Saturday, June 17, 2017

Happy Birthday, Chris Van Allsburg - June 18

Happy Birthday, Chris Van Allsburg - June 18

This is a quick post to let you know that our family is still celebrating author birthdays despite our busy life. Today we had a laid-back day at home and decided to just play games. We started with a good ol' game of Uno and then it was my youngest son's turn to pick a game. He picked Jumanji! I said, "Great pick! Tomorrow is Chris Van Allsburg's birthday. It is a great way to celebrate."

We read Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg and then played the board game. 
After we played, I wanted to have a little more fun by taking a picture of the game by a tree in our backyard. In the book, Judy and Peter discover the game by a tree in the park.
I talked my kiddos into acting out that part of the story.

"What's that?" Judy asked.
"It's a game," said Peter, handing her the box.
"Jumanji," Judy read from the box, "'A JUNGLE ADVENTURE GAME.'"
"Look," said Peter, pointing to a note taped to the bottom of the box. In a childlike handwriting were the words "Free game, fun for some but not for all. P.S. Read instructions carefully."
After Jumanji, I reminded them that we also own the game Zathura. This game is based on the book (and movie) which is a companion to Jumanji. This game is a space adventure instead of a jungle adventure.  
The best part about this game is that the cards pop out of this device after a quick turn of the red handle.
A fun afternoon with great books and fun games.
Happy Birthday to one of our favorite authors, Chris Van Allsburg!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Happy Birthday, Charles Santore - March 16

Happy Birthday, Charles Santore - March 16

Charles Santore's birthday came at the perfect time for my soon-to-be-five-year-old daughter. During the past few weeks she has become a huge fan of illustrated "classics". Her love for stories like Beauty and Beast and Aladdin has been nourished by her mom who reads her a few pages each night before she falls asleep. This week when I asked my daughter if I could read her a story from a new book, Treasury of Children's Classics, illustrated by Charles Santore, she asked, "Are these classics?" I said, "Yes! You can choose from Aesop's Fables, Snow White, or The Wizard of Oz. She chose Snow White and our birthday celebration for Charles Santore was underway.

Charles Santore is the illustrator of many classic stories including The Little Mermaid, The Velveteen Rabbit, and The Night Before Christmas. He has also written a few books of his own including William the Curious: Knight of the Water Lilies and Three Hungry Pigs and the Wolf Who Came to Dinner. Santore's career didn't start as a creator of children's books although he always thought it sounded like something he wanted to do. First, he attended art school at Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art and then spent over twenty-five years in advertising and magazine illustration.

In 1984, he got his chance to create a children's book, but his instincts told him maybe this wasn't the right project. Beatrix Potter's stories had recently entered the public domain and a local Philadelphia book publisher asked Santore if he would like to illustrate a book about Peter Rabbit. In his keynote at the Mazza Museum, he said that he initially didn't think it was a good idea. He thought, "You shouldn't touch Beatrix Potter." He also cringed at the thought of spending a year on a project when he was used to the shorter time lines of advertising illustration. However, he took a chance, found success with The Classic Tale of Peter Rabbit and Other Cherished Stories, and described the opportunity to make this book as a "life-changing" event. (Mazza Museum Keynote and At the Shore Online).

Get a glimpse into Santore's studio and a peek at his amazing artwork in the short video below.

In an interview with At the Shore Online Charles Santore said, "I like to challenge myself with books that have been illustrated throughout the years and see if I can do something different with them." This was the case when he was approached to illustrate The Wizard of Oz.  It was a project he initially wasn't interested in doing because he said, "I didn't like the movie." But, after reading the book by L. Frank Baum he was convinced it was something he wanted do. Santore recalled, "On the very first page, it mentions that Dorothy is an orphan. And that sort of opened up the story for me. The whole thing came into focus, the Yellow Brick Road as a metaphor for self-discovery." (San Diego Union Tribune).

Shortly after reading Snow White my daughter asked, "Can we read another story?" She chose The Wizard of Oz. When I started I didn't realize the book was over 90 pages long, but when I reached about the seventieth page I asked myself, How is she is still listening? Are we going to finish this book in one sitting? Also, around the seventieth page I had an idea to bring the book to life for my daughter.
The day after finishing the book in one sitting we set out to discover if we could turn these old bricks from the backyard into bricks from the Yellow Brick Road.
A snow day allowed Big Sister to help with the project.
We painted the bricks with multi-purpose primer. 
We wanted our bricks to be sparkly so we added some fine gold glitter to the bright yellow acrylic paint.
We love the magic of glitter.
After the primer dried we painted the bricks yellow.
The paint dried over night. 
My oldest daughter had the opportunity to make the yellow brick extra special after a second snow day!
There is no place like home here in Ohio where we get two snow days in the middle of March!
This was my yellow brick.
My youngest daughter decorated her brick too!
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin.
Charles Santore's latest book is Alice's Adventures UndergroundHe talked at length at the Mazza Museum about his process. He reads the story over and over, doodles while reading, and makes many sketches. If needed, models pose for photographs after the "choreography" of the book is set. Then, there is more sketching and refining and color sketches and finally painting. Most of his artwork is in watercolor. 
It takes Charles Santore over two years to make a book! It took him three years to make The Wizard of Oz!
Charles Santore is pictured in the middle of this great group with Mark Teague, Sherri Duskey Rinker, Shutta Crum, Kevin Cordi, and Sophie Blackall! (from left to right). This photo was taken at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2015.
Charles, it was a pleasure to meet you and to listen to you read Paul Revere's Ride at the Mazza Museum. Thank you for creating "classic" picture books for us to enjoy as a family. We hope you have a wonderful birthday!

