Please welcome Jenny and Angel from Stumbles and Stitches.
Again, I should thank the lovely Rachael for introducing me to Jenny and Angel and Stumbles and Stitches...First of all, Jenny and Angel are two of the sweetest people, seriously, they are just so nice and thoughtful and sweet and it shows in their blog posts back and forth to each other. Second of all, they are both quite talented(both have etsy shops too: Angel, and Jenny)! This summer, just in time for National Honey Bee day, Angel posted a tutorial for an adorable beehive ornament, which, I made immediately (literally!) because I liked it so much! Earlier this summer Jenny posted her own adorable Christmas ornament during their Christmas in July series. They have many more tutorials to share on their blog, but while I have you on Christmas list ideas, here's a great gift idea. And, lastly, they share a similar love of nature and reuse that I do. Today, these two penpal bloggers are getting their sons in on the penpal action!
Jenny: Hello Buzzmills readers, and thank you Jane for inviting us to participate in Make It Up! Angel and I have known each other for many years. In fact, she was one of my very first mom friends. Our eldest boys Ian and Ben saw each other quite frequently in the few years my family lived in Nashville and got along famously. Since my family moved to Seattle, Angel and I have tried our best to keep the boys connected (just like their mothers with our blog!) despite time and distance. Now that the kids are old enough (Ben is 5 and Ian is 7), Angel suggested that we encourage them to become penpals. I loved the idea! This would help develop their friendship to a deeper level, and in this internet age, it is such fun to get real mail too! During our last visit to Nashville, Ian introduced Ben to the world of comic books. A little idea germinated from there. I thought they could perhaps have a penpal project: a co-written comic book. Ben would write and draw the first page, send it to Ian along with a letter, then Ian would write the next page and send it back, and so on. Ben loved the idea and promptly got to work. We downloaded some comic book pages from the website DonnaYoung.com which provides plenty of templates.
I wanted the creative process to be very kid-driven, so I only suggested to Ben that the story be about him and Ian, and that he leave it open-ended for Ian to continue it. We play a lot of "relay" story-telling during long car drives, where each person takes a turn making up part of a story then hands the imaginary baton to the next person. That helped him understand the concept. Armed with markers and plenty of ideas, he started drawing "The Adventures of Ben and Ian". Comic books are unique in their approach to story-telling, as you can provide the omniscient narrator voice in captions, sound effects in large lettered onomatopoeias, as well as individual character voices in bubbles. This was great fun to figure out and definitely encouraged Ben to think out of his usual box ("then I did this, then he did that"). He planned out what he wanted each box to say and how, then dictated captions and bubbles to me at the computer. We then printed, cut and glued them on the corresponding images.
Here is the first page of "The Adventures of Ben and Ian": The next step for Ben was to create a cover page for the comic book (also downloaded from DonnaYoung.com).
Goofball! And finally, Ben wrote Ian a letter to accompany the comic book pages (or rather, dictacted it to me at the computer, then signed it by hand). The letter provided an explanation of the comic book creation process ("Ian, what's it going to be about? Dragons or an aadvark or birds or an old person knitting?") as well as a brief and hilarious update on Ben's life. The stuff penpalship is made of!
We put everything in the mail to Ian, along with various blank comic book pages (and some fabric for his mama, ha!). Ben is so excited to receive the next page from his buddy in the mail! And now... I will pass the baton to Angel so she can tell us about the penpal comic book process from her end!
Angel: Thanks Jen! This was such a fun project, and I was so impressed by what Ben sent to us. His imagination is incredible! Ian loved getting mail, too (who doesn't?) and in this world of email and texting, I think it's fun to encourage "snail mail" in the younger generation. Plus, what a great way for the two boys to nurture their own long distance friendship. Ian has a long history of making books. I'll have to get out his collection (that I've squirreled away in the attic) and show it to you in a separate post. He loves making comics almost as much as he loves reading them! So this idea was perfect for him. Ian can sometimes get overwhelmed by his own imagination when working on stories. Also, he worries a lot about it being "just right" (a byproduct of school work, I hate to say). The comic book page set-up, with its boxes and consistent format, seems to narrow things down for him and usually makes for stress-free writing. I will hold off on sharing photos of Ian's page until Ben receives it! What a teaser, but I don't want to give too much away! He is so excited to send it back to Ben. I can't wait to see where this goes, thank you so much Jen for getting this going. If you guys are curious about how "The Adventures of Ben and Ian" will unfold, please come visit our blog Stumbles & Stitches with an update on the Penpal Comic Book next week! Thank you so much Jane for inviting us to participate in Make It Up. What a lovely idea and wonderful series!
I love this idea Jenny and Angel! Reading this made me think that this might be a great way for Violet and one of her preschool friends, who is now in kindergarten, to stay connected since they don't see each other as often. Ben did an amazing job on his story and I can't wait to see Ian's side of the story! I'm sure the boys are getting such a kick out this. So fun to have two sets of penpallers in your homes now! Thanks again for joining in the fun, all of you. I hope you had fun "making it up"!