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Art and Design enables children to find new ways of expressing themselves and understanding the world. The self-expression and the creativity required for the creative arts are what make us distinctively human. Here is a selection of books on art or featuring artists we love.
Written and illustrated by award-winning artist and current affairs specialist George Butler, Drawn Across Borders is a unique empathy-inspiring portrayal of the affecting personal experiences of twelve migrants, covering countries as diverse as Tajikistan, Myanmar, Kenya, Syria and Palestine. It’s an honest, awe-inspiring tribute to the featured individuals, a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and a timely reminder that real people lie behind every news story on migrants. Real people with real (and varied) reasons for leaving places they once called home. Butler frames the book with brilliant clarity: “People move around the world for many reasons. Some migration is voluntary; most is not.” The written portraits are deeply personal, framed by the author’s experiences on the frontlines of - for example - refugee camps, and based on his conversations with migrants. When combined with the accompanying painterly illustrations, they create a book that draws the heart and eye to a clutch of stories that should be known. Recommended for readers aged 11 upwards who have an interest in current affairs and history (adults included), this would also make a valuable springboard for discussing migration and global politics in a classroom context.
Take one box – a cereal box for example – and this craft ideas book, and get creating! Thanks to a set of recycled plastic corners just right for joining up card (and neatly contained in a storage compartment) with clear, easy to follow instructions, kids will be able to transform the box into any one of 20 different toys. Once they have got to grips with the easier creations including a dinosaur, a rocket and a fabulous looking car they can challenge themselves with the trickier space helmet or unicorn mask. Like all the best ideas it’s really simple, really effective and likely to be just the start of more creative activity. The JUNKO ethos is all about reuse and being eco-friendly. The Epic Cereal Box Creations is a brilliantly clever concept, turning household waste and packaging into toys: even those plastic corners are made from recycled plastic! Not only is it fun, it’s a great way to build those all-important STEAM skills too. Who needs plastic toys when you can have fun and make your own out of cardboard? Purchase Epic Cereal Box Creations directly from the Junko website here!
Casting Mona Lisa as a self-important, been there, done that, bought-the-t-shirt-in-the- museum-gift-shop character (“She loved the attention! She loved the crowds…I know everything and everyone knows me”), Yevgenia Nayberg’s Mona Lisa in New York presents a playful, strikingly-illustrated picture book ode to New York’s distinctive wonders through its unique, irreverent take on a 500-year-old enigma. After journeying across the ocean “so people far away could also admire her beauty”, and being marvelled at by crowds in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Mona Lisa is in for a shock when she decides to wander the city alone at night and gets lost. No problem, she thinks. Everyone knows who I am. Except they don’t. In fact, “No one paid any attention to her.” Thankfully, she encounters Tag, a graffiti art character from Brooklyn. While Mona Lisa is loath to accept that she’s the same as Tag, and while she initially insists that she knows everything, Tag kindly takes her hand and shows her NYC in all its kaleidoscopic glory - they listen to jazz in Harlem, eat pizza in the Bronx, salsa dance on the High Line, and swim on Brighton Beach. “Turns out there’s so much I didn’t know,” she admits when they part. It also turns out that New York has captured Mona Lisa’s heart. Great for introducing little ones to New York, this will also make an excellent springboard for talking about art and culture in all their forms.
An unknown painter has the temerity to enter the Grand Contest of Art. At first scorned for the simple realism of his styleand subject matter (not a portrait of the King!) he is crowned the winner when his Duck actually quacks. An overnight sensation, his paintings were in high demand until the realism became a little too real with volcanos erupting, waterfalls gushing over the carpet and a boa constrictor attacking its rich owner in the bath. Clousseau is thrown into jail and all his paintings confiscated except for the one of a guard dog on display in the palace. One night the dog captures a thief before he could steal the crown. Clousseau is a hero again and he “returns to his painting” – the double meaning of which will absolutely delight young readers when they see the final image. Full of his trademark wit (I love the renowned artist’s names: Gaston du Stroganoff, Felicien CaffayOllay and Alphonse LeCamembair) and becoming New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year when it was first published in 1988. Once again we are very grateful to Scallywag Press for the first UK publication of this brilliant tale which is on the one hand an absurd and funny tale, but on the other can prompt discussion about art and who decides what is good art, the fickle nature of public opinion and the effects of fame(or notoriety). Fully deserving of its classic status in the US, I am quite sure that this will be highly valued in schools here too.
This book is a treat for anyone who dreams of spending a Christmas at Hogwarts. Using images and scenes from the films, it reminds us of all the magical things that are part of a Hogwarts Christmas – the decorations, the special presents, the ghosts, the gorgeous snowy scenes and, of course, the Yule Ball. There are all sorts of unexpected extras too including stickers, bookmarks and pull-outs, not to mention fascinating insights into the making of the films (I love the fact that the costume department kept a dedicated knitter busy producing Molly Weasley’s jumpers and scarves). It’s just the thing to transport you into Harry’s world at the most magical time of year, no matter what real life has to offer.
