Creating “Ish” Art for Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) Looks at Creating “Ish” Art.

Creating art as a child should be fun. After all, children are discovering the world and interpreting the many marvels around them with a box of crayons, a small paint pallet, a stubby brush, and a pad of paper. Yes, this blissful childhood experience should be freeing, but for me, it was stressful. My mother was an artist for the Field Museum in Chicago. Because of her years of education in botany and scientific illustration in Germany, she never looked at my artistic endeavors through the eyes of a mom armed with a magnet and free space on the fridge, but rather through her analytical eyes and vast knowledge of the scientific world.

She once held my picture of a grassy meadow sprinkled with flowers, two trees, one bunny, and a bright yellow ball of sunshine and gave it a sideways glance. I could see the gears turning in her head as I awaited, not praise, but her criticism.

“Leslie.” She wrinkled her brow at my masterpiece. “If the sun is just above the horizon, as you’ve drawn it, then the shadows must be longer. And if this is a picture of a field around our house, you would never see a Crocustommasinianus growing in the same season with an Iris Reticulata.”


Eventually, I learned to throw myself over my drawings whenever my mom came into view. “It’s not done yet,” I’d blurt. Mom would head out to tend the garden while I finished my drawing and stashed it away before she returned.

The book I’m reviewing today (Ish by Peter H. Reynolds) looks at art in a unique way. I can’t tell you how often I’ve read this marvelous, little treasure. Maybe I return to it often because I wish I owned it when I was a child. I have a feeling I wouldn’t have looked at my art as being “not right” but rather as being marvelously ish.

Title – Ish

Written and illustrated by  – Peter H. Reynolds

Published by – Candlewick Press – 2004

Suitable for ages – 3-8

Theme – One person’s viewpoint isn’t always right. Being true to one’s self, exploration, and creativity.

Opening –

Raymond loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

One day, Ramon was drawing a vase of flowers. His brother, Leon, leaned over his shoulder. Leon burst out laughing. “WHAT is THAT?” he asked.

Amazon Review –  View it HERE.  A creative spirit learns that thinking “ish-ly” is far more wonderful than “getting it right” in this gentle new fable from the creator of the award-winning picture book THE DOT.

Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.

Why do I like this book? Most obviously, because I would have loved to label my art as being “ish” when I was a child. I believe the term frees up the inner artist and gives permission to play. Peter Reynolds inspiring story teamed with his simple and emotion-packed illustrations tells a necessary story the artist in all of us can cling to. One of my favorite pages shows labeled art from Raymond’s journal with such descriptive titles as tree-ish, house-ish, afternoon-ish, and fish-ish. To me, this book is the best-ish, most perfect-ish picture book to read to budding, young artists.

Learn more about Peter H. Reynolds HERE.

Art idea – After reading ISH, encourage children to draw “ishly”. Set out a table full of art supplies, and let them freely interpret their world. Art supplies to include are colored pencils, colored paper, crayons, scissors, glue, pipe cleaners, paper plates, markers, yarn, beads, tissue paper, and more.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

What are your childhood memories of the art you created?


How to Heal a Broken Wing-PPBF Picture Book Review

Welcome to today’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) review of How to Heal a Broken Wing.

Welcoming wild critters into our home was part of my childhood.  My mother brought mice indoors to observe for a short while as temporary pets, a lunar moth, tree frogs, and birds that hit our windows. Some animals lived with us for short periods of time because our cat had attacked them and they needed to be nursed to health (mainly adorable, wide-eyed bunnies). Once we had a seriously injured mallard living in our kitchen that my mom found along a country road. One summer, my patient Mother tamed a wild deer to eat apple slices from her hand. Another summer, she set eggs near the hole of a fox’s den, hoping to catch a glimpse of his rusty coat and dark-gloved paws.

The need to care for injured or neglected animals continues with me. Each bird that flies into the window receives a cozy, lined box, a dish of water and a bowl of bird seeds to help with its recovery. Those that don’t survive…I carefully bury in the garden with flower petals, earth, and tears.

My daughter and I recently rescued a robin with a broken foot at a shopping mall. The bird huddled next to a stop sign with no place to go but onto a busy sidewalk or into a busy street. I wrapped the nervous robin in an old t-shirt, placed it in a small box, and we brought it to a nearby field. My daughter and I sat nearby, watching and waiting until it flew away.

My love of animal rescue stories shows itself in today’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday) review, How to Heal a Broken Wing.  See the book on Amazon HERE.

Title – How to Heal a Broken Wing

Written and illustrated by – Bob Graham

Published by – Candlewick Press 2008

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  Animal rescue and kindness

Opening – High above the city, no one heard the soft thud of feathers against glass.

