Happy Earth Day!

If you're looking for some creative, earth-friendly fun, check out the activities in What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?. And if you're looking for gardening inspiration, check out the Homesteading facebook page or store, where I snagged these pictures. Aren't they great? I have a shoe organizer that may be headed for some reinvention.

What can you do with an old palette?
What can yo do with an empty tackle box?
What can you do with a leftover shoe organizer?

Happy Earth Day!

I hope you're doing something fun to celebrate! I'll be heading to Earth Day SF tomorrow to check out the festivities.

If you have kids at home and want to host your own festivities, don't forget What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? has lots of ideas for demonstrating reuse to the little ones in a simple, low-key, creative way. Visit the free stuff page for coloring pages, activity sheets, and a curriculum guide for download.

A good story

A few days ago I had a friend visiting who told me a story about one of my books. During the holidays this past year she visited a family whose kids have a mountain of toys. She was warned not to give them anything, that they had more than enough. But of course you can't show up empty handed, so she brought along a copy of What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? and gave it to their little girl, who then disappeared into her room.

Later on in the evening she was found dragging a big box of toys down the stairs. "What are you doing?" asked her mom. "The book said if you have too many toys you should give them away." And in fact it does. The last activity in the book begins with a poem about this fellow, who has too many toys:


What can you do with too many toys? You can pile them up and give them away to people who need them:


Her story made my day. With Earth Day coming up next week I thought it was worth sharing. Now I'm off to pile up all the baby stuff we no longer need and make a trip to good will.

North Andover Public Library on Wednesday


This Wednesday (the 11th) I'll be giving a presentation at the North Andover Public Library to celebrate the Go Green theme in Massachusetts libraries this summer. I'll be talking about the making of What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? and showing lots of sketches and artwork. Come join us!

The Details:

2:00 to 3:00 pm
Stevens Memorial Library
345 Main St. North Andover, MA 01845
978-688-9505

Winning Readings

Winning Readings named What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? one of the ten best books to teach kids about the environment. Thanks guys! Here is what they said:

"So what can you do with an old red shoe? How about transforming it into a planter? In this book, Anna Alter comes up with some very clever art activities reusing materials you can find right in your own home! Plus, she incorporates poems with each activity. Make stamps out of old flip flops or a holiday card out of used wrapping paper. With 13 different projects in all, teachers have enough material for 2 weeks! Your class can begin with the poem and finish with an activity. I highly recommend this book to experts and craft novices alike."

Ella the Octopus

Friday's visit to the Mattapoisett Public Library was a delight! After my presentation to the kids I did some drawing with them. First I drew some of the characters from What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?, then I had them help to brainstorm a new character. This is what they came up with: an overall wearing octopus about to attack a diver with popcorn. Once we were finished the kids put on the finishing touches by coloring it in. Good fun!

Mattapoisett Free Public Library on Friday


If you are in the area, come visit me at the Mattapoisett Free Public Library on Friday at 11 am, where I'll be giving a free presentation for kids about my work as part of their Go Green summer reading program. I'll be focusing on how I made What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? and showing some of the recycling craft activities in the book. Hope to see you there!

Happy Earth Week!

I often completely forget to take pictures when I do school visits, so I don't have much to show from my adventures on Boston's North Shore last week. But I did recently receive an awesome package from a school where I did a Skype visit. They did an author study and had each student write a project just like the reuse activities in What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?. To celebrate Earth Week I'll posting some of my favorites all week!

This one I love for a number of reasons. Most importantly what a great idea! When the sleeves fall off my next sweater I will definitely stick them on my cat. Also I find the author bio quite charming.










Back North

Last week was the busiest I've had in awhile! As I mentioned in my last post, I was traveling down South to give school visits as part of the Virginia Festival of the Book and a few other lovely book gatherings. I am from Virginia, so its always fun to go back there and visit family and friends while I have some book fun. And of course its encouraging to see the first signs of spring that have not yet made their way to Massachusetts:



I had the pleasure of speaking to both little kiddos and teachers... the week began at James Madison University speaking to their kidlit class, taught by the amazing Joan Kindig. Teachers always have such great questions and are so polite, enthusiastic, and fun to talk to, truly its one of my favorite groups to visit.

Then I began my week of visiting little ones. One school I went to was having a "book-in" on the day of my visit. Everyone came to school in pajamas, ate chocolate chip pancakes and waffles, and laid around reading books all day (sounds like a good time to me!). The campus was composed largely of log cabins in the woods and had the most adorable little library I've ever seen. Don't you just want to curl up in one of those rocking chairs and read all afternoon?



Here I am drawing a soccer playing dragon, as suggested by my very cute audience of K-3rd graders:


In my slideshow I start by showing a pic of me drawing as a little kid:


Then I show them all the cats in my house growing up, which inspired me to make up animal stories:


The week finished off at the New Jersey Annual Kindergarten Teacher's spring conference, where they had a "go green" theme, and thus brought me in to talk about What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? A Green Activity Book About Reuse. I had a lot of fun walking through how this book evolved, and what the book making process is like. I went over my favorite art activities from my years spent teaching, such as painting with "texture paintbrushes" and making paper by hand:





Then I described how these led to the activities with reused materials I made up for Old Red Shoe, such as the flip-flop activity:




And of course what you can do with that old red shoe:


These teachers just blew me away with their creativity... they collected 20 pairs of old red shoes and made centerpieces for each of the lunch tables, with green chrysanthemums, that looked like this:




And a decoration for the podium (Dorothy shoes!):


Groups of teachers presented their own recycling activity ideas, including this tri-fold board with ideas about how to combine recycling with math activities:


There were recycling songs with Woodsy the owl (Smokey the Bear's sidekick, remember?) sung bravely for the group:


One teacher made a ring toss with an old soda bottle, an Edible Arrangements box, and some reused tinfoil:


There was also a hockey game made from a pizza box and laundry detergent bottle tops (genius!):


And another favorite, a bowling set made from milk jugs and a tinfoil ball:


Thanks to everyone who made the week so much fun!

Old Red Shoe painting in progress movie

This week I am in Virginia on a whirlwind tour of school visits and presentations to teachers. As part of a talk I'm giving for Kindergarten teachers, I put together this painting-in-progress movie of an illustration from What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? (similar to the work-in-progress posts you see on my blog). It is so hard to explain how an illustration evolves from sketch to finish, it is so much easier to show...




Check out my first painting-in-progress movie for Priscilla here.