Monday, September 15, 2014

Happy Birthday, Karen Katz - September 16

Happy Birthday, Karen Katz - September 16

In March 2010 (Whew! That seems like a long time ago!), my children and I celebrated our 10th author birthday. I wanted to continue the fun we were having reading books, so I made a list of "Authors We Want to Celebrate." After researching the birthdays of the authors on my list, I had two authors that I didn't know their birthdays; Doreen Cronin and Karen Katz. I really wanted to know their birthdays; Doreen Cronin's birthday because I loved Diary of a Worm and Karen Katz's birthday because our bookshelves were filled with her board books. My wife and I were expecting our third child too. I thought celebrating Karen Katz's birthday would be fun with the new baby!

After much anxiety, I worked up some courage and emailed both authors to ask them to share their birthday with us. Unfortuately, after I sent the email to Karen Katz I realized that I made a cut-and-paste error and left "Doreen" at the top of the message! I was bummed. I assumed she would not email me back. However, on the day I arrived home from the hospital with our third child I had this response from Karen Katz:

"I'm not sure who Doreen is but I think you meant Karen. I am thrilled to hear you like my books and especially that your kids like them. As far as my birthday, it is September 16th. As far as the year...lets say I'm past 50. Have fun reading!"

I wrote her birthday in my planner and hoped for a celebration that September. However, it didn't happen that year or for the next three years! Each year, I regretted not putting together a celebration for the author whose books I have read to my children just as much as Dr. Seuss and Stan and Jan Berenstain. This year, I finally get to share with you how much our family loves books by Karen Katz!

Karen Katz is the author and illustrator of more than fifty books for young children including Counting Kisses and Ten Tiny Tickles. Most of Karen's books are published as novelty lift-the-flap books and board books including Where is Baby's Belly Button? and Daddy and Me; both of which I have read at least 100 times! Before Karen Katz created books for parents and babies to enjoy together she was a quilt maker, a costume designer, and a graphic designer. According to her website, it was after she and her husband adopted a daughter from Guatemala that she "was inspired to do a children's book." Her first book, Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale was published in 1997 after an editor viewed paintings in her portfolio that represented a poem that her husband wrote about the adoption of their daughter. (Doodlebugs). Since that first book, Karen Katz has sold millions of copies of her books.  These books can be found on bookshelves of most young children, often resting on night stands after parents have fallen asleep holding their babies in their arms, and are frequently at library book sales discarded after being well-loved by little hands. (We still read them even after the lift-the-flaps have been removed!)

This week, stacks of books by Karen Katz were piled up in our living room and outside the bathroom!  Recently, Potty for Me has risen to the top of the stack, because my two year old is going through potty training. I believe Potty for Me is one of the best books I have read about the process a child goes through learning how to use the potty. It explains everything; getting a potty, trying the potty, having accidents, and then having success. I love that Karen Katz included the idea that wearing a diaper at night is still important even though the child is wearing underpants during the day.
My daughter is doing a great job with the potty. The bathroom door is covered with sticker charts. In this photo she is adding a sticker to a chart I made that featured images from Karen Katz's books.
The more we read our stack of books by Karen Katz the more I realized that this birthday post was going to be about more than just my daughter's successes with the potty. One morning this week my daughter was reading her books in the living room and my son and I joined her.

We read the book Baby Loves Fall!. In this lift-the-flap book, baby explores and finds many fall things; apple pie behind the shutters and pumpkins behind the scarecrow.  The baby also finds acorns behind a rake. This gave me an idea.  I said to my youngest two children, "Do you want to go on a nature hunt? Maybe we can find some acorns just like the baby." (I knew of oak tree in our neighborhood that was starting to drop its acorns!)

