Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Hostess with Da Mostest

As the morning progressed the fun continued to unfold in wave after wave of delight. Here you see my hostess, Danielle Vaughan joining me up on stage for the introduction of my picture book, "Tall Giraffe" to her eager students. Of course my costume adds to the hilarity and everyone's eager to get started. We're reading, we're singing, we're signing, we're smiling. The very best way to share a book is to get everyone involved. That's my motto: everyone involved! I think you can see we did indeed have everyone joining in the fun.

In those final pictures I'm reading the 'welcome' book that Danielle created for me as a gift to remember our time together. It's not always that I'm given a book from my wee ones. Danielle's mom wrote the words and they created the art together, by using photos from my blog. It's a real keeper!!
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Monday, May 30, 2011

Head Start Happiness!

"To love what you do and feel that it matters--
how could anything be more fun?"
--Katherine Graham

Truer words have never been spoken! I do indeed LOVE what I do!!! I absolutely feel that it/my work, matters..... in fact I KNOW that it matters!! I have listened to brain-research doctorates expound on just why my work is critical to young children. I'm not sure there actually is anything else that could be more fun, or more worthwhile? I love being invited into a classroom of children and having the opportunity to 'work' with them and see how excited they get, how easily they are engaged and how dramatically they become immersed in our time together. I love watching the teachers watch their children. I love looking at the photos after the fact and witness all over again just how much fun was had by all.

One of the universal early childhood early-learning content standards and goals, [no matter where you live, no matter your job description, no matter if you are the mommy or the teacher or the college professor of early childhood education,] is that we want the child/children to attend to the adult, to listen and to follow directions. Looking at these photos weeks weeks later, I can see again how these children gave me their full and complete attention and see how they followed my lead. Look at all of that eye contact. Look at all of those listening ears following my verbal instructions. Look at all of that bodily control. Yeah rah!!! Yeah team!!!
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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bright Eyed Smiles!

Here's what a whole classroom full of happiness looks like -- up-close!! Danielle had introduced my songs and my books ahead of my visit so the children really welcomed me as a Diva-in-their-midst. That sort of adoration was a first for me in the Florida classroom setting. Thanks so much to the Titusville Head Start, for listening to Danielle and setting up all of the details for this fun to unfold. We're just getting warmed up here and putting our smiles on our faces, stretching and getting ready for a southern-style-song fest.
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Titusville, FL Flashback

It's time to attempt to catch up on the missing weeks of my spring here in blog-central. It's time to continue on our Delorean time-machine trip back through the spring-season and fill in the missing chapters. Before we took off for Europe, I flew from the Reading Council in Illinois back to Florida and then we hopped in the car and continued heading on south to the beachside city of Titusville. I had received a very special invitation to spend time on the beach and eat the biggest crab legs on earth in a trade for singin' with the most amazing kids we could find in Danielle's program. Here we are splashing and laughing and eating and smiling.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Marvel Marble Master-Pieced

When I visit classrooms as an "author" on nearly every visit someone asks me what its like..... what is it like to be an author? Just last week on my final kindergarten visit of the school year, during our very formal game of questions-for-the-author, one of the students asked me, "how many states have you visited with your new book?" My answer in that forum is usually pretty succinct due to the time pressures at hand, but I attempt to convey the magic-carpet miracle of such a status -- as the 'mommy' of a book. Last Friday with a smart-board at hand we were able to pull up the map of the United States and I could point to lots of states I have been in this year alone: from Utah to NY and CA to FL!! Then we needed to find the world's map so I could show them Germany & Italy, too!! It's been an amazing year for my author travels.

What does NOT get told in that immediate circle-time rug interaction is how when you're an author-illustrator, people have the opportunity to respond to your ideas when you're not even in the room!!! That's one of the biggest impacts of having your work between hard covers.... the book becomes an ambassador for your ideas and you don't necessarily need to be on hand for your ideas to have an impact. With the muscle of the Internet I can even look over the shoulders of students responding to my illustration's prompts and then share those interactions and their hard work with you! That's what it's like to be an author. Children you've never met can read your book and get inspired!

One of my favorite quotes comes from the time I was fortunate to hear author/illustrator Vera B. Williams address the NAEYC conference during her keynote. She was 72 at the time and we were in Atlanta when I was privileged to hear her say to the ten thousand in the audience, "Teachers, you are the mid-wives of my ideas." At the time as I wrote her words into my notebook, I could feel goose-bumps on my arms. How brilliantly true! It is the teachers (and the librarians and the center directors and the professors and the parents and the grand-parents and the babysitters and the uncles and aunts and the big sisters and brothers and the cousins and the library patrons) who bring my work to life. Literally to life! All while selecting my particular book from the shelf of many choices and then turning the pages, reading to an eager audience.

The pictures in today's post were sent to me by Carie Rameriz, created from her unique perspective and wearing both of her significant hats as current kindergarten teacher and Army NCO. In this case, she is the mid-wife to my idea. She has directed this perfect response to my work, to my quilted illustrations in "Red, White and Blue." Carie has combined her expertise in young children with her first hand service to our country in Iraq and then coupled those insights with the prompts of my quilted illustrations to create a lasting master-pieced marvel that will live in the hearts of her young students for a lifetime. From Washington School Elementary in Dixon, Illinois -- a place that I have never stepped foot, my book and it's song are being read, sung, signed and immortalized because Carie acted the role of 'midwife' and brought my idea to life. She then went the brilliant extra-mile documented above and created a living masterpiece through the hands of her five & six year old artists.

And that, my friends, is what it's like to be an author & illustrator. As we approach Memorial Day this weekend I can watch the parade pass, knowing that my individual efforts have also made a contribution and had an impact. My work has gained a foothold. Indeed my little dittie has gone on to become a legacy that can travel well beyond where I have personally visited. Here is the evidence that my picture book has the power to excite children to participate in an ambitious and industrious project, unleashing untold amounts of effort & energy, that can showcase their pride in being American. All of that is possible because of the power of one. The power of one mid-wife with one book. Yup. That's what it's like to be an author boys and girls. Truly and simply amazing, that's what it's like. Sometimes I just pinch myself it's so awesome.

Thank you Carie for your service to our country. Your service in uniform, away from your brand new husband, having just said your vows, deployed around the world into the center of strife to teach, to teach your Army company. And then just as significant, for you to return to your loved one stateside and continue serving our country by continuing your teaching, this time with youngsters eager for your unique experience to direct their days. I am the one blessed to tell just a little bit of your story. How fortunate we are to have made an impact on one another. Um-hmmmmm. That's what it's like to be an author!!!

P.S. I have the feeling this is not the end of this particular story. This kindergarten quilt was last photographed at a size of 6' by 12' and I understand that it is still growing!! The school laminator is not large enough to laminate this marvel. I've suggested that Carie seek some sort of permanent manner to display the quilt. Plexiglas perhaps? We'll see what she invents, what grant she will need to secure for such a solution. In a perfect world I would one day be in Dixon IL having my picture taken with Carie and her kiddos in front of this artwork and we would be singing our hearts out, at a minimum they will be first graders by that point in time.

P.P.S. I'll be posting Carie's class singing the song, in front of their quilt -- just as soon as that's filmed and posted to YouTube.

P.P.P.S. Thanks to Zaner-Bloser for sponsoring my visit to IL-IRA where Carie and I were introduced to one another. It does indeed take a village.

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Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!

Thanks for your support! I am so appreciative of your pins!
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