Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Happy Birthday, Arthur Geisert - September 20

Happy Birthday, Arthur Geisert - September 20

"What are you making?" I asked my daughter as she tinkered with Legos.

"Something," she responded. "I don't know what it will turn out as."

I liked her thinking.

We had just read Arthur Geisert's Hogwash and wanted to bring it to life, but I didn't know exactly how to do it. We thought it would be fun to make one of the contraptions from the book out of Legos. I wasn't confident we would succeed but she was content to just tinker and figure it out. So, I followed her lead.

After two afternoons of tinkering and thinking and eventually putting all of our ideas together we figured it out. We definitely made something.

Arthur Geisert is the author and illustrator of over 25 books including Thunderstorm, Country Road ABC: An Illustrated Journey Through America's Farmland, and Oops.  As a child growing up in Los Angeles, Arthur admired his grandmother "who was always painting" and he loved to read books by Holling C. Holling. He said, "I used to read [Minn of the Mississippi and Paddle to the Sea], never cover to cover. I would just thumb through and just look at the margins and go back and forth through the books. I think my books can do the same thing." (MackinVIA and The Gazette).

Geisert graduated from Concordia University and studied further at University of California at Davis, Chouinard Art Institute, the Otis Art Institute, and the Art Institute of Chicago (Children's Books and their Creators). He spent time as an art teacher and made a living selling prints of his copper plate etchings, a printmaking technique he learned in college. According to MackinVIA, Geisert thought his prints could work as illustrations in children's books and started submitting his work to publishers. He submitted for over ten years with no contracts. Then, at a print show, Arthur met an editor from Houghton Mifflin who helped connect him with the children's editor who later would publish his first book Pa's Balloon and Other Pig Tales in 1984.  (Patricia Newman).

Oh, Arthur's pigs! Many of his books feature pigs as characters including his three New York Times Best Illustrated books, Pigs From A to Z (1986), Roman Numerals I to MM: Numerablia Romana Uno Ad Duo Mila (1996), and Ice (2011). It has been widely documented that Arthur never saw a pig until he moved to Iowa as an adult. (Amazon and The Gazette).

Which of Arthur Geisert's pig books is our favorite? We love Lights Out and The Giant Seed, but our favorite has to be Hogwash.

In Hogwash, all the little pigs in the village meet up for some messy fun at the local mud hole. A short distance away is a building with barrels of paint. Soon, the pigs are covered in mud and paint but the pig mommies aren't worried because there is a sophisticated machine to wash the piggies before they head home for the day. Arthur Geisert devotes seven page spreads of the book to the complex cleaning machine. It is so fascinating to page back and forth through the book to see how the pigs are placed on the machine, washed, rinsed, and dried. The expressions and body language of some of the pigs make it fun to add dialogue to this wordless book.

We have had these little pink pigs for years. I remember playing farm with my youngest daughter. That was over ten years ago. The pigs were always the key characters in our little skits. When I found the box of farm toys a few years ago, I immediately thought of Arthur's books. I wondered how these pigs could be used for a family reading experience.
There is so much to look at Arthur's books.
This was my favorite part of the Hogwash cleaning machine. The little pigs are clipped to a clothesline by two pig mommies. Rotating wheels send the pigs across to the other platform where two more pig mommies are waiting.
I wondered if we could make this part of the cleaning machine with Legos. We had a few failures, but this design was moving in the right direction.
Meanwhile, my daughter experimented with making clothes out of felt for our pigs.
We tried clipping the pigs to the line, but even the mini-clothespins were too heavy.
Instead, we wrapped the felt clothes around the line to attach the pigs. The pigs stayed on and the two rotating wheels successfully moved the pigs across the line. 

My daughter said, "I want to try to make everything in the whole book." Unfortunately, it took us all afternoon to figure this out. It was time for all of my other kids to come home from school and for me to start cooking dinner. (No ham tonight!) 
The next day, I followed my daughter's lead of wanting to do more. I had a few ideas. We started by making a hill out of a cardboard box.
She was a little excited!
In Hogwash, paint spills down the hill and the pigs play. Could we reenact this part of the book? I didn't know how it was going to turn out but it sounded like fun.
All the pigs waited as she poured washable paint at the top of the hill.
Blue, yellow, and red.
Oh, what fun! Squeal!
"More paint, Dad!" she said.
I thought this would be fun, but I never imagined it would be this fun!

"Dad, look at that little piggy."
The paint swirls were awesome.
Pig art!
My little piggy wanted to play in the paint too.
"Bwah-ha-ha-ha! I like getting the pigs dirty," she said.
We took all the pigs out of the paint. It was time for a Hogwash.

In the book, the pigs slosh around in a big pool. We used a bowl.
After the pigs were a little cleaner she said, "Wait! Can I do it again?" She helped the pigs play in the paint two more times!
Next, it was time to rinse them off. We used a colander to give them a shower.
Then, the pigs walked through the blowers.
Finally, it was time for pigs to get hung out to dry.
She put on their clothes.
Away they go!
The pigs were clean and happy!

In an NPR interview with Arthur Geisert about his 2013 book Thunderstorm the interviewer concluded with, "For now Arthur tells me he won't be making anymore books." However, there is exciting news! According to Guttenberg Press and a Facebook post, Arthur Geisert has just finished his next book, Pumpkin Island! (No release date is available.)

1. Arthur Geisert, legendary pigs - Patricia Newman
2. Pumpkin Island - Arthur Geisert's Latest Book set in Elkader - Guttenberg Press
3. Arthur Geisert feature - MackinVIA Community
4. A Studio Visit with Arthur Geisert - Enchanted Lion Books via YouTube
5. Audio Interview - NPR

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