Friday, May 16, 2014

Happy Birthday Grace Lin - May 17

Happy Birthday Grace Lin - May 17

My children are nine years old, six, almost four, and two. I have children reading everything from chapter books to early readers to picture books to board books. Our bedtime routine allows for everyone to pick one book for me to read before bed and all these types of books are usually represented in the selections. This week we discovered an author and illustrator so versatile that her books provided something for each of our reading interests.

Grace Lin has published over 30 books for children including The Year of the Dog (a chapter book), Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same (an early reader book), Red is a Dragon: A Book of Colors by Rosanne Thong (a picture book illustrated by Grace Lin), and Dim Sum for Everyone (a picture book that will be available as a board book in September 2014!). Her first book The Ugly Vegetables was published in 1999 but her first writing success came much sooner. "In sixth grade, I wrote and illustrated my own book and entered it into a national contest. I won fourth place and $1,000." (Teaching Books). Grace went on to say, "I was so excited and happy that I decided then and there I wanted to make books for a living. That's what I wanted to do, and that dream just never died."

After The Ugly Vegetables, Grace continued to publish picture books until she couldn't fit one of her story ideas within the tight structure of a picture book. The result was The Year of the Dog (2006), a chapter book based on her own experiences as a child. Then came two big awards for Grace Lin; the 2010 Newbery Honor Award for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and the 2011 Theodor Geisel Honor Award for Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same. Grace Lin certainly has an execeptional book for everyone of all ages!

This week, the first book my family enjoyed together was Kite Flying. This picture book was perfect for my two and three-year-old children.  The bright illustrations were full of movement with blowing wind and a flying dragon kite. Kite Flying is about a family that builds a kite together, step-by-step. The kite-making family was confident in their kite-making skills and asked "Dragon, are you ready to fly?"

It was hard for me to read this book and not want to make a kite with my children too.  However, I was not as confident as the family in the book. What if we made a kite and it didn't fly? I studied the illustrations in the book, consulted kite-making tutorials and video how-tos. After all that I learned, I found all the materials necessary in the garage to make a kite very similar to the one in the book.

Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
However, I decided to modify the plans just a little. I took a plastic kite that we had in the garage and used the plastic braces as the basis for our kite. In the book, the family used wooden sticks to make the cross of their kite. 
Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
We taped the plastic cross to some wrapping paper that was left over from the holidays.
Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Then, we folded and glued the paper into a kite shape.
Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
I was lucky to have two really good helpers!
Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Our kite shape was completed quickly.  At this point, I was happy with my decision use the plastic braces. Everything went really smooth for my little ones and their kite-making-novice dad!
Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My son drew a "laughing mouth" on tissue paper just like the book.
Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
He then cut out "dragon eyes".
Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Lastly, he glued on "whiskers".
Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
She helped her brother every step of the way.
Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
He added a few final details with his marker.
Grace Lin - Kite Flying activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Their dragon kite was complete. However, our attempts to fly the kite in the backyard were unsuccessful.  There just wasn't enough breeze. I told them, "We have to wait for a windy day."
In the meantime, we had more books by Grace Lin to read.  I really enjoyed The Year of the Dog and my boys thought Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same was hilarious! As a family we enjoyed Fortune Cookie Fortunes together. In this book, the same family from Kite Flying enjoys fortune cookies at Chinese restaurant and wonders whether the fortunes come true. We wanted to find out for ourselves if the fortunes in fortune cookies would come true so we decided to make a batch of homemade fortune cookies!


Fortune Cookie Recipe: Makes about 18 cookies (modified from this recipe)

Prepare your fortune paper strips before you begin. Type or hand-write fortunes on a piece of paper about 4" x 1/2".

