Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Happy Birthday, Lee Harper - December 7

Happy Birthday, Lee Harper - December 7

In elementary school, my principal would drop in unannounced to our classroom when it was someone's birthday. Hidden behind her back or in a sweater pocket would be a Warm Fuzzy. She would call the student up to the front of the class, ask them a few questions about their birthday plans, and then would tempt the student with the homemade yarn pom-pom.

She was quick. She would switch the Warm Fuzzy from hand-to-hand, go behind her back, and shake it right in front of you only to pull it away at the last second. No student, that I can remember, was ever able to get a Warm Fuzzy from Sr. Roberta. As soon as the student showed signs of exhaustion or frustration she would hand over the Warm Fuzzy, offer a hug, and say "Happy Birthday."

I recalled this memory when I was planning a craft to do with my daughter for Lee Harper's book, Woolbur, written by Leslie Helakoski. I wondered if it would be possible to combine a memorable birthday tradition from my childhood with Lee Harper's book to celebrate his birthday.

We read Snow! Snow! Snow!, Turkey Trouble, written by Wendi Silvano, and Woolbur before we started the Warm Fuzzy Woolbur craft. Woolbur is a story about a lamb who doesn't follow the flock. In the shearing barn, Woolbur refuses to get sheared and keeps his wool long. In his yarn dyeing class, Woolbur dyes his wool blue instead of the yarn. And in his weaving class, he puts his head in the loom and weaves his forelocks! Maa and Paa are worried and urge him to be like all the other sheep. Woolbur thinks and thinks and then takes his parent's advice in the only way he knows how.
My daughter reread Woolbur while I readied the supplies.
To get started we needed a paper towel tube, white yarn, and a pair of scissors.
I cut the paper towel tube in half.
I placed the end of the yarn between the two tubes and gave them to my daughter to hold. The tubes pinched and held the end while she started to wrap more yarn.
She was very fast at wrapping the yarn.
She wrapped until she was tired.
Next, I cut a smaller piece of yarn.
Then, I placed the yarn in between the two rolls and tied it around the wrapped yarn. 
While I held the tie, my daughter pulled the tubes out.
Then, I pulled tight and made a knot.
My daughter cut the looped yarn on the top and the bottom. Make sure not to cut the tie.
All the yarn pops out and becomes a Warm Fuzzy!
My daughter drew Woolbur to make a plan for how he would look.
She drew his nose and mouth on a piece of pink felt.
Then, glued it on. When the face was finished I suggested adding arms and legs with pipe cleaners. She said, "Wait! He needs a body." 
I didn't see her vision. I thought the warm fuzzy was Woolbur's body.
So she made legs and said, "These will go on his body. I just have a head. You can't put legs on a head."
So, I made another warm fuzzy and stitched the two together.
This was her finished Woolbur that was made of two warm fuzzies. The pink legs were glued on the bottom. Pipe cleaners were added for the "arms". Ears made of felt were glued on the side. She said, "Don't glue the ears on the top or Woolbur will look like a fox." 
And lastly, a pink flower on Woolbur's head.
 I had a bundle of thicker yarn. I wondered if it could be used to make a Warm Fuzzy too. We were listening to Christmas music while we did this activity. The thicker yarn worked and the music inspired me to make a Woolbur ornament for our Christmas tree. 
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin this picture!

Lee Harper is the illustrator of eight children's books including Looking for the Easy Life, written by Walter Dean Myers and his own The Emperor's Cool Clothes. As a child Lee loved to draw and got his first taste of being an illustrator in the fifth grade when he illustrated a book report that his teacher passed around for the whole class to see. (Mazza Museum). He attended college at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and graduated with a desire to become a fine artist. (Kathy Temean). He soon realized it would be hard to make a living as a fine artist so he started a picture framing business and owned and operated it for about 15 years with hopes of getting back into art someday. However, the business failed and he was forced to find work elsewhere. Lee tried landscape architecture, ventriloquist dummy-making, real estate, and then fine art once again.

"My career path took a few detours...but I never stopped writing, drawing, and dreaming. I think it was the experience of fatherhood -- and all the picture books I read to my children -- that made me start dreaming of being a picture book illustrator and author." (Mazza Museum). After seven years of rejections, Lee published his first book, Woolbur, in 2008. And it appears that a sequel is in the works. Woolbur Gets Ready for School is planned for 2018!
Lee, it was a pleasure meeting you at the Chesapeake Children's Book Festival last June. Thank you for sharing your birthday with us! We hope you have a Fa-Baaaa-lous birthday!

Looking for a Christmas gift for a young child, check out Turkey Claus. Why not get the whole trilogy? (It looks like the whole series is only $25 as of 12/6/16!)

