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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: birds, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Mail Art: Birds on Envelopes

This is one of the projects I've been working on recently, for an art college class. Yes, birds and mail art. Wonderful. Loads of cutting, slicing, collaging, and then drawing and painting, was done. I ended up with a couple of options to work on, and liked them both but ended up picking this one below for the final review.



I went through a bit of exploration and research and managed to develop quite a fascination with ravens, sifting through poems such as Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven', folklore, fairy-tales, fables--almost picked Aesop's The Crow and the Pitcher--so it isn't too surprising that I went with this pair in the end ... In Norse mythology, Huginn (from Old Norse "thought") and Muninn (Old Norse "memory" or "mind") are a pair of ravens that fly all over the world of Midgard, and bring information and news back to the god Odin. Flying messengers. Perfect.

I've depicted them as a white and black raven, and addressed the envelope to them. Their names are written in ancient Nordic runes just above their respective beaks. Yes, there's a message inside as well, written on rice paper 'parchment'. Private, of course. Let's hope that the envelope will eventually be returned to sender (me!) with a postal mark to show that it's been in the system. Here's a glimpse of the bit of mess I made while researching and working on the project ...




Here's the back of the envelope with a depiction of the Nordic mythical Tree of Life, Yggdrasil ...




The ravens and the tree were paper cuttings (my sketch book suffered somewhat) that I painted (watercolour for the birds and some marker pen on the tree) and collaged onto the envelope. On the front I'd also glued crosswords (to symbolize thought, naturally) onto the original white envelope, and then placed a thin sheet of rice paper over the whole thing so that it looked like parchment, slightly aged. I quite like the result, what do you think?

The other attempt at mail art was slightly a different one: I made an envelope from black paper and then cut straight into it, collaging and shading only the white bird on the front. Then I placed white paper inside the envelope so that it showed through the snipped out leaves, flowers and insects.




Simple, but I think it's quite cute. The back is a more abstract representation of a (meaner) raven and its wings, can you see it?




I did like this black and white bit of mail art, but once I'd begun on the research for the winged messengers of Odin, I fell in love with them and that was pretty much that. I think I made the right choice picking them as my final piece, what do you think? There are infinite possibilities for both options though, and I may end up using them somehow on cards and other goodies, so keep an eye out for them up at the Floating Lemons shops in the near future ...

Meanwhile, I wish you a fantastic week. Cheers.


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2. Inktober Day 12 #inktober #inktober2014

Inktober 12
Micron Brush Pen & Micron Pigma Black Pen 05.

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3. Sing like nothing else matters !

When you are feeling all alone, if you just sing out loud you may be surprised how many others will join in with you …JDMn6Birds62920141

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Here are some pictures from the album launch of Kawakawa's new album, "Island Species".
It's beautiful, and we had a great evening.
There were some very strange birds present...

All photos: Peter John Morgan

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5. The Further Adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Wren–Secrecy Gives Way to Hunger

The Adventures continue…and you can read more here: The Tales of Mr. and Mrs. Wren Filed under: Nature's design Tagged: birds, eggs, feeding, hatchlings, insects, nest, nesting, wrens

0 Comments on The Further Adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Wren–Secrecy Gives Way to Hunger as of 8/25/2014 3:05:00 PM
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6. Telephone by Mac Barnett Illustrated by Jen Corace

Telephone Wires With Birds on Top?
Not unusual in the City!

There is a new book called Telephone by Mac Barnett and Illustrated by Jen Corace that uses this idea to tell a delightful story.  The book takes a spin on the old childhood game called Telephone where children whisper a message and it usually gets all mixed up.   

In this book the author and illustrator have created colorful birds and fun messages.  The Mama bird starts the message by telling a red birdie - Tell Peter: Fly Home For Dinner. 

The message continues from bird to bird and bird and gets a little more mixed up each time.   

The question is can the correct message reach Peter?   Children will enjoy this title and will probably want to play a game of telephone just like the birds.  

Pick up a copy on September 9.   On a side note check out the Bird Call Lady who knows 146 bird calls.

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7. #637 – Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle


Flora and the Flamingo

by Molly Idle
Chronicle Books        2013
978-1-4521-1006-6                             CALDECOTT HONOR BOOKtop-10-use-eb-trans
Age 4 to 8       32 pages

“Friendship is a beautiful dance. In this innovative wordless book, a tentative partnership blooms into an unlikely friendship between a girl named Flora and a graceful flamingo. With a twist, a turn, and even a flop, these unlikely friends learn at last how to dance together in perfect harmony. Artist Molly Idle has created a story full of humor and heart, with emotions that leap off the page, and memorable characters who are worthy of countless standing ovations.”


A flamingo, peacefully standing one-legged in the water, turns its head to look behind it and eyes one little girl, named Flora, standing one-legged in the water, imitating the flamingo, who then turns her head to look behind her.


Do you remember repeating everything your older sibling said or mimicking every movement, just because you could? Flora mimics the flamingo, but not to get the flamingo’s goat. The little girl, in her pink one-piece swimsuit and pink flowered swim cap, takes on the flamingo’s graceful movements and the two begin a beautiful duet.

Words would undeniably be a distraction in the story of Flora and the Flamingo. Movement flows from a variety of flip pages attached atop Flora or the flamingo on several of the pages. For example, Flora imitates the flamingo’s stance:  standing on one leg, head tucked under a wing. Flip down the flaps and the stances change. Both dancers remain on one leg, but now each twists her head toward the other, possibly checking to ensure the other is still there.


