Author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell

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Photo by Patrice Barton

 

"Discover why this children's book author was commissioned an admiral in the Texas Navy by the governor of Texas"

Mark's books for middle grade and upper elementary readers are exciting, accessible and fun.  At this site you can read about his work or schedule Mark for an author visit to your school. 

He wrote about a shipwreck that was recovered off the Texas Coast.

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This was no ordinary sunken ship, as it turned out, but a 17th century French sail ship with decorated bronze cannons, barrels of weapons and goods, and a human skeleton curled in the bow.

 

She was La Belle -- the lost barque of the great explorer, Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la La Salle.

 

Your students will enjoy hearing about her and how her dazzling, 322 year old-story still affects us as Americans. 

 

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Digging out the "Belle". (Watercolor Mark Mitchell from "Raising La Belle")

                              Texas' 'lost colony'
 

In his school visits, Mark uses PowerPoint slides of his own drawings and paintings, along with photos of the archeological excavation to make the "La Salle shipwreck" story come alive.

The presentation -- based on Mark's award-winning book for upper elementary and middle grades, Raising La Belle -- is suitable for all grades. It includes a “chalk talk” with Mark drawing for students while staying on topic on La Salle, his fellow French settlers and the Indians and animals that played into their lives on Texas shores in 1685. 

Mark has been a featured children’s book author and speaker at the Texas Book Festival, the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin,  the Museum of the Gulf Coast, the televised Writers' League of Texas author interview series Writing Across Texas and
schools around the state.

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Photo by Leann Eldridge, librarian at Boling High School, Boling ISD

What educators are saying:
 
"Our kids can't stop talking about your presentation!"

"The program connected to our curriculum and students on so many levels! It coincided perfectly with our school wide science unit on marine environments... The drawings were a great way to hook the kids into the world of La Salle... [added one week later] Our kids can't stop talking about your presentation!"
Stacey Smith, Librarian, Davis Elementary, Austin ISD

 
"Fantastic presentation! Only our Fourth Grade saw this and it was perfect for them!” 
Jane Farmer, Librarian, McBee Elementary, Austin ISD


"Mark Mitchell is a great speaker. Students were fascinated."
Trudi Best, Librarian, Robinson Elementary, Clear Creek 
ISD


“It was fantastic. It was a great benefit because it tied Texas History/Explorers (TEKS) to the pleasure of reading and becoming familiar with real author procedures and appreciation of the written word. I’d love to recommend you.”
Laura Butler, Librarian, Laura Welch Bush Elementary, Leander ISD

 
"I think my students felt empowered when they experienced the presentation."

"I think my students felt empowered when they experienced the presentation. The immediate connection from the classroom, the illustrations and the story of "La Belle" was amazing! Mr. Mitchell connected with our intermediate students. Students were mesmerized by his soft tone as the story of history unfolded. His sense of humor added a nice touch to his presentation. Our students loved his illustrations!
"The program was an excellent link to the curriculum that my students learned in the classroom."
Deborah Norris, Social Studies Department Head, League City Intermediate School, Clear Creek ISD


"The students were very interested and showed a lot of appreciation for the information shared. Mr. Mitchell was great with the students. The children were so interested in his storytelling."
Sandy Bateman, Librarian, Washington Elementary, Sherman ISD

"The program was perfect for our fourth and fifth graders -- nicely aligned to our curriculum...The slide show was stunning. Also, presenting the information as a narrative was effective. Good delivery. Good fit. I thought we had a perfect day!"
Gary Brown, Librarian, Ferguson Elementary, Clear Creek ISD


"I have never seen the students so in tune with a presenter before."

"The Marion ISD sends you their thanks for a wonderful morning at the Middle Schol listening to your programs. I have never seen the students so in tune with a presenter before -- When I saw them this afternoon, they were still chatting about the "La Belle" information and what they learned at your presentation.
"Please keep us notified of any future programs, especially if you develop some on the observatory at Fort Davis or about illustrating books."
Maryellen Hitti, Director, Marion ISD Community Library

"The presentation was great! The students greatly enjoyed the slides and were highly engaged. They came up with some higher level thinking questions to ask Mr. Mitchell."
Rebekah Smith, Instructional Specialist, Waco ISD 

 

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La Salle and the Calumet. (Watercolor Mark Mitchell for "Cobblestone" magazine

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from "Cobblestone" -- Sieur de La Salle issue, 10-99. (Watercolor Mark Mitchell)


Ship and symbol

 

The Belle was a gift from the "Sun King" of France, Louis XIV to La Salle, a fur trader. 

