Tag Archives: art

Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall

I’m a huge fan of Leanne Hall’s first two YA novels, This is Shyness and Queen of the Night.  They are weird and wonderful stories that have haunted me since I first read them.  When I heard that Leanne had a new novel coming out, aimed at younger readers I was very excited.  I knew she would bring the same magic to a story for younger readers as she did for teens.  Reading the blurb I got a tingle of excitement and when I started reading I knew it was going to be a very special story.  I got completely wrapped up in Iris and the Tiger and I know you will too.

9781925240795Twelve-year-old Iris has been sent to Spain on a mission: to make sure her elderly and unusual aunt, Ursula, leaves her fortune–and her sprawling estate–to Iris’s scheming parents.

But from the moment Iris arrives at Bosque de Nubes, she realises something isn’t quite right. There is an odd feeling around the house, where time moves slowly and Iris’s eyes play tricks on her. While outside, in the wild and untamed forest, a mysterious animal moves through the shadows.

Just what is Aunt Ursula hiding?

But when Iris discovers a painting named Iris and the Tiger, she sets out to uncover the animal’s real identity–putting her life in terrible danger.

I absolutely loved Iris and the Tiger!  Leanne Hall enchanted me with her tale of magic and mystery.  It is a really unique and refreshing story with plenty of excitement to keep you reading.  There is something in this book for everyone – art, magic, mystery and wonderful characters.

Iris’s mission from her parents, to get in her aunt’s will, becomes her search to discover the mysteries of her aunt and her sprawling estate.  From the moment that Iris arrives Aunt Ursula’s estate in Spain, she knows that there are strange things going on. According to her parents her aunt is near death but she looks young and full of energy.  Iris sees things in her aunt’s mansion and out in the grounds that she can’t explain.  The mansion, Bosque de Nubes, is full of surreal paintings by Iris’s Uncle James, who died many years ago.  One of these paintings is called Iris and the Tiger but Iris can’t find it anywhere in the mansion.  She sets out to uncover the mystery of the painting and find the real tiger that she is sure is lurking somewhere on the estate.

Aunt Ursula’s estate is brimming with a mysterious magic.  There are all sorts of weird and wonderful things that Iris and her friend Jordi discover while exploring her aunt’s estate.  There is a monster car, tennis-playing sunflowers, shoes with a mind of their own and a ghostly dog.

I love Leanne’s characters and there are plenty of interesting ones in this story.  Iris is my favourite because she knows there is magic out there and she goes in search of it.  She stands up for what she believes is right, especially when she knows that her parents are wrong.  Aunt Ursula is shrouded in mystery and you just know that there is something weird about the other people who live and work at Bosque de Nubes.

If I hadn’t read one of Leanne’s books before and knew that I loved them, the stunning cover would be enough to make me want to pick it up and read it.  Sandra Eterovic’s cover illustration is the perfect match for the book and really draws the reader in.  I love how each of the paintings on the cover relate to the story.

The ending of the book is so perfect and made me want to go right back to the start and read it again.  Grab a copy of Iris and the Tiger and get lost in Leanne’s magical story.

 

 

 

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Enter the Colour Me Creative Challenge

Kristina Webb is one of the most popular artists on Instagram ( @colour_me_creative, @kristinawebb), with a following in the millions.  Kristina has just published her first book, Colour Me Creative, with HarperCollins.  It is part biography, following Kristina’s story so far, and part creative journal.  The book features 50 art-inspired creative challenges for you to complete, including a face-paint challenge, a dream wardrobe challenge and a doodle challenge.  These challenges are heaps of fun and give you the chance to be creative and go crazy.

Here is a video of Kristina Webb talking about Colour Me Creative:

Win a copy of Colour Me Creative!

ColorMeCreative_cvr_revised

You can enter to win a copy of Colour Me Creative by completing one of Kristina’s challenges, the Masked Ball Challenge.  Here are the details:

Imagine you were just invited to a masquerade ball! Using paint, pencils, feathers, glitter, or anything else you
wish, create your dream mask on this template. Afterward, feel free to cut it out and take a selfie in your fabulous mask.

You can download the template here – Masked Ball Challenge.

When you have finished your mask simply take a photo of your mask and email it to bestfriendsrbooks@gmail.com, along with your name and address.  Competition closes Friday 30 October (NZ only).

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Win a signed copy of Wearable Wonders by Fifi Colston

Wearable Wonders is Fifi Colston’s fantastic new book that’s bursting with creativity, tips, tricks and ideas to help you make your own wearable wonder.  Fifi has been in Christchurch this week, running workshops for children as part of the TV2 KidsFest, and I got the chance to have a chat with her.  I’m a huge fan of Fifi’s books and I grew up watching her on What Now.

Thanks to the wonderful publisher of Wearable Wonders, Scholastic NZ, I have a special signed copy of the book to give away.  All you have to do to get in the draw is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Wednesday 31 July (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  The winner is Sandra Worthington.

