How to make a simple Peter doll from The Snowy Day

I am a bit obsessed with Ezra Jack Keats.  He is, by far, my favorite children’s author.  I did a presentation on author-illustrator Ezra Jacks Keats for a  children’s literature class when I received my Masters in Elementary Education and I fell in love with Mr. Keats as soon as I started researching!

Mr. Keats (his given name was Jacob Ezra Katz and he went by “Jack”) was a great Jewish man (his parents were Holocaust survivors and he served in the Army as well).  He was the first author to put a child of color on the cover of an in-color children’s book.  He realized that young black children did not have a hero in print that they could look up to.  He wrote The Snowy Day and it received the Caldecott Medal, the most prestigious children’s book award, for the year of 1963.  Then Mr. Keats wrote several other books about the same character, Peter, all of which have a unique distinction because of his choice of illustrations; he used paints, textiles, magazines, newspapers, fabric, etc. to illustrate his works of art.  Oh, I just love him!  He passed in 1983; in his lifetime he wrote and illustrated 24 children’s books and illustrated 85 more books with different authors.  I am slowly collecting all of them (so if you see a sale, let me know!)


I want this book to remain special in my son’s mind, so I made a fun project for his Snowy Day Sensory Bin.  He is about 4 inches tall and oh so cute!  I can’t wait to give him to John, but will have to wait another week!


I found an adorable Peter Doll at By Heart Books.  I didn’t want to spend $30, so I thought I would try my hand at making one!  Hot glue guns can do anything, you know!  I printed off this picture, then I assembled my supplies:

  • Hot glue gun
  • Red felt
  • Small circle brown felt
  • Small piece of black yarn
  • Scissors
  • Black Sharpie marker
  • 3-6 cotton balls

Then I cut out two red snowsuits for Peter, using the cut-out picture as a template.  I stuffed a couple of cotton balls between the two, and carefully “hot-glue-gunned” him together!


Next, I made a cute Peter face with the brown circle, black yarn, and marker.  I glued this to my red, stuffed snowsuit.


I can’t wait to put him in a Snow Sensory bin for my son!  Here is the picture of Peter for a cutting template.


“Then he went out into the deep, deep snow.”

Author Spotlight: Eric Carle

I remember reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar (1969) as a very young child. It was a great joy to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly with this incredibly fun and hands-on book. I remember reading each page, putting my little fingers through the tiny holes that the caterpillar eats through the strawberries, plums, oranges, a cupcake, a leaf, and more. I introduced this book to my son when he was just a month old, however, since turning one, we brought this one out again, and I am amazed. He read this book with me for thirty minutes. He loved looking at the bright colors, turning the quarter-cut and half-cut pages, and putting his little fingers in the tiny holes. It has been such a joy to see him blossom and read and love this book, just as I did. Eric Carle has that way with children, he knows just what magic a simple book needs in order to make literacy exciting for a young child.

Eric Carle has written countless children’s books, many of which have been made into board books – the style that we prefer around here – our son has become accustomed to putting both paper and cardboard books in his mouth so we are gently teaching him that he is to respect and care for his books. Carle’s books are unique, in that, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, most of his books feature holes, raised lines, and uniquely-cut pages to captivate a reader’s attention.  This book, in particular, is a childhood sensation.  Bean bags, stuffed animals, pull-toys, coloring books, dishes, etc. have all been made in honor of the very hungry caterpillar.  Many of Carle’s other creatures have been manufactured into toys, etc. as well.  Carle updates his blog regularly; he shares history of his books and tells of new and exciting happenings at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, where he is cofounder with his wife, Barbara.  He describes his technique: “My illustrations are collages made with my own hand-painted tissue papers, a technique many children have replicated and enjoyed in their classrooms and at home.”  And I can attest, as a former kindergarten teacher, that children love to play with tissue paper and try to imitate his work!

