Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Happy Birthday Wendy Anderson Halperin - April 10

Happy Birthday Wendy Anderson Halperin - April 10

Over the past few weeks there have been quite a few times that I was asked, in person, why I celebrate author and illustrator birthdays with my children.  I believe there are many reasons why structuring our family reading around birthdays works for us.  But of all the reasons I mentioned in the conversations, the one thing that I said that seemed to resonate the most was that consistently celebrating author and illustrator birthdays exposes a family to variety -- a variety of books, a variety of picture book creators, a variety of artwork, a variety of words, a variety of topics, a variety of emotions.

One parent said to me, "My child likes to read the same book over and over and over again. I would really like to read different books."  I responded by saying, "There really isn't anything wrong with your child wanting to read the same book over and over again. But I bet you're getting bored?"  I suggested picking one author or illustrator that has a birthday in the near future and checking out a few of their books from the library. Then before you read the book explain to your child that the person that wrote the book is having a birthday this week and that is why you chose to read it. I finished the conversation with, "You might just find a new book or author that your child will love." Then, a week later, my family had the exact experience I was trying to predict for the parent.

I saw Wendy Anderson Halperin's birthday on her website and immediately clicked to the web page with the list of her books.  I only recognized one,  The Full Belly Bowl by Jim Aylesworth.  We really liked that book and I thought maybe the others would be as good as that one. After reading a few of her books, my oldest son said, "Wow! That was another good book."  Our experience this week is exactly why I love author and illustrator birthday celebrations.   We may have never discovered Wendy Anderson Halperin's books by walking through the library, but her birthday gave us a reason to seek out her books.  My family loved the books we read and we found a few that we will read over and over again.

Wendy Anderson Halperin has illustrated over 25 books for children.  Her books are mostly picture books, but she has also illustrated some chapter books too.  My daughter was happy to discover the Cobble Street Cousins series by Cynthia Rylant.  Wendy Anderson Halperin said, "I never planned to be a children's book illustrator but when the opportunity presented itself through a strange turn of events I had extreme good fortune of submitting some sketches to Mr. Dick Jackson, a children's book editor." (Looking Glass Review).  Mr. Jackson loved her work and hired her to illustrate her first book, The Lampfish of Twill by Janet Taylor Lisle (1991).  Shortly there after, in 1993, she illustrated her first picture book Hunting the White Cow by Tres Seymour.  Her debut into picture books produced numerous awards including an American Library Association Notable Book and the Marion Vannett Ridgway Award. One of her more recent picture books,  Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith, published in 2011, would be an excellent choice to read for Earth Month.

This week, I have my youngest son to thank for the activity idea to celebrate Wendy Anderson Halperin's birthday.  We were reading the book she illustrated, Thank You, God, for Everything by August Gold.  In this book, Daisy asks, "What should I thank God for?" and her mother challenges her to "look around and think about what God has given you."  Daisy realizes that if you take the time to look you will find many things to be thankful for.

My youngest son, almost 3 years old, saw this illustration on the 3rd full page spread. He said while pointing at the picture, "I want to do that." I said, "You want to paint a chair? Well, I think you just came up with a great way to celebrate Wendy Anderson Halperin's birthday. Which chair do you want to paint?"
He said, "The hair cutting chair." This is an old chair that we found on the side of the road.  It wobbles a bit, the seat is split and has been repaired, but it is tall and perfect for giving the kids haircuts. I thought this was an excellent choice to paint.
I was setting up the basement with drop cloths in the early morning hoping to prepare for the project later in the day.  My curious boys found me and insisted on starting the project that instant.  So, while still in their pajamas they cleaned and sanded the chair. (Then, we got our the saw and fixed the wobble too.)
I had them get their painting clothes on and they started painting with left over paints from various other projects.
He chose to start with the legs!
We noticed on the jacket flap of Thank you, God, for Everything,  "Wendy Anderson Halperin loves to find an old chair on the side of the road and paint it." This was just another reason why painting a chair was the perfect way to celebrate her birthday!
We also found a video on her YouTube channel of a "Peace" chair that she painted.  Wendy painted the back of the chair with chalkboard paint. She then wrote a new quote every so often. We happened to have chalkboard paint too and my oldest son volunteered to do the painting.
My boys returned to paint the chair in the afternoon to add a few final touches.
Our beautiful new hair cutting chair!
A special message on our chalkboard paint.
They held their favorite book that they read this week for this photo.  My youngest chose Hunting the White Cow and my oldest chose The Secret Remedy Book by Karin Cates.
The little one wanted a turn to sit on the chair too!
In addition to illustrating children's books and painting chairs, Wendy Anderson Halperin created Drawing Children Into Reading, a fascinating program that develops the fine motor, attention, and literacy skills of young children. The program has grown from the original 44 students to over 11,000 students that have received some form of the instruction.

The program was started in 2008 at Maple Grove Elementary School in South Haven, Michigan to explore whether specific instruction would help retain proper pencil grip which would then lead to increased academic performance. Wendy Anderson Halperin's idea was to teach children how to properly use a pencil which would give a child the strength and confidence they would need to use the tool to be creative.  In a research report that discussed the findings from the first four years of the program it mentioned, "The students new artistic skills are intended to link with and lead to excellent handwriting, composition, observation and reading and writing skills." The research report then stated that it was clear that the program allowed students to obtain and retain good penmanship, exceed the control group in word generation by 50%, enhance their observation skills, exhibit a longer attention span, and score in the top proficiency level on state testing three times more likely. Wow! That is pretty awesome!

For more information about this program visit the Drawing Children into Reading Website and watch this documentary video:

My daughter was inspired to make this poster after reading many of the books from The Cobble Street Cousins series.  I was proud of how hard she worked on it and was very excited that she wanted to contribute this to the birthday post!
Check out Wendy Anderson Halperin's latest book, PEACE, published in January 2013:

1. Wendy Anderson Halperin's Website
2. Drawing Children Into Reading - A fine motor skills program by Wendy Anderson Halperin
3. View Wendy Anderson Halperin's Art - Drawing Children into Reading
4. Wendy Anderson Halperin's YouTube Channel
5. Author and Illustrator Profile - Through the Looking Glass
6. Interview - BookPage
7. Fully Belly Bowl activity - Happy Birthday Author
8. Drawing Children into Reading - Follow on Facebook


  1. Eric,
    Love the chair painting. How lovely that the boys got to do the painting! You rock! Thank you for sharing! It is so important for children to have the opportunity to create things without worrying about making a mess!

  2. What a great project for your boys... they get to be creative and learn about one of their favorite authors. I love it!

    Thank you so much for sharing at the Oh What a HAPPY Day party.

    Holly at Not Done Growing

  3. Wonderful post! You've inspired me. Now I am going to look for chairs at yard sales for my sons to paint. Thank you so much for sharing at Creative Learning.


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