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Celebrating children's literature was a joy for me as a special education teacher in the classroom. I decided to share my ideas with parents, homeschoolers, and enthusiastic teachers, as I take time off to be a stay at home dad. I hope you enjoy the format of this blog to study an author each week to celebrate their birthday. Check back often to celebrate more author birthdays!
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In Zephyr's bedroom airplanes are everywhere. There are airplane posters on the wall, fresh sketches of airplanes on the table, recently constructed paper airplanes on the floor, and airplane models hanging from the ceiling. Zephyr zooms one of her airplanes from room to room asking family members to play. Since everyone is busy she decides to act out her dream of flying a real airplane in the living room. Her TRIPLE LOOP-DE-LOOP SPECTACULAR off the couch is a little too spectacular and breaks many of her family's delicate valuables. She is sent to her room for a timeout, but instead of sulking Zephyr makes an amazing discovery that will lead to a dream fulfilling adventure. Steve Light's new book Zephyr Takes Flight was recently selected as one of seven books that celebrate Girl Power (Blogher) and it also inspired a family reading experience we will never forget.
We celebrated Steve Light's birthday for the first time back in 2011 and learned that he loves using fountain pens to illustrate his books. In fact, he has received many fountain pens as birthday presents from his wife. Steve Light illustrated The Christmas Giant and Zephyr Takes Flight with pen and ink using fountain pens. For Zephyr the fountain pens he used were a Pelikan M1000 and a Mont Blanc 149. The illustrations were colored using PanPastels and Prismacolor colored pencils. In an interview on the Seven Impossible Things blog he said, "All my books start with drawing, usually in my sketchbook. It is usually something I want to draw, and it becomes a story. Zephyr Takes Flight started as a sketchbook of Flying Machines." According to the Zephyr Takes Flight Facebook Page, Steve said, "When I was working on Zephyr Takes Flight, I went to the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. and drew a lot!"
Steve Light provided a few photos of himself sketching at the museum:
This is the first flying machine that Steve Light drew in his sketchbook. "In this drawing Grandpa Zephyr is in the cockpit." (Facebook Timeline)
Another drawing from his flying machine sketchbook. "The sketchbook is what got me the book deal for Zephyr Takes Flight." (Facebook Timeline).
A sketch of Little Zephyr and a flying machine.
"A Wright Bros.-ish flyer."
"Picture books are amazing because they transport you to other worlds." (Click here to watch a video of Steve Light talking about why he loves picture books and see more of this model he built.) *****************************
When Zephyr is sent to her room she sails one of her paper airplanes behind her dresser. Upon moving the dresser to locate the paper airplane she discovers a secret door. Behind the door she finds, "the most wondrous place," her Grandfather's workshop filled with flying machines and a desk surrounded with maps, drawings, books, and even fountain pens!
The sequence of illustrations pictured above is Zephyr opening the secret door in her room. The first time I read the book I couldn't wait to see what was next. Upon seeing the illustration on the next page, I just stopped and stared just like Zephyr did upon entering the room. The excitement of what was behind the secret door was something I wanted to try to bring to life by making "Secret Door Sketchbooks."
I purchased four sketchbooks at a local craft store. When I got home I flipped one of the sketchbooks so that the hard cardboard back was now the front of the sketchbook. Then, I taped another piece of cardboard to the sketchbook to make it sturdy and thick.
Then, I covered thick and sturdy "new front" of the sketchbook with a paper grocery bag. This reminded me of when I covered my textbooks in middle school.
I attached a drawer pull to sketchbook using a screw to make it look like the door in Zephyr's room.
Lastly, I colored airplane-ish hinges on the side with a black marker to complete the project. I did all of this without my children, because I wasn't sure it was going to work. But it did -- it looked just like the secret door from Zephyr's room!
The next day my children completed the same steps to make their own Secret Door Sketchbooks.
Attaching the drawer pull.
Adding the airplane hinges.
A Secret Door Sketchbook -- Please Pin the Picture ***************************** Our sketchbooks were complete but to make this a true Steve Light birthday celebration we needed fountain pens. I contacted my sister and brother-in-law who own and operate EDISON PEN COMPANY. I explained what we were doing and they graciously shipped pens out the next day for their niece and nephews to use. THANK YOU BRIAN and ANDREA.
We had never used fountain pens before. It was a wonderful exprience to learn how to use them from start to finish. We worked together filling our first fountain pen!
Love this picture! Two brothers experiencing something new together.
So we had Zephyr Takes Flight, our Secret Door Sketchbooks, and our Edison Pen Company fountain pens but we needed something else for this birthday celebration to be complete. We needed some flying machines! *****************************
The closest museum with airplanes was the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. We made a weekend trip to visit the museum and some of our closest friends who live in the area.
The museum is amazing! I have never seen so many airplanes in one place. There were hundreds spanning from the beginning days of flight to modern day.
My children loved it!
I think I heard "Dad, look at this one!" about fifty times!
We found a space where it was quiet and very few people were visiting. The kids got out their fountain pens, Secret Door Sketchbooks and started drawing. It was so cool to see how excited they were!
My little guy drew lots of windows on his airplane.
This day was made even better because my best friend from grade school and his two children joined us at the museum. They enjoyed sketching the airplanes too.
Reading Zephyr Takes Flight next to an airplane was awesome!
My oldest daughter wrote on the front of her Secret Door Sketchbook, "Open and find an adventure in your hands. Could it be true?" I think that says it all.
Thank you Steve Light for sharing the photos from the Air and Space Museum. We love your new book and will never forget our experience reading it!
Steve also shared that he is working another book HAVE YOU SEEN MY DRAGON? that is due out from Candlewick in 2014. We can't wait!
Every March we are reminded of the impact Dr. Seuss has had on all of our lives. Some of us have been influenced more than others, but we all have a memory of an encounter with one of his books either as a child or as an adult. It is mind boggling to think how Dr. Seuss's creativity has changed or altered our world. His books produce a ripple effect of positive interactions -- children and parents read together, teachers inspire, librarians plan special programs, and writers write new stories.
Chris Van Dusen, in my opinion, is a throwback illustrator-author. In a time when the computer has become an important tool for many illustrators, Chris Van Dusen continues to paint all of his work. His medium of choice is gouache, which is a water based paint. He has described his illustrations as "painterly cartoons" which is "similar to early cartoons only much more refined." (Library Thing). Often, new authors like myself are warned against writing books in verse, Van Dusen writes all his books with rhymes that are a joy to read aloud. "I think a story in rhyme just sort of sets a mood for the whole book. My stories, my books tend to be kind of these whimsical sort of silly adventures. And I think the rhyme adds to sort of the wackiness, sort of the silliness, the whimsy of the story." (Reading Rockets)
This week we read many of Van Dusen's books that were a pleasure to read aloud and had unbelievably cool illustrations. The one book that stood out as my children's favorite was King Hugo's Huge Ego. The story is about a very short king that has a spell cast upon him by a sorceress that makes his head expand every time he gloats. Chris Van Dusen said, "There's a lot of big egos in the world today and little kids may not necessarily know what an ego is. I try to explain it in the book and I think it's pretty well explained." (Reading Rockets). When we read the book a second time I knew this was the book that was resonating with them and I knew I needed to come up with a birthday celebration activity to bring this book to life. I think it was the third or maybe the fourth time reading it that the illustration spread of King Hugo's head expanding popped an idea into my head.
Every time he claimed to be the greatest in the land, the king perceived a tingle and felt his head expand.
To celebrate Chris Van Dusen, we made papier mache King Hugo Heads. My children love to papier mache! I love it because it is something they all can do and enjoy together!
My daughter and I cut a slit in the bottom of a yogurt container and pressed the tied end of the balloon through. While doing this, the boys made the papier mache mixture (2 parts water, 1 part flour, pinch of salt). We then taped the balloon end on inside of the yogurt container to make sure it wasn't going to work its way out of the slit.
Our balloons were ready to be covered. We chose to make the balloons different sizes just like the expanding head of Hugo in the illustration, but also because they represented the different sizes of my four children.
My oldest daughter set to work covering the largest balloon, the boys covered the middle two, and I covered the smallest one for my youngest daughter.
We learned that this design worked best by adding newspaper strips covered with the mixture where the balloon meets the yogurt container right away. This stabilized the balloon and kept it from tipping over. These King Hugo Heads dried over night.
The next morning the boys couldn't wait to paint their King Hugo Heads. We had a brief talk about how this painting experience was going to be different than others we had because it wasn't a flat piece of paper.
Time to paint!
My son thought it was easier to paint the King Hugo Head while it rested on a box.
Looking good so far! We let this dry for about 30 minutes before adding additional details.
It was a perfect time to make a crown. We used yellow paper, a hole punch, and a string. Since, King Hugo's head was expanding his crown no longer fit so he needed a string to hold it on.
Adding the details to the face.
Why is he so excited?
This is why! His King Hugo turned out great!
After the boys finished their Hugos it was the girls' turn the next day. This was our daughter's first experience with a paintbrush.
She is a serious artist!
"I need a bath!"
My oldest daughter added her final touches to her King Hugo Head!
But he continued bragging in his overstated way-- and so his head kept bloating bulging bigger every day!
Thank you Chris Van Dusen for creating books that we found both enjoyable to read aloud and to explore with our eyes! Check Out Chris Van Dusen's Latest Two Books:
I found myself doing something different this week. I privately reread many of the picture books I read to my children. The Dot, Ish, and Sky Color are all stories about children but they were relevant to me. I was inspired, reaffirmed, focused, challenged, comforted, convinced, and motivated as I read them. I even changed the names of the main characters to Eric and compared the situations in the books to my own life. I really didn't see this coming. I thought my children would learn everything this week. But, they weren't alone. I learned right along side them.
Peter H. Reynolds has written and illustrated dozens of books for children. On the website for FableVision, the educational media company he founded, his bio reads, "While Peter H. Reynolds is indeed an artist and author, he would rather be known for his mission to use media to tell stories that matter and challenge us to reach our full potential." On TeacherVision he said, "I think I was born with a pencil in my hand and I never put it down." He and his twin brother Paul were making newspapers by 2nd grade. (Pippen Properties). Then, something huge happened in 7th grade. His teacher, Mr. Matson challenged him to apply his artistic talent to teach a math concept. (FableVision) Reynolds has been teaching through his books and other projects ever since.
There wasn't just one book by Peter H. Reynolds that resonated with us this week. We started the week reading Sky Color, which is about Marisol, a young girl who is responsible for painting the sky for the library mural. She is challenged to rethink how she sees the sky when the blue paint comes up missing. Then we read Ish, a story about boy named Ramon who loves to draw until his older brother laughs at one of his drawings. Encouaging words from Ramon's sister help him see his art in a new way. Another was The Dot, a story about Vashti whose art teacher encourages her to make her mark just to see where it leads. These three books are Peter H. Reynolds' Creatrilogy. In an interview on Bildungsroman he said the purpose of these books are to, "help children protect and nurture their creative flame which all to often is squelched or not developed." We also really enjoyed Little Boy by Alison McGhee. This book celebrates all the things that are special about being a little boy --jumping in puddles, lots of band-aids, special pajamas, and big cardboard boxes.
We had a giant cardboard-box-house in our basement that was destined for the recycling bin. It went untouched for many months and its size was becoming a burden not to my children, but to me. It seemed to be always in the way and made the room look cluttered. But after reading, Little Boy and the Creatrilogy, I started thinking about that cardboard-box-house and how it probably just needed my boys to "MAKE THEIR MARK" to give it new life.
Our cardboard-box-house has been with us since October and untouched since January. It needed a new look.
I told my two boys to just start painting and see what happens. My son said, "Should we make DOTS, like the book?" I said, "You can. Or you can make stripes or whatever you want." He said, "Maybe I will make a squiggle like that boy at the end of THE DOT." His squiggle quickly morphed into an alien.
His younger brother loved the idea of aliens and began painting one of his own.
The colors came out fast and furious. I couldn't keep up with all their requests! They loved standing on chairs to paint the top of the box.
Many more details were added including the start of a white Frankenstein monster.
My oldest son found the black paint which transitioned the "house" into a "cave".
The next day the boys wanted to paint more of their cave. Here my youngest tries to paint his brother who is inside the cave. On the inside, multi-colored jewels were painted which made this a "Treasure Cave."
Our little supervisor!
The monsters and aliens on the outside of the cave became the protectors of the jewels inside the cave.
He said, "Hey, I'm painting upside down!"
Watch out an wild painting arm is coming out of the cave!
Fierce snakes with pink eyes and a tongue were added for additional security!
A mummy with golden eyes, nose, and mouth haunts this treasure cave!
Thank you Peter H. Reynolds for writing books that inspired us to be confident and creative! My children were able to turn a plain cardboard-box-house into a story. Daring us to "Make our mark" saved this box from the recycling bin!
Don't Forget to Sign Your Work:
"It is important for people to be proud of their work. Woodworkers often sign their furniture. Putting your name to your work is a way to say --- 'I am proud of this.' It shows you care. I also remind folks to add the date when the work was finished. This is a great way to make sense of the trail of work you leave behind." - Peter H. Reynolds, FableVision
Check out Peter H. Reynolds newly published book, THE MUSEUM by Susan Verde. It just became available March 12, 2013. Read this interview with Susan Verde on By Word of Beth:
I need a vacation. Maybe it is the end-of-winter blues or maybe I just long for the anticipation and excitement of traveling. New surroundings bring new experiences, new opportunities, and new discoveries. Some of my travels were good times and some not so good. I had unique adventures and ones that changed my life. How has traveling impacted your life?
