How One Teacher Reads Aloud To Her Middle School Classroom

I LOVE talking books and reading with friends and family. Recently, my friend Emily Allison shared with me how she uses a weekly story time in her Middle School classroom. To say I was intrigued was an understatement; I cried listening to Emily talk about this sweet tradition. I love that Emily takes time each week to read aloud to her classroom, I know I had to interview Emily so she could share with you.
1. Can you tell me about your Friday Story Time?

Emily: I got the idea for story time from a friend, Bobby Ivey, who taught high school chorus. He read a children’s book to his seniors every Friday. Four years ago, I asked him if I could use his tradition and he said absolutely! Now, every Friday at the end of each class, I sit and read with my students. I teach 6 classes ranging from 6th-8th grade so each class has a different take on the book of the week.

2. Were you worried about having a read aloud time for 6th-8th graders?

Emily: Honestly, I was incredibly self conscious. I hated reading aloud in school and didn’t have any experience doing it in my adult life either. I decided to just give it a shot and if my students hated it, I figured it would be easy to ditch. I introduced the first book on the first day of school. I read Max Lucado’s You are Special. Ever since then, I always select a particularly meaningful book for the first day of school. I use it as my theme for the year. On my 8th graders last day of school, I reread them the first book we ever read together in 6th grade. It is sentimental and we all really love it. .

3. Do you have any favorite books you’ve read to them?

Emily:  Oh goodness. I don’t know if I could narrow down my list of favorites! I think my two favorite beginning of the year books are In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek and Mr. Peabody’s Apples by Madonna. They have some amazing lessons in them. My students love to act out the books as well, so the best ones for character acting are Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, George and Martha (a 4 story set) by James Marshall, Piggy Bunny by Rachel Veil, and Sixteen Cows by Lisa Wheeler.

4. Why do you think reading aloud to middle schoolers is important?

Emily: I think kids today are forced to grow up at a much younger age. They have more and more responsibility placed on them, both academically and socially. Reading aloud is so important, especially in young children. The best part about reading to my four year old at home is the shared bond we have over the stories. We enter into the world of imagination together and weeks and months later, we can still be discussing past books. This same bond is there with my middle schoolers. Story time gives them 10 minutes a week to just be a kid. We do it for pure enjoyment.

5. How has this changed your classroom dynamics?

Emily:  Four years ago I made a decision to focus my attention on the positive behaviors of my students. I started pouring all of my attention into the great things going on, and rewarding them with our shared story time at the end of the week. We do a lot of activities to reinforce this basic idea, and when my attitude changed, so did my students. Story time has helped create a shared love between us beyond the music we already share. It makes my classroom feel more like a home in which they can express themselves safely while sharing their innermost hopes and dreams. Whether we are reading a new story or a childhood favorite that they brought in; whether I am a reading, a student is reading, or a guest is there, we are free. Free to escape to a world a little simpler and a little more beautiful. The positive benefits of this are indispensable.

6. What is the feedback you have gotten from your students?

Emily: My students really love it! Every Friday, the first thing they say to me is, “What book did you bring?” or “Can I be a character?” I have found some of my most reserved students enjoy taking part in story time. It is always impressive to me to see them come together! I think my 6th and 7th graders think it is fun and silly, but by the time they walk out in 8th grade, they understand the magnitude and beauty of it. When I reread to them the first book we shared in 6th grade, they can fully grasp the lesson I was trying to give them. That is always a really touching moment.

7. What does your administration think of this tradition?

Emily:  I am blessed beyond measure with the most supportive administration around. They love to see all of our teachers work to create meaningful experiences in our classrooms. They give us the freedom to create a safe and creative environment in the form that works best for us. My principal has even been a guest reader!

