Sunday, March 4, 2018

Celebrating the Seasons with Ezra Jack Keats (OR Punxatawney Paula calls SPRING)

I think Winter is getting to me.  I declare it over.  I feel it's time to move on.
Few authors and illustrators bring the seasons to life for me as much as Ezra Jack Keats.  Had I started this blog earlier in the season I would have shared The Snowy Day, which the US Post Office immortalized in their Forever Stamp series this past Fall.
But I'm declaring it to be
SPRING.  I chose to share other Keats books with my Volunteer Artist.

There are a handful of authors and illustrators who, as a child made me fall in love with children's books and book illustration.

Keats was one of them. His stories were warm and easy. He found humor and charm in the every day: snowballs hidden in pockets, the welcoming of a  new baby, the planning of pet shows.
When I was little it never struck me that he was one of the few children's books artists who featured stories about children of color. I can only imagine how much it meant for my friends to see children like themselves on the pages.

But let's me get to the book I chose to share.  I picked Jennie's Hat because I had been a girl with odd taste in clothing. It was a childhood favorite. I cherished this book about a girl whose hat is assembled by birds and created with bits of nature and scraps of cards.

Jennie looks forward to the new hat her Aunt will be sending but when it arrives she is disappointed to find a plain white hat.  Jennie tries all sorts of substitutes, from flower pots to straw baskets but nothing will do. She puts the hat aside and heads out to feed the birds. When she begrudgingly wears the plain hat her bird friends come to surprise her.


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My Volunteer Artist is a fabulous reader and chose to read the book to herself. We looked at the beautiful artwork in the Keats' books that I brought with me. We also looked at work by illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton whose work, though unique, shows her appreciation of Keats.  The Artist pointed to spots where Keats integrated scrap paper, lace, and newspaper clippings into the artwork.

I decided to have the Volunteer Artist create a simple hat collage.  I brought waaaaay too many supplies. I wanted to see where she looked to find patterns.

  • Card stock in a variety of skin tones
  • Large white paper for the hat
  • Tape, Scissors, Glue Gun and Glue Sticks
  • Magazines, Newspapers, and Vintage maps: anything with patterns
  • Markers, Crayons and/or Colored Pencils
  1.  AHEAD OF TIME: (Optional: helpful if working with large group of kids) Rip pages out of magazines of anything that can look like a pattern: Fruit, dogs from a distance, thread, etc.  Cut out shape of face from card stock when working with really young kids. 
  2. CRAFT DAY: Show the artist how to cut an oval for a face
  3. Artist cuts out hat.  Can be made of white paper, newspaper, anything large. Can be beautiful or hilarious!
  4. Cut out patterns found in magazines, cards, papers and adhere to hat.
Make an Actual Hat with Newspaper.  Or make the base out of a paper plate with a whole cut in the center.
SERIOUSLY, looking back I wish I'd done one of these variations with the Artist instead but I was still suffering from Winter Blues.

 We spent a little time afterward talking about being influenced by Keats.  I pointed out how I had used newspaper clippings to do the title art for this blog.  I pointed out the brilliant work of Vanessa Bradley Newton, who also uses patterned paper in her work

THE YOUNGEST MARCHER by Cynthia Levinson
Art by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

And we welcomed in SPRING with Ezra Jack Keats.