Monday, April 30, 2012

U of Hartford Community Day

Saturday was the University of Hartford's Community Day.  We've gone a few times and it's usually a very nice event.  They have games and booths and food.  Bouncy houses.  And....the best of all... free bike helmets!  If you get there when it opens and head over to the bike rodeo (in which zero bikes are rodeo-ing) your child can get fitted for a lovely bike helmet.  This is the main attraction for me - b/c that's how frugal I am!

(Above) After scoring some sweet helmets (Mo is still wearing his.)  The boys hit the traveling arcade.  Have you seen these things?  It's basically a trailer CRAMMED with arcade games.  It is NOT for those with claustrophobia.  The boys played a few games each then we hit the police car and the fire truck.  (Below.)

A couple very nice firemen took the boys through the truck even though Magoo and Mo were nearly breaking everything in sight.  Seriously.  Magoo was putting his feet on the brake and gas pedals.   Don't touch the pedals!  Mo knocked one of those little spikey things off the tire.  They were crazy!

Then we went over to visit with the police horse.

Here's Magoo with his Grammy petting the horse.  It was a lovely horse.  I moved over to get a nice shot of them.  Magoo got in nice and close to the horse - big smile on his face - and then...

...the horse stepped on his foot.


Well that did it for Magoo.  No snacks or games could clear the dark cloud from over his head.  He wanted to leave and tend to his foot.  (Which was fine, but I'm sure it did smart a bunch.)

But, hey - at least we got a free helmet.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Magoo's LEGO World

Over Spring break my friend Heather and I went to IKEA.  Ah, IKEA.  It' easy to loose a wad of money in that place.  But it wasn't too tempting for me this time because a very large part of the marketplace was closed off for renovations.  So I didn't buy frames, papers, fabric, or knick-knacks.  What I did buy was a new LEGO organization system for Magoo!  We'd been storing all his LEGOs in closed top plastic bins and stacking them.  But most of the time the bins were scattered all over the floor and the lids went missing anyway.  (Somewhere there's a posse of escaped bin lids heading West.)  Mike had mentioned needing a better system, so when I came across these babies, I swooped.

Of course, adding furniture to Magoo's room meant rearranging it, which meant cleaning it - which took two days.  I should have taken pictures of what it looked like under his bed.  Omigosh.  War zone.

But things are tidied up now.  He can pull the bins out if he wants - or just use them like drawers.  And I wisely stuck the whole system in the back corner of his room, so when I check on him at night, I don't have to tip-toe through a LEGO mine field.

Magoo LOVES Legos.   I think I've mentioned it before.  And one of the things that he's really into now is making his own little robots.  They are really cute, usually have moving parts, and Mike and I are always impressed with the creative use of pieces.  Here are a few favorites:

1. Spiderbot.

 2. Moaning Castle.
I love how Magoo used horse skeletons for arms.  Also, I should add, these are my names, Magoo does not call it a Moaning Castle.  But come on - it's totally a moaning castle!

3. Scuba Man and Mr. Uptown.
I think the little guy looks like he's ready for some deep sea diving, while the bot in the top hat looks like Tom Servo's (from MST3K) dandy brother.

LEGOs are pretty cool. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wink Wins the 15 Books Award

I am a lucky duck.

I just got a lovely email from the media specialist at the Parkview Center School in Minnesota letting me know that Wink The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed had received their coveted 15 Books Award!

"What is the 15 Books Award?" you ask.

Well, the students in grades K thought 2, nominate fifteen books that they love and then they vote on their favorite.  And guess who won?  A little ninja named Wink!  Boo-ya!

In and of itself - that's pretty awesome.  But to add a mega-awesome cherry on the sundae - the media specialist and kids made a video!

Check it out!

I am so impressed that whoever made this (the media specialist?) was able to grab some clips from my book trailer for Wink, the Ninja Who Wanted to Nap.  I couldn't do that! 

A huge, big, chocolate-covered THANKS to the students at Parkview Center School!  I send the cyber love right back to you all!  You've made my week!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Author Visit: Emerson-Williams Elementary

Here I am - in action - at the Emerson-Williams School in Wethersfield, CT.     It looks like I'm breaking into song here, doesn't it?  Wink the ninjaaaaaaaaa.  Nope.  No song.  We were playing a little game called Eagle Eye where the students tell me the difference between an earlier version of an illustration and the newer version.  Some of the changes are pretty big and obvious, others more subtle.  The kids love this, though.  And it's a great way for me to include a lot of them in the presentation.

Then I went off to do some ninja collages with the fourth graders.

I love making collages with older grades because they really bring a lot of their skills and imagination to this project.  Look at that ninja flying through the air! It's so friggin' active.  I love it!  And there's even a vampire ninja.  How great is that?!

