Sunday, March 18, 2018

Happy Birthday, Marc Tyler Nobleman - March 14

Happy Birthday, Marc Tyler Nobleman - March 14

I thought my plans for our family reading experience to celebrate Marc Tyler Nobleman's birthday were in jeopardy when I realized we were headed to Cleveland the same day as the city's St. Patick's Day parade. I worried more when I realized that one of the locations I wanted to visit was actually on the parade route. Then, I awoke with the thought that everyone in the city would be wearing green and with green being the color of Kryptonite I couldn't help but wonder, "Was our Super-family-day doomed?" I shook off the worries with a follow-up thought of hope. "We are headed to the home of Superman. The spirit of the greatest superhero of all-time would certainly find a way to protect us on our reading adventure."

Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, and The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra. As a boy, he loved superheroes and all those years of reading comic books served him well when he became a detective. Well, not a detective like the ones that solves crimes punishable by law, but a children's book detective who uncovers the mysteries and backstories of topics we thought we fully understood.

Marc began his children's book career in the marketing department of a publishing company. In 1996, after working at the company for a couple of years he was offered an opportunity to write his first book, The Felix Activity Book (Kids Book Review). Within a few years,  Marc was laid off from the publisher but continued as a freelance writer. Over the next ten years, he wrote seventy non-fiction books about American history, animals, and a wide-variety of other topics. (Noblemania). Then, in 2008, Marc published Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. Marc acknowledged the importance of this book on his blog, "Boys of Steel was important to me...It wasn't just book #71. It was actually book #1."

Marc told the audience at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2017, "Superman is so famous, but his backstory was not." Marc put on his detective hat and uncovered pieces of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's story that had not been told. He uncovered the true story of Jerry Siegel's father's death during a robbery and the mystery behind Joe Shuster's house in Cleveland, Ohio. Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman includes both of these important pieces in a picture book that chronicles how the co-creators became friends in high school, failed in their early attempt to make a science fiction cartoon, and then succeeded together in creating Superman with Siegel's words and concept and Shuster's art.
In this photo, Marc shared a photo of the Joe Shuster's apartment building. Marc found the photo at the Cleveland Public Library during his research.
As important as Boys of Steel was to telling the not-so-famous backstory of Superman, it was Marc's book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman that would make waves throughout the comic book industry. It was in writing this book that Marc wanted to explain that there was a name missing in the credits of all-things Batman. There was substantial evidence that Bill Finger was involved with the creation of Batman from the beginning with long-time believed sole-creator, Bob Kane but only Kane's name was listed. The story told in Marc's book and the recent documentary Batman and Bill, led to DC comics acknowledging Bill Finger as a co-creator of the iconic character. Marc's retelling of his research efforts had the audience at the Mazza Museum in awe and when I watched documentary with my family I was moved to tears. Marc's passion to uncover the truth is inspiring. His determination to get the story right was admirable. His enthusiasm was contagious.

I can remember coming home from the Mazza Museum Summer Conference and I couldn't wait to tell my wife what I learned about Bill Finger and Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Then, I couldn't wait to give Marc's books as Christmas gifts to my superhero-fanatic niece and nephew. And I couldn't wait until March to celebrate Marc's birthday where I would try to bring to life Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman for my children.

We arrived in Cleveland, the home of Superman, before 10 o'clock on Saturday morning. The St. Patrick's Day parade was scheduled to begin shortly after 1pm. We hoped this would be plenty of time to see all the Super-sites without running into any leprechauns or crazy parade-goers.

This Ohio Historical Marker is located at the corner of E. 105 St. and St. Clair.
Our first stop was the Cleveland Public Library at 325 Superior Avenue to view the exhibit,  Superman: From Cleveland to Krypton (open only through March 2018).
Right inside the door of the exhibit we found Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman on display.
My boys started asking questions right away about the origin of Superman. I knew most of the questions could be answered by reading the book. We found the perfect spot to read it.
Supergirl enjoyed the videos. 
We are Cleveland-proud!
This was Jerry Seigel's writing desk from 1940-1948 (about 2 years after Superman appeared in Action Comics #1). It was donated to the Cleveland Public Library in 2017.
"Could you really call people on one of these phones?"
It's a bird...It's a plane...It's Superman., it's Supergirl!
"One of the little known stories about Superman is that he owes a lot of his existence to this typewriter...I liked this typewriter so much that it was the only portable I ever had or used." - Jerry Siegel
After the exhibit, we went upstairs to the children's department of the library. We were surprised to find that Youth Services was providing many activities to celebrate St. Patrick's Day including balloon animals and face painting. The balloon artist made bat-wings for my son. How cool is that!
We found Marc Tyler Nobleman's The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra and of course, we had to read it.
I didn't put it back on the shelf though. I swapped it out with one of the books on display. (Shhhh! don't tell the librarians.)
It was a little before noon when we finished at the library. I was surprised the sidewalk in front of the library wasn't crowded with people awaiting the parade. So far in our journey, we had escaped a possible crippling encounter with the green stuff, but we still had two more sites we needed to see. 
The first was on Kimberley Avenue which is about a 15 minute drive from the library.
This was Jerry Siegel's house when he was a teenage boy. It was here, one sleepless night in 1934, where Jerry Siegel wrote down the idea for a superhero that was strong enough to lift cars and jump over buildings. 
"This is the house where Superman was born."