The flamingo is Flora’s mirror, or maybe Flora is the flamingo’s mirror. Each bend, each stretch, each turn, and each look magically appear on both characters at the same time. Flora and the Flamingo will make you giggle and grin. Young girls will love the mystical dance between these two unlikeliest of friends. Before a friendship can be established, the flamingo LETS Flora have it! The shock of flamingo’s sharp bleat flips Flora over and up, landing her on her rear, unhappy. Flora turns her back, refusing to play any longer, but the flamingo finds this worse than being shadowed. It offers Flora a wing, which Flora thinks about before allowing flamingo to help her to her feet.  (Are these two friends or siblings?)

At the moment of friendship, when Flora and the flamingo become dancing partners instead of solo acts, the spread takes on a drastic change. The two begin together on one page. They had begun their awkward dance with the flamingo firmly staying on the left page and Flora on the opposing right page of the spread. Now both are on the right page, figuratively and physically. Their movements become wider, and joyous. The two fly across the spread, smiling as they float, as if on ice. Then there is a big finale, as all great ballets should have. The finale is a wonderful dance only Flora and her flamingo can perform, together in the same spotlight, four pages in length. BRAVO!


Girls will love this graceful dance between friends, especially those little girls starting their first ballet lessons, wearing their pink tutus, and pink leotards, and some with pink ballet shoes, while others still will have pink ribbons in their hair. Flora is at her first class and flamingo is the instructor. This makes a wonderful baby-shower gift, when the parents-to-be know they have a girl on the way.  Flora and the Flamingo is a beautiful book, with brilliant illustrations that float across the pages. It is no surprise Flora and the Flamingo became a Caldecott Honor Book. The medal winner must have been an amazingly illustrated picture book to beat out these two graceful dancers.

FLORA AND THE FLAMINGO. Story and Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Molly Idle. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Purchase  Flora and the Flamingo at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryiTunesChronicle Booksyour favorite bookstore.


Learn more about Flora and the Flamingo HERE.

Meet the author / illustrator, Molly Idle, at her website:      http://idleillustration.com/

Find more books that are luscious at the Chronicle Books website:    http://www.chroniclebooks.com/


Also by Molly Idle













Flora and the Penguin                    2014

Flora and the Penguin


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: ballet, birds, Caldecott Honnor Book, children's book reviews, Chronicle Books, dance, flamingo, girl's picture book, Molly Idle, penguins, picture book, poetry in motion

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8. What to Do on a Rainy July 4th: Watch a Hummingbird!

This female ruby-throated hummingbird has been perched on the feeder outside my window for some two hours. Unlike larger birds, such as finches, she doesn't care how close I get to the window in my bright red shirt, and is unfazed when I move the camera. Every few minutes she takes a drink or two from the feeder. I even saw her tongue!

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9. Max the Brave by Ed Vere. Warning: this post really does contain cute kittens

Image: Paul Reynolds

Image: Paul Reynolds

Image: DomiKetu

Image: DomiKetu

Image: Merlijn Hoek

Image: Merlijn Hoek

Kittens and Cute. They go together like purple and prickles, tigers and teatime, picnics and lashings of ginger beer.

maxthebraveAnd in Max the Brave by Ed Vere (@ed_vere) we meet another very cute kitten. He’s small, and black and has big bright eyes.

But even though every reader who picks up this book will definitely find Max adorable and charming, Max himself definitely does not want to be called cute. He wants to be big, grown up and brave. And to prove his mettle he’s going to hunt down his nemesis… a mouse.

But therein lies a problem. Max does not know what a mouse looks like.

The kitten’s not-knowing-any-better does indeed result in displays of exuberant courage and kids every where will identify with Max’s desire to be be hailed a hero, his refusal to lose face and the simple joy and playfulness of the chase to say nothing of the everyday challenges which arise from simply having to learn how the world works and what it made up of.

This book is an example of storytelling – in both words and pictures – whittled down to the very purest. With only a word or two on many pages, plain typesetting, apparently simple, unadorned illustrations (where much of the impact comes from the page colour and large empty spaces rather than highly detailed or vast drawings). In its bareness there is a direct line to the story, the humour, the characters. There’s nowhere for this story to hide, no embellishments, no fancy details, and this clarity gives the storytelling a freshness that is bold and very exciting.

Restraint may be present in Vere’s brushstrokes (he captures moments of determination, puzzlement, fear poetically and precisely – just take a close look at Max’s eyes on each page to get a sense of what I mean), but this is vividly contrasted with an exuberant use of colour to fill the pages. From Meg and Mog to several fabulous books by Tim Hopgood and one of my most recent reviews, The Cake, there’s a great tradition in picture books of banishing white pages and using glorious swathes of intense colour to the very edge of the pages. One could do some fascinating research into background page colour and emotions at any given point in the story; here, for example, the pages are red when Max is annoyed, and blue with things are quieting down and Max is feeling soothed.

Readers and listeners to Max the Brave may hear echoes of the Gruffalo’s Child with its themes of bravery and danger as a result of not knowing what something looks like, but perhaps more satisfying will be the recognition of characters (or at least their close relatives) from other books by Vere. Is that Fingers McGraw being sneaky once again? Could that be the monster from Bedtime for Monsters making a guest appearance? And indeed, is Max related somehow to the Bungles in Too Noisy? How lovely to be able to imagine these characters having such an real, independent life that they can walk out of one book and into another.

