Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Happy Birthday, Nikki McClure - July 19

Happy Birthday, Nikki McClure - July 19

There are so many things to love about this time of year. Cooking on the grill and eating outside, backyard campfires, slip n' slides and water balloon fights, catching lightning bugs, watching our butterfly garden come alive with flowers, and berry picking, especially blueberries. All of these things make my family very happy and after this week we can add shopping at farmers' markets to the list of happy summertime activities thanks to Nikki McClure's To Market, To Market.

Nikki McClure is the illustrator of over ten books for children including Mama is it Summer, Yet?, Waiting for High Tide, and How to Be a Cat. As a child growing up in Washington state, Nikki enjoyed exploring nature and drawing "intricate and detailed" pictures in her sketchbook and by middle school she wanted to become a marine biologist. (We Make). Later, at Evergreen State College, while studying natural history, she continued to draw her observations whether in the field or looking through a microscope. Nikki explained her excitement for nature,  "Every week I wanted to be a different scientist." (Cooper Point Journal). After graduating, Nikki worked for the Department of Ecology, but realized field work wasn't for her. She was becoming more intrigued with drawing not just for herself but for other people. "Word had gone around the hallways that I could draw ducks and cattails pretty well, so people would ask me to come in and draw a duck for their organization, or a cat, etc." After just one year, she decided to become an artist. (Powell's Books).

At the Mazza Museum Fall Conference 2016 Nikki McClure said, "My childhood art was the extent of my art training." But, Nikki was determined to become an artist and made a deal with herself that she had to make some money each day even if it was "just a dime found in the parking lot." This arrangement with herself went on for a few years while she was trying to find her art style. In 1996 a friend suggested that she try cutting paper and her first attempts became a self-published book Apple (which was later traditionally published in 2012). Then, as she continued to make handmade, self-published books illustrated with cut paper she also self-published a yearly calendar. After many years, the calendar caught the eye of the traditional publishing world and led to Collect Raindrops: The Seasons Gathered which was a collection of the artwork from her calendars. Then in 2009, she published All in a Day by Cynthia Rylant and her career as a book maker took off. (Seven Impossible Things).

Nikki describes her work this way, "Most artists add to paper. I remove from paper." (Mazza Fall Conference). She starts with a piece of black paper, sketches in pencil, and then uses her X-acto knife to create an image. Watch this video below to learn more about her process:

After reading many of Nikki's books I decided my favorite was To Market, To Market. I loved the pace of the book. It starts like a normal picture book with a few sentences on each page. "Today is Market Day. We hear the bell ringing. Everyone is gathering. The whole town is here." A little boy and his mom are ready to buy everything on their list at the farmers' market. Then, with each item on the list, Nikki quickly introduces the reader to someone at the market before giving a detailed description of how their item came to be available to the little boy and his mother. At end of the description, the person is thanked for the item. "Thank you, Jessie and James, for this juicy, oozy blueberry turnover."

I loved it. I thought it would be fun for my family to visit a farmers' market, meet the farmers, growers, makers, and providers. I wanted to learn their names just like I learned the people's names in To Market, To Market. I wanted to thank them for providing us with good things to buy.

On Saturday morning, I read To Market, To Market to all four of my children on our front step. (My oldest daughter took the photo.)
Reading the words "Today is Market Day," meant something more because it really was Market Day.
Our basket was ready to fill with goodies.

We drove to Kent, Ohio to Haymaker Farmers' Market which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
They were on a mission. I told them, "You can pick one item of your choice to buy." 
My youngest son decided right away that he wanted to buy zucchinis to make zucchini bread. He chose to buy two zucchinis from Amy at Red Basket Farm. Amy was nice enough to invite us to visit her farm!
Thank you, Amy for your delicious zucchini. We made the bread when we got home and it was yummy!
My youngest daughter saw all these plants from Klettlinger Greenhouse and wanted to get a flower.

She chose a pink Pow Wow Coneflower.

Gary encouraged all of my children to touch this plant and smell their fingers. It was a mosquito plant which smells like citronella. We bought one of those too. Thank you, Gary and Lisa for your wonderful plants. The coneflower is now in our butterfly garden and the mosquito plant is on our deck in a big pot.

My oldest son saw this booth and wanted to get some local honey. Matt from Kline Honey Bee Farm answered all our questions including, "How many hives do you have?" His answer, "250 in Portage County." 

He chose the summer honey variety and is looking forward to having it on butter toast. Thank you, Matt for the local honey.

And for the honey sticks. They were a perfect snack as we listened to some good music!

