Archive for March 12th, 2023

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I read Beautiful Hands to my youngest students, 1st-3rd grade. The question “What will your beautiful hands do today?” is the theme of this short and inspiring book by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten.

The story of this book is both sad and joyful. From a Bookology article by Nancy Bo Flood:

Beautiful Hands was done for Bret Baumgarten, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When we found out, it was at stage 4. It was heartbreaking. He and I both wanted to do a book for his children, Noah and Sofie. I found out every day he would hold his kids’ hands in his and ask them, “What will your beautiful hands do today?”

I wanted everyone whom Bret loved to be in this book. We arranged for his family and friends (mine too!) to make handprints as part of the illustrations in the book, so that they could participate and be a part of this narrative. Over 100 people’s handprints are in the rainbow at the end of the story. So many people loved Bret, we didn’t know where to put our grief. The book became a positive way to remember the message he wanted to impart most: love, creativity, compassion, and our connection with one another.

Kathryn Otoshi

With my youngest students, we practiced using acrylic paints.

1. You must put on a t-shirt to avoid stains on your clothes. (I provide old t-shirts.)

2. Mrs. Simon will squirt the paint. It comes out fast and can splatter.

3. We only have primary colors, so how do we make other colors?

4. Which illustration do you want to make?

5. You can only use hands, no paintbrushes. We used the paintbrushes to apply the paint to their hands.

Here are some samples of final works of art.

My Painting

by Carson

Sunflowers bloom.
My heart booms!

Clouds float in the air.
My hands show that I care. 

Carson is brand new to poetry writing. He gets very nervous about it, so we have to use some breathing techniques while I prompt him with sentence stems. We worked on making lists of rhyming words. He wrote “Clouds float in the air” with little prompting. And selected the word care from our list of rhyming words. All I said was, “Look at your hands in your painting. My hands…?”

“Show that I care!” shouted Carson. We celebrated with a high five and a glowing smile. When I typed it and let him tape it to his artwork, he was as proud as Vashti from Peter Reynold’s book, The Dot. ( If you don’t know about Vashti yet, you must go Google The Dot right now.)

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