Packed with so much laughter and sweet appeal this book will prove a hit with many, many families. It’s certainly one we’ve taken to our heart – so much so that the kids wanted to make their own Max and retell his story in their own inimitable style.

First J sewed a black kitty out of felt, with pipe cleaners for arms, legs (and one stuffed in Max’s tale so it could be posed.



M (pen name: Quenelda the Brave) then used our new Max to create montages for each page in Ed Vere’s gorgeous book. She modelled her scenes quite precisely, took a photo, and then (as a veteran of adding moustaches and more to photos in the newspaper) edited her photos in a graphics editor to add her own sprinkling of magic.


Here are a couple of pages showing Ed’s original work (reproduced with permission) and the corresponding scene M created:


“This is Max. Doesn’t he look sweet!”


“Max looks so sweet that sometimes people dress him up in ribbons.”


“Max does not like being dressed up in ribbons.

Because Max is a fearless kitten.
Max is a brave kitten.
Miax is a kitten who chases mice.”


Here are a couple more spreads created by M (with guest appearances by Elmer as the elephant in Vere’s book, and a Wild Thing who is mistaken for a mouse.)



M had enormous fun (and showed a lot of dedication!) with this – she’s recreated the entire book out of her love for Max. I wonder what Max will get you and your kids doing…

Here’s some of the music we listened to whilst making Max and our fan-fiction:

  • Kitty Fight Song by Joe McDermott. WARNING: this video contains lots of very cute kittens….
  • Monsters, Inc. by Randy Newman
  • Another theme tune – this time to the 1958 film Mighty Mouse

  • Other activities which would go well alongside reading Max the Brave include:

  • Dressing each other up in ribbons and super hero capes. Make Mum look silly by tying bows all over here! Make the kids look invincible by making capes for them (here’s a selection of tutorials)
  • Reading Max the Brave to a cat. Several ‘Kids Read to Animal’ programmes now exist around the word; these reading programmes are believed to help kids learn to read presumably by making the whole experience enjoyable and building the kids’ confidence. Here’s a newspaper article from earlier this year if you want to find out more.
  • Learning about sneezing: There is a terrific (in all sorts of senses) sneeze in Max the Brave. This video found on one of our favourite websites, The Kid Should See This, is beautiful and revolting, fascinating and mathematically amazing all at the same time!
  • What’s the cutest book you’ve read recently?

    Disclosure: I received a free, review copy of Max the Brave from the publisher.

    Image: Marine del Castell

    Image: Marine del Castell

    1 Comments on Max the Brave by Ed Vere. Warning: this post really does contain cute kittens, last added: 6/15/2014
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    10. Early Birdy Gets the Worm: Bruce Lansky & Bill Bolton

    Book: Early Birdy Gets the Worm
    Creator: Bruce Lansky
    Illustrator: Bill Bolton
    Pages: 24
    Age Range: 2-5

    Early Birdy Gets the Worm is billed by the publisher, Meadowbrook, as "A PictureReading(TM) Book for Young Children". The end flaps include a User's Guide for Parents and Teachers on using PictureReading books (with pictures telling the story) to support storytelling with young kids. The guide says: "The ultimate goal of PictureReading is to turn over to the child the role of figuring out the plot points and connecting them with a narrative thread as soon as possible." So, something like a wordless picture book that is meant for the child to lead the reading of, instead of the parent taking the lead. An early reader without any words, if that makes any sense. 

    For me, however, a book has to be judged on how good it is, not on what the intentions are. It needs to be a book, rather than a "parenting resource". And in the end, I liked Early Birdy Gets the Worm as a wordless picture book, but I didn't love it. It's the story of a young bird who is inspired by seeing his mother pull a worm out of the ground to try to do the same thing himself (with less than successful outcomes). Bolton's illustrations are gentle, and convey a mild humor, though his backgrounds seem overly simplistic.

    I think that Early Birdy's setbacks will make kids laugh, even as they feel a bit protective of the fuzzy brown chick. For example, he see a bit of pink poking out of a tree trunk and pulls, only to find an irate mouse at the other end. The expressions of the characters are slightly exaggerated, to make sure that kids can follow the story. 

    I found the conclusion to Early Bird Gets the Worm disappointing, however. He's never able to get a worm himself. He goes back to his nest, and then his mother brings him a worm. The message feels like: Try, but don't worry, if it doesn't work out, Mommy or Daddy will take care of you. And while this is doubtless true in most cases, I found it unsatisfying in a narrative sense. 

    I will try this one out with my four-year-old daughter. And thinking about this book has inspired me to try to be a bit more interactive when reading with her, to encourage her to tell the story. Early Birdy is definitely cute. But I'll be surprised if Early Birdy Gets the Worm lands a spot on our regular re-reading list. 

    Publisher: Meadowbrook
    Publication Date: May 6
    Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

    FTC Required Disclosure:

    This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

    © 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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    11. All I said was…

    Red Squirrel, a new imprint from Barrington Stoke, is dedicated to creating exciting picture books.

    Fair Enough.

    But what makes them sit especially tall on the bookshelf is that as well as superb storytelling and inventive illustrations, these picture books contain lots of dyslexia friendly features so that grown-ups with dyslexia can also experience the joy of reading aloud to the kids in their lives.

    all i said was 2One of their first offerings, All I said Was, written by former children’s laureate, Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Ross Collins is a cautionary tale about the dangers of wish fulfilment.