8. What would you say to other teachers who may want to start a weekly read aloud time with their class?

Emily: Do it. Take the leap of faith needed to be vulnerable. I was so worried my students would think this was too childish. What I have found is that my students see my heart and my intentions. They have met me where I am at and they appreciate that I am trying to protect their childhood. Story time may look simple from the outside but it is so much more. My students will remember these moments. They will remember that we read The Kissing Hand on their first day of 6th grade and that it reminded them that they had someone looking out for them during some of the most challenging years of their school life. They will remember that we read A Bad Case of Stripes and that they were encouraged to be themselves even if it meant not fitting in, and they will remember reading The Night Before Christmas before each break because it reminded them that traditions carry weight and that they are important. It will also make you as a teacher seem more real. You will enter into a new world where you are more approachable and don’t we all want to be a trusted face to our students? You never know who’s life will be saved because they knew you cared.

Emily Allison has served as the choral director at East Hall Middle School in Gainesville, Ga since August of 2008. She is a lover of books and music. She enjoys investing her time in her students futures and in creating life long musicians. She resides in Toccoa, Ga with her husband Jake, their two kids Anthony and Nora, and more books than she cares to admit.

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Interview with Joy and Finley Author, Rachel Ingram!

I love conducting author interviews. Anytime you can get to know an author better, it really does provide great insight of what inspired the book! Reading Joy and Finley was such a treasure, I knew immediately I had to interview Author Rachel Ingram for you all.  If you missed my review, be sure to check it out. You can purchase Joy & Finley by going to Rachel’s website. It comes beautifully wrapped; making it truly HAPPY MAIL!

1. In Joy & Finley, you mention that one of your goals is to encourage parents to travel with their children more often. Can you share how you implement this with your family?

As a family, we decided that traveling and experiencing the world, whether that was overseas or in the US, is a priority. And that having young kids, isn’t a hindrance to traveling, it just makes the adventure more interesting! So we set goals (see below!) and we split up the travel tasks. I usually come up with an idea or a place to go, and Keith books the flights, hotels, things to do and packing supplies. Then I pack the girls’ stuff and mine all together, he downloads the reservations/tickets and off we go!

It’s about adopting a traveling and exploring lifestyle, even when it comes to setting aside some money every month for travel 🙂 And remember, that it’s okay to upset a routine or a schedule…especially the kids’ routine! They learn how to adapt, get along better, and get to experience the fun of new people and places. Plus, we often travel to places during their non-peak seasons, allowing for cheaper flights/hotels, and easier hours to ask off from work.

One last hint, is to come up with a funny secret word between you and your spouse or kids, that makes everyone laugh. That way, the next time someone gets stressed out while traveling, all you have to do is whisper the word in their ear and they’ll laugh instead of getting upset!

2. What tips do you have for parents traveling with young children?

Go at your own pace, be as mobile as possible, and always carry a first aid kit 🙂

It’s fun to schedule bike tours or to get passes to unique attractions, but don’t schedule out your whole day. Chances are you will be so stressed just trying to get to all your scheduled events, that you don’t actually enjoy them! Schedule 1-2 things to do, and have a flexible plan for the rest of the day. Don’t worry, you will still get to see everything, but this gives you the time you might need to go back to the hotel and change your shirt after your baby just had a poo explosion in the baby carrier!

Resist the urge to take your stroller and be as mobile as possible! There are so many great baby/kid carry solutions for travel, that allow you to hop on and off subways, go on tours, and maneuver through a crowds like a pro. Buy a kid carrier that has compartments and an sunshade/hood as well. You can pack it up for that day’s adventures, not have to carry any extra bags, and your kid is set whether rain or shine. I’m also a fan of encouraging your kids to walk. It might take twice as long, but sometimes going at a slower pace is better!

First aid kits, with baby wipes, will be your best friend! Kids trip, fall, climb, and get scraps at home, which means they will do the same while traveling! A first aid kit can be as simple as bandaids, antibiotic ointment, sanitizer, wipes and tissues all in a ziplock bag. It will be mom and dad to the rescue as you clean off the scrap, put ointment on it and place a bandaid on it, all within minutes, allowing your travels to continue! Plus bandaids are great for the blisters mom and dad are going to get from walking and carrying kids everywhere:)
3. Do you have any upcoming trips?

Disneyland!! Our daughters are at the perfect Disneyland age, and are super excited to go in February. Plus my oldest daughter’s name is Elsa (she was born before the movie!), so Frozen is a pretty big deal at our house 🙂 We are also hoping to go to Victoria BC this spring, and explore Olympic National Park this summer. Right now, our house is under construction, so hopefully by the fall we’ll be done, and we can get more trips in!
4. Where have you traveled with your kids?

