An Author Study
Denise Campbell Fleming was born
January 31, 1950 in Toledo, Ohio to
Frank, a realtor, and Inez, a homemaker.
Every week she would ride her bike to
The Sanger Branch Library and choose 3
books to read. spokenartsmedia.com
―My books do not
Fleming often spent weekends with her
grandparents where she learned all about have many words,
flowers and the creatures that lived in but I start with
her grandmother’s garden. hundreds of words—
Both sets of grandparents felt strongly rewriting until I have
about education and learning and passed just the right words
that on to Denise. to tell the story.‖
From 3rd to 8th grade, every Saturday, Denise
attended art classes at the Toledo Museum of
Art. Before class she and her friends would
wander through the gallery making up
stories to go along with the paintings and
sculptures. She loved the Impressionists the
Because Denise liked art more than anything
pvic.org else, she applied to Kendall College of Art
and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan after
high school and majored in illustration.
―I experimented with
different styles of writing, Denise’s love of strong color was inspired by
different art techniques her mother’s use of brightly colored fabric
until I found my style, and painted walls throughout their house.
Her yard was full of many brightly colored
my technique.‖ flowers.
Denise spent hours with her father
in their basement workshop where
she made things of clay, wood, paint,
wheat paste, newspaper and whatever else
She has also built furniture, rooms, stone walls, and sculptures
with her husband, David whom she met at Art school.
Denise worked as a freelance artist for years before she got the
courage to go to New York City to look for book work. As Denise
states, ―There were books in my head that I wanted to share, but I
was more comfortable making art than writing. Writing has so
many rules and I was worried I’d make a mistake.‖
At the age of 41, Denise wrote and illustrated her first book, In the
Tall, Tall Grass.
When Denise gets an idea she Denise starts with hundreds of
rushes to get it down on paper words but because most of her
before she forgets it. books have only a few words she
writes and rewrites until she has
She doesn’t worry about just the right ones. She can
spelling, grammar, or spend an entire day moving one
punctuation in her first draft. word around.
The idea is what’s important.
Ideas for books that haven’t been
In the margins of her paper, written are kept on index cards.
Denise sometimes scribbles
drawings to go along with her Most of Denise’s books are about
writing. nature and are inspired by her
She then reads over her first childhood.
draft circling the parts she likes.
In her yard she has created many
Her second draft is read aloud natural areas full of plants, trees
by her husband or daughter. If and bushes, which attract many
they stumble over any part she creatures for her to study and
knows she needs to revise it. observe. Many of these creatures
as well as her pets have
appeared in her books.
Denise creates the pictures for her
books through a process called pulp
painting, a simple paper making
She mixes water and small brightly
colored cotton fibers.
Then she pours this pulp mixture onto
a wire screen where the water drains
off leaving the fiber on the screen.
This forms the base and background
for her pulp painting.
Denise ―draws‖ on the background
using squeeze bottles filled with
colored pulp for shapes with soft
edges or uses stencils she cuts from a
type of foam for shapes with hard
To create textures she adds
to the pulp materials such as
coffee grounds, pine needles
or dried leaves.
Layer upon layer is built up
until Denise is satisfied with
The image is then flipped off
the screen, pressed and
The results are the beautiful
illustrations Denise uses in
her books made from her
I would introduce students to Denise Fleming by
sharing some of her illustrations with the students in
order to highlight her medium of choice: pulp
I would share several of her books with my students
and have them compare and find some of the
common elements in each of her illustrations. We
would also look at the commonality among the
characters found in her books. Most of her books
are about animals and include stories inspired by
her own childhood.
I would then have my students complete the
activities found in the remainder of this PowerPoint.
The book is about a cow who lost her moo. She set
out on the farm to find her moo. She searched the
farm and visited all the animals to see which animal had her moo. As she
stopped to nibble some grass the met Bee, but Bee didn’t have her moo.
