November's Author of the Month
Author of the Month: Leo Lionni
For the month of November we will highlight the works of Leo Lionni.
About Leo Lionni
As a child growing up in Holland, Leo Lionni taught himself how to draw. He earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Genoa, but began his career as an author and illustrator of children's books in 1959.
One afternoon in 1959, as author-illustrator Leo Lionni describes that day, "a little miracle happened." Having boarded a commuter train bound from Manhattan for Connecticut, he faced the necessity of entertaining two fellow travelers, his 5-year-old grandson and 3-year-old granddaughter. As the youngsters vaulted from seat to seat, he recognized that "fast creative thinking" was in order.
Lionni, who was, in his late 40s, already an internationally recognized artist and graphic designer, had resigned recently from a ten-year interlude at Time, Inc.: for a decade, he had been the art director of Fortune magazine. So it was that he happened to be carrying in his briefcase an advance copy of Life. As he opened the magazine, he recalls, "a page with a design in blue, yellow, and green gave me an idea." "Wait," Lionni announced, "I'll tell you a story." Next, as he remembers, "I ripped the page out and tore it into small pieces. The children followed the proceedings with intense expectancy. I took a piece of blue paper and carefully tore it into small disks. Then I did the same with pieces of yellow and green paper. I put my briefcase on my knees to make a table, . . . placed the round pieces of colored paper onto the leather stage and improvised a story about the two colors."
The result of his efforts was his first picture book, Little Blue and Little Yellow, published within months by the firm MacDowell Obolensky. From that fortuitous beginning, Lionni has gone on to write and illustrate more than 30 picture books, which have sold millions of copies throughout the world and include four Caldecott Honor titles, Inch by Inch, Frederick, Swimmy and Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse.
He became widely recognized as one of the most distinguished and innovative designers and artists of the twentieth century. His life, most especially his early, formative years, bears testimony to how his everyday experiences, his family, and his surroundings influenced him as an artist and creative thinker.
Our Reading List
A Busy Year
Leo Lionni’s joyous celebration of the rhythms of nature. A tree changes month by month, watched over by twin mice who admire her on their frequent visits. “Oh, Woody, you are beautiful!” they exclaim in May, when her leaves are full and blossoming. And at Christmas, after a full year of friendship, the mice and tree rejoice together, looking forward to the next busy year.
Little Blue and Little Yellow
A little blue spot and a little yellow spot are best friends, and when they hug each other they become green.
Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse
Alexander, a real mouse, wants to be a toy mouse like his friend Willy until he discovers Willy is to be thrown away.
A Color of his Own
A little chameleon is distressed that he doesn't have his own color like other animals.
Frederick, the poet mouse, stores up something special for the long cold winter.
Make a mouse with author Leo Lionni
Cut out part that make up Frederick the mouse. Paint in his colors to make the rays of the sun.
- “Now I send you the rays of the sun. Do you feel how their golden glow…”
To keep the mice warm during the cold winter, Frederick paints a picture of the warm outdoors and different things which can be found there in the summer and autumn. Based on the idea of painting a picture with words, discuss different comparisons (similes) that can be made about colors and nature. For example: Red like the bright colored poppies, Blue like the small periwinkles, Yellow like the golden sun. With these statements in mind, students will create an art project that features a color.
Hand Print Turkeys
Colored construction paper
Orange, red, and brown paper
Trace and cut out a child's handprints using multicolored paper for the turkey's feathers. Cut out a turkey body with brown paper and add some eyes, beak, gobble, and feet! Assemble. Gobble Gobble.
Paper Bag Pilgrim Puppets
Using paper bags and construction paper shapes our students will create pilgrim characters as we study the settling of the New World.
Homemade Butter with Cornbread
In these modern times, making your own butter is not something that you usually think about. However, its a great preschool project that acts like an experiment that will give children an idea of how difficult life used to be and what had to be done to gain a small luxury like butter. Making homemade butter in a jar is also good for those who like to eat organic and less processed foods. We will also talk about the Thanksgiving feast and how corn or maize was a staple ingredient in American Indian and pilgrim cuisine.
Fill a jar half way with heavy cream, add 3 marbles to act as a churn, and put the lid on securely!
Shake the jar with the cream in it for about 10 to 20 minutes.
Remove marbles, salt and refrigerate.
We serve with cornbread at our Thanksgiving Feast.
Things You'll Need
In November, we'll explore seasonal change and weather.
Frederick's Lessons on Weather and Seasonal Change
Winter is near and all the field mice are busy preparing and gathering food for the cold months ahead - all except for Frederick. Always the daydreamer, Frederick is preparing a small surprise that will warm the hearts and feed the spirits of his fellow mice when they need it most.
- "Aren't we in luck the seasons are four? Think of a year with one less... or one more!"
Leo Lionni's Frederick provides an excellent place to discuss how the seasons and weather changes. When the weather gets cold and food is hard to find, many animals move into comfortable places and go to sleep for the winter. This winter sleep is called hibernation. We talk about how the weather changes and animals begin gather food supplies to prepare for winter.
Election Day Voting and Democracy
On election day, our preschoolers are taught to exercise their right to vote as a democratic society. We elect which snack will prevail for the day -- Pringles or Oreos.