My daughter tried a sample of cheese from Mark Grogan of Ohio Farm Direct the first time she passed by and it tasted so good that she returned to make a purchase. Thank you, Mark for the pepper jack cheese that was made from the milk of grass-fed cows.

We grabbed three heads of garlic from Paula at Hyde Park Farm. Thank you, Paula for the garlic. It  helped make the pesto pasta we had for dinner taste great!

What did I choose? A cup of coffee from Carter at KC and Family Coffee Company. Thank you, Carter your coffee was perfect for my drive back home.

Our basket was full. Market Day is done.

Today I learned how important it is to introduce myself to, converse with, and thank the people that made it possible for us to have beautiful and delicious things. Every provider was so eager to answer our questions and to make sure we were happy with our purchase. 
Well, before I go, I think there is one more person I need to thank. Nikki, thank you for making books for me to read to my children. We love them! It was a pleasure meeting you at the Mazza Museum and we thank you for sharing your birthday with us. We hope you have a wonderful day!

1. Nikki McClure's Website
2. Buy Nikki's Art, Calendars, and Books - Buy Olympia
3. Follow Nikki on Twitter
4. Interviews - Queen Bee Creations, Seven Impossible Things, LA Weekly, Deep Space Sparkle, Design Mom, Kids and Eggs, Powell Books
5. Video - Nikki McClure from Abrams Books - YouTube
6. "Life in Balance" Exhibit
7. Made Locally With Love - South Sound

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Happy Birthday, Richard Egielski - July 16

Happy Birthday, Richard Egielski - July 16

Our author birthday celebrations can be messy! I can remember the molasses flood for Blair Lent's birthday when we left a mess all over the kitchen table for my wife to find when she came home from work. Then, there was Deborah Freedman's birthday when we used straws to blow blue watercolor paint. My daughter accidentally drank the paint and turned her tongue blue. For Ian Falconer's birthday we made a giant Jackson Pollock-like painting and we were splattered with paint along with the giant door that we used as a canvas. Not to mention all the birthday celebrations that have involved cooking, baking, and lots of dirty dishes! This week I had an idea to celebrate Richard Egielski's birthday that may go down as not the messiest family reading experience, but the cleanest!
The Tub People stood all in a line on the side of the tub until it was time to play sea captain. The father loved rescuing the other Tub People by floating around on a bar of soap like he was driving a boat. This fun little game turned tragic one day when the water started to spin and the Tub Child was sucked down the drain before the others could rescue him. The Tub People knew where the Tub Child was but could not do anything about it. Was there a heroic rescue? Would The Tub People ever stand all together in a line on the side of the tub again?
My children love The Tub People and I knew this was the book I wanted to use for our author birthday celebration. As I reread the book, I remembered whittling a piece of soap into a dog when I was little boy. I thought this would be a fun project for my children.
I bought nine bars of Ivory soap knowing we might make mistakes or want to make multiple carvings. We started by using a wet cloth to rub off the Ivory logo.
My son sketched his design with a pencil directly on the soap.
My daughter wanted a circle shape so she pressed a small cup into the soap to give her a starting point. Ivory soap is very soft and was perfect for my young soap carvers!
My son used a set of small screwdrivers to do his carving. You could also use a butter knife or a craft stick.
My daughter changed her mind on her design. She drew a cat on a piece of paper and then traced the shape onto the soap.
We all worked hard together!
My son's first soap carving was a smiley face!
Her cat turned out purr-fect!
Next, my son decided to make a baseball!
Meanwhile, I was carving out The Tub People - father, mother, grandmother, doctor, policeman, and child. In the book, The Tub People were wooden, but I was up for challenge to create them out of soap.
Grandmother turned out to be my favorite.
I almost forgot the dog! Isn't he cute?
More soap creations!
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin!
As my daughter decided to carve more, my son looked around at all the scraps of soap on our counter and said, "Dad, what could we make with all this soap?" I told him I read that you could make liquid soap from the soap shavings. He immediately said, "Can we do that?"
I placed the Ivory soap pieces in the blender and continued to add water until it blended smooth.
My son recalled that we had an empty bottle of body wash. We filled it up with our blended soap creation.
We were able to make over two bottles of body wash from the soap scraps.
I made special labels for the bottles.

It puts a smile on wooden faces.
The Tub People Body Wash.
For fathers, mothers, grandmothers, doctors, policeman, children, and dogs.
I thought this was going to be the cleanest author birthday celebration ever. But, it ended up being another big mess! There was soap everywhere, but it really smelled nice!
Richard Egielski is the illustrator of over 50 books including The End by David La Rochelle, Perfect Pancakes, If You Please by William Wise, and his own, Slim and Jim. As a child, Richard loved to draw and was fortunate to attend High School of Art and Design in New York City which prepared him for his college studies at Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design. 

