Books and puppets on parade

This past spring I visited a wonderful elementary school to talk about my books and writing. Rowe Elementary is tucked into the hills of western Massachusetts, and filled with creative students who love to read. It was fun to visit and share my work.

I talked about my four picture books, which are based on social/emotional themes like empathy, communication, and self-awareness, and which are all set in nature. I drew pictures on an easel with suggestions from the students, and we also collaborated on a group story, which I drew as we came up with ideas.

I also performed a musical puppet show based on my character Sticky Burr and his friends. The puppets were all made of paper, with scrolling scenery, kind of like a book brought to life. Below are a few photos from my visit.

Before my visit, one of the classes did a project where they built little houses inspired by my book Sticky Burr. The houses were built with cardboard and things from nature, like twigs, bark, and grass.

Afterwards I received the nicest cards and letters from the students, here are just a few of them!

Many thanks to the students and staff at Rowe Elementary for being so great and making my visit so much fun! If anyone would like more information about my school programs, contact me at john (at) johnlechner.com.

New Sticky Burr website, and other fun stuff

Sticky Burr and FriendsGreetings all, here’s a quick update on what I’ve been doing lately. The biggest news is that I’ve redesigned the Sticky Burr website and started up the webcomic again, which had been on hiatus for a while. There will be a new comic posted each week (usually Sunday night).

The older pages of the comic have been divided up into 3 different adventures. You can read the entire archive from start to finish, or you can jump to one section or the other. In the first adventure, Sticky Burr is captured by the locust king. In the second adventure, Nettle Burr gets lost in the fern forest and encounters some nasty beetles. In the third adventure, snow covers the forest and Sticky Burr meets an unusual visitor from far away. What will the next adventure hold? You’ll just have to read and find out!

Newman School Visit

Last month I also have a great time visiting the Newman Elementary School in Needham, MA. I drew some pictures, read one of my books, and talked about my work. I also presented a miniature puppet show about Sticky Burr and his friends. Thanks to all the students for giving me such a great welcome, especially the ones who made this beautiful sign!

Welcome sign

I will be doing one more appearance this month, I’ll be at the Gorse Mill Holiday Sale the weekend of Dec. 7 & 8, along with many other fine artists. I’ll be selling books and artwork, with lots of free stuff too. Come on down and say hi!  I’ll be there all day Saturday (though I have to leave at 4) and Sunday from noon to 5 PM.

Holiday Sale

 

Where I visit a school and draw some pictures

Author John Lechner

This spring I had the pleasure of visiting the first grade classes at the Newman Elementary School in Needham, MA, to talk about my books. I started my presentation by drawing a big picture of a frog, then asking the children what other animals and objects we could add to the picture. They had a lot of great ideas (fish, tadpole, lily pad, bird, caterpillar, snail) and I drew as many as I could fit. I told them one of the fun parts about drawing is that there are so many ways you can draw a picture, it’s up to your imagination.

Author John Lechner

Then I read my book A Froggy Fable, which is always fun to read aloud. I talked about how I wrote the story in my notebook, then revised it many times before it was accepted by a publisher. I showed them some of the rough drawings and the final paintings, and some of the paintings that I had to do twice, because I didn’t like how they turned out. Illustrating a book takes a long time.

Author John Lechner

After that, I did a story activity where I divide the paper into four squares and the children help me create a story on the spot. First we think of an animal to be the main character (animal stories work well with this activity.) Then we decide where that animal lives and what could happen to them in the story. I draw the pictures as we go, and in the last square we try to resolve the story into a satisfying ending.

This story in the photograph below was about a lion, a monkey and an elephant, and the students came up with lots of creative ideas, too many to count. I told them at the end that this story could have turned out a hundred different ways, that each one of them could have written it differently. That’s one of the great things about storytelling, that everyone’s story is unique.