Our first trip with kids was to Hawaii when my oldest was only 3 weeks old! We lived in Caserta Italy for 3 years, and in Italy we traveled to Naples/Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Sardinia (gorgeous beaches!), Rome, Pisa, Tremoli (on the Adriatic coast), Florence, Venice, Como and Bolzano. In the UK we visited London, Portsmouth, and Dover. In France we saw Paris and the French Alps when we stayed in La Clusaz (near the Swiss border) and we visited Geneva Switzerland on that same trip. Germany is one of my favorite places to visit, and we saw Munich, Berlin (love!), Stuttgart, and Schwangau (Neuschwanstein Castle is amazing!). We’ve also been to Vancouver and Whistler BC, Portland Oregon, and a few east coast cities such as Williamsburg and Portsmouth. And of course we’ve traveled around Washington state :)!

5. Do you foresee Joy & Finley becoming a series?

Yes! We want Joy, Finley and Sir Sam to be characters that encourage kids to have adventure and travel. We’re hoping to write books that include settings from all the places we’ve been,and then to start traveling internationally more often, so that we can write books about new places!

6. (Follow up question to #5): What is next for Joy & Finley, the Italian Race mentions London?

I have a feeling Scotland Yard is going to need some help solving a great British mystery! Of course there are going to be 1930’s airplanes and motorcycles, a chase through London and Dover, plus some great British food, words, and history. It’s making me crave bacon crisps and British biscuits!

7. Do the adventures of Joy & Finley reflect your real life travels?

Yes! (see above about the next books being in places we’ve been!) Living and traveling overseas opened up so many doors, including great cultural insights for Joy & Finley. We love the history of European cites as well, and tried to include that in Joy & Finley with the time period (1930’s) and the places they visit. Also, no one really escapes living near Naples Italy without a few dents in their car, and you can pretend you are driving a race car down the Autostrada (like an interstate) because the speed limit is loosely interpreted 🙂


8. Speaking of influence, Sir Sam was one of my favorite antidotes to Joy & Finley. Is Sir Sam a real dog?

Sir Sam is based off of our own wire fox terrier, Samper! We got him when he was only 8 weeks old, and he has flown everywhere with us:) He is 7 years old now, and is definitely just as full of spunk as Sir Sam. He loves running down the hiking trails, going with us to take the girls to and from school, and laying on a blanket in front of the fireplace. Our family would not be the same without him!

9. For parents who are unable to travel overseas with their kids, how do you recommend family explore new places (aside from reading Joy& Finley)?

I love that question! We are huge advocates for getting outside and exploring your local community and cities! I recommend making monthly adventure goals, as well as setting a goal to go on 2-4 larger trips in the US every year. For monthly goals, you should have at least one day trip planned, and then set a goal to go on a hike, visit a new park, go to a new bakery, visit a new bookstore etc. at least once a week. I’m a fan of packing the kids in the car, driving for 2-3 hours and then visiting museums, local attractions, restaurants, etc. for a fun day trip! And then getting out with the family, a least once a week, is great relationship building time as well. The longer trips can be a road trip to the next largest city, a national park, a ski weekend, a history trip in Boston or Philadelphia…the options are endless! The big factor is setting aside time to plan out trips, and making a goal to follow through.

To learn more about other countries, the library is a great resource! I make it a goal to get at least 2-4 children’s books just about other countries or cultures, every time we go to the library. Kids love learning about other little kids, and both fiction and non-fiction books are great teaching resources. Plus it’s fun to try to get the accents down when your reading a book about another country!

10. What was your favorite book as a child?

I totally wanted to be Nancy Drew!!

For picture books, I loved Goodnight Moon and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. They were some of the first books we bought when our oldest daughter was born. And yes, I have a Nancy Drew set of books on my shelf, that I plan on giving my daughters when they get older 🙂

11. What are you reading now?

A Small Town in Germany by John le Carre and Captain Riley by Fernando Gamboa. I’m a fan of the spy/mystery, adventure, and history genres. I just finished Winter Fortress by Neal Bascomb and LOVED it!!

