Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Candace Fleming - May 24

Happy Birthday Candace Fleming - May 24

A few weeks ago my wife and I breathed a sigh of relief when my daughter's birthday party ended without any major hiccups.  Once that party was over it was time to start planning for my youngest son's first birthday party.  The first birthday party for our children is huge.  We invite both sides of the family over to our house.  We spend weeks getting the house ready by checking off items on a long list.  We do everything to insure that things go smoothly.  However, even if you are well prepared unpredictable events can still happen.  Candace Fleming shares the following memory of an unforgettable birthday party:

My most vivid birthday memory is of the party my mother threw for my seventh birthday. My entire class -- fifteen shrieking, squealing, over-excited first graders -- were invited to my house to play Bozo buckets and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey.  Afterward, it was time for refreshments.  Mom herded us all into the dining room. We gasped.  She'd transformed the place into a birthday wonderland.  Pink and white balloons bloomed from the ceiling.  Crepe paper streamers wound gaily around the chairs and fluttered from the chandelier.  And the table? It was a confection of pink paper tablecloth, candy-striped paper napkins, bowls of pastel mints and lemon drops.  And at every place -- nineteen in all -- sat a pink-iced cupcake complete with a single LIT candle, twinkling, inviting from each pink paper plate.  The kids surged forward, bumping and jostling guessed it...knocking over one of those darling cupcakes. Poof! A candy-striped napkin caught fire.  It ignited the pink paper tablecloth, which incinerated a bowl of pastel mints, which flamed upward, snatching at one of those gaily fluttering streamers.  I couldn't believe my eyes! My seventh birthday was literally going up in flames. But all was not lost.  My quick-thinking father, grabbed the nearby bowl of punch and doused it all -- flames and decorations and cupcakes -- in a wave of sticky and yes, pink juice.  The kids cheered. My father bowed. And my mother hustled us all out to the back yard where she served the only refreshment remaining... pink peppermint ice cream.  Needless to say, mine was the most talked about birthday party for the remaining school year.  As my sister liked to say, "it was hot."

Most parents feel anxiety and stress before and during a birthday party.  There is also potential for children to feel a little anxious too.  A birthday party is the pinnacle social gathering for young children -- it doesn't get much more exciting.  The birthday child might feel nervous about having all the attention.  They might feel anxious about all the gifts - What if I don't like something? What if I get two of the same gift?  What if I don't get what I want?  Even the children coming to the party might have some worries about the gift they brought.  Jack, in Clever Jack Takes the Cake, is invited to the Princess's tenth birthday party. Initially, Jack's mother tells him that he won't be able to go because they have no money for a gift.  Jack is clever and acquires everything he needs to bake a beautiful birthday cake for the Princess.  However, in his travels Jack and his cake have many problems when they encounter blackbirds, a troll, a creepy forest, and gypsy with a dancing bear.  Jack finally arrives at the castle with a gift that is not as he imagined but bravely enters the party.  One last twist threatens to send Jack to tears, but he holds himself together to present his unique gift to the Princess.

Clever Jack is one of many characters that I love from the picture books by Candace Fleming.   Many of you know that I love Mr. McGreely from Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! and Tippy-Tippy-Tippy Hide!  I wrote about Mr. McGreely in a late night blog post during the Share a Story, Shape a Future event this past March when I described a time that he stopped by my house along with Harold from the Purple Crayon and Robot Zot.  I am also a big fan of Colonel Edwin Pittsnap who is the villain in the book When Agnes Caws.  Pittsnap finds out that Professor Peregrine, a well-known ornithologist and her daughter Agnes, a very talented bird caller, are going to be searching for the rarely seen Pink-Headed Duck (which is actually a real bird that used to inhabit Southern Asia, but hasn't been seen since 1936.)  Colonel Edwin Pittsnap stops at nothing to get his hands on the Pink-Headed Duck in an adventure that has an ending all bird lovers will enjoy.

