Slice of Life - A Splash of Red - #sol14

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers on Tuesdays.  For the month of March, we are posting a slice daily.

Fetching the mail is not one of my favorite things to do. Lately, it seems that most of it is circular flyers and other kinds of junk.  If it isn't junk, then it is a bill.  Seldom do I receive honest to goodness real letters.  However today, there was a surprise in my mailbox.   It was addressed to me and was quite colorful.

Since June 2013, I had the pleasure of serving on the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award Jury. One of the books we selected was A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.  If you haven't read it, you should.  It is fantastic.

Inside the envelope, two cards were attached to a cellophane wrapped picture. 

The envelopes contained handwritten notes from Jen and Melissa. Can I call them Jen and Melissa?

Under the notes was a specially wrapped print of one of the pages from the book, which was signed by Jen and Melissa.

I think I may have cried a little when I opened up the notes and read them. It was truly special and unexpected, and such a wonderful surprise to find when I arrived home.  I would hug this if I wasn't worried about crushing the print. I guess sleeping with it is out unless I want to mangle it. Best thing will be taking it to be framed so I can display it.

Thank you Jen and Melissa for creating such a special book as A Splash of Red, for the wonderful gift, and for being so amazing.  I can't wait to meet you in June, and I look forward to your next joint book, which comes out in the fall.

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 10

I have a simple post today...I am simply thankful for getting through the day.  I had an assignment due for my online class, and I had book club today and a few other things.  At one point, I wasn't sure I was going to get everything done. But it is over and everything turned out okay and for that I am very grateful.

....and for my picture book recommendation for the day I have picked a parody of Little Red Riding Hood in honor of our book club theme of fairy tales (we read Far, Far Away by Tom McNeal):

by Joan Holub; Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Chronicle Books (September 24, 2013)

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909

Author: Michelle Markel
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Balzer & Bray (January 22, 2013)
Source: Bought
Audience: Grades 2 to 5
Nonfiction * Women's History * Strikes * Clothing Makers
Melissa Sweet's website | Michelle Markel's website

Description from GoodReads:
When Clara Lemlich arrived in America, she couldn't speak English. She didn't know that young women had to go to work, that they traded an education for long hours of labor, that she was expected to grow up fast.

But that did not stop Clara.

She went to night school, spent hours studying English, and helped support her family by sewing in a factory.

Clara never quit. And she never accepted that girls should be treated poorly and paid little.

So Clara fought back. Fed up with the mistreatment of her fellow laborers, Clara led the largest walkout of women workers in the country's history.

Clara had learned a lot from her short time in America. She learned that everyone deserved a fair chance. That you had to stand together and fight for what you wanted. And, most importantly, that you could do anything you put your mind to.

My thoughts on this book:
To close out National Women's History Month, I am featuring Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel and Melissa Sweet.  It's books like this that can ignite an interest in children to research and look into historical events which they may not have otherwise had an opportunity to learn about.  Markel's story focuses on one particular women, a young immigrant named Clara Lemlich who played a significant role in launching one of the most significant strikes in United States history, the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909.

In Brave Girl, Markel provides young readers with enough background history for them to understand some of the conditions faced by factory workers in the late 19th century and early 20th century.  By sharing Clara's story, readers have a face and a name in which to identify with the cause including the significant risks that workers took when striking against factory owners.

Melissa Sweet's mixed media illustrations beautifully compliment this story and there is a link below where you can browse through the book on the HarperCollins website.  At the end, more information is provided on the history of the Garment Industry along with some additional resources.  Below, I have included a link to a discussion guide also provided by the publisher. 

If you can't tell already, I am very excited about this book.  Pick up a copy of it for your classroom or school library.  And remember to shop Indie whenever possible.

If you are wondering, what is a Shirtwaist? Check out this article.
A video of Shirtwaist Makers' & The Strike of 1909:

Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911, check out video below:

Browse inside the book, click here. HarperCollins has put together a discussion guide, click here.

