Friday, August 29, 2014

Happy Birthday, Donald Crews - August 30

Happy Birthday, Donald Crews - August 30

The week before school started my wife and I worked hard to try to get our children back into the habit of having a bedtime routine; bath, TV show, snack, books with Dad, and tooth brushing all by 8:30pm. We did great and everyone was well-rested and ready for the first day of school. Then, the night after a happy and busy first day of school, we threw out the bedtime routine we had worked so hard to establish and kept the family out until 10:30pm! It was worth bending the rules a little for a NIGHT AT THE FAIR!

Donald Crews is the illustrator of over 20 books including two Caldecott Honor books that he authored himself, Freight Train (1978) and Truck (1981). He graduated from Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in 1959 and worked as a graphic artist until he was drafted into the army. He was stationed in Germany for a few years and returned to New York determined to get a job using his artistic talents. In his portfolio was an alphabet book that many people suggested he should send to publishers. (NCCIL). In 1967, We Read: A to Z was published followed shortly thereafter by Ten Black Dots. After the success of Freight Train and Truck he published many transportation books including School Bus and Sail Away. Donald Crews said in a documentary, "I am drawn to real things. I am drawn to things that have some excitement. Things that move. Things that have exciting visual imagery. Trains and trucks and cars and buses. I take a series of photographs, join them together to see if they tell a story."(Trumpet Video Visits Donald Crews, 1992).

I was talking with my wife about ideas I had for celebrating Donald Crews' birthday. We talked about going to a train yard to read Freight Train or walking around the big city to read signs like Truck. She asked about what other ideas I had. I said, "I really like Night at the Fair, but I don't know if there is a fair happening in our area and if there was one we probably wouldn't be able to fit it into our schedule." She said as she was looking up something on the computer, "I would love to go to the fair....and the Portage County Randolph Fair is going on THIS WEEK! But, the only night we have free is the night after the first day of school." We both agreed that a night at the fair would be worth doing, even if it meant throwing our bedtime routine out the window on the first day of school!

The weather looked iffy, but the skies cleared up after school. We packed up the family and headed to Randolph, Ohio.

It was quite a feat to reach the ticket gate. The grass parking lot was a mud pit.  Many cars were stuck and our shoes got very messy.
We started our evening by viewing the cows, sheep, chickens, rabbits, turkeys, and pigs. My son noticed this pig was smiling as he slept.

We were all hungry for dinner after seeing the animals. Donald Crews wrote in Night at the Fair, "so many things to eat and drink. So many choices." Everyone in our family wanted something different to eat. Our table was covered with french fries, chicken fajita wraps, calzones, corn dogs, and a WALKING TACO! 
After dinner we found seats in the grandstand to watch the main event; a concert and a bull riding competition. My daughter was so excited to be at the fair.  
We read Night at the Fair after the concert was over and before the bull riding began. 
My family and the crowd were really enthralled by the bull riding. However, I couldn't help worrying that someone was going to get hurt. Bull riding is a dangerous sport!

While we were at the bull riding event it became dark enough for the the lights to come on.  As soon as we saw this we decided to leave the main event to walk around.  I had taken photos earlier in the day and returned to those spots to take a photo at night to capture the magic of the lights at the fair.

"The best, the best ride of all, is the GIANT FERRIS WHEEL!"

I am sure Donald Crews took photographs similar to this when he was developing his ideas for Night at the Fair. He talked about how he uses photography in the video below, "I think I take photographs at this point more than I sketch things. So, if I need some information I just assume photograph it and use it at some point down the line; for inspiration before the project begins. I think it is helpful just in terms of quickly being able to find something that leads you to color or action or angle. It is a helpful tool."
Donald Crews included himself with his camera in one of the illustrations of Night at the Fair.
After reading Night at the Fair, I couldn't help but take notice of all the signs and lights.
What is your favorite food to have at the fair?
"And now, on to the RIDES!" We couldn't go to the fair without buying tickets for the rides.
We rode the carousel.

