Tag Archives: school visit

Author/illustrator school visit tips from your old Uncle John

I got an e-mail from an author/illustrator colleague who is about to do her first school visit—she asked for some tips about how to make it a success. Here are a few ideas that came to mind.

First of all, don’t be nervous. The students are going to treat you like a rock star. You’ll be new and different and fun. They’ll love you.

Dress like you’re going on an interview.

Have you read the story aloud yet? Rehearse before you go in front of the students. Read it to a friend or two this weekend, just so you can get comfortable with doing that. BE AN ACTOR—be sure every character sounds different from the others. Don’t be afraid to go over the top with the voices. I’m a ham, and wear some kind of hat that fits with the story—a cowboy hat, or bunny ears—because the narrator is also a character. Relax, don’t rush through your reading, and enjoy the experience.

Ask for water. Ask for a microphone if you’re speaking to an assembly. If it’s just 25 or so kids, no mic.

Know how much time you’re allotted and keep an eye on the clock.

I have a few of my books in jpeg format. The school should have a computer and projector—ask for it ahead of time, along with a tech person. You bring your jpeg file on a flash drive. Bring at least one backup on a different flash drive. You can project your images while you read the story.

If you feel comfortable doing it, draw the kids a picture afterward. An easel with a big pad and a chisel-point marker is all you need. Keep it simple. Draw something you’re good at drawing—a cat or a dog. Describe what you’re drawing as you draw it as if you were doing a presentation on the radio.

If you do Q&A, keep the answers simple. Preface your answers with things like, “That’s a really good question.”

When the show’s over, thank everyone and turn the class back over to the teacher.

Cherry Valley-Springfield School

I had a wonderful time meeting the students and teachers at Cherry Valley-Springfield last month—thanks for inviting me! Those guys had some crazy ideas for the painting demonstration. Here is something you don’t see every day: an alien pirate bunny riding a dragon/dinosaur while eating a cheeseburger. With a cat and a spider.

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A fun week at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School

Thank you for inviting me!

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Some great ink!

Thank you, Claire Kirsch, for your fine reportage on my recent visit to Penns Manor Elementary and my collaboration with the students to create the horrible & dreadful Baby Pandasaurus Rex! Read all about it here.

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Thanks, Penns Manor Elementary!

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More grants for early reading programs

As I mentioned yesterday, Target offers grant money to schools and organizations who need help with an early reading program. An early reading program might entail hiring a children’s book author/illustrator to present to students (he said rather shamelessly).

Dollar General also has a grant program for early literacy/youth development—as does Barbara Bush, Verizon, Scripps-Howard, and Clorox.

Here is a round-up of foundations who offer grant money for summer reading programs. Here are awards & grants available from the International Reading Association.

If you would like a detailed description of my presentations to help you apply for these grants, be sure to give me a yell!

Target offers grants for reading programs!

If you’re a school librarian looking to hire an author or illustrator to present to your students (hint, hint) Target is accepting applications for Early Childhood Reading Grants.

I’m busily putting together a world tour. I’ll be barnstorming across New York State and Pennsylvania—maybe winding up in Connecticut—September/October 2014.

I’ll be in the Pittsburgh area for Read Across America Week, March 2 – 6, 2015.

If I’m booked for 2 or more consecutive days in the same area, I’ll give those schools a discount on my speaking fee. If you’re interested e-mail Lisa at Bookings@johnmanders.com.

Make your reservations now!

I am booking school visits in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area for Read Across America Week, March 2 – 6, 2015. Friday the 6th just got reserved this morning. If I can book the whole week, everybody gets me for 25% off the regular rate.

Contact Lisa— bookings@johnmanders.com

A lovely visit

Thank you, Mrs Goldberg and the Deer Run Elementary School PTO for inviting me out to Dublin, Ohio for a visit on Wednesday! I hope everybody had as much fun as I did.

Nibble Yer Greens!