 

She was the explorer's prize for having claimed the Mississippi River, valley and Native American inhabitants for France.

 

The king named La Salle "Commander in Chief of all Frenchmen and  Indians in North America." 

La Salle's base of operations was New France, the French Canadian frontier. 

So what were he and his ship La Belle doing in Texas?

 

 

The Raising "La Belle" presentation probes the historical and scientific puzzles, such as:


  • What happened when La Salle ran into real pirates of the Caribbean?
  • How did this ship that was built in 1684 and wrecked in Texas in 1686 influence the future development of the United States?
  • How did divers with the Texas Historical Commission locate the ship that was buried under the mud and sand and under 12 feet of water in a lonely fishing bay? 
  • What  -- and who -- did archeologists find on her?
  • How would they get La Belle's 51 foot hull from the bay floor to the mainland? And keep her fragile oak timbers and cargo that had been waterlogged for centuries from crumbling when exposed to the open air? 

 

Get on the admiral's calendar.
Call (512) 258-8348
to schedule a school visit or to learn more. 

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"La Salle with Iroquois" by Mark Mitchell for "Cobblestone" magazine

Fourth and fifth graders write 

My favorite part was when you drew the animals. That was cool.” 

“I liked the part where they started to find all the artifacts.”

“I learned that the people that found the boat got to keep it wet because if it dries, it will turn to dust. My favorite part was when he made friends with the Indians.”

“I think that the things that you teach are really cool, and scary and fun. And you did a good job.”

"I really liked your presentation. My favorite part was when the ship that carried food and supplies got stuck, cracked and sunk. You really inspired me to learn more about La Salle. I even checked out a book about La Salle."

"I really enjoyed the story about La Salle. I love your stories. I will try to come to the Bob Bullock State History Museum to see the boat that they used for their journey."

" I appreciate what you did at our library. Your slide show was so cool. ..It was pretty mean when they killed La Salle's nephew and him. It must have taken a while for the ship to sink in all that mud. .. In that [cofferdam] it must have felt like being inside a cup!!!" 

"My favorite part is when I saw the college students going inside the ship and taking it apart. I like your drawing of the buffalo. It looks so real. I think your story is really interesting. I can't wait until the ship will be in the Bob Bullock Museum. Then I will try to go see it. Your drawing for the book was so cool. It was awesome when they built the dam and pulled the ship up."

"The creativity really spoke to me..."

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"The presentation that you informed us about really inspired me to learn more about everything that happened in that time line. La Salle's past was incredible. To me he was the luckiest man. Not like anyone else would even be nominated for that title. That really was the best slide show I have ever witnessed. The creativity really spoke to me. The art was even better than my imagination could ever think of. Even the Art teacher thought the exact same thing."

"Thank you for telling us why La Salle got killed by his crew after they killed his nephew who was bossy all the time. You drew good pictures of a buffalo and a beaver. I liked when you were talking about the hides and pelts. It was fun when you illustrated the slide show. It was cool when you said La Belle was preserved in the mud at the bottom of the ocean. I can't wait to go to the Bob Bullock Museum."

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Photo by Lenicia Gordon, librarian at Sinclair Elementary, Houston ISD

"As soon as your presentation was over, the teachers were asking me if we could have you again next year..."