Reading aloud When Agnes Caws is so much fun because of Colonel Edwin Pittsnap, an avid bird collector who often speaks with an oily voice and laughs a wicked laugh.  This week to celebrate Candace Fleming's birthday I figured out a way to bring Colonel Edwin Pittsnap to life in my backyard with a papier mache activity.

I decided that we would be making a papier mache Pink-Headed Duck. We started with a pink balloon (which later popped when my youngest son got a hold of it and we had to start all over with a green one!).  Then, we used masking tape to stick wings, webbed feet, a tail, and a neck to the balloon.  We made the wings, webbed feet, and tail out of cardboard and the neck and legs were out of toilet paper rolls.  The head was formed using plastic grocery bags that were taped in the shape of a ball.  Then we made a cardboard beak. 
The form of the duck was complete.  Next, it was time to make some papier mache.  We mixed 2 c. All-Purpose Flour, 2 c. Water, and 1 T. salt.  My son was an enthusiastic mixer.
We tore strips of newspaper and placed them in the mixture.  We slid our fingers along the paper strip to remove the excess goo.
We completely covered the duck with the gooey strips of newspaper.
My son was pretending to be Mike Rowe from the TV Show Dirty Jobs. He kept saying, "This is a DIRTY JOB!"
This is how our duck looked after we covered it with papier mache. It's neck had some problems so we propped it up.  Then, we waited about 24 hours to dry.  I placed it in the sunshine outside to help it dry more quickly.
Once the duck was dry it was time to paint.
I was so excited to see my children working together on this project!
We used the illustrations in the book to help us add the final details.
Our Pink-Headed Duck is ready!
I told the kids to go into the garage to find their butterfly net and to stay there until I told them I was ready.  I tied the Pink-Headed Duck into the tree.  Then, I went into the garage.  I asked them to pretend to be Colonel Edwin Pittsnap and to try to find the Pink-Headed Duck.
I guess I made it too easy. My daughter found it right away!
Moments later, there was another siting of the Pink-Headed Duck in another part of our yard.
We continued hiding the Pink-Headed Duck around the yard. My children took turns hiding it too.  I had a blast talking in an oily voice and laughing wickedly when it was was my turn to be Colonel Edwin Pittsnap. (Unfortunately, there are no pictures of it!)
My children came up with the idea of saying, "Ouch-ow! Ouch-ow! Clack! Clack" (the Pink-Headed Duck Call) when the duck was hidden and ready to be found.
We finished up with little mint ice cream in the backyard to bring our birthday celebration to a close.

Thank you Candace Fleming for responding with your "quirky" birthday memory! It made the celebration that much more special for my children and I.  Your books are certainly loved in this house.  We hope you have a wonderful birthday and be careful with those candles!

Check out my 2010 Candace Fleming Birthday Celebration.  In this post, I discuss many of her other books in detail.

All of these books were added to our list of picture books we have been reading for the Picture Book Challenge sponsored by There's a Book. There is still time to join in on the fun and to have a chance to win some great prizes! Check out the other books we have been reading by clicking here.

2. Candace Fleming Video Interview - Reading Rockets
5. Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! - Teaching Guide from Candace Fleming, Another Muncha Lesson Plan
6. Tippy-Tippy-Tippy, Hide! - Teacher Guide from Candace Fleming
7. Gator Gumbo - Lesson Plan from Lousiana State Library
8. Boxes for Katje - Lesson Plan from Spoken Arts Media98. The Lincolns - Teacher's Guide from Random House
10. Ben Franklin's Almanac - Teacher's Guide from Candace Fleming
11.  More teacher's guides from Candace Fleming
12. Candace Fleming accepts Horn Book Award 2009 - YouTube


  1. Awesome blog! Loved the pink headed duck and the find the duck game. Candace's birthday memory was funny but scary. ADV

  2. I love everything about this post and the activity!

  3. What a great project! I'll have to make a pink-headed duck with my kids. What a fabulous mess it will be! Thanks for sharing.

  4. That is fantastic! Thank you for introducing Candace Fleming to me--She is seriously one of my new favorite authors. :)

  5. Happy Day Candace! Thanks for a terrific post Eric, celebrating the author of one off my absolute favorites: Clever Jack!


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