We rode the CRAZY BUS!
My daughter paid her own way to try the bungee jump apparatus!
(and they weren't even grumpy in the morning!)
1. Biography - NCCIL
2. Donald Crews - Virtual Book Club
3. Ten Black Dots Extension Activity - Scholastic
4. Freight Train iPhone App - iTunes
5. Studio Views Ticonderoga #2 by Donald Crews - The Horn Book
6. From the Studio: TEN BLACK DOTS - Under the Green Willow
7. Truck @ 30 - Under the Green Willow
8. Donald Crews Teaching Unit (A MUST DOWNLOAD!!) - Scholastic

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Happy Birthday, Kevin Hawkes - August 28

Happy Birthday, Kevin Hawkes - August 28

As I walked down the sidewalk with my family pushing a double stroller with a skeleton in it a neighbor said, "There is always something going on at your house." I really couldn't tell if she said this because she wanted to join in the fun or that she was thinking I have gone completely nuts! I am thinking it is the latter, but I would like to extend an open invitation to our neighbors to join any of our crazy author birthday celebrations. I must admit that this birthday celebration for Kevin Hawkes is one of the stranger things we have done to bring a book to life. However, I am thinking this was the perfect way to celebrate an artist whose work has been described as "offbeat or quirky." (Candlewick).

Kevin Hawkes is the illustrator of over 40 books for children, including Weslandia by Paul Fleischman and When Giants Come to Play by Andrea Beaty. In an interview with Just One More Book he was asked if he prefers the writing or the illustrating and he responded, "I prefer the illustrating. I love taking a text and bringing it to life. I really like being able to create on the page something that is more than the story and adding to it, but not taking it in a direction that it is not supposed to." Hawkes worked as an assistant animator producing cartoons and as a photographic retoucher before taking a job working in the children's section of a bookstore. While working on this job he studied picture books and prepared a portfolio that would land him his first picture book contract for Then the Troll Heard the Squeak (1990). (Bio). In 1994, he was awarded SCBWI's Golden Kite Award for By the Light of the Halloween Moon by Caroline Stutson. Anita Silvey described Kevin Hawkes as "one of the most versatile illustrators working in children's books today. He adapts his style for each new book, shaping his art to the demands of the text." (Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac.) He is best known for the New York Times best seller, Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen.

There were so many books my kids enjoyed reading by Kevin Hawkes.  It really started last month when we read The Road to Oz to celebrate Kathleen Krull's birthday. Then they fell in love with Westlandia by Paul Fleischman, Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black, and My Little Sister Ate One Hare by Bill Grossman which was School Library Journal's Best Book of the Year in 1996.  Boogie Bones by Elizabeth Loredo was the book that my youngest son loved the most and it was the book that became the focus of our author birthday celebration.

Boogie Bones is a great dancer and his happy feet can move like no other skeleton in the graveyard. Being the best dancer makes him wonder if he can compete with dancers outside the iron gates. One day, a ball cap with a flyer advertising a dance contest blows into the graveyard. It is meant to be and Boogie Bones works up a disguise that will allow him to show his dance moves to people! He is nervous at first but works up his courage to start dancing. The crowd immediately notices Boogie Bones and compares him to Fred Astaire. Everything is going fantastic until his favorite song, Jumpin' at the Woodside is played and the crowd soon finds out who Boogie Bones really is.

I asked my wife, a teacher, if she knew anyone from her school district who had a skeleton that I could borrow. I thought maybe a health teacher or a physical education teacher might have a skeleton stashed in the corner of their classroom. She thought for a moment and a family that lives in the neighborhood next to ours who have an elaborate Halloween display each year came to mind.  She contacted them and they graciously offered one of their skeletons for us to use for this birthday celebration.

I was asked by our Halloween decorating extraordinaire neighbor, "What do you plan on doing with the skeleton? So I know which one to give you." I said, "We plan on dressing him up in a tuxedo." Before I knew it he was handing me a skeleton that could stand on its own, tuxedo pants, and a ruffled shirt! I was so excited and couldn't wait to bring Boogie Bones to life with my children.

