Thursday, October 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dan Santat - October 2

Happy Birthday, Dan Santat - October 2

Our family's experience at this year's National Book Festival was our best yet. Sure, it helped that my four children are three years older than they were when they first attended the festival. (Thankfully, they are all potty trained now! Those first two years were rough.) It also helped that my children have developed an appreciation for meeting an author/illustrator in person. (They really didn't have a choice.) My wife and I learned from past mistakes and prepared much better, too; we packed lots of great snacks, iPads were available for long book signing lines, and we had a clear understanding of the festival's schedule to make sure everyone in the family got to do everything on their list. (iPads at a book conference? Yes, it was necessary, those lines can be over an hour long, but worth every minute of the wait!)

All of these things contributed to us having our most enjoyable time ever, but there was one other thing that was vital to keeping smiles on our faces.

We arrived at the National Book Festival at around 9:30am. We listened to numerous author presentations, walked all around the convention center, ate PB and J sandwiches while sitting on the floor, and waited in many long autograph lines. I looked at the phone and it was time for my children to enter the "crankiest" part of the day which starts around 3:30 and ends as soon as we feed them at dinner time (and dinner wasn't going to happen until 7:30 on this day). Thankfully, right at the beginning of "cranky time" Dan Santat was scheduled to give a presentation with a book signing immediately following.
There was nothing for my children to be cranky about during Dan Santat's presentation. He was entertaining, funny, and all my kids loved him!  If you ask them what they learned about Dan Santat they would probably tell you that he is from "Los Angle-lees".
Dan had lots of fun with the sign language interpreter during his presentation. He said, "I like chicken" numerous times just so she would have to sign it.
He read The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend which was awarded the 2015 Caldecott Medal. This is a picture of it.
After his presentation, he signed books for all of my kiddos; Sidekicks, The Three Ninja Pigs, The Guild of Geniuses, and a Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot book. We got out of line and the kids were beyond excited! I was excited too -- Meeting Dan Santat made "cranky time" completely disappear!
Also, he signed our National Book Festival poster. He shares a birthday with another Caldecott Medalist, David Diaz.
Dan Santat has published over 60 books for children in eleven years. Over twenty of those books are picture books including Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World by Mac Barnett, and Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley. Dan's parents encouraged him to pursue a career as a doctor and he graduated with a degree in microbiology from University of California, San Diego. However, he switched gears and went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and met other artists interested in illustrating children's books including Peter Brown. Upon graduating in 2001, he began preparing an art portfolio while working as a video game art designer. In 2002, he attended a Society of Children's Book Writer and Illustrator (SCBWI) conference and attracted the attention of an editor. "I was sitting in the illustrators display showcase and had my art portfolio on a table with a loose dummy version of the book. [My editor] came up to me and asked me if the book had been acquired, I told him "No." Then we talked things over and a week later I got a contract for a two book deal sent to me via FedEx." (Geek Dad). In 2004, that loose book dummy became his first book The Guild of Geniuses. The second book in the contract later became Side Kicks, a graphic novel.

Over the past eleven years, Dan Santat's efforts have earned him the title of "One of the hardest-working people in publishing" by Minh Le of Huffington Post. In 2014, thirteen books were published with his artwork. For Santat, it is not just about the quantity of the work but the quality. One of those books in 2014, the third book he also wrote, The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend, awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2015. "Beekle may not be perfect for everyone, but I was happy to know that it was perfect for fifteen people on the committee. Thank you for being my perfect other half. Thank you for changing my life, and letting me, for the first time, feel that I was good enough." (Caldecott Medal Acceptance Speech, ALA). Santat talked at length in his Caldecott Medal Acceptance speech that he has worked so hard over the years to overcome his own insecurities about his work and to solidify that he made the right career choice as a children's book creator. About five years ago, Santat turned down a job offer from Google to be a Google Doodler. (The Horn Book). Our family and countless other families around the world are thankful that Dan choose children's books!

Our family's favorite books we read this week by Dan Santat were Crankenstein and Crankenstein's Valentine, written by Samantha Berger. Both books start with, "Have you seen my Crankenstein?" The adult narrator is clear that you can't miss him because as soon as you say "Good Morning" or "Happy Valentine's Day" Crankenstein responds with loud monster voice, "MEHHRRRR!" It sort reminded me of the our first National Book Festival, four years ago, I would say, "We are going to wait in one more line to get an author autograph." My children all turned into Crankensteins, "MEHHRRRR!" But, just like my children at this year's National Book Festival, the boy in the book doesn't stay Crankenstein forever. He finds someone he really likes. Someone that makes him laugh. (Thanks, Dan for making us laugh during the "cranky" time of the day and for making our National Book Festival a memorable family experience.)