Joanna Marple has lived, worked, and visited over 50 nations. One of her adventures led her to work at a bilingual international school library where she said, "I became re-enamoured with children's literature and the impact I saw these books having on my young students." This experience helped transform her love of oral storytelling into storytelling in the written form as an author of picture books. (Beth Stilborn's blog - By Word of Beth). Her first book, Snow Games illustrated by Maja Sereda, debuted on the uTales ebook platform which allows families to purchase a subscription (only $4.99/month) that gives access to the entire uTales eBook library or pay only for books they want (Snow Games is only $2.99). The uTales library is currently available online or as an app for iPad/iPhone/iPodTouch, however the uTales website states that Android is coming soon.
Are you curious how a world traveler would celebrate her birthday? I contacted Joanna to ask if she would be willing to share a birthday memory. And guess what? She shared three!
I celebrated my 26th birthday on a small fishing boat dipping its way back from the island of Tabon to mainland Chile. The thing I was most grateful for that day, as the winds blew and the sea tossed our small vessel every which way, was that I reached land with my insides intact! And the small medical team with which I was working, they hung up balloons and made me a special meal of rice and fish! Yay!
I celebrated my 30th on the beach by lake Malawi, where the team had made me chicken sandwiches - chicken was normally a once-a-week only treat!
My 40th was much more extravagant. Twenty friends and I spent the weekend in a wooden refuge up in the mountains above Nice, in a hamlet called Sauze. We enjoyed great French mountain cuisine, danced the salsa and spent the next day snowshoeing.
The idea for Snow Games, came to Joanna while in Mercantour, one of France's nine national parks. "We had trudged through a beautiful pine forest on the way to the lake and I had spotted two very different sets of tracks in such a pattern that I was convinced it was two animals having fun together in the snow as I was doing with my friends." (clarbojahn). The published version of Snow Gamesevolved from the first draft written that night at the national park to feature four animals -- Bear, Mouse, Squirrel, and Owl. The friends enjoy sledding, snowballs fights, and building creatures out of snow. As we read the story together as a family, Owl was our favorite character. We couldn't help admiring her pinecone skiing and snowball juggling skills. In my research I found out that Owl has a story. "Prior to writing Snow Games, I had been involved in a collaboration project of 30 uTalers, who together produced The Friendship Alphabet book. Maja Sereda had done an enchanting double page spread for "ogling owls" for the "O" page and seemed the perfect fit for my story -- happily for me, she agreed. (See the Ogling Owls - click here)" (Susanna Leonard Hill).
Our admiration for Owl became the inspiration for our birthday celebration activity. I remembered seeing a very cool owl craft on Pinterest that I thought would be fun and easy for my children to make. To complete this craft we used a pinecone (we had cinnamon scented ones!), cotton balls or batting (I preferred batting, but both will work), 2 googily eyes, something to make a beak (we used yellow paper), yellow pipe cleaners for talons, craft feathers, and glue.
The first step was to pull apart the cotton balls or batting. Then, those pieces were stuffed into the pinecone.
Next, we glued on the details -- tuft feathers, eyes, a beak, and talons.
Hey, its a parliament of owls! (Thanks to Julie Hedlund for teaching us that this week too!)
Looking good, but we couldn't figure out how to get pink pants on our owls!
PLEASE PIN THIS IMAGE!
The boys loved making the owls! (Actually, my youngest son made two more owls the next day!) But, the birthday celebration wasn't over yet! I scored a whole bunch of winter clearance items from a local craft store (Thanks Tami!). It ended up being everything we needed to make a SNOW GAMES sensory bin!
First, we added the fake decorative snow!
Then, we added items to the sensory bin that made connections to the story. Cinnamon sticks and string = Bear's sled Lincoln Logs = Squirrel's sled Pinecones = Owl's skis Red yarn = The shoelaces of Mouse's red leather shoe sled! Cotton Balls = Snow balls for the snow fights Green Mittens = Just like Squirrel's mittens
Oh my was this exciting!
We were so happy the littlest one awoke from her nap to join in the fun!
It was snowing in our dining room!
It must of been cold because the mittens went on too!
We had snow everywhere! We had to sweep three times to get everything cleaned up!
I think my son just Blue's Clues Skiddoed (skidoo on Blue's Clues means jumping into a book) into SNOW GAMES!
Whew! What a fun day! Happy Birthday Joanna Marple! Thank you so much for being a supporter of Happy Birthday Author! I really appreciate you taking the time to share your birthday memories! We hope you have a fabulous day!
Exciting News: Joanna told me that she is working on several manuscripts right now and has just sent off the SNOW GAMES sequel to her illustrator Maja Sereda. "In Midsummer Mischief, Bear, Owl, Squirrel and Mouse sneak off for some summer fun, only to stumble upon a forbidden, hidden location and a friend in need."
I am thankful for the more than 60 authors and illustrators that have contributed their birthday memories and traditions to Happy Birthday Author. I get so excited when an author sends me a birthday memory to share! I may never learn of a birthday story or tradition that Dr. Seuss had, but one of his books has inspired a birthday tradition that my wife and I will begin this year with our youngest daughter.
I have always wanted to come up with a birthday celebration activity for Happy Birthday To You! by Dr. Seuss. First I thought about simply baking a cake. Then I thought about making a giant Birthday Bird to hang by our bird feeder, without my children's knowledge, for them to see when they wake up in the morning. (I still may act upon this idea!) After thinking about it for the past month (since we started the Dr. Seuss Birthday Countdown) I came up with an idea of a birthday tradition gift for my youngest daughter that I am really excited about.
Happy Birthday To You! contains one Dr. Seuss's most recognizable quotes, "Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!" It seems, however, that the story is significantly less recognizable than the quote. This book is set in the land of Katroo where every year on your birthday the Birthday Horn sounds, the Birthday Bird wakes you up, and day full of adventure unfolds. There are wonderful things to stimulate all the senses from birthday luncheons to visits to the Katroo Birthday Pet Reservation where you find the tallest one to have shipped to your home. Your birthday in Katroo is an extravaganza to celebrate how special you are.
I can't believe she is 1!
My youngest daughter will be celebrating her first birthday this month. My wife and I saw an opportunity to start a birthday tradition for her with Happy Birthday to You!. Our idea is to give her the book as a gift every year for her birthday in the same special package. The book and package may be the same every year, but each year the book would contain a note from mom and dad telling her how important she is to us. We plan on including memorable stories of events that happened in the past year, reflections on the accomplishments she made, and our thoughts about how there is no one "YOU-er than You!"
To make your own Happy Birthday to You! birthday gift, I created a set of printables to share. All you need is the book and a couple of envelopes. (I purchased my copy of the book at Target for $10 or it is available on Amazon for about the same price.)
The first printable is a label for the outside of your box or envelope. I designed the label after the USPS Priority Mail Shipping Flat Rate Box. Packages in Happy Birthday to You! are delivered by Birthday Express, just like this package will be. In the book, your "tallest of all-est" pet is shipped "home to you" and it "costs quite a lot." This birthday tradition won't cost you much at all! (This printable is designed to be a faux shipment label, and should not be used if this box is being used in the actual mail.)
I used a sturdy cardboard envelope and covered the label with a cold lamination sheet. I also used a little packaging tape. I will write my daughter's name in black permanent marker on the package before giving it to her.
I wanted to add an envelope to the inside of the book to hold all of the notes from every year. I added the text below as decoration.
Once your note is written, slip it inside the envelope, and package up your book to begin a birthday tradition. Each year, print out another set of note cards, and write a special note to your little (or big) one to add to the envelope. I can't wait to look back after several years and see all the letters we have written our daughter.
Please Pin this Picture!
Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss! This is one of my favorite days of the year. We will revisiting our favorite books all day today!
If you have an Apple device, all the apps for Dr. Suess are on sale, 30%-75% off, this week too! I can't believe how many are available now! I might have to buy a new one. The best deal I found was THE CAT IN THE HAT for 99 cents!
Need an activity idea for today? I have been busy collecting the best Dr. Seuss Activities. They are all compiled on my Dr. Seuss Book Extension Activities Board on Pinterest. Click Here to visit and follow the board!
Last September 2012, we took our first real vacation as a family of six -- of course, it had to involve books. We rented a bigger van, enlisted the help of Grandma, and traveled from Ohio to Washington D.C. for the National Book Festival. We enjoyed seeing the sites, spending time with people who love reading, and listening to authors read their latest books. My daughter's favorite thing was getting autographs. Upon returning home, we had a stack of books signed by many of our favorite authors, a cool poster with signatures and birthdays, and many unforgettable memories.
While we were there, Peter Brown signed Chowder for my children and quizzed us about the book to make sure we had read it! We were so excited that he shared his birthday on our poster, but we are even more excited to share with you the birthday memory he sent via email:
One of my favorite childhood birthday memories was the time my mom baked me a round layer cake. It was yellow cake with chocolate frosting. But, the top layer of cake had a big crack down the middle of it, and so I called it an "Earthquake Cake." At first, I thought this cake was an 'imperfect' cake, but what I soon realized was that the big crack filled up with frosting...which made it even yummier...so that I ended up loving the earthquake cake. I loved it so much, that in subsequent years my mom began TRYING to mess up my birthday cakes, so they'd also have big cracks in them. When my mom would accidentally make me a perfect cake we'd intentionally add our own crack down the middle...and later fill it up with frosting.
Peter Brown has published eight picture books including Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds which was just awarded a 2013 Caldecott Honor. Eleven years ago, Peter Brown moved to New York City to get serious about children's book publishing. "I was at a party and met a young children's book editor from Little Brown, named Alvina Ling. I showed her a book dummy I'd made called Flight of the Dodo, and after she helped me polish it up, Little Brown bought it!" (Seven Impossible Things). After that book came two about Chowder, a dog who is lovable even to people like me who would probably never have a dog as a pet. Peter Brown was asked in an interview with DesignMom, about when he first thought people started to take notice of his work. "The rest of the world first realized that I wasn't bad with words and pictures with my fourth picture book, The Curious Garden." It was this book that also caught our attention this week and sparked an idea for a fun birthday celebration activity.
The Curious Garden takes place in a grey, depressing, and lifeless city. Thankfully, Liam discovers a patch of wildflowers, cares for them, and encourages them to grow. Liam's efforts are contagious, others join in to help, and the garden spreads throughout the city. This helps the city emerge as a beautiful place for families to spend their days. "The Curious Garden was very much inspired by a place in New York City called the High Line. The High Line is an old abandoned, elevated railway that has become completely overgrown by wildflowers and plants and trees. I loved the idea that nature could spontaneously grow in unexpected places, like in the middle of a concrete jungle." (Peter Brown interview, Into the Wardrobe).
Liam was not a very good gardener when he first discovered the curious garden. Initially, he watered wildflowers by dumping from a bucket. He successfully improvised by poking holes in the bucket for a more gentle watering. This worked for the first growing season, but then he got a little more serious about his gardening and upgraded to a real watering can. A curious gardener needs a hearty watering can. I was curious whether I could find watering cans in the middle of February. To my surprise, I was able to purchase 4 colorful kids-sized watering cans at Michael's craft supply store for about $6 each. I guess they want Spring to come as badly as I do.
I would have liked to have solid color watering cans, but these were striped. So, we improvised much like Liam did with his bucket. We taped off an area and spray painted it a solid color.
I told my children that there was only two rules to decorating our watering cans. On one side we would have the words, "I'm Curious" and on the other side would be their name.
Lots of options were provided -- stickers, paint, markers.
My son chose to paint.
My daughter chose stickers.
All four cans were coated with a clear sealant spray to allow us to use our watering cans this Spring and summer in our own Curious Garden.
Bunny ears! My daughter was so pleased with her watering can that she decided that she will not be using it outside. She proudly displayed it in her bedroom.
When I went back in the kitchen to clean up our mess I noticed that my daughter wrote this on the newspaper we had laid out on the kitchen counter. I am so happy to have curious kids!
Oh, just one more thing..... My youngest son and I were playing Star Wars this week in our family room. It was getting dark outside and we hadn't turned on any lights inside. He thought he heard something spooky down the hall and claimed it to be a monster. I asked him what it looked like and he said he didn't know. I then asked him if he could draw it and he said he could. I remembered reading earlier in the day that Peter Brown loved drawing when he was younger. He said in an interview with Into the Wardrobe, "I loved inventing characters. I would take a big sheet of paper and divide it up into six boxes. In each box I would draw a different monster, alien, or other bizarre creature. And below each creature I'd list their name, favorite food, hometown, personal motto, etc. I had a lot of fun imagining all the details of those characters and the worlds they lived in, and now I do the same thing for my career."
I folded the paper into 6 boxes and gave my youngest son a pencil. He just started drawing.
On this night he learned how to draw hair.
I would like to introduce you to Chocolate Chip Monster, Hot Dog Monster, Pencil Monster, Tooth Monster, Pretzel Monster, and Hairy Monster. They live the exhaust vent in our kitchen.
I left his drawing on the table and over the past few days he gradually added color too!
Thank you Peter for sharing your childhood birthday memory with us. We hope you have a wonderful day filled with fun and frosting! Thank you for making books that inspire us to be curious and creative! We also love these book by Peter Brown:
For my writer friends, I really liked this quote from Peter Brown in an interview with DesignMom, "I think my ideas for stories are unusual enough to be interesting, but familiar enough to be relatable."
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A funny little Seussian character walks in the night and sees a pair of pants floating in the air -- yes, green pants with no person inside them! At first, it was only a little frightening for the funny little guy, but the green pants kept haunting him wherever he went. One day, the pants scare him when he was running an errand to get spinach in Grin-itch. More and more encounters with the pants raise the intensity as you read until finally the funny little guy meets the pants face-to-face...no...face-to-zipper.....no...hmmm. Well, never mind.