I originally had a 2-hour chunk of time in the middle of the day for my lunch break.  What am I going to do with that, right?  So I suggested a little mini-session with the 6th graders.  I taught them how to draw the characters and they made bookmarks.

Again, since these are 6th-graders, I only have to run through a few basics on how to draw the characters and then they go to town.

(Above.)  We have Wink the ninja sleeping on top of the Summer Moon school.  Which is really great and I wish I had thought of that for the cover of the book. 

There's a way-cool ninja-devil on the right.

Then ( center) there's a panda.  Lots of girls were drawing cute, saucer-eyed pandas.  It was kinda interesting because there was a much bigger gap in gender drawing in the older kids.  If they were younger, I think there would have been a lot more standard ninjas because I was drawing ninjas.  But because they are older, they have a better grasp on their own likes and dislikes.  The boys drew more action-oriented ninjas with weapons and the girls drew pandas, grandmother, and even...

... Unicorns!

But this one crosses over a bit because it's ninja v. unicorn.  Poor Grandmother is just confused.

I love it!

I had a long, but FABULOUS, day at Emerson-Williams.  (man, I was wiped out when I got home.) Thanks so much to the principal, the teachers, and Mrs. Lavoie (my parent liason,) for allowing me into your school and treating me with such wonderful hospitality!  I had a great time!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Viking Renovations

While I was in New York, I was chatting with the good folks in the art department and they thought it might be kinda fun if I made my own collage Viking logo to put on the bottom of the title page.  (I guess this has been done before, although I can't recall ever seeing it.)  I LOVED the idea - so that's what I worked on yesterday.

The black and white ink drawing is the standard logo for Viking.  Mine is the color one on the right.

I have fewer Viking on my ship.  I guess my Vikings are tougher so they needed fewer guys.  (wink)  In reality, even though I made it about 6" wide, it's still difficult to cut little men out.  But they do have their little shields and little spears, so they are all ready to plunder little villages, er, I mean fill little minds with literary goodness.  Yeah, that's the ticket!

There's no guarantee that they'll use it.  They'll have to pop it on the page and see how it looks.   But I hope it looks good because I love fun little details like that!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Easter Bunny Strikes Twice (Well, Thrice.)

The boys haven't done a traditional egg hunt in two years now.  When asked about it last year, they declared that they were "too old."  And that's fine, but they still like a little holiday fun.  Last year, my friend Heather and I sent them on a treasure hunt with clues.  This year Heather had a very good idea: they'd go on an egg hunt, but instead of candy in the eggs, there would be puzzle pieces.

(Above) The boys found the first clue that sent them to the park for the egg hunt.  It told them that there are 23 eggs to discover.

(Below) Here they are looking for the eggs.  (The Easter Bunny had to be careful hiding the eggs in a public park so that other children would not stumble upon them.  None did.)

When they found all 23 eggs, they had to put the puzzle together to read their next clue.

It was essentially a map that lead them back to my house.

Last year the Easter Bunny had a basket for each boy and they all got quite a haul!  This year the Easter Bunny decided to scale it back a bit and do one big basket with goodies for all three boys in it.

That all happened on Good Friday.  Then, between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening, Magoo must have asked me 5 times if the Easter Bunny would come again and when.  Oooooooo he was obsessed!!!

I told him that I wasn't sure.  We'd just have to wait and see!

But sure enough, the Easter Bunny did return.  This time he sent Magoo on a math quest.

When Magoo woke up (at 6:15 am.  Excited much?) there was a math puzzle on his door.  He had to choose the egg card with the correct answer, flip it over, and read where to go next.  

 He had about five stops around the house before discovering his Easter Basket upstairs in our bedroom.  What a sneaky rabbit!  I hadn't even heard him creep in to hide it!  ;)

I should add that Magoo received a lovely Yoda Easter Basket from his Nana on Saturday, so this happy boy got three Easter baskets this year.  It's no wonder he loves it so!

(He really loved the Killer Bunny from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Magoo has named him Mr. Fluffy.)

I hope you all had a very Happy Easter!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Monkey Ono Goes to New York

Yesterday was my big trip to New York.  It's actually not that big.  Apparently, if I can get here on a three-hour bus ride I'm considered "local."  But still, it's a big trip for me.  One of the great things about having a healthy imagination is I can come up with crazy story ideas.  One of the downsides is I can imagine about 100 different ways to lose the picture book art between my house and Viking.   And that's what I was doing; delivering the Monkey Ono art to the publisher.

Fortunately, I did not leave it on the bus.  The bus did not crash on the highway.  And I was not art mugged.   The Monkey Ono art has been delivered safe and sound!

Here's the view from my editor's window.

Not only does she have a fantastic view, but look at all the great books in the window.  Hmmmm - there seems to be a little ninja there that I'm somewhat familiar with.  ;)

Here's the Monkey Ono art all laid out.