1. Follow Charles Santore on Facebook
2. Interview - A NEW LOOK AT AN OLD WIZARD - San Diego Union Tribune
3. Acclaimed children's book illustrator Santore presents 'Alice' at Stockholm through March - At the Shore Online 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Happy Birthday, Brian Biggs - March 9

Happy Birthday, Brian Biggs - March 9

Oh, the "dog days" of parenting...Wait. Is there such a thing? Maybe, but I didn't know it when they were happening.

From my vantage point, the "dog days" of parenting were about four years ago, when I only had one child in full-day school. We could go about our day at our own schedule and our own speed. I was warned by friends with older children, Parenting gets harder when your children get older. If what they meant by harder, meant busier, then I agree.

Now I have children going every which way. We just set up my middle-school-aged daughter with a Google calendar so she could share her busy schedule with us so we know when and where we need to pick her up. My oldest son gets home from school, drops his book bag on the floor and is out the door to play basketball or football with his friends. What am I going to do when the youngest two are heading to social events? Wait. My four-year-old daughter has a play date tomorrow and my youngest son has a birthday party to go to this weekend! Ahhhhh! (The birthday party sounds really cool. I am kinda jealous I can't go. It's one of those painting parties.)

I think what my family needs is some down time where we can just chill out together. (Wave my magic wand and say a few magic words.)

Presto! It's Tuesday night. My daughter's meeting with her Robotics team was moved up to after school instead of the evening. It was pouring down rain so playing basketball and football was out. The play date is tomorrow. The birthday party is this weekend. Wait. It's after dinner and everybody is actually home?!?!

What should we do? Maybe, a painting party to celebrate Brian Biggs' birthday?

Brian Biggs is the illustrator of over 70 books including the Roscoe Riley Rules series by Katherine Applegate, the Frank Einstein series by Jon Scieszka, and the Brownie and Pearl series by Cynthia Rylant. He has written and illustrated many of his own books too, including the Tinyville Town series and the Everything Goes series.

Brian attended Parsons School of Design to study graphic design. During his junior year he studied in Paris and took a life-changing class about the business of illustration. He felt this class made him an illustrator. After college he was an art director, comic book artist, graphic novelist, graphic designer and more. Then, when his kids were young, he started thinking about illustrating for children. (Mazza Museum Keynote, Fall Conference 2016).

At first, he created artwork for things like bike helmets and toys. Then, his big break came in 2004 when he illustrated the Shedderman series by Wendelin Van Draanen. He said, "I was drawing anything anyone would give me, but I didn't have 'my voice.'" In 2008, he illustrated a poster for the Philadelphia Book Festival and became the "busy guy". I think Brian meant "busy" as in the illustration style in his fun-to-look-at books like the Everything Goes series.  But, it is clear Brian is just a BUSY guy, having illustrated over 70 books since 2004. His latest book is Tinyville Town: I'm a Librarian.

I couldn't believe we had a break from our busy schedules to sit down as a family to do a project together. Our inspiration for the project came from one of Brian's illustrations in Dog Days of School by Kelly DiPucchio. This story is about a boy name Charlie who gets anxious every Sunday night before the next school day and wishes he could stay home like his dog Norman. When Charlie wakes up on Monday, he and Norman have switched places. Norman is off to school to do boy things and Charlie stays at home to do dog things.

This illustration is Norman's self-portrait he painted at school. This reminded me of a painting party like the one my son gets to go to. I wondered if we could have a painting party at home and recreate this illustration.
My oldest daughter said, because she has been to a few, "At painting parties the instructor draws with a pencil on the canvas to get you started."  So, I drew a circle for Norman's nose.
We prepared the paint plates.
We reviewed the story. My youngest daughter picked it the night before for bedtime books.
They started with the nose. Then we made the nose into a lollipop by drawing a line down. 
We flipped the paintings upside down and painted a "J" to make Norman's head.
Lookin' good!
My son was mad about his "J". He wanted it to be "perfect". I was pleased he was able to realize that his Norman was looking great.
His sister thought so too.
After adding a collar, eyes, and an ear they chose their favorite color for the background.
Norman, painted by my oldest son.
Working hard.
Well done by my four-year-old!
My oldest daughter and my wife contributed a wonderful painting too!
Parenting was easier (and less busy) four years ago, and I am certainly thankful for a night like this.

Oh...and sorta off topic...
My daughter and I made dog biscuits for a morning snack while everyone else was at school.
Not real dog biscuits, but breakfast biscuit/cookies cut out with a dog-shaped cookie cutter. We pretended to be Charlie from Dog Days of School. Woof!
We used a recipe from Tasty Kitchen. Yum!
Check out Brian's latest book, Noisy Night, written by Mac Barnett and watch out for Tinyville Town Time for School! in July 2017.

1. Brian Biggs' website
2. Follow Brian on Twitter, Facebook
3. Everything Goes Website
4. Interviews - School Library Journal, Seven Impossible Things, This Kid Reviews Books, Middle Grade Mafia, Pots and Pens

Greetings from Tinyville Town from Brian Biggs on Vimeo.

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