    Have you ever been reading a book and then fallen into a reverie imagining yourself as the character you’re reading about?

    This is exactly what happens in All I said Was, and as a consequence – with the help of just a little magic, a boy and a bird swap places.

    The boy-turned-bird is delighted. “This flying lark is amazing. I wan to to be a bird all my life.

    The bird-turned-boy is also pleased as punch: He discovers the joy of being able to read.

    But is bird-life really all it’s cracked up to be? And can the magic ever be undone?

    A quietly funny celebration of the power of a good book to transport us anywhere – safely – this is lovely story, told clearly and concisely. Its theme makes it particulars appropriate for opening a new venture which will hopefully enable more families to enjoy more stories.


    Collins’ characterization and visual humour are especially strong (I particularly like his farmer and pigs). The illustrator also has the final say with a brilliant twist in the tale once Morpurgo’s words are complete. It’s a brilliantly satisfying, slightly naughty and rather funny end to a super book.

    This is a book that could be enjoyed for so may different reasons – whether you’re looking for a prime example of illustrations doing so much to enrich a written text, a book celebrating how books can bring our imagination to life, or simply a funny story to share at bedtime – whether or not you yourself sometimes struggle with the written word.

    All I can say is: Hurrah for Red Squirrel and their broadening of what it means for picture books to be inclusive.

    Both M and J said they too would love to experience flying like a bird. The nearest I could offer them was the joy of flying…. a kite, made to look like a bird. Ah well, us parents, we can only try our best ;-)

    We cut out very rough bird shapes from old plastic bags which we decorated with permanent pens. Once the feathers, beaks and eyes were in place we attached thin doweling to our birds. I used this commercial product as a starting point, cross referencing it with these instructions for making a diamond kite to come up with All-I-Said-Was-Kites Mark 1.


    We each made one kite and then imagined us swapping places with the birds as we flew them.



    Additional activities which could work well alongside reading All I said Was include:

  • Reading another be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale, for example, The Fish who could Wish by John Bush, illustrated by Korky Paul.
  • Making a set of beautiful paper wings like we did here, when reading Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar.
  • Chasing pigeons. I don’t know a child who doesn’t love chasing pigeons!
    Photo: Owen Jell

    Photo: Owen Jell

  • Music that goes well with All I said Was and the playing it induced in us includes:

  • Let’s Go Fly a Kite – from the film of Mary Poppins
  • Keep The Park Clean For The Pigeons – from Sesame Stree
  • Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra

  • If you could swap places with a character in a children’s book, which character would you swap places with (bearing in mind whoever you swapped with would take your place in your family/classroom/library….)?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of All I said Was from the publisher.

    3 Comments on All I said was…, last added: 6/3/2014
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    12. birdy

    Happy monday!
    This guy is part of some pattern sketches I did earlier this spring. I still like him, but I think I've learned a lot about patterns since then. This week I have some fun stuff to work on and a family trip to the big city (NYC!) to prepare for. I will check back tomorrow though, and show you the process for my piece for this month's bootcamp gallery (and my exciting Photoshop progress! - exciting to me at least) 
    I hope you're all off to a good start this morning.

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    13. IF: Voyage

    Pirate_Tub_SIDEAThis makes for quite an interesting voyage!

    Working on fun things this week. Starting with a fun little spread about a family of birds. I love that I get to flex some background work in this one..I always loved working on buildings and such.


     More work talk of work to come.

    Until then Happy Week!

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    14. Book Review: 'Beth's Birds,' by Deanna K. Klingel

    This book review is part of a 5-day virtual tour sponsored by the National Writing for Children Center, a showcase for children's book authors and illustrators.

    Title: Beth’s Birds
    Genre: Education, Preschool & Kindergarten, picture
    Author: Deanna K. Klingel
    Publisher: Peak City Publishing, LLC

    Book description
    Little Beth romps through her personal playground showing how she learns the proper names and characteristics of her bird friends. Her antics come alive in the delightful illustrations.

    My thoughts...

    Join our young narrator, little Beth, in a journey of discovery and she describes the birds around her house, from the moment she wakes up to later in the day. First is Jenny Wren, the little brown bird that wakes her up with its bright, cheery song. Then it's the woodpecker who loves to join her when she's having her oatmeal breakfast, and so on throughout the day as she feeds them and even gives them a party. 

    Beth's Birds is a charming educational story with gorgeous bird illustrations. The language is simple and very appropriate for young minds. Children will not only learn about the different birds, but also ways to care for them and even how to make them a peanut butter cone. The story brings attention to the beauty of nature and how soothing it can be to interact with it. Recommended!

    About the Author
    Deanna lives in the mountains of western North Carolina with her husband Dave and their golden retriever Buddy. Their seven children, spouses and eleven grandchildren are scattered around the southeast. Deanna enjoys traveling with her books and visiting friends and family along the way.

    Connect with Deanna on the Web:


    0 Comments on Book Review: 'Beth's Birds,' by Deanna K. Klingel as of 5/9/2014 5:32:00 AM
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    15. Secrets of ‘The Ice Bear’ – an insight from Jackie Morris

    Jackie at a recent book signing.

    Jackie at a recent book signing.

