Saturday, October 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, Eric Rohmann - October 26

Happy Birthday, Eric Rohmann - October 26

What types of books do you reread? Picture books, novels, poetry books, your own journal, board books (every mom or dad of a 1-2 year old is raising their hand).

Why do you reread a book?

A 2012 study found that "re-consuming is therapeutic and should be encouraged." (livescience). According to the Daily Mail the same study also found that, "the second time through, the repeated experience reignites the emotions caused by the book, and allows people to savor those emotions at leisure."

I love rereading picture books. I read with more expression and emotion when I know the story and text. I develop a stronger connection with characters. I notice more details in the illustrations uncovering more of the story.

Every year I pull out the books we own by the authors whose birthdays we have celebrated in the past and display them on a bookshelf in our living room. My children choose from these books for before bedtime reading. Rereading their favorite books each year is one of my favorite things about celebrating author and illustrator birthdays.

We have been rereading books by Eric Rohmann ever since we celebrated his birthday back in 2011. Our favorite books are Bone Dog, Clara and Asha, and Pumpkinhead.

Pumpkinhead was the book that inspired our birthday celebration activity for Eric Rohmann three year ago. My oldest son and I made Otho, a boy born with a pumpkin for head, out of jack o'lantern, leaves, and some old clothes.

Our Otho, 2011
This year, we read the same book and did the same activity, but rereading the book this year was different. The story even took on a very different meaning.

Otho has pumpkin for a head. He has had it since he was born. His parents love him just the same and Otho is happy. However, life isn't easy for a boy with a pumpkin head. A bat takes his pumpkin head and drops it in the ocean where it is swallowed by a fish. A fisherman catches Otho's pumpkin head and sells it the market. Luckily, Otho's mother shops for fish and sees the familiar pumpkin head. Her purchase later reunites Otho with his family. Otho's mother is happy to have him home but tells him, "You know the world will always be difficult for a boy with a pumpkin for a head." Quite a serious thought for a boy. But, Otho is happy and takes it in stride. He is okay with having a pumpkin for a head. He has had it since he was born.

My youngest son wasn't born with a pumpkin for a head, but he was born with a life-threatening tree nut allergy. As a baby he exhibited symptoms that caused my wife to severely change her diet. We narrowed it down to a possible milk allergy which he later grew out of. However, one day when he was about two years old I was eating cashews and he asked to try one. Not thinking anything of it I gave him one. He put it in his mouth, didn't even bite it, and spit it out in my hand. Within two hours he was vomiting, swelling, and covered with hives. We rushed him to the emergency room and thankfully he was okay. Since that day, we have learned that he is also allergic to pistachios, walnuts, and pecans.

A bat will not be taking my son's head and dropping it into an ocean, but every day there is danger that he could come in contact with a tree nut. We are very open, we have to be, with our son, "you know the world will always be difficult for a boy with a tree nut allergy." Quite a serious thought for a little boy. We have epi-pens stashed everywhere, food labels are checked and rechecked, and every one that comes in contact with him are aware of his allergy.  How does he handle it? He is okay with a having a tree nut allergy (as long as he is assured he is safe). He has had it since he was born.

This year, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) started the Teal Pumpkin Project to increase awareness of food allergies during the Halloween season. The project encourages homes to have non-food treats available for children with food allergies so they can feel included in the trick-or-treat events in their neighborhood.

This year, I thought we could reread Pumpkinhead, make Otho, and help spread the word about the Teal Pumpkin Project.
We chose one of our smallest pumpkins and painted it with teal acrylic paint.
When the first coat was drying we started working on Otho.
We found some old clothes in the basement and stuffed the arms and legs with towels (this worked much better than the leaves we used in 2011). We also inserted a small pedestal inside the sweatshirt for the pumpkin head to sit on.
A second coat was applied. We added some glittery teal paint too!
We let the pumpkin head dry over night and then my son added Otho's face in the morning with black paint.
Otho is sitting on our porch in a t-shirt we received at a FARE walk over the summer.
Will you provide non-food items at your home this year for trick or treat? Visit the FARE website for more information.
Three years ago when I first read Clara and Asha I feel in love with an illustration in the story. Clara is a little girl who isn't sleepy. Opening her bedroom window invites Asha, a giant fish. They have been friends for some time after meeting one day in the park. They enjoy playing together.  On this night, Clara and Asha play in the sky. It is really hard for a girl with such an imagination to fall asleep at night.

