Saturday, August 14, 2010

Happy Birthday Eileen Spinelli - August 16

Happy Birthday Eileen Spinelli- Born August 16, 1942

Eileen Spinelli said, "I fell in love with words, the sounds of words, when I was five or six years old." It was at this time that her mother and a local librarian were influential role models that instilled a love of reading in Eileen.  Her father built a desk and supplied an old typewriter that began her career as a writer.  Later, many others inspired her to write over 50 books for children; her husband Jerry Spinelli, author of Newbery Award winner Maniac Magee, six children and many grandchildren.  She has received many awards including the Christopher Award in 1992 after her debut book, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch (video below).

I asked Eileen Spinelli to share a birthday memory.  She quickly emailed her reply even though she doesn't use a computer for her writing as she still prefers long hand.  Her response was both a birthday memory and a tradition:

On my 35th birthday a friend gave me a jar of bubbles -- as a joke.  But for me they were a way of stepping right back to my childhood.  Now I keep a jar of bubbles handy so that on every birthday -- or any day really -- I can dip the wand into the soapy liquid and blow bubbles and watch them float off into the blue summer sky.  And be a kid again.

This week I felt the best way to celebrate Eileen Spinelli's birthday was to have a tea party with my family.  Spinelli collects teapots and loved having tea parties with friends and family when she was a child. Her book Tea Party Today: Poems to Sip And Savor offered a great opportunity to have an afternoon inside away from the 90 degree muggy outdoors (we could have also read her book, Heat Wave).

We began by making sugar cookie dough together.  While the dough stiffened in the refrigerator we planned our party by making a list of everything we would need to make it successful (tablecloth, decorations, and of course a teapot, which we had to borrow from our beloved neighbor).  When the ideas stalled we read a few poems from Tea Party Today and then realized we needed to make invitations. Then, we set the table and delivered the invitations as the preparation for the party continued. The cookies weren't quite ready to bake which gave time to for my daughter to have a pretend tea party with her stuffed animals.  Luckily everything worked out and our cookies were baked and cooled just in time for our 3 o'clock tea party.  Along with eating the cookies we read poems, sipped "apple juice" tea, and discussed our favorite characters from books we wished could come our next tea party.  All of these ideas came as "Teatime Tips" from Tea Party Today. In case you were wondering, we want to have Mr. Wonka and Charlie, Harold from Harold and the Purple Crayon and Luke Skywalker over for our next party. I can't believe I had never thought to have a tea party with my children ( son had fun too, even though he looks grumpy in the picture.  He was practicing his good manners of having his napkin on his lap).

I stumbled upon the blog, GottaBook, which featured Eileen Spinelli during during the 30 poets in 30 days event.  The blogger mentioned, "when I used to do a lot of read-alouds in my volunteer librarian gig, I knew that if I was rushing in at the last minute, I could just grab one of Eileen Spinelli's picture books.  The books, like her poems, always read perfectly - you can't mess them up!"  I am sure you will fully agree with this statement after you read some of her books this week.  Our family really enjoyed reading Spinelli's books, many of them before bed time, especially Baby Loves You So Much
(my son's pick), Hero Cat (my daughter's pick), Someday (my pick) and When Mama Comes Home Tonight (my wife's pick).

Thank you to Eileen Spinelli for sharing her birthday memory and tradition.  Enjoy your bubbles!

Click to download this week's library checklist.

Check out her lastest book, Buzz, that was released July 2010.


1. Eileen Spinelli's Website
2. Text Interview at The Miss Rumphius Effect
3. Text Interview at Embracing the Child
4. Lesson Plans - Sophie's Masterpiece, The Best Story, Something to Tell the Grandcows, Do You Have a Hat?
5. Spinelli Books read on YouTube - Night Shift Daddy, Sophie's Masterpiece
6. Jerry and Eileen Spinelli Video Interview - Classroom Cast on YouTube
7. Library of Congress 2003 National Book Festival - Video of Eileen and Jerry Spinelli

Somebody loves you, Mr. Hatch / Narrator: Hector Elizondo
Uploaded by metacomet1102. - Discover more animation and arts videos.


  1. We had a great time doing the tea party! We even found a set of tea cups the next day at a sale, so we won't need to use coffee cups anymore!

  2. Sounds like a magical way to celebrate this birthday. I love the memory the author shared as well...bubbles. So simple and yet so much fun at any age. We use to use them as a fun break at my one job to spread some fun on the team...never failed to bring out the laughs, giggles, and good times. Thanks for sharing...and happy reading!

  3. The tea party does sound like fun. My daughter had a tea party birthday party this year and all her little friends really enjoyed it.

    I've never read any of Spinelli's poetry books. I think my kids would like the bird poetry collection.

  4. Thank you for visiting my blog today.

    What an awesome post. Spinelli has the right idea. One is never too old for bubbles. My kids don't have any Spinelli books. Something new to add to our lists. Thank you!

  5. Thanks for linking this post in the We Read link up! I think my daughter would enjoy this book and author, I'll have to check some out from the library. It think it's time to get a tea party set and other kitchen play toys too. My daughter loves playing w/ the utensils and pots/pans, LOL...

  6. Looks like M. dressed up for the occasion- white shirt and tie!!! Great!! AVR


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