Thursday, August 27, 2015

Happy Birthday, Lindsay Ward - August 29

Happy Birthday, Lindsay Ward - August 29

Have you ever attended a book launch party?

I didn't know there was such a thing as a "book launch party" before I started writing this blog. But, in the past few years I have learned that these events are a big deal to an author/illustrator. I have also learned that as a fan of children's books I need to attend events like these to support the efforts and creativity of our children's authors and illustrators. Besides, it's a fun way to spend a few hours with friends and/or family.

It can take years for an author/illustrator to publish a picture book. There are many different paths to publication and none of them happen overnight. The author/illustrator's initial idea goes through many transformations before a reader holds the book in their hands. During the transformations the author/illustrator experiences a wide variety of emotions; excitement, frustration, worry, joy, exhaustion. The book launch party is a celebration of all the hard work the author/illustrator has endured during the process of publishing the book.

The book launch party celebrates the end of the publication process, but it also marks the beginning of the marketing process. The author/illustrator endures all the hard work because they want their story to be read and enjoyed. The book launch party is a great way for friends, family, and fans to purchase a copy of the book for themselves or as a gift. A successful book launch party can help create a buzz that can inspire the author/illustrator as they begin to market their book.

At a book launch party you will feel a buzz of excitement. There's a new book, an excited author/illustrator, and hopefully lots of people attending. Additionally, there are usually activities for children, a book reading, and many tasty treats. It truly is a great time for everyone.

One of the first book launch parties I attended was for Lindsay Ward's picture book, Please Bring Balloons in 2013. I learned of the book launch party by following her Facebook page. (Following your favorite authors and illustrators on Facebook and Twitter are a great way to learn of upcoming events.)  I was excited to take my children to the book launch party to meet Lindsay Ward because one year earlier we celebrated her birthday and they loved all of her books.
PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward - Book Launch Party
The book launch party was at a local cupcake shop which was another reason I thought my children would love the event.
PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward - Book Launch Party
Lindsay read her new book to large group of children and adults. 
PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward - Book Launch Party
I loved the book and picked up a copy as gift. It was a very successful event with many people supporting Lindsay. Quite some time later, I asked Lindsay how well the book did and she said it was one of her most successful picture books.  
When I was planning our author birthday celebrations for the month of August I saw Lindsay's birthday on my calendar and I remembered attending the book launch for Please Bring Balloons. I remembered Lindsay reading the story about Emma who visits the Grand Carousel in the park only to discover a simple note under the saddle of the polar bear. The note reads, "Please bring" with a drawing of a balloon. Emma brings a red balloon with white polka dots the next morning. Upon returning in the afternoon the balloon is still there and so is another note that reads, "Please bring MORE!" with a drawing of a bunch of balloons. Emma brings more balloons and it was just what the polar bear needs to take Emma on an adventure she will never forget.

Please Bring Balloons incorporates two of my youngest children's favorite things; balloons and merry-go-rounds. Last week, with my oldest two children off to school, it was the perfect time to go on an adventure of our own inspired by this wonderful book.

Activity Idea for PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
First we needed balloons. My children and I picked out two balloons each. There were so many different colors, shapes, and designs of balloons to choose from.
Activity Idea for PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My excited children looked on as their balloons were filled with helium.
Activity Idea for PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My son picked a regular silver balloon and one that looked like a purple donut. My daughter picked one blue and one clear balloon with floral patterns. I picked a red balloon with white polka dots just like the balloon Emma first gave the polar bear in the book and a "Happy Birthday" balloon.
Activity Idea for PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We took our balloons to the Merry-Go-Round Museum in Sandusky, Ohio. 

