Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Birthday Eric A. Kimmel - October 30

Happy Birthday Eric A. Kimmel - October 30

"Taco Night" is one meal that stands above the rest as our family's favorite. My children love all the choices they get to make about their meal. "Do I want refried beans or black beans, or both? Do I want lots of rice with a little bit of meat or lots of meat with a little bit of rice? Taco sauce or salsa? Do I have room for two tacos?" If they have trouble deciding there is no need to worry because I always try to prepare lots of each ingredient to be sure there are leftovers for at least the next day or two.

This week, The Runaway Tortilla by Eric A. Kimmel inspired us to try something new with our "Taco Night." Tia Lupe and Tio Jose own a tacqueria that serves the best enchiladas, burritos, tacos, and fajitas in Texas. It is the light and soft tortillas made by Tia Lupe that makes everything taste so good.  One day a cowboy warned Tia, "You better not make these tortillas any lighter. Some day they'll up and run away." And that is exactly what happens! A tortilla jumps right off the griddle and rolls right out into the desert with Tia Lupe and Tio Jose running after it.  It doesn't matter how fast they run or what they do. The tortilla is just too fast! It is even faster than galloping buckaroos, slithering rattlesnakes, leaping jackrabbits, trotting donkeys, and scampering horned toads.  The tortilla rolls and rolls until it meets a coyote -- a very hungry, sly and sneaky coyote. You can probably guess how this story ends, and so will your children.  But, I bet they'll ask for you to read it again and again. Each time they will hang on right on until the end just like they were hearing it for the very first time!

Eric A. Kimmel is a master storyteller that has published more than 100 books including many stories about Anansi the Spider. "My earliest memories are of my grandmother telling me stories she remembered from her own childhood in Europe. The best present I ever received was a volume of Grimm's Fairy Tales, which I loved so much that I literally read it to pieces. Somehow, I always knew that I was going to be a writer when I grew up." (Scholastic). Before he realized his dream to become a writer he was an elementary teacher, a librarian and a college professor.  His first book, The Tartar's Sword, a novel, was published in 1974, but Kimmel grew frustrated with writing because of the lackluster success of his novels. (Children's Literature).  He persevered with his writing and soon had the first of many publishing successes with Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, which won the 1990 Caldecott Honor Book.  Also, Kimmel is the only author to receive the National Jewish Book Award twice for picture books (The Chanukkah Guestillustrated Giora Carmi and The Mysterious Guests, illustrated Katya Krenina). He told Ann Kofsky in an interview, "If I can tell the story, I can write it. The more I want to tell it, the better I can write it. Everything comes down to the told story. And I'm the storyteller."

This week, I could have focused completely on our family's experience reading our collection of Anansi books as the birthday celebration activity for Eric A. Kimmel.  First, we read Anansi and the Talking Melon and Anansi and the Magic Stick.  My boys were laughing and smiling through both books.  Before Magic Stick was even complete, my youngest son got up, found our copy of Anansi's Party Time laying on the floor and slide it onto my lap.  It was his way of saying, "Please, just one more book."

As cool as that experience was, I had a hankering for "Taco Night" and I wanted to try make homemade tortillas as light and soft as Tia Lupe with my children.

I went through many homemade tortilla recipes and decided to use the one provided by What's Cooking America.  
My son got to use a pastry cutter for the first time.
My youngest daughter paged through The Runaway Tortilla, illustrated by Randy Cecil, while the boys finished the dough in the background.
It has been a while since everyone in our family celebrated an author birthday without anyone missing out on the fun.  It is such a joy to do these family reading experiences together!
The dough was really soft.  Each of my children had a chance to knead it.
The dough needed a chance to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.  It was the perfect time to read The Runaway Tortilla!
Do you think she had fun?
Everyone had a chance to tear off pieces of the dough and roll it into balls.
Then, they got to roll out their own tortillas.
Look at those bubbles! Soft and light just like Tia Lupe! My oldest daughter was by far best at rolling out the tortillas.
Please pin this picture and follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest!
This photo looks staged, but it wasn't! I walked around the corner into the dining room to find my daughter enjoying the first bite of her taco!
My wife and I are so lucky to have this crew!
On Eric A. Kimmel's website he has a printable teacher's guide for the Meet the Author book, Tuning Up: A Visit with Eric Kimmel which suggests celebrating Eric A. Kimmel Day on April 30th, his half birthday "so that it doesn't get missed in all the Halloween or Fall celebrations."  We can agree that there are lots of other activities going on this time of year but we are so happy we took a break from the ghosts and vampire books to celebrate Eric A. Kimmel!

Links:
1. Eric A. Kimmel's Website
2. Listen to Eric read many of his books - Eric A. Kimmel Hear a Story
3. Eric A. Kimmel's Blog
4. Interviews - Wordswimmer, The Jewish Book Council, The Examiner (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), Ann D. Koffsky, Euphoria Blog, International Reading Association
5. Meet Eric Kimmel - Children's Literature
6. Eric A. Kimmel - "Why Picture Books are Important" (Picture Book Month)
7. Pinkney and Kimmel Weebly Blog

Check out Eric A. Kimmel and Will Hillenbrand's new eBook at the iBookstore:


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