Monday, January 31, 2011

CEO princesses

If you've read this previous post about princess stories, you'll know I'm not a big fan of the sickly sweet, one-dimensional, sit in a castle and look pretty kind of princess. But if you venture past your part of the forest surrounding the castle and push past the brambles and thorns, you'll find there are many fabulous princess stories to be found.

This one came from the library - "Princesses are not quitters!" by Kate Lum, illustrated by Sue Hellard. Well, I had to read it after glancing at the title!

This is the story of three bored princesses, Princess Allie, Princess Mellie and Princess Libby, who decide that "Servants have all the fun!"

"Now, Mrs Blue," said Allie to the housekeeper, "today we princesses are going to be servants. From now until midnight, we want to be treated just like servants."

This is what they do:

"They had to SWEEP the floors and
WHITEWASH the walls and
DUST the ceiling free of webs and
POLISH the windows and
SCRUB the pots and then go outside and
SWEEP the path and WEED the garden and
SCRUB the fountain and
FEED the hens and
PICK the cabbages for lunch and ....

As you can imagine, the princesses are very tired. But they didn't want anyone to say that princesses are quitters so they kept on working.

My favourite illustration is the kitchen page. Compare the servants' cupboard on the left to the cupboard for the princesses on the right!

The moral of the story? You guessed it - the princesses feel proud of their efforts despite their aching bodies.

Princess Allie declared: "There will now be new rules for servants in this land. Things cannot go on as they are!"

The servants now must sleep in, rest, sit in the garden for an hour and eat whenever they're hungry.

Imagine an organisation where the three bosses are willing to do the work of the lowest paid employee, write a manifesto to ensure all employees have holidays, start work at 9am and rest whenever they need!

Maybe every small girl with either corporate or regal aspirations should read this book - wouldn't you like Princess Allie, Mellie or Libby as your CEO?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to make an alphabet tree

This is another fabulous library find - "The alphabet tree" by Leo Lionni. An oldie - published in 1968 - but a goodie.

The alphabet tree is full of letters, living a happy life, hopping from leaf to leaf on the highest twigs. However, when the wind blows, some letters are blown away and the remaining letters are frightened.

Luckily, the word-bug visits and explains that if the letters stick together and form words, they will be strong enough to resist the wind's force. He is right, and the letters, or words, are safe.

A wandering caterpillar sees the words and is confused by their apparent randomness. "Why don't you get together and make sentences - and mean something?"

The caterpillar is pleased with the sentences formed by the letters but encourages them further. "You must say something important." said the caterpillar. Their message - I won't spoil it for you! - is one that is still relevant today.

I love the gentle teaching philosophy behind this book, the slow beginning of understanding letters, then words, then sentences, all building up to the importance of communication and making your words count. This book lends itself beautifully to teaching the alphabet, as well as all the wonderful artwork it could inspire.

So we just had to make our own alphabet tree! And after creating our small version, I've decided that when Annalise is ready to learn the alphabet, I am going to make a huge, moveable one that will not only inspire her learning but be a thing of beauty and joy! Stay tuned, my friends!

Meanwhile, to make our small tree, I painted a cheap canvas with a blue sky and brown earth and added a tree. Then I used a white wax crayon on watercolour paper to draw tiny leaf veins, painted over them with green paint in rough leaf shapes and cut them out. (Note the use of "I" - we were going to do it together but then the kids' distraction grew in direct correlation to my focus!). However, Annalise was back at my side to help stamp the letters. She stamped random letters on the leaves but contributed the word 'peace' to our ideas. We used a spray adhesive to attach the leaves, and added the word-bug and caterpillar as well.

Here's hoping the letters on our alphabet tree live a happy life too!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Paint and paper ladybugs

A library book and an inspirational blog led to this rainy day art activity last week. Annalise borrowed David Soman's "Ladybug Girl at the beach" from our local library and I found this fabulous idea from Sharilyn's blog at lovely designs.

Following Sharilyn's activity, we used a potato half dipped in red paint to create the ladybug bodies, and then experimented until we found the right ingredient for the black spots. A blueberry! And let me assure you, only one blueberry was used in creating these black spots - eating is a much better use for blueberries, I think!

Annalise did the potato and blueberry stamping, and I painted the black antennae. Then to add some 'floatiness' to our bugs, I cut out red tissue paper into rough wing shapes and Annalise 'blueberried' them and glued them on. We might cut them out to use as cards.

After reading "Ladybug Girl at the beach", I'd like to hunt down the first book in this series. Lulu, the ladybug girl, and her dog, Bingo, explore all that the beach has to offer - except the water. My favourite page is when Lulu lists her top eleven favourite flavours for ice-cream: Chocolate Marshmellow, Cherry Vanilla, Pistachio, Butter Pecan, Peppermint Bon Bon, Peanut Butter Chip, Raspberry Swirl, Peach Pie, Almond Fudge, Royal Banana Surprise, and  ... Vanilla.  Mmm, yum!

Lulu eventually does go in the sea - to rescue her floating pail.

The water is past her knees, and she isn't afraid at all! "Ladybug Girl isn't afraid of anything!"

Love the spirited affirmation!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Melbourne Museum exhibition

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to write a post – two editing jobs, Christmas and a 7yo birthday party does take up a little time. But we have certainly been out and about, and of course, doing lots of reading. The influx of books in our home at the moment from the library and Christmas has led to lots of ideas and excursions.

I am a big fan of the author/illustrator Jennie Baker – her long list of picture books includes 'Window', 'The Story of Rosy Dock', 'Home in the Sky', 'The Hidden Forest', among others. Her latest book, 'Mirror', is a wordless picture book, and the original artwork is currently exhibited at the Melbourne Museum.

We were allowed to take photos there, but my photos don’t do justice to Jennie’s collages. Tom and I were in awe at the detail. While we have read 'Mirror' quite a few times (thanks to Grandma for such a wonderful birthday present for Tom!) there is a difference between the photographed pages of the book and the original collages.

'Mirror' is the story of two boys, one living in Sydney, Australia and one living in Morocco, North Africa. The introduction states: The lives of the two boys and their families look very different from each other and they are different. But some things connect them … just as some things are the same for all families no matter where they live.

I have been thinking about making some collages with the kids for a while. I thought I would explain that collages use different materials, natural and artificial. I thought I would offer the idea of making a collaborative collage of our backyard. I thought I would suggest that we draw a picture of our backyard first, then decide which area we could turn into a collage. I thought we would include a figure to represent all of us outside – Brett and Tom playing cricket, Annalise riding her bike, Joe crawling in the dirt and me gardening. I thought we would go outside and collect natural materials, such as twigs, leaves, grass, petals, tiny stones and other odds and ends. I thought we would then go inside and gather up bits of string, fabric, glue, cardboard, paint, paper and other bits and pieces. I thought I had an old canvas we could paint over.

And while I was thinking all of this – Tom just did it. No mucking about, no idle daydreaming, just straight into the creating. He used corrugated cardboard, string, paper, sticky tape and glue to make a figure of himself playing cricket. There, done!

I still have plans to make that backyard collage. Jennie can take up to three years to create her masterpieces – we have the remaining three weeks of the school holidays! I’d also love to mimic the idea of two books in tandem – have a look in a bookstore for 'Mirror' to see the clever design for two individual stories to be read together.