My son was super excited to go on a nature hunt. One of his favorite things to do is to gather seeds and leaves. He said, "Can we make a craft out of the stuff we find?"  I thought it was a great idea.
He showed his sister how to find really cool leaves as they walked. He shared a few of the red leaves that he found. It was important to him that she had a container full of goodies.
She found an acorn!
What's a nature-hunt collection without some rocks?
After our nature hunt my children emptied their containers on the kitchen table.
Then, they started their "craft" which they called Leaf Pictures.
My son said, "Dad, this was a good idea." 
I was so proud of her for gluing all these items on her paper!
The next day was almost a replay of the day before. My daughter was reading her books and my son and I joined in. This time we read Princess Baby and Princess Baby Night-Night.  My son was intrigued by the illustrations, especially Princess Baby's crown and shoes. He rubbed his hand on them expecting them to be rough with glitter. I said, "It is smooth, but it looks like Karen Katz made the crown and shoes with glitter. Do you want to make something with glitter?"  Of course they said "yes".
For my daughter I drew a crown and shoes on a cereal box and cut them out.
She painted the crown with glue.
Then, she flipped it over onto a plate with gold glitter.
Wow! A pretty crown.
I pasted the crown and shoes onto a picture of my daughter to make her into the "Princess Baby"!
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Whew! What a celebration! I guess I am not surprised it turned into a week-long event. It had been building up for over 4 years! Happy Birthday, Karen Katz! Sorry it took so long for us to give you an official Happy Birthday Author celebration. We hope you enjoy your day!

International Day of Peace is coming up on September 21. Check out Karen Katz's book, Can You Say Peace?:

1. Karen Katz's website
2. Karen Katz website from Simon and Schuster
3. Baby Steps with Baby Books: a Parent's Guide - Simon and Schuster
4. Interviews - Up CloseLibrary Sparks,
5. Princess Baby Activity Guide and Resource Kit - RandomHouse
6. Activity Sheets - Simon and Schuster
7. Karen Katz shares her previous occupations before children's books - video

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Happy Birthday, Paul Fleischman - September 5

Happy Birthday, Paul Fleischman - September 5

Many of our recent author and illustrator birthday celebrations have been connected to one another. About a month ago we celebrated Kathleen Krull's birthday. We read her book Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum which was illustrated Kevin Hawkes. My kids loved Road to Oz which led me to look up Kevin Hawkes' birthday which we celebrated last week. During the Kevin Hawkes' birthday celebration, we read the books he illustrated Sidewalk Circus and Westlandia. My family loved both of these books which were written by Paul Fleischman. I was interested in reading more books by Paul Fleischman and I found The Animal Hedge and The Matchbox Diary, both illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline. I loved both of these books, which led me to look up Paul Fleischman's birthday.

Yikes! I found that it was less than two weeks away and we were heading to Washington D.C. for the National Book Festival. I really wanted to share these books with my family, but time was limited. Maybe, just maybe, there would be a way to celebrate Paul Fleischman's birthday on the way to Washington D.C. to keep the string of celebrations intact.

My boys and I loved
Paul Fleischman is the author of a dozen picture books including The Dunderheads and The Dunderheads Behind Bars, illustrated by David Roberts. He has also written many middle grade and young adult novels including Seedfolks which was named the 1997 Best Book by School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly and Graven Images, a 1983 Newbery Honor Award. He may be best known for his poetry book Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices which was awarded the 1989 Newbery Award and it was included in School Library Journal's 100 Books that Shaped the Century. In 2012, he was a "final five" nominee for the Hans Christian Anderson Award for his "lasting contribution to children's literature." Paul Fleischman's next book is Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines (available September 23, 2014).

I mentioned above that I loved the book The Animal Hedge which was named one of The Best Picture Books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly. It is a story about farmer who loses his farm and all his animals after a drought. Left with nothing he moves himself and his three sons to a cottage with a hedge. It finally rains and the land is once again lush. However, the farmer misses his animals and is saddened that he will not be able to pass his farm on to his sons. One day, the farmer notices the hedge around his cottage needs trimmed. As he trims he begins to see shapes of animals. Over time, the farmer takes great care trimming the hedge into cows, chickens, geese, goats and pigs. The animal hedge helps the farmer find happiness, but the farmer will need the hedge's help once more as his sons begin their lives on their own.