This is the illustration I fell in love with.  The text states, " On Halloween, Asha helped me with my costume." Every time I reread Clara and Asha I wondered if Clara and Asha could help me with MY halloween costume.
I bought a large mylar balloon at my local grocery store. (They were nice enough to order it in special for me.) I attached the fish to a bamboo fishing pole and weighted it properly with pennies taped to its underside so the fish wouldn't fly too high in the air.
I put on a fishing vest and hat that I have saved for three years too! I became Clara and Asha went for a walk with me.
We walked around the front yard looking at all the yellow and orange leaves.
I have a teal pumpkin! My son will be using this one to trick or treat. I think they sell teal trick-or-treat pumpkins, but we painted this one.
I took Asha trick-or-treating at my niece's house. We goofed around by a lake near their house.
Then, a big gust of wind came and Asha was gone.
I was sad thinking I could have attached Asha better to the fishing line.
A dad without his fish but happy to be with his children trick or treating.
I guess that study was right. Rereading books can "reignite emotion". I spent the week really thinking about food allergies and the stress they put on families during events that involve food. Each time I went to a house with my son I was reminded of his allergy as we tried to find a safe treat in the bowl. And Asha. My children told me they were sad that the fish balloon floated away. "You can always buy another one dad," they told me. I said, "You are right. I could always buy another one."

1. Eric Rohmann's Website
2. Video Interview - Reading Rockets, Video Interview from Kathi Appelt on YouTube
3. Text Interview - Seven Impossible Things blog, Number 5 Bus blog, Vintage Kids' book blog
4. Oh, No! Teacher's Guide - RandomHouse
5. Happy Birthday Author celebration in 2011

Friday, October 17, 2014

Happy Birthday, Eugene Yelchin - October 18

Happy Birthday, Eugene Yelchin - October 18

Yesterday I received confirmation from the Mazza Museum that I am registered for their upcoming weekend conference. (I am really excited!!) Last year was the first time that I attended the Weekend Conference and I LOVED IT! It was intense; 5 artists gave keynotes in one day! Afterward I was mentally exhausted but I was thrilled to meet such amazing authors and illustrators; John Rocco, Robin Preiss Glasser, Patricia Polacco, John Bemelmans Marciano, Will Hillenbrand, and Eugene Yelchin (pictured below, second from the left).

I love the photo above of all the artists and their phones. After the conference, Eugene Yelchin posted the second photo on his Facebook page of the audience (a.k.a. picture book paparazzi; me included!) from his point of view.

If you are a teacher, librarian, or children's book lover and you live in the Ohio area I encourage you to sign up for this year's weekend conference,  November 7-8. The Mazza Museum is still accepting registration applications!! (Click HERE!)

Eugene Yelchin has published over a dozen books for children including Won Ton by Lee Wardlow and Dog Parade by Barbara Joosse. At the Mazza Museum Weekend Conference 2013 he spoke of his childhood in the Soviet Union, "When I was around five years old I drew under a table with a pencil when everyone was asleep. It made me feel safe." In Publishers Weekly Yelchin he said, "On the one hand living in communist Russia was brutal, scary, drab, absurd. But at the same time we had the best classical music, the best literature, ballet, art. And I was exposed to the arts at a very early age." At age nine, Yelchin started making his own books and then after high school he went to the Academy of Theater Arts in St. Petersburg where he learned to design costumes and sets for stage productions. He struggled with being an artist in the Soviet Union, "An artist wants to recreate reality, looking for truth of life. We were not allowed to be truthful." He felt "rage daily" and "had to leave" to pursue a life as an artist. Yelchin came to the United States the age of 27.

Upon arriving, Yelchin began illustrating for the Boston Globe which lead to many other projects including designing polar bears for Coca-Cola advertisements. ( In 2006, he received the Tomie dePaola SCBWI illustration award and later published his first picture book The House of a Million Pets by Ann Hodgman (2007). He also developed characters for the 2011 animated film, RangoIn 2012, the same year Rango won an Oscar, Yelchin was awarded the Newbery Honor Award for Breaking Stalin's Nose, a book he wrote more for himself as a "self-examination" than to get publishedHis latest book, Arcady's Goala companion to Breaking Stalin's Nose, was just released this week! His next picture book is Won Ton and Chopstick scheduled to be released in March 2015.

I chose Who Ate All the Cookie Dough? by Karen Beaumont as the picture book for our birthday celebration for Eugene Yelchin. I knew it would be the perfect read-aloud to entertain the whole family.

Who ate all of Kangaroo's cookie dough? Was it lion or zebra or llama or hippo?  No...then it must be monkey. No, it wasn't monkey. Then, who was it?  (You will have to read the book to find out.) Until then, you can read the rest of this post to find out how my family ate all the cookie dough we made!

Here is our recipe:

Who Ate All the Cookie Dough? Cookie Dough

Recipe Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour (toasted) -- click here for directions on how to toast flour
2 Tablespoons milk
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Cream butter and brown sugar together.
2. Add vanilla and salt. Then, mix.
3. Add flour and mix.
4. Add milk and mix.
5. Fold in chocolate chips.