This is one of my favorite Dr. Seuss stories to read to my children. I wanted a way to extend the story beyond the book. The idea came to me when a friend informed me in an email that she saw seeds at a local store! Spring is near -- Punxsutawney Phil confirmed that today! Dr. Seuss's birthday is near too! Plant some seeds today and you might have some Grin-itch spinach by March! What You Will Need:
1. What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss (The book is available as its own book, it is also included in The Sneetches and Other Stories or as an book app available at iTunes) 2. Spinach seeds 3. Pots 4. Potting Soil 5. Colored printer/Scanner 6. Newspaper (to cover your table if working inside)
How to Grow Grin-itch Spinach in a Grit-itch Spinach Decoupaged Pot:
We copied the picture of Grin-itch Spinach from the story. My boys cut out the picture and decided where they wanted it to be on their pot.
My two-year-old son was able to paint on the decoupage.
This picture doesn't not show it but we also printed out the words "GRIN-ITCH SPINACH" in a Dr. Seuss Font.
We waited for the decoupage to dry then we added the potting soil.
Finally, it was time to plant the spinach seeds!
"Look at all my seeds DADDY!"
Please Pin this Picture!
I will update this post once we have some Grin-itch Spinach sprouts! Until then....plant your own and check out my other Dr. Seuss Birthday activity ideas:
"Yertle the Turtle's Countdown to Dr. Seuss's Birthday"! This craft can be used in your home, classroom, or library as a way to build anticipation for the year's most widely celebrated author birthday. - Click Here to Read More -
Last year we read Scrambled Eggs Super. Then, we made a Bird-Name-Generator to help us invent lots of new species of birds. We even decorated plastic Easter eggs for each bird! A few of our inventions were the Spritz-tailed Wren and a Frizzle-bellied Hawk. - Click Here to Read More -
Who is your favorite dynamic duo? Bert and Ernie? C-3PO and R2-D2? Miss Nelson and Viola Swamp? How about Harry Allard and James Marshall? Dynamic duos are great because they need one another. They rely on each other to bring out their best. Ernie would have never said, "I can't hear you. I have a banana in my ear," without Bert. Uncle Owen would have never purchased R2-D2 which brought him to Obi-Wan and Luke, without C-3PO. Miss Nelson would have never regained control of the students in Room 207, without Viola Swamp. And without Harry Allard, James Marshall would have never created the most popular substitute teacher of all time.
What? I can't hear you Ernie. Did you say, I can have Bert's job?
Harry Allard collaborated with James Marshall to create two highly successful series of children's books including Miss Nelson and The Stupids. According to the Children's Literature Network, "James Marshall's art and friendship inspired" Allard to write the first book that the two published together, The Stupids Step Out. In Anita Silvey's book 100 Best Books for Children she states, "A more-than-generous individual, Marshall, gave Allard the title of author on their books. Actually, for their collaborations, Allard often provided the story ideas, but Marshall, a consummate wordsmith, crafted each line of text with as much care as he drew each image." This dynamic duo brought out the best in each other when they combined their ideas and humor into books that school children will enjoy for many years to come.
Miss Nelson is Missing! is the most popular book by Allard and Marshall. According to Anita Silvey at Children's Book-a-Day Almanac, "The idea of Miss Nelson was given to Jim (Marshall) by his friend Harry Allard, who called in the middle of the night and said to Jim: "Miss Nelson is Missing!" And then Harry hung up the phone. Jim couldn't reach him, couldn't go back to sleep and began to wonder about this Miss Nelson. In Jim's sketchbooks, he developed his ideas for the book -- as the story progressed Viola Swamp became meaner and meaner." In this story, Miss Nelson has lost all control of the students in her classroom. The students in room 207 are ready to explore even more mischief when Miss Nelson does not show up for school. However, much to their surprise they are introduced to the nastiest substitute teacher public school has ever know, Viola Swamp. She whips the kids into shape with lots of discipline and difficult assignments. When things seem as if they couldn't get any worse, Miss Nelson, the soft-spoken yet clever teacher, returns to a group of well-behaved students that will no longer take her for granted.
Over the past few weeks there have been a few occasions that my daughter has been collecting data from her family. Her simple surveys have covered the topics of our favorite foods and things that we like to do. After reading Miss Nelson is Missing! to my children this week, I remembered her surveys and our dinner table conversations about line plots, bar graphs, and pictographs.
I contacted my daughter's second grade teacher with a harebrained idea of using Miss Nelson is Missing! as a way for my daughter to further explore her curiosity about data collection and graphing. I am so thankful that she agreed to having us celebrate Harry Allard's birthday with her class.
I asked the class if they had read Miss Nelson is Missing! Just about every hand was raised. One boy blurted out, "There are three Miss Nelson books. Miss Nelson is Missing!, Miss Nelson is Back, and Miss Nelson Has a Field Day." (That student is officially cool in my book!) I went on to read the book to them and then finished with a look of concern. I told them that it wasn't a genuine look of concern, because I knew they were a good class. However, I really wanted to help them identify their troubles to keep Viola Swamp from showing up.
The students came up with a list of occasions that their behavior is less than desirable -- talking in the hallway, coming back to the classroom after recess, etc.
My daughter typed up a survey with the "misbehaviors" for her classmates. She asked them to check one way they have misbehaved. She enjoyed talking about "anonymity" with her classmates. She assured them that this survey was not to get anyone in trouble, but to prevent Viola Swamp from becoming a substitute teacher in their classroom. At home, she tallied the results from her survey.
On Monday, they will be interpreting this data and deciding a course of action. However, it seems pretty clear that they need to behave better when visitors enter the classroom to talk to their teacher.
Thank you to my daughter's wonderful second grade teacher, Mrs. Miller. You allow our daughter to grow as a reader, and you share her love of books and reading. Thank you for having a library of wonderful picture books for your class to read each day, including Harry Allard books!
I must take the opportunity to thank my wife, Lisa. I come up with the ideas and write these blogs, but without her as my editor I wouldn't feel comfortable publishing the work for you to read. Thank you for reading all of these posts over the past three years! You bring out the best in me! We are the Happy Birthday Author dynamic duo!
This book inspired a quick craft that we called "Yertle the Turtle's Countdown to Dr. Seuss's Birthday"! This craft can be used in your home, classroom, or library as a way to build anticipation for the year's most widely celebrated author birthday.
What You Will Need: 1. Blue construction paper 2. White construction paper 3. Old refrigerator magnets (thin magnets that often come as promotional calendars or business cards) 4. Strong tape 5. Yogurt container or a cup to help your trace circles 6. Glue Stick 7. Black Marker 8. Scissors
I used a yogurt container to help me trace 15 circles on a large piece of blue construction paper.
Then, I cut the circles out.
I cut each circle in half, which made 30 turtle shells.
We glued the blue half-circles to a white piece of construction paper. Then, we drew legs, necks, and heads on the white paper coming out of the blue shells.
Oh, don't forget your turtle tails. We did that a few times.
Next, we cut the turtles from the white paper.
We wanted to display our countdown on our refrigerator. To do this, we found a few thin refrigerator magnets that we didn't need anymore -- 2012 calendars, business cards of companies we will never use, etc. We cut them into small pieces.
We placed rolled packaging tape on the backs of the magnet pieces. Then, placed them on the backs of the turtles.
Once all the magnets were in place, we numbered the turtles, and then it was time to stack them up. We made 30 turtles, so we can begin our count down in early February!! Each day we will remove a turtle until we get to the big day on March 2!
"Turtles! More Turtles!" he bellowed and brayed. And the turtles 'way down in the pond were afraid. They trembled. They shook. But they came. They obeyed. -Dr. Seuss, Yertle the Turtle
We will have to watch our little one. She wants to peel the magnets off the back and that is not good. So, our countdown is going to be shifted to the upper half of our refrigerator.
Need ideas to help plan your own Dr. Seuss Birthday celebration at your house?
Last year we read Scrambled Eggs Super. Then, we made a Bird-Name-Generator to help us invent lots of new species of birds. We even decorated plastic Easter eggs for each bird! A few of our inventions were the Spritz-tailed Wren and a Frizzle-bellied Hawk. - Click Here to Read More -
Someone once asked me, "Do you have a backlog of birthday celebration blog posts saved ahead of time and then publish them the day of the author's birthday?" I responded, "No, we really do this. We celebrate the birthday when the birthday comes around." And because of this, I am often amazed on how things come together. I don't always plan things out very well. It is clear to me that this birthday celebration for Janet Stevens would not have happened without the help of two of my friends. I can't thank them enough.
Janet Stevens described how her career began as a children's book author and illustrator on the Holiday House website, "I have always loved drawing animals and gradually they took on a book character look. I dressed them up in my clothes and shoes, but they had no place to go. They needed a story. In 1978, I attended a seminar/workshop taught by Tomie de Paola. He encouraged me to give children's book illustration a try. He showed my work to his editor at Holiday House, and she liked it well enough to give me a contract for my first two picture books."
Since then Janet has published over 30 books for children during her career. Many of these books have received awards including a Caldecott Honor in 1996 for Tops and Bottoms, that she both wrote and illustrated. The book also received the first Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award in 1997. She received the Bill Martin Picture Book Award again in 2008 for The Great Fuzz Frenzy which she published with her sister, Susan Stevens Crummel. Janet Stevens has worked with her sister on most of her recent books including the latest, The Little Red Pen.
The Little Red Pen wasa book inspired by their editor, Jeannette Larson, who has often marked up their manuscripts with a red pen. The story is set in a school and the Little Red Pen has lots of papers to grade. She asks her office supply friends for help, but they are unwilling despite Pen's dramatic request. However, her friends do not think twice about helping when Little Red Pen tumbles off the edge of the desk into the trash can! This is a fabulous story about teamwork written by a fabulous writing team!
I was lucky enough to hear Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel speak at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2012. Their presentation was like a tennis match as the dialogue bounced back and forth at an energetic pace. They described their collaborative process, which has the same back and forth style as their presentations. Janet said that she usually comes up with the ideas and then Susan works the ideas into a manuscript while adding her own creativity along the way. After that, Janet adds ideas to the manuscript until it is ready to send off to the editor. Once the manuscript is approved Janet sets to work on the illustrations which she completes on her own accord.
At the conclusion of their presentation, Janet drew a picture for the audience while Susan told the story of The Little Red Pen. I loved watching the illustration unfold before my eyes. The illustration of the elephant gave me my initial thoughts that our birthday celebration for Janet Stevens would end up taking place at zoo. It seemed like the best place to celebrate an illustrator that loves illustrating animals. However, I wasn't quite sure how the celebration would come together.
Janet Stevens at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2012.
Fast forward to this week.....
We discovered the books Epossumondas and Epossumondas Saves the Day, written by Coleen Salley and illustrated by Janet Stevens at our library. My kids and I loved the books. They gave me a last minute birthday celebration idea. But, I needed a little help.
Epossumondas is baby opossum that wears diapers. In Espossumondas, he frequently travels from his Mama's house to Auntie's house for visits. Each time Auntie gives him a something to take home. However, Epossumondas "doesn't have the sense he was born with" and he never quite gets the item home without something happening to it. My family immediately fell in love with this silly opossum. Then, we read Epossumondas Saves the Day and I found another read aloud that I can't wait to try reading for a large group of school children. In this story, it is Epossumondas's second birthday but his mama was one ingredient short of making his birthday strawberry shortcake. His Mama is not willing to let Epossumondas go to the store to get the missing ingredient. Therefore, she sends others instead but they do not return so she heads to the store herself. When she doesn't return Epossumondas is worried that he won't have a birthday party so he innocently heads off to find everyone. His innocence helps him when he is met by a great danger. In the end, he saves the day and his birthday party.
I said I needed a little help for this birthday, but I got so much more! Two of my former co-workers and friends from the Akron Zoo graciously invited my family to meet Madison, a 7-month-old opossum that lives and works at the zoo. I say, "works at the zoo," because Madison lives in the education department that helps teach young children all about the important animals in Ohio.
Before we went to the zoo, I made these hats out of construction paper. Do you like my origami roses? Yikes they were hard! Click here for a video tutorial. I made these hoping they could be enrichment toys for Madison, but I learned later that I shouldn't have used masking tape. (It is not an approved material for the animals -- flour/water mixture or school glue sticks only!)
We were lucky to get a 60 degree day in January for a trip to the zoo! After seeing the flamingos we headed inside to the home of education animals. Madison, the opossum, was shown to us by Shelley, the education coordinator at the Akron Zoo. While Madison munched on her snacks Shelley taught us that opossums are really as cool (...and cute) as Epossumondas. Opossums are the only marsupials in North America and they have 52 teeth (which is the most for a North American mammal)!
I was advised to not publish pictures of our meeting with Madison since it was not a public viewing. However, Shelley was willing to pose for a picture with us. I even found a home for the hats I made! Thanks Shelley! You are awesome!
After our visit, we headed up to the cafe for a snack. My oldest son requested that we read Epossumondas again!
While we read the book, my daughter recorded all the facts about opossums that she learned from Shelley including that opossums not only play dead to scare away predators but they also release a stink that makes them seem like they have been dead a REALLY long time!
This was a very memorable reading experience. It was so much more than I ever expected thanks to my buddy Jake for coordinating our visit and to Shelley for taking the time to introduce my family to Madison! You guys are so awesome! Thank you so much!
Happy New Year! Welcome to the 4th year of Happy Birthday Author!!
