Written and illustrated by Suzy Lee
Published by Chronicle Books, 2017
Grades K and up
Suzy Lee, acclaimed illustrator and virtuoso of the wordless picturebook, delivers another spectacular visual masterpiece in her latest book, Lines. A young girl revels in the freedom and creativity of ice skating in solitude on a frozen pond. Depicted with sparse detail and a minimal palette, the girl’s red winter cap and mittens and the elaborate lines she carves into the pond surface are the primary eye-catchers of each double-page spread. And what lines they are! Created by the young skater’s majestic leaps and twirls, the titular lines loop and straighten, alternating between thin graceful contours and thick, powerful formations. All seems an enthralling display of skill and purpose…until the skater abruptly tumbles and crashes. Suddenly another take on this story appears, as Lee zooms out from the skating scene to reveal a crumpled piece of paper and an artist’s discarded pencil and eraser. But neither the skater nor the artist are ready to call it quits, and once the paper is smoothened out, the determination and positive mindset of both reveal an even more amazing event to witness. A tale about the creative process and expression, Lines belongs on every classroom bookshelf for students and teachers to read and explore over and over again.
Teaching Ideas and Invitations
Introduction to Figure Skating. Use Lines as a way to introduce students to the sport of figure skating and perhaps as preparation for the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. What do they already know about figure skating? How is it similar to and different from other forms of skating? Use the websites listed in Further Explorations below to help students learn the terminology associated with the sport. Using the terms, have students look closely at each page in the book and describe specifically what the young girl is doing as she leaps, twirls, and jumps across the pages.
Picture Books about the Writing Process. Include Lines in a solar system text set of picture books about the writing process. What do students notice across the books? What stage(s) of the writing process are explored in each book? What kinds of writing challenges are explored? How does the writer approach them and overcome them? Are there common experiences among writers? How do their own experiences as young writers compare and contrast with the characters in these books? Ideas are All Around, by Philip C. Stead, Little Red Writing, by Joan Holub; Thank You Miss Doover, by Robin Pulver; The Best Story, by Eileen Spinelli; Ralph Tells a Story, by Abby Hanlon; and More Bears!, by Kenn Nesbitt.
Lines as Metaphors. The notion of the line is a common motif in children’s literature. To this end, lines often represent the act and process of creation. Gather a text set of books that use line as a motif, such has Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson; Line That Wiggle, by Candace Whitman; The Line, by Paula Bossio; A Line Can Be, by Laura Ljungkvist; Bear Hunt, by Anthony Browne; Art, by Patrick McDonnell; Bad Day at Riverbend, by Chris Van Allsburg; Scribble, by Deborah Freedman; and, of course, Lines, by Suzy Lee. Have students study the ways in which lines are created, manipulated, stopped, and changed. How are these lines extensions of the characters who create them? How do these lines take on a life of their own? What else could these lines represent? Provide students with a variety of artistic tools, and allow them to create their own lines, experimenting with various media and possibilities for what the lines can turn into and represent in their lives.
Lines and Possibilities. Provide students with a variety of artistic tools, and allow them to create their own lines, experimenting with various media and possibilities for what the lines can turn into and represent in their lives. Allow them to create all kinds of lines—looping lines, continuous lines, dotted lines—and to fill in the white space with colors, patterns, and textures of their own choosing. Have them explain their choices via oral, written, or multimedia presentation.
The Creative Process. Have students research the processes that Suzy Lee and other children’s authors and illustrators go through to create their art. What do themes stand out from their findings about how authors approach their inspiration, setbacks, and revision? How do their processes differ? How do those processes compare and contrast with what other artists, engineers, and craftspeople go through (e.g., songwriters, playwrights, architects, photographers, interior decorators, fashion designers, sculptors, etc.)? Have students select some of what they’ve learned to be the “creative mantras” for the classroom. Post those mantras around the room to inspire students and remind them that they are in the company of many, many creative people in the world as they go through their own creative processes.
Oral Storytelling and Wordless Picturebooks. Wordless picture books are terrific tools for helping children develop their oral language and emergent reading skills. Have pairs of students sit side by side, and encourage them to walk through the illustrations and tell the stories of what is happening on each page to each other. They can take turns with each page, or take turns telling an entire story. Other wordless pictures you might want to share with them or use to model oral storytelling for the whole class are Molly Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo, Barbara Lehman’s The Secret Box, and Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy. You may want to audiorecord their storytelling and provide the recordings at your classroom listening center for students to listen to and compare what their classmates say about the stories.
