Friday, December 11, 2015

A Visit With Jan Brett

Emmy and I had the pleasure of meeting Jan Brett in Portsmouth, New Hampshire during her eighteen day cross country book tour. Jan was promoting her new book The Turnip, but to Emmy and me, she was promoting the love of books and art.  Watching the tour bus pull into the parking lot was so much fun.  We imagined traveling on this large bus with the gorgeous illustrations painted on the exterior and wondered what people's reactions were when they saw it on the road.
When Jan Brett stepped up onto the stage, the excitement in the crowd was electric.  Seeing not only the children's faces light up, but also the adult's faces is a true testament to this woman's work as an artist.  Jan's depictions of animals and human cultures are full of colorful detail.  Through her extensive travels (from Scandinavia to Africa), Jan is able to vividly create artwork that makes the reader of her books feel as if they could walk right into the book page.  As a matter of fact, Jan herself has said in several interviews that she keeps on painting until she can hear the sounds, smell the smells, and feel how soft the fur of the animal is.  She has said that it takes her an hour to draw an inch!

Emmy and I were so grateful to Jan Brett for taking the time to connect with the audience through her quiet storytelling and drawing demonstration.  Watching the Badger Girl come to life right before our eyes was absolutely amazing.


It was through Jan's travels in Russia, as well as a simple carved wooden toy of three people and a bear pulling up a turnip given to her by a friend, that the retelling of the story The Turnip was realized.  For a more detailed review of this beautifully illustrated book, check out our previous post HERE.

Luckily for us, Jan brought back a pair of birch bark shoes from Russia and has been sharing them on her tour. These shoes served as a model for the shoes worn by the badger characters in the story. She also had a surprise for us...her beloved Dutch Bantams also came along on the tour ~ Rueben her rooster and Rilke her hen!   Here is something new that we learned about Jan Brett ~ she raises chickens for show!  She has been reading tons of books about poultry genetics to try to better understand the color patterns found on chickens.

There are so many wonderful retellings of this classic folk tale, some better than others.  Emmy and I enjoyed Jan's take on this story especially with the addition of the bear family under the ground.  We hope you will pick up a copy of The Turnip to see what you think of Jan's version.

Thank you, Jan Brett, for sharing your passion with us!  
Emmy will never forget your kind words to keep her creative spirit always.  

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Costumes Inspired by Children's Books - Part Two

In my last post I shared how book characters can become very creative costumes for Halloween or for Children's Book Week.  Since that time, I sat down with my little reader and asked her to remember some of her favorite picture book characters and then we discussed which of these characters would make interesting costumes.  Here are seven of Emmy's choices:

1)  Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Emmy has always loved the adventures that Harold went on through his purple drawings.  She said that this costume would be easy to put together. "Well, just get a white shirt and draw on it with a purple fabric marker and then carry a purple crayon around with you." Here is a really cute image that I found on the  web that shows how this could become a family costume.

2) Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola 

Strega Nona has been a favorite character of Emmy's for a long time.  When she was very little and we were cooking butter noodles or spaghetti for dinner, she would always say "Enough, enough pasta pot!" and would blow three kisses into our magic pasta pot.  Emmy suggests wearing a long dress with an apron, a scarf on your head and carrying a pot with yarn for noodles. Here is the most adorable image of this costume idea!
3)  A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

The friendly bear from deepest, darkest Peru with his battered suitcase and duffle coat would make a super cute costume according to Emmy.  Grab a blue coat, a red hat and a some sort of suitcase and you are all set.  Oh, don't forget to pack a marmalade sandwich!"  Here are two inspiring images for this fun costume.  

4)  The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

I love this book for its portrayal of a strong girl character who just happens to be a princess.  Emmy loves the reversal of the princess and the prince role.  After the prince tells the girl to go home and come back when she looks more like a princess, Emmy would always exclaim quite loudly,  "That Ronald is a real bum!  I'm glad Elizabeth didn't marry him."  I agree!  Here is Emmy's advice on how to create a Princess Elizabeth costume:  wear a white or black long sleeved shirt and leggings then get a large brown grocery bag and cut out holes for your head and your arms and wear this over your clothes, be sure to make a princess crown out of yellow paper. Check out this cute image! 

