Thursday, July 30, 2015

Happy Birthday, Bagram Ibatoulline - July 31

Happy Birthday, Bagram Ibatoulline - July 31

We needed to put Plan B into action after our initial plans for this week's author birthday celebration fell apart. Luckily, we were celebrating Bagram Ibatoulline's birthday. He has illustrated such a wide variety of books, including The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo, Crow Call by Lois Lowry, and The Scarecrow's Dance by Jane Yolen, and I had oodles of activity ideas floating around in my head.

Celebrating Bagram Ibatoulline's birthday was very important to me. I fell in love with his illustrations in The Animal Hedge and The Matchbox Diary last September when we celebrated Paul Fleischman's birthday. Then, in November, I had a chance to meet Bagram Ibatoulline at the Mazza Museum Fall Conference 2014.
I learned that Bagram Ibatoulline was born in Siberia; "The cold part of Russia." He went to Moscow State Academic Art Institute after spending much of his childhood studying art. He has lived in the United States since 1991. Bagram explained in his keynote speech that when he illustrates his books he tries to remember the emotion he felt when he read the manuscript for the first time, because that is often the truest one.  

When Bagram read the manuscript for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo he said he was "moved by the whole text." He poured his emotion into his illustrations and Kate DiCamillo said, "He has done an incredible, amazing job. True art that should be hanging on a wall in a museum is in this book. He's done something that is truly extraordinary. It was like he was digging around inside my brain." (Candlewick).
 I learned that Bagram uses acrylic-gouache for most of his illustrations, but has also used watercolor, ink, and even bleach. Bagram finds his own source material like photographs to get "deeper" into his illustrations and often creates clay models. The result of this process are beautifully realistic and historically accurate illustrations.
This was the lineup from the Mazza Museum Fall Conference 2014 -- now we have celebrated all their birthdays; Ashley Bryan, Jen Corace, Peter Sis, Gianna Marino, Divya Srinivasan, and Bagram Ibatoulline!

In 2001, Bagram Ibatoulline illustrated his first book, Crossing by Philip Booth. It was named the Best Book of 2001 by Publishers Weekly. The text was originally published in a book of poetry, A Letter from a Distant Land, by Philip Booth in 1957. Crossing starts with the words, "STOP LOOK LISTEN" with an illustration of a railroad crossing, a track, and a cloud of billowing smoke rising above the treetops. When I read those three opening words and my children saw the illustration they were hooked and ready to experience the whole book.

Bagram Ibatoulline talked about Crossing at the Mazza Museum Fall Conference and said, "I loved the freedom the text gave me," and "I relied on memories of seeing trains when I was little." Crossing is a celebration of a child's innate desire to count the cars of a passing train while sitting at the crossing. Booth's words introduce today's readers to railroad names such as Union Pacific, Frisco, Phoebe Snow, and more. Ibatoulline's illustrations are so realistic that readers are transported back in time to observe the train cars with as much intrigue as the children in the book.

Our Plan B author birthday celebration activity was to read Crossing along the railroad tracks. Then, I thought that the experience would be even better if I could guarantee that we would see a train too. The best place for our family to do this was in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park along the Scenic Railroad.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad train was scheduled to arrive at the Boston Mill Station in Peninsula, Ohio at 9:30am. We arrived at 9:00am to scope out a good place to read Crossing.
We decided to read the book right by the railroad crossing signal. 
I explained to my oldest son that I got to see the artwork from this page at the Mazza Museum.
"Hopper of Coke" was on display during my visit to the museum in July 2015.
On the third-to-last illustration spread in Crossing, Bagram Ibatoulline illustrated 99 train cars heading into a tunnel on the circular track. I can't imagine how many times Bagram counted the train cars to be sure he had only 99. The next page is the grand finale -- #100, the CABOOSE!
After reading the book, my children walked along the tracks back to the station.
We were at Boston Mill Station. The station featured in the book is the Big Ear Station.
The crossing was quiet on this sunny morning.
Until we heard a "warning whistle" from the oncoming train.
Soon after the whistle, the railroad crossing "gate stripes" swung down, the red signals flashed, and the traffic stopped.
Toot! Toot! The train was right on time!
The train stopped briefly to pick up a few bikers before it was off to the next station.
Then, the gate swung back up to the top, the signals stopped flashing, and the traffic rolled across the tracks.
My daughter knew it was safe to once again test her balancing skills.
The others ran up and down the tracks.
It was a fun morning at the railroad tracks. We will never look at a railroad crossing sign the same way again.
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin this picture.
After our time at the crossing, we went for a bike ride on the Towpath Trail.
We also couldn't resist heading to downtown Peninsula to visit a few of the local shops. We happened to catch the Northbound train pulling into the Peninsula Depot at 11:30am. My son waved to all the conductors.
We also counted all the cars; 2 engines and 11 passenger cars.
Plan B (or in this case Plan "Bagram") turned out to be a really fun family day! And the best part is we already have an idea for celebrating Bagram Ibatoulline's birthday next year!