His first book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1967), written with Bill Martin Jr. has become a children’s classic. I have seen so many children learn to “read” this book as they recite from memory the pages: “Red Bird, Red Bird, What do you see? I see a Yellow Duck looking at me….”  My son also has copies of Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you Hear? (1991) tells the story of zoo animals and silly children, Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What do you See? (2003) teaches about endangered animals, and Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What do you See? (2007) focuses on North American animals.

A complete list of Carle’s books shows his diversity of storytelling. His bright colors and tissue-paper illustrations have remained faithful and have thankfully not evolved too much since 1967, he writes on an array of topics. From The Tiny Seed (1970), about the the life cycle of a plant, to Walter the Baker, about the world’s first pretzel, to his My First Book series (1974) about numbers, colors, shapes, and words which teaches children about his first words using a split-page technique. He also loves telling silly, but educational stories about many of God’s creatures, using raised lines, pop-up pages, and other unique techniques: The Mixed-Up Chameleon (1975), The Grouchy Ladybug (1977), The Honeybee and the Robber (1981), The Very Busy Spider (1984), The Foolish Tortoise with Richard Buckley (1985), The Greedy Python with Richard Buckley (1985), The Very Quiet Cricket (1990), The Very Lonely Firefly (1995), The Very Clumsy Click Beetle (1999). His stories exude honesty and assist in any child’s natural love for nature and all things simply beautiful. No child’s library is complete without at least a handful of these colorful books.

**Author Spotlight: I try to share about a different (and phenomenal) children’s author or illustrator every month or two. There are so many wonderful children’s books out there and it is important to know about and celebrate these wonderful authors.

Author Spotlight: Kevin Henkes

The first Kevin Henkes book I read was the sweet book Chrysanthemum. This book is about a sweet little mouse who is unhappy with her very long name, Chrysanthemum. It is a story about accepting yourself as well as embracing others and their differences. I’m sure that many of you recognize this classic, but did you know that Mr. Henkes wrote nine books based on his mouse characters, all friends of Chrysanthemum? They all share wonderful lessons, particularly about accepting others or facing new things, such as going to school for the first time.  Here is a complete list:

  • A Weekend with Wendell (1986) shares the story of bossy Wendell and a trip to a friend’s house.  A lesson to be learned on how to treat your friends and sharing ideas for how to play.
  • Sheila Rae, the Brave (1987) is a mouse who is not afraid of anything.  But her little sister shows her a thing or two about bravery.  A very sweet sibling story.
  • Chester’s Way tells the story about a very unique pair of mouses, Chester and his best friend Wilson, who have to have everything their own way.  They meet a silly mouse named Lilly (who appears in a couple more books) who challenges their little group and they begin to accept some of her new ways.  Winner of the ALA Notable Children’s Books for 1988.
  • Julius, the Baby of the World was winner of the ALA Notable Children’s Books for 1990, tells the story of a jealous older sister, Lilly, upon the arrival of her baby brother, Julius. But in the end, she protects him and shows that she loves him in her own special way. This is a great book for older siblings, but some of the material is a little too mature (the humor is sometimes oriented towards adults, in my opinion) and you wouldn’t want to give your youngsters ideas on how to torture your baby or how one can disobey your parents.
  • Chrysanthemum (1991).   “When she was old enough to appreciate it, Chrysanthemum loved her name. And then she started school. “I’m named after my grandmother,” said Victoria. “You’re named after a flower.” Chrysanthemum wilted.”
  • Owen earned the Caldecott Honor for the year of 1993.  A sweet mouse must go to school for the first time.  But what to do about his yellow security blanket?
  • Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse (1996) is about hilarious Lilly, of Chester’s Way and Julius.  She is too smart for her own good.
  • Wemberly Worried (2000) is about a scared and worried little mouse who has to face going to school.  Winner of the ALA Notable Children’s Book for the year 2000, it is a classic for sharing with children how to overcome their fears.
  • Lilly’s Big Day (2006) was the latest book written in the series.  Lilly is excited when her teacher gets married and thinks that it is her big day.

