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  • Writer's pictureAliza

All About Art and Writing (and Me)

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I have three books to talk about today. Let's make it four, because one of them is a Jewish folk tale with more than one version. The theme that ties these books together, is art. More specifically, what is art? What do we create? How do we create? Giving ourselves permission to create.

Light stuff, really.

The first two books, both by Peter Reynolds, are Ish, and The Dot. The main character in each of these stories is a young child who struggles with their drawings and paintings.

In Ish, a child who loves to create is devastated when an older sibling says nonchalantly, "That doesn’t look like a vase."

Oh, big brothers? Why so cruel?

This one little comment leaves our poor subject struggling and struggling and finally giving up on creating something that looks exactly how it is "supposed to."


Until, a younger sibling comes a long and says, "Yeah, but it's vase-ish." Turns out, she has cherished each of her brother's "failed" creations.

Oh, younger siblings, thanks for your adoration.

And with that our budding artist finds his freedom from perfection, and rediscovers his joy in creating.

There are books that are just magic in the way they engage young children. This one, I (selfishly) just love it for the way it speaks to me.

See, I can't really draw. Well, it would be more accurate to say, I have not practiced and developed the skills needed for drawing, and they do not come to me naturally. When I was younger, that really bummed me out. I felt the need to be creative, but since I did not know how to draw representational objects, I just put myself in the category of "not an artist."

And later, when I discovered the ways that I do know how to create, it was like coming home.

And so, I know Ramon's frustration, and I know his joy. And thus, a good book.


For the same reason, I love The Dot , because here too, our young subject stares at her blank paper saying, "I can't draw!"

Yep. Been there. Felt that.

This time, it is an art teacher who comes to our heroes rescue, asking her to put anything on the paper. Anything at all. And so, she angrily acquiesces.

"Now sign it." Ooh. That gets me every time.

Vashti's teacher frames that dot, and that is where this budding artist finds her freedom and joy in creating. She has been given permission! Being an artist does not only mean being able to make something that looks like something else.

Why do we think that?

There is a lovely little ending in which Vashti pays it forward, but I'll let you discover it for yourselves.


Now, the next two books, Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman, and Joseph had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback, we get to look a little more closely at the art of writing and storytelling.

Hmm. Writing and storytelling...That sounds familiar to me...Oh right, because that's what Tiny Pumpkin Press is all about.

You know how I mentioned earlier that I always put myself in the "not an artist" category? Well, for a long, long, long time, I put myself in the "not a writer" category too. Why? Because I don't do a lot of flowery writing, and I can't make up stuff.

As I mentioned these two books are both re-tellings of the same Jewish folktale. While they tell the same story, they do so in exquisitely different ways, and that by itself is fascinating to me.

All the ways to tell the same story.

Oh, and one is a Caldecott medal winner. So, there's that.

Anyway, the title character begins each book with a brand new object. In one, it's a coat. In another, it's a baby blanket.

Both of those objects become old and worn, and through some creativity, and sewing skills, it gets made into something new.

The new object soon gets old and worn, and once again, it gets made into something new.

This blanket and this coat become smaller and smaller over the years, as it is constantly re-purposed.

One day, however, there is nothing left. Nothing new can be made from this fabric anymore.


A story.


And here is what speaks to me.

Like Ramon and Vashti, I needed to find a way to create. Drawing and painting were out. I was about 30 years old when I discovered paper crafting and scrapbooking. And like Ramon and Vashti, once I started, I did not stop.

While I love storytelling, I cannot for the life of me, make up fiction. My brain simply does not go there. I am inordinately grateful that other people can do this. Because I just adore a good tale.

But, I cannot at this point make things from scratch. Not stories. Not drawings. But I do love taking things that already exist--a piece pf paper, a pretty font, a story that really happened, and I move things around. Sometimes it's paper. Sometimes it's words. And I turn them into art.

It took many years of creating before I dared to consider myself an artist and a writer.

But here we are. It kind of turned into my passion. And so, I love these stories.

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