Kids Cafe Lecture: Ancient Near Eastern History, Pt 1

This was one of my favorite that I have done because I have been in love with Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) history and art since I was an undergraduate in college and took a class on it. I’m currently taking a free online class about it. It is always fun to share something new with the kids and this is a great example. I did this over the summer because I knew the audience would be bigger. Because ANE History covers such a huge time period, about 3000 years, I decided to break it into two sections and talk about five civilizations in total (there were many more but hard to squeeze all that into a 20 minute lecture). The first one was on Sumerians and Babylonians. I had originally planned to get the kids to build Lego ziggurats but no one was really interested, so I let them create what they wanted and I built my own version of a ziggurat.

KC Ancient Near Eastern Art History, Pt 1 – June 12

Mesopotamia Map

  • Mesopotamia
    • From the Greek, meaning “two rivers”, which referred to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers; also called the Fertile Crescent
    • Contains modern day Iraq and parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey
    • They may have invented the wheel and later used it to invent the chariot and to make pottery, domesticate animals, irrigation etc
    • Using their advanced math, the Mesopotamian astronomers were able to follow the movements of the stars, planets, and the Moon. By studying the phases of the Moon, the Mesopotamians created the first calendar. It had 12 lunar months and was the predecessor for both the Jewish and Greek calendars.
    • The Mesopotamians may have invented the simple machine called the Archimedes Screw. This would have helped to raise water to the heights needed for the plants in the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
  • Sumerians (c. 5000 – 1750 BCE)
    • 1st civilization c. 3300 BCE – “an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry and government have been reached” –
    • They had the 1st complex cities, they had central government and organized religion, they developed advanced technologies such as the wheel, sail, and plow; they had a surplus of food and traded with other empires
    • Sumerian Map
  • Ziggurats
    • They built temples, to their 3,000 gods and goddesses, called ziggurats
    • They shaped it like a mountain, almost like a step-pyramid, because they believe their gods lived at the top of mountains
    • The largest ziggurat was in the city of Ur, c. 2100 BCE
    • Today Ur-Nammu Ziggurat
    • Artist Rendering of what it might have looked like - Ur-Nammu Ziggurat in Sumeria
  • Written Language
    • Oldest written language in cuneiform on clay tablets or cylinders– 3600 BCE
      • Cuneiform translates into “wedge-shaped”; they were pictures or pictograms meant to represent the real thing
      • Writing was developed in Egypt, the Indus Valley, China, and Mesoamerica afterwards
        • 2150-1400 BCE – Sumerian Epic poem Gilgamesh written on clay tablets
        • Cuneiform on clay tablet
        • Hero_lion_Dur-Sharrukin_Louvre_AO19862
  • Sumerian Art
    • Sumerian Votive Art – small sculptures used in religious ceremonies, found in the Sumerian city of Eshunna
    • Votive Statuettes from the Square Temple, Eshunna c. 2700-2600 BCE
    • statuettes-of-two-worshipers
  • The Standard of Ur
    • Possibly decorations for a music box – c. 2600 BCE
    • Peace Side
    • The Stardard of Ur in Peace
    • War Side
    • The Standard of Ur - War side
    • Made out of wood, lapis lazuli, red limestone and shell
  • Bull-Headed Lyre
    • Found at the Royal Cemetery of Ur, c. 2600 BCE
    • Music was very important to Sumerians, and this one was buried with its musician
    • This one features a bearded bull, created with lapis lazuli and gold leaf and inlaid Gilgamesh-like figures
    • Bull-Headed Lyre
    • Close-up Bull-headed lyre
  • Old/1st Babylonian (1795 – 1595 BCE)
    • Things Babylonians are most famous for:
      • They made several advances in medicine. They used logic and recorded medical history to be able to diagnose and treat illnesses with various creams and pills.
      • They had one of the earliest written down code of law – Hammurabi, King of Babylon, c 1754 BCE
      • Basalt Stele with Hammurabi Code c. 1780 BCE
      • Up Close Stele
  • Ne0-Babylonian (612 – 529 BCE)
    • King Nebuchadnezzar II, the one mentioned in the Bible, destroyed Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem and exiled the people of Judah to Babylon
    • The city of Babylon, according to the historian Herodotus, “Its outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high.”
    • Plan of the City of Babylon
  • Ishtar Gate

Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Leonardo Da Vinci

Only two weeks till my Tween Book Club (Page Turners) meets for the first time! I have finished my re-read of Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins and enjoyed the quick read, though it really makes me want to re-read the whole series as the first book was so short. I’ve done my best to promote it, giving out the flyers to an entire school of 4th-8th graders, a homeschool writers group, posting the flyer in the Children’s area, and telling any kid I think is around that age about it. We shall see soon.

I’ve not been doing a whole lot of these kind (i.e. art lecture) of Kids Cafe because of the new system they want us to use (kids have to kill out membership forms once, but with our kid population being a bit odd -we don’t have a steady population since we’re the big downtown branch, we can have up to 15 new kids a time). It is useful I guess for statistical purposes, but is annoying because it takes so long to fill out the forms that by the time they hand them in and get their food, half the time has gone. Anyways, on to this week’s topic, Leonardo Da Vinci. I have been fascinated by Da Vinci ever since I took a class on Renaissance art while I was doing a study abroad there and got the opportunity to see the Da Vinci museum in Vinci (outside of Florence) and see some of his inventions, along with his beautiful original works in Florence and Rome. He was a genius in art, science, architecture and many other fields, so it was fun to share his genius with others. This is one of the best presentations in my opinion. It was rather hard to squish Leonardo’s life into eighteen slides, but I think the kids/adults got a good understanding of the man. I found out about his inventing robots after I did a DiscoveryTime (storytime + science for 3-5 yr olds) on the subject. I had a lot of fun with the activity, though it wasn’t my original choice.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci

  • Biography
    • Born April 15, 1452
    • Leonardo was part of the Italian Renaissance, which lasted from about 1330-1550. Leonardo is referred to as a “Renaissance Man,” not because he lived through the period, but because he was good at everything.
    • Da Vinci refers to the place of his birth, the town of Vinci outside of Florence, Italy
    • Italy Region Map
  • Early Art Career
    • At age 14, Leonardo is apprenticed to the artist Andrea del Verrocchio (an important Renaissance artist in Florence, whose patrons were the ruling family, the Medici’s) , which is how he improved his drawing and learned how to paint and sculpt
      • Verocchio – The Baptism of Christ, 1472-75
    • Verrocchio - The Baptism of Christ, 1472-75
      • Verocchio – David, c. 1475
      • Verrocchio - David, c. 1475
      • First work attributed to Leonardo – The Annunciation, 1472-75
      • Leonardo - The Annunciation, 1472-75
  • Famous Paintings
    • His most famous paintings are the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Only 15 of his paintings remain. He was very famous and known for his paintings while he was still alive.
    • The Mona Lisa is perhaps the most well-known painting in the world. It is believed that Leonardo da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa around 1503. It is also known as “La Gioconda”, the last name of the woman who is believed to be the subject of the painting.
      • It has been on permanent display at the Louvre Museum in Paris for over 200 years. Because of numerous thefts and attempts at defacing the painting, it has been put under bulletproof glass.
      • Researchers at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Illinois used face-recognition software to determine that the Mona Lisa is “83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful, and 2% angry.”
      • Mona Lisa, 1504-19
      • Mona Lisa - large
  • Mona Lisa Parodies
      • A parody is an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration
      • Squidward Mona Lisa Miss Piggy as Mona Lisa Minecraft Mona Lisa
  • Leonardo’s Time in Milan (1482-99)
    • The Last Supper is a frescoed painting located in the dining room of a church/convent in Milan, Italy called Santa Maria delle Grazie (Holy Mary of Grace) and is huge (15 x 29 ft)
    • Painted while Leonardo was under the patronage of Duke Ludivico Sforza of Milan
    • His version of this painting was the first to depict real people acting like real people and was the best example of one-point perspective – everything radiates from the head of Jesus.
    • Instead of using tempera paint on wet plaster (the preferred method of fresco painting), Leonardo thought he’d use dry plaster. His experiment resulted in a more varied palette, but this method wasn’t at all durable. The painted plaster began to flake off the wall almost immediately, and people have been attempting to restore it ever since. Last restoration was in 1999.
    • Leonardo’s The Last Supper, 1495-98
    • The Last Supper, c. 1495-98
    • Giampetrino’s The Last Supper, copy of the original from 1520
    • Giampietrino - The Last Supper, c 1520
  • Leonardo’s Notebooks (1482-1519)
    • Leonardo was also an architect, writer, natural/biological scientist, cartographer, and mathematician. He is famous for his notebooks where he kept over 13,000 pages of notes and drawings, which were both art and science-related. In fact, he was the first one to explain in the year 1500 why the sky was blue.
    • The notebooks are written in mirror-image cursive with his left hand (i.e. backwards and right to left). And he was ambidextrous – could write with both hands
    • His conceptual drawings included plans for musical instruments, war machines, calculators, submarine, an automobile driven by springs, multi-barreled missiles (machine guns) and many more ideas. Many of these plans were limited by the level of technology at the time.
    • He was interested in civil engineering projects and designed a single span bridge, a way to divert the Arno River, and moveable barricades which would help protect a city in the case of attack.
    • Leonardo’s Inventions: Robots, Tank, and Single-Span Bridge
      • Robots
      • Tank
      • Single Span Bridge
    • Inventions: The Orinthopter
      • He was particularly interested in flight and studied birds to understand how they flew. The Orinthopter was a human-powered flying machine but he also created a design for a helicopter.

