Hello, Poetry-Loving Friends!
THINK BIG (Bloomsbury, 2012) is a rollicking, joyous celebration of creativity and imagination that embraces art in all its glorious, soul nourishing forms. And who better to bring this message to young readers than the infinitely talented Liz and Vanessa, who, much like the children featured in the story, grew up thinking outside the box.
Their early experiences with creative play enabled them to become the accomplished artists they are today. Their secret? Never losing touch with the child within — the one that’s eager, excited and unafraid to dive right in and experiment, with a mind open and fresh, dwelling in that magical place where all things are possible.
Liz got the idea for this story while discussing art with her daughters years ago. The girls initially thought only in terms of visual art, i.e., paintings in a museum. Liz asked, “What about photography? What about ceramics?” Soon their thinking opened up — what about sewing or knitting or cooking? Many of us might have narrow ideas of what “art” is, and who creates it. It’s nice to see a book that widens that view!🙂
Reading Think Big reinforced my belief that poets write the best picture books. In a mere 61 words (two-word lines, two-line rhyming couplets), Liz presents an engaging story about a group of industrious kids getting ready for an arts performance. Her text is pared down to its bare essence, masterfully shaped to beautiful effect. It’s all marvelously there — narrative, emotion, rhythm, energy, detail, suspense — making the act of reading an interactive creative experience.
The bustle and excitement are infectious, as these kids sing, sew, throw, and dance their way through this collaborative project. Makes you want to jump right in and do exactly what they’re doing.
In a glowing review, Kirkus said, “Scanlon’s spare rhyming text bursts with gusto. No page has more than four words, but every word’s turbocharged because of flawless scansion and exuberance.” Yes! The art of poetry is all about distilling emotion, condensing expression, turbo-charging each and every word.
Vanessa’s charming visual narrative, featuring a diverse group of kids and a frolicsome black cat, captures the sheer joy of doing, making, participating, working together for something bigger than themselves, whether it’s painting, playing music, decorating the set, making tickets and playbills, and — *wait for it* — cooking up refreshments! Love the total immersion and full inclusion with no one sitting on the sidelines.
Vanessa’s charcoal, gouache and mixed media collages convey the very essence of craft and creativity with their floral patterns and plaids, vibrant colors, dots, stitches, smudges and hand prints. Busy, busy, busy — the perfect “rehearsal” for what these kids might want to be when they grow up! Every activity, an art worth pursuing. Oh, the possibilities!
I asked both Liz and Vanessa about what artsy things they liked to do when they were little.
Some of you may know that besides illustrating children’s books and magazines, Vanessa loves to write stories, make dolls, COOK, and work on a variety of crafts. She was an artist from day one and has never looked back.
Vanessa: I love the smell of crayons and markers and chalk! I loved this stuff. I wanted a pad of paper and pencil more than anything in the world. I would draw and draw and create my own little world when I was a kid.
I was picked on very, very badly way up into my high school years. I am dyslexic and I found the way to express myself was through art. I love to cut paper as well. So I spent lots of time cutting paper into shapes and coloring them. I loved the work of Mr. Ezra Jack Keats and tried to create what I saw in the books he created. He created a mood with his artwork and that is what I wanted to do as a child. He made me feel like I was a character from one of his books. So I would have to say collage was one of my favorite things to do when I was small.
Liz is the perfect example of someone who was born with an artistic sensibility, whose life has been guided by creative impulses.
Liz: When I was a girl, my creative impulse was toward drama. My roles included a singing school bell and a queen bee — not the teen-agey type, but a real bee. I had every intention of growing up to be an actress living on a horse farm, which is a far cry from where I am today.
Well, except, maybe it’s not. The leaning toward self-expression, toward risk, toward connection, toward space, toward a need for public AND private, toward something magical and childlike? That’s all still in me, and feeling very satisfied . . .
It’s wonderful to see how Liz has fostered these same values in her daughters:
I was also struck by what Liz said in her guest post at Cynsations back in July:
As adults, we’ve learned that there aren’t limits on types or kinds of art, but we proceed to limit ourselves, our possibilities, our attempts. We tend to stop trying new forms of art and, when we do dabble, we’re self-deprecating about it.
Kids are a lot bolder and braver in this than we are.
Making art can energize us, can help us heal, can feel like play, can provide a way to process things, can bring us joy.
Ultimately, Think Big reminds us that whatever creative way we choose to express ourselves is valid and valuable, because life is an art, the world of time and space our personal canvas.
Ready, set . . .
* * *
♥ THINK BIG GIVEAWAY ♥
written by Liz Garton Scanlon
illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
published by Bloomsbury, 2012
Picture book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
Cool themes: art, creativity, theatre, cooperation, school, diversity
* * *
For a chance to win a signed (by Liz) copy of Think Big, simply leave a comment at this post telling us what your creative passion was when you were growing up, no later than midnight (EDT) Thursday, September 27, 2012.
You can also enter by sending an email with “MAKE ART” in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Extra entries for blogging, tweeting, or Facebooking about this giveaway. Winner will be announced here next Poetry Friday, September 28th. Open to U.S. residents only, please. Good luck!
* * *
♥ See more of Vanessa Brantley Newton’s art at her Ooh La La Design Studio!
♥ Click here for a super duper faboo Think Big Curriculum Guide created by Natalie Dias Lorenzi, which features a boatload of cool activities as well as interviews with both Liz and Vanessa. (For my money, Natalie makes the best guides on the planet.)
♥ Don’t miss this recent interview with Vanessa at the 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting & Research.
* * *
The beautiful, talented, and sometimes cowboy talkin’ poet/writer/editor Renée La Tulippe is hosting today’s Roundup at No Water River. Mosey on over and check out all the tasty poetic offerings she’s got on the menu. Is that apple pie I smell? Happy Autumn!
*Spreads from Think Big reproduced with permission of the publisher, text copyright © 2012 Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrations © 2012 Vanessa Brantley Newton, published by Bloomsbury. All rights reserved.
**Apple Pie via TexasRibs.
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.