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Practically Paradise
Inside Practically Paradise

Creativity, Illustrations, and Fibers

I love yarn and craft projects. I love to crochet most of all but have also knitted, latch-hooked, done macrame, basket-weaved, huckweaved, stained glass, copper-foiled, paper-folded, popped-up, and more. Dinah Zike and Robert Sabuda are my paper idols. Each year during winter, I find a way to integrate my love of crafts with students.

My sons have learned various stages of sewing and I enjoy sharing my love of crochet with my students. Crochet becomes “super cool” when I announce my sons have sewn fishing nets before. Crochet hooks are cheap and yarn is plentiful.

My students love origami and my youngest son used paper and string to create his own marionettes. Three-dimensional art and fiber art are exciting.

While packing for the ALA Midwinter Meeting and anticipating who will win the Caldecott Award (among others), I have been teaching students about various forms of artistic expression. We’ve discussed the ways authors illustrate books, but I wanted to do a lesson that extended the creative interests of students for their personal interests, to communicate, and to solve problems. Below are some titles I shared with them:

Wild Rose’s Weaving by Ginger Churchill Illustrated by Nicole Wong Tanglewood Press

While Rose plays in a storm and enjoys the beauty of nature, her grandmother attempts to teach her how to weave nature into a rug. “Publisher states: Just as the grandmother teaches Rose to weave the beauty of nature into her rugs, so the author weaves into this story the themes of creativity, the interplay of art and life, and the important gifts that are handed down through generations of women.” The Kirkus review was not as positive, but students appreciated the introduction to weaving.

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier.

For Black History Month, I am delighted to have this title available for my students. It’s a story of persevering and overcoming and inspires.

I Lay My Stitches Down: Poems of American Slavery by Cynthia Grady Illustrated by Michele Wood

This is an unbelievably beautifully illustrated title and collection of poems. Every time I open it, students gasp with pleasure. My art teacher is reading and sharing with her students in preparation for Black History Month, and I’m anxiously waiting to hold it in my hands again.

Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet by Ann Whitford Paul and  illustrated by Jeanette Winter.

The cover illustration shows a group of women sitting around a large quilt and stitching together. When I shared with students the idea of a quilting bee and women getting together to sew, they were surprised but then demanded we try to form a club so they could do this. For older students, I’ll share passages from WW1 and WW2 of women getting together to sew socks, baby blankets, etc. for the needy.

Speaking of Art: Colorful Quotes by Famous Painters edited by Bob Raczka Millbrook Press, 2010.

Students chimed in whenever they recognized who the artist was and shared their feelings about the paintings with their neighbor.

The Knitting of Elizabeth Amelia by Patricia Lee Gauch and illustrated by Barbara Lavalle

Elizabeth Amelia, a knitted wool woman, marries and begins to knit children from strands of herself until she almost disappears. Her husband James Elmer saves her by stopping her from completely giving everything of herself. Her knitted children run to find new yarn so she can recreate herself and enjoy life. Students related this book to The Giving Tree.

Beginning Knitting: Stitches with Style by Kay Melchisedech Olsen is a Snap book from Capstone Press. Students craved DOING something immediately after the story so chose titles from the complete Crafts series:

  • Beading,
  • Knitting,
  • Book Making & Paper Making,
  • Candle Making,
  • Fashion Crafts,
  • Fingernail Art,
  • Greeting Card Making,
  • Origami,
  • Room Decorating,
  • Scrapbooking,
  • Stamping Art,
  • Valentines.