My kids and I have been busy decorating our house for Halloween. After reading Crankenstein and Crankenstein's Valentine for the third time to my children, I had the idea to combine the books with our Halloween decorating expertise to make Halloween yard decorations.

We started with a rectangular piece of scrap plywood. My son saw the sanding blocks and said, "Yes! I love sanding. That is my favorite thing."
Once the wood rectangles were smooth we painted them green with just a light coat of acrylic paint so it would dry quickly.
There were lots of different greens to choose from.
Then, we painted Crankenstein's face; black triangle hair and straight-thick eyebrows, white eyes and teeth.
On the cover of Crankenstein, the boy is cranky because he dropped his pink ice cream out of the cone. There is pink ice cream around his mouth. My children had the idea to paint brown around the mouth to make it look like our Crankensteins ate Halloween chocolate bars. (Doesn't that make you cranky when you sneak a Halloween chocolate bar, but forget it is in your pocket. Only to be excited to find it later, but then it is melted! MEHHRRRR!)
The big kids came home from school, saw all the supplies, and wanted to make a Crankenstein too.
That is a lot of chocolate around the mouth -- Reese's peanut butter cups, maybe?
Our Crankensteins dried on the kitchen counter.
I love using plastic container lids for paint trays.
The next day, we cut a thin piece of wood to make the poles to hold our Crankenstein faces. My son painted the wood the same color as Crankenstein's shirt on the cover of the book.

Notice the yellow star. We bought wooden stars at Michael's craft store for 29 cents each. This addition was inspired by the star on Crankenstein's shirt.
You can't paint your pole orange when you are wearing a purple hair bow and a purple shirt.
While they were painting the poles, I sprayed the Crankenstein faces with clear enamel. I like that the enamel brightens the paint color and protects the artwork from the weather.
Once all the paint dried, it was time to put everything together. We placed wood glue on pole.
Then, attached the pole to the Crankenstein face with a few nails.
We stapled the star to the pole.
Then, painted over the staple.
Our Crankensteins dried over night.
The next day, my son had the idea to line the driveway with the Crankensteins.
Another picture? MEHHRRRR! 
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Dan, we hope you have a relaxing 40th birthday! Thank you for working so hard to create children's books for families to enjoy together. Enjoy your day!


1. Follow Dan Santat - Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram
2. Dan Santat's Birthday Rants - 32, 33, 3435, 36
3. 2015 Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat: 'I Never Really Thought I Had a Chance" - Publishers Weekly
4. Profile of 2015 Caldecott Medal Winner Dan Santat - The Horn Book
5. Interviews - Geek Dad, Kathy Temean's Blog, Seven Impossible Things Blog, Pen and Oink, Bookie Woogie, Teaching Books, Book Riot, BookPage, Henry Herz
6. Dan Santat Caldecott Medal Speech - ALA
7. Dan Santat's Caldecott Medal Speech (Video) - YouTube
8. Video Interview - National Book Festival Interview from PBS,
9. Audio Interview - Take Two, Let's Get Busy Podcast
10. The Depth of Great Characters, Audio with Dan Santat - Picturebooking Podcast
11. Picture Book Are Important by Dan Santat - Picture Book Month
12. NINJA RED RIDING HOOD Teacher's Guide - Penguin
13. BEEKLE Trailer - YouTube
14. Dan Santat's older blogs - TypePad, Doodlevision

Monday, September 14, 2015

Happy Birthday, Robert McCloskey - September 15

Happy Birthday, Robert McCloskey - September 15
(September 15, 1914 - June 30, 2003)

For years I have had copies of Robert McCloskey's book, Make Way for Ducklings on my bookshelf. First, I had a small paperback copy and then I upgraded to a large, full-size paperback. Then, I found an ex-library hardcover version which I later replaced with my current edition, a nice 1969 hardcover version. The strange thing was I never read the book despite always having a copy in my possession. It was a book I wanted in my library because I knew it was a significant book in the history of children's literature, but I never took the time to enjoy it. About a month ago, I thought of the book, pulled it off the shelf, sat down to read it for the first time, and loved it.

I identified with the ambitious and brave Mrs. Mallard as she took her little ducklings for a stroll in the city. Readers of this blog know I love to stroll and try new things with "my ducklings" and just like Mrs. Mallard I get "an extra swing" in my waddle when people say to me "Well, now, ain't that nice!" when we are out and about. So, this week, I said to my youngest two children, just like Mrs. Mallard, "Come along, children. Follow Me," as we went on a surprise adventure with this classic book that will no longer sit on my bookshelf unread.

