Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The National Book Festival and Peter Brown

I love the National Book Festival.  It is one of my favorite book events of the year.  There is just something about a gathering of some of the nation's best authors and illustrators on the National Mall.  I was so sad this year to find out that the Festival would not be held on the Mall - all of the charm - moved to the convention center.   I was skeptical about the venue change but took my 7 and 9 year old children down regardless.  I am not going to lie, a lot of the charm was lost.  It was just not the same as it was on the Mall in DowntownDC.  However, there were some advantages.  I like to go to listen to the authors speak and the convention center is much more conducive to that.  There was no wind blowing through the tents making it difficult to hear and there was a lot more seating available as well.  There was also air-conditioning which on a hot and humid DC day is not something to take lightly.

One of the author/illustrators we went to was Peter Brown.  We love his books at our house, most especially A Curious Garden.  His presentation was so fun.  They let all of the kids sit on the floor right in front for the best view.  He had a funny slide show including his first picture book, written and illustrated at age six, and a picture he drew of his mother at a young age, complete with six fingers.  He also read to us his latest picture book My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I am Not.)

It tells the story of a little boy, Bobby, with a penchant for throwing paper airplanes. Mrs. Kirby, his teacher, does not find this amusing.  She roars and stomps her feet and Bobby realizes he has a monster for a teacher.  A trip to the park later that day finds a chance encounter with Bobby and Mrs. Kirby out of the walls of a classroom.  As they talk about ducks, paper airplanes and beloved antique hats their relationship alters - allowing each to see the other in a different setting aside from school.  At the festival he told how he thought of the idea for this story from his own childhood.  When he went to kindergarten he was sure his teachers were monsters.  But one of the teachers he had thought a monster, saw a drawing of his, praised it, and showed it to the principal.  From this one event Peter was placed in extra art classes in school which spiraled into extra art classes after school and helped him on his pathway towards becoming an author/illustrator.

The illustrations depict the changes in attitude and of the relationship throughout the book.  At the festival it was especially fun because he demonstrated how hedrew Mrs. Kirby.  He explained how drawing is done through the use of lines, circles and squiggly lines.  He proceeded to draw Mrs. Kirby by drawing three straight lines, two circles, squiggly lines and on and on until he had a finished character.  It almost made me feel like I could draw.  Almost.  However, I do think it made many a child not only want to go out and buy his latest book but to also pick up a pen and a paper to author and illustrate their first best seller.