5)  Olivia by Ian Falconer

When Emmy was little, we would read the book Olivia over and over again. Her favorite page was the one that showed Olivia getting dressed in all of her red outfits.  Whenever Emmy wore red she would claim to be Olivia.  If you are interested in this costume then Emmy suggests to get a headband and attach pig ears, paint your nose with a pink circle and two black slots to look like a snout, then wear black and white striped leggings, a red dress, black shoes and be sure to accessorize with a red bow and a red pair of sunglasses! Here's a picture for inspiration.

6)  Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Emmy would laugh and laugh at the monkeys in this book.  She loved to repeat the sound that the monkeys made and could often be found putting all of her hats on her head and saying rather loudly, "Caps, caps for sale.  Fifty cents a cap!"  Here is Emmy's idea of how to become the peddler in this story - wear grey pants and a black jacket with a bow tie, stack as many hats as you can on top of your head (use safety pins to attach them together), draw a mustache above your upper lip and carry a stuffed monkey or two around with you.

7) The Jolly Postman by Allan and Janet Ahlberg

Delivering mail was always one of Emmy's favorite activities when she was little.  She would find one of my purses and put it on like a mail bag and fill it with papers that she had drawn on.  She would then pretend to deliver the mail all over the house.  After we read The Jolly Postman, her play became a retelling of this story as she created letters to nursery rhyme and fairy tale characters and delivered them "all across fairy tale land" as she called it.  Emmy suggests that you wear a big blue coat or shirt, a red and white striped scarf, a blue hat and boots.  Be sure to fill a mail bag with letters and maybe even walk your bike with you!  Here is a photo that should get your creative juices going.  

We hope that you are inspired by our book character costumes and would love to hear your ideas, too!  Leave a comment and let's see if we can grow this list of costume ideas!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Costumes Inspired by Children's Books - Part One

Halloween is just around the corner and answers to the question, "What are you going to be for Halloween?" can be heard all around me.  I have always been inspired by characters in books when it came down to creating a costume.  When I taught elementary school, celebrating Halloween through book characters was the way to go.  One year I was Ms. Frizzle from the The Magic School Bus series followed by The Rainbow Fish the next year, another year I was the tree in Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and even portrayed Miss Nelson from Miss Nelson is Missing! with a costume change midday to Miss Viola Swamp.  Somewhere among my teaching memories are photographs of these costumes.  As going through my storage unit in search of these photos is not on the agenda today, I am instead including some photos I found on the web that might inspire you to become one of these characters.

Another great time to dress up as a book character is during Children's Book Week.  Usually celebrated at the beginning of May, it's a great time to to bring books to life in your classroom or at home.  I remember one year when a little girl in my class came dressed as the main character in The Bad Case of Stripes.  Her mom meticulously painted stripes on her face, neck and arms.  She wore striped tights, a pink dress and a bow in her hair. It was awesome!  Here are two inspiring photos found on the web of that idea. 
Emmy's early Halloween costumes were inspired a bit by book characters as well as her personality. On her first Halloween she was Tigger.  This was inspired by her bouncy time in Mommy's belly and her need to move throughout her early months as well as our love of all things Winnie the Pooh.  Next up was a lion inspired by the book The Happy Lion (she loved exclaiming, "Bonjour Happy Lion" and "Au Revoir Happy Lion") as well as her ability to ROAR on command.  On her third Halloween, Emmy was a clown inspired by a recent trip to the circus as well as the book Circus Caps for Sale (she loved the page where the clowns were using the caps in their act).  Click HERE to see photos of Emmy on Halloween as well as read our post about one of our favorite Halloween books - Monster Needs a Costume.

Stay tuned for Costumes Inspired by Children's Books - Part Two which will highlight some more character costumes from our favorite children's books!