Wednesday, April 30, 2014

World Book Night 2014

handing out my last 3 copies
thanks to Zahra, Yonkers Riverfront
Library for the photo

Readers like to share books and I have a cache of titles I give to friends and family.  World Book Night allowed me to reach strangers, and in my case, kids, to entice them to want to read when video, computers, TV and other activities compete for their attention. I was ready for the challenge.  The book I was assigned was the Ranger’s Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan, the first in a twelve book series. As a big kid, (meaning now), I had already read all twelve books.

An argument can be made that it might be harder to convince someone to read a series when that person doesn’t read much, is a reluctant reader, or only reads when the teacher gives a book as an assignment, as Nathan, a 10 year old said to me. Then again, it was a mystery series that got me to become a regular reader when I was a child.  Would I have wanted to be a knight like Will in The Ranger's Apprentice? Sure, in my dreams where I can be brave and daring taking on the enemy. But in reality, I’m a confirmed chicken. Perhaps Alyss’s training in the diplomatic branch suits me better. I’d still get to travel.  John Flanagan has characters kids can identify with. In fact he wrote the stories for his son who was small and slender, not the body type of a typical knight. Most of the boys I encountered on World Book Night were small too.  Would they want to be a knight and go to battle school? Most said yes. I told them they’d probably be sent to train with the Rangers instead like Will, the character who also wasn’t big and strong. That wasn’t what Will dreamed of. But Will learns that he’s perfectly suited to be a Ranger after all. He finds out he has other important skills critical to the kingdom and that enticed Gabriel also 10 to want to know what those were. Girls will find characters they can relate to as well.  And it was easy for both boys and girls to understand that a girl might want adventure especially if you were a princess like Cassandra. Another theme or message is that friends help and support each other.

Michael, 12 didn’t know why he didn’t like to read. I suggested maybe he hadn’t found the right book yet. Everyone loves a story, right? But the book that will speak to you, where you block out everything else and are in the moment of the story, well, it’s amazing and worth trying. He promised to try to read the book and I hope it opens a whole world of experience for him. John, 15 only likes graphic novels, but he too said he would give it a try. And Duane didn’t much care for reading, but his younger brother loved to read. I told him I thought this book was a bit too difficult for him to read on his own, but if Duane would read to him, they could both enjoy the book. They thought that was a good idea and said they would read together.

Chantalle was my first "victim" who I approached to give away the book. She actually liked to read already and was excited to go on an adventure with the characters because “it’s cool”.  World Book Night is cool too. I’m able to share the excitement of visiting real and imagined lands, introduce the kids to good and bad people and creatures the author has created for them. I hope the book I’m giving out is the one that will hook the kids on reading or help to continue their interest in it.  

So do you think you’d like to meet a Wargal? What or who is a Wargal, you ask? You’ll have to read The Ruins of Gorlan to find out. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Theatre Illustration

Here's the poster for the new production by the August Strindberg Repertory Theatre. This was a tough one. I usually send in quite a few sketches of ideas but I only had one and I was unsure if my interpretation would be okay. I thought the graphite portraits fit the era, and played up the tension. As it happens, their PR company independently got the same vibe and used a similar style photograph with a juxtaposition of the two main characters. I was glad to find out my take was right on message.Whew!

Robert Greer, director has set the play in 1962 Harlem. Read my conversation with him about the play soon on my conversations blog. For further information, visit the company's web site.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Morgan Book Project

This has been a busy month! I was fortunate again to join several judges for the Morgan Book Project, hosted by The Morgan Library and Museum. I'm touched and amazed by the wonderful illuminated manuscript inspired books created by the kids in the program. Congratulations are in order to Marie Trope Podell, Manager of Gallery Programs. Her program is thriving thanks to a generous grant from the Brooke Astor Fund for NYC Education. This program uses art to support other disciplines, or in other words, it fits in beautifully with core curriculum standards.

In the program, the children have the opportunity to view original illuminated manuscripts in the Morgan's collection. They learn an appreciation of books, art, design and history. Then they learn to make paint from scratch, crushing materials such as saffron for yellow, cochineal bugs for red (what kid wouldn't want to do that?) and other material. They combine the finely ground materials with a binder to create the final pigment that will be used. They are given archival paper and real gold leaf for embellishments. The kids write and design their illuminated manuscript inspired books. The subjects range from poetry and fiction, global culture, family history and social studies. It was difficult to choose only a small number of those books we felt stood out the most as all of them were wonderfully creative and beautifully executed. For further information, read an article highlighting the program in the New York Times from last year.

Special awards: click to see the books 2013   2012 and 2011
The ceremony. The school in CA that participated was skyped in so winners there could take part. One of the kids flew in and accepted his schoolmates' awards.

Winning books were displayed for all to see. And a selection from these will be on exhibit in cases April 8-20.

 Some of the winners with their books. Congratulations to all of the winners.

Read more HERE. Do stop in to see the books in person. I know you will be impressed. Other exhibits worth a look: an exhibit on woodblock printing and The Little Prince manuscript by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry. If you have never visited, the Morgan is truly a gem.