Monday, April 21, 2014

Happy Birthday Barbara Reid - November 16

Happy Birthday Barbara Reid - November 16

No. Your eyes are not playing tricks on you and you haven't been magically time-warped to November! My youngest two children and I just celebrated Barbara Reid's November birthday in April. Why, you ask? Well, she was listed as having an April birthday on an author birthday calendar that I frequently use to plan my celebrations. Luckily, I always double check (and sometimes triple check) to verify the author's birthday before posting it on the blog. Once I started my research for this blog post,  I found other sources that had her birthday as November 16th. So, I emailed Barbara and she replied almost immediately to confirm that her birthday is November 16th! Thank you, Barbara for confirming your birthday with us!

I thought maybe this could be our first half-birthday author celebration, but we were off by a month there too. Oh well, my children and I had so much fun reading Barbara Reid's books and experimenting with a new illustration technique that I couldn't wait 7 months to share it with you.

Barbara Reid is an author and/or illustrator of over twenty picture books including Fox Walked Alone and Two By Two. Her unique illustration style utilizes plasticine, a soft, oil-based modeling material, to create the images in her children's books. According to her website, she experimented with plasticine as a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design, but recalls, "When I was little my mom would give me some modeling clay, and I'd play happily all day. I'd make buildings, people, animals, even whole villages." (The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Publishing) Her first picture book, The New Baby Calf by Edith Newlin Chase, was illustrated using plasticine in 1984. This best-selling book was the beginning of a career in children's literature that has been highlighted by awards such as the UNICEF Ezra Jack Keats Award, Governor General's Award for illustration, and an Elizabeth Mrazik-Cleaver Canadian Picture Book Award. Her latest picture books are Picture a Tree and The Night Before Christmas.

Our birthday celebration for Barbara Reid was very spontaneous.  I already had the books checked out from the library and I knew I had a bag of various colors of plasticine (modeling clay) in the basement. I was just waiting for the right time to embark on this project with my children. My three-year-old son came home from preschool one day this week asking to do an activity with his sister and I. He suggested doing a craft inside.  So, I gathered the books, the plasticine, two sturdy canvas boards and the celebration began!

We started our celebration by reading The Subway Mouse about a mouse named Nib who grew up in the subway hearing stories about Tunnel's End from his elders.  One day, when he was older, he decided to find out if the stories were true about Tunnel's end.  On his adventure he battles hunger, meets a travel-worthy companion, wanders empty track, and mistakenly steals the big mouse's jellybean before reaching his goal. Tunnel's end was "more beautiful than he had dreamed."

As we read the book, I found it interesting that when I asked my son about the illustrations in the book he was unable to tell me that the illustrations were any different that what he has seen in other picture books. I even asked him if they looked like they were made with clay or play-doh and he just shrugged his shoulders.
After reading the book, we got out the plasticine and I asked if they would like to make a mouse.
My son was really interested and started squishing the plasticine on the canvas board.
He didn't know how to make a tail for his mouse.  I asked him if he could roll one and he was quite pleased with how easy it was!
We examined the illustrations in The Subway Mouse and noticed that Barbara Reid added texture to her illustrations. We used a toothpick to make the hair on our mice.
Meanwhile, my daughter was making a creation of her own.
He was really examining his work. I said to him, "You are an artist." He replied, "Why am I an artist?" I said, "Because your mouse looks great!" He really wasn't convinced with this answer.
He added a jelly bean to his mouse just like Nib in the book.
I made a mouse too. I added a red jelly bean, my favorite!
After he made his mouse, we read Perfect Snow. He was now able to notice that Barbara Reid used plasticine to make her illustrations. He was pointing out things he noticed on each page.
I thought this was the end of our project. But, then we watched the video below of Barbara Reid demonstrating how she makes a picture using plasticine.

He was inspired to continue his picture. He added grass.
Then, he worked on the sky.
He wanted to added purple to his sky just like Barbara Reid did in another video.
This was his final work of art. He proclaimed, "Dad, I am an artist."
As we worked, my daughter was playing with her clay too.  I looked over, and my daughter said, "Caterpillar!"
While he was working on his picture, I was working on a picture of my own.  I asked my little artist if he would help me add some details. He started by adding windows to the castle with a toothpick.
He added a sun too.

I hope you enjoyed this birthday celebration even though it was a little early.  I will make sure that I share it again with you again on November 16th!

Thank you again, Barbara for confirming your birthday with us!

Buy some plasticine today:


1. Barbara Reid's website
2. Barbara Reid's YouTube Channel
3. Interview - Royal Ontario Museum
4. Audio Interview - Literary Tourist, Just One More Book
5. Barbara Reid Meet the Author - Teaching
6. Guide to a Barbara Reid Author Study - The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Publishing

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Happy Birthday David A. Adler - April 10

Happy Birthday David A. Adler - April 10

The weather forecast called for sixty degree temperatures and sunshine for only one day this week...April 10th. I decided to organize a neighborhood story time to bring families together, read a book, and play catch.