Don't forget to link up your recent nonfiction reviews:

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - A Splash Of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Knopf/Random House (January 8, 2013)
Source: Personal Copy
Read Aloud Level:  2nd to 4th grade
Independent Reading Level: 3rd to 5th grade
Art * Biographical * Nonfiction

Description from GoodReads:
As a child in the late 1800s, Horace Pippin loved to draw: He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across the floor. He loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive again in front of him. He drew pictures for his sisters, his classmates, his co-workers. Even during W.W.I, Horace filled his notebooks with drawings from the trenches . . . until he was shot. Upon his return home, Horace couldn't lift his right arm, and couldn't make any art. Slowly, with lots of practice, he regained use of his arm, until once again, he was able to paint--and paint, and paint! Soon, people—including the famous painter N. C. Wyeth—started noticing Horace's art, and before long, his paintings were displayed in galleries and museums across the country.

Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up once again to share this inspiring story of a self-taught painter from humble beginnings who despite many obstacles, was ultimately able to do what he loved, and be recognized for who he was: an artist.

My thoughts on the book:
The second picture book biography from the team of Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet looks at the life and art of Horace Pippin.  The book begins with Pippin's birth and childhood in West Chester, Pennsylvania at the end of the 19th century.  From the time he was a child until an injury in World War I, Pippin drew for people.  Often using charcoal and scraps of paper.  It took years for Pippin to regain his ability to draw after his injury.  He developed a new technique to accommodate his injured arm and began to work with paints and other materials. With the support of the painter, N.C. Wyeth, Pippin's work began to be viewed by people in an exhibition.  The world became aware of Pippin as an artist at this point.

Bryant's storytelling is supplemented by quotes from Pippin and those who knew of him and his work.  As I read the words Bryant had written, I sensed her appreciation and admiration for Pippin.  Readers will feel the partnership and the journey undertaken by author and illustrator.  Both Bryant and Sweet confirm this in their endnotes.  Sweet utilizes watercolor, gouache, and collage in her illustrations which bring both depth and texture to each illustration.

The picture above of Pippin drawing as a young child and the one below of the art supplies he won in a contest are two of my favorite pictures in the book. 

The end of the book contains a Historical Note on Horace Pipping, notes from the Author and Illustrator, Quotation Sources, and further Resources.  I am excited to introduce Horace Pippin to students and thankful to be able to do it with this particular book. I look forward to seeing this picture book biography in classrooms and school libraries.  

Look for A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin at a local independent bookstore or community library near you.

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews below:

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

As part of the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfpb2012), my goal is to read and review as many of the new non-fiction picture books that are released this year.  Wednesdays will be my primary day to post the reviews for this challenge.

In honor of the American Library Association Youth Media Awards which were announced on Monday, January 23, 2012, I am giving a shout out to one of my favorite picture books of 2011 and the winner of the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award.  What is the Sibert Award?  The winning book is considered the "most distinguished informational book for children".  This year's winner is Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade

Many congratulations to author and illustrator, Melissa Sweet for an amazing job.  

Check out Melissa's website ( for some great pictures and information about Balloons Over Broadway.

Kirkus Reviews did a great interview with Melissa. Click here to read it.

Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a wonderful interview with Melissa.  Click here to read it.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children has created an activity kit to be used with the book.  Click here to download the activity kit.

And though I don't typically send folks over to Amazon, they do have a very cool look into the inside of Balloons Over Broadway.  With their Click to Look Inside feature. 

So what is the book about?  Here is the description from GoodReads:
Who invented the first balloons for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Meet Tony Sarg, puppeteer extraordinaire! Everyone’s a New Yorker on Thanksgiving Day, when young and old rise early to see what giant new balloons will fill the skies for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Who first invented these “upside-down puppets”? In brilliant collage illustrations, the award-winning artist Melissa Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer Tony Sarg, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America—the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Parade.

What do I think of it?
Melissa Sweet has married together the perfect combination of facts and information with an eclectic mix of collage, illustrations, and fabulous design.  Readers will explore the history behind the Macy's Day Parade in an unique and wonderful manner.  This is one book that you will want to own and giveaway. 

If you are participating in the Nonfiction Picture Book challenge and would like to link your recent reviews, please add your link to the Mr. Linky below.