My Read Across America Week – Day Four: A Seuss-tacular Sock Hop

03-01-2013WalnutGrove004DisneyQuote

An inspirational quote painted on the cafeteria wall at Walnut Grove Elementary.

Since Read Across America Day is today (Saturday March 2nd),  the actual birthday celebration for Dr. Seuss was celebrated by many elementary schools on Friday, March 1st.

03-01-2013WalnutGrove010tsPoster

TINY SNAIL banner by Walnut Grove students.

For this Seuss-tacular day I returned to a school I visited in 2008: Walnut Grove Elementary in Franklin, Tennessee. Students at this school celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday with a Rock-N-Roll Read-A-Thon every year. The school day is extended to 5:00 PM in order to accommodate the many Read-A-Thon activities. Students wore costumes reminiscent  of the 1950’s. Girls pranced about in poodle skirts while the boys strode up and down the halls sporting sunglasses, white t-shirts, leather jackets, and loafers. They were so adorable! Throughout the day children ‘hopped’ into a favorite book during the sock hop in the gym. My author program took place in the cafeteria.

03-01-2013WalnutGrove006treehouse

Mural in the Walnut Grove cafeteria.

8:45 am – 9:30 am 2nd grade
9:40 am – 10:25 am 4th and 5th grades
1:00 pm – 1:45 pm 3rd grade
1:55 pm – 2:30 pm Kindergarten
3:00 pm – 3:35 pm 1st grade

03-01-2013WalnutGrove007treehouse

Mural in the Walnut Grove cafeteria.

The last time I visited Walnut Grove, the walls in the cafeteria and halls were white and adorned with art by students. (See my blog post: 2008 Walnut Grove Student Art.) Since my last visit in 2008, Gale Hinton painted amazing murals on the walls.

03-01-2013WalnutGrove002Seascape

Of course my favorite murals were of the sea life.

03-01-2013WalnutGrove001Seascape

You can learn more about Gale’s beautiful art on her website at http://www.galehinton.com.

An army of parent volunteers made this day possible for the students, and I want to especially thank Megan for coordinating our visit as well as Catherine Brown for introducing me to students. Her cheerful presence throughout the day was an awesome contribution to the program’s success. Keep reading Walnut Grove!

03-01-2013WalnutGrove005SeussQuote

A quote from Dr. Seuss painted on the cafeteria wall: “Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is youer than you.” From HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU! ©1959

Advertisements

My Read Across America Week – Day Two and Three

From Hoover, Alabama I drove north to Franklin, Tennessee where I planned to visit three more schools celebrating Read Across America, but when I arrived, everyone was buzzing about “Manhunt Monday.” All Williamson County schools were closed on February 25th so authorities could search for a school maintenance worker accused of firing a shotgun at his wife and children over the weekend. The maintenance worker had keys to every school in the district, so every school in the county closed until the man was apprehended. Thankfully he was found Monday night. Students returned to school on Tuesday, and although my first author visit in Franklin was scheduled at Edmondson Elementary on Wednesday, February 27th, the incident was still fresh in everyone’s mind.

02-27-13EdmondsonElemFranklinTN03banner

Edmondson Elementary has over 700 children, and the students and staff are fortunate to have a very large and active PTA to support their endless stream of activities. My author visit was the perfect compliment to the school’s Read-A-Thon.

02-27-13EdmondsonElemFranklinTN01

Patti Prasad (Left), Tammy Bronson (Center), and Dana Iverson (Right).

Several members of the PTA were on hand for my visit. Dana Iverson made the most amazing shortbread cookies. They were perfect depictions of characters from my books. Many thanks to Dana for the best cookies ever, and thanks to Patti Prasad who was especially helpful before, during and after the visit. Edmondson Elementary rocks!!!

02-27-13EdmondsonElemFranklinTN02cookies

The most beautiful shortbread cookies I’ve ever seen. They were so SCRUMPTIOUS, and yes, I ate most of them all by myself. (Tiny Snail was the first to be eaten!)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

The following day I visited Johnson Elementary. It is one of five elementary schools in the Franklin Special School District (FSSD).  The principal, Tosha Robinson, invited me to speak with students on Thursday, February 28th. I set up in the gym at 2:00 PM and performed one presentation for all 450 (K-5) students in the school. This was one of the largest groups of students I have ever spoken to, but the program was a great success.