It all began in 2010 when I was revisiting file folders full of lesson plans and author birthday calendars from my days as a fourth grade special education teacher. I stumbled upon the birthday of Kate McMullan, the author of I Stink. That night, after dinner, I needed an activity to do with my children before bedtime. I pulled a cake mix from the cupboard and told them that we would bake a cake to celebrate the birthday of the author who wrote my son's favorite book.
I never thought that a cake mix would change my life, but it did! My family has now celebrated over 170 children's author and illustrator birthdays. Each one has been its own unique experience. We have read thousands of picture books, most of them more than once. Last September, we traveled to Washington D.C. for the National Book Festival and my children got to meet many authors face to face. Life is crazier than ever, but the photos below are everything I need to stay focused on creating more memorable reading experiences for my family.
"I'm Growing" -- maybe we could get Kate and Jim McMullan to work on a book with that title! Until then, I guess we will read I'm Big!
It looks like I have many more birthday celebrations to come with these two!
I contacted Kate McMullan to ask if she would share a few thoughts on her current book projects and this year's birthday plans. Here was her response:
Jim and I are currently working on a fire truck book, I'M BRAVE! Jim will begin the final paintings soon and I'll be putting them up on my web site, katemcmullan.com. We have our fingers crossed that our next picture book project will be about a Zamboni. What to call it?? I'M COOL? How am I spending my birthday? By spending the whole day READING! And next week I'll have my birthday lunch with Jean Marzollo.
Kate, thanks for sharing! It was exactly what I was hoping to hear -- more books for cakes!
Oh, if you would like to hear more about her birthday lunch tradition with Jean Marzollo, click here!
For this year's cake based on Jim and Kate's book, we decided to make an I'm Dirty! cake.
My son asked me a half dozen times, "Is it time to decorate the cake, yet?" Each time I said, "Not quite, but almost," my words were met with a groan. It was pretty clear that he was really looking forward to continuing the tradition of decorating a cake with a character from a book by Kate McMullan. When I finally had everything I needed on the kitchen counter and I said, "It is time to decorate. But, as I read I'm Dirty I want you to pick the illustration from the book that you want on your cake." This was a little different than the previous cakes because we just decorated the illustration from the front cover. He looked for the perfect illustration by Jim McMullan, as we read the book about an energetic backhoe loader that counts backwards as he cleans up a messy lot, removes a stubborn tree stump, and takes a mud bath!
I was so happy that his sister chose to help us out with this one!
I sketched out an outline of the backhoe loader illustration that he chose from the book.
Then, I outlined it in green icing. I thought I had black icing in the cupboard, but I was mistaken. Therefore, our backhoe loader looks a little more John-Deere-like than Jim McMullan's illustration!
The experienced cake decorators took over from there for the rest of the decorating.
She used a toothpick to get in the tight spots.
He brought the backhoe loader to life by adding the eyes.
Lots of crushed Oreos for dirt.
"I'm REALLY dirty!"
A before bedtime snack -- YUM!
Is there anything better than birthday cake and books?
Click here to see last year's birthday celebration. I read I'm Fast to my son's preschool class! Links:
Before becoming a stay-at-home dad, I was lucky to have opportunities to teach children of a variety of ages. I worked with junior high gifted students. I had the pleasure of instructing kindergarteners on how to use laptop computers for the first time. I taught special education in a first grade classroom, co-teaching with amazing teachers. Undoubtedly, my favorite experience was teaching fourth grade. I always thought that my return to teaching would be in a fourth grade classroom. However, as a dad, I have experienced preschoolers for the first time. Each new concept, each new experience, each new book, is exciting! I now think it would be awesome to be a preschool teacher, but for it to happen, I would have to go back to school. I don't know if this will ever happen, but if it did, I know one thing for sure. My classroom library would have numerous copies of Iza Trapani's picture books.
Iza Trapani is an author and illustrator of twenty-two books for children. She studied Art at State University of New York at New Paltz with the aspiration of publishing children's books. (Amazon.com Author Page). Many years passed after her graduation from college before she was able to realize her dream. On Susanna Leonard Hill's Blog she said, "The idea for my first children's book, What am I? An Animal Guessing Game(published in 1992) came to me when I was on a long mountain bike ride twenty-two years ago. When a turtle crossed the trail in front of me, I made up a little rhyming riddle about him. By the time I returned home an hour or so later, I had the book roughed out and some verses composed. I never really thought of myself as a writer until that point. I had a portfolio packed with children's book art but not one story. And then one day (thank you turtle), I tapped into that part of my brain, and after that ideas kept pouring out."
Her second book, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, an adaptation and extension of the well-known nursery rhyme, carved out a special place for Iza in the world of children's literature. Iza Trapani described in an interview with Embracing the Child how this career defining book came to be, "My publisher wanted me to do something well known, so we thought about fairy tales then nursery rhymes and we realized that The Itsy Bitsy Spider lent itself well to adaptation and that was selected. When the book came out it became an instant hit and received wonderful feedback especially from teachers and librarians." The book has gone on to sell over 1,000,000 copies (Susanna Leonard Hill's Blog)! The success of this adaptation and extension led to many other books including I'm a Little Teapot, Baa Baa Black Sheep, and her latest The Bear Went Over the Mountain.
I am so thankful that Iza Trapani is a reader and frequent commenter on Happy Birthday Author. Therefore, I am sure she wasn't too surprised when I emailed to ask her to share a birthday memory. This was her response:
I was born in Poland where name days (imieniny) are traditionally celebrated more than birthdays (urodziny), although that is changing a bit. There are various dates associated with a given name, and we usually choose one that is closest to our birthday. My name day (Izabella) is January 4th. Celebrations consisted of family gatherings and small gifts, usually candy. They were rather simple - not the big birthday extravaganzas that I learned of once we immigrated to America. Whole families were not allowed to leave communist Poland. My mother took me, the youngest at age 7, and hoped to bring my two older siblings over as soon as possible. Sadly, she died before realizing her dream and I was severed from my family for many years. But that's a whole long story... We lived in a basement apartment in the home of a Polish family who had a daughter, Ania, close to my age, as well as a newborn son. My mother worked as their nanny and housekeeper. It was there that I became acquainted with American birthday celebrations involving cake and candles and lots of presents. I, of course, encouraged my mother to adopt all these great American traditions such as birthday parties, the tooth fairy, Valentine's day, Halloween, Thanksgiving...and she was a good sport about it. We did not have much money- as she spent much of her earnings on clothing and supplies to send to Poland and saved the rest for our future- but she would stick a dime under my pillow when I lost a tooth, give me chocolate Valentine's hearts, help me with costumes for Halloween, and make my birthday special in some way, even if it was small. One year (I think I was 9 or 10) she threw me my first birthday party. Ania, my friend upstairs and her cousin from next door came, as well as a few of my friends from school. While the details are sketchy, I do remember a beautiful table my mother had set. She was a great cook and wonderful food stylist. Platters of food were decorated with carved radish rosettes, tulips cut out of thinly sliced carrots and beets with whittled green beans for leaves and stems. Hard-boiled eggs she topped with small, scooped-out tomato halves, and dotted with tiny dollops of mayonnaise to resemble mushrooms. Her decorations were whimsical and appealing. While I have no memories of the presents and the birthday cake, I do remember that table and how proud I had felt to show my mother off to my friends. By the way, I have wanted to be a children's writer and illustrator of children's books since I was a child. For many years, before blowing out my birthday candles, my wish was to make picture books someday. Dreams can come true!
Iza Trapani's Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Shoo Fly! have been favorite before nap time read-alouds for each of my children. I should probably call them sing-aloud books because they start with the familiar rhyme that gets me started singing and then Iza's extended rhymes keep me going. As I revisited these favorites and experienced many new books by Iza this week with my children, I wanted to try to EXTEND her EXTENDED nursery rhyme books even further.
To do this, I created nine activities that can be completed after reading Iza Trapani's books. The IZA TRAPANI READING EXPERIENCE allows readers to extend the books beyond the text and pictures, and into reading experiences. Below I highlight six of the nine activities in the reading experience. I hope to get you excited about trying these activities with the preschool age children in your life or sharing them with someone you know. All of the activities are simple, quick and just-right for young children. You will see that we had a lot of fun this week!
Included in the Iza Trapani reading experience packet is the Row Row Row Your Boat board game. Just print out the game board, make some row boats (we used soda pop lids), and find a die. Then you are ready to play.
In the book, you will read about some good things and some bad things that happen to the Bear family as they travel together in their row boat. All the events are included in the board game. Therefore, it can be used as a retelling activity for Row Row Row Your Boat. Be careful - the same unfortunate events that happen to the Bear family could happen to you when your are playing the game. You may have to move back TWO SPACES!
Another activity in the Iza Trapani Reading Experience is the SHOO FLY! card game. We used cardboard and a tongue depressor to make homemade fly swatters. Then, we printed the Shoo Fly and colored crayon cards, which are provided in the downloadable packet. The object of the game is to collect the most cards. You collect cards by swatting the SHOO FLY cards!
As the cards are overturned, players are encouraged to say the color name for each crayon. I chose crayons as the image for the other cards because Iza has an illustration in the book of a tired mouse sleeping in a bed after a long day of shooing the fly. The mouse's bedposts are made of crayons!
We made Twinkle-Twinkle-Sprinkle-with-Glitter Stars after reading Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. This simple activity allowed my children to make glittered stars to hang in their bedrooms.
I am still cleaning up glitter, but they loved it!
We read Haunted Party too! If you have been following our family, you may know that my youngest son loves Halloween and ghosts! He and I played pin the bow tie on the ghost!
He insisted on drawing his own ghosts. He wasn't even interested in wearing a blindfold. It was fun just to draw the ghosts and put on the bow ties. The Iza Trapani Reading Experience packet includes printable bow ties!
We also read Mary Had a Little Lamb. In this adaptation of the story, the lamb has some troubles on the farm and gets quite dirty. Mary cleans him up with lamb shampoo after a long day. I covered a can of shaving cream with a label that read "LAMB SHAMPOO." We mixed it with white glue to make these homemade puffy paint lambs. These lambs smell as squeaky clean as Mary's lamb did before going to sleep.
One of the best things about celebrating children's author and illustrator birthdays is rereading my family's favorite books each year. The birthday serves as a reminder that we have some really great books on our bookshelf that need to be read again. I have found that revisiting a picture book after a year can provide a completely new experience especially for a family, like mine, with young children.
This is one of the bookshelves in our home. This one holds books by the authors and illustrators whose birthdays we have celebrated on the blog. All the books are in alphabetical order by author/illustrator's name too! This makes it easy when we want to read a book by.....KATIE DAVIS!
Last year, we celebrated Katie Davis' birthday by reading her book Who Hops?and then developed a game for my 18 month old son (Click here to read the blog post). This year, we reread many of Katie's picture books including Kindergarten Rocks and I Hate to Go to Bed!. But, once again it was Who Hops? and the sequel Who Hoots? that inspired a birthday celebration for Katie Davis.
In last year's birthday post, I mentioned Katie Davis' podcast Brain Burps About Books, which now has aired over 120 episodes. I included a quote that Katie said during an interview with The Happy Accident about the podcast, "I love doing it. I love talking books, or the book business with colleagues. I love that there are a bazillion subjects I could cover and still have more to talk about. I love promoting other people and helping my listeners with their careers." When you listen to the Brain Burps podcast you will immediately be drawn to Katie's positive and encouraging personality as she talks with her guests about various topics in the children's book industry. I personally have learned quite a bit from listening to the podcast. Sometimes as I am listening, I just want to give her a "High Five" for something she has just shared! I will never forget the time she had a whole show on eBooks which inspired me to write my own eBooks.
This year, I came up with an activity that allowed me to give that "High Five" to Katie Davis that she so deserves for everything she has done for so many people.
My wife and I were talking about Katie Davis's books Who Hops? and Who Hoots? and how they are perfect for teaching categorization. In Who Hops?, the book begins with a simple question, "Who hops?", and then three animals are shown that are able to hop -- a frog, a rabbit, and a kangaroo. Next, a cow is shown to the reader -- which of course can't hop. Our favorite part is on the next page when we shout "NO, THEY DON'T!" The book follows this pattern for other actions like flies, slithers, swims, and crawls. My wife told me about a game that she heard second grade teachers were playing with their students to explore categorization called "GIMME 12". GIMME 12 challenges students to come up with 12 things in a given category. I thought 12 was a bit much for my children, and thought GIMME 5 would be much more appropriate. Not only was it appropriate, but it inspired an evening of fun for my family!
I made a giant hand out of poster board, cardboard, duct tape, and a piece of wood. The poster board was too flimsy so I added cardboard to make my giant hand nice and sturdy.
I asked my kids to GIMME 5 things in a given category. I started with easy categories like, "Gimme 5 of your five favorite Christmas gifts" or "Gimme 5 of your favorite things to eat". My youngest son is coming to terms with his tree nut allergy and he said, "Gimme 5 things no nuts!"
I liked this photo. It looks like I was going to swat my daughter with the giant hand. Actually, I was just really excited about how much fun we were having. In the video below, you get a sense of my enthusiasm as I challenged my son with a question that is similar to a scenario presented by Katie Davis in Who Hoots?
I had another idea to explore categorization using the GIMME 5 idea and Katie Davis' books. We traced our hands and then wrote a question on the palm. My kids then wrote or drew 5 things on the fingers that fit the category.
In this example, my son came up with the question "Who has legs?" He drew a few people, a dog, and a cow. Once this was complete we turned the paper over traced his hand again and tried, "Who doesn't have legs?" He came up with a fish, a shark, a jellyfish, a whale, and a snake.
