Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Star-Crossed Readers

I recently just finished "The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie" by Wendy McClure. I absolutely loved it. I loved that it was about Little House. I loved the love of Laura.  I loved the author's voice and vision. Also, I  am completely convinced we would be dear friends if she lived in Ann Arbor. (Why did her book tour skip my town? I would have hosted on our deck, passing out tin cups, pennies, and peppermint sticks!)

And then I found out that all the while that  I was reading about Little House and entering Laura-land, Claude was, too. She had been enjoying the My First Little House Books Series with her teacher, Pat. I had always poo-pooed this series as "not-quite" Little House books. Cheater books, really-- like Little House Cliff's Notes. Shamefully, I admit I never even read one before this dismissal.
Then Claude started bringing them home and I was asked to read them. And being as sweet as Ma Ingalls, read them I did. Was I ever surprised! The books are so lovely; the pairing of illustrations in the style of Garth Williams and simple text that rolls off your tongue and captures the essence of Little House in a way that a small child can understand is just delightful. Being 3 1/2, Claude's grasp of days long past is not terribly developed, but she gets these. She gets Laura.

I like to think that Claude and I are are perhaps reading soulmates, and wondering if perhaps Blaine and I should have named her Laura rather than Claudia.

How incredible that all these feelings started with a book.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kangaroo Krazy


Last month, we escorted Colby, a Guest of Honor, to the Hands On Museum Creature Feature and met this lovely lady:

After that, a lot of things changed around here.  First, Claude switched from wanting to be Madeleine to wanting to be a Kangaroo for Halloween. This was quite fortunate; we actually owned a Kangaroo suit in her size since Fran dressed up as Roo when he was three.  (And then I was off the hook as dressing up as Miss Clavel...) It also sparked a new book study project for Claudia: Kangaroo Books!

Here are some of Claude's Favorite Kangaroo Books:

Blue Kangaroo Series by Emma Chichester Clark (These are her absolute favorites!)
Pouch! by David Ezra Stein
Katy No-Pocket by Emmy Payne and H.A. Rey
Elmer and the Kangaroo by David McKee
I Love it When You Smile by Sam McBratney
A Kangaroo Joey Grows Up by Joan Hewitt
What Do You Do With a Kangaroo? by Mercer Mayer
Does a Kangroo Have a Mother, Too? by Eric Carle

Little Kangaroo, cheeks stuffed with jelly beans.

The way Claude has hooked into Blue Kangaroo books is just amazing.  She's like a 3-year-old- walking minilesson on strategies for having books on deck: read around a topic, read about a character, or follow a series...

Her love of kangaroos has made me very "hoppy"!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

That's Funny

A conversation at our house:

Claude: Pretend you're my mom.

Me: I am your mom.

Claude: (Looking at my like I am a moron.) I know...but 'tend I am a girl and you are my mom.

Me:  I can do that, but it's a little funny because you are a girl and I am your mom.

Claude: (Pauses and looks at me without speaking.  Sighs.) Just 'tend that you're my mom.

Me: OK. I think I will be good at that.

Claude: (Nods and walks away.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jan Brett

Jan talking about her new book at AADL.
Tonight we went to see Jan Brett and Hedgie at the downtown library.  We got there early and had great seats, right in the front.  Having thought so much about Katie Ray's In Pictures and In Words (illustration study in writing workshop), I loved hearing (and seeing) Jan's demonstration about the power of eyes in a story.  She did a quick demonstration where she would turn around, make an expression, and cover her face before turning around to reveal only her eyes.  The kids in the audience were all yelling out what expressions she was making- by seeing only her eyes.  It seems like a small thing to consider, but grounding stories and characters with their emotions is a powerful strategy all writers can try- even 6 year-old writers.

Fran and I meeting Hedgie.
She talked a lot about making art accessible with some how-to's and tips. I tucked the drawing tips away for future writing lessons: starting something with a shape, planning a picture (leaving space for antlers!), drawing something part by part, studying something to draw it, working on drawing every day, holding a picture in a mirror to check the image for balance and composition, considering materials (pencils for shading, watercolors, markers), how different kids of lines have different effects (especially helpful with fur), and adding details until the work feels complete- like it's all ready for you to step into the scene.

Claude...simply enthralled.

Getting our book signed!

It's amazing how much teaching was tucked into her conversation!  Thanks, Jan Brett, AADL, and Nicola's Books!

Don't forget to check out the Swedish moose antler!