Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Author Visits in the Redwoods: The Humboldt County Author Festival

Everyone needs a sign like this in front of their house, or wherever they go!  This sign was waiting for me in the parking lot of Freshwater School, the first of three amazing schools that I visited last week in Humboldt County as part of the biannual Humboldt County Author Festival.  At every school, the children had read my books in preparation for my visit and, in many cases, had done art projects as well.

At Garfield, the second school I visited, the children had created their own bookmarks, using the cut-paper technique I use for my book illustrations.  I was impressed how inventive they were and how they adapted their designs to the shape of the paper.  (One of my favorites was a crocodile.)
At the third school I visited, Maple Creek, a small rural school nestled in a pristine valley, the children had collected fossils from the creek (knowing that I have a particular interest in fossils and prehistoric life) and then composed two songs about prehistoric animals that they performed for me. They had also done artwork in advance of my visit including a painted life-size killer whale and a mural of Ice Age life in the Maple Creek valley.

I am always amazed at the creativity of the teachers, librarians, and children at the schools I visit and how they are able to use books like mine to inspire reading and as springboards for other activities.  The pleasure I get from doing school visits is that I get to interact with my readers and see how my books are actually used in the classroom.  I also get to meet all the hardworking teachers and librarians who are putting those books into the hands of children. In addition to the school visits, the Humboldt County Author Festival also included an art exhibit at the Morris Graves Art Museum in Eureka, where I had two of my illustrations on display, and a book signing at the public library in Eureka.  The Humboldt County Author Festival is possible only because dozens of volunteers spend months organizing it.  I am grateful for all their hard work and pleased that I can be part of it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Photographing Animals: Patience is a Virtue

            Noisytime for Zoo Animals is one of six books in a series about how zoo animals eat, sleep, play, bathe, have babies, and make noise.  The photographer, Richard Hewett, and I spent many hours at zoos watching animals and waiting for just the right moment to take a picture.  It is important to have LOTS of patience when photographing animals.  You can’t ask an elephant to “just turn a little more this way, please”!  Even though the photos look as if we were close to the animals, we were always safely on the other side of a fence or inside a vehicle.  Richard used a telephoto lens to make the animals seem close-up.  While he took pictures, I watched and listened to the animals and took notes that later helped me to write the book.
      Other books in this series are Playtime for Zoo Animals, Mealtime for Zoo Animals, Sleepytime for Zoo Animals, Splashtime for Zoo Animals and Mother and Baby Zoo Animals. They were published by Lerner in 1999. Although these books are all out of print, you may be able to find them in your library, online, or as e-books.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Project: Peanut Butter and Jelly Geology

I love learning about fossils, and they are often the topics of my books.  When I was a child in Minneapolis, Minnesota, my family used to go on rock and fossil collecting expeditions. I still remember climbing cliffs along the Mississippi river to collect chunks of limestone and the thrill of cracking them open.  If we were lucky, we would find inside the perfectly preserved skeleton of a creature that had lived millions of years earlier. Later, on a camping trip to the Grand Canyon, I remember looking at the layered rock of the canyon walls and learning how each one represented a period of geologic time.

"Earth Sandwich" an edible demonstration of various layers of the Earth's crust
One of my all time favorite classroom projects is making  an “Earth Sandwich” as a model of the layers of the earth.  Each part of the sandwich represents a part of Earth’s crust.  When you cut the sandwich in half, it is a little like looking at the walls of the Grand Canyon.  As you enjoy your Earth Sandwich, you are eating your way through time!
To make your sandwich, you will need:
    pumpernickel bread for coal
    rye bread for sandstone
    white bread for limestone
    peanut butter for dirt
    jelly for oil or tar
    raisins for boulders
    pretzel sticks for fossil bones
My recent books about fossils include Global Warming and the Dinosaurs and Giant Sea Reptiles of the Dinosaur Age.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fall Into Literacy

Caroline Arnold's Author Booth at the Fall Into Literacy Festival, Wilmington, CA
I always love celebrating books and reading!  On October 1st, a beautiful sunny day in southern California, I joined authors Erica Silverman, Amada Irma Perez, illustrator Joe Cepeda, and many other book lovers at Wilmington’s Fall Into Literacy celebration in the new Waterfront Park near the Port of Los Angeles.  More then 300 families came to enjoy live entertainment, American Indian storytelling, book signings, and to meet the authors.  I gave a short talk featuring my books about birds ( Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines, and  A Bald Eagle’s World) and invited children to come up on stage and measure their wingspans to find out what kind of bird they might be.  I also shared my book Wiggle and Waggle.  In my author’s tent I met children and parents and signed books.  All in all, it was a great day!
Fall Into Literacy was sponsored by the local Valero and Tesoro refineries and organized by Lupe Lopez, who leads the local United Way effort and is Wilmington's honorary mayor.  My visit was coordinated by Martha Sherod at the Los Angeles Public Library.