Friday, June 24, 2016

Happy Birthday, Eric Carle - June 25

Happy Birthday, Eric Carle - June 25

One of the greatest lessons I have learned during my 11 years as a stay-at-home dad is that if you are willing to cook it or bake it yourself it will probably be cheaper, healthier, or taste better than buying it from the grocery. Most of the time it is all three. However, this would not be possible without the hard-working food bloggers and food websites that share their recipes.

Countless times I have wondered...Can make that myself? And every time I have learned that I can, because someone else must have wondered the same thing, invented a recipe, and shared it online. I have learned how to make homemade birthday cake, homemade whipped cream and homemade granola bars; all of which I like better than buying from the store. I wish I had the time and desire to spend the whole day in the kitchen. I could probably make everything my family eats from scratch. I know it is unrealistic to think that anyone could do that, but I do love learning new recipes to make things myself instead of just picking it up from the store. This week I can thank Walter the Baker and Eric Carle for teaching me how fun, easy, and delicious it can be to make homemade pretzels.

This is our 5th birthday celebration for Eric Carle, author and illustrator of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This year we read Walter the Baker. It is a story about Walter, his wife Anna, and their son Walter Jr. They make the most delicious sweet rolls in the town. They are so delicious that Walter Jr. is responsible for delivering sweet rolls to the castle for the Duke and Duchess to enjoy each morning. One day, the family cat spills the milk and Walter decides to use water instead to make his sweet rolls. The Duke is furious when his sweet rolls do not taste right and wants to banish Walter from the town. Walter pleads with the Duke and is granted a chance to redeem himself if he can bake a roll from one piece of dough that the rising sun can shine through three times. Walter struggles to come up with a roll and in a fit of frustration throws his last piece of dough up in the air. It twists and turns and falls into a bucket of water. His son Walter notices the dough and his wife Anna puts it in the oven to bake. As a result Walter the Baker bakes a pretzel and the Duke loves it!

Eric Carle shared on his blog that Walter the Baker was a story "based on a tale his Grandmother told him" when he was a boy. However, he said, "I truly had an uncle named Walter who was a baker and who baked, along with all kinds of bread, cookies, cakes, and rolls; pretzels!" (Eric Carle's Blog; A Pretzel Story)

I thought it would fun to make homemade pretzels just like Walter the Baker and Eric Carle's Uncle Walter. I found a recipe online and we set to work.

My daughter and I read Walter the Baker and then got out the ingredients to make pretzels.
She added the yeast to the warm milk.
She stirred in the flour, brown sugar, and butter. 
Her brothers and sister quickly found out we were making pretzels. They helped stir in more flour.
Everyone had a chance to knead the dough.
We let the dough rise and we read Walter the Baker again.
Once the dough had risen we divided it into six parts. My son prepared a baking soda and water solution.
They rolled and stretched their dough.
The recipe called for the dough to be stretched to 30 inches.
Then, we twisted the dough it into a pretzel shape. We had to have three holes for the sun to shine through.
It wasn't as easy as we thought.
But, she was having fun.
They tried and tried.
Eventually, everyone made a pretzel shape.
We dipped the pretzels into the baking soda solution and placed them on a baking sheet.
Then, they added some coarse sea salt.
They soon learned that a lot of salt is not necessarily a good thing.
We baked them for about 10 minutes and they turned out great. 
I think the Duke would be happy with our baking.
We dipped the pretzels in butter to make them extra yummy and then it was time to enjoy.
We recommend this book and we hope you try making your own pretzels. They were delicious and fun to make together as a family!

Check out Eric Carle's Latest Book, The Nonsense Show (released October 2015) and LOVE from THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR (December 2015):




Links:
4. Previous Birthday Celebrations from Happy Birthday Author - 201020112014, 2015
5. Author Study - Scholastic
6. House for Hermit Crab - Lesson Plan (Scholastic)
7. Brown Bear, Brown Bear Teacher's Guide - Brown Bear and Friends
8. Eric Carle Video Interview - Reading Rockets
9. The Education of a Good Picture Writer - Eric Carle - YouTube (a 1 hour long speech)
10. The Very Hungry Caterpillar turns 45 - CBS NEWS video
11. Eric Carle describes his illustration technique with tissue paper - via MacMillanKids on YouTube
12. Eric Carle reads THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR - YouTube
13. Eric Carle activities on Pinterest - Great board with tons of ideas!
14. 45th Anniversary of THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR website - Penguin
15. Eric Carle Biography - Eric-Carle.com
16. The World of Eric Carle on Facebook
17. Interview 2015 - Chicago Tribune