Mr. Henkes also wrote and illustrated board books for children in a box set entitled A Box of Treats. These are all about special treats that the mouse characters love and sometimes get into trouble with. Lilly’s Chocolate Heart, Owen’s Marshmellow Chick, Wemberley’s Ice-Cream Star, Julius’ Candy Corn, and Sheila Rae’s Peppermint Stick.  Very fun, but it would be great if Mr. Henkes would write more about fruits and veggies!

Kitten’s First Full Moon (2005) won Mr. Henkes a well deserved Caldecott Medal.  This black and white treasure shares the innocent story of a little kitten who thinks the moon is a bowl of milk.  Kevin Henkes is indeed a one of a kind and very versatile author who was inspired by books as a child.  As he states himself:

“I remember drawing at a very early age. I loved it. And my parents and teachers told me I was good at it – that made me love it all the more. I also loved books, and the ones I was lucky enough to own were reread, looked at over and over, and regarded with great respect. To me “great respect” meant that I took them everywhere, and the ones I still own prove it. They’re brimming with all the telltale signs of true love: dog-eared pages, fingerprints on my favorite illustrations, my name and address inscribed on both front and back covers in inch-high crayon lettering, and the faint smell of stale peanut butter on the bindings. I wondered about authors and illustrators back then – What did they look like? Where did they live? Did they have families? How old were they? – but I never imagined that one day I would be one myself.”

Kitten’s First Full Moon and A Good Day (2007) are my two favorites of Mr. Henkes.  The following appears on the back of A Good Day:  “It started out as a bad day for little yellow bird, little white dog, little orange fox, and little brown squirrel. Until . . .  A discovery, and love, and luck and persistence, and a different point of view changed all that. What can turn a bad day into a good day? You decide.”

I love the mouse books, but upon reading them with their simple lessons and sometimes silliness, one might think that they are all he is capable of.  However, every other carefully worded and illustrated book is genuine and unique.  Other picture books include Old Bear, My Garden, and Little White Rabbit.

Mr. Henkes is not only an accomplished children’s book author-illustrator, but he also is a Newbery Honor winner for his adolescent novel Olive’s Ocean.  I must confess that I have not read Olive’s Ocean, but according to his website, it is a coming-of age story about two young girls who never met.  Henkes most recent novel is Bird Lake Moon, about two young boys in the summer as they are faced with tragedy.  I hope to read at least one of these two above mentioned novels in my quest towards reading all of the Newbery Honor and Award winning books. Mr. Henkes has written many novels, and here are a few of his most recent: Sun & Spoon, Words of Stone, Two Under Par, The Birthday Room, Protecting Marie, and The Zebra Wall.

**Author Spotlight: I try to share about a different (and phenomenal) children’s author or illustrator every month or two. There are so many wonderful children’s books out there and it is important to know about and celebrate these wonderful authors.

Author Spotlight: Maryann Cusimano Love

I am today presenting a newer author that I have little familiarity with. I have a growing list of well-known authors, all of whom I will share through the coming months, but when I saw this author’s classic, You are my I love you, I was struck with much emotion. Author Maryann Cusimano captures all that I feel about our son, in just a few short words.  The watercolor drawings are simple and show a father bear loving his baby bear in many different daily scenes.  It is eloquent, and yet, childish. Just the right sophistication mixed up with playfulness:

I am your parent, you are my child
I am your quiet place, you are my wild
I am your calm face, you are my giggle
I am your wait, you are my wiggle
I am your audience, you are my clown
I am your London Bridge, you are my falling down
I am your Carrot Sticks, you are my licorice
I am your dandelion, you are my first wish
I am your water wings, you are my deep
I am your open arms, you are my running leap
I am your way home, you are my new path
I am your dry towel, you are my wet bath
I am your dinner you are my chocolate cake
I am your bedtime, you are my wide awake
I am your finish line, you are my race
I am your praying hands, you are my saving grace
I am your favourite book, you are my new lines
I am your nightlight, you are my sunshine
I am your lullaby, you are my peek-a-boo
I am your kiss goodnight, you are my I love you

While researching this talented author, I was surprised to learn about her background. Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love is a tenured Associate Professor of International Relations in the Politics Department of The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. She teaches graduate and undergraduate International Relations courses at Catholic University and the Pentagon, such as Security, Just Peace, Terrorism, Globalization, and The Problem of Sovereignty. Her recent International Relations books include Beyond Sovereignty: Issues for a Global Agenda Morality Matters: Ethics and the War on Terrorism , and “What Kind of Peace Do We Seek?” a book chapter in the forthcoming The Ethics and Theology of Peacebuilding.