I returned for Reading Night later that day from 6 to 8 PM. The primary focus for Reading Night was the Scholastic Book Fair, but many other reading programs took place including teachers and parent volunteers performing reading activities with children. Many thanks to the Ms. Robinson for adding my program to the students’ busy curriculum.

My Read Across America Week – Day One

Read Across America Day is observed annually on Dr. Seuss’ birthday (March 2nd), but many elementary schools plan activities for the entire week leading up to the Seuss Birthday Bash.  This is a popular week for author visits, and my Read Across America Celebration began on February 26th in Hoover, Alabama where I visited Prince of Peace School.

02-26-2013PrincePeaceSch005The principal, Connie Angstadt, hosted a Writer’s Cafe where parents were invited to view the students’ writing.

02-26-2013PrincePeaceSch001

Each student at Prince of Peace keeps a writer’s notebook, and every year the student adds more stories or writing to their collection. The older students (4th and 5th grades) had the largest collection of stories and art on display.

02-26-2013PrincePeaceSch007

Tables displays were created to celebrate favorite authors or series of books. Of course one table was dedicated to Dr. Seuss, but others included Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, and even Star Wars.

02-26-2013PrincePeaceSch004

In addition to the Writer’s Cafe, the Scholastic Book Fair was in full swing in the library. I rarely perform an author visit during a book fair, but when I do, generally I speak to students in another part of the school such as the music room, gym, or an auditorium; but with parents visiting the Writer’s Cafe, the school was bursting at the seams. I set up in the library in front of the Scholastic book fair shelves, and the students squeezed in on the floor between tables smothered with books.

02-26-2013PrincePeaceSch002

The librarian, Midge Buote (known affectionately by all as ‘Ms. B’), was very accommodating, and we appreciate everything she did to make our day a success. My visit to Prince of Peace was a great start to Read Across America Week.

Library mural painted by a parent volunteer at Prince of Peace School.

“Where the Wild Things Are” library mural painted by a parent volunteer at Prince of Peace School.

Author Celebration Day at Willowbrook Elementary

009Willowbrook02-20-13welcomeBanner
On February 20th my husband and I visited Willowbrook Elementary in Bentonville, Arkansas.

007Willowbrook02-20-13DannaCaudill

Willowbrook Library Media Specialist Danna Caudill (left) and Author/Illustrator Tammy Carter Bronson.

It was a great treat to visit a school so close to home, and I must thank the Library Media Specialist, Mrs. Danna Caudill, for making this visit possible. Her passion for literacy and exceptional organizational skills created an event that made a lasting impact not only on the students but on the community as well.

001Willowbrook02-20-13

From left to right: Willowbrook Principal Cynthia Dewey, Author Tammy Carter Bronson, and Librarian Danna Caudill.

I met Mrs. Caudill at Oak Elementary in Bartlett, Tennessee during an author visit in November 2008. My program at Oak Elementary was a great success, and when Mrs. Caudill moved to Bentonville and took a position at Willowbrook, she encouraged the Principal, Cynthia Dewey, to choose Tiny Snail for the One School, One Book program which is designed to create a shared reading experience within a single elementary school community. In January every child at Willowbrook received a copy of Tiny Snail, and over the course of a month teachers integrated the book into the curriculum.

002Willowbrook02-20-13

Author’s Tea and Breakfast at Willowbrook Elementary.

Our visit began bright and early at 7:00 am on February 20th with an “Author’s Tea.” Teachers, staff and community leaders were on hand to meet and greet my husband and I in the school library.

005Willowbrook02-20-13mayors

From left to right: Author Tammy Carter Bronson, Bentonville Mayor Bob McCaslin, Cave Springs Mayor Larry Smith, and Author Matthew Shane Bronson.

The mayors of Bentonville and Cave Springs attended, as well as members of the Bentonville school board and the children’s librarian at the Bentonville Public Library.

006Willowbrook02-20-13SueAnnPekel

Author Tammy Carter Bronson and the children’s librarian at the Bentonville Public Library, Sue Ann Pekel.

We set up for our program in the music room where we spoke to students one grade level at a time.

013Willowbrook02-20-13 014Willowbrook02-20-13 015Willowbrook02-20-13

8:10 – 9:00  Fourth Grade
9:00 – 9:50 Third Grade
9:50 – 10:40  First Grade
10:40 – 11:30  Lunch in the Library
11:30 – 12:20  Kindergarten
12:20 – 1:10  Kindergarten
1:10 – 2:00  Second Grade

Around midday it started to snow, but thankfully the precipitation quickly melted from the sidewalks and roads.

