August 3, 2017

The Dot by Peter Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:33 pm by suebe2

The Dot
written and illustrated by Peter Reynolds
Candlewick Press

Vashti has no doubt in her mind.  She cannot draw.  She cannot paint.  There’s no point in even picking up a marker.  That’s why at the end of class her page is once again blank.

When her teacher encourages her to just make a mark, Vashti jabs at the paper with a marker, leaving a dot.  Her teacher, such a smart lady, asks her to sign her work.

The next time Vashti comes to class, the signed dot is in a gorgeous frame hanging over the teacher’s desk.  What?  Vashti is certain that it is not the best dot she can make and sets out to do even better.  Soon she has filled page after page with a wide variety of dots.  My favorite is the dot she painted by not painting a dot.  The dot is negative (white) space and she has painted the background all around it.

At the end of the year is a school art show.  The display includes a huge number of Vashti’s dots.  A young fan comes up to her.  “I wish I could draw.”  Fortunately, Vashti has learned a thing or two about encouraging another frustrated artist.

This book is almost ten years old and I’m not really sure how I managed to miss it.  This would have been perfect for my son when he was in grade school.  He wasn’t a good artist and he knew it.  Fortunately a new art teacher arrived in 5th grade and he helped each child find their strength, much like the teacher in this book.

At less than 400 words, this would be an excellent book for story time and reading aloud.  It would also be an excellent launch for a discussion on belief and encouragement.  Just be sure to have plenty of art supplies and encouraging words ready to go, because everyone at some point in their lives needs a teacher like this.


July 27, 2016

Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes by Jeanette Winters

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 7:53 pm by suebe2

Mr. Cornell’s Dream Boxes
by Jeanette Winters
Beach Lane Books

Joseph Cornell roamed his Queens neighborhood looking for a wide variety of found objects — marbles and figurines, scraps of paper and boxes.  He took them home where he cared for his brother who had cerebral palsey.

When he wasn’t taking care of his brother he spent hours and hours dreaming, remembering and journaling. Working in his shop in the cellar he assembled a unique type of art.  He wasn’t a painter.  He wasn’t a sculptor.  He created shadow boxes. Many of them depicted things that he remembered seeing as a boy — games in penny arcades, water slide in Coney Island, dancers, soap bubbles and more.

He was a quiet man but he enjoyed sharing his artwork with the children in the neighborhood.  He would put together an art show of dream boxes and invite the children.  The children would gaze into the boxes, sipping cherry cola and munching on brownies.  Hopefully a few of them were inspired to do something that Mr. Cornell loved to do — to dream.

Jeanette Winter’s text is as dreamy as Mr. Cornell and her digital illustrations pull young readers into the story.  I love the parallels that she creates between what he remembered from his early life and the art work that he later created.  The one thing that I wish had been done differently is that I would have loved to have seen some of the shadow boxes throughout the text.  Photographs of a few of them appear in the backmatter but I would love to have had a photographic sidebar running along side the text describing it.

I love that this book is more about dreaming than it is about art.  Add to this the fact that it doesn’t make art out to be only sculpture or painting or photography.  It honors the shadow box and the man who created so many to share with children.

Share it with your own dreamers, perhaps before a family trip.  And then each member of the family could create a shadow box of what they enjoyed most.



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