Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Traveling Mural, A Virtual Visit, And A Story Called LIFE!

One of the highlights of the ALA Annual Conference last year was meeting Brendan Wetzel and hearing all about his amazing book (and my favorite book of last year) They All Saw A Cat.  There was definitely a buzz in the air about this one!

I was so excited as I listened this year as They All Saw A Cat was awarded a Caldecott Honor for 2017.
And this year, there was lots of excitement and love around another new book.  

It is called LIFE by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. 
As the School Library Journal review states, 

A spiritual yet not overtly religious epistle on hope and the many reasons to embrace life. It opens with the notion that “life begins small.” Wenzel shows a seedling surrounded by mountains. The next spread declares: “Even for the elephants. Then it grows.” A calf is seen looking up to the enormous adults in its herd. Several animals discuss what they love about life, and as the author acknowledges that “life is not always easy,” readers observe a bluebird flying through a storm. They are asked to remember that there is always “something to love…and to protect.” The narrative continues in this vein, promising that “it is worth waking up in the morning to see what might happen.” The mood of the child-friendly illustrations shifts appropriately from the darkness of the wilderness to the vitality of life seen in a flock of birds crossing the moon. The illustrator infuses the book with humor where possible, such as in the expression of a floppy-eared, stick-bearing dog or a camel kicking up sand across a spread...Wenzel’s exuberant paintings...are quite engaging and convey a deep appreciation for the wonders of the natural world. 

(School Library Journal June 2017)
I love how Cynthia and Brendan came together to create such a beautiful book about life.
As we read LIFE at home last week, the words not only brought us in and touched our hearts,
Brendan's illustrators perfectly captured all of the feelings and thoughts of Cynthia's words too.  It is perfect.

As I shared this book with my sister Heather, who is also a teacher librarian in Amana, Iowa, we brainstormed ways she could use this book in the fall.
Of course, we both thought it would be wonderful to focus on theme of Cynthia's story and Brendan's amazing art work.  When you go to his website, you will find his other books including two favorites...Some Bugs and Some Pets by Angela DiTerlizzi.

As we looked and talked about the illustrations and LIFE, Heather mentioned perhaps it would be fun to have her kindergarteners and first graders work on this project together.

It could be focused around LIFE too, tying in communities, as they kicked off the new school year.

They could create a giant mural perhaps working on techniques to create backgrounds and animals, people and objects to tell their story.

And what a wonderful collaborative project this could be become!  She could collaborate with the art teacher and talk about murals; with the classroom teachers and talk about communities and places around the world; the music teacher and talk about international music and animal sounds; and of course, the different animals in a science unit too!

This is when we REALLY starting thinking outside of the box!  

If they created a mural, perhaps it could be a traveling mural that other libraries and students could work on too.

When the mural was done traveling, it could be cut apart and each library could keep a piece to hang in their library and celebrate LIFE and global togetherness too.

As Heather and I collaborate and plan this project, we will also bring together other picture books with art, murals and artists.
I started a Padlet to crowdsource this list, as others will find it helpful and will have ideas too.  You will find the Picture Books About Art, Murals and Artists Padlet here.
The first one I added was Maybe Something Beautiful...How Art Transformed a Neighborhood. The website that goes along with this one is amazing!

Please add your ideas too!

To make this week of collaboration even better, we have invited Brendan to virtually visit Heather's students in the library this fall.  We can't wait and couldn't be more excited about this special connection with Brendan and his books.

This will make the traveling mural project and LIFE even more meaningful and special.

Heather and I will be sharing more soon.

And we will share how you can all get involved in this project too.


  1. I LOVE this SO much! Our 1-2 students focus on communities in social studies..SO many ideas!! Can't wait to hear more! I come from a large district so it could even travel throughout the district. Inspiration!

    1. Hi there....We would LOVE to have you join in! :) That would be really awesome if it could travel throughout the district. And then perhaps after yours travels and Heathers travels, you could connect all of the kids to talk about their murals and meet new friends. <3