One of the classes that Richard took at Parsons was taught by Maurice Sendak. Sendak mentioned to his friend, Arthur Yorinks, an aspiring picture book writer, that he thought Egielski would be the perfect illustrator for his stories. By chance, one day in an elevator, Richard met Arthur and they decided to collaborate. (Talking with Artists). They were a perfect match, like Sendak predicted, and together they published their first book, Sid and Sol in 1977. The team went on to publish ten books together including Louis the Fish, Ugh, and the 1987 Caldecott Award Winner, Hey, Al.

1. Richard Egielski's Website

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Happy Birthday, Aaron Becker - July 14

Happy Birthday, Aaron Becker - July 14

Last year the Journey trilogy was not yet complete when we celebrated Aaron Becker's birthday. We were still awaiting the arrival of Return and instead were inspired by the second book in the series, Quest.
The girl in the book wears a bandolier and we made ones just like hers!
We had a great time with last year's celebration and loved reading Return when it arrived at our house two weeks later.
But, the truth is even with making the bandoliers and having read all three books I was left with wanting to do more! I had another idea that I knew would be fun and I saved it for this year.

What was the idea? It was inspired by this full page spread in Quest.

I googled "walking bridges northeast Ohio" and I came across the Holden Arboretum in Kirtland. It looked like the perfect place to read the Journey trilogy once again with my family.

Why the Holden Arboretum? 

Because they have a canopy walk that is 500 feet long and 65 feet above the forest floor!  If you have read, Quest, you know that the girl and the boy are tracking down all the colored crayons to save the king. In order to get to the light-green crayon they must go across a huge bridge while being chased by guards. I just had to read Quest on a bridge!

We were lucky to have friends join us for this experience!
My daughter wore her bandolier that she made last year.
She was so brave crossing the bridge. It was a little creaky.
And it is really high up!
My son was brave too!
Just a dad with some books on a bridge.
What a crew!
There were a few landing areas along the canopy walk to stop and take in the scenery.  We thought this landing area was the perfect place to read a few books.
Here we are talking about the bridge in Quest and comparing it to the one we were on.
I was thinking....This reading experience has been smooth. No problems whatsoever.
Then, my wife asked my daughter to take the light-green crayon out of her bandolier and pretend she just found it at the end of the bridge. And....
She dropped the crayon! It went through a hole in the bridge and fell to the forest floor.
I said to all the kids, "We must find the light-green crayon to save the king," but a fence stood in our way.
Suddenly, the fence stopped and there was opening to reach the landing area where the crayon fell. Would we find it?
Yay!! A brave adventurer saved the day...and the king!
They told me to keep the crayon safe in the bandolier as we went to the next part of our adventure.
The Emergent Tower was next! It stands 120 feet off the ground.
My youngest adventurer was tired from all the walking, so I put her on my shoulders. She needed to conserve her energy to climb 202 steps to the top.
This one said, I am not scared of heights.
A beautiful view!
My daughter said, "The scary part was that we were taller than the trees." I said, "The scary part was that the tower swayed more than I expected!"

Our Journey trilogy adventure was complete. We did it! I am so thankful for days like this with family and friends! Memories like these, especially the memory of dropping the light-green crayon, will be ones we remember forever.

Missing a book from Journey trilogy for your home library?

Or Pre-order the Boxed-Set, available October 3, 2017:

1. Aaron Becker's Website
2. Follow Aaron Becker on Facebook, Twitter
3. Aaron Becker's Blog 
4. Journey Trailer (YouTube)
5. Quest Trailer (YouTube)
6. Return Trailer (YouTube)
7. Interviews - Seven Impossible Things BlogCandlewickSmartBooks for SmartKidsGood Reads with RonnaSchool Library JournalDesign MomEast Oakview LibraryHenry HerzKidLit 411
8. 5 Things You Didn't Know About Aaron Becker - Huff Post
9. The Making of Journey - Vimeo
10. Video Interview for Candlewick - YouTube
11. Your Guide to a Wordless Book - StoryBreathing
12. Aaron Becker feature - Pomona Magazine
13. Ready. Set. Draw. Watercolors with Aaron Becker - KidLit TV (YouTube)
14. Ready. Set. Draw. Balloon and Bird - KidLit TV (YouTube)
15. Aaron Becker at National Book Festival - Library of Congress (YouTube)

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