I'm so used to seeing this art that I forget that this is the first time that the good folks at Viking are seeing it in living color.  I mean, I send them scans throughout the process, but a cruddy scan never really does any artwork justice.  I think they were surprised by how much brighter everything really was.

You know, I spend a decent amount of time choosing my outfit for my New York days.  On one hand, I'm on a bus for 6 - 7 hours that day, so I want to be comfortable.  On the other hand, I want to look professional, or at least not shlubby.  When going through outfits, Mike liked one with a dark brown top and black pants.

"But isn't this too dark for Springtime?"  I asked.

"It's New York," he said.  "Everyone wears black."

And sure enough, when Tracy, my editor, took off her coat, she was in head-to-toe black!

After all the business stuff, Tracy, Denise (the art director) and I went out to lunch at Aquagrill.  


Tracy and I had hoped for soft shell crabs, but they didn't have any fresh in that day.  Instead, I had Horseradish Encrusted Halibut with Potato-Shrimp Salad and Asparagus.

IT WAS SO GOOD!  So good!  I'm not a food critic, so I can't really write a decent food review.  But OMG - so good!

Then the professional New York women headed back to the office and I strolled across town to hit Babycakes vegan bakery.

This was a little disappointing.  Not the food.  The baked goods are divine!  But it is very small - like closet small - and it was PACKED with people.  Now, if I knew exactly what Magoo could eat and I knew exactly what I wanted, this wouldn't have been a problem.  But some foods have agave and some have sugar.  Some are gluten-free, some are spelt.  I had questions!  Yes, I was that tourist in the packed NY place with questions.  Hate me now!

So, under pressure, I quickly ordered two slices of pumpkin bread and a brownie for myself.  It's sort of a shame because I really should have/wanted to order more.  I mean, I'm down in NY for the day and I walked all the way across town just to visit this place, I wanted to bring home a stash. 

But it was fine.  Mike and Magoo were certainly very happy to have a treat by the time I got home.  And I have to be happy that such a wonderful little place is doing good business.  I just wish I had had a better handle on what to order when going in.  Ah well.  I still have the cookbook.  I can bake some goodies myself!

I got back home around 8pm, kicked it on the couch for 90 minutes, then hit the hay.  A successful New York day over.

I hope everyone out there has a wonderful Easter weekend and that the Easter Bunny is good to you all!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Simsbury Happenings

It's Spring and 'tis the season for school visits.

You know I LOVE school visits.  It's so much fun to go in and talk to young, excited kids who think I'm sooo cool.  They do!  They'll grow out of it, but right then and there they think I'm awesome.

Last Friday, I had the very great pleasure of visiting the first graders at Central School in Simsbury.  It was a half-day visit, and therefore, very zippy.  I did a zippy mini-powerpoint presentation of how I made the first Wink book.  Then I zipped over to one classroom, taught the kiddos how to make ninja collages, then zipped to another, then zipped to the third room.  Zip, zip, zip.


I was feeling pretty good until I got to the third classroom.  Then all the energy started slipping out  my ears.  I was running on fumes. 

I made it through.  But it was a work-out, for sure!  The old, gray mare, she ain't what she used to be!

Thanks so much to all the wonderful first grade teachers for allowing me into your classrooms, to the students who made fantastic ninjas, and to Susan Elben, the school's media specialist who put the whole visit together!  You guys rock!

In other news:

I got my teeny, tiny art show up at the Simsbury Library.

That's it.  Seven pieces on a white wall.  I had hoped to get the space opposite this big picture window, so people coming into the library would be able to see them.  They might have thought, Hmmm, those look interesting.  Let me go and admire them up close.

But no.  Someone else got that wall.  D'oh! 

But seriously, I'm actually very happy to have a place to show some new art and an event that pushed me to do it.  (Thanks Simsbury Library!)  It's easy for me to get busy with picture books and mom-stuff and sometimes painting takes a back seat.  But I have to say that I've enjoyed my little abstract workshop and I'm feeling better and better about some of these paintings  (Ladder, the red one in the middle is my favorite.)  so I think I'll be looking to go bigger soon.

It's going to be a busy couple of days, so HAPPY EASTER to those who celebrate it!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Magoo Presents: Battle for the Snowflake

Yesterday, Magoo was gung-ho to make another stop-motion Lego video.
I had hoped that I could just set him up and he'd cruise along, but he needed some reminding as to how to make a good looking stop motion video.  (It's hard to make the small movements and keep checking the video for timing.  Patience isn't strong in 9-yr-olds.)

I worked on the first section with him, then Curly and Mo came over and they did the rest.

It's a little crazy, but I still think it's a great thing for them to do and they certainly are very proud of it.