Monday, November 16, 2015

Happy Birthday, Marilyn Sadler - November 17

Happy Birthday, Marilyn Sadler - November 17

Last July, at a local author fair, my family had the opportunity to meet Marilyn Sadler. At the time, we knew her only as the author of the P.J. Funnybunny books, but this week we learned so much more! We learned she is one of the most successful children's authors from Ohio, a children's television producer, and has written picture books for over 30 years. Plus, one her latest picture books is about one of our favorite foods, MACARONI AND CHEESE!

Marilyn Sadler is the author of over 35 books for children including P.J. Funnybunny Camps Out, Alistair in Outer Space, and Ten Eggs in a Nest. She attended college at Ohio State University and earned a degree in fine arts. Her first job was at the Cleveland Museum of Art as the registrar. ( As her website states, "she assumed she would be an illustrator," but after working as a freelance copywriter on a project with artist, Roger Bollen, things went a little different than expected.

She started writing books with Roger and discovered that "writing was her true love." ( The duo sold their first book, Alistair's Elephant in 1983. Their next book was It's Not Easy Being a Bunny featuring P.J. Funnybunny. This book was very successful as it was included in Dr. Seuss's Beginning Book Series. The book was ranked #144 on Publisher's Weekly list of top selling children's books of all-time. My family highly recommends both the Alistair series and any book with P.J. Funnybunny!

In addition to her children's books, Marilyn Sadler found success in children's television. Her chapter book, Stuck on Earth: Zenon, Girl of the 21st Century became one of Disney Channel's most successful movies. Alistair was featured on Reading Rainbow and P.J. Funnybunny starred in three television shows.  Also, Marilyn Sadler created the highly acclaimed Handy Manny show for Disney Junior. "Handy Manny started with Marilyn Sadler and Roger Bollen; I guess it was some execs at Disney who were looking for a preschool show for boys. Marilyn and Roger were sent off with that mission and they came back with this idea of a repairman with talking tools. They pitched it to them, and it was off and running." (Handy Manny Producer Rick Gitelson,

On your next trip to the library look for Marilyn Sadler's latest picture books; Alice from Dallas (illustrated by Ard Hoyt), Tony Baroni Love Macaroni (illustrated by Lucie Crovatto), and Charlie Piechart and the Case of the Missing Pizza Slice (illustrated by Eric Comstock).

Marilyn Sadler autographed one of those new books, Tony Baroni Loves Macaroni for our family at the local author fair. When I opened the book this week I immediately had two activity ideas that I knew would be perfect for Marilyn Sadler's birthday celebration; macaroni heart-shaped ornaments and "I Love Macaroni" bowls.

Two activity ideas from one page spread.
Tony Baroni really loves macaroni. His Nonna Sofia wishes he didn't eat macaroni for breakfast, at noon, and then at dinner with a big serving spoon. She tries to break his eating habit by preparing many tasty pasta dishes, but Tony refuses. Then one day, all by himself, he decides enough is enough and asks Nonna to make him a new meal. The new meal is a winner, but Tony now wants it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Nonna Sofia can only smile and so will your family when they read this book!
My youngest two children were in a crafty-mood one day after school this week. I seized this creative energy by asking my son to draw a heart on the back of a cereal box. I said, "Can you draw one bigger?" He drew another heart. I said, "Can you draw a bigger one?" He drew another heart. I said, "Perfect."  We used this drawing for their macaroni heart-shaped ornaments.
They cut out the heart shape, punched a hole near the top, and threaded and tied a green ribbon. 
Then, things got sticky.
My children squirted glue all over the cardboard heart and pressed in the macaroni noodles. My daughter said, "Oh, we can put these up on the Christmas tree when they dry!"
My son piled more and more macaroni noodles. He squirted glue all over the top to make sure the all the noodles would stick when dried (and they did!). 
The macaroni ornaments dried on a piece of aluminum foil. I thought it would be better for them to stick to the foil than to the table!
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin this picture.
The second birthday celebration activity was to make personalized "I Love Macaroni" bowls just like Tony Baroni's bowl in the book. The goal of this project was for my children design their own macaroni bowl with their name and then we would use the bowls to eat homemade macaroni and cheese for dinner.

I researched this project to make sure it wouldn't fail. I investigated numerous "Design Your Own Bowl" activity kits but found them too expensive. I found many DIY Sharpie Marker projects online but results were varied. I couldn't decide what to do so I went to Wal-Mart to see what I could find. I thought maybe I could find plastic bowls they could draw on.

