I knew I was in the right place when I arrived at the Center Elementary School in Chelmsford for two days last week.

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The halls are alive with color and art on display.

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I spent Thursday with first grade classes, reading Seven Days of Daisy, talking about how I made the book and shaped the story. I gave them blank booklets to begin writing and drawing their own story.

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They knew just how to add visual detail.

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Before moving to another classroom, a few volunteers shared their story.

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The best part is meeting kids, seeing their curiosity and listening to their ideas.

photo by Hana Barker

photo by Hana Barker

Thanks to Mrs. Mackinnon, Mrs. Cotter, Ms. Dooley, and Mrs. Carter for sharing such bright creators!

On Friday, I set up in the library, where I met a kindred spirit in Ms. Larrabee, library media specialist.

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Since a pig toy collection plays a secondary role in Seven Days of Daisy, there was fast kismet.

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Her collection beats the band!

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I drew a pig from her shelves. Thanks, Ms. Larrabee for creating a library full of character, the best environment for inspiration.

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I met with a variety of grades, from fourth to first, sharing what I learned about humpbacks while illustrating Here Come the Humpbacks! by April Pulley Sayre.

photo by Diane Earley

photo by Diane Earley

I brought in some of my treasures from combing the island beaches, including a few barnacles.

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Did you know up to 1000 pounds of barnacles might hitch a ride on a humpback? Yet it feels like a mere jacket to the mighty whale. I brought a life-like toy for observational studies.

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It helps to look when you draw!

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Some artists used their imaginations, too.  See how this whale leaps out of the water, spouting!

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This one captured a shark very convincingly!

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Another artist drew a boat and tanker with pastel.

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How about some comic flair?

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One girl drew a different enormous mammal from memory.

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This artist may have a future in graphic design.

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What a fine crew of enthusiastic students! Many of them gave a fond hug to Salt, my adopted plush whale from Whale and Dolphin Conservation. Hats off to Mrs. SantaBarbara, Mrs. Torpey, Mrs. Pierce-Clarke, Mrs. Cotter, and Mrs. White for the engaging job they do with these children. I was filled to the brim with their wide-eyed wonder. Thanks also go to Hana Barker of Center School’s PTO, who invited me and brought in crazy good CUPCAKES!

Speaking of design, Diane Earley from Charlesbridge arrived. By sheer coincidence, the art director on my current project is also a Center School parent, seen here receiving the final art for Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins.

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Illustrations set in the Sunderbans of India have been taking shape on my drawing board for the past 6 months. What a great feeling to hand them over.  Stay tuned, Tiger Boy is due out in spring of 2015.

 

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