12. Who influenced your writing and/or traveling spirit?

As a child I fell in love with Indiana Jones and wanted to be an archaeologist (they are still my favorite movies!) We didn’t travel much when I was a kid, so from an early age, my goal was to get out and see the world, like Indiana Jones. I’ve always had a sense of adventure and desire to travel, and my parents encouraged me to work hard and achieve my travel dreams. My first real adventure was when I moved away from Texas to go to college in Colorado, at 18. It was just me!! From there I traveled to Norway, the UK, Holland and Spain after my freshman year, and I’ve kept going since 🙂 I’m definitely different than my other family members who still live in Texas and don’t travel much, but that works for them and traveling works for me!

I also have a philosophy that the world is such an amazing place, filled with people who can inspire us, encourage us, and teach us. My husband and I believe that every kid should have the chances we had to work hard, dream and go on adventures. That is why a portion of every Joy & Finley book sold, goes to international relief organizations that do amazing work for kids all over the world. We love to travel, but we love Jesus even more, and traveling the world is so much better when you love and help others along the way!

 

Be sure to follow Rachel on Instagram and Facebook for more Joy & Finley adventures!

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Interview with Queen Girls Publication

My daughter is kind, sweet, lover of pink, and fierce. She knows what she wants and where she is going. Her ability to embrace her femininity, while be brave and courageous are all attributes that I have learned from her. Raising a daughter is such a joy!  Which is why I am excited about our first author interview of 2017, the women behind Queen Girls Publication are using real life heroes to inspire girls to be leaders. The Queen Girls Publication is still on Kickstarter and you should definitely check them out! They are also on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest


1. Tell me about how you came up with the idea for the Queen Girls Collection?

It has been a little over a year now since our idea was born! My sister in law and co-creator, Jimena, had recently given birth to her first baby (my darling nephew) and I, had just returned home from a year of traveling. As a new mom, Jimena started looking at children’s books a bit deeper and recognized various stereotypes present in children stories – Jime is also well invested in human development and passionate about psychology. She is now training to become a life coach and recognized that there was a lack of empowering content for young girls, in a time when they begin to create perspectives and beliefs they will hold for the rest of their lives. Combined with my educational background of working as a speech pathologist and experience working with children abroad – both of which showed me the difficulties that children are facing to follow their dreams, we thought this would be a great journey to start together. A journey that would give us the opportunity to jump into action and be part of a movement that strives towards diversity.

2. I know you are doing a Kickstarter campaign for the first book, but what other women do you hope to highlight in the future?

We have our next two Queens picked out! One is ‘Savi, Queen of Education’ inspired by Savitribai Phule, an Indian poet and social reformist who paved the way for education of girls in India. The other is “Isadora, the Rebel Queen’ inspired by Isadora Duncan, a woman ahead of her time, who gave birth to modern dance. There are so many other inspiring women we have on our minds, as well. Our intention is to use the help of our Kickstarter backers to decide on future Queens! They are already sharing their ideas of women with us like Viola Desmond and others!

Our vision is to create a collection where other authors, illustrators, and aspiring creators can join to write books on their own Queens.

3. What is your favorite thing about Bessie?

We love how adventurous Bessie was. In order to follow her heart and make her dream come true, Bessie had to use her adventurous spirit to take risks, be brave, go outside of her comfort zone, and do things that no girls had ever done before.  We would love to see the girls that read our books aim to use this trait to help make their dreams come true!

4. How do you hope your series influences young girls?

We want our series to teach young girls that with a dream and some hard work, they can be anything they want. Absolutely anything. We want girls growing up in a world where gender barriers do not exist and where they are encouraged to be themselves, no matter what that may be. We truly believe we need to be reading different stories to our girls, and this is why we are creating positive content for young readers.

5. Who was your role model growing up?

My role model growing up was my older brother, Justin – intelligent, personable, adventurous, independent, and ambitious to name a few. I was constantly following in his footsteps. His influence has had a huge impact on who I am today, and I will forever be grateful for having him to look up to.

