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

Friday, October 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Susan Meddaugh - October 4

Happy Birthday, Susan Meddaugh - October 4

Birthdays create instant connections when two people have them in common.

My best friend, who I met in second grade, has his birthday five days before mine. When I was growing up it was something I wanted other people to know. I would say, "This is my best friend, Craig. We love to play basketball together and our birthdays are only five days apart."

This week, a friend whose daughter is in my son's preschool class said her birthday was in March. I said, "Cool. March? Me too! What day?" Her birthday was closer to the beginning of March and mine is on March 29, but it was still neat to learn her birthday was near mine.

Have we celebrated an author or illustrator that has the same birthday as you do? My family has a long way to go before we have an author or illustrator birthday celebration for every day of the year, but I am sure we have a celebration within a few days of your special day. We hope that is close enough to create an instant connection between you and a children's picture book creator. (Check out the calendar of all the author and illustrator birthdays we have celebrated.)

Today is my oldest son's birthday. He is 7! He was so happy find out that he shares his special day with author and illustrator Susan Meddaugh. He had already made a connection with Susan because he loves her books about Martha the talking dog. Now, the connection is that much stronger. The next time he sees a friend reading Martha Speaks he can say, "Susan Meddaugh wrote that book. She has written many other cool books, but that is my favorite. The best thing is that we share the same birthday!"

Susan Meddaugh is the author and illustrator of many children's books including Martha Speaks, Beast, and Cinderella's Rat. Before creating her own books she worked at a publishing company for ten years as a designer, art editor, and art director. She illustrated her first book, Good Stones by Anne Merrick Epstein in 1977 and then decided to leave the publishing company to work on her own. She successfully published many picture books in the 1980s and one of our favorites in 1990, In the Haunted House by Eve Bunting. "I initially did just want to illustrate, and did illustrate books for authors as well as my own. But over time, I've discovered that I can't separate writing from illustration, and do not want to." (2Wired2Tired). In 1992, she published Martha Speaks after her seven-year-old son (Hooray for 7 year old sons!) asked her while eating a bowl of alphabet soup,"Mom, if Martha [their dog] ate alphabet soup, would she speak?" (Baristanet). Susan described this experience with her son as an "A-ha! moment." (PBS on YouTube). She went to work on the story, used her imagination, drew her "drawable" dog Martha, and created a series loved by thousands, maybe even millions of children.  Martha Speaks is also a successful television show for PBS. Now you can enjoy Martha in chapter books, a graphic novel, and beginning readers too!

The best way to bring the books about Martha the talking dog to life was to make alphabet soup, but I thought baking homemade crackers to eat with the soup would make our dinner extra special. Last week, I found a delicious homemade cracker recipe that I wanted to try again. (Click here to get the recipe).
I gathered all the ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, butter, and water) to make the crackers while my youngest two children looked through our Martha books.
They took turns cutting the butter into the flour.
We prepared the dough in the electric mixture and then they took turns kneading.
We had an opportunity to read Martha Speaks while the dough rested for 10 minutes.
We used our pasta machine to roll out the dough. We ran the dough through on setting 7 and then again on setting 2 to make it really thin (almost see-through).
We purchased dog bone cookie cutters at Joann Fabrics for only 99 cents. They are also available on Amazon for a higher price.
I bought two cookie cutters to make sure we didn't have any fights! Smiles were all around.
My son carefully arranged the dog bone cracker cut-outs on a cookie sheet.
We baked them for 6 minutes at 450 degrees until they were golden brown. I rotated the cookie sheet half way through to allow for even baking.
I forgot to pierce the dough with a fork before baking. But, I am glad I didn't because the crackers puffed up and looked more like dog bones.
These crackers were delicious!
In the afternoon my youngest son went to preschool and my daughter and I worked on the alphabet soup. I used a recipe at Happy Healthy Momma as a guide for my soup. (Click here for the recipe.)
She was excited for the alphabet pasta!
A delicious combo -- food and books! We read 4 Martha books this week; Martha Speaks, Martha Calling, Martha Blah Blah, and Martha and Skits.  Thankfully, we read Martha and Skits! My 2 year old daughter was worried that the alphabet soup was going to go to her brain just like Martha! I told her that she didn't need to worry, because Skits ate alphabet soup too and it didn't go to his brain. It only happened to Martha. This calmed her anxiety. Whew!
I made a few special crackers with MARTHA imprinted on them. I used a knife before baking to imprint the letters.
Grilled cheese too! Do you make your grilled cheese in the oven? A few years ago we discovered that it is easier to make grilled cheese for the whole family in the oven.
The birthday boy is the silly one in the green shirt!  Happy Birthday, little man!
This week when we were putting up our Halloween decorations we found the two haunted house pictures (pictured below). My daughter made them four years ago after we read In the Haunted House by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Susan Meddaugh. It is one of our favorite Halloween books!

Click here to read how she made these!
In the Haunted House is now available as a Touch-and-Feel Lift-the-Flap book!

1. About Susan Meddaugh - PBS Kids
2. Martha Speaks Website - PBS Kids
3. Martha the Talking Dog Website - HoughtonMifflin Books
4. Interviews - Reading Rockets, WGBH, 2Wired2Tired, Fans of Being a Mom, PBS Engage, Baristanet


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