Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, September 25, 2014


All it takes is one good book.  With this any reader's life has the potential to be changed regardless of their situation.  This single volume starts a fire which will continue to be fueled by works from the same author or illustrator or new authors and illustrators.

For those fortunate enough to have classroom and school libraries, public libraries or homes filled with reading materials and who are supported by dedicated certified staff and/or caring adults, transformation is guaranteed.  Draw! (A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers) by Raul Colon is a visual offering giving evidence to the power of reading and individual imagination.  Entirely without words, it will leave you speechless, stunned by the images and the story they tell.

On the first page a boy is sitting on his bed, leaning against several pillows, reading a book with AFRICA on the cover.  Next to him is a safari hat.  On the floor, leaning against the bed, is a sketch book.  A glass of water and several pencils have been placed on his bedside table.

With a page turn, the illustration and our perspective grow.  An inhaler is also on the table, perhaps explaining the boy's presence in his bedroom.  He is now drawing.  A pair of binoculars, an umbrella, a stack of books and a sandwich on a plate have also been added.  But that is not all...a thrilling shift in the story is taking place.

A series of bolder, more vibrant pictures, moving from left to right, increasing in size, are superimposed on this visual.  They begin next to the boy's head.  In each of them, he is walking across an African landscape, wearing his safari hat, a canteen, an easel and a backpack while carrying his sketch book.  Readers know a kind of magic is beginning to unfold.

In the next series of single page illustrations, he befriends an elephant accompanied by a small white egret.  After completing a drawing of the elephant and bird, he rides on the elephant's back toward a herd of zebras.  Each time he completes a picture we are drawn deeper into his journey.

Giraffes running across the grasslands, lions lying lazily and standing majestically on a rocky outcrop, gorillas sitting among trees, water buffalo grazing, a hippo wading in shallow water, a charging rhino and monkeys quenching their curiosity fill page after page.   The adventuring artist climbs trees, shares his sandwiches, hat and pencils, hangs from vines, runs like the blazes and embraces a pachyderm pal.  We are definitely fortunate, as are his fellow classmates, to experience this fascinating day with him because of his talent; a talent to read, dream and do...through his drawing.

  Raul Colon has a distinctive illustrative process.  Each picture in this title invites readers to pause.  Opening the dust jacket an original piece features the boy drawing the charging rhino, intent but ready to run.  On the left an interior page from the book shows the boy on the back of the elephant holding his binoculars in one hand, a sandwich in the other.  In the background, a now calm rhino is staring at his portrait placed against a tree.  The book case is a different single illustration taken from the book of the giraffes running as the boy draws.

On the title page three pencils, the binoculars, a safari hat and a backpack stuffed with sandwiches and an umbrella give readers a peek at events to come.  All of Colon's visuals glow due to his technique of beginning with a golden undertone wash; thus illuminating his other colors.  A palette of browns, blue, greens and hues specific to each animal spread from edge to edge on single or double pages.

A sense of warmth not just because of the color choices but because of the acceptance (well except for the rhino) of the animals toward the boy is present.  They are as comfortable with him as he is with them; certainly this is due to his elephant guide.  Colon interjects easy, playful humor into some of his pictures; the gorillas holding the boy's hat and eating a sandwich and the monkeys drawing a picture of the boy in his sketchbook on the easel.

One final point is the two pages of the rhino charge.  Four small illustrations on a single page show him getting closer and closer to the boy.  With a page turn the action bursts forth across double pages.

My favorite illustration, which I would hang in my home in a heartbeat, is the boy, eyes closed, standing next to the elephant at the day's end.  The elephant's trunk is curved around his body, brushing against his ear.  Colon brings us up close to this scene focusing on the boy and the lower two-thirds of the elephant.  It is very moving.

When I read Draw! by Raul Colon last night at the end of my day, I was astonished at its beauty.  I immediately read it again and again.  Hand this to your art teacher, young artists and those who need or want to see the power of reading and imagination.  My Mock Caldecott list grew by one more title.

For more information about Raul Colon follow the link embedded in his name to the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature.  Here is a link to a site, Illustrated Friday, where Raul Colon answers ten questions about his work and process.  Here is a link to an interview at School Library Journal.  Enjoy the videos below.

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