Showing posts with label Sandra Jordan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sandra Jordan. Show all posts

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Celebration of the Arts


As I look back over the last five years of posts by I.N.K. bloggers, I’ve discovered what I suspected all along, which is that this group has covered in our books for young readers an astonishing variety of non-fiction subjects, ranging from biographies of the famous to the obscure to great and small moments in history, from science and math, to inventions, food, and the environment to the wild and wacky. The list is endless. Along with these books we’ve shared our back stories, challenges, classroom activities, some pet peeves and we’ve recommended lists of excellent non-fiction books by other authors. Today, in celebration of us, since the work I do concentrates on the arts, I’d like to offer an I.N.K. blogger feast of books that do the same in dance, music, and visual arts. Since I haven’t read all of them, I’ve  researched reviews and descriptions on Amazon.com and will include some excerpts here.

The Young Musician’s Survival Guide: Tips from Teens and Pros

by Amy Nathan

Learning to play an instrument can be fun and, at times, frustrating. This lively, accessible book helps young people cope with the difficulties involved in learning a new instrument and remaining dedicated to playing and practicing. In this revised and expanded edition, Amy Nathan has updated the book to address today's more technologically-minded young musician. Expanded sections cover the various ways students can use technology to assist in mastering an instrument and in making practice time more productive, from using the Internet to download pieces to be learned and playing along with downloaded tunes to practicing with computer-based practice programs, CDs, and videos/DVDs of musical performances. The book's updated Resource Guide suggests where to get additional help, both online and off.

Meet the Dancers: From Ballet, Broadway and Beyond

By Amy Nathan

Lots of kids enjoy dancing, but what motivates them to push past the sore muscles, early-morning technique classes, and crazy schedule required to become a professional dancer? In this book, dancers from many backgrounds talk about their different paths to success in ballet, modern, jazz, Broadway, and hiphop.
They also share advice and helpful tips, such as:  
 practice interpreting the music and the mood of a movement, even when you’re doing a standard warm-up exercise
• try to be in the front row at auditions so you can see what’s going on and so the judges know you’re eager to be seen

Clara Schumann Piano Virtuoso

By Susanna Reich

A piano prodigy, Clara Schumann made her professional debut at the age of nine and had embarked on her first European concert tour by the time she was twelve. Clara charmed audiences with her soulful playing throughout her life. Music was a constant source of inspiration and support for this strong and resilient woman. After the death of her husband, Robert Schumann, Clara continued her brilliant career and supported their eight children. Clara Schumann's extraordinary story is supplemented with her letters and diary entries, some of which have never before been published in English. Gorgeous portraits and photographs show the members of Clara's famous musical community and Clara herself from age eight to seventy-six. Index, chronology.


Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin




By Susanna Reich


George Catlin is one of America’s best-known painters, famous for his iconic portraits of Native Americans. He spent much of his life in the wilderness, sketching and painting as he traveled. A solo trek across 500 miles of uncharted prairie, an expedition to the Andes, harrowing encounters with grizzly bears and panthers, and tours of the royal palaces of Europe were among his many adventures. In an era when territorial expansion resulted in the near annihilation of many indigenous cultures, George Catlin dedicated himself to meeting and writing about the native peoples of the western hemisphere. With his “Indian Gallery” of paintings and artifacts, he toured the United States and Europe, stirring up controversy and creating a sensation.
Award-winning author Susanna Reich combines excerpts from Catlin’s letters and notes with vivid depictions of his far-flung travels. Generously illustrated with archival prints and photos and Catlin’s own magnificent paintings, here is a rollicking, accessible biography that weaves meticulously researched history into a fascinating frontier and jungle adventure story.

Jose! Born to Dance: The Story of Jose Limon

By Susanna Reich

José was a boy with a song in his heart and a dance in his step. Born in Mexico in 1908, he came into the world kicking like a steer, and grew up to love to draw, play the piano, and dream. José's dreaming took him to faraway places. He dreamed of bullfighters and the sounds of the cancan dancers that he saw with his father. Dance lit a fire in José's soul.
With his heart to guide him, José left his family and went to New York to dance. He learned to flow and float and fly through space with steps like a Mexican breeze. When José danced, his spirit soared. From New York to lands afar, José Limón became known as the man who gave the world his own kind of dance.
¡OLÉ! ¡OLÉ! ¡OLÉ!
Susanna Reich's lyrical text and Raúl Colón's shimmering artwork tell the story of a boy who was determined to make a difference in the world, and did. José! Born to Dance will inspire picture book readers to follow their hearts and live their dreams.