      • Orinthopter outline
      • Orinthopter, c 1490
      • Orinthopter
    • Understanding Human Anatomy
      • He became an expert in the anatomy of the human body, studying it in detail and creating hundreds of drawings to help explain his thoughts. Leonardo didn’t just study the human anatomy either. He also had a strong interest in horses as well as cows, frogs, monkeys, and other animals.
      • Anatomical study of the arm, c. 1510
      • The Lungs
    • Animal Studies
      • cats
      • Studies of Crabs
  • Sforza Horse Sculpture
    • In 1482, Duke Ludivico Sforza (Leonardo’s patron in Milan) challenged him to build the world’s largest equestrian bronze statue in honor of Ludivico’s father Francesco
    • Leonardo did a multitude of sketches for the sculpture, and he created a clay model of the horse in 1493, but it was never cast
    • It wasn’t until after Leonardo’s notebooks were re-discovered, and a wealthy American took on the project in 1977, that the sculpture was finally created in 1999.
    • It was installed in Milan (with a copy in Michigan) – it weighed 15 tons (33,069 lbs) and is 25 ft tall [you can see the scale to a human in the bottom picture]
    •  Sketches for Cavallo dello Sforza
    • Studies for an equestrian monument
    • American Horse, 2006
  • Codex Leicester (1506-13)
  • Activity: Invisible Ink using Lemon Juice
    • Let’s Be a Spy and Leave a Secret Message
    • Here’s a simple explanation of this
      • Send a secret message to a friend using invisible ink

        Small glass of lemon juice or milk
        Piece of white paper
        Blow-dryer or light bulb

        Dip the end of the Q-tip into the lemon juice or milk, and use it to write a secret message on the piece of paper.

        Let dry completely. Your message should be invisible.

        To decode your message, heat the piece of paper by carefully blow-drying it (or holding it near a warm light bulb).

        As the paper heats up, your message will appear yellow or brown. That’s because milk and lemon juice are acidic and weaken the paper, Anderson says in her book. “When the heat source is put near the paper, the weaker part begins to brown before the rest of the paper does.”

Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Mosaics

It was nice to have a little downtime after the busyness of summer, but now we’re starting up Fall programs. I am presenting my first Tween Book Club on Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins on the 24th and I still need to re-read it. But now I have co-worker to help me out, so that should make it a lot easier. I just hope I get some kids to show up for the program. It’s been posted in the Children’s Area for about a week, and I dropped off a bunch of flyers yesterday at an elementary/middle school, and I’m hoping to catch the homeschool group this week to give them some flyers (we have a writing group that meets in our Makerspace once a week). I’m still assigned to DiscoveryTimes (basically Preschool storytime + Science or STEM), so those should be getting a bit easier. I say this because I hadn’t done these storytimes since November 2014 before I started again 3 weeks ago, and it is slightly different than ToddlerTime in that there is more planning and you usually do an activity/experiment during the storytime or I like to make up a Take-Home sheet so they can continue the lesson at home.

Anyways, on to Kids Cafe. I rather enjoyed doing this lecture as it taught me some stuff I didn’t know,  like the differences between Greek and Roman mosaics. Plus the Roman mosaics are so detailed that it really does look like a painting. The thing I loved most about this lecture was the art project, which I had a lot of fun with, though it was a lot harder to do than I thought it would be. I originally wanted to do bean mosaics, but we didn’t have any at work and I didn’t want to use dried pasta as we only had mini penne and farfalle. So I came up with using pony beads, the largish beads that are easier for little kids to grab, and white posterboard circles that I had leftover from last summer’s summer reading theme (space). The only problem with this was that you had to completely make sure the glue had dried or the beads would fall off.

KC Mosaics – April 24

Paper Sea Mosaic

Paper Sea Mosaic

  • What is a mosaic?
    • A mosaic is a picture or pattern produced by arranging together small colored pieces of hard material, such as stone, tile, or glass.
    • Mosaic Rock
    • Garden Mushrooms Mosaics
  • Early Beginnings of Mosaics
    • Artists have been creating mosaics since around 700 BCE (for over 2700 years). In the beginning, they used different colored stones to create patterns,
    • It was the Greeks, in 300 BCE, who raised the pebble technique to an art form, with precise geometric patterns and detailed scenes of people and animals.
    • Ex. Lion Hunt Greek Pebble Mosaic – 300 BCE
    • Lion Hunt Greek Pebble Mosaic, 300 BCE
  • Roman Mosaics (200 BCE – 450 CE)
    • By 200 BCE, specially manufactured pieces (“tesserae”) were being used to give extra detail and range of color to the work. Using small tesserae, this meant that mosaics could imitate paintings. Many of the mosaics preserved at Pompeii were the work of Greek artists.
    • Ex. Alexander mosaic from Pompeii – Alexander and Darius at Battle of Issus, Pompeii – 100 BCE
    • Alexander and Darius at Battle of Issus, Pompeii - 100 BCE
    • Ex. Close-up of Alexander Mosaic
    • Battle of Alexander mosaic from Pompeii
  • Roman Britain (43-409 CE)
    • The expansion of the Roman Empire took mosaics further afield, although the level of skill and artistry was diluted. If you compare mosaics from Roman Britain with Italian ones you will notice that the British examples are simpler in design and less accomplished in technique.
    • Ex. Roman Townhouse Mosaic in Dorset, England. c. 300
    • Roman Britain townhousefloor
    • Ex. Detail of Stones Used
    • tesserae detail of townhouse floor
  • Byzantine Empire (400-1453 CE)
    • With the rise of the Byzantine Empire from the 5th century onwards, centered on Byzantium (now Istanbul, Turkey), the art form took on new characteristics. These included Eastern influences in and gold or silver leaf on top.
    • Ex. Virgin and Child with Justinian I and Constantine I at Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey – c. 900s
    • Mosaïques de l'entrée sud-ouest de Sainte-Sophie (Istanbul, Turquie)
    • Christ Enthroned at Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy – c. 500s
    • Basilica of San Vitale - Christ Enthroned, 547 CE
  • Islamic Influences in Spain (711-1492 CE)
    • In the west of Europe, the Moors brought Islamic mosaic and tile art into the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century. It was not pictorial, but was very geometric.
    • Ex. Tile mosaics from Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain – 1400
    • Islamic Tile Mosaic at Alhambra Palace - Granada, Spain - 1400s CE      Islamic Tile mosaic at Alhambra Palace - Granada, Spain
  • Decline in Europe but revival in Mesoamerica
    • Mosaics went into decline in the Middle Ages in Europe
    • Mesoamerican (Mexico and some of Central America) art used mosaics, especially the Aztecs (c. 1195-1522 CE)
    • Ex. Double Headed Serpent (Quetzalcoatl) chest decoration, Aztec – 1400s
    • Aztec Double headed mosaic Serpent chestpiece - 15-16th centuries AD
  • 19th Century Revival
    • Mosaics had a major revival in 19th Century, esp in public spaces and cathedrals like Westminster Abbey in London and Sacre Coeur, Paris.
    • Pulpit in Westminster Cathedral, London – 1800s
    • Pulpit in Westminster Cathedral - 19th Century
    • Close-up of Pulpit Column
    • Closeup of pulpit
  • Art Noveau (1884-1910)
    • The Art Nouveau movement also embraced mosaic art. From 1900-1914, in Barcelona, Spain, Antoni Gaudi helped produce the stunning ceramic mosaics of Guell Park
    • Guell Park Benches, 1900-14
    • Antonio Gaudi - Guell Park benches,
    • Material taken from:
  • Modern Mosaics
  • Activity: Bead Mosaics
    • This was harder than I thought it would be mostly because the beads were round and it’s hard to make geometric-style patterns, aka copies of the ones from Alhambra Palace, because they are meant for point-edged tesserae
    • Islamic Tile Mosaic at Alhambra Palace - Granada, Spain - 1400s CE   –> I used this one as the basic design of my mosaic, but again, hard to completely duplicate due to round nature of beads
    • Bead Mosaic example


August Book Reviews 2015

I have been rather busy reading for the last month or so. I am on a bit of a tight schedule at the moment because of so many good-looking ARCs (advanced reader’s copies) coming out in the next couple of months. I’ve finished the book club selection for August early, Colum McCann’s Transatlantic, which I rather enjoyed. I just started an ARC called Ophelia’s Muse by Rita Cameron, about the Pre-Raphaelite model Lizzie Siddal and the artists of that group, which is pretty amazing so far. I will review both of these next month. I should be pretty busy with ARCs until the new year.

