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.

 

 

The Story of Our Names: A Grandparent’s Day Experience

Last year, our PTA started hosting a Grandparent’s Day coffee hour at our school. Grandparents gather in the cafeteria for coffee and donuts, chat with their grandchildren, and listen to a short program. Following the program, there are opportunities for photos and school tours.

I love being a part of this special event. Both years, I’ve read a grandparent-related story during the program. Last year, it was Last Stop on Market Street. This year, I read Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal. It is a story of a girl who thinks her name is way too long, but then her dad tells her the story of each part of her name. Alma realizes that she has connections to every part of her name and no longer feels like it doesn’t fit. I loved that when I read this special story about where a name comes from that the cafeteria filled with hundreds of grandparents and grandchildren got silent and attentive.

At the close of the book, I shared the author note at the back which ends with a question: “What is the story of your name? What story would you like to tell?” With that question, I invited grandparents to stop by the library to chat with their grandchild about family names and where they came from. We tried to capture a few of these stories on video, but the more important thing was just having the conversation.

I also selected several books to place on tables for grandparents and grandchildren to read together. It was so special to look around and see families huddled together around books reading. Even though it was crowded an bustling in the library, families were having special moments all around the library.

So many people came up to me to tell me how special the book Alma was to them. I loved that we all made our own connections around this story and the importance of names. I hope this created a spark for many families and they will continue to talk about family traditions and names with even more members of the family.

A Visit with Kate Beasley

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Thanks to Avid Bookshop and MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group, we had the great fortune of celebrating the book birthday of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness with the author.  Our 3rd-5th grade all got to come to Kate’s presentation. We did lots of work leading up to the visit to write about great people in our lives as well as read the beginning of the book.

Kate traveled to our school with her wonderful publicist, Mary Van Akin.  When Kate arrived, she took time to look at all of the student writing in the windows.  Mary and Kate both took lots of pictures of the students’ “great people”.  I also had birthday balloons, Twinkies, and Gertie balloons to celebrate the book’s birthday.

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We were sure to take a picture with those to remember the day.

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Prior to the students’ arrival, Kate got busy signing all of the books.  Thanks to our PTA, ever classroom received copies of the books to put in class libraries.  Students are always eager to read the book after an author visit, so many teachers will read the book aloud while some will give the book to eager students to read and pass around to other students.  The library will also have 6 copies of the book for checkout and I’m sure that they will stay checked out for a long time.

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We kicked off the author visit by singing “Happy Birthday” to Gertie.  It was a rambunctious version of the song, but I’m sure Gertie would have loved it.  Then, Kate jumped into her presentation.  It’s always a treat to hear from an author because you get a window into their life to see where ideas come from.

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Kate also gave the students a lot of tips on what it means to be a writer and shared the huge stack of rewrites and revisions of Gertie. She also showed students what it looked like when various editors sent feedback to her to make changes.  Students were very surprised to see that she worked on the book for over 3 years before it came to be in our hands.

I loved that Kate read from Gertie and chose a part near the end of the book that students hadn’t read yet.  She read the part where Gertie goes to the office to take a note but the secretary forgets to give Gertie a chocolate for delivering the note.  It puts Gertie in a tricky situation where she has to make a decision about the tempting chocolate in front of her.  It was once of those scenes that leaves readers wondering, so I’m sure many students will be eager to read the book to see what happens in that scene.

At the end of her presentation students had a chance to ask questions and then participate in an activity on specificity.

Kate asked students to look at some parts of a sentence and try to come up with more specific details to make the sentence more descriptive and interesting.

Kate Beasley is now off on a big tour for Gertie’s Leap to Greatness.  We are so honored that we got to be one of her first two stops.  I can’t wait to see how readers at our school and across the country react to this wonderful book.

Thank you Avid Bookshop, MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group, and Kate Beasley for a very special day in our library.

A Visit with the Amazing Henry Cole

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When I saw that Henry Cole was coming to Avid Bookshop for a special storytime, I knew that we just had to get him to our school. I started chatting with the Avid and Peachtree Publishers teams to see how we could make it happen.

Henry Cole (2)Henry Cole is the author and illustrator of more books than I can list here. A few of the books he illustrated include:

  • Three Hens and a Peacock by Lester Laminack
  • And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  • I Know a Wee Piggy by Kimberly Norman

Books he has written and illustrated include:

  • A Nest for Celeste
  • Unspoken
  • Big Bug
  • On a Meadowview Street

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Henry Cole’s newest book comes out in April. The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine is a tale of a mouse who is sent into the air in a remote control airplane that crashes into the woods. There his adventure begins as he goes on a quest to find his way home and meets many helpful friends along the way. As a part of his special visit, the publisher allowed our students to purchase the book before it comes out in April. Our fabulous PTA purchased 3 copies of the book for each classroom n grades 2-4.

