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Cover image for Ideas are all around
Ideas are all around
First edition.
New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2016.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 29 cm
General Note:
"A Neal Porter Book."
In search of writing ideas, an author takes a walk with his dog around the neighborhood.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader 2.9.

Reading Counts! 1.6.


Call Number
JP Stead

On Order



As an author and his dog, Wednesday, walk through their neighborhood, they look at sunflowers, say hi to Frank, a turtle, who makes quick for the water and disappears, and watch a train rumble by as they walk uphill to a big purple house that belongs to their friend Barbara. Wednesday chases squirrels while the two friends discuss fishing and war and how back before the neighborhood was there enormous woolly mammoths roamed where houses now sit.

Thoughts open up to other thoughts, and ideas are born and carried forward, often transforming into other ideas until he finds that ideas really are all around, you just have to know what to do with them. This title has Common Core connections.

Author Notes

Philip C. Stead is the author of the 2011 Caldecott Medal book, A Sick Day for Amos McGee . His book, A Home for Bird, received four starred reviews and was called "a deeply satisfying story" by Kirkus Reviews, while his most recent book, Sebastian and the Balloon, has earned three starred reviews. Philip lives with his wife, illustrator Erin E. Stead in Michigan.

Reviews 6

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-With the unassuming conceit of a woolgathering walk with his dog, Stead provides readers with snapshots of his creative process as he synthesizes seeds of ideas, conversational tidbits, and artful suggestions from the natural world in surprising and delightful ways. The illustrations-a mixture of Polaroid images, monoprints, and collage-are sheer Stead and simply brilliant. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Children's book creators are often asked where they get their ideas. What if they run out? "I have to write a story today," Stead (Sebastian and the Balloon) starts. "But today I don't have any ideas." Instead, he takes his dog, Wednesday, for a walk, recording his journey in an unassuming collection of drawings, prints, and snapshots in Polaroid-style frames. There's no drama, yet the pages are filled with incident. He and Wednesday see a turtle and some ducks. Stead exchanges greetings with his friend Barbara, whose wise voice warms the pages. ("It's such a waste," she says when the subject of war comes up. "We could all go fishing instead.") He notices the line at the church's food program. Animals are drawn in close-up, vivid detail (excepting, perhaps, a horse made of blue paint), while the people are small and roughly drawn; they might be anybody, anywhere. Stead's thoughts come to life in lines structured like verse, the animals he sees and words he hears merging into dreamy half-stories. A long, rich visit with Barbara follows: "Did you know that ten thousand years ago this spot was the bottom of a lake?" she asks. As Stead and Wednesday return home, the things they have talked about and the animals they have seen-all the ideas he's collected-follow them in a somber parade. Stead's bits and pieces of drawing and observation, his willingness to lay bare his uncertainty, and his rough sketches of the natural world don't form a polished or seamless whole. Yet their very fragmentariness tells an important truth about the way artists begin to create. Ages 4-8. Agent: Emily van Beek, Folio Literary Management. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Horn Book Review

Steads A Sick Day for Amos McGee (rev. 5/10), illustrated by Erin E. Stead, takes a traditional approach to a work-related challenge: told in the third person, it presents a kindly zookeeper, his concrete problem, and a satisfying solution. Conversely, this book takes a circuitous path (literally) to resolving a job crisis: an author attempts to walk off a case of writers block. (I have to write a story today. That is my jobBut today I dont have any ideas.) The suggestion is that the nameless, faceless writer-narrator, who walks with his dog, Wednesday, is Stead himself -- per his bio, Stead, too, has a dog named Wednesday -- and that this book is the story Stead writes, having gathered ideas while greeting animals, marveling at a passing train, observing people in line at a soup kitchen, and so on. Just as improvisational-seeming as the text (set in a typewriter font) are the mixed-media illustrations, which enlist Polaroids for accents and in one instance feature eighteen different shots of the blue sky, in place of words. The book doesnt seem especially suited to young readers (the narrator and a neighbor sip coffee and talk about war), and it will satisfy no child expecting an Amos McGeelike tale. But it will reward those receptive to the notion that the world speaks to those who listen. nell beram (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