Robert McCloskey wrote and illustrated eight books for children including Blueberries for Sal and Homer Price. He also illustrated an additional ten books for other authors including Journey Cake, Ho! written by Newbery Medalist and McCloskey's mother-in-law, Ruth Sawyer. Robert McCloskey was born in Hamilton, Ohio where they continue to celebrate him at the Heritage Hall Museum. The museum is home to many pieces of McCloskey's artwork, his harmonica, his artist box, and his two Caldecott Medals. Robert McCloskey was the first children's book artist to be awarded two Caldecott Medals; (1942) Make Way for Ducklings and (1958) Time of Wonder.

Robert McCloskey went to art school in Boston and New York, but his art career never took off the way he had hoped. He couldn't sell enough paintings to support himself. Also, in the mid 1930s, he met with a children's book editor, but he left without a book contract. In the meantime, McCloskey tried to find his way. He went home to Ohio and then returned to Boston and found work painting murals. Then, three years after meeting with that children's book editor he returned with a manuscript that became his first book Lentil (1940), a story about a boy that lives in a town much like his childhood home of Hamilton, Ohio. (Click here to read more about the influence his hometown.)

After, Lentil came Make Way for Ducklings, a book about Mr. and Mrs. Mallard trying to find a new home to build a nest and raise their ducklings. McCloskey purchased real ducks, brought them to his apartment, let them swim in his bathtub to help him draw them more accurately for the book. Legend has it that he gave the ducks wine to drink so they would slow down so he could draw them better. (Children's Book-a-Day Almanac).

After reading Make Way for Ducklings that first time, I knew it would be the perfect book for my youngest two children. I thought of Price Park in North Canton, Ohio, a park my wife and I used to walk around during our college days. I remembered there always being lots of ducks in the pond. Once, my wife was frightened because so many ducks approached her and surrounded her legs. I thought my little ones would love seeing all the ducks. I just hoped ducks still visited the pond since I hadn't been to the park in many years.

I packed a picnic lunch, the book, driving directions, and a Make Way For Ducklings DVD for the ride home. 
After picking my son up from half-day Kindergarten, we went to the local feed store to pick up some duck food. I opted for normal duck food instead of peanuts like Policeman Michael fed Mr. and Mrs. Mallard in the book. 
We arrived at Price Park and my children wanted to feed the ducks immediately. My son threw in handfuls of duck food.
Then, he made it rain duck food! We talked about throwing one piece at the time because the ducks can't possibly eat all that food at once.
Mr. and Mrs. Mallard were swimming in the pond. 
I wish I would have clicked a few more photos after this one, because shortly after this photo the ducks ran after my daughter scaring her. I am lucky she didn't run into the pond. She was that frightened (like mother, like daughter!).
It didn't take long for her to start feeding the ducks again.
My son was excited that the Canada Goose would eat right out of his hand.
We read Make Way for Ducklings right by the pond. Some of ducks came right up to us while we were reading. I think they liked the book, too!
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We finally ate our lunch around 1:45pm. They had so much fun feeding the ducks for over an hour.
I am glad my children followed along. This was another fun adventure.
1. The McCloskey Museum in Hamilton, Ohio
2. Biography - Ohioana Authors
3. Make Way for Ducklings Statue in Boston Public Garden - Boston Discovery Guide
4. Wine Helps Robert McCloskey Draw Ducks - Children's Book-a-Day Almanac
5. Blueberries for Sal - Children's Book-a-Day Almanac

Birthday Sources: Ohioana Authors, Heritage Hall Museum • Robert McCloskey Museum, Robert McCloskey Centennial Events Brochure, Hamilton, Ohio, Scholastic Author Birthday Calendar 2012, Perma-Bound Author Birthday Calendar, Mazza Museum 2015 Calendar

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, Lou Fancher - September 13

Happy Birthday, Lou Fancher - September 13

Our family attended the National Book Festival in Washington DC for the fourth year in a row over Labor Day weekend. Each of the past three years I have planned an author/illustrator birthday celebration during our time in the nation's capital. We celebrated Bob Staake in 2012, Andrea Davis Pinkney in 2013, and Paul Fleischman in 2014. This year, we continued the tradition with a birthday celebration for Lou Fancher; artist, writer, dancer, book designer, and illustrator.

Lou Fancher has published over 45 books including My Many Colored Days written by Dr. Seuss, New York's Bravest written by Mary Pope Osborne, and It's Milking Time written by Phyllis Alsdurf. She has collaborated with her husband, Steve Johnson, on most of her books. Their collaboration in children's books began in 1989 when they published No Star Nights by Anna Smucker which was awarded an International Reading Association Children's Book Award for Young Readers.

