Friday, July 12, 2013

Join me on a new blog....

In my last post I noted how much people enjoyed hearing the story behind a painting or drawing...and that got me thinking. I want to share those stories, and encourage a dialogue about my artwork and books.

 A new blog was an obvious solution, and I'm very excited to introduce my newest blog:

 I hope that you'll take a look, subscribe, and pass it on to your friends!

 I may continue to post here on Artfully Told, too (there are just so many great books and ideas out there!) so stay tuned to see how things develop. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the new AnneLeeStudio! Thanks so much!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Telling Stories Artfully

It's been a while since I have done an art show.  Outside of a few wedding commissions--which were a lot of fun, and just lovely to work on--I've been thinking more about promoting When You Are Camping than I have been thinking about creating and displaying "fine art" pieces.    I had forgotten how many paintings I've done over the years and slipped away into cold-storage!  It was time to get them out into the air and to find them good, appreciative homes. 

The annual Yart Sale at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts is a laid back art fair where folks come for bargain art prices and artists set up booths with the express purpose of decluttering their studios.  Perfect. 

The scary thing about displaying paintings is that you have to see and hear how people feel about your work.  The exciting thing about displaying paintings is that you get to see and hear how people feel about your work.  Just like in most of life's instances, I've found that it's best to expect the worst and therefore avoid a lot of disappointment...and find yourself happily surprised from time to time. 

I was happily reminded this past weekend at the Fair that people are so delighted to stumble upon themselves and their story.   To come upon a painting in which they see themselves absolutely thrills people, and in that way, being an artist is a little bit like being a writer, and a lot like being a

librarian.  It's about connecting a person with the story that resonates deeply with their experiences and with the person that they are, the person that they used to be, or the person that they wish they were.  Perhaps a piece of art simply recalls a moment.  But even that moment has a beginning, an end, a reason for being, and a reason for being remembered.  And perhaps it is the smallest and briefest moments that most need capturing on paper or canvas so that we can keep them closer for just a little while longer.  How happy people were to take home a painting of a house, a library, a street, or a farmer's market. These paintings I had slipped out of sight and mind for any number of reasons, finally finding a place where they will be loved and appreciated.

So here's to painting pictures, telling stories, and helping stories find their proper home.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Camping in the Inner City

This past Friday I had the pleasure of sharing my book, When You Are Camping, with almost 70
families at a special retreat hosted by the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Family Care Connection.  Held at Camp Guyasuta, a boy scout retreat on the Allegheny River and pretty much smack dab in the middle of Pittsburgh and its suburbs, families enjoyed a special morning of outdoor activities beneath a canopy of trees and along a rambling creek.  Proving, that you don't have to go very far to enjoy a little nature.

When I was writing When You Are Camping I knew that the title would primarily appeal to families who have already made camping a family experience and tradition, but I really wanted it to be a book that a teacher, librarian, or caregiver could share with children who had never gone camping.  I felt that it was really important to include experiences that children who had never slept outside in a tent could relate to: chasing moths, seeing fireflies, walking in the rain and finding a great mud puddle.

FCC's families live deep, deep, deep in the city-- post-industrial neighborhoods in the heart of the Rust Belt kind of deep city.  Only a small handful of families said they had gone camping or fishing. Nonetheless, I couldn't have hoped for a more engaged and excited group of kids who thrilled at recalling how they had seen deer in a cemetery, watched bugs in their yard, or caught fireflies in the park.   Sharing my book with Family Care Connection's families on Friday, I knew that I had achieved that goal of writing a story that any child, any where could enjoy.

If you're doing a camping program this summer here is the copy from the handout that I passed out, including rhymes and an easy literacy-building exercise.  I can't wait to post some photos from the event as soon as possible!  Have a great summer.

Today We Met Author, Anne Lee, and This is What We Did…                                     
We read When You Are Camping by Anne Lee

We learned a rhyme, I AM GOING CAMPING:
I am going camping (point to self),
Time to pack (point to watch or wrist),
My tent (cup hands in a triangle like a tent),
my sleeping bag (hold hands as if sleeping), and a snack (eat).
I’ll sit by the fire, warm and bright, (wiggle fingers and rub hands together)
And tell ghost stories (wave hands eerily)
‘Til I say good night! (wave and hold hands as if sleeping).

