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Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.
Left with a lot to think about
The meetings have concluded, the speeches are now on the record, and the out-of-towners have left town. And after attending many functions during the annual conference of the American Library Association, I've still got lots to think about.
A preconference called "Drawn to Delight" brought together a veritable "who's who" of picture book creators. It was intended to illuminate how picture books work — from the nitty gritty creation to their use — and lots more.
One panel stands out to me. On it, teams of illustrators and their editors spoke about their specific collaborations, how they work together with one goal in mind: to present the best possible picture books for readers regardless of age.
David Small and his longtime editor, Patricia Lee Gauch, talked about how Small's portrayal of the motley cast presented in Judith St. George's text for So You Want to Be President? (Philomel) evolved. It was a real give and take — and acts of faith between creator and editor. And the result was a lively, engaging, surprising glimpse of American presidents for young and old alike (plus a Caldecott Medal!).
There just wasn't enough time for Gauch and Small to talk about Elsie's Bird (Philomel; due out in September) but they shared a copy with me.
A lyrical text by Jane Yolen combined with Small's expressive illustrations evokes a child's conflicting feelings as she and her widowed father move from Boston to Nebraska. Small's illustrations spread across double pages to evoke the bustle of 19th century Boston and the expanse of Nebraska's grass plains — all the while enhancing what the words say — the tension, the emotions, and the resolution.
Interestingly, the illustrator dedicates this book to his editor, "who has always brought me back into the light."
And that for me says what a true collaboration can do for book writers and illustrators — and for readers as well.
In talking about words and images, we — and the children we work with — gain insight. We figure out something new, a different way of seeing things around us that brings us "into the light" — just like Elsie and her creators.