Thursday, October 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, Dan Santat - October 2

Happy Birthday, Dan Santat - October 2

Our family's experience at this year's National Book Festival was our best yet. Sure, it helped that my four children are three years older than they were when they first attended the festival. (Thankfully, they are all potty trained now! Those first two years were rough.) It also helped that my children have developed an appreciation for meeting an author/illustrator in person. (They really didn't have a choice.) My wife and I learned from past mistakes and prepared much better, too; we packed lots of great snacks, iPads were available for long book signing lines, and we had a clear understanding of the festival's schedule to make sure everyone in the family got to do everything on their list. (iPads at a book conference? Yes, it was necessary, those lines can be over an hour long, but worth every minute of the wait!)

All of these things contributed to us having our most enjoyable time ever, but there was one other thing that was vital to keeping smiles on our faces.

We arrived at the National Book Festival at around 9:30am. We listened to numerous author presentations, walked all around the convention center, ate PB and J sandwiches while sitting on the floor, and waited in many long autograph lines. I looked at the phone and it was time for my children to enter the "crankiest" part of the day which starts around 3:30 and ends as soon as we feed them at dinner time (and dinner wasn't going to happen until 7:30 on this day). Thankfully, right at the beginning of "cranky time" Dan Santat was scheduled to give a presentation with a book signing immediately following.
There was nothing for my children to be cranky about during Dan Santat's presentation. He was entertaining, funny, and all my kids loved him!  If you ask them what they learned about Dan Santat they would probably tell you that he is from "Los Angle-lees".
Dan had lots of fun with the sign language interpreter during his presentation. He said, "I like chicken" numerous times just so she would have to sign it.
He read The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend which was awarded the 2015 Caldecott Medal. This is a picture of it.
After his presentation, he signed books for all of my kiddos; Sidekicks, The Three Ninja Pigs, The Guild of Geniuses, and a Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot book. We got out of line and the kids were beyond excited! I was excited too -- Meeting Dan Santat made "cranky time" completely disappear!
Also, he signed our National Book Festival poster. He shares a birthday with another Caldecott Medalist, David Diaz.
Dan Santat has published over 60 books for children in eleven years. Over twenty of those books are picture books including Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds, Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World by Mac Barnett, and Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley. Dan's parents encouraged him to pursue a career as a doctor and he graduated with a degree in microbiology from University of California, San Diego. However, he switched gears and went to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and met other artists interested in illustrating children's books including Peter Brown. Upon graduating in 2001, he began preparing an art portfolio while working as a video game art designer. In 2002, he attended a Society of Children's Book Writer and Illustrator (SCBWI) conference and attracted the attention of an editor. "I was sitting in the illustrators display showcase and had my art portfolio on a table with a loose dummy version of the book. [My editor] came up to me and asked me if the book had been acquired, I told him "No." Then we talked things over and a week later I got a contract for a two book deal sent to me via FedEx." (Geek Dad). In 2004, that loose book dummy became his first book The Guild of Geniuses. The second book in the contract later became Side Kicks, a graphic novel.

Over the past eleven years, Dan Santat's efforts have earned him the title of "One of the hardest-working people in publishing" by Minh Le of Huffington Post. In 2014, thirteen books were published with his artwork. For Santat, it is not just about the quantity of the work but the quality. One of those books in 2014, the third book he also wrote, The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend, awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2015. "Beekle may not be perfect for everyone, but I was happy to know that it was perfect for fifteen people on the committee. Thank you for being my perfect other half. Thank you for changing my life, and letting me, for the first time, feel that I was good enough." (Caldecott Medal Acceptance Speech, ALA). Santat talked at length in his Caldecott Medal Acceptance speech that he has worked so hard over the years to overcome his own insecurities about his work and to solidify that he made the right career choice as a children's book creator. About five years ago, Santat turned down a job offer from Google to be a Google Doodler. (The Horn Book). Our family and countless other families around the world are thankful that Dan choose children's books!

