Last November, I was invited to present at the North House Folk School's Winterer's Gathering in Grand Marais, MN, one of my most favorite places on earth! I led the family event, reading from both of my winter books, Winter is the Warmest Season and Snow, and as the snow fell outside on Lake Superior and the town, we made shiny, glittery paper snowflakes inside. It has been my experience that once you start cutting paper snowflakes, you cannot stop at just one.
Most people think cutting a snowflake from paper is just a matter of folding the paper into quarters and cutting designs from there. That is fine for a lace-like doily, but when I illustrated Snow I studied snowflakes. I learned that most snowflakes have six sides. Some have twelve, but never four or eight! I also learned that a snowflake is not a frozen raindrop-- it is an ice crystal that forms from water vapor in the air and it takes about fifteen minutes for a snowflake to form as it falls to earth. It takes about the same amount of time to cut out your first six-sided paper snowflake.
Last week I hosted a gathering of CMLS (Circus Mom's Literary Society) at my house. This group of friends is famous for good food, wine and conversations about books, but this time I added making snowflakes to the mix. Scissors and shiny square origami papers were all the ingredients needed for a fun activity. I think active hands make for lively conversations.
It is mid-December in Minnesota, and believe it or not, there is NO SNOW! At least not in the Twin Cities. We had a paltry few inches a couple of weeks ago, but nothing since then and there is no forecast for snow in the next ten days! So what do you do when there is no snow? Make snowflakes!
On October 1st, I was the featured author/illustrator at the Smiley Library Family Day in Redlands, CA. The sun was shining and so were all the families, books, and activities! Opened to the public in 1898, the A.K. Smiley Library is truly one of the most beautiful libraries I have visited. Along with a bountiful collection of books and research materials and a welcoming children's book room, the library features stained glass windows, a private garden, and the Lincoln Memorial Shrine with a remarkable civil war museum. Even Abe Lincoln himself was greeting folks!
It was a day of celebrating reading. As the featured Author/Illustrator, I presented a slide show, starting with a musical slide show of The Princess and Her Panther, with the author, Wendy Orr, reading the story. Then I told the story of how I write and illustrate books, showing lots of pictures of course, because I love stories with pictures! At the end of my presentation everyone folded an origami frog with a very big mouth that just might whisper a poem or story into the folder's ear.
Craft tables were set up all over the back lawn with activities inspired by some of my picture books. Children made Princess and Panther masks after reading The Princess and Her Panther. Nests and tide pools were created at the Castles, Caves, and Honeycombs table.
And snowflakes flew with glitter and glue despite the heat of the sun. Books inspired everyone's imagination that day. Books are amazing like that! When you read a book called Snow on a hot, sunny day in California, your skin may get goosebumps and you may find yourself wishing you had a cup of hot chocolate and a pair of mittens to wear!
I am back in the golden glow of October in Minnesota, but what a warm and welcoming Family Day in California!
Summer in Minnesota does not feel like summer without a visit to the Minnesota State Fair. This year I was one of the twelve featured authors at the Alphabet Forest at the Fair. I was given a beautiful large blue ribbon to wear, (my first!) and a table with seats all around it that were rarely empty! If you have never been to the Minnesota State Fair, then you have no idea what it is like to walk all day through rain and sun among thousands of other people eating Pronto Pups, cheese curds, and french fries, but just imagine it, and once you have imagined it, then look for a lovely little wooded corner strung with alphabet letters and activity tables and you will want to sit and rest there awhile. There is even a library to sit and read for as long as you like!
I spent the day celebrating my book, FOLD ME A POEM, by teaching origami, the Japanese art of paper folding. We folded snakes, frogs, penguins, dogs, birds, and roosters~ and since we were folding at the Minnesota State Fair where everything is on a stick, the final addition was a stick:"Origami on a Stick"! The stick element made for some fun puppet shows.
