Tag Archive | crafts

Statistics show OPTIMISTS DIE FIRST, right? by Susin Nielsen (book review)

book cover of Optimists Die First, by Susin Nielsen. Published by Tundra Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Sister’s death wasn’t her fault-
Everyone says so,
but she can’t accept that…

Everyday life in Vancouver is filled with deadly risks, so 16-year-old Petula takes every precaution now (but nothing can bring back her little sister or her best friend).

The new guy with the prosthetic arm witnesses her panic attack in class and is in her youth art therapy class and thinks Petula is nice (but doesn’t know how Maxine died).

Ack! Petula and Jacob have to do a project together for English?! His movie-making skills and her recently abandoned crafting supplies plus her mom’s rescue cats should be perfect (but Dad doesn’t agree about having so many cats, not one bit).

As they work together, Jacob reveals his struggles with surviving the crash that killed his best friends back in Toronto, Petula begins to look forward to spending time with him, and life becomes brighter for both of them (but hopefully kissing is less germ-filled than she thought).

When the art therapy class rebels against their teacher’s little-kid ideas, she challenges them to find creative ways to face their issues – parental rejection, grief, survivor’s guilt, addictive behaviors – and they begin working together (but don’t call them friends quite yet).

But when one secret comes to light, Petula’s new happiness and the art therapy group’s progress are all threatened.

From the author of We Are All Made of Molecules (recommended here).

How do you know when it’s time to let old problems go?

Book info: Optimists Die First / Susin Nielsen. Tundra Books, hardcover 2017, paperback 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Here, have A PEBBLE FOR YOUR THOUGHTS & grow kindness, by Megan Murphy (book review)

book cover of Pebble for Your Thoughts, by Megan Murphy. Published by Mango Publishing | recommended on BooksYALove.com

The right words
at the right time
can make all the difference.

When Megan Murphy decided to turn off the negativity of the morning news and spread love during her daily walks, The Kindness Rocks Project was born.

“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” – Winston Churchill (pg. 40-41)

This book collects some of her favorite sayings to paint on rocks and leave where others can find them (info on where not to leave them also included).

“If not us, who? If not now, when?” – John F. Kennedy (pg. 56-57)

What uplifting message will you send out into the world?

Book info: A Pebble For Your Thoughts: How One Kindness Rock at the Right Moment Can Change Your Life / Megan Murphy. Mango Publishing, 2018. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Starting with one person’s attempt to counteract negativity through small encouraging messages to anyone, The Kindness Rocks Project has grown into a worldwide movement trying to uplift everyone.

Chapters featuring quotations on

  • strength -“Never underestimate yourself”,
  • encouragement – “Let the beauty of what you love be what you do” – Rumi,
  • grief and healing – “Sometimes, something as simple as a smile can make all the difference”,
  • faith – “Live the way you want to be remembered”,
  • personal growth – “You can go your own way” – Fleetwood Mac, and
  • self-love – “Accentuate the positive”
    show example Kindness Rocks in picturesque natural settings and discuss the word or quotation painted on each one.

Sections on the Project’s origins and how to become involved by painting your own Kindness Rocks round out this handy collection, which reminds us to LeaveNoTrace and place our own #thekindnessrocksproject inspirational rocks in just the right places.

Change is risky – Letting Go of Gravity, by Meg Leder (book review)

book cover of Letting Go of Gravity, by Meg Leder, published by Simon Pulse | recommended on BooksYALove.comAccepted to Harvard? Check.
Chosen for prestigious medical research internship? Check.
Eager and ready for these great opportunities? Nope.

Parker’s meticulous life-plan to cure the cancer affecting her twin brother goes way off course during the summer after graduation, as the introvert finds herself in charge of senior citizen pottery painting classes, is amazed by new friend Ruby’s open-heartedness, and just might find a connection with artistic Finn from grade school.

Happy book birthday to Letting Go of Gravity ! Have you read Leder’s 2016 novel The Museum of Heartbreak ? I recommended it here.

Is it time for you to fly away from expectations?

Book info: Letting Go of Gravity / Meg Leder. Simon Pulse, 2018.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: A decade of hard work and Parker is accepted to Harvard! After twin Charlie was diagnosed with leukemia when they were kids, med school has been her sole goal (especially after last year’s relapse).

But she can’t stomach the internship at the hospital where Charlie was treated and finds another summer job at a pottery studio where she reconnects with Finn from elementary school.

Her best friend is in Europe for the summer, Charlie is acting so recklessly, and Parker isn’t sure how long she can put off telling her parents about how things have changed.

If Charlie is just flirting with Parker’s new friend Ruby…

Oh, such critters in this sketchbook! If Found Please Return to Elise Gravel (book review)

book cover of If Found Please Return to Elise Gravel, by Elise Gravel. Published by Drawn & Quarterly 2017  | recommended on BooksYALove.comWant to become an illustrator?
Ready to step up your drawing style?
Elise says “let out all the ideas” in your sketchbook!