In 1988, the U.S. Postal service issued a series of postage stamps featuring carousel animals and one of the animals was a carousel horse from the Kiddieland Carousel at Cedar Point (also in Sandusky, Ohio). A celebration of the postage stamps and the carousel animals was held in an unused Sandusky post office building. Over 2,000 carousel enthusiasts attended the celebration. Two years later, the Merry-Go-Round Museum was opened in the same location. This year the museum celebrates its 25th anniversary of "preserving and promoting the art and history of the carousel."
Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
Carousel horses greet you as soon as you enter the building. My son was drawn to the eagle carved on this carousel horse.
Zebra • Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
Inside we did not find a polar bear carousel animal, but we did find a zebra.
Giraffe Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
A giraffe with a snake around its neck and it is swallowing a frog!
Tiger • Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
A ferocious tiger!
The Brass Ring • Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
We learned about The Brass Ring that could be grabbed by a carousel rider to earn a free ride.
Watching You Giraffe • Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
This giraffe had eyes that followed you as you walked passed.
Rooser • Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
We learned that these carousel animals are very valuable. This rooster is insured for $400,000!
Hard-Carved Carousel Horse • Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
The museum raises funds each year by auctioning a hand-carved and painted carousel horse. This year's horse is still a work-in-progress.
Restored Cow • Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
These two cows were actually on the same carousel made for the 1900 Worlds Fair in France. These were two of the 72 cows on the carousel under the Eiffel Tower. It shows the difference between the original and a restored version.
Carousel at Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
Inside the museum is a fully restored Allan Herschell carousel. You get to ride the carousel with your paid admission.
Activity Idea for PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Pure joy!
Activity Idea for PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
You can see grandma peeking over the shoulder of my daughter. Having her along on this adventure made it extra special.
Activity Idea for PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
After riding the carousel, we read Please Bring Balloons.
Activity Idea for PLEASE BRING BALLOONS by Lindsay Ward via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin this picture.
Music Machine • Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
Before we left the museum we were treated to a song from this carousel music machine. I had no idea these machines were so complex. Inside are tons of hoses and bellows and wheels all working together make the music. 
Fund day at Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
It was great day!
Merry Go Round Museum • Sandusky, Ohio
We highly recommend a visit to Sandusky's Merry-Go-Round Museum and if you visit take along a copy of Lindsay Ward's Please Bring Balloons!
The book launch party for Please Bring Balloons was two years ago. More recently Lindsay Ward has published a new book that is super cute and clever. My children really enjoyed, Henry Finds His Word which which was published in February 2015. Please check it out!



Links:
1. Lindsay Ward's Website
2. Lindsay's Blog - Respect the Cupcake
3. Where in the World is Blue? Blog - Follow where Blue goes next!
4. Lindsay's Etsy Shop for Wedding Invites, etc. - Borrowed and Blue Handmade Invitations
5. Interviews - Heights Observer, Henryherz.com
6. How Lindsay Got Her Start - Kidlit.com
7. Lindsay Ward featured on the  Seven Impossible Things Blog
8. Another Lindsay Ward birthday memory - Respect the Cupcake + another
9. Lindsay Ward at Cuyahoga County Library - YouTube

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Happy Birthday, Judy Schachner - August 20

Happy Birthday, Judy Schachner - August 20

"Can we do that, AGAIN?"

My oldest son said this the morning of August 20th after we reminisced how we celebrated Judy Schachner's birthday four years ago.
Activity Idea for SkippyJon Jones by Judy Schachner via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
In 2011, my daughter was 6 and my son was 3.
My youngest son chimed in, "Yeah, can we do that?" He couldn't say "Can we do that again?"" because he was only one-year-old when we made an "Alfred Buzzito, the Great Bumblebeeto" piñata after reading Judy Schachner's Skippyjon Jones.
Activity Idea for SkippyJon Jones by Judy Schachner via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My youngest is on the right with his sippy cup. He was probably just waking up from his afternoon nap to find us finishing up The Great Bumblebeeto" piñata.
After my youngest daughter saw this picture she asked, "Was I born, yet?" Her brothers and sister said, "no" and then she replied, "I must have been in mommy's belly." That part was true.

One of the reasons I write this blog is so I can have conversations like this with my children. I love hearing them recall a fun time we had together that was inspired by a picture book. I like to call them memorable family reading experiences.

I said, "Yes!" to my children and on August 20th, Judy Schachner's birthday we reread Skippyjon Jones, a book I still love to read aloud. Then, we made a piñata just like the one we made four years ago and the one that is in Skippyjon Jones' closet the day he became Skippito the Great Sword Fighter and met the Los Chimichangos, a group of colorful chihuahuas and saved them and their frijoles from the Great Bumbleeto.

After this year's family reading experience, which I have dubbed Bumblebeeto 2.0, my oldest children will have an even stronger memory of reading Skippyjon Jones and my youngest children will now have their own memory of reading the book and making the "bumblebee."  My hope is that I have something else my children will want to talk about when they get older, like when they are teenagers. (Here's to hoping! I hear those teenage years are rough on a parent's self-esteem.)

pâpier maché mixture for pinata
We pâpier machéd a balloon to make The Great Bumblebeeto. We used a paper towel tube for the nose, aluminum foil balls for the eyes, pipe cleaners for the antennae and legs, and a cereal box for the wings.

