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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Happy Birthday, Elisa Kleven - October 14

Happy Birthday, Elisa Kleven - October 14

Our routine for celebrating an author birthday, typically, is to begin reading as many books as we can the week before the birthday and culminate with a family activity. Then I write up a blog post about our reading experience in time to share with you on the author's birthday. However this time, to celebrate Elisa Kleven's birthday, we started our celebration on her actual birthday and finished our family reading experience eight days later! This author birthday celebration didn't follow our normal routine and the activity took lots of patience, but it was one that was worth the wait!

Elisa Kleven is the author and illustrator of The Paper Princess, Sun Bread, and A Monster in the House. As a child, Elisa was blessed to have a grandmother and mother who were both artists. Her grandmother was sculptor and her mother was a print maker.  Elisa said, "Both of these women encouraged my creativity. They often took me and my sisters and brother to museums, and gave us art supplies for birthday and holiday gifts." ( Elisa decided at a very early age that she wanted to be a children's author and illustrator, but she claims "I didn't practice drawing as much as [a future children's author-illustrator] ought to have." (Seven Impossible Things).

After studying literature and education at University of California at Berkley she became a teacher. She taught fourth grade, art, and loved reading books to children. These experiences helped her recall her childhood dream of making picture books. In 1988, after working hard to improve her artwork she published her first book, The Merry-Go-Round Dog. Her second book, Ernst, was a huge hit and led to over fifteen more books with her publisher. Elisa Kleven latest books are Cozy Light, Cozy Night and Glasswings: A Butterfly Story.

Last year, I checked out many of Elisa Kleven's books and read them around her birthday. My favorite book was The Apple Doll. In this story, Lizzy is nervous about making friends as a new school year starts. She makes a doll out of an apple and a twig from her favorite tree and takes it to school on the first day. Her teacher informs her that she will not be allowed to have the apple doll at school, but she could bring it back on sharing day. The next week is a lonely time for Lizzy at school without her apple doll. To make matters worse, the apple doll was starting to get mushy. Lizzy's mother remembered making an apple doll when she was younger and helps Lizzy dry her apple so her doll could last forever. This allows Lizzy to show the class the dried apple doll on sharing day. The other children love her apple doll. Soon, "apple people dance in the classroom" and Lizzy has "many new friends to play with at home" in the apple tree.

When I read The Apple Doll last year, I noticed the instructions to make apple dolls in the book. We had just picked apples at the orchard, but life got busy and we never completed the project. This year, when we picked the apples at the orchard I remembered the book and hoped we would have time to make the dolls.
Thankfully, we had a free afternoon to start this project and it happened to be Elisa Kleven's birthday! We started by each picking an apple for our doll.
We peeled the skin.
Elisa Kleven said, "As a child, I spent hours making up stories about the dolls and characters I'd make from clay, paper, and anything else that appealed to me (walnut shells, dried apples, etc.) Giving these characters stories and settings was great preparation for my work as a picture book creator." (KIDSBOOK Friends).
I gave my children a plastic knife to carve a nose. This was hard for them. They wanted to poke instead.
So, I helped carve a nose that they liked.
They were really good at poking holes for eyes.
My son even poked holes for the nose.

We filled a container with lemon juice.
Then, we dissolved a tablespoon of salt.
"Now we'll soak her in a lemon juice bath so bugs and worms won't eat her."
The apple must be completely submerged in the lemon juice. We used the other apple to hold it down. The apple soaked in the lemon juice for 30 minutes.
"I want to try that lemon juice...Ooooooo."
We placed our apples in the oven at 170 degrees. Small pieces of aluminum foil covered the noses to prevent burning. Over the course of the week, I had the apples in the oven for many hours when we were at home. 
After about eight days, they looked like this.
On the day we planned to dress our apple dolls we started by making applesauce.
Crockpot applesauce is so easy. Just cut the apples, add cinnamon, and cook on low for about 4 hours.
We began making the apple dolls by piercing a hole through the center.
Then, we pushed a pipe cleaner through apple. The pipe cleaners will allow you to pose your apple doll when you are finished.
We wrapped more pipe cleaners to make it more sturdy.
Then, we added arms, legs, hands, and feet.
Beads were added for eyes.
A pink marker was used to make rosy cheeks.
Elisa Kleven said in an interview with PaperTigers, "I think imagination is crucial to a child's development, and I fear that it is endangered." This may or may not be true, but I know children's authors and illustrators are doing their best to provide children opportunities to let their imaginations run wild.
This is my apple doll as a work in progress.
We each had our own ideas for making the clothes. I used felt and hot-glued pieces together to make a shirt and pants.
My daughter cut various fabrics into a shirt, a skirt, leggings, and hair. It was like she was a fashion designer.
My son used pipe cleaners to hold the fabric on his doll.
We used hot glue to attach a piece of cotton to his apple doll's head. His favorite thing was giving his doll a hair cut.
They loved making their apple dolls.
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please pin this picture.
A close-up of my apple doll.
A close-up of my daughter's apple doll.
A close-up of my son's apple doll.
Our craft was completed and our apples were cooked in time for dinner. 
I saw her determination during the craft and when she made the applesauce.
This author birthday celebration may not have been followed our traditional schedule, but it was just as memorable. Happy belated-birthday to Elisa Kleven! Thank you creating picture books that inspire imagination and creativity!

1. Elisa Kleven's Website
2. Interviews - Seven Impossible Things Blog, Patricia Newman, KIDSBOOK Friends, PaperTigers
3. Creating Miniature Worlds in Picture Books by Elisa Kleven - ALA

Birthday Source: Children's Book-a-Day Almanac, Mazza Museum 2015 Calendar, Elisa Kleven Papers: University of Minnesota

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