Studying the Art of Mike Lowery (Plus a Contest)

 

We are eagerly awaiting a visit from author/illustrator Mike Lowery on October 24th to celebrate his new book Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts. For the past couple of weeks, we’ve held a design-a-dino contest. Interested students picked up a blank design sheet from the library.  They could design a new type of dino and list out it’s many features in the style of Mike Lowery’s new book or they could research an actual dino and include true facts.  This was a very popular contest with students and we had to make additional copies of the entry form on numerous occasions.

It has been really fun seeing the student creativity in each grade level. Most students chose to create new dinosaurs and some of the designs and “facts” have been pretty humorous.

It’s going to be a hard decision as we choose 10 winners to receive an autographed copy of Mike Lowery’s dinosaur book.  Every design will be displayed in our library windows at Mike’s visit. Take a look at just a few of the entries.

 

The art teacher and I are also collaborating together with our 3rd graders. Each 3rd grade class came to the library during art time for a cartoon study.

We started out by learning a bit about Mike Lowery and his new book through these two videos.

We watched this video up to the point where Mike talks about the new book:

Then we switched to this video to learn about the new book:

Then we set students up for their work session.  Students were split between 3 tables.  One table had books written and/or illustrated by Mike Lowery.

The other 2 tables had a variety of graphic novels from different authors and illustrators. At each table, students were supposed to see what they noticed about line, shape, color, simplification, and how text was incorporated.

As students looked at books and talked, Ms. Foretich and I rotated to each table and had conversations with students about their noticings.

If a table was having trouble picking out observations, we offered some models.  For example, we noticed that many of Mike Lowery’s illustrations use dots for eyes and lines on eyebrows or mouths to create expression.

After students rotated to each table, we collected books and introduced a project. Students got to choose from 4 final products based on their observations from the tables.  They could:

  • Create an informational poster in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a character and book cover for a comic in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a self portrait in the style of Mike Lowery
  • Create a one page comic

For this first session, students had time to select the project they were most interested and then create some initial sketches, notes, or story lines in their artist sketchbooks.

Now, students will begin working on their final project in art class and the final products will be displayed on the walls of our school during Mike Lowery’s visit.  We can’t wait to meet Mike Lowery.  Look for a post at the end of October about our visit.

Max and the MidKnights: A Visit with Lincoln Peirce

We’ve been building excitement for weeks to get ready for an author/illustrator visit with Lincoln Peirce. Many people know Lincoln from his bestselling series Big Nate, but he has an equally fantastic new book out called Max and the Midknights. This new book is a spoof on the Sword in the Stone and other medieval stories. It is filled with surprises, adventure, a wicked king, an evil sorceress, unlikely knights, a dragon, a few zombies, and plenty of humor. (And the best part is that there are more Max books in the works).

Prior to Lincoln’s visit with 3rd-5th grade, we held a one-page comic contest and used those comics to fill our windows of the media center to welcome him. When he arrived, he was so impressed by how many of our students expressed their creativity through comic art.

Lincoln arrived a little bit early so he took time to sign the many books that we pre-sold through our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop. He also had one adoring fan spending recess time in the library, and Lincoln took time to chat with this student who has read all of the Big Nate comics. This student even drew a comic for Lincoln using Big Nate and his other favorite topic, the Titanic.

Before his chat with all of the students, Lincoln had just enough time to create a special Max drawing for our library. I’ve made it a habit now of framing an illustration from each illustrator who visits and is willing to leave behind an image. With 3 author/illustrator visits just this year, our walls are becoming a mini-museum.

A few lucky students arrived early and got to see Lincoln create the drawing.

In his presentation, he of course acknowledged Big Nate at the beginning because that’s what he’s famous for. I loved how when he showed each character from Big Nate, the kids shouted out their names. These illustrated novels have made quite an impact on many readers.

Lincoln then backed up and showed us where a lot of his inspiration has come from. He referenced books he read as a kid and many comics that inspired him. I’m always impressed when an author/illustrator shows things that they kept from their childhood, and it reminds me the importance of holding on to at least a few things from my own children each year.  He had drawings of Peanuts characters that he created and super heroes based on his love of Batman.

Lincoln took students up to the point where he created the Big Nate comic strip for newspapers and how it became wildly popular. We were all surprised when an image of another famous author made its way into Lincoln’s presentation because Jeff Kinney was a key player in how the comic strip turned into an illustrated novel series.

