Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Just For Fun

In the new Pigmoose story, children visiting the Zoo learn about Protective Coloration. Pigmoose overhears and puts his new knowledge to use for our amusement. Learning something new is fun for children, adults, and Pigmooses.

When I finished writing and illustrating this story, I made up a short “game” to explain three different ways Protective Coloration helps animals survive. It’s a simple activity, but interactive and intriguing.

It gives children and their parents or teachers a quick opportunity to figure out answers together. No pressure. Not too much information. A learning moment to be enjoyed just for fun.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pigmoose Returns!

Now that Red Wrinkler and His Rowdy Cousins has been added to our Beantime Stories collection, I'm working on a new Pigmoose tale.

"It's long overdue," Susan reminded me. The last Pigmoose story was written in 2003!

This time,the Striped and Spotted Purple Pigmoose will learn about Protective Coloration and will try to use it to his own advantage. You might be able to spot him hiding behind the Jacaranda tree in the illustration above. I can't say much more today, but this interactive story will have a little science and a lot of humor. Watch for it in August.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gotta Dance!

Clipper and Shredder are hard workers, but they do have a lighter side. Sometimes they have to do silly dances. Red Wrinkler and His Rowdy Cousins is coming along nicely.

My process for this story may be a little unconventional. I'm making up the story, creating illustrations, editing and rewriting, all at the same time. I usually write a rough draft and draw simple sketches to work out a story. These Garden Pixie stories depend so heavily on photos from our garden, that I often have to look for a photographic "setting" and then draw the characters in appropriate poses to lay on top.

I am building the html pages at the same time. So, when I complete the last illustration and its accompanying text, I will also finish the last Web page. Then I'll go through and edit text and art as needed to make everything look and sound just right.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What, More Garden Pixies?

I'm working on a second Garden Pixies story and I thought you might enjoy a little behind-the-scenes reporting. This time you will meet Red Wrinkler and his Rowdy Cousins. I won't give away the plot yet (it's still evolving, anyway), but these are the guys who dispose of withering and dead flowers in the Spring and Summer and all the colorful leaves in the Fall. They're rough and tumble pixies who sometimes get into trouble. The photo/illustration above shows them hard at work taking an old Tulip apart. More to come in a few days.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Planting the Trees of Kenya

Evansville, Indiana, librarians and a few invited guests got together recently for a “Mock Caldecott” event. I filled in for Susan who could not attend. The purpose of the event was to meet days before the Caldecott Medal winner was announced, review likely candidates for the 2009 Medal, pick our favorites, and see if we picked the books that eventually won the Medal and runner up Caldecott Citations.

The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association. The award goes to the artist of the most distinguished picture book published that year.

We examined dozens of books and agreed on a handful of favorites. No, we didn’t pick the eventual Medal winner, a striking book illustrated by Beth Krommes called The House in the Night.

One of my favorites was a book written and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola, called Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai.

I loved the illustrations right away because I enjoy highly detailed images and excellent design, but the story really got to me. It’s the true story of an intelligent, dedicated, and courageous woman who accomplished so much for her people and the environment that she was awarded a Nobel Prize for Peace in 2004.

A radio interview with Wangari Maathai was broadcast this morning on public radio. A podcast of the interview is available on iTunes. Search for Speaking of Faith from American Public Media. The release date was April 30. Speaking of Faith also prepared an interesting Web site about Wangari Maathai.

Susan and I were so taken by this inspiring story that we read the book to two of our grandchildren’s grade school classes. They seemed to enjoy it. You will like it, too.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Surprising Subjects

I've been fascinated by photography since I was given a Brownie Hawkeye camera when I was eight or nine years old. The changes in technology since then have been astounding, and you don't have to worry about the cost of film and processing anymore, but the act of framing an image in a viewfinder and then capturing it hasn't lost its magic at all.

Last year I used a digital camera to shoot many of the flowers in our garden. The images were crisper and more lifelike than any pictures I had taken in the past. I put together a collection of images to show how buds formed and opened and put them on the site. See Spring Colors.

During the remainder of the year and through the winter, I continued taking pictures of trees and plants. Many were close-ups and, as you might imagine, they included spectacularly colorful details of fall leaves.

Since I watch for ideas for children's stories, it was easy to imagine creatures living in the colorful little world I was shooting. That led to the idea of "capturing" garden pixies with my camera. To accomplish as much as they do, they have to move quickly. So a fast shutter speed is required. Above are some photos. In one, you just might see a pixie. Maybe if I increase the shutter speed some more? See The Spring Flower Show to see what I found.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Meet Mr. Squared Pine

Now and then we receive envelopes from teachers bursting with terrific stories submitted to our Young Writers Workshop. Usually, these are based on our Story Starters. Reading them all is great fun. Picking one or two to publish is a terrible task. If we could, we would publish every one.

Students and their teacher in from Pierre, South Dakota, sent a collection of stories in March, last year. We picked a story by Eden W. and published it in April. We wanted to publish them all.

In May, we received an envelope full of stories from a second grade class in Eugene, Oregon. Since the beginning of the school year, they practiced skills such as brainstorming, peer editing, paragraph structure and the use of dialogue. They used all those skills preparing a wonderful group of stories based on our Story Starters. We chose one from Zoe P. to publish in June.

Last summer, another big envelope arrived, this time from Ilford, Essex, U.K. This teacher works with a wider age range of students. She invited the children to read Frogwart and the Tooth Fairies and Frogwart and the Easter Eggs. They studied the characters and discussed their personalities and behaviors and the settings I had illustrated. Then they set out to write and illustrate their own stories about Frogwart and Tippity Witchet. We selected stories by Sreram R. and Garthika S. to publish in August. Mr. Squared Pine is one of Garthika's wonderful characters.

Though most of the stories we receive are submitted individually by parents, we were intrigued by the ways these teachers used our simple Story Starters and other content from our site.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Welcome to our blog!

Like many people, Susan and I love to spend time on the beach. The sun, sand and ocean breezes are wonderfully refreshing. Away from email, cellphones, and our daily distractions, we can read a good book, look for shells, or play in the sand with our children and grandchildren if they happen to be along. We can also spend time thinking about and how to make it more engaging and helpful for children, parents, teachers and librarians.

So we thought we would invite you to join us on this virtual beach to share your ideas and experiences using our content with young children. Other parents and early childhood professionals are sure to benefit from your comments. We will be happy to learn what works and what doesn’t. 

A second purpose of this blog to let you see “behind the scenes” as we work on the site. We’ll use this space to preview ideas and show you sketches of content that’s being developed. No telling what you might see.

Thanks for visiting Chateau Meddybemps. Please comment as you see fit. Don’t forget your sun block.