The cool new book news I have is that I’m about to be in charge of a Tween Book Club, which I discussed previously a bit in the first paragraph here. It has finally been named Page TurnersWe will be reading Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins first, then Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, and finally The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. All were books that I loved, so I figured they would be good books to start with. If it goes well, we’ll be continuing it in the new year and I can pick some books I’ve not read yet.

On to the book reviews. I rate books from 1-5 stars, 1 being the lowest. I will include illustrations from the children’s books I enjoyed.


Digger Dog written and illustrated by William Bee Digger-Dog-interior-3

I found this book for my Toddler Dog Storytime and just adored it, though the story does get pretty repetitive, especially if you are reading it out loud. The kids loved the fold-out pages. Digger Dog loves to dig up bones but can’t seem to dig this one up, so he gets progressively bigger diggers to help him. It would also be a good book for a Construction Storytime. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Stanley the Farmer written and illustrated by William Bee

I discovered this book after browsing the children’s section for more William Bee books. He’s done a series of Stanley books and my son just loves this one. The illustrations are simple but really stand out. Stanley has a farm and has decided to plant some wheat. The book goes through all the steps needed to plant, take care of and harvest wheat. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Sea Rex written and illustrated by Molly Idle Sea Rex

I love these books because they are so expressive and fun, plus the illustrations are always great! I got so excited when I saw the latest one at a local bookstore and immediately reserved a copy at the library. This installment sees the two children and their dinosaur friends going to the beach to play in the water and sand and leads to some interesting adventures. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Dragon Stew written by Steve Smallman, illustrated by Lee Wildish

I originally picked this book up to use as a back-up book for my Toddler Dragon Storytime but decided not to use it because it was a bit too long. But I figured my son would think it was funny because it mentions poop and burning bums (he did). A group of Vikings are bored and don’t know what to do, until one suggests getting a dragon and making dragon stew. They have no idea how to do this, but go for it anyway. I loved that the dragon is very posh drinking tea with a little top hat and bow tie! He naturally objects to being cut up into stew and attacks them, setting their bums on fire. They decide rather quickly to do something else. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Dinosailing written by Deb Lund, illustrated by Howard Fine

Since we had read the second and third book in this series, it made sense to go ahead and read the first book. This one was not as good as the other two. Our intrepid group of dinosaur adventurers decide to get a ship and go sailing, but things aren’t as easy as they originally thought. They hit a squall and all get nausceous and decide they have no more sea legs. They are happy to return to their families. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

Orion and the Dark written and illustrated by Emma Yarlett

Orion and the Dark

I picked this up for my son while browsing in the library because it looked intriguing, and it was. The book is about Orion, a little boy with a very active imagination, who is scared of everything. He is especially scared of the dark, and one night he gets so fed up that he screams that he “wishes the dark would just go away.” Instead of that happening, it turns into a physical manifestation and invites Orion to explore his fears to see what they really are. After a while, Orion realizes that he has nothing to be scared of and gains a best friend in the process. Both my son and I really enjoyed this book, and it had fabulous illustrations that really drew you into the book. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

The Conductor by Laeticia Devernay

I’ve been trying to find more wordless picture books for my son, so I leaped at getting this one. The problem is , I just didn’t connect to it. It is about a conductor who climbs up a tree in a forest and makes all the leaves turn into birds and fly off the trees. This goes on for many many pages until all the leaves are gone. Then he climbs down and buries his baton in the ground, where it sprouts and turns into a tree. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

Goat in a Boat written by Lesley Sims, illustrated by David Semple

This was one of a group of phonic learner beginner books we had gotten in to the library but the illustrations were funny, so I decided to give it a chance. My son loved it. The goat likes to eat oats, but wants something different for dinner. So he decides to go fishing in the moat with his best friend Stoat, but Stoat is busy. So he goes by himself and starts catching only suits of armor someone has dumped there, and his friend Stoat joins him later in the boat. They see an approaching army but can’t shout loud enough to be heard (and Stoat can’t shout at all because of his sore throat), so the resort to banging on the armor. The guards finally hear, raise the drawbridge and the two friends save the day. Plus they get fish for dinner. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Bee Makes Tea written by Lesley Sims, illustrated by Fred Blunt Bee Makes Tea

I love this phonics reader with rhyming text and precious illustrations! The story is so cute. A Bee is making a birthday tea for her Queen Bee, but she can’t get it all down to the beach. So her friend Ant and his friends help out, but her giant birthday cake doesn’t make it out of the house, before falling apart. But Ant saves the day when he suggests she make the broken up cake into a bee-shaped cake, which of course the Queen loves. I love doing all the voices for this book and my son liked helping saying some of the lines in a tiny bee voice. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Llamas in Pajamas written by Russell Punter, illustrated by David Semple

Another phonics book with cute illustrations, this one was a cute story about four llama friends who get together for a sleep-over. They decide to stay up and tell each other spooky stories, but are frightened by scary noises that the house makes when their grandmother comes to bring them a midnight snack. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Wolfie the Bunny written by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Zachariah OHora

Wolfie the Bunny

Dot and her Bunny parents come home one day to find a baby wolf on their doorstep. Dot warns them “He’s gonna eat us all up!”, but they are just taken by how cute he is. This becomes her refrain for the rest of the book, and she seriously doesn’t trust little Wolfie. He is raised with the Bunny family and fed carrots, growing bigger every day. One day he eats all the carrots and Dot must go to the store to get more, but Wolfie wants to go with her. She is about to put the last carrot into her shopping bag when Wolfie puts on a scary face and Dot is convinced that he is finally gonna eat her. A large bear has decided to make Wolfie his meal and Dot stands up for him. They are a lot closer afterwards. I loved the illustrations. This is a great book to read to children who have recently gotten a younger sibling, or experience a bit of sibling rivalry. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Is There a Dog in This Book? written and illustrated by Vivianne Schwartz

I discovered this book by accident at the library while browsing, although I knew about the author/illustrator from reading her stuff before. My son loved this very interactive lift-the-flaps book about three cats, Moonpie, Andre and Tiny, and a dog they find and befriend inside of the book. I loved doing the voices for each of the three cats. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

There are Cats in this Book written and illustrate by Vivianne Schwartz

There are Cats in This Book

I liked the third book in the series so much, I hunted for one of the first two books and this is the book I could find. I really like Ms. Schwartz’s stuff as it is very original and funny. Like Is There a Dog in This Book?, this book is the story of the three cats, Moonpie, Andre, and Tiny and their adventures with the reader throughout the book. They play with yarn, go fishing (sort of) and play with pillows. Again, the voices were fun to do and my son liked to do them too. It was a fun and silly book. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

I Will Take a Nap! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

How can you not love a book about naps! This one was totally silly and me and my son had a lot of fun with it, especially all the sound effects. Gerald just wants to take a nap, as not taking one is making him tired and cranky (I know the feeling). He dreams that his friend Piggy has woken him up, and of course over-reacts to this happening. She decides to take one too, but is so loud that Gerald cannot nap. With turnip-headed animals and singing stuffed animals, this book is a lot of fun. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Regards to the Man in the Moon written and illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

