Monthly Archives: February 2021

Make a Zig Zag Book to Tell about Your Family

Let’s make a zig zag book to tell how your family is special! Each family is unique. One family may love skiing in the mountains, and another might especially enjoy visiting historic sites. Some families have lived in the same place for years, while others may move a lot. Each family also has a unique history, with stories, favorite foods, and traditions passed down from grandparents, great grandparents, and even farther back.

For example, I grew up in a small town on the coast of Maine. Saturday night always meant baked beans and brown bread, made with lots of molasses. Special meals included lobsters, clams, corn on the cob, and blueberry pie—sometimes cooked and eaten at the beach. Waves crashing on the rocks, beach roses, and lighthouses say home to me.My father’s ancestors had come to this town several hundred years before, perhaps as fishermen. But by the 1800s most managed general stores or other small rural businesses. On my mother’s side were farmers, and I loved my great grandfather’s barn where black and white cows chomped on sweet hay, and a big coon cat named Fluffy, hunted mice in the dark corners.

What makes your family special? Where have you’ve lived? What foods does your family make for special events? What pets do you have? What fun activities does your family enjoy? What holiday traditions do you have? What are your family’s favorite books and movies? Do you have stories about your family history?

Let’s get started making a zig-zag booklet to record all the things that make your family unique.

 Supplies for the Zig Zag Booklet and decorating it

  • Construction paper in two colors
  • Scissors, pencil, ruler, glue stick or white glue
  • ribbon
  • Be creative! Have fun. Gather and use many materials.
  • Use paper scraps, yarn, glitter, stickers, leaves, buttons, fabric. The sky’s the limit!
  • Use crayons, pencils, markers, or paints, whatever you want!

Directions for the Zig Zag Booklet

  1. Measure and cut 3 pieces of one color of construction paper (I used blue) into 3 pieces 6” X 12”
  2. Repeat with the other color (I used green)
  3. Fold each of the 6 pieces in half
  4. Choose one color to be the front and cut one of its 3 pieces in half along the fold (I used blue)
  5. Cut 4 pieces of ribbon, each about 7” long
  6. Begin putting together the folded pieces of construction paper, alternating the 2 colors. Start with one cut piece of blue which will be glued to the green’s outside front fold. Then glue one side of a blue piece to the inside back of that first green piece. Notice the green piece folds toward you and the blue piece folds towards the back. (see the diagram and photos)
  7. Continue this pattern until you get to the 2nd blue half piece and glue this to the inside front of the last green piece. (see the diagram)
  8. Check that you have created a zig zagging length before gluing
  9. Also be sure to lay the 4 pieces of ribbon in between the correct layers of paper (see the diagram) before gluing those layers together.
  10. Glue and let dry

When all done, you can fold up the booklet and tie the ribbons.

Directions for decorating the cover

  • I decided to make a house on my cover and used scraps of colored paper to make its windows, door, roof, and bushes. Don’t forget the door knob! If you decide to make a house, you might draw a picture of family members in the windows or glue in photos of them.
  • But you can do whatever you’d like with crayons, paint, fabric, etc. and you may want to put a title on the cover, too. You might use stamps or watercolor paints to decorate the cover. Here are some ideas from previous posts: bubble prints, cardboard tube prints, leaf prints, paint designs made by blowing with a straw, painting with a cardboard strip, watercolor paints, and prints made from finger painting. All these techniques are explained in earlier posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ideas for doing the pages

  • While you’re making your zig zag booklet, write or email your grandparents if you have questions about your family history.
  • Also during this time, interview family members for their favorites, etc.
  • Here are some suggestions of things to put on the pages of your booklet:
  • Family history
  • Places you’ve lived
  • Favorite foods
  • Pets
  • Favorite books and movies
  • Favorite Bible verses
  • Things your family likes to do together
  • Use pictures and/or lists to tell these things. You can write or type information on a piece of white paper and glue it to the colored paper. Use special computer fonts for titles

Variations:

  • If you’d like a more easily-made booklet, take one long piece of paper and fold it back and forth to create the zig zags.
  • Instead of each person making a booklet, make a family booklet with family pages and individual pages for each member.
  • Although younger children will need help making a zig zag booklet, once that’s done, they can certainly enjoy coloring and decorating the pages.

Molly hopes you enjoy making a zig zag booklet about what makes your family and each individual in it, unique! We’re sure you and your family will treasure it!

