Pirate Ship Library Display
What’s not to like about a pirate ship? It embodies the spirit of adventure and brings to mind history, stories, excitement, action, romance and heroism. All the things that spark the imagination and encourage young readers to dive into a new book.
As I was painting this gorgeous vessel, I kept imagining the faces of the kids as they walked into the library to see it for the first time. I wasn’t disappointed – the gasps of delight were wonderful to hear.
Instead of asking the students to create their own artwork, or colour in a small picture as I usually do, this time I asked them to write a short imaginative line or two, as though dipping into the middle of an exciting novel. Thus, our lovely library ship is sailing on a wonderful sea of words. Kids come close to the artwork to read all the terrific ideas making up their ocean. Here are some of their efforts…
Words on the waves
More words on the waves
… and just a few more wonderful wavy words.
Pirate Ship Close-Up
Wide view of our latest library display
Mother frog and baby tadpoles (or are they bookworms?)
A frog in the library? What else! As you can see, she’s a mother-of-thousands, and all her little tadpoles have a lot to learn. They’re reading up a storm, even before they get out of their eggs.
Our wonderful librarian read a book about the life cycle of frogs, then asked all the students to consider what type of book their tadpole would be reading. The kids came up with some great ideas that they incorporated into their artworks. Here are just a few…
How to Swim Underwater
Shakespeare (Tadpole Edition)
How to Make Green Friends
Froggy Potter and the Chamberpot of Tadpoles
How to Train Your Tadpole
How to Jump and Croak
This display gradually grew and developed over 8 weeks. Initially I painted just a large green frog, then I added some reeds, a large lilypad, then some more lilypads with a waterlily, then a dragonfly. Meanwhile, the kids were adding tadpoles… and more tadpoles… and more tadpoles! Take a closer look below.
Water lily and lily pads
Green frog painting on a large lily pad
The explosive power of books!
The kids were thrilled when a volcano appeared in the library at the start of the term… and intrigued as well. After all, what could they possibly add to the display, and how did it relate to the library? Some students thought they might have to add birds, or lava, or even aeroplanes. When I finally presented them each with a tiny little book to write themselves, they were more excited than I could possibly have predicted. Some dived in immediately and wrote wonderful little original stories, complete with full-colour illustrations. Many kids took more than one book so they could complete extra ones at home.
To give nervous kids more confidence to become the “author” of their miniature book, I gave a few suggestions. They could make a picture book for littlies, or a non-fiction book about their favourite sport or hobby, or an educational book, or a story book. The results were imaginative and varied. Some examples included: an illustrated book of different hairstyles, a book of car parts with diagrams, a wonderful adventure story, a tale set in a Minecraft computer game world, a first alphabet book, an animal picture book, a fairytale with a moral, a “how-to” book about Playstations, a book of colours and lots more. We were not only impressed with the wonderful work that the children produced, but also with the finished product on the wall. We all “lava” good book!
I had no particular reason to choose a hot air balloon as this term’s topic for our library display… I just thought the kids would get a kick out of it. To relate the topic to reading, I gave one of the pilots a book to hold, and I painted a bookish banner across the balloon. Then I decided that each child could colour a little house, but I had trouble thinking of a way to relate houses to reading… until it suddenly occurred to me that each roof was book-shaped. Problem solved!
Some of the students at our school are particularly keen on the big library displays I put up each term. One afternoon a kid pulled me aside in a corridor to give me his big idea for the next picture. His verbal description being highly detailed (he’d clearly thought about it for some time), I asked him to draw a sketch so that I knew exactly what he meant.
The very next day he delivered a beautiful drawing to my office – quite detailed and carefully drafted – and I said it would be my pleasure to take it on board as the next display. At that point I had no idea how difficult it would be to turn someone else’s pride-and-joy into a huge painting. It was extremely challenging to keep as closely as possible to his original idea, whilst at the same time adding the extra detail and adaptations I needed to make it work at a large scale. Anyway, this lovely robot was the result, all thanks to his inspired idea!
As the weeks of the term went by, I added a robot parrot, a robot dog, some robot snacks, a wind-up mouse and a robot instruction book. The kids each coloured or created a little robot minion of their own.
After an author visit at our school, I decided to take down our welcome poster and put up a poster highlighting our new books display. It took me a while to think of an appropriate picture to use, but I eventually thought that a stork delivering new “baby” books would be fun.
This poster looked great when I drew it as a small A4 line drawing, but I must admit I wasn’t very happy with the end product. For starters it looks more like a pelican than a stork. And the eyes turned out quite strange, even after many attempts. Oh well, luckily the kids aren’t as picky as I am. And it’s still nice to have something fresh and new on the libary wall, even if it ain’t perfect.
Elephant display made from pages of a dictionary
I thought a full-size elephant display would have some impact with the kids, but I couldn’t decide how to relate it to books. Until, one day when I was working in the library and disposing of some old student dictionaries, I realised that the grey print of the dictionary pages would suit an elephant’s hide. I drew the outline of an elephant onto large paper, then pasted pages of the dictionary over the whole thing. By orientating the pages in different directions, I found that the stripes of the text gave some definition to different parts of the animal, then I simply painted in some shading to give some roundness to the end product.
To involve every kid in the school, I asked them to choose to decorate either a flower or a water drip, which I then individually blue-tacked to the wall. Their efforts gave the finished display both colour and movement, and they were delighted with the results.
To maintain interest in this display over the course of the term, each week I added a few little mice to the picture. Each mouse was reading, holding or playing with a book. Each class enjoyed trying to spot the tiny mice hidden on the display.
I suspect when we take this display down we’ll have lots of entries into the draw to win the elephant – most of the kids are very keen to put this one up on their bedroom wall!
For some time, I had been quite keen on the idea of a tree in the library. It was only after I started to draw it that I realised how big an undertaking it was. Even without leaves it took up an entire wall of my house!
On the bright side, it didn’t actually matter if my drawing wasn’t accurate (unlike the time I chose to paint a representational picture of the Earth). On this occasion it didn’t matter too much how I drew or painted the branches – if they weren’t quite correct it just added to the charm. Being partial to the graphics used in the computer game “Plants & Zombies”, I shamelessly copied their grassy knoll as a base for the tree, and stuck the whole thing up in the library with Blu-Tak.
Every child in the school was given a leaf on which to write their favourite reading topic and decorate to their heart’s content, and it was exciting for them to see the tree “grow” as their efforts were added. Each week (along with their leaves) I added an extra part of the picture: a kookaburra, a koala, a possum, a treehouse, a tyre swing, a goanna, a worm and a beetle. By adding something week after week, I’ve found that these displays avoid becoming background wallpaper. When each class arrives in the library for their weekly lesson, the first thing they do is rush to the display to find the new addition.
I painted this quick-and-easy display for the London Olympic Games. I simply found a couple of small pictures and, using a grid to ensure the figures were vaguely in proportion, transferred them onto large paper. Time was short, so I painted them quickly in flat colours.
To link the theme to the library, I gave the weightlifter a barbell made of books, and I gave the hurdler a large book to jump over. Then, to get the students involved, I drew a simple medal with the words “Champion Reader” written on it and photocopied it onto gold cardboard. Each of the kids in the school wrote their name on a medal, cut it out and punched a hole in it to attach a ribbon. It looked great when several hundred medals were hanging from the ceiling, swaying nicely in the breeze.
The display made a great backdrop when the school was visited by Paralympian Matthew Cowdrey. And when the display came down, each child proudly wore their own medal home.