Monthly Archives: September 2021

Interview with Annette Whipple, Children’s Author

When Winslow Homer painted The Country School in 1871, children had few books to learn from, but today things are much different.

Our guest today, Annette Whipple, loves to research and write books for children. Molly and I love her Truth About animals series.

The series now has 3 books, Whooo Knew, the Truth About Owls; Woof, the Truth About Dogs; and the newest book, Scurry, the Truth About Spiders. Lots of fascinating facts and colorful, up-close photos will delight children and adults.

Molly is excited to learn more about Annette and her beautiful books, so let’s get started!

Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and how you began writing.

A: I wasn’t always a writer. I began writing as a blogger because I wanted to share my daughter’s speech journey as she overcame verbal apraxia with others. Eventually, I realized I could be an even better writer, so I took some writing courses. Later I had some magazine articles published in magazines for adult readers. In 2014, I had my first idea for a children’s book, so I studied the publishing industry, took lots of courses, read a ton, and attended my first conference a year later. Like most children’s writers, I was an overnight success when that book idea became a book in 2020—The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. (That was a joke! Writing for children is much more difficult than most people realize. It’s also a long, rather slow process.)

Q: Writing is a long, slow process, but we’re so glad you’ve written such fun and informative books! When you need a break from writing, what do you like to do for fun?

A: For fun I enjoy going for hikes or baking treats for my family. I enjoy movies, too! Of course I love reading—lots of kids’ nonfiction. 😊

Molly would love to taste some of those treats you make!! And I bet you do some of your research on your hikes and in your reading, too!

Q: What was the inspiration for The Truth About series?

A: The Truth About series began with the idea for a book about owls. I knew so much incredible information, that I knew I could fill a middle grade book. But I quickly realized it wasn’t working. I set it aside for a couple of years (while I finished The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide). When I returned to it, I completely changed the structure and audience. Now it’s a fraction of the length as a picture book! I was thrilled when Reycraft Books wanted to turn it into a series!

Those owl eyes are mesmerizing! I’m an art teacher and one class does an art project about owls, so I plan to have your book, Whooo Knew there for children to enjoy as they work.

 

Q: Please tell our readers a little about Scurry, the latest book in the Truth About series.

A: Scurry! The Truth About Spiders is a question-and-answer picture book. It includes tons of beautiful photography as well as humorous art illustrations. It’s packed with facts about our 8-legged spider friends.

Molly and I enjoy the question and answer format of your books. And we love the little creatures in each book that add humor!

 Q: Some baby spiders launch into the world on passing breezes. When does Scurry, The Truth about Spiders, the 3rd book in your series, launch into the world?

A: September 30, 2021—but the publishing world is experiencing all sorts of problems with the supply chain. So it may not arrive in bookstores or library shelves until a bit later. (Please be patient!)

 

Q: We love the up close and colorful photos in Scurry and the other 2 books. Do you have any favorite photos?

A: In Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls, I love this photo because at first glance, it looks like it could be the owl’s tongue—but it’s not!

Yikes! It’s a mouse! We see its little feet!

 

This puppy is irresistible in Woof! The Truth About Dogs.

Molly totally agrees with you !

 

And in Scurry! The Truth About Spiders, I appreciate how we can see all the silk threads from the spinnerets in this spread.

That’s fascinating. I’ve never seen such an up-close photo of a spider making its silk!

 

Q:  Woof, The Truth about Dogs also launched recently–in July. What interesting thing did you learn about dogs that you didn’t know before?

A: So much! But I probably most appreciate how much dogs explore their world through their sense of smell. I knew it was important before, but now I understand the science behind it, too.

Molly loved learning more about her doggy cousins in Woof!

Q: What suggestions would you give parents, grandparents, and teachers to help children enjoy your books?

A: Have fun going deeper to learn about any of the topics I write about. Here’s a guide featuring owl STEM activities, crafts, and books! https://www.annettewhipple.com/2020/10/owl-stem-crafts-and-books.html

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

A: Readers make the best writers! So read! Also…keep writing. Take classes and value others’ opinions! Also, check out this blog post about how kids and teens can get published. https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/07/how-can-kids-and-teens-get-published.html

That’s such good advice, Annette. Molly and I hope all our readers are listening!