011Willowbrook02-20-13

At 2:00 o’clock we toured the school. Nearly every hallway in the school was covered with student projects relating to Tiny Snail, and I took so many pictures (over 160) that I can’t share everything in one blog post. More pictures of student art and activities are forthcoming in the following posts:

Student Art at Willowbrook
Kindergarten Projects at Willowbrook
1st Grade Projects at Willowbrook
2nd Grade Projects at Willowbrook
3rd and 4th Grade Projects at Willowbrook

More related posts include:

Mrs. Caudill at Oak Elementary
Using Kaleidonotes in the Classroom
Translating Polliwog Into Spanish

Every student at Willowbrook is an author and illustrator. Congratulations Willowbrook students, and Happy Author Celebration Day!

010Willowbrook02-20-13

Willowbrook Elementary: Where Every Student is an Author!

Amazing Bulletin Boards at CCLS

I visited Christ Community Lutheran School in Webster Groves, Missouri yesterday (Friday, 2/1/2013). I spoke with students in grades Kindergarten through 4th, and afterward we took a tour of the school. The teachers designed amazing bulletin boards inspired by my books, and the students did a fantastic job creating the art and writing stories.

CCLS-02-01-13-TSbulletinBoard

Our tour guide and the primary organizer of our author visit was the 1st grade teacher, Ann Schmidt. Her bulletin board featured the students’ favorite book, TINY SNAIL (above).

Arrival and set-up: 9:15 – 9:35 am.

Kindergarten 9:50 – 10:15

1st and 2nd grades 10:30 – 11:15

Lunch and Book Signing 11:15 – 1:00

3rd and 4th grades 1:00 – 1:45 pm

Tour 2:00 – 3:00 PM

CCLS-02-01-13-PolliwogBoard01

Designed by Mrs. Dittmer’s kindergarten class, this bulletin board based on POLLIWOG illustrated the pond above and below the water.

CCLS02-01-13_003

Below, many students wrote stories, and a trail of brightly colored snails marched up and around the bulletin boards.

CCLS02-01-13_008

The “Polliwog Pond” below was created by Mrs. Belsha’s kindergarten class. This bulletin board was covered with tadpoles made from balloons. The tadpoles were at various stages of their transformation. They even created frog eggs from bubble wrap!

CCLS-02-01-13-PolliwogBoard02


The “Surf Shack” was the reading specialist’s room, and the entrance featured a table highlighting my books as this week’s feature.   

CCLS02-01-13_028

The most elaborate design was based on SEA HORSE, RUN! and created by three classes of 2nd grade students (Mrs. Ladd, Mrs. Brown, and Mrs. Leet). The display gave the illusion of walking through a glass tunnel at an aquarium. The walls and ceiling were covered in a cloth that mimicked water, and the collage of sea creatures were designed to scale by the students.

CCLS02-01-13_031

Mrs. Karen Brown (left) and Mrs. Marcia Ladd (right) are pictured below.

CCLS02-01-13_042

The next montage of pictures contains closeups of this elaborate bulletin board. The eel has christmas lights inside so he lights up, and the red coral ‘growing’ out of the floor was made from swimming pool noodles. So creative!!!
CCLS-02-01-13-SHRbulletinBoard-Walls
A big thank you to the students and staff of CCLS for making my first author visit of 2013 so memorable. I can’t think of a better way to start the new year!
The school also created a video at animoto.com about my visit:

Illustrating Your Picture Book

I studied creative writing at the University of Arkansas, but I didn’t study art; so when I wrote my first picture book, I assumed someone else would illustrate it. That changed when I learned that if a publisher matched me with one of their illustrators, I would have no input with respect to the art. In fact, I would not see the art until the book was finished, and if I didn’t like the art, too bad. So I decided to illustrate my books myself. After all, I had a vision of what the book should look like, so why not try to do it myself? Was I a professional illustrator? No, but over the years I’ve learned a few tricks that help me create art that looks polished and professional. All it takes is research, practice, and maybe a little innovation.

Step One: Research

I research everything I want to draw. If you count each type of coral in Sea Horse, run! as a separate animal, I researched about 40 different animals for that book including sea horses. For Sea Horse, run! I also went to aquariums and used my flip video camera to capture live action footage in the various exhibits. I studied the videos at home, and when I found a helpful angle or ‘shot’, I took still images from the videos and printed them as examples of what I wanted to draw.