It may seem shocking, for those who know me, that I am promoting Dr. Cusimano’s works, seeing that, she promotes peace amidst the threats of war. However, upon reading her writing, I am challenged by her ideas, her intellect, and her disregard for the run-of-the-mill liberalism that plagues the peace movements of today. She lays out her peaceful agenda succinctly, and also, challenges the current administration to seek peace through preventive profileration, threat reduction, public diplomacy, arms control, and yes, alas, international institutions.  I honestly do not know enough about all of the above topics, but she challenges me to learn more.

Also, Dr. Cusimano serves on the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ International Justice and Peace Committee, where she advises the bishops on international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband Richard and three young children, Maria, Ricky, and Ava, who inspired her New York Times best-selling children’s books, You Are My I Love You, You Are My Miracle, You Are My Wish, and Sleep, Baby, Sleep.

**Author Spotlight: I try to share about a different (and phenomenal) children’s author or illustrator every month or two. There are so many wonderful children’s books out there and it is important to know about and celebrate these wonderful authors.

Author Spotlight: Margaret Wise Brown

Margaret Wise Brown, most famous for her Goodnight Moon, has written over 100 children’s books in her short 41 years of life. “To write well for children,” Brown said, “one must love the things that children love.” Her poetry is a thing of beauty and though she passed 55 years ago, her books still inspire every new generation.  She has quickly become my favorite author for children and I always reach for her books first when reading to my son because her books flow so lovingly and naturally.

Of her books, I have several favorites, but The Runaway Bunny holds much meaning to me because this was the first book I ever read to my son. I read it to him, snuggled in bed together, on the first day of his life in this world. It is the story of a mother bunny’s love for her precious little bunny, and even though he tries to run away and leave her, she lets him know that she will always find him and be there for him. “For you are my little bunny.” Brings tears to my eyes. The illustrations are done by Clement Hurd, the same illustrator who perfectly drew and colored Goodnight Moon.

It seems that every morning and night, my son and I read Brown’s A Child’s Good Morning Book and A Child’s Good Night Book. “Seize the day! What will you think? What will you play?” Brown exclaims as children peer through her lens, watching lions and ladybugs excitedly see and feel the sun rise. A Child’s Good Night Book received the Caldecott Honor for one of the best children’s books published in 1943: “The sheep in the fields huddle together in a great warm blanket of wool. The lambs stop leaping, and the rams stop ramming, and the steep stop baaa-ing, and they all go to sleep. Sleepy sheep.”

Bunny’s Noisy Book is another classic in our house – for we love bunnies! A little bunny wakes up and listens to all the noises in his wood. He sniffs, sneezes, watches the sun rise, all while thinking about their sounds. What a delightful way for a child to be introduced to their senses through this masterpiece.

There are many more delightful titles in Brown’s collection. The Dirty Little Boy, The Scarecrow Boy,Home for a Bunny, Big Red Barn, and The Little Island (Caldecott Award winner) are a just a few of her masterpieces. But worth finding is Give Yourself to the Rain. This is a large collection of Brown’s individual poems with gorgeous illustrations by Terri L. Weidner. The poems almost sound as if they were written by a child. Some carefree and silly, others striking and thoughtful.

Never has the grass been so green
Bright and green and growing
Never have the dandelions been so yellow
Bright yellow
In any spring.

Here is Brown’s official website and here you can see her full collection of books and read more about this remarkable author. And may I suggest visiting the library and finding these treasures to bring home to read to yourself and/or your own little one?

**Author Spotlight: I try to share about a different (and phenomenal) children’s author or illustrator every month or two. There are so many wonderful children’s books out there and it is important to know about and celebrate these wonderful authors.