Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy Birthday, Kate McMullan - January 16

Happy Birthday, Kate McMullan - January 16

Author and Illustrator Birthdays Since 2010!
HAPPY 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY!  Our family has been celebrating children's author and illustrator birthdays for 5 years! It all began with a cake we baked and decorated to look like the garbage truck from the book I Stink by Kate and Jim McMullan.  Every year since, around Kate McMullan's birthday, we continue the tradition of baking and decorating a cake based on one of her books. Thankfully, she continues to write fun picture books that my family loves to read together.....and eat!

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This year Kate McMullan's new book, I'm Brave, was the inspiration for our cake. This FUN book is about a bright red fire engine that is good lookin', noisy, and has many cool tools. At the fire station, he introduces us to all his useful tools when the fire alarm rings! Quickly he sets off to fight a fire at a warehouse. Along the way, he uses his siren (EEEEEEEOWOOOO!) and horn (HONNNNHHHKKKK!) to warn the traffic that he is needs room on the road to get to the fire FAST! Then, he uses all his special tools to help put out the fire. Back at the station it is clean up time to get ready for the next day!

My son, who is now seven years old, couldn't wait to decorate his I'm Brave cake. This year he read all the directions, completed all the steps, and decorated the whole cake by himself. He was so proud of his work and then something unexpected happened! Read the rest of this post to find out what happened. Plus, learn about some very exciting news about Kate McMullan and her books!

My son has worked very hard on his reading in first grade (He has a FANTASTIC first grade teacher that has made him a confident little reader!). It was a big accomplishment for him to read the directions on the cake mix box.
He cracked his own eggs too!
He poured the batter with the help of his little sister.
The cake cooled while we went to church.
Before he decorated the cake we read I'm Brave once again. In this picture we are looking at all the tools;  hydrant wrenches, spanner wrenches, duck-billed lock breakers, and more. We didn't know many of these tools when we started reading, but by the end of the book we learned exactly what they were for. I loved that this book had us flipping back and forth to make sure that we learned about them all!
He used a toothpick to sketch his I'm Brave fire engine into a layer of white frosting.
Then, he outlined his drawing with a tube of black icing.
He filled in the black outline with red and grey frosting as his brother looked on.
We had extra frosting so he decided to add yellow accent marks like the cover of the book.
His hands were tired so his older sister frosted the sides of the cake.
The little ones helped clean up!

We were preparing for our annual picture. He remembered from past pictures that I had him tilt the cake slightly so I could see it for the photo. This year, he tilted the cake too far! SPLAT!
My wife and I were determined to fix the cake. We grabbed two spatulas, flipped it over, and hoped for the best.
It wasn't as bad as we thought.
His sister was happy to help clean up the table.
It didn't take long to fix the cake and his smile returned! Great job, buddy!
That night he shared his cake with his family for a bedtime snack!
We added a birthday candle to the cake. We pretended we were the fire engine and "WE PUT THAT FIRE OUT!"
Happy Birthday, Kate McMullan! Thank you for writing another great book!
Great news! Kate McMullan, along with her husband Jim McMullan, will be releasing their next book, I'm Cool in October 2015! We will have another book for next year's cake! Here is the latest from Kate McMullan's Facebook Page:

I'm Cool is available for pre-order on!:

More Great News! Amazon is piloting a new TV show, The Stinky and Dirty Show, based on Kate and Jim McMullan's I Stink and I'm Dirty books. However, it needs your votes.  Watch the trailer below or click here to watch the whole show (Don't forget to vote!). My kids loved it and we really hope this show becomes a reality! I think many kids would love it! The pilot episode was funny! I loved how the new friends worked together to solve a problem.


3. Other Happy Birthday Kate McMullan Posts - Happy Birthday Author
5. Text Interview - Cathy's Thoughts Blog (2010), Library Media Connection (2012)
6. Audio Interview - Just One More Book (2007)
7. Just One More Book (2006) Podcast about Nutcracker Noel by Kate and Jim McMullan
10. I'm Fast Book Trailer  -YouTube
11.  Buy Kate McMullan Merchandise - CafePress
12. Kate McMullan Biography - Scholastic
13. Kate McMullan Talks Myth-O-Mania with Sag Harbor Express (September 2013)
14. Kate and Jim McMullan at SouthHampton Arts 2013 - YouTube

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Happy Birthday, Margery Cuyler - December 31

Happy Birthday, Margery Cuyler - December 31

Last summer I met Margery Cuyler at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference and she shared her birthday with me!

Oh, that's good! No, that's bad!

I met her in July and I was going to have to wait until December to celebrate her birthday with my family.

