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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Happy Birthday Syd Hoff - September 4

Happy Birthday Syd Hoff - September 4

Today we are celebrating our 200th author birthday! I have been keeping my eye on this milestone for quite some time and it feels pretty good to have reached it. I even changed my blog banner to reflect the accomplishment.  However, it really doesn't change anything else.  My two older children are already asking whose birthday we are celebrating next. I am already planning too.

I do not want to talk too much about the future or the past.  We have a celebration today for one of the most beloved children's authors of all-time and a favorite from my childhood, Syd Hoff!

Syd Hoff began his extraordinary career as a cartoonist.  In high school, Hoff gave a drawing demonstration at a school assembly and impressed Milt Gross, a cartoonist he described as "the master,"  who was in attendance.  After the assembly Gross said to Hoff, "Kid, some day you'll be a great cartoonist!" Hoff never finished high school but later attended National Academy of Design to study fine arts.  At the age of eighteen, he sold his first drawing to The New Yorker magazine, where he later published over 500 cartoons. In the 1930s, he published many political cartoons under the pseudonym, A. Redfield and his first book, The Ruling Clawss, featured over 150 of the cartoons. Later, he published many books for adults and had two extremely successful syndicated cartoons Tuffy (1939-1949) and Laugh it Off (1958-1978). Hoff's experience taught him, "A good cartoon has got to remind people of something they're faced with. They won't laugh unless it's something they've seen or experienced. Everyone underneath it all has a sense of humor. Everyone is waiting to be amused, to laugh, to smile." (Sacred Doodles).

The success of Danny and the Dinosaur gave Syd Hoff an opportunity to share his humor with children. Before Danny, he illustrated a few children's books for other authors, and wrote and illustrated his first children's books including, Mr. His: A Children's Story for Anybody (published as a small booklet), Muscles and Brains, and Eight Little Artists. None of these titles were anywhere near as popular as Danny and the Dinosaur (1958).  According to, "One day, while reading to Susan (his daughter), who was home recovering from surgery, Syd began to make up a story of his own. And so, the magical story of DANNY began to unfold. With pen in hand, he also began to draw a large dinosaur with a little boy sitting on its back. When Susan saw this, she exclaimed, "Oh, that's Danny!" (which was the name of Syd's brother).  Syd worked throughout the week to finish the story with rough illustrations and presented the story to legendary editor Ursula Nordstrom.   She helped mold the story that has sold over 10 million copies and continues to be in print today.  Hoff went on to publish over 60 books for young readers including JuliusSammy the Seal, and The Horse in Harry's Room.

This week, the first books I read to my children were the three books in the Danny and the Dinosaur trilogy.  My youngest son, who is 3 years old, was beyond impressed by the books.  He requested that the stories be read a second time before he brushed his teeth and then he took the books to bed with a flashlight (actually, it may have been a glowing Stars Wars lightsaber). When I was reading the Danny trilogy, I noticed that there are two occasions the dinosaur consumes ice cream; an ice cream bar from the ice cream man and cartons full at Danny's birthday party. (In the third book, he eats ketchup, marshmallows and requests a pizza, but that is beside the point.) I asked my wife if she thought there was anyway we could make dinosaur ice cream bars to celebrate Syd Hoff's birthday.  It didn't take long to devise a plan.
After I came home from picking up two pizzas for dinner I told my children,  "We need to make dessert before we can eat the pizza." First, I reread the part of the book where Danny and the dinosaur ate ice cream together. 
Then, I gave the kids a game plan for how we were going to prepare our dessert.  I didn't want to have too many questions once the ice cream was out of the freezer or we were going to have a melty mess!

I gave each of my children a cookie sheet that had been in the freezer. Then, I cut the carton and removed it from the ice cream.
I sliced pieces of the ice cream for each of my children with a knife that was warm from running it under hot water.
Then, I placed the ice cream slice on their freezing cold cookie sheet and my children pressed in the dinosaur cookie cutter. This worked best when the slice of ice cream was slightly thicker than the cookie cutter.
My children used a popsicle stick to pull the excess ice cream from around the cookie cutter.  We collected the ice cream scraps and put them in a container to refreeze.  (You can't waste good vanilla ice cream!)

Then, we gently pushed out the dinosaur ice cream shape while we removed the cookie cutter. Next, we inserted the popsicle stick.
There was yellow sugar, chocolate chips and tubes of icing to decorate the dinosaurs. The sugar seemed to speed up the melting process. Our suggestion would be to use it sparingly.

Once the dinosaurs were decorated we immediately placed the cookie sheets with the ice cream back in the freezer .  
After our pizza dinner and playing outside, we came in for our evening snack.  The Danny and the Dinosaur ice cream bars turned out fabulous! 
My youngest son's decorated his ice cream bar with a small mountain of yellow sugar! Yum!
I have loved seeing this smile at the end of many of our author birthday celebrations!
I started celebrating author birthdays with my first two children over 3 years ago.  Now I have two more!  What an amazing journey we are on. I believe so much more is to come!
If you are on Pinterest, please pin this picture. Follow Happy Birthday Author too!
Thank you to my family, readers, authors, and illustrators for supporting me over the past three and half years to reach this milestone! I couldn't have done this without you!

Links and Sources:
1. Syd Hoff's Website - includes an online museum exhibit!
2. Syd Hoff Biography and Papers - University of Southern Mississippi
3. Danny the Dinosaur - Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac
4. YouTube Videos About Syd Hoff by Carol Edmundston - Video 1, Video 2, Video 3
5. A. Redfield (Syd Hoff's pseudonym) Website
6. More About Syd Hoff's cartooning - The New Yorker
7. Obituary, 2004 - The Washington Post, Miami Herald
8. A glimpse into Syd Hoff's first book, THE RULING CLAWSS - Phil Nel
9. I CAN READ teacher's guide, includes lessons for eight books by Syd Hoff - I CAN READ

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