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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Mike Wohnoutka

Skinny Dip with Loni Niles

Loni Niles

Loni Niles

We interviewed Loni Niles, K-12 media specialist in the Wadena-Deer Creek public schools in west central Minnesota. She shared her thoughts about books and life.

What is your favorite late-night snack?

I love popcorn and can eat it any time during the day, even for breakfast!

Favorite city to visit?

Chicago. Even though we moved from there when I was just a baby, I still take some pride that I was born there!  Now I love to visit there because my stepdaughter and her husband are such wonderful hosts—they show us all kinds of wonderful things the city has to offer.  Oh yeah, and there’s that grandson there, too! He definitely is a draw for me to visit this wonderful city!

First date?

My husband and I do not really agree on when our first date was. Fortunately, we agree on some of the more important things in life!

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

I find myself passionately recommending the novels The Lottery Rose by Irene Hunt and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Miss Steimle, my fifth grade teacher, read both of these out loud to my class in the 1970s, but today’s kids love them, too!

The Lottery Rose, A Wrinkle in Time

This is NOT a Cat!Illustrator’s work you most admire?

Mike Wohnoutka. My favorite book of his work is written by one of my favorite authors, David LaRochelle. It’s a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards this year and called This is NOT a Cat! Check it out! 

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Gotta have my coffee in the morning!

Favorite season of the year?

Although I love them all, it’s winter! Minnesota is the perfect place for me!  We typically get a real winter here and we definitely get four seasons!  At age 48, I started to downhill ski.  But I love to watch high school hockey, go snowmobilng and sledding, and when my sons were younger we used to love playing in the snow!

Marathon candy barFavorite candy as a kid?

Anyone remember the Marathon candy bar?! A yummy caramel braid covered in chocolate.

Brothers and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I’m in the middle of two brothers. I always told my two sons that I’m the best mom for them because I know what it’s like to have that big brother pounding on you and that little brother picking at you!  I used to lament not having sisters, but I have been surrounded by wonderful women (and girls, too—I have three granddaughters) in my life—so it’s not so much an issue anymore. 

Loni Niles and her brothers

Best tip for living a contented life?

I do live a very contented life, but I don’t really have a tip on how to do it. Seeing the good in things and people comes pretty naturally to me.  I try to remember my mom’s advice to always assume the best. This is the same woman who once told me as a teenager complaining about my acne that I should just be happy I have a face. That still makes me chuckle! 

Hope for the world?

My hope for the world is that we begin to recognize each others’ talents (and our own!) and appreciate each other—even our differences.

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Skinny Dip with Mike Wohnoutka

Mike Wohnoutka

Mike Wohnoutka

We interviewed Mike Wohnoutka, children’s book illustrator, widely known for his books Dad’s First Day, Moo!, and Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster. (Mike’s last name is pronounced wuh-noot-kuh.)

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

Picture books in general. I often hear parents say their children are too old for picture books. Recently a parent told me her first grader had “moved on” from picture books.  This absolutely drives me crazy. You are never too old for picture books.  They are second to none when it comes to art, storytelling, and language.

picture books

Favorite city to visit?

New York. I love the museums, comedy clubs, book stores, and theaters. It’s also nice to go to lunch with my editors since most of the publishers I work with are in New York.

Most cherished childhood memory?

Playing Kick the Can with all the kids in our neighborhood.

Mike Wohnoutka and David ShannonIllustrator’s work you most admire?

David Shannon. David is the reason I became an illustrator. After seeing his presentation, when I was in college, about how he illustrated his first children’s book, How Many Spots Does A Leopard Have?,  I thought “THAT is what I want to do!” His paintings are technically stunning and his stories are so funny.

When I visit schools I tell students about David being such an influence on me. It’s amazing how excited the students get when I show the cover of No David! and it’s incredible that every student is familiar with that series. He obviously has struck a chord with children.

A couple years ago, David and I both presented at the Mazza Museum summer conference. It was wonderful to meet him. He  is the nicest guy and it was fun to let him know how much of an inspiration he has been to me.

Go-to drink?

Coffee, especially in the morning as I write or paint.

Mike Wohnoutka

Copyright Mike Wohnoutka

Favorite season?

Fall. Leaves changing colors, cooler weather, the World Series, and Halloween are a few of the many things I love about fall.

Dream vacation?

Prague

What gives you shivers?

Mice

Strangest tourist attraction?

Mike Wohnoutka's family at the Wizarding World of Harry PotterOur family recently took a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando, mainly to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was such a fun vacation. The attention to detail in creating Diagon Alley, Hogwarts Express, and Hogsmeade was awe-inspiring.

My wife and I got teary-eyed when we first entered Diagon Alley. 

Also, the rides throughout Universal and Islands of Adventure were a blast. Of course our kids loved it all, but the strange thing about this tourist attraction is how much my wife and I truly enjoyed everything, too. We can’t wait to go back.

