steve Miller, page after page of photographs follow. As with any book exhibition (except ones where you are allowed to handle the work), there is a certain frustration in not being able to see more pages and examine the books more closely, but that does not take away from the stunning and inspiring presentation. I am honored to have three of the Spirit Books included.

500 Handmade Books will stretch your vision of what a book can be. You can hear Steve Miller in a podcast at the Lark books website.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Forbidden Words Accordion Book

When I was doing a poetry project with middle school kids last spring, I came across a poem with the word nice in it and cringed. I remembered that one of my children's teachers banned the use of the word in her classroom. While life would be way too exhausting if we always had to come with a creative and appropriate word every time we wanted to give a little positive acknowledgment, we certainly should avoid nice and other neutral and nondescript words in writing. This month's project is a book to keep track of forbidden words and come up with alternatives.

I made my book with just four pages instead of the 8 in the directions. I used one half of the side panel of a grocery bag for the accordion and pieces cut from a pancake mix box for the cards. I wanted to use the design on the box as a border so I wrote the words on cut pieces of paper (with writing on the other side) and glued them to the cards. You could also make a longer book to hang in the classroom with each student contributing a word.


Word choice advice for writers: Forbidden words
Advice about avoiding overly used words in writing.

Wordy Wise
One teacher's take on forbidden words plus other ideas to expand vocabulary.

Online Thesaurus

The Library/John Greenleaf Whittier

I am working on an installation for the Tenth Outdoor Sculpure Show at Maudslay State Park. I am using lines from the poems of John Greenleaf Whittier. I've read lots of his poems online at Project Gutenberg. I liked this poem written on the dedication of the Haverhill Library in because it describes some of the earlier forms of books.


Sung at the opening of the Haverhill Library, November 11, 1875.

"Let there be light!" God spake of old,
And over chaos dark and cold,
And through the dead and formless frame
Of nature, life and order came.

Faint was the light at first that shone
On giant fern and mastodon,
On half-formed plant and beast of prey,
And man as rude and wild as they.

Age after age, like waves, o'erran
The earth, uplifting brute and man;
And mind, at length, in symbols dark
Its meanings traced on stone and bark.

On leaf of palm, on sedge-wrought roll,
On plastic clay and leathern scroll,
Man wrote his thoughts; the ages passed,
And to! the Press was found at last!

Then dead souls woke; the thoughts of men
Whose bones were dust revived again;
The cloister's silence found a tongue,
Old prophets spake, old poets sung.

And here, to-day, the dead look down,
The kings of mind again we crown;
We hear the voices lost so long,
The sage's word, the sibyl's song.

Here Greek and Roman find themselves
Alive along these crowded shelves;
And Shakespeare treads again his stage,
And Chaucer paints anew his age.

As if some Pantheon's marbles broke
Their stony trance, and lived and spoke,
Life thrills along the alcoved hall,
The lords of thought await our call!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Palm Leaf Books at the Met

Holland Cotter reviewed an exhibition entitled “Early Buddhist Manuscript Painting: The Palm-Leaf Tradition” in the South Asian galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the August 28 New York Times. He writes of the history of the palm leaf book and the importance of its portability in its survival.

Such practical features — size, resilience, portability — help explain why a similar form of palm-leaf art, the illustrated book, was popular in India between the 10th and 13th centuries. And they suggest why such books and their illustrations have survived into the present, while painting in more perishable media has not.

He discusses the subject matter, Buddhist sutras, and the many uses of the book.

So palm-leaf manuscripts, like most art, had multiple uses. They circulated spiritual information. They functioned as protective charms. They served as religious offerings, gifts from which karmic returns were expected. And they became objects of worship....

And a book could have a final use. It could be a personal possession; something to keep at home, carry around, examine up close whenever you pleased. That’s basically the experience offered by the scattering of palm-leaf pages at the Met, with their elegantly written texts and magnetic little pictures.

The exhibition continues until March 22, 2009.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Upcycled Paper Journal

Keeping the terminology straight about recycling can be confusing. I usually talk about using recycled paper in my workshops but a more accurate term would be upcycled or repurposed. The term upcycle was coined by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Wikipedia defines it like this: "Upcycling is the practice of taking something that is disposable and transforming it into something of greater use and value."

