Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Musings on the Creator in Me

Children's Authors and Illustrators

This week at HSB Front Porch, we're celebrating Children's Authors and Illustrators Week. Initially, I thought, "I really don't know much about children's authors and illustrators." And I don't, at least about many specific authors and illustrators and their lives. BUT, I do know that they intrigue me. I've even tried my hand at writing children's books and have the rejection slips to prove it! ;) I also have a huge library of children's books with which I can't bear to part either because the stories are so lovely OR the illustrations are so beautiful. And as I thought more about it, I realized that enjoying the stories AND the art work is a huge part of what DD8 and DS4 and I enjoy about sharing a book. DD8 often examines a picture in a book and says, "How do you think they did that, Mom?" Even DS11 will see an illustration in a book and say, "Hey, Mom -- I think this was drawn by [an illustrator he recognizes]."  So, perhaps I do have a bit to say about children's authors and illustrators . . .

How can we learn to appreciate authors and illustrators?

  • First of all, we can draw our own and our children's attention to them. I think it's been since first reading John Bianchi's book, Young Author's Day at Pokeweed Public School that I began reading the title of a book accompanied by its author and illustrator before reading the story. Prior to that, it had never really occurred to me to draw this information to the attention of my children -- I just dove right into the story. Silly me! It's fun learning about authors and illustrators, recognizing names as we select books from the library or our home collection!
  • We can discuss the features of the illustrations. Even if we don't know the answers, we can ask: Did the illustrator use watercolours? Acrylic or oil paint? Simple charcoal? Clay? Paper cutouts?Cartoons? Realistic figures or child-like representations? Did the illustrator use lots of colour, none, or only a little bit? Why did the illustrator make the choices he or she did in the way the story was represented by the pictures? How do the illustrations help us to understand and/or enjoy the story more?
  • We can ask questions about why the author made the choices he or she did, and try to find out the answers. For example, why is the story set in the mountains of British Columbia? Is that where the author lives? Is this book based on a true story? If so, what are the facts in the real life version?
  • We can find out about the authors' own lives. Chances are, the value we place on the stories we love will increase. Books like Meet the Authors and Illustrators (three of which I own and have never used -- shame on me!!!!!! Guess what I'll be doing this week!) will assist in this endeavour. For example, I've always loved Jan Brett's books because of their richly detailed illustrations. When I opened a Meet the Authors and Illustrators book, my eyes fell on this paragraph: "As a child, Jan often felt frustrated by book illustrations that didn't give enough information. That's why she likes to put in all the little details. Jan often uses borders to get all her ideas into the book. In The Mitten, the borders show Nicki trekking through the woods and scaring different animals out of their hiding places. When you turn a page in the book, you can see the animal that comes next" (pg. 15). To me, knowing how and why she does what she does helps me appreciate her work all the more. And I can make a personal connection to her when I read, "Jan was a shy child. Uncomfortable with large groups or children, she preferred the company of pencil and paper" (pg. 14). Personal connections to authors and illustrators enable us to appreciate them more, and often inspire us to learn even more.
  • We can make use of the available resources online to extend our knowledge and appreciation of authors and illustrators. When I googled the title of Meet the Authors and Illustrators to find a link to it, I stumbled upon a website called Children's Literature: Indpendent Information and Reviews that offered a huge list of links to information about hundreds of children's authors and illustrators. Having just written about Jan Brett above, I clicked on her name and was taken to her website. Here's a glimpse of what she offers -- and remember, she's just one on the list:

  • We can use curricula that assists us in encouraging the appreciation of authors and illustrators. One of my favourites is Five in Row. Over the years, DD8 and I have learned a lot about how artists create by studying and imitating illustrations in the books we've read as we've been prompted by the FIAR study guides:
  • Studying Storm in the Night, we learned about layering acrylics in a painting. Unlike watercolours, light colours are applied after dark colours.
    While examining the illustrations in Katy and the Big Snow, we practised drawing bare trees.
  • When we study art, we can include the work of illustrators in the list of artists to be studied. Last  year, we had a homeschooling Art Fair and DS11 (at the time) had a hard time selecting an artist knowing that he was going to have to try to imitate one of the artist's pieces to gain an appreciation of their work. He finally decided on studying Quentin Blake, the illlustrator of Roald Dahl's books, and succeeding in producing a fun imitation of this artist's child-like drawings while getting a good appreciation of just how difficult it is to create even the simplest of illustrations:
The boys are digging a hole to secretly get at the cookies they can see through the window ;)

  • Once we've found an author we or our children enjoy, we can make an effort to find more of his or her work. Sometimes the fact that an author has become familiar by reading one book inspires our children to want more -- and who doesn't want their children to want to read more?
Do you have any other ideas for developing an appreciation of authors and illustrators? Have you done anything with your children in the past that has challenged them to learn more about the people who write and illustrate their favourite books?


  1. It was fun seeing you post Katy and the Big Snow. My son is 22 now, but that book and 2 others by the same author were some favorites when he was small.

  2. It's an oldy but a goody :) Thanks for stopping by, Phyl.


Sincere responses . . .

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...