Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Visit From Dan Yaccarino

Our school is becoming quite the mecca for talented children's book authors and illustrators willing to share their stories with an eager young audience.

The most recent visit occurred last week when we gleefully welcomed inspired artist and writer Dan Yaccario to our school. Over the years Dan's books have been student favorites when selecting their Top Ten books of the school year. And I have a feeling that The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, Every Friday, Lawn to Lawn and All the Way to America will be represented in the Top Ten this year.

In anticipation for his visit we created a Dan Yaccarino book bin loaded with his books and studied in-depth the life of Jacques Costeau. Lauren (my co-teacher) and I were thrilled to note that Dan has written kid-friendly nonfiction books as the current push in education (with the Common Core State Standards or CCSS) is a focus on nonfiction texts.  One student commented that The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau is a nonfiction book that looks like fiction.  This insightful comment springs from the fact that we originally categorized nonfiction texts as containing photographs and fiction, illustrations.  This comment represented her growing understanding of the nuances to be found across genres.  I mentioned her comment to Dan and he replied that this was his intention.  He is well aware of the CCSS.

Dan's visit carried the overall message of deconstructing the journey of going from a child who enjoys drawing to an adult with a plethora of published books.  Dan instilled in the children the notion that they can do anything they want to do in life, the choices are endless but underneath it all is the passion for doing what you love.  This is a message that connects with the theme of this blog and Joseph Campbell's offering - Follow Your Bliss.

At the end of his presentation Dan answered questions from our first and second grade students.  Here are some of their questions and his answers (which are not exact quotes - I can't write that fast!).

Why do you write books? 

It makes me happy.  There are stories I have inside me that I want to tell and things that interest me, like Jacques Costeau and I get to share them through my books.

How do you make books?

It starts with an idea.  First I create small drawings then expand on them with bigger drawings and paintings and then the text.  It takes almost one year to do one book sometimes.

Where do your ideas come from?

Where do you get your ideas?  From up here (pointing to his head) same as you.

Dan shared that he has drawn everyday since when he was even younger than them and encouraged the children to create their own superheros (because they wanted to know how to draw Superman and Spiderman).  Overall, this was a super-duper experience for all of us.

Below one student shares her opinion about why people should read Dan Yaccarino's books.  Notice in her drawing she shows him thinking about pictures and that the Jacques Costeau book rests on the table.

Should people read Dan Y. books? Yes! Because 1. he had beautiful colors. 2. Writes good books. 3. He thinks of pictures. 
Thank you Dan Yaccarino for taking the time to visit us!


Barbara said...

Your kids are so lucky! These are experiences that will stick with them forever. Who knows how many future authors were soaking up all this talk about books and writing them!

I want to be in your class. Do you ever have a really dull day? It sounds like there is always something exciting happening.

Gary said...

Days generally are not dull. For instance, this week we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a fantastc tour entitled Discovering the World of Art and next week we will attend a performance of White at The New Victory Theater. In between all this "culture" the kids really buckle down and do the work that is required of first grade students. After 2 years in kindergarten, I am enjoying the added maturity that comes with first grade. They are really something special.

On a side note, Dan Yaccarino has graciously spread the word and we are planning more visits from other children's book authors and illustrators. How wonderful!

Pauline said...

"He thinks of pictures." Out of the mouths of babes. Wish we all thought in pictures first. maybe our words would be better, then.

Ms.M said...

Lucky you!

We had Tyler Whitesides, author of Janitors, come to our school the other day but I missed it. :(
although he only talked to the 2nd through 5th graders. I wish someone would come for my K & 1 kids.

Ms. M
Ms.M's Blog
A Teacher's Plan

Gary said...

Pauline - Perhaps they would. And what wonderful pictures Dan thinks of! He showed slides of his progression through the years and one picture was more stunning than the next. His illustrations are so gorgeous. It's great that he took the time to tell the children how he became so good - he really too the mystery out of it - and told them it takes practice (I'd add talent as well).

Ms. M. - Thanks for the link. I love the tagline "You'll never look at a mop the same way again". This book doesn't look like a good fit for the younger children. The trailer (did they make it into a movie?) is a bit freaky.

Ms.M said...

I would agree and I think that is why he didn't speak to the little little kids.

If you know of any good authors coming to NE, you let me know.

Ms. M
Ms.M's Blog
A Teacher's Plan

Steve Reed said...

"Butiful culors" -- LOL! Cute!

You DO seem to lead a really amazing class. A lot different from my memories of school!

Gary said...

Will do Ms. M. I would love to give you that message!

Steve - It's one of the perks of going to school in an big city like New York.I didn't have these experiences either but I am so happy to be able to make them happen for my students.

Arielle Lee Bair said...

Have really missed commenting on your blog. I do read but it's usually on the go on my iPhone and sometimes I dot make time to comment. It's do awesome to read about all you are doing and all these great children's books too. I wish I ha kids of my own SO badly I can't even tell you - so much to share and enjoy in that area. Have I told you lately what an awesome teacher you are? Those kids are lucky to have you, Gary. Thanks for always popping by my blog. Will make more of an effort to pop by yours. I never regret it when I do!

Gary said...

Thanks Arielle for being so sweet. I love when you pop in!

Dan Yaccarino said...

Hi Gary,

I had a great time!

And what a great post! It looks great.

Hope the kids enjoyed it.




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