6. As a child, what was your favorite book?

A favorite book of mine, among many, was “The Little Engine That Could.” It ties in with the Queen Girls mission – inspiring children to dream, believe, and achieve! “I think I can, I think I can!”

7. Why is your collection called Queen Girls?

Queens are kind, brave, loyal, determined and real! They are passionate, have dreams and follow their heart! We are aiming to break free from the stereotypical princess ideology and instead, steer our girls towards Queens.

 Check out their Kickstarter!

Interview with Author Jeremy Gritton

I practically squealed in excitement when Jeremy Gritton sent me his Kickstarter campaign link. His book, The Inn At the Edge of the World looks AMAZING. I knew an author interview was exactly how I needed to introduce it to my readers. And I am super obsessed with Where The Wild Things Are  so when Jeremy mentioned how much he loved it….OOPS! Spoiler alert! Enjoy the interview with Jeremy Gritton! Be sure to follow him on Facebook and grab your copy of The Inn At the Edge of the World!
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Please introduce yourself to my readers!
 
Hey everyone, my name is Jeremy Gritton and I’ve been working as a 3d Artist in the video game industry for over 10 years.  Although my background is in digital sculpture, four years ago I decided to expand into painting and began working on an illustrated book in my spare time.
What inspired The Inn At The Edge of the World? 
 
Becoming a dad!  When my first daughter was born, I thought it would be really cool to create an illustrated book that I could read with her once she was older.  I started working on it a little bit each day when she was only a few months old.  It took a lot longer than I expected to complete, but the book is finally done and will be printed soon thanks to the Kickstarter.
What was your favorite children’s book(s) as a child? 
 
I had so many favorite children’s books when I was growing up.  If I had to choose one that really sticks out in my memory, it would be Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak.  I remember studying the illustrations of Max’s room transforming into a jungle as a child and being completely amazed by it.
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What are you reading now?
 
Most recently I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  It’s a book about the inner struggle that a lot of artists and writers go through and was recommended to me by a co-worker.  Although I didn’t agree with everything in the book, it was an interesting take on the creative process.
When can we expect any future books from you?
That’s a good question.  I loved working on this book and gave it everything I had.  I have several more book ideas and one of them already written, but since this was something I made on the side it’s hard to predict.  I hope to do another book someday though!  I learned so much from this first one.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when writing/illustrating? 
 
Almost everything – movies, books, TV shows, music, artwork, conversations, dreams, memories.  It’s hard to know where exactly the inspiration for something might come from.  Sometimes it’s just a feeling.
Who is your favorite character in your book? edgeoftheworldbook1
 
My favorite character would have to be Sam’s (the narrator’s) mom.  There’s a lot of little story elements you can gather from the illustrations in my book that aren’t mentioned in the text.  One of them is that between Sam’s parents, his mom is the one that deals with their challenges a little better.

There’s a painting toward the end of the book that shows her bravely using a fire extinguisher on a Phoenix while Sam’s dad stumbles backward in shock.  Who does Sam choose to hide behind?  His mom!  A lot of the book is about things going wrong in their magical world, and little moments like that give some insight to the characters’ personalities.

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Links

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2139454753/the-inn-at-the-edge-of-the-world