Cookie dough will be soft. Scoop and serve over vanilla ice cream! The cookie dough will get hard after storing in the refrigerator. Let sit at room temperature to soften.

(Note: There are many worries about consuming raw cookie dough. This recipe does not include eggs and we toasted the flour. I can't imagine anyone getting sick consuming this cookie dough, unless you consume all of it!)

I toasted the flour over medium heat for about eight minutes.  It started to brown a little bit. I did this because I really didn't want any sick kiddos! I read somewhere that eating raw flour could make someone sick. I am sure the cookie dough would have been fine without this step, but I am always cautious. It is funny that when I was a kid I ate lots of raw cookie dough before the cookies were baked. My aunt used to keep cookie dough in the refrigerator just to snack on! However, I must say, "Please consume cookie dough at your own risk!"
This was our family's evening activity one night this week after dinner.
When we opened the book we noticed an illustration by Eugene Yelchin of the ingredients used to make cookie dough. We double checked to make sure we had everything. My son said, "Yes, we have butter!"
Spoiler Alert....this photo may give away who ate all the cookie dough.
My oldest daughter may some day regret getting this excited about opening the butter wrapper. 
Who Ate All the Chocolate Chips? would be a great sequel to the book!
There were many helping hands in the kitchen.  My son added the toasted flour to the mixing bowl.
My children couldn't wait to eat the cookie dough. I never let them eat raw cookie dough. This was a special treat!
I added a scoop of cookie dough on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It was delicious!
We highly recommend this book and this cookie dough treat! Enjoy!
Check out Eugene Yelchin's spooky ghost book, Ghost Files: the Haunting Truth, a lift-the-flap book for older readers:

1. Eugene Yelchin's Website
2. Eugene Yelchin's art website
3. Follow Eugene Yelchin on Facebook and Twitter
4. Audio Interview - Let's Get Busy Podcast (10/14),
5. Video Interview - 5 Questions Horn Book on YouTube,
6. Text Interview - HarperCollins, WGRCLC blog, American Jewish University, SCBWI Blog
7.  Teacher's Guide - Arcady's Goal (From Macmillan), Won Ton (From Lee Wardlow)
8.  Discussion Guide - Breaking Stalin's Nose (From Macmillan)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Happy Birthday, Andrea Beaty - October 7

Happy Birthday, Andrea Beaty - October 7

Today, I am changing things up a bit. I am writing this birthday blog post a little different than all the others. Usually, my family has read all the books and completed our reading experience (or what I sometimes call an author birthday celebration activity) before I begin writing. However, our weekend was crazy and packed full of family obligations which pushed our reading experience out to the day before Andrea Beaty's birthday. I usually write a blog post over the course of three days after our family reading experience; Day 1 is research, Day 2 is rough draft, and Day 3 is revision. In order to give myself the time to revise, I needed to start writing this post before our reading experience. (Keeping my fingers crossed that my activity idea would work out as planned!)

Andrea Beaty is the author of a dozen books for children including Hush, Baby Ghostling and Iggy Peck Architect. Her writing career did not begin right out of college where she studied biology and computer science. Instead, she started working as a computer technical support representative. Later, she spent time as a technical writer which she credits with helping her become a "fierce self-editor," a skill vital to a children's picture book author. ( According to the Prairie Wind SCBWI newsletter her next job, becoming a mom, "was the best job of all except for the diapers. Diapers really stink. Really. Trust me."

Maybe it was the fumes from the diapers or the craziness of being a mom but "voices started" in her head which she turned into characters and stories perfect for children. Thankfully, Andrea Beaty wrote down what the voices were saying about "giants, pirates, and slugs". (Cynsations). It was a book idea about giants that got her started on her way as a children's book author when her story When Giants Come to Play won a SCBWI Work-in-Progress grant in 2000.  It was later published with illustrations from Kevin Hawkes in 2006. Andrea's next book was Iggy Peck Architect, illustrated by David Roberts. Iggy Peck later inspired Rosie Revere, Engineer which has been on the New York Times Bestseller list for 29 weeks! Andrea said, in an interview with Authors Revealed, "I'd never set out to have a theme in the work I do. But, I've noticed after all these books now that there is a theme in my work -- It is passion. It is encouraging people to explore what you love, to go out and find and try different things." Her latest book is Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau.

This week, we read all the books by Andrea Beaty from our own personal collection and those that I acquired from our local library. Andrea Beaty signed our copies of Doctor Ted and Rosie Revere, Engineer at the National Book Festival over Labor Day weekend when she shared her birthday with us.
Andrea Beaty wrote her birthday on our National Book Festival poster so I wouldn't forget!
Artist Ted was the book that inspired our author birthday celebration activity for Andrea Beaty. Ted woke up in the morning and he thought his room needed to be spiffed up. He couldn't find an artist to do this so he became one. He couldn't find a paint brush so he made one out of a wooden spoon and curtain tie tassel. He couldn't find paint so he found some in the kitchen. My children loved Ted's ingenuity! Once Ted became an artist and had all his supplies he painted his walls with ketchup, mustard, jam, chocolate syrup, and toothpaste! Ted didn't stop painting at home, he went to school and painted too. His painting may have frustrated his mom and Principal Bigham, but in the end it was his painting that inspired him and his classmates to welcome a new friend.

