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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Happy Birthday, Brian Floca - January 11

Happy Birthday, Brian Floca - January 11

Our family is not quite ready to travel on an airplane. My children are intrigued but are not begging to fly. My wife and I are concerned we won't be able to manage all of our children and all of their stuff on a flight. Driving works for now and will be our preferred method of transportation until all our children can at least carry their own luggage and activity bags.

Therefore, when we travel we hit the road in our 1997 Dodge van. My youngest son defines a road trip by whether or not we go on the highway and for him going on the highway takes way too long. Whether we're going on a short road trip to Grandma's house or a long road trip all the way to Washington D.C. for the National Book Festival they are equally painful for him. However, he really likes when our long road trips to Washington D.C start in the middle of the night to get a jump on the day. (Don't you think breakfast tastes so much better after a few hours on the road.)

This week, we went for a short road trip on the highway for our family reading experience to celebrate Brian Floca's birthday. After reading, Five Trucks and watching airplanes through binoculars it is possible that my children may push us a little harder for a family adventure through the air. (Hmmm...I wonder what my youngest son would think of the wait at the airport?)

Brian Floca is a children's author and illustrator of numerous award winning books including Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (2010 Sibert Honor Book), Lightship (2008 Sibert Honor Book), and The Racecar Alphabet (ALA Notable Book). He also illustrated the Poppy series by Avi. During his undergraduate studies at Brown University Brian Floca, took a class taught by children author and illustrator, David Macaulay, at the neighboring Rhode Island School of Design. At the same time, children's author, Avi mentioned to Macaulay that he needed a student to help illustrate a proposal for a comic-book novel. Brian recalled, "I did an independent study with Macaulay, working with Avi's story. At the end of the semester, I had four sample chapters mocked up, which Avi sent with the complete manuscript to his editor, Richard Jackson, and in October, Dick signed us up for the book." (SLJ, 2014). The book, City of Light, City of Dark was published in 1993. Then, in 1995, Brian Floca illustrated his first picture book, Luck with Potatoes by Helen Ketteman.

Four years later, Brian Floca wrote and illustrated his own picture book, Five Trucks. Since then, most of the picture books Brian has written and illustrated have been about some type of transportation including his latest, Locomotive which was awarded the 2014 Caldecott Meal. When asked about the transportation theme of his picture books he said, "I don't think those books really start even with the vehicles that I end up writing about so much, as with the sense of what it is like to travel, to go from one place to another, to move through a space or a landscape. And then I start thinking about the things that make those trips possible. And then start asking how do they work and figuring those out. My own figuring out becomes the book." (Meet the Author - Fairfax County Public Schools - YouTube).

In Five Trucks, Brian Floca helps readers "figure out" that five drivers and five trucks help prepare an airplane for its take off from the airport.  His simple text and detailed ink and watercolor illustrations taught us about the catering truck, tractor with baggage carts, baggage conveyor, another smaller tractor, and the push-out tractor. At the end of the book, the five trucks have finished their work and look on as the airplane takes off.

Sometime last year, I wrote on a post-it note, "Five Trucks. Visit airport to watch planes." I placed this post-it in my author birthday calendar so I would remember to do it when Brian Floca's birthday came back around. Once I saw the note, I did a quick search on the internet for plane spotting locations for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. There was one location that came up over and over again. The 100th Bomb Group Restaurant on Brookpark Rd. and it looked like the perfect location to see FIVE TRUCKS and airplanes taking off.
It really turned out to be the perfect place to view the airport. The restaurant parking lot was huge and we were able to pull into a parking spot far away from the restaurant so we didn't interfere with business.
The blue Southwest airplane caught our eye right away.
We came with a pair of binoculars to share, but my youngest son somehow found a paper tube in the van and used it to watch the planes.
When it wasn't their turn looking through the binoculars they enjoyed being in the van without their seat belts strapped.
We read Five Trucks to familiarize ourselves with the vehicles we were looking for.
The first truck we found was actually the fifth truck mentioned in the book. The truck that moves up and down. We saw the big X lifting the container.
Next, we saw the truck that twists and turns with the baggage. It was easy to spot this truck with the three carts in tow.
If you look close you can see the "small and quick" truck. This one was easier to spot in person because of the way it zipped around.
This photo shows the baggage conveyor. The only truck we had didn't photograph was the push-out tractor. 
I think we invented a new past time -- instead of plane spotting it is FIVE TRUCKS spotting!
We could have watched the planes takeoff all day.
We watched the airplane "speed down the runway..."
"faster and faster, until..."
My crew!
"Those planes are loud!"
We took this goofy photo as we awaited the next plane that was coming in for a landing. You can see the small speck above the brown building.
Wow! A great book, lots of trucks, and some really cool airplanes!
Coincidentally today, on a Caldecott Medalist's birthday, the American Library Association will announce the next winner of a Caldecott Medal, along with all the other prestigious Youth Media awards. (Click here to learn more!)

1. Brian Floca's Website
2. Brian Floca's Blog
3. Follow Brian Floca on Twitter
4. Brian Floca's Studio - Fuse 8 Production • School Library Journal, Pen and Oink Blog, Publisher's Weekly
5. Interviews - School Library Journal (2014), The Horn Book, Publishers Weekly, BookPage,, ALA (2008)
6. LOCOMOTIVE curriculum guide
7. Brian Floca at National Book Festival 2013 - Library of Congress YouTube
8. Brian Floca's 2014 Caldecott Medal Acceptance Speech - YouTube
9. Meet the Author - Brian Floca - Fairfax Network (Video)
10. MOONSHOT curriculum guide - Simon and Schuster
11. LIGHTSHIP  curriculum guide - Simon and Schuster
12. Teacher's Guide for POPPY series
13. Coloring Pages from Brian Floca's books including THE RACECAR ALPHABET and more!

Birthday Source - ALA, Perma-Bound, Mazza Museum 2016 Calendar

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