How many adventures will be started by this quirky activity book? With all of us currently spending more time in our homes than we ever expected, it’s perfect for now, full not only of interesting facts about our houses and furniture (from information on the first bed to Le Corbusier’s ideas), but also with activity ideas inspired by the place where we live. These range from making architectural plans to designing a chair (with a nod to Bauhaus), to creating a board game à la Cluedo. Attractively designed, fun and fact-filled, this will expand the walls of your home and make it a place of quiet adventure for children – perfect.
Explore the world of dinosaurs with your magic three colour lens | Even the most expert, hardest to impress young palaeontologist will be awe-struck by this book, which gives the closest experience within printed pages yet to walking amongst dinosaurs. Huge double-pages take readers around the globe and back through time to when dinosaurs roamed the planet. Look at the brightly coloured pages through the special lenses provided and 3D scenes spring into life. A red lens reveals the ‘terrible lizards’ that would have lived in each location, from America’s ‘A listers’, the T Rex, Triceratops, Brachiosaurus, to lesser known but equally impressive giants such as Africa’s Massospondylus. A green lens brings the locations into focus while looking through the blue lens uncovers the plants and pre-historic animals that lived alongside the dinosaurs. Each of the Observation Decks, as the 3D pages are called, are followed by fact-filled pages of black and white diagrams and text. Innovative, engaging and information-packed, it’s an eye-opening journey of discovery.
A Story About Sorting and Classifying | A large and colourful book which beautifully communicates fascinating information, from types of cloud formations, to varieties of apples, names of tools, and constructions of family trees. All designed and illustrated in a playful and engaging way. Part art book part encyclopaedia – a book to lose yourself in. ~ Lauren Child Find out more about Lauren Child, her books, characters and inspirations in our Guest Editor feature.
October 2020 Debut of the Month | What a roar-some romp this is! With its read-along rhymes, fun flaps to lift and energetic animals, toddlers will adore grrr-ing, snapping, ooo-ing, hissing and ROARING their way through this jamboree of jungle dwellers. It’s a joy to read aloud, ideally with exuberant accompaniment from little animal lovers. The rhythmic, rhyming text invites readers to engage with larger-than-life animals in their natural habitats - a tiger hiding in tall bamboo, a crocodile lurking in a lilypond, a snake slithering through leaves, a monkey curled in a tree, a lion prowling a plain - while sharing information about their physical characteristics and - of course - the sounds they make. It’s a beautiful book to behold, too - Katerina Kerouli’s style is both bold and understated. Her palette has an elegant mid-century feel, and her animals are oh-so chicly expressive.
There are lots of reasons for getting yourself a copy of this lively, charming picture book! Not only is it a bright, fun way to tell children about different animals, it’s also a bright, fun way to get children moving, stretching and enjoying themselves. Pages of information about animals, from flamingos to chimpanzees, are matched by illustrated encouragements to copy their movements – stretch out your wings like a flamingo, scuttle sideways like a crab, wiggle your bottom like a bee! The text is great for reading aloud with a bouncy rhythm and the pictures are just as full of life. This is guaranteed to get everyone jumping up and joining in!
Packed with ideas, tips and starting points, this activity book is guaranteed to spark inventiveness and the creation of art. Marion Deuchars takes readers through a variety of different techniques, from block and string printing to how to create optical patterns, mazes and mosaics, and much more. Her instructions are easy to follow and her enthusiasm is contagious. If you want to paint like Mondrian, or design papertile patterns like a master, this is the place to start. A really effective and enjoyable how-to book.
The brilliant picture book artist Marion Deuchars passes on painting and drawing tips in this inspiring how-to book and makes it easy and fun to create your own crowd of colourful animals from greyhounds to giraffes. Techniques include collage and print alongside regular sketching and painting, but most fun probably are her tips for hand and finger painting – you can make so many different, characterful animals out of simple fingerprints by copying her examples, though the blow-painting pages are just as tempting. This will bring out the inner artist in anyone and lead to hours of creative fun.
This Might Get Messy | Get a copy of this book if your kids think all artists live in cities, or that art has to be made by a certain type of person only and out of paint. Because it tells them loud and clear that artists are anywhere and anyone, and that art most often grows out of MESS! By this point, they’ll already understand that we can all be artists and the book goes on to deliver some invaluable advice about how to see off you your inner critic: make stuff, it says, and enjoy yourself while you’re at it. It concludes with a list of the jobs grown up artists can do, and a final page suggests lots of fun, inspiring ideas for everyday art projects. A bright, lively way to encourage any young artists in your circle.
There are thrills galore in this stylish lift-the-flap book. Each page features a different creature – fish, bat, spider snake – and each looks pretty innocuous until you pull open the elongated flap then, good heavens, what horrors are revealed! The fish is no guppy, but a piranha with a gaping mouthful of sharp teeth (and a smaller fish about to be eaten)! Pull up the flap for the octopus and discover what’s inside – it’s not a pretty sight! Each flap reveals something more gruesome and revolting than before until the final image of a pumpkin, which turns out to be concealing some very creepy surprises. Young children will revel in these opportunities to be shocked and disgusted, and will shriek with glee at each new ghastliness revealed. The illustrations and bold colours are very striking and add just the right amount of humour to the horror. Nasty but nice!
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