Molly wasn’t sure she liked wearing a beret in this photo! But she’s sure you’ll enjoy our next posts about a nature artist and a fun and easy art activity about nature.

 

Children’s Author, Becky van Vleet and Courtney Smith, Illustrator, Talk about Becky’s Newest Picture Book

Today I’m happy to introduce you to my friend, Becky van Vleet, a children’s author and Courtney Smith, illustrator of Becky’s books. Becky loves to pass down family stories and traditions to her grandchildren, just as we saw the grandfather doing in my previous post about the painting, The Banjo Lesson.

In this interview Becky and Courtney tell a little about Becky’s books and offer advice for young writers and artists who might be interested in writing and /or illustrating books!

Welcome Becky!

 I love your 1st story about Talitha, a little skirt that over the years, travels to several little girls.  And in the 2nd, Harvey, the Traveling Harmonica, about a boy, his dog, and a harmonica, also travels to several generations! Molly, my corgi, loves that there’s a dog in each book!

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and your writing journey.

A: Thank you, Kathy, for featuring me. I am a retired teacher/principal. My husband and I make our home in Colorado Springs where I enjoy spending time with my family, lap swimming, oil painting, hiking and biking, and eating cotton candy. I especially enjoy reading books to our grandchildren. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I never set out to do anything with it until retirement. With a little more time, kind of, I connected my ideas to my computer and ran with it which resulted in my first published children’s picture book in 2019.

Q: I understand this book is the second in a series. Can you tell us a little about the first book and any others you have planned?

A: Yes, Harvey, the Traveling Harmonica, is the second book in my “traveling” series. I was inspired to write my first book, Talitha, the Traveling Skirt, because we had a little skirt that had been traveling around in our family for three generations, for more than 70 years. This was such a fun project for me with many family memories attached.

That sounds like so much fun! 

Q: Do you have a theme that carries through your writing!

A: My third “traveling” book is already under contract and the fourth one will follow. The common theme of all four of these picture books is that an inanimate object becomes the main character and travels through three generations.

Q: What inspired you to write your stories?

A:  I would say it’s my passion to create and preserve family memories and traditions as well as sharing family stories. In fact, my website is devoted to this. Check it out! https://www.beckyvanvleet.com. If any of you who are reading this would like to share a family memory or tradition, please get in touch with me!

Q: How does your Christian faith encourage you in your writing and influence your stories?

A:  My call to writing is just that. I have been called by God to write. I pray about my writing endeavors and I really feel that keeps me humble. When I write, I want to give back something to the reading community that is truth, noble, pure, lovely, and of good report. (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)

Q: I know you’re a mom, a grandmother, and a teacher like me. Do you have any suggestions to help parents enjoy your books with their children?

A: I have a very simple, yet profound, suggestion. Just read, read, read! I can’t emphasize that enough. Read books aloud, encourage independent daily reading. I believe in this so much that it should be like brushing your teeth—read every day!

“Read, read, read!” Yes!!! Molly and I agree with that!

 Q: What would you like children to take away from your books?

A:  I would like children to hear a message of working through conflict and coming out on the other side in a good way. All of my books have a theme of family life and traditions, so I’d like children to understand and appreciate these themes.

Q: What advice would you give young people who might like to become writers?

A: My advice for young writers is to write, write, write. (Does this sound familiar to read, read, read?) I would encourage the very young ones to write and draw and share their work with family members. For the older ones, I would encourage them to attend a writing conference, buy books about tips for writing, and share their ideas aloud with family members.

Q: Where can we learn more about you and your upcoming projects?

A:  My website is: https://www.beckyvanvleet.com

Q: Where can our readers find your books?

A:  On Amazon:

Talitha, the Traveling Skirt:  https://amzn.to/3qpG1fI

Harvey, the Traveling Harmonica:  https://amzn.to/3nUh7CL

Roxie, the Traveling Rocker:  Stay Tuned!

Wally, the Traveling Watch:  Stay Tuned!

 Welcome to you, too, Courtney! The Illustrations are such an important part of picture books!

I love all the details you put in your illustrations, and my corgi, Molly, especially loves your illustrations of the dogs in each book!

 Q: Please tell us a little about yourself.

