Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Visit to Alison Jospehs and Maureen Sullivan

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!


Steve said...

This looks like a terrific book!

(I'm so glad you didn't walk back! LOL!)

Lynda said...

What an exciting day for your class. The book sounds like a wonderful children's book. Both Alison & Maureen sure did a special seating area for the class, the sofa looked very comfortable.

I love French Bulldogs too, and will look forward to your post on the Publishing Party
in May.

Barbara said...

There's nothing better than meeting and author and illustrator in person. Last year The Reading Connection (sponsor of the shelter project) brought Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury to read and talk about their new book Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. It was such a wonderful window into the world of children's literature.

Bravo to you for yet another terrific field trip for your brave band!

Arielle Lee Bair said...

I hope I don't sound silly in saying that your work life always seems so exciting! I mean, I know it's truly fulfilling, but it's kind of exciting too! Certainly more so than my job anyway! In any case, thanks so much for sharing. It sounds like your class had a wonderful and fun day!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

thanks for bringing us along....what a great 'field trip' - I look forward to seeing the book will ask the children's librarians at my local library if they have a pre-publication order in!

what bright colorful illustrations!

Mickle in NZ said...

This just shows how much inner city dwellers can learn and do on a "field" trip. I would so much have enjoyed being with your class. Please pass my thoughts and writing onto your class (if you think it is appropriate).

I grew up in a little (compared to New York) City, yet is still a City.

I have lived in Wellingtin City, New Zealand since I was four. We moved into the house my Parents bought on my fourth Birthday - in January 1965.

Now in 2009 I still live in Wellington - by my very happy choice. My Parents retired up to Tauranga in 1990. They also are happily there. And to be honest it is a happy holiday place for me!!!

I am very happy and okay for you to share this with your class. Here in Wellington we have the first touches of Autumn. While most of the trees stay green, there are wonderful big trees down in the Botanic Gradens that get Autumn colours before their leaves fall.

Yes - I spell some words with different or extra letters compared with how you do. Colour is an example. Within our English spelling and writing (and speaking) world there are many variations.

When I write colour I hope your class will recognise the word as color and learn that we are both talking about the same thing.

Hello Class - I have no idea what this word looks like in French, or Spanish. I hope Gary and Lauren can help you. I will keep following their teaching bits they share over the internet. (They show themselves teaching, through one of them signing and the other speaking)

Happy Wishes from Wellington, New Zealand

Gary said...

Steve - I look forward to seeing this book completed. It was interesting to see the mock-up (is that what it is called?). Maureen is reading from it in one of the pictures I posted. The whole process is fascinating.

Lynda - Maybe I can bring a friend...

Barbara - Wow! Mem Fox is teriffic and Helen Oxenbury has some great stuff out there. I read their books in class often. I love children's book authors. They are the celebrities in my world (of course with the exception of dear Linda Ronstadt!).

Arielle - Not silly at all. I agree with you. In addition to the amazing trips (this one, trips to NYC museums, Broadway shows, etc.) there are also the everyday discoveries of being around children. Sometimes I can't believe I get paid for this because if I had the means I would do much of it for free. It's a win/win/win situation.

Kimy - That would be excellent. I hope your library gets it. There is a surprise on the back cover that I'll let you discover on your own. :)

Mickle - Thanks for sharing a bit of your story. I did actually bring you up to a few kids in class but they couldn't get past asking "WHO?" LOL. Thanks for reading and for commenting. Lauren and I have another sign video in the works that should be up soon (of course 'soon' is relative).

WAT said...

Quite a walk there sir, but good exercise, and you're in New York so it can only be cool ya know?

Coney Island! A truly iconic mythical place for sure. Fascinating stuff, and thanks for bringing it up, now I wanna go and read/research more on this truly American of places.

lettuce said...

ankle soup, thats such a great title


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