It was such a pleasure to meet and listen to Tad Hills this weekend at the Texas Book Festival. I was sad to see on his Facebook page after the festival:“Stuck in Austin TX for I don’t know how long. My only other option at this point is to fly to Chattanooga then train to Richmond and sail up the coast to Brooklyn.”
He lives in Brooklyn, NY, but Hurricane Sandy has stranded him here in Austin. This is especially sad since he might miss Halloween, his favorite holiday, with his kids. Each year he designs elaborate costumes for them. Visit his website to view masterpieces ranging from buildings (Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower) to a furry monster that has iPhones playing a moving and blinking eyeballs video loop! http://tadhills.com/about/costumes#4
UPDATE: On 10/30 at 10:45 a.m. Eastern, Tad Hills posted: “They [My wife and kids] are fine. We are very lucky. They are safe and the house is dry. But surrounded by so much damage.”
From costumes to acting, sculpting, or writing and illustrating, this man is an all-around artist who views each of these expressions similarly. He feels you create each in a similar way, adding and cutting to shape the end product. This author/illustrator began writing touch and feel board books, but is best known for his Duck and Goose picture books, as well as his latest two stories about a dog named Rocket who learns to read and write.
In Rocket Writes a Story, I was immediately delighted with the authenticity of the writing process Rocket goes through. For parents, this book provides ideas of your role in helping your child love writing: encourage him; give her time and space for inspiration; listen as he reads aloud his progress; ask her questions. I would add to this list–ask her tell you stories verbally. “Storytelling” is a great pre-writing activity because kids love to talk. Revising as you go is simple when no paper or pencil is involved. As a former teacher, I would have loved to share this story as a model for how authors really write. Writing a story is not a canned task where you:
1) sit down with paper and pencil,
2) write a good story, and
3) get up and say VOILA!
It is a process that is exciting and frustrating, fast and slow all at different stages. You need time, space, inspiration, and support from others. My favorite lines in the book are:
“He wrote words down and crossed words out. When things were going well, he wagged his tail. When he didn’t know what to write, he growled.”
And writing impacts those around us. Rocket experiences each of these elements on his writing journey.
Writing Mini-lesson using Children’s Literature:
In the classroom, have students brainstorm the things they do and need in order to write a story. List these ideas on chart paper. Make sure they don’t leave anything out. Then read Rocket Writes a Story. Have students list the things Rocket used and did in his writing process. Compare the two lists. “Can you add any of his tools to your process?” This should facilitate an encouraging discussion about ideas and their development. Then, as a fun treat, show them the picture of the real Rocket that inspired Tad Hills (http://tadhills.com/rocket/meet-the-real-rocket).
Personally, this story strikes a chord because it’s been about a year now of me nursing 2 manuscripts of my own. My two ideas (a fairy tale and a dog detective story) look radically different than when I began. I, too, have needed breaks, inspiration, peers, encouragement and feedback, time and space. And of course, my great dogs also originally inspired me.
I hope you’ll take time to introduce Rocket to your children or students. He’s a model reader and writer!
Author Interview Links: