What’s So Funny? Or How I Met Jon Scieszka Three Times in One Day

My husband and I meet a Mike Myers Dr. Evil look-alike on the Vegas strip

My husband and I meet a Mike Myers Dr. Evil look-alike on the Vegas strip

There were many things that made me laugh in Las Vegas at ALA Annual this year. There were zany, homemade costumes worn by street performers and sky high food prices (an $18 burger? You can’t be serious), but the best laughs were found inside the Las Vegas Convention Center. This being my first ALA Annual, I had spent a lot of time in advance researching which authors and illustrators would be visiting the publisher’s booths in the exhibit hall. When I looked at my final list, I realized that many of these picture book icons had one thing in common: they all wrote or illustrated humorous books that I love to use in Storytime. Following are my experiences in just one day of ALA Annual in which I met these talented people and ways in which you can use their books in preschool or family Storytime.

Jon Scieszka (1st time)

Rikki Unterbrink and Jon Scieszka at the YALSA Coffee Klatch

Rikki Unterbrink and Jon Scieszka at the YALSA Coffee Klatch

9:00am – I signed up for YALSA’s YA Author Coffee Klatch for several reasons, but the top reason was a chance to meet Jon Scieszka. I was five years old when The True Story of the Three Little Pigs was published (the book celebrates its 25th anniversary this year) and eight when my mom brought home an autographed copy of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. She had just met Scieszka at a teacher’s conference. I had never seen an autographed book before and thought it was pretty much the coolest thing in the world. I read the story many times and continued to read any Scieszka books I could get my hands on all the way into adulthood. So, when the other young adult author enthusiasts at my Coffee Klatch table asked which author I was most excited to meet, you know what I said. Wouldn’t you know that when the whistle blew and the authors made their way to each table that Jon Scieszka came to our table first. And sat right next to me. Scieszka talked about the first book in his new series, Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor which will be released on August 19th. Since each author only got five minutes at each table, there wasn’t much time for me to tell Scieszka how influential he has been on my life. It’s a good thing I got a few more chances!

The True Story of the Three Little Pigs
in Storytime:

In advance, gather several items and place in a large bucket, basket or cauldron. Three pig toys or puppets, one wolf toy or puppet, a bundle of sticks, straw, a toy brick, box of cake mix or bag of sugar, handkerchief, and spectacles.

Before reading the story, inform the kids that you have gathered some items for your ‘story bucket’ and you need their help to figure out which popular folk tale you’re going to be reading to them. Pull out the sugar, handkerchief, and spectacles before the others and see if they can guess what the story it about and who the characters might be.

After the story, sing “The Three Little Pig Blues” from Greg & Steve Playing Favorites. Shakers are a nice addition to this song. Have children huff & puff and say “not by the hair of my chinny chin chin!” during the song.

Since it is the 25th anniversary of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and the wolf is attempting to bake a cake for his granny, end the program with cupcakes!

Dan Santat

11:00am — As I waited in line for Dan Santat, I called my mother in Ohio and told her that I had just sat next to my childhood hero, Jon Scieszka for coffee. She was very excited for me and recalled her experience meeting him all those years ago. I told her that I hoped for another chance to meet him and to get his autograph.

As a huge fan of The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz, illustrated by Dan Santat, I was definitely eager to meet Santat. I practically squealed with delight when I discovered the free book he was signing was the follow-up to Ninja Pigs, Ninja Red Riding Hood. If you haven’t read these books you’re missing out. Ninja Pigs would make a nice addition to the “Three Little Pigs” Storytime theme. Another great book of Santat’s to use in a “Bad Moods” themed Storytime is Crankenstein.

Crankenstein in Storytime:

During the story, have children moan and groan along with Crankenstein. Make sure to get into it yourself! Other good books to use in this Storytime are The Three Grumpies by Tamra Wight, The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen and The Not-So-Scary Snorklum by Paul Bright.

