Thursday, April 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, Loren Long - April 24

Happy Birthday, Loren Long - April 24

O-H...I-O....Ohio...Ohio...Ohio! I have lived all my life in Ohio. The winters are tough, but there are so many cool things about living in our state; great amusement parks (Cedar Point, Kings Island), fishing and boating on Lake Erie, hiking in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and the Mazza Museum Summer Conference. As an Ohioan, I can even brag about all the famous Americans that have called Ohio their home including Thomas Edison, Neil Armstrong, and eight U.S. presidents! Also, I am proud of the many famous children's author and illustrators from Ohio including Loren Long! So, for this week, in honor of Loren's birthday, I am asking the Ohio State Buckeye fans to allow me to change the famous OH-IO cheer to O-T...I-S...Otis...Otis...Otis!

O-T-I-S! (We took this picture yesterday and yes, that was snow on our deck!)
Loren Long is the illustrator of over 15 picture books including OtisNightsong by Ari Berk, Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna, and Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt. At the Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2014, Loren Long opened his talk by saying, "Nobody in my family was an artist." However, his mother and father were always supportive of his love of drawing. "My mom would frame many of my drawings, and that's important. A lot of mothers are worried about matching decor and keeping everything neat and tidy, but my mom didn't care. She'd put my stuff on up on the wall because she was proud." (Mackin). Later, after struggling to settle on a major in college and only really enjoying his art classes, Loren said to his father, "Dad, I think I want to become an illustrator." His father replied, "Well, son I have worked in gypsum supply for 20 years and not one day have I been passionate about drywall. So, if you can, do something you are passionate about." (Mazza Museum Keynote). At that time, Loren Long didn't know how he was going to make a living doing what he was passionate about, but if you read on you will learn that he definitely figured it out!

I hope you are lucky enough to someday meet Loren Long. You will notice right away his passion for children's books.
After attending art school at The American Academy of Art in Chicago, it took over 12 years for Loren to become a children's book illustrator. He worked for Gibson Greetings (now a part of American Greetings) and also illustrated for many magazines; Sports Illustrated, Time, Reader's Digest, Forbes. His "americana style" influenced by American Regionalist painters like Thomas Hart Benton was catching people's attention and led to a few illustration jobs doing covers for novels. Then, in 2003 he illustrated his first picture book, I Dream of Trains by Angela Johnson which received the Golden Kite Award for illustration.

In 2005, Loren Long illustrated The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. "The Little Engine That Could marked a new direction for me, from the standpoint that this was the first book where I was obviously digging into a tried and true classic. I began thinking about creating books that might someday become a child's favorite, become classics." (Publisher's Weekly).  Next, he published a few more picture books including Toy Boat by Randall de Sève and started working with Jon Sciezska, David Shannon, and David Gordon on the Trucktown project which produced numerous book titles and is now a TV Show.

In 2008, he wrote and illustrated Drummer Boy which became a favorite of President Barack Obama and his family and later led to Loren being selected to illustrate Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters. (2010). "Doing the art for Of Thee I Sing was an honor and something I'll always be proud of. President Obama invited my two sons and me to visit him at the The White House." (SCBWI).

Loren Long's two sons not only got to meet President Obama but they were involved with the initial idea for Otis. "Actually, Otis started as a story my wife and sons made up as she took them to school when they were preschoolers. It was a homespun story that was more convoluted and took a totally different direction than my book. Now [my sons] tease me a bit and say I took their story, tweaked it, and called it my own. But, then I reminded [them] that it's good to be able to buy groceries and soccer cleats." (Publisher's Weekly). In their story, the tractor's name was Little Green Samuel. Loren came up with the name Otis from the The Andy Griffith Show. (Mazza Keynote).  The Otis series has now sold over 2 million copies and the latest book in the series is Otis and the Scarecrow which was released August 2014. (Cincinnati.com).

Last summer at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference when I heard Loren Long speak I was inspired. I loved how he talked about being a father, creating emotional picture books, and feeling a responsibility to produce quality books for children. I had numerous books that I wanted Loren to autograph for my family, but after his keynote I found myself walking to the Mazza Museum bookstore to pick out another book! I found Toy Boat. It was a book that I knew my children would love, because we had often made toy boats to sail down our street when our fire hydrants are flushed by our local water department each spring.

