Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sophie's Masterpiece: A Spider's Tale

Sophie's Masterpiece: A Spider's Tale, written by Eileen Spinelli and illustrated by Jane Dyer, is the story of the most sweet and generous spider anywhere - well, next to Charlotte. Sophie is certainly not an ordinary house spider she is an artist creating wonderful masterpieces with her silky thread.

When it was time for Sophie to strike out on her own, she moved into a boardinghouse where she got right to work beautifying the place by weaving a web of curtains for the front parlor. The landlady did not appreciate this work and swatted at Sophie. And so the story goes as Sophie travels from the bottom floor of the boardinghouse to the top floor where she wearily slips into a young woman's knitting basket.

"By this time, many spider years had passed. Sophie was older.
She only had energyto spin a few small things for herself...
a tiny rose-patterned case for her pillow,
eight colorful socks to keep her legs warm.
But mostly she slept."

When Sophie is discovered in the basket, she is frightened by the thought of another journey, but instead she is relieved as the young woman carefully picked up her needle and thread without bothering her. To Sophie's delight she notices the woman busily knitting a pair of baby booties and a sweater for her baby which soon will be born. When the yarn is all gone and the woman cannot afford to buy any more, Sophie takes over and begins to spin the masterpiece of a lifetime. Woven into the thread, Sophie carefully places...moonlight, fragrant pine, wisps of night, old lullabies, playful snowflakes and finally her very own heart. As the woman was about to cover her infant with an old brown quilt, she notices something on her windowsill and with love and wonderment places it on her sleeping baby - Sophie's masterpiece!

This book would be such a wonderful gift for a new baby with a beautiful knitted blanket to go with it. For more ideas on books for new parents and babies, check here and here and here. And while you're at it, check out this post about some of our favorite Autumn books including Three Pebbles and a Song also by Eileen Spinelli.

Do you know about Just One More Book? It is a thrice-weekly podcast
which promotes and celebrates literacy and great children's books. Click here to read a post and listen to a podcast about the illustrator of Sophie's Masterpiece - Jane Dyer.

And before "the readers leave," as Emmy refers to you, take a look at her spiders! Three little spiders ready to create magic of their very own.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bridget's Beret

Bridget's Beret by Tom Lichtenheld is simply...remarkable. Let me introduce you to Bridget. Bridget is an artist following in the footsteps of the Great Artists. Her masterpieces are on permanent exhibit - on the front of the refrigerator - while other pieces are available for limited viewing - on the sidewalk.
Bridget's favorite place to draw is outdoors where she feels like she is right where she belongs. Bridget has many art supplies that she uses to create these masterpieces, but her most important art supply is her hat - a big, black beret which she carefully places on her head before she creates any kind of art adjusting it until it sits on her head just right. Emmy and I love saying these lines (referring to the hat)

"It had to have that certain je ne sais quoi. She had no idea what that meant,
but she knew all Great Artists needed it to make art."

Emmy and I now know that je ne sais quoi is a French phrase meaning I-don't-know-what...
that indescribable something which distinguishes one object from another which is similar on
the surface. What a fun phrase to say...je ne sais quoi!

Emmy has now taken over my black beret and uses it whenever she needs some inspiration for her art. ADORABLE!

Tom Lichtenheld's illustrations aren't new to me (Have you read Duck! Rabbit! - it is the funniest children's book ever based on a 19th century style optical illusion) nor are his books (Everything I Know About Pirates and What Are You So Grumpy About?), but I love that this book follows a typical plot. Well, let's let
Mr. Lichtenheld describe it..."Girl loves hat. Girl loses hat. Girl can't draw sans hat, TRAGEDY, DRAMA, HUMOR!"

To find out what really happened to Bridget's stray beret and see the original back-matter for the book drawn in a graphic novel approach click here and find the birds in the lower right hand corner! Lichtenheld opted for the "How to Start Your Art" spread as the back-matter which uses famous paintings to help kids find inspiration for their own art.

An interesting tidbit that I learned after researching Bridget's Beret is that all of Bridget's artwork in the book is based on children's artwork received by Lichtenheld and his inspiration for Bridget - Lichtenheld's niece Madeline.

If you're looking for a book to help inspire your own artwork or that of a child's in your life, definitely check out Bridget's Beret.

To read some older posts related to art click here and here and here.