Jerry knew he needed help with his idea. He needed his friend, Joe Shuster, to bring the character to life.
Jerry ran less than 10 blocks to the corner of Parkwood and Amor to his buddy's apartment. 
The building may no longer be standing, but it was here where Superman was drawn for the first time. 
My son, the treasure hunter, said, "What if we find a copy of this comic book at a garage sale someday?" Well, you would be a millionaire, son!
"On this site once stood the home where Superman was turned from words into pictures."
The panels on the fence are pages from the Action Comics #1 which featured Superman for the first time in June 1938.
We did it! The spirit of Superman protected us from the parade, leprechauns, green kryptonite, and even terrible city traffic. We were truly blessed with a Super-day!

Marc, it was a pleasure meeting you at Mazza. Thank you for working so hard to create these amazing non-fiction picture books. I enjoyed sharing them with my children. We hope you had a wonderful birthday!

Keep an eye out for Marc Tyler Nobleman's next two books, Fairy Spell: How Two Girls Convinced the World That Fairies Are Real (Release Date is April 24, 2018) and Thirty Minutes Over Oregon: A Japanese Pilot's World War II Story (Release date is October 9, 2018):

1. Marc Tyler Nobleman's Website
2. Follow Marc Tyler Nobleman - Twitter,
4. Video Interviews - 2009 Interview Boys of Steel - YouTube, NYCC 16 - YouTube FanHelix, Comicology 2008
5. Text Interviews - Comicsbeat, AuthorTurf, Den of Geek, Andrea Hurst, Donna Janell Bowman, Kids Book Review

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Happy Birthday, Jane Dyer - March 7

Happy Birthday, Jane Dyer - March 7

Are you ready for story time?

Or is it storytime (one word)?

If anyone knows for sure, please let me know. I have seen it both ways and I should probably know the right way since planning story times/storytimes is all I have been thinking about lately.

This year I am very thankful for the many opportunities I have had to read picture books with local children and their families. There have been more opportunities than ever before. I guess people are starting find out how much I love reading picture books.

I am always looking for new story time ideas and this week I had a fun idea, while reading a stack of books illustrated by Jane Dyer. I can't wait to try it the next time I see my favorite group of preschoolers at my neighborhood school.

Jane Dyer is the illustrator of over 60 books including Sophie's Masterpiece: A Spider's Tale, written by Eileen Spinelli, Cookies: Bite-size Life Lessons, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and Oh My Baby, Little One by Kathi Appelt. Jane told the audience at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2017, "Books were a big part of our family growing up." But, how about art? Surprisingly, the only art classes Jane experienced were during elementary school.

Before, becoming an award-winning illustrator, Jane Dyer was a teacher and then a illustrator of teacher's guides and textbooks. In an interview with Picture Book Builders she said, "I illustrated stories for a K-3 reading series and before that I taught Kindergarten and 2nd grade. I never went to art school. My students' parents, along with friends and family encouraged me to try illustrating children's books." It just so happens that Jane Yolen, author of over 300 books, was one of the people encouraging her. Yolen lived nearby and when the two met she suggested that Jane become involved with SCBWI, get a portfolio critique, and then visit publishers in New York.

The portfolio critique did not go well. She was told, "Your illustrations are not appropriate for children." But, Jane was not going to quit. She worked on her portfolio and added an illustration of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. It was this illustration that lead to her first book in 1984. Now, Jane says she has contracts lined up for the next five years and one of her latest books, Once There Was a Story: Tales from Around the World, Perfect for Sharing is written by Jane Yolen.

I got my storytime idea when I was reading Move Over, Rover!, written by Karen Beaumont. This book was awarded a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor award in 2007. In the story, Rover, a big dog, is in his doghouse when it starts to rain. One by one animals seek shelter in the doghouse until there is no more room, even for a mouse. It is tight, but all the animals are dry. It is the perfect place to wait out the storm. Wait...what's that smell? It's a skunk! Run! And so much for being dry.

I love getting children involved in my story times. I thought with Move Over, Rover!  there is an opportunity to have children become a part of the story by putting the animals in a doghouse one by one. But, I would need a doghouse. We could make one, right?
"Yes. We are going to make a doghouse out of this box." I think my daughter was skeptical.
We measured and cut the doghouse to have a pitch for the roof and then taped shut the bottom of the box.
We used the pieces we cut off to make the roof.
My daughter made a sign with Rover's name for the front of the doghouse.
She glued it on.
We had a bunch of cardboard squares. (Don't ask...I collect weird things like cardboard squares because you never know when you might need them). The cardboard squares were perfect for the shingles.
Big brother came home just in time to help her paint!
The doghouse turned out great, but what about the animals. We would need Rover, a cat, a raccoon, a squirrel, a blue jay, a snake, a mouse, and a skunk.
I found many stuffed animals in my kids' rooms, but I would need to make some too.
I love this Sew Cool sewing machine. It allows me to stitch together two pieces of felt without using thread! Check out my blue jay.
My son's huge stuffed dog was just the right size!
Awww! So cute!
I cut a secret door in the back of the doghouse. This is where the stinky skunk will come in.
My little ones and I performed Move Over, Rover! for their older brother and sister before bedtime.
Rover has his bone.
Move, over Rover! Skit-skat, Cat! Here comes raccoon. You better make room!
Here comes snake too!
There is no room! Sorry, mouse.
Ahhh! A stinky skunk! All the animals run away!
Thank you, little ones for helping me create this story time idea.
I will tell the preschoolers at story time that you helped me make it!
Jane, it was so nice to meet you at the Mazza Museum. Thank you for sharing your birthday with us! We hope you have a wonderful birthday!
Pre-Order Jane Dyer's next book, Where Did You Come from, Baby Dear?, written by George MacDonald (available August 14, 2018):

Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please Pin!
1. Jane Dyer's Website
2. R. Michelson Galleries Profile
3. Interviews - Picture Book Builders
4. Jane Dyer at the Mazza Museum - Video from KnowledgeStream

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