I picked this book up because I love Ezra Jack Keats’ work and I needed a book for a Moon Preschool Storytime. It’s not exactly what I’m looking for, and would be better for a more general Space Storytime. Louie and his parents are planning a journey “right out of this world” on his ship the Imagination I, which no surprise, runs on lots of imagination. Early the next morning, him and a girl named Susie blast off into space seeing seeing all kinds of planets and galaxies. Eventually they bump into two of their friends, Ziggie and Ruthie, who have followed them into space but ran out of imagination and are now stuck. They manage to make it through an asteroid field and back home again. Then of course, all the kids want to take off on adventures of their own. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

Children and Young Adult

The Ancient Persians written by Virginia Schomp

I had originally set this out as an additional book for a Kids Cafe I had done on the Ancient Assyrians and Persians, but it looked cool, so I picked it up for myself. I’ve been fascinated by the Persians for a while now, and I’ve tried (and failed) to read “The Shahnameh (Persian Book of Kings)”, so I thought this might be a better introduction to Persian literature. The book gives a small introduction on the Persian empire and its early history until the 7th century CE. It talks about the teachings of Zarathustra, the prophet of the Zoaroastrian religion, which was one of the first monothesistic ones in the world, and influenced Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam. The book features the Persian Creation story and the Triumph of the Light over the Dark, the First Sin, and four epic hero tales from the Shahnameh (an epic poem on ancient Iranian myths and Zoroastrian traditions). The back of the book has a Glossary of terms used in the book, a breakdown of the major texts used in the book, a booklist and websites to explore and find out more information. Recommended for ages 8-12, 4 stars.

The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus written by Jennifer Fisher Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

I’ve been wanting to read this for awhile. It won a 2015 Caldecott Honor and the 2015 Sibert Medal. I adored this book and its illustrations, done by the same team that did the Caldecott Honor-winning book A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams, about the famous American poet. The illustrations really helped the book come alive and do look as though a child wrote them out and included snapshot illustrations of his life throughout the pages to bring everything together. Peter Roget loved lists. He began making them early, after the death of his father. He was a shy child and started writing a book with these lists at age eight. When he was a teenager, scientist Carole Linnaeus was developing his classification system for plants and animals, to make them easier to study, so it seemed natural for teenage Roget to continue his lists as well. He was a bit of a genius, entering medical school early and was only nineteen when he graduated. He decided to become a tutor for awhile in France, before coming back to England to become a doctor to the poorest families in Manchester. He finished his book in 1805 and used it daily. He joined scientific societies and was asked to give lectures, and he used his book to help him with those talks. He married late and had a couple of kids and eventually published his Thesaurus in 1852. The publication of the text has been continuous and updated since 1869 by Roget’s family. There is an author and illustrator’s note in the back of the book, along with a bibliography and further reading materal list. I would love to own this book.  Recommended for ages 8-12, 5 stars.

Wideness and Wonder: The Life and Art of Georgia O’Keeffe by Susan Goldman Rubin

Ok, so I’m a late Georgia O’Keeffe convert. I knew about her art of course, but had never really studied it until I decided to do a presentation on her for Kids Cafe. I found her art and life fascinating once I started researching her, so I decided I wanted more information and got this book for that purpose. I liked that she decided early to become an artist, but changed her mind based on personal illnesses, but then decided she wanted to do it full-time. And this was a time when very few women had a career, and even fewer were unmarried. Though she did eventually marry Alfred Stieglitz and he helped publicize her name, I like that she didn’t let him hold her back and started painting more and more original works like her famous flower painting, and the abstracted desert landscapes with animal skulls. I no longer believe her works are hyper-sexualized like some people believe because they look like women’s genitalia, but yes they were rather sensual. For a woman who was competing with dozens, if not hundreds of men that were artists during the same time period, she did really well for herself and was famous during her own lifetime. I really enjoyed this book and would love to add it to my personal collection. Highly recommended for ages 9-12, 5 stars.


Lamp Black, Wolf Grey by Paula Brackston

The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

Major Ernest Pettigrew is, above all, about manners, respectability, and having a stiff upper lip. He lives alone after the death of his wife a few years before, in the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary. His brother Bertie recently passed away and the Major has been feeling a bit adrift. Right after receiving news of his brother’s death, he inadvertently blurts it out to Mrs. Ali, the local corner shop owner, who he’s never spoken to before. As the Christian Science Monitor review says, “He strikes up a friendship with Mrs. Ali, the widowed local shopkeeper, and they bond over Kipling [which made me want to read more of the author] and the loss of their spouses. It doesn’t hurt that Mrs. Ali is a lady of quiet thoughtfulness and innate dignity – whose tweedy neighbors don’t even see her because she is Pakistani and runs a shop.” The book is the story of their friendship, which eventually grows into love and shows that everyone has a chance at finding happiness, no matter your age. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

This book immediately made me think of my best friend, who is also Pakistani, and made me want to share this with her, as I know she could identify with parts of it. It is a hilarious but honest look at following your heart no matter what others may say, and I really loved it. I have seen first-hand how small English villages and towns can sometimes react towards foreigners, and it isn’t always pretty, so the author’s descriptions of that part of the story were pretty accurate although not pleasant. I liked the secondary story about Mrs. Ali’s nephew and his love troubles. It was a little hard to believe that this was the author’s first novel as I thought it was rather good.

Lord John and the Private Matter (Lord John Grey Book #1) by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Jeff Woodman

It is 1757 and Lord John Grey is in turmoil. The major has witnessed something shocking about his cousin’s betrothed Joseph Trevalyn and is trying to decide what he should do about it, to avoid a scandal. Meanwhile, the British army has asked him to investigate the murder of a possible traitor, an officer in his company. He soon discovers that the two events are linked and must figure out how. 5 stars.

This book was my first foray into her spin-off books and she does not disappoint. I had always liked Lord John’s character in the Outlander books and was happy to learn of this second series. I read this one before the short story Lord John and the Hellfire Club, so I was a bit confused at some mentions of the previous story, but gathered enough not to be completely lost. This one was jam-packed full of intrigue, spies, secret relationships, prostitution (both male and female), and multiple mystery murders. The book definitely delves into the seedy underbelly of London of the eighteenth century and its relation to the outer more respectable parts of the city and its inhabitants. While it doesn’t tell you too much more information than you already might know from reading the Outlander books, it was enough to keep me thoroughly interested and wanting to read more.

Lord John and the Hand of the Devils by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Jeff Woodham

This book is a collection of Novellas of the in-between stories in one collection, namely Lord John and the Hellfire Club, Lord John and the Succubus, and Lord John and the Haunted Soldier. Jeff Woodham is again the narrator and thank goodness because he definitely makes the books a pleasure to listen to, even when the story isn’t all that interesting. I was not really a fan of the Hellfire Club, it was just too weird and way too short. The Succubus story was better and we really got to know Stephan von Namtzen, the dashing Hanoverian commander. The Haunted Soldier required you to have read the second book Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade to really have any idea what was going on in the novella. Overall, I would give the collection 3 stars.

Lord John and the Hellfire Club (Lord John Grey #0.5)

It is the autumn of 1756 and Lord John has finally returned from temporary exile in Scotland. He witnesses the murder of a recent acquaintance named Robert Gerald. At the request of a relative of Gerald’s, Lady Lucinda Joffrey, he agrees to look into who murdered Gerald and find out who is trying to slander the poor dead man. He quickly discovers that the man to question is Sir Francis Dashwood, and Lord John gets himself invited to a party at Dashwood’s house. It is here that Lord John discovers the truth about the Hellfire Club and George Everett’s (a man from Lord John’s past) possible involvement in Robert Gerald’s murder. 2 stars.

Lord John and the Succubus (Lord John Grey #1.5)

It is 1758 and Lord John is an English liason officer to the Hanoverian army in Germany. He is also in charge of local issues in the town he is stationed. A young Hanoverian and an English soldier have been killed and the locals are blaming it on a succubus, a demon female who seduces men and claims their seed. Needless to say, this has severly spooked the armies. Lord John is staying at the castle of a local noblewoman named Louisa, Princess von Lowenstein, who is trying as hard as she can to flirt with him. He is also trying not to fall for another nobleman, Captain Stephan Von Namtzen, also staying at the castle and the head of the Hanoverian troops. Will he be able to discover who the succubus really is? 5 stars.