1. Lee Harper's Website + lots of activity ideas and printables!
2. Follow Lee Harper on Facebook
3. Interviews - Kathy Temean blog, Write What Inspires You, This Kid Reviews Books
4. Biography - Mazza Museum
5. Skype conversation/Read Aloud of THE EMPEROR's COOL CLOTHES  - YouTube
6. Warm Fuzzy Tale by Claude Steiner

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Happy Birthday, Jason Chin - December 5

Happy Birthday, Jason Chin - December 5

Flying to Ecuador was out of the question. The adventure packages were very expensive. A time machine was unavailable too. Well, ones that travel back in time millions of years anyway. How would we learn more about the Galápagos islands without breaking the bank and suffering some weird time travel side effect?

The answer was easy. My daughter and I created a memorable family reading experience by visiting our local zoo with Island: A Story of Galápagos by Jason Chin. The best part...it was free!

Jason Chin is the illustrator of over ten books including Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle by Miranda Paul, Where Do Polar Bears Live? by Sarah Thompson and Gravity and Coral Reefs, which he both wrote and illustrated.

As a teenager in high school, Jason Chin formed an important relationship with author-illustrator, Trina Schart Hyman.  Jason told the audience at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2016 that he called Trina, who lived in this town, one day because he needed help with a piece of art he was working on. He continued, "She took me under her wing and gave me confidence to pursue becoming an illustrator." Her best advice for Jason was, "If you want to be an artist, you have to read."

Jason graduated from Syracuse University in 2001 with a degree in illustration. He moved to New York City, worked at Books of Wonder, and began illustrating books. His first book was The Silver Sorceress of Oz, written by Atticus Gannaway, in 2002. (Burlington Free Press). A few years later, Jason read the article Climbing the Redwoods by Richard Preston and "imagined himself climbing" the tallest living thing on our planet. This experience led to Redwoods, the first book he both wrote and illustrated, in 2009. 
 Jason said that he visits the places he paints to help him get the "emotional connection" he needs for his books.
"I explain science with fictional stories."
Our celebration for Jason Chin was inspired by his book Island: A Story of Galápagos. The Galápagos tortoises on the front cover attracted me to this book right away. For two summers I worked at our local zoo and loved watching the Galápagos tortoises.  I thought it would be fun to return to the zoo with my daughter to learn more about these amazing creatures.

We arrived at the zoo before it opened. Time for a selfie! 
Do you have a local zoo? Having a zoo pass has been one of the best investments for our family. We always get our money's worth.
Island: A Story of Galápagos chronicles the life of a Galápagos island. The story begins six million years ago when cooled lava crests above the ocean and then a single seed falls. The seed grows into a mangrove tree and then a wave of animals find their way to the island. The island flourishes with life until the island begins to sink. Over time the island disappears and the animals and plants survive by adapting and moving to one of the other Galápagos islands. The Galápagos islands are unique and are the home to hundreds of plants and animals that live nowhere else on earth.
This is Pagos. She is a Galápagos tortoise. She is 26. She could live to over 150 years old.
Pagos is a dome-shelled Galápagos tortoise. Tortoises like her live on a cooler, wetter island with plenty of ground vegetation. At the zoo, she enjoys leafy greens with the occasional fruits and carrots and yams. There are 11 different subspecies of Galápagos tortoises alive today. "On different islands, the tortoises evolved in different ways, and today each island has its own type of tortoise with a unique shell shape." (Island: A Story of Galápagos).
My daughter reminded me to bring her colored pencils and sketchbook just like we did for Molly Idle's birthday.
This was her second drawing. She gave her first drawing to one of the zookeepers.
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin!
She decided to add more details to her drawing.
Pagos looked at us as if to say, "I'm all done."
Pagos moved closer and my daughter noticed her claws and the wrinkles on her neck.
Pagos, you have a little something, right there, on your mouth.
My daughter's finished drawing.
Pagos wanted to make sure my daughter saw her when she took the picture.
One more selfie! Today my daughter learned that volcanos made the Galápagos islands and she learned how to say Ga-la-pa-GUS! It was fun and educational day!
Thank you, Jason, for sharing your birthday with us! We hope you have wonderful day. We can't wait for your next book!

Pre-Order Jason Chin's next book, Grand Canyon. It will be released February 21, 2017. This is going to be a BIG book! 56 pages! Die cuts! Gate Fold! It took Jason over 2 1/2 years to make!

