Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Judy Schachner - August 20

Happy Birthday Judy Schachner - August 20

Oh my kids love Skippito Friskito, (clap-clap)
A cat that thinks he's a perrito (clap-clap)
They love his funny rhymes
which make for some good times
each time we pick up the books to read-o. (clap-clap)

Judy Schachner uses the rhyming pattern above numerous times in her beloved books about a siamese cat, "whose ears are too beeg for his head and his head ees too beeg for his body." After bouncing on his bed Skippyjon Jones peers into the mirror and sees not a siamese cat but a chihuahua -- he has quite an imagination!  For Schachner, the inspiration for the Skippyjon Jones books came from her cat, Skippy.  Judy Schachner tells the story this way, "One day he came down to have some kitty crunchies at breakfast and he went to his kitty litter box. A bee flew into the basement, buzzed around his head, and got into a little altercation with him. He came upstairs and he had gumball sized bites all over his little head. I picked him up and I said, 'Oh Skippyjon Jones am I going to have to take you to the vet?' and that is when something miraculous happened. He began to speak spanish!" ( or the video below.)

My children love for me to read aloud all six books in the series (also check out the board books and activity books), our favorite being Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones.  It is so much fun reading with a spanish accent.  Judy Schachner said, "It must be something about the dialogue. Adults compete in front of me to see who reads it the best and children as young as pre-school have memorized every word.  These books appeal to the ham in all of us with a little salsa on the side." (TitleTales). I have come to be so comfortable in my "Skippito Friskito" accent that I often chose these books to read aloud when guests are at our house for sleepovers.  I guess it should come as no surprise that the first book in the series, Skippyjon Jones, won the E.B. White Read Aloud Award in 2004.

One of our many favorite things about Skippyjon is when shouts lines like, "Holy Frijoles!" or "Holy Guacamole!"  or "Holy Green Gorillas!" Those lines -- well, minus the green gorillas line -- inspired us to begin the birthday celebration for Judy Schachner with some Mexican food!
We found a simple recipe for guacamole on DTLK's website. My children enjoyed working with the avocados -- removing the pits and scooping out the insides!
Squeezing the limes was a lot of fun too! 
Our inspiration was kept close by in case we needed to shout, "HOLY GUACAMOLE!"
In addition to the guacamole, we made chimichangas in honor of Skippito's amigos, Los Chimichangos.  While making the chimichangas (Click here for the recipe we used from Allrecipes), I had my son pretend he was Skippyjon and make the Red Planet with chili powder just like in Skippyjon Jones, Lost in Spice.
The chimichangas were fabulous and so was reading the Skippyjon Jones books while cooking.
Our celebration did not end with the cooking.  Once the kitchen was clean we had our minds set on bringing to life the first Skippyjon Jones book.  In this book, Skippyjon enters his closet, where all his adventures are imagined. Once Skippyjon Jones becomes Skippito Friskito, the great sword fighting chihuahua, he meets up with the Los Chimichangos, a band of loco chihuahuas.  They fear Alfredo Buzzito, the Bumblebeeto Bandito, is on his way to get frijoles from the Chimichangos.  Brave Skippito defeats the Bumblebeeto Bandito (which outside the imaginative realm of the closet is just a bumblebee pinata for Skippyjon's birthday) with his sword.

We set to work creating our own Alfedo Buzzito, the Bumblebeeto Bandito. We used pipecleaners for the legs and antennae. (Make sure you tape off the end of the pipecleaners. We were worried it would pop the balloon).
We shaped newspaper into eyes, a nose, and ends for the antennae. We also cut two wings out of cardboard.  All of these shapes were stuck to the balloon using packaging tape.
Our Bumblebeeto Bandito was made using the finest Whole Wheat Flour (we were out of plain white flour).  The directions I found online suggested mixing 1 part water and 1 part flour.  But, we added quite a bit more water.
We let our Bumblebeeto Bandito dry over night in the garage and then in the morning sun the next day.
Once Bumblebeeto Bandito was dry we began painting him yellow.
My son painted his eyes white and his nose black. 
We waited for the yellow to dry and then painted on the black stripes.
Oops we forget a mouth...we added one later with a Sharpie! I was so impressed with the job they did that I bargained for not utilizing him as a pinata.
But, they insisted on filling him with candy.  We went to the candy store and picked out jelly beans and various other treats.
My son said, "Wait, I need to lay down just like Skippy!"
It only took one hit from this El Skippito wannabe to defeat the great Bumblebeeto Bandito.
Luckily, I was able to string up the pinata once more for my son.
The perfect ending to a fun birthday celebration. Happy Birthday Judy Schachner!
I emailed Judy Schachner and was very excited to receive the following birthday thoughts from her:

When I was a little girl I hated it when everyone sang Happy Birthday to me.  It made me cry.  I guess I didn't like being the center of attention.  Now I cry for a different reason...I'm old!!!  Just kidding dudes...but not really.  So remember on August 20th - Do not (however much you want to) sing Happy Birthday to me.

Hugs and whiskers, Judy Schachner

Judy, thank you so much for responding to my email.  We hope you have a wonderful birthday with lots of birthday hugs instead of singing.

Sometimes, I just can't figure a way to say everything I need to say in one cohesive post.  But, I almost went a completely different direction with this year's birthday celebrations after we read Judy Schachner's Yo Vikings, which is based on a true story of her children.  I highly recommend this book and it may be the basis for next year's birthday celebration.  In the meantime, check out the video clip of news coverage of the Schachner family which tells the story that later became this book.

1. Judy Schachner's Website + Activity Pack (may take time to download, large file)
2. Like Skippyjon Jones on Facebook
3. Judy Schachner at BookFest 2007 - Library of Congress
4. Text Interviews - TitleTales, Philadelphia Stories, Kate's Book Blog, Iza Trapani
5. Skippyjon Jones Coloring Pages,  Meet the Author, Lesson Plan - Scholastic
6. Skippyjon Jones audio clip from Penguin Group
7. Video Interview with Judy Schachner - BookLust
8. Skippyjon Jones YouTube Channel - Lots of Clips of the books
9. Scholastic Visits Judy Schachner - YouTube
10. Penguin StoryTime with Judy Schachner


  1. Thanks for a wonderful post! My grandkids will love this book and I think we will be making an avacado specialty too! Love the bee - I will have to get the materials ready for when they visit next..always fun to have something special to do with them!

  2. Together Time,

    Have fun! We had a blast. My kids loved going to the candy store to pick out the goodies to go inside the pinata!

    Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear how everything goes.


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