www.edgeoftheworldbook.com

www.facebook.com/edgeoftheworldbook

Interview with Jenny Maj, author of Falafel’s Garden

Jenny Maj is the author of Falafel’s Garden. She is also the plush toy maker at Fluffmonger. Jenny’s book is currently on kickstarter so it can be printed on recycled paper. Enjoy my interview with Jenny. I’m sure you will see that she is passionate producing products that echo her conviction of being socially and environmentally responsible. You can find Jenny on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and her blog, Fluffmonger.com. Also be sure to check out her Plush Toy Shop, Fluffmonger.
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What was your favorite book as a child?
I honestly had a few favorites growing up, but the one I continually asked my mom to read was Eric Carle’s The Grouchy Ladybug. I loved all of Eric Carle’s books for the illustrations, but The Grouchy Ladybug was my favorite because of the way my mom read it. She had a stuffed ladybug puppet she would wear on her hand, and she would make the funniest voices for all of the characters. (The ladybug puppet was definitely a gateway to my obsession with stuffed animals.)
What book has influenced you the most and why?
The first book I remember reading that really had a big impact on me was To Kill A Mockingbird. Atticus Finch reminded me a lot of my grandfather, and his desire to instill a social conscience in Jem and Scout was something that really stuck with me.
When I got into making plush toys, I did what many toy designers do and started researching what it would take to have my designs produced on a large scale. I was aware that sweatshops existed; but up until then, I had no idea just how prevalent they were. People expect toys to be cheap; and because of this, the toy industry has become one of the biggest offenders for using exploited labor and cheap materials that have a detrimental impact on the environment and the health of the workers in toy factories.
When I started Fluffmonger two years ago, I wanted to take a socially and environmentally responsible approach to running my business. I decided to use materials that were eco-friendly and that came from responsible sources. Organic and ethically made materials are significantly more expensive and require hand dyeing, but it’s worth it to me to know that they were made with fair labor and without harming the environment.
I took the same approach with Falafel’s Garden. It was difficult to find a book printer in the U.S. that was willing to use 100% recycled, FSC certified paper for printing the pages. The margins for the book will be much lower than if I had it printed overseas or on virgin paper; but in the end, it will be a book that I can really feel good about.
Where did you get the idea for your book?
When I created Falafel the Llama, Griswold the Sheep, and Baxter the Horse two years ago as plush toys, I gave them each a brief, two-sentence storyline. baxter-the-horse-fluffmongerWhen I later decided to incorporate the three of them into a children’s book, I wanted to make sure I stayed true to the characters’ personalities. I started thinking of how I could write a book that connected each of their backstories, and the idea for Falafel’s Garden just kind of popped into my head.
In the book, Falafel wants to plant a garden, do you garden?
I do garden, but I must admit I have a bit of a black thumb. I’ve learned to stick to herbs and vegetables that aren’t easy to kill. I spent a lot of time in my mother’s and grandfather’s gardens growing up, but I somehow managed to not inherit any of their gardening skills.
I would love to know what herbs and vegetables aren’t difficult to kill? I am a wannabe gardener who knows NOTHING about plants or having a garden.
From my experience, basil and oregano are pretty easy to grow. Oregano will make anything you plant near it taste like oregano, though. Kale is also easy. We planted some last year that survived through the snow and frost. Tomatoes are supposed to be easy, but I always end up with blossom rot and a poor yield. I am definitely a beginner as far as skill when it comes to gardening.
The cooking references were so fun, what’s your favorite dish to make?
Fajitas! My husband loves to cook, and fajitas were one of the first meals we made together. We both love tomatoes and peppers so much, I think we would eat them for every meal if we could. We make fajitas so often, we have it down to a science who chops which vegetables, who makes the pico, and even who squeezes the lime.
Can you share what you hope kids take away from your book?
My obvious hope is for children to take an interest in growing and preparing their own food; but I also hope the book helps children in their relationships with their friends, particularly instances that require forgiveness.
Without giving too much of the story away, Falafel the Llama experiences a situation where he can either be mad at his friends or take the high road and forgive them. I’d like for kids to see that while Falafel has the right to be upset, he recognizes that his friends just made a bad decision. It’s very easy to label people as “good” or “bad” based on a single action, but people make mistakes. I want kids to know that if they make the effort to forgive and let go of grudges, their lives will be much richer.
When will your book be available for purchase?
The book is currently available for pre-order on Kickstarter. After the campaign ends, it will be available to order on my website. This is my first time working with a printer; but by the estimations they have provided, I should have copies available by early to mid-December.
I noticed your kickstarter is also raising money for a community garden. Can you share more about that?
fluffmonger-pic-2Yes, one of the stretch goals for the campaign will benefit The Edible Schoolyard Greensboro, NC—a non-profit organization with a teaching garden and kitchen classroom designed to provide hands-on food education to children and families. If my Kickstarter campaign reaches the stretch goal for The Edible Schoolyard, I’ll be able to purchase season extension equipment for their program, which will allow them to grow a true winter garden and harvest nutrient dense, fresh ingredients to use in school group programs, cooking classes, and their after school program.
What’s next for you? New book? Critters?
Definitely making new plush! Writing and illustrating a children’s book has been such an amazing experience, but I can’t even put into words how much I have missed creating new plush characters. I’d love to start another book down the road, but you’ll definitely find me sewing in my studio for a while after finishing everything up with the book!

