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!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Author Visit, Garin School, Brentwood, CA

Last Friday, I visited Garin Elementary School in Brentwood, California (in the Sacramento delta area east of San Francisco) and was pleased with the enthusiastic response to my presentations. I spoke to three groups: 1st and 2nd grades, kindergarten, and 3rd through 5th grades. Students in the upper grades had read my book, Baby Whale Rescue, and younger students had read Wiggle and Waggle as well as some of my other books, so they were all well prepared. We had time for questions at the end of my upper grade presentation and I was impressed by the variety of the questions the students asked. My visit was one of the culminating events of the celebration of Read Across America week. I saw many teachers wearing Dr. Seuss Cat in the Hat striped hats and many of the students had come to school wearing costumes depicting a character in a favorite book.

My visit was coordinated by teacher Christy Condrin. I thank her for doing a great job of organizing my visit and for the wonderful thank you letters and pictures from her students. One student wrote: "You inspired me to be an author and illustrator." And thanks to the Garin PTA for sponsoring my visit. I had a great day!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Family Reading Night at Jefferson School, Redondo Beach, CA

Last Wednesday, I participated in the Family Reading Night at Jefferson Elementary School, in Redondo Beach, California as part of their celebration of Read Across America week. I and five other authors had a chance to read our stories to students and parents. I had an enthusiastic group who enjoyed hearing A Zebra’s World and going on a “Lion Hunt” and also helping to dramatize  the story of A Polar Bear’s World, with three students acting as polar bears wearing my polar bear masks. Families could also purchase pizza and snacks and go to the book fair. I thank parent Bik Wong for inviting me and organizing the event. Everyone looked like they were enjoying it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

NONFICTION PIZZA, Classroom Project

Sample for Nonfiction Pizza Book Report Project
At a recent school visit a third grade teacher shared with me a project she was using to help her students learn about the structure of a nonfiction book and to identify text features and text structure. It was a “Nonfiction Pizza Book Report” with parts cut out from a paper template, downloadable from a site called Teachers Pay Teachers. For the sample to show the students, the teacher made a “pizza” that describes a book about the city of Los Angeles. The crust represents the finished book, mushrooms represent facts, salami is for text features, and mozzarella clumps are used  for the main topic, author’s purpose and key words. Structure is key in the creation of a good nonfiction book or a school report. I thought this was an excellent project to help students visualize the process of organizing and writing a nonfiction book. When everything works together, the end result can be delicious!