Tag Archives: recycling

PPBF – Rainbow Weaver

For today’s Perfect Picture Book, I’m venturing south to Guatemala, a country that has almost 6% of the population living outside of its borders, many of them in the United States, as they seek to escape extreme poverty and violence:

9780892393749_p0_v1_s192x300Title: Rainbow Weaver (Tejodora del Arcoíris)

Written By: Linda Elovitz Marshall

Illustrated By: Elisa Chavarri

Publisher/date: Children’s Book Press (Lee & Low Books)/2016

Suitable for Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: Guatemala, weaving, Mayans, bilingual English/Spanish, recycling, cultural traditions

Opening:

High in the mountains above Lake Atitlán, Ixchel watched her mother weave thread into fabric as beautiful as a rainbow. The fabric had blues as clear as the sky, reds as bright as the flowers, and yellows as golden as the corn.

“Mama,” Ixchel asked. “May I weave too?”

Her mother shook her head. “Not now, Ixchel,” she answered. “This cloth is for the market. If it brings a good price, it will help pay for your school and books.”

Brief Synopsis: Ixchel, a young Guatemalan girl, yearns to help her mother weave colorful fabrics to sell in the marketplace to earn money for school fees and books. Because her mother has no extra thread for Ixchel to use, Ixchel tries other weaving materials until she discovers a solution that is both colorful and solves another problem, too.

Links to Resources:

  • A Glossary and Pronunciation Guide to Mayan terms used in the text is included;
  • Lee & Low provides a comprehensive Teacher’s Guide;
  • Learn about Chavarri’s illustration inspiration and techniques;
  • Weave a potholder, other woven items, including a small purse for a special Mother’s Day gift, or a rainbow;
  • Explore Guatemala;
  • Prepare and eat traditional Guatemalan foods, including Guatemalan tacos, elotes (corn), Arroz Guatemalteco (a flavored rice and vegetable dish), and flan (a custard dessert);
  • Learn about the Mayans.

Why I Like this Book:

Rainbow Weaver is an engaging story that introduces readers to the tradition of colorful Mayan weaving while shedding light on a region and problem that many kids and parents know little about. Ixchel, its can-do, think-outside-the-box main character, not only helps solve the primary problem, raising money for school fees, but her solution benefits her entire community. I loved learning about the Mayan weaving tradition and meeting the cooperative community of female neighbors. I also appreciated the entrepreneurial spirit exhibited as Ixchel utilized new “thread” to enable an ancient handicraft to be a solution to a current problem.

Rainbow Weaver is published as an English/Spanish bilingual text and includes Mayan words as well. Even the main character’s name, Ixchel, holds special meaning: Ixchel is the name of a Mayan goddess, the Grandmother of the Moon, who, according to myth, shared the skill of weaving with the first woman.

A Note about Craft:

Rainbow Weaver begins with colorful imagery, in the form of a simile comparing woven cloth to a rainbow, foreshadowing a happy ending as well as the solution to the problem of earning money for school fees and books. In the few short sentences quoted above, Marshall indicates where we are, in the mountains above Lake Atitlán, describes the central subject of the story, weaving, indicates that the main character wants to weave, too, and what the problem, and presumable solution, are. A brilliant opening that encouraged this reader to turn the page and read more!

As indicated in an Author’s Note, Marshall wrote Rainbow Weaver because she knew the Guatemalan founders of Mayan Hands, “a fair-trade nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering Mayan women in their quest to bring their families out of extreme poverty as they continue to live within the culture they cherish” (as stated on the website). A portion of proceeds benefits this not-for-profit. Although Marshall is not an #OwnVoices author, she knew the issues because of this association, and then visited Guatemala for further research. As she states, “I…met with weavers, shared the story, and received their input.” I think this is a valuable lesson for authors who embrace causes or who desire to write about topics outside their cultural experience to not just write empathetic stories, but to do on-site research and test the story premise on people from that other background or culture.

Finally, the story premise and solution involve recycling plastic bags, which adds another layer to this rich story. A good companion book would be Miranda Paul’s One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (Lerner Publishing Group, 2015).9781467716086_p0_v1_s192x300

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF -What to Do With a Box

It’s November, time to:

  • Elect our next president and fill other state and federal offices;
  • Turn back the clocks;
  • Head indoors as outside temperatures fall;
  • Give thanks and share our blessings with others.

So why have I chosen to feature a picture book about a BOX?