We are building narrative skills and vocabulary by talking about the story and what we see around us!

There are many different animals in When You Are Camping.  Which ones do you remember?  What animals do you see in your yard or at the park?  What are they doing?

We sang a song and clapped along to the beat, Let's Go Camping (to the tune of Where is Thumbkin):
Let's go camping, let's go camping.
Pack the tent, pack the tent.
We will all go hiking.
We will all go swimming.
Let's have fun! Let's have fun!
(Ask the audience for things to pack.  Repeat the song and pack different items each time)

You put one marshmallow in, you take one marshmallow out,
You put one marshmallow in and you shake it all about!
You do the hokey-pokey and you turn yourself around.
That’s what it’s all about!
(Repeat with more marshmallows or different foods….Have fun!)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Earth Day, Arbor Day, and Nature Programs for April

April is a great time for nature programs in your classroom or library.  There is Earth Day ( April 22, 2013) and Arbor Day (April 26, 2013), warmer days, and wonderful Spring things to celebrate.  There are many classic stories about trees, and lots of new favorites, too, but When You Are Camping will, of course, be one of my go-to books this April. I hope you'll consider using it, too. 

Here are some of the other books I'll be bringing along to author visits, and some of the activities I'll be sharing. 

Amelia Bedelia Hits the Trail by Herman Parrish and Lynne Avril.   When You Are Camping's Hazel and Tilly have a friend in young Amelia Bedelia.  This is a perfectly short and breezy read for a school-age group.  Kids always enjoy Amelia's misunderstandings and this book has great tie-ins for activities. 

For example, create a nature table just like Amelia's teacher and invite children to bring something to add to it.  Help them identify and/or label what they found.  Children can work on their narrative skills by telling the story of how they found the object.

Create a "Nature Trail" in your room.  Foot prints and tracks can mark a trail from station to station.  Depending on how many helping-hands you have at your disposal, your space, and your resources, you could set up science experiments, art or crafts, matching or other problems for children to solve, and props for children to explore.

Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland.  Okay, one of the things people often tell me that they like about When You Are Camping, is that there are no bears or other scary animals in the story.  So what am I doing?  Reading When You Are Camping along with a book about a very big bear that scares someone.  Hmmm.  But gosh, this bear is just so darn cute.  Big Bear Hug has a pretty simplistic message--dont' hurt living things--which is just fine for really young children (3-6 years old would be perfect).  Prek and K audiences will love this bear and his big bear tree hugs.  Add a few action rhymes.  Ask children about the animals that Hazel and Tilly saw in the story, and the animal friends that they would like to make in the woods or at the park.  Talk about how to treat small insects and animals.  Now that is one great, Earth-loving, tree-hugging story time!

Painting, coloring, or "collaging" a forest scene would be a nice activity for this young age.  Cut out people figures or a bear for children to glue on.  You could make tree stencils for children to use, or just let them free draw.  Invite families to act out parts of the stories: walking in the woods, telling a story, and especially hugging!

I Can Name 50 Trees Today from the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library is a great non-fiction read for school-age audiences.  The rhyming text is engaging and keeps everyone interested.  Non-fiction books will open up the opportunity for alot of discussion.  What trees would Hazel and Tilly see on their camping trip?  What trees would they see if they camped in the desert, or in the jungle?  What trees have you seen around your house or on camping trips? 

In most parts of the country, April is not a great time for leaf-gathering, leaf rubbings, etc, but there may be flowers, bark, or evergreens to look at.  Help children make a "Tree Journal" so that they can record differences between trees they see, or how one tree changes over the next few months.  Brown paper bags make great journals with perfect pockets for leaves, seeds, bark. and more.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor and Illustrated by Laura Beingessner.  My daughters and I fell in love with this book right away.  It helps that Rachel grew up in Pennsylvania, went to college right down the street from our house, and spent hours looking at the same birds in the Natural History museum that we look at.  These facts brought Rachel Carson to life for me and my children.  Lawlor and Beingessner do a great job of making Rachel Carson a vivid personality who loves nature, works very hard, and creates something very important.  I think most children will find this biography readable and interesting. Biographies can be challenging choices for story times, but I am looking forward to sharing this with young Pittsburgh audiences whether I read it or book-talk it.  Definitely give it a look!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Fresh New Programs For 2013