Four years ago we used 1 part water to 1 part flour for our pâpier maché mixture. This year, I used 5 parts water to 1 part flour. This year's recipe required me to bring the mixture to a boil on the stove and then let it cool.
Activity idea for Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
The next day, August 21st, after the pâpier maché dried my youngest two children painted the piñata.
Activity idea for Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
The Great Bumblebeeto looks like he is smiling!
Activity idea for Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
One of the most exciting parts of both our celebrations was going to the store to pick out candy to put inside the piñata. For Skippyjon Jones, his piñata was filled with jelly beans, kitty suckers, little colorful mice, and beanbag doggies.  My children chose Starbursts, Gummi Bears, and Tootie Rolls.
El Skippito, the Great Sword Fighter
"Holy Frijoles!" cried Skippito as he thrust his sword into the air. 
El Skippito, the Great Sword Fighter
Four years earlier there was another Skippito with a sword in our backyard.
El Skippito, the Great Sword Fighter
My youngest daughter, who wasn't around the first time we made a Bumblebeeto piñata, is now three years old. She used her sword as the "bean-eating Bandito hovered only inches away" from her face. 
Alfredo Buzzito, the Great Bumblebeeto Pinata
My oldest son, now seven years old, tried to send the Great Bumblebeeto over the right field wall with his swing. 
Alfredo Buzzito, the Great Bumblebeeto Pinata
My oldest daughter, now 10, , she fears "not a single bandito." 
Alfredo Buzzito, the Great Bumblebeeto Pinata
We didn't even make it twice though the rotation before, "POP! went the Bandito."
Alfredo Buzzito, the Great Bumblebeeto Pinata
"Yip, Yippee, Yippito! Our hero is El Skippito!"
Alfredo Buzzito, the Great Bumblebeeto Pinata
I was thankful that The Great Bumblebeeto was not too damaged. I will be able to keep him as a keepsake of this memorable family reading experience.
Thank you, Judy Schachner for creating a book that has entertained our family for years! We hope you had a wonderful birthday. We are looking forward to your new book, DEWEY BOB!



Monday, August 17, 2015

Happy Birthday, Deb Pilutti - August 18

Happy Birthday, Deb Pilutti - August 18

Our family believes celebrating author and illustrator birthdays is a SUPER fun way to read together. Over five years ago, I started collecting the birthdays of our favorite authors and illustrators. In the beginning, I found most of the birthdays we celebrated on author-birthday-calendars provided by publishers. Now, I learn most of the birthdays directly from the authors and illustrators themselves by asking them at book signings. Occasionally, I learn a birthday in a different way; an author emails us, I find it on an author's website, or in a very unique case; an author I follow on Facebook, congratulates another author on their birthday about their new book and I write it down, wait almost a year, and then contact the author just to verify that it is indeed their birthday. This is exactly how I learned Deb Pilutti's birthday.

Last week, I saw Deb Pilutti's birthday on my calendar (exactly where I wrote it down after author-illustrator Laurie Keller shared it on her Facebook page). Also last week, I found her latest book at our library. However, I wasn't completely comfortable celebrating Deb's birthday without verifying it first. Thankfully, Deb responded SUPER fast and confirmed her birthday! I hope after you read this blog post you will FLY right out and grab a copy of her book!

Deb Pilutti has created three books for children; The City Kid and the Suburb Kid, illustrated by Linda Bleck, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan, written by Susan Collins Toms, and Ten Rules of Being a Superhero, which she wrote and illustrated. Her fourth book, Bear and Squirrel are Friends...Yes, Really! will be available next month, September 15, 2015!

When Deb was younger she "loved reading more than anything" (Vicki Lorencen's Blog), but also loved to watch cartoons. Her father was a storyteller and a writer and her mother was an artist which Deb speculates "maybe filtered in" to her becoming a children's picture book creator.  Or maybe it was because she had the opportunity to take a design workshop from Leo Lionni when she was a junior in college. Deb talked about this experience on the Let's Get Busy Podcast, "One of the things I took away from the week of studying with him was to have a child-like sense of play. Look at things like a child. Be playful in your work even when it is something serious."


Deb started her career as a graphic designer where she has designed everything from websites to logos to amusement park environments to toys. After many years of working as a freelance graphic designer she began to think about making children's books. She sent out postcards and samples of her work to publishers and was later contacted by an editor with a book idea. This led to her writing her first book, The City Kid and the Suburb Kid. On the contrary, her second book, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Michigan, she didn't write but illustrated it. Then, with her third book, Ten Rules of Being a Superhero she "had the whole vision," and wrote and illustrated the book. (Let's Get Busy Podcast).

