Friday, March 9, 2018

The Explorers Meet Lauren Castillo (Via Skype That Is!)

For the last few weeks The Explorers have been pouring over Lauren Castillo's books, studying them both in the library and during our additional literature circle time. They have been making amazing connections with the books and making discoveries about the pictures as they talk and look over them. Because of this, they couldn't wait to meet her via Skype and ask her a bazillion questions.
Lauren started off by sharing Nana in the City with them. She shared with them her inspiration behind the story. You can hear that story below.
They were thrilled to hear her read the story, especially since the first question they had for her was about Nana in the City. The kids knew that Nana was inspired by her own Nana and wondered why she wasn't the child in the book.  It turns out that she didn't want to draw herself into the book and since the little boy is a mix of herself and her brother, she drew a little boy that looked like her broiler did at that age.

What else did we learn?
1) She creates texture when she enlarges her pictures. All her pictures start off small and when they get enlarged, the lines get thicker and grainy. When she adds the watercolor to her pictures, which is her favorite medium to work with, she can create texture by adding layers of paint and then she adds salt into the wet watercolors. We tried this out later that day. You can see our results at the end of this post.
2) When thinking of new characters she is inspired not only by her memories but by her brother too. Some of her characters personalities come from her dogs. For example in the hedgehog book that she is currently working on the mole is based on one of her dogs and the beaver on another.
3) When she put Nana in Yard Sale that was the first time she had ever put one of her characters into another book. We are hoping that she does it again because we loved finding her.
4) She shares a studio with another illustrator and she has 2 desks there, one for writing and another for illustrating. When we met her she was working from home because it was quieter and she was working on the writing portion of her new hedgehog book. We can't believe we might have to wait 2 years to see the finished hedgehog book!
5) The next Nana book, Nana in the Country, is kind of on hold right now since the hedgehog book has taken over. Fingers crossed that it will come out in 2020.
At the end of our time together we asked if she had any tips about being an author or illustrator. She shared that whenever she travels she carries her sketchbook with her because she never knows when she will see something that she wants to record. She might see an idea that she might want to turn into a story one day.
She also told us to write, draw and read a lot. Reading can give us ideas and expose us to things that we had never seen before.
Thank you Lauren for spending time with us. We learn so much from you.

Here are some of our pictures inspired by Lauren's characters and using her watercolor and salt method of creating texture.
We discovered that the less color we used and the more water we used changed our results. 
We also learned that if we had to sprinkle the salt quickly, before the watercolors could dry and that if we used too much salt, it wouldn't dissolve, just stick to our paintings.
We had so much fun experimenting with this and love the results.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

March Bulletin Boards

WooHoo! Our March bulletin board are already up! With so many holidays this month, it was easy to decide what books we were going to highlight.
"Books Are As Good As Gold" focuses on St. Patrick's Day and Ireland.
"Every Bunny Loves A Book" is all about Easter and bunnies.
Greg is having a bit of an identity crisis this month. He can't decide which holiday he likes better so he is dressed for both!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

February Bulletin Boards

Now that I have finished posting all about our World Read Aloud Day Skype sessions, I can share the February Bulletin Boards.
I love decorating the library for Valentine's Day!
I am hoping that this is the year that Greg meets the love of his life, someone who can turn that frown upside down.
In honor of the Winter Olympics we are highlighting a variety of winter sports.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Sea Horses Meet Anica Rissi (Via Skype That Is!)

 Our final Skype to celebrate World Read Aloud Day was with author Anica Rissi and her dog Arugula. The Sea Horses love the Anna. Banana books and have had some amazing classroom discussions about friendship, unkind words and divorce because of the first book in the series, Anna, Banana and the Friendship Split. They couldn't wait to meet her and learn some more. 
We started off with meeting Arugula, her 9 1/2 year old dog, who the kids were dying to meet. It turns out that when she takes Arugula out for a walk he likes to go looking for cats. The cats don't really want to meet him, but he bounces around and runs in circles when he meets them. She read us a chapter out of Anna, Banana and the Little Lost Kitten. The kids loved it and couldn't wait to hear what was next in the Anna, Banana series. We got to see the cover for Anna, Banana and the Recipe for Disaster. We know it is going to be about recipes, friendship and dog disasters. As of right now there are 8 books planned in the series. We know what the 7th book in the series is  about but we're keeping that a secret.

Did you know she has never met the illustrator of the Anna, Banana books?! We got to see some of the preliminary sketches for Anna, Banana and the Little Lost Kitten and then compare it to the final version in the book. It was neat to learn how the illustrator selects what she is going to draw, she can make a funny moment even funnier with her pictures or can help highlight some emotions.
We also found out Anica wrote her first book at the age of 4! It was called Anica's Book of Poisonous Things
 We then started talking about Anica's picture book The Teacher's Pet. Did you know she didn't know what Bruno was going to be until she saw the picture?! That's so crazy! She was so surprised and just loved the idea. When we asked her which she liked writing better, picture books or chapter books she shared she liked them both for different reasons. When you write a picture book, only half of it is yours. It's fun to see what the illustrator will add for their half of the story. She shared that when you write a chapter book you get to know the characters really well and can go deep with their emotions. 
Before we ended our time together we asked her for some writing advice. Here is it.
1) Read a lot! Think about what you liked about you read and what you didn't like. Why did/didn't you like it? 
2) Give yourself permission to write the world's worst story that no one would ever want to read. After you do that, revise it and make it better.
3) You don't know what should happen next in your story? Are you bored with it? Go outside, take a break, come back and just make up random things  in the book. They can be crazy, just keep going!
Thank you Anica! The Sea Horses and I had so much fun with you and our time with you was the prefect end to our week long World Read Aloud Day celebrations!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The Dolphins Meet Anna Raff (Via Skype That Is!)