A: My name is Courtney Smith. My husband and I live in Franktown, CO with our five children ages 16 down to 8. I am a full-time homeschool mom and a part-time Athletic Trainer mostly working with our USA Wrestling teams (when things are not shut down). I also breed Great Pyrenees puppies and love to draw and scribble.

Q: How long have you been illustrating children’s books?

A: Creating fine art was a passion which helped me stay sane throughout my college years. (I have a triple major in Math, Chemistry, and Computer Science and a minor in Fine Art). That background provided me with the opportunity to illustrate my first children’s picture book in 2019. Since then, I have finished 12 more picture books and devotions and have some in progress.

Q: What is your process when you receive a book project to illustrate?

A: The most important step I take is to ask the Lord for peace about the project and wisdom to know if I’m the best illustrator for the job. Then, I like to read the manuscript to see what images fly into my imagination without knowing anything of the author’s vision. Are the pictures created in my mind realistic, whimsical, or cartoon style? Are they colorful, dark, heavy or light? Most authors send their proposal with ideas for what the images on each spread could be. Does my vision or ideas align with the author’s ideas for their story?

Not only do I want to create a book I’m proud to promote, but I also want the author to love the images that will bring his work to life. Even if the author and I seem to be on the same track, I like to sketch out a spread so the author can see what my idea or vision is. I want my author to be entirely confident that my working for him or her is God’s will and provide the opportunity to either jump in with both feet or kindly decline partnering with me. If we both want to continue as a team, we will agree upon compensation, sign a contract, and begin the adventure.

Q: What part of illustrating do you enjoy the most?

A: I really enjoy working with the authors and am most gratified when they are excited about the images I create. I had the opportunity to work with Becky Van Vleet early on for Talitha the Traveling Skirt. We live close and were able to meet in person to chat about the book. Along with the two of us, the children’s book editor from Becky’s publishing house was there as well. Together, we were able to pare down the manuscript and tell much of the story with the images, which is always better when creating a children’s picture book. Because I was able to feel Becky’s passion for her story, I was able to shape the images to tell the story using meaningful tid-bits from Becky’s photos and memories.

Q: What medium did you use for the illustrations of this book?

A: Currently, I do all my illustrations on my computer using my Wacom tablet and Corel Painter’s software. Using this program, I can select many different mediums from pen and ink, to watercolor, and oils and acrylics.

Q: What advice do you have for young people who may be interested in art and illustrating?

A: Go for it! When I was contracted for my first project, I was terrified. But God is faithful and with each story, I have gained both skill and confidence. I would highly recommend a wacom tablet for beginners. The model I use is smaller than a sheet of paper but allows me versatility and convenience. I am able to choose canvas size from the beginning to make uploading or sharing more streamlined for the editor.

Q: Where can our readers see more of your work?

A: With the exception of one story, all of my projects are available through Amazon.

2020’s publications include:

Harvey the Traveling Harmonica by Becky Van Vleet,

I Hate Oatmeal by Jan Lis,

Benny Learns a Lesson by Cheryl Johnson,

Fairy Tales & Faith by Antwan Houser,

Mayflower Marty by Luann Hamill,

High-water Hattie by Shelley Pierce

Thank you, Becky and Courtney, for taking the time to tell about your work and these wonderful books that highlight the love and joy we have in our families!

 Molly and I are looking forward to the next two books in the Traveling series!

Please join us for our next post that has a fun art activity to highlight the special things about Your family!

Henry Ossawa Tanner, African American Artist of Many Firsts 

Henry Ossawa Tanner was the first African American artist to become a full academician of France’s National Gallery of Design. He continued getting awards even after his death, becoming the first African American artist to have a major solo exhibition in the United States (in 1969 at the Smithsonian). And in 1996, Tanner’s painting, Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City, was bought for the White House, the first painting by an African American to be added to that collection.

Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City by Henry O. Tanner, public domain

Henry Ossawa Tanner won numerous other awards and honors and has paintings in many museum collections. But success didn’t come first in the United States.

The post includes:

  • Information about Henry Ossawa Tanner
  • Information about his painting, The Banjo Lesson
  • Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand The Banjo Lesson
  • A kid-friendly devotion based on the painting

The Artist, Henry Ossawa Tanner

Henry Ossawa Tanner, photograph, public domain

Born in 1859, Henry grew up mainly in Philadelphia. His father was a minister and eventually a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and his mother, a teacher, had escaped from slavery on the Underground Railway.