Ten Rules of Being a Superhero is about Captain Magma, an action figure, and an imaginative young boy, aka Lava Boy. Captain Magma has three superpowers but he wishes he could fly. Lava Boy knows so much about being a superhero that he shares his "ten rules of being a superhero" as he plays with Captain Magma. The book starts with Lava Boy playing with Captain Magma in his room. This is where we learn Rule #1, "A superhero must ALWAYS respond to a call for help even if the odds are against him."  The illustrations show two creature-like toys chasing and tying up two human-like toys. As the day progresses, Lava Boy shares more rules at clean up time, morning snack time, sibling nap time, and more. Our favorite rule was "Rule #6, "A superhero needs a tasty snack to be in top form." Captain Magma is pictured burping after eating a cupcake as Lava Boy is running around and jumping off rocks after getting energy from peanut butter and celery. By the end of the book, it is clear that Lava Boy and Captain Magma are the best of friends and would do anything for each including helping out after someone's first time flying doesn't go so well.

I had an idea for how to bring Ten Rules of Being a Superhero to life for my children after reading it the first time. I thought it would fun to make our own action figures. My son received a jar of InstaMorph for his birthday in June. It was still unopened. Don't know what InstaMorph is? I really didn't know either, but it ended up being a SUPER awesome way to celebrate Deb Pilutti's birthday.
Instamorph Superhero Action Figures
InstaMorph is a non-toxic, moldable plastic. The package stated only six easy steps; heat, pour, wait, remove, shape, create. It seemed like it would be exactly what we would need to make our own superhero action figures. (At least, that is what I hoped.)
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
I had no idea how much InstaMorph we would need to make an action figure. I was concerned we wouldn't have enough to each make our own action figure. So, I went into the project with the idea we would make one action figure together as a family.
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We loved the superhero names Captain Magma and Lava Boy. We came up with a list of TEN possibilities for our superhero. The finalists were; Lightning Man, Thunder Boy, Electric Man, Dragon Boy, Speed Boy, Fire Boy, and Rock Boy. Chosen from the finalists was Dragon Boy. My children decided that his superpowers would be that he could fly and breathe fire. His favorite snack is not cupcakes like Captain Magma but CHILE PEPPERS!
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We had a 12 oz. container of InstaMorph. When we opened it we saw that it was filled with little white beads of plastic. The directions said to heat water to 140 degrees before adding the plastic beads.
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We added the beads and waited two minutes. The beads turned from white to clear.
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We removed the beads from the water. The plastic was quite warm, but not burn-your-skin warm.  My boys were immediately able to start molding.
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Our initial thought was that we make moveable arms and legs and carve eyes and faces. I am sure this possible if you were to make molds, but we didn't have the time or the patience for this.
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
So, we put our InstaMorph back into 140 degree water. This was the best thing about this stuff. We could fix mistakes and reform just by putting it back into the hot water for a minute.
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
I told my boys not worry about moveable parts and to just make their action figure's body, head, legs, and arms (or in the case of Dragon Boy -- wings!). I told my children not to worry about faces because we could paint those on later.
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Dragon Boy was starting to take shape. We put him back in the water to make sure his wings were attached to his back.
Instamorph Superhero Action Figures
We discovered that there was plenty of InstaMorph for everyone to make superhero action figures. After this project we still had half the container of plastic beads. I would estimate that you could easily make six action figures with a 12 oz. container. (It is also available in a smaller 6 oz. package.)
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
It did not take long for our action figures to cool. Once they changed from clear to white we started painting.
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We used acrylic paints. They painted a base coat and let it dry before adding details with other colors of paint.
Painting Instamorph
My daughter painted her own action figure which she named Fire Girl.
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
I made little capes out of scraps of fabric. I also sprayed the action figures with clear enamel to make them shine like a new action figure.
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
"Whoosh." I can fly!
Instamorph Superhero Action Figures
Introducing -- Fire Girl, Dragon Boy, and Speed Boy! My youngest son was afraid to paint the face on his yellow action figure so I did my best for him. I was inspired by Captain Magma, but a friend said he looks more like Homer Simpson. Regardless, I know these superheroes will have no problem with Rule #8 "A superhero is always brave."
Activity Idea for TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO by Deb Pilutti via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin this picture!
Deb, we hope you have a SUPER birthday!! Thank you again for responding so quickly to our email. Thank you for making such a fun book! We can't wait for the next one!

You won't have to wait long for Deb's next book, Bear and Squirrel are Friends...Yes, Really!.  But from now until September 15th, you can watch the trailer, a couple hundred times :) There is an amazing pre-order price of under $9 right now for the book! Pre-order it now!!



Links:
1. Deb Pilutti's Website
2. Follow Deb Pilutti on Twitter and Instagram and YouTube
3. Audio Interview - Let's Get Busy Podcast
4. Text Interview - ReaderKidz, Frog on a Dime
4. Ten Rules for Having a Superhero Birthday Party Guide - MacMillan

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