Sandy’s Circus: A Story about Alexander Calder

By Tanya Lee Stone and Boris Kulikov

As a boy, Alexander (Sandy) Calder was always fiddling with odds and ends, making objects for friends. When he got older and became an artist, his fiddling led him to create wire sculptures. One day, Sandy made a lion. Next came a lion cage. Before he knew it, he had an entire circus and was traveling between Paris and New York performing a brand-new kind of art for amazed audiences. This is the story of Sandy’s Circus, as told by Tanya Lee Stone with Boris Kulikov’s spectacular and innovative illustrations. Calder’s original circus is on permanent display at the Whitney Museum in New York City.


A Look at Cubism

By Sneed Collard

Cubism was one of the most influential visual art styles of the early twentieth century. The Cubist painters rejected the inherited concept that art should copy nature, or that they should adopt the traditional techniques of perspective. Picasso and Braque, the pioneers of Cubist painting are highlighted in this title, as well as the evolution of the Cubist art form. This title will allow students to distinguish their own point of view from that of the author of a text.

A Listen to Patriotic Music

By Sneed Collard

Patriotic music helps us feel pride for our country. The songs bring a unity and sense of togetherness to the people who live there. Written for many different reasons, and sung everywhere from baseball games to presidential elections, this title lists examples of some of our country's most cherished patriotic songs and information on the people and events that inspired them. This title will allow students to explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Books by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr Eccentric Genius

Age Level: 7 - 11 | Grade Level: 2 - 6

When George Ohr's trove of pottery was discovered in 1967, years after his death, his true genius was discovered with it. The world could finally see how unique this artist really was! Born in 1856 in Biloxi, Mississippi, George grew up to the sounds of the civil war and political unrest. When he was 22, his boyhood friend introduced him to the pottery wheel. The lost young man suddenly found his calling.
"When I found the potter's wheel I felt it all over like a duck in water." 
He started creating strangely crafted pots and vases, expressing his creativity and personality through the ceramic sculptures. Eventually he had thousands at his fingertips. He took them to fairs and art shows, but nobody was buying these odd figures from this bizarre man. Eventually he retired, but not without hiding hundreds of his ceramics. Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, authors of the award winning Ballet for Martha,  approach this colorful biography with a gentle and curious hand.

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring (Illustrated by Brian Floca)

Martha Graham : trailblazing choreographer, Aaron Copland : distinguished American composer, and Isamu Noguchi : artist, sculptor, craftsman  Award-winning authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan tell the story behind the scenes of the collaboration that created APPALACHIAN SPRING, from its inception through the score’s composition to Martha’s intense rehearsal process. The authors’ collaborator is two-time Sibert Honor winner Brian Floca, whose vivid watercolors bring both the process and the performance to life.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Through The Gates and Beyond

In 1981 two artists -- Christo and Jeanne-Claude -- proposed an installation in New York’s Central Park that would span twenty-three miles. They received a 185-page response from the Parks Department that could have been summed up in one single word: “no.” But they persisted. This biography of contemporary artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude is a story of the power of collaboration, and vision, and of the creation of the spectacular Gates and other renowned artworks.Christo and Jeanne-Claude is a 2003 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Action Jackson (Illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker)



One late spring morning the American artist Jackson Pollock began work on the canvas that would ultimately come to be known as Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist).
Award-winning authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan use this moment as the departure point for a unique picture book about a great painter and the way in which he worked. Their lyrical text, drawn from Pollock's own comments and those made by members of his immediate circle, is perfectly complemented by vibrant watercolors by Robert Andrew Parker that honor his spirit of the artist without imitating his paintings.

Vincent Van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist

 Vincent Van Gogh: Portrait of an Artist was named a Robert F. Sibert Honor book by the ALA. This is the enthralling biography of the nineteenth-century Dutch painter known for pioneering new techniques and styles in masterpieces such as Starry Night and Vase with Sunflowers. The book cites detailed primary sources and includes a glossary of artists and terms, a biographical time line, notes, a bibliography, and locations of museums that display Van Gogh’s work. It also features a sixteen-page insert with family photographs and full-color reproductions of many of Van Gogh’s paintings. Vincent Van Gogh was named an ALA Notable Book and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and has been selected as a Common Core State Standards Text Exemplar (Grades 6–8, Historical/Social Studies) in Appendix B.