We loaded the skeleton into the stroller and headed home.
We had to cross one busy road.
Here is the neighbor who thinks I am nuts. Maybe it was the fact that I was waving just like the skeleton.
My boys were so excited to turn this creepy skeleton into the much more friendly Boogie Bones.
First we put shoes on his feet and pants on his legs.
We found out that it was a little difficult to dress a skeleton. It was especially difficult to hold up the pants. This particular skeleton did not have a pelvis.
Boogie's nice shirt was buttoned by my son.
My other son placed the ball cap on his head. This was the one that blew into the graveyard that held the advertisement for the dance contest.
The most important elements came at the end. We rolled Model Magic into balls to make the eyes.
Lastly, we added a moustache and bushy eyebrows.
Boogie Bones came to life right in our living room!
Whoa! Boogie Bones is really tall! 
We thought he needed some glasses too.
What a good lookin' guy! You should see him dance! Click here to listen to Jumpin' at the Woodside and use your imagination!
A HUGE thank you to our friends for loaning us the skeleton to bring Boogie Bones to life and for not thinking we were nuts for wanting to do it! Maybe Boogie Bones could be a part of your Halloween display this year!


1. Kevin Hawkes' website
2. Kevin Hawkes Talks About Library Lion - YouTube
3. Interviews - Candlewick
4. Audio Interview - Just One More Book (2007)
5. Library Lion featured in Children's Book-A-Day Almanac by Anita Silvey - Google Books
6. Biography-   Houghton-Mifflin, Candlewick, Our White House
7. Mazza Medallion Acceptance Speech - KnowledgeStream

Birthday Source: Anita Silvey's Book-A-Day Almanac, Perma-Bound Calendar, Scholastic Paws for Reading Calendar, (FAQ)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, Ian Falconer - August 25

Happy Birthday, Ian Falconer - August 25

I can't believe it took until my fourth child for my eyes to be opened to the magic and fun of Olivia! My daughter really loves her Olivia board books and on a recent vacation she picked out an Olivia plush doll at an independent bookstore which I bought for her, of course! As I was making the purchase I knew this had to be the year for us to celebrate Ian Falconer's birthday; for my daughter and for her brothers and sister that had not yet read the Olivia series. I am happy to say that this week, our family was able to cross Olivia by Ian Falconer off Amazon's list of 100 Children's Books Everyone Should Read in their Lifetime with what may become one of the most memorable author birthday celebrations our family has ever had!

Ian Falconer is the author and illustrator of the Olivia series. There are seven picture books about Olivia including Olivia Saves the Circus and Olivia...and the Missing Toy. Before creating Olivia, Ian Falconer studied Art History at New York University and then studied painting at Parsons School of Design and the Otis Institute. He designed sets and costumes for the Los Angeles Opera and the New York City Ballet. He also created numerous covers for The New Yorker magazine.

Then, he became an uncle!

He was inspired to create a book to give to his niece, also named Olivia, for a Christmas gift. (USA Today). It was this book that would later become Olivia, but it was originally rejected by an agent which caused Falconer to keep it hidden away for a few years. Later, he was approached by Simon and Schuster to illustrate another book. (Olivia the Pig Website). According to USA Today, Ian Falconer wasn't interested in illustrating the book but showed his Olivia book to the children's book editor, Anne Schwartz. She said, "I looked to the heavens. I knew my ship had come in. I had something great, and it had landed in my lap." Ian Falconer would later be awarded a Caldecott Honor in 2000 for Olivia.

"Olivia is good at lots of things." She is good at being firm with her little brother, building enormous sand castles, and picking the right books to have her mom read before bed. Olivia is an active pig and packs a day full of activity and imagination.  Even a rainy day won't squash her creativity. A visit to the art museum to see her favorite painting is the perfect indoor activity. At the end of the day, every person in her family and Olivia herself, is worn out from all the fun.

I needed more than one day to celebrate Ian Falconer's birthday with my children. Spreading the birthday activity over the course of three days really kept us from getting worn out too!