It was very evident that Lincoln has had a lot of fun moving away from the Big Nate novels to a new series. He’s coming up with so many new, fun characters that are based in medieval tales he’s read or watched in the past.  Students loved seeing how he took some small ideas and eventually turned them into a much longer story. He introduced them to all of these key players in the book without giving away any of the fun secrets from the book.

One of the most fun parts of Lincoln’s presentation was seeing him draw. He emphasized to students that the smallest lines and symbols convey big messages to the reader. A simple letter z tells you someone is sleeping. A slanted eyebrow can change a character’s emotion.

He drew one character on our whiteboard and then erased and drew over and over to show how small changes can make a big difference in the message you are sending to the reader. This was so helpful to our young artists and I can’t wait to see how this impacts the images, comics, and stories that they create.

After Lincoln’s visit, we rushed all of the signed copies to classrooms. Students immediately started opening them up to read. Students came in the next day buzzing about what they had read.

Our 6 copies of Max and the Midknights immediately got checked out and a “hold” list started to develop throughout the day. Every signed copy of Big Nate was also checked out right away. I started to get messages from parents whose kids came home and wouldn’t stop reading the book and stories of kids who went home and made their own comics. I heard stories from teachers who had students begging to have the book read aloud in class or to the be the first student to read the class copy of the book.

This is what an author visit does. It inspires students to create. It creates a buzz of conversation. It encourages readers to read and readers who haven’t found the right book yet try something new. Thank you to all publishers who send authors and illustrators to schools and bookstores. For this visit, thank you to Random House Kids & Crown Books for Young Readers for sending Lincoln Peirce to our school. Thank you to Avid Bookshop for advocating for this visit and for taking care of all of our presales of books. Finally, thank you to our amazing PTA who made sure every class in 2nd-5th grade received a copy of Max and the Midknights for their class library.  These books will make an impact for years to come.

 

Celebrating Seuss & Read Across America

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Every year, we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Seuss with guest readers reading his words in every classroom in our school.  This year, we had enough readers to send 2 guests to every class.  Many brought their own books, but we also had a big collection to choose from in the library.

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We thank so many members of our Barrow and local community for coming into our school to share stories with kids.  It’s important to see people sharing the power of words at every grade level.  Days like these remind us that you are never too old to enjoy a great picture book, have fun with words, and laugh out loud with friends when you get all tongue-tied.

Some of our readers this year came from UGA’s Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.  This was the fraternity that Dr. Seuss was a member of at Dartmouth.

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In addition to being readers, the fraternity brothers brought us some Elephant and Piggie books to add to our collection.  Each copy they donated was a Geisel Honor Book.  What a great way to honor Seuss and support literacy.  Thank you!

In addition to readers and having lots of Seuss books available to kids, I unboxed our latest book order from Bound to Stay Bound.  It was packed with graphic novels and many other fantastic books.  It didn’t take long for our ravenous readers to check out pretty much every graphic novel I ordered.  Some kids even returned a 2nd time to check out more.  Happy Read Across America!

Skyping with Capstone Press and their Graphic Novel Team

capstone graphic novel skype (2)Our 2nd grade spectrum students have been studying graphic novels.  We started by watching this video from Capstone Press.

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Then, students started looking at all of the graphic novels in our library and noticing elements of a graphic novel.  They identified speech bubbles vs. thought bubbles vs. captions.  They looked at the inking and colors chosen as well as the layout on the page.  After several days of exploring graphic novels, students began working on their own.  They go through a process of storyboarding, thumbnail sketches, etc.

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In our library, some of our favorite graphic novels are by Capstone Press.  We can’t keep Princess Candy on the shelves.  In addition to our print graphic novels, we have several simultaneous access ebooks that are graphic novels.

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Each year we try to think about experiences that we can offer the students in this project to support their development of their own stories.  Sometimes we have a  guest speaker come in and do some cartooning.  However, this year I reached out Amy Cox and the wonderful people at Capstone Press.  Amy connected me with Bob Lentz who works on graphic novels and Ashlee Suker who works on graphic nonfiction.

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This dynamic duo put together a presentation to show our students how a graphic novel is put together from the beginning to the end.  We got to see how the story is planned over a specific number of page layouts.  We saw how text fits into the various boxes on each layout.  From this text, we also got to see the instructions that are sent to an illustrator along with research links to inform the historical aspects of a nonfiction graphic.

