Saturday, February 13, 2016

Happy Birthday, Stephen Savage - February 14

Happy Birthday, Stephen Savage - February 14

Happy Valentine's Day!

All this week my children worked hard making their valentine cards to give to their friends. They were so excited to take them to school on Thursday. When I was an elementary teacher I was always baffled by the intense excitement children had for this holiday. I thought, This holiday is not as cool as Halloween!

This week, a retired teacher told my wife that Valentine's Day was her favorite day of the school year. She said, "It is the one day of the school year children are given the opportunity to tell their classmates, I like you." Wow! I really liked her explanation. All of their excitement totally makes sense now!

In the same spirit, our family would like to take the opportunity to tell you how much we like children's author-illustrator, Stephen Savage and his amazing picture books.
We met Stephen Savage at the National Book Festival 2015 and he shared his birthday with us when he signed our poster. He also signed our copy of his awesome book, Supertruckwhich was awarded a 2016 Theodor Geisel Honor Award.
Stephen Savage is the creator of ten books for children including Little Tug, Ten Orange Pumpkins, and The Fathers are Coming Home by Margaret Wise Brown. As a child, Stephen's parents encouraged him to "make art for the sake of making art." (Publishers Weekly). His love of art led him to University of Wisconsin at Madison where he graduated with a degree in art history. After graduation (1989), he entered the world of books by working in production at Franklin Watts, a publishing company. During this time he had his first experience making books when he created two interactive pull-the-tab books, Making Tracks and Animals Under Cover. These books led him to pursue a master's degree in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City where he graduated in 1996.

After graduation, Stephen started working as an editorial illustrator for Entertainment Weekly and has since published artwork in many other publications including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Using the style from some of his editorial work he submitted a children's book manuscript to Scholastic. It wasn't his story, but the artwork that caught the attention of the editors, particularly an image of a "ghost bear in the moonlight." (Click here to see the image). Lauren Thompson, an editor at Scholastic, wrote Polar Bear Night to feature Stephen's art. (Click here to watch Stephen's process of linoleum cut printmaking). Polar Bear Night went on to win many awards including being selected as a New York Times best illustrated book of the year in 2004.

When asked at the National Book Festival which of his books is his favorite Stephen Savage responded, "Where's Walrus?." He chose this book as his favorite because it was the first book he made that he both wrote and illustrated.

Where's Walrus? is a wordless picture book that starts with Walrus escaping from the zoo as the zookeeper is taking a nap. On each page, Walrus hides from the zookeeper in a new place by blending in with his environment and always with something on his head. Walrus sits wearing a fedora with the other gentlemen at a diner. He puts on a construction hat and helps the bricklayers build a wall. He wears a swimming cap in a diving competition. The zookeeper looks on as the now cap-less walrus receives a gold medal and he has an idea that would happily bring Walrus back to the zoo.

Every Valentine's Day our family bakes heart-shaped cut-out cookies. As I looked at Walrus from Where's Walrus?, I thought he could easily blend in with our cookies this year.
Cut-out cookies have been a favorite of mine since my mom made them for me as a child.
Before we decorated this year's valentine cookies we needed to get dressed up.
My son dressed up just like the zookeeper in the book.
A happy zookeeper!
We had enough mustaches for everyone in the family.
As I read this wordless book to my children, I found myself saying "WHERE'S WALRUS?" with each page turn.
My son acted out the book as I read it. He was hilarious!
After reading the book and decorating many cookies with pink frosting and red sugar, I made a small amount of grey frosting. My children knew right away that I was going to ask them to make one of the heart-shaped cookies look like Walrus.
Where's Walrus?
The whole family really liked Where's Walrus?! Did you know there's a sequel? Check out Where's Walrus and Penguin?.
As I was researching for this blog post, I learned that Stephen Savage traces the initial idea for Where's Walrus?, a book that took over six years to develop, to a sketch of three walruses wearing hats he made for a school assignment. (Click here to see the image.) The assignment was to go to Coney Island Aquarium and create an illustration. He told Pen and Oink, "I kept thinking during my visit how much walruses looked like old guys from Brooklyn." Stephen's editor at Scholastic saw the illustration and said, "I think you should do a book with this character in it. Where a hat falls on his head and everybody thinks he is a man." (National Book Festival).

My children did not have school on Friday and Mom still had to work, so I thought it would be fun to visit our local aquarium with our sketchbooks.

My children couldn't wait for the aquarium to start sketch. They sketched the whole car ride to Cleveland!
We approached the first fish tank at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium and my youngest son said, "Oh...I NEED to start drawing NOW!"
And he did...
I love that he is making a fishy face as he is drawing.
Well done.
I wish you could have seen my boys trying to sketch this big fish. They followed it back and forth as it swam in the tank.
I love this sketch!
The Greater Cleveland Aquarium has a SHARK SEATUBE that is 169 feet long. It was amazing!
This shark swam right over our heads!
This stingray said hello!
My boys took advantage of the large viewing area to sketch once again.
A boy with his sketchbook making art for the sake of making art.
We thought this fish looked sleepy.
My son's in-progress sketch of a sand tiger shark.
The aquarium had many opportunities for us to touch sea critters.
These cleaner shrimp picked at our fingernails.
We touched some stingrays too!
It was a great day inspired by a book we really like!
Stephen, our family wishes you a very happy birthday. We hope you have a wonderful day! Thank you for sharing your birthday with us!

Stephen Savage's next book, The Mixed-Up Truck is available for pre-order with a release date of July 5, 2016:

1. Stephen Savage's Website
2. Interviews - Publishers Weekly, Seven Impossible Things Blog, Watch.Connect.Read Blog, Pen and Oink Blog, Pen and Oink - Part 2, The Girllustrators, Readeo
3. The process for POLAR BEAR MORNING - YouTube
4. Trailer for LITTLE TUG - YouTube
5. Stephen Savage Reads SUPERTRUCK - KIDLIT TV
6. Stephen Savage at National Book Festival 2015 - Library of Congress on YouTube

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