Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ten Fun Activities to Go Along with COOL DADDY RAT by Kristyn Crow

Teachers or Parents: Choose any of these fun activities to experience the snappy book COOL DADDY RAT with your children in a big way!

Purpose: To help children learn to appreciate jazz music as an American art form, to help them recognize and use improvisation in language and music, and to encourage individual creativity and a love for reading.

1. Visit my blog online with your class,, go to my September 11th 2009 post, and watch a few clips of Ella Fitzgerald, Jason Mraz, and other musicians scatting.

2. Read Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop, by Chris Raschka. Students can invent their own musical interpretation of the book. Other fun jazz books to read: Before John was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane, by Carole Boston Weatherford; Jazz by Walter Dean Meyers, Jazz Fly, by Matthew Gollub. Talk about the history of jazz and its American roots.

3. Play jazz music in the background while you read COOL DADDY RAT aloud. Have the children “echo” back the scat lines. (You say it, then they repeat it back.) In jazz, this is called “call and response.” Talk about the word “improvisation,” a key element in jazz.

4. If Ace got his own bass for his birthday, what might it look like? Have students make a homemade “bass” using a shoebox, three to five large rubber bands, and a cardboard paper towel roll. Cover the shoebox with construction paper, and decorate it. String the rubber bands the long way around the opening and back of the box. Attach the paper towel roll with tape or glue. Experiment. What happens when the rubber bands are pulled tighter? Does the tone get higher or lower? Can you play a jazz tune?

5. Have students cover empty cereal boxes with construction paper to represent a closed “book.” Have them create their own book cover in the style of COOL DADDY RAT. Decorate the spine, too. What kind of jazz character could be the star of each book? What about a Groovy Mama Toad? Or a Snappy Cat? What jazzy sounds could they make?

6. Students can write a rhyming story, making every other line a “scat” line. What nonsense words can they come up with? Have them read and perform their work.

7. Imagine a strange new place for Cool Daddy Rat and Ace to perform. Use Mike Lester’s sketchy, jazzy drawing style to make it come to life!

8. Have a scat competition, with students being the “American Jazz Idol” judges. These judges must be positive!

9. Make a class mobile with cut-out drawings the students have created of Cool Daddy, Ace, the Fat Cat, the bass, Mama Rat, crowds, with syncopation words like ZOW! POW! And WOW!

10. Create a “READING IS COOL” bulletin board, with WOW! ZOW! YOW! And POW! Arrange pictures of each child wearing cool sunglasses (or striking a "cool" pose) with his or her favorite book and/or instrument. You could also do a "Get JAZZED about READING!" bulletin board.


Friday, September 11, 2009

COOL DADDY RAT - Fun with SCAT're reading COOL DADDY RAT, and your kids seem puzzled. What are those funny lines of nonsense text, anyway? SCAT? What is that? Well, children know scat--they've heard it even as babies. They just need to be reminded. Here is the famous Louis Prima scat from the Jungle Book. Have your kids raise their hands when they hear the scat. (NOTE: You must actually be at my blogsite to hear/view these clips. ) Or join in:

Now, Ella Fitzgerald was a great jazz singer from the 1960s. She was the queen of scat, and here's why. (You won't need to watch the whole clip to get the idea):

So now that we're getting familiar with scat, have your kids watch this fun clip:

Yep, scat is cool. Scat is fun. Scat is for everyone!

Now just in case you thought scat was ancient, old, and dried-up, oh no, no, no. Scat is alive and well. It lives and breathes in some of our best current musicians:

So now you know why Ace just had to make his scattin' debut. He couldn't contain himself:

Now, how 'bout you? Can you feel it, too?

Zabba Zabba Zot Zot a Dibbity Dooby DOWWWWWWWWWW.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My editor at Putnam just sent me my first official review of "The Middle-Child Blues." It's from Kirkus:


Being stuck in between a big brother and a younger sister has put Lee in touch with the spirit of the blues. A family trip to the amusement park provides a vivid reminder of why being the middle child can be so bad. Their day begins with Lee, guitar in backpack and sporting a perfectly coiffed pompadour, being left in the driveway. Even getting lunch is no fun: “Ray can order a ‘Big Bun,’ / and Kate’s meal has a toy. / I get a plain cheeseburger / since I’m just the middle boy.” Catrow’s vibrant palette and frenetic style aptly depict this active family and their environs. His keen sense of proportion and angle keeps a scowling Lee at the center of the double-page spreads of bustling crowds and park rides. A series of humiliations ensues until the blues cannot be restrained. Lee breaks into his song of woe that attracts a crowd of birth-order misfits, finally singing his way to a realization that “I’m a kid like no other.” This ode to all the “mid-kids” demands to be read aloud accompanied by plenty of foot tapping and grooving. (Picture book. 5-8)


Here are my favorite phrases from the review:

"the spirit of the blues"
"perfectly coiffed pompadour"
"Catrow's vibrant palette"
"series of humiliations"
"the blues cannot be restrained"
"birth-order misfits"
"demands to be read aloud"
"foot tapping and grooving"

Oh, YEAHHHHH. (That's the spirit of the blues.)

Also, I learned that Cool Daddy Rat has been nominated for the UTAH BOOK AWARD. There are two other fabulous books which have been nominated as well, and I'm just thrilled to be considered at all. The winner will be announced in mid-October.

Also, Bedtime at the Swamp is still in the running for the Ladybug Award, as well as the Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award. I'm having so much fun writing for children, and to get positive feedback is truly a wonderful, unexpected gift.

I'm currently working on a couple other manuscripts, mostly fine-tuning. I had lunch with Rick Walton, Sharlee Glenn and Lezlie Evans today. It's always great to meet with other writers and get their support and advice.

The WRITING FOR CHARITY event at the Treehouse Museum last Saturday was fabulous. I really enjoyed meeting with hopeful writers, and especially a handful who write in verse, like I do. We critiqued manuscripts and learned a lot! It was a blast hanging out with the likes of Anne Bowen, Shannon Hale, Brandon Mull, James Dashner, Sara Zarr, Sydney Salter, Sharlee, Rick, and so many other Utah Writers for children. We were able to raise thousands of dollars to help the museum, and to put books in the hands of kids!