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Every page that Ashlee showed got several oohs and ahhhs from students.  They loved to see how a character went from a thumbnail sketch to a full color character in the book.  It was also interesting to see the initial attempt at creating a character and how that character changed.  Sometimes the final character was a combination of several sketches put together.

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Bob and Ashlee paused a lot along the way for students to ask questions.  Some of their questions were about upcoming projects while others were about where ideas come from.  I loved when students thought about specific questions that would help them with their own project.  I also loved when Bob asked the students how many pages their graphic novels were going to be.  Answers ranged from 12 pages to a full box set of several graphic novels!

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Bob and Ashlee closed with a preview of upcoming Capstone titles for the fall.  The students saw a lot of books that they want in our library.  It was perfect timing because our student book budget group is about to start and graphic novels is once again a category that they will be purchasing books in.  These 2nd graders are sending their recommendations to this group, and I’m sure we’ll see several Capstone graphic novels on our shelves soon.  Thank you Capstone Press for being a continuing supporter of the programs we offer in our library.  You are appreciated!

A Lunch Lady Connection

Remember this post about our virtual comic workshop with Jarrett Krosoczka?  After the workshop, Jarrett read my blog post about how many students created comics as a result of the workshop.  He and I chatted via twitter and email about the event and how inspiring it was to my students (and students around the world who watched).

One of the neat stories from within our school related to this workshop involves Marquavious, a 5th grader.  He is a huge Lunch Lady fan and has read all of the books multiple times.  When I announced that teachers could send students to the library to view the virtual comic workshop, his teacher immediately signed him up.  Marquavious took it a step further, though.  He found other 5th graders who were also interested in comics, graphic novels, and lunch lady and worked with his teacher to arrange for all of them to attend the workshop during lunch.  

Now that I know about just how much Jarrett Krosoczka (and lunch lady) mean to Marquavious, I often share with him tweets and blog posts that I read from Jarrett.

Another amazing thing happened as a result of my blog post and the work students did during the virtual workshop.  Jarrett Krosoczka mailed us some of the original artwork that he created during the workshop, and he autographed it to our school!

Today, that artwork arrived in the mail.  As soon as I opened it, I went to get Marquavious.  He was beaming when he saw the art.  I let him take a look, and of course, took his picture with the pieces.  I told him we would frame them and hang them up in the library.  He asked if he could help me when I was ready to hang them up, and I of course said yes.

Making connections and opportunities like this for individual students is a huge part of the participatory culture of our library.  I push myself to look closer for these kinds of opportunities.  They are hard to catch, but when I notice them, they result in powerful learning and contributions that truly matter to the members of our library.

LL8 Virtual Comic Workshop with Jarrett Krosoczka

I have long been a fan of Jarrett Krosoczka’s illustrations and writing.  His Lunch Lady comics are among the most popular comics in our library.  I was thrilled to learn that he was doing a virtual comic workshop today via Ustream for free!  I advertised this to teachers a few weeks ago so that they could watch in their classroom or in the media center.

Today a small group of 3 students and their teacher came for the 10:00 session.

My largest group came for the 12:00 session.  In this group, I had 2nd grade Spectrum students who will be studying graphic novels very soon.  Last week, I did an exploration lesson with their class to identify some of the elements of graphic novels.  They began constructing some of their questions for Jarrett.  Later, they will read multiple graphic novels before constructing their own.  Another group that came at 12:00 came by choice.  One of Jarrett’s biggest fans, Marquavious, is a 5th grader at our school.  Marquavious re-read all of the Lunch Lady books to gear up for today’s webcast.  His teacher gave him permission to leave class to come, but he did some detective work and found several other 5th graders who wanted to participate in the workshop, too.  All of these students brought their lunch to the library and ate while they watched.  I also put drawing materials out on tables for them to draw their own comics along with Jarrett.  

All of this setup really helped us when Jarrett had technical difficulties at the 12:00 session.  Since the session was delayed until 12:30PM, I had time to have the students eat lunch, create mini-comics, and read some of Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta.  Even though the food ended up all over the tables and carpet, it just seemed appropriate to have lunchroom food during our virtual comic workshop.

Jarrett showed the kids some pages from his newest book, a sneak peak of the cover of his book coming out in April, and ended by creating a comic using ideas from all of the viewers tuning in.  The kids had a great time, and they were thrilled when they heard their suggestions read aloud by Jarrett and were even more over-the-top with excitement when he used one of their ideas in his comic.  Thanks for a great FREE event, Jarrett Krosoczka!

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