It was two days before we left for Washington D.C. and our trip was planned. However, something was missing; an author birthday celebration.  Two years ago we celebrated Bob Staake's birthday in front of The White House. Last year we celebrated at three locations in Washington D.C. and met Andrea Davis Pinkney to celebrate her birthday. I thought, maybe there is a topiary garden in Washington D.C. for me to read The Animal Hedge to my family. Well, I didn't find a topiary garden in D.C. but I found one in Maryland. It was on our way from Ohio, but we needed to leave a day early to make it fit into our schedule.
Ladew Topiary Gardens is located in Monkton, Maryland.  It was described by The Garden Club of America as "The Most Outstanding Topiary Garden in America." There are over 22 acres of gardens including over 100 topiary forms and numerous garden rooms.
The gardens were designed by the self-taught gardener, Harvey S. Ladew. He is credited with being one of the first Americans "to create garden rooms (rooms devoted to a single color, plant or theme) on this side of the Atlantic." (Ladew Topiary Gardens Garden Guide). Mr. Ladew has passed but his gardens live on for families and nature lovers to enjoy.
The Keyhole Garden
My children were so excited to explore all of the gardens.
Many of the garden rooms featured fountains and small ponds.
They found many frogs and tadpoles.
Topiary - the art or practice of clipping shrubs, hedges, or trees into ornamental shapes.
The Hunt Scene features a rider on a horse and many hounds. I wonder what they are chasing.  
Topiary was sprinkled throughout the Ladew Topiary Gardens.  
It is hard to see from this picture but the hedge in the back was lined with swimming swans. I almost read The Animal Hedge to my family at this location. I was happy I held off because we would soon find the perfect place.
The Sculpture Garden was filled with topiary!

This was the perfect place to read The Animal Hedge. We even found a shady spot!
Ladew Topiary Gardens was magical. Everywhere you turned there was another neat place for my children to run and play.
I really wish we lived closer. It was beautiful!
We had a picnic lunch and then decided to head over to the new butterfly house on the grounds.
We got to see so many native butterflies and chrysalis.
We were lucky to see a monarch butterfly emerge!

We found what the hounds were after. It was a fox! My daughter thought he was nice.
Do you see the little dog coming out of his dog house?
Wow! This was a memorable reading experience! It was a great way to start our weekend of reading at the National Book Festival!
This fall, Bagram Ibatoulline will be presenting at the Mazza Museum Fall Conference, November 7 and 8.  Maybe he will share his birthday with us so we can extend this string of birthday celebrations. I would love to celebrate with The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischmen which was just awarded a 2014 Christopher Award.

I found this cool project idea from Paul Fleischmen that I would love to try after reading the book:

1. Paul Fleischman's website
2. Paul Fleischman Video Interviews on YouTube - He Walked Among Us, SeedFolks
3. Paul Fleishman's Matchbox Theaters - YouTube
4. Text Interviews - Candlewick, Publisher's Weekly (2014),
5. Teacher's Guide for SEEDFOLKS - HarperCollins
6. Teacher's Guide for MATCHBOX DIARY - Candlewick
7. Biographies -, Paul, Patricia

Birthday Source: MEET THE AUTHORS by Deborah Kovacs, Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac, Perma-Bound Calendar, Poetry People: A Practical Guide to Children's Poets by Sylvia Vardell

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Happy Birthday, Mike Wohnoutka - September 4

Happy Birthday, Mike Wohnoutka - September 4

The lights are dim. The candles are lit. It is time to sing Happy Birthday to Mike Wohnoutka. Is everyone ready? 1-2-3....

Moo-moo moo-moo moo moo. Moo-moo moo-moo moo moo. Moo-moo moo-moo moo, Mike. Moo-moo moo.....moo....moo mooooooooo!

(Wow! That was the best birthday singing I have ever "herd"! Thank you for joining in!)

Mike Wohnoutka is the illustrator of over 20 books for children including Can't Sleep Without Sheep by Susanna Leonard Hill and Mama's Little Duckling by Marjorie Blain Parker. As a child, Mike practiced drawing on scrap paper his father brought home from work. His kindergarten teacher predicted the future when she said, "He is an artist -- I hope he continues to express himself through art." He continued to express himself through art and others noticed his talents including his high school art teacher and judges in an art contest that awarded him a scholarship to the Savannah College of Design. He planned on a career in graphic design until he saw a presentation given by David Shannon which led him to change his major to illustration. He graduated from SCAD in 1993. (Keynote Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2014).

It took six years for Mike Wohnoutka to break into the children's book industry.  He received many rejections, spent time working at a sculpting studio, and illustrated for many children's magazines. In 2000, Mike's persistence helped him publish his first book Counting Sheep, a Step Into Reading book. His first picture book came the next year when he published Cowboy Sam and Those Cofounded Secrets by Kitty Griffin and Kathy Combs. After some initial success and the birth of his son he began experimenting with a new style to attract more work. He went to New York to present his recently revamped portfolio. He received an offer to illustrate Jack's House at one of the meetings! Artwork from this book was included in the Society of Illustrators art show along with artwork from David Shannon. Recently, his picture book Moo! by David LaRochelle received the Minnesota Book Award. Also, he had his dream come true with the publication of his first book as an author-illustrator, Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster. (Keynote Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2014).

