Sunday, September 14, 2014

Amazing Sunflowers

"Keep your face to the sunshine 
and you cannot see the shadow.  
It's what sunflowers do." 
Helen Keller

Emmy and I recently explored an amazing sunflower field at Colby Farm in Newbury, MA. This field is planted annually and tended to by the Colby family.  The sunflowers were absolutely gorgeous.  Emmy couldn't believe how tall the flowers were and how many of them were in the field. We estimated in the 1,000's.  There were so many honey bees busy at work collecting pollen to take back to their hives and beautiful butterflies resting on the sunny heads of the flowers. We spent a long time exploring this field taking in the beauty and relishing the quiet.

After our visit, I was inspired to show Emmy Vincent Van Gogh's paintings of sunflowers.  This allowed us to talk about Van Gogh's technique of using vibrant colors and swirling brush strokes (post-impressionism) as well as still life painting.  Emmy and I will be working on our own still life paintings of a vase of sunflowers and will share them at a later time.
Still Life: Vase With Twelve Sunflowers 1888

Emmy has always been interested in Van Gogh's paintings especially his most famous work The Starry Night (1889).  In a previous post, I talked about how we kept a picture frame in Emmy's bedroom that held a different postcard each week of a famous painting. She always wanted The Starry Night to be in the frame.  With our renewed interest in Van Gogh, we decided to check out a book about Van Gogh from our library.  I had learned of a series of books by Laurence Anholt (Anholt's Artists Books For Children) that focused on stories of real children who had actually met famous artists. There are nine books in the series and we would like to read them all, but we began with Van Gogh and the Sunflowers.  This story focuses on Van Gogh's time spent in Arles, France. A young boy named Camille befriends Van Gogh when he moves into the yellow house at the end of his street.  Camille brought sunflowers to his new friend and watched him paint.  Others in the town thought that Van Gogh was odd and that Vincent and his paintings didn't fit in with the town.  Emmy and I appreciated Camille's father's explanation,
"People often laugh at things that are different, 
but I've got a feeling that one day 
they will learn to love Vincent's paintings." 
Not only are Anholt's illustrations wonderful to look at, but the book also includes reproductions of works by Vincent Van Gogh.   For another recommendation of a book about art, check out this post.  

A wonderful book celebrating sunflowers is Eve Bunting's Sunflower House.  This story shares the lifecycle of the sunflower beginning with a boy planting sunflower seeds into a circle which creates a sunflower playhouse to the flowers wilting and the seeds dropping to the ground.  The story is told in rhyming verse and the illustrations, by Kathryn Hewitt (who also illustrated Bunting's book Flower Garden), are exquisite. Emmy's favorite part is when the boy and his friends sleep in the sunflower house.  She is determined that she will plant a similar house and have her friends over to sleep among the giant flowers.  

Whenever the topic of gardening with children comes up, I always suggest Sharon Lovejoy's books as resources. In her book, Sunflower Houses: A Book for Children and their Grown-Ups, the pages are filled with terrific suggestions of flowers to plant and projects to make and also with Lovejoy's beautiful drawings and whimsical poems. I remember making clover chains and firefly lanterns when I was a child.  I also remember picking dandelions for my mom. Emmy and I enjoy stringing dandelions together to make crowns to wear and bouquets to give.  Gardening is not something that is easy for us as we live in an apartment building in town, but I am determined to create an indoor garden with Emmy.  If you are interested in other books about gardening, check out the following posts:

Here's a song that Emmy and I have been enjoying since our visit to the sunflower field...
Sunflower ~ written by Neil Diamond and recorded by Glen Campbell in 1977.