Friday, April 22, 2011

Origami Frogs Speak in Poems

Basket full of origami frogs!

What to do during the rainy month of April? National Poetry Month? If you have a pile of square sheets of colored paper try folding poems!

Last week I received a photo of a basket full of frogs. Origami frogs! It came from Ms. Wolf and her class of second graders at Valentine Hills Elementary in Arden Hills, MN. Along with the photo were poems written by Ms. Wolf's students.

 In her email, Ms. Wolf wrote: "Although I had read Fold Me a Poem in the fall, I reread the story and then we made frogs and wrote poems about them... I had the frogs "whisper" secret wishes to the kids, which they then wrote on pieces of paper and rolled up into the frogs mouths - something I saw you do at the IRA conference a few years ago." 

When the author, Kristine O'Connell George wrote the poems for our book, Fold Me a Poem, she was inspired by observing a young boy folding paper animals all on his own. The sound of the paper folding, the different shapes the animal took as it was gradually folded into life, and finally the personality it took on with the help of the boy's imagination, all became the voices of her poems in the book. When I illustrated the poems, I had to teach myself to fold origami by checking out every origami book at my local library. And I will tell you, when you fold paper animals, the paper does indeed whisper to you if you listen! If you are interested in folding paper frogs or a dog, a rooster, bird, or snake, go here. And if you are interested in learning a little more how to write a poem to go with your paper animal, go here. Or you can read the poems below from Ms. Wolf's Second Graders. Enjoy!

Origami Frogs!
(Poems by 2nd graders in Ms. Wolf’s Class )







By Leo

* * * * *

If my

frog could

talk it

would say,

“hi my friends.”

By Rotho

* * * * *

Origami Frog

I was

just a

piece of

paper and

now look

what I am!


Thank you

for making me.  A

piece of

paper into

a frog!

By Anna

* * * * *


I’m a

paper frog

with my

paper frog


By Hannah L.

* * * * *

A Piece of Paper

I’m a piece

of paper.

I do not

do much.

All I do

is sit



I’m a frog!



By Katie

* * * * *

Fast Frog


I’m a

real frog!

I’m jumpin’ ‘round!




By Michael

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Luck of the Buttons and National Library Workers Day!

Today is the "Release" day for The Luck of the Buttons, a new middle grade novel by my friend, Anne Ylvisaker. I have had the honor of being privy to its process since its inception. It was born on a sunny day in May several years ago when I was invited to join The Tall Grass Writers on their annual picnic to the oldest cemetery in Iowa where original prairie still grows beneath spreading oaks. After a delicious lunch complete with champagne, we wandered between lichen covered headstones, reading the epitaphs still visible despite a hundred years of rain, snow, and sun. Anne spotted the name "Tugs Britton" on a headstone and loved the name so much she took a photo of it. (Anne is a great photographer and a camera plays a big role in her new novel!) You can read more about how "Tugs Britton" became "Tugs Button" here.

When you are lucky enough to get your hands on a copy of this book you will find yourself hankering for a slice of pecan pie and a trip or two to your local library. "Miss Lucy", the librarian in The Luck of the Buttons, plays a pivotal role and since today is National Library Workers Day, what does an author of a newly launched novel do on this day? She bakes chocolate brownies and heads down to her local library with a copy of her new book to donate and a plate of brownies to say "Thank you!" I join Anne today in saying thank you to all Library Workers and I join Anne today in celebrating the birth of Luck of the Buttons!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Set model for Cinderella's Castle

I spent the morning yesterday painting the upper panels of Cinderella's Palace. For the past seven years I have been one of the designer/ painters of the theatrical sets for Circus Juventas' Summer Shows. Each year has a different theme, and this year is titled "Grimm" and weaves five stories by the Grimm brothers in and out of the spectacular circus acts. Since I also work with the artistic director, Betty Butler, writing the script I am very familiar with the set and prop needs to make certain the storyline is clear. This year our story begins with Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in their cottage researching and writing their fairytales late into the night. Books lying everywhere, oil lamps burning, candles melting and large feathered quills scattered about will create the setting of a wonderful opening scene! Beyond their cottage lies the village and marketplace as well as the elegant palace on the hill. Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel & Gretel, Little Red Cap, and Rapunzel are the five stories interwoven throughout the show and the familiar characters from each of these tales live their everyday lives in the village, palace, or nearby woods. We have written lots of surprises into the script and added comedy and humor to offset the intrinsic darkness of the original Grimm stories.

Jacob and Wilhelm's cottage is nearly done and the palace is beginning to sparkle. By day I paint picture books using a very small brush in the quiet of my studio, by nights and weekends, I paint sets letting arms fly with large brushes while all around me kids, ages 2 to 21 are flying through the air or tumbling over mats. The script and the sets are just guidelines and atmosphere~ it is the wildly talented performers and their choreographers and directors who bring the show to life. I can"t wait!

For photos and stories of set production of past Circus Juventas shows visit my website.