Thursday, May 5, 2016

Happy Birthday, Deborah Freedman - May 6

Happy Birthday, Deborah Freedman - May 6

I feel thankful as I write this blog post after a morning walk to school with my children. The end of last week was rainy as was the beginning of this week. Today the sun was out and the sky was bright blue. The air had the perfect touch of cool. Dew sparkled on the grass which prompted my son to ask me how it forms. The white puffs on the dandelions looked sticky from the moisture. We thought, I guess we will have to wait to blow them. A group of rabbits darted under a bush. They were fast but we still saw their puff tails.

We leave twenty minutes earlier when we decide to walk to school. Despite having less time to get ready there seems to be less stress for everyone on these days. Less stress is something to be thankful about. Slowly walking with my children is something to be thankful about. Celebrating another author birthday with my family is something to be thankful about too.

Deborah Freedman is the author and illustrator of four, soon to be five, picture books including The Story of Fish and Snail and By Mouse and Frog. A daily walk is part of Deborah's routine. She said, "The rhythm of walking helps with picture books." (Mazza Museum Keynote.)  Another thing that helps is growing up with a strong family connection to field of children's literature. Deborah's aunt and uncle, Mary Ann and Norman Hoberman, created picture books together in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Mary Ann Hoberman went on to become a Children's Poet Laureate and an author of over 30 books. At the Mazza Museum Deborah described their influence, "Their books are a part of me now, part of my wiring."

Deborah attended Yale University to study art history and then went to Harvard Graduate School of Design to study architecture. She worked as an architect but started to play with books when her daughters were very young. She often made tiny, personal hardcover books for them and when they were older the books contained funny things her daughters said.

Deborah's daughters loved to draw too and when they got a little bit older they would tell stories about their drawings. This gave Deborah an idea, "What if I wrote a story about two sisters who loved to draw and the story behind their drawings? When they [my daughters] were really little I took their drawings and photocopied them and doodled around them and tried to make a book out of their actual drawings (see photo below), but...after playing with that for a couple of years actually it was limiting me. I realized I had to do the 'kids' drawings myself." (Classroom Connections). All of this led to her first picture book, Scribble in 2007. Scribble is a story about two sisters whose drawings lead to fight, a black scribble, a story of a princess and a kitty, and a happy ending.

Blue Chicken was Deborah Freedman's second book and was the inspiration for our birthday celebration activity. This book starts with an almost finished painting on an artist's desk. The only thing left to paint is the sky and the barn. While the artist is away, the painting comes alive with a white chicken spying the artist's watercolor paints on the desk nearby. The chicken wants to help finish the painting, but the paint spills! The white chicken is no longer white, but BLUE! Paint splatters everywhere and the other animals are unable to avoid it. Blue chicken must figure out a way to clean up the mess and maybe, just maybe, his solution will also help with painting.

Deborah told the audience at the Mazza Museum that she used a straw to blow paint to make some of the illustrations for Blue Chicken. The splatters and splashes were scanned and combined with separate drawings of the farm animals. She described this as "controlled chaos" as she didn't want to ruin her drawings if the paint didn't splash the right way. I had to try this! I wondered if we could combine Scribble and Blue Chicken into an afternoon of messy fun!

We started with Scribble drawings with black markers.
First, we drew guys...

And then a chicken.
After my daughter finished a drawing of a princess and while her brother was drawing a knight she asked if she could draw one more thing. I am glad she did.
All the drawings were complete.
I bought blue liquid watercolor paint and two small glass jars at Michael's craft store. I filled the jars with the paint.
Deborah Freedman also used pipettes to squirt paint, toothbrushes to make fine splatters, and paintbrushes for bigger splotches for the illustrations in Blue Chicken. (Classroom Connections). I had all of these tools plus many pieces of heavy watercolor paper for my children to create their art.
I found small plastic pipettes in a science kit we had in the basement. It was their favorite tool they used during this project. 
After squirting on the blue paint they used the straw to blow the paint around.