In 1872 when he was just 13, Henry Ossawa Tanner saw a landscape artist at work in Fairmount Park. This large, scenic park stretches along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia and includes land once belonging to William Penn, the founder of the city. Henry stopped to watch and decided he wanted to be an artist.

Largely self-taught at first, Henry spent hours painting in Philadelphia’s zoo and at its waterfront, but when he graduated high school, his father apprenticed him to work in a flour mill. Henry had always been small and frail, and work in the mill made him so sick he had to quit and recover at home.

In later life, he credited his artistic abilities to his poor health, because he spent his recovery time painting. But Henry wanted formal training, and in 1879 he enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and studied under Thomas Eakins. He was the only African American student.

When Henry went out on his own, though, he found it difficult to succeed,  because so few were willing to give work to an African American artist. During this time, he traveled in North Carolina, painting ordinary people and their lives. His paintings showed African Americans with dignity.

After selling some paintings, he traveled to study in Paris as so many Americans did in the late 1800s. Tanner loved Paris and its art and was especially thankful to find more opportunity and less discrimination. He married another American living in Paris, and together they made Paris their home, only returning to America for visits.

Tanner painted landscapes and many scenes of ordinary French life as he had in North Carolina,

The Young Sabot Maker by Henry O. Tanner, public domain

but eventually turned more and more to religious subjects. He took several long trips to study and paint in the Middle East, because he wanted to show real people in authentic settings. He once said he, “preached with his brush.” He won awards with his religious works and was one of the first African American artists to win international fame.

I posted his Annunciation and The Annunciation to the Shepherds for my Christmas post. But for today’s post we’re going to look at another of Tanner’s famous paintings, The Banjo Lesson, probably painted during a trip home to Philadelphia.

The Painting, The Banjo Lesson

While studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, Tanner came to love the art of Rembrandt. He shared the Dutch artist’s faith and appreciated his many portraits of Jesus as well as other biblical subjects. Tanner also loved the way Rembrandt used light and shadow to create drama in his paintings. Probably above all, Tanner wanted, like Rembrandt, to show the emotions and character of his subjects and give dignity to everyday people and their work.

Tanner’s studies in France added lighter colors—cool blues and warm yellows and reds—and sometimes looser and more expressive brush strokes to his style. But Tanner never changed his focus on a realistic, sympathetic portrayal of his subjects, whether it was a landscape or people.

Jesus and Nicodemus by Henry O. Tanner, public domain

Tanner continued to experiment with how to use light to create atmosphere and heighten a painting’s message as in The Annunciation, where the Angel Gabriel is shone as a pillar of light. Notice how the light forms a cross with the shelf high on the wall.

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, American, 1850-1937,Philadelphia Museum of Art, public domain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We see all these influences in The Banjo Lesson

The Banjo Lesson by Henry O. Tanner, public domain

  • A realistic and quiet genre scene of everyday life
  • Lights and shadows to highlight the subjects, who are treated with dignity
  • A sympathetic portrayal of the loving bond and interaction between the boy and his grandfather.

Activities to Help You and Your Children further Explore this Beautiful Painting

Before doing any other activities, ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Enhance their observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary.

The Banjo Lesson is both a sensitive portrait of a man and boy and a quiet story about them. Use these questions to enjoy it together:         

  • Have the man and boy just finished a meal? What would make us think that?
  • What are the 2 light sources? (Window and fireplace)
  • How does Tanner use the light to focus our attention on the faces and hands of the boy and man?
  • Notice how the man’s hands mirror the child’s hands and look ready to help only if needed
  • Ask children to use their 5 senses to explore the painting. Would they hear hesitant notes from the banjo or a flowing tune? Would they feel warmth from the fire? Would they smell coffee or other foods? Is the floor rough or smooth?
  • What do the objects tell about the people? hat, frying pan, rough cloth on table, simple chair, etc. (Play a game with children: have them look at the painting for a minute and then turn around and tell you all the things they remember)
  • Are these people wealthy or poor? What makes us think this?
  • Are these people related? What makes us think this?
  • What words would describe the man? The boy? Encourage children to go beyond physical appearance to emotions, such as patience, attentive, kind, loving, etc.