Songs and Rhymes:

Five Cranky Crabs
http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Five_Cranky_Crabs

Old MacDonald Felt So Glad
Storytimes for Two-Year-Olds by Judy Nichols, second edition

I’m So Mad
Jim Gill Sings the Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tunes audio CD

Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen

1:30pm – I couldn’t believe I was one of the first people in line for Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen. Both have exceptional talent and have published many award-winning and beloved children’s books. Put them together and you’ve got something magical called Extra Yarn, a 2013 Caldecott Honor recipient. When many authors and illustrators are signing books at the same time at ALA Annual things can get a little crazy in the exhibit hall. Often there are no signs to mark which line is for whom and where it ends. You may find yourself arriving at a booth only to find the end of the queue is somewhere in the next aisle at the back of the hall. I took great pleasure in telling people that I was near the front of the line. However, I found myself getting rather annoyed that people kept asking, “Is this the line for Jon Klassen?” and overlooking the fact that another very talented person was appearing with him! I understand that Klassen has won the Caldecott Medal, a Caldecott Honor, and numerous other awards but he was not the funny man I was there to meet. In my opinion, Mac Barnett is a comic genius bringing the library world some fantastic read-aloud stories including Count the Monkeys, Mustache!, Guess Again, and President Taft is Stuck in the Bath. He has also written a hilarious mystery series for middle grade readers called The Brixton Brothers.

from left: Rikki Unterbrink, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen

from left: Rikki Unterbrink, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen

I was definitely star struck when it was my turn to meet Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. I am slightly embarrassed to say that I practically ignored Klassen and told Barnett how much of a fangirl I am for his work. I told him, “I want you to know that everyone has been saying this is the Jon Klassen line and I keep telling them it is the Mac Barnett line.” Well, Barnett thought this comment was hilarious and elbowed Klassen saying, “Did you hear that Jon? She said it’s the Mac Barnett line! Ha! I have fans, too!” Barnett took several photos with me and even purposely made Klassen lean farther out of the frame for one of them.

Count the Monkeys in Storytime:

I used this book during an evening family Storytime with much success. The book requires audience participation to help count the monkeys (which don’t actually appear in the book at all because they are scared of the various other animals in the book). Toward the end of the book, have a surprise guest reader sneak in the back of the room dressed as one of the lumberjacks from the book. He or she can carry mini flapjacks to share as a snack.

Extra Yarn in Storytime:

Extension activities to use before or after reading the story:
Have children and parents sit in a circle and toss a skein of rainbow yarn across the circle to someone. Have them loop the yarn around their finger and toss the rest to someone else. After the yarn has been tossed at least once to everyone, talk about the web you’ve made and how each person is important to your web and your world. If someone leaves the group, part of the web falls away. Have one or two people drop their yarn to illustrate this. Compare this to Annabelle’s magical yarn and how she uses it to change her world in the story.

Dancing Sheep action rhyme by Susan Dailey
(Use a sheep or llama puppet for extra fun)
http://www.susanmdailey.com/fingerplays.html

Mustache! in Storytime:

In the book, King Duncan hangs giant banners and posters of himself all around his kingdom as a “gift” to his people only to find that his subjects have painted mustaches on all of them. After reading the book, give children a washable marker and a picture from a magazine (or a copy of Duncan’s face!) and let them graffiti the picture with mustaches. Other fun books to read with this theme: Mustache Baby by Bridget Heos and Mo’s Mustache by Ben Clanton. For songs give each child a paper or fake mustache to hold and adapt Woodie Guthrie’s song “Put Your Finger in the Air” to “Put Your Mustache in the Air.”

Mustache Song:
(author unknown)
You are my mustache, my trendy mustache.
You make me happy, when skies are gray.
You’ll never know dear, how much I love you.
So please don’t shave my mustache away.

Jon Scieszka (2nd time)

I get my book signed by Jon Scieszka!

I get my book signed by Jon Scieszka!

2:00pm — This line was very long. Clearly, I was not the only fan of Scieszka’s at ALA and I was worried I would be too far back in line to actually receive a free book. Sure enough, when the representative from Penguin Young Readers Group approached me as I neared the front of the line, I was not surprised that they were nearly out of books. I asked if I could have him sign something else (I brought a special tote bag for just this purpose) and she said yes. However, as I got even closer to the front of the line I was handed a book! Some had left the line thinking they were not getting a book which turned out very nicely for me indeed. I received my copy of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and stepped up to have it signed. “Back for more, eh?” Scieszka said to me. He remembered me from that morning! Hooray! I told him the story about my mom bringing home his book so many years ago and how I had talked to her earlier that day to tell her how thrilled I was that we both finally got to share the experience of meeting him. He said, “That’s great. Tell your mom I miss her.” What a great guy.

