Wednesday, April 11, 2018

April Bulletin Boards

Since April is Poetry Month, why not pick a poem instead of a flower?
The wind is blowing this month as we are soaring to new heights.
Poor Greg. He missed understood the saying, "April showers bring May flowers." He didn't realize it was referring to the rain and he got ready to take a shower.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Best Things About My Trip to New York!

For me, a trip to New York isn't complete without a stop at Books of Wonder. I'm always looking to see what amazing author and illustrator events that they are having and dream of being able to attend one on day.  I was thrilled to see that there was going to be an event while I was there featuring 5 Caldecott Winners. As soon as I saw that, I scheduled my day around it. Each author/illustrator spoke of their latest project which, totally unplanned, had the theme of  worrying if they aren't good enough.
Diane Dillon spoke of I Can Be Anything! Don't Tell Me That I Can't!  She shared what the illustration process had been like with her husband, how they worked in thumbnails, the third artist concept and how she draws inspiration from a variety of sources like art nouveau, sculptures and paintings. Emily Arnold McCully, spoke about Caroline's Comet and how she is always looking for little known women of importance to write about. 
Chris Raschka spoke about his illustrations in the poetry book The Death of the Hat. He read one of the poems out of the book about trees. He found out that he won the Caldecott for Yo! Yes? from a message on his answering machine and didn't quiet know what it was. When he looks at other peoples illustrations he thinks "That's beautiful" and "That's fantastic" and is currently really enjoying the style of Seth, a Canadian cartoonist.
David Ezra Stein read his newest book Honey to us, which is a sequel to Leaves. He shared that he often wonders if his work is good enough, but that he just keeps going and then things just seem to click. He takes inspiration from everywhere and everything. He was eating a bowl of oatmeal when he received the call that he had won the Caldecott and shared that that win really put him on the map.
David Wiesner shared his latest, I Got It! which he called "wordy," since there are 3 words in it. It's all about a boy in the outfield and that moment when the ball is falling, which while is only a second, can feel like an eternity. He pointed out to us that when he is sharing all the thoughts racing though the boy's head as he's trying to get the ball, he eliminates the clouds and sky and uses just white space. He said it can be a challenge to find the visual equivalence to words. He's inspired by Virginia Lee Burton and Melissa Sweet. When he won the Caldecott for Flotsam, he thought, "This can't be happening." 
One interesting side note: When I asked them all about the moment they got the call from the Caldecott Committee saying that they had won, many thought it was a prank and didn't really understand what the Caldecott was. They also brought up their experiences on The Today Show and while I am not going to go into specifics, they were not entirely positive experiences.
What else did I do besides visit Books of Wonder? I was lucky enough to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
Because of #KeeptheSecret, I won't say much other than 1) You need to see it! The acting, the story, the effects are phenomenal. 2) Every person I encountered who works at the Lyric Theater went above and beyond. They were kind, welcoming, gracious and extremely attentive. As I left the theater after Part One they said, "See you tomorrow" and I was greeted with a "Welcome back," when I returned the next night for Part Two.
A visit to the New York Public Library is also a must visit. While I think the children's section could use some sprucing up, I do enjoy seeing the stuffed animals that inspire Winnie the Pooh.
 Fortitude was doing fantastic job keeping watch over the library.
I love booktalking Manhattan Mystery by John J. Bonk and every time I do so, I read an excerpt that talks about the Whispering Gallery at Grand Central Station. The kids always ask about it and I make a mental note to visit it the next time I go to New York and every time I go, I forget to visit it. But this year I didn't! I did however forget to take a picture. It's amazing! It works just like the book said it did, is right by an oyster restaurant as the book says and kids were having a blast playing with it while I was there. I can't wait to share this with the kids at school.

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!