As she cooled her feet in the creek she met Fish, but Fish didn’t have her
moo. As she crossed the meadow she met Goat, but Goat didn’t have her
moo. As night began to fall on the farm Cow headed back to the barn, sad
and disappointed that she had not found her moo. As she entered the
barnyard she shuffled past Hen. As Cow said ―Cluck, Cluck‖ to Hen, Hen
replied with ―Moo, Moo.‖ At last Cow had found her moo! As night fell,
Cow and Hen were both very happy to have their voice back. This book is
defiantly interesting to its intended audience. The illustrations extend
and enhance the written text. The visual design of this book is very
unique in that Denise Fleming created the illustrations using colored
cotton fiber, hand-cut stencils, and squeeze bottles. Through the use of
line, color and shape the illustrations appear to have texture to them. The
text works with the illustrations to create a meaningful story. The artistic
media defiantly enhances the the Cow in the story. The thin/light lines
convey a fragile cow, not an angry cow. The diagonal lines create a sense
that the cow is moving from one animal to another throughout the story.
The color in this book is full spectrum which makes it fun for young
readers to read.
I think this book would be a great ―Copy Cat‖ book. Students could
rewrite the story using a different animal that loses its voice. Students
could choose an animal to lose its voice and choose other animals for
their animal to meet along the way while searching for its voice. Students
could create illustrations using paper collage to resemble the book. I
think this would be a great activity for the beginning of school because
all students are familiar with different kinds of animals and using the
text for a model all students could be successful. This would allow
children to model their individual books after Denise Fleming’s book
using the repetitive writing style and papermaking technique for the
Another classroom connection that I would make would be to introduce
Vincent Van Gogh’s, The Starry Night. The picture is the night sky filled
with swirling clouds, stars ablaze with luminescence, and a bright
crescent moon, and compare it to the picture on the End Pages of Denise
Fleming’s The Cow Who Clucked.
4.05 Write and/or participate in writing by using an author's model of
language and extending the model
4.06 Compose a variety of products using a writing process.
This is a cute book about a mother cat and her
three kittens. As mother cat goes about her
day-to-day activities of being a cat two of her
kittens, Skinny and Fluffy, follow her lead, but
the third kitten, Boris just naps all day long. I love the mouse that
seems to be hiding in the background on each page. How ironic, a
mouse watching the cats, usually it’s the other way around. Children
would love to find the ―hidden‖ creatures on each page. The
illustrations in this story are fun and very creative. Denise Fleming
uses pulp painting to create an image in handmade paper. ―The paper
is the picture. The picture is the paper.‖ Fleming captures the eyes of
her readers through the full spectrum of color in the visual design of
this book. The vivid paper and unique coloring has the reader
wanting to reach out and touch the pages in an attempt to feel the
illustrations and texture they exhibit. The full-bleed illustrations
extend to the edges of each page. I would say this would be a ―good
book‖ in the eyes of small children based on the visual appeal of the
book. The Mama Cat’s eyes on the cover is enough to capture the
attention of any young reader to want to discover the content in the
Using this text as a read aloud activity students could
share some of the things that their mother has taught
them. During Writer’s Workshop students could create a
story about things they have learned from their mothers
including full-bleed illustrations to go with their story.
Another activity would be visit denisefleming.com and
complete the paper plate Boris and have students to write
a story about Boris. They might even decide to have Boris
have an adventure with the mouse in the story.
3.04 Share personal experiences and responses to
experiences with text
Denise Fleming does a wonderful
job of taking the sounds and
mystery of Halloween creating a fun
―spooky‖ book for young children. Children love to dress
up and go out on Halloween night and through this book
children can enjoy the rhyme and colorful descriptive
language of a ―Spooky Night‖. The illustrations were
created by pouring colored cotton fiber through hand-cut
stencils. The full-bleed images with bright colorful pages
just capture the attention of young readers. The rhyme of
the text allows a young audience to participate in a read
aloud activity. The mysterious eyes on each page give a
sense of suspense of what’s next…
I found this lesson for Pumpkin Eye I thought it was perfect.
1. To develop rhyming skills.
2. To develop the use of descriptive language.
3. To develop expressive skills by interpreting illustrations.
Ask the children to talk about their last Halloween. What did you like about it? What will you do next Halloween?