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During Henry’s visit, he told stories from his childhood, which revealed to us the many places that where he gets his ideas. Rather than taking questions from the audience, he anticipated the typical questions that authors and illustrators often get and wove those into his presentation through storytelling. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a speaker quite as animated as Henry Cole. He yelled, whispered, shrieked, danced, and leaped across the front of the library as he told stories of being pushed off the roof in a makeshift airplane and getting giddy with excitement at art assignments in school. Across the course of his presentation, we knew where Sammy Shine came from, where the inspiration for A Nest for Celeste originated, and how grueling it is to get boxes upon boxes of questions from editors to improve writing. He connected this to the same process that students go through when they get feedback from their teachers. We heard how many revisions a single illustration in a book can go through and that when something isn’t quite right, you just do it again.

For a solid hour, our students rolled in floor from laughing but then hooked right back in to Henry’s presentation. It was magical. He closed his time by illustrating two pieces of art choreographed to a soundtrack.

We are so excited to have these two pieces on display in our library now.

We want to thank Peachtree Publishers and Avid Bookshop for making this happen. Please take a moment to check out Henry Cole’s website. His new book can be purchased at Avid Bookshop. If you don’t get it now, then look for it in April and purchase it from your local bookstore.

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Little Elliot Big Family: A Visit with Mike Curato

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We have been excited since the very beginning of this year about author/illustrator Mike Curato visiting our school.  Thanks to Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, and Avid Bookshop, our local independent bookshop, Mike visited all of our Prek-2nd grade classes.  We all read Little Elliot, Big City during library orientation this year, so we were super excited to meet the person who created it.

On field day, students created a massive window display of Little Elliot and cupcakes.  They worked for 30 minutes designing their own special cupcake.  They also added dots to a collaborate Little Elliot.  Many volunteers worked to get all of the cupcakes and elephants onto our windows to celebrate the author visit.

The display has been so much fun to look at and watch students searching for their dots and cupcakes.

It was a busy time at our school during the visit because it is also our fall book fair.  Instead of having our visit in the library, we moved everything to the cafeteria stage.

Students enjoyed a reading of Mike Curato’s new book Little Elliot, Big Family.

Mike had the book’s pages displayed on the large screen so that students could easily see what he was reading from the book.  They were mesmerized by the story and were such careful listeners.

After his story, Mike shared some slides and stories about how he works as an author and illustrator.  Students saw sketches beside finished artwork as well as a time lapse of a drawing being created.  He also showed students pictures of how Little Elliot has changed through the years.  He has been drawing him for several years, and he has gone through some changes along the way.  We also saw sketches of some of Mike’s early artwork, which was a wonderful connection for our young learners to see how work they are doing right now could inspire a future career or hobby.

Students even got to see the cover of next year’s Elliot book Little Elliot, Big Fun.

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Next, Mike worked with the entire room to create 3 pages of a new story.  He wrote a sentence to start the story: “Elliot went to school”.  Then, he drew Elliot on the page and let the students take it from there.  They suggested things to add to the picture and Mike added them in.  For the next 2 pages, Mike took suggestions from the audience about what Elliot should do.  Students decided he would read a book and go to lunch.  Once again, Mike added details to the drawing that were suggestions straight from the audience.  The best part was that we got to keep the 3 drawings to enjoy in our library!

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Finally, students got to ask questions.  Mike jumped right out into the audience with the students to take their questions and give thoughtful answers.  The kids were so attentive during the whole process.

Before Mike left, he took time to sign all of the books purchased by students.  Our incredible PTA bought a copy of each book for every PreK-2nd grade classroom, so he signed those as well.

He also took time to look at the big window display and marvel at the students’ creativity.  If you ever get the chance to have Mike Curato at your school, don’t hesitate.  He was wonderful and the kids and teachers have talked about it all day.  Be sure to check out both of his Elliot books, add them to your home and school collections, and enjoy the many positive messages that your sure to take after reading the books with kids.

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Thank you Mike Curato and Avid Bookshop for a wonderful day!  We can’t wait to reconnect once the Polka Dot Express arrives at our school soon!

Creating Hype for an Author Visit: Circus Mirandus

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We are over the moon with excitement that Cassie Beasley is coming to our school on September 3 thanks to her, her publisher Penguin Random House, and Avid Bookshop.  Sometimes author visits happen at the last minute, but this one has been in the works since the summer.  I read the book and fell in love with the story.  Even before I was done, I was talking with Avid Bookshop about the possibility of Cassie coming to our school.  We created a proposal together, and many emails and conversations later the visit was scheduled.

As a part of my proposal, I suggested that our PTA would buy a copy of the book for all 3rd-5th grade homerooms.  The book would be available to students to read or the teacher could even read it aloud.  I’m excited to say that our entire 3rd grade is reading the book aloud and many of the 5th grade classes are starting it. During our library orientation, I read aloud the beginning chapter of the book as well as the beginning of the chapter starting on p. 65 which details how Ephraim first made it into Circus Mirandus.  We learn that you can’t pay to get into the circus but must instead offer something of your own to the ticket taker.  For Ephraim, it’s a fish from his boot which results in a week-long pass to the circus.

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Reading from the book is enough to create hype because it’s just that good.  However, a circus theme as well as the contents of the book lend to some other fun opportunities for students to engage with the book ahead of the author visit.  Our wonderful PTA also bought 20 additional copies of the book to be given out at our discretion.  I’ve decided to give 10 of these away to students who participate in 2 opportunities in the library.

