Learning from Children’s Books: Barney Saltzberg’s, Beautiful Oops!

beautiful oops1A dear friend recently sent Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg to my daughter and I immediately fell in love.

Beautiful Oops! is a lovely representation of all the ways our mistakes, missteps and misunderstandings may turn into something more. It is a bright, whimsical and charmingly illustrated book of coffee spills, paint dribbles, crumpled paper and smudges turned into opportunities to create, devise and explore.

This book is a wonderful way to teach children (and remind adults) that a mistake or a failure is “an opportunity to make something beautiful!” This line of thinking is so important, especially as our students and teachers continue to be faced with the pressures of standardized testing, black and white answers and assessments. A recent article in The Atlantic talks about the academic pressure hoisted upon students as early as preschool. Fears about “school readiness” have permeated play and art-based programs. Recess, art and music have been swapped for “seat work” and vocabulary. Students are conditioned to think there are black and white answers to questions – very clear yes’s and no’s. Life described in multiple-choice bubbles.

Meanwhile, as many schools are feeling top-down pressure to raise test scores, research demonstrates that when it comes to predicting life-long success, other factors may outweigh academic knowledge. Nobel Prize-winning economics professor, James Heckman, emphasizes the importance of non-cognitive skills such as persistence, curiosity and motivation, but how can teachers best foster those traits in students?

Art. Drama. Music. Play. Story. Open-ended materials – and space to make mistakes.

Art comes from seeing beyond the literal, to externally express the internal. We’re told to think outside the box, but rarely are we taught how.

Thank you to Barney Saltzberg for this visual representation of resilience, creativity and reinvention in Beautiful Oops! You never know where a spill, chance meeting or so-called, mistake, may lead.

How do you embrace “oops” moments in life?

Beautiful Oops

“Holes in your paper are worth exploring.”



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2 thoughts on “Learning from Children’s Books: Barney Saltzberg’s, Beautiful Oops!

  1. Lauren Southard

    Hi Natalie! I love this post on Beautiful Oops! I’m from Barney’s publisher in New York City — Workman Publishing — and we have a website dedicated to his books and classroom program, Celebrate Oops! I would love to share you on our blog. Here is the link: http://beautifuloops.com/share-ideas/

    If this sounds interesting to you, please email me at lauren@workman.com. I look forward to hearing from you soon and thank you for sharing oops!

    • Natalie Monterastelli

      Hi Lauren! Thanks so much for reading and for the warm words. Absolutely, I’d love to be a part of sharing and celebrating Oops! 🙂

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