Tell the children that the author of this book, Denise Fleming, loved Halloween when she was a little girl. It
was a special night because she was allowed to stay out after dark, she could be anybody or anything she
wanted to be, and she was allowed to ask for candy and eat it too! She decided to write this book that explores
many of the sights, sounds and smells of Halloween.
1. What are some of the beautiful colors you see in Denise Fleming’s illustrations?
2. Try to remember some of the rhymes you heard. What are some of them?
3. Look at the jack-o-lanterns that line the street. What are the expressions on their faces saying to you?
4. Which of the trick-or-treaters are scary? What is scary about them?
5. There are some new words in this book. What do these words mean: wicks, pounding, spirits, eerie, swooping,
tattered. What are some other words that are new to you?
1. Have a drawing activity to develop expressive skills without using verbal language. Have the children draw
pumpkins and create eyes that express an emotion.
2. Follow-up your drawing exercise by developing a bank of descriptive words that express varied emotions.
3. Develop rhyming skills by finding all of the rhyming words in the story. After the words from the book have been
organized into different rhyming families, add words not found in the book to your lists.
4. Have the children talk about their favorite trick-or-treater in the book. What do you like about that character?
This is an adorable story with a fuzzy, yellow
caterpillar as the narrator throughout the story. He
begins his tour and crawls through the tall, tall grass on a sunny afternoon and
ends as the sun goes down and the moon begins to shine. He shows us many
different insects and animals we could find. As we inch our way through the
grass with the friendly little caterpillar we see bees, ants, and beetles just to name
a few. The caterpillar also allows us to take time and heart the sound some of
these animals make.
We would read together this delightful story. I would share my personal
experience about going for a walk and looking outside. I would then ask them to
turn to a friend on their right and tell what they see when they play outside.
We would go outside and look around at the ground and have children tell me
what they notice. At first they may only tell me they see grass or dirt. Then I
would give them One Small Square made out of construction paper. I would ask
them to put that square down on the ground and deeply observe really closely
what they can see in their square. I would remind them to look very closely
inside their square. I would also invite them to share their other senses. I would
remind them that, ―Good observers don’t just look with their eyes. They use their
ears, their hands, all of their senses.‖ (A Place for Wonder p. 38).
Teaching Ideas Con’t:
Next I would model for them and show them how I had done this same
assignment from home and show them in my science notebook how I had
written down what I observed inside my square. I would then tell them that
once they have really examined inside their square they may start writing in
their science notebook what they observed. I would allow the class about 10
minutes to complete this assignment. Once we complete it, we would go
back inside to class and as a whole class talk about what the children noticed
in their square. The ultimate goal with children sharing is for everyone to see
the details some noticed in their square. This would help our children learn
to notice details and hopefully as they write these descriptions it would help
them to add detail in their story writing. We would also read the book again
and talk about the wonderful, rich description the author uses in her book for
each insect and animal.
Science Grade 1
Goal 1: The learner will conduct investigations and make observations to
build an understanding of the needs of living organisms.
This is a sweet story about a bear that sniffs the air
one day and notices that winter has come and it is
time for her nap. But first before going to sleep for the winter Bear says that she must tell
Snail. Then begins a circular notion because then snail tells skunk, skunk tells turtle and so
on. Each animal who tries to put off going to sleep for the winter smells, hears, or tastes the
signs of winter. Finally, ladybug is the last one to be told that winter is upon them and she
rushes to tell bear who is already asleep in the cave.