Monday, June 20, 2016

Happy Birthday, Steve Johnson - June 20

Happy Birthday, Steve Johnson - June 20

Reading and learning with my children is what defines me as father. I tell people all the time that writing this blog has made me a better dad and I believe that. It has inspired me to be active in my children's lives, taught me to feel grateful for all the experiences we have shared together, and keeps me excited for the possibilities.

So, how would I choose to spend my Father's Day? Of course, it would be reading and celebrating an author/illustrator birthday and I had the perfect book illustrated by Steve Johnson that would be fun for the whole family.

Steve Johnson has published over 45 books including My Many Colored Days written by Dr. Seuss, The Frog Prince, Continued written by John Scieszka, and One Frozen Lake by Deborah Jo Larson. He has collaborated with his wife, Lou Fancher, on most of his 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. (We celebrated Lou's birthday in September 2015. Click here to read the post!)

Steve Johnson studied illustration and painting at The College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota and Lou Fancher studied dance at the University of Cincinnati. 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 made of her and the rest is history.

Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference 2015
Steve and Lou'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." Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher's next book is A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney. It is set to be released November 2016.

One of our favorite books by Steve Johnson is The Salamander Room, written by Anne Mazer. It is a story about a young boy named Brian who finds a salamander in the woods and brings it home to live with him. Brian's mom asks, "Where will he sleep?" Brian answers, "I will make him a salamander bed to sleep in." With each of his answers, Brian is asked another question by his mom which transforms Brian's room into the perfect habitat. But where will Brian sleep? Brian has the best answer.

I wondered if I could take my children to the woods to find a salamander just like Brian did in The Salamander Room. We asked a few friends where they would recommend going and the consensus was Squaw Rock Loop Trail in the South Chagrin Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks.

Our friends suggested this trail because of its accessible creek beds that would be just right for hunting salamanders.
I had never looked for salamanders before, but my oldest son went on the field trip in first grade and remembered the park ranger overturning rocks to find them. 
My oldest daughter was in the creek bed less than five minutes when she called out, "I got one!" We all rushed over to see.
I picked up the salamander with the leaves he was sitting on and placed him in a container for all of us to observe.
My son identified the salamander as a Northern Two-Lined Salamander that is very common in Northeast Ohio.
My oldest daughter had super-salamander-detecting skills. It seemed like every rock she looked under uncovered another one.
"See it, Dad. Right there!"
Two more salamanders! I couldn't believe how many we found. 
This was a fun activity for the whole family.
We found the perfect spot to read The Salamander Room after our salamander hunt.
A great way to spend Father's Day!
We continued our hike on the Squaw Rock Loop Trail and found another place to explore.
They loved navigating the slippery rocks to get to the other side of the Chagrin River. I was anxious that one of them was going to get hurt. Thankfully, there were just a few slips. No boo-boos. Just some wet clothes.
This boy loves nature!
So, does this boy! I found another spot that seemed like the perfect place for a salamander to live. It was like an outdoor salamander room.
I found one!
Happy Birthday, Steve Johnson! It was nice to meet you at the Mazza Museum. Thank you for sharing your birthday with us!
Check out Steve Johnson's latest books, Shh! Bears Sleeping and Dr. Seuss: The Great Doodler:




Links:
1. Fancher and Johnson Website
2. The Cheese Printable - HarperCollins
3. Teacher's Guide for The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart - Elizabeth Rusch
4. The Salamander Room on Reading Rainbow - YouTube
5. The Salamander Room Reading Rainbow learning packet

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Happy Birthday, Angela Johnson - June 18

Happy Birthday, Angela Johnson - June 18

Over the years, I developed a misunderstanding about when and how slavery ended in America. I could blame my school for not addressing it or a teacher for not teaching it or myself for not learning it. You see before I read Angela Johnson's All Different Now I had never heard of Juneteenth. I did not know its significance. But, I do now and I have a much better understanding thanks to a picture book, a great city, and an amazing author.