Lord John and the Haunted Soldier (Lord John Grey #2.5)

It is 1759 and Lord John has been brought up before the Commission of Inquiry after the battle of Crayfeldt at the end of Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, as a cannon exploded and the officer in charge of it was beheaded right in front of Grey. Some of the members of the commission are trying to blame Grey for the explosion saying he was negligent and others say that it was his half-brother Edgar who manufactured the powder, but Grey soon realizes that there are other forces at work behind the scenes. Will he be able to find the culprit in time? 2 stars

I’m not actually sure who the Haunted Soldier is supposed to be. My gut tells me it is Captain Fanshaw, but Lord John kept seeing ghosts too, so I’m not sure. This one was rather slow, and if you didn’t read the previous book, you would be pretty lost. But the volume did tell the reader more about Lord John’s family, and I thought the side trip to discover Philip Lister’s wife was interesting as well.

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade (Lord John Grey #2) by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Jeff Woodham

It is 1758, and John’s mother is getting re-married. This has dredged up memories of his father, the Duke of Pardloe, who was found dead and charged as a Jacobite rebel seventeen years before. After pieces of a missing diary of his father start showing up, Lord John is nearly killed twice. He seeks the help of Jamie Fraser, who is working as a stablehand at the house of a friend of John’s family for the truth about his father’s possible Jacobite connections. It is the middle of the Seven Years’ War and Lord John and his brother Hal (the Earl of Melton and commander of the company) are with the army fighting with the Prussian army. Will Lord John be able to find out the truth about his father? 4 stars.

Diana Gabaldon wasn’t kidding when she said that this book is all about honor. Of course, men in England have been obsessed about this for ages, so it’s not surprising. For those following the Outlander series, this book is set during the time that Jamie was a prisoner in England, although he is a minor character here. I would just like to say “Yay, about time for Lord John Grey to have a love interest!” Though of course, Gabaldon almost completely ruins it by figuratively getting rid of him by the end of the book. I was so happy to see Stephen Von Namzten again and wished that him and Lord John would get together (Gabaldon is such a tease with their relationship!).

The Custom of the Army (Lord John Grey #2.75) by Diana Gabaldon, narrated by Jeff Woodham

This was an odd book. It started out in 1759 with Lord John attending an electric eel party in London (who knew such things existed!?!), went through a bit of trippy dream sequence in which he is involved with a duel. The story ends with with an army promotion to Lieutenant Colonel and on his way to Canada to bail out friend Charlie Carruthers who is being court-martialed under ridiculous circumstances. The scenes with the Native American Manoke were quite hilarious, and I enjoyed those immensely. Lord John arrives in Canada in time to participate in the Battle of Quebec with General Wolfe. This was thankfully a short novella, as I had listened to all the previous books back to back and needed a bit of a break from his story. 3 stars.

I Am Livia by Phyllis Smith

Livia is the daughter of a Roman senator loyal to the republic. He knows about the plot to kill Julius Caesar, but does not take part in the actual stabbing. Livia is married to at age fifteen, and has a rather loveless relationship with her husband Tiberius Nero, even though she does bear him two children, Tiberius and Drusus. Octavianus (aka Octavius) is Caesar’s adopted son, and wants to take revenge on those who murdered his adopted father. Livia finds herself strangely drawn to Octavianus, even though he is her family’s political enemy and proves himself as a personal enemy over the years. After Octavianus has gotten rid of all his adopted father’s killers, and also rids himself of Pompey and Mark Antony, his next move is to marry Livia. She has to ask her current husband to divorce her so she can be with Tavius (as she affectionately calls him), even though she is pregnant with her second son by Tiberius Nero. The story ends just as Tavius becomes emperor of Rome. 5 stars.

I have been fascinated with Livia ever since I watched I, Claudius in college. So when I saw this book at the library, I had to read it. It was almost completely different approach to her, as compared with Robert Graves’ example, especially as this book ends before Octavianus becomes Emperor Augustus and that’s where the book/series started. It seems she was an incredibly smart and shrewd woman who lived an incredible life during a period of immense change in the Roman Empire. I’m honestly surprised that she managed to survive as she did given all the crazy circumstances she managed to live through, especially that fire in Greece. Her relationship with Tavius, as portrayed in the book, was intriguing to say the least. I rather enjoyed this book and would be interested in reading other books by the author.

Heritage by Sean Brock

I had originally seen Sean Brock on the PBS series The Mind of a Chef and so I knew about the kind of cooking he did. As a Southerner, it is always fascinating for me to see how others interpret the cuisine, and he definitely has an interesting approach. He is big on heritage ingredients, especially those around Charleston, so you have an emphasis on things like Carolina Gold rice, benne seeds, heritage beans and other veggies. And the man is not afraid to use bacon and other pork products, which are staples in Southern cooking. So when I heard about this cookbook, I definitely wanted to check it out (it’s been on to-read list forever). I finally grabbed a copy from the library. A lot of the recipes are really ingenious, with several takes on classic dishes. Mostly I’d rather go to one of his restaurants to have the food because I’m sure I couldn’t really recreate his masterpieces at home, even with instructions. I did however want to try the Chilled Fennel Bisque with Citrus-Cured Scallops and Almond Oil, Cornmeal-Fried Pork Chops with Goat Cheese-Smashed Potatoes and a Cucumber and Pickled Green Tomato Relish, Stone Crab with Cucumber Juice, Fennel Jelly, and Raw Apple (which gets the award for the most creative looking), and Grilled Tilefish with Asparagus Broth and Oyster Mushrooms. He also had a couple of recipes for pickled veggies and eggs that I wanted to try as well. 4 stars.

In Her Kitchen: Stories and Recipes From Grandmas Around the World by Gabriele Galimberti The author/photographer decides to take a trip around the world. His grandmother worries that he will not eat well and makes him his favorite dish before he leaves, Swiss Chard and Ricotta Ravioli with Meat Sauce. He tells her not to worry and he will eat well. He goes to 60+ countries and visits with and gets recipes from 60 grandmothers and includes their picture, recipe, and story in the cookbook. It was an interesting concept and I had originally wanted to read it as an ARC, but didn’t have enough time to do so. There were three or four recipes in here that I would want to make again. 3 stars.

Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Vermeer and the Camera Obscura

I had a lot of fun with this one. I had originally learned about Vermeer and the Camera Obscura after watching a documentary about a modern guy from Texas (I think) who recreated a Vermeer painting, The Music Lesson, using just that technique. If you are interested in art or art techniques, I highly recommend it. It was amazing really. I got to share my love of Baroque art, tricky really when you consider a lot of that type of painting is full of naked women and men and we’re trying to keep this PG rated. I’d love to do a presentation on Rembrandt! With this lecture, I learned a lot about the camera obscura (aka the pinhole camera) and how to create your own DIY version and once I finally figured out how it worked, I was blown away. Sadly I didn’t get to share all the cool things with the kids because of time. I didn’t get to play the snapshot memory game, which would’ve been fun. I didn’t even get to use my camera obscura. We ended up using Vermeer coloring sheets, which was a total cop-out after the interesting lecture. Oh well.

KC Jan Vermeer and the Camera Obscura – April 17

Vermeer - Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, c. 1664-65

  • Biography of the Artist
    • Born Oct 1632 (aka Johannes Van Der Meer) in Delft, a rich trading city near the coast in Southern Holland
    • Son of a silk weaver/art dealer who owned a tavern
    • Admitted to the Painters’ Guild in 1653, when he also became a master painter
    • He liked to paint in yellow and blue
      • The Lacemaker
      • Johannes Vermeer. The Lacemaker. c.1669-1670. Oil on canvas, 23.9 x 20.5 cm.

        Johannes Vermeer. The Lacemaker. c.1669-1670. Oil on canvas, 23.9 x 20.5 cm.