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Wearable Wonders by Fifi Colston

Are your kids crafty and creative?  Are you looking for that perfect idea to keep your kids entertained for hours these school holidays?  Wearable Wonders is Fifi Colston’s fantastic new book that’s bursting with creativity, tips, tricks and ideas to help you make your own wearable wonder.

What wonderful stories can petals, shells and stones tell?

What fantastic forms can fabrics, wire and cardboard take?

What out-of-this-world shapes can old cans and drink bottles make?

Mix them together, add a dash of drama and a splash of imagination and learn how to WOW the world with your very own wearable wonder!

As Fifi says in her introduction, this isn’t a book with patterns that show you how to make something in particular, it’s about showing you ‘how you can come up with an idea for something you’d never dreamed of making before.’  There are plenty of examples of wearable wonders that Fifi and others have created to show you what can be created from materials that you might have lying around the house.

Fifi has split the book up in to lots of sections so that you can work through your masterpiece from start to finish.  The first section is all about how and where to find good ideas, and Fifi gives some great tips about tips to help inspire you.  Once you have your idea, Fifi then takes you through how to plan your time, shows you the tools and materials that you might need to create your masterpiece, shows you how to construct it, looks at what other accessories you might need to complete your look, and how to paint it.  The last section looks at staging a wearable art show and the things you need to pull it all together.

There is so much to like about Wearable Wonders. The information is clear, simple and easy to follow.  I especially like the way that the text is arranged in small blocks, on pieces of paper that look like they’ve been pinned or taped to the page.  The text is surrounded with lots of colourful diagrams and photos, with arrows matching photos and descriptions.  It’s the sort of book that will appeal to kids, teens and adults because it’s so user-friendly.  I’m not a crafty person but Fifi makes it look easy to create something wonderful from recycled materials.

Grab a copy of Wearable Wonders from your library or bookshop and create your own masterpiece.  It’s the perfect way to spend the school holidays or a rainy weekend.

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Dear Vincent by Mandy Hager

I had quite a sheltered upbringing.  I had a loving family who cared for me and life was never tough.  When I really got into reading when I was a teenager I discovered teenagers who had a very different life than mine.  These teenagers had abusive or neglectful families or they had been touched by tragedy of one kind or another.  I have never known anyone who has suicided so I haven’t been affected by it in any way.  As a teenager I didn’t want to read books about it because I didn’t think it related to me.  When I first heard about Mandy Hager’s new YA book, Dear Vincent, I wanted to read it, but I wasn’t sure if I would like it.  It affected me so much that I was in tears for the last few pages.

17 year old Tara McClusky’s life is hard. She shares the care of her paralysed father with her domineering, difficult mother, forced to cut down on her hours at school to help support the family with a part-time rest home job. She’s very much alone, still grieving the loss of her older sister Van, who died five years before.

Her only source of consolation is her obsession with art — and painting in particular. Most especially she is enamoured with Vincent Van Gogh: she has read all his letters and finds many parallels between the tragic story of his life and her own.

Luckily she meets the intelligent, kindly Professor Max Stockhamer (a Jewish refugee and philosopher) and his grandson Johannes, and their support is crucial to her ability to survive this turbulent time.

Dear Vincent is one of the most powerful, emotionally-charged books I’ve ever read.  I don’t think I’ve had such an emotional response to any other book, both adults or YA.  The story is narrated by Tara, so you experience all the ups and downs of Tara’s life and you go into the dark spaces inside her head.  When you figure out the path that she is taking, you just want to yell at her to stop and think clearly.  You want to be the person that she can talk to and help her see sense.

Like Mandy’s other stories, the characters really resonate with me.  You understand why Tara has so much anger and hatred towards her parents, but through her discoveries you can also understand why they have become these people.  You can’t help but become completely wrapped up in Tara’s life, as you know all her thoughts and feelings.  While Tara takes you to some dark places, some of Mandy’s characters bring some light and hope into Tara’s world.  My favourite character is Max (or the Professor) who Tara meets in the rest home that she works in.  Max is a sort-of grandfather figure to Tara.  He loves art, music and philosophy and he reminds Tara of Captain von Trapp from The Sound of Music.  Right from when Tara first meets him he’s there to help her through and tries to make her see things from a different point of view.  He has some profound words of wisdom, like his metaphor on page 140. This is one of my favourite lines from Max,

‘All life is suffering.  One way or the other, damage attaches to us all.  In the end it’s how we deal with it – or don’t – that makes us who we are.’

Max’s grandson, Johannes, and Tara’s Auntie Shanaye and Uncle Royan, are others who try to help her through her tough time.  They are each incredibly loving and caring in their own ways, and they go out of their way to prove that they are there for Tara.  Even though Shanaye and Royan are struggling and they have their own issues to deal with, they are getting on with their life, and they show Tara more love than her parents ever had.  While Tara’s parents ran away from The Troubles in Ireland and were miserable, her auntie and uncle stayed and are doing the best that they can for their family.

Dear Vincent is an important story that all teenagers should read.  Thank you Mandy for telling Tara’s story. The fact that it can have such an emotional response on a reader is testament to your amazing writing.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Tara on page 249 that mirrors Max’s words from earlier in the story,

‘Hell, maybe it’s the suffering that makes us who we ultimately are.  Not just the hurdles, but how we deal with them.  Or don’t.’