When I read Artist Ted my youngest son asked, "Would you get in trouble if no one saw you paint on the walls?" Hmmmm.....maybe he was thinking up his own version of how to celebrate Andrea Beaty's birthday. My wife and I told him that you would get in trouble if you painted on walls without permission, but I knew I needed to figure out a way to bring Artist Ted to life for him.

Today, (remember I am writing this before the reading experience happened), I wondered if I could have my kids paint with ketchup, mustard, and toothpaste. Well, maybe not really, but what if we pretended.

Our family loves to recycle and we send as much of our waste as we can to Terracycle and our local recycling company. Therefore our garage is full of bags of sorted products that we will soon recycle. (Rosie Revere would have a lot of fun in our garage!) I knew I had containers from all the items that Artist Ted used as paint; ketchup, mustard, jam, toothpaste, and chocolate syrup. I gathered them and washed them out thoroughly. My son noticed what I was doing and started asking questions. "What are we going to do with these dad?" (My wife also started asking questions. Only hers were about my sanity. "Why exactly are cleaning out the mustard container?")

I said to my son, "We are going to fill them with paint and pretend that the paint is ketchup, mustard, chocolate syrup, jam and toothpaste just like Artist Ted." He responded, "Can we do it right now?"  I told him we didn't have time because of the day's schedule, but that we would be able to do it tomorrow before afternoon preschool.  He was okay with that and it must have been on his mind before bed tonight. He was looking through an Ed Emberley drawing book and found a demonstration on how to draw a wiener dog. "Dad, I can draw this wiener dog. And I can put ketchup and mustard on it." I said, "That sounds great. I can't wait to see it tomorrow."  As I walked out of the room he said, "But, I need ranch too!"  I laughed out loud, "Maybe we could do that."  He loves ranch dressing on his hot dogs.  I hope I can find a salad dressing bottle before tomorrow. {End of writing before reading experience.}

We woke up this morning and my son wanted to paint before his older brother and sister were on the school bus. I said, "We will paint like Artist Ted after we walk the big kids to the bus stop." My two-year-old daughter chimed in, "Are we going to paint on walls?"

"No, we are not going to paint on walls today (thinking to myself, not today, but maybe someday in the future we might need to try it!). We are going to paint with ketchup and mustard and chocolate syrup and RANCH!" I just emptied our bottle of ranch dressing into a Tupperware container so I could use the bottle for today's activity.
They were so excited for this project. Can you tell?
They picked out the colors of paint for each container. The only weird color selection was black for the spicy brown mustard container. 
All the lids were screwed back on once the paint was in the container.
Time to paint with mustard!
And chocolate syrup!
We talked about how Artist Ted made his own paintbrush, but they insisted on using real paintbrushes to start their painting.
My son's wiener dog had really long hair. In this photograph, he is adding ketchup to the wiener dog with a chopstick. The chopsticks were one of many different tools we used for painting. 
I loved her color choices -- mustard mixed with jam!
She tried painting with a chopstick too!
She painted with a pom-pom and 
a feather too.
Time to try painting with toothpaste!
She was determined to cover the whole canvas with paint.
He posed for this picture as if he was finished painting, but...
he needed to add a few more details with a pom-pom dipped in toothpaste.
Our butter-container lids became works of art too.
Here is the finished artwork. My daughter was walking back from the bus stop and found a leaf so we added it to her painting.
Andrea, thank you for sharing your birthday with us. It was so awesome to have met you at the National Book Festival. We enjoyed all of your books and are really hoping for another TED book real soon!

1. Andrea Beaty's website + TONS OF PRINTABLES for Parents and Teachers
2. Follow Andrea Beaty on Twitter,
3. Interviews - Powell's, Design Mom, FEMPOWER, Science Book-a-Day, Write Kids' Books, Cynsations, Prairie-Wind SCBWI Newsletter, ShelfElf, Just One More Book
4. Rosie Revere, Engineer Trailer - YouTube
5. Like ROSIE REVERE, ENGINEER on Facebook
6. An older blog from Andrea Beaty - Blogspot
7. Andrea Beaty video interview - Authors Revealed on Vimeo
8. Andrea Beaty talks about ROSIE REVERE - STEM OUTREACH NIU (YOUTUBE)
9. More STEM OUTREACH NIU videos about Rosie Revere

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