Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Lucille Clifton's Everett Anderson

The other day I searched online for Lucille Clifton’s poem “Blessing the Boats.” The sparse words and vivid imagery it evokes somehow lifts me when I’m a little bit blue. While online I discovered that Clifton wrote more than 16 children’s books, including a series of eight books about a character named Everett Anderson.

Like her poetry, the words of her children’s book resonate with honesty and brevity.

After my journey on the web, I felt compelled to visit my local library to find some of her children’s books. I checked out One of the Problems of Everett Anderson; Everett Anderson’s Nine Month Long; Everett Anderson’s Friend; Everett Anderson’s Year; and Everett Anderson’s 1, 2 3.

In One of the Problems of Everett Anderson, the main character is faced with a difficult dilemma. When Everett’s friend Greg comes to school with bruises, he agonizes about what to do. The story sensitively deals with the confusing issue of abuse for a young child.

Artist Ann Grifalconi, who has illustrated six other books in the Everett Anderson series, renders warm colorful images in what appears to be pastel. Expressive eyes and gestures support the pensive story.

Grifalconi’s illustration skills radiate in other books in the series also including her use of simple line drawings in Everett Anderson’s Friend, that challenges a young boy’s conception of having a girl as a buddy, and the richly detailed pencil drawings in Everett Anderson’s Nine Month Long, a story that draws upon a child’s anxiety about a new addition in the family.

Lucille Clifton is a distinguished poet, writer and educator and served as poet Laureate of Maryland. She is currently Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Posted in June, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Telling Evening with Alice McGill

One summer afternoon I visited with professional storyteller, Alice McGill in her home in Maryland. We sat down and ate a hearty dinner with her husband, and she talked about many things including growing up in a small farming community in Scotland Neck, North Carolina with her seven siblings. She reminisced about how storytelling and reading were some of her favorite activities as a young girl and how she was often asked to tell stories by family members. McGill, who is also an award winning author, has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, South Africa and the West Indies to collect and tell stories.

After dinner Alice invited me upstairs and shared some photos of her family with me. I was struck by a beautiful photo of her on the wall taken decades ago by a professional photographer. Very artfully composed, the photo accentuated Alice’s flawless skin, large striking eyes and high cheekbones. She told me about her career as a print model and actress. She shared her portfolio of black and white images with me. I was fascinated.

It’s been many years since Alice and I met at a Washington Children’s Book Guild meeting in Washington, D.C. and have since participating in several book events in the metropolitan area together. I was excited to include the cover of one of her books Here We Go Round, in the painted mural I created at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial library in dontown Washington in the children’s division.

Towards night fall, Alice showed me her children’s book Way Up and Over Everything, a long-ago story passed on through many generations in her family, and told to her as a child by her great grandmother. The picture book recently received the Junior Library Guild’s Spring 2008 Premier Selection Award. Additionally she told me, the Horn Book just gave Way Up and Over Everything a starred review.

I left Alice’s home that evening feeling so lucky to have shared an evening with such a gifted and spirited friend.

Posted in June, 2008