Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January Celebration of 'How to Be'

Read It. Move It. Share It. 
This is the first post in my collaboration with independent dance educator Maria Hanley from Maria's Movers. Each month I'll recommend a picture book for Maria to use in her creative movement classes. I'll read the book, Maria will "move" it with her students, and we'll both share our experiences. 

At its core, Lisa Brown's debut picture book How to Be is a book about being yourself. Maybe you act like a dog, or a snake, or a monkey sometimes (not unlike the characters in this book). But as long as you are still being true to yourself, the world will be full of color and least that's the way I like to interpret this charming book. 

How to Be is broken down into four-page sections, each devoted to a specific animal. Short descriptive sentences and simple illustrations depict "how to be" each of the various creatures. Here, for instance, is an excerpt about being a snake:

Shed your skin. 
Dance in a basket.
Be charming. 

I'm about to contradict myself, because I know I just told you that this book is about being yourself. But, through the illustrations, How to Be is also about being with others. The main characters are a young brother and sister who, for the most part, get along splendidly. Yes, there is the moment when the brother is acting like a dog, and he "licks someone." (His sister looks a little annoyed.) And there's the time when the sister "builds a web" like a spider, but actually ties her brother up in it. But this kind of behavior is to be expected between siblings, right? 

Another fun aspect of this book, especially in the context of creative movement, is that each four-page section has an opening page that introduces the animal, along with a featured color and featured item (or "prop") that both appear multiple times in the section:

Bear--a blue swimming toy

Monkey--a green book

Turtle--a pink and yellow pail

Snake--an orange basket

Spider--purple paint on a sketch pad

Dog--a brown pull toy

And, finally, the book ends with "how to be" a person, incorporating many of the best attributes of the other animals. The illustrations in this last section also incorporate all the colors in the book, emphasizing that people are diverse, interesting, and unique. 

I hope this book inspired Maria as much as it inspired me. Let's see how she incorporated it in her creative movement classes here!                                          


  1. loved this book! And you did an excellent job of explaining each section. It really is a great lesson to teach littles. Recommendation # 1- success! :)

  2. So glad you liked it, and that it was a success. Yeah!! Looking forward to all the books to come...and all the fun ways you will be bringing the books to life!

  3. I love your site and would love to share it with my readers. Can I post your blog under blogs I love on my site?

  4. Hi, Stacey. Thanks so much! It means a lot to me that there are people out there who like my site :) I would be thrilled if you added it to your blog roll.
    I'll add your site to mine, too. Up Down & All Around looks like so much fun. And actually, now that I'm thinking about it, maybe there would be a way to highlight it in a post on my site sometime. Perhaps we can talk about it offline one of these days? And thanks again for your message :)


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