Tom Angleberger

4:00pm — I was glad my husband, Travis, had tagged along to Las Vegas because he got the chance to meet Tom Angleberger with me. Travis has read all of the Origami Yoda books by Angleberger and I really enjoy his picture book, Crankee Doodle. Angleberger was just as we expected. Wearing a Rebel Alliance baseball cap and nerdy t-shirt, he looked like he had just stepped off the pages of one of his books. He was very gracious and friendly. We look forward to reading the final installment of Origami Yoda, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus.

Crankee Doodle in Storytime:

This book just begs to be read aloud by two actors/librarians. After seeing this book performed in a similar fashion, I just had to do it during a family Storytime because it’s fun for both children and adults. Young children may not understand the reference to the song, Yankee Doodle, but older children and parents think it’s hilarious. In the book, Crankee Doodle’s pony tries to convince him to go to town to buy a new hat, but Crankee doesn’t want anything to do with going to town. Read this book using a horse puppet for the pony’s part and a tri-corner hat (we made one out of paper) and baseball cap for Crankee’s part. Follow up with a rousing sing-along of the original song.

Mac Barnett & Jon Scieszka (3rd time)

Jon Scieszka, Rikki Unterbrink and Mac Barnett with Battle Bunny book

Jon Scieszka, Rikki Unterbrink and Mac Barnett with Battle Bunny book

4:30pm — Proof that dreams really do come true, I got to end the day chatting with both Barnett and Sciezska at the same time. Both remembered me and actually told each other about our previous meetings and posed with me for the most memorable photo of all. Barnett and Scieszka co-wrote a book called Battle Bunny, a “deliciously subversive piece of metafiction” according to Booklist. I told the authors that I love the book, but I am worried that library patrons will start to scribble all over future books using this one as inspiration. I haven’t yet figured out how to use this one in Storytime, but Barnett informed me that if you go to http://mybirthdaybunny.com/make-your-own/ readers can download and print the pages for their very own bunny story. Perhaps I will make my own called Funny Bunny and turn all of the fluffy animal characters into children’s book authors that I met one day in Las Vegas.

(All photos courtesy of guest blogger)

*********************************

BookOur guest blogger today is Rikki Unterbrink. Rikki was a 2014 Penguin Young Readers grant recipient and is the Youth Services Director for Shelby County Libraries in Sidney, Ohio. She is a co-creator of the Teen Think Tank, a grass roots roundtable for teen and tween librarians in Ohio, a member of the Teen Services Division of the Ohio Library Council and a book reviewer for the Southwestern Ohio Young Adult Materials Review Group. This year she also received the Penguin Young Readers Award to attend her first ALA Annual. Rikki enjoys presenting at numerous conferences, performing family Storytimes, dressing up in hilarious costumes and playing with puppets at the library. She lives in Wapakoneta, Ohio with her handsome, band director husband (their life is just like The Music Man) and three crazy but charming cats, Ron Weasley, Katniss Everdeen and Chandler Bing (he’s adopted). You can find her posting for the Shelby County Libraries Facebook page, reviewing on Goodreads or you may contact her by email at steingri@oplin.org.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at alscblog@gmail.com.

This entry was posted in ALA Annual 2014, Author Spotlight, Children's Literature (all forms), Conferences/Meetings/Institutes, Guest Blogger. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What’s So Funny? Or How I Met Jon Scieszka Three Times in One Day

  1. Stacy Couch says:

    One word: Jealous. Esp. love Barnett and Scieszka. Not sure how to read to a class, but I got my nephew to sing Battle Bunny in a superhero voice every time the character’s named popped up: BAT-tle BUN-NY! (Even though BB is…not so heroic.) And after we read it, we made up a song, inspired by a few choice lines: “SICK CHICKEN, I’m going to pluck you like a…SICK CHICKEN!”

    Not the most intellectual approach. But fun.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Rikki! Fun to read your post and enjoy your day vicariously! I’m a huge fan of Jon Scieszka’s as well and am planning to read “The True Story…” at my library’s second annual READATHON 2014.

    Double thanks for the links to storytime extensions: can’t wait to use “Dancing Sheep” for my next [Bedtime, Funny Farm, Movement themed, etc.!] storytime!

  3. Rikki Unterbrink says:

    Thank you so much! I’ve been receiving lots of emails and Facebook posts full of love for Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett. I’m glad I’m not the only fangirl out there. I found this wonderful video on YouTube of Mac and Jon reading Battle Bunny at the same time. Mac reads the original story while Jon reads the ‘improved’ version. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5kCT9cexyo

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