I picked up my 7 year old from school today and immediately blurted “Guess what! I met the illustrator of Gaston and The Last Stop on Market Street and The Smallest Girl in The Smallest Grade and School’s First Day of School this morning!” Without skipping a beat, he asked, “Did you tell him you’re L.A. Book Mom?” with a sense of pride that I found kinda touching.
I had to admit I only said “hi.” We laughed and then I told him all about my morning.
I was fortunate enough to attend a wonderful event where the super talented Christian Robinson gave a presentation to children at a local elementary school in Santa Monica. I’m not great with estimating numbers in a crowd, but I’d guess there were 200 or more kids, many who had come from neighboring schools just for the event. I believe some even enjoyed a ride on the Metro in order to attend. (Love our city!)
Robinson began by reading his latest work (a collaboration with author Adam Rex) called School’s First Day of School. If you’re not familiar with it, this book is one of my favorites that was published this year. I read it recently at one of my story times and children and adults alike loved it. The story is told from the point of view of the school, making it really interesting and creative. Some of the kids have first-day jitters and the school is nervous too! In fact, the school is so uneasy, it accidentally sets off the fire alarm and then apologizes to each student one by one as they return to their classrooms. It’s clever, funny and beautifully illustrated in Robinson’s familiar paint and collage style.
After the reading, Robinson talked a little about his process and encouraged the students to start small, explore and make mistakes. He shared photos of how he uses story boards to create his illustrations and how he looks for images as a way of researching places or things to use in his books.
Then he let the children ask questions or make comments. (A few shared that their own parents are artists too—there’s that sense of pride for one’s parents again!) And a couple of students asked specific questions about his art. When asked why he likes drawing, he replied that he can “create the world I want to see.”
By this time the kids were getting squirmy but Robinson remained patient and kind. He called on student after student and drew the animals they requested: a peacock, a jellyfish, a dinosaur and a cheetah. He signed each piece of art and they were given to the teachers. I thought that was pretty special.
Author/illustrator visits to schools are an excellent way to teach kids about books and the writing and/or illustrating process, but it’s much more than that. Author Toni Buzzeo, a library media specialist at Longfellow Elementary School in Portland, Maine, says the following in a recent Education World article: “Authors and illustrators are the ultimate literacy initiative. When a kid has met an author of a book, he owns that book more than anything else he’s ever read.” By having this kind of experience, kids can develop a deeper understanding of not only a book, but also of reading. And maybe they’ll even manifest a lifelong love for reading. To me, that’s the ultimate goal.
The event was organized in part by Sharon Hearn, owner of Children’s Book World. If you’re a local, I urge you to check out one of the few remaining indie bookstores in Los Angeles. It’s a true gem with a wide selection of children’s books (over 80,000 titles!) and a friendly, knowledgable staff. They’ll be celebrating their 30th anniversary next month on October 8th with a mini-concert featuring Mista Cookie Jar and a magic show later in the day with Mark Paskell. For more info, please check out their website. http://www.childrensbookworld.com
If you missed the event but really love Christian Robinson, you can still purchase a signed copy of School’s First Day of School at Children’s Book World. You can also check out his own website here: http://theartoffun.com