Surprisingly, I couldn't find white plastic bowls. But, I did find inexpensive ceramic bowls in the dinnerware aisle. While at the store I read more articles about people using Sharpies to decorate mugs, but there was no clear successes on how to keep the marker from washing off. Since, the bowls were only 88 cents I decided to give it a try.

While all of my children were at school I wrote with red Sharpie marker on the bottom of a bowl. Then, put the bowl in the unheated oven, turned it on and brought it to a temperature of 450 degrees. Once, it was at 450 degree, I set the timer for 30 minutes. The theory behind this approach was that the glaze on the bowl would heat up and incorporate the ink. Then, when it cooled the ink would be a part of the glaze. This approach made sense to me.
The ink looked like this before the 30 minutes in the oven.
And like this after the 30 minutes in the oven. The red ink faded to orange, but it didn't wash off! This was good enough for me. I decided to try it with the family.
Later that day, I assembled the family and they started decorating right away. I said, "Wait! Stop!" I had a few things to tell them. "First, your colors may change, so don't be mad if you write your name in blue and it turns gray. Second, turn your bowl right-side-up to write your name otherwise it will be upside down!"
My youngest son used a red marker to draw a sun because he knew it would turn orange.
She turned her bowl right-side-up to write an important message.
What's itironophobia? I had no idea. She told me it means having a fear of noodles. Who knew? My daughter just wrote a story for a school assignment about a girl with this unfortunate phobia. How awful would that be? Tony Baroni definitely doesn't have itironophobia!
All the decorating was added to the outside of the bowl. If the Sharpie did come off we didn't want purple macaroni!
My youngest son thought he was finished with this project a few times, but felt he could add just few more designs.
Our bowls were decorated, but I was a little nervous for the next step.
Remember -- put the bowls in a cold oven, bring to 450 degrees, and then bake for 30 minutes. Let the bowls cool on the kitchen counter. 
The bowls worked! Some colors faded more than others, but overall they turned out great. I hand-washed them twice without problems. I would suggest hand-drying them too! 
The next night for dinner I made homemade macaroni and cheese. Here is a link to my favorite recipe.
A family meal served in bowls we designed! This family loves macaroni and cheese and Tony Baroni Loves Macaroni!
Marilyn, our family hopes you have a wonderful birthday. It was so nice to meet and talk with you at Loganberry Books last summer. Thank you for writing books that kept our family entertained all week!

1. Marilyn Sadler's Website
2. Follow Marilyn Sadler on Facebook and Twitter
3. Charlie Piechart and the Case of the Missing Pizza Slice Activity Guide
4. Interview -
5. Alistair in Outer Space on Reading Rainbow - YouTube
6. How Well Do You Remember Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century - BuzzFeed
7. Disney's Handy Manny Series
8. P.J. Funnybunny TV Episode - YouTube
9. Elizabeth and Larry animated show - YouTube
10. Photos from premiere of the Handy Manny show - Getty Images

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Happy Birthday, Lois Ehlert - November 9

Every November 1st, for the past five years or so, I make sure our stack of books by Lois Ehlert is visible for my children -- a few books on the floor in the family room, a couple on the couch, and the rest on the bookshelf upstairs. I have found that my children can't resist reading her books when they see them. They will sit and independently read or choose for me to read them for before bedtime reading. For me, her books always have a way of inspiring an activity idea for us to do as family.

This year I picked up her book Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A to Z. I recalled a quote I read five years ago from an interview Lois Ehlert had with Teaching Books:

"There's a fruit and vegetable store near my house that I've gone to for many, many years. At the beginning of my creation of Eating the Alphabet, I went to the grocery store once a week, usually on Saturday to buy fruits and vegetables alphabetically. I started with the A's: apples, artichokes, and asparagus. And then I would take them home and do a painting of all of them (this is before I even had the format of the book figured out), and then I'd eat them. The next week I'd go back to the store for the B's and so on.  I wondered if someone at the store would notice and start to talk about this lady that would come in and buy only fruits and vegetables that began with the letter A, or B, or C, but they were very discreet. The employees never did question me about it. But when I had the whole book finished, I showed it to them."

I wanted to try this with my two youngest children. It was such a simple idea -- go to the grocery store, pick out fruits and veggies, and do a painting of them. I knew they would love it.