I love the way making books with upcycled materials forces me to think creatively as my usual methods don't necessarily work. For the journal, I wanted the book to be the size of regular copy paper folded in half and I wanted to use paper that already had writing on one side. My solution was to glue two pieces of paper together with the writing on the inside. It turns out that I really like the feel of turning the thick pages and I can even use sharpie markers without them showing through on the other side.

You'll need two pieces of paper with writing on one side to make one sheet of paper for the book and a glue stick.
1. Place one piece of paper in front of you with the writing side up.
2. Put a line of glue stick glue going down each side.
3. Lining it up as carefully as you can, place a second piece of paper with the writing side down on top and press to help the paper adhere.

You'll need one piece of copy paper with writing on one or two sides, paper for collage, and glue stick and scrap paper. I used pages torn from catalogs, scraps of wrapping paper and old calendars that were in my collage box. Cut or tear pieces of collage paper and glue them to completely cover both sides of the paper.

For best results when gluing:
Place the piece you are gluing face down on a piece of scrap paper (I use pages from old catalogs). Cover the entire surface with a thin coat of glue. Glue sticks are easiest to use and least likely to make the paper buckle. Place the piece glue side down on the cover and rub to help the glue adhere. Fold the scrap paper in half with the glue on the inside so it doesn't get on anything.

Fold the cover and each piece of paper in half. Tuck one inside the other with the cover on the outside.
Or stack them all together and fold them in half with the cover on the outside.
If you are used to more formal binding situations, you may find it worrisome that the pages are sticking out beyond the cover. For me, using recycled materials is also about acceptance and letting go.

Making the Holes

You will need two holes through all the layers of paper and the cover. Because we are binding with yarn, the holes need to be big. It will be impossible to punch through all the layers with a hole punch. You can punch the holes in the cover and then use that as a guide for the rest of the pages.

The holes should be about an inch down from the top and the bottom on the spine. To judge the distance, I put my thumb knuckle on the top or bottom of the book and make the hole right after my finger nail.

You will need one piece of yarn about 24" long. I used it as is but you might find it easier to thread into the holes if you tape one end so that is like a shoelace. A couple of clothespins or other clips to hold the pages together is also helpful.

1. Go into the top hole from the outside of the book.
2. Go down to the bottom hole on the inside of the book and put the yarn through.
3. Go around the bottom of the book to go into the bottom hole from the inside.
4. Go along the outside of the book to the top hole.
5. Bring the yarn to the top of the book and tie the two ends together in a double knot.

You'll need three pieces of yarn, each about a yard and a half long.
1. Fold the pieces of yarn in half.
2. Place the center of the fold on top of the binding yarn knot and tie the binding yarn around the braiding pieces. Using three sets of two strands, braid the yarn.


Fun Facts about Recycling and More
Each ton of recycled paper can save 17 trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4,000 kilowatts of energy and 7,000 gallons of water! There are more facts are here. Explore Saint Louis County Resourceful Schools Project site further for information about setting up a recycling program at your school.

How is paper recycled?
Cartoon illustrations and written information take you through the process of paper recycling. You can view it on the website or as a pdf.

Printing Tips
Reduce is the first of the three Rs. Using less paper with your printer is a good place to start.

Literacy and Family Bookmaking

I was recently having discussions with a parent about doing a Family Literacy Night at her child's school. When she presented the idea of a bookmaking workshop with me to the committee, one person said that she didn't understand what making books had to do with literacy. She convinced them and the workshop will go on. I am so close to the subject and so passionate about it, I realized I didn't even have an answer except: of course they have everything to do with each other.

I decided I need to search the internet for some further information. gave me just what I was looking for in their information about Balanced Literacy.

Balanced literacy is an approach for teaching literacy that is widely used in classrooms across the country. It involves several methods of teaching and learning reading and writing, whole class instruction directed by the teacher with independent work in reading, writing, and oral language. By integrating a variety of approaches, a balance is achieved in which students learning to understand text (from a whole language approach) as well as how to read text (from a phonics approach).

The section that I think particularly pertains to making books with children in general and family workshops in particular is:

Independent Writing
Integral to the process is independent writing, which provides students with the consistent opportunity to apply and practice the skills already introduced and to cultivate their love of and comfort with writing on their own level.