Toy Boat is about a little boy and his toy boat that is made of a can, a cork, a yellow pencil, and some white cloth.  The little boy loved his toy boat and would sail it at the lake every day. The toy boat loved sailing with the boy but often wondered what it would be like to break free from the boy's string to sail free. One day, the boy dropped the string attached to the toy boat when a storm was approaching.  The toy boat quickly was pushed far away from the shore. When the skies cleared the toy boat was pushed, knocked around, and told to "Move along!" by the other boats it encountered. The toy boat missed the little boy but would need to find a way to right its sail to catch the wind to get back to the shore.

Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We read Toy Boat on Sunday morning before church.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My children were eager to build their boats using corks and pencils.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My oldest son quickly came up with a design for his toy boat.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
I cut a plastic container in the shape of a boat for my daughter to allow her to begin designing her toy boat.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We used hot glue to attach everything together. (We learned that hot glue is not water resistant and will come loose after getting really wet. )
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My youngest son added a smiley face to his cork.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Every creative family needs a drawer full of plastic containers and lids.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
A box of old pencils from my wife's school came in handy for this project too.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
He carefully added a foil sail to his toy boat.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
He was quite pleased with his toy boat.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
"Hey, Dad! Take a picture of my boat."
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Another toy boat is ready to sail!
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Wow!
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Please Pin to Pinterest! Follow Happy Birthday Author too!
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
After church we went to our neighborhood lake to sail our toy boats.  I attached a kite string or yarn to each boat.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
There was good breeze but it was blowing slightly back to shore.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
They decided that the floating dock was the best place to sail their boats.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My oldest daughter joined in by using the toy boat that I made.  She said, "You did it again, Dad. You came up with another author birthday celebration that I like." 
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
The toy boats floated pretty well.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
After a little patience, the breeze carried our toy boats far from the dock.
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
I turned away for a second and my oldest son yelled, "Oh, no! My string is in the water."
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We waited for the wind to carry the boat close to the shore and my daughter snagged it with a stick. 
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
"Yay! We got it!"  Then, my oldest son said, "It was just like the book. The boat got away, but then came back." When he said this I wondered if he planned dropping his string in the water in attempt to make it just like the book. Hmmmmm....
Making Toy Boats for TOY BOAT by Loren Long, Randall de Seve via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Back at home my daughter made repairs and adjustments to all the boats. Now they will be ready for the fire hydrant flushing that has started around the city. We will be using our toy boats from this reading experience for this year's travels down our street.
I thought our author birthday celebration was over, but then....

Yesterday morning, after our O-T-I-S picture, my children were waiting for me to take them to the bus stop, when I hear, "THEY ARE FLUSHING!!" We rushed to find our toy boats before we missed the hydrant flushing right in front of our house.

My older children were so excited to be involved this year. They missed their chance to sail toy boats the past few years because they were at school. (In case your wondering, the truck with the headlights was parked. My children were not in any danger.)
video

The Water Department worker said as he walked up to the hydrant, "I have never flushed hydrants with snow on the ground before." And before he left he said, "120 more and I'll call it a day!" 
Loren, we hope you have a wonderful birthday with your family and friends. Thank you for creating such beautiful picture books for us to read and enjoy together! OH-IO! OT-IS!

You can pre-order Loren Long's next book, LITTLE TREE, available September 22, 2015:



Links:
1. Loren Long's website
2. OTIS THE TRACTOR website (Many printable available!)
3. Follow Loren Long on Facebook and Twitter
4. TRUCKTOWN wesbite
5. Interviews - Publisher's Weekly, Mackin, Idle Illustration, The Children's Book Review, SCBWI, Patricia Newman
6. Video Inteview (newer) - YouTube
7. Anothor Video Interview with Loren Long by Loveland Magazine - Vimeo
8. CATCHING UP WITH LOREN LONG - Cincinnati.com (Sept. 2014)
9. Loren Long: Soul of the Heartland - Artists Network
10. Loren Long at National Book Festival 2011 - Library of Congress on YouTube
11. Loren Long Audio Interview - BOOKTALK


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Happy Birthday, Gianna Marino - April 12

Happy Birthday, Gianna Marino - April 12

One day this week, I walked to the bus stop with my four children. It was raining so hard that our umbrellas were not enough to keep us dry. My oldest two children hopped on the bus leaving the little ones and I to walk home. All of us were damp and I was cranky by the time we got back to the house. I looked out on the deck and I saw this. Yuck! Wet!


We needed something fun to do, but since warmer temperatures have arrived everything fun happens outside, not inside. What we needed was an author birthday celebration! Thankfully, the day before we loaded up on books by Gianna Marino at the library and I had an idea that I thought could lift our spirits on this dreary day.

