Sunday, May 23, 2010

Happy Birthday Candace Fleming - May 24

Happy Birthday Candace Fleming- May 24

It's garden time! I am attempting my first garden this year.  I cleared out a nice sunny spot in my tiny yard.  Luckily, I remembered that we tend to have many "puff-tails" that live near our house so I installed a "twitch-whisker" proof fence to keep my tasty sprouts from being eaten.  It wasn't even the next day after installing the fence that I saw my first "flop-ear" of the year eating some grass near the garden. Whew, I guess I outsmarted the bunnies for now!  The descriptive words I used to describe the rabbits are from Candace Fleming's book, Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!. My family loves this story, and how Mr. McGreely fails to keep the rabbits away from his garden.

I decided to celebrate Candace Fleming's birthday about three months ago when I found it on a list of author birthdays provided by School Library Monthly. I have already mentioned that my kids love Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!, but they also love Tippy, Tippy, Tippy - Hide!, the winter sequel that features Mr. McGreely trying to keep the bunnies out of his warm house for the winter.  These two books were the basis for my decision to go ahead with the celebration.  During our birthday celebration, my family read eight other books by Fleming and have loved them all.  I actually found myself anticipating a book that wasn't going to be good -- how can they all be good. But, all eight books were great!

Candace Fleming describes herself as storyteller.  She has imagined stories since she was young. Some may have called it fibbing or stretching the truth.  Some parents may have squashed their child's enthusiasm for a good tall tale.  However, Fleming's parents encouraged her and never punished her for telling stories. One time Fleming's teacher called home to invite her family to come in to talk to the class about their latest trip to Paris. The teacher thought the whole class could learn something from their experiences, however there was never a trip to Paris.  Her parents and teachers suggested that she write down her stories to help reduce the social fallout that was beginning to occur from all the storytelling.

Her career as a children's author actually started as a mom with an educational background in history who loved to read books to her children.   She thought being a children's author would be a great mix of her two favorite things.  She has succeeded in meshing history and kid's books even after a rough start with many rejection letters.  My family and I read many of her historical picture books including  A Big Cheese for the White House: The True Tale of a Tremendous Cheddar and A Hatmaker's Sign: A Story by Benjamin Franklin.  Her love of American history is evident in all of these books.  My family also loved Imogene's Last Stand.  Imogene is feisty young girl, who often quotes famous historical figures while she tries to save a local historical landmark from bulldozers.

I love when I can find a Reading Rainbow episode that features a book by our birthday author.  The embedded video below features Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming (Since publishing this post the video has been made private.  However, it can still be viewed once you become of member of the WVPT Vimeo Group).  This book is based on a true story about a box that Fleming's mother sent to a Dutch family after World War II.  Katje was the oldest daughter in that family.  Many boxes were sent to help people survive the winter after the war ended. This book stresses the importance of helping people when they are in need.  The Reading Rainbow episode takes it a step further and discusses a modern day volunteering project organized by children to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina.

In addition to all the great picture books, Candace Fleming has put together several great biographies, The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary, The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum, and Our Eleanor: A Scrapbook Look at Eleanor's Roosevelt's Remarkable Life.  I personally read Ben Franklin's Almanac: Being a True Account of the Good Gentleman's Life which is uniquely presented in the form of scrapbook.  This book does not read in a linear fashion but short stories and pictures are grouped into categories.  Fleming stated that her decision to write the biography in this fashion allows the reader to paint their own picture of understanding. I agree that the presentation of the biography in this fashion was enjoyable to read.  She helps readers make connections between events in his life that are sometimes more difficult to notice in a traditional "start with birth, end with death" biography.

Below is a portion of an interview with Candace Fleming conducted by Reading Rockets (I watched the whole video which helped me learn quite a bit for this post!). I found this portion of the interview very beneficial for teachers and possibly homeschooling parents who are working with children on writing stories.  Candace Fleming shares her system of writing that she teaches to fourth and fifth grade students.  She calls it, "C.L.A.P.S." which stands for Character, Location, Action, Problem, and Solution.  It is a very informative video.

I guess I should stop....There is so much good stuff out there about Candace Fleming.  Check the links below to find more information about her, and her work.

In closing, I have yet to meet a Candace Fleming book that I did not enjoy.  I was excited to celebrate the author of Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! this week but I ended up celebrating one of my new favorite authors.

Click here to download this week's library checklist.

Check out Candace Fleming's latest book, Clever Jack Takes the Cake released August 24, 2010:


1. Candace Fleming's Website
2. Candace Fleming Video Interview - Reading Rockets
3. Candace Fleming Text Interview - Reading is Fundamental
4. Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! - Teaching Guide from Candace Fleming, Another Muncha Lesson Plan
5. Tippy-Tippy-Tippy, Hide! - Teacher Guide from Candace Fleming
6. Gator Gumbo - Lesson Plan from Lousiana State Library
7. Boxes for Katje - Lesson Plan from Spoken Arts Media
8. The Lincolns - Teacher's Guide from Random House
9. Ben Franklin's Almanac - Teacher's Guide from Candace Fleming
10.  More teacher's guides from Candace Fleming

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