Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Paper Plate Zebra Mask
On one of my recent school author visits, the room where I was presenting was decorated with charming zebra masks made from paper plates. The project had been inspired by my book A Zebra’s World. I could see that the children had looked carefully at my illustrations to make the zebra’s  markings. They used black construction paper for the nose and mouth and the mane. Stripes on the face were added with black marker. Ears were cut from tan paper and glued to the back of the plate. Googly eyes were added for the final effect. Every zebra was different, just as they are in the wild. This is a fun project to do with younger elementary school students.

A Zebra's World, based on the 2006 book with the same title but now with a shorter text and sturdier pages, brings the story of a zebra's first year to younger readers. Follow the black and white stripes of the young zebra as she grows up in Africa. A readable and lively text provides a close-up look at these black and white animals in this "anything but black and white" book. Cut paper illustrations help tell the tales of these amazing animals and the world in which they live.This picture book follows a baby zebra from birth on the grasslands of Africa through the first year of its life. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

AUTHOR VISIT at the WPC Preschool, Los Angeles, CA

This morning I made my annual visit to the Westwood Presbyterian Preschool and had two lively sessions–the first with the three-year-olds, and the second with the four-year-old group. With the younger children we read Noisytime for Zoo Animals--complete with making the animal sounds, counted eggs and chicks in Who Has More? And Who Has Fewer?, sang the Wiggle and Waggle song, and went on a lion hunt after reading A Zebra’s World. With the older group, I shared my new book Living Fossils and showed them my nautilus shell and 50 million year old fish fossil. We then talked about birds and measured the students’ wingspans. We also discussed nocturnal and diurnal animals in my Day and Night books. The children will soon be making their own books. I shared with them how I make cut paper art for the illustrations in my books. As always, I finished by reading The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers, a perennial favorite. I thank all the teachers, Heidi Rudd in the office, and director Sophie Robertson for helping to make this another successful visit!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Gardening Project: PLANTS NEED LEAVES

One of my first illustration assignments was for a book about gardening activities with children.  At that time, most books for children were illustrated with black and white art so I made pencil drawings.  Here is one of the activities.

Do plants need leaves? Here is a project that shows how leaves help plants to grow.

You will need:
lima bean seeds
container (such as an empty milk carton)

Plant several lima bean seeds in a container. Put the container in a warm location, and keep the soil moist. After the seeds have sprouted and the plants have developed their second set of leaves, thin to 3 plants, and remove 2 leaves from one plant, and all the leaves from another plant. Be sure to let one plant continue to grow naturally with all its leaves.  Observe the plants over the next few weeks and compare how they grow. Which one is the biggest?

From Children’s Gardens: A Field Guide for Teachers, Parents and Volunteers by Elizabeth Bremner and John Pusey, Illustrations by Caroline Arnold

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Celebrating STAR: Story Telling and Reading in the Los Angeles Public Libraries

Caroline and Jennifer Murphy, Children's Librarian, LAPL
Last Thursday I was honored to be the speaker at the annual Appreciation Brunch for the STAR Story Telling and Reading volunteers of the Los Angeles Public Libraries in the Central Southern and Western areas. More than fifty people filled the community room at the Palms-Rancho Park Branch for a delicious breakfast and celebration of another year of reading to children. In my talk, which I illustrated with PDF slides, I shared how events in my life have contributed to my books through the years and how reading to my children when they were young was always an important part of my day. Other parts of the program included a preview of the 2016 Summer Reading Program, a flannel board story, two wonderful story tellers, and giving out awards to volunteers with five, ten and twenty years of service. At the end, Diane Olivo-Posner, of Children’s Services, gave a report of recent library news. I thank Jennifer Murphy, children’s librarian at the Palms-Rancho Park Branch for inviting me to be part of the STAR celebration, gathering so many of my books for display, and for doing such an excellent job of organizing the event.
Table decorations; folded paper flowers were made by the children's librarians

STAR is made possible through the support of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Author Visit at Olson Elementary School, Verona, Wisconsin

Props for my program at Olson School, Verona, Wisconsin
Two weeks ago, on March 16th, I had an excellent visit to Olson Elementary School in Verona, Wisconsin, in the Madison Metropolitan School District. I spoke to four groups of children grades kindergarten through fifth grade using the Smart Board in the library to show my slides. All of the students had been able to read some of my books before my visit so they were well prepared and excited about the program. I thank librarian Sheri Boser for organizing my visit and preparing the students. At the end of each program I had a short question period and I was impressed by the good questions the students asked. During the lunch period I had a chance to walk the halls and see some of the art projects and other activities the students were doing, which included paintings in the style of Kandinsky by kindergarten students and a pen-pal project with children in Mexico tracking the migration of monarch butterflies.
This visit to Wisconsin was particularly meaningful for me because of my Wisconsin connection. Although I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I spent my summers in northern Wisconsin at Camp Bovey near Solon Springs. This is where I learned to love nature and watch wild animals and where we told Hodag stories around the campfire. As a child I also traveled to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Michigan, to visit my grandparents and cousins. So, to find my books read by children in Wisconsin today was especially satisfying.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

