Posts Categorized: News

A Few Groovy Questions with Author and Musician Eric Litwin!

Inspire(d) was thrilled to have a chance to ask Eric Litwin, original author of Pete The Cat, The Nuts, and Groovy Joe, a few groovy questions! 

Eric Litwin will sing, dance, and read live at the Decorah Middle School Auditorium on Saturday, November 18, at 11am. Registration is free, but required to attend the event. Click here for more details from the Decorah Public Library!  This event is brought to the community by the “Friends of Decorah Public Library”.

Mr. Eric is a song-singing, guitar-strumming, New York Times Best Selling author who brings early literacy and music together. His dynamic performances are fully interactive. According to Joan Roach, Children’s and Youth Librarian at Decorah Public Library, “Litwin has a unique musical approach to early literacy. He brings stories to life with interactive songs that get families singing, dancing, laughing, and falling in love with literacy.”

Litwin is the original author of the beloved first four “Pete the Cat” picture books: I Love My White Shoes, Rocking in My School Shoes, Four Groovy Buttonsand Pete the Cat Saves Christmas. These four books have sold over 10 million copies, are #1 New York Times Bestsellers, have been translated into 14 languages, and won 19 state and national literacy awards including a Theodor Geisel Seuss Honor Award!

At the Decorah performance, Mr. Eric will share his “Pete the Cat” books as well as The Nuts and Groovy Joe. Following the show, Litwin will also do a book signing.

And now…. a few groovy questions!

Inspire(d) – I(d): What came first, writing stories or playing music? 

Eric Litwin: Playing music and “telling” stories came at the same time. This means I was a folk musician and storyteller. As a teacher I realized that many of the characteristics within folk music and folks tales, such as call/response, repetition and melody, would help early literacy. So I adapted them to early literacy books.

I(d): We’ve heard that Pete the Cat was based on a real cat. Groovy Joe seems like a pretty neat pup – is he based off of a real dog as well?

Eric Litwin: Groovy Joe is amalgamation of many groovy things. There are some favorite beloved pet/dogs as well as myself and the artist Tom Litchenheld. And, then again Groovy Joe is his own unique groovy personality as well.

I(d): Your books always include music – with a great story. What was your inspiration for that and how does it effect your readers?

Eric Litwin: All my books have music because music helps children learn to read. It also engages them in the reading process. And, it makes early literacy more FUN.

I(d): Are you more of a plain ice cream fan or load it up with yummy stuff? What about Groovy Joe?

Eric Litwin: I am a solid chocolate ice cream guy. No need to load it up.

I(d): The Washington DC area is home for you, correct? Any unsung regional literary or music heroes you’d like to share with our readers?

Eric Litwin: I moved to Washington DC a few years ago. I live in an area called “Shaw” that was the home of many inspiring jazz players such as Duke Ellington. Their creativity inspires me.

I(d): Who is your favorite Nuts character? Do you think the Nuts have a larger lesson for our world (that often seems nuts)?

Eric Litwin: I love all the Nut Family characters. And, yes, the Nuts have a message. That message is that nutty (unique/fun) is normal. And love and acceptance keeps a family together and strong.

I(d): Speaking of Dinosaurs and ice cream – do you know how to make a dinosaur float?

Place one scoop of ice cream in a glass of root beer and add one dinosaur… ROARRRRRRRRRR! (It’s a terrible joke, we know…)

Eric Litwin: I love terrible jokes. Keep them coming!

Eric Litwin’s performance is generously sponsored by Friends of the Decorah Public Library with support from the Walmart Foundation. The Decorah Community School District is graciously hosting this event. For additional information, please contact Joan Roach, Children’s and Youth Librarian, at jroach@decorah.lib.ia.us or (563)382-3717. Full details online here.

Paper Project: Unicorn Present!

Giving a gift? Make it a unicorn present!
Here’s how:

Supplies:
Unicorn template print-outs
page one and page two
Scissors
Glue stick
Tape
Wrapping paper (use whatever color you’d like!)
Box (with a present in it, we suspect!)

1. Cut out all the pieces on the unicorn print-outs (one &  two). Cut on the lines on the tail and mane pieces.

2. Wrap your present just as you would normally, but pay careful attention to the ends so they come together neatly.

3. Glue the nose parts on – both the triangle and the mouth.

4. Glue on the eyes.

5. Fold the white tab of the mane back and put the glue there. Attach to the top of the unicorn above the face. Fold it over a bit to make it look all cute!

6. Fold the white tabs on the ears back and put glue there. Attach to the unicorns head just behind the bangs.

7. Trim the bangs a bit if you want (I did)! 🙂

8. Put glue on the top part of the legs and attach to the bottom of the unicorn present at the corners.

9. Time for the horn! This is the trickiest bit. Fold on all the dashed lines, and fold on back all the white tabs.

10. Put glue on the middle tab first, then hold for a bit.

11, Glue the next tab, fold it in, and hold.

12, Glue the final tab and the two connector tables and hold them all together for a bit.

13. To keep it all in place, add a piece of tape. Cut it up the middle at the bottom and attach it to the present.

14. Fold the tab over on the tail, glue, and place on the back of the unicorn.

Now you’re done! You will make the recipient of your gift so happy even before they open it! Enjoy!

A few moments with Dawes…

Dawes will be performing at the Cavalier Theatre in La Crosse, WI on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. Catch a ticket here if it isn’t already sold out.

Dawes is:
Wylie Gelber – bass
Taylor Goldsmith – guitars
Griffin Goldsmith – drums
Lee Pardini – keys

Interview by Benji Nichols / Inspire(d) 2017

The Cavalier Lounge & Theatre in La Crosse has been working hard the past few years to create a space that can house national shows on a regional level. Owner Jason LaCourse has poured much into the club and lounge, and caught a few breaks along the way – including an evening with West coast rockers Dawes coming up October 17. Here at Inspire(d) HQ we’ve been fans of Dawes since around 2009, catching them at Gabe’s Oasis in Iowa City, after enjoying their first Daytrotter.com session. Dawes played on 2016’s ‘Gentleman of the Road’ festival hosted by Mumford and Sons in Waverly, IA as well and continue to reach new heights as the they pound the road. They’re latest release “We’re All Gonna Die” is out on the band’s own HUB Record label. They play the Cavalier Theatre in La Crosse on Tuesday, October 17. (Click here for tickets – if they aren’t already sold out!) Inspire(d) was given the opportunity to catch up with Lee Pardini, keyboard player for Dawes, while he was en route to San Francisco for the Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park. Lee has been with Dawes for the past two years and has played an influential roll in the bands growth with his tasty key chops that reach far beyond rock and roll.

Roll the tape…

I(d): You guys keep –good- company. We saw Dawes play on the ‘Gentleman of the Road’ show in Waverly, Iowa with Mumford and Sons. The band has a history with artists like Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Robbie Robertson, Elvis Costello, and Dave Rawlings. You’re staring down tours with John Mayer and Kings of Leon this fall. What’s it like knowing you are working with some of the most revered musicians in the world?

LP: We couldn’t be more excited – and these are all really different experiences. When we do the “evening with” shows (like the upcoming La Crosse show), it is us for two and a half hours with the crowd – its really intimate, and we’re excited to bring that to the audience. When we’re on the road supporting larger tours of this stature – musically speaking, its great to be around artists of this caliber – but then its also exciting playing in front of a lot of audiences that maybe don’t know us so well – or at all. Being able to craft a 45 minute set to capture an audience is a really great challenge, and ultimately, it is all about the music first – so it’s quite an experience. We couldn’t be looking more forward to it.

I(d): We’re All Gonna Die, came out last September on your own ‘HUB records’ label. It was

produced by long time friend of the band Blake Mills. How has it been watching an album take life?

LP: Its been amazing – there were a lot of new sounds and textures on this record, and the recording process itself was a really great process. It’s a new sound that has developed – and its been exciting to see people really accepting us pushing things forward. Watching the audience in the live shows be familiar with a new record is kind of crazy too. One of the first shows we played after the record came out – like a week after, people in the crowd knew all the words to ‘One of Us’ – and that was such a great feeling. Over the past months playing the songs live really helps us grab ahold of how fans are connecting to the songs in so many different ways. Its been a great year – and we’re always trying new things, pushing ourselves to be better and make the most out of the shows.

I(d): We were checking out the “Custom Vintage Keys” trio session video that you did, and it is so tasty. Its clear you enjoy vintage key gear. What’s your jam these days?

LP: I’ve always been a big jazz fan – and studied a very broad world of jazz that I’m constantly digging into. I’ve also been listening to a particular set of Herbie Hancock records from the 70s – lots of textures. I’ve been digging into a lot of synthesizer stuff – which is something I’ve been working to bring to Dawes. You know – t’s a life long study. I know it sounds a little like a California stereotype, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Bob Marly lately as well. The keyboard work on every single one of his records is just incredible. Its economical, its groovy, and the songs are so good. From an education standpoint, the players he had on his records were so great. There’s always Dire Straits – the guys love Mark Knopfler. Allen Clark from Dire Straits is unbelieveable – and the way that band could extend their songs – really incredible. And always, there’s a decent amount of Grateful Dead that I’m listening to.

I(d): The upper Midwest is a funny place – and a lot of people still don’t give us much thought, but with outlets like Daytrotter, and the Codfish Hollow Barnstormers (Maquoketa) – we have some authentic stuff happening out here. La Crosse is right on the Mississippi River in the heart of the “Driftless” region – have you been to this area before? Any thoughts on the Midwest?

LP: Oh Yeah, absolutely. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Midwest over the years – I love it. There’s just an – its like another version of Southern hospitality. Everyone is so sweet. Take Codfish Hollow – the people there really care – they’re hip to what’s happening, and they care about being hospitable. You don’t get that everywhere. What strikes me is the amount of pride that people take, especially in the Midwest, in creating a great space for music and making people feel welcome and comfortable – its great. •