I told them, before we went to the store, about Lois Ehlert and how she shopped every Saturday, alphabetically. My son said with a smile on his face, "Are we going to do that for the whole alphabet?" I said, "If you want to, but I was thinking today you could pick out two of your favorite fruits and veggies, tell me what letter they start with, and then you can do a painting of them." He thought it was a good idea once he realized he would need to go to the grocery store every Saturday for about six months to get through the whole alphabet.
They had a burst of excitement and energy when they got to the market. They wanted to pick the first thing they saw. I encouraged them to check out all the fruits and vegetables in the produce section to make sure they were choosing something they wanted to paint and EAT!
His first choice was a zucchini. He said, "We can use this to make bread."
She almost picked a carrot, but changed her mind.
We were surprised to find baby bananas and red bananas.
We found papayas in the store and in the book.
He said, "I don't like to eat watermelons, but I really do like to look at them."
We found sweet potatoes, but were surprised to not find them on the S page. Then, we saw the sign in the bin that said "yams" and found them on the Y page.
She picked a navel orange to "suck out the juice." 
This red pepper was too beautiful not to buy.
We made few more choices before we left -- strawberries, grapes, a blood orange, and a pepino melon.
"For Eating the Alphabet I made those papers -- the watercolor, the texturizing. I did a lot of that before I even got to the illustrations. And quite honestly I didn't know what would turn out well and what wouldn't. You have to allow a lot of extra time. Somebody once said to me, 'You know, you could get some of those textures on a computer.' My answer was, 'Why would I want to do that?' Because to me part of the pleasure of being an artist is that you see and you touch. I don't want to hurry it." (Lois Ehlert from an interview with The Horn Book).

 I told my children, before we started painting, that Lois Ehlert did watercolor collage for the final illustrations of Eating the Alphabetoffered that they could just paint papers with different watercolors and then cut and paste shapes to make their fruits and veggies.

My children decisively said, "No. We just want to paint."
And paint they did.
My daughter started by painting a strawberry.
My son painted an orange. He was quite pleased with the brown spot he painted on the orange.
"Daddy, can I eat a strawberry now?"
He was pretty excited about this activity.
I picked this pepino melon because I thought it looked like it was painted with watercolors.
Strawberries and grapes! Yum! (Well, not so much. He didn't like the grapes for some reason.)
Their paintings of fruits and veggies inspired another set of paintings. This time they painted trees and flowers.
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin this picture.
Later for dinner he really enjoyed the blood orange. He squeezed out the juice and drank the "blood juice" like a vampire.
This was such a fun experience with my children. I am already looking forward to next year to see what our stack of books by Lois Ehlert will inspire us to create.

Check out Lois Ehlert's latest book, Holey Moley (just released October 2015):


This week, my son was so excited to find Lois Ehlert's Leaf Man at his school library. He came home and declared, "Tomorrow we need to go on a leaf hunt." So we did!

1. Happy Birthday Author Celebrations for Lois Ehlert - Scraps and RRRalph - 2014, Planting a Rainbow and Fish Eyes - 2013, Pie in the Sky - 2011, Leaf Man and Wag a Tail - 2010
2. Interviews - Reading RocketsHarcourtJust One More BookTeaching BooksBookPage (2014)The Horn Book (2015)
3. Lois Ehlert Author Study with over 100 activity ideas - Educator's Spin On It
4. LEAF MAN Teacher's Guide - Harcourt
5. 5 Questions for Lois Ehlert (2014) - Horn Book
6. Milwaukee Studio Visit (Milwaukee Art Museum Blog) - Part 1Part 2

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Happy Birthday, Elisa Kleven - October 14

Happy Birthday, Elisa Kleven - October 14

Our routine for celebrating an author birthday, typically, is to begin reading as many books as we can the week before the birthday and culminate with a family activity. Then I write up a blog post about our reading experience in time to share with you on the author's birthday. However this time, to celebrate Elisa Kleven's birthday, we started our celebration on her actual birthday and finished our family reading experience eight days later! This author birthday celebration didn't follow our normal routine and the activity took lots of patience, but it was one that was worth the wait!

Elisa Kleven is the author and illustrator of The Paper Princess, Sun Bread, and A Monster in the House. As a child, Elisa was blessed to have a grandmother and mother who were both artists. Her grandmother was sculptor and her mother was a print maker.  Elisa said, "Both of these women encouraged my creativity. They often took me and my sisters and brother to museums, and gave us art supplies for birthday and holiday gifts." ( Elisa decided at a very early age that she wanted to be a children's author and illustrator, but she claims "I didn't practice drawing as much as [a future children's author-illustrator] ought to have." (Seven Impossible Things).

