What's Your Favorite Bug?: inspiring a love of art and reading

Great art is clear thinking about mixed feelings
— W. H. Auden
bugcover3.jpg

When I think of picture books my thoughts always go to the story, which is funny considering we call them ‘picture’ books. But the artwork has a huge impact on our emotions and impressions when reading a picture book, adding depth and feeling. Talking about the artwork is so useful for developing emotional intelligence as we discuss things like:

-       How do you think a character is feeling?

-       How does this picture/page make you feel? Why?

-       What extra information is added by the pictures that? Does it change the story?

I am sometimes hesitant to discuss the artwork because I feel completely under-qualified to talk about art. Thankfully I recently found What’s Your Favourite Bug? in the library and it has given me a new drive to appreciate and educate myself about art. It’s a book written by Eric Carle (author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar) and a number of other picture book illustrators. Each artist answers the question What’s Your Favorite Bug? with words and artwork.

Two of my favourites are:

Dragonfly by Beth Krommes (Illustrator of ‘Grandmother Winter’ and others)

“Dragonflies symbolize courage, strength, and happiness. Many are iridescent and colourful, shimmering like jewels in the sunshine. Fierce hunters and fast fliers, they can zoom in any direction, including backwards and sideways. Best of all, dragonflies eat mosquitoes.”

“Dragonflies symbolize courage, strength, and happiness. Many are iridescent and colourful, shimmering like jewels in the sunshine. Fierce hunters and fast fliers, they can zoom in any direction, including backwards and sideways. Best of all, dragonflies eat mosquitoes.”

And Moths by Teagan White (Illustrator of ‘That’s Me Loving You’ and others)

“I like Moths, they come out at night and make the dark less lonely”

“I like Moths, they come out at night and make the dark less lonely”

Each page gives a unique insight to the artist, and of course it’s filled with absolutely amazing artwork! It’s a great invitation to discuss the art with kids. Simple questions like:

-       ‘What does this picture make you think of?’

-       ‘Does this picture make you feel anything?’

-       ‘What do you like about this picture?’

Conversations like this can help give children the words and confidence to express their impressions and feelings around art and life.

It’s also great fun to discuss bugs!

If bugs aren’t your thing you might like What’s Your Favorite Color?, What’s Your Favorite Food? or What’s Your Favorite Animal? all of which are done in the same format.

 What’s Your Favorite Bug?:
by Eric Carle and Friends – Henry Holt and Company, 2018
ages 2 to 10 years / art + coffee table

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Because Amelia Smiled: how a little girl's smiles went round the world and back

Because Amelia Smiled: how a little girl's smiles went round the world and back

This is a wonderfully circular book. Amelia smiles, her smile is contagious and spreads all around the world and finally finds its way back to her - and she smiles again!

I love a book that shows (but doesn’t preach about) the interconnectedness of people around the world – this book manages exactly that.

And I think the key is the joyfulness of the illustrations. There’s a fuzziness* to them that invites the reader into the edges of the world each character inhabits. 

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Emma And The Whale: life is full when we have a respectful connection with nature

Emma And The Whale: life is full when we have a respectful connection with nature

Jesse gave us Emma And The Whale by Julie Case when we first moved here and it perfectly matches our new found reverence for the ocean.

Emma is a young girl who lives in an old crooked house, but she doesn’t mind because it’s near the ocean, and that is her favourite place to be.

‘After school, Emma always took her dog, Nemo, to play at the beach. They combed the shore for shells and stones and sea glass. At low tide, that’s when they found the best treasures.

Sometimes Emma saw whales in the water. Sometimes she saw dolphins, and once a loggerhead turtle. She liked to picture an ocean teeming with life, with no balloons or bottles spit to shore.’

The magic and mystery of the ocean solidifies one foggy day when Emma discovers a beached baby whale.

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The Whirlpool: a book to scaffold language about emotions

The Whirlpool: a book to scaffold language about emotions

It can happen that, in the midst of crisis, children need explicit words to help them give structure to fears and thoughts and hopes. The Whirlpool is a book for those times.

I’ve seen the power of read-it-before-you-need-it books many times and, with that solid foundation, a book that gives words to feelings can be the next piece in the puzzle that is emotional resilience.

In The Whirlpool, we see ourselves in the everyday life of a sweet polar bear who is full of confidence and brimming with happiness while he is  '… a mastermind. A storyteller. A traveller and adventurer.”

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Petra: an endearing tale of optimism

Petra: an endearing tale of optimism

ages 2 to 8 My kids have a thing for rocks. Our house is full of ‘cool rocks’ that have been picked up nearly every time we go outside. They use them as a phone, a pet, a magic crystal and everything in between. I’m still trying to work out what exactly it is that makes some rocks ‘cool’ and others just a rock. I think in the end it comes down to perception – the potential the kids see in each rock, and there’s an important life lesson in that.

It’s a lesson that is taught in a gentle way in Petra by Marianna Coppo.

Petra may be a rock, but she’s not ‘just’ a rock.

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Is there a parent who hasn't dreamt of a peaceful night's sleep?

Or worried about how a child will cope with an unkind friend, a new teacher, a move to a new home?

At WTBA we collect thoughts, ideas, research and of course books that address those universal concerns and the dreams that go with them. Things like sleep and emotional resilience as well as embracing diversity, healthy lifestyles, coping with anger and more: the sorts of things that occupy the head space of parents, grandparents, educators and, hopefully, policy makers.

Our great hope is that this will be a place to share wisdom. We hope you’ll share your tips as well as your questions - perhaps you have found a way to soothe an angry child that works every time, or perhaps you’re hoping someone else has. There’s a comments link at the end of each of our posts, and of course you can always email us or connect via facebook or instagram. (We’re on pinterest too, but not doing much on twitter for the time being.

Please have a look around – we’d love to hear from you in any comments at all. xx

8 joyful, powerful books that teach s.t.e.m. by osmosis

8 joyful, powerful books that teach s.t.e.m. by osmosis

This post was first published in June 2017. It listed the fastest growing future jobs, with percentage growth predicted over the following five years (U.S.).

Crystal-balling the future is ever moving, but those predictions still seem to be pretty much on point. Which means today's kids will need to become comfortable with s.t.e.m. and s.t.e.a.m. concepts (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) as part of everyday life!

Fortunately, there's a wonderful subset of picture books to help with that. They're fun, beautiful and powerful, and they lead kids to the point of becoming s.t.e.m. and s.t.e.a.m. natives—which gives them so much advantage in interacting with the world, however it turns out for them.

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