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Stuff and new stuff
Supporting visual awareness in children... and a wellness guide for teachers


See a Heart, Share a Heart
Written by Eric Telchin. Dial Books, 2013 ($12.99)


With a simple message, “Hearts bring love,” Eric Telchin invites readers, both children and adults, to start seeing hearts everywhere. His charming photographic essay starts the ball rolling with images of heart-shaped leaves, shadows, stones, paint splatters, coiled rubber bands, sidewalk cracks, knots in wood, and melted ice cream.

Photographs and a few simple words enliven the book and urge the continuation of the heart quest. Telchin posts a new heart on the website every day. What fun inspiration for a class scrapbook using the class camera (or a teacher’s smart phone). Can you and the children in your group collect a heart for every day of the year?


The Apple and the Butterfly
Illustrated by Enzo and Iela Mari. Penguin Young Readers Group, 2013 ($8.99)


This graphically illustrated, wordless picture book tells a story of a caterpillar’s transformation into a butterfly. A caterpillar crawls out of an apple, retreats into its cocoon, and waits as the seasons change. The freed butterfly feeds on a flower that grows into an apple—a full life cycle.

The Mari images are bold, colorful, and graphically rich. Each page offers readers a glimpse of the insect’s metamorphosis—each encouraging visual acuity, focus, and attention to small detail. Because the book is wordless, it also invites rich conversation with children about color, texture, line, activity, and the natural world. Some children may even want to pantomime the metamorphosis of the butterfly and the seasons of the apple tree.


There Was a Tree
Written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora. Penguin Young Readers Group, 2012 ($16.99)


Award-winning author and illustrator Rachel Isadora has adapted the familiar folk song “The Green Grass Grew All Around” into a picture book that is set in Africa and populated with an array of colorful animals. Each page invites children to enter a new world, following rebus icons and singing the repetitive lyrics. The “prettiest tree you ever did see” does come to life as a chick hatches on the branches of an umbrella acacia tree, “and the green grass grew all around.”

Isadora’s picture books consistently invite discussion about her collage-like illustrations, her use of African textiles as inspiration, and even the brush strokes that help move the story forward. Help children see, sing, and even imitate the artist’s style in their own art projects.


Healthy Children, Healthy Lives: The Wellness Guide for Early Childhood Programs
Written by Sharon Bergen, Ph.D. and Rachel Robertson, M.A. Redleaf Press, 2013 ($29.95)


For the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents” (New York Times, March 17, 2005). Children’s health is in jeopardy: obesity and obesity-related diseases including diabetes and heart disease affect most children, and accidents, injuries, and illness from bacterial or viral infection impact everyone. The often-referenced “healthy lifestyle” seems out of reach for most Americans.

As a response, authors Bergen and Robertson offer a comprehensive manual designed to help early care and education programs turn around the current health statistics and address the individual and group needs of children in care. The book is intentionally designed for easy use and is divided into six sections:
Nutrition and healthy eating habits
Physical activity and fitness
Emotional health and resilience
Physical health
Safety and risk management

Each section contains an overview of the subject and explains its relevance to early childhood. Subsections describe specific wellness topics with achievable goals, action plans, checklists, and resources, as well as ideas for family and staff advocacy.

Especially useful is the proactive tone of the manual. Positive goals and behavior criteria invite programs (with teachers, administrators, and the families they serve) to focus on what they can do rather than the guilt-inducing negatives. For example, “A variety of spices and herbs are used to flavor food and introduce children to varied flavors” invites more spirited food preparation than “Avoid salt.”

Section 6, Leadership, focuses on building and maintaining quality health and safety practices in every program. The authors recognize that this includes security procedures, routine and honest communication with families, making the most of community resources, and making the workplace environment and program practices good for the physical and mental health of teachers as well as for the children they educate.