Andy Warhol: Prince of POP

The Campbell’s Soup Cans. The Marilyns. The Electric Chairs. The Flowers. The work created by Andy Warhol elevated everyday images to art, ensuring Warhol a fame that has far outlasted the 15 minutes he predicted for everyone else. His very name is synonymous with the 1960s American art movement known as Pop.
But Warhol’s oeuvre was the sum of many parts. He not only produced iconic art that blended high and popular culture; he also made controversial films, starring his entourage of the beautiful and outrageous; he launched Interview, a slick magazine that continues to sell today; and he reveled in leading the vanguard of New York’s hipster lifestyle. The Factory, Warhol’s studio and den of social happenings, was the place to be.
Who would have predicted that this eccentric boy, the Pittsburgh-bred son of Eastern European immigrants, would catapult himself into media superstardom? Warhol’s rise, from poverty to wealth, from obscurity to status as a Pop icon, is an absorbing tale—one in which the American dream of fame and fortune is played out in all of its success and its excess. No artist of the late 20th century took the pulse of his time—and ours—better than Andy Warhol.





Friday, October 21, 2011

Field Trips, Parties, and Where do I Get my Ideas?


In response to Roz Schanzer’s hilarious post “Writing Right, Right?” about Rules for Writing, Jim Murphy commented, “You have to have some fun writing if you expect me to still be awake when I get to the conclusion.” That reminds me of a funny story.



Most of the books I do with Sandra Jordan begin with a field trip. But not all field trips turn into books. A few years ago Sandra and I had what we thought was a great idea. We set off for the Museum of Modern Art to do some research. After two hours there, we went back to my apartment, sat down, and promptly fell asleep. Later we realized if our great idea put us to sleep, what would it do to our readers?



Where do you get your ideas? That’s the question I’ve been asked hundreds of times for the last thirty years. Some of my ideas seem quite interesting when I come up with them, often in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. But in the light of day (is that a cliché, Roz?) in the midst of researching, I get so bored I end up eating lunch at 9:30 in the morning or writing frantic e mails to my daughters about nothing.


Here are some of my favorite field trips that did work out:



  1. A drive out to Storm King Sculpture Park resulted in our book “The Sculptor’s Eye.”

  2. On a visit to the National Gallery in Washington DC, Sandra and I stood transfixed in front of Jackson Pollock’s painting Lavender Mist and featured it in “Action Jackson.”

  3. A trip to the Isamu Noguchi Foundation in Long Island City to see his stage sets for dances by Martha Graham sparked our interest in doing a book on collaboration that resulted in “Ballet for Martha.”


Going to a party doesn’t constitute a field trip but it may inspire an idea. I once met the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude at a cocktail party and she and I struck up a conversation about …no not art…but her Issey Miake dress. She was so charming that when Sandra and I decided to do a book about the Christos, I knew we would enjoy interviewing them.


Although I usually don’t get ideas for books at parties, social events seem to produce a multitude of suggestions by well meaning friends. It usually begins like this: “I’ve got an amazing story that would make a great book for kids. If I had the time, I would write it myself.” Here are some recent offerings:


A children’s book about the Bhagavad Gita from my friend Maxine who’s a Buddhist.


A story about Lucy’s schnauzer Morgan, who recently ran away and went missing for 19 hours.


Stanley’s grandson’s 9th birthday party at Busch Stadium.


And so on…


Occasionally, I’ve felt compelled to explain that I write nonfiction about the arts. This pronouncement is sometimes followed by blank looks, which prompt me to discourse on the dearth of arts education in the schools and the fact that perception in the arts encourages abstract thinking skills and inspires creativity. More blank looks. Perhaps I’m preaching to the wrong audience, which is why I’ve vowed to avoid parties (except on Halloween) this month, and stay home and write (and have fun doing it).

Friday, May 13, 2011

Playing with Layout

Ever since desktop publishing software became available in the early 1990s, the visual appeal of nonfiction books for young readers has grown by leaps and bounds. These programs make it easy to experiment with a book’s layout.

As a result of this new freedom, many books now include multiple illustrations per spread and make clever use of white space. Examples include Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Aston, and Born to Be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World by Lita Judge.

One of the true masters of nonfiction book design is Steve Jenkins, who often works with his wife Robin Page. Books like How Many Ways Can You Catch a Fly?, Never Smile at a Monkey, What Do You Do with a Tail Like This, and Move! are all about animal adaptations. The fun, innovative design of these books couple with the brief, clear text is irresistible. Jenkins does a remarkable job of selecting animals with unique adaptations and organizing them into clever categories to create books with a game-like feel.

A current trend in science-themed titles for the picture book crowd is layered text. Books like Beaks by Sneed B. Collard III, When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature’s Balance in Yellowstone by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, Meet the Howlers by April Pulley Sayre, and my own book A Place for Butterflies feature two kinds of text that serve different purposes and that is distinguished visually by size and font.

For the most part, a larger, simpler text provides general information and can stand on its own. The smaller text presented in sidebars provides additional details to round out the presentation. These books are perfect for the Reading Buddy programs popular in many schools, and they also work well as family read alouds.

Can you think of other nonfiction books with innovative, eye-catching designs? I’d love to hear your recommendations.