The Alphabet Forest was an idea conceived by this author. There are alphabet crowns, word-finding games, fair letter necklaces, and a photo booth with fair letters from this book. What a wonderful addition to the attractions at the Minnesota State Fair! What an honor to be the Author of the Day! And what does an author do after spending the day in the Alphabet Forest? Why wander the rest of the fair of course! I saw the giant pumpkin, the butterheads, the bees, seed art, and bonsai exhibit at the Horticulture building, ate a delicious five bean fajita at Juanita's Fajitas, listened to "Boiled in Lead" at the International Bazaar stage, and people-watched as night fell and the lights of the fair began to glow.
What to do during the rainy month of April? National Poetry Month? If you have a pile of square sheets of colored paper try folding poems!
Last week I received a photo of a basket full of frogs. Origami frogs! It came from Ms. Wolf and her class of second graders at Valentine Hills Elementary in Arden Hills, MN. Along with the photo were poems written by Ms. Wolf's students.
In her email, Ms. Wolf wrote: "Although I had read Fold Me a Poem in the fall, I reread the story and then we made frogs and wrote poems about them... I had the frogs "whisper" secret wishes to the kids, which they then wrote on pieces of paper and rolled up into the frogs mouths - something I saw you do at the IRA conference a few years ago."
When the author, Kristine O'Connell George wrote the poems for our book, Fold Me a Poem, she was inspired by observing a young boy folding paper animals all on his own. The sound of the paper folding, the different shapes the animal took as it was gradually folded into life, and finally the personality it took on with the help of the boy's imagination, all became the voices of her poems in the book. When I illustrated the poems, I had to teach myself to fold origami by checking out every origami book at my local library. And I will tell you, when you fold paper animals, the paper does indeed whisper to you if you listen! If you are interested in folding paper frogs or a dog, a rooster, bird, or snake, go here. And if you are interested in learning a little more how to write a poem to go with your paper animal, go here. Or you can read the poems below from Ms. Wolf's Second Graders. Enjoy!
(Poems by 2nd graders in Ms. Wolf’s Class )
* * * * *
“hi my friends.”
* * * * *
what I am!
for making me. A
* * * * *
By Hannah L.
* * * * *
A Piece of Paper
I’m a piece
I do not
All I do
I’m a frog!
* * * * *
I’m jumpin’ ‘round!
February is "I Love to Read" month, the month when I visit the most schools as an author/illustrator! I want to highlight a wonderful visit I had last month with Baxter Elementary School in Baxter, MN. Organized by two extraordinary media specialists, Sandy and Jennifer, I was welcomed by over 600 students who had read all of my books and were ready to learn how they were made and ready with great questions! My first day was a day of large presentations: slides showing my process from thumbnail sketches to final art. A movie of my newest book, The Princess and Her Panther was featured, narrated by the author, Wendy Orr, with music by my husband, Matthew Smith. At the end of my presentation we all folded origami frogs, inspired by my book, Fold Me A Poem, written by Kristine O'Connell George. This is always a great accomplishment when there are over a hundred kids folding at one time! It makes for wonderful papery-whispery sounds which just might inspire a poem! (Origami became very popular during my visit~ the second morning, Jennifer was leading "flower" paper-folding lessons to all the early arrivals in the library before the bell rang. I wonder how many paper animals are running around Baxter Elementary these days?)
During my second day I visited several classrooms for smaller workshops. Students learned about storyboards and pagination, dummy-books and how to tell a story within the story in pictures. In my kindergarten and second grade classrooms we wrote a group poem inspired by my book, Snow,written by Cynthia Rylant. Then we cut out snowflakes with six points, never eight! and arranged snowflakes and poems on a double-page spread.
Each day I had lunch with a group of students who had written essays and poems about why they wanted to have "Lunch with the Author". During lunch we shared what we liked to write about and what sort of pictures we liked to draw. I even led a spontaneous drawing lesson one day, shoving our lunch trays aside for space to move paper and pencil.
It was hard to leave Baxter Elementary at the end of my two-day visit. I felt as if I was just getting to know everyone! A week after I arrived back home I received a packet of the most beautiful thank you cards! Thanks Baxter Elementary!
Lauren's latest illustrated children's book is The Shape of the World, A Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright.