Once Upon a Bookmaking Project

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Yes, her book *IS* bigger than she is!Yes, her book *IS* bigger than she is!The art of handmade books has a rich history. When talking to students about the possibilities for making books of their own the most serious problem is sticking to my desired limit of five minutes for a demo at the beginning of an art class. I'd been tinkering with some sample mock-ups to show the kids (and to share with teachers if they wanted to create some in class to support literacy efforts) when I was approached by a fifth grade colleague. Their students were going to be working on personal narratives and their traditional source of small, blank books Dr. Serrano and her lotus bookDr. Serrano and her lotus bookwasn't available this year. When she asked if I had any ideas for patterns they could use, I was happy to share my samples. I've collected several favorites over the years and had bought a copy of Making Books That Fly, Fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, And Turn: Books for Kids to Make to experiment with. At a planning meeting with the three teachers, I shared accordion, piano hinge, slit, folding packet, circle, spiral, giant fold, and lotus-fold books. Wisely, my One excited authorOne excited authorpartners selected two models for their students to select from, and we planned for at least two full days of art time for production of the books.

One of my favorite quotes about change states, "The only one who welcomes change is an infant who needs a new diaper, and even he goes into it screaming." Shifting a large group of independent artists who have grown used to choosing their own media and projects to a single focus is a bit like herding cats - but the cats appreciate it more. Sea Side Tour authorSea Side Tour authorAfter the initial shock of our little change, students settled into the project. They were highly suspicious of my, "You're going to treasure these books - trust me" noise, but they were willing to give the books a try. We discovered that doing twelve "lotus" folds and keeping track of all the parts needed: cardboard covers, ribbon or yarn for closure took a bit of maturity and a LOT of organization. An extra pair of eyes and hands was provided by one of my colleagues, who went through the process with her students and modeled the writing process, as well, as she created a personal narrative of her own.

The opportunities for artistic expression were rich and varied. Some kids made stamps to make impressive borders and others used print, collage, or tempera streaks with which to decorate book covers. Hot glue (with safety gloves, of course) attached ribbons and yarn and colored pencils added pictorial memories to text.

One quarter of a magic carpet bookOne quarter of a magic carpet bookTime spent in the studio is always too short, and this project was no exception. Students worked with word processors on their homeroom computers and printed out the texts to glue into their books.

Four class sessions, one winter break (with four-day snow cancellation enhancement) and a return in January later, the books were finished. Their completion fell close enough to Read in Your Pajamas Day that children could share their stories with second graders. Second graders loved the event, too, and fifth graders enjoyed "strutting their stuff" with the little guys. PJ's and a great book!PJ's and a great book!

As for the collaborative process, I made notes for the next time we do something of this scope but really enjoyed working on my colleagues' annual project. As for the kids, the look in the eyes of each artist/author is all the "I told you that you'd treasure these" that I need. Fabulous illustrationsFabulous illustrations

A closeupA closeup