by Mike Wu

What's an elephant to do when her zoo is in trouble? Each of her friends has a special talent that they use to help their beloved zoo from closing down. Ellie has lots of enthusiasm but struggles to discover her helpful gift, until one day she discovers a paintbrush...

Ellie is an endearing picture book by Mike Wu, a Pixar animator who has worked on The Incredibles and  Toy Story 3, among others, and who definitely knows the way to capture the imagination of young readers. Ellie shows us that we all have special gifts, and that we can all make a difference, no matter what those gifts are. 

In this Issue

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Hugo and Miles in I've Painted Everything

by Scott Magoon

What's an artist to do when he's painted everything? That's just the question Hugo the elephant artist asks himself when he discovers that he has run out of ideas. A suggestion from his friend Miles sends the pair on a trip to Paris, where Hugo will discover more than just the sights of the city but also a whole new way of looking at the world around him.  

Even the youngest artists can find themselves in a rut, and not just in their creativity. Hugo and Miles In I've Painted Everything shows young readers that, sometimes, one small change can spark a new burst of imagination and creativity. So, this week we are exploring how to look at the same old things in a whole new way!  

In addition to the inspiring story, Scott Magoon's cleverly detailed illustrations give readers lots to look at. This is one of those books where you will want to pull it off the shelf time and time again, just so you can find all the funny details (can you find the bird listening to audio guide in a museum?). 

We hope you enjoy traveling to Paris once again this week. How many sights does your young reader recognize in Hugo and Miles that they visited last week in Crêpes by Suzette?


This week's activities are a part of the 2015 Paint-a-thon. Check out EmmaOwl.com for 101+ painting ideas for kids during the month of August!


In this Issue

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A Day with No Crayons

By Elizabeth Rusch

illustrated by Chad Cameron

 Hello friends!

I will go ahead and admit that I have been in an unexplainable bad mood. As I sat down to write this nothing came to mind and I felt myself getting even crankier. After I huffed and puffed around for awhile I had one of those life-mirrors-book experiences after I sent myself outside for a bike ride. This cleared my head, gave me a new way of looking at things and unlocked my creativity.

It was only when I sat down to write yet again that I realized this exactly what happened to Liza in A Day With No Crayons. She is forced to look at things in a new way when her crayons are taken away and she discovers a whole new world outside of the crayon box. For all the benefits that reading these books has for children, there are great reminders for adults as well! Although it seems like a cliché, its amazing what a change in perspective can do! 

In This Issue


A Veggie Painting + Rainbow Slaw

With this combination art activity and recipe, it's okay to play with your food! After you shred all the vegetables, young readers can use the different colors to make pictures on a plate or serving dish. Then, like mixing all the paint colors together at the end of a painting session, stir together the vegetables to make a colorful slaw and top with a creamy dressing!

A Veggie Painting + Rainbow Slaw - A Day with No Crayons - Off the Shelf

  A Veggie Painting + Rainbow Slaw - A Day with No Crayons - Off the Shelf

  A Veggie Painting + Rainbow Slaw - A Day with No Crayons - Off the Shelf


Veggie Painting

Ingredients (see below for specific measurements)

  • shredded red bell pepper
  • shredded carrots
  • chopped pineapple
  • shredded broccoli 
  • shredded red or purple cabbage
  1. Set out vegetables and fruit in individual bowls. Provide a young reader with a "canvas"; we used a large shallow baking dish. Let the creating begin! Encourage your young reader to create a masterpiece using the foods as the medium. 

Rainbow Slaw

Dressing recipe from Super Healthy Kids.


  • 1 red bell pepper, shredded
  • 2 large carrots, shredded
  • 3/4 cup chopped pineapple
  • 1/2 head red or purple cabbage, shredded
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  1.  In a large bowl, mix together vegetables and fruit. In a small bowl or jar, mix together the yogurt, mayo, honey, and vinegar. Pour over slaw and toss to combine.
A Veggie Painting + Rainbow Slaw - A Day with No Crayons - Off the Shelf



Nature's Crayons

Taking a cure from Liza, go on a nature walk and collect a variety flowers and leaves and see which ones will make brilliant colors on paper. Young readers will have fun guessing which will leave bold color, a little color, or no color at all. Plus, certain plants will leave scent!

