Beautiful Oops Moments Everywhere by Barney Saltzberg

Guest post written by author and illustrator, Barney Saltzberg whose newest book is Beautiful Oops.

Beautiful Oops was inspired by teachers to whom I’ve show how I write and illustrate picture books.  Two of the images I show how I turned mistakes into artwork.  One is the cover of my sketchbook.  I spilled coffee on it and decided the shape looked like a monster.  The other is from an old book of mine, The Flying Garbanzos.  A dog climbed up on to my desk and walked across the paper, leaving paw prints that I couldn’t erase.  Rather than starting over, I painted clouds over each paw print.  Teachers requested that I write a book, teaching that concept.  One day, I was sitting in my studio and tore a piece of paper in half.  I decided it looked like an alligator’s mouth.  That was the beginning of Beautiful Oops.

Honestly, an ‘oops’ is in the ‘moment’…It’s a creative solution to a happening. 

Beautiful Oops


Oops Simulated Ideas: (not the result of an actual oops but still creative) from my sister, a former kindergarten teacher.

Glue Ooze:

1.    Take some white glue and to pour it on to a piece of cardboard or a paper or plastic plate and let the glue just ooze where it wants to.

2.    Use bags of confetti with foil paper or regular tissue paper to put on the glue. Give it a face when it dries or put arms and legs on it and add a head with a soft fabric pom-pom (also found in bags at a craft store.)

3.    I like tissue paper over glue too….you can layer it and get neat color combinations, then add arms and legs and a head.

4.    If glue is too messy, a bit of paint can be blown with a straw and altered after it dries.

It’s a neat opportunity for kids to see the shape as something else.  It doesn’t have to end up with arms and legs.  It could be a face or a monster or a car or even a state.  Every choice is perfect!

Dancing Squiggles:Beautiful Oops

1.    Take a large piece of paper and give someone two crayons. (one in each hand)

2.    Put on some fun music and have the person move their arms around on the paper as if they are dancing to the music.

3.    At some point, have them stop.

4.    Take other colors and have them color inside the squiggles.  Fish, eyes, faces appear.

5.    The trick is, not to be judgmental.  There is no wrong answer when it comes to art.  Trees can be purple or square.  This is a ‘freeing’ act, not a lesson.

Looking at the book Beautiful Oops,

  • I’ve torn paper and played with the shape.
  • The same goes for newspaper ripping, just randomly rip it and turn it around and around until something appears.
  • I used acrylic paint, which dries really quickly for the smudges and smears. This can get kind of messy, so you can put some paint on a piece of paper and smash it onto another piece of paper.  Once it dries, dress it up as you see fit.  Pens, pencils, glue, fabric.  Anything goes.

Keep in mind, a true ‘oops’ is helping a kid see something clever or of satisfaction when what they were doing isn’t what they had in mind. It’s taking that moment and looking beyond at the possibilities. Wow, what can I do with that drip or that thumb print?

It’s really an important skill for kids to learn because it helps them deal with the frustration of not being able to make (draw, paint, cut) what they want. All of this takes some finessing on the part of the adult.

A wonderful bi-product of taking the sting out of an oops, is a bitof a life lesson — anything can be fixed if you don’t give up.  It’s also a good reminder to play!  (Something we forget about doing in this busy life of ours!)

Bio: Barney Saltzberg is the author of more than 30 books for children, including Good Egg and the bestselling Touch and Feel Kisses series, with over 800,000 copies in print. Additionally, he’s recorded four albums of songs for children. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two dogs, and a pond full of fish.

Melissa’s Note: Isn’t this amazing? Barney, thank you so much for giving the world this book, and for guest blogging on Imagination Soup. (WOW!)

Listen, watch and read along with Barney as he shares Beautiful Oops.

I’m so inspired, how about you?

When have you had a beautiful oops?

To whom do you want to give this book?

All comments will be entered to win a copy of Beautiful Oops until October 21, 2010.

Beautiful Oops is a book for all ages so don’t be fooled by it’s board book look.  We must all learn to see the possibilities in our oopses; this book  shows us how in three-dimensions the possibilities with ripped paper, holes, smudges and flaps. Gorgeously rendered and inspired. I love it!   **See other children’s book reviews around the web at The Fall Festival For Books.


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  1. says

    I think I should give a copy of this book to my sons’ teachers each year. What a great reminder to relax and follow the child’s lead during learning and creating. So many times things that adults view as “oops” are part of a child’s Storytelling while drawing. Often, my son will make a picture and then keep adding things that end up “ruining” the picture: “And the dog got all muddy,” he’ll say, while scibbling brown “mud” all over his drawing. While I might initially be tempted to say, “Stop! You’re messing it up!”, I’ve learned that the process of imagining and storytelling are much more valuable than a pristine finished product.

  2. says

    Melissa, this is very cool! Maybe I’m selfish but I’d love this book for me and my daughter. She’s not quite to that arts/crafts stage yet but we’ll get there soon and I just want to find a way to get her to enjoy art for the sake of it. Great guest post and I’ll be checking out more of Barney Saltzberg’s books for Book Dads!

