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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: betsy lewin, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Top 100 Picture Books #39: Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin

#39 Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Betsy Lewin (2000)
43 points

Si, se puede!  Yes they can!  When Labor Day rolls around and I need to make a labor-related book display (oh yeah, that’s how I roll) what do I like to pull out?  Nothing short of the old Click, Clack, Moo.  We’ve talked about how a lot of the books on this list make for good readalouds, but this book is, for me, a staple.  I sometimes forget how good it is too.  So simple.  So perfect.  “The duck was a neutral party.”  How you top sentences like that?

Children’s Literature described the plot as, ” ‘Cows that type? Impossible!’ That’s what Farmer Brown thinks when he first hears the ‘click, clack’ from the barn, but then he reads the note the cows write him. All they want is electric blankets for the cold barn. When he refuses, they go on strike. What’s worse for the farmer is that the strike spreads to the cold hens as well. Duck finally negotiates a compromise. Unfortunately for Farmer Brown, the ducks have learned from all this, leaving us with a smile at the ending.”

Yup.  It’s a picture book about the man keeping you down.  I wish I could remember whether or not it appears in Tales for Little Rebels (no index) or I’d quote you some good old-fashioned union politics as well.  Ah well.  For now we’ll just have to leave it at “really good story” and be satisfied with that.  Eventually the duck would come to rule the series, but in this tale he has a relatively understated (comically so) role.

Some folks have told me that the book is outdated because kids don’t know what typewriters are anymore.  You say outdated, I say classic.  Even if you don’t initially recognize what a typewriter is, it explains itself pretty well right from the start.  Besides, if it were a laptop then the title might have been Tip, Tap, Moo and that’s far less interesting.

Publishers Weekly said of it, “Kids and underdogs everywhere will cheer for the clever critters that calmly and politely stand up for their rights, while their human caretaker becomes more and more unglued.”

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2. Reading the World Challenge 2011 – Update 1

It’s not too late to join this year’s Reading the World Challenge if you haven’t already – just take a look at this post for details.

In our family we have all joined together and read picture books set in Mongolia, which is our current focus on PaperTigers. I had to hunt around a bit but we came up with a good selection. I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail here as they are all gathered up in my Personal View, Taking a step into children’s books about Mongolia. We have really enjoyed delving into the culture and heritage of Mongolia and these picture books have been read all together and individually.

One bedtime Older Brother read Horse Song: the Naadam of Mongolia by Ted and Betsy Lewin (Lee and Low, 2008) to Little Brother – quite a long read and they were both engrossed. Watching them from the outside, as it were, I came to an added appreciation of the dynamics of Ted and Betsy’s collaboration, both in the energy of their shared enthusiasm and participation in the events surrounding the famous horse-race, and also of being struck by a busy, crowded scene one page and then giggling at the turn of expression on an individual study’s face the next.

And I’ll just share with you Little Brother’s reaction to Suho’s White Horse, which you can read about in a bit more detail in my Books at Bedtime post earlier this week:

It was a moving story. The governor made me angry because he broke his word and was cruel to Suho and his horse.
[Listening to the musical version played on the Mongolian horsehead fiddle, the morin khuur] Once you know the story, you can tell which part of the music is telling which part of the story. How do they make that music with just two strings? It fills me with awe.

I also read The Horse Boy: A Father’s Miraculous Journey to Heal His Son by Rupert Isaacson (Viking, 2009), an amazing story of a family’s journey to Mongolia in search of horses and shamans to seek healing for the torments that were gripping their five-year-old autistic son’s life: as Isaacson puts it with great dignity, his “emotional and physical incontinence”. If you have already read this humbling, inspiring book (and even if you haven’t), take a look at this recent interview three years on from their adventurous journey. Now I need to see the film!

And talking of films (which we don’t very often on PaperTigers, but I can’t resist mentioning this one), The Story of the Weeping Camel is a beautiful, gentle film that takes you right to the heart of Mongolian life on the steppe. Who would have thought a documentary film about a camel could be so like watching a fairy tale? Don’t be put off by the subtitles – our boys love this film. Take a look at the trailer –

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3. Click, Clack, Who? Betsy Lewin Visits our School!

clickclackmooWhat a lucky duck–I got to meet the moovelous Betsy Lewin this week. The whimsical illustrator of Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type and countless other barnyard books visited our local elementary school and entertained the kids with a mix of slide show, drawing lesson and Q&A.

Two Kindergarten classes filed into the library with clipboards and crayons, eager to learn from a master cartooner.

But first, Mrs. Lewin showed photos of her 120 year-old Brooklyn brownstone. Her living room is filled with souvenirs from her world travels–Africa, Australia, the Galapagos–places where she has observed animals and gained inspiration. When she showed her husband’s studio on the fourth floor, she pointed out that it was far bigger than hers, not because he was more important, but because it also housed a photography studio. Ted Lewin paints his realistic watercolors by studying photographs. He pays neighborhood kids to model for him. “Anybody want to move to Brooklyn?” she asked. (My hand went up!)

