This is the first author visit post that includes the preposition 'to' instead of 'from' and that is certainly an exciting distinction.
On Wednesday our first grade class was invited to Ankle Soup illustrator Alison Jospehs' West Side art studio. Alison and children's book author Maureen Sullivan graciously extended their hospitality for a reading of their new children's book Custard and Mustard which will be available in May.
This love letter to Brooklyn's Coney Island highlights the many unique attractions that have kept tourists flocking to this beach and boardwalk destination since the late 1800's. They include The Wonder Wheel, Nathan's World Famous Hot Dogs, Astroland, Steeplechase Park, Cyclones ballpark and the Mermaid Parade among others.
But, before we could dive into the magic of storytelling our little group of 5-and-6-year-olds had to travel across town. In my 'never ceasing to amaze even me' sense of direction I figured we were in for a nice little stroll. The studio is only three city streets from our school but I failed to consider avenues. That was a mistake as it is WAY across town. I just now calculated that we walked more than two miles together before we reached our destination 45 minutes later. Yet, our brave, determined parade continued to march until we were happily greeted by Alison, Maureen and their little dog too.
They had prepared a comfortable staging area with a large couch and comfortable chairs to rest tiny feet and bodies after a long journey. Once we were settled in they began to share the creative process with us of preparing a children's book for publication.
As with their first collaboration, Ankle Soup, the manuscript was completed first and the illustrations were created to help tell the story visually. To ensure the accuracy of the illustrations Alison took her camera to Coney Island to photograph and document each famous landmark and area of interest. Armed with these pictures she then began sketching out the skeleton from which to hang each vibrant gem.
From sketch to carbon paper to coloring in the lines we learned first hand how an idea finds life in the skilled hands of this artist. As Maureen read her clever rhyme celebrating Coney Island, Alison held up her original, in-progress artwork that will accompany each page. Some are further along than others, details need to be added, colors adjusted but these things did not hinder my students enjoyment. Our class was literally bouncing in their seats with excitement as they revisited this place many of them know so well. An unexpected bit of fun was found in trying to locate Carlos the French Bulldog on each page.
With great humor, warmth and an obvious love of children Alison and Maureen (herself a former Second Grade teacher, I knew it!) brought us to The End of our adventure.
As with Ankle Soup, this book ends with a short poem you can put in your pocket and share with others. (I'd share it now but don't want to get in hot water with Maureen for spilling the beans before publication. How amazing it is to get a behind the scenes look.)
After the reading, cookies were passed around and each child was given several tattoos of the star of both books; Carlos the French Bulldog.
Unfortunately, time was fast approaching when we needed to get back to school for dismissal. So, we made our fond farewells and hurried back to the East side - this time we opted not to walk.
Lauren and I have been invited to the book publishing party on Thursday, May 14th so I am sure to be writing more about Custard and Mustard at that time.
Thank you Maureen and Alison for sharing your talents with the children and with us. As one child wrote in his thank you card...That was GREAT!
Visit the Custard and Mustard website to learn more about this book and also read my review!