In order to get good at writing, just as in order to get good at reading, quantity is important as well as quality. I was a big reader as a child and read Little Women and a lot of the classics, but I also read every Bobbsey Twins, every Nancy Drew, and lots of Cherry Ames and that was where I got to be comfortable with reading. With writing it is the same. We need to learn sentence and paragraph structure and grammar, but we also need to learn to take joy in writing, to express ourselves with freedom and abandon. I can't remember ever seeing a child make a book and not want to write in it immediately. The handmade book sets the stage for the writing experience

Extending bookmaking out of the classroom and into the home is a logical next step. With all the material that teachers are required to cover during the school year, finding time for children to write for pleasure about the things they care about can be difficult. I feel that now, more than ever, teachers and schools need the support of parents at home. But it shouldn't just be about memorizing multiplication facts and doing worksheets. The home can be a place where creative learning happens. And the wonderful thing is that parents will find that their own lives will be enriched in the process. They often tell me how relaxed they feel after one of my family bookmaking workshops.

When I started using recycled materials for my workshops, I had two reasons. One was environmental: to consume less. The other was to make bookmaking easy to continue at home. With no special papers or materials to purchase, it is inexpensive and easy to get started. I have since discovered that it is also liberating, especially to adults. While children are very free about writing in the books they create, adults are often afraid. What if I mess it up?, they think. With recycled materials, it doesn't matter; they have only used paper that was going to the recycle bin.

We can improve literacy and all grow as writers, readers, and creative human beings at the same time.

I offer Family Workshops to schools and libraries in Massachusetts and southern NH and Maine.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Books are intimate...

Books are intimate; they welcome personal encounters.
Books are humble; they fulfill their potential closed as well as open.
Books have depth; they are rich with the possibilities of endless variation.
Books have spirit; they are dwelling places for our thoughts and dreams.

I wrote a version of this in my early years of making books and for a long time it was on the entry page to my art website. Over the years I have seen it pop up here and there as an anonymous poem.

There is a link to a pdf version on my in good spirit blog.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Photographing Your Family

Photographing Your Family: And All the Kids and Friends and Animals Who Wander Through Too (NG Photography Field Guides) by Joel Sartore with John Healey has a couple of paragraphs about and my belief in the value of making books with children in the chapter on Printing, Displaying, and Storing Your Photographs. Joel Sartore is an acclaimed National Geographic photographer. Although he has traveled the world, his favorite subjects are his family at home. He has definite ideas about what makes a good photograph with a particular feeling for crying babies (But it's the pictures of kids crying that remind us what is was like to be a parent with young children. They're entertaining and they're emotional. And that's what a good photograph is: It is a picture with good light, a clean background, and some emotion). I particularly like that he puts emphasis on photographing daily life as well as trips and special events.

Joel Sartore is someone for whom photography is a way of the life and the camera seems like an extension of his body. The book is illustrated with his photographs of his family accompanied by his comments which include why he likes or doesn't like a particular photo, what he was thinking at the time he took it, and comments about composition and light. He uses digital cameras and gives lots of clearly presented technical information. While I think those with a certain level of comfort in using their cameras will get more from the book, there is much to offer at all levels. Because it is amply illustrated and well-designed, it is a pleasure to repeatedly leaf through the pages. I have found that I have been able to absorb something more with each viewing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Pop-Up Books

Carol Barton has published her second volume of The Pocket Engineer. These ingenious books provide both clear directions and do-it-yourself models that can be detached from the book, made, and then stored in pockets in the book. Additional sets of the models may also be purchased.

Carol publishes these wonderful books through her own Popular Kinetics Press. If you purchase a copy, give her your full support by purchasing directly from her website.

Carol also has a great blog, The Popular Edge, Pop-Up and Book Arts News.

I had my first exposure to pop-ups with Joan Irvine's How to Make Pop-ups. My kids and I spent many enjoyable hours with the books and they both have made pop-up cards the mainstay of their correspondence. Out of print for a while, it is again in print with the title, Easy-to-Make Pop-Ups.

You can find an excerpt from the book at Joan Irvine's website.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Living Library/Human Books

"What is a book?" is a question often debated by book artists. The Living Library in east London adds a whole new dimension. The project, created by Ronni Abergel to break down prejudice and foster dialog, allows people to borrowed.