Oh, that's bad! No, that's good!

Six months would give us plenty of time to read all of her amazing picture books.

Oh, that's good! No, that's bad!

Even with all the extra time we weren't able to read all of the books.

Oh, that's bad! No, that's good!

We loved reading Monster Mess and The Little School Bus. We had never read those books before. We even read The Biggest, Best Snowman and thought it would be the perfect book to celebrate Margery Cuyler's birthday after Christmas.

Oh, that's good! No, that's bad!

No snow fell during the whole month of December! This is unheard of for our city, which is in Ohio's Snowbelt! How are you supposed to build the "biggest, best snowman" without snow?

Oh, that's bad! No, that's good!

We enjoyed Margery Cuyler's books so much that we decided that we would just read them all over again next year and hope from some snow!

Oh, that's good! No, that's bad!

Next year? Are you kidding me? That's a long time to wait!

Oh, that's bad! No, that's good!

We didn't have to wait! This week we had a snow day that dumped four inches of wet, fluffy snow. It turned out to be the perfect day to throw a belated birthday celebration for Margery Cuyler!

Oh, that's good! No, that's GREAT!

Margery Cuyler is the author of 35 picture books including That's Good! That's Bad!, That's Good! That's Bad! in Washington D.C., and That's Good! That's Bad! on Santa's Journey. She was lucky to grow up in a very creative family. Her father taught her that, "Storytelling is an act of love." (Mazza Museum Keynote, Summer 2014). This family value led her to a career in children's literature where she spent 21 years as Editor-in-Chief of Holiday House Inc. along with many more years at Henry and Holt, Golden Books, Winslow Press, and Marshall Cavendish. (Balkin Buddies). Amazingly, in addition to being a publisher and an editor she managed to write books for very young readers with The Little School Bus and The Little Dump Truck, for Halloween fans (like my family) with Skeleton Hiccups and Skeleton for Dinner, and for chapter book readers with The Battlefield Ghost. At the Mazza Museum Summer Conference she said she is trying to "stretch herself" by writing a Young Adult novel. I will stay tuned for that!
Margery Cuyler shared at the Mazza Museum that her idea for Skeleton Hiccups came to her when she was on a train sitting next to man with the hiccups. She tried to help him but nothing worked! I have read Skeleton Hiccups over 100 times to my children. It is one of our favorite books!
I was so lucky to meet Margery Cuyler! 
Our most recent snow day was a complete surprise. The weather forecast called for some overnight snow and possible freezing rain but nothing that warranted much excitement. In the morning, we missed the phone call announcing the cancellation of school. It wasn't until my wife was ready to walk out the door to head to school when she saw the message on the answering machine.

Hooray, another snow day!

The best part was that the temperature was right around 30 degrees which would make for a great day to play in the snow and act out Margery Cuyler's The Biggest, Best Snowman.

We all had on our snow gear by 10am and were sledding in the backyard.  After sledding, I asked my children if they wanted to build "The Biggest, Best Snowman".

We went to the front yard and started rolling our snowballs. The snow great for making small snowballs to throw, but it wasn't ideal for rolling huge snowman-snowballs. My oldest son made a tiny ball. Then, he "rolled it and rolled it". He did his best to roll the biggest snowball he could for the middle of our snowman. 
My youngest son watched as I did my best to roll a snowball for the bottom of the snowman. 
My youngest son "patted and matted and batted" a tiny snowball for the head.
My youngest daughter offered some of her snow to help build the snowman.
I called my oldest daughter over to help us build the bottom of the snowman. We opted to turn my snowball into a mound of snow to create a good base.
My oldest son "rolled it and rolled it until -- THUD -- it came to a stop. He pushed it on top of the other snowball."
Our snowman needed a head! My youngest son had the perfect snowball and he stuck it on top of the other two snowballs.
Something was missing from our snowman. My daughter said it needed a face so she brought over some raisins to make a smile.
My boys found sticks, actually three, for the snowman's arms.
My son brought the perfect book, bark for the eyes, a scarf, and a pink sock for the nose.
She worked really hard to get the raisins just right.
I added a stick to hang the sock for the nose.
It wasn't the biggest snowman we have ever built, but I think it was the BEST!
Happy belated-birthday, Margery Cuyler!
1. Margery Cuyler's Website
2. Interviews - Robin Freidman, Generation On
3. Short Biography - Balkin Buddies

Monday, January 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, Theodore Taylor III - January 13

Happy Birthday, Theodore Taylor III - January 13

Hooray for snow days! Last year my children had A LOT of them. There were so many snow days students were required to make up missed time in the classroom by completing "Blizzard Bags"at home. I thought, Wait! Snow days are supposed to be fun! They should be filled with snowballs, sledding, snowmen, and HOT CHOCOLATE! Not homework! 