Make sure you put down newspaper because the paint will go everywhere.
My daughter was having so much fun! The mess was contained until she started experimenting with flicking paint with a toothbrush. Her art looked awesome on the paper but her hands were bright blue. We joked, You are starting to turn into a blue chicken.
My son really liked flicking the paint with a paintbrush.
She flicked paint on her face!
Her squirted paint on the floor with the pipette. (I needed to wash that rug anyway!)
We had some messy fun with Blue Chicken. Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin!
Their paintings were awesome! We let them dry and I started to scan their black Scribble drawings while my daughter was working on one last blue painting. Then, she called me back into the kitchen... 
Instead of blowing the paint, she sucked in! 

We went to the bathroom, rinsed her mouth, and brushed her teeth. All the blue came off her tongue and teeth, but her hands were a different story... 
She really turned blue like Chicken!
The bottle did say, "washes out with soap and water." Later, by the time she had her nighttime bath she was back to being a white chicken.
I scanned all their Scribble drawings and their favorite blue splotch painting. Then, we put everything together into one piece of art.
 Do you see the blue chicken in middle of the paint?
My son's knight stood with his spear in the middle of the blue paint splatter.
Deborah, thank you for sharing your birthday with me at the Mazza Museum. We hope you have a wonderful birthday and wish for sunshine during your daily walk!

Deborah Freedman's next book, SHY, is available for pre-order with a release date of September 27, 2016:

1. Deborah Freedman's Website + MANY RESOURCES for Teachers and Parents
2. Follow Deborah Freedman on Twitter and Facebook
3. Educator's Guide/Teacher's Guide for Deborah Freedman's Books - Penguin
4. Interviews - Dani Duck, AuthorTurf, Henry Herz, Christie Wright Wild BlogSeven Impossible Things Blog
5. Deborah Freedman's Begins Drawing - PiBoIdMo
6. Deborah Freedman WNTH News Interview - YouTube
7. Deborah Freedman Video Interview - Classroom Connections YouTube

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Happy Birthday, Jeff Mack - May 2

Happy Birthday, Jeff Mack - May 2

AH HA! A new author birthday blog post! In the month of May? For real?

I am so thankful to start off this month celebrating Jeff Mack's birthday. Not just because he is a really funny guy (HA HA!) and a talented storyteller, but I remember last May when we didn't celebrate any author birthdays.

The month of May is so crazy for our family. (AAAH!) Baseball practices and games take up most of our evenings and the end of the school year is packed with many extra activities. (AAAH! AAAH!) So, I wish everyone a fun and stress-free start to the month of May. If you need me, I hope to find some time to put up my feet so I can read more books by Jeff Mack. (AAAH!)

Jeff Mack has illustrated over 25 books for children including Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting, Rub-A-Dub Sub by Linda Ashman, and his own, AH HA! and Good News Bad News. Jeff loved to draw monsters and other things that scared him when he was young, "I always had a tough time but my dad would give me a hand. He would show me how to draw a Dracula's face and I would practice it. After a while I got a lot better at it." (Creating Cooperative Kids).

In the first grade, he began making his own books, "Our library had just two monster books: Famous Movie Monsters and Bigfoot. I wanted more, so I made my own. Usually they were in comic book form and starred the other kids in my class. At the beginning, it would seem like a normal day, but, by the end, everyone got eaten by monsters." (Chronicle Books).

In second grade, Jeff's teacher allowed him to use his comic book storytelling format for a Halloween short story contest and when it was finished he was able to hang it in the classroom. His story was big hit which prompted him to make more comics for his classmates to read. (Mazza Museum Keynote).