 Q: What are some upcoming books in The Truth About series?

A: Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs comes out in spring 2022 followed by Meow! The Truth About Cats. We’re really excited for these titles!

Molly and I are excited, too, and we’ll be watching for these 2 new books in 2022!

Q:  Where can readers learn more about you and your work?

A: Readers can learn lots by following me on social media or visiting my website at www.AnnetteWhipple.com.

Q: Where can readers find your books?

A: My books can be requested at any bookstore or library! Of course, they’re also available online, but I prefer to support small businesses.

Thank’s so much, Annette for taking time to visit Molly and me here on our blog. We and our readers have enjoyed getting to know about you and your Truth About series. I know 1 or more of these great books will be on my Christmas list to give as gifts!

Annette, Molly and I hope you’ll visit again when Ribbit and Meow come out! Molly said she might take a walk, though, while we talk about the Meow book!!

For Molly Fans: here are  ways you can enjoy great art from a Christian perspective, as well as get related devotions, art activities and interviews with children’s authors!

  • If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!
  • Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

 

Art Activity for Winslow Homer’s Painting The Country School

What better art activity to go with Winslow Homer’s painting, The Country School, than APPLES? Here’s a fun print project that can be made into a cute card to thank a special teacher or a poster for the fridge!

In this post you’ll find:

  • Supply list
  • Step-by-step directions
  • Helpful hints
  • Clean-up tips
  • Variations and/or adaptations for different ages
  • Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development

Let’s get started!

Supplies:

  • Apples, 3 or 4 should be enough (no need to buy expensive ones; they won’t be edible afterwards)
  • Red, yellow, and green tempera paint
  • Wide, flat paint brushes and a few round ones, if you wish to fill in spaces (the toothbrush is in the photo in case I decided to spatter paint)
  • Paper plate or plastic container for paint puddles
  • Scrap paper to practice on
  • Sturdy paper to print on
  • Card stock in various colors for card or poster backing

Directions:

  1. Have an adult cut the apples in half
  2. Cut the paper for printing into various sizes, such as for a card (smaller sizes are easier to work with)
  3. Choose a color and paint it on an apple half with a flat brush
  4. Practice making prints on the scrap paper
  5. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different papers and techniques
  6. When apple prints are dry, add leaves and stems with crayon or marker
  7. Cut apart to make posters and cards

 

Helpful Hints:

  • you’ll get more complete prints if you place the apple half on the paper, then carefully pick up the apple with the paper stuck to it. Turn it over so you can first pat to be sure the paper is stuck, then smooth the paper against the apple. (Be prepared for smears as the paper may slip)
  • It often works best to have an apple half and a brush for each color
  • But you can wipe the paint off a used apple and change colors that way
  • If you want more complete prints, use a round brush dipped in the same color and pounce up and down in the places you want filled in. You want it to still look like a print.
  • If you plan to cut the prints apart for cards, etc, leave plenty of space between the prints

Clean up Hints:

  • Acrylic paints will work fine, but take more cleanup and don’t come off clothes as well)
  • Be sure to put a plastic table cloth or large paper under your work
  • Have lots of paper towels handy
  • Have a wastebasket close for paper plates, apples, and paper towels
  • A dish washing tub is great for washing brushes
  • Lay brushes flat on paper towels to dry so they keep their shape

Variations and/or adaptations for different ages:

  • Younger children will enjoy choosing and painting the apples, but may need help turning the apple and paper over and learning to pat the paper against the apple
  • Try painting red and green or red and yellow on the same apple half and see if you like the combinations
  • Try printing apples of various colors all over a larger paper
  • Cut leaf shapes from sponge or bring in some real leaves and print these with the apples (look up what shape leaves apple trees have and find or make an appropriate shape)
  • Add wiggly eyes to your printed apples

5 Ways this activity aids children’s mental, physical, and social development

  1. Using paint brushes and other art tools helps children develop fine motor skills.
  2. This art activity helps develop visual/spatial skills as children decide where to place their prints
  3. When children make choices with colors and the ways they want to finish and display their prints, it enhances problem-solving skills.
  4. Art gives children opportunities to explore their interests and talents.
  5. Making art enhances creativity and refreshes minds and eyes tired from screens.

