Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Authors’ and Illustrators’ class brings books to life
By Rebecca Wyatt Thomas, OU Web Writer
Eleven nationally-known authors and illustrators of children’s books came to Oakland University in July to provide students in the Authors' and Illustrators' Art and Craft course with first-hand information on how they strive to engage their audience. Many of the students were teachers or aspiring teachers who learned the tools to inspire their students to read more and dig deeper, because it will help them get more out of books.
Course organizer Linda Pavonetti, associate professor of reading and language arts, has developed relationships with many book publishers over the past 10 years, which help her bring to campus a diverse group of high-quality authors and illustrators each year. Pavonetti and Jim Cipielewski, chair of the Reading Department, have been co-teaching the course since 1997.
“We have a varying group of people that take this class. We have master’s candidates and undergraduates, teachers and librarians; but we also have grandmothers looking for good books for their grandchildren and others who are looking to learn more about writing children’s books,” Pavonetti said.
Sue Carline, a master’s student in Reading and Language Arts, said she took the class again after taking it last summer. She said she wanted to experience the different authors and illustrators.
“We were able to have a relationship with the authors,” Carline said. “Not only were we able to interact with them, but the professors made us reflect on the authors’ and illustrators’ work and their presentations. By reflecting in that way, we were able to relate to their work and their life and see how it related to us. It really made us learn more about them.”
This year’s authors and illustrators included:
- Tim Wynn-Jones, who received the Governor General’s Award for “Some of The Kinder Planets.”
- Cammie Maninno, owner of Halfway Down the Stairs, a children's bookstore in downtown Rochester.
- Avi, author of more than 50 books and recipient of the Newberry Award for “Crispin: The Cross of Lead” and Newberry Honors Award for “Nothing but the Truth” and “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.”
- Rebecca Kai Dotlich, poet and author of “Lemonade Sun.”
- Henry Cole, illustrator of more than 50 books, including “And Tango Makes Three,” and numerous books by Pamela Duncan Edwards and Margie Palatini.
- R. Gregory Christie, recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor for “Only Passing Through” and “The Palm of My Heart.”
- Carolyn Marsden, award-winner for “The Gold-Threaded Dress.”
- Sy Montgomery, recipient of the Orbis Pictus Honor for “Snake Scientist.” In addition, her books, “Search for the Golden Moon Bear,” and “Encantado: Pink Dolphin of the Amazon” were named Outstanding Science Trade Books for Children K-12.
- Sarah Miller, a recent Oakland University graduate who just published her first book, “Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller.”
- Jan Spivey Gilchrist, recipient of the Coretta Scott King honor for “Nathaniel Talking.”
- Antia Silvey, an author, critic and publisher.
“Each author and illustrator was so different, yet they all tied into the theme ‘Crossing Borders,’ and they could take the theme into so many different areas,” Carline said.
Domonique White said she really enjoyed hearing from author Sy Montgomery. White said she enjoys reading her books, which are appropriate for many age levels, and hearing from her first-hand demonstrated how passionate she really is about the topics she writes about.
“When I listened to the authors, I realized that when we read a book, we are only reading part of something. It’s almost as if the book and the author are one. If you don’t know about the author and you read the book, you are only getting part of the information,” White said. “Now, I’m going to learn more about each author before I read a book or present it in the classroom. The background of the author is so important. It completes the book.”
Chris Tritten also chose to take the course again. She said the course exposed her to books she might not have thought to pick up on her own. She said the artwork of R. Gregory Christie was not something she was drawn to at first, but after hearing from him, she has a new respect for his work.
“The thing I appreciated the most about the class is that they really put an emphasis on putting away your teacher hat for the summer and really doing something for you,” Tritten said. “It isn’t a learning to teach course, it’s for growth personally.”
Noelle Nickeson-Graver is an undergraduate student in the elementary education program focusing on language arts.
“I knew that we were going to meet a different author or illustrator every day. I knew that it was going to be a good class,” Nickeson-Graver said. “I didn’t know any of the authors or illustrators that were going to be there. I went in there expecting to like the class, but I didn’t realize how much I was going to learn and how much I was going to like the class.”
Christy Landefeld is in the reading master’s program at Oakland University, and as a teacher, she has attended Rochester Community Schools program that brings one author to the schools in April. She decided to take Authors and Illustrators because she enjoys the Authors in April program so much.
“The course provided me with insight into the process and how there are no hard and fast rules to writing or illustrating a book,” Landefeld said. “Every author and illustrator goes through the same process but it’s still different. I think it’s something that I’m going to stress with my students. There is no right way to create writing or art.”
Landefeld said the experience of interacting with the authors and illustrators provided her with an understanding of where they are coming from and gave her an insider perspective. In the classroom, Landefeld said she will start doing author studies and comparing multiple works by the same author and provide more biographical information to her students.
“It’s kind of always been a dream of mine to write a children’s book, but I have to put the time into it that it takes,” Landefeld said. “After taking this class, that dream has certainly been inspired again.”
For more information, visit the Authors' and Illustrators' Web site. For more information on Oakland University’s education programs, visit the School of Education and Human Services Web site.