Nature's Crayons - A Day with No Crayons - Off the Shelf

Nature's Crayons


  • Watercolor paper
  • Container for gathering flowers and leaves
  1. Gather flowers and leaves. 
  2. Lay paper on a flat surface. Experiment with rubbing the collected materials on the paper. 

Extra Fun

Homemade Coloring Page

After discovering which items leave color, your young reader could draw a simple picture with crayon or marker and then use the flowers and leaves to color it in! 

What's Its Name?

What crazy names can your young reader give to the colors you have just discovered? Cherry Pie Red? Great Grasshopper Green? 


More Art from Off the Shelf

One Year Ago: Peter Rabbit is back in The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit with the help of author Emma Thompson. This time he finds himself in Scotland in the company of a giant radish!

Two Years Ago: Sweet Westie McDuff has competition with the arrival of a new baby in McDuff and the Baby. Try the delicious Vanilla Rice Pudding recipe!

Lines That Wiggle

Dear Friends,

Our art shelf is never at a loss for things we have saved from the recycling bin. In fact, it is a struggle for us to let go of a nice little box or an interesting jar, because when we look at them we don't see a box or a jar, but instead see a house or a piece of doll furniture, the beginning of a found art sculpture or just a lovely container for paintbrushes. In fact, one of our favorite sayings is "This would make a nice..."

From time to time, as painful as it is, we have to go through and actually put some things in the recycling bin (gasp!). And without fail, the following week, we will ultimately need an item we had discarded only the week before. Then we will have to utter another of our favorite phrases: "This is why we don't get rid of things!" 

Our book choice this week is all about seeing that a line is not just a line, just like a box is not always a box. We hope it inspires you an makes you smile (see how that works? A smile is a very nice line!).


Lines That Wiggle

by Candace Whitman

Illustrated by Steve Wilson

 Glittering textural lines and simple, rhyming verse make Lines That Wiggle a fun choice for playful read-togethers. While not a typical interactive book, the embossed glittery blue lines simply begs for young readers to trace it while giggling at the brightly colored illustrations with a quirky sense of humor.

Although the book is written in a light hearted manner, it sneakily teaches young readers one of the basic elements of art and how to notice all of the things in their world made up of lines.

In This Issue


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Dear Friends,

Sometimes inspiration creeps up on  you. On this first read-through of this book, we weren't sure that this was the right choice to feature here on the blog. We weren't sure what activities we could develop to go with it, until we gave it that second read. Then the "aha" moment occured. Suddenly we wanted to go through the day painting drawing and doodling with joy and abandonment. So we channeled that inspiration and created big art and salad full of shapes and colors that will inspire you and your young reader (and maybe your cat) to fill your day with splotches and curliques and squiggles. 

Walter the Art Cat




by Patrick McDonnell

Can you think of a better way to spend time than running through colorful squiggles, splotches, dots, and doodles? That is exactly how young Art and his faithful doodled dog love to fill their days and they create one art-filled creation after another.

Art - Off the Shelf

Art - Off the Shelf

Art (the book) is full of energy and imagination and inspires readers to turn sheets of blank paper into wonderful creations of their own. The rhyming text is brief and simple and allows the art to truly tell the story of the joy and freedom art brings to children. Art is a celebration of creativity and imagination that is sure to make readers smile each and every time it is pulled off the shelf. 

Art - Off the Shelf

Art - Off the Shelf

In this Issue

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Beautiful Oops!

Dear Friends, 

How many times a day do you or your yong reader say "Oops"? (Do you get a sinking feeling when your young reader says it?) Normally this would means a mistake has been made, but not so with our book choice for this week. 

We all try so hard to be perfect, but it is much more fun to celebrate the imperfections that happen every day by turning them into good things. So Oops it up today and enjoy!


