Saturday, December 11, 2010

Gifts! Wow--just wow!

The next stop on my Napa County Reads SHIFTY tour was Silverado Middle School. The students were great again. We were in a library here--and take a look at the student work I discovered on the library bulletin boards. Fun, fun, fun!! I saw SHIFTY-themed bookmarks and a great art and literacy activity where students made "gifts" for the characters in my book. What a gift to the author to see this--so inspiring. The students really showed a lot of creative thought toward the characters and the story by the gifts they chose to give.

It's was a colorful visual delight.
Wow, just wow!
Take a look at the gifts the students gave to Soli/Shifty, Sissy and Martha. Baby Chance and Lester the Cat got gifts, too. Even one of the book's antagonists, Sheila-not-Shelly, got a gift (some "chill pills," a happy stamp and candy to sweeten her life and make her chill out a bit!) Ha! That made me smile!

And the gift to the author? Meeting all the students who were reading SHIFTY--and the whole Napa Reads experience! Thanks Napa County students, teachers, arts and educational community. If you were the teacher(s) who created this project, please re-introduce yourself to me. Thanks so much. Please thank your students, too. Posting these pics made me happy all over again.

Here's the cool video about Napa County Reads.
Be sure to watch to the end to see the children's chorus!

Napa County Reads 2010

To read more about my experiences with Napa County Reads, please look here, here, and here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Napa Valley Opera House & Redwood Middle School

Here we are back at the Opera House. And here are some of the students who attended. I think these delightful young ladies were from Redwood Middle School. They came up to have their books signed and to strongly encourage me to write a sequel to SHIFTY! We took this picture to keep reminding me to write a sequel or companion book. Seeing their sweet faces and remembering all the student and professional artists I met that night will certainly inspire me when I'm in the midst of writing and rewriting.

I met Redwood Middle School's After School program teachers and several of the student artists.
Here is the Teacher's Statement and some of the truly wonderful planter boxes created by the student artists. Take a look and also take a look at the video made by the Napa County Office of Education and the Arts Council Napa Valley to see the students in action. At the end of the video is the Napa Valley Children's Chorus, too!

This planter was on wheels! And there's Lester!

Here is the other side of the planter on wheels. Soli would approve!

Love the colorful peace symbols below and how Lester keeps showing up again and again.

A couple of weeks after the event, a friend who attended surprised me with a gift of the red-heart planter above. Sweet! I'm using it to keep my CD's organized and every time I see it, it makes me smile.

Below, here's Lester again. Maybe Lester needs a book of his own next? Love the colorful flowers and use of buttons and objects on the Shifty-themed planters.

These two are also cool, as were the rest of the student-made planters. See the video for a view of a few more. I could have spent hours taking pics of them all and reading the artist statements.

Are these the work of student artists? Or professional artists? I'm not sure. The pictures got all jumbled on my camera, I was so excited to see them all. Either way, I love all the colors and designs and how different artists interpreted various characters, themes and scenes in the book. If you are one of the artists of any of these planters on this page or any other blog pages here and want credit for your great work, please comment below and I'll add your name. (Students, please ask your parents' permission of course)
If you bought of the planters at the auction, please comment which one. I'd love to see pics of them in their new homes, too!
The day after the Opera House event I spoke at Redwood Middle School. The venue this time was the school library, so there were not nearly as many students as at Harvest Middle School, but they were equally well-prepared, they had great questions and were very enthusiastic.

School visits, Shifty Music, and a "this is not a drill" FIRE ALARM!

Napa County Reads SHIFTY!

My first day of Napa County school visits after my Napa Valley Opera House presentation began at Harvest Middle School. I met the principal and more amazing teachers including science teacher extraordinaire, Ms. Laura Lewis. Ms. Lewis had rallied the other science teachers in the weeks prior to take a bit of time to read SHIFTY aloud to their students during their science classes because the English curriculum was filled to the max with little time for reading aloud.
That's me on the left, Laura Lewis to the right of Shifty, and another great teacher. (I met so many amazing teachers and librarians, counselors and youth advocates during Napa Reads! I hope someone reminds me of the other teacher's name.)

Ms. Lewis was great. She showed me her copy of SHIFTY with several different bookmarks, marking the slightly different progress of several science classes. Because of Ms. Lewis and the other science teachers, most of the students had heard at least half of SHIFTY read aloud. This makes all the difference for a successful author visit. She also prepared a totally cool mix of music from the songs in the book, mostly the songs of Martha's misheard lyrics. So that made me smile and put me in a good mood as the students filed in (and in, and in, and in!) Bleachers and bleachers of students! We're talking about a half-gym full of 6th, 7th and 8th graders, maybe 300-350+, which would normally make me a bit nervous to start. But like I said, the songs made me remember some funny moments in the book and put me at ease. Thank you Ms. Lewis!

