Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stories at Little Falls, MN

My Aunt Bernice lives in the Alverna Apartments, an assisted living facility in Little Falls. Her friend Claudette Scepaniak called me a few months ago to ask me to do a show for the residents and I was happy to comply, but to make the trip even better, Dorothy Bernardy called me from St. Otto's, a nursing about 100 yards away from Alverna, and arranged for me to do a show there on the same day.
Bernice will be 89 in June. She is 4 years younger than my father, who passed away in 2001.

So on March 16 Nanc and I enjoyed a nice drive to Little Falls. Our first show was at St. Otto's and the staff and residents made us feel really welcome by coming early and asking many really good questions before the show and after the show.

At Alverna (below)they had organized a "little lunch" by having people bring food items. The place smelled so good I could hardly concentrate on the show.
Bernice is in the red sweater above, and near the back of the audience (pictured below) is her son Harvey and his wife Karen, who contributed number of items to the fine lunch we took part in after the show.

Below is a picture of Betty Hovet, who will be 101 this June.

We sold a good number of books and got to hear a few stories from the residents at both places. I love doing my stories for these folks! They may have some difficulties, but they always seem to retain their sense of fun. 

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Monday, March 28, 2011

Eau Claire Lutheran School, Wisconsin

When we got the call from Melanie to come to "Grandparents Day" at Eau Claire Lutheran School K-6 in Wisconsin, I was intrigued with the title of the event because I knew there would be an audience of old-timers and new-timers listening to my stories. I was not disappointed.

The entire day was an "open house" for Grandparents that gave them the chance to visit the classrooms, talk to teachers, and experience a sample of their performance skills during an hour-long music program that the kids performed in the afternoon immediately before my show. Nancy and I enjoyed watching and listening as groups sang and danced, played bells, and performed as a choir. We felt lucky to be part of the audience of kids and adults. The photo above shows older students singing and dancing.  The photo below shows the younger children.

The group above performed with bells, and the group below is a volunteer choir of mixed ages.

For a few pictures of my show, go to the next page.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tommy's Adventure

Today Nancy and I drove up to Beaver's Pond Press in Edina to drop off the 25 completed water color illustrations for A Farm Country Picnic, where they will be scanned and then given to the designer to layout the book. Then it will go to the printer after our approval, and we expect the final product to be ready for sale by the end of June.
After we visited with the friendly staff members at Beaver's Pond, we continued north on Highway 100 and picked up copies of our new book If I Were a Farmer: Tommy's Adventure, which is the last book illustrated by David Jewell, who passed away in July, 2010.
David's strongest point as an artist was his ability to create likable characters. Originally, when I had asked him to work on Nancy and Tommy, I asked that he sketch out several faces and postures and then discuss with me which ones would work best. He was very open about the process and seemed to have fun creating and changing the characters.
I  created Tommy from an idea sparked by a book I had when I was a child entitled If I Were a Cowboy, which begins with a little boy looking at a book about the wild west. He imagines himself dressing up in cowboy costume, catching and taming a pony, and having an adventure where he catches horse thieves, befriends Indians, and pretty much becomes a hero before he awakens from his nap.
In my story, Tommy pages through farm books and then imagines himself getting fixed up in a farmer's costume of bib overalls complete with pocket watch, pliers, and red handkerchief. He goes fencing, rescues some city folk who are stuck and out of gas, and then he  saves them from being robbed. I figured a farmer could be a hero as well as a cowboy.
Here are a few pictures from the story:
Later, he loads up to go fencing:
He helps folks who are stuck:
Then he saves people from robbers:
And he becomes the hero in his own imagined adventure: 

The book is available at It's not yet posted to 
the website, but you can just click on "contact us" and email or phone your order to me.
As you can see in the picture below, I have a few copies for sale:

In a few days I will get copies out to Mosaic Alley in New Prague and Ben Franklin and The Pink Door in Lakeville. Barnes and Noble will have it some time in April.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Child Learning and Development Center, Burnsville, MN

Two wonderful advantages I had as a child were (1) my parents both worked at home farming and (2)  I had two caring older sisters who read to me, played games with me, and generally, took my development seriously--well, much of the time anyway. Both my sisters became day care providers during and after they raised their own families. I must've trained them well.

Today's children may have lots of advantages I didn't have as a child, but often the more economic advantages they may have, the less likely they get to spend time with parents and older siblings like I did.
That's why I am a big fan of quality day care and learning centers.

I've used this site to praise a number of child learning facilities where  I've performed my stories, and I need to say I was really impressed with Child Learning and Development Center at Burnsville, led by Director Sue Linden, who is clearly involved in doing something she loves. The love and professionalism of the entire staff glowed the whole time we were there, Monday, February 28, and Tuesday, March 1, when I performed for seven groups of 3-5 year-olds, totaling about 262 kids and adults.
Honestly, keeping the interest of a group of 3-4 year-olds presents a challenge for me, but as you see here, they readily hold up two fingers as I show them how farmers teach a newborn calf how to drink out of a pail. They also loved to help call cattle as I read, "Come, Boss. Come, Boss."

And regardless of age, they would "oooahh" when they saw the pictures of the kitties and the dog below:

After the show on the first day, Edward's mother made a special trip to bring him in to buy a book, giving Nancy and me an opportunity to have a  friendly visit with his mother.
The visit reminded me of the dedication the parents have, for they know the importance of providing their children with the best start possible. Edward can't read yet, but he is so excited about the prospect of reading that you know he will do well.
Sue Linden, the Director at CDLC, invited Nancy and me to set up a table and sell books during the parent-teacher conferences during the following Thursday and Friday (March 10-11). During the event we met several parents who informed us that their children had talked at length about our program when they returned form school on the day we performed If I Were a Farmer: Nancy's Adventure. 
 I especially liked it when they said their child kept repeating how to call cattle, "Come, Boss. Come, Boss." Kids always remember more than one thinks!

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Northland Oliver Collectors Association.

I love performing my show anywhere and everywhere, but I have a special affinity for tractor clubs. You see, we share the same purpose: preserving the heritage of the farm. Tractor clubs concentrate on restoring the great old machines; I concentrate on writing stories that preserve the images and details of the way things were done.
We all aim to have some fun in the process, and that is what everybody had at the Annual Winter Banquet for the Northland Oliver Collector's Association held at Huikko's Bowling and Entertainment Center in Buffalo, MN.
About a hundred members attended my program before the dinner of stuffed pork chops and grilled chicken was served. (great food!) They seemed to like the idea of preserving the farm stories and reacted with intensified interest when I told them, "We have to tell our own stories because, generally, big publishing houses on the east and west coast do not find us interesting." As evidence, I projected the newly accepted word "flyover states" on my screen as shown in the picture below:
As you see on the screen, "flyover states" is a new word from this last decade, defined as (derogatory) Central regions of the U.S. 
My emphasis here is not to encourage regionalism, but when it is thrust upon us, we must realize that telling the story of our farm heritage will probably not be done by textbooks published in other areas of the U. S.
Nancy and I enjoyed the delicious meal and great conversation after the show. People eagerly shared their stories of farming with us and book sales were good. We stayed for the auction, pictured below, which contained lots of good-humored kidding among members as donated items were auctioned for the benefit of the club. Auctioned items included everything from toy tractors to cookies and bread to afghans.

The last item to be auctioned was this coveted afghan in Oliver colors shown in the picture above. I would've loved to own it, but I'm not about to bid against these serious Oliver collectors. When Nancy and I first arrived that afternoon, I had asked a member how many Oliver tractors he had. "Fifty-nine," he answered proudly.
I knew then that I was out-classed as a collector.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fundraiser at Rice Lake Elementary School

On February 24th Nancy and I drove to Rice Lake Elementary School to do a show as a fundraiser, which means profits from book sales beyond our cost go to the organization hosting the event, in this case the Rice Lake Parent-Teacher Organization.
I especially enjoyed chatting with parents and their children as I autographed a books for them before and after my presentation. 

People knew that when they bought my books, they were not only supporting my efforts to pass on our farm heritage through stories, but they were also supporting their own organization because some of the money from every purchase goes back to the PTO.

Audience members of all ages seemed particularly interested in the idea of preserving the farm heritage through books that tell a story about a family on a small farm. After the show, several parents talked to me about their connection to the farm. There may not have been any farmers in the audience, but many told me their memories of their parents' farm or their grandparents' farm.

Wendy Nelson organized my visit and sat next to me while she sold books and I signed them. Since she knew all the parents and students, I could enjoy listening to the familiar chatter between them as she greeted each one by name and introduced me to them. 

Nancy's and my goal is to get my books into the hands of kids and adults, and after an enjoyable evening at Rice Lake Elementary, we left knowing that this fundraiser helped our goal while raising funds for others, as well.

Photographs by Nancy A. Fredrickson