Summary: During three different school visits, I shared my work and talked books with 3rd graders. In the process I found joyful surprises on many different levels.
I have been on the road quite a bit during February and March, visiting the Salinas School District on three different occasions to share my work and talk about book illustration. Not having had this experience before, I found myself joyfully surprised on many different levels. As with many wonderful things in life, it all begins with a single school teacher, Mrs. Rochin, who originally connected with me at the Open Studios last fall with out her help none of this would’ve happened.
My First School Visits
The first two events were classroom presentations. I got to share my work and introduce myself to three different classrooms of students. The students were working on a book project. During the first visit in February we talked about what an illustrator does, and a little bit about how to draw characters. The second visit in March was focused on cover design to go along with a project that the students were working on.
The 3rd grade students were wonderful and one student in particular really touched my heart. As an example of how to use basic shapes to create characters, I showed the kids how to draw my own character, Tom Banjo. A month later when I returned, one of the teacher’s showed me a book that a student had made all on her own! A 15 page book of her own story about Tom Banjo!
When the teacher showed me the original book, I didn’t have time to delve into it because I was starting the presentation, but she made a color copy of the whole thing and gave it to me to look at later. The next day I had a chance to really take a look at the work in the book. I was awe inspired; my heart melted right there and then. The drawings were originally done in crayon, each one of Tom Banjo doing different things. There are many aspects that really touched me: one, she didn’t do all this work in one sitting. This was the result of multiple days of effort on her part. Two, she is also clearly a reader of picture books, as there were certain repeated phrases such as “He grew and grew and grew,” (I’m sure that Eric Carle’s Hungary Caterpillar won’t mind her borrowing the phrase.) Three, her drawings showed a certain visual literacy and sensitivity. There are details in the pictures, and one of my favorite moments is when Tom is going to bed, in his adorably too-small-dog-bed, there are windows on either side of him, and outside the windows there is a little landscape with trees and the sun. What I see here is that she is aware of the imaginary world outside the windows, and that landscape is connected behind the wall. Amazing. This girl is going to go far if she keeps up her work.
Read Across America Event
Read across America Due to the success of these two school visits, my name was put forth to participate in the school districts celebration of Dr. Seuss’ Birthday; an event they call Read Across America. Fortuitously the event also coincided with the release of the third Brock Ford Adventure series book which I had been in the works better part of 2013. The many students and parents who came out went from themed room to themed room to listen to stories and to do activities. A number of costumed characters walked around, in fact, the Grinch actually came into the Writers and Illustrators Room where I was and stole some of my books! Luckily I was able to wrangle them back from her. I was overjoyed to see many of the students from the original classroom presentations came out to visit with me.
I can say with sincerely that these were some wonderful and memorable moments. It is amazing to see the excitement that the children have towards the books, the stories, and illustration.
I hope to be able to do more of these events in the future. The real benefit for me was in seeing the children, and their response to illustrations and books. There is hope for the future!
You can also now purchase copies of the Brock Ford Adventure series through my website shop! Show some love, pick up a copy or two and start your reading adventure today! As ever, I do respond well to enthusiasm, feel free to leave a comment below.