The inspiration for the story time, besides the pleasant weather, was David A. Adler's birthday and his picture book biography Satchel Paige: Don't Look Back. Also, I was secretly hoping that reading this book would bring good luck to the Cleveland Indians as they start their season.

When we read this book we learned that Satchel Paige played on the Cleveland Indians team that won the World Series in 1948.  The Cleveland Indians signed Satchel Paige at the age of 42 after he played for 25 years as "one of baseball's best pitchers" in the Negro Baseball Leagues.

To advertise the story time, I painted a sign and posted it in the front yard next to our Little Free Library.
I was so happy that 4 families and 9 children came to the neighborhood story time. I hope this is the first of many this year!
There is nothing better than playing catch on a spring day with your son.
The rest of this post was originally posted in April 2011. (Included in the post is a free printable activity sheet to use with any of David A. Adler's picture book biographies.)

If I were asked, "What is the most important reason for celebrating the birthdays of children's authors with your family?"  my answer would be quick and easy.  "It exposes my children to a variety of books, topics, and writing styles."

Each birthday celebration is about trying something new.  It is important for me as a parent to expose my children to as much as possible and allow them to develop their own interests.  Last year, when we celebrated David A. Adler's birthday, I brought home many of the Adler's Picture Book Biographies from the library to read with my daughter.   It was through these books that she discovered an interest in biographies and history.  When we returned to the library the next week, I still remember the stunned look on the face of the librarian when my then 4-year old daughter asked, "Where is the biography section?" Now, she still is frequent visitor to this section of the library. I am quite positive that she wouldn't have discovered these books without celebrating his birthday last year.

David A. Adler had a variety of experiences before becoming a full-time writer.  He loved drawing as a child and followed that interest to have "more than 200 of his drawings and cartoons published in magazines and newspapers" (Houghton Mifflin).  He spent nine years as a math teacher after attending college to study economics (David A. Adler's website).  It wasn't until he became a stay at home dad while on child care leave with his first son that he got really serious about writing. He took advantage of nap times to write Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds during his first year of leave. (Gotta love nap times - I am writing this post while my youngest is upstairs napping and the other two are at an Easter Egg Hunt).

The variety in Adler's life continued during his writing career.  He is probably most recognized for his Cam Jansen Series.  However, he has written over 200 books including many non-fiction books.  I have mentioned the Picture Book Biographies but he has also written many about the Holocaust, math concepts and baseball.  (For last year's birthday celebration I tried to group many of his books into categories.) David A. Adler talked about the variety of his work in a "Meet the Author" interview with Houghton Mifflin when he said, "Because of the diversity of the books I write, I am able to vary my work even in a single day from research on a nonfiction book to fiction writing to riddle writing."

Without a doubt, I knew we would be reading more Picture Book Biographies this week.  My daughter was excited to find biographies at the library about Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson, Harriet Beecher Stow, Ben Franklin, and Sacagawea.   In the video below, David A. Adler discusses why he felt it was important to write the Picture Book Biography Series for children:

In reading the Picture Book Biographies this week, I decided to make an activity sheet that I hope can help more children discover the love of biographies through David A. Adler's work. The activity sheet that I developed is called "Tic-Tac-Toe with Picture Book Biographies by David A. Adler".  On the activity sheet there are nine activities that could be used with one or many of the Picture Book Biographies.  The idea is to have the child choose the activities they want to complete while trying to get three-in-a-row.  I used this activity technique many times during a two-year assignment teaching gifted students.  I tried to include many higher level thinking activities based upon Bloom's Taxonomy.  I hope parents, teachers, and homeschooling families can use this sheet along with many of the resources below in the "Links" section to further explore Alder's biography books.
Click here to Download the Activity Sheet
This FREE activity sheet is also available on my Teachers Pay Teachers Page!
I printed a copy of the activity sheet and left it on the kitchen table with a stack of the Picture Book Biographies we had already read.  My three year old son wondered what it was and after I explained the activities he decided complete the activity "Design a Poster of your favorite person you learned about while reading a Picture Book Biography".  Below is his poster featuring George Washington.  This week he learned that George Washington was a brave leader.  My son was also a brave leader this week as he was assigned to be the "weekly helper" at preschool.  He was quite anxious about being the leader, but he was very brave and finished the week without any tears. (Hooray!)
I loved his George Washington drawing, especially the buttons on the jacket.
We also completed a George Washington Foam craft which is in the upper right hand corner.
I emailed David A. Adler to let him know that we were going to celebrating his birthday. I asked him to share a birthday memory or tradition.  This was his response:

As a child and in my household we have always had birthday cake for breakfast.  We want the celebration to begin as early as possible.  There's also a gift table so whenever the birthday person wakes up the gifts are there waiting. Of course, this means we must get to bed early the night before our birthdays so the table can be set up -- and no peaking.

David, thank you so much for responding with your birthday thoughts.  My daughter loves your books, and also loved your birthday tradition.  I think we will be having birthday cake for breakfast on her birthday that is quickly approaching.

