Our community amazes me. Every year, new people within our school community step forward with ideas for our library program. People share their talents, their connections, and their love of education.
This year, Rachel Gabara, a parent of a 1st grader, introduced me to a new book called Crabtree by brothers Jon and Tucker Nichols. I’ll admit that it was my first time hearing of the book, but when I looked at the praise for Crabtree on the McSweeney’s website, I was floored. Authors like Jon Klassen, Maira Kalman, Lemony Snickett, and Jon Agee all raved about the book. I immediately ordered it from Avid Bookshop. When I got it, I was raving about the book as much as the reviews. It is jam packed with illustrations of all kinds of things.
Here’s the official trailer:
Crabtree loves to collect things. The problem is that he has so much stuff he can’t find anything. He begins to organize his collections of stuff in order to find his false teeth. Each object on the page is labeled with its name, so kids are introduced to all kinds of tools and gadgets that they’ve probably never heard of. It’s a great books just for the sorting, vocabulary, and potential research opportunities. However, the humor and gadgets of the book are what really make it so much fun to read over and over again. Even the dust jacket of the book has a collection of gadgets and unfolds into a poster. At the end of the book, there’s a game where you can go back through the book finding various objects. You need to order a copy of this book today. It’s so much fun.
When Rachel introduced me to the book, she told me that she was friends with the co-creator, Jon Nichols. She offered to reach out to him to see if he would Skype with us. He agreed, so we got to work preparing for our visit. All of the 1st grade classes read the book in advance and pulled in some categorizing and math standards along the way. Students also spent some time writing out questions for Jon.
Today, the whole 1st grade came to the library and we connected with Jon in California. He was a fantastic Skype author full of energy. He told the kids a bit about how he and his brother made the book together. Both of them were involved in the writing and illustrating process, and it was their first book.
Then, Jon showed the kids how he draws Crabtree.
The students loved it when Jon let them ask him some questions. When authors do this, the teachers help me a lot. They start choosing students from the audience to start forming a line to the side of the screen and camera.
As they get in line, we try to check to make sure the questions are all different and are actually questions. I move the camera down to student-level. Then, students take turns speaking to the author directly into the camera.
Today, students asked Jon questions like:
- What kind of paint did you use? He showed us the pens used to draw the illustrations and we learned that the colors were created by computer at the publisher because they didn’t like how real paint looked on the paper.
- Why did you call him Crabtree? We learned that it was a mixture of a favorite place to visit but also the idea of 2 things that don’t really go together: crabs and trees.
- Can 1st graders write books? Jon was so enthusiastic in his answer and told them that they could absolutely write books. He ran through the whole writing process and got them excited about their ideas for stories.
There were many more wonderful questions. I was really surprised by how well 1st graders asked questions. The teachers did a wonderful job giving students time to think and write their questions down before they came.
We are so thankful to Jon for taking time out of his busy day to connect with us. If you haven’t read Crabtree yet, we highly recommend it.