Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mole Music

The Newburyport Literary Festival closed with a program honoring children's book author and illustrator and native son David McPhail. Fontaine Dollas and the Joppa Jr. Jazz Dance Company performed a spirited original dance of David's book Pigs Aplenty, Pigs Galore with a reading by her husband Andre Dubus III. Jay Schadler gave a humorous and heartfelt tribute to his friend and introduced a film about David McPhail by Peter Vandermark. David then spoke about growing up in Newburyport and experiences at the Newburyport Public Library. The evening and the festival concluded with a reading of Mole Music by Maureen Daly, director of the Newburyport Montessori School, accompanied by Madeline and Claire Werner on violin.

The presentation of Mole Music left us all with inner glow from both the words of David McPhail and the poise and talent of the two young violinists. The book is proof that picture books are not just for kids and that simple stories can speak to us at a deep level. Mole lives underground and spends his days digging and his evenings watching TV. After seeing a violinist performing on TV, he orders one. His first sounds are horrible but he practices and practices until many years later he can play even better than the violinist he heard on TV. He is happier than he has ever been but wonders what it would be like to play for others. Although he doesn't know it, his music travels above ground and brings pleasure and peace to the world above. Mole Music speaks of the power of art to change the world and its intrinsic value whether it is made in a hole in the ground or in a concert hall or gallery.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Third Grade Books Inspired by David McPhail

Third grade students at the Bresnahan School in Newburyport, MA made books inspired by the books of David McPhail. Retired librarian Karen Twomey returned to the school to guide the children through an exploration of David McPhail's books and the creation of their own. The books were on display at the Newbuyrport Public Library as part of the 2009 Newburyport Literary Festival.

The books were made by following the directions for the hot dog booklet and adding a cover of construction paper. You can find directions for the hot dog booklet here and a youtube tutorial here.

You can see more photos here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Interview on the Elephant Rag

Terry Farish did an interview with me for her blog, The Elephant Rag. Writing the responses to her thought-provoking questions was a learning experience for me. Her questions made me think about why I make books and why teaching them is so important.

"Living in this world of media saturation, it is easy to think that all the important things are happening somewhere else. Making books about our own stories and our own lives reminds us that we are the center of our own lives."

You can read the interview here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Clouds Index Card Accordion Book

Spring in New England is a wonderful time to look at the sky. While we hunger for warmth that has not yet arrived, we can take joy in the brightness of white clouds in a blue sky (except of course when it rains or snows). But of course the sky deserves our attention every day of the year. John Day, "Cloud Man", called clouds and cloudscapes the greatest free show on earth. Here's what poet David McCord said about the sky.

I used three strips cut from the side panels of a grocery bag and 12 index cards for the book. There are ten different types of clouds. I used the top card for the title and the bottom one for information about the Latin names. I colored the cards blue with the side of a crayon and cut the clouds from index cards and glued them on. The tie is a loop made from a plastic newspaper delivery bag.


The story of Luke Howard who gave the clouds the Latin classification names we use today is interspersed with Grace's monthly weather journal which is full of facts about the weather from how clouds are made to how to make a rain gauge. Lots of information presented in an engaging manner.

Beautiful paintings of clouds in the landscape by Thomas Locker accompanied by short poetic sentences. The book concludes with a visual guide to the clouds.

For Spacious Skies

In the early 80s, I listened every weekday afternoon to Music America with Ron Della Chiesa on WGBH in Boston. One of his guests was Jack Borden, who was then a local TV news reporter. He had started an organization called For Spacious Skies which grew out a TV piece he did. He stopped twenty people, shielded their eyes, and asked them what the sky looked like that day. Most people said something like "It's sunny" and no one could describe it in detail. The website has an NPR interview with Jack Borden, essays by him and teachers who have worked with For Spacious Skies, and links.
This website created by the late John Day, known as Cloud Man has a Gallery of Clouds, Mini Cloud Atlas, Ten Reasons To Look Up, and much more.

Cloud Concentration Matching Game

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bound & Lettered Article/Recycled Bookmaking

The current issue of Bound & Lettered has an article I wrote called Bookmaking with Recycled Materials: A Journey. An essay about my conversion to using recycled materials and the benefits, both expected and unexpected, is accompanied by photographs of sample books and ideas for projects of your own.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Celebration of the Books of David McPhail

This year the Newburyport Literary Festival is honoring children's book author and illustrator David McPhail who grew up in Newburyport. The Firehouse has a wonderful exhibit of David's illustrations downstairs. Upstairs is a companion exhibit of work inspired by David's books by kindergarten students from the Brown School in Newburyport. The vibrant and varied illustrations were done under the guidance of school librarian Judy Avery. She began by introducing the children to David's books and then gave them additional time to view his books on their own. They watched a DVD about David and his development as an artist. When he was a child, he drew all the time, often on brown paper bags. To prepare for their final illustrations, the students followed his lead and did sketches on brown paper bags. They did their final drawings on white drawing paper in their choice of media.

The complete schedule of events at the Newburyport Literary Festival including events for children and young adults throughout the day.
David McPhail will be signing books in the Children's Room of the Newburyport Public Library from 2:30 to 3:45.

More photos from the children's exhibit

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The First of the Workshop Paper Series

I gave a workshop on Friday at the Massachusetts Reading Association Conference. It was in the last block of sessions of the two-day conference and a perfect way to relax and unwind while learning. We were in an out-of-the-way location but those who made the trek were rewarded with an inviting room with round tables and a view of the lake at the Sturbridge Host Hotel. For the past two years I have made my handouts as pdfs to be downloaded. This offers the advantage of adding phtotographs and additional material that I would not have been able to put in printed handouts. I decided to make the pdfs available to all at the reasonable price of $2.95 each.

Fabulous Four: Star, Diamond Fold Accordion, Spiral, and Necklace Books can be purchased at my lulu storefront.