"A new kind of Library has opened, where instead of books you can borrow a Muslim - or a single father, or a transvestite, for a chat. Alex Forsyth volunteers to be lent as a 'book', and asks whether this concept can really help break down stereotypes.

A Muslim, a Catholic and a transsexual are sitting in a library. An opener to a joke this is not: It is the Living Library - where, instead of books, you borrow people. You pick a person for a 30-minute dialogue in which you can ask questions, engage in meaningful discourse or simply bounce ideas. I wait with the other 'books' to be borrowed."

The complete article about the Living Library by Alex Forsyth may be found here.

Here's one from the Christian Science Monitor.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Spirit Book Workshop in the Berkshires

I will be giving a Spirit Book workshop at the Berkshire Botanical Garden on August 6. It is for adults but I thought I would mention it here.

Book Making Workshop: Build a Spirit Book
Wednesday, August 6, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Berkshire Botanical Garden
Intersection Routes 102 & 183
Stockbridge, MA 01262

Members $35; Non-members $40
All levels, Bring bagged lunch
Material fee $5

Connect with your creativity and the spirit of nature in this hands-on book making workshop based on the Spirit Book Series by Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord. After an introduction to Susan's Spirit Books and a walk in the woodland, make a simple handmade book using Bhutanese paper, and add texture, imagery, and pattern. Susan's twenty years of teaching bookmaking have made her a clear and patient instructor. No art experience or creative confidence is needed; this workshop is truly for everyone.

I'll also be doing a shorter workshop at the Art Complex Museum in Duxbury, MA in conjunction with the exhibit, Artists and Books, on October 26, 1:30-3:30 pm.

You can find out more about the Spirit Books here.

Memento Hot Dog Booklet

Video Tutorial

Summer is travel time for many, whether a long trip or visiting places close to home. Here's a Hot Dog Booklet made from a gathered map or menu. I made my first one when my daughter and I and friends went to the Office (the TV show) Convention in Scranton, PA last fall. They were giving away one sheet maps with festival venues and parking areas. Being the bookmaking-obsessed person that I am, I immediately saw the map folded into a Hot Dog Booklet. I made mementos for all of us with photographs. You can use restaurant place mats, commercial maps that a lot of towns have advertising local restaurants and shops, a poster or flyer from a show.

I didn't want to carry around large pieces of paper so on the spot I folded the map the long way like a hot dog, then the hot dog in half and then in half again. The folds were in the right place for the Hot Dog Booklet which I made when I got home. I put the map on the outside (by having it on the outside when I made the first fold like a hot dog) to serve as a background and glued photos to the pages. If you put it on the inside, you'll have the map to refer to if you open up the paper. I glued photographs to the pages but you can also glue pages of drawings or writing.

Taking Back Childhood/Nancy Carlsson-Paige

Nancy Carlsson-Paige has written an informative and instructive book called Taking Back Childhood: Helping Your Kids Thrive in a Fast-Paced, Media-Saturated, Violence-Filled World. It is very readable and filled with anecdotes and even better specific suggestions for handling the many situations that arise as children are raised in an increasingly consumer-driven and media-saturated society. An early chapter, "Through Their Eyes" gives a concise summary of child development from birth to ten. With my concentration on making books with children, I was pleased to see that she suggested making books in several chapters. One was in regard to limiting a seven year old's TV time:

I suggested they encourage Nina to make a books of shows she wants to watch and use the book to talk together about the content of the shows she sees. In addition I suggested that if they asked Nina open-ended questions about her favorite shows (Why do you like that show? What do you think about how the characters act on this show?) it could help her, over time, to become more critical about television and more media literate.

Nancy Carlsson-Paige suggested stapling pages together but of course I'd suggest something else: a Stick and Elastic Book or a Hot Dog Booklet.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fourth Grade Poetry Books

I just did a project with the fourth grade students at the Molin Upper Elementary School in Newburyport, MA. It was funded by the Newburyport Education Business Coalition from a grant proposal by teacher Pat Levitt. The grant was for each student to produce a bound collection of poetry that was written throughout the year. I sent information on border design for the pages and cover design using cut and torn paper. The students had the pages and covers ready when I came to their classes to lead them through the binding process.

We displayed some of the finished products at the NEBC Annual meeting and were pleased to receive the award for the best project. They cited the facts that it involved all the fourth grades and it was sustainable with directions and the tools provided for teachers to continue on their own in coming years as the reasons for their choice.

Flags Accordion Book

This month's project was inspired by Flag Day which is June 14 in the US. It commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States in 1777. It got me thinking what thinking about what interesting objects flags are. My kids had a small book of flags from around the world and I used to love to look at it. The project uses the index card accordion book; the 3 x 5 cards are a perfect flag shape.

I made my flag book about my family heritage with a flag for each country of origin. Since there were four different countries, I used one accordion section and four cards. I used the side panel of a grocery bag cut in half the long way for the accordion. I used index cards for the pages but you could also cut recycled paper or cereal boxes to size. I glued another set of cards to the back for information about the flags: the meaning of the colors, when they were adopted. You can adapt your book to however many flags you are using. The accordion sections are in multiples of four pages. I think it is easiest to always make sections of four and cut off any extra.

Some other book ideas:
* History of the American Flag

* Flags of the Fifty States

* Countries of the World: countries could be chosen randomly or by region, language, or geography (countries with coastlines, countries with mountain ranges, etc.)

* Class or Family Book of Flags: Each person designs his or her own flag. You might want each person to make a large one for display and a smaller one to put in the book which would hold one from each.

Evolution of the US Flag

Flags of the 50 States

Flags of the World

Good Flag, Bad Flag: How to Design a Great Flag
Vexillology is the study of the flags. This site from the North American Vexillological Association uses examples to illustrate the principles of flag design.

Flag Concentration Game

Monday, May 12, 2008

Awkward Aardvarks Alphabet Book

Video Tutorial

This month's project comes from a workshop I gave last month on Making Alphabet Books at the Massachusetts Reading Association Conference. It is part silly sentences and part grammar lesson. Each page has a sentence with an adjective, a subject, a verb, and an adverb, all starting with the same letter. Mine were all about animals: Awkward aardvarks act amazingly. Zealous zebras zoon zestfully. I found it helpful to use a dictionary and had a blast making the book.

Make 4 hot dog booklets and glue one on top of the other. The book has 26 pages including the front and back covers. It is important that you be very careful when writing in the book. If you miss a page by mistake, your alphabet will not be in order. I suggest you go through first and write the appropriate letter in pencil on each page.

I used paper from the recycling bin that had writing on one side. When I folded the paper in half like a hot dog (the first fold I made), the writing was on the inside.

Bibliography of Alphabet Books

There are lots of possibilities for the subject matter of an alphabet book. Looking at existing books can give you ideas.

An annotated list with images of the book covers from the Hennepin County Library in Minnesota

An annotated list from the Salt Lake City Library

Bembo's Zoo
Bembo's Zoo is an alphabet book of animals created from the letters of the animal's name in the font Bembo by deVicq de Crumptich. An abedecary of animals is created from the font Bembo. The animated version is delightful.

Abecedarium: An Exhibit of Alphabet Books from the Guild of Bookworkers
Artists' books and fine bindings by forty-two artists.

The Alphabet by Abba Richman
Beautiful black and white photos of the 26 letters found mostly in the urban landscape.

And a color version:

Hot Dog Booklet Video

Monday, April 28, 2008

The PoeTree Project

This year's Newburyport Literary Festival in Newburyport, MA honored local poet Rhina Espaillat. In honor of Rhina and the theme of poetry, I designed and coordinated The PoeTree Project, an outdoor installation of poems on trees near several of the Festival venues. I was inspired by an image of a folding screen by the seventeenth century Japanese artist Tosa Mitsuoki.

Students from the sixth and seventh grades at the Rupert A. Nock Middle School wrote poems on strips of tyvek with sharpie markers. They were tied to trees and bushes and were a beautiful sight fluttering in the breeze. The timing was perfect as several of the magnolias were in bloom.

In addition to the children's poems, participating Festival poets wrote poems for Rhina which were tied to the weeping cherry tree that is planted in front of the library in her name.

I was able to attend three of the poetry events: the opening evening with Dana Gioia, Rhina, Lewis Turco, and X.J. Kennedy, a breakfast with the poets with readings by members of the Powow River Poets, and the closing evening with a reading by Erica Funkhouser and Melopoeia: Poetry Recited with Musical Accompaniment with readings by Rhina and Alfred Nicol accompanied by John Tavano on guitar.