Devotion

After viewing The Banjo Lesson talk about your family with your children. You might begin with a story about a grandparent or your childhood and then ask some of the following questions:

  • What makes your family special?
  • What are some things they know about family history, such as where the family came from or stories from tough times.
  • Have any objects or traditions been handed down from older generations?
  • What are some interests and hobbies of family members?
  • Have any of these been handed down from grandparents or other family members?

Ask children whether when they looked at The Banjo Lesson, they felt like the man, probably the boy’s grandfather, loved his grandson and was patiently teaching him how to play the banjo?

The Banjo Lesson by Henry O. Tanner, public domain

  • Talk with your children about how families were created by God to be places where children would be loved and accepted and could be encouraged and instructed as they grow and learn skills.
  • Ask them what skills they have learned from family members.

Loving and accepting families also help children learn about God’s love and acceptance (read Deuteronomy 5:4-7).

  • Jesus was born into a family. He had a mother and earthly father like other children. God knew Jesus needed a family who loved Him and helped Him grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men (read Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 2:39-52).
  • Ask children what they have learned about God and Jesus from parents and grandparents.
  • Ask if they’ve learned more from words and conversations or from actions?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us and send Your Son to grow up in a family. We are so thankful for our family where we can be loved and accepted and learn about Jesus. Help us be attentive and want to learn to love and please our parents and You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

______________________________________________

Molly and I hope you enjoyed learning about Henry Ossawa Tanner and his paintings. We also hope you’ll join us again for an art project all about family!

 

 

Winter Picture Books to Read Aloud

Here are some wonderful picture books to read aloud during the winter. Most are classics—many Caldecott winners—so they’re readily available in your library or in many bookstores as well as on Amazon. It’s amazing how many Caldecott winners have been about winter!!

Two of these books have mice in them! So here’s a mouse reading a book!!

White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt, 1948 Caldecott medal. While adults work to shovel or continue their work through the snow, the children build snowmen and taste snowflakes on their tongues.

White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt,, wikimedia fair use

The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader, 1949 Caldecott medal. Forest animals prepare for a big snow.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, 1963 Caldecott medal. A young boy enjoys the first snowfall in the city.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Wikimedia fair use

Frederick by Leo Lionni, 1967 Caldecott Honor book. While the other mice gather food for winter, Frederick, a mouse artist and poet, gathers beautiful colors and stories for long, bleak winter days.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, 1988 Caldecott medal. A little girl and her father take a late night walk to see and hear an owl. Other forest creatures appear in the illustrations.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, 1999 Caldecott medal. A nonfiction picture book about a Vermont farmer at the turn of the century who loved nature and with great patience and determination, learned how to photograph individual snowflakes.

Here’s a brand new picture book about winter that younger children will really enjoy.

Once Upon a Winter Day by Liza Woodruff, 2020. A little boy wants his mother to read a story. When she’s too busy, she suggests he take a walk. At first he grumbles, but soon is caught up in following a mouse’s tracks through the snow. He finds feathers, acorns, and other tracks that make him wonder what happened.

In beautifully illustrated 2-page spreads, the reader sees what happened—a flock of birds taking off, a herd of deer feeding, etc. Children will enjoy finding the mouse in each of these illustrations and following the boy and the mouse to their homes. When he gets home the boy tells his mother he has stories to tell!

Once Upon a Winter Day and The Snowy Day provide a nice contrast between a winter walk in the city and one in the country.

Make some winter memories! Go for a walk or build a snowman with your children or grandchildren, then come in to share one or all of these books around a fire while sipping hot cocoa!

Does your family have a favorite book about winter? Let me know in the comment section below!

Writing News:  I have 7 devotions in the Spring 2021 (March-May) quarterly of The Quiet Hour devotional available from David C. Cook. If you’re interested, you can enjoy 3 months of short, daily devotions by a number of authors.

Looking Ahead:  This month we’ll be looking at a painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Banjo Lesson. It shows a man, perhaps a grandfather, teaching a young boy how to play the banjo. Tanner was well-known for his realistic and compelling religious paintings, which I love, and I showed two in my Christmas blog—The Annunciation and The Angels Appearing to the Shepherds.

1st post will tell a little more about Tanner and The Banjo Lesson painting, as well as include a short kid-friendly devotion.

2nd post will have a related art activity highlighting the importance of family.

3rd post will be an interview with a children’s author whose work also highlights family and passing down traditions!

Molly and I hope you’ll join us for a great month of engaging hearts and hands to discover God in art!