KIDSPOST-AUTHORS

Author and illustrator Grace Lin and her daughter Hazel collaborate on a new podcast called “Kids Ask Authors.”

With schools closed and learning at home, you probably feel cut off from friends and your usual activities. And perhaps in need of a creative break. Children’s authors and illustrators are coming to the rescue.

Join author/illustrator Mo Willems for his online video series, “Lunch Doodles,” every weekday at 1 p.m.

In a few minutes, you can learn how to turn a written numeral into a wacky bird.

And as you watch and draw, be on the lookout for the funny animals from Willems’ popular books about Pigeon and Elephant & Piggie. The video series is being filmed in the artist’s studio at his Massachusetts home, and Pigeon, Elephant and Piggie toys and pictures appear in the background.

During the next few weeks, Willems will guide watchers of all ages to create art from things they probably have in their homes.

“I bet you’re going to see a lot of these in the future,” said Willems in a recent video, holding up a toilet paper roll.

With that roll, as well as a few empty boxes, markers and paper, he demonstrated how to make a village — complete with houses, trees and stores — like the one in his picture book “Nanette’s Baguette.”

“Lunch Doodles” started March 16, and by Thursday had 3.5 million views. That’s a lot of eager artists! The series is hosted by the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where Willems is the Education Artist-in-Residence. (But he is working from home, as are many adults these days.)

Like Willems and the Kennedy Center, others in the children’s book world have moved quickly to develop programs to pump fun into distance learning. Author-illustrator Grace Lin launched her podcast “Kids Ask Authors” this week.

On the 10-minute podcast, which airs Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Lin talks with a children’s book creator about a question a kid has submitted. She also features short book reviews, poems and jokes from her young listeners.

Initial plans called for a weekly podcast, but Lin stepped that up when the threat of the coronavirus outbreak began reducing social contact between people.

“It seems especially important now to connect kids with one another and to the authors and illustrators of the books they love,” she told KidsPost by phone from her home in Northampton, Massachusetts. “And it helps make the writing they may be doing at home more purposeful. Now they can share it with others.”

Rather than interviewing guests face to face during the pandemic, Lin will rely on Skype and her smartphone. She uses a hand recorder and a sound screen to reduce background noise and then puts the recording on the computer.

Lin’s husband handles the editing and technical aspects. And 7-year-old Hazel contributes ideas and voices the questions submitted by kids online.

“The podcast has turned into a family affair,” Grace Lin said. It’s become a way to bond during a challenging time as well as to help create a community for kids around books.

Want to explore writing, drawing and books online? Check out these free programs. Some require the permission of an adult to access or participate.

■ “Lunch Doodles”: Willems’s series posts weekdays at 1 p.m. through his page on the Kennedy Center website. kennedy-center.org/education/mo-willems.

■ Coloring Book: Print out individual pages — or the whole coloring book. The book includes art by 23 celebrated illustrators, in honor of Children’s Book Week, May 4-10, which is sponsored by the Children’s Book Council. everychildareader.net/cbw/coloringpages-2020.

■ “Draw Every Day With JJK”: Jarrett J. Krosoczka, creator of the hilarious Lunch Lady graphic novels, will release a YouTube video every day at 2 p.m. for the next several weeks. He focuses each drawing lesson on a particular area — expressions, head turn, proportions — so that viewers can steadily grow their skills. you tube.com/studiojjk.

■ “Kids Ask Authors”: Lin’s podcast airs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. You can subscribe and also submit questions, share your own poem or joke and listen to past podcasts. kidsaskauthors.com.

■ Publishers: Videos of story times, author interviews and drawing demonstrations; flash cards; activity sheets; reading guides — most publishers have content for kids, educators and parents on their websites. Here are three:

Holiday House, holiday house.com/holiday-house-resources .

- Writing Class: Young Writer’s Blueprint, for ages 6 to 10, but also helpful for older kids. Beef up your creative writing skills through this short course taught by author Alice Kuipers. https://writingblueprints.com/p/writing-course-ages-6-10 .

- #WriteToAnAuthor: Write to an author or illustrator through snail mail, email or social media or contact them through their individual websites. It’s best to do this with the help of a parent. Here’s a list of those who have promised to write back. readingconnectsus.com/2020/03/15/writetoanauthor-connecting-with-authors-by-letter/?fbclid=IwAR2I7Saup4aFtpgIVtjamCvVJIUyciuJqSH3L0GsBE_UcUd74Q7p5zVa8Ic