Friday, April 29, 2016

Build, Beaver, Build ~ interview with illustrator

Build, Beaver, Build! Life at the Longest Beaver Dam
by Sandra Markle; illus by Deborah Hocking
Millbrook Press, 2016

themes: nature, growing up, animals

The moon is so bright on this June night that the pond water gleams. A beaver kit floats near his family's lodge.

This is the story of a beaver kit's first year of life, and there are lots of lessons to learn. Watch out for owls at night! Cattails are yummy. Play with your sisters. And help build the dam.

What I like about this book:  I like the way Sandra Markle tells a story of a young beaver's life - all the things a kit has to learn before setting off into the world on his own. And I like that the story is structured around a dam - not just any dam, but the longest dam in the world. It's so BIG you can see it from space.

I love the artwork. Deborah Hocking captures the essence of beaver family life as well as the details of the Canadian forest in which this beaver family lives. The combination of detail (tree bark, leaves) and color (so many watery blues and greens) keep me coming back to this book again and again.

I also love that there is back matter about the dam and beaver home life - and lots of resources for finding out more.

Beyond the book: Beavers are engineers; they change the landscape just like humans do. But they don't have chainsaws to cut trees and trucks to move logs. How do they do it? Watch this video from PBS.

Make a beaver puppet - all you need is a paper lunch bag, some buttons, paper, glue - and paw templates from here.

Build an edible beaver dam - or a lodge - using pretzels, peanut butter or sunflower butter, chocolate chips, and other things that look like sticks and mud. Then eat it!

Go exploring along a stream or wet area where beavers have been sighted. Look for tracks in the mud. Draw tracks you see - and jot down how they compare in size to your hand. How many toes are there? Are they webbed? Here's a helpful guide.

Listen to beaver kits mewing from inside a den - here

Illustrator Debora Hocking was kind enough to answer Three Questions:

Archimedes: What sort of research did you do for illustrating Build, Beaver, Build?

Deborah: I used a lot of information found online and in books. I did observe beavers at the zoo, but they were sleeping in their lodge... there was a little window into their sleeping area, so I got to see them all snuggled up together looking super cozy! I love to go hiking and it's always fun to find sign of beaver while I'm out and about. Once you start looking, you realize they're all around (though I do live in the Beaver State, so one would expect to find plenty of them around here!). Beavers tend to sleep during the day, and are more active at dawn and dusk - which is why it's not very common to see them in the wild.

Archimedes: Talk about the media you use in your artwork...

Deborah: I use a combination of watercolors, pencil, and colored pencil - generally working on watercolor paper. For Build, Beaver, Build, I used liquid watercolors, which I find give a bit more vibrant color than tube colors. After finishing a painting, I scan it into my computer and use Photoshop to make adjustments. Another way I use Photoshop is to add color to pencil drawings, because using paint would either cover up the drawing or cause the pencil to smear. I used that technique on a couple illustrations in my online portfolio: the illustration of two mice decorating their mushroom house, and the illustration of the hedgehog reading inside his hollow log.

Archimedes: What words of encouragement would you give young artists?

Deborah: Just keep on creating. It's easy to get discouraged when your work doesn't turn out how you hoped... easy to give up because you don't think you're talented enough. But drawing or painting is a skil that you can learn and develop - with hard work, of course!

Deborah is currently working on illustrations for a book written by Justin Roberts titled Henry Hopendower and Other Truly Impossible Things (GP Putnam's Sons/Penguin, due out 2017). You can find Deborah's website here.

Today's review is part of the STEM Friday roundup. Drop by STEM Friday blog for more science books and resources. We're also joining PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture BooksReview copy from publisher.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wild Outdoor Wednesday

Look for tree seedlings sprouting up in your lawn or in sidewalk cracks. Capture them in color and words. If you can, dig some up to plant somewhere safe.

Remember to take your sketchbook or journal with unlined pages, something to draw and write with, and something to add color ~ watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, or markers.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Happy Earth Day!

April is a month full of celebration: poetry, square-root day (4/4/16), and Earth Day!

photo from NASA
So here we are, stuck to the ground by gravity, spinning our way through space, and everything we need - air, food, water - is on this planet with us. From space, the earth looks like a blue marble. Self-contained. Self-reliant.

What can You do to take care of your corner of the earth?

What about recycling? Perhaps you will turn ripped jeans into book covers, bags, rugs...(or something else).

Maybe you'll figure out a way to collect and conserve water to use for watering a garden (make a rain barrel) - or if you have too much rain,  you might want to plant a rain garden to help slow storm water run-off.

Plant a garden for the pollinators. Sow seeds for asters, purple coneflowers, and sunflowers. Let goldenrod, milkweed, and Joe-pye weed grow. Mow less, and watch as bees and butterflies visit wildflowers in the tall grass.

Go on a scavenger hunt to learn more about the plants and animals that share your part of the world. Instead of collecting items draw pictures, write poems, take photos. Here's a list to get you started:

Look for: two different kinds of leaves, moss, a vine, a dead tree, flowers
Listen for: the sound of the wind, bird songs, buzzing of insects, moving water, frogs
Touch: tree bark, wet mud, rocks with different textures, rotten wood
Smell: pine tree, flower, damp earth, fresh grass

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wild Outdoor Wednesday

Tonight is a good night for sky-watching. There should be meteors. What else do you see? Hear? Smell?

Remember to take your sketchbook or journal with unlined pages, something to draw and write with, and something to add color ~ watercolors, colored pencils, crayons, or markers.