Interview with Keith Allen (5am PopUp Books!)

Keith Allen recently shared his Kickstarter campaign for his pop up book, “What A Mess!” with me. I was so excited by his project; I wanted to give my readers a chance to get to know Keith and learn more about his Pop Up Book Kickstarter campaign. His book, “What a Mess” pop up book looks fabulous! I was laughing throughout the book because I could relate SO MUCH trying to get my kids’ to clean their rooms!! 
Enjoy my interview with Keith. You can find him on his website, Instagram, and his Kickstarter campaign!
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1. Please Introduce yourself!  
My name is Keith Allen and during the day I am a Senior Product designer at a large greeting card company but during my own time I make pop-up books! I was inspired by my kids to create this unique book about how hard it is for them to clean their rooms. It can be quite difficult to say the least. So, I  wanted to take this mundane chore and make it fun for them by turning it into an adventure story.
2. How did you become a paper engineer/designer? closeup_2
I’ve always had a deep admiration for pop-up books and a love for working with paper. I began really tinkering with paper sculptures by building paper toys and paper centerpieces for birthday parties. Someone I worked with at the time noticed this and assumed I knew how to make pop-ups and offered me a freelance job. Of course I said ‘Yes’, and then went directly to the library to buy a book on how to make ‘pop-ups’. I’ve been in love ever since!
3. Who influenced you to become a paper engineer? 
That’s easy…his name is Seth Larson and he is an absolute Genius! He can build anything out of paper and was really my first inspiration to begin playing with the medium. He built me my wedding cake topper completely out of paper that moves with a battery and paper gears. It’s crazy! I’d send you a link but he’s the most humble guy you’ll ever meet and he doesn’t post much of his stuff online. 
 
4. Why do you love pop up books?
 
Pop-up books are unique! 
You can’t take the same contents, put it into an eBook and expect to have the same effect. A pop-up is tangible and when you open up a spread you are entering into the story yourself! You can see this effect every time a child (or adult) opens a great pop-up page because their face lights up and they open and close it several times just to examine its beauty. When you speak to people about their favorite childhood books and which ones really stand out in their minds, 9 times out of 10 it was some kind of movable book. That is because they leave an impression on you because they’re so unique!
 
5. What’s your favorite book?
 
 Robert Sabuda’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’. If you have not read it, know that the last page will take your breath away. 
 
6. What Other interests do you have aside from creating pop up books? 
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Well, with two small children at home I really don’t have much time these days for other interests, haha. But I’ve been known to play the bass guitar and kick around the soccer ball.
 
7. As a creative individual, do you have a specific routine you follow when working on a pop up book? 
 
Yes, especially with young kids at home. When our son was born he wasn’t a great sleeper and he kept waking up at 5am. I would get up with him and it became routine. Once he started sleeping again I kept waking up…then I realized this was the only time I had to myself! So I took advantage of it. I began what I called ‘the 5am pop-up book project’ nearly two years ago, where I wake up and work for an hour while everyone is still in bed. I set a goal each week and just chip away at it. It’s worked out so well that I plan on continuing this idea long after this project is complete.
 
8. Is What A Mess your first pop up book? 
 
It’s the first one that I’ve done completely on my own (written, Illustrated, paper-engineered). I paper engineered one with my brother and grandmother in 2012 named ‘A Day in Rehoboth Beach.’ We successfully self-published that book as well and sold over 4,000 copies.
9. Any future projects coming up you can share with us? 
 
Not a clue, haha…it all depends on if the Kickstarter can fund by October 6. If we make it, I’ll have my work cut out for me fulfilling all the rewards. If we don’t…it’s on to the next 5am adventure!
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