Monsters and microbes and funny mushrooms are some of the “complete nonsense” that this Quebecoise author/illustrator allows herself to draw in her plain black notebook, only later revising them or adding funny stories or spinning them off into her many books for kids.

Her top advice for illustrators-in-training? “Draw all the time!”

Enjoy this sample of Elise’s unique creatures and drawing style here, courtesy of the publisher, then visit your local library or independent bookstore to get your own copy.

What creatures might your doodling reveal?

Book info: If Found, Please Return to Elise Gravel / Elise Gravel, translated by Shira Adriance. Drawn & Quarterly, 2017. [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Creatures large, small, and all whimsical fill this notebook by Canadian illustrator and children’s author Elise Gravel, as inspiration for us to draw, draw, draw!

Draw in spare moments, like Elise does – practice and more practice is the way to improve, as you find your own drawing style.
You can imitate illustrations for practice or create crazy ideas and doodles. Some may inspire a story, so write it.

Look at her Floofs and foxes, bunnies dressed in punk rock t-shirts, and “the Incredible Hulk presents his favourite recipes for a romantic dinner” – mashing up ideas can make really funny pictures!

To become a better illustrator, just grab your notebook (any color, says Elise) and keep on drawing!

F = fantastic Fashion Rebels, by Carlin Cerniglia Beccia (book review)

book cover of Fashion Rebels by Carlyn Cerniglia Beccia published by Beyond Words  | recommended on BooksYALove.comHigh heels, short skirts,
Sky-high hairdos, hats tall and wide,
Fashion is always in flux!

I was really pleased to see this informative and fun book as a finalist for the CYBILS Award for Middle-Grade Nonfiction, where I got to read and discuss it as second-round judge this year.

Take the Fashion Rebels quiz to see which fashion icon you trend toward, then be your own person!

What fashion trend of the past would you like to see today?

Book info: Fashion Rebels: Style Icons Who Changed the World Through Fashion / Carlyn Cerniglia Beccia. Aladdin/ Beyond Words, 2016.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Fashion trends have signaled rebellion, improved international understanding, and raised parents’ eyebrows for centuries, as this sketch-filled book shows, celebrating Fashion Rebels past and present.

Meet queens Cleopatra and Marie Antoinette, artist Frida Kahlo and dancer Jacqueline Baker, along with Audrey Hepburn, Ellen DeGeneres, and many more as you examine essential components of each woman’s style and discover how you can use their inspiration to make your own fashion statement.

Filled with accurate histories that sound like the best kind of celebrity gossip, lots of DIY techniques and tips for adding signature fashion elements to your wardrobe, and current fashionistas to watch, every section of Fashion Rebels reminds you to be you!

Adorable adornments – maker books for Slow-Down Sunday

Slow down the pace today, as you craft unique summertime styles for yourself and your home with expert instruction.

book cover of Junk Box Jewelry by Sara Drew published by Zest Booksbook cover of Stitch It Simple by Beth Sheard published by Taunton PressJunk Box Jewelry  leads you from tools and materials to finished fashion as you transform found items into unique bracelets, earrings, and necklaces – my recommendation here.

Peek into Stitch It Simple (my recommendation here) for patterns that you can adapt to create pillows, wall hangings, and giftables that you’ll be proud to share.

What craft books would you suggest for summer?


Make your hands happy – crafting books on Slow-Down Sunday

With so much rush-rush and 24/7 connectivity, it’s good to sit back and work with our hands for a while.

Choose a time to give yourself permission to slow down and make something special – for yourself or for someone else (hint: Father’s Day is 2 weeks away).

Click on the title for my recommendation of these fun craft books to try new materials, new ideas, new techniques:

book cover of At Home With Handmade Books by Erin Zamrzla published by Shambhala Booksbook cover of Sticky Fingers by Sophie Maletsky published by Zest BooksAt Home With Handmade Books – think beyond plain white paper as you make books from shipping tags or use postcards as covers.


Grab your favorite colors and designs of duct-tape and let your Sticky Fingers craft new accessories and adornments.

What crafty creations would you like to try on a slow-down summer day?

Stitch It Simple, by Beth Sheard (book review) – whimsical home decor for you to sew

book cover of Stitch It Simple by Beth Sheard published by Taunton PressYour favorite colors
plus easy-to-personalize patterns
equals fabulous new home items sewn by you!

You will be able to beautifully Stitch It Simple  with sharp scissors, fusible interfacing, and the designer’s step-by-step instructions.

Choose complementary colors and designs for the Patchwork Chairpad, then finger-knit a cord for the Flower Garland made with its fabric scraps.

Beth has free alphabet templates for the pennant bunting here on her website, too.

Look for this late 2014 paperback at your local library or independent bookstore so you can be inspired to stitch your own fun home accessories.

Which project from the cover would you start with?

Book info: Stitch It Simple: 25 Hand Sewn Projects to Make and Share / Beth Sheard. Taunton Press, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk:  Colorful designs for pillow covers, wall hangings, aprons – it’s easy to Stitch It Simple  and add your own personal touches to your home.