For a truly rip-roaring sea-shanty singalong, you can’t beat this old buccaneer bunny favourite. Nautical rabbits have enjoyed this one for centuries, and can oft be heard belting out a chorus in lusty bunny voices (to the tune of Blow the Man Down):

Oh, Buccaneer Bunnies roam o’er the salt seas—
Yo-ho, nibble yer greens!
Our booty be cabbage and carrots and peas—
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

Our lives short & merry, our ears long & soft—
Yo-ho, nibble yer greens!
We jump to the ratlines at “All hands aloft!”
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

Come cheer up, me bunnies, to glory we sail—
Yo-ho, nibble yer greens!
Wi’ cutlass & pistols and white fluffy tails—
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

Our clothes be expensive & jewelry’s dear—
Yo-ho, nibble yer greens!
At two bucks for earrings, that’s one buck an ear—
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

So now I ups anchor & bids ye ‘adieu’—
Yo-ho, nibble yer greens!
I’ll drink your sweet health wi’ a flagon or two—
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

March has been an incredible month for school visits.  For most of them I’ve dressed as a bunny pirate and read Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, followed by a painting demonstration.  While I paint, we all sing Nibble Yer Greens.  A couple of students have asked me where the song came from.  The answer is: several places, mostly from sea-shanties sung by 19th-century British sailors.

Blow the Man Down provided the tune and the form for the refrain: ‘Blow the man down’ is imperative—it’s an order.  The phrase I needed also had to be imperative, so I came up with ‘nibble yer greens.’  Incidentally, Blow the Man Down was also the inspiration for the SpongeBob SquarePants theme song.  Fun fact: Tom Kenny, the voice of SpongeBob, hails from my hometown of Syracuse, New York.  It’s rumored the pirate who sings the theme song is a tribute to cartoon show host Salty Sam, a star of local 1960s Syracuse television.  I remember Salty Sam well.

Back to Nibble Yer Greens.  Some of the lyrics come from Hearts of Oak:

Come cheer up, my lads! ’tis to glory we steer,
To add something more to this wonderful year;
To honour we call you, not press you like slaves,
For who are so free as the sons of the waves?

and Spanish Ladies:

Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish ladies,
Farewell
and adieu to you ladies of Spain,
For we’ve received orders to sail for old England,
And hope with good fortune to see you again.

We’ll rant and we’ll roar, like true British sailors,
We’ll rant and we’ll roar across the salt seas,
Until we strike soundings in the Channel of Old England,
From Ushant to Scilly is thirty-five leagues.

‘A short life & a merry one’ was the motto of Bartholomew Roberts.

The ‘buck an ear’ gag has been around at least since I was a kid.  I fleshed out the verse with help from Blood Red Roses:

Our boots and clothes are all in pawn
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
And its flamin’ drafty ’round Cape Horn,
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.
Oh, you pinks and posies,
Go down, you blood red roses, Go down.

And now, adieu—

Let every man here drink up his full bumper,
Let every man here drink up his full glass,
We’ll drink and be jolly and drown melancholy,
And here’s to the health of each true-hearted lass.

ADDENDUM:

Shiver me timbers, I forgot about my reason for writing this post in the first place!  Last month I visited Northwestern Elementary School, and was treated to a concert by the Second Grade classes.  Each class wrote new lyrics for Nibble Yer Greens—which they sang while their music teacher, Mr Fies, accompanied on the pianoforte.

Additional Words by Northwestern Elementary Second Grade Students

(Ms. Sell’s Class)

One bunny named Henry, who liked to read books.
Yo Ho! Nibble yer greens!
He read about weather and making neat things.
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

(Mrs. McCloskey’s Class)

We swab the deck five times, we slipped only once.
Yo Ho! Nibble yer greens!
We climb up the ladders and jump to the sea.
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

(Mrs. Bettler’s Class)

The hurricane came to wreck the salty carrot.
Yo Ho! Nibble yer greens!
It sunk all the jewlry, they started to scream
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

(Ms. Mizak’s Class)

The Island’s sand is yellow and orange.
Yo Ho! Nibble yer greens!
They built a two-story house, made seaweed stew.
Wiggle yer ears and nibble yer greens!

And now, adieu!—I really mean it this time.