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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Happy Birthday Adam Rex - May 16

Happy Birthday Adam Rex - May 16

Happy Children's Book Week! This week people around the country are celebrating the important role that books play in the lives of our children.  It is a tradition that began in 1913 with the belief that "children's books and literacy are life-changers." The tradition continues today to prove that "A great nation is a reading nation." ( Adam Rex said, "Picture books are important because people of every age deserve a medium whose primary aim is not to educate, or cajole, or sermonize; but rather to connect, to touch and effect, and even to entertain." (Picture Book Month).

Adam Rex is an author and illustrator of numerous picture books and has also written novels for middle graders including Cold Cereal and Unlucky Charms of the Cold Cereal Saga. He decided at the age of 5 that he was going to be an artist when his older brother was upset that Adam, who was three years younger than him, was way better at art. (Tucson Weekly). Many art classes during his childhood led him to start painting at the age of 11.  ( After graduating with a Fine Art degree from the University of Arizona, he spent many years illustrating trading cards featuring wizards and other strange creatures for games such as Magic the Gathering (Seven Impossible Things). He illustrated his first picture book Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake in 2003.  Since then, his career has been filled with writing novels including The True Meaning of Smekday (which will be released as a movie, Happy Smekday by Dreamworks Animation in November 2014) and creating some highly entertaining picture books including Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman, Guess Again? by Mac Barnett, and Psst!.

Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem was another book that my family found very fun and entertaining. Billy Twitters has a messy room, unbrushed teeth, and a plate full of uneaten baked peas. His mom does not send him to his room or ground him from his friends.  Instead, she buys him a blue whale to teach him a little responsibility. As you can imagine having a blue whale that your mom and dad make you take everywhere, including school, is a major problem. Logistically moving the largest animal ever to inhibit planet Earth is tough enough, but socially Billy finds out his blue whale is almost too much to handle.  He gets uninvited to a pool party and does not get picked for the kickball team.  These problems are just the school problems.  The list of chores that awaits Billy at home is enormous! But, even with the day Billy had he still finds a way to look on the bright side of his situation.

While reading the book, we burst out laughing when Tilbie Peel, the know-it-all of the school, falls into the blowhole of the blue whale.  The text suggests that the fire department may have been involved in the rescue, but it doesn't say for sure how the young boy with the green dinosaur t-shirt and skinny legs managed to get out.
We wondered about Tilbie and decided that the fire department probably was not needed for the rescue. However, we needed to prove our hypothesis.
First, we had a blue whale problem of our own. WE DIDN'T HAVE A BLUE WHALE. I thought for days on how I could create one. Then, I decided to just paint one! I began by sketching a blue whale on the side of long, skinny cardboard box. My blue whale was based completely upon an illustration by Adam Rex from the book.
After the sketch was complete, I painted most of blue whale white.
Then, I added in the details.
It is amazing what you can do after drinking three cups of good coffee.
I wanted my boys to contribute to our whale too.  Early the next morning, they mixed up some grey paint.
Then, my oldest son painted the top of the blue whale.
While we waited for the paint to dry we drew Tilbie Peel.
After the paint was dry I cut out a blowhole using a x-acto knife.
Here is our Tilbie Peel, with a green dinosaur t-shirt and skinny legs, taped to a plastic water bottle and stuck in the blue whale's blowhole.  
Looking at these ingredients you can probably guess what we thought happened to Tilbie Peel.
We wrapped some baking soda in a piece of Saran Wrap.
Then, I poured some vinegar into the Tilbie Peel bottle.  We found out that we really didn't need that much of the baking soda and vinegar to accomplish what we wanted to do.
I pushed the baking soda wrapped in the Saran Wrap into the Tilbie Peel bottle with the vinegar.  Then, I shoved a cork in the opening of the bottle.
I shook the bottle really hard and placed Tilbie Peel in the blowhole.
 Tilbie Peel was blown right out of the blue whale's blowhole with an amazing force.  The fire department definitely wouldn't be needed if the blue whale decided that he didn't want Tilbie Peel messing with his blowhole. 

If you are interested in watching the short video of our Tilbie Peel launch click here
Note: The baking soda and vinegar reaction creates quite an explosion.  Please exercise caution when doing this activity. Keep children well away from the bottle!
If you watched the video you heard my son screaming, "That was so awesome! That was so awesome!" after our launch.  I think his words sum up Children's Book Week. Children's books are awesome! They inspire creativity, fun, and connections. Have a great rest of the week reading with your children!

Check out Adam Rex's latest picture book with Mac Barnett, Chloe and the Lion:


1. Adam Rex's website
2. Adam Rex's Blog
3. Follow Adam Rex on Twitter
4. Interviews - Authors Revealed (video), Q and A with Adam Rex provided by Houston Library (video), Writing and Ruminating Blog, Seven Impossible Things Blog, (Geek Dad), Ironic Sans Blog, Harcourt Books, Bookie Woogie Blog, Author Turf (2012), Comic Mix (Chu's Day Interview), Fiction Writer's Review (2012), Palatine Public Library (2012). (There are actually many more out there! I just couldn't list them all!)
5. Adam Rex Feature - Tucson Weekly 2013
6. Adam Rex at National Book Festival - Library of Congress

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