I adore children's picture books. No, I mean it, really. I'm not your average picture book browser. I research, study, read, analyze, buy and collect children's books like my husband collects his hunting and fishing gear. I've always thought of him to be boarder-line hoarder, but then, I look at me! I don't tell him this, of course. :-)
Well, my most recent purchases of children's picture books have not been because of the story, although, the story is just fabulous, it's because of the illustrations. I am a visual person who loves to create through painting, art journaling, sewing, whatever. . . so, when I am drawn to a book, it is almost always, first, through the illustrations.
One of my new favorite illustrators is Julia Denos. I discovered her when browsing online for illustrations of faces, for an e-course I was taking by Mindy Lacefield called Paint Your Story. Julia's site hooked me, line and sinker. You can visit it here. Just look at some of these heart warming illustrations of children that Julia has done!
Seeing these sketches in the sketchbook section of Julia's site just made we want to grab my colored pencils and start drawing pictures of girls. I have a random mind. It just works like that. Then, I had to order some children's books of which she illustrated. This one, by far, is the book I love the most. . . Just Being Audrey written by Margaret Cardillo. I know already that it will be read over and over this year because I'm using it as a mentor text in both classrooms and teacher training groups.
Just Being Audrey is the biography of Audrey Hepburn's life. Who doesn't love Audrey Hepburn? Audrey had a unique personality and strong sense of who she was. She followed her dreams by being true to herself, even through the diversity of her young life growing up in Nazi-occupied Europe. Kindness was her strongest belief and she lived this until the day she died. Her later years involved shining light on the poorest children of the world through her work with UNICEF. Her fame helped to raise boatloads of money for this cause.
Many themes run through this book: following your dreams, kindess, overcoming diversity, being yourself, giving back and just loving children. But, I'm also going to use it to teach some sketching of children when we get around to illustrating books.
A quote from Audrey will remain in my mind, just because I know it to be true. . .
"Like with flowers, it's the same with children: With a little help, they can survice and they can stand up and live another day."
I don't know any educator that does not also live and breath that belief.
(Oh! You can follow Julie Denos on facebook, by like her page, here. She has even more amazing illustrations there, too. She just basically rocks, in my book.)