Links:
1. Bagram Ibatoulline's Website
2. Interviews - BookBrowse
3. The Matchbox Diary Teacher's Guide - Candlewick
4. Kate DiCamillo and Bagram Ibatoulline talk about Edward Tulane - Candlewick

Monday, July 13, 2015

Happy Birthday, Brian Selzick - July 14

Happy Birthday, Brian Selznick - July 14

I am often asked, "Will you ever celebrate authors who write chapter books?"

Before I can respond, it is often followed up with, "You will feature authors that write chapter books when your children get older, right?"

It is true that, to this point in our author celebrations, almost all of the authors and illustrators we have celebrated create picture books. It is important to note that a few of the authors and illustrators have written and illustrated chapter books in addition to their picture books. (John Rocco comes to mind and his birthday was July 9!).

Yet, in those cases we still featured the picture books in our celebrations.

The truth is I do not know what the future holds for our birthday celebrations. My oldest daughter is ten years old. She is a spirited, enthusiastic, and avid reader. She devours chapter books! My son is seven and has started to dip into chapter books himself. Yet, I am trying to hold my children into the world of picture books as long as I can.

This month something completely new happened for our family and it involved a CHAPTER BOOK!

My oldest daughter was rereading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick for the second time. After she finished, I picked it up and started reading. I was curious to read this 500+ page chapter book that was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2008, an award usually given to a picture book. I finished the book within twenty-four hours which is amazing for me. I am a picture-book-guy through and through. The story was excellent. It was fast-paced and I loved that there were well over 100 full-page illustrations in the book.

My daughter and I stayed up late one night to watch Hugo, the movie based on the book. She fell asleep before the end, but I really enjoyed it. The next day, I saw on my author birthday calendar that Brian Selznick's birthday was in July. I wondered, Could I pull off a family reading experience to bring this chapter book to life? My oldest son had been asking about the book and knew that his sister got to stay up late to watch the movie. Could it work? If any chapter book would work, it would be The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.

Brian Selznick is the author-illustrator of Wonderstruck and The Boy of a Thousand Faces. He has also illustrated numerous chapter books for Andrew Clements (Frindle, Lunch Money, The School Story, The Janitor's Boy, and The Laundry News) and Ann M. Martin (The Doll People, The Meanest Doll in the World, and The Runaway Dolls). As a child, Brian's parents "were very supportive" of his interest in drawing and enrolled him in many art classes outside of school. In high school he became known as the "kid who could paint," but became "annoyed" when people suggested he should be a children's book illustrator. His artistic talents led him to major in illustration at Rhode Island School of Design while also taking classes at Brown University, where he gained experience in theater and set design. However, he failed to get into graduate school for set design. So, he started traveling and while on his travels he began creating stories with words and pictures. It dawned on him that maybe the people in high school were right -- maybe he should be a children's book illustrator. (Sources Reading Rockets and Teaching Books).

It didn't take long for Brian to publish his first book. He got a job working at the children's book store, Eeyore's Books for Children in New York. While working at the store, he showed his manager a story he wrote about a child who meets Houdini. His manager passed it along to someone he knew at RandomHouse and they later agreed to publish his first book, The Houdini Box (1991).  During the rest of the 1990s Brian illustrated numerous books for other authors including Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan.

In 2002, Brian Selznick was awarded a Caldecott Honor award for The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley. To research this book Brian traveled to London to view the Hawkins dinosaurs which are still on display in Crystal Palace Park. "I got permission to go onto the island and I got to climb into the dinosaurs and look out the dinosaur's mouth and see where Waterhouse Hawkins had signed his name.  And so I was very aware of the smells of it and the feel of it and the essence of the place." (Reading Rockets).

Brian's extensive research also led to the success of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. He was completely absorbed in old movies and photographs when he discovered the filmmaker George Méiliès and his movie Trip to the Moon. "I had wanted to do a story about a kid who meets George Méiliès, the way Victor met Houdini in my first book. But I didn't have a plot and I didn't have a kid character. All I had was the idea of a kid meeting Méiliès. That premise sat in my head for 15-18 years." (Teaching Books).