If you have a few more moments, please click here to read last year's blog post. Katie shares a few birthday memories! She has mentioned to me in the past that January 4th is hard time to have a birthday, as far as celebrating goes, because everyone is partied-out from the New Year. However, one benefit of having an early-in-the-year birthday is that her name will sit at the top of my Children's Author and Illustrator Birthday List on the side of the blog!
Katie, thank you for everything you do for the Kid Lit community! Here's a virtual "High Five" coming your way! Have a great birthday!
Happy Birthday Jean de Brunoff - (December 9, 1899 - October 16, 1937)
Extending children's books beyond their pages into family reading experiences has become very important to me. The family reading experiences create strong and vivid memories for my family about books. This post is the 170th author birthday my family has celebrated and because of these celebrations we are huge fans of 170 different authors and illustrators. After our birthday celebration for Jean de Brunoff I told my family, "After experiencing the Babar Collection at Kent State University, I don't know how you walk away not being a huge fan of Babar!"
Jean de Brunoff wrote and illustrated the first seven books about Babar, the most famous elephant in children's literature. The first book, Histoire de Babar, le petit elephant, (later translated into English as The Story of Babar, the little elephant) was first published in 1931 and is still in print today. This story was first invented by his wife Cecile as a bedtime story for their two sons Mathieu and Laurent. The boys told their father, a painter, all about the tale their mother had told them. Jean gave the elephant the name Babar, developed the text, and illustrated the story with watercolor. It was Jean de Brunoff's eldest sibling, Cosette, the wife of Lucien Vogel, "a highly influential figure in French magazine journalism that made the publication of Histoire de Babar possible". (The Morgan). Four additional books and two black and white stories were published before Jean de Brunoff died of spinal tuberculosis in 1937. The final two stories were eventually published in color as books after his death. Some of the illustrations from these two books were colored by Jean's son Laurent, who has continued publishing Babar books for over 60 years!
I discovered a birthday story for Jean de Brunoff that is from December 9, 1999 which would have been his 100th birthday. On this day, Kent State University in Kent, Ohio opened an exhibit dedicated to Jean de Brunoff's creation, Babar the elephant. (Kentwired.com). The personal collection of books and artifacts that feature the beloved elephant came to the university as a gift from John L. Boonshaft. John L. Boonshaft helped Kent State University professor, Dr. Ann Meinzen with some of her research for her book, Jean and Laurent de Brunoff: the legacy of Babar. Meinzen and Boonshaft corresponded for many years about Babar which lead to the collection finding a home at Kent State University. For my family, we couldn't wait to view the collection to celebrate Jean de Brunoff's birthday.
This was our second visit to the Kent State University campus. The last time was in June for Cynthia Rylant's birthday and only summer classes were in session. My kids asked many questions about college life as they observed the students -- Where is everyone walking to? Where do they live? Do they have a car?
Special Collections is all the way at the top -- on the twelfth floor!
The Babar Collection of John L. Boonshaft is located in room 1213. It is packed from floor to ceiling with everything Babar -- children's clothes, stuffed toys, puppets, children's bedding, etc. There are over 3,600 items in the collection.
This bookshelf holds hundreds of Babar books in many different languages.
One of the most exciting things in the room is the six foot tall Babar that used to be a floor model at an FAO Schwartz. (LasVegasSun)
Penny and Amanda from Special Collections prepared a table of a variety of items for my children to see including wooden toys, a Babar chapter book in German, a Korean Babar book, and....
A first edition The Story of Babar in French, Histoire de Babar: le petit elephant. This is one of the more valuable items in the collection. The whole collection was appraised at over $200,000 in value. (Kent State).
After getting comfortable in the room, we found the book Babar the King. We do not have this book in our personal collection and thought it was the perfect opportunity to read it for the first time.
There was plenty for my youngest daughter to enjoy while we read the book.
There were even cool rocking chairs for the kids to sit in while we enjoyed the book.
My daughter requested to see original artwork. This piece was by Laurent de Brunoff.
My youngest son enjoyed the mini-Babar books. I think these books were in Korean!
The big Babar was irresistible to my oldest son.
This was an amazing family reading experience. I was so happy that the Special Collections library had extended hours on this day that allowed my whole family to attend!
I think we will have to make a trip back next August 30th to celebrate Laurent de Brunoff's birthday!
I want to thank Amanda from Kent State Special Collections for allowing us to visit on such short notice. I would also like to thank Penny for her welcoming spirit, spending time with us in the Babar room, and for making copies of some of the pages from the German Babar chapter book for my daughter -- you made her day! You both provided an experience my family will never forget!
At the time when my son was around the age of three years old there were two picture books that he checked out from the library every time they were available. The first was I Stink by Kate McMullan and the other was Dinotrux by Chris Gall. The Dinotrux book was so well loved, by our family and many others, that our librarian decided it was time to discard it because of extensive wear. I was lucky enough to find this special book at the library's used book sale! This special book got even more special when I was able to have Chris Gall sign it for my son two summers ago at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference in Findlay, Ohio. I learned at the conference that Dinotrux was originally called "Truckasaurus" but shortly before the book was to be printed Chris Gall came across a Simpsons episode that made mention of a Truckasaurus so the title was changed to Dinotrux!
I really thought I was going to come up with a birthday celebration activity for Chris Gall using the book Dinotrux. However, it was Dear Fish, the first book Chris Gall both wrote and illustrated, that we really connected with this week. In this book, Peter Alan is visiting the beach with his family. He decides to invite the fish of the ocean over to his house by writing a note, placing it in a bottle, and casting it into the sea. Upon his return home, he finds that the fish -- even an octopus and whale -- have taken him up on his offer. The visit doesn't work out as Peter planned as the city didn't really have the capability of effectively accommodating all the fish from the ocean. However, it was an experience the fish and the Alan family will never forget.
I loved that Peter Alan communicated with the fish by using a message in a bottle. I thought it would be fun to bring this book to life by designing a bottle to send a message in the mail to our favorite cousins.
We started our project by drawing our own fish on colored paper.
We made a total of five colored fish and cut them out.
Then, my son decoupaged the fish onto a two-liter soda bottle.
While the decoupage dried, my son chose to write a message to his cousin. He also included a drawing. We rolled it tight and applied stickers to make sure the message could be retrieved from the bottle once it arrived.
I am always very pleased when my daughter comes home from school and gets excited about the projects we do during the day. She insisted on making her own message in a bottle. In her letter to her cousin she encouraged her to read Dear Fish because it has lots of "cool sound words". (i.e. crunching, slurping, gnawing, burping). She did such a nice job summarizing the book too. This would be a great school project -- summaries-in-a-bottle!
The next day my son placed his message inside the bottle and taped the lid shut. We also put a piece of clear packaging tape over the decoupaged fish just to make sure they didn't come off in transit. So, if you do not have decoupage you could just tape the fish on with clear packaging tape.
The bottles were addressed and ready to go in the mail. Notice that my daughter used a standard water bottle for her message.
We had the most helpful postal worker. She placed the postage stamp and barcode on the bottle taking care not to cover any of the fish! Both bottles shipped for the same price of $1.95 for first class mail service.
Chris Gall has published six books for children including There's Nothing to Do on Mars and Substitute Creacher. The first book that he published was America the Beautiful. Katharine Lee Bates, the author of the patriotic song, is Gall's great-great-grandaunt. Each of Gall's books feature his unique illustration style that Ann Brown of the Arizona Daily Star described as a "marrying of traditional engraving and technological artistry." Donna Kruetz of the University of Arizona described them as "fine-line engravings that are both fanciful and nostalgic," a technique he "developed while freelancing for the Tucson Weekly." Essentially, Gall sketches out his drawing with pencil, then etches it onto a piece of scratchboard, which is then scanned and colored in Photoshop. The bottom line is that his illustrations grab the attention of young readers!
Check out this book trailer for the Dinotrux sequel -- Revenge of the Dinotrux:
Be on the lookout for Awesome Dawson in April 2013:
What is the most important trait that you hope you instill in your child?
I have never been asked this question by anyone, but I think I would answer the question with the answer -- perseverance. I have often questioned and struggled in the past whether I am doing enough to teach my children to be strong, hard workers who will never quit when presented with an obstacle. Through recent observations of my children I have come to the conclusion that perseverance may not be something I need to teach. My youngest daughter, eight months old, has persevered on her own in her quest to move around the house. For weeks she worked to teach herself how to get her legs and body into position to crawl. Now that she is crawling, she is trying to move faster and more efficiently. It won't be long until she will be pulling herself up, standing, taking steps, falling, walking, falling more and then falling less. I think kids naturally have perseverance -- my two-year-old reminds me of this every day. I have realized that is not my job to instill this trait but to support them, encourage them, and dust off their boo-boos during their times of self-discovery.
Ed Young has published over 80 books for children including the 1990 Caldecott Medal Winner Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Story from China and two Caldecott Honor booksSeven Blind Mice and The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen. He was born in China and grew up in Shanghai. I emailed Ed to ask if he would share a birthday memory or story and he responded with, "I was born in the year of Japanese invasion of Manchuria which had set the stage for WWII in the far east. I was named after a Canadian who volunteered to fight for the Chinese cause against the aggressors. He had been my inspiration to sustain our troubled world. Which is why I stayed in children's books." After coming to the United States to study architecture, he worked in advertising, and then found his way into children's book publishing. His career has been full of successes and awards, but also many obstacles.
In an interview with PaperTigers, Ed Young talked about his recent book House that Baba Built: An Artist's Childhood in China, an autobiographical book about growing up in a "big brick house" built by his father. Creating the book wasn't easy. He approached recounting his experiences in the house in many different forms until he finally decided that it was best to tell a very personal story. "This published book is the fifth time around for me. So, I had four books that were pretty much ready to go. I think each time was a little better than the last. Each version was valid as a step and meant that I could proceed with the next one fairly quickly, once I had the concept in my head."
In the book Foolish Rabbit's Big Mistake by Rafe Martin, Ed Young initially struggled with the illustration style, but found a way to persevere. "I allowed myself to use a medium appropriate to the story that was outside of its tradition, which in this case would have been Indian miniatures." (Cynsations).
The book Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein has a legendary story on how it came to be published. Ed Young submitted the artwork early, and then it went missing. This unfortunate event was not seen as an obstacle but an opportunity. "It gave me time to ponder over what can be improved upon and then when I wanted to recreate something as I know I can not recreate exactly like it was before. I wanted to see what I can use to make it a better book." (BookVideosTV, video below). Eventually, the original art was recovered, but not until after the new art was used for the book.
In his latest book, Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta he told Horn Book that "Nighttime Ninja went through many stages: first it came in pencil, then charcoal, then pastel, and then I used ink markers, and finally I completed the whole thing with collage."
This past September 2012, my family and I attended the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. Our favorite place to hang out was the Family Storytelling Stage where authors and illustrators read their latest books. Ed Young read Nighttime Ninja and his enthusiasm for the book was very apparent. That day he shared with us that "I would have loved this type of picture book as a young boy." From the moment I heard Ed Young read the book, I wanted it to be the the book we used for his birthday celebration -- however at the time I didn't know his birthday. Luckily, I was able to meet Ed and he graciously shared his birthday after he signed a book for my children.
Ed Young speaking at the National Book Festival.
The endpapers and illustrations from Nighttime Ninja are full of ninja silhouettes. My idea for a birthday celebration was to make life-size ninja silhouettes of my children. This proved to be more difficult than I thought. However, now that we have experienced all the obstacles in creating this project initially, I am confident that you will be able to replicate this project without much trouble.
The first obstacle was finding black paper large enough to make life-size ninja silhouettes. The easiest and most cost effective way for us was to use black poster board. Each ninja silhouette required two pieces of standard sized poster board taped together with masking tape.
The second obstacle was basically my inability to explain to my children what we were trying to accomplish. My five-year-old son bounds around the house all the time -- kicking, sliding, crawling with ninja-like movements. I just assumed he could act like a ninja when I needed him to be one for this project.
Well, I was wrong.
I learned that making ninja moves was easy for him, but holding ninja poses was very difficult. We initially tried a crawling pose, but I couldn't get him to look natural -- his bottom sticking high in the air, then his head was on the floor. Finally, I said "Let's tape the paper to the wall by the couch."
I thought climbing on the couch would give a natural pose which would give the perfect shadow that I could trace. However, this didn't work either and I am surprised he didn't get hurt!
Yep, I almost lost him between the wall and the back of the couch!
So we moved back to the floor, both of us were very frustrated, and I asked him to try once more to make a ninja pose as if he was crawling. I was so proud of him. He found a pose that was comfortable, and was able to hold it long enough for me to trace the shadow (about 45 seconds).
My son wore his Batman mask (with the ears taped down) and a cape wrapped around his face and next. Also, we stuck a sword down the back of his shirt. These two things allowed the shadow to look as if he was in full ninja gear.
Next, we did a standing pose. This pose should have been the one I had him do first. (It is easy to stand there and "Be a ninja"!) He would have been able to see the end product and understood what we trying to accomplish.
I used a white pencil to trace his shadow.
He was so excited to see the finished product. It was worth it!
As soon as my daughter came home from school, she wanted to make a couple ninja silhouettes too.
Very nice pose!
I cut out all the ninja silhouettes because of all the twists and turns.
Lastly, we taped them all on our porch windows. Our house is now protected by ninjas!
