Tag Archives: Creativity

#365PictureBooks Day 23 – Viva Frida

Frida Kahlo, one of the world’s most famous and unusual artists is revered around the world. Her life was filled with laughter, love, and tragedy, all of which influenced what she painted on her canvases. Distinguished author/illustrator Yuyi Morales illuminates Frida’s life and work in this elegant and fascinating book“. A Neal Porter Book. Publisher: Macmillan

This is a stunning picture book – and the production values mean this is a work of art in itself. This will appeal to a lot of adults as well as children. I was looking to buy this one for our collection as a picture book biography of Frida Kahlo. I don’t currently have any books about her in our collection. The book is less of a biography and more of an evocative poem. Whether or not it is right for your school collection will depend on whether you are looking for a biographical fact based book or one that engages the senses and provokes questions. Children will see some of the iconic symbols that feature in Frida Kahlo’s paintings (the deer, the heart, arrows, the hummingbird, parrot and dog). I am thinking that I would love to buy this one because it will lead to wonderful discussions about artistic passion and creativity (and symbolism).

The bilingual (English/Spanish) text in this picture book appears simple with a single word on some pages, but the simplicity belies its brilliance. It feels very poetic and dreamlike but passionate and strong at the same time. The artwork is incredible and the video below shows a little of what must have gone into making the mixed media illustrations for the book.

Bibliographic details:

Viva Frida /Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales; photography by Tim O’Meara

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2014.

40 pages


NZ RRP $35.50

Available to purchase locally or borrow from Auckland Libraries

#365PictureBooks Day 6 – Star stuff : Carl Sagan and the mysteries of the cosmos

For every child who has ever looked up at the stars and asked, “What are they?” comes the story of a curious boy who never stopped wondering: Carl Sagan.

“Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” – Carl Sagan

“When Carl Sagan was a young boy he went to the 1939 World’s Fair and his life was changed forever. From that day on he never stopped marveling at the universe and seeking to understand it better. Star Stuff follows Carl from his days star gazing from the bedroom window of his Brooklyn apartment, through his love of speculative science fiction novels, to his work as an internationally renowned scientist who worked on the Voyager missions exploring the farthest reaches of space. This book introduces the beloved man who brought the mystery of the cosmos into homes across America to a new generation of dreamers and star gazers. “[Publisher website].

 I recently borrowed this from Auckland Libraries,  but it’s firmly on my list for purchase as soon as I return to school.  I’m going to use it in any unit of inquiry where we are looking at innovation and curiosity. This will be especially valuable for our Year 3  PYP Where we are in place and time unit of inquiry, with the central idea “Exploration and discovery leads to new understandings and opportunities” where the focus of the inquiry is on space exploration.

I’m going to shelve this with the biographies related to astronomy and space at 520.92 SAG. This is the same spot where students can find books about Galileo and right with all the really popular material on space and astronomy. The 520s are an area I’m currently trying to simplify within Dewey.

When students need to look at biographies as a genre it is easy for them to find books about the person they are interested in by searching for them by name in our catalogue. All picture book biographies in our collection are tagged BIOGRAPHY and we consistently use a subject heading like Sagan, Carl – Biography. I have found that not having all the biographies at 920, but within their subject area, is far better for browsing kids and a result, the books get checked out more often (not just when students are looking at biographies – which may only be once a year).

Awards, accolades and starred reviews:

“Carl Sagan is best known for being a renowned expert on the cosmos, but he started out as just a curious kid fascinated with the night sky, and that’s where Sisson starts this picture-book biography.” – Booklist
“Sisson’s economical narrative and lighthearted illustrations convey Sagan’s regard for the power of imagination and his generous approach to knowledge. . . Both friendly and inspiring.” – KIRKUS, STARRED REVIEW
“Told in narrative format, this beautifully designed and illustrated picture book gives readers a glimpse into the childhood wonderings Sagan experienced as he looked at the night sky and imagined possibilities. . . A gorgeous, informative offering for biography and science collections.” – School Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW and one of the SLJ Best Books for 2014
“A broader message about the role wonder plays in innovation resonates throughout this story.” – Publishers Weekly
Biographical details:

Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos / by Stephanie Roth Sisson

Published by Roaring Brook Press, 2014

40 pages.


NZ RRP: $35.50

Available for purchase from Wheelers or to borrow from Auckland Libraries.

Related posts:

On a beam of light

#365PictureBooks Day 3 – On a beam of light : a story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne

This is one of my favourite picture books and one we use across a variety of units of inquiry. It is wonderful for introducing students to the ideas of imagination, thinking, curiosity, questioning, creativity and wonder as well as the notion that innovative breakthroughs in thought or action don’t happen overnight.

