School is out in just a few days, and ooooh-em-goodness. I’m ready. Things are getting really lax around here. I’m having standoffs with lunch boxes and the contents therein. The backpacks are playing pile-up in the dining room corner. I’m completely (did I say completely?) done with the morning-time tango.
It’s time for a break.
I’m home with my girls full time. So that means in T-minus-four-days, my daughters and I will embark on an endless summer together. By the time late August rolls around, I know I’ll be ready to send them back to school. But as for right now, in this early June moment, I’m counting down the hours to the final school bell, living for every promise of summer.
Every jeep ride. Every backyard sunset. Every last popsicle.
The park, the zoo and the pool will be playtime destinations, to be sure. But our summer days will always begin and end at home. I reserve screen time for when I’m cooking dinner, so we’ll be otherwise unplugged… for many hours at a time. Knowing my girls’ rhythms and routines, our imaginations will most certainly need a jumpstart from time to time.
Alas, what to do in times such as these?
Ever since reading new picture book BE A MAKER by Katey Howes, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic (Carllrhoda Books, March 2019), I’ve been keeping its brilliant ideas and philosophies in my back pocket for Summer 2019.
The story is driven by a direct and inspiring question: In a world of possibilities, today, what will you make? Turning the page is an acceptance of the book creators’ challenge - a decision to put passive consumption and inpatient expectancy on the shelf and instead invite your hands to do, to transform and, above all, to MAKE.
Readers journey alongside a young girl as she embarks on a series of independent explorations. Through gentle, stylish illustration, we see our main character’s inventiveness in action. She starts by making things indoors - towers, music, a telescope and blueprints. But makers cannot be confined to inside spaces. Soon she grabs supplies and heads outdoors…
BE A MAKER celebrates the freedom of creating in solitude, cozying up and settling into beautiful, quiet, formative moments of discovery. Then, midway through, the book expands to envelop additional characters, depicting a maker mindset that involves friends and community…
The satisfying rhyme moves at a steady clip, encouraging readers to ponder and predict what the characters might make next. Running concurrent to the active, verb-led text is an adorable, detail-filled world that’s complemented beautifully by soft crayon-style gestures in the background. The layered look subtly reiterates that preliminary design is kinetic and experimental.
BE A MAKER explores astronomy, art, engineering, cooking, and service, providing multiple inroads to creating. In fact, it gave me an idea for my kiddos, who are natural makers. (Just moments before this pic was taken, my 4-year-old said: “Mom, give me the garbage. I’m gonna make something new.”)
My girls do well with a loose framework of what the day will bring. So to give us some direction, together we created a “maker chain” - a link of creative projects to take on all summer long. Over bagels and cream cheese, we brainstormed things that we could make.
Inspired by BE A MAKER, we had four categories: Things we could BUILD (blueprint blue), things we could EAT (yummy minty green), things we could CREATE (craft paper brown), and things we could GIVE (heartbeat red) in service to others. We wrote our ideas on long strips, 10 ideas per color…
The BUILD ideas…
The EAT ideas… (We know. Our sweet tooth is showing.)
The CREATE ideas…
And the GIVE ideas…
We linked the strips into a chain, which is now draped across the window in our dining room, where we convene over juice and carbohydrates to discuss what’s in store for the day.
In case you decide to try this at home (and I hope you do!), here’s a little tip: Wrap the links “ideas out,” so Mom and Dad can see what is coming next and make sure the supplies are on hand. The first link in our chain: Make puppets and a show. Note to self: Add brown paper sacks, felt, yarn and googley eyes to the craft store list.
I know that this summer, the girls will make lots of things that aren’t part of this chain. But the 40 ideas colorfully connected ideas are there for us, when we need them. And, if we use them all up, there’s good news! We can add more. That’s another thing to make.
It’s safe to say…
BE A MAKER is by Katey Howes, the author of GRANDMOTHER THORN (Ripple Grove Press) and MAGNOLIA MUDD AND THE SUPER JUMPTASTIC LAUNCHER DELUXE (Sterling Children’s Books). BE A MAKER’s pictures are by Elizabet Vukovic, illustrator of the JASMINE TOGUCHI books (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) and I WANNA BE A COWGIRL (Beach Lane Books).
One lucky reader will win BE A MAKER, signed by Katey Howes! Here's how to enter:
*** Win BE A MAKER ***
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