Then, he read Edison's Eve by Gabby Wood about the history of automata (a moving mechanical device that has human-like features). He learned in this book that George Méiliès collected automata and later donated his collection to a museum where they were thrown out. All of these ideas and stories grew into The Invention of Hugo Cabret, a story about a boy named Hugo who lives in a train station, rescues and repairs an automaton, and learns that broken machines and people who have lost their purpose in life have much in common.

Our author birthday celebration for Brian Selznick started with a Google search; "automaton museum in Ohio." I didn't find a place to take my children in Ohio, but I did find a place that was close enough to make it happen.


Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
A road trip inspired by The Invention of Hugo Cabret. At the time, my daughter had read Hugo Cabret twice and I was reading it for the second time to my two boys. We read the first half of the book before we left and then read about four chapters from the second half of the book while traveling to our destination.
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Hugo brought us to the great state of Michigan.
Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum, Farmington Hill, MI
I only gave my children two clues about where we were going; automaton and coins. Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum is in Farmington Hills, Michigan and it is home to 5,000 square feet of vintage coin-op machines, unusual items and oddities, and automaton!
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We wouldn't have come here without this book!
Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum is amazing! There is stuff to look at from floor to ceiling (especially the ceiling!)
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
I loved these old posters of magicians.
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
After we walked around the whole place, my kids said, "This isn't a museum. This is an arcade!" I brought lots of quarters for each of them to spend on the games and attractions of their choice.
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My son spent his first quarters on a fortune telling machine.
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We tried all the coin-operated automaton, too. This one was a circus with a high-wire act and three hungry lions!
Skeleton Automaton
This skeleton was trying to jack-hammer his way off his pedestal.
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
There were automaton everywhere. It was a museum after all.
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
This automaton was a levitating magician. 
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
This magician made a ball disappear and then it appeared inside his mouth.
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Yet, another automaton of a flying machine.
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My daughter said, "They are singing The Muffin Man."
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
In addition to the automaton and the vintage coin-op machines there were modern games for my children to enjoy. My son loved the basketball game. He won 10 tickets for his score in this game!
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My daughter loved the mini-carousel.
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
At the end, they got to exchange their tickets for prizes.
Activity Idea for Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Since I had Hugo Cabret on my mind, I mistakenly read this sign at first.
Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum
We had a great "time" at Marvin's Marvelous Mechanical Museum. It was worth the trip from Ohio, and it was the perfect place to bring to life The Invention of Hugo Cabret. All of my children now have the word "automaton" in their vocabulary.
This was a very memorable "chapter book" author birthday celebration. Maybe there will be more in the future. I guess you will just have to continue to follow our blog to find out!

Are you ready for another book by Brian Selznick? It  sounds like another great book is on its way! The Marvels is available September 15, 2015! Pre-order it today!



Links:
1. Invention of Hugo Cabret Website
2. Video interviews - Reading Rockets
3. Text interviews - IndieBound, Library of Congress, Seven Impossible Things Blog, Publisher's Weekly, CNN, TeachingBooks
4. Audio interviews - WNYC, NPR (2007), NPR (2011), WBEZ
5. Wonderstruck Website
6. Biography - NCCIL
7. Teaching with Brian Selznick's books - Scholastic
8. Hugo Movie Website


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Happy Birthday, Ashley Bryan - July 13

Happy Birthday, Ashley Bryan - July 13

According to Ashley Bryan, "You must wake up as a child. You must wake up with the curiosity and adventure that a child faces when awaking." (Mackinvia-Connext).  One morning this week, my family awoke at grandma and grandpa's house. We were heading home around lunch time, but we had something to do before leaving town. I was running around the house, putting things away, packing up the van when my wife said, "I feel a sense of urgency."

I replied, "Yes, I want get going. I want to have enough time at the beach." I was excited for our author birthday celebration for Ashley Bryan. I was curious to see how this adventure would unfold. I didn't want to be rushed once we got to the beach. I wanted this author birthday celebration to be something special.

Today is Ashley Bryan's 92nd birthday! He has created more than thirty books including All Things Bright and Beautiful, What a Wonderful World, and Turtle Knows Your Name.  He made his first book in Kindergarten, began reciting poetry in second grade, and attended free art and music classes provided by Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. In 1940, he enrolled at Cooper Union School of Art and Engineering, but after two years of studying a variety of art techniques he was drafted into the army. Despite the demands of serving during World War II, Ashley still found time for art.  He always carried a sketchbook around with him and while stationed in Scotland he was granted special permission to visit Glasgow School of Art.