After covering the basics of sewing, appliques, and finishing, this young British designer presents patterns and helpful hints for 25 projects to brighten up your bedroom, study, and kitchen.

Charming gift ideas include a Butterfly Mobile, Bird Tote Bag, and Kit and Kat stuffed cats which can double as bookends if you add weights before stitching shut.

Use the assembly method for the Owl and Pussycat Wall Tidy to create a hanging organizer with your favorite fabrics and colors, echoing what you chose for the Balloon Cushion or Tree Pillow Cover (small or large).

Whether you begin with the Mini Quilt, Hanging Elephants, or the Cupcake Apron, you’ll be inspired to brighten up your home with personalized accessories using this book filled with clear instructions, whimsical designs, and proven sewing techniques.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Sticky Fingers, by Sophie Maletsky (book review) – duct tape DIY projects for all!

book cover of Sticky Fingers by Sophie Maletsky published by Zest BooksDuct tape in colors and patterns… check.
Nonstick scissors… check.
Great instructions for clever, creative items… get Sticky Fingers!

No, not your own fingers, but this step-by-step book of DIY (do it yourself) duct tape projects from craft blogger Sophie Maletsky.

Yes, there are the usual duct tape wallets and cute flowers to top your pencils, but you’ll also find clear instructions for an Earring Tree (I like the plastic dinosaur that she added), Spike Bracelet, and Smartphone Case with felt lining.

Summer boredom doesn’t stand a chance when you use your favorite duct tape with this “Easy to Pick Up, Hard to Put Down” book scheduled for July 1, 2014 publication – don’t miss the ideas for using up every teensy bit of those pricy patterned tape rolls.

What will you make next?

Book info:  Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects – Easy to Pick Up, Hard to Put Down / Sophie Maletsky. Zest Books, 2014. 240 pg paperback. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley.

My book talk: Ah, so many colors and patterns of duct tape – and now Sticky Fingers collects the techniques and project ideas to make you a duct tape DIY whiz!

With just a few rolls of duct tape, proper work surface (many choices) and non-stick scissors, you can create durable items large and small, from the Support-Your-Cause Pin to Messenger Bag.

Your own color combo for the Woven Basket can take it from egg hunts to dresser organization, while the Pencil Case you make with duct tape will outlast any bought from the school supply store.

Of course, there are instructions for making Flowers, Neckties, and Bow Ties, so you’ll have all the corsages, boutonnieres, and neckwear needed for formal occasions.

Get gifty with the roll-and-go Checkerboard, Watermelon Purse, or Checkbook Keeper – the felt-lined Sunglasses Case is a great present, too.

Throughout this well-illustrated book, Sophie shares hints for strong duct tape fabric, clever closures, and using every last bit of your duct tape rolls (including the cardboard core). (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Falcon in the Glass, by Susan Fletcher (book review) – secrets and more secrets in Venice

book cover of Falcon in the Glass by Susan Fletcher published by Margaret K McElderry BooksSecrets passed from master to apprentice,
Sand to glass to beauty,
Death for sharing the secrets.

The all-powerful Doge did indeed control Venice with an iron fist during its heyday as a world trading center. Imagine how he’d respond to intelligent birds who could soar out of his reach, at the behest of their human partners!

Pick up this intriguing window into the world of medieval glassblowing, family bonds, and criminal skullduggery today at your local library or independent bookstore – and wonder if the Bird Children’s descendants may still live among us!

Book info: Falcon in the Glass / Susan Fletcher. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013.   [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Without help, Renzo cannot practice his glassblowing for the test. Without help, the refugee children and their birds will freeze. Without fail, the Doge of Venice will have them all killed if he finds them together in his city!

As the lowest helper in the padrone’s glassworks, twelve-year-old Renzo wishes he was still working with his father in their studio, before Papa was murdered and Uncle fled Venice with his glassblower’s knowledge and a price upon his head. Now Renzo must demonstrate to the Guild that he can work glass like his father or he will never become an apprentice.

Practicing late at night, Renzo spies a starving girl huddled in the studio’s warmth and her falcon in the rafters – no spies allowed in the glassworks, no strangers, no birds! If she is one of the green-eyed Bird Children who were banished from mainland Venice for witchcraft…but he needs another set of hands to work the glass and she needs only a place to rest.

With Letta’s help, he can create beautiful glass pieces, including a falcon that looks like it could fly. But the other Bird Children need warmth and food, too. Perhaps they can stay for a little while, even if their silent communication with their birds makes Renzo nervous.

But sometimes, doing good carries a heavy price. The ruler of Venice is intent upon capturing the Bird Children, a man who looks like Uncle is spotted on the island, and Mama worries about Renzo’s late nights at the glass furnace.

Can Renzo keep the Bird Children safe and out of sight?
Can he ignore the whispers about his uncle and criminal mischief?
Can he keep his hands steady on the glass pipe when the Guild test comes?

Strong is the psychic connection between these green-eyed children and their birds, strong is Renzo’s love for his mother and sister, strong are the Doge’s prisons awaiting the smallest error by these young ones in this fantasy set in the 15th century. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)