We would read together this delightful story. I would go back to the story and we would
take the time to look at the beautifully illustrated pages in this story and talk about how the
author did not draw the pictures but instead uses a special colored cotton fulp paper and
hand cut stencils of the animals. Then we would talk about hibernation and what that word
means. Using the Smartboard, I would have the class share what animals they think
hibernate in the winter. Then we would record the animals they said hibernate. Once we
checked our answers and put the correct animals that hibernate in the winter I would put
students into groups of 3-4 based on their common interest in the animals they shared. I
would use the animals they shared and develop Internet Workshops for students to
participate in to gain information about their animal and where they go to hibernate. Using
the information and pictures they find during the workshop, I would ask students to write
collaboratively a nonfiction picture book about their animal. Then we would publish these
books and add them to our classroom nonfiction collection for our class to read throughout
Teaching Ideas Con’t:
I would provide some safe child friendly internet sites the children
could use to find information about their animal:
Science – Grade 1
Competency Goal 1: The learner will conduct investigations and
make observations to build an understanding of the needs of living
Objective 1.02:Investigate the needs of a variety of different animals:
Lunchtime! This is a wonderful story where a mouse is so
hungry he first sinks his teeth into a crisp white turnip and
then can’t stop eating. He then eats a tasty, orange carrot and on to sweet, yellow corn. Although the
mouse gets full he continues to eat then takes a nap and then eats again at dinnertime! I like the way
Denise Fleming uses bright, bold colors in her book. The background colors are the colors of the
spectrum. It is interesting how she starts the book with a white background which is all colors combined.
As you read the whole book you will see the colors of the spectrum that you see in a rainbow. I found it
interesting that she ends the book on black which is the absence of color. All of the other colors have been
used on the previous pages in the story.
We would read together this delightful story about the little mouse that loves to eat! There are several
activities that we would do with this particular book. First we would have to discuss the beautiful
artwork and how the author uses each color of the spectrum in her book. Then we would talk about
sequencing the story. I would give each child a mouse pattern and tummy flap pattern on construction
paper. Then as I reread the story the children will draw the food that I read into the mouse’s tummy.
Then this would allow each child to retell the story to a friend in class, to me, or to a parent. As we study
the food pyramid we would categorize the food into the correct food groups. An example the green peas,
yellow corn would go in the vegetable section. Then we would put the blue berries and watermelon in the
fruit section. The last activity we would do with this book is together we would list our favorite foods.
Once we had our foods listed we would brainstorm together other names of foods for each letter of the
alphabet. Once we had several foods listed for each letter of the alphabet, together we would create an
ABC Book about our favorite foods. Each child would have a chance to create their own page in our class
book by illustrating their favorite food and then write a sentence about their favorite food. Once the book
is complete, we would publish our book and put it in our library so everyone would have a chance to look
at our book.
Healthful Living – Grade 1
COMPETENCY GOAL 4: The learner will apply knowledge and
behavior self management skills to areas of nutrition and physical
activity for healthy growth, development, and maintenance.
Reading – Grade 1
COMPETENCY GOAL 2: The learner will develop and apply
strategies and skills to comprehend text that is read, heard, and
Objective 2.05: Predict and explain what will happen next in stories.
Objective 2.06: Self-monitor comprehension by using one or two
strategies (e.g., questioning, retelling, summarizing).
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where I live still. I am a midwestern
What is your earliest memory of writing/drawing?
It seems like I was always writing and drawing. I wanted to share
my ideas from the beginning. A bit bossy am I.
What inspired you to write/illustrate your first book?
I started collecting picture books in art school. I was crazy about
the whole picture book format. I realized, as I was sharing books
with my daughter, that making books is what I needed to do.
Do you use your childhood as inspiration?
I have always been interested in nature and the outdoors which is
the subject of many of my books.
What books from your childhood have most influenced your work?
What about adult titles?
The Giant Golden Book Of Cat Stories is the book I remember most. It is full of great
illustrations. I can’t think of any specific adult titles. I do read a lot of poetry. Mary
Oliver and Maya Angelou are favorite poets.
What are your hobbies and interests besides reading and books?
I work in clay, create art from tin cans, and make art dolls. Right now I am working
on combining all three media. I also dye and paint fabric for the dolls.
Planting flowers and painting the outside of my house and studio is what I am busy
doing right now.
What are a couple of your favorite author/illustrators? What is it about
their work that inspires and interests you?
Chris Raschka is a big favorite. He has the most spontaneous, expressive line.
Vera Williams work is full of soul. I have always loved her work.