From the moment I picked up Moo! by Mike Wohnoutka and David LaRochelle I knew it was the perfect book for my family. The illustrations are bright and full of emotion. The text doesn't get any simpler for young readers as it is made up entirely, except for one word at the end, of moos! This book is udderly creative! Moo! is perfect for little ones and I have quite a few little ones in my family. A few of them just happen to live on a farm.

My cousin and I spent many days together during our childhood on his family's farm. I have many fond memories of accompanying him as he did his chores, riding on the tractor, and playing basketball in the barn for countless hours. I remember watching a baby calf being born. Once, I even helped convince an escaped cow to return to the fenced-in pasture (not very easy to do!). We stepped in many cow patties together just for fun, with boots on, of course!  Fast forward 25 years, and now my cousin runs the family farm because "raising cows is in his blood." I was so happy that he allowed me to read one of my new favorite picture books at his farm!

I was excited to visit my cousin's farm with my wife and two youngest children, but I got a huge surprise when we arrived. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and new little cousins were all there. They had spent the day harvesting sweet corn together. They bagged over 125 gallon-baggies full of sweet corn to stock their freezers! After their hard work they were ready to relax with a good book!
Hey ladies, do you want to read a story? They look like they might be a tough audience.
My cousin's son threw fresh corn cobs to the cows to encourage them to stick around for story time. 
I started reading Moo! and immediately everyone was interested in the book including the cow.
Moo! really made us laugh -- A LOT! However, I noticed the cow behind me wasn't laughing. Maybe she was worried about the the cow in the book who took the farmer's car out for a joy ride and crashed it into a policeman's car. I was pretty sure the cow behind me would lighten up by the end of the book. It has a great ending!
My daughter noticed that a few more cows showed up while I was reading!
I asked my daughter, "Do you think the cows like the book?"

Find out if the cows liked the book in the video below:

"I didn't know cows knew how to read!"
Story time was over and all the cows headed back across the pasture. Thanks for coming, gals! I know all the cows enjoyed the book -- even the worried cow. We realized later that she wasn't actually worried about the cow in the book. She just had a slight tummy (or is it tummies?) ache from eating about 68 of those corn cobs thrown in pasture by my little cousin!
"Moo moo moo moo moo!" (Translation: Cows love this book too!)
My cousin took us on a tour of the farm. I remember climbing the silo on the left when I was little. We were told we could see Cedar Point from up there. I was disappointed when we couldn't.
We saw all the new calves on the farm.
My daughter got to feed the cows some hay.
My son got to sit on a big tractor!
The calf in the distance was only a week old!
Cousin Mark: Thank you! Thank you, for a fun day at your farm!  We had a great time!
I was so happy to meet Mike Wohnoutka at the Mazza Museum in July. When I asked him to share his birthday he said, "September 4th. The same day as Syd Hoff!"  How can you not love a guy who knows his author and illustrator birthdays! Thank you for sharing your birthday with us. We hope you have a Moooo-velous birthday!

Check out Mike's latest book as an illustrator, MY BIBI ALWAYS REMEMBERS by Toni Buzzeo. It was just released, September 2, 2014. Read and follow the blog tour for this new book! Plus, Moo! will be a board book in November! Pre-order it today!

1. Mike Wohnoutka's website
2. Interviews - Connext (August 2014), Onward Ho!, Riffle Backstory, Bloggin' Mama Drama
3. Can't Sleep Without Sheep Jingle by Tim McCanna - YouTube
4. Moo! Book Trailer - YouTube
5. Teacher's Guide and Activity Pages for Moo! from David LaRochelle
6. Common Core Guide and Other Resources for Just Like My Papa from Toni Buzzeo
7. Common Core Guide and Other Resources for Stay Close to Mama from Toni Buzzeo
8. Activities for Can't Sleep Without Sheep from Susanna Leonard Hill
9. Can't Sleep Without Sheep Trailer - YouTube
10. Teacher's Guide for Jack's House from Karen Beil

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