Molly prefers to eat apples, but she hopes you enjoy printing apples for cards and posters! And we hope to see you back next week for another Kathy the Picture Lady post.

I’m trying to be good

Maybe I’ll just try a lick

Oh, okay, I’ll wait!

But Don’t You Wait!

  • If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter and receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family!
  • Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages and coloring pages for kids and an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages. http://www.kathy-oneill.com/

Devotion based on Winslow Homer’s The Country School

No colorful posters cover the walls of Winslow Homer’s painting, The Country School.  No bright backpacks lean against the benches. Two of the boys are barefoot, and most of the children probably walked to and from school.

There are many ways this school room is different from yours. But in the big ways that matter, these children are no different from you.

Their books may have few pictures, but they’re interested in what they’re reading. They may play crack the whip at recess instead of four square, but as soon as the bell rings, they’ll rush out the door to run and jump and yell.

Sometimes they may have had trouble sleeping and be tired, just like you. They have best friends who share their interests, and little brothers and sisters who try their patience. One of them may have gotten in trouble that morning for not doing his or her chores.

And they’re just like you in another super important way. They’re in school to learn and prepare for their futures.

  • What are some things these children may have wanted to do when they grew up?
  • What do you dream about becoming when you grow up?

God has given you a unique combination of skills and interests to use for good in His world. He may call you to be a teacher to help people learn or a health care worker to help people heal. Perhaps He’ll use your interest in the ocean to do research about coral reefs, or an interest in insects to restore habitats for bumblebees.

Most important of all, these children also had someone who read the Bible to them, so they knew that, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1, NIV).

They also learned from the scriptures that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7, NIV).

Even if you’re not in a situation where the Bible is read, you can read it yourself or go to church and Sunday school, to hear and learn more about the Lord, who “will guide you always” (Isaiah 58:11 NIV).

Whatever gifts and talents God has given you, school is a great place to discover your interests and develop skills for doing good now and in the future for God and His world and all those who live in it.

Even Jesus, God’s very own Son, went to school to learn, just like you. When Jesus was twelve, He and His family went to Jerusalem for the Passover, as they were accustomed to do. While there, Jesus went to the Temple where He sat with the teachers, listening and asking questions (Luke 2:41-52). That was like going to school. And like other Hebrew boys, Jesus would also have learned in a synagogue school in his village of Nazareth.

We know Jesus worked hard and learned all He could about God, His Word, and His world, because Jesus used that knowledge about birds, rocks, and trees, and all kinds of things from God’s creation to later teach people important lessons about God’s love and care for us.

At the end of Luke’s account of Jesus as a child we learn that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” Luke 2:52, NIV).

Prayer: Thank You, Lord for giving me skills and interests. Help me work with all my heart to learn how to use Your gifts for Your glory in the world.

Some things you can do this week to work with all your heart :

  • learn this verse:  “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men ” (Colossians 3:23 NIV)
  • Think of 2 things that will help you become a better listener
  • Reorganize your assignment book so you can keep better track of and finish your homework on time
  • Help another student or a younger brother or sister in a subject you know and enjoy

Molly also has lessons to learn. She has learned to sit and lie down and even to stay on her mat in the kitchen when we make dinner (unless there’s cheese involved). She also loves recess when she can chase her ball.

I pray that whether you are in school in person, or online, or homeschooling, you get off to a wonderful new school year where you’ll learn about lots of exciting things and enjoy friendships and good snacks. (Molly made me put in the bit about snacks!!)

If you’d like to enjoy making  an art project related to The Country School, be sure to join Molly and me for next week’s art project! You can subscribe above and never miss the fun!