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Make some Sneaky Art with your kids

With the weather getting colder and wetter it’s great to have something crafty up your sleeves to entertain your children.  I was pretty useless at art as a kid (and still am) but my dad helped me make some pretty wicked crafty creations.  There are some great art and craft books around and our library shelves are always bursting with them.  Candlewick Press have just released a really cool new craft book by Marthe Jocelyn, called Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight.

Sneaky Art is chock full of quirky yet simple craft ideas that kids will love to make.  Marthe says that sneaky art ‘is quick to install and effortless to remove’ and that each project in the book is ‘meant to be displayed in a public place, for people you may know or may not know, in a made-you-look-twice spirit of fun.’  There are Fractured Faces that you can stick anywhere, tiny bunting for a teeny party, a teensy-weensy washing line, and miniature houses to place in unexpected places.  My favourite idea is something I might just try in the library – Library Shouts.  These are large speech bubbles, with sayings like ‘Best Book Ever!’ and ‘Read Me!’ that you can stick in books to make them jump out at you.

The thing I love about all the ideas in Sneaky Art is that you can make them from stuff you already have at home, including junk mail, magazines, and Post-it notes.  Part of the fun of making the things in this book is finding somewhere funny to leave them.  Together you can plan your sneak art attack.

Next time you’re looking for something to entertain your kids grab a copy of Sneaky Art from your library or bookshop.

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Picture Book Nook: The Magical Life of Mr. Renny by Leo Timmers

The wonderful Gecko Press introduced us to the remarkable Belgian picture book creator, Leo Timmers, when they started to publish his books in English.  He is incredibly talented, not only as a storyteller, but also as an artist.  His illustrations are vibrant and almost seem to jump off the page, so I can’t think of a better illustrator to create a picture book about an artist whose paintings become real.

Mr. Renny is a very good artist.  Whatever he paints looks just like the real thing, but no one wants to buy his paintings.  He has no money, and he’s hungry.  One day a mysterious stranger offers to make Mr. Renny’s dreams become real.  Now whatever he paints becomes real, including a hotdog, a car, and a ship.  But what happens when his friend wants to buy one of his paintings?

The Magical Life of Mr. Renny is a colourful masterpiece that children and adults alike will love.  Like Leo’s other books, including Who’s Driving? and I am the King, the illustrations are bright and vibrant, and he makes them look 3D so they jump off the page.  This is one of those picture books that you want to pick up again and again just to stare at the illustrations and find what you might have missed last time you looked.  Leo adds in lots of little details for you to find, like the goat who has dropped her eggs or finding all of Mr. Renny’s treasures in his mansion.  The story itself is funny and thoughtful and would make a great read aloud.  It promotes lots of discussion about art, greed and friendship, and you could have children talking for hours about what they would paint if their paintings became real. Local author, Bill Nagelkerke has done a fantastic job of translating the book into English and making it flow so well as a read aloud.  Gecko Press’ books are always beautifully designed and this is no exception, from the front cover and the inside flaps to the back cover with its frame design.

Get your hands on the work of art that is The Magical Life of Mr. Renny by Leo Timmers.

5 out of 5 stars

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Picture Book Nook: Edge of the World by Ian Trevaskis

Shaun Tan, Margaret Wild, and Chris Van Alsberg are some of the masters of sophisticated picture books.  Their stories are told through both words and pictures and they make us think and question.  Edge of the World is a stunning new sophisticated picture book by Ian Trevaskis and illustrated by Wayne Harris, about grief and the power of art to heal wounds.

Edge of the World is about a small fishing village near the edge of the world where ‘the wind shrieked and howled through the empty streets and women and children huddled closer to their hearths,’ and where nobody smiled.  While other fishermen talk about their adventures, Toby McPhee keeps to himself and tries to forget what has happened.  Everyone in the village gets on with their lives; the women pray for the boats’ safe return and the children trudge to school.  Everything changes one day when Toby McPhee hauls in his fishing net and discovers more than just fish.  Each time he returns home with tiny pots of paint, which he uses to bring colour back into his life and the lives of the villagers.

Edge of the World is a magical story full of colour and hope.  Ian Trevaskis’ writing style is very descriptive and paints a picture for the reader, even without Wayne Harris’ illustrations.  You can sense the sadness of the village and it’s inhabitants from the opening lines, but the tone lightens as more colour gets introduced to the village.  Wayne Harris‘ illustrations are absolutely beautiful and it’s hard to believe that they were created digitally.  Wayne’s use of colour is very important to the story and he has shown this in the change in colour palette throughout the story.  In the beginning the colours are very muted and dull, but they get progressively brighter as the mood of Toby and the villagers change.  I’ve read this book at least 5 times so far and have got something new from each reading and viewing of the story.  It is a perfect picture book to study as a class (especially Year 7/8) as there as so many different aspects of the story, from the use of descriptive language to symbolism of different colour, that you could explore.   Walker Books have even created Teacher’s Notes to use with the book.

4 out of 5 stars

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