Beautiful Oops!

By Barney Saltzberg

Beautiful Oops! - Off the Shelf
Worrying about doing perfect can hinder the creative spirit and cut short the wonderful ability of children to think they are capable of practically anything. If only more adults could remain true to that spirit the world would be a much less angst-ridden place.
Beautiful Oops! - Off the Shelf
Beautiful Oops! - Off the Shelf

Barney Saltzberg has given the world a celebration of turning mistakes into a masterpiece with the highly entertaining Beautiful Oops! Torn paper, smudges, spills, and drips of paint are nothing to be upset about because as Mr. Saltzberg shows us, they are just the beginning of some very great things.
Beautiful Oops! - Off the Shelf
Beautiful Oops! - Off the Shelf
Interactive, engaging, inspiring and down right delightful. This is one to share with your young reader and even some adults in your life.

In this Issue


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Perfect Square

Dear Friends,

We live in a world where we are usually searching for the one right answer: Things are black and white. A square is a square. So placing ourselves in a situation where there is no one right answer can often muddle the brain. Our palms may sweat. We might even get the shakes. An we may still feel that there has to be one right answer.

So exercising the brain in a manner that is open-ended, while challenging, can also be a freeing experience. The Perfect Square intrigues readers to see the limitless possibilities of a square. So join in the fun, and try transforming a square of your own. Don't be surprised if this is easier for your young reader than you!

Perfect Square

Michael Hall

What happens when a “perfectly happy” perfect red square gets cut into pieces, poked full of holes, torn, crumpled, and shredded? It turns into a fountain, a garden, a park, a mountain, and other equally perfect and creative transformations.

Perfect Square - Off the Shelf

Perfect Square - Off the Shelf 

Although the square is less than enthusiastic about leaving its life of matching corners and equal sides, the colorful, transformative daily adventures make going back to being perfectly square seem “confining, rigid and cramped.”

Perfect Square is a wonderful combination and storytelling and design that will charm and delight and readers of all ages to try their hand at transforming a square into….

Perfect Square - Off the Shelf

Perfect Square - Off the Shelf


In this Issue

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Mouse Paint

Dear Friends,

We hope you are having a good day. Sometimes, we find ourselves weary of daily schedules and routines. As helpful as they are for crossing things off a to-do list, they can sometimes result in little time for spur-of-the-moment fun. Do you ever feel the same way? So here's a friendly reminder to seize the moment and create a memory with your young reader...maybe by hopping and dancing in some paint? 

Mouse Paint

by Ellen Stoll Walsh

 Three clever little white mice are hiding from a gray cat in a very tricky place – on a sheet of white paper! Things get even trickier when the mice discover three jars of paint and begin to have so much fun dancing and jumping in the paint they forget all about the cat.

Mouse Paint - Off the Shelf


Mouse Paint is a fun, light-hearted introduction to primary colors and color mixing told through the antics of the little white mice. Filled with cut paper illustrations and vivid colors, each page pops with energy and inspiration.  Mouse Paint - Off the Shelf

Enjoy Mouse Paint with your young reader and discover how the little mice continue to enjoy their new painting hobby and still hide from the gray cat.


In this Issue

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Sky Color

by Peter H. Reynolds

What is a young artist to do when your job is to paint the sky in the class mural and there is no blue paint? Marisol is an artist through and through who has her own gallery (on the fridge) and loves to share her work with others. She is thrilled to have the special privilege of painting the sky, but her excitement turns to disappointment when she must rethink how to complete the mural.

Brilliant oranges, yellows, and pinks swirl through the sunset sky as Marisol contemplates her dilemma, even her dreams that night are filled with swirling, mixing colors. The next morning it was raining. The sky wasn’t blue. And Marisol smiled.

Read Sky Color with your young reader and enjoy following Marisol on her creative journey and seeing that quite often the most beautiful things happen when thinking happens outside the box.


 Check back this week for activities based on Sky Color!


Related Book: The Art Lesson on Off the Shelf

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