 
“The visuals are a strong component of your program and greatly enhance student learning…You “drew” them in immediately by attracting their attention to your drawing. VERY clever!. I might add, as soon as your presentation was over, the teachers were asking me if we could have you speak again next year….exactly at the time when we’re discussing La Salle. Wow! Thank you, Mark; you’re a real PRO!”
Kay Wallingford, Librarian, Barton Hills Elementary, Austin ISD



“Texas History is seventh grade curriculum, so your program aligns with the TEKS. You dealt with an issue of current interest and tied history to the lives of students today. I thought the presentation was great.”
Joy Starks, Librarian Palo Alto Middle School, Killeen ISD


"The PowerPoint was very engaging. The satellite photos brought another depth to the presentation that really engaged the students. The shots of the excavation and artifacts were compelling."
Jeanie Dawson, Librarian, Victory Lakes Intermediate, Clear Creek ISD


"All the pictures and info built like stepping stones."
Mary Ann Berry, Librarian, Wakefield Elementary, Sherman ISD

"We were so pleased to have you present your Raising La Belle program to Graham Elementary. It was very well received by both students and teachers. Being that this was my first author visit, I didn't know what to expect. I was so relieved to have it all run smoothly thanks to your professionalism. You are an engaging speaker and the story of La Belle was a fascinating subject. It was great to have students enjoy the presentation and learn valuable information at the same time."
Christina McGeehee, Librarian, Graham Elementary, Austin ISD


“Wonderful and interesting day. I enjoyed how the presentation was made like a story.”
B.J. Bond, Program chairman, Dodd Elementary PTA, Wylie ISD

"It is just so cool." 

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" I loved that awesome presentation that you showed us of La Belle. The drawing of the beaver and the buffalo was fantastic. It is weird that La Salle and his newphew would be killed or shot by their own people. It  is awesome that you know a lot about the old days and all about La Belle. It is just so cool."
 
"I can't wait to see the bottom half of the boat at the Bob Bullock Museum. It's going to be so fun there."
 
That was kind of mean that they used the beavers' and the buffalos' hides to make clothing. Well, they have to stay warm. The scary part was when La Salle's nephew got hit to death and La Salle was killed by his own people."
 
"Thank you for coming to our school today. I really enjoyed the way you described La Salle's life."
 
"I learned that it was hard work to take apart the Belle and put it back together."
 
"I learned that they murdered La Salle because they did not want him to figure out that his nephew had died....I also learned that La Salle was a great person because he wanted to help other people go live on another land. What I liked the best is that you showed us a lot of pictures of the real boat!"
 

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"Thank you for your presentation. It was super. I was amazed that the ship La Belle was still there. All this time I thought that it had been gone."


"It was really smart of you to think how La Salle looked when he was young."


"It sure was kind of sad when La Salle's people killed him. It sure was really cool when the boat didn't break into pieces - because other boats break into little pieces [when they sink.] I liked how you explained the stuff that we didn't know."


"I liked your speech because you started out with drawing instead of giving a lecture. It was cool when you made people guess which animal you drew and what part it took in La Salle's expedition to search for the Northwest Passage."

"If it was not for you,  my classmates and all of us in the 5th grade would not have known about La Belle. I think La Belle is a great thing to talk about because La Belle is a part of our history. I hope to learn more about La Belle and to see you once more to ask you many questions."

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The cofferdam made a "hole" in the sea, so that archeologists could dig up the shipwreck. THC photo.

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Based on a little book that made a splash

Raising La Belle received the United States Maritime Literature Award for 2003 and won the prestigious Spur Award from the Western Writers of America for best western juvenile nonfiction book of 2003.

As a result of these recognitions, the mayor of Austin proclaimed a "Mark Mitchell and Raising La Belle Day."  The Governor of Texas commissioned Mark an Admiral in the Texas Navy, which secures him "all rights and privileges appertaining thereto and with the duty of assisting in the preservation of the history, boundaries, water resources and civil defense of the State."
But the truth is that Mark, as much as he likes to draw boats, gets seasick on the water. He can't tie a sheepshank knot to save his life. He's not a sailor, not a diver, or a marine archeologist. 

The heroes of the "La Salle shipwreck" story were La Salle and the men, women and children -- unlikely pioneers most of them -- who braved the unknown with him. And three centuries after them, the 
heroes were the archeologists of the Texas Historical Commission who labored under rugged and sometimes dangerous conditions to raise the Belle -- for us and future generations to learn from and marvel at. 

With Mark's Raising La Belle presentation, your students can hear their stories and enjoy a virtual "front row seat" at the shipwreck excavation that made
headlines around the world.