In addition to being a talented artist, Lou is a talented dancer. She studied dance at the University of Cincinnati and has worked as a ballet instructor and choreographer. Lou's dancing brought her together with Steve when he was photographing ballet dancers as reference for his artwork and Lou was at the ballet studio. Later, Steve offered her the painting he did of her and the rest is history.

Lou and Steve's artistic collaboration is very unique. It is a "fluid" arrangement. Both artists paint on the same painting. Both may start paintings in the same book. They say, "It just depends on who is better at it." Their artwork also changes for each book. For example, they used potato stamping in Cat, You Better Come Home by Garrison Keillor, painted on fabric for The King's Taster by Kenneth Oppel, and incorporated photographs of their own family for BeBop Express by H.L. Panahi. They explained the reason for the variety in their work, "Our artwork is different for each book because the author's voice has been different in each one."

In addition to creating children's picture book art with Steve, Lou has contributed as the author on three books including Star Climbing and The Quest for One Big Thing. Currently, she is writing for many publications in the California area and has two upcoming books with Steve Johnson; Dr. Seuss: The Great Doodler by Kate Klimo (January 2016) and Shh! Bears Sleeping by David Martin (January 2016).
At the Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2015, Lou Fancher said The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg inspired her and Steve to want to make children's picture books. 
"Working together with Steve became addictive."
"Together we can do things we can't do alone. If I work with him, I can do it."
Our family had never visited the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C. and I thought it would be the perfect place to celebrate Lou Fancher's birthday by reading A Boy Named FDRwritten by Kathleen Krull.

In 1955, The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Commission began work to create a memorial "that will do him the honor he deserves and transmit his image to future generations." (National Park Service Pamplet).  The Memorial was completed in 1997 and the Commission's goal was certainly achieved. Our family learned a lot about our 32nd president with the help of this amazing memorial and the perfect picture book.

A Boy Named FDR chronicles Franklin Delano Roosevelt from birth until he started his campaign to run for President of the United States. FDR grew up in a very wealthy family. He had all the toys, teachers, and toilets he needed and then some (there were nine bathrooms in his house!). FDR learned many childhood lessons from his parents and teachers on the importance of caring for people less fortunate. Some of the greatest lessons came from his fifth cousin Teddy Roosevelt who taught him, "You are not entitled...much has been given to you; therefore, we have the right to expect much from you." At Harvard, FDR began expressing his aspirations to become President and it was there, his future wife, Eleanor showed him "how people lived, and he never forgot." After a successful start to his career as a New York state senator, at the age of 39, FDR came down with polio. The disease left him unable to stand without assistance. My son said after reading the book, "I guess you can be in a wheelchair and still be President of the United States."

We visited the Bureau of Engraving and Printing before we visited the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. It was too much for my youngest daughter who fell asleep in the stroller. This photo was taken at the end of the Memorial. If you start at the beginning you will first come to the Prologue Room and then pass through four outdoor rooms, one for each of FDR's terms as President.
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt, March 4, 1933. FDR said these words during his first inaugural address. This quote is carved into the stone wall in Room 1 of the Memorial.
This sculpture was designed by George Segal. It depicts a 1930s breadline. The quotes above and below read, "I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished." [and] "The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." (January 20, 1937). This sculpture is in Room 2 of the memorial.
Also, in Room 2 of the Memorial is this waterfall. 
It is hard to miss the large statue of FDR with his dog Fala in Room 3 of the Memorial.
In Room 4 of the Memorial there is a statue of Eleanor. In A Boy Named FDR we learned FDR felt strongly that with Eleanor's help he could become someone who would make a difference in the world. Additionally, it was Eleanor that "urged him to get back into politics" three years after contracting polio.
"The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This quote was from a speech FDR was  preparing to give on April 13, 1945 for Jefferson Day, but he died on April 12th. Harry S. Truman took office after his death. This quote is in Room 4 of the Memorial.
After touring the whole Memorial we returned to the Prologue Room to read A Boy Named FDR. We thought this was the quietest and most peaceful spot.  
It was the perfect place to read the book.
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Outside the gift shop, we saw this wheelchair which is a replica of the one that FDR designed and used. It was a combination of a commercial wheelchair and a kitchen chair!
Before we left the Memorial we visited the gift shop. We were happy to see A Boy Named FDR was on the shelf!
Lou, our family hopes you have a wonderful birthday! It was so nice to meet you at the Mazza Museum!

Would you like to read more about our experience at the National Book Festival in Washington DC? Click here!

1. Fancher and Johnson Website
2. The Cheese Printable - HarperCollins
3. Teacher's Guide for The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart - Elizabeth Rusch

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