The Dolphins, kindergarten ones this time, were so excited to Skype with illustrator Anna Raff during World Read Aloud Day. They had been paying close attention to her illustrations for a few weeks and couldn't wait to meet her. While our Skype started with some technical issues, we quickly fixed them and were ready to go! She read You Are NOT a Cat to us. The kids thought it was hilarious and loved hearing her read it to them.
She then shared a secret with them about the cover. If you take the book jacket off, you will see a set of ears on both the front and the back over. If you lift it up to your head, you can pretend those are your ears! The crazy thing is that she hadn't meant for this to happen and didn't even realize you could do this until about 2 months after the book was published. How fun is that!
 We had so many questions for her and couldn't wait to ask them. Here's what we found out:
1) She loves to draw pigs! In fact, her favorite character to draw was in The Wrong Side of the Bed and is of a pig at a dinner table. 
2) Her favorite book to read when she was the students age was Green Eggs and Ham, which we all love.
3) She loves to create her pictures right from where we met her. It is a drawing board that tilts and had been her grandfather's. He wasn't an artist though. She feels very professional when she sits at it.
4) We got a super duper sneak peek of what she is working on right now! It is totally top secret but I will tell you that it was an illustration for a poetry book about planets. The kids and I freaked out when we saw one of the pictures! The kids gave the illustration a huge huge thumbs up and can't wait for the book to come out so they can see the rest of her illustrations and read the poems that go with them.
5) She likes to cook. So do her mom, dad and brother. She finds it very relaxing.
Before we ended our time together we asked her if she had any advice for us about illustrating. She shared that we should draw every day, don't stop and not be embarrassed by what we draw. If we keep it up we will watch our ideas grow! That is such great advice.
We had so much fun with you Anna! Thank you for spending time with us during World Read Aloud Day!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Dolphins Meet Beth McMullen (Via Skype That Is!)

The Dolphins, 4th grade ones this time, had a chance to meet author Beth McMullen for World Read Aloud Day. They truly enjoy her book Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls and loved that they not only had the opportunity to meet the author behind the book, but that they also got to hear her read from the book! 
The class was dying to know if Mrs. Smith was going to continue. We discovered that not only is book two in the series, Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls: Power Play coming out in July but she is planning on a third (July 2019) and possibly a fourth in the series. Hooray! The kids were surprised to learn that book one in the series took a year to write, while book two only took 4 months!
Some of the kids wanted to know if she was going to write a spy school series for boys and while that is not in the works, she has recently submitted an idea for a graphic novel. We are keeping hush hush about that but hope that it happens.
 Beth encouraged us to read and read a lot. She says there are so many amazing books out right now that she reads several a week and loves to share her favorites with other people. She told us about The Someday Birds, Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge and Prisoner of Ice and Snow. What does she doing when she's not reading and writing? She likes to hike in the woods, travel and she spends a lot of time driving her kids around to different activities.
She encouraged us to write. She shared that anyone can be an author because we all have stories to tell and that there are so many ways to tell that story. Maybe we don't tell it with paper and pencil, maybe we record it, maybe we draw it out, maybe we act it out, it doesn't matter how you choose to share it, just tell your story and don't be afraid. Great advice!
Thank for helping us celebrate World Read Aloud Day Beth! 

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Smart Surfers Meet Margaret Dilloway (Via Skype That Is!)

The Smart Surfers kept the World Read Day Skype sessions going by meeting author Margaret Dilloway.  The kids having been reading the Japanese folktale Momotaro their whole lives and have enjoyed reading her chapter book version of it. 
She read to us from the book and shared that she doesn't have a third book in the series in the works. The kids were excited to learn that her book is being adapted into an animated movie by Fox Animation and that it is in the pre-production stages.
The kids and I had talked about how she has written both for adults and children. We wondered which she liked better. She said that they are very different experiences. When she writes for kids it's fun, she gets to remember what it was like when she was that age and she gets to make up fantastical stuff. She loved reading A Wrinkle in Time as a child because she could relate to Meg. She also liked to read the Corduroy books because it's fun to do all the voices.
The kids loved that she had lived in Hawaii for a year and we wanted to know what she liked to do while she was living her. She loved going to Waimanalo Beach and snorkeling at Haunama Bay.
We had to know what sort of advice she had for us as writers. She said that we needed to read and read a lot of different varieties and styles. She shared that we can take events from our own lives that maybe didn't go quite as we had planned and re-write, having the event go as they would have liked and see where that takes us. 
Thank you for helping us celebrate World Read Aloud Day Margaret. We enjoyed out time together.