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Hasinai Indian home reconstruction - Caddo Mounds State Park

Elementary, Intermediate and Middle School students write


"When you make another book can you share it with me? I don't like pirates. I love them. I wish that I can see a pirate in [real] life."

“It was really cool when you showed us all those pictures taken by the satellite.”

You showed us very cool pictures about what happened. I remember what Indians La Salle had met – it was the Caddos, and I had studied the Caddos. I will tell you a little bit about them. I know they live in round houses and they grow plants…I wish they were still alive...”

“The best thing I liked about your presentation was all the info I was getting. It was so much my head could explode."
   

"It was cool -- no, it was exquisite."

"The La Belle presentation was awesome. I'm so glad that you came to our school. I liked the slide show. My favorite part was ehen you talked about the boat that got taken by pirates. I loved the picture about the ship when it got dug out. I bet it hurt when La Salle's nephew got clubbed. I bet when the Indians saw what they did to La Salle they got mad. I can't wait until I can see La Belle in the Bob Bullock Museum."

"I was astonished when I found out that the Karankawas took the children. It was awesome when you told us that there really were pirates."

"I appreciated your totally awesome presentation. It was interesting the way you explained what happened on La Salle's journey. I cannot wait to see the Belle at the Bob Bullock Museum. I hope everything goes fine with that."

"I thought the part when the A&M students put the boat together was really cool. Thank you for telling us the story. I hope you come next year."


"I thought that the pictures you drew were amazing." 

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Up comes the bronze cannon. (Texas Historical Commission photo)

 

More from teachers and librarians

The history came alive! The kids had such fun realizing how much they had learned about history. ..I think doing the presentation at the end of the year was perfect. Our Fifth graders that are leaving connected all the history to the end of the year colonial history play that they are performing. Our Fourth grade remembered all the Texas Indian tribes they had studied and so they brought such input which “speared” Mark on with his presentation. Third grade had the Lewis and Clark and Squanto background. It was great!”
 
Sharon Seidenberg, Librarian Live Oak Elementary, Round Rock ISD

"Thanks for another great learning experience! The students are fascinated by the subject and were engaged the entire time."
Lensi Nikolov, 4th grade Teacher, Barton Hills Elementary, Austin ISD


“The presentation was beautiful.”

Joan Davis,
Librarian, Hempstead Elementary School, Hempstead ISD


Students "dig" shipwrecks and history!

 

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"I really had a great time at the presentation. It was very fascinating about how they dug up the La Belle ship. I learned about La Salle in my classroom, but I never learned that La Salle and his nephew were killed. I am interested to see the ship in the Bob Bullock Museum. I really liked the pictures you drew about the beaver and the buffalo. I also liked the part where they built the dam to dig up La Belle and sucked out all the water."
 
"My favorite part part was when you drew the buffalo and the beaver. It was fascinating. I liked that part because I wondered if the hide felt comfortable."
 
"I appreciated that the drawing was awesome and the ship was big like a a dragon and I really love the part that you explained how everyone in the fort was killed by the Karankawas but not the kids."

 
"I think you are very creative. La Belle is a pretty boat. Thank you for showing us your wonderful drawings."
 
"I really like the pictures you made in the book Raising La Belle. It was so cool that a ship from La Salle was found off the coast of Texas. It's a good thing that there's a chemcial that can make the ship strong and solid. It's amazing that some of the supplies are still in one piece and I hope that one day I will see La Belle."
 
"We really enjoyed your book Raising La Belle. I love the pictures of the beaver and the buffalo...I really liked La Belle and how they built a circular dam, then how they drained the water was all exciting. Then they put in that liquid to make it stay hard and keep its shape. The way you described it made me feel as if I was in the water trying to get the ship out."
 
"We really liked your program. It was very good. You're very good at drawing. How did you draw that beaver so fast and make the boats look so real? You're a good illustrator. I liked your drawing of the people in the boat. Thank you for filling us in on history and what's happening -- because I did not know about La Belle. That was very cool how you drew that buffalo so fast. Please come another time. I liked it very much."
 
