Got kids? I’d like to meet them. If you know of a school – private or public, religious or secular – who would like to have a visiting author/illustrator present a program, please send them a link to this blog. I have three new books out this year, and I’m eager to read them to kids. I’ve been experimenting with ideas for creative projects based on the subjects of my books. I’d love to bring these ideas into classrooms and try them out.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending “Author’s Day” at the Mill Road Elementary School in Red Hook, NY. This was a parent-driven revival of an event that took place some years ago. Thanks to both parents and Donna Gaynor, the school’s new principal, for bringing this event back. The children were obviously excited to have a special day devoted to books, and meeting the people who make them. I had been to past Author Days, and was happy to see some of the authors and illustrators back again this time. It was great fun to sit next to Barbara Lehman as we signed books and met readers. She also took some of these photos of the “sea of kids” to whom we were introduced to kick off the event. Barbara is an extraordinary illustrator who tells stories exclusively with pictures. Her wordless books have won the Caldecott Honor; you can see her books here. We illustrators tend to be hermits; we work at home often in solitude. My work does not require that I talk on the phone very often. It’s nice to get out and chat with other artists and writers from time to time . . . and to see that sea of kids spread out across the cafeteria floor in front of us.
Most of my programs for children focus on art. My shorter programs consist of readings and discussion of the subjects of my books, or book-making itself. How are books made? How do illustrators research their subjects? How is illustration different from fine art painting? These questions and more are answered and discussed. In longer or multiple sessions, we make murals about seasonal changes and the life cycle of migrating birds, endangered species, and other animals. We make class field guide books to local flora and fauna, with each student assigned one species to research and illustrate. We cut out cardboard puppets to mount on sticks, and make backdrops for class plays using the puppets. If working with my Jewish-themed books, we make menorahs out of baked salt dough and paint them, or cardboard cut-outs with stick-on paper flames. Lately I’m experimenting with photographing my readers and letting them make cut-outs of themselves to be placed in a mural or collage. How about a class crest or school seal?
Please tell the teachers you know about my books, and invite them to visit this blog and the children’s book section of my website (click on “Visit My Website” above). More than ever, authors and illustrators are expected to promote their own titles. And doing so makes better books.
Thanks for passing the word!