FESTIVAL OF BOOKS, Tucson, Arizona

Festival of Books, Tucson, AZ
I spent the weekend of March 12-13 as a participant in the fabulous Festival of Books in Tucson, Arizona, a literary extravaganza held on the campus of the University of Arizona and attended by more than 100,000 people. This was my first time at the festival and I was amazed at the sea of white tents spread across the campus with books, food, activities for kids, storytellers, entertainment, science projects and more plus dozens of talks and author panels held in adjacent auditoriums and classrooms.
With Jill Wadsworth, host and moderator of my Illustrator Studio workshop
All of my official events were on Sunday and were in the children’s area near the Education Building. I participated in two panels, conducted an illustrator’s workshop and did a book signing. I also had the opportunity to read to children on the Story Blanket. Throughout the day I was accompanied by my wonderful guide and host Jill Wadsworth, who made sure that I was in the right place at the right time and who moderated my art workshop.
With Tom Uhlman and Mary Kay Carson
My first panel was a discussion called Desert Science and Scientists, with author/photographer team Mary Kay Carson and Tom Uhlman, creators of many Scientist in the Field books, including books about bat scientists and national park scientists. We talked about the challenges of doing research and different approaches to writing for different age groups. It was moderated with good questions from Morgan Apicella.
Art project: putting stripes on the zebra
My next event was Illustrator Studio: Cut Paper Art Brings Animals to Life. After viewing a power point presentation of my technique the participants created their own cut paper art using my zebra template. Typically I do this project with kids, and I was surprised at the variations produced by a mostly adult audience. One person cut her zebra in half and another made a plaid zebra with orange stripes!
After my story blanket time I had a some time to wander around the festival on my own, which was a good opportunity to take a closer look at some of the children’s books and to listen to Sandy Ogelsby, a storyteller with wonderfully dramatic Native American animal tales.
With Cheryl Blackford and Glenda Armand
My last event was a panel, Publishing Do’s and Don'ts with fellow nonfiction authors Glenda Armand and Cheryl Blackford moderated by author Michelle Parker Rock. The room was full of aspiring children’s book authors who were eager to hear about our paths to publication.
The festival also included opportunities to meet and socialize with other authors, including a reception on Saturday evening at Gentle Ben’s restaurant followed by a dinner for the children’s book authors at Pastiche. The vast array of children’s programs was coordinated by Kathy Short and ran smoothly with the help of an army of cheerful and helpful volunteers. The executive director of the festival is Marcy Euler. It was a pleasure to be invited as one of the authors featured in this amazing event.
At the signing table in the book tent

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Author Visit, Sunrise Drive Elementary School, Tucson, AZ

Sunrise Elementary School, Tucson, Arizona
A week ago I had an excellent author visit at Sunrise Drive Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona. I spoke to four groups of children from kindergarten through fifth grade and was pleased with the enthusiastic response to my presentation and the good questions at the end. At my last presentation of the day the students shared some wonderful art created after reading the books in my Day and Night series. 
Collared Lizard, from A Day and Night in the Desert
During one of my breaks I had a chance to tour the school and visit the huge school garden–perfect for Wiggle and Waggle!-- and to see some of the permanent art work decorating the walls of the building. Each graduating fifth grade class creates a legacy work as a permanent record of their years at the school. One of my favorites was a mural made of ceramic tiles depicting birds of the desert. During my program I measured the wingspans of the students as I always do, and, as always, everyone is amazed that it takes two students to be the wingspan of a bald eagle or two and a half to be a California condor. One place to see condors in the wild is in Arizona, in the Grand Canyon, where they have been introduced and have been successfully reproducing.
Ceramic Mural, Birds of the Desert
I thank Monica del Rincon for arranging my visit to Sunrise and Principal Andrea Davidson for introducing me at each of my programs and spending the day with me. And I especially thank the FFO of Sunrise for sponsoring my visit. I also thank the author visit coordinator of the Tucson Festival of Books, Cheryl Schrader-Gerken, for helping me make my connection with Sunrise. It was a very successful day!