Jeff Mack went onto study fine art and writing at SUNY Oswego at Syracuse University and Scuola Lorenzo De Medici in Florence, Italy. He started working as a painter, painting movie and music posters and then as a muralist and faux-finisher. But, Jeff really wanted to make books. So, he wrote a story, did all the paintings, photo-copied it into a book dummy, and "snuck it into his portfolio" which he dropped of at publishing houses during the "Drop Off Days". (Mazza Museum Keynote). The publishers thought his story and book dummy were "a little too weird", but the artwork in his portfolio caught their eye and led to his first book, Icky Sticky Chameleon by Dawn Bentley in 2002.

For many years, Jeff illustrated books for other authors including the Bunnicula and Friends early reader series by James Howe. Jeff said during his presentation at the Mazza Museum, "All of these illustration jobs led me to write my own stories."  His first book that he both wrote and illustrated was Hush Little Polar Bear in 2008. Later, writing his own picture books led him to write a few graphic novel-type early readers about Hippo and Rabbit and the chapter book series, Clueless McGeeCheck out Jeff's latest picture books Look! and Who Needs a Bath?.

Our favorite book we read this week was AH HA!. It is a very clever book. Jeff Mack tells the story of a frog and its multiple escapes with just four letters (actually just two letters, A and H)! He talked about picking just the right text for he book, "The book is too action-packed to be quiet and wordless. I wanted kids to have something to say out loud so they could express their emotions as they read. So I replaced the words [written in an earlier draft] with expressions made from the letters A and H. The pictures show the action, and the words let the readers know how the characters are feeling." (Seven Impossible Things).

AH HA! starts out with a happy frog in a pond. (AAHH!) The frog finds a rock. (AH HA!) As it sits on the rock it is captured in a glass jar by a boy. Then, a dog knocks the frog out of the jar (AAHH!) and sends it flying back into the pond. The frog thinks it has found safety on another rock, but this is just the beginning of a story that is sure to make your family laugh out loud. (HA HA!)

I read this book before bedtime and my kids LOVED IT! I had to use it to celebrate Jeff Mack's birthday. Then, AH HA! I knew just what we could do and thankfully the weather was beautiful the next day!
First, we punched holes in the lids from two mason jars with a hammer and a nail.
Then, we grabbed our frog-catching net and hiking sticks for a walk down to the pond.
 My children were shocked by all the frogs jumping in from the edge.
They were determined to catch a frog.
They were quiet but not quiet enough to sneak up on the frogs.
They could see them everywhere and had many opportunities to catch one.
They were just too slow.
I think this frog knew we were trying to catch him.
Finally, I scooped up a frog for them. But, it jumped out of our net. As it was hopping away I grabbed him and put him in the glass jar. My son twisted on the lid.
He was so excited to see the frog close up.
The frog...he was not pleased. (AAAH!)
My daughter took a peak.
Just like the book.
Let me out of here!
Maybe we misunderstood his AAHH! He didn't want to come out at first. Maybe he liked it in the jar.
AH HA! He's out!
He started to hop away.
But, my son wanted to help him get back to the pond.
This time the frog wanted nothing to do with the glass jar, so my son asked to borrow his sister's gloves and carried him back to the pond.
The frog happily jumped back into the water. AAHH!
After the frog catching fun we read a few of Jeff Mack's books in the warm sunshine!
Jeff, thank you for sharing your birthday with us at Mazza! We hope you have a wonderful and relaxing birthday! (AAHH!)
Jeff Mack's next book, PLAYTIME? will be available May 10, 2016 (only 1 week away!!):

1. Jeff Mack's Website
2. Follow Jeff Mack on Twitter and Facebook
3. GOOD NEWS BAD NEWS book trailer - Chronicle Books YouTube
4. Interviews - Watch.Connect.Read., Seven Impossible Things Blog, Chronicle Books, Examiner Part 1, Examiner Part 2, Examiner Part 3, This Kid Reviews Books, The Last Draft Writers GroupSeven Impossible Things (2015)
5. Animated Version of HUSH LITTLE POLAR BEAR - YouTube
7. Jeff Mack feature from MSLA
8. Rockstars of Reading: Painting with Jeff Mack - YouTube

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