Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bob Shea & Ursula Vernon: Two High Voltage Authors

Before we launch into a new season of author visits, I wanted to write a brief wrap-up of our two final winter programs with picture book creator Bob Shea and author/illustrator Ursula Vernon.

Yes, these two are very different in the kinds of books they publish. Yet they have one very important thing in common: they are consummate crowd pleasers.

Bob came in late February to talk about the new book in his popular Ballet Cat beginning reader series. Titled Dance! Dance! Underpants!, the book's silly story and comic  illustrations are just the kind of humor that beginning readers need. As expected, Bob's presentation was just as funny as his books. He began by reading one of his Dinosaur Vs. books -- Dinosaur Vs. the Potty -- then segued into the new Ballet Cat book before giving us a preview of his upcoming book.

Of course, Bob also did some drawing of both Dinosaur and Ballet Cat. He got us all drawing along with him as well, even the adults. Throughout the program, we did a lot of ROARing -- just like Dinosaur. Perhaps my favorite thing was the way that Bob talked all of us into regularly chanting: "Bob Shea is my favorite author!"

Bob clearly is both a fun guy and a nice guy. Recently I read about his presentation in Parma, Michigan, at the school of teacher/blogger Colby Sharp. It's a pretty amazing story:

While we had a mostly younger crowd of kids (and their parents) for Bob, our program featuring Ursula Vernon drew a range of ages. It turns out that Ursula has a number of adult fans, who love her science fiction as well as the podcasts she does with her husband, such as Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap.

Ursula is obviously a seasoned presenter, and readily rolled with the combination kid-adult crowd. She got everyone involved in helping her decide the elements of a fairy tale that she then amazingly created right on the spot. Titled The Princess and the Mosquito, it was a wacky but comic tale -- vintage Vernon.

Of course, Ursula was actually at the library to talk about the second book in her Hamster Princess series, Of Mice and Magic. The series focuses on a "warrior princess" named Harriet who "prefers sword-fighting and fractions to sighing and fainting." Just like Vernon's best-selling Dragonbreath series, the Hamster Princess books are highly illustrated -- a type of book that we label as a "hybrid" in my library. Hybrid books are hugely popular with young readers; think Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dork Diaries, Big Nate, etc.

So, two great authors, two great programs. Now.... it's on to the spring season!

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