A ramble through the neighborhood gets the creative juices going in this picture book. "I have to write a story today" the narrator begins. "But today I don't have any ideas." Ah, tension right off the bat. In this whimsical meditation on the creative process, the narrator takes readers around the neighborhood while walking the dog, Wednesday. The narrator greets Frank, the painted turtle, hears birds, and has coffee with a friend. Stead's sophisticated illustrations, which combine monoprints, collage, and Polaroid photographs, mesh perfectly with the narrative's undercurrent that inspiration is both immediate in its moment-to-moment observations and timeless in its themes of humanity. A blob of spilled paint that looks like a blue horse is introduced into the story early and visually carried throughout, becoming the symbol (as it was for Eric Carle's book, The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse (2011), and Franz Marc's painting, Blue Horse) of individual creativity. As a story of finding inspiration, younger readers will appreciate Stead's gentle ramblings of imagination and observation. Older readers may begin to pick out the connections that inspire within the small acts of livingplanting a flower seed, petting a dog, staring at the clouds, and conversation with a friend. In all, Stead has given readers a deeply felt, deeply connected story that is homage to creationand really quite brilliant. (Picture book. 4 up) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Writing for an older audience than usual, Stead contemplates the idea of ideas, where they come from, and what to do when they don't appear. His first-person narrative informs readers that it's his job to write stories, but he has nothing to write about. So he takes his dog, Wednesday, for a walk, during which they see a painted turtle and their friend Barbara. They watch a train go by, and Stead imagines journeys to cities like Chicago and Omaha. They also stop at a soup kitchen where a man in a wheelchair bends down and tells Wednesday, I used to have a dog just like you! Stead contemplates typewriters and bird calls, war and water. Then, with so many neighborhood sites sparking his imagination, he is ready to take a walk on the page. The book's conceit is a tad indulgent, and the tone a bit adult. The multimedia artwork, however, is amazing, with photographs, collage etchings, and splatter art (example: a blue splash of paint transforms into a horse) mingling across vibrant spreads. A carefully thought-out design, from typeface to page weight, makes the book a pleasure to look at and handle. This succeeds, as the title says, at showing that ideas are everywhere, and it will spur readers to find creative sparks of their own.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2015 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