"Everyone in my classroom liked the Raising La Belle slide show, even me. The bufallo drawing that you drew in the library was the best drawing that I had ever seen."

 

Reserve your date.
 

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"La Belle" by Nyla of Austin

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Telescope arrives at the top of Mt. Locke in the Texas Davis Mountains. (Drawing Mark Mitchell)

Seeing Stars: McDonald Observatory, Its Science and Astronomers
 
High in the Davis Mountains of Texas at the country's darkest sky observatory, astronomers study the light of stars to see how the universe is made. Watch the night unfold with them.

 

“Whether it’s capturing the vastness of the universe or describing the oddity of the early sky explorers, this book takes you on an unforgettable journey. Teachers should use this book when teaching astronomy, for its explanations of terms such as atoms and fusion are extremely accessible. While the reader is engaged in the history of astronomy, the scientific concepts are painlessly absorbed. I highly recommend that Seeing Stars should be included in both middle and high school curricula.”

 Dave Brewer, Instructional Reviews

Science Scope, magazine of the National Science Teachers Association

 

“A must read for all young astronomers.”  

 Don Pearce, past president

Houston Astronomical Society

 

Seeing Stars: McDonald Observatory, Its Science and Astronomers - softcover (Eakin Press. 2002) ISBN # 1-57168-117-5

$12.95

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Dobie reviews an inventor's 'buried treasure' witch. (Watercolor Mark Mitchell)

The Mustang Professor: The Story of J. Frank Dobie
 
An expert on the lore and legend of the American Southwest, University of Texas professor (and former ranch cowboy) J. Frank Dobie finds the Texas he loves changed by the Second World War. When he calls it out, he a follklorist turned folk-hero to some. But he's a "disturbing influence" to others, including the university regents, the Texas governor and the House Un-American Activities Committee.

“One of Eakin Press’ finest publications ever, this well-written and engagingly illustrated book captures the essence of a figure central to Texas life and letters....Entertaining, attractive and informative, the book points out the importance of our Texas heritage and of being true to oneself...This book is a must for all public and school libraries.”
Sally Dooley, Editor
Review of Texas Books

The Mustang Professor: The Story of J. Frank Dobie - hardcover
(Eakin Press. 1993)

ISBN # 0-89015-823-1
$14.95

softcover  ISBN # 1-57168-134-5
$7.95

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La Salle claims the Mississippi River and its lands for France

Raising La Belle: The Story of the "La Salle Shipwreck"

Archeologists recover the Belle, the ship of Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle -- and the pieces to put together one of the classic exploration sagas of early North America. 

 

"So why don’t we replace the dreary, committee-written prose of seventh grade history texts with Raising La Belle and books like it, written by one good writer?”

 Reese Vaughn, Books in the Crossroads

Victoria Advocate

 

“... lively, fascinating and slyly educational."

Gretchen Hebner, New For Kids

Austin American-Statesman

 

"...provides a model for what juvenile history can be."

Tim Walker, Books Advisory Editor

Blue Ear Daily

 

“!!!! Exceptional”

Today’s Books

 

Raising La Belle: The Story of the "La Salle shipwreck" - softcover
(Eakin Press.2002)
ISBN # 1-57168-703-3

$10.95

Click here  to see more about the books.

 

 

Books are available from Follett Library Resources and other school distributors, retailers www.Amazon.com, www.Barnesandnoble.com and wherever books are sold. 
 
Talk to publisher Eakin Press (254) 235-6230 about ordering classroom sets. 

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'Pinging the moon' to detect changes in its wobble

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The Hobby Eberley Telescope (HET)

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"The Mustang Professor"

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Dobie visits American troops in Germany

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Click here 
to sign up for The Admiral's Blog (and download Mark's award-winning book Raising "La Belle"
for free.) 
 
 

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The "Belle" drawn by Matthew, 4th grade, Austin

 
 
 
Content Copyright 1998-2007 by Mark G. Mitchell, Carus Publishing, Cobblestone Publishing Group, Eakin Press, David R. Godine Publisher, For Kids Sake Press
 
www.markgmitchell.com
Austin, Texas - U.S. - 78759
Phone 512.258-8348