Thank you Ed for sharing your birthday and for responding with a birthday story. We really enjoyed reading many of your books this week and we hope you have a joyful birthday.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving with their family and friends. Our family gathering was very nice. I think this year's turkey was the best ever. My dad's job was to carve it once again. Great-Grandma B. tried a new recipe for cranberries. I am not sure everyone was happy with the change. We have two new babies in the family that had their first Thanksgiving meals. My daughter loved the peas! Great-Grandpa B. told a whopper of story about his friend waking up to go the bathroom in the middle of the night only to find his wife asleep on toilet. He has a story that makes the family laugh every time we get together. After every family gathering I wish we would have caught Grandpa B.'s latest story on video. Maybe at Christmas I will sneak a video camera into the dining room without him knowing!
Miranda Paul is an author of over 40 eBooks for children. Her work includes Gambian folktales Kumba Am and Kumba Amul: A Gambian Folk Tale and The Fish Snatcher: A Wolof Tale from The Gambia, West Africa which are both available from the very popular iStorybooks App for iPad, Android, and online. Miranda said in an interview with Thoughtful Reflections, "I have a very close connection with many people, writers, and residents of Africa's smallest mainland country, The Gambia. I am afraid some of the stories will be lost if not written down, or translated/adapted for audiences outside the country."
Miranda's passion for writing started at an early age. "I began writing picture books in elementary school, nearly 25 years ago. Farmer Freddy and The Robbery at Denmark State Bank were my first attempts at age 8." (Thoughtful Reflections). Her life is much busier now as a mom and teacher of English and Drama, but she still makes time for her writing. She freelances for magazines and other publications, but her "favorite genre is folk tales, especially wild and wacky retellings or multicultural fables." (Thoughtful Reflections).
Miranda has made many visits to The Gambia, West Africa. I secretly hoped that she would have a birthday experience from her travels that she would be able to share. I was excited to read her memory when it came to me via email this week. Here is her birthday memory:
Back in 2003, I was abroad serving as a volunteer teacher in The Gambia, West Africa. I had only been in the country for about six weeks or so, but it was long enough to feel a little homesick. What was I doing 5,000 miles from home? Living without running water and occasional electricity? In a primarily Muslim country during the time America was about to capture Saddam Hussein?
As my birthday rolled around, it was Thanksgiving week back home. I pictured all of my relatives gathering at my grandmother's house, eating familiar foods.
I invited a friend over and decided to whip up some makeshift American food to make myself feel better. Before I knew it, people kept showing up...my fellow Gambian teachers, neighbors, etc. It then occurred to me that this was more than coincidence. I was being thrown a surprise party by people who had only known me for six weeks, and had never thrown a birthday party before! (Most Gambians don't celebrate birthdays.) Amazing!
That night, I learned one of life's most endearing lessons: people around the world are much more similar than they are different, and if we extend our hand or cross a bridge into another culture, people are ready and willing to take that hand or meet us halfway across. I discovered how friendships, especially rare and unlikely ones, are actually pathways to peace.
I'm happy to say that I am still in touch with many of these friends and I have returned to The Gambia four times since that trip. I plan to continue to show my gratitude to the welcoming people of The Gambia for I continue the 1 Million Books for Gambia literacy project.
This week we downloaded and read Miranda Paul's I LIKE Books series which is available as an iPad/iPhone app from Grasshopper Apps. My boys enjoyed the bright and vivid photographs and the audio text features. I loved that I was able to purchase the app for a couple dollars and get over 37 eBooks in one app! Together we thought it would be fun to make our own I LIKE book to celebrate Miranda's birthday. My son had the idea to make his own I LIKE THANKSGIVING eBook.
At Thanksgiving dinner he used the iPad to take pictures of all the things he liked about Thanksgiving. In this picture he snapped pictures of the dessert table.
Here he documented his Grandpa carving the turkey.
Once he took all the photographs we used the Book Creator app to add the text and audio.
The best part was that his younger brother got to enjoy the book when it was finished.
Thank you Miranda for sharing your birthday story. We hope you have a fabulous birthday with your family. Good luck with all your writing adventures. I admire your desire to preserve the stories from the people of The Gambia.
If you are a writer, Miranda is also the creator and moderator of the Rate Your Story website. This website matches published writers with aspiring authors. The published authors will read your manuscript and evaluate it free of charge!
Happy Birthday Carmen T. Bernier-Grand - November 22
Happy Thanksgiving! I have so many things to be thankful for this year. I have been blessed with a happy family, a supportive wife, curious children, and a passion for picture books. Luckily and thankfully, I also have the opportunity to share with you childhood birthday stories and memories from children's book authors and illustrators. I think you are really going to enjoy this birthday post and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day with your family and friends.
Carmen T. Bernier-Grand was born in Puerto Rico with a "vivid imagination". Her sister would often give her a hard time about staring at people, but she was only trying to figure out what they were thinking. (Mazza Museum Keynote, Summer Conference 2012). She published her first story, about her teacher chewing gum, in the second grade for the school newspaper. However, Carmen never saw herself becoming a writer, especially a writer of books in English. "In eighth grade I went to a private school with American nuns as teachers. When I said some words in English my classmates laughed, so I tried not to speak the language. It wasn't until I met my husband at the University of Connecticut (studying math) when I began to speak English without so much fear." (One Potato Ten). She started writing again when she had children of her own. However, publishers in the United States were not interested in her writing because it was in Spanish. Carmen was determined to write for children so she wrote a story in English for the Willamette Writers contest. And she won! (Cynthia Leitich Smith). It was this contest that launched a career that would be filled with many awards and countless happy readers!
I emailed Carmen to ask if she would share a birthday memory or story. She responded with many stories and photographs from her childhood in Puerto Rico. Enjoy!
When I was born, my uncle Pepe, thought I looked like an albino monkey. Not only did I look as skinny as most monkeys but I had a white birthmark on my forehead, which later moved up making a hair highlight. I was also so blonde you couldn't see my eyebrows and eyelashes.
On November 22, 2012, my birthday falls on Thanksgiving. My ninth birthday also fell on Thanksgiving. At the time Puerto Rico didn't celebrate the holiday as we do in the United States. That morning I woke up at five with the angelical singing of the members of the nearby Methodist Church. I went to the Catedral de Ponce with Carmen, who later married my uncle, Angel. The Mass was in Latin and I had a self-imposed rule that I had to read the whole thing in Spanish from my missal before I left church. I was a slow reader and that day, when the Mass ended, I hadn't finished reading. We had to leave. Carmen had to work and I had to go to school. I left church, crying. I was so upset that, when Carmen stopped in front of a store and asked me if I liked the doll on display, I said no -- although I loved it. I'm sure she was extremely disappointed. Because when we got home, I found her gift on my bed. It was the doll! That showed me to be true to my feelings.
Nobody celebrated my birthday until my quinceanero, a coming of age party at fifteen. It was a simple home festivity, but my mother made me a pink dress with bows on its shoulders that made me feel like a princess. Although we hardly celebrated Sweet Sixteen in Puerto Rico, I would never forget mine. On November 22, 1963, I was walking on Atocha Street. As usual the store doors were open to welcome customers. What was unusual, however, was that all the store radios were louder than ever. I sat on the step of a store entrance; I couldn't believe what I hearing. President John F. Kennedy had been killed. Puerto Rico went on mourning and so did I. Since then I have had many birthday parties. This year my friends and family are having one for me on November 17, and we will celebrate again on Thanksgiving. But the biggest party is in my heart, grateful to be alive and writing!
Carmen T. Bernier-Grand has published eleven books for children. Three of her books have been named Pura Belpre Honor Books. The Pura Belpre Award is "presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding of literature for children and youth." (ALSC). Her first Pura Belpre Honor Book award was in 2006 for Cesar: Si, se puede! / Yes, We Can, and then in 2008 for Frida: Viva La Vida! Long Live Life!. In 2010, she received the award once again for her book Diego: Bigger Than Life which along with Cesar was illustrated by David Diaz. Many comment on the "free verse" writing style that Carmen used in six of her biographical books including the three mentioned above. On the blog Check it Out, she tries to "set the record straight" about her writing, "I don't consider myself a poet. The biographies are coming to me that way. It's hard to control the brain of a writer."
The book that my family focused on for Carmen T. Bernier-Grand's birthday celebration was Juan Bobo: Four Folktales from Puerto Rico. According to the Author's Note in the book, "For decades, Juan Bobo, the invention of rural storytellers of Puerto Rico, has been the most popular fictional character on the island. " In an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand described how this book came to be published, "At a Willamette Writers conference, I asked author Eric Kimmel for advice on how I could begin writing children's books. He recommended me to start writing stories I'd heard when I was growing up. What stories did I hear when I was growing up? The Juan Bobo stories! At the same conference, HarperCollins editor Robert Warren was a speaker....I told--TOLD--Robert the first story that is now in the book. He asked if I could put that in an I CAN READ format, and I said yes! But I had no idea what an I CAN READ was. That Monday, I asked the librarian for help. She gave me Frog and Toad and hundreds of other books which I studied carefully. I wrote the Juan Bobo stories in that format and HarperCollins accepted the manuscript." (Cynthia Leitich Smith).
Our favorite folktale from Juan Bobo: Four Folktales from Puerto Rico was "Do Not Sneeze, Do Not Scratch...Do Not Eat!". Juan Bobo and his mother were invited to visit a neighbor's house for a meal. Juan's mother set strict guidelines before the visit to insure good manners, however various circumstances keep Juan Bobo from enjoying any of the food. He missed out on rice, beans, and fried bananas! However, we weren't going to let Carmen's birthday pass by without enjoying some yummy Puerto Rican food.
My daughter's first grade teacher has family from Puerto Rico. We went to her to ask where we could find authentic Puerto Rican food in our area. She recommended we visit Rincon Cirello in Cleveland, Ohio. My two oldest children awaited their food with a copy of Juan Bobo. My daughter enjoyed her passion fruit juice!
Once the food arrived, the little man enjoyed his rice and beans! But, he made sure he didn't sniff the rice too strongly. He didn't want to get rice up his nose like Juan Bobo!
The kids loved their empanadillas and fried plantains!
I chose to get the "Jibarito" which was a "tasty steak tip sandwich topped with lettuce, tomato, and mayo served between to strips of friend plantains."
After our delicious meal at the restaurant we headed to The West Side Market to pick up a few plantains to take home. We learned that yellow plantains are best for frying.
A few days later it was time to try to make our own fried plantains for dinner. My son helped peel the skin off the plantains. From afar, my daughter looks unwilling to get her hands dirty.
He cut each plantain in thirds. (We probably could have cut them into smaller chunks.) Then, I fried them for 3 minutes in oil on the stove. Lastly, I flipped them over to fry for another 3 minutes.
I removed the plantains from the oil and my kids smashed them between two plates.
They loved this!! Once they were flattened we placed them in a bowl of cold water.
Then, I fried them for one more minute on each side until they were nice and crispy. We added a little salt and then enjoyed! I am a huge fan of fried plantains. I think Juan Bobo would be proud!
A HUGE thank you to Jessika Gonzalez, my daughter's talented first grade teacher who is also a wonderful friend, for helping plan this birthday celebration! Your recommendations were the perfect match for this birthday celebration!
Thank you to Carmen for sharing all the photographs and birthday memories! My family hopes you have a wonderful birthday! I am so glad that we connected at the Mazza Museum this past summer!
Check out Carmen T. Bernier-Grand's latest book, Picasso: I the King, Yo el rey, illustrated by David Diaz:
I had the pleasure of meeting Andrea Cheng this past summer at the Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio. After she signed a book for my children, she told me that she shares her birthday with a very special person in her life. I loved hearing her story and couldn't wait for her to share it with you. The email that contained her birthday thoughts revealed even more significance regarding her special day:
The coolest thing about my birthday is that I share it with my mom who is Marika in my MARIKA. I was born on her birthday, twenty nine years later. We always celebrate our birthdays together with spinach "palacsinta" (thin pancakes) that she makes for the two of us and any other family members who are around. I also got married on this day, and this year is our 30th wedding anniversary! So, lots to celebrate on September 19. My mom turns 84. I turn 55. And the marriage between Jim and I turns 30! This multi-generational and multicultural celebration is what my life and my books are about.
Andrea Cheng is a diverse and accomplished author of nearly twenty books. In a video provided by Knowledge Stream, Andrea Cheng describes her writing as a collage. "I take experiences that happened maybe thirty years ago and combine them with something that happened yesterday. Or my own experiences with experiences of my children." She has applied this writing style to many different genres including picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult novels. On her website, Andrea Cheng credits her elementary teachers with encouraging her to write. Her sixth grade teacher commented on one of her stories by saying, "You've got a certain talent for saying your ideas with a distinctive flair that makes your writing a pleasure to read. The words 'float' together." Despite her talent for writing, she struggled early on in her career with many rejections from publishers. According to her website, she "many times decided to not write anymore, or to stop submitting stories to publishers, but always went back to it because she loves writing the stories." She persisted and published her first book Grandpa Counts in 1999.
Each night this week, my daughter knew exactly which book she was going ask me to read to her and her brothers before bedtime. She was hooked on Andrea's writing style after her first choice, Anna the Bookbinder. Night after night she selected another picture book by Andrea Cheng -- Goldfish and Chrysanthemums, Grandfather Countsand The Lemon Sisters. I was so happy to see her excited for Andrea's books. Right now my seven year old daughter is in a transition period in her reading. The before-bedtime-reading with her dad and her two younger brothers is still very important and wouldn't be skipped for anything. However, she is quickly falling more in love with the quiet reading time alone in her room before she falls asleep. She devours one or two chapter books each week with the aid of her special reading head-lamp. We have talked frequently that it is okay to not be interested in the books that her brothers choose for me to read. I no longer correct her if she quietly picks up another book to read on her own if she is not of interested in the book I am reading aloud. I have encouraged her to take care in her book choice each night so that there is at least one that she will enjoy. There were plenty of books for her to enjoy this week.
