Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Fun: Butterfly Coloring Pages

Print out the fun and educational coloring pages listed below and share them with your students. They even reinforce basic mathematics skills!

http://melissa-stewart.com/pdf/Color-a-Butterfly.pdf

http://melissa-stewart.com/pdf/MatchingWings.pdf

For more activity pages, visit my website.


I’ll be on a holiday hiatus for the next two weeks. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Check back on January 3.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Behind the Books: My Birthday

My birthday was last week, and one of the things I did on my special day is watch a great group of kids from Davis School in Bedford, MA, perform the Readers Theater script I wrote to accompany my book Under the Snow.

The second graders did a spectacular job. And the crowd they drew to Barnes & Noble helped to male the school district’s bookfair a smashing success. Thanks so much to Kate Desjardins for organizing the event.

Here are the kids gathering in their costumes:

Here they are lining up just before the performance:

Here are some helpers raising the “snow” that the kids performed under”:

And here are the students performing all four acts. Don’t they look great?






After the play, I did a reading and signing. What a great event! I hope next year’s birthday will be just as much fun.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Take a Look: The Chipmunk’s Perspective

There are lots of different critters that could be nestled inside the dens beyond these woodland entrances, but today I’m going to imagine that the inhabitant is a chipmunk.

Last week, I listed the questions I pondered after spotting these holes. Today I’m going to turn the tables and consider the situation from the chipmunk’s point of view.

“I spotted two of those humans poking around my front door today. Luckily, I was out in the woods, not trapped inside. As I watched their strange behavior, I started wondering about them . . . .

Why are they so curious?

Why do they like to walk in big circles around the pond?

Do they wish they could live inside my little home? I think it’s much nicer than their big houses.

What do their houses look like inside?

Do they live there their whole lives or do they move around?

When they finally continued down the trail, I darted inside my cozy winter home to deposit some nuts in my stockpile. Then I took a nap.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Fun: Five Gross and Goofy Body Facts

  1. You can blink up to five times a second. But most of the time, you flit your eyelids thirty to sixty times a minute. That adds up to more than ten thousand times a day and more than ten million times a year.
  2. You don’t blink while you’re asleep, so dust, sweat, oil, and tears don’t get flicked out of your eyes. They pile up in the corners and mix together to form eye gunk.
  3. Like the water slowly dripping out of a leaky faucet, your tear glands are constantly cranking out a fresh supply of tears. Most days, about 1/3 of a teaspoon (1.7 milliliters) of the watery liquid enters each eye. Some of it evaporates. The rest drains into tear ducts, tiny tubes that run between your eyes and nose.
  4. Kim Goodman of Chicago, Illinois, can pop her eyeballs almost half an inch (11 millimeters) beyond her eye sockets. Her eyes were measured on the set of the TV show “Guinness World Records: Primetime” on June 13, 1998.
  5. Close your eyes and gently rub your eyelids. See those flashes of light? The pressure of your fingertips tricks the light-sensing cells in your eyes. They send messages to your brain that make you see yellowish spots, stars, and circles.
Looking for more Gross & Goofy Body facts? Check out my book The Eyes Have It: The Secrets of Eyes and Seeing. To find out more about the whole Grosss and Goofy Body series, read this very thorough review from School Library Journal.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Behind the Books: Guest Post by Lita Judge

Today we have a special treat. Instead of writing about why I think white space can be an effective illustrative device in nonfiction picture books for children, we'll hear about it from an award-winning author-illustrator who has made expert use of the technique in her own work.

Welcome, Lita Judge!

When I first set out to create Born to be Giants, I didn’t plan to illustrate the dinosaurs against white space. My previous nonfiction books were historical and I thought the settings and background of each illustration was as important to telling the story as the main characters. But I quickly realized when creating this book that I needed to re-think the design.

My first challenge was that I wanted to show the scale of baby dinosaurs to their parents. The world of dinosaurs is filled with extremes, where parents are often thousand of times heavier than their babies. How could I show this if I painted them within a scene? The tiny babies would be lost next to their parents.

I realized, with the use of white space, I could tackle this problem in exciting ways. I could show just how extraordinarily large a parent Argentinosaurus was by drawing one alongside 17 elephants.
Then in another illustration, show how tiny the baby was in comparison to its parent’s foot. With the use of white space, I have a visually unified page spread and can create multiple illustrations that communicate more information than if I had just set the dinosaurs into a single background scene.

I continued to fall in the love with a design based on white space because it gave me the opportunity to illustrate every clue in the book. I wanted young readers to have visual information for each clue as well as text. Some of the concepts in the book can be challenging for young children, but knowing how enthusiastic my readers are for this topic, I wanted illustrations to guide and enhance their understanding.

The use of white space around each of the spot illustrations helps focus the reader’s attention and keeps the book from feeling cluttered or confusing.