    Last month Jackie Morris‘ haunting book The Ice Bear was released in a new paperback edition. To celebrate this I asked Jackie to share a little of the background to this bewitching story, to share some the book’s secrets.

    If you’ve already got a copy of the book you might want to have it to hand whilst you read what she reveals, so you can go back and look at the images with fresh eyes. And if you haven’t already found a place in your home for this piece of art between two covers, … well perhaps this post ought to come with a warning notice. There’s magic in and on the pages of The Ice Bear. Prepare to be charmed and enchanted.

    The Ice Bear began with an image in my mind’s eye. It was an image of a child, kneeling. Around the child there were bears, so that the child looked like the centre of a daisy and the bears were the petals. My job was to work out how to get the child there, and probably more important, how to get him out again. This is what books are about for me, asking and answering questions, and in the process discovering more questions.


    The Ice Bear began with a friend, pregnant with her first child. Something went wrong. The baby stopped moving, at full term. He died. She had to deliver a stillborn child. A tragedy for her and the child and her husband. The way people reacted to this was a shock to me. Quick, rush over it, brush over it, hide it under business, do anything but face the pain. (Not Sophie and Jon. They couldn’t rush over it, hide it, they had to face it.) I wanted to do a book about a lost child, about loosing a child. This was a thread that wove into the book. Though few would know if I didn’t say and the book is dedicated to Rhoderic, and Sophie and Jon and also to Katie and Thomas who were born by the time the book came out.

    Some of Jackie's first sketches for The Ice Bear

    Some of Jackie’s first sketches for The Ice Bear

    The Ice Bear began with a wish to do a book about polar bears, and to weave into it transformation and a legend, of the trickster and the shaman.

    The Ice Bear began when the flight of a raven began to stitch together ideas with its patterned flight in the Pembrokeshire sky, because all books are like rivers, fed by streams of ideas, coming together.

    The book is part of a series of books I have written about animals, each with a cover that is a portrait of the animal, staring out from the book. The covers are strong, almost iconic, and the books are often given shelf space so that the whole cover is seen, rather than being placed spine out on a shelf. I am told by bookshops who put the in the window that they work like a charm to bring people in to the shop, and one shop in Edinburgh said that people often missed their bus as they crossed the road to get a better look at the Snow Leopard when that was in the window. There’s something about eyes looking straight at you that still holds a primitive magic over the wild parts of the human consciousness. When I paint an animal in this way I am not searching for the humanity in the animal. I am searching for the soul, the spirit of the creature.

    Some of Jackie's covers, including her forthcoming 'Something About a Bear'

    Some of Jackie’s covers, including her forthcoming ‘Something About a Bear’

    Having ‘begun’ with an image the story then builds into a balance of words and images. Picture books are meant to be read aloud. The language needs to taste good in the ear, to look right where it sits on the page. A picture book is like a theatre, each page a stage set for that part of the story and in designing each page I often include parts of the stories that are only in the pictures. Once open I try to keep the words inside the pictures. I want the book to become a world where the pictures and the words tell the story. The composition is thought out right to the corners and often the corners and edges are where the main focus of the story is. (You can see this best in the picture where the child finds his mother bear. The image dominated the page but in the top right hand corner there is the figure of the father, charging in).


    I paint on smooth paper, arches hot pressed, beginning with pale washes and then building and building with layers and then smaller details. The paints that I use are Winsor and Newton Artist Quality watercolours, usually tubes, and I use ceramic palettes. I know these colours quite well now after 25 years of working with them. I know when to run wet into wet and how much water to use. Now I use sable brushes. They carry the paint so well and a brush like a series 7, no. 4 will allow a wide wash but also can pull the finest line when handled right. And in the same way that writing is like finding the answers to a series of questions, so too is painting. I am constantly asking myself questions, about composition and colour and line and finding the answers is what makes the book.


    In The Ice Bear the mother and the father each have a totem animal. The mother’s is the Arctic fox, and often when it seems that the child is alone on the ice you can see the fox is there somewhere, watching. The father’s is the owl, a fierce sky hunter. The boy’s is the bear and always will be. And raven, the trickster, a character who is perhaps a force for good, perhaps bad. He steals the bear child, but takes him to the hunter and his wife who have longed for a child. And when it is time he leads him back across the ice and joins the bear people with the human people forever. So is she good, or bad?

    During the telling of a tale things can change. When I originally wrote The Ice Bear the raven lured the child out over the ice with small shards of sea glass. But I had wanted the book to be set long before glass was invented. The child becomes the first shaman, a bridge between humanity and the bear people. It was a time when there were no borders and people wondered the land without any border controls. There was no concept of ownership of land. The very idea would have seemed ridiculous. And so I looked for something else, something more timeless and lit upon the idea of amber. Amber is natural, not a manufactured thing. And I have a necklace of amber beads that if taken apart by a mischievous raven would look just like the broken amber heart in the snow.

    Jackie's amber necklace

    Jackie’s amber necklace

    The Ice Bear has been published now in many languages, French, Spanish, Catalan, Danish, Swedish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese. This is one of the things I love about working with books. Words found on a hill top in Wales can travel the world. I also love the democracy of books. Paintings in a gallery are expensive and usually bought to be hung in one home. Books can be bought, translated, and borrowed from libraries. They can be shared.”

    My thanks go to Jackie for so generously sharing some of the stories behind The Ice Bear.