Step Two: Practice

I study photos of the real animals and practice drawing my sketches. Sometimes I draw and redraw my characters as many as forty or fifty times. I struggled so much drawing the pictures for my third picture book (Polliwog, 2004) that I decided to take some art lessons before I tackled Sea Horse, run!. I wanted to use more watercolor in my sea horse book, so I found an artist that specialized in watercolor and took private lessons. I believe those art lessons made a big difference when it came time to illustrate Sea Horse, run!.

Step Three: Innovation

Even after much research and practice, you may find that your paintings or drawings are simply not meeting your expectations. Don’t despair! Be innovative. There is more than one way to illustrate a children’s picture book.

If you want to illustrate your books yourself, I strongly recommend that you study the art in published children’s books. Find a style of art that you are drawn to or a style you could easily replicate. Experiment with other media like photography, three-dimensional art, or collage.

Photographic Art (Books by Carl Sams and Jean Stoick) You don’t even need to draw or paint your pictures if you are a photographer or know someone that is. The art in Stranger in the Woods– A Photographic Fantasy published in 2000 by Carl Sams and Jean Stoick was so innovative that it won several awards including the Benjamen Franklin Award for best children’s picture book. By the way, this book was independently published.

Three-Dimensional Art  Another great example would be the art in Lauren Child’s version of The Princess and the Pea. Lauren built a miniature, three-dimensional world out of cornflake boxes, dollhouse furniture, and paper dolls dressed in many layers of paper. Lauren used a professional photographer (Polly Borland) to take pictures of her miniature ‘sets.’

Collage  Art that is simply cut and paste using various media (art, cloth, photos) can be very effective and fun. Here are some great examples:

Books by Steve Jenkins including Down, Down, Down; Actual Size, and What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

Falling for Rapunzel and Waking Beauty by Leah Wilcox, Illustrated by Lydia Monks

Secret Seahorse by Stella Blackstone and Clare Beaton

Your collage can also be digital. Tim Hopgood is a great example. I draw or paint my pictures by hand and like Tim Hopgood, I assemble the final art in the computer as a digital collage.

I use Photoshop to create my digital collages, but it took me several years of trial and error to learn the basics. If you want to use Photoshop, find someone that is already an expert to help you get started. Also, you can find step-by-step videos on the web that will teach you Photoshop basics. It is an expensive computer program, so another alternative is to find free applications on-line that work like Photoshop. I googled “free applications like photoshop” and came up with these recommendations:

http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/11-free-alternatives-softwares-to-adobe-photoshop/

http://sixrevisions.com/graphics-design/10-excellent-open-source-and-free-alternatives-to-photoshop/

http://www.lifeclever.com/10-free-web-based-alternatives-to-photoshop/

In Summary:

If you want to draw the pictures for your children’s story, but you are not a “professional” artist, don’t despair! If I can do it, anyone can. Just be mindful that it may take a lot of effort to establish your style as an artist.

STUDY art in other children’s books. Make a list of your favorite artists. Research how they create their pictures.

RESEARCH what you want to draw. If you need to draw a picture of a yeti (abominable snowman) in the Himalayas, check out books from the library about the Himalayas. Study the landscapes. Research the yeti. Find pictures other artists have made of a yeti. Remember that you can’t copy exactly what someone else has drawn because their art is copyrighted, but by studying other versions of the picture you are working on, you will find inspiration for your own, original art.

PRACTICE. Don’t be afraid to draw and redraw your art. After all, the story is rewritten over and over again. When you’re writing, you may change the plot, add or remove characters, or revise the setting. The same is true for your art. You may start out drawing one thing then decide to draw something completely different. You can change the characters or backgrounds. You might even decide to change your style from watercolor to mixed-media collage. There is no right or wrong. The more you practice and work on your pictures, the closer you will come to your final draft. Creating art is not so different from writing stories. The first draft is inevitably sloppy. Keep at it!

Innovate. Experiment with other media.

The biggest hurdle to transforming yourself into a ‘professional’ artist is finding the time and the passion to stick with it. It won’t happen overnight. You have to be patient and persevere, but the same can be said for writing your story, too.

In the late nineties early ought’s, it was hard to find a publisher if you were both writer and illustrator. That is not necessarily the case anymore. In the past few years I have heard several agents and editors comment that they are actively seeking people that can do both writing and illustration.

Your next obstacle will be publishing. Visit my Publishing 101 page for tips.