Brothers or sisters? How did they shape your life?

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved to draw. Having three older brothers who were all really good at drawing had a big influence on me. I remember being so impressed with the simplest sketch they would do and I was determined to be as good as they were.

Best tip for living a contented life?

I have found meditation and yoga very helpful. I start every day with a 20 minute meditation (before the coffee).

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August Shorts

Warning: There’s a lot of enthusiasm ahead for these books!

Where Do Pants Go?Where Do Pants Go?
Written by Rebecca Van Slyke, illustrated by Chris Robertson
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016

Well, this is just adorable … and I can already hear households throughout the English-speaking world chanting:

“Where do pants go?

On your arms? No.

On your neck? No.

No, no, no.

Pants go on your legs, that’s where pants go.”

We all know how much kids love saying “NO!” This book depicts a charming cast of kids in a rowdy lesson on getting dressed from underwear to jacket and hat. It’s a cumulative text so language skills are a part of the mix. The illustrations are bouncy and full of humor. Getting dressed will be filled with giggles.

Sky Stirs Up TroubleThe Sky Stirs Up Trouble (Tornadoes)
written by Belinda Jensen, illustrated by Renee Kurilla
Millbrook Press, 2016

I wonder if a scientific study has ever been done to determine how many kids want to grow up to be the weather forecaster on local or national news. Certainly the weather is just as much a preoccupation for children as it is for adults. This brand-new, six-book series about Bel the Weather Girl is written by a television meteorologist with an eye toward entertaining and educating the reader. In this book, Bel and her cousin Dylan head to the basement with Bel’s mom when a tornado siren goes off. They learn how to react to the warning and Bel explains, by baking a Tornado Cake, how the atmospheric conditions must be just so in order to cook up a tornado. A recipe for the cake is included as are interesting fact bubbles. The illustrations are friendly and engaging. I know I would have read and re-read this series in elementary school.

D is for Dress-UpD is for Dress Up: The ABCs of What We Wear
written and illustrated by Maria Carluccio
Chronicle Books, 2016

This charming alphabet book is just right for someone who will grow up to collect fabric, carefully study fashions, and find joy in creating “a look.” A wonderfully diverse group of children are dressed in clothing and accessories that depict each word from apron (for a chef) to zippers (for two friends’ jackets). In between, we find leotards and overalls and raincoats. It’s the illustrations that are most inviting: so much for the eyes and brain and heart to notice and absorb. There’s texture and pattern and detail (notice those galoshes) created by a textile and product designer resulting in a warm and enchanting book. You’ll know just the child to give it to.

This is NOT a Cat!This is NOT a Cat!
written by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016

LaRochelle and Wohnoutka (Moo!) are at it again: a book that has very few words but a lot of laughs! I love these books with few words because kids are so good at telling the story themselves. With gentle prompting from the adult reading with them, kids can be encouraged to tell the story in different ways. Perhaps the most fun is saying the five words in the book in so many different ways with varying emphasis and LOUDness! It’s just plain fun to read this book out loud. And because there are only five words, every child can have the satisfaction of reading this book on their own. The lively, humorous pictures conceived by Mike Wohnoutka invite studying closely as the details add to the fun. Bring your own knowledge to this book: do cats like cheese?

The Bot That Scott BuiltThe Bot That Scott Built
written by Kim Norman, illustrated by Agnese Baruzzi
Sterling Children’s Books, 2016

Great Scott! I love this book. For any child the least bit science-minded who loves to experiment or build things or creatively compile what-ifs, this is a must-have book. It’s an awe-inspiring feast for the eyes and the ears and the funny bone. The setting is a Science Day, in which students show their science projects to their teacher and the rest of the class. In a House That Jack Built style, the “what can go wrong, does” story progresses with much laughter thanks to the spot-on rhyming text and the color-infused illustrations. The ending is ingenious. I won’t spoil it for you and your smaller readers. But Scott’s science project saves the classroom from the brink of destruction. I’m inspired to make my own “bot” right now and so will you be!

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Bookstorm™: Bulldozer’s Big Day

Bookstorm-Bulldozer-Visual_655

written by Candace Fleming  illustrated by Eric Rohmann  Atheneum, 2015

written by Candace Fleming 
illustrated by Eric Rohmann 
Atheneum, 2015

It’s Bulldozer’s big day—his birthday! But around the construction site, it seems like everyone is too busy to remember. Bulldozer wheels around asking his truck friends if they know what day it is, but they each only say it’s a work day. They go on scooping, sifting, stirring, filling, and lifting, and little Bulldozer grows more and more glum. But when the whistle blows at the end of the busy day, Bulldozer discovers a construction site surprise, especially for him!