Our family's favorite books we read this week by Dan Santat were Crankenstein and Crankenstein's Valentine, written by Samantha Berger. Both books start with, "Have you seen my Crankenstein?" The adult narrator is clear that you can't miss him because as soon as you say "Good Morning" or "Happy Valentine's Day" Crankenstein responds with loud monster voice, "MEHHRRRR!" It sort reminded me of the our first National Book Festival, four years ago, I would say, "We are going to wait in one more line to get an author autograph." My children all turned into Crankensteins, "MEHHRRRR!" But, just like my children at this year's National Book Festival, the boy in the book doesn't stay Crankenstein forever. He finds someone he really likes. Someone that makes him laugh. (Thanks, Dan for making us laugh during the "cranky" time of the day and for making our National Book Festival a memorable family experience.)

My kids and I have been busy decorating our house for Halloween. After reading Crankenstein and Crankenstein's Valentine for the third time to my children, I had the idea to combine the books with our Halloween decorating expertise to make Halloween yard decorations.

We started with a rectangular piece of scrap plywood. My son saw the sanding blocks and said, "Yes! I love sanding. That is my favorite thing."
Once the wood rectangles were smooth we painted them green with just a light coat of acrylic paint so it would dry quickly.
There were lots of different greens to choose from.
Then, we painted Crankenstein's face; black triangle hair and straight-thick eyebrows, white eyes and teeth.
On the cover of Crankenstein, the boy is cranky because he dropped his pink ice cream out of the cone. There is pink ice cream around his mouth. My children had the idea to paint brown around the mouth to make it look like our Crankensteins ate Halloween chocolate bars. (Doesn't that make you cranky when you sneak a Halloween chocolate bar, but forget it is in your pocket. Only to be excited to find it later, but then it is melted! MEHHRRRR!)
The big kids came home from school, saw all the supplies, and wanted to make a Crankenstein too.
That is a lot of chocolate around the mouth -- Reese's peanut butter cups, maybe?
Our Crankensteins dried on the kitchen counter.
I love using plastic container lids for paint trays.
The next day, we cut a thin piece of wood to make the poles to hold our Crankenstein faces. My son painted the wood the same color as Crankenstein's shirt on the cover of the book.

Notice the yellow star. We bought wooden stars at Michael's craft store for 29 cents each. This addition was inspired by the star on Crankenstein's shirt.
You can't paint your pole orange when you are wearing a purple hair bow and a purple shirt.
While they were painting the poles, I sprayed the Crankenstein faces with clear enamel. I like that the enamel brightens the paint color and protects the artwork from the weather.
Once all the paint dried, it was time to put everything together. We placed wood glue on pole.
Then, attached the pole to the Crankenstein face with a few nails.
We stapled the star to the pole.
Then, painted over the staple.
Our Crankensteins dried over night.
The next day, my son had the idea to line the driveway with the Crankensteins.
Another picture? MEHHRRRR! 
Do you follow Happy Birthday Author on Pinterest? Please Pin this Picture.
Dan, we hope you have a relaxing 40th birthday! Thank you for working so hard to create children's books for families to enjoy together. Enjoy your day!


1. Follow Dan Santat - Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram
2. Dan Santat's Birthday Rants - 32, 33, 3435, 36
3. 2015 Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat: 'I Never Really Thought I Had a Chance" - Publishers Weekly
4. Profile of 2015 Caldecott Medal Winner Dan Santat - The Horn Book
5. Interviews - Geek Dad, Kathy Temean's Blog, Seven Impossible Things Blog, Pen and Oink, Bookie Woogie, Teaching Books, Book Riot, BookPage, Henry Herz
6. Dan Santat Caldecott Medal Speech - ALA
7. Dan Santat's Caldecott Medal Speech (Video) - YouTube
8. Video Interview - National Book Festival Interview from PBS,
9. Audio Interview - Take Two, Let's Get Busy Podcast
10. The Depth of Great Characters, Audio with Dan Santat - Picturebooking Podcast
11. Picture Book Are Important by Dan Santat - Picture Book Month
12. NINJA RED RIDING HOOD Teacher's Guide - Penguin
13. BEEKLE Trailer - YouTube
14. Dan Santat's older blogs - TypePad, Doodlevision

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