Andrea Cheng's picture books captivated my boys too. Collectively, my three children really enjoyed When the Bees Fly Home. This may come as no surprise to my frequent readers who have tracked our family's first beekeeping experience. When the Bees Fly Home opens with the lines, "The beeswax is smooth. I pass it from hand to hand until it is soft enough to mold." These are the thoughts of Jonathan who really tries to help his father with the bees but the labor of the family business just isn't his thing. He isn't tough and strong like his younger brother. He would rather work artistically with the beeswax to form it into small figures of animals. Andrea Cheng says on her website, "Jonathan in When the Bees Fly Home is a combination of my brother's son, Mathew, and my own son, Nicholas, who is artistic but not athletic. When Nicholas was growing up, I felt like it was hard for boys who preferred the arts over athletics to find their places in a competitive world. I hope this story will help boys like my nephew and my son to feel more comfortable with who they are." Jonathan finds a way to use his artistic talent to contribute to the family business, bond with his father, and bring hope for a successful remainder of the harvesting season.
I was intrigued with Jonathan's ability to mold animals out of beeswax. I knew we had beeswax in the kitchen from a recent harvest, but I didn't know if I could separate the honey from the beeswax to use it for molding.
We cannot use an extractor to harvest honey from our top-bar hive. We must harvest the whole honeycomb, chop it up in a bowl, and let the honey drip from one mason jar to another through a screen. The beeswax was just too sticky to work with and plans to separate all the honey from the beeswax failed. I needed another plan.
I found a piece of honeycomb that I used for a few classroom teaching demonstrations. I thought it would be best to melt it down using a double boiling method.
We reread When the Bees Fly Home while we waited for the water to boil and for the beeswax to melt. I quickly realized that this whole project was not working out the way I planned. I was unsuccessful of fully removing the honey from the beeswax and our other piece of honeycomb wasn't nearly enough for my three kids to try molding animals.
My oldest son and I headed to the hive to harvest some fresh beeswax. We found what seemed to be the perfect amount on one of the first bars we removed.
There was plenty more honeycomb inside the hive that the bees were busy filling with honey for their winter storage.
We pulled one out for you to see!
My son used his hive tool to scrape off the beeswax.
We brought the harvested beeswax inside and my youngest son started working with it right away. However, we noticed that the beeswax was still pretty hard even after holding it in our hand for a while. It was a very cool day -- around 65 degrees -- which may have had an impact on the malleability of the beeswax.
But, we were determined to form animals just like Jonathan. Early on, my daughter used her imagination find the animal shapes in the pieces of beeswax. She quickly found a dog face and a crab.
My youngest son loved making a mess! You may notice me in the background of this picture heating the beeswax in the double boiler. This made it much easier to mold.
I was very focused on making a bee.
Not too bad -- it sort of looks like a bee, right? I really appreciated Jonathan's artistic talent after this activity.
My daughter gained more and more confidence as she spent time with the beeswax which allowed us to make quite a few animals.
From left to right: dog face, a snail, a fish, a shark, a frog, and a duck.
We want to wish Andrea Cheng a very happy birthday and anniversary. Our family hopes you have a wonderful day with your family. Thank you so much for sharing your birthday thoughts. Oh, and Happy Birthday to your mom too!
Check out Andrea Cheng's book, Where Do You Stay?, for children 10 and up, which was recognized with the 2012 Ohioana Book Award for Juvenile Literature:
My oldest son is almost five years old. He loves being read to however he has no interest in attempting to read aloud. But, he is a reader! Every night he has his flashlight and at least three picture books that he goes through page by page before he goes to bed. If you listen closely, you can probably hear him talking to himself about the pictures he sees on each page. Some would argue with me and say that he is not reading because he is not calling out the words on each page. I am not very good at debating, so I would just pull out the quote I found from Bob Staake, "The way I read as a kid is I would flip through Esquire magazine or National Geographic Magazine, and I would fixate on whatever caught my attention, a photograph, an illustration, or an ad. That was reading to me. That is the way kids start to read, and parents don't respect it enough. The idea that looking at things is not as important as reading the written word, that's BS." (Boston.com).
Bob Staake has published over 50 books including The Donut Chef, Hello Robots, and The Red Lemon (a few our family's favorites) and has been described as one of the "nation's most successful illustrators." His artwork has been seen on the covers of The New Yorker magazine, advertisements for large corporations, product packaging, greeting cards, and newspaper cartoons. He even, "designed fake commercials for The Ren and Stimpy Show, designed 8 episodes of Dexter's Laboratory, and created the characters for PowerPuff Girls." (Little Chimp Society). He creates his illustration using "a mouse, a keyboard, and an antiquated version of Adobe Photoshop (video below)." He described his process in an interview by Christopher Seufert on YouTube, "I just tend to work very quickly. When I get on a project or on a book, I am not the type of person that wants that protracted deadline. I am always waiting until the final month. I don't want to spread out those illustrations over time. For me to keep cohesiveness and consistency between the illustrations it works best for me to sit down and do it straight out."
Last year, I planned on celebrating Bob Staake's birthday with my family. We read all of his books and I had even contacted him well ahead of time to let him know we were celebrating. However, we moved to a new house which proved to be much more overwhelming than I expected. We lacked internet access in the new home for about two weeks which prevented me from posting in time for his birthday. Fast forward to this year, our birthday celebration for Bob Staake was not going to be interrupted by our family trip to Washington D.C. to attend the National Book Festival.
My wife and I were excited and confident to take our children to the National Book Festival, but we were worried about the six hour car trip to the nation's capital from Ohio. We had all the electronic gizmos charged, numerous snacks packed, and countless activities ready. I even made Cars Galore Bingo based on the book by Peter Stein and Bob Staake. We had read this book numerous times and spent a lot of time just looking at all the illustrations. I was sure my game was going to be a hit! They were excited about playing the game for only about 10 minutes. I was so glad I spent about two hours making it.
The first activity to celebrate Bob Staake's birthday may not have gone the way I expected, but the second activity exceeded my expectations. Reading The First Pup: The Real Story of How Bo Got to the White House by Bob Staake to my children, right outside the iron fence that surrounds one of the most recognizable buildings in the world, may become one of my most memorable reading experiences with my children. The book starts with the election of Barack Obama as the President of United States. On his victory night, Barack Obama makes two promises -- to work hard for the people of America and to get his daughters, Sasha and Malia, a puppy! My children really enjoyed learning how Bo, an unwanted puppy, made his way from a farm in Texas to the White House. On Bob Staake's website he has a photograph of Barack Obama reading this book!
A beautiful day to read a great book! We squeezed our way through all the sightseers to snap this photograph in front of the White House.
We moved off to the side so we wouldn't get trampled when I read the book.
My kids enjoyed pointing out things they noticed in the book and the area around them. On the last spread, Bob Staake's illustration has Bo peeking his head out of one of the White House windows. We looked to see if he was there, unfortunately he wasn't. We thought he must playing with Sasha and Malia!
In an interview with Neatorama, Bob Staake shared a few "things people don't know about me" including, "I was busted for climbing the Lincoln Memorial." Well, I think I have a few Bob Staakes in the making within my family. My daughter was trying to figure out the best way to touch Lincoln's foot and my son was attempting the climb the columns!
In closing, I wanted to leave you with another quote by Bob Staake that I don't want to forget, "Read, but if you can't, then LOOK through a book at just the pictures -- and don't feel the need to apologize for only looking at them. We ALL need to look more!" (Thunder Chunky).
I am looking forward to Bob Staake's new books, Look! Another Book! (Dec. 4, 2012) and Bluebird (April 9, 2013):
Farmers and gardeners may watch the weather report hoping for rain, but I watch praying for sunshine -- at least during the daylight hours. Last night, I saw the weather forecast and it was predicting rain for the whole day with the potential for heavy downpours. I knew it would be wise for me to stay indoors and not to venture out with three children only to be caught somewhere waiting for the rain to let up. Conceding to being inside for a long period of time with my children comes a responsibility of keeping them busy or things can go bad quickly.
This week we discovered the book Bebe's Bad Dream by G. Brian Karas. The story is about a young girl, Bebe, who happens to have a nasty older brother named Walter who teases her about her reoccurring nightmares. Bebe is living her life in fear thinking that the aliens from her nightmares are going to snatch her up and eat her. Walter does not make things easier when he often talks in a mean alien voice and says things like, "Yum. Bebe sandwiches." Bebe tries to defend herself from the aliens by wearing a helmet, shield, and armor to bed while holding her special laser sword, but her mother tells her that her protective gear will rip the sheets. Bebe must find a way to conquer her nightmares and her brother all by herself.
This is the first page of the Bebe's Bad Dream. I love this illustration by G. Brian Karas. I knew the moment I saw this picture that my boys were going to enjoy the book.
Upon waking up this morning I realized that the weather report was going to be exactly right. I needed an activity that was going to keep my boys engaged and happy for much of the morning. I remembered the illustration from Bebe's Bad Dream. I thought it might be fun for us to work together to make Bebe's armor, shield, helmet, and laser sword.
I thought making the laser swords first would really draw my boys into the activity. The swords were very simple to make. We slipped a small flashlight inside the cardboard wrapping paper tube while leaving a majority of it hanging out of the end to become the sword's handle. We taped the tube and flashlight together using duct tape.
Once the laser swords were made we had to try them in the dark! We turned on the flashlights and were instantly impressed. They would definitely help us defeat the aliens if we saw them.
Next, we made the armor and shields out of cardboard pieces. I used the illustration by G. Brian Karas as a model for these creations.
My boys added some decorations to their protective gear.
Bebe would be so proud!
I quickly discovered that the helmet I made was too big for our heads. I found some bubble wrap in the garage. Then, lined the inside of the helmet to allow it to fit better.
I may look mad in this picture, but our day turned out to be really good despite the rain. The boys had fun with the book extension activity. They impressed me by making arrows out of leftover cardboard pieces that could be thrown and then blocked with the shields!
G. Brian Karas has published nearly 100 books including a few of my favorites by Candace Fleming, Clever Jack Takes the Cake, Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!, and Tippy-Tippy-Tippy Hide! (According to Publisher's Weekly he and Fleming are currently working on a third book about the bunnies!) His career in children's literature began strictly as an illustrator. However, in 1996, he wrote and illustrated his first book, Home on the Bayou: A Cowboy Story, which was awarded the Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award. Expect to see lots more from G. Brian Karas as he is currently "booked out for the next two years" with many projects!
Check out G. Brian Karas' latest book, Lemonade in Winter, that he illustrated for Emily Jenkins that was released this month, September 2012:
Social media streams ideas to us every minute of the day. Bloggers, promoters, companies, entrepreneurs, writers, and more are hoping to catch our eye with the latest and greatest craft, product, blog post, or way to use baking soda and vinegar (that is a Pinterest joke!). We scroll right by most of the stuff without paying attention. Some ideas may get us to click, read more, or even repin. However, I love the feeling I get when I see an idea that inspires me to act and create. This summer, I saw David Diaz present an idea that made me say, "I gotta try that!"
David Diaz's journey toward a career illustrating picture books for children started at a young age, "I realized I wanted to be an artist when I was in first grade. I was working on a vowel worksheet, and was doing the word 'nose'. The sheet said N-blank-S-E. I filled the 'O' in, and then I drew a face in it. And that's when I realized I wanted to be an artist." (Scholastic). After college, he started Diaz Icon, an illustration and design company. (NCCIL) He designed book covers for Harcourt Brace, which gave him the opportunity to illustrate his first book, Neighborhood Odes by Gary Soto. It was the next project given to him by Harcourt, Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, that jump started his career when it was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 1995. "I had the book (Smoky Night) in the studio for nine months. During that nine months, the actual painting for Smoky Night, I completed in two weeks. It was one of those times where I was just working constantly, on the book and other things. There was a sort of lucky innocence about that." (Kidlitartists.com).
David Diaz has published a diverse array of children's books. According to Patricia Newman, "One of the most profound influences on Diaz's work is George Ohr, America's first art potter. '[Ohr's artisitic] influence is not about the images, but the approach to the work, says Diaz. 'No two pieces are alike; each piece is unique.'" My family enjoyed David Diaz's illustrations in The Little Scarecrow Boy by Margaret Wise Brown which was created with watercolor, gouache, and pencil. In stark contrast David Diaz cut shapes with an X-acto knife onto rubylith, then scanned, arranged, and colored the shapes using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator for Pocahontas: Princess of the New World by Kathleen Krull. "I never try to second guess what's going to make kids laugh or hold their attention. I just try to make the images as appropriate to the text as possible...I never try to make something cute just because it is for kids. (USM Children's Book Festival Flyer).
Last summer, I had the opportunity to hear David Diaz speak at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference. The director of the Mazza Museum, Benjamin Sapp, told a story that David had called the day before his keynote and asked for a door (yes, a door from home improvement store). Sapp was worried that David was calling to cancel his appearance at the conference, and he said that getting him a door would be no problem as long as he was still coming!
Diaz pre-painted the door with acrylic paints for his presentation. He asked a person from the audience to open a book that they were currently reading to a random page and read a paragraph. He visualized what he heard from the passage and began his painting.
First, he drew a rough sketch with a black Sharpie.
The paragraph was about a woman swimming at the beach.
I had to wait almost three months to celebrate David Diaz's birthday from the time I heard him speak. You would think that I would have planned ahead and found a door to paint. However, I didn't go shopping for a door until September 29th! Luckily, I found the perfect door at a Habitat for Humanity Restore Shop for only $5!
My children and my niece primed the door to prepare it for painting the next day.
Instead of acrylic paints, we used house paint that was left in our basement when we bought the house last year.