    The House of the Golden Dreams (an art gallery featuring Jackie’s work): https://www.facebook.com/TheHouseofGoldenDreams
    Jackie on Twitter: @JackieMorrisArt
    Jackie’s blog: http://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/blog/

    3 Comments on Secrets of ‘The Ice Bear’ – an insight from Jackie Morris, last added: 5/5/2014
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    16. A Rainbow of Birds by Janet Halfman, Illustrated by Jack Foster

    Birds have their legends just like people do, and baby birds love to hear the stories. Papa Cardinal, whose job it is to pass down bird ways to his chicks, tells them the story of how birds gave the world the rainbow.  A Rainbow of Birds (Guardian Angel Publishing) by Janet Halfmann is one of the most colorful books I've seen from Jack Foster. He went all out bringing the colors of the

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    17. Feathers Not Just for Flying – Perfect Picture Book Friday.

    Title: Feathers Not Just for Flying Written by Melissa Stewart Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen Published by Charlesbridge, 2014 Ages: 6 through adult Themes: feathers, birds, First lines: Birds and feathers go together, like trees and leaves, like stars and the sky. All … Continue reading

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    18. The Dawn Chorus – a pretty picture book whether you’re a night owl or an early bird

    Did you know that on Sunday it is International Dawn Chorus Day? It’s a day where all around the globe people will be rising early to greet the dawn and simply listen to bird song. If you can’t find a local event to join in with, you could instead simply curl up with The Dawn Chorus by Suzanne Barton (@suzannebarton0).

    dawnchorusfrontcoverPeep the bird wakes to the sound of wonderful song. He’s determined to find out who’s singing so beautifully; could it be the owl, the mouse or the frog? Eventually he stumbles on a flock of birds, and he has his answer: It’s the Dawn Chorus!

    And oh, how beautifully they sing. Peep is determined to join their ranks, but despite practising hard, he keeps missing his early morning auditions. Is there a reason why he’s not cut out to sing at first light? Will Peep every be able to fill the sky with gorgeous song?

    A charming addition to the ranks of picture books which explore how creatures (or indeed we, the readers) react when we find out we don’t quite belong (I’m thinking, for example of Stellaluna, and Croc and Bird), The Dawn Chorus is a delightful, soothing tale about perseverance, and discovering who we truly are.


    The eyecatching illustrations make great use of visual texture, with collage, decoration and especially effective looping swoops of paintbrush and patterns, capturing playful flight and joyful flurries of song. The restricted earthy orange/red/yellow palette makes this book gently glow – just like a warm sunrise held in your hands as you read.

    Taking our lead from the cute birds in Barton’s book we decided to make our own flock to sing to us. I cut out several bird bodies, and cut slits in the middle of them.


    The girls used doilies like stencils to decorate the birds’ chests, and then decorated those doilies (coloured them in) before folding them accordion style and then slipping them into the slits. Gently we slightly opened out the doilies to create wings, which we held in place with paperclips. We finished off the birds with small hand-drawn eyes, and tails created by taking half a doily and folding that like a fan before taping in place.


    M and J then took the flock out to the garden, where they settled in our cherry tree.




    Whilst making our birds we listened to:

  • The Dawn Chorus by Spiers and Boden (click to listen for free on MySpace). If you want to learn to play this yourself, you can find the details here.
  • Birdsong FM – “an immersive experience designed to help busy city goers to escape the grind and get more relaxation in their day. It is currently available for iPhone/iPad, Android and the web.”
  • Cantus Arcticus (Concerto for Birds and Orchestra) by Einojuhani Rautavaara. This lovely piece of classical music is overlaid with birdsong. I discovered it when I heard children’s author and illustrator Mairi Hedderwick being interviewed on BBC Radio.

  • Other activities which would go well alongside reading The Dawn Chorus include:

  • Making a spring tree table decorations with colourful leaves. Perhaps something like this scrap paper tree centrepiece from Everyday Mom Ideas, or a similar lovely idea using twigs and tissue paper from My Nearest and Dearest.
  • Learn to identify nightingales. The RSPB has a great page here, with illustrations and audio files.
  • Yes, you’ve guessed it: Wake the kids up REALLY early and head out to listen to the dawn chorus. The BBC has produced a handy leaflet with some tips, including games.
  • Do let me know if any of you make it on early on Sunday 4th of May!

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Dawn Chorus from the publisher.

    3 Comments on The Dawn Chorus – a pretty picture book whether you’re a night owl or an early bird, last added: 5/1/2014
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    19. Science Poetry Pairings - Birds

    Some of my favorite sights while walking to work are the birds. There are always a large number of geese and ducks, but it's the heron (if I see him) and the cormorants that really capture my attention. Birds have inspired my nature journals, my poems, and reading for many years.

    Today's pairing (okay, it's a sextet really) is inspired by our feathered friends.

    Poetry Books
    Jane Yolen and her son Jason Stemple have collaborated on a number of poetry books with birds as the subject. To get a feel for the depth and vibrancy of the images in these books, be sure to check out some of Jason's bird photos. Here's an overview of these books.
    Wild Wings: Poems for Young People - The first collaboration between Jane and her son focused on birds, this collection of 14 poems was inspired by the stunning photos.

    Fine Feathered Friends: Poems for Young People - The second book on birds in the Yolen-Stemple collaboration includes even more gorgeous photographs and inspired poems in a variety of forms.