Gianna Marino is the author and illustrator of five books children including Meet Me at the Moon and Following Papa's Song. When Gianna was little she was quiet, wore her crayons to nubs in kindergarten, and her mother made sure she was enrolled in every possible art and dance class. She enjoyed caring for her animals (chickens, rabbits, birds, and more) and riding horses more than playing with toys. But, when she did play with toys she would entertain her friends with her storytelling. Her storytelling and love of animals came together in high school when she got a job as a carriage driver and told stories to the riders. (Mazza Museum Keynote).

After high school she decided college wasn't for her. She started traveling all over the world and wrote for travel magazines. She feared working a real job, but she needed money to fund her trips. She took a job designing gifts and tchotchkes which led to another job designing toys. Gianna was doing exactly what she didn't want to do. So, she took the class "How to Illustrate a Children's Book" at UC Berkeley to break free from the confines of her job.

While taking the class, she was given an assignment to illustrate the first page of an ABC book. She said, "I couldn't think in one-page thoughts, so I had the idea for the entire book which turned into Zoopa: An Animal Alphabet five years later." (Seven Impossible Things). Not only did Gianna have the idea for her first picture book while taking this class, but she met many other writers who worked together and supported each other on their road to becoming published children's book creators.

After the initial success of Zoopa: An Animal Alphabet and her second book, One Too Many: A Seek and Find Counting Book, Gianna struggled to get a third book acquired for publication. She examined her art and tried to develop a new style that incorporated much more emotion. "I started painting animals from my trips abroad with intention of finding emotion in each one. As I painted, I would think of someone I knew and mimic their facial expression in my paintings." (Seven Impossible Things and Mazza Keynote) After lots of experimenting she developed a technique of applying layers of gouache to rice paper that was soaked onto watercolor paper. She used this style for Meet Me at the Moon, a story that she wrote the week she learned her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Gianna followed up Meet Me at the Moon with Too Tall Houses and Following Papa's Song. Her next book, Night Animals is set to be released in July 2015!

The day my daughter and I loaded up on books by Gianna Marino at the library we came right home and read Zoopa: An Animal Alphabet. This wordless alphabet book grabbed my daughter's attention right away. Each page has the view of a bowl of soup on a place mat. Each letter of the alphabet is presented in the bowl of soup, first two at time and later three at time, and an animal appears that begins with the letter; a for ant, b for butterfly, etc. Each turn of the page brings more animals until you think there can't be room for one more. But, Gianna saves a big splash at the end with letter Z!

The only things that sounded good to me on the rainy day were having was a bowl of alphabet soup and reading books with my kids. We started reading Zoopa, one thing led to another, and before we knew it the morning was gone.
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
To start the morning my daughter read Zoopa: An Animal Alphabet with her brother. After reading, I said, "Let's make some noodles." We had alphabet-shaped noodles that we bought from the grocery store, but I thought it would be fun to make our own egg noodles.
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We used a recipe for egg noodles from Food.com
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
After kneading, the recipe suggested letting the dough rest for at least 10 minutes.  This gave us time to work on another project.
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
I thought it would be fun to make place mats for our lunch.
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We used red and yellow construction paper to recreate the place mat from Zoopa! I trimmed the yellow paper to be slightly smaller than the red. 
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
They glued the yellow piece of paper onto the red.
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We then added big blue letters to spell our name and animal stickers to our place mat. (Thankfully, our grandmas and grandpas are always buying us stickers. We actually had stickers of iguanas and vultures, just like the book!)

ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
After making our place mats it was back to the noodles. My daughter used our pasta machine to make the dough really thin.
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We used our letter cookie cutters to make the alphabet noodles.
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
They worked so hard to make their noodles.
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We let the noodles dry for a over an hour while we made our soup.
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com

ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
While the soup simmered we read all five of Gianna Marino's books!
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com

ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Hooray for soup on this rainy day!
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Our alphabet soup had the big egg noodles we made and little ABC noodles we bought at the store. It was delicious!
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Amazingly, after lunch the rain went away and the sun was shining! The soup, crafts, and good books brightened our day!
ZOOPA by Gianna Marino -- activity ideas via www.happybirthdayauthor.com

Gianna, we hope you have a wonderful birthday that is filled with good food and sunshine! Happy Birthday!

Pre-Order Gianna's next book, Night Animals -- Available July 14, 2015:



Links:
1. Gianna Marino's Website
2. Gianna Marino talks at ALA 2012 - YouTUBE
3. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Gianna Marino - Seven Impossible Things Blog
4. Interview - Jama's Alphabet Soup
5. Gianna Marino talks abotu Meet Me at the Moon - Seven Impossible Things Blog

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