Video Wednesdays: Honey Badger Houdini

Here is a video clip of another animal that refuses to be kept impounded. If what we are being told is true (and there is always a question mark for me when what we’re watching is edited), then Snuffles, the honey badger, is a remarkable escape artist, constantly innovating in response to each new obstacle put before him.

Do you have an idea for a good animal video to share? Do you have a story about an animal you know that’s made a remarkable escape? Then I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line on the CONTACT page.

Reviews, reviews, reviews!

Audrey (cow) has been reviewed by a bunch of websites and bloggers in the past few months. I would like to use this post to highlight some of their comments as well as acknowledge my appreciation for choosing to focus on one of my books. Thank you, one and all!

“I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that this is the story of Audrey’s escape. What I won’t spoil is the how of the matter– the escape is rather magnificent in its scope, involves a colourful cast of characters, and shuttles between brave and ludicrous, touching and hilarious. In terms of plot, this is all I’ll say. The star of this story, however, is the style and format which will take up the rest of my post!”

The Book Wars    January 30, 2015

“This was such a great read to start the new year. A fun, beautifully written book full of inspiration.”

Wild About Reading   January 23, 2015

“Like Charlotte’s Web and Babe, this humorous story is perfect as a primary grades read-aloud. It would also be fun as a reader’s theater-type experience with groups of older children reading to younger listeners in a library setting.”

Teacher Librarians: Bridging Theory and Practice   January 19, 2015

“Even independent readers need a snuggle and a read-aloud before turning in at night. … This clever book has excellent characterizations, descriptions and dialogue.”

Winston-Salem Journal   January 18, 2015

“A teacher, parent, or librarian with serious read-aloud talent would have a field day with this Audrey (cow). If you’ve got a gift for funny voices and a kid to read to, go out and buy this book NOW.”

Writer Reading Kidlit     December 23, 2014

“Your life will be better for having met Audrey! … Funny, captivating, thoughtful and very cleverly written, this is a tale that will find a place in your heart and live long in your memory.”

 Sal’s Fiction Addiction   December 19, 2014

“Told “to camera”, in more than 30 narrative voices, this amusing tale is filled with heart and honours the dreamer.”

 City Parent    October 27, 2014

 “A gentle read that contains hefty themes.”

Dog Ear    December 11, 2014

“I’m totally guilty of judging a book by it’s cover on this one.  I originally requested this book from Librarything because I LOVED the cover art.  It’s beautiful, colorful and inspiring.  Illustrated by Tatiana Mai-Wyss, the illustrations in Audrey are just as good as the story and add a beautiful whimsical touch to what can be at times a serious story about an unusual cow.”

The Vegbrarian    December 29, 2014

“This is great book for taking to kids about voice. With so many characters, it is hard to believe that each one has a unique voice, but they do! … It would also be fun to create a class writing project trying to emulate this style in different setting, depending on what you are studying.”

Books and Bassets    December 7, 2014

Video Wednesdays: Marshmallow the Cat Escapes from Vet

Keeping with the theme of animal escapes, it seems fitting to slip in a few videos demonstrating the forethought, craftiness and dexterity of different animals, not to mention the patient determination as seen here with Marshmallow.

If you’ve read Audrey (cow) already, then you will now know that there is more than one way to open a latch.

Do you have an idea for a good animal video to share? Then I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line on the CONTACT page.

Who is Yvonne of Bavaria?

 

yvonne

In Audrey (cow), there is mention of another cow referred to as “Yvonne of Bavaria”. This cow does exist in real life and her exploits, remarkable as they may seem, are true.

Yvonne was born in 2005 and was originally a dairy cow on a farm in a valley in the Austrian Alps. In 2011, she was sold to a farmer in upper Bavaria who intended to fatten Yvonne up in order to send her to be slaughtered. However, on May 24th, 2011, this brown-white cow escaped from a grazing field that was surrounded by electric fencing and hid in the woods. By one account, she smashed through the electric fence.

Despite using infrared cameras, a helicopter, a 10,000 euro bounty and a very handsome ox named Ernst to entice her, all attempts to capture her failed. In the meantime, here fame grew and grew. When an order was given to have her shot dead on sight, protests were strong enough to have it quashed. All hunters were told to leave the forest except for one, armed only with tranquillizers.

Yvonne was finally caught in September, but she was taken to the Gut Aiderbichl animal sanctuary where she lives still (as of last January as far as I know), with her two sons.

Want to learn more? Check out these articles:

Happy Ending for Yvonne

Yvonne the Runaway Cow

 

Video Wednesdays: Eddie as a Pup

Lisa, a reader of Audrey (cow) from Massachusetts, recently wrote in to suggest the following video for our regular Wednesday post. In her own words, she thinks “this puppy Zoey has a similar spirit to Eddie”. I would have to agree. Thank you for the contribution, Lisa! And now, without further ado, I give you Zoey and mirror:

Do you have an idea for a good animal video to share? Then I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line on the CONTACT page.

 

Meet the Illustrator: Tatjana Mai-Wyss

Audrey in sketch 001 - Copy

Today I’m thrilled to introduce to you the illustrator of Audrey (cow), Tatjana Mai-Wyss. Reviewers have praised her ability to capture the different characters’ individual traits as well as add to the humour of the story. I asked Tatjana a few questions and here is what she had to say:

To begin with, where do you live?

