Saturday, January 14, 2017

Happy Birthday, Laura Rankin - January 16

Happy Birthday, Laura Rankin - January 16

Happy New Year! Welcome to our first author/illustrator birthday celebration of 2017! Thank you for reading our blog and we hope you join us throughout the year to learn more about many new picture book creators. This week we are celebrating, Laura Rankin, who my family met at the Chesapeake Children's Book Festival in Easton, Maryland. This year's festival is scheduled for June 17th! We highly recommend attending if you are in the area.

Laura Rankin is the illustrator of over a dozen picture books including A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood, Rabbit Ears by Amber Stewart, and Tiptoe Joe by Ginger Foglesong Gibson. Laura began making books at the age of five and she still has many of those books which were saved and treasured by her mother. (Wernick and Pratt Agency). Laura graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in speech and drama. Her illustration career began when she drew courtroom illustrations for a television news station in Buffalo. She was frequently assigned to court cases that were a far cry from topics she would later tackle in her children's books. (Seacoastonline). After the courtroom illustration assignment, she worked for The Buffalo News as an editorial illustrator for fifteen years. (A Maine Writer).

In 1991, Laura published her first picture book, The Handmade Alphabet, a book inspired by her stepson who is hearing impaired. As a child he understood others through lipreading, but later at the age of eighteen he learned to communicate using sign language at Gallaudet University. She said, "I watched him find a new wholeness, because at last he had a language in which to express himself." (The Handmade Alphabet, jacketflap.)  In 1992, Laura was awarded a Boston Globe-Horn Book honor award for illustration for The Handmade Alphabet. Then in 1996, Laura received an honorary doctor of fine arts degree from Buffalo State College for her contribution to society and the deaf community.  (Buffalo News).

Laura Rankin illustrates books for other authors but she has written and illustrated many of her own including Fluffy and Baron and Ruthie and the (Not So) Very Busy Day. Her latest book is, My Turn, released November 2016.

The Handmade Alphabet was the book our family chose to be the focus of our author birthday celebration. This book is a series of illustrations for each letter of the alphabet. The close-up drawings of hands making each letter in sign language clearly show a child how to position their fingers. Included in each illustration is something that begins with the letter shown. For the letter B, a hand is surrounded by floating bubbles and for the letter G a glove is worn on a hand.
We give this book a thumbs up.
My son and I read The Handmade Alphabet during breakfast. Then, I asked him to write down our long last name on a piece of paper.
V is for VanRaepenbusch. 14 letters!
We came up with a plan for our entire family to spell out our name in sign language and then take a photo of each letter.  We decided that I would go first, then Mom, followed by all the children. My daughter used the list during our photo shoot to make sure no letters were missed.
E is excitement!
My wife helped photograph our hands for each letter.
Making the letter P is a little tricky.
My wife and I each posed for one letter and then all four children posed for three letters. I printed all the images, glued them to a piece of paper to spell out our last name, and placed it in a frame. My wife said, "This would look great in my classroom."
She took our handmade alphabet to her school where she uses sign language every day. After my wife sent me this picture I thought this project idea might make a great end-of-the-year gift or Teacher Appreciation Week surprise for the special eduction teacher in your child's school.
Be sure to check out Laura Rankin's latest book, My Turn:




Links:
1. Artist Profile - Wernick and Pratt Agency
2. Interview - Under the Green Willow

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