  • Countless school & community groups are hosting food drives now –  filling cardboard boxes with meals for less-fortunate neighbors;
  • Boxes are a great indoor escape from cold, rainy fall weather, especially as the sun retreats earlier each afternoon; and
  • If you live in a contested state, or listen to, read or watch any news sources, you may by now just want to curl up in a box – or perhaps you may want to do so next Wednesday.

Without further ado, off to unpack today’s Perfect Picture Book:

9781568462899_p0_v2_s118x184Title: What to Do With a Box

Written By: Jane Yolen

Illustrated By: Chris Sheban

Publisher/date: Creative Editions/2016

Suitable for Ages: 6-8 (or younger)

Themes/Topics: rhyming picture book, cardboard boxes, imagination, creativity, adventure, recycling

Opening: “A box! A box is a strange device. You can open it once. You can open it twice.”

Brief Synopsis: A “how to” play with an empty cardboard box

Links to Resources:

  • Use your imagination to repurpose a cardboard box as a vehicle, costume or other  item
  • Think of other things you can recycle into toys or other items.

Why I Like this Book:

In fewer than 200 words, Jane Yolen opens the box on creativity, inviting children to imagine, explore, set off on adventures. The only characters in the book are two unnamed children, a boy and a girl, with a dog, and the suggestion is that “you” can participate in adventures, journeys and imaginative play with a box, too.

Chris Sheban’s soft illustrations mimic the colors of a cardboard box and complement Ms. Yolen’s text well. As one reviewer noted, the pair combine “soft words and soothing visuals”, providing “inspiration without instruction.”

A Note about Craft:

I immediately was struck by two things when I read What to Do With a Box: the quiet, lyrical language and the lack of character names. Concerning the latter, I think by leaving the characters nameless, Ms. Yolen makes it easier for young listeners to envision themselves in the story – something she encourages further by inviting “you” to join in on the action. This reminded me of the directives in A Child of Books, Oliver Jeffers/Sam Winston (Candlewick Press, 2016), in which the narrator, a nameless “child of books,” will journey with “you” to discover the joys of literature.

And while What to Do With a Box is an action story, all of the actions require thought and contemplation. This isn’t hurried, slapstick action. Rather, the children and you think about what to do with the box and, harnessing creativity, repurpose it in many imaginative ways.

Finally, no review of this book would be complete without a note about word choice. Ms. Yolen seemingly chooses her words not just to keep the rhythm and rhyme, but to draw the reader in, to paint a picture as one child “crayon[s] an egret” and the other sails not just anywhere, but “to Paris and back”. Such beautiful images!

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF – Rain Fish

When I saw today’s Perfect Picture Book, I thought back to the many other wonderful books by Lois Ehlert that were family favorites when the now-adult children were young. That memory led to other memories. In particular, I found myself thinking about a holiday when I was the sole adult for part of the vacation. I had “volunteered” to travel ahead with the four and six year-old daughters to central Europe, where my husband met us (in case you’re wondering about my sanity, we visited, and stayed with, family friends much of the time). I recall spending several days in some of the greatest cities of Europe searching for playgrounds, cooling fingers and toes in fountains and doing anything but the typical “tourist” things, such as gazing up at unique architecture and visiting museums. Instead, we looked down, spent most of the time outdoors, and discovered treasures that I’m sure all but the most observant adults missed. They remain treasures to this day.

9781481461528_p0_v1_s192x300Title: Rain Fish

Written & Illustrated By: Lois Ehlert

Publisher/date: Beach Lane Books, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: creating art, found art, rainy days, recycling, fish

Opening: “When blue sky turns gray and it rains all day, that’s when rain fish come out and play.”

Brief Synopsis: Rain fish come out to play on rainy days.

Links to Resources:

  • Take a “themed” nature walk and talk about the items of a particular shape, color or texture you see
  • While on a walk or even in the house, try to find objects that look like something else, like rabbit clouds, or a face hidden in the bark of a tree, etc.
  • Create collage art – assemblages of different materials; for some ideas see The Artful Parent. http://artfulparent.com/collage-art-ideas-kids

Why I Like this Book: In our too busy world, we often miss what’s hiding right under our noses. We fail to notice the good, like Lois Ehlert’s colourful fish that accompany the bad, in this case a rainy day. And not only is it a rainy day, but the fish, crafted from found items that most adults would term “garbage”, swim in the gutters. This is a “stop and smell the roses” book if ever there was one and a terrific reminder that one person’s garbage can be recycled into another person’s art – if only we can observe like the child that lives in each of us. Like Lois Ehlert’s many other wonderful picture books, this will be a book that children and adults will enjoy exploring again and again.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!