Learning about Perseverance. What does it mean to persevere? Young students might be new to this concept, and so they may have little experience with perseverance. However, they most likely have faced challenges and setbacks that frustrated them. Ask them to identify times when they have been frustrated or upset because they couldn’t (yet) do something they really wanted to do. List these moments on a chart for the class to see. Then have students interview a variety of people—family members, school faculty and staff, coaches, neighbors, etc.—about a time when they persevered through a challenge. If students are able to, have them audiorecord these stories (if conducting the interviews in school, using school iPads or other technology would work). Listen to these stories in small groups or as a class, identifying common themes, outlooks, and approaches in the stories so they can begin to construct a definition of perseverance.
Growth Mindset and Dynamic Learning Frame. Through the events that transpire, Lines conveys some of the key tenets of growth mindset development, such as perseverance, multiple perspectives, and flexible thinking. Use Lines to spark discussion about what these concepts mean and how they can apply to all aspects of their lives. Push them to think beyond how those concepts apply to themselves and can help foster a more socially just and kind world, moving toward a dynamic learning frame, which is a growth mindset incorporated with civil engagement and social thinking and responsibility. Create a text set of other picture books that foster these outlooks and ways of thinking, such as Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg; The Most Magnificent Thing, by Ashley Spires,; Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds; What Do You Do With a Problem?, by Kobi Yamada ; and The Book of Mistakes, by Corinna Luyken, For more information on growth mindsets and dynamic learning frames, see the websites listed below in Further Explorations. For an example of how children’s literature can foster these discussions in the classroom, see this article co-authored by Grace.
Visual Literacy. Since the story of Lines is told entirely through pictures, help students develop their skills at reading and analyzing visual images. Review artistic principles, such as color, line, light and shadow, and texture with students to support their visual literacy skills. Teach about symbolism and motif, too. Teach students how to closely read an image, using these skills to construct deeper meanings. Project a variety of images for students to observe and discuss, increasing the complexity of each image to scaffold students’ learning.
End Papers. The astute reader will know that more and more, stories begin not on the first page after the title page, but on the end pages of a book. In fact, the end pages of Lines offers some important clues and context as to what is really going on behind the story, as well as what may happen in the end. With students, study the end pages of Lines, as well as the end pages other books they have recently read. What do they all have in common? What differs? What information about the book, the illustrations, and the author/illustrator do the end papers provide that isn’t apparent in the main text? What value does this information have to different readers of the book? Have students create end papers for a piece they have already written, considering the answers to the questions above.
Suzy Lee Author/Illustrator Study. Gather a collection of Suzy Lee’s work and biographical information, including interviews and videos. Read through her books (both the ones she wrote and illustrated, as well as the ones she only illustrated) as a class, noting similarities and differences across the books’ formats and styles. What styles, media, and techniques does she employ? What themes or symbols do they see across his illustrations? Ask your students to identify patterns in setting, theme, character, and plot across the books. Based on students’ inquiries, observations, and analyses, compile a list of lessons about storytelling and illustratin gained from this study and invite your students to try out some of the techniques you have discussed in their own work. See the titles listed below as a starting point for gathering information.
Suzy Lee’s website
Interview with Suzy Lee
Articles about Suzy Lee
Websites about Figure Skating
- International Skating Union
- S. Figure Skating Association
- A GIF Guide to Figure Skaters’ Jumps at the Olympics
- 10 Words
Dynamic Learning Frame and Growth Mindset Resources
- Peter Johnston – Classroom Talk: Learning, Thinking, and Classroom Communities
- Edutopia Lesson Plans
Beaty, A. (2013). Rosie Revere, engineer. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
Bossio, P. (2013). The line. Kids Can Press.
Jackson, R. (2017). This beautiful day. Ill. by S. Lee. New York: Atheneum.
Jeffers, O. (2004). How to catch a star. New York: Philomel.
Lee, S. (2008). Wave. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
Lee, S. (2010). Mirror. Seven Footer Press.
Lee, S. (2010). Shadow. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
Ljungkvist, L. (2015). A line can be. POW!
Luyken, C. (2017). The book about mistakes. New York: Dial.
Reynolds, P. H. (2003). The dot. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Reynolds, P. H. (2004). Ish. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Reynolds, P. H. (2012). Sky color. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.
Saltzberg, B. (2010). Beautiful oops! New York: Workman Publishing.
Spires, A. (2014). The most magnificent thing. Toronto, ONT: Kids Can Press.
Spires, A. (2017). The thing Lou couldn’t do. Toronto, ONT: Kids Can Press.
Yamada, K. (2014). What do you do with an idea? Compendium.
Yamada, K. (2016). What do you do with a problem? Compendium.
About Grace Enriquez
Grace is an associate professor of language and literacy at Lesley University. A former English Language Arts teacher, reading specialist, and literacy consultant, she teaches and writes about children’s literature, critical literacies, and literacies and embodiment. Grace is co-author of The Reading Turn-Around and co-editor of Literacies, Learning, and the Body.
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