Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Visit from Kate Feiffer

For a children's book author the true test of success (or failure) of your 'baby' is to read it to a group of children. Young children will let you know right off the bat and in no uncertain terms if they are interested in what you have to offer. If they are bored there is no stern look, reprimand or promise that will make them pay attention. They are a tough crowd but very honest. I can confidently compare this to amateur night at The Apollo, only without the hook.

Kate Feiffer took on this challenge today as she braved an audience of preschool and first grade students for a reading of Double Pink. And before I keep you in suspense any longer, yes, she pulled it off.

I am always aware of how adults speak with children. Not only the words they choose, but their tone and body language as well. Do they get a kick out of the small ones or do they lose patience easily? Kate Feiffer clearly enjoys interacting with young children and it only seems natural that she would use her talents to pen a book for them. To begin, she asked if they had heard the phrase "write what you know". She said that she never really understood this phrase until she wrote Double Pink. Previously she always assumed that if she knew something, then everyone must know it. However, this is not true is it? (I am finding this out for myself more and more.) Her words mirrored perfectly our current class investigations in poetry writing and gave me an authentic tie-in for student conferences.

Double pink was inspired by Kate Feiffer's daughter who took a shine to the color pink early on and never looked back. While Kate read the children laughed, commented (loudly, as only children can do), asked questions and LISTENED. That is a great complement. Judging from audience reaction, a favorite part seemed to be when the main character, Madison, became lost in her pink surroundings and her mother's efforts to find her proved fruitless.

Overall, this is an engaging story with mesmerizing illustrations by Bruce Ingman. The ending promotes discussion amongst the students because there is a neat hint towards a possible sequel or at least a new obsession for Madison.

Student reaction was so positive and Kate was enjoying herself so much that she shared with us her soon to be published book Henry the Dog with No Tail. This book is a collaboration with her father Jules Feiffer who is an illustrator and author. He has created numerous children's books including the adorable Bark, George in addition to authoring plays. (My BFF Joy recently did a production of Grown Ups in which she played Kate's grandmother. How's that for six degrees of separation?)

Henry is a fantastic book. As a dog lover I was immediately taken with the story. This book can be enjoyed on several levels. Children enjoy it for the tale that unfolds while "big people" will appreciate the play on words and clever use of language. This will certainly be on my wish list (well, it is on my Amazon wish list as of today).

After the readings and questions Sara (our industrious librarian) brought out pink fruit salad as Kate engaged the children in one last activity. She selected a crayon at random and began a story based on the color (peach). Each child then added bits and pieces to the story until it found a natural resolution. Children certainly take a story on some seemingly odd tangents but find a way to bring it all together in the end.

If you are looking for a book about pink, and let's face it, who isn't, then Double Pink is for you.


lettuce said...

I'll look out for her, i love and collect childrens books. how great to hear of a childrens author who is so lovely with children. do you think its true of all good childrens authors? it would be nice to think so

and i know JUST what you mean about realising that people don't necessarily know what you do...- and, actually, that they are quite likely to be interested!

marxsny said...

There's alot of pink in this book, I counted it 93 times from beginning to end. It's a relief to know that children can become pre-occupied with something other than Disney Princesses.

Christopher said...

Check out that handsome devil in the pink shirt? [wink!]

Lynda said...

Hi Gary,

I know you are busy, but had to comment on Double Pink, and Kate Feiffen's visit.
Seems like your students have great fun with the many talented authors that have visited.
Seems as though the authors have a true passion for entertaining and teaching "our future
generation." I also enjoy your Librarian, who gets right into the spirit of things, by making Frog Cakes and Pink Fruit Salad.

Your photo with Kate Feiffen looks great! Your new Blue Ralph Lauren Shirt would have made the photo though!

Joy said...

Truly, a small world. I love that you met the inspiration for my on-stage grand-daughter!

Remember: "Never lose your library card. It's one of your most valued possessions." (That was my favorite line from Grown Ups - because it's true!) Although, of course, in this case I recommend everyone BUY copies of Kate Feiffer's books! ;)

d. chedwick bryant said...

thanks for the book reviews! I love children's books!

lettuce said...

yes, education - tho' i'm the other end, undergraduate (and a bit of postgrad).

tho' i'd sooner teach my end (and the more mature students the better) or your end. That lot in the middle rather scare me.

my area is religious studies/theology - but in a cool, interdisciplinary way (i like to think) - and likely to shift, given big changes coming up at work.....

all to the good , in the end, i hope - change, growth, blah blah blah

saralibrarian said...

One of the pre-school kids in the next group thought Henry's tailored tail didn't wag because it needed batteries. It was not just a laugh, but a moment when the adults who enjoy listening to kids get to fly on one of their lovely rides through thought.


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