And Before You Go, here are some other ways you can enjoy great art from a Christian perspective, as well as get related devotions and art activities.

  • If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!
  • Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.

Winslow Homer, Versatile Illustrator, Wartime Artist-Correspondent, and Seascape Painter

Long before he became known for his seascapes, Winslow Homer was a magazine illustrator. He also spent the 4 long years of the Civil War as a wartime artist and correspondent.

After the war, like most Americans, Homer wanted to put the tragedies of war behind him, get back to normal life, and look ahead to the future. What better way than to show children involved in everyday activities such as school?

In 1871 Winslow Homer painted The Country School, showing a moment in the day of a teacher and her students at a rural one-room school.

Before we look at the painting, let me explain that I usually do 4-part series about an artist and his or her work–one series per month. Starting this month you’ll receive one weekly post. Most will follow this format:

  • Post 1: a short bio of an artist and 1 or 2 fun ways to enjoy the artwork with your children
  • Post 2: a kid-friendly devotion related to the painting
  • Post 3: an art activity related to the painting
  • Post 4: an interview with a children’s author or reviews of books for children and other activities. These may or may not be related to the artwork.

For those who have been reading my blog for a while, the content hasn’t really changed. It’s just spread out over 4 weekly posts. (December and the summer months are usually exceptions to this format).

So here in Post 1 you’ll find:

  • A short bio of Winslow Homer
  • Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand The Country School  (You don’t have to do them all. Pick the ones that fit you and your children)

The Artist, Winslow Homer

Homer was born in Massachusetts in 1836, and grew up in a rural area near Boston. He preferred outdoor activities to school but did have an interest in art. He first learned art skills from his mother, who was an accomplished watercolor artist. After high school Homer apprenticed to a printer, then began free-lance illustrating for magazines. He specialized in scenes of everyday life and people.

When the Civil War began Harper’s Weekly sent Homer to the front as an artist- correspondent. Homer’s sketches of battles and camp life helped people at home understand the life of a soldier. After the war, Homer turned some of his sketches into oil paintings which won awards and took him to Paris for a year.

Back home Homer continued painting ordinary people at the seashore,

Long Branch, New Jersey by Winslow Homer, 1869,Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, public domain

in the mountains, and on farms, as well as school scenes and the life of former slaves. He decided to return to Europe and spent 2 years living and painting in a small fishing village in England.

When Homer returned to America, he moved to the coast of Maine, where he lived and painted for the rest of his life. His studio still sits above rocky cliffs on a point that juts out into the Atlantic.

That’s the point as seen from across a tidal river. This is the gentler side of the point. The rocky cliffs are on the other side.

In Maine Homer painted his famous scenes of sea rescues and storm-tossed waves.

Sunlight on the Coast by Winslow Homer, 1890, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, public domain

During Maine’s cold winters, Homer often traveled south, painting marine watercolors that glow with light and color.

Homer took a few art lessons, but was mostly self-taught. He closely observed his subjects, whether people or landscapes. One time he walked backwards all the way home from a store so he could study a sunset. For his marine paintings, Homer carefully studied how the waves rolled in and broke on the rocks below his studio. He once said he didn’t like painting the ocean when it was too calm, likening it to a duck pond.

The Painting, The Country School

The Country School by Winslow Homer, 1871, St. Louis Museum of Art, public domain

In art a genre scene captures a moment in the life of ordinary people. The people in these scenes don’t pose, but go about their activities as if the artist isn’t there. A genre painting might show a young woman gathering eggs, or a farmer reaping grain.

Gathering Eggs by Winslow Homer, 1874, National Gallery of Art, Wash. D.C., public domain

The Reaper by Winslow Homer, 1878, public domain

 

Homer’s genre scenes of everyday life and people are warm and realistic. And although his career spanned the era of Impressionism, and he, too, filled his scenes with light, Homer didn’t dissolve the edges of people or objects, as the Impressionists did.

 

 

 

 

Activities to help you and your children enjoy and understand The Country School

Here’s a link to the St. Louis Art Museum where The Country School painting lives. Here you can enlarge the painting and move around it with your mouse.

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. Here are a few things to help the discussion.

In The Country School, it’s as if we’re standing in the school’s doorway, looking in at a moment in the day of a teacher and her students. So, let’s do that. At first glance we see light streaming in the windows of a one-room school house onto the desks of girls on one side and boys on the other, with a teacher in the center.

Take your time. The blackboard naturally draws our eyes. Because it frames the teacher, we notice this calm and serious young woman right away. Even though her dress is also black, her white apron and bright face make her stand out against the black. She’s what is called the focal point or most important part of the painting.

The teacher’s gaze takes us to the boys, who are reading aloud. Did the little girl’s red sweater catch your eye? Homer used red on purpose so your eyes don’t get “stuck” with the boys. He wants you to look around and notice other details. Artists often use bright colors in this way, so let’s go on a scavenger hunt to find and talk about some of those details.

How many of these things can you find?

  • A straw hat; whose is it?
  • A girl in a red sweater
  • The boy with a hole in the knee of his pants
  • All the girls with striped socks
  • 2 metal cans or pails on a desk, do you think these might be lunch pails?
  • slates; these look a little like modern tablets, but are like small blackboards
  • the slate on a bench with its attached writing tool hanging off the bench
  • A bunch of flowers in a glass vase
  • Another big bunch of flowers; who probably picked these?
  • The flower that’s fallen on the floor
  • sunshine making patterns on a curtain; what’s creating the pattern?
  • 2 ink bottles; imagine having to write without a computer or ballpoint pens!
  • A Bible; even public school teachers could read from the Bible in class at that time!
  • A bell; what’s it used for?
  • All the high black boots
  • 2 barefoot boys
  • A little boy who’s crying
  • 2 girls sharing a book

This is also a great painting to spark discussion and stories. Here are some questions to get everyone talking:

  • Why do you think the girls and boys are on opposite sides of the classroom?
  • Everyone is reading together. Follow the teacher’s gaze to see who is reading aloud.
  • Do the children look interested and attentive?
  • Why do you think the little boy is crying?  This could be a good story-starter.
  • Describe the clothing and hairstyles of the girls and boys. Do these children look wealthy?

Digging Deeper

Here are more ideas for discussion and/or written assignments:

The Country School by Winslow Homer, 1871, St. Louis Museum of Art, public domain

  • What are some ways this classroom is like and unlike today’s?  Do you see any posters on the walls? What are the desks and chairs like? This would be a good way to spark interest in researching schools of the 1800s and writing a list or short essay comparing and contrasting schools then and now.
  • Children could also research clothing styles and foods of the time.
  • What are some of the sounds you would hear in this classroom?  (don’t forget the bell!!) Is it mostly quiet or loud?
  • Write an acrostic poem using the letters from Country School to describe the sights and sound and smells of this classroom. Then write one about your present-day classroom.
  • Choose one of these boys and imagine the chores he may have to do when he gets home from school. Then tell what he likes to do for fun.
  • Choose one of the girls and write about her days as if she’s writing in her diary.

Winslow Homer has used careful observation to show us many things about The Country School and its teacher and students. Molly and I hope you’ll enjoy looking carefully to find all the details about the life of school children in the late 1800s.

Here’s Molly, the artsy corgi, enjoying the painting! Maybe in that second photo she can smell the lunches !!

If you write a poem or have any comments about The Country School, be sure to share them in the comment section.

We hope you’ll come back next week for a short devotion based on the painting.

Before You Go

If you’d like more activity ideas for art, history, and nature, curriculum connections, and links to more resources, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Just click the sign-up  button above on the right. You’ll receive a free guide to making art museum visits a fun masterpiece for your whole family. Even if your family isn’t into museums, the quarterly issues have lots of fun stuff for kiddos!

Visit my website where you’ll find free downloadable puzzles, how-to-draw pages, and coloring pages. There’s also an updated list of my hands-on workshops, chapels, and presentations for all ages.