King Alice: A Visit with Matthew Cordell

I love collaborating with our local indie bookstore, Avid Bookshop. Each year, we get amazing authors and illustrators who visit our schools and share their expertise with our kids. Our first visit of this year was Caldecott-medalist Matthew Cordell.  He won the Caldecott for his story of bravery and kindness called Wolf in the Snow.  Now, he is touring for his newest book King Alice.  His visit to our school was made possible by his publisher MacMillan Kids and Avid Bookshop.

I’ve followed Matthew’s work for several years. His book,  Hello Hello, is a favorite book that I love to use as we ponder how we balance our digital lives and real lives.  Even though it is a few years old, it continues to be relevant.

When I found out he was coming to our school, I began collaborating with Rita Foretich, our art teacher.  I scheduled read alouds with every class in K-2.  During every class, we read Wolf in the Snow. First grade also read Dream. Second grade also read Hello Hello.

In art, Ms. Foretich focused on 1 book per grade. Kindergarten made art inspired by Wolf in the Snow. They considered a time they were kind or brave and illustrated that moment. First grade made art inspired by Dream. They considered what they dreamed to be and illustrated that dream.  Second grade made art inspired by Hello Hello. They considered what they like to do in their free time and how they balance digital/real life and illustrated those thoughts.

Each piece of art was mounted on black construction paper to create a gallery in the front halls of our school.

For the visit, we transformed the entrance to the library to look like a castle wall. My talented high school intern, Andrea Aramburo, created a hand-lettered banner that said “Welcome Kings”. Every class received paper crowns from the publisher to wear to the visit. All of this was in honor of King Alice.

During Matthew’s visit, he shared a little of his childhood leading up to where he is now. Then, we got to see inside his messy studio. He talked about how he purposefully took a picture of the studio in action because he wanted students to see that art wasn’t a neat and clean process.  This became one of the favorite moments of the talk for some students.

Before Matthew read King Alice, he told some stories from his family. One example was how his daughter suggested things for them to do together like throw a pie in dad’s face or put on dad’s makeup. I loved hearing these real-life examples because it showed all of us that ideas are truly all around us.  King Alice is about a dad and daughter doing things together on a snow day. The dad doesn’t always want to do everything Alice suggests, but when she suggests making a book, the dad is all on board. We loved learning that Matthew’s daughter even got to collaborate on parts of the book.  King Alice has many laugh-out-loud moments that students were still talking about after the visit, and I heard more than one student shout out “Idea!” just like Alice did when she thought of additions to her story.

Students always love seeing an illustrator draw. Matthew drew King Alice and narrated every step of the drawing process. Seeing the blank page transform into the stoic King Alice was incredible and inspiring. I always see students go back to class after these moments and try to draw the characters themselves.

Before Matthew left, he chatted with several students including one student who presented him with a book that he wrote just for Matthew.

He also took time to tour the gallery of student art and get to know our many creators throughout K-2.

 

Thanks to our PTA, every classroom teacher received a copy of King Alice.  I’m sure it will be heavily used as a mentor text in writing workshop. It brings up some many important ideas of storytelling from ideas to revision to illustrating.

If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, I encourage you to go to your local independent bookshop and make a purchase. I’m sure there’s even a few signed copies still left at Avid Bookshop if you want to order one online.

Thank you, Matthew Cordell, for sharing your wisdom with our students, teachers, and families. Thank you MacMillan Publishers for making our city one of the stops on the tour. Thank you Avid Bookshop for collaborating with our school to make this visit possible and for supporting all of our book sales.

 

 

A Visit with LeUyen Pham

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The American Library Association just held its annual Midwinter Conference in Atlanta, and that meant that some amazing authors and illustrators were in town.  One of the speakers at ALA Midwinter was LeUyen Pham.  Who has worked on over 80 picture books!  Her current picture book is The Bear Who Wasn’t There and it is one she wrote and illustrated.  We were so thankful when her publisher, MacMillan, reached out to Avid Bookshop to offer a visit with a local school to celebrate her new book.

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The Bear Who Wasn’t There is a hilarious tale that invites the reader along to look for a bear who has gone missing from the book. There’s evidence of a bear along the way, but the reader and the animals in the story just can’t seem to find him.  Meanwhile, the duck in the story uses the bear’s absence to show off some magic tricks and try to sell his own books.  This book has a lot of mischief and laughs along the way, and readers might just discover a bear if they look very carefully.

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We didn’t learn about the opportunity to host LeUyen until late December, so the prep time for this visit was very short. Normally, I try to have students make decorations, but it was tricky to pull off this time. Instead, we really focused on reading the books. I pulled all of LeUyen’s books from our library and showed lots of classes the huge range of illustrations she has created from Freckleface Strawberry to Vampirina Ballerina to Alvin Ho to Princess in Black and more.  We read several of her books as well including The Bear Who Wasn’t There.  Every class laughed out loud on every single page.  We also took time to learn how to pronounce LeUyen’s name by listening to it on TeachingBooks.net

With over 350 K-3 students in the audience, LeUyen was magical!  With her twinkle fingers, she sprinkled the room with focus and students were hanging on every word.  She took them on a journey by looking at some of her very first drawings to the drawings she does as an adult. Students learned about movies that she worked on before she became an illustrator such as Prince of Egypt and Spirit.  She did some storytelling as she recounted her journey to Africa sketching scenery and animals.  LeUyen pulled out one of her many notebooks and showed students how she sketches everywhere she goes.

One of the moments I loved, was when she told students that she doesn’t spend too much time on one drawing. In fact she shared some pretty amazing drawings that she created in less than 15 minutes. She always draws in pen.  With a pen, you can’t erase your mistakes, so you can look back at those mistakes and learn from them.  That one statement has so many connections within and beyond art.  I want to bring that idea back up with students as we create together.

 

Next, LeUyen read A Piece of Cake, which is a perfect story for a big group read aloud.  There are so many unexpected things at each page turn and the kids had a blast shouting out what they thought mouse and bird would trade cake or objects for.

To close her time, LeUyen created some illustrations.  Students were selected from the audience, and she turned each of these models into an animal version of themselves reading a book.  While drawing animals with the features of our student models, she also took questions from the audience about her inspiration, her longest and shortest books, and more.

It was during this time that we heard about how a student at a school could suddenly become the inspiration for an illustration as one student did for Grace for President.    You just never know where your next idea may come from, so LeUyen is always watching, listening, and sketching her world.

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Our young readers listed to LeUyen for an hour, and I was so proud of their excitement for her.  She is such an inspiring and sweet person who is insanely talented at illustrating.  I know her books will fly off our library shelves, and I can’t wait to see what students create and talk about after exploring her books.

As she left, LeUyen signed lots of books.  She lovingly included an illustration in each book she signed.  If you didn’t get a book at the visit, we have many books for checkout in the library or you can visit Avid Bookshop to purchase one.  As always, we are thankful to publishers like MacMillan for sending authors and illustrators to independent bookshops and schools.  Thank you, LeUyen, for spending part of your travels with us and sharing your talents and stories.  Thank you to Avid Bookshop for connecting with your community and enriching the reading and creative lives of students.