Our good friend Rebecca Dunn is back on the Library as Incubator Project with another great post in her popular Pages to Projects series! She shares how to incorporate elements of art education and appreciation into storytime; if you’ve been inspired by Rebecca’s projects or have used her storytime plans at your library, we’d love to hear about it!  Share your experience in the comments. ~Erinn

swirl-coverPages to Projects: Scratch and Swirl

by Rebecca Z. Dunn

Strong, fascinating, beautiful spirals are present all around us. Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes, explores spirals, a shape that occurs in nature over and over and over again from the basic construction of a spider’s web, to the way a spiral galaxy spins. Swirl by Swirl is both poetic and visually stimulating, a storytime crowd pleaser, and the inspiration behind this latest Pages to Projects.

Most well known for her picture book, The House in the Night, which won her a Caldecott gold, Beth Krommes, the artist behind Swirl by Swirl, used her signature technique, scratchboard, to create detailed and elegant illustrations. Scratchboard’s meticulous illustrative technique is accomplished by using sharp tools to carve into special clay. After reading Swirl by Swirl, a unique way to explore spirals is by using a like-minded art technique and by prodding children to make spirals of their own.

Since scratchboard requires special materials and sharp tools, it isn’t a storytime project, but there is a kid-friendly alternative. Children can mimic the art of scratchboard by making scratch art. Using only a few items that you might already have in your supply cabinet, follow these easy steps:

Materials Needed:

  • Oil pastels
  • Toothpicks
  • White Cardstock

How to Make Scratch Art:

  1. Have the children cover their entire piece of white cardstock with various bright colors of oil pastels.
  2. Using black oil pastels, color over the entire area that was colored in step one.
  3. Once the colored area is covered with a layer of black oil pastel, scratch the sheet with a toothpick to reveal the colors underneath.  If you’re doing this project in conjunction with reading Swirl by Swirl, consider persuading the children to create their own spirals.

An option instead of using black oil pastels to cover the colored side of the paper is to substitute black tempera paint for the black oil pastel. Wait for the paint to dry and it will be prepped for scratching. If you happen to find yourself short on time and materials, a quick fix is to purchase pre-made scratch art sheets through a craft store or party supply outlet like Oriental Trading Company.

Wanna sneak some STEM literacy into your storytime? After you read Swirl by Swirl, talk about what a spiral is (“Spiral: a shape that curls around a center point”) and where they occur in nature as illustrated in your book or in the environment where you reside. Hold up picture examples like these, or make a flannel board demonstration like the one created by Piper Loves the Library.

Math, nature, and art… Spirals are just one way for kids to scratch the surface of the whirling and wonderment found in the world around us.


Check out other books illustrated by Beth Krommes:

For More book recommendations and crafts that introduce fine art to children, be sure to check out the Pages to Projects Pinterest Board!


IMG_2347Rebecca Zarazan Dunn is a Youth Services Librarian Assistant for the Lawrence Public Library, and was recently named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker for 2013.  When she’s not at the library or running after her 2-year old daughter, she is most often found at her blog home, Sturdy for Common Things, where she writes about books, library programs, and living the simple life in Lawrence, Kansas.

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