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 pinches of salt
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Generously spray cookie sheet with cookie spray.
2. Mix egg whites and vanilla until foamy. (Do not mix too much. You do not want the mixture to become stiff.)
3. Sift in the flour, sugar, and salt. Then, blend everything together.
4. Place scoops of batter (1-2 teaspoonsful) on your cookie sheet. (We made 3-4 cookies per cookie sheet.)
5. Tilt tray to form the batter into a flat circle. If your batter turns out thicker it will still work. Use a spoon to spread out the batter.
6. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the edges of the batter start to brown.
7. Remove sheet from oven and use spatula to remove cookie. Flip cookie onto a plate so you see the browned bottom of the cookie. Place your fortune on top.
8. Fold cookie in half.
9. Use the side of a bowl or measuring cup to crease and fold the cookie in half again. It helps to pinch from the corners. (The cookie will be very warm! Be careful when working with your children.)  You will need to work fast because the cookie will quickly harden.
10. Place cookie on tray or in a empty egg carton (an egg carton will help the cookie keep its shape.)
11. Remove the next cookie from the tray and repeat the folds.
12. Enjoy your cookies with your family and friends!

Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Before we made our fortune cookies we talked about how we met Grace Lin and that she signed our copy of Fortune Cookie Fortunes at the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. (Thanks for sharing your birthday with us, Grace!!)
Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
The brother and sister team sifted the flour together.
Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
My daughter was brave to be the first one to make a fortune cookie. She added a fortune that her younger brother made. (I think it said, "You like Star Wars." -- sounds more like a jedi mind trick than a fortune.) 
Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
She quickly folded the cookie in half. She found making fortune cookies challenging because you had to work quickly before the cookie hardened.
Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
The fortune cookie was formed by folding it over the edge of a measuring cup.
Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Our batter came out thicker than I wanted. I think we beat the eggs too much. The cookies still tasted great. I just needed to use a spoon to form a circle instead of just tilting the cookie sheet from side to side. 
Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
She quickly got the hang of making the fortune cookies!
Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Yum!
Homemade Fortune Cookies for FORTUNE COOKIE FORTUNES by Grace Lin
Pin this picture if you are on Pinterest! Follow Happy Birthday Author!
Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
Do these fortunes come true? Of course! (His fortune said, "You are smart!" which made him smile!)
Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
This looks like a great fortune!
Grace Lin - FORTUNE COOKIES recipe and activity via www.happybirthdayauthor.com
This one too! Our family hopes Grace Lin has a very happy birthday!
We had a few days of rain and yucky weather. But, then we had a beautiful sunny spring day. Was our dragon was ready to fly?

Grace Lin KITE FLYING via happybirthdayauthor.com
Thankfully it did! The conditions were perfect for kite flying with a breeze coming off a small lake near our house.
Grace Lin KITE FLYING via happybirthdayauthor.com
My son was quickly an expert and tried to help his sister fly the kite.
Grace Lin KITE FLYING via happybirthdayauthor.com
However, she thought it was more fun to just run with the kite!
Grace Lin KITE FLYING via happybirthdayauthor.com
Now, for full disclosure -- Our kite was not the prettiest flying kite. It was actually quite wild. It spun around a lot and dove to the ground often.  
Grace Lin KITE FLYING via happybirthdayauthor.com
But, it did fly!
Grace Lin KITE FLYING via happybirthdayauthor.com
I did bring another kite just in case our dragon didn't fly.  We flew that one too!
Grace Lin KITE FLYING via happybirthdayauthor.com
Whew! Kite flying was hard work!
Grace, our family wishes you a very happy birthday.  We were so happy to hear you speak at the National Book Festival (video below). Thank you for making books for our whole family to enjoy!

Links:
1. Grace Lin's website + awesome activities page
2. Grace Lin's blog  + two older blogs Pacyforest and A Solitary Grace
3. Grace Lin Books website
4. Follow Grace Lin on Facebook,
5. Grace Lin's National Book Festival 2013 Presentation - YouTube
6. Grace Lin on the Today Show talking about Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - YouTube
7. Interviews - BookSlut, Pine Manor College, Boston Parents Paper, Teaching Books (GREAT INTERVIEW!!), Publishers Weekly, Sweet on Books, BookPage, Read is the New Black, BookieWoogie, 7 impossible Things Blog, Pragmatic Mom
8. Video Interview with Reading Rockets
9. Asian American Author Study with Primary Source - YouTube

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