“A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe. Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky invite the reader to travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.” Publisher website

Look at these wonderful illustrations – just gorgeous!


I have one hardback copy of this title but I’m thinking of adding the ebook too as it is available in both OverDrive and MackinVIA. I prefer picture books in paper format (and this is an especially lovely one with matt ‘almost textured with the look of recycled’ paper and a size that doesn’t translate well to the iPad)… An additional ebook copy means that when checked out to a teacher they can project the PDF pages onto a whiteboard in their class from their laptop, they can then return it and another teacher in the same year level (needing the book for the same unit), can do the same.

I have classified this and other biographies of Einstein with the books on physics at 530.092 EIN. No kid ever stumbled across this at 920 in my library and I have a lot of children very interested in science. I see from the Wheeler’s website that it’s also available in Chinese so a copy could end up in our international collection.

My recommendation – this is an essential purchase for any school library!

Bibliographic details:

On a beam of light : a story of Albert Einstein  /  by Jennifer Berne ; illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky.  (2013)

Published by Chronicle Books in 2013.


NZ RRP $32.50

Available for purchase at the Children’s Book Shop, Wheeler’s etc and also for loan at Auckland Libraries. Auckland Libraries also have this title in OverDrive.

If you need teaching ideas and other resources to use with this book then you must look at the wonderful resources at the Classroom Bookshelf here.

Publisher website with downloadable PDF teachers guide – here.

#365PictureBooks Day 1 The iridescence of birds : a book about Henri Matisse


I recently visited the Children’s Bookshop in Christchurch and after seeing this book decided it was an essential addition to use with several year groups as part of the PYP Trans-disciplinary theme “How we express ourselves“. One of the units of inquiry within this theme for my Year 6 students is all about creativity – defining and exploring what it is and how it leads to innovation. Quite a difficult concept for children to grasp and an area where the simplicity of a picture book can be a wonderful curiosity starter.

If you were a boy named Henri Matisse who lived in a dreary French town where there were gray skies and you wanted color and light and sun, what might you become? [Inside dust jacket]

The reader starts this book turning blue/gray pages with rather monotone illustrations but as we read the simple, almost poetic text about Henri’s exposure to colour and creativity through his mother, the pages become more colourful and rich, rather like his journey from the chilly north of France to the sun drenched and colourful streets of Provence.

“Why do painters paint what they do?……In writing this book I think I found the answer to the question that inspired it. Henri Matisse painted what he saw and what he remembered – he painted his feelings and his childhood.” Patricia Maclachlan.

The back pages helpfully include recommended books and notes from the author and illustrator. The notes from illustrator Hadley Hooper are particularly insightful, detailing her inspiration and research for this work and something that will help young readers understand the creative process a little more.

Vocabulary: Iridescence is a wonderful word and I can imagine the use of it in the title and subsequent revelations within the text will lead to lots of conversation. It would be great to have some materials or objects with iridescent qualities to show children when reading aloud.

I shelve picture books like these with our non-fiction. Using traditional DDC this would be found at 759.4 MAT where 759 equals painting and the .4 denotes that the painting or painter is French. I’m “hacking” Dewey in our Junior School library so I’m not splitting painters into different countries. I am still deciding whether to keep the books about painters with their movements or is that is still too complicated for browsing? and I’m still musing over whether to ditch the 759 altogether and just have artists (not just painters) arranged by name. In the meantime this will be found at 759 MAT where other non-fiction and picture books about Matisse reside. I no longer have biographies shelved at 920 – only compendiums of famous people or leaders that cover many walks of life or interest areas.

Bibliographic details:

The iridescence of birds : a book about Henri Matisse / Patricia MacLachlan ; pictures by Hadley Hooper.

Published in 2014 by Roaring Brook Press.


RRP NZ$33.00

You will be able to borrow this from Auckland Libraries as it is currently on order for several branches.

Awards, accolades and rave reviews:

The iridescence of birds is being discussed as a possible contender for the Caldecott Award this year, but it has also made many of the ‘best of 2014’ lists prevalent at this time of year.

Kirkus Reviews Best books of 2014 – Childrens

Nerdy Book Club 2014 Nerdy Awards for non-fiction picture books

The Horn Book

Publisher’s weekly (starred review)

School Library Journal (best books of 2014) also a starred review

Publisher website Lots of resources here including a slide show of pages from the book.