the Scraps book

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A Summary… in brief

While Lois Ehlert is surely not a new name in the world of children’s literature, the Scraps book accomplishes something that feels both new and familiar. Lois documents for young readers the journey she has taken in becoming an artist and book maker. With her trademark collages made from bits of paper, found objects, and photographs, Ehlert invites readers into her childhood home, her studio, and beyond showing us where she gets inspiration and how, over time, she learned to capture ideas and hold onto them. Throughout the book, Ehlert shows the process she uses as an artist and bookmaker. She shares bits of her familiar books, introducing them to us in a new and fresh way, by focusing not on the story itself but instead the process she used to develop the book.

As a parent…

Lois Ehlert’s work is not only beautiful to look at, but it’s also inspiring to hear how her parents encouraged and motivated her to make art from a very young age. In her case, no one was telling her to do any one thing, instead they provided the space for her to work, shared their passions with her, and modeled for her what it meant to be engaged in the art of making something with their hands. Lois’s mom loved to sew and her dad worked with wood. Her dad set up a folding table for her. Lois says, “It was my spot, a place to work and dream.” I’m inspired by this book to try to think about ways of giving my kids spaces to “work and dream”, spaces to explore and experiment, to be guided by the materials that surround them and to see creative possibilities in the objects they encounter on their walks around the neighborhood, on vacation, or when visiting friends out of town. In our fast-paced world, this book is a reminder to me of how precious process is and how important it is to remind our children of the journey so many of us need to go on in finding our voices, our paths, and the “color” in our lives. I plan to relish in this story with my kids… with the hope that many thought-provoking conversations and creative moments will follow!

As a teacher…

Lois Ehlert has done us all a tremendous favor in writing this book! She is showing us the aspect of writing that it’s so hard to authentically model for children – the process! She describes both the long process of becoming an artist and bookmaker as well as the more immediate process of developing a book. She describes and demonstrates her techniques, shows her tools, includes incredibly planful sketches and dummy copies of her books that so many of us have read and loved over the years. She brings us right in and does so with vibrant, colorful images and sparing, carefully chosen language. This book, I imagine, is one that will be inspirational to some children but will serve as a mentor to all in terms of thinking about the role of planning, the process of finding ideas, and the integration of text and image in the books we hope children will make in our classrooms! Whether you use the book as a whole or hone in on a particular two page spread, there seem to be endless uses for this book in the context of a writer’s workshop!

You might also check out this video to learn more about how Lois thinks about the family household she grew up.

Happy Reading!