  3. says

    I love the idea behind this book! It sounds fantastic! Besides the enjoyment of great art projects, I love that it helps to teach kids to recognize the great things in all that happens with life. I’d love the chance to read this with my kiddos, they’d love it and I’d love all the great ideas. Thanks for the fantastic post and opportunity!

  4. Hallie Doyle says

    We have had many tears with “ugly oops”. I’ve tried to get the boys to turn an oops into something alternative…I think Barney Saltzberg might have more inspiring ideas. Thanks for this great post! I want to give a copy to the boys’ art teacher at school and want one for us!

  5. says

    So glad to find out about this book! I know so many kids who are fearful of “mistakes”…When we emphasize ‘right answers’ all of the time, we lose the beauty of risk, exploration, etc. and it can be paralyzing. Great post.

  6. Lori says

    Beautiful oops is my anthem–everything I’ve created started as a beautiful oops. So happy to have a name for my art, projects, life.

  7. beth t. says

    I remember really fretting over “oops moments” as a child–this book seems like it has the potential to speak to similarly perfectionistic kids (and grown-ups) out there! Cool post!

  8. melanie says

    What a great concept for a book! Not only does it encourage letting go of perfectionism, but it also helps foster creative thinking and exploration. I think this is a valuable book (definitely appropriate for all ages!), and I thank you for writing it.

  9. Rebecca says

    This is so fabulous and inspirational. I do my best to remember to embrace the oops moments and try to pass this on to my kids but this book would be so helpful with that, for them, their school classes and their playgroups. Thanks

  10. Kim says

    Please consider me for this book. I think this would be a fun one to read and think about And then pass on. Have you ever received a book from someone with a list of names of all those who had it before? I think that would be a good life for this book. I would read, absorb and then pass it along to share this wonderful feeling of creativity.

  11. Cary says

    Thanks for introducing me to this book Melissa. I think I am going to have to purchase multiple copies- for myself and my kids, for my son’s teachers, and for several of my colleagues. What a beautiful book and lesson.

  12. Brianna B. says

    Im inspired to read this book for creative ideas to use with my children.
    I would then pass it on to my sons lindergarten teacher for her to read!
    Being creative comes in many forms, i once taught my youngest to make abstract oops paintimgs with using his crayons. Drawing several circles in no perfect for and coloring in the spaces in between with different colors and he LOVED the look of the outcome, now he draws one at least once a week!! I have a whole abstact oops collection!

  13. says

    I am totally blown away by the comments. Creating a book can sometimes be like working in a closet. To hear that Beautiful Oops is hitting a chord with people is incredibly satisfying. I really hope people can use it as a launching point for their own creations in art and beyond. Thank you so much for sharing everyone’s thoughts. Love & Oops. Barney

  14. says

    My 5 year old just said, “Mom! I did a beautiful oops! I meant to draw a flower but I messed up so it because a person.” How cool is that?

    Barney, we’re learning a whole new vocabulary and way of looking at mistakes thanks to you. :)


  15. Jennifer T. says

    This book really reminds me not to be so structured with my toddler. She was placing stickers on a book with outlines intended for the objects. She was really enjoying putting them on and learning how to peel and unpeel them. Meanwhile, it was driving my perfectionism tendencies to come to the surface. I made a conscious decision to relax and let her do it her way. I’d love to share this with my daughter. I need some reminding that oops can be beautiful.

  16. Dawn says

    So creative! I just love it! We recently had many OOPS moments painting pumpkins, and when they were all done, each one looked PERFECT in it’s own way.
    A book like this helps build confidence and shows children that “beauty and perfection” are truly in the eye of the beholder. Thank you!

  17. Shelley says

    I can’t decide…I would want to be selfless and give this to my sister-in-law for the holidays, but might end up keeping it for our family. We all need inspiration and reminders to enjoy the differences inherent in our own creations. Thanks

  18. Sharon says

    I’d love to use this in the classroom to help illustrate the importance of trying. Many students are afraid to make mistakes when drawing or creating art. Art is a wonderfully adaptable medium of self-expression that should be enjoyed without fear.

  19. says

    I love this idea! What a great book! I was in art for four years in high school and just about all my pieces made it in to the art show. It was something I just “did” and not until my mother pointed out that not everyone’s artwork gets in the show did I realize it’s a gift I need to appreciate. The biggest and best “oops” project I made was for my best friend. I had tons of pictures of us, many with “out takes” you’d never put in a photo album. I thought it’d be funny to cut one out and put it in a postcard I had on my desk. And there was my friend, really funny expression, looking like she was in a helicopter flying over NYC. I liked it so much that I bought tons of postcards and created a whole book about our “Great Adventure”, adding goofy shots of us into each one. I think I had more fun creating it as she did opening it!
    I would give the book to my three children who are growing up in a culture that tells them their work should be “perfect”. They know that’s not my opinion and it would be nice to have a cool book like this back it up.

  20. says

    I love all of your thoughtful comments, thank you! Honestly, this book has been life changing / perspective changing for us – and my kids are now celebrating the oops, almost looking for them so they can turn them into something beautiful.

    Thanks again for this post, Barney!

    Congratulations to Laurie, you’ve won A Beautiful Oops!


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