Amazon Review – In a spare urban fable, Bob Graham brings us one small boy, one loving family, and one miraculous story of hope and healing.

In a city full of hurried people, only young Will notices the bird lying hurt on the ground. With the help of his sympathetic mother, he gently wraps the injured bird and takes it home. In classic Bob Graham style, the beauty is in the details: the careful ministrations with an eyedropper, the bedroom filled with animal memorabilia, the saving of the single feather as a good-luck charm for the bird’s return to the sky. Wistful and uplifting, here is a tale of possibility — and of the souls who never doubt its power.

Why do I like this book? In sparse text and tender illustrations, the reader strongly feels the love Will has for an injured bird. But Will doesn’t only bring home the injured bird, he also saves a feather the bird lost,  hoping his parents can reattach it to help the bird fly again. Understanding their son’s need to care for the bird, his mother brings a medical kit, and his father prepares a cozy box. In caring for the injured bird, Will and his family demonstrate a wonderful act of kindness from the heart.   

Learn about Bob Graham HERE.

Find more “Perfect Picture Book Friday” reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.


Bird craft to make with kids   Image of Yarn Bird

Find instructions HERE. After the text instructions, photographs follow, illustrating the process to make this adorable bird.

I hope you enjoyed today’s picture book review.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at The Room of Wonders

Perfect Picture Book Friday (PPBF) looks at The Room of Wonders by Sergio Ruzzier.

Writing or editing one of my picture book stories is my favorite way to spend a day. And although I am still anxiously waiting for one of my submissions to attract the attention of an agent, I never let a written or silent rejection dampen my spirits. “Okay,” I say, “so Ms. Dream Agent didn’t connect with my humorous story about the dog with the poorly timed hiccups, maybe I’ll submit again and see if she prefers my Candy Land meets Willy Wonka counting book.” My point is that I keep trying. However…

a number of years ago, I let the words of one person turn me away from what I love.

I decided to send one of my manuscripts to a professional editor for a sizable fee. The story was close to my heart and took the better part of two years to complete. When the critique came back, I was devastated. The editor began her letter briefly telling me how much she enjoyed reading my story. She followed this with pages of the harshest criticism I ever read. Some comments mocked my work. What’s the point, I thought. Maybe she’s right. That story file stayed closed on my computer because I let the editor’s harsh words fill me with doubt.

In the years that followed, I took many writing seminars, attended writing conferences, joined a critique group, and kept writing. One morning, I thought about the characters from that story. I remembered how much I enjoyed being with them. I opened the file with a fresh heart, once again believing in myself, ready to put my years of gained knowledge to work. This brings me to the touching and sensitively illustrated picture book, The Room of Wonders.

Title – The Room of Wonders – view on Amazon HERE.

Written and illustrated by – Sergio Ruzzier

Published by – Francis Foster Books – Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York 2006

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics/Theme –  collections, confidence, and inner-happiness.

Opening – Pius Pelosi was a pack rat, and he collected things. On long walks through the forest, he found twisted roots, interesting twigs, leaves, feathers, and sometimes a skin left behind by a snake.

Amazon Review – Pius Pelosi, a young pack rat, is a born collector who fills a
room with his marvelous findings, attracting curious visitors. His very favorite item, a plain gray pebble, is given a place of honor, which baffles everyone. They all ask why he would keep such an ordinary stone. Bowing to public opinion, Pius gets rid of it, but in doing so, he discovers he’s lost much more than just the pebble.

Why do I like this book? In picture books, the main character should change, improve, or grow in some way. Sergio Ruzzier clearly illustrates this when he presents us with a completely lovable, little critter named Pius Pelosi. Pius loves to collect treasures, but when visitors viewing his collection question why he keeps an ordinary gray pebble – the very first and most favorite treasure in his collection, Pius believes his visitors must all be right. He succumbs to their feelings and tosses out the pebble, a decision that destroys his love for the remaining treasures. Then one day… Pius discovers another gray pebble and remembers why he liked his first gray pebble. Happiness returns and he begins to collect treasures again. Children reading this story will learn to stand up for what they love, believe, or treasure. Hopefully, they will never allow the negative opinions of others to overshadow their own precious feelings.

Learn about Sergio Ruzzier HERE.

Find more picture book reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

Activities with children – Ask children what items they like to collect. Can they relate to Pius Pelosi in The Room of Wonders who turns items he discovers along his path into treasures? What do they believe would make a good collection?

If the items in a child’s collection are small, you could help them make a shadow box to display their treasures. Shadow boxes can be purchased at craft stores or upcycled from shoe boxes.