Have you seen the new fiction picture book A Funny Little Bird by Jennifer Yerkes yet? It is ironic the story is about a bird who disappears into the background because the buzz is about how much its fresh, lovely illustrations stand out.
The story is a seemingly straightforward fable that makes a few delightfully humorous twists. The main character is a little bird who at first is either ignored or jeered at. After trying on borrowed finery doesn’t work out as he planned, he learns how to make the most of his own “looks.”
What captures everyone’s attention is the author’s playful use of negative space to create the little bird. Children will delight in finding where the bird is and where he isn’t. It is a refreshing to find a book that stimulates visual thinking this way.
A Funny Little Bird is an art teacher’s delight. The creative illustrations are sure to inspire any number of art projects using negative space, color, simple shapes, found objects and/or birds. It might even inspire some concrete or shape poems. You’ll want discover the little bird and what it has to offer for yourself.
When I saw that this week’s Nonfiction Monday was going to be hosted at Perogies & Gyoza, I knew just which book I was going to choose. Bon Appétit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child by author and illustrator Jessie Hartland seems an obvious choice for a blog named after food. 🙂
The author has created a book that is as individual, wacky, and yet endearing, as Julia Child was herself. Although The New York Times review suggests that children will not know who Julia Child is, that is why the book is important. Children don’t know who George Washington is either until they are introduced to him.
I will admit, however, that the hand-lettered text and the cursive are going to make reading the book difficult for struggling young readers. Hopefully they will find a caring adult to read it to them.
Bon Appétit! is inspiring in many ways and can be used as a jumping off point for hands-on learning.
Activity 1. French Food
“J’ai faim aussi!”
That is what children may say after reading about Julia Child. They are going to be interested in eating French food and probably French cooking, too. The book has a recipe for crepes for children to make at the end, but there are many other ways to introduce French cuisine, as well.
A tartine is an open-faced sandwich. What says “France” more than a crusty loaf of bread and some French cheese?
You will need the following:
Loaf of French bread
Good quality tomato
A mild French cheese, such as brie or munster (optional)
Ground pepper or pinch of chopped basil
You may either prepare this yourself, or have the children prepare it if they are old enough to handle cutting implements. Slice the bread and toast it. Slice the tomato and the cheese. Layer the cheese on the warm bread and top with the tomato slices. Grind some pepper or add a pinch of chopped basil. Serve as an open-faced sandwich.
Find some more delightful ideas and recipes, like these from French Kids Eat Everything, on the Internet. Can truffles and escargot be next? 🙂
Activity 2. Still Life Art: La Vase Bleu (The Blue Vase) by Paul Cézanne
Although the illustrations in Jessie Hartland’s book are anything but still, this category of art seems appropriate for drawing or painting food and items around the kitchen.
Obtain a print of the painting or view The Blue Vase at The Artchive and discuss the artist and his work. Explain how Cézanne was French and also went to Paris to study like Julia Child did. Have the children draw/paint a still life with age-appropriate directions about drawing shapes and using shading techniques.
Use this time-lapse video of a person creating a still life bowl of cherries for inspiration.
Activity 3. Writing
Bon Appétit! reveals a great deal about the process of writing a book and getting it published. Discuss all the steps Julia Child went through to get her book published and the marketing she did afterward. It is inspiring how she and her co-author continued on in the face of multiple rejections.
Create a visual organization chart summarizing the events and relate them to other authors’ journeys to print.
Writing prompt: If you could write a book, what would you want to write about and why?
Activity 4. Learning about World Languages
Exposure to world languages is important for children in so many ways. When is the last time you read a children’s book that was filled with French phrases and vocabulary like this one? In fact, the final endpapers of the book are all the French words for the items identified in English in the front endpapers.
Make a list of all the French words and phrases used in the books. Draw a “pictionary” like the back endpapers to help remember and reinforce vocabulary. Find and explore more books with French vocabulary to add to the list.
Discuss how important learning French was for Julia and how it changed her life. The book also mentions that she had to study very hard and it took her four years to become fluent.
Perhaps reading Bon Appétit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child by author and illustrator Jessie Hartland may be life-changing as well.
Words in a French Life: Lessons in Love and Language from the South of France by Kristin Espinasse is an absolutely delightful book to help increase both vocabulary and an understanding of French culture for high school and college-level students. It is also enjoyable to read.
The book is a series of essays — originally written as blog posts –about Kristin Espinasse’s daily struggles and triumphs as an American living in France with her French husband and family. Each essay focuses on a few related French words and phrases that tie together with events that occurred. I have never studied French, yet I found myself recognizing words and remembering phrases in ways I had never done with other languages I have studied.
If you would like to get a taste of what the book is like and find out more, visit Espinasse’s blog French Word A Day. Even if you aren’t studying French, it just might convince you to try.
To start out our exploration of books useful for introducing young people to world languages, let’s take a look at two little books that are sure to spark an interest in French: French for Cats: All the French Your Cat Will Ever Need and Advanced French for Exceptional Cats: Sophisticated French for a Cat as Smart as Yours by Henry Beard (and John Boswell) and illustrated by Gary Zamchick. Both books are written in English and French with a lighthearted humor that is sure to warm the hearts of cat lovers and language lovers alike.
Both are little books, only roughly four by six inches, but they pack a big dose of laughs. Just to be clear, there is a bit of “potty” (well, litterbox) humor and referenced to being neutered, so the reader range is probably mature middle grade to young adult.
The illustrations are pen and ink cartoons with watercolor, in keeping with the light tone of the books.
Example of text:
What I do Ce Que Je Fais
I meow Je miaule
I purr Je ronronne
I sleep Je dors
If you own cats, you know about that last one. 🙂
French for Cats works as a fun introduction to vocabulary for beginners and a brush up for more advanced speakers. Advanced French for Exceptional Cats even has a mini-session in grammar.
To get you in the mood, here is a video of another French cat, Henrí. Although the humor of the video is more subtle than the books, it still makes me laugh out loud. Look for videos like this one to hear French being spoken.
Although the first editions were printed in the 1990’s, the books were bestsellers and were reprinted, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a copy.
French for Cats: All the French Your Cat Will Ever Need by Henry Beard, John Boswell and illustrated by Gary Zamchick