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My Pen

my penThere are few things more exciting than a picture-book artist creating in an unexpected style.

Christopher Myers, winner of the 2015 Coretta Scott King Book Award for his illustrations for Firebird, written by Misty Copeland, provides a fanciful exploration of creativity with pen and ink drawings in My Pen.

The intrigue begins on the book jacket with the inclusion of an artist’s hand holding a pen and the phrase, “All You Need Is Your Imagination…” Clearly the writer-illustrator intends to accompany the reader on this journey. Removing the jacket reveals an abstract black-and-white illustration on the cover. A Rorschach test? The endpapers contribute with lines, scratches, even a few sketches that continue the idea begun on the cover. Myers even uses the copyright page to present the child narrator as the face on currency, reminding the reader of his importance. His fedora hat, which seems just slightly too large, encourages the viewer to ponder how much growing and changing he will do as he explores the world with his pen and his talent.

The drawings themselves are both crisp and rich. The use of entire pages reinforces the idea of the limitless nature of imagination. Even within the depictions of the narrator’s concerns, the drawings are clear and realistic. The inclusion of a drawing of Myers’s father, the late Walter Dean Myers, is a poignant touch. An image of the boy hiding under a table as he contemplates all the conflict in the world is particularly effective through a decided difference in scale, since the table is drawn larger than the tank and warplanes. On another spread the use of inkblots shows that not all efforts at inventiveness are successful. Occasionally, pens (and talents) hide in plain sight.

However, the book ends with an encouraging page of drawings that reflect many different abilities marked by different drawing styles. It will be interesting to see if a picture book containing such artistic symbolism will appeal to the Caldecott committee. It is certainly a child-friendly take on the power of creativity.

 

Deborah Taylor About Deborah Taylor

Deborah Taylor is coordinator of school and student services for the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. A past president of YALSA, she chaired the 2015 Sibert committee and has served on many other ALA committees. She is the 2015 recipient of the CSK–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement.

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Comments

  1. Susan Dailey says:

    I’m curious where Walter Dean Myers appears in the book.

  2. Early in the book, when the narrator describes how he feels about his pen and what it can do, he illustrates the idea of his pen “making giants of old men who have seen better days” with a drawing of WDM.

  3. I still haven’t connection with this particular book, though I certainly love the idea, the artistic choice with the ink, and in general the work of Christopher Myers, a very great illustrator. I’m still trying to pinpoint my issues, but it seems to have less to do with emotional resonance than with the uneven quality of the ideas. Perhaps it will grown on you? Anyway I do own it and have presently to first graders.

    Very fine review here!

  4. *connected*

  5. Deborah Taylor says:

    I must admit, I am drawn to books about the creative process, especially if the text and images are child-friendly. At a certain age, young readers seem to question their own creativity and this book is very encouraging.

  6. Deborah that is certainly fair enough, and I have not remotely given up on this book. Your point is an irrefutable one and Mr. Myers is just such a great talent. Thanks so much for responding to me.

  7. Susan Dailey says:

    Thanks for letting me know, Deborah. Details like that are interesting!

    When I look through this book, I find myself skipping over the first page of text. The illustration of the little boy among all the wonderful white space is intriguing so my eye goes there immediately, Plus I don’t expect a story to start on the left hand side of the first spread. Fortunately the text reminds me that I’ve missed something.

    It seems like several books this year don’t follow the “traditional” layout for picture books. They end on a double page spread or put the cataloging information on the endpaper. Has this been happening for years and I’m just now noticing?

  8. Yuyi Morales says:

    This book is full of both surprises and familiar things. Look hard! You might find yourself in it.

  9. I love the illustrations but I feel like the last line of text ruins it – it is so obvious and takes away from what the pictures have already said.

  10. Deborah Taylor says:

    I often struggle with the idea of lines like the final one, wondering if children will respond in quite the same way.that adults respond, especially young children who may be looking at the book without an adult.

  11. I had the same issue you did, Even in Australia. The line is strangely unnecessary and lands with a thud to the adult reader. But as Deb says, the reaction may be very different when read by a child.

  12. This was an amazing book! It has incredible detail and needs your imagination to know exactly what’s happening. I recommend this book to everyone

  13. This book had amazing drawings. I was very proud of the drawings.

  14. I loved the drawings. I thought it is really cool that how the illustrations were drawn went with the story.

  15. I thought it is really cool that how the illustrations were drawn went with the story.

  16. I like this story, it was fun to read. The type of art went with the story which I thought was cool.

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