        • Domestic scene of a lady creating a small piece of lace
  • Contemporary Painters
    • Vermeer’s work is part of the Baroque style of painting, which encouraged natural realism and dramatic use of light and shadow; other famous Dutch Baroque artists included Frans Hals and Rembrandt van Rijn
      • Franz Hals – Jester with a Lute, 1620-25
      • Frans Hals - Jester with a Lute, 1620-25
      • Rembrandt van Rijn – Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630
      • Rembrandt - Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, 1630
  • Influences on Dutch Baroque Art
    • The new wealth of the merchant or middle class also affected the style of Dutch Baroque art, as this was the primary patrons of Dutch artists
      • The new middle class used the paintings to show off their wealth, which is why you have paintings with oriental rugs, fancy clothes, jewelry and musical instruments
        • The Music Lesson
      • The Music Lesson, 1662-65
      • Vermeer - The Music Lesson,1662-65
        • We have a young woman getting a music lesson from her instructor. She is playing a virginal, a keyboard instrument related the harpsichord. The virginal is painted with flowers and sea horses. There is an oriental carpet on the table. There is viola da gamba, similar to the lute and guitar.
  • Camera Obscura
    • Vermeer was obsessed with optics and his paintings were created with a filmless version of the modern camera, called the camera obscura
    • Using a series of lenses, this machine lets the viewer isolate and focus on a single subject with incredible clarity.
      • Show example of camera obscura
      • Science behind Camera Obscura
      • Camera Obscura2
    • Paintings Where He Used the Camera Obscura
      • A camera obscura was probably used for his painting ofThe Girl with the Pearl Earring and his ten other paintings showing pearls.  Clues of this are the soft, blurry edges of the portrait and the magnification of the close up view.  Officer and Laughing Girl also shows signs of the assistance of this tool with lenses.
  • Officer and Laughing Girl, 1656-60
  • Vermeer - Officer and Laughing Girl, 1655-60
    • Painting shows a young girl talking to and flirting with a young officer; a map of Holland appears in the background
    • You can see the way Vermeer used the camera obscura with the way he showed perspective (objects in front are larger the ones in the back) and the way it almost looks like a photograph
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665-67
  • Girl with a Pearl Earring, oil on canvas, 1665.

    Girl with a Pearl Earring, oil on canvas, 1665.

    • Eleven of the women in Vermeer paintings wear pearl jewelry.  He enjoyed painting the effect of concentrated light reflecting on these jewels, and 17thcentury Holland, pearls were probably an extremely important status symbol.  This is the most beautiful pearl in all of his paintings.
    • The model may have been his daughter Maria, who was about 12 or 13 yrs old
    • Vermeer spent too long on his paintings, he died bankrupt Dec 1675
    • 1st Activity: Snapshot Memory with Vermeer Paintings
    • 2nd Activity: Make my own version of Camera Obscura to share with the kids
    • 3rd Activity: Vermeer coloring sheets

Kids Cafe: Haikus, Acrostic Poetry, and Origami

I’m glad that the kids are about to go back to school. Cue music. The amount of people is starting to slow down again, though the noise volume never seems to. Oh well, can’t have everything. We are already starting to plan for Fall programming, and I’m getting pretty excited about a tween book club (yet to be named) that I hope to be doing once a month. For those who have no idea what I’m talking about when I say tweens, it is basically between the ages of 8-12, some people say between age 8-14 or 4th-8th grades. We’ve previously tried a teen book club, which didn’t work out, so I’m hoping this one will have more interest. I’m psyched about the books too, as the first three I’ve picked are all ones I’ve read before and loved.

Kids Cafes during the month of April this year were a little sparse. I had wanted to do a whole month on poetry for National Poetry month, but after the first two kinda fell flat, I did other things the rest of the month. It sucks because not only do I love creating my own poetry, especially haikus, but I love sharing it as well. I even composed examples of the different kinds of haikus and one of the Acrostic poem, which was a bit harder than it looked. Thankfully, the kids loved the origami, so we ended up doing that the first two weeks. I used to do origami when I was a kid, but I can no longer do the really complicated stuff like swans or a kangaroo, so I picked easy ones. My favorites were the owl and the fortune teller.

KC Haikus and Origami – April 1

  • A haiku is an unrhymed three-line poem, and is a traditional Japanese poetic form. There are different ways to write haikus, but in English, it is traditionally done with the first and last lines with five syllables each, and the middle line with seven syllables. In other words, the pattern of syllables looks like this:

Line 1: 5 syllables
Line 2: 7 syllables
Line 3: 5 syllables

Here’s another way to visualize the same thing:

1 2 3 4 5
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 2 3 4 5

  • Most often, haiku poems are about seasons or nature, though you can write your own haiku about anything you like.
  • One more thing to keep in mind is that the last line of a haiku usually makes an observation. That is, the third line points out something about the subject you are writing about.
  • Seasonal Haikus
    • Let’s say that you decide to write your haiku about a season. First you will want to select a season: spring, summer, fall, or winter.
    • Ex. Spring

A brief moment of

time, in Spring here we see the

trees and flowers bloom.

  • Nature Haikus
    • If you decide to write a haiku about nature, you will have many more subjects to choose from. You could write about animals, plants, the sky, the ocean, streams, the wind, and so on. Start by selecting a topic, and then decide what you want to say; what observation you want to make about it.
    • Ex. My Dog

My dog is crazy

and barks all day long.

We still love her though.

  • Funny Haiku
    • Just because most haiku poems are about seasons or nature doesn’t mean that’s all they can be about. If you want, you can even write funny haiku poems. One way to make a haiku funny is to have anunexpected last line. For example, if the last line says the opposite of what the reader expects, it becomes like the punchline of a joke. It also helps to write about a funny subject.
    • Ex. Falling Down

I am such a clutz, I

am always falling down. Look,

I did it again!

My son has no toys

or so he tells me all the

time, our dog eats them.

  • Bring my copy of Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein to share
  • Activity: Easy Origami (make our own Origami paper – out of 6” x 6” square colored copy paper)
    • Cat, Dog, Fox or Owl (from various online sources)
    • Cat Origami
    • Dog Origami
    • Owl Oriami
    • Fox Origami
  • KC – Origami and Acrostic Poems – April 10th
    • 1st Activity: Origami (Fortune Teller and Cat/Dog/Owl/Rabbit Origami)
    • 2nd Activity: Acrostic Poems
      • To begin with, an acrostic is a poem in which the first letters of each line spell out a word or phrase. The word or phrase can be a name, a thing, or whatever you like. When children write acrostics, they will often use their own first name, or sometimes the first name of a friend.
      • Usually, the first letter of each line is capitalized. This makes it easier to see the word spelled out vertically down the page.
      • Acrostics are easy to write because they don’t need to rhyme, and you don’t need to worry about the rhythm of the lines. Each line can be as long or as short as you want it to be.
      • Decide what to write about.
      • Write your word down vertically.
      • Brainstorm words or phrases that describe your idea.
      • Place your brainstormed words or phrases on the lines that begin with the same letters.
      • Fill in the rest of the lines to create a poem.
    • Now let me show you how to follow these steps.
      • The first step is to decide what you would like to write an acrostic poem about. I recommend you start by writing an acrostic based on your name or on your favorite thing, whatever that happens to be. It doesn’t matter if your favorite thing is soccer, video games, chocolate, music, pizza, movies, or anything else.
    • His Examples

    Ice Cream

    I love every flavor.
    Cookies & Cream.
    English Toffee.

    Chocolate Chip.
    Rocky Road.
    Even Strawberry and
    Almond Fudge.

    • Homework

    Hard to do and sometimes
    My teacher gives us homework
    Every single day!
    Writing for hours
    Reading for hours.
    Kids need a break!

    Taken from:

    • My name example

    Rapacious reader, she’s an

    Art historian and loves sharing art with others.

    Crafting scarves is one of

    Her pastimes.

    Every day she is a

    Librarian, even when not at work.

Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Pablo Picasso

I feel kind of glazed over today as I’m fighting a cold (yes you can get them in the summer, even in the desert apparently) and it’s been a rather long day. Aside from that, I have managed to get a fair amount of work done so far this week since Sunday, so I am pleased with that.

This Kids Cafe was pretty cool because I only knew the basics about Picasso, so I got to learn a lot as well. He does have the longest name of any historical figure (that I’m aware of at least). I knew he was the father, so to speak, of Cubism, but I didn’t really know anything about his other art periods. I also had no idea that he even did sculpture, collages or etchings. He had an amazingly large body of work. The kids had an interesting time with the Picasso-style portaits, and I did have a few takers for the Cubist guitars as well.

KC Pablo Picasso – March 27


Self-Portait, 1901

  • “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. ” Pablo Picasso
  • Biography
    • Born Oct 1881 in Spain
    • He was named after various saints and relatives: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso.
    • When he was 7 yrs old, his father (who was also a painter) gave him training in figure drawing and oil painting
  • First Major Paintings
  • Le Picador, 1889
    • 1st painting at 9 yrs, Le Picador 1889 – a man riding a horse in a bullfight
    • First Communion, 1895
    • 1st major “academic” work was First Communion, 1895 which featured his father, mother and younger sister kneeling before an altar – he was 15 yr old when he finished it
  • Background Info
    • At age 13, Pablo studied art in Madrid and then went to Paris when he was 19. In 1900 Paris was considered the art capital of Europe.
    • Paris Opera House circa 1900
    • In 1905, American art collectors Leo and Gertrude Stein began to collect his work and helped to make him famous. It was through them that he met fellow artist Henri Matisse and the two became lifelong friends.