My children loved David A. Adler's latest book, Millons, Billons, and Trillons that was released January 2014!:


2.  BlogTalk Radio Interview with David A. Adler
3.  Reading Rockets Video Interview with David A. Adler
4.  Picture Book Biographies Resource Guide - Holiday House
6.  Cam Jansen Activity Guide - TeacherVision
8.  David A. Adler talks about his book B. Franklin, Printer - C-SPAN (About 40 minutes Long!)
9.  David A. Adler 2010 Birthday Celebration - Happy Birthday Author

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Happy Birthday Bill Martin Jr. - March 20

Happy Birthday Bill Martin Jr. - March 20

One year ago today, I organized my largest author birthday celebration ever!  I had the pleasure of being on the Right to Read Week committee for my son's elementary school and we decided to focus the school's week-long reading celebration on Bill Martin Jr. because his birthday fell during the week. At one of our meetings, we were planning the special activities for the week when I offered to host a family story time in the evening.  The teachers thought it was a great idea and came up with the idea of "Bedtime Stories with Mr. V".  It worked out that March 20th was the perfect night to have families return to school to listen to books written by Bill Martin Jr.

I was so excited for "Bedtime Stories with Mr. V"! One of my favorite things is to read books to a classroom full of children, but I had always wondered how I would do reading to a larger group. I had little anxiety about hosting this event only because I knew I would be reading familiar books by Bill Martin Jr. that I had read countless times to my children. I selected the books; Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?, Fire, Fire Said Mrs. MacGuire, Kitty Cat, Kitty Cat, Are You Going to Sleep? and The Beasty Story.

The Beasty Story is my family's favorite book by Bill Martin Jr. (illustrated by Steven Kellogg).  In this book, two mice named Hank and Nick set out to play a prank on their friends in the dark, dark wood. They hide a flying-balloon-device inside a dark green bottle in the dark, dark cupboard which was in the dark, dark house. The flying-balloon-device designed by Hank and Nick emerges from the dark green bottle as a beast with yellow eyes as it flies.  The mice friends are brave and intrigued by the beast instead of being scared! They follow the beast and with a little help they uncover whose is responsible for this prank.

I was determined to make a beast with yellow eyes that flies.  It wasn't easy. I endured many failures.  Below is a picture of my final and successful attempt.  I made it with two helium-filled balloons and a white plastic trash bag.  The trick was to not add too much trash-bag-material around the eyes that it would weigh down the balloons. Once I had the balloons right, I copied a picture of Hank and Nick, the trickster mice, and taped them to the ribbon.  My son loved the beast so much that he wanted to play with it after we made it, but I was terrified it was going to pop!

I made a deal with him. I said, "After 'Bedtime Stories with Mr. V' you can play with the beast as much as you want. But, we can't touch it now."  He agreed and the beast made it to the event without popping.  Below is a video of me reading The Beasty Story in my Pac-Man Jammies and robe.  The video starts with us singing Happy Birthday to Bill Martin Jr.

During last year's Right to Read Week celebration I discovered a book written by Bill Martin Jr. that I just loved; Ten Little Caterpillars with artwork by Lois Ehlert! The book was floating around classrooms at my son's school during Right to Read Week with the teachers reading it to their students. I never had the chance to sneak it away to read it to my children.  However, this year, I found a copy at our local library and it became the book that inspired this year's birthday celebration for Bill Martin Jr.!

Ten Little Caterpillars was the perfect book for my two youngest children. The book is a rhyming story about ten little caterpillars that experience different things like climbing a cabbage head and finding a melon bed.  The tenth caterpillar scaled an apple tree and then had something extra special happen to it! The illustrations taught us about ten different types of caterpillars including cabbage looper caterpillar, woolly bear caterpillar, and common wood nymph caterpillar. There is an illustrated section after the story that tells more about each caterpillar and shows whether it turns into a moth or a butterfly.
After reading the book, I cut the bottom of an egg carton in half and let them create their own caterpillars.  My daughter sang, "Paint, paint, paint" as she painted her caterpillar.
Her brother said that her singing was "annoying" as he concentrated on his painting.
We added antennae with pipe cleaners and googily eyes by using glue dots (so much easier than messing with a glue bottle)
They worked so hard on their caterpillars that I had the opportunity to paint my favorite caterpillar, the woolly bear, which we learned turns into a Isabella Tiger Moth.
My son added eyes to his glow-in-the-dark caterpillar.  My kids love glow-in-the dark paint!!
Please Pin this picture to Pinterest.  Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest?
Tonight, I will be back at my son's school doing another "Bedtime Stories with Mr. V".  The theme of this year's Right to Read Week is Wild About Books.  I will not be reading any books by Bill Martin Jr. but I will be thinking of him because it was his books that sparked the confidence I needed to read and perform for a large group of people!


3.  Reading Rockets Video Interview with Bill Martin Jr. (He reads Brown Bear, Brown Bear)
4.  Eric Carle talks about Bill Martin - YouTube
5.  Bill Martin Jr. Author Study - Scholastic
6.  Brown Bear Activity Guide - MacMillan

Love this video!!

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