Wednesday, October 10, 2007
I volunteered at Kidquake today, the childrens' event of the Litquake literary festival here in San Francisco. I did it last year, too, and got to help out at two workshops--but this year I helped at the authors' assembly and got introduced to ten different childrens' authors. What a treat! Here are the authors I heard: Belle Yang, Yuyi Morales, Oliver Chin, Annie Barrows, Bob Barner, Marissa Moss, Lynn Hazen, Henry Neff, Maya Gonzalez, and Susan Taylor Brown.
Most are from the Bay Area, and each of them had something unique to express in their allotted eight minutes (I was the timekeeper so I had to hold up signs saying "Two Minutes Left" and "30 seconds left!" and "Your Time Is Up!"). I enjoyed hearing all of them, but I was struck by a few particular comments.
Illustrator and author Maya Gonzalez wore a bright pink skirt and blouse and talked about her bilingual book, "My Colors, My World" ("Mis colores, mi mundo"). She wore her paint-spattered apron over her beautiful clothes because she wanted everyone to see how she looks in her studio. She also made a point of saying that she loved pink, and that pink used to be a boy's color, but girls decided it was awesome so we took it for ourselves! She said she has three rules: 1) Everyone is an artist, 2) There is no right or wrong in art, and 3) It is always a courageous act to face a blank piece of paper and create art. She said it so clearly and simply I'm sure everyone in the audience--children and adults--understood what she meant, even though it is a profound and even radical trio of rules.
Illustrator and author Yuyi Morales read from her luminous "Little Night," but before that she mentioned that she grew up in Mexico and that was why she has an accent when she speaks English. She said, "I am still learning English, and I will probably always have an accent in English. But that is okay, that is part of who I am." I loved that she said that.
Illustrator and author Belle Yang bravely passed around an in-progress piece of artwork for the children to examine. Illustrator and author Bob Barner played a tape recording of "Dem Bones" while drawing a cartoon skeleton on a large sheet of paper.
And yes, there were a few just plain word people: Annie Barrows (the Ivy and Bean series), Lynn Hazen, and Susan Taylor Brown.
All the classrooms that came (more than 15 of them) received books for their classrooms from the Childrens' Book Project and First Book Project. And what an attentive and appreciative audience they were. They read aloud with the authors when asked, raised their hands, and cheerfully shouted out answers. On the way out, a teacher was clutching the drawing Bob Barner had done. "Look what we scored for the library!" he said excitedly to one of his students. It seemed like several hundred book lovers had just been born.