Archives for the month of: April, 2012

Friday April 20th is a special day for me. It is the first birthday of my Blog for Kids! I have had a lot of fun writing about things I care about over the past year, and it’s been great to get responses from you, too! The little cat above is a drawing Anna did for her 10th birthday party, so I thought it was a good way to start this post.

To celebrate my blog’s birthday I have decided to write some GOOD NEWS stories. For example, I always get a special thrill each spring when the giant cherry tree outside my house comes out in beautiful pink blossom. This is the view from my window at the moment, and it never fails to cheer me up, even on a rainy day!

Speaking of pink things, I have amazing news that on April 11th, over 8 MILLION people around the world dressed in pink to show that they were standing up against bullying. Isn’t that fantastic? It’s great to see so many young people working together for a good cause and having fun at the same time. In one highschool in Toronto they even made special pink food in the cafeteria!

Here is another wonderful reason to celebrate. His name is Alfie and he is a rescue dog recently adopted by a friend of mine. Isn’t he gorgeous? He has only just arrived in his new home, so I hope he settles in well and becomes a special member of the family. I love dogs so I hope one day I’ll get to meet him!

The month of April marks another first birthday – that of the Guardian Children’s Books Website. This is a brilliant site full of book reviews, video interviews with authors, quizzes, the latest children’s book news and even drawing tips! You can sign up and join in the action, writing book reviews yourself and getting involved in discussions. To find out more about the site and how to join, click HERE.

In some parts of the world, people live in such isolated and hard-to-reach places that they can’t enjoy the simple things we take for granted – like books. I recently discovered (from @shedworking on Twitter) that in Venezuela there is a clever new way to bring books to children in remote mountain villages. Book mules!

These animals are very tough and can be used to carry heavy loads along treacherous mountain paths where a four-wheeled vehicle couldn’t go. When the book mule arrives in a village, the children all cry “Bibliomulas!” and race to find something to read. In a place where there are no libraries or bookshops, you can imagine how exciting it would be to see the mule coming!

In some of these places there is starting to be some mobile phone reception, so the mules can carry laptops to give the villagers access to the internet. Cyber mules! This story was reported on a BBC Radio 4 programme called From Our Own Correspondent, and you can read a big article about it HERE. I think it’s brilliant!

A few years ago, a teenage boy went to school wearing a pink T-shirt, and he got teased and bullied for it. Two other boys in the school decided they wanted to send a message to those bullies, so they got lots of pink shirts and talked to their friends about their plan. A few days later, the whole school was a SEA OF PINK, with lots of kids wearing pink shirts. The bullies got the message loud and clear!

Since then, the second Wednesday in April every year is the Day of Pink, when kids and grown-ups all over North America wear pink to show that they are standing up against bullying. It’s not too late for you to get involved!

Here is a brilliant YouTube video showing lots of kids from schools in Canada and the US dancing in their pink “Acceptance” T-shirts. They have chosen Lady Gaga’s song Born This Way which is perfect for celebrating diversity: VIEW VIDEO HERE.

A young man called Jeremy Dias founded the Day of Pink in Canada and his organisation continues to fight against bullying and discrimination all year round. Check out their website HERE to find out more about what they do.

This amazing pink movement was happening at the same time that my book Pink! was published. It was a total coincidence, but my book is all about a penguin being bullied because he is different! The message in Pink! is the same: everyone is different and we all deserve respect.

When Pink! was published in Canada, I got a message from a lady in Vancouver who used my book in her daughter’s classroom to talk to the children about being different. She said it was a great tool for getting kids to think about how they treated each other, and it really helped her daughter feel more accepted in the class. That gave me an idea…

Pink! is just one of many books for kids that help explore issues of diversity and acceptance. Check out the website Healthy Books for books about bullying, disability and self-esteem/being different. On this Day of Pink, maybe you can look at some of these in your school and get talking about how they share the same anti-bullying message. And see what you’ve got in your closet at home that’s pink. It’s time for a PINK CELEBRATION!

If you’re an artist and you like to draw people, the best way to practise your technique is to do a portrait of yourself! Lots of famous artists have done self-portraits, and you can see how their skills improved as they got older and more experienced.

Albrecht Durer was a German artist who lived from 1471 to 1528. His first self-portrait was a silverpoint drawing he did when he was only thirteen years old! (Silverpoint, a sharp metal instrument scraped across a painted white surface, was used before pencils were invented.)

As Durer got older he started using oil paints. In the painting above he is twenty-two years old and  has painted himself holding a thistle. This painting may have been intended for his fiancée Agnes Frey (though a thistle is a rather prickly flower to give your girlfriend!)

This third self-portrait shows how Durer is getting older and more skilful in his technique (here he is twenty-six). He has grown a beard and his long, golden hair is very curly. You can see that he favours this pose and always paints his face with a serious expression. In the days before photographs, to paint a self-portrait the artist had to use a mirror as he or she worked. I do hope Durer didn’t get any paint on that fancy black-and-white outfit!

As you can see, Albrecht Durer was very talented from an early age. He became a successful painter of commissioned portraits, altarpieces and religious paintings, but he also loved to do nature studies such as this famous watercolour of a hare:

That painting he would have been able to do from life, just like Beatrix Potter did with her pet rabbits many years later. But he didn’t always draw animals he could see. One of his most famous woodcuts is one of an Indian rhinoceros that was given as a gift to the King of Portugal in 1515. In those days a rhinoceros was a very exotic and strange animal that no one in Europe had ever seen!

Durer never saw the animal himself, but did this picture from a written description and a little sketch someone else gave him. For this reason, it looks as if it is wearing a suit of armour!

Another artist whose many self-portraits help us to see how his painting style changed over the years is Pablo Picasso. When he was very young he painted in a realistic way.

This self-portrait he did at the age of fifteen shows how talented he was. Picasso was born in Spain in 1881, and he studied art in Paris and became the most famous artist in the world! Part of the reason he was so celebrated was because he invented entirely new ways of painting that were shocking and surprising.

This next self-portrait was done when Picasso was twenty-six, and you can see how his style has changed. Instead of painting a realistic picture, he has made it very stylised with bold, angular lines and simple outlines of the eyes, nose and ear. His later work was even more abstract, with parts of a face put together in a striking and sometimes disturbing arrangement.

This portrait of a woman was done in 1960 when Picasso was seventy-nine years old. You can see two views of the woman at the same time: one from the side and one face-on. The blue and green colours and the woman’s expression give the painting a feeling of great sadness.

Anyone can do a self-portrait. When my daughter was five, her whole class did paintings of themselves to put up on the classroom wall. This is what hers looked like:

When you see what she looked like at five, you can see the resemblance!

It’s fun to paint a picture of yourself, and you can try all different styles and materials. Make it bold and colourful with oil pastels, or subtly shaded in pencil or coloured pencil. Make it crazy and abstract like a Picasso portrait, or as realistic as a photograph. How do YOU see yourself?

My friend Marg asked if I had any self-portraits I could show you. I love drawing and painting people, but I haven’t done a picture of myself for years! What I can show you are a few portraits I have done of other people over the years.

This picture of Anne Frank was done from a well known photograph when I was in Art College. I used gouache paint which is very tricky to work with. I got a B for this effort!

This portrait of a sad looking little boy I did a few years later when I was working as a children’s book illustrator. It is done in watercolours, my favourite medium for many years.

The last one I have to show you is done in pencil and coloured pencil. My husband was in India and he took this picture of a girl carrying a bowl on her head. I thought she was very sweet looking! We now have this drawing framed in our kitchen. I hope all this art will help to inspire your own creative ideas. Time to get drawing!