I understand that "Blizzard Bags" are still an option for this school year.  However, our school district assured us that it would be difficult to miss enough days of school to require work at home under the new calamity day policy from the State of Ohio. (Whew!!)

This week we enjoyed the second of our first two snow days of the year by celebrating the birthday of Theodore Taylor III, one of our favorite illustrators we met at the 2014 National Book Festival.  He is also one of BookPage's Top Ten Children's Illustrators to Watch.

Theodore Taylor III is the illustrator of When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill. For this book he was awarded the Coretta Scott King - John Steptoe Award for New Talent. The opportunity to illustrate the book came after a designer at Roaring Brook Press was impressed with his portfolio of illustrations on Flickr featuring artwork of famous musicians and album covers. (The Brown Bookshelf). He offered some advice during his presentation at the National Book Festival, "Don't be afraid to share your work online."

Before breaking into the children's book industry Theodore Taylor III graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Communication Arts. Upon graduation, he worked as production assistant for a web design firm and as a freelance illustrator. His next children's book is Little Shaq, written by Shaquille O'Neal which is set to be released in October of 2015. It will be the first book in a series of three!

Our family went to Theodore Taylor III's presentation at the National Book Festival. He taught us the four main elements of Hip-Hop; rapping, DJing, break-dancing, and graffiti. He drew the four elements and shared how DJ Kool Herc created Hip-Hop with two turntables by playing two records back-to-back to extend parts of the songs people loved dancing to.

In When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop, we learned that DJ Kool Herc took his dance parties to the streets and parks of the Bronx where street gangs "wanted to dance, not fight". The gangs became break-dancing crews and showed off their best moves. Is Theodore Taylor a break-dancer? "No, but I wish I was." (National Book Festival).

Theodore Taylor III draws the four elements of Hip-Hop.
Theodore Taylor III shows his favorite illustration from the book. It was also the illustration that took the longest to draw! (View the video at the bottom of this post to see how he draws!)
After the presentation my oldest two children and I were gathering up our gear while the volunteers from the festival were helping Theodore Taylor III get ready to go to his book signing. I saw that someone was removing his illustration of the four elements of Hip-Hop from the easel. I told my daughter, "Go up there and ask them for the drawing."

She said, "No, you go up." I told her that they wouldn't give it to an old guy like me, but I bet they would give it to you. Before I knew it she was quickly walking up to the stage and asked the volunteer if she could have the poster. Then, I noticed there was a discussion and the volunteer had a big smile on her face. Then, she waved me to come up to the front and upon my arrival she said, "Sending your daughter to do your dirty work, huh?"

I admitted, "Absolutely."  My daughter called me out, we had a few laughs, and Theodore Taylor III graciously signed the poster for us to take home!

After the presentation we were able to get our book signed too!
I have been planning with a friend, who has a special love of hip hop, to get our families together to read When the Beat was Born and a dance party since the day I learned Theodore Taylor III's birthday. Thankfully, a snow day provided the perfect day to celebrate.
I guess technically it was a "Cold Day". Temperatures were below zero and wind chills were close to -20 degrees below zero.
In preparation for our dance party my daughter and I downloaded Pacemaker, a free app for the iPad. It allowed us to create our own mixes using two virtual turntables.
My daughter loved mixing her favorite songs. She recorded her mixes to share with her friends for the dance party. She couldn't wait to be a DJ!
Once at our friend's house, which has a super loud stereo system, all the kids got glow sticks to wear for the dance party!
Before we danced we read When the Beat was Born.
I had to explain what a record was.
We talked about the four elements of Hip-Hop using the poster that Theodore Taylor III drew at the National Book Festival.
DJ Daughter got the party started!
Of course, I got my groove on!

This dude had the coolest moves on the dance floor!
The best thing about snow days is that we get Mom home too!

This was a great way to spend a snow day. We didn't need a "Blizzard Bag" to learn something new today. My two oldest children will be able to tell their teachers the four elements of Hip-Hop when they return to school.

Teddy, thank you for sharing your birthday with us! We love your book and can't wait for the Little Shaq books! We hope you have a great birthday!

Please Pin this Picture! Follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest!

1. Theodore Taylor III's Website
2. Follow Theodore Taylor III - Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube
3. Interviews - The Brown Bookshelf
4. Theodore Taylor III at the National Book Festival 2014 - Library of Congress on YouTube
5. Top 10 Illustrators to Watch - BookPage

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