Saturday, March 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, Ame Dyckman - March 27

Happy Birthday, Ame Dyckman - March 27

Jelly beans.
Marshmallow Peeps.
Cadbury candy-coated chocolate Mini Eggs.
More JELLY BEANS! (We just love them so.)

Our family loves these Easter candy treats so much that we often neglect the traditional solid milk chocolate bunnies. The Easter Bunny even stopped putting them in our Easter baskets. He must have noticed that they would sadly sit in our kitchen cupboard months later.

However, this year, my youngest daughter made a special request, "I hope the Easter bunny brings me a chocolate bunny."

I replied, "I am sure he will. You've been a good girl."

Her request gave me a hoppin' good idea when I read Ame Dyckman's Wolfie the Bunny. The idea became an egg-cellent birthday celebration for Ame Dyckman and resulted in the most awesome Easter candy treat ever -- yes...even better than jelly beans.

Ame Dyckman is the author of three picture books. (Wait! We should say four picture books because her next book Horrible Bear! will be available in about one week!) As a child, Ame fell in love with books thanks to many libraries. Her family moved around a lot and it was always important for her to connect with the library in her new hometown. She said, "Once, I tried to get library cards in both my real name (Amelia) and nickname." (The Library Incubator Project).

The initial spark for Ame's writing career may have come in the fourth grade when she wrote The Punchbowls stories that really made her classmates laugh. (The Library Incubator Project). Later in high school she began telling people she wanted to write books for children when she grew up. (Meg Miller). People told her "you'll never get published" and should try something other than writing for children. (The Stylin' Librarian).

After college she worked many different jobs -- a substitute preschool teacher, a brownie taste tester, an academic assistant, a costumed character, and a window display designer. (Kathy Temean).  Then, she decided to get serious about writing, "challenge" herself, and prove her critics wrong.

In 2009, Ame went to New Jersey SCBWI conference and signed up for the Agent Pitch Session. She had 5 minutes to convince an agent that her manuscript was a winner. And she did! The agent liked her manuscript, agreed to work with her to polish the story, and later Ame got an offer to publish her first book, Boy + Bot. (Miss Print, 2012). Boy + Bot was illustrated by Dan Yaccarino and published in 2012.

In 2014, Ame was awarded the Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Award for her book Tea Party Rules illustrated by K. G. Campbell. This award is given annually to "recognize and encourage emerging talent in the field of children's books." Ame certainly is an emerging talent in children's books!

After Tea Party Rules her next book was Wolfie the Bunny (2015), illustrated by Zachariah Ohora. It was inspired by Ame's daughter. Ame and her husband called their daughter "The Wolf Baby" when she was tired and grumpy.  Ame asked herself, "What if a REAL wolf baby went to live with a family of non-wolves?" (Miss Print 2015).

In Wolfie the Bunny, Wolfie is found on their doorstep by the Bunny family. Mama and Papa Bunny are beyond excited to bring a baby wolf into the mix, but their daughter Dot sees things differently and says, "He's going to eat us all up!" But, Wolfie means no harm, except for maybe eating the family's supply of carrots. Dot is still not completely on board with having Wolfie as a brother when an incident occurs at the local market. A hungry bear makes a scene, Dot steps up as the BIG sister, and protects her little wolf-brother for the first time.

The day I picked up Wolfie the Bunny from the library my daughter saw it and asked me to read it to her. After reading the book on the couch, I looked up at our mantle over our fireplace covered with Easter bunnies, and thought The Easter Bunny will probably bring her a chocolate bunny, but maybe we can make something even better!

I rolled this idea around in my head for about a day and decided that it was possible to make candy Wolfie the Bunnies. It would take three steps:

1. Make a model of Wolfie the Bunny out of Instamorph.
2. Use the plastic model to make a candy mold.
3. Fill the mold with melted candy to create a Wolfie the Bunny treat.

We used all of these items to make our Wolfie the Bunny candy except for the sticks. I initially thought we would have Wolfies-on-a-stick, but decided against it.
My daughters helped me make the Wolfie the Bunny model out of Instamorph. This stuff is cool! You warm water to 140 degrees, drop in the pellets, and within two minutes you can mold the Instamorph into anything you want. Then, after a few more minutes it is hard as plastic! (We first used Instamorph to celebrate Deb Pilutti's birthday!)
First, we made a Wolfie shape.
Then, we added a tail, arms, a face and a nose.
Next, we needed to make the candy mold. I bought Amazing Mold Putty which makes molds that are food safe!
In the box are two canisters of squishy clay-like substances.
I squished equal amounts of the substances together.
Once the two were mixed I pressed it over the Wolfie model.
I was so nervous doing this! The Amazing Mold Putty was not cheap and I didn't want to mess it up. ($15 on Amazon).
The instructions told us to let the mold rest for about 20 minutes.
It worked! We had our candy mold!
Next, we melted Wilton candy melts in a double-boiler on the stove. We mixed black and white melts to make gray candy for Wolfie's fur. We used Wilton food safe brushes to apply the candy to the mold.
My wife helped make the first Wolfie! (Thank you!!!)
This is a photo of the gray candy she added for the paws, tail, and face.
Then, she filled in the rest of the mold with melted pink Wilton Candy Melts.
It took about an hour for the candy to completely harden.
This is how our first Wolfie came out of the mold. Notice his broken tail. We applied a little melted candy and stuck it back on.
I used the food safe brushes, a toothpick, and black and white candy melts to add detail. 
The next day everyone had an opportunity to decorate their own Wolfie the Bunny.
My daughter used a toothpick to add melted black candy to the ears.
My son added melted black candy to the tail.

Of course, we had to make sure they tasted good!
Happy Easter! Happy Birthday, Ame Dyckman!
If the Easter Bunny forgets chocolate bunnies this year, we got him covered!
Pre-order Ame Dyckman's new book, HORRIBLE BEAR!. Available April 5, 2016!
"Highly recommended for picture book collections." - School Library Journal

1. Ame Dyckman's Website
2. Follow Ame on Twitter
3. BOY + BOT Trailer - YouTube
4. StoryMakers with Ame Dyckman and Zach Ohara (featuring WOLFIE THE BUNNY) - KidLit TV
5. Ready! Set! Draw! Wolfie the Bunny with Zach Ohara - KidLit TV
6. Interviews - Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, Miss Print (2015), Miss Print (2012), KidLit 411, Inky Girl, The Stylin' Librarian, Henry Herz, Meg Miller, The Library Incubator Project, Kathy Temean, Nerdy Chicks Rule
7. Happy Birthday Author birthday celebration for Dan Yaccarino w/ BOY + BOT activities
8. Why Picture Books are Important by Ame Dyckman - Picture Book Month
9. Ame Dyckman Reads TEA PARTY RULES - YouTube
10. TEA PARTY RULES Trailer - YouTube
11. Ten Questions in One Minute with Ame Dyckman - Vimeo
12. WOLFIE THE BUNNY Trailer - YouTube

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