My family and I live in the southern part of the United States. I am originally from Switzerland and grew up there and in the U.S. I have lived in New Jersey, Connecticut, New Orleans, the Chicago suburbs, and even in Paris France. I love to explore new places and would like to see a lot more of the world.

What is your background as an artist? Were you always a children’s book illustrator?

I went to school for illustration, and soon had to admit that kids’ books were a pretty natural fit for me. I’ve always liked to draw, but I used to be kind of shy about it. Now I never leave the house without a sketchbook, and I think it’s my favorite thing to do.

How did art play a role in your life when you were a child?

I’ve always liked to draw, but I guess you could say I came to illustration through books and not through art. In the same way, I still have some of my favorite childhood books (thanks mom and dad), but I don’t personally have any drawings from my childhood (we moved a lot).

What are the challenges of drawing animal characters, especially when the animals have human qualities?

Some of my favorite illustrators (Richard Scarry, Marc Boutavant for example) use animals in their stories to represent humans. In Audrey the animals can’t do what humans do, but they each have their own talent to contribute. The challenge of drawing and animal character is to convincingly show the animal while stylizing it enough to give it its own character, and to do it in your own way.

Did you use live animals as models or were drawing from memory or using photos?

I have a few pets that happily model for me, but most of these animals were drawn using some photo references.

Was there a style or even “feeling” you were striving for with Audrey (cow)?

I wanted to give the animals a lot of life and personality. I used a wash and pencil approach to keep the drawings loose and keep a sense of movement.

Do you have any first draft examples that you can show us?

Here are a couple of alternate cover ideas:

audrey1

audrey2

What are the upcoming projects you’re working on or have finished that we should look for?

I worked on a fun project this past summer that you can find at the grocery store now. I painted the background story for a candyland “feature” – ten pages of holiday candy recipes. It’s in the Dec/Jan issue of allrecipes magazine.

Any final thoughts?

Although it’s a bit harder than it looks, being an illustrator is the best job in the world.

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Learn more about Tatjana’s work on her website: tatjanamaiwyss.com

Video Wednesdays: Winter Show-offs

As Canadians, we do tend to see ourselves as winter-ready, seasoned in the ways of coping with brutal temperatures and an abundance of snow*. Not so fast, fellow Canucks. There are other northerners who manage the extremes much better than us. Behold the mountain goat, the pronghorn, the arctic fox, the grizzly and the pika – surviving  the elements with amazing skill (except for the fox who in all honesty looks kind of funny when he’s hunting).

*full disclosure: I live on the west coast, otherwise known as the wet coast. We rarely get snow although we’ve heard of it and seen pictures. 🙂 Do you have an idea for a good animal video to share? Then I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line on the CONTACT page.

A New Contest for a New Year

It’s 2015 so let’s begin the Audrey (cow) blog with another contest!

One of the big plot points in the book is when Audrey escapes from the farm. We’re going to explore the theme of animal escapes in the coming months and this new contest will reflect it.

CONTEST #2 – THE GREAT ESCAPE

This is a contest for all you writers out there (up to grade eight). I want you to plot out an animal escape and write it as if you were that animal explaining how it was done.

Step One – Choose one of these animals:

– A monkey escaping from a zoo

– A parrot escaping from its cage in an apartment

– A goat escaping from a farm

– An elephant escaping from a circus

– A lobster escaping from a seafood aquarium

Step Two – Include a reason why they had to escape and why they had to do it as soon as possible.

Step Three – Choose one (or more) of these items that must be used in some way in the escape:

– A cellphone

– A pen

– A roll of tape (any kind)

– A vacuum cleaner

– A bowling ball

– A whoopee cushion

– An alarm clock

Step Four – Include at least one other animal (your choice) that helps your hero with their escape.

Step Five – Choose a final destination where your hero ends up and explain whether they are now safe or in a worse situation.

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The most creative and well written submission will win a signed copy of Audrey (cow) delivered to their home and another one for a school or public library of their choice.

Send it through the CONTACT page or directly to me at danbarel@telus.net

Contestants must be living in Canada or United States, and in grade eight or less.

Deadline is March 31, 2015

The Winner of the What’s in a Name Contest!

Let me begin by thanking everyone who submitted a story for this first contest. My wish to create a place for sharing stories, images and thoughts around the theme of animals has had a nice beginning.

Let me now say thank you to the judge of the What’s in a Name Contest. There is a smart, sensitive and well-read young man living in Missoula, Montana who goes by the name of Finley. He agreed to read the story entries and choose the one he liked the best. Finley wanted it to be known that he slept one full night on his choice, so a lot of thought has gone into his decision.

Finley has chosen the story of how Griffin the cat got his name, because he loved how Griffin “was a little monster when he was a kitten.” Finley also gave a shout out to the story of Cork, the snake, because it was so funny that he was sometimes called Fluffy.

griffin the monster

So a big congratulations to Lee (and Griffin) in Vancouver! Your prize book will be coming to you right away.

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There will be another contest starting early in the new year. There will also be an interview with the illustrator of Audrey (cow), Tatjana Mai-Wyss. We’ll look at different examples of animals depicted in art. And we’ll look at other true stories about animals who have proven able to escape their situation.

If you have ideas or suggestions of topics related to Audrey (cow) that you think would be fun or interesting, please drop me a line. You can reach me using the CONTACT page. *

In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday season!

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 *For parents/teachers/librarians, etc.: In order to make this site safe for children to participate, no last names of anyone submitting to the site will be published.