After studying literature and education at University of California at Berkley she became a teacher. She taught fourth grade, art, and loved reading books to children. These experiences helped her recall her childhood dream of making picture books. In 1988, after working hard to improve her artwork she published her first book, The Merry-Go-Round Dog. Her second book, Ernst, was a huge hit and led to over fifteen more books with her publisher. Elisa Kleven latest books are Cozy Light, Cozy Night and Glasswings: A Butterfly Story.

Last year, I checked out many of Elisa Kleven's books and read them around her birthday. My favorite book was The Apple Doll. In this story, Lizzy is nervous about making friends as a new school year starts. She makes a doll out of an apple and a twig from her favorite tree and takes it to school on the first day. Her teacher informs her that she will not be allowed to have the apple doll at school, but she could bring it back on sharing day. The next week is a lonely time for Lizzy at school without her apple doll. To make matters worse, the apple doll was starting to get mushy. Lizzy's mother remembered making an apple doll when she was younger and helps Lizzy dry her apple so her doll could last forever. This allows Lizzy to show the class the dried apple doll on sharing day. The other children love her apple doll. Soon, "apple people dance in the classroom" and Lizzy has "many new friends to play with at home" in the apple tree.

When I read The Apple Doll last year, I noticed the instructions to make apple dolls in the book. We had just picked apples at the orchard, but life got busy and we never completed the project. This year, when we picked the apples at the orchard I remembered the book and hoped we would have time to make the dolls.
Thankfully, we had a free afternoon to start this project and it happened to be Elisa Kleven's birthday! We started by each picking an apple for our doll.
We peeled the skin.
Elisa Kleven said, "As a child, I spent hours making up stories about the dolls and characters I'd make from clay, paper, and anything else that appealed to me (walnut shells, dried apples, etc.) Giving these characters stories and settings was great preparation for my work as a picture book creator." (KIDSBOOK Friends).
I gave my children a plastic knife to carve a nose. This was hard for them. They wanted to poke instead.
So, I helped carve a nose that they liked.
They were really good at poking holes for eyes.
My son even poked holes for the nose.

We filled a container with lemon juice.
Then, we dissolved a tablespoon of salt.
"Now we'll soak her in a lemon juice bath so bugs and worms won't eat her."
The apple must be completely submerged in the lemon juice. We used the other apple to hold it down. The apple soaked in the lemon juice for 30 minutes.
"I want to try that lemon juice...Ooooooo."
We placed our apples in the oven at 170 degrees. Small pieces of aluminum foil covered the noses to prevent burning. Over the course of the week, I had the apples in the oven for many hours when we were at home. 
After about eight days, they looked like this.
On the day we planned to dress our apple dolls we started by making applesauce.
Crockpot applesauce is so easy. Just cut the apples, add cinnamon, and cook on low for about 4 hours.
We began making the apple dolls by piercing a hole through the center.
Then, we pushed a pipe cleaner through apple. The pipe cleaners will allow you to pose your apple doll when you are finished.
We wrapped more pipe cleaners to make it more sturdy.
Then, we added arms, legs, hands, and feet.
Beads were added for eyes.
A pink marker was used to make rosy cheeks.
Elisa Kleven said in an interview with PaperTigers, "I think imagination is crucial to a child's development, and I fear that it is endangered." This may or may not be true, but I know children's authors and illustrators are doing their best to provide children opportunities to let their imaginations run wild.
This is my apple doll as a work in progress.
We each had our own ideas for making the clothes. I used felt and hot-glued pieces together to make a shirt and pants.
My daughter cut various fabrics into a shirt, a skirt, leggings, and hair. It was like she was a fashion designer.
My son used pipe cleaners to hold the fabric on his doll.
We used hot glue to attach a piece of cotton to his apple doll's head. His favorite thing was giving his doll a hair cut.
They loved making their apple dolls.
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin this picture.
A close-up of my apple doll.
A close-up of my daughter's apple doll.
A close-up of my son's apple doll.
Our craft was completed and our apples were cooked in time for dinner. 
I saw her determination during the craft and when she made the applesauce.
This author birthday celebration may not have been followed our traditional schedule, but it was just as memorable. Happy belated-birthday to Elisa Kleven! Thank you creating picture books that inspire imagination and creativity!

1. Elisa Kleven's Website
2. Interviews - Seven Impossible Things Blog, Patricia Newman, KIDSBOOK Friends, PaperTigers
3. Creating Miniature Worlds in Picture Books by Elisa Kleven - ALA

Birthday Source: Children's Book-a-Day Almanac, Mazza Museum 2015 Calendar, Elisa Kleven Papers: University of Minnesota

You Might Also Like:

Related Posts with Thumbnails