Saturday, November 28, 2015

Happy Birthday, Shutta Crum - November 29

Happy Birthday, Shutta Crum - November 29

Last June I saw an announcement that Shutta Crum would be teaching a week-long writing course during the Mazza Museum 2015 summer conference. Shutta's name was familiar to me, but I couldn't remember the book she wrote. I visited her website and said, "Oh, my! She wrote Who Took My Hairy Toe?!" I didn't hesitate. I went right to the Mazza Museum website and signed up for the summer conference.

My youngest son checked out Who Took My Hairy Toe? over and over again from our local library. He knew how to find it on the shelf because it had a special orange Halloween sticker on the spine. He would run over to me with the book and a huge smile to say, "Hey, Dad! Look!"

I must be honest. Sometimes when my children check out the same book over and over again I try to hide the book at the bottom of the stack or try to keep it hidden in the library bag to avoid having to read it again, but that never happened with Who Took My Hairy Toe?. It is one of our family's favorite books. Now my son no longer checks it out from the library. He has his own copy and it is autographed to him by Shutta Crum!

Shutta Crum was a youth librarian for twenty-four years and was named Michigan's youth librarian of the year in 2002. She often retold versions of Who Took My Hairy Toe?, a southern folktale, during story times, but "felt the story was ripe for a better ending and a better beginning." (Shutta's website). To make this happen she invented the character Old Tar Pockets (which was the original title for her book) who is a greedy old man that snitches some tar from his neighbor while he is fixing his roof. With no place to put the tar he decides his pocket would be the best place for it. Then, Old Tar Pockets finds that the neighbor still has some sweet potatoes in his garden and decides to take some of those too. While digging he discovers a hairy toe and puts it his pocket. At home, Old Tar Pockets realizes that the hairy toe is stuck in his pocket because the tar cooled. Then, the wind picks up and he hears the words, "Who took my hairy toe?" The words get closer and louder until the door to Old Tar Pockets' log cabin is blown down. The story ends with Old Tar Pockets getting what he deserves for being such a greedy old man.

Who Took My Hairy Toe? was Shutta Crum's first picture book in 2001. Since then she has published over ten picture books including Thunder-Boomer! and Dozens of Cousins. Her latest book, Uh-Oh!, was just released in April 2015.

This week, while I was planning a shopping trip for our family's Thanksgiving feast, I wrote "pie crusts" on my list. This gave me an idea for a family reading experience that will have my children reminiscing every time we read Who Took My Hairy Toe?.

My youngest son looks on as I read one of his favorite books. When Shutta autographed the book for him she wrote, "Don't put any toes in your pockets! Happy Shivers!" This book is perfect for young readers, like my son, who love to hear a story that is just a little bit scary!

Who took my hairy toe?
"So Old Tar Pockets began to dig. And he dug up a hairy toe!" 

After reading the book I told my children we would be making hairy toes and tar pockets for an afternoon treat.
We cut two Pillsbury pie crusts into quarters with a pizza cutter.
Then, we filled the pie "pocket" with chocolate pudding. We used a fork to crimp the edges so the hot tar wouldn't ooze out while in the oven.
We baked the "tar pockets" in the oven for 10 minutes at 450 degrees. We let them cool to the touch before handling and eating.
While the tar pockets were in the oven we made the hairy toes. The coarse brown fur was homemade chocolate frosting.
The toes were Keebler Vienna Finger cookies.
My son looked for the perfect "long yellow toenail curving over at the end." Corn chips were perfect for this.
My oldest daughter was quite pleased with her hairy toe and it looked just like the illustration in the book.
Some of our hairy toes had more than one toenail!
We discovered that corn chips with chocolate frosting was quite delicious!
We cut open the tar pockets and carefully stuffed in the hairy toe. Yum!
A happy reader and eater!
Please pin this picture of our Hairy-Toe-Tar-Pockets on Pinterest and follow Happy Birthday Author!

Shutta, my family wishes you the happiest of birthdays. I learned so much from you about writing picture books during the writing strand at the Mazza Museum Summer Conference. Your encouragement, advice, and wisdom were invaluable!

A photo posted by Eric VanRaepenbusch (@evanraepenbusch) on

1. Shutta Crum's Website
2. Follow Shutta Crum on Twitter
3. Interviews - Author Turf, Cynsations (Who Took My Hairy Toe?), Library Sparks 2013 - Meet the Author, Cynsations (Bravest of the Brave), Library Sparks 2007 - Meet the Author,
4. Writing and Publishing Books for Young Readers Presentation - AADL
5. My Mountain's Song Reader's Theater

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