Harvest Middle School students created the colorful poster below of the cover of the book which they asked me to sign. The poster will hang in their school library with several other author visit posters.

I wish I could have gone to the library to see all the posters hanging in there--but it was time to start my presentation!

The students were super responsive and engaged! They participated actively, asked great questions, and then suddenly--

Yikes! It was LOUD! I was told "this is not a drill." Okay, so it was time to leave the gym. The teachers and students were incredible as they filed safely out of the gym along with the rest of the school to the yard outside. It took some time to make sure everything was okay and to file everyone systematically back into the gym! Luckily we were in a 90 minute block period so once everyone was seated again we resumed with a teensy bit more of my presentation and Q & A (my favorite part). Again the students were lively and engaged and had really great questions.
That's me again with Dr. Barbara Nemko, superintendent of schools, admiring the poster at Harvest Middle School. Today in the mail, I received a BIG packet of letters from Barbara. She shared the letters that the students at Harvest Middle School had sent, thanking her for the copies of SHIFTY for the students to read and for bringing me to school. I'd like to thank Dr. Nemko, too!

The students' letters were fun and I'll quote some here soon, but now I need to post more pics of Shifty-themed planter planter boxes created by the after school students at Redwood Middle School.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seymour Snail named a 2010 Maryland Blue Crab Young Readers Award Honor Book!!

Whoo hoo! This is fun news!

The Amazing Trail of Seymour Snail has been named a 2010 Maryland Blue Crab Young Readers Award Honor Book in the Transitional Fiction category.

This award, sponsored by the Maryland Library Association, honors the best in beginning and transitional fiction and non-fiction for children. For more information, please visit:

Thank you Maryland Library Association. I'm honored.
So is Seymour. Did I mention, Whoo hoo?


Here are some animated crabs based on children's art from my website. I am sure Mary Margaret will not mind lending them to Seymour's Blue Crab celebration. Let's see if they stay animated on blogspot.

Okay, these crabs are really red crabs on a blue background, but I love their expressions. If you need a blue crab, here is the front of the brochure for the Maryland Blue Crab Young Reader Award (however the surfing crab looks a little greenish blue to me!)

Thanks again to the Maryland Library Association for recognizing Seymour.

Napa County Reads Shifty: More Amazing Shifty-themed Planter Boxes

Family and friends have been asking to see more Shifty-themed planter boxes created by professional and student artists that were auctioned at the Napa Valley Opera House to support literacy by Napa County Reads. I'm happy to share the following pictures. You can see my earlier posts about Napa County Reads and more totally cool Shifty-themed planters here, here, and here.
Toby Gewertz is the artist of the amazing planter box above.

Soli loves to drive. How cool is this planter-on-wheels by Gary Snethen?

I was overwhelmed and touched with how unique and beautiful each of the planter boxes were. I loved seeing what parts of my novel spoke to the artists and how the artists brought scenes, settings, characters and themes to a different media.

When I was writing SHIFTY, I was just trying to capture the story the best I could--to bring Soli, Sissy, Martha, and Chance's story to life on the page. Seeing parts of Shifty's story brought to life in these planters was unexpected, wonderful and truly inspiring!

I'd love to match up the artist names with each of the boxes. If you created one of these planter boxes or know the artists' names, please comment, and I'll add them. Thanks!

This colorful planter box must have been inspired by Sissy's fortune cookie early in the story which said, "Keep a green tree in your heart and a songbird will come."

Below is a pic of Soli/Shifty depicted as a shape-shifter Coyote by artist Hugo Corro. See Hugo Corro's artist statement, Sissy as a rabbit, and more views of the planter box here.

I tried to take lots of pictures at the Opera House event to remember them all, but I was also meeting many amazing people that night and I was just a little bit nervous about my upcoming talk. So if you were there at the Napa Valley Opera House and you took pictures or bought one of the planter boxes, I'd love to see your planter in its new home, see more pics or hear why a particular planter "spoke" to you.

If you are one of the artists who participated, thank you, THANK you for depicting Shifty's story. The artists' statements were amazing too, but the lighting posed a challenge in getting pictures of the artist statements without too much reflection. You can see a few of them in the preview here.

Forecast: More Shifty-themed planter boxes coming soon.

And please comment below. What are your fav's and why?
Are you one of the artists? Please tell me which box you created and share your artist statement. And if you bid on one of the boxes, please tell us what drew you to that planter box. Thanks!!