Mrs. Lewin brought along her cartoon friend, Weirdly, to show the children how to draw expressions: mad, sad, excited, laid back and cool, mischievious, shy. “Weirdly helps me draw ’sound’ words like BOOM and CRASH because sometimes I can’t imagine what they look like,” she explained.

She also showed her first draft cover for Doreen Cronin’s Duck for President. The original cover depicted a national political convention. The point of view is Duck’s, looking out over the crowd (we see his back and tail, wings outstretched). In the front row there’s Farmer Brown, some cows and chickens, Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. Red, white and blue balloons are falling from the ceiling as the crowd holds signs with slogan spoofs like “The Duck Stops Here,” “I like Duck,” and “A Veggie in Every Pot.”

Then her publisher decided they didn’t want political sayings on the cover, so they asked her to write signs with all 50 states. She soon realized that wouldn’t work. “Which states should go on the front cover? Which states should go on the back? It wouldn’t be fair. What about M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I? That’s too long!”

duckforprezUltimately they decided to put Duck on the podium with just three signs: DUCK, Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin. PERFECT!

The hilarious moment came when Mrs. Lewis showed a photo of someone in a cow costume, typing away. She said the photo was sent to her in an unmarked package. Then she asked, “Does anyone know what Doreen Cronin was before she became a children’s author?” One kid had an answer. ”A cow?”

Much to his disappointment, no. Ms. Cronin was a lawyer, just like Mrs. Lewin’s brother, a judge, who had sent the funny cow costume photo. (Yep, lawyers are some of the funniest people I know. My own father included.)

Next, Mrs. Lewin showed the children how to draw a lion with a few easy steps. She broke it down into wiggly lines, circles and half circles and then had the kids decide how they wanted to draw the eyes–happy, sad or angry–with just a slant of the eybrows. She had the first row stand up to show the rest of the audience how different each lion was, as different as they were. “And that’s what makes you so special,” she said. “You’re the only you in the whole world.”

After some questions and answers–her favorite books as a child were Winnie the Pooh and Call of the Wild–she asked the children for suggestions of what to draw. An animal lover and observer all her life, Mrs. Lewin grew up in rural Pennsylvania surrounded by farms. She would watch the animals intently so she could remember how to draw them. She doesn’t need to look at an example as she creates. She can draw anything!

Mrs. Lewin draws with quick strokes, and it’s amazing to watch how these simple lines and squiggles magically come together  to form monkeys, elephants, rocket ships and knights in shining armor. Two lucky ducks, I mean kids, even got their portraits drawn.

The most interesting part of the presentation was when Mrs. Lewin showed the difference between her original black and white drawings for her debut 1979 book, Cat Count, and the new full-color edition. In the new release, she gave two dancing felines a blue room lit with the shimmering, sparkling light of a disco ball. The way the dots played on the page gave the scene a magical feel, as if it could lift right out of the book and tango around the room.

I’ll use the saying “lucky duck” one last time: how fortunate children are to have such marvelous books illustrated by a true genius. Thank you, Betsy Lewin!

8 Comments on Click, Clack, Who? Betsy Lewin Visits our School!, last added: 5/22/2009
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4. Drawn In Brooklyn! Exhibition at the BPL

image: Sophie Blackall – Big Red Lollipop

As is now routine, I moseyed through the park and did my weekly grocery shopping at the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket on Saturday.  This time, though, I wasn’t too loaded down with pickles and goat cheese, and actually had the energy to stop at the Central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

I’d been meaning to hit the BPL because, though I’ve always been a huge library supporter (it’s in my blood, thanks mom and dad), lately I’ve been in the bad habit of buying books instead.  But with student loans looming this November (it’s been nearly 6 months already?!), it is time to tighten the finances and catch up on my reading – for free.

I was disappointed that I didn’t find anything super fresh and exciting in the YA section… but I guess it’s good that teens are checking them all out. Next time, I’ll have to bring a bigger list. I DID get the chance to see the Drawn In Brooklyn! exhibition of children’s illustration – and that, in itself, was worth the trip.

Drawn In Brooklyn! is a 4-month long festival of 34 local artists, celebrating the borough with the largest concentration of children’s book illustrators on the planet. In close proximity to Manhattan, illustrators can network with the publishing and art worlds first-hand… but then find both community inspiration and a bit of creative peace back here.  No wonder Brooklyn is home to, well, almost everyone I admire.

image: Peter Brown – Chowder

In the vast display of work in the Grand Lobby of the BPL, there were many, many familiar names, including personal heroes (Leo and Diane Dillon, Ted and Betsy Lewin, Paul O. Zelinsky), current favorites (Sophie Blackall, Peter Brown) and former professors (Pat Cummings, Megan Montague Cash). Also, a few illustrators I’d never heard of before: both Daniel Salmieri and Sergio Ruzzier‘s whimsical, quirky characters made me smile.  Here they are below!

image: Daniel Salmie

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5. collective bargaining

1 Comments on collective bargaining, last added: 3/16/2011
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