In Olivia, she visits the art museum to view her favorite painting by Edgar Degas, but another painting also catches her eye. Olivia sees a painting by Jackson Pollock and says, "I could do that in about five minutes." I thought a collaborative Jackson Pollock-like drip and splatter painting would be the perfect way to celebrate Ian Falconer's birthday.

We have found that an old and unwanted door is the perfect canvas for a large painting. The best part is they can often be found for free on the side of the road. My children primed the door to prepare it for our painting.
Later in the evening my two youngest children painted a tan background. Did you notice our Pete the Cat art smocks?
He was really serious about his painting.
He discovered on his own that dripping paint from the paintbrush onto the door looked really cool.  I told him that the next day he was going to make a whole painting with his brother and sisters by dripping paint!
The "littles" asked their older sister to help paint the middle of the door because they couldn't reach.
It occurred to me that this reading experience would be even better if my children could see a Jackson Pollock painting before they tried to make one of their own. 
Therefore, we took a road trip to The Cleveland Museum of Art with Olivia!
Not only did The Cleveland Museum of Art have a painting by Jackson Pollock, but they also had paintings by Edgar Degas.
We went to see a painting by Edgar Degas first -- just like Olivia! What could they be thinking?
Next, we went to gallery 227 to view the painting, Number 5, 1950, by Jackson Pollock. (Click here to read an informative article about Jackson Pollock.)
I wonder if Olivia was still thinking she could do a painting like this in five minutes.
After viewing the two paintings and the rest of the pieces in each gallery we headed down to Gallery One, an interactive exhibit.  We found a large touch screen that allowed my children to recreate the NUMBER 5, 1950 by Jackson Pollock.
The Gallery One exhibit was amazing! There were so many activities for my children. We spent over an hour in this space!
I was so happy to find a huge bookshelf of picture books in the exhibit! Picture books are art!
We faced out the Olivia book for everyone to see!
I had a great day at the museum with these fun kids! (It was FREE too!)
It was nice to have Olivia with us too!
In Olivia, Olivia tries a Jackson Pollock-like painting as soon as she gets home, but her painting happened to be on the wall of her house! 
Everyone of my children took turns dripping and splattering paint. Each one used a different color! We used household paint that was leftover from painting each room of our house.
My oldest son got a little excited about flicking paint off his paintbrush.

Unfortunately, I didn't take a video of him painting. I think you would have enjoyed the sound effects he was making!
I was so proud of my daughter. I was worried she was going to smash her brush right in the middle of the painting. However, she dripped just like the big kids! She sang her "Paint. Paint. Paint." song as she dripped.
Wow! My oldest daughter managed to turn painting into an aerobic exercise!
Drip! Flick! Drip!
He helped mix a few unique colors too!
"Can I have one more turn, dad?"

It was a messy project, but it we all had fun!
The painting dried in the sun for the rest of the day and then I moved it into the garage for the night.
For almost two years the first door we painted to celebrate David Diaz's birthday has graced our living room wall. It was time for a change. My son unscrewed the hardware from the old painting to add to the new one. 
The artists signed their name on the back of the painting!
Ahhhh! Art! We learned that a painting like this takes much, much longer than the five minutes Olivia predicted. Do you think this painting could bring in $140 million at auction like one of Jackson Pollock's paintings in 2006? (Read about that painting here.)
I will forever hold onto the memory of this reading experience with my children! Their enthusiasm at the museum and their passion for painting was a joy to watch.  Thank you, kiddos! I love you!

1. Olivia the Piglet Website
2. Olivia the Pig Official YouTube Channel
3. Olivia the Pig website - Nick Jr. 
4. Olivia Paints a Mural Episode - Nick Jr. 
5. Interviews - Publisher's Weekly, NY Times, NPR, Children's Literature
6. Oink if You Love Olivia - USA TODAY
7. Video Interview - Barnes and Noble

Birthday Source: Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac, PermaBound Author Birthday Calendar,

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