    An Egret's Day - This third collection focuses exclusively on the egret. That neck! Those feet! Photos get up close and personal and allow readers to see this magnificent bird from every angle. Poems full of metaphor and keen observation tell us much about these birds. Also included is factual information. 
    Bird's of a Feather -  The most recent book in the bird collaboration, contains 14 poems in a variety of forms, each accompanied by a brief bit of informational text.
    One of the features I particularly like about BIRDS OF A FEATHER is the Foreword by ornithologist Dr. Donald Kroodsma. It begins this way.
    As an ornithologist and obsessed with the details in the daily lives of birds, I know these eagles and chickadees and kingfishers and the other fine birds in this book. But after absorbing the poems and photographs here, I'll never see these birds again in the same way.
    . . .
    Scientists collect numbers and study the details, but these poems and photographs give us another angle, reminding us that birds are far more than an accumulation of facts.
    Here's a poem and the accompanying informational text.

    A Solitary Wood Duck

    In the green scene,
    in the emerald setting,
    where pondweed chokes
    the green, green waters,
    one thing is not green.
    A solitary wood duck—
              face glowing,
              flag face showing
              its colors,
              like an admiral's warship—
    sails unconcernedly through all that green.
              We surrender,
              we surrender,
              we surrender to your beauty.

    The wood duck (Aix sponsa) can be found in wooded swamps and in streams, ponds, and lakes. One of the few North American ducks that nest in tree holes, the wood duck also uses man-made nesting boxes. The day after wood ducklings hatch, they jump to the ground and often waddle many yards away to find a body of water, because they already know how to swim.

    Poem and Text ©Jane Yolen. All rights reserved.

    Nonfiction Picture Books
    Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why, written and illustrated by Lita Judge, focuses on methods of communication, both verbal and nonverbal, for 28 different birds around the world. Gorgeous watercolor illustrations are carefully placed on the page with text blocks situated in a way that draws attention to both. The text is carefully researched and infinitely readable, presenting surprises and what will surely be new information to readers. Exceptionally well-organized, the communication messages are broken into sections that are carefully sequenced. 

    It begins this way. 

    Chirp, warble, quack,
    coo, rattle, screech!

    In backyards, meadows, and forests, the air is filled with bird talk.
    But what are they saying?

    Answers include "Pick me!," "I'm the strongest," "Greetings," "I'm not here," and more. For each message communicated, Judge then follows each meaning with specific examples from a number of different species. Here's an excerpt.

    Come on, fly!
    A mother's call encourages her young.

    A young Peregrine Falcon is nervous to take his first flight from high on a cliff nest. Mother sits in a nearby tree calling sharply with food. Eventually he flaps toward her. She continues the training until he can grab prey in mid-air.

    A Blue Jay listens for the call of his hungry youngster. The fledgling has left the nest, but isn't ready to fly. Her parent answers with tender feeding calls as he brings her next meal.

    Kuk, kuk, kuk. A Mother Wood Duck summons her chicks just after they've hatched. They can't fly, but they can swim and find food once they leave their tree nest.

    Text ©Lita Judge. All rights reserved.

    Back matter includes a listing of the birds in the book (with additional information about the birds, their habitats and range), a glossary, short list of references, web site, and an informative Author’s note on Judge's inspirations for the book.

    What Bluebirds Do, written and photographed by Pamela Kirby, is the story of a pair of nesting Bluebirds and their young. In the Author's Note that precedes the text, Kirby describes how the story came to be.
    As I sat in the blind that spring and watched those marvelous Bluebirds raise their families, I wanted to share their wonderful story with young readers. The story happened as it is written. The behaviors and events are actual. The Bluebirds lived the story. I took the images and lots of notes.
    The book opens with a gorgeous full-page photo of a pair of Bluebirds and the accompanying text on the facing page.
    This is a story of a pair of Eastern Bluebirds that built a nest in my backyard.

    They laid eggs, hatched the eggs, and raised their chicks.
    Text ©Pamela Kirby. All rights reserved.

    On the next double-page spread readers are introduced to the male and female birds (mom and dad). Closeup photos of each highlight the physical differences between the two. The following spread provides information about other birds that are blue and explains how the Indigo Bunting and Blue Jay are different from the Bluebird. From this point readers learn about the Bluebirds' courtship, their nest building, egg laying, hatching and growth of the chicks, first flight, and growth of the fledglings into little Bluebirds.

    The text is written in simple, yet precise language. There is a glossary to help with difficult and/or unfamiliar terms, such as brood, fledgling, instinct, and roost. The text and photographs work extremely well-together, with photos providing clear, vibrant illustrations of the action. For example, on the page describing what baby Bluebirds ate ("mostly insects, worms, and berries") there is a photo of the female holding several mealworms and a caterpillar in her mouth, preparing to enter then nest.

    Following the text is extensive back matter. Two pages are devoted to describing the three species of Bluebirds that live in North America: the Eastern Bluebird (chronicled in the book), the Mountain Bluebird, and the Western Bluebird. Two more pages are devoted to Bluebirds Through the Year, which detail a bit more of Bluebird behavior. Next are two pages devoted to Bringing Back the Bluebirds (did you know they were once in danger of disappearing?) and Bluebirds in Your Yard, which briefly describes where to find information about attracting Bluebirds to your yard. Finally, the author provides of a list of books and web sites where readers can learn more. She also lists some places to order mealworms for Bluebirds.

