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Illustrators — finally!

“Illustrators — finally! Authors get all the credit for everything!” said my eight-year-old when I told him I was going to be spending time with a few.

On Friday, July 27, I was invited to Shady Hill School in Cambridge, MA, by the incomparable Kim Parker [NB: every parent, teacher, librarian, administrator, person who cares about children, and human being should read her article about her three-year-old black son/sun being kicked out of preschool.] Illustrator Floyd Cooper was speaking to incoming apprentices in the Teacher Training Course. I had never seen Floyd demonstrate his illustration technique using an eraser to make the picture emerge from a solid-colored background — it was riveting to watch, and we got a little dirt on how he came up with the idea (it involved some guys from Bed-Stuy with whom he worked at Hallmark). On the way out, I bumped into Ekua Holmes — that’s 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award winner Ekua Holmes — who had been planting sunflowers earlier that day and who teaches just down the road from The Horn Book at the Massachusetts College of Art — neighbors!

Floyd Cooper.

Floyd Cooper demonstrates his illustration technique.

Elissa Gershowitz, Rashin Kheiriyeh, Oge Mora, and Daniel Minter. Photo: Tracey Fenton.

On Monday, August 6, I participated in School Library Journal‘s Leadership Basecamp event at Simmons College, the Horn Book’s own home-basecamp. I moderated the illustrator panel with Rashin Kheiriyeh, author and illustrator of Saffron Ice Cream (and a 2017 Sendak Fellow); Daniel Minter, illustrator of So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt; and Oge Mora, author and illustrator of Thank You, Omu! (look for her upcoming Talks with Roger interview). Each illustrator prepared a slideshow presentation, then we had a brief discussion about breaking into the field of illustration and what responsibilities they felt (or didn’t feel) to “accurately” depict real people. Later that day there was saffron ice cream for the conference-goers to sample (thank you, SLJ sisters!), and the leftovers somehow ended up in the fridge in our building (thank you, Em Claire Knowles, for providing that cool tip!).

Summer’s not over yet (for, ahem, better or worse, amirite Kitty?), so grab a stack of illustrated books and maybe some ice cream, and see if your kids might want to give some special credit where credit is due. Let’s raise a spoon — to illustrators!

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She is a current member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.

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