      Aside from paintings, Picasso also created ceramic and bronze sculptures, drawings, etchings and poetry. He was also famous for doing collages (gluing previously unrelated things together with images), like his friend Matisse.

    • His work is divided into 4 major periods
  • The Blue Period (1901-04)
    • These were sad paintings done in blue and green colors
    •  Old Guitarist, 1903
      • The Old Guitarist, 1903
    • The Rose Period (1905-1907)
      • These were happier and done in orange, red, oranges and beiges
      • Les Baladins (Mother and Child, Acrobats) 1904-05
        • Les Baladins (Mother and Child, Acrobats), 1904-05
      • The African-Influence Period (1908-1909)
        • African artworks were being brought back to Paris museums after the French Empire established colonies in Africa
        • Picasso liked the expressive style of the African masks and sculpture
        • Head of a Woman, 1907
          • Head of a Woman, 1907 and Dan Mask
        • The Cubism Period (1909-1921)
          • He is famous for being the co-founder (with Georges Braque) of Cubism, a style of painting where the subjects are broken up and re-painted in an abstract form
          • Three Musician, 1921
            • Three Musicians, 1921
        • Other Famous Works
        • Girl Before a Mirror, 1932
          • Girl Before a Mirror, 1932
          • Guernica, 1937
            • Guernica is one of Picasso’s most well-known works and was created in response and in protest to the 1937 bombing of the Basque village of Guernica in Northern Spain during the Spanish Civil War. The large, 25.6 ft wide and 11 ft tall mural emphasizes the horrors of war and the suffering inflicted on innocent civilians.
            • Guernica, 1937
            • scale of Guernica
              • Guernica and Scale of Guernica pic for comparison
          • Dove of Peace, 1949
          • Dove of Peace, 1949

Activity: either Picasso Portraits ( or Guitars (

Below are my examples of both the Guitar and Picasso portrait. I liked the guitar better. I had some examples of Cubist facial features (found somewhere online, can’t remember exact source) as well laminated to help the kids decide what to use for the portraits, featured below my examples:

Picasso Guitar example         Picasso Portrait example


Picasso Portrait details

Kids Cafe Art Lectures: Van Gogh

We’ve got about 3 weeks left in Summer Reading and I must say I’ve had fun, but I’ll be glad for the craziness to die down a bit. Kids Cafe has been packed this summer. We upped the number of meals from 15 to 25, and we probably could’ve gone up higher had we any more room. I’ve now planned about 20 art/history lectures, and have enjoyed doing them, although I am starting to run out of ideas. I have started looking up some easy ones I can thrown together with less preparation, as I average about 6-8 hrs for a full-on art lecture, not counting set-up and presentation (adds about another 1-1/2 hrs).

This particular one on Vincent Van Gogh was one of my favorite lectures because I love Van Gogh.  I have been fortunate enough to see a couple touring exhibitions with his original work, as well as getting to check out an awesome Van Gogh/Gaugin exhibit at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. He is one of my favorite artists and I always learn something knew about him when I research. This time I found some paintings I had never seen before, so got a few new wallpapers for my computers. I had planned on doing this cool Sunflowers craft, but it took so long to prep, I didn’t think it would be feasible to do during Kids Cafe. If you have a full hour or even better a day or two, it would be doable and was really cute. We ended up just doing coloring sheets of Van Gogh works, which is a bit of a cop-out I know, but was what I could get together with short notice after the original Sunflowers craft fell through.

KC – Vincent Van Gogh – March 20th

Van Gogh - The Church at Auvers, 1890

  • Biography of the Artist
    • Born in 1853 in the Netherlands
    • His father and grandfather were ministers. He was closest to his brother Theo, who worked in a gallery in Paris.
    • He worked as a teacher and missionary before deciding at age 27 to become an artist.
    • In the early part of his career, he used a lot of dark colors such as browns and greens, and the paintings subject matter tended to be rather sad or morbid.
    •  the_potato_eaters
      • Early Works: The Potato Eaters, 1885
      • woman_winding_yarn_1885
      • Early Works: Woman Winding Yarn, 1885
    • Letters to Theo and Impressionism
      • Much of what we know about Van Gogh came from the letters he wrote his brother Theo in Paris
      • One thing Theo told Vincent about was a new style of painting called Impressionism. In 1886 Vincent moved to Paris to learn from and be influenced by Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Camille Pissarro.
        • Monet
        •  Tulip-Fields-Hague-Claude-Monet-Impressionist-Landscape-Flower-Poster-Gift-Bedroom-Wall-Art-Decor-Wood-Frame.jpg_350x350
          • Tulip Fields near the Hague, 1886
        • Degas
        • Edgar Degas - Dancers in the Rehearsal Room with a Double Bass, 1882-85
          • Dancers in the Rehearsal Room with a Double Bass, 1882-85
        • Pissarro
        • Pissarro - Haymaking, Eragny, 1887
          • Haymaking, Eragny 1887
    • Living in Paris
      • It was here in Paris that he began to use brighter colors and his brushwork became more broken.
      • He was friends with artists like Paul Gauguin and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec
      • He started painting portraits, including his own.
        • Self Portraits
        •  self portrait with grey felt hat
          • Self-Portait with Grey Felt Hat, 1887
          • Self portrait, 1889
          • Self-Portrait, 1889
        • Portraits
        •  Van Gogh - Portrait of Postman Joseph Roulin, 1888
          • Portrait of Postman Joseph Roulin, 1888
        • Van Gogh - The Zouave, 1888
          • The Zouave, 1888
    • Van Gogh was influenced by Japanese prints and woodcuts called ukiyo-e
      •  Residences with Plum Trees
      • Original painting Residence with plum trees at Kameido, 1857 by Utagawa Hiroshige
      • Flowering Plum Orchard
      • Flowering Plum Orchard (After Hiroshige), 1887 by Van Gogh
        • Living in Arles
          • In 1888, he moved to Arles and briefly lived with the painter Paul Gauguin.
          • During this time period, he used very thick and expressive brushstrokes which create a flowing textured pattern in his paintings. The brushstrokes add interest to the painting, but they also add energy. It is as if they give us a glimpse into the artist’s mind and the rapid movement of his thoughts and feelings.
          • A Good Example of his Expressive Brush Strokes
          • Van Gogh Olive Trees, 1889
          • Van Gogh’s Olive Trees, 1889
      • Early 1889: committed himself to a mental hospital.
        • It was here that he painted one of his most famous paintings Starry Night,1889
        • “This morning I saw the country from my window a long time before sunrise, with nothing but the morning star, which looked very big,” van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo.
        • Van Gogh - Starry Night, 1889
    • Other Biographical Info
      • Vincent only sold 1 painting during his lifetime.
      • Today he is considered one of the greatest and most influential artists of his time. Many of his paintings sell for millions of dollars today.
      • There are over 850 surviving paintings as well as almost 1500 watercolors and sketches of his work.
      • He was a Post-Impressionist painter and his use of color as expression really revolutionized modern art
      • Died 1890 in France, his brother Theo died six months later and was buried next to him
    • My Favorites
        • Almond Blossoms
          • Almond Blossoms, 1890 (which he painted for his baby nephew Vincent Willem, Theo’s son)
        • vincent_van_gogh_bedroom_in_arles_canvas_print_24
          • Bedroom at Arles, 1889 [I have always loved this one, ever since I first saw it with a traveling exhibition when I was about 15. It’s hard to explain, I guess it’s the simplicity of it and the colors.]
  • Activities: Van Gogh Coloring Sheets:
  • Alternative Activity: Sunflower Craft:

Kids Cafe Lectures: Ancient Egyptian Art

We’re halfway through the Summer Reading program. I am fairly certain that we are busier this year than last year and with less staff, just to make things interesting. I’ve been keeping track of my son Liam and my summer reading and I’m rather proud of myself. So far I read to him for a bit over 500 minutes (about 8.3 hrs – which is, I think, quite impressive as he’s not quite four and still has a relatively short attention span). I’ve read (books only) about 2400 minutes (40 hrs) and if you were to add audiobooks, it would be about double that time.