And yet another reason I felt strongly about the use of white space came directly from my journals. I’ve been keeping a journal since I was a little girl, observing and sketching animals, and writing brief passages of text around each drawing. Recording animals in a journal taught me to capture how they moved, their gestures and expressions.

When I created this book, I wanted readers to imagine young dinosaurs as they were—hiding, stalking, running, and playing. I wanted readers to realize baby dinosaurs must have had large eyes, and wobbly necks, just like baby animals today. I felt the white space around each of the dinosaurs emphasized their gestures, making them more lifelike.
I think white space can be a beautiful and practical way to portray a lot of information in a clear and simple way, and at the same time, create an elegant beauty.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Take a Look: A Cozy Den for Winter

As my husband and I tromped through the woods last weekend, the chilly air and the whipping wind turned my thoughts to all the little creatures that struggle to survive in the winter. Many of them head underground and sleep or rest all winter long. I thought I’d look for signs of their cold-weather homes.

I spotted two very nice examples.

And they really got me wondering . . .

Who dug out the dirt between these rocks?

How long ago did the little critter choose this safe spot for its winter home?

Did original builder stay just one season or did it come back year after year?

What did the chamber below look like?

Was anything nestled inside the inside the snug little den right now?

As I contemplated these questions, we finished our loop around our favorite pond and headed home—to our own cozy, winter home.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Fun: A Perfect Pair

Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights by Debbie S. Miller + How Do the Seasons Change? by Melissa Stewart

Using a clever hours-of-light/darkness diagram at the top of each spread, Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights shows and describes the surprising changes in Arctic light throughout the year. The lyrical text includes not only messages about light and its partner, darkness, but also explains how a variety of wildlife responds to changing light and seasonal changes in the Arctic. Quietly beautiful realistic acrylic paintings often focus on animals within a landscape and are in perfect harmony with the text.

In How Do the Seasons Change?, the title question propels readers through a series of brief chapters that provide background information (how Earth orbits the sun, how Earth spins on its axis, how Earth’s tilt effects us, etc.) that eventually allows students to fully understand the topic and come up with the answer on their own. Photos and clear diagrams expand the text and reinforce the scientific explanations.

Related Activities
Have your students to create a table of sunrise and sunset times throughout the year for your area. Then ask them to make light and darkness diagrams similar to the ones in Arctic Lights, Arctic Nights.
 

Children love to learn by doing, so try this kinesthetic activity. Have all students stand and spin, pretending they are Earth. Then divide students into pairs. One member of each team should pretend to be the sun. The other should act like the Earth, spinning and moving around the sun at the same time. Then students should switch roles. Ask students to draw pictures of Earth moving around the sun.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Behind the Books: More Novelty in Nonfiction Design

Today we’re going to look at some more examples of how the art and design in nonfiction children’s books have changed over time. Let’s look at some stunning styles developed by some very creative people.

Here are some recent books in which the topic and art really dictate the format and design:

Most wildlife photographers refrigerate insects, spiders, and even frogs before the take photos. The cold-blooded creatures slow down when their bodies cool down, and that makes them much easier to handle. But it’s also kind of mean, don’t you think? After all, how would you like to be chilled into compliance?

Well, Nic Bishop is a kind, gentle man as well as a fabulous photographer who will do anything to get just the right photo. He respects the animals he spends time with. He doesn’t toss them in the fridge, and he works efficiently to limit the time they spend under hot lights.

He spends time with the critters—hours, days, weeks. He gets to know them and their habits, and they get to know and trust him. And the result is obvious. His patience and care is rewarded with stunning images.

Nic Bishop Spiders is chock full of big, bold photos of the eight-legged wonders, and the design only adds to the drama. Full page background of fire-engine red and bright orange and colorful pull-out text compliment the images perfectly.

Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh features a vast array of information from a vast array of sources. It’s a wonder how the author pulled it all together and still maintained a cohesive presentation.

The dark page backgrounds with knock-out text and full-spread images with cleverly-designed sidebars and extended captions skillfully capture the excitement of the era and the camaraderie and teamwork of the many people involved effort to reach the moon.

And here we have some books with a perfect synergy between art choices and the writing style.

In River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, illustrator by Melissa Sweet uses complex paper-collage illustrations (that often include surprising elements) to capture the time and place in which Williams lived.

The voice of the narrative and the feel of the art blend perfectly into a single art piece.

What to Do About Alice? How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy! by Barbara Kerley (illus. Edwin Fotheringham) has a completely different tone than River of Words, but, once again, it is the perfect integration of art and text that make the book work on so many levels.
The text is written is a sassy, whimsical voice that reflects Alice Roosevelt’s personality and view of the world. The art has the same energy and whimsy to it, so that each contributes to our understanding of Alice as an individual—and as an influence on her father, the President.

Next week, we have a special guest blogger. Stay tuned.