Author John Lechner

Author John Lechner

A few weeks later I received some lovely thank you cards from the school, all tied together with yarn. There are a lot of creative kids there! I hope they found the experience inspiring and fun. Many thanks to the teachers and volunteers who helped arrange my visit.

Letters from first graders to John Lechner

 

My books in schools and libraries

Sticky Burr fan artI’ve had great feedback from parents, teachers and librarians over the years, about how they have used my books with children. There was the 2nd grade teacher whose students were inspired to write stories about nature after reading The Clever Stick, and learned to better appreciate their classmates on the autism spectrum. Or the elementary classroom in Australia who drew pictures inspired by Sticky Burr after reading the book. Or the notes about struggling readers who were so excited about Sticky Burr that they read it cover to cover. It’s so gratifying to know that my books are inspiring children.

I just created a new page on my website called Educator Resources, which lists ideas and activities for using my books with children, including discussion questions and activity sheets. I hope to add a lot more in the future, so if you have any ideas you would like to contribute, please let me know.

In another bit of good news, my book Sticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood Forest was just included in the American Library Association’s core list of graphic novels, which is a great honor. Thank you to all the teachers and librarians who have been so supportive over the years!

Enthusiastic students
My visit to an elementary school in Pennsylvania last spring

 

School visit and art exhibit

John Lechner photo

I had the pleasure of visiting the Hawthorne Brook Middle School in Townsend, Massachusetts this week, where my niece goes to school. I spoke with the fifth grade students about my books. I showed them my sketches and paintings, and demonstrated how I draw some of my characters.

The students asked a lot of great questions, like when did I first start writing (first grade), how long does it take me to write and illustrate a book (about two years), which book and character is my favorite (I can’t decide), and when is my next book coming out (I don’t know.) It was nice to share my work with such a creative group of kids. Thanks everyone for being such a great audience!

In other news, one of my paintings is in an exhibit this summer. The Danforth Museum of Art is having a juried exhibit of children’s illustrators called Picture This! They have accepted one of my illustrations from the book Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril (see below.) The exhibit will run from June 12 – August 7. The Danforth Museum is in Framingham, MA, here is more information about the exhibit including a catalog of all the works.

The Arrival of Burweena, by John Lechner
From the book "Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril" by John Lechner

My school visit in Danville, PA

Reading my book to students

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting an elementary school in Danville, Pennsylvania, and speaking to the third-grade students about my books. I’m well acquainted with the area because my parents are originally from Danville, and I still have many relatives there. In fact, I have two cousins who are third-graders at the school, which made the occasion even more fun.

Liberty Valley Intermediate school has nine third-grade classes, and they were all gathered in the gym to hear me speak (about 200 of them.) I began by talking about my books, and drew pictures on a large tablet. I drew my frog character, then the children gave me suggestions for what to add (fish, birds, butterfly, etc). They came up with lots of great ideas, and I drew as many as I could fit on the page.

Then I offered to read from one of my books. They all voted for Sticky Burr, so I read a few excerpts from the latest book. The students all listened intently, even though the pictures were hard to see at a distance. They asked great questions too.

Finally we did a collaborative story activity, where we all wrote a story together, and I illustrated it as we went along. First I asked the children to suggest an animal that the story could be about. Then I asked where the animal lived, and what could happen to that animal in the story. They had so many good ideas, I wished I could have used them all! I divided up the page into four squares, and drew one scene in each square until we had a complete story.

I told the students that there are countless possibilities when writing a story, and our story could have easily gone in many different directions. That’s one of the great things about writing, that you decide what happens next, and you are only limited by your imagination.

I want to thank all the teachers and the principal at the school for making me so welcome. I had a great time, and I hope my visit inspired some young writers and illustrators!

View of Danville

The bridge over the Susquehanna River, leading into Danville.


Me outside the school

Me outside the school.


Enthusiastic students

An enthusiastic audience!


Drawing a story

Drawing a story.


Teachers at the school

Me with some of the teachers.

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