This is the second half of my powerpoints on Egypt, this one of course being about Egyptian art. It does overlap a bit with the previous one on Egyptian history, but that is a bit unavoidable.The formatting is a bit off again, not sure why it does that when I paste from Word. For this week’s activity, we made 3-D pyramids out of paper and decorated them. It was a bit tricky to cut out and put together the first time, but once I made one a couple of times, it was easy to show the kids and parents.

Ancient Egyptian Art – Egypt Pt 2


The Book of the Dead, The Weighing of the Heart

  • The Egyptian culture lasted for over 3000 years and the art started in c. 2686 BCE, and style was copied throughout its whole history.
  • Most of their art came from their religion and was especially used to glorify the Pharaoh, their king, whom they considered a god. They filled the tombs of their Pharaohs with paintings and sculpture, though nobles also had these kinds of decoration. Temples were another popular place for art. The walls held paintings and there were large sculptures as well.
    • A majority of the art hidden in tombs was stolen by thieves over thousands of years
  • The Style of Egyptian Art
    • Traditional portraiture tries to be as realistic as possible, usually viewed head on, so the subject matter is looking at you
      • In contrast, in Egyptian art –heads were depicted in profile with just one eye visible, but both shoulders were shown facing forwards.
        • Queen Nefertari, wife of Ramses II Queen Nefertari, wife of Ramses II
        • Representations of gods depicted some deities with the heads of humans wearing various styles of crowns and headdresses whilst other gods were depicted as ‘human hybrids’ with the bodies of humans but with the heads of animals.
          • The bodies and heads of seated gods were often depicted entirely in profile. Gods with human like heads were always painted in a brownish-red color and goddesses were always painted in a yellow color.
          • Tomb of Horemheb with Hathor and Horus Tomb of Horemheb and Horus
            • Horemheb was two pharaohs after Tutankhamun
            • Horus the Elder – falcon-headed god, protector and patron of the pharaoh
            • Hathor – sky goddess and goddess of beauty, women and children; symbol was the cow
      • They used Hieratic Scale – assigns importance based on the size in relation to others in the picture
        •  House Altar Depicting Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Their Three Daughtera
          • House Altar of Akhenaton, Nerfertiti and Three Daughters
            • Akhenaton is the biggest figure b/c he’s the pharaoh, then next biggest is Nefertiti b/c she’s the queen, then their three daughters
      • Egyptian Painting and Tomb Walls
        • Paintings were instructional – it taught the people (including the Pharaohs) the path to the underworld, as well as showing what Egyptians did every day and their accomplishments.
        • They mostly used the colors blue, black, red, green, white and yellow in their paintings.
        • Many of the paintings of Ancient Egypt survived for so many thousands of years because of the extremely dry climate of the area.
  • Reliefs
    • A relief is a sculpture that is part of a wall or structure. The Egyptians often carved them into the walls of their temples and tombs. Reliefs were generally painted as well.
    • Painted Relief in Tomb of Merneptah, Valley of the Kings, 1203 BCE
      • Tomb of Merneptah, Valley of the Kings, 1203 BCE (13th son of Ramses II, who ruled after his father died)
    • The Egyptians are most famous for their monumental sculptures.

        • Ramses II at Abu Simbel
        • Sphinx
        • Great Sphinx
      • They also did smaller more intricate sculptures, like Tutankhamun’s funerary mask
      •  King Tut Funeral Mask
        • The coloring of the collar is made with semiprecious stones and the stripes on the headdress are made with blue glass called faience. The rest of the mask is made from twenty-four pounds of solid gold!
          • Nefertiti's Head
        • Bust of Nefertiti
          • Nefertiti was the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaton, aka The Heretic King. She had 6 daughters with him. Her name means “The beautiful one has come.”
          • The sculpture was found in the sculptor Thutmose’s studio and is thought to be a 3D model of the queen to be used to make other sculpture.
          • She has been held up as the symbol of beauty for several millenia.
    • Activity: 3-D Pyramids
      •  The tabs are just to make it stand up a little better. They are folded inside the pyramid. Don’t color the square as it will be the inside bottom when folded in to make the pyramids. You can color it anyway you like, but I liked the solid colors or when I made it look like bricks.
      • pyramid
      • 3D Pyramids

Kids Cafe Lectures: Ancient Egyptian History

I took a class on Ancient Near Eastern History (which included Egypt and Mesopotamia) during my undergraduate years and loved it, plus I had originally intended on using Egyptian art history (at least the museum pieces) as my first Masters’ thesis, so when trying to come up with ideas for Kids Cafe, I immediately jumped at the chance to talk about Ancient Egyptian History! Plus most kids love Egyptian things like mummies and pyramids, so I figured it was a safe bet. I divided the lecture into two parts, the first was History and the second Art. Obviously there is a bit of overlap when talking about these, but that’s gonna happen. I had a little more interaction with the kids as I tried to ask some questions while I was doing the presentation. The outline comes out a bit funny-looking (format-wise) on here, but it does the job of explaining what I did.  The cartouches came out pretty good too, as an activity.

KC Ancient Egyptian History – Feb 13

Upper and Lower Egypt map

  • Brief History of Egypt
    • 3100 BCE – King Narmer unites Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom
    • NarmPalette1
    • The Narmer Palette, which shows on the left side, King Narmer defeating his enemies
    • 2650 BCE – 1st Pyramid(a Step Pyramid) is built
      • Step Pyramid of Djoser
        • The Pyramids were built using huge stones. Each stone weighed as much as two and a half elephants! The finished pyramids had a white coating to protect the stones underneath.
        • The pyramids were built as burial places and monuments to the Pharaohs. As part of their religion, the Egyptians believed that the Pharaoh needed certain things to succeed in the afterlife. Deep inside the pyramid the Pharaoh would be buried with all sorts of items and treasure that he may need to survive in the afterlife.
        • There are around 138 Egyptian pyramids.The largest is the Pyramid of Khufu, also called the Great Pyramid of Giza. Scientists estimate it took at least 20,000 workers over 23 years to build the Great Pyramid of Giza.
    • 2250 BCE – Egyptians introduce gods into all areas of their lives
    • Egyptian gods
        • Some gods include Anubis, Thoth, Amun-Ra, Bastet, Horus and Hathor
    • Pharoahs
        • Rulers of Ancient Egypt were called pharaohs. The word ‘pharaoh’ means great house. The pharaoh was the most powerful person in Egypt and some people considered him a god.
        • One of the most famous pharaohs was Ramses II (aka Ramses the Great). He ruled Egypt for over 60 years. In that time he fathered 156 children! He was a brave soldier and a great builder.
          • Ramesses_II_on_chariotRamses II in his chariot
          • Ramses II reconstruction Ramses II mummy
          • Ramses II reconstruction                             Ramses II’s mummy
        • Another famous pharaoh was King Tutankhamun [below is his mummy and reconstruction]
        • King Tut Reconstruction
        • King Tut Sarcophagus
        • King Tut’s Sarcophagus
  • Hieroglyphics
    • Ancient Egyptians used a system of picture writing called hieroglyphics. Each hieroglyph represented an object or letter. There were about 700 different hieroglyphs.
    • There were no vowel sounds, only consonants. Also, there was no punctuation.
    • They wrote on tablets, walls or papyrus paper (a reed-like plant)
    • Sometimes scribes used a faster short form of hieroglyphics on papyrus called hieratic.
  • The Rosetta Stone
    • In 1799 a French soldier found a special stone in the city of Rosetta. This stone had the same message written in both hieroglyphics and Greek.
    • This was important because it helped to translate what the hieroglyphics said and could be used to help translate other hieroglyphics as well.
    • Top section is in Egyptian Hieroglyphics (language of the scribes/priests); 2nd section is in Egyptian Demotic (common language); 3rd section is in Greek
    • Rosetta Stone  rosettastone-detail
  • Cartouches
    • An oval frame which is surrounded by a protective rope. This rope is said to possess a magical power to protect the name within it from evil spirits in present life and afterlife. Cartouches were primarily used to house the names of Pharaoh’s, Royals or Egyptian gods only.
    • Cleopatra CartoucheCleopatra’s Cartouche
    • ??????


  • Activity: Creating our own Cartouche
    • Cartouche: An oval frame which is surrounded by a protective rope. This rope is said to possess a magical power to protect the name within it from evil spirits in present life and afterlife. Cartouches were primarily used to house the names of Pharaoh’s, Royals or Egyptian gods only.
    • Supplies: blank cartouche and examples of hieroglyphics that the kids can trace over/color/add to their own cartouches
    • I traced the hieroglyphs of my first name by placing the cartouche over the alphabet letters.


My name in Hieroglyphics