1. Jason Chin's Website
2. Follow Jason Chin on Facebook, Twitter
3. Teacher's Guide for books by Jason Chin - Macmillan
4. Interviews - Author Turf, School Library Journal, Seven Impossible Things Blog,
5. Audio Inteview - PictureBooking Podcast
6. Illustrator Explains Theory with Watercolor - Burlington Free Press
7. Water is Water song by Emily Arrow - YouTube

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Happy Birthday, Randall de Sève - December 1

Happy Birthday, Randall de Sève - December 1

My daughter surprised me today. We finished reading Peanut and Fifi Have a Ball and I said, "Go get your coat. We are going to the store to buy a brand-new, bright blue ball just like Peanut's."

She said, "I don't want to. I don't want to go to the store. I don't want a ball." Imagine her saying this and then following it up with a pouty-lip face.

I was shocked. This was her chance to get a ball from the big, colorful display at the store. A ball all of my children ask for when they see them but are never allowed to get one.  I envisioned her choosing the ball and then acting out the story with me at home. But, she was not interested, at all. I quickly went on to an improvised Plan B.

I turned to the end papers of Peanut and Fifi Have a Ball and said, "No problem. Maybe we could... stamp blue balls just like these."

I expected another "NO!". I was wrong again. She said, "Yes. We can go in the basement and paint the circles on white paper."

So, I said, "Well, Let's go." And that is how our birthday celebration for Randall de Sève began.

Randall de Sève is the author of five picture books including The Duchess of Whimsy, illustrated by her husband Peter de Sève and Mathilda and the Orange Balloon, illustrated by Jen Corace. Before becoming a picture book author and writer, Randall was a first grade teacher who would write for her students when she couldn't find the right book to help them. (Mazza Museum Summer Conference Keynote 2016). Later, she wrote more but this time for a different audience, her two daughters. When her oldest daughter was seven years old Randall published her first picture book, Toy Boat, illustrated by Loren Long. (GeoLibrarian). This book inspired our birthday celebration for Loren Long in 2015.

Randall gave an insightful speech at the Mazza Museum about the importance of picture books.
A few things I wrote in my notes from her talk:
"Picture books are venues for readers to get to know themselves."
"Picture books should be permanently on bookshelves."
"Picture books offer a variety of rich experiences in a small amount of time."
Randall wrote an article for The Nerdy Book Club, In Praise of Picture Books, that includes these thoughts and more!
A Fire Truck Named Red is her latest book. (Released May 2016).
So, my daughter and I went to the basement and we reread Peanut and Fifi Have a Ball. It is a story about young Peanut, her bright blue ball, and her older sister, Fifi. Fifi wants Peanut's ball, but Peanut doesn't want to her play with it. Fifi really sets the tone with Peanut when she tries to grab it first. Then, Peanut is skeptical when Fifi uses kind words. Not to be deterred, Fifi comes up with many imaginative ways her and Peanut could play with the ball. Peanut is quite stubborn and holds off playing with her sister until it is too late...or is it?

I was planning on having a brand-new blue ball to play with my daughter. I had to think fast to come up with ways to stamp and paint blue circles.

A-ha! A potato. 
(Mashed potatoes were still on my mind from Thanksgiving weekend!)
I found many different shades of blue paint.
My daughter picked her favorite blue and started right away.
The first of many circles.
(While she was stamping I was thinking of ways to make different sized circles.)
A wet washcloth is recommended.
Mixing colors is fun. She thought the swirled white paint would look cool with the blue.
She painted a circle-shaped piece of cardboard.
"It looks like the Earth."
She painted her own blue ball without a stamp.
Meanwhile, I was experimenting with stamping blue circles too. I used lids, a cup, a candle, and a marker.
She was thinking of someone, I think.
We were very busy.
Then, she wanted black paint. I thought she was going to paint Peanut.
But, she painted a monster.
Peanut and Daddy had a ball getting messy together.
My son came home from school, saw the blue circles on the floor, and wanted to know all about it. I asked him, "Do you want to make the circles into something? Use your imagination, a little?"
I gave him a brush and ink and he made some cool things.
I made this one. 
My daughter used her imagination too. I was very nervous about giving her the brush to dip into the bottle of ink. But, everything turned out o.k.!
She imagined a girl and a setting sun.
I am so glad we didn't go to the store to buy a brand-new ball.
This was so much more fun!
Randall, thank you for sharing your birthday with us. We hope you have a wonderful day!

Check out Randal de Sève's latest book, A Fire Truck Named Red, illustrated by Bob Staake:


1. Randall de Sève's Website
2. Follow Randall on Twitter
3. Interviews - SharpRead, KidLit Frenzy, Mundie Kids, GeoLibrarian
4. IN PRAISE OF PICTURE BOOKS by Randall de Sève - The Nerdy Book Club

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