My children picked two colors and they each painted half of the door to create a background.
Then, we had to wait for it to dry.
While they waited they were encouraged to sketch out what was going to be painted on the door. They decided on a nature theme with trees, flowers, and animals. I am so glad that I suggested this. Once the door was dry, they knew exactly what they wanted to paint.
The sunshine came out so we moved our painting into the front yard.
First, they painted grass along the bottom.
Trees were added.
Then, flowers, bushes, and clouds were added to the painting. At this point, my son pointed to the clouds in the sky and remarked on how cool they looked. He then continued to paint his clouds.
My son was finished after his clouds were complete, but my daughter kept painting.
The finished project turned out fantastic. I promised them we were going to hang it in the living room if it turned out well. Tonight, we made a call to grandpa to figure out a way to safely hang it on the wall!
Here is a photo of some of David Diaz's illustrations that he had on display after his keynote presentation. They weren't as big as a door, but they were stunningly large!
Currently, there is a great price on a new hardcover, Before You Came written by Patricia MacLachlan. Diaz said in his talk that this book was, "one of his favorites." I also found that Diego: Bigger Than Life written by Carmer T. Bernier-Grand is only $1.30 for a brand new hardcover!
I have practiced and practiced and practiced -- in front of older children, younger children, my own children. My confidence has grown exponentially with each experience. I feel like I am starting to understand what works and what doesn't.
I am now comfortable calling myself a picture book read-aloud extraordinaire.
Strange things happen to me when I read a picture book to a group of children. I get totally engrossed in the story. I come up with unique voices and make strange gestures and facial expressions in an attempt to bring the characters to life. Now that I think of it, these voices and gestures probably have many people questioning my mental health. But, I feel a great sense of responsibility when I am asked to read a book to children. I view it as a chance to create an experience, make a memory, and have an impact.
This week I had the pleasure of being a parent reader in my daughter's second grade classroom. I knew the kids were in for a treat, because I found two books by Peter McCarty that were going to be fabulous books to read aloud.
Peter McCarty, who comes from a long line of artists including his grandmother, grew up drawing with pencils and pens. (Keynote speech, Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2012). He decided to forgo his initial thought of becoming an engineer to pursue a career in art at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, after realizing that "he could not see himself in a lab." (blog biography). During his senior year, McCarty's teacher William Low, "suggested he make an appointment to see Laura Godwin, an editor at Henry Holt and Company" who later gave him his first illustration job, Frozen Man (1996) by David Getz." (Blog). It was in college that McCarty also developed the medium he used to illustrate the 2003 Caldecott Honor book, Hondo and Fabian and his first book he both wrote and illustrated Little Bunny on the Move. "I was comfortable layering graphite and adding water colors to create the 'ethereal' look. The biggest drawback was that it was time consuming and difficult to reproduce." (Blog).
After McCarty completed, Fabian Escapesin 2007, the sequel to Hondo and Fabian, he spent a year just sketching. Many of these sketches were of monsters. He went to his editor and asked her if she could just published his sketch book! She of course declined this request but really liked a sketch of a monster and a boy. His editor suggested that the monster and the boy could be roommates. This idea led to Jeremy Draws a Monster, abook that took only three months to create which was considerably less time consuming then its predecessors. (Keynote speech, Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2012). When McCarty's own daughter saw the drawings for Jeremy she declared, "NOW, you can really draw."(Keynote speech, Mazza Museum 2012).
After I read, Jeremy Draws a Monster to my own children, I knew I wanted to share it with my daughter's classmates. Jeremy is a young boy that never leaves his room. One day, he draws a very demanding monster that comes to life and asks for Jeremy to draw him things like a sandwich, a toaster, a television, and a hat. Jeremy draws everything the monster wants, but the monster is not very appreciative. Jeremy eventually grows tired of the monster and comes up with a plan to get him out of his room.
Peter McCarty said in his keynote speech at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference this past summer that one of his favorite illustrations is Jeremy standing at the window drawing a pink hat for the monster. Before, I went to read to my daughter's class, I found a fuzzy orange hat in our basement that I thought would be fun to wear for my reading of Jeremy Draws a Monster and The Monster Returns.
The kids loved my hat and my monster voice. Luckily, the teacher had heard me read before so she wasn't alarmed.
I told the kids that even though they liked my hat, I really wished I had a big pink fuzzy hat.
When I got home, I wanted to explore the possibly of making my own monster hat. I started with cardboard, a box cutter, and lots of packaging tape.
I was quite pleased with my design and knew I was headed in the right direction.
I found the perfect fabric at a local fabric store. My wife, thankfully, assisted me with the sewing.
Once the sewing was complete, I hot-glued the fabric to the inside of the hat.
I also added a ribbon and hot pink feathers to the front.
Oh yeah! This hat is so much better than my orange hat! I was really able to get into my monster voice when I read the book again!
I love the look in my daughter's eyes in this picture. Is she admiring my hat or is she thinking that her dad is nuts?
I guess she was admiring the hat!
My oldest son highly recommends reading Night Driving by John Coy and Peter McCarty:
Recently on a trip to my local library a librarian said to me, "You are checking out quite a few books today."
I replied, from behind my stack of fifty children's books, "I have four children and they each like to read different types of books." A friendly nod and a smile followed in between the beeps from the bar code scanner.
"I chose many of the books, too. I like to read children's books." I said proudly.
As an adult, I read children's books because each time I open one, I know there may be a surprise inside. I can learn something new or get lost in a great story or find a new book that my children will want me to read over and over. This week, what I found inside a book by Florence Minor inspired my family to return to one of our favorite places.
After reading Heidi as a child, Florence Minor, author of two acclaimed picture books, discovered a desire to travel abroad. "I had a poster of Zermatt (Switzerland) on my bedroom wall, and was determined to visit that beautiful country." She later spent three summers in Europe which she attributes to "much of my personal growth...all because of reading Heidi." (On Beyond Words and Pictures). Florence Minor's journey toward becoming a children's author benefited from her experience in the Alps and later her career as a film editor for ABC News. (Mazza Museum Summer Conference Keynote). She applied the business and editing skills she had learned in her first career to start another career in children's book publishing with with her husband Wendell Minor. Florence has edited many of Wendell's books including Wendell Minor: Art for the Written Word. (Pennsylvania's One Book Activity Guide). Wendell has illustrated both of Florence's picture books, Christmas Tree! and If You Were a Penguin. They are quite a team! Florence Minor admits, "I never thought I'd end up as a children's book author, but it just fit, it clicked -- we are really capable of much more than we think we are." (theday.com).
Christmas Tree! was Florence's first book. Kirkus Reviews said, "The poetic, rhyming text asks the reader in just a few words per page to imagine different kinds of trees." This book encourages children to imagine -- What kind of Christmas tree do think mice would have? Or how about dogs? What type of Christmas tree would you find atop a lighthouse or in a parade? The text is matched with beautiful illustrations and ends perfectly. I feel it would make a wonderful gift under your "Christmas Tree" this coming holiday.
When I first became a stay at home dad, my daughter and I spent a lot of time at our local zoo. Almost weekly we were visiting the lions, tigers, bears, and PENGUINS. We loved coming face to face with the penguins at the Akron Zoo. Here is one of my favorite pictures of my oldest daughter when she was one year old.
Fast forward a few years, when my oldest son was young enough to be carted around in the front seat of a stroller. My children were able to come face to face with the penguins while hearing me talk all about the penguins when I obtained a summer job in the education department of the zoo. My favorite talk I gave each day was at the penguin exhibit. Here is a picture of my children while I, in my maroon shirt, answered questions from zoo patrons.
I wish I would have had Florence Minor's book, If You Were a Penguin, the 2009 Pennsylvania's choice for ONE BOOK FOR EVERY YOUNG CHILD, when I was working at the zoo. It highlights so many of the things I loved to mention in my zoo talk -- penguins can "fly" underwater, penguins can live in warm and cold places, and baby penguins eat food directly from their parent's mouth! Florence Minor said, "After spending an afternoon with my four year old niece, Adrianna, the idea for If You Were a Penguin was born. Adrianna told us how much she loved penguins, and it was then that we decided how much fun it would be to do a book about penguins for Adrianna's age group." (Pennsylvania's One Book Activity Guide).
This book brought back so many great memories of being at the Akron Zoo that we returned to visit the penguins. I was so excited to take my youngest daughter for the first time!
My two penguin boys with their sister.
We read If Your Were a Penguin right next to the exhibit.
Then, one of the penguins became quite curious.
I think he liked what he saw!
We finished our visit with a ride on the carousel. My youngest son picked the perfect seat for his first carousel ride.
This week, I opened a book and found many memories. Then, I read the book to my children and made many more.
I emailed Florence Minor and asked her if she would share a birthday memory or a tradition. This was her response:
My mother was an excellent cook and baker, and so my sister and I got to request our favorite dinner and dessert for our birthdays. My dinner request was usually the same every year: chicken paprikash and spaetzel; but dessert was always the same: lemon meringue pie. I grew up on home baked goods, as my grandfather (my mother's father) had been a professional baker, and since he was the one who coached me through baking that special pie for the first time on my own, it always had, and continues to have, a special place in my heart (not to mention my taste buds!).
Florence, my family hopes you have a fabulous birthday filled with family, friends, fun...and some yummy baked goods! Thank you so much for sharing about your birthday! And I can't wait until June 2013 to read your next book, If You Were a Panda Bear!
What is your earliest memory of having someone read a chapter book to you? Do you have a memory of reading a chapter book to a child?
I remember my second grade teacher reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The memory is still very clear -- the classroom, my teacher, her desk, how the student desks were arranged, where she kept the Chronicles of Narnia boxed set on her bookshelf.
The first chapter book I read to my daughter was The Seeing Stone of the Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi. I was tutoring a fourth grader that was obsessed with the books, so I thought I would give them a try myself. My daughter noticed I was reading something without her, did not want to be left out of a good book, and asked that I read them to her. We breezed through the series that summer.
Josh Alves is an illustrator and designer that has leveraged the power of social media and networking to quickly become noticed in the publishing world. According to his website, "After spending nearly a decade working for one of the largest daily newspapers I decided to take the plunge into full-time illustration and design in early 2011." He has used the social networking site Twitter, to land many illustrations jobs. It later helped him get in touch with the art director that selected him to illustrate the Zeke Meeks chapter books. (joshalves.com) The first four books of the Zeke Meeks series, which feature his "Saturday morning cartoon" illustration style (Capstone Kids), became available in January 2012 and four more books are coming in January 2013. He has also written and designed the interactive eBooks Baxter Beaver's Bad Breath and Even a Mouse which are available from the Interactive Touch Books App. My kids were also impressed with the Tongue Flied game app that he illustrated and designed for the iPad and iPhone.
We began our birthday celebration for Josh Alves by reading two Zeke Meeks chapter books. My five-year-old son loved them and talked me into reading more chapters than I bargained for each night before bed. Zeke is a third grader who is not the smartest or most popular kid in his class. He loves TV and video games, really hates bugs, and is scared of his classmate Grace Chang's fingernails. There was a lot to like about this book including the silly rhymes sung by Zeke's younger sister Mia, illustrations to accompany the text on just about every page spread, and lots of boy-humor! These were great books to be the first chapter books that I read to my son. But, it is important to note that my daughter highly recommends the books too as she was equally as entertained.
We also really enjoyed the Josh Alves' interactive eBook Baxter Beaver's Bad Breath. It has catchy background music, many subtle interactive elements, and a fun to read alliterative text. When I read the eBook to my kids my daughter said, "There are a lot of Bs in this book." Alliteration, the repetition of a particular sound, became the focus of our birthday celebration activity.
We got out our art supplies and drawing paper.
Next, we talked about the title of the book and how all the words began with the letter B and the /b/ sound. I asked my older two children to think of an animal that they would like to draw. Then, to think of a name for that animal that had the same letter and sound. Lastly, they had to come up with a problem or silly situation for the animal that also began with the letter and sound. I never imagined that my children would get so excited about this simple activity.
My son decided to draw a bee. Then, he realized his best friend's name also began with a "b". Then, with a little assistance he came up with "bad burps" as the problem for his bee.
My daughter came up with "Harry Hippo's Humongous Hiccups". It was harder for her to come up with how to draw a hippo than it was to come up with the animal and his problem.
On this particular evening, my wife was working late, and I told my kiddos to keep working while I put our 7 month old baby to bed. To my surprise, after I successfully got my daughter to go to bed I found that my kids were going nuts with alliterative drawings. Together they came up with "Perry Penguin's Protective Parrot". Notice that Perry's protective parrot is trying to warn him about the cracks in the ice.
"Lauren Lion's Large Lice" - YIKES!
"Larry Lion's Large Lumps". I wonder if he knows Lauren Lion!
My daughter continued throughout the week making more and more drawings. This is "Florence Flamingo's Floppy Feet".
This is "Tyler Tiger's Tremendous Toots". I told my two kids that they had lots of great ideas for picture books!
I emailed Josh Alves to ask him to share a birthday memory or tradition. This was his response:
As for birthday traditions - since it's usually so close to Thanksgiving (and like this year, ON Thanksgiving), I remember getting to mix celebrations. It usually involved dressing up as a pilgrim or a Native American (complete with paper bag vest!) and making homemade butter.
Josh, thank you so much for taking the time to share a few birthday thoughts. We hope you have a wonderful birthday and Thanksgiving with your family. We didn't want you to be without homemade butter on your birthday so my boys shook some up for you! Have a great birthday!
We shook up cream in small mason jars to make our homemade butter.
It was pretty yummy on crackers! Happy Birthday Josh Alves!