“SEA HORSE, RUN!” Enters Second Printing

My fourth picture book, “SEA HORSE, RUN!”, received two more reviews and another award.

The Dallas World Aquarium featured my book in their Winter 2011 newsletter, Eco Currents. “Sea Horse, run!” was featured as the “Book of the Month”, and the article states, “This is a great selection for young children, with outstanding illustrations of sea life throughout the paperback book.” So far, seven aquariums have ordered “SEA HORSE, RUN!” for their gift shops.

A random google search produced an unexpected review in December 2011. Rob Schupbach’s blog entitled,  “Raven, Writing Desk, and Children’s Literature: A Children’s Literature Review Blog,” featured “SEA HORSE, RUN!” on December 18th. I love his description of the book:

“Although the book is quite informative, it is also entertaining. After hearing rumors about a dragon, the animals of the ocean were frightened and began to find safe havens. Not Sea Horse. He had the courage to stay behind and protect his friend, coral, who cannot move. Sea horse confronts the danger and faces his fears. He soon realizes that the sea dragon and the sea horse are distantly related. This underlying message of courage in the face of danger and standing by a friend can be very powerful to young students.”

Last but not least, “SEA HORSE, RUN!” is the second place winner in the  “Children – Early Reader (6 to 8)” category of the 2011 Reader Views Literary Awards. Winners were announced March 7, 2012, and all winners are given a gold “2012″ logo to place on their website or on the cover of their book. Read my full article/press release at www.seahorserun.com or visit my awards page for complete list of awards so far.

All the extra attention for “SEA HORSE, RUN!” is paying off. The hardcovers are virtually sold out, so the book is currently being reprinted. Here is a peek at the new cover:

New Cover Designed April 2012 for 2nd Printing.

Go, Sea Horse, go!

My Visit to Shiloh Christian School January 25, 2012

Shiloh’s Librarian, Melissa Merrifield (left) and Tammy (right).

On January 25, 2012 I spoke to all the students in Kindergarten through 5th grade at Shiloh Christian School in Springdale, Arkansas. This was a special visit because Shiloh is a local Arkansas school, and I’ve visited them twice before: first on March 11, 2002 and again on February 26, 2004. Mrs. Merrifield has been the librarian at Shiloh for many years, and we are grateful that she has invited us to her school three times!

Shiloh Kindergarten Hallway

8:30 – 9:00 Kindergarten
9:15 – 10:00 2nd Grade
10:15- 11:00 3rd Grade
12:00- 12:30 1st Grade
12:45- 1:30 4th Grade
1:45 – 2:30 5th Grade

After our last visit, nearly every student in the school sent us thank you notes. They arrived in a large box.

I read ALL of my fan mail. I keep my fan mail, but there is so much that most of it is stored in a drawer. I loved the letter pictured below so much that I keep it on the shelf in my office (right above my computer) where I can see it everyday.

Mrs. Merrifield was kind enough to include a note that interpreted the letter. It reads:

***********

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Bronson,

I love your books. I think your next book will be a big success. Remember never give up. Be courageous even if there’s pressure…Just close your eyes and pray. No matter what happens, you can never give up on your goal.

From Quinn

***********

With all my heart, thank you, Quinn! Your message means the world to me. I will treasure your excellent advice.

A Fun Morning at Hope Sullivan Elementary, Southaven, MS

My author visit at Hope Sullivan Elementary on Friday, January 20, 2012 was a great success! This was my first visit to Southaven, Mississippi, and I spoke to over 630 students in three presentations.

9:00 – 9:30  Kindergarten

9:40 – 10:10   1st Grade

10:20 – 11:05 2nd Grade

From left to right: Amanda Samples (Principal), Tammy, Terri McCain (Librarian), and Lisa Nye (Asst Principal).

The faculty and staff were very involved on every level. The principal, assistant principal, and librarian encouraged students to participate, and they did! Their enthusiasm was uplifting, and I did not leave empty-handed. A teacher, Jan Hoselton, presented me with art created by her kindergarten students.

Tiny Snail book covers created by kindergarten children at Hope Sullivan Elementary.

Thank you, Ms. Hoselton, for giving me their wonderful pictures. Here are a few of my favorites…

Mikaela loves Tiny Snail. I love her picture (above).

Logan combined my name with Tiny Snail’s (above). ‘Tamy Snail’ has a nice ring to it!

I also love AJ’s Tiny Snail. He even drew a colorful version of Miss Butterfly (below).

Hope Sullivan students, keep writing and drawing!