An ideal book for a read-aloud to that child sitting by you or to a classroom full of children or to a storytime group gathered together, Bulldozer’s Big Day is fun to read because of all the onomatopoeia and the wonderful surprise ending.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Bulldozer’s Big Day, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes and interests. The book will be comfortably read to ages 3 through 7. We’ve included picture books, nonfiction, videos, websites, and destinations that complement the book, all encouraging early literacy.

Building Projects. There have been many fine books published about designing and constructing houses, cities, and dreams. We share a few books to encourage and inspire your young dreamers.

Construction Equipment. Who can resist listening to and watching the large variety of vehicles used on a construction project? You’ll find both books and links to videos.

Birthday Parties. This is the other large theme in Bulldozer’s Big Day and we suggest books such as Xander’s Panda Party that offer other approaches to talking about birthdays.

Dirt, Soil, Earth. STEM discussions can be a part of early literacy, too. Get ready to dish the dirt! 

Loneliness. Much like Bulldozer, children (and adults) can feel let down, ignored, left out … and books are a good way to start the discussion about resiliency and coping with these feelings.

Surprises. If you work with children, or have children of your own, you know how tricky surprises and expectations can be. We’ve included books such as Waiting by Kevin Henkes and Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne.

Friendship. An ever-popular theme in children’s books, we’ve selected a few of the very best, including A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by the Steads.

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your ideas and any other books you’d add to this Bookstorm™.

Downloadables

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“I’m not ready for school!”

Dad's First DayI minored in theatre in college, where I crossed the street from Augsburg to attend Arthur Ballet‘s legendary history of theatre class at the University of Minnesota.

Lessons learned in that class came rushing back as I savored Mike Wohnoutka‘s Dad’s First Day because it struck me how well this book would play as theatre of the absurd.

Mike is a keen observer of behavior, knowing what will delight kids … and their parents. Turning that first day of school on its ear, showing that, truthfully, parents are just as worried as the child is, provides good fun, discussable emotions, and a natural lead-in to conversations.

The dad’s behavior is drawn in friendly, realistically comic style with a varied palette of gouache paint. His reactions are absurd. Kids will recognize that and whoop with acknowledgment. Dad is endearing and so is the little boy who nonchalantly, even displaying confidence, can’t wait to experience his first day at school. 

Word choices make this a good read-aloud while the illustrations make this a good side-by-side book. And you must find the references to three of Mike’s previous books in the illustrations. I found six … can you find more?

Highly recommended for parents, grandparents, caregivers, and preschool educators.

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Skinny Dip with David LaRochelle

Favorite holiday tradition?

Moo

by David LaRochelle Walker Books, 2013 illus. by Mike Wohnoutka

 Without a doubt my favorite holiday tradition is carving pumpkins. It has become such a trademark of mine that people start asking in September what I plan to carve for the upcoming Halloween. I’ve learned to jot down possible pumpkin ideas in my sketchbook throughout the year, but it usually comes down to crunch time (the week before Halloween) before I finally decided on the 4-6 pumpkins I carve each year. I have a gallery of past pumpkin designs, including some I’ve carved for Good Morning America, on my website.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?

Hopefully I wasn’t obnoxious, but I was very much a teacher’s pet. I would stay after school and go from room to room asking teachers if they needed help putting up bulletin boards or correcting papers. I usually spent the first day or two of summer vacation helping teachers pack up their rooms for the year (it helped that we lived right across the street from the elementary school), and one of my favorite things to do the first week of summer was to “play school” with the extra worksheets that teachers had given me. No wonder I became an elementary school teacher myself!

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

Mr. PudgensWe had an independent reading program when I was in third grade where instead of writing book reports, we could make a diorama, draw a poster, etc. I often enlisted the help of a few classmates and put on a short play based on the book I had read (we loved getting out of class to rehearse on the school’s old stage!). One of the books I have vivid memories of performing was “Mr. Pudgins” by Ruth Christoffer Carlsen about a magical babysitter and a flying bathtub. In one scene a bush begins to make popcorn. One of my friends brought in a huge plastic trash bag of popcorn and hid behind a chair. The class went crazy when he began to throw handful after handful of the popcorn out into the audience. We loved it!

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?

Some day you will have the last laugh on all the bullies who are calling you “fag” and “homo.” You will also become a published author and illustrator and make lots of kids happy with your funny books.

Or more simply, I wish I could tell my 10-year-old self, “Everything is going to turn out okay.”

What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?

I would love to visit with George Selden (author of “The Cricket in Times Square” series, Mac Barnett (author of “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” and many other incredibly creative books) and famed children’s editor Ursula Nordstrom.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

On a plane, heading off on vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hannukah Bear

Hanukkah Bear

We celebrate Christmas at our house, but we live in a community in which many celebrate Hanukkah. As we light our Advent candles and string our Christmas lights, our Jewish friends and neighbors light the candles on their Hanukkah menorah and fry delicious potato latkes. Dear friends invite us to join them for one of […]

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