Angela Johnson writes for a variety of readers. She has published over 40 books including When I am Old with YouJust Like Josh Gibson, and two books illustrated by Loren Long, I Dream of Trains and Wind Flyers. Additionally, three of her chapter books for older children The First Part Last (2004), Heaven (1999), and Toning the Sweep (1994) received Coretta Scott King Awards. She described her experience writing for children with The Brown Bookshelf, "I did not think it was odd to want to write poetry, picture books, middle readers, novels and board books and short stories. No one told me I couldn't -- so I did."

Before she was a writer Angela Johnson was a reader. Her family loved to read so much that her father made a rule that no books were allowed during meal time. One of her teachers read Harriet the Spy to her in elementary school which inspired her to ask her parents for a diary so she could write. (Ohioana Authors)

Angela Johnson attended Kent State University to become a teacher, but decided to leave school to pursue writing. To support herself she was a child development worker and a nanny. One of the children she took care of was the son of Cynthia Rylant. Cynthia Rylant, who also has a June birthday, learned that Johnson was writing and asked if she could read some of her work. It took some time, but Angela got the courage to share. Cynthia Rylant thought her writing was good enough to be shared with her editor.  Angela Johnson described the experience, "Soon after that she informed me of what she had done. I was shocked, but shocked even more when her editor called me a couple of months later to tell me he'd like to publish the story as a picture book." (The Brown Bookshelf).  Her first book was Tell Me a Story Mama which was published in 1989 and later in 1991 Johnson received the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award for the book.

In 1992, Angela Johnson was described by Rudine Sims Bishop as "one of the most prominent African-American literary artists of the next generation" (The ALAN Review). Now, almost 25 years later, Angela Johnson continues to write and inspire others with her literary art, but also assists writers and students at Kent State University as a writer-in-residence. Her latest picture book is All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom is a story about a day that starts the same as all the others. A day people feel the same as they did the day before. However, on this day everything will be different before its over. On this day, June 19, 1865, in Texas, Major General Gordon Granger made an announcement from a balcony in Galveston.  The news spread to the fields. It was news that would make things different. It was news that came to Texas two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and almost six months after the 13th amendment was enacted. It was news that they were free. The last slaves in America would be living a life that would be all different now.

My family was given All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom as a gift. (I love getting picture books as gifts!) For this reason it was the first book I chose to read in my preparation for our author birthday celebration. It immediately struck me that Angela Johnson's birthday was so close to Juneteenth (June 19, 1865) and I wondered if there was a way to learn more about this important day in American history.

I discovered that the city of Oberlin, Ohio was holding a Juneteenth celebration and it happened to be on Angela Johnson's birthday! For years the city of Oberlin has been celebrating Juneteenth with a festival, a parade, activities, and togetherness. The citizens of Oberlin are proud of their city's history. Their city was a key part of the Underground Railroad and the route to freedom, their citizens sacrificed their lives to stand up for the freedom for all, and their college has welcomed all people, regardless of their background to learn with them since 1835. This seemed like the perfect place to learn more about Juneteenth.

Oberlin, Ohio was an important city in the fight to end slavery.
"Juneteenth has morphed into a more national symbolic celebration of respect for all cultures." (Angela Johnson, All Different Now, Afterword)
Our first activity at the Juneteenth celebration was to ride a trolley.
On the trolley, we learned about how african-american builders influenced architecture in America.  
It was a beautiful day for a trolley ride in the city.
A fun and educational activity for all ages.

In the city square there was music, food, and many vendors. There was lots to hear, smell, and see! The ribs smelled so good!
The Oberlin Public Library had a table at the festival. I was happy to find All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom on display!
There was cornhole and many other games for my kids,
And a parade at noon!
Abraham Lincoln was there too! 
My kids were happy to get candy from the historic Oberlin Juneteenth clown. 
Thank you, Angela Johnson and Oberlin, Ohio for teaching my family all about the importance of Juneteenth.
Links:
1. Angela Johnson's Website
2. Biography - Ohioana Authors
3. Interview - The Brown Bookshelf, The ALAN review, CCBC
4. A Curriculum Guide to ALL DIFFERENT NOW - CFmedia
5. More about ALL DIFFERENT NOW - SLJ
6. Juneteenth Oberlin, Ohio - Website, Video (2014)

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