IN HER NOBEL PRIZE acceptance speech, Pearl S. Buck distinguished between the impulse to produce and the impulse to create, which she described as "an enormous extra vitality, a super-energy, born inexplicably in an individual." Four new books celebrate the inner life of that creative vitality - a wonderful vaccine against our culture's pathology of deadening productivity. "Cloth Lullaby" honors the influential French-American artist Louise Bourgeois, nicknamed "Spiderwoman" for her large-scale spider sculptures. The lyrical story begins with Bourgeois's early life in a family that restored tapestries for a living. (Fittingly, the book is bound with a vibrant ultramarine fabric spine.) In this act of repairing broken threads, Bourgeois came to see her mother as a patient, loving spider. Amy Novesky captures the young girl's expansive interiority: "Louise would study the web of stars, imagine her place in the universe, and weep, then fall asleep to the rhythmic rock and murmur of river water." This poetic tone follows Bourgeois as she migrates to Paris to study mathematics and cosmography. Devastated by her mother's sudden death, she pivots from the illusory certainty of science to the guaranteed uncertainty of art. So begins her lifelong quest to render tangible her mother's loving spirit. Novesky's writing is alert to young readers' voracious appetite for the aliveness of language. The story is strewn with beautiful, pleasantly challenging words ("indigo," "fragments," "trousseau"), words that have earned the right to make themselves at home in a child's imagination. Isabelle Arsenault - a master of expressive subtlety and one of the most exceptional illustrators of our time - offers the perfect visual counterpart to that aliveness, rich in consummate patterns and a regal palette of blues and reds. My only lament: The story glosses over Bourgeois's lifelong choler at her father. Even if young readers are understandably spared its main source - the formative trauma of discovering his affair with her governess - its emotional aftermath undergirds her autobiographical art. The artificial sweetening of luminaries' lives does a disservice to creative culture, and to the mythos of success we instill in the young. Yes, life is difficult and messy, but transmuting trauma into art seeds so many great artists' creative restlessness. Indeed, late in life Bourgeois wrote in her diary: "To be an artist is a guarantee to your fellow humans that the wear and tear of living will not let you become a murderer." Still, "Cloth Lullaby" is one of the loveliest picture books I've encountered - a tender homage to an extraordinary woman. "The White Cat and the Monk" retells the ninth-century Old Irish poem "Pangur Ban" - a monk's simple, sage meditation on the parallels between his scholarly lucubrations and his feline companion's playful hunts. In the tiny candlelit home they share, each relishes the day's rewards, delighting in but not competing with the other's. Sydney Smith's distinctive art (he also illustrated the magnificent "Sidewalk Flowers") falls partway between modernist fairy tale and graphic novel, opening an inviting portal between past and present as the ancient story comes to life in a decidedly contemporary aesthetic. Jo Ellen Bogart's text stretches the poem past the length of most translations - surely necessary for turning a handful of verses into a book. Indeed, it's a marvelously inspired choice to make a picture book out of an ancient poem by a forgotten monk. The text's subtle moral is timeless but also sings with elegiac timeliness - what a wonderful counterpoint to modern life's hamster wheel of achievement and approval, this idea that there is poetry in every pursuit executed with purposefulness and savored with uncompetitive joy. Zena Alkayat and Nina Cosford's "Virginia Woolf" - part of a series of life portraits of cultural icons aimed at adults but certain to captivate bright young readers - follows Woolf's life from a childhood marked by love and loss to her dogged rise as one of humanity's most significant writers to the March morning on which she filled her coat pockets with stones, walked into the River Ouse, and drowned. Intersecting her life are larger threads - the women's suffrage movement, the artists and intellectuals of the Bloomsbury group, the world wars. Alkayat narrates with succulent concision, but her affectionate admiration for Woolf shows. "Fiction was never the same again," she writes of "Mrs. Dalloway." Cosford's charming illustrations contain echoes of the Provensens and Maira Kalman, yet stand as thoroughly original. Spliced into the story are Woolf's own beguiling lines. "I will not be 'famous,' 'great,'" she writes in her diary at 51. "I will go on adventuring, changing, opening my mind and my eyes, refusing to be stamped and stereotyped." "Ideas Are All Around," by the prolific Caldecott medalist Philip C. Stead, is a meandering meditation on the nature of the mind and its communion with the world, a splendidly unusual prose poem about how creativity works. Illustrated with an inventive mixed-media medley of drawings, stencils and Polaroids, the first-person story follows an archetypal artist tussling with creative block as he awakens one morning to write a story but is out of ideas. On a walk with his scruffy dog, Wednesday, he revels in the jubilant simplicity of life we habitually take for granted: the turtle in the pond, the STOP WAR graffiti on the sidewalk, the kindly neighbor on top of the hill, the people in line at the soup kitchen, the ducks floating downstream. Emanating from this wandering wonderment is a sense of our deeply intertwined denizenship and the generous good will permeating our world, if only we pause to notice - a beautiful testament to that old William Jamesian notion that our experience is what we agree to attend to. Perhaps the story's loveliest aspect is the readiness with which it embraces the unpredictability and impermanence of life as the wellspring of its very vitality. When the narrator trips and spills a bucket of blue paint on the sidewalk by his neighbor's house, she exclaims: "HOW WONDERFUL! A BLUE HORSE!" And so it is with the imagination, and with life - we can will neither into submission, but we can choose to remain awake to the twists and turns that become the raw material of both art and the art of living. MARIA POPOVA is the founder of BrainPickings and an M.I.T. Futures of Entertainment fellow.