I love libraries.  I love working in them.  I loved managing one.  And I love using them, especially with two young children.  And, I love story time, but I hope that youth librarians will consider some new additions and more frequent alternatives to the same storytime routine on their event calendars in 2013. Here are a couple of the programs that my family and I would love to attend this year:

Digital media or tech labs for kids and families.  These have become practically obligatory for teens, but it's time for libraries to embrace the fact that more and more elementary age children are being taught with tablets, e-readers, and other technologies, and that they love it!  Libraries are missing out on scores of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who would love to "geek out" at the library with a make-your-own-movie Saturday, or build-a-blog night.  And why leave out our very youngest patrons?  Tech companies and publishers are wise to the fact that babies and toddlers love computers and apps, too.  Where is the family "geek out" night where librarians show off downloadable books for children or great learning apps on their Kid's webpage? 

Creative Movement.   Dancing, stretching, pretending, singing.  Toddlers can't sit still for long.  Instead of fighting their endless need to move, I'd like to just go with it and host a toddler's Creative Movement Morning.  We can help build imagination by stretching and walking liking animals, build vocabulary with song, and build math skills with rhythm and beat...just to mention a few literacy skills we could integrate. 

Bilingual storytimes done well.   Spanish, Swahili, Mandarin, doesn't really matter, languages are amazing and magical, and good for our brains.  Many parents want to expose their children to a second language, but language classes for young children are still rare in most parts of the country and pretty expensive no matter where you live.  Families would love the opportunity to bring their child to a free, weekly program that exposes their youngsters to another language.  Bilingual storytimes aren't unheard of in 2012, but they are rarely in a language other than Spanish and often rely on volunteers.  I would love to see libraries offering consistant bilingual programs that are truly done well: singing, fingerplays, action rhymes, and activity sheets...the works!

Math and Science skill builders.  Let's face it, most librarians are liberal arts devotees.  If more engineering or chemistry majors ended up working in libraries there would be alot more programs about using protractors or learning the periodic table.  And, as a liberal arts devotee myself, I have to admit that, that wouldn't be a bad thing. I love the Super Science Programs that some of our Pittsburgh libraries facilitate for k-5th graders.  With 3 or 4 simple experiments to try out and a few informational texts to listen to these are a great way to include more science in our family dialogue.  How about some Magic Math Programs next year, too, and replacing some of the standard baby lapsit programs with Baby Math Builders (matching, sorting, and counting are super basic math skills for our youngest, future engineers).

Friday, February 1, 2013

Let's Get Dressed

There are so many wonderful new books every year, but it is always nice to rediscover (or discover for the first time!) an older classic.  Up until last week, I had never read The Philharmonic Gets Dressed by Karla Kuskin.  How have I gone my whole bibliophile life without seeing that charming cover and falling head over heels for the clever illustrations and lovely story of a night in the city?  Better late than never as they say, and now I am compelled to make sure that a few other children don't miss out, too.

I am tempted to use this book all by itself for a storytime or kindergarten program.  Just take it slow, and enjoy it, and let it shine.  This book opens up the door for such great dramatic play and narrative skill building, you'll want to save some extra time for families to enjoy musical instruments, play dress up, visit a transportation station (cardboard boxes transformed into buses, taxis, cars, and limos), and build math skills by sorting figures or objects by color, size, etc. On the other hand, there are so many books about jobs, music, or clothes that you could pair this book with, it's hard to choose just a few. Here are a few suggestions below:

Ten Fingers

Black Socks
Black socks, they never get dirty
the longer you wear em the blacker they get

Sometimes I think I should change em but something keeps telling me
Oh no not yet ... not yet

One of Laurie Purdie Salas' Whose Is It series, Whose Coat Is This? for example. 
or, Get Dressed! by Seymour Chwast a wonderfully silly and fun book that invites lively, imaginative participation as children imagine getting dressed for silly scenarios and situations.  This book introduces   fresh new words for clothes, excellent vocabulary builder!

The Wheels on the Bus

Now Go Play!