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The first opportunity is to think about what your ticket into Circus Mirandus would be.  I’m encouraging students to either make, bring in, or even take a picture of the object they would offer as their ticket.  I made a short ticket template for them to fill out with their name, ticket description, and how long they think the ticket would be good for at the circus.

We are displaying these on the tops of the library shelves.  When they turn in their “ticket”, I give them a ticket to put their name on and drop into our fish bowl.

The second opportunity is a photo booth.  I made a backdrop of red with quotes from the book.  I covered a table and cushion with a gold tablecloth and filled an empty Mariah Carey perfume container with fuzzy pom poms to look like gum balls.  Then, I ordered a set of circus photo booth props from Oriental Trading.  I put all of this together and included the wearable books from Capstone which contain beards, hats, masks, and teeth.  If students take their picture in the photo booth, then they earn another ticket into the drawing for a book.  I plan to print out the photographs and display them on the library windows.

Before the author visit, I will draw out 10 names and announce the winners so that Cassie can autograph the book for them.

Along the way, I’m tweeting about our fun and tagging Avid Bookshop, Cassie Beasley, and the publisher so that they can all follow along in the fun.

I have some other special decorations in the works, which I plan to complete this week.  I’ll keep those under wraps for now.

I’ve been emailing with Cassie and planning the visit.  I know that it is truly going to be a magical experience for us all when she comes.

A Visit with Illustrator R. Gregory Christie

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We have such an amazing community.  Anytime we have a wish or a dream that we put out there, we somehow find a way to make it happen. This year, our supportive PTA budgeted money for us to have a school-wide author or illustrator visit.  These types of visits are huge learning experiences for our students because they connect them to the real people behind the books on our shelves and inspire their own art and stories.  Author/illustrator visits are hard to do for an entire school every year because they take a lot of financial support to pay speaking fees and travel for the author/illustrator.  I am so thankful that our PTA brought Gregory Christie to our school this year for every grade.

From R. Gregory Christie’s site:

R. Gregory Christie has been working as an illustrator for over 20 years.

He has illustrated over fifty books,as well as collaborated with clients

such as The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Vibe, The Wall Street Journal,

The New York Times, The Kennedy Center, Pete Seeger, Queen Latifah ,

and Karyn Parsons on a variety of projects.

Our day kicked off with Kindergarten and 1st grade in their own sessions.  Mr. Christie took time to read a bit of A Chance to Shine and talk about how he connects the text of the story to his art.  What the students in these grades loved the most was seeing an illustration come to life before their eyes.  It was like magic.  Mr. Christie got the students to come up with some drawing ideas.  They wanted a cat.  Then he asked them to think about more details, so they added a bad cat from Korea.  Using these details, he started to draw.  He constantly checked in with them to see if his drawing was matching the text.  If it wasn’t, they gave him reminders and held him accountable for what to draw.  I loved how he connected this to what an editor does.

During our 1st grade visit, we had a bit of excitement: a real fire emergency.  We all had to evacuate while fire trucks and firefighters came to investigate our building.  The kids were fantastic, and Mr. Christie was so flexible with this unexpected part of our day.  First grade came back in for a few more minutes and we adjusted our schedule for the rest of the day.

Our 2nd and 3rd graders had a chance to really study some paintings and consider the mood of them.  They also compared two paintings to see what was similar and different.

These students loved it when Mr. Christie drew the face of Jazz Baby but then let students come up and collaborate on the drawing to help tell a story.  They only had  few seconds to add to the drawing.  He started asking them to be accountable for their work by telling what they were trying to achieve by drawing what they did.  After several students, he came in and added his own twist to the drawing.

Mr. Christie visited both PreK classes individually and read Jazzy Baby and A Chance to Shine.  Then, he took time to draw Jazz Baby and some other things like birds and dogs.  The kids loved having those illustrations left in their class.  My favorite part of this time was when the PreK students were able to show him their artwork and talk about what they did in their own artwork that was inspired by his artwork.  This was so empowering for our smallest students.

In our 4th and 5th grade, students had a special treat.  They saw Mr. Christie’s first book that he has written and illustrated.  It isn’t published yet, but they were treated to parts of the F & G version of the book.  He also took them through several of the books and how the illustrations came together.  Students saw the very first book that Gregory Christie did called Palm of My Heart.  It was great to see this first book side by side with the newest book to see how his illustrations changed or stayed the same.  Students shared a lot about why Mousetropolis stood out to them with its cute mice and its vibrant colors.  These students were also treated to a special video production that is yet to be released about an African American ballet performer.  It was a session full of special opportunities for our students.

I loved capturing some words from Gregory Chrisitie throughout the day.  Students heard:

“When a book starts it’s a manuscript.  When the book it comes to me.  The words can help you feel that it’s an upbeat bright colored book.”

“It’s graphic.  You see a lot of negative and positive space.”

It takes about a year to do a book.

Body language is important when you are illustrating a book.

I know these students will remember this visit for years to come.  We now have all of our Gregory Christie books autographed and ready for checkout in the library.  Thank you again to our PTA for this opportunity, and thank you Avid Bookshop for helping with our book sales.