Lift Every Voice: Thank You, Gusty

Funny thing is, I have never before shared this experience with anyone. It is most likely the event that had the most impact on the direction of my life. When I was young, my imagination was voracious. In the corner of one of the three rooms of our house (the one I’ve spoken about many times, built by my dad from the ground up) stood a black-and-white TV on four legs, and that TV helped keep my imagination fed for a couple of hours each evening after dinner.

I can clearly hear, to this day, the sweet sound of my dear Mama’s voice as she called me in: “Hurry up, he’s on!” You see, the weather report was on that four-legged, black-and-white TV, and I couldn’t miss it. I hurried in to watch the weatherman Mr. Don Woods, known by all who lived within the broadcast range of KTUL-TV8 from the early 1950s until the late 1980s as the best in his field.

Mr. Don Woods would give the weather report in the regular way and then, for a brief portion of his program, something like magic would happen. Mr. Woods would take out his marker and draw on live TV! I sat mesmerized about four feet from the screen, watching quietly and wide-eyed as he brought his creation to life from a blank page. He drew a little character named Gusty. Gusty was terrific! Besides being a great visual aid to help explain all the science talk of cold fronts, high pressures, wind directions, and barometers, making it easier to digest for folks like me, seeing Gusty come to life each evening was just plain magical. Watching all that drawing take place right in front of my eyes every evening had a huge effect on me, and it is perhaps why I love to draw to this day. You might say that Gusty is why I won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award.

From the May/June 2019 Horn Book Magazine: Special Issue: CSK Book Awards at 50. Find more information about ordering copies of the special issue.



Floyd Cooper

Floyd Cooper won the 2009 CSK Illustrator Award for The Blacker the Berry (Amistad/Cotler/HarperCollins). He illustrated the forthcoming A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story (Abrams).

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