On June 6, 1944, Ashley Bryan served as a stevedore, a person who loads and unloads cargo, when the Allies invaded Normandy, France at Omaha Beach. He carried his art supplies and sketchbook in his gas mask. "When I climbed down into the landing craft, my sketchbook was out, I was sketching men climbing down the ladder. And when we were on the beach I was drawing the men in the foxholes." (An Artist At D-Day).

After returning home at the end of the war, Ashley studied and traveled. He finished his work at Cooper Union, studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, obtained a degree in Philosophy at Columbia University, studied French at the Université d'Aix-Marseille in France, and studied German at the University of Freiberg in Germany. In between all of his studies and travels he found time to teach art to children and adults. (source: Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life Song).

At the age of 40, Ashley Bryan began illustrating children's books with books like Moon, for What Do You Wait? and Fablieux. In 1971, he wrote and illustrated his first book, The Ox of the Wonderful Horns and Other African Tales. He went on to win three Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards (Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum, Beautiful Blackbird, and Let It Shine) and published five books that were awarded Coretta Scott King Honor awards. In 2012, he was awarded the Coretta Scott King Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement. He continues to entertain audiences with his "call and response" method of storytelling where he says a line of a poem and encourages people to repeat it. His latest book was released May 2015, By Trolley Past Thimbleton Bridge (illustrated by Marvin Bileck.)

I was lucky enough to listen to and meet Ashley Bryan at the Mazza Museum in November 2014.
To celebrate Ashley Bryan's birthday, my mom took our family to one of her favorite places to explore, Sheldon's Marsh in Huron, Ohio along Lake Erie. It would be the perfect location to bring to life Ashley Bryan's Puppets, a book that features photographs of over 30 of Ashley Bryan's hand-made puppets. Ashley made the puppets from materials he collected from beaches and wrote a poem to accompany each one.
My mom took me and my sister on walks here when we were little.
"From the child who rescued stray objects from the streets grew the adult who gathers seashells, driftwood, bones, rocks, and sea glass." -Ashley Bryan, Ashley Bryan: Words to My Life Song
Piles of treasures were all along the beach from a recent storm. I picked up this yellow cordage thinking it might make a nice belt for a puppet.
The hunt was on for treasure.

"I wanted to show that with imagination, the castoff items we see on the beach can be brought to life." - Ashley Bryan, Publishers Weekly
Ashley Bryan is a sea-glass collector. He has made many sea glass panels of art, too. We found only one piece of sea glass on our treasure hunt and it happened to have the letter A.
Grandma showed her grandsons the piece of driftwood that she found. 
My children were so happy to spend time with their grandma.

We took a moment to read All Things Bright and Beautiful near the crashing waves and under the warm sunshine.
We continued our treasure hunt at another beach.
Luckily, I found a green plastic container to carry all my treasures.
A fun morning at the beach for my crew.
Our treasure hunt was coming to a close.
We found plenty of items to make our puppets. Now all we needed was our imagination.
That afternoon, after returning home, we sorted our treasures.
We cleaned the driftwood and other items the best we could with a brush and the garden hose.
We laid everything out to dry.
I bleached some of the items that smelled a little fishy.
The next day, my oldest son was eager to make his puppet. I encouraged him to assemble his puppet on the table.
My oldest daughter assembled her puppet too.
We used nails and screws to assemble the puppets.
Accessories were added - ropes, cordage, fishing gear.
He was so proud of his puppet.
My oldest daughter tied a belt and added a necklace to her puppet.
She was also quite pleased with her creation.
I also made a puppet.
A close up of my puppet. 
I love his big ear!
A close-up of my son's puppet. He named him Bobby.
A close-up of my daughter's puppet.
We had to wait a day for the glue to dry on my son's puppet. I love the face he made with skipping stones for eyes, a shell for a mouth, and a bone mustache! He named him Capuchin (as in a capuchin monkey). 
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin this picture.
"It is one of the most creative things you can do -- to read -- because you engage the mind when you read. You create the scene, you create the instant, you create the action, everything about it being created." (Reading Rockets).

Check out Ashley Bryan's latest book, By Trolley Past Thimbleton Bridge (May 2015):



Links:
1. Ashley Bryan Center website
2. Interviews - Publishers Weekly, Reading is Fundamental, Mackinvia-Connext
3. Audio Interviews - The Story: I'm Going to Sing, The Story: An Artist at D-Day, Savvy Painter
4. Biography - NCCIL, Pennsylvania Center for the Book
5. Video Interview - Reading Rockets
6. Author and Illustrator Ashley Bryan Comes of Age - Portland Press Herald
7. Ashley Bryan Papers - deGrummond Children's Literature Collection
8. Ashley Bryan Exhibit featured in Islesford, ME - WABI


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