An Artist in Retrospect

I’m sure a number of people think Racing Pajamas is my first book. In some respects this is correct. Yet a few weeks ago, I realized… *pause for effect and grammatically incorrect use of ellipses*

…I’ve been creating books my entire life.

Not just writing stories. Not just drawing pictures. Actually making books.

Certainly there were the fill-in-the-blank “About Me” books from kindergarten. (The teacher gave everyone blank, white books and had pasted sentences like “My name is … My hair is … My eyes are … I like to …” The students finished the sentences and drew the pictures and covers.) In first grade, my class received such white books again, this time completely blank; I wrote and illustrated a trip to the zoo.

Then there was the Eastbury Elementary publishing center. Every year it printed an anthology of student writings (poetry, narratives, etc.), and every student had a contribution. But the really special thing was that we could get our own stories bound individually. Now and then, the teacher would send students, usually two at a time, to the publishing center with a story we each had written. We chose a binding/cover pattern, a title font (which was printed on a white sticker), and a “This book belongs to” sticker. Later, we received our books, each paragraph on its own white page, waiting for our illustrations.

Now for a special treat–here’s mine from second grade: The Wolf Named Acorn.

It’s great fun for me to read this again (and chuckle at the childlike things I came up with, like red wolves hunting zebras and antelope). It’s also neat to note my artistic decisions and development even then. For instance, look for these as you read:

  • A wolf ear poking out from somewhere on almost every page
  • Aerial perspective (bird’s-eye view)
  • The Protestant birthday cake (orange on St. Patrick’s Day–for some reason, this one really tickles me.)

What else do you notice? Leave a comment–I’d love to know what you see, too!