When you read stories with children you know that everything in a book matters. Everything. Each word. Each image. The end pages. The book jacket. Every tiny detail. Children notice and question everything. They remind us that it is more than words that tell a story. The story becomes alive via their interactions. Reading to children is a joy.
Illustrator and author Melissa Sweet is all about each tiny detail. And lots and lots of joy. We immersed ourselves in Melissa Sweet‘s world a while back for an illustrator study and I had the pleasure of introducing Melissa (with help from my little artists) when she spoke in Bellingham at the Western Washington Children’s Literature Conference.
This post celebrates that wonderful week and the introduction that was the result.
From my introduction:
Melissa Sweet is Melissa Sweet for all day of every day. In my Grade 2/3 class in Vancouver BC, we waded and splashed through her world for one full week of learning and inspiration.
- We made some art
- We looked at some things from new perspectives
- We did some research
- We fell in love with graph paper
- And of course, we read some beautifully, beautifully detailed picture books
In a 2010 interview with Julie Danielson from the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Melissa Sweet indicated that she would love any job that involved a bicycle. You will see a bit of a homage to the bicycle here. All bicycles are original pieces inspired by a sketch by Melissa.
During the week we read or reread many titles illustrated or written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
Inspired by the pencil characters in Little Red Writing, we drew some of our own.
We wrote and illustrated our own Night poems Melissa Sweet style. This illustration is from the book Firefly July