    Kirby has done an outstanding job telling the Bluebirds' story while teaching readers a lot along the way. The final page contains the heading Bluebirds Rock! and a full-page image of a bluebird, up close and personal. Readers young and old alike will close this book echoing the sentiment.

    Perfect Together
    The poems in Yolen's books are a good starting point for exploring additional factual information about birds. For example, the poem on the wood duck makes reference to nesting in trees, as does the excerpt in Judge's book. Students might use the poems to generate questions they would like to investigate regarding bird behavior. While Judge's book will whet their appetites with additional tidbits of information, Kirby's book will give them specific examples of how a particular species courts and raises a nest of young. I'd use all three together, as the illustrations in Judge's book make a nice counterpoint to the photographs in the other titles.

    For additional resources, consider these sites.

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    20. Cardinal #3

    Today's cardinal is taking advantage of his natural Mohawk.  Sorry, I didn't have time to do a video today.

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    21. Cardinal #4

    Today's cardinal is a sketch from life.  Well actually it's not from "life" because the bird was a dead. This is from a trip today to the Harvard Museum of Natural History where I went on a drawing field trip with some awesome kit lit peeps; Samantha Grenier, Eloise Narrigan, Jason Hart and Marcela Staudenmaier. Thanks everyone for a lovely day! 

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    22. Flight School – Perfect Picture Book Friday

    Title: Flight School By Lita Judge Published by Athenium Books for Young Readers, April 2014 Ages: 3-7 Themes: penguins, flight, courage, dreams Opening Lines: “I was hatched to fly’” said Penguin,                   … Continue reading

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    23. App of the Week: Local Birds

    local birdsTitle: Local Birds
    Platform: iOS
    Cost: Free





    Springtime. Flowers are blooming. The sun is shining. Birds are singing… and flying by and hanging out on the lawn. Hey, what kind of bird is that anyway? If you’ve wondered about this, Local Birds can help.

    photo 1

    Local Birds pulls together a database of birds based on your location. If you use the browse function, birds are sorted by types, raptors, songbirds, etc and listed in order from most common to least common in your area. You can also search for birds that don’t live in your part of the world and get information about them as well. For each bird, the app gives a short description and pulls in data from around the web to provide detail. The Details tab links to the bird’s Wikipedia page, the Images tab links to Google Image search, and the Videos tab links to YouTube videos of the bird.

    photo 2 (1) photo 3 (1)










    Birdwatching is like a scavenger hunt for getting close to nature. In most places, if you pay attention, you’ll see birds. On this New England spring morning, I woke to bird calls, Chickadees and Crows, and something else that I’m not quite sure about. (One thing I wish this app had was a more consistent means of hearing bird calls. YouTube has great videos for some birds, Crows and Ravens for example, but nothing of the American Robin or Song Sparrow). If you pay more attention, you’ll notice things about the birds you see and hear. That’s all well and good if you enjoy nature and  are interested in paying attention to birds, but birdwatching is very specific. It’s not for everyone.

    Something I noticed about this app that might be interesting to a wider audience is the way the app is structured. It pulls together information from different places to make a quick and useful resource focused on its topic. This is the kind of thinking teen researchers should be using when working on a large scale project: focusing on a topic, pulling data from multiple sources, and organizing it for ease of use. In that way, Local Birds, is like a research project presented as an app. I wonder if this is a type of project we might see more of in high schools and colleges as a companion to the traditional research paper. It’s something to consider, perhaps, when you’re not checking out that Red-tailed Hawk or trying to spot a Bald Eagle.

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    24. For you are a mere human, mortal, and you cannot fly.

    The birds of Hawaii, in their multitude of colors and forms, strut and alternate their strides with their heads held high. Bipeds that are confident. Secure. Fearless. Their flight plan involves plopping right down in your personal space, breathing your air and eyeing your food, waiting for you to leave so they can partake, but they always patiently wait their turn by eating the crumbs fallen at your feet. For days, I’ve been watching these birds and I can attest that they are completely undaunted by your presence here in their Hawaii. For you are a mere human, mortal–and you certainly cannot fly. The birds here are showy, pluming and preening their feathers in front of you, as if they are courting you with their Aloha Spirit. Californian birds, or the birds from my home state, are much more enigmatic, evasive, skittish and untouchable, sometimes like the people who live there–some of whom would snatch your bag of Doritos right out of your hands if you’d let them.


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    25. Deanna Klingel – Author of Beth’s Birds

    Deanna Klingel

    About Deanna

    Deanna K. Klingel resides in the mountains of North Carolina with her husband. She writes primarily for middle grade and YA. This is her first picture book, the first of a series of backyard nature. Deanna has seven grown children with whom she shared her love of backyard nature, and now enjoys the company of eleven grandchildren. She enjoys visiting schools and museums to visit with her readers.

    Klingel is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild, the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, the North Carolina Writers’ Network and the American Christian Fiction Writers. Her books “Avery’s Battlefield” and “Avery’s Crossroad” have been awarded bronze medals by Branson Stars and Flags Book Awards. “Just for the Moment” and “Bread Upon the Water” have received the Seal of Approval from the Catholic Writers Guild.

    Her books are available on Amazon and on her website, www.booksbydeanna.com (most are available on Kindle). She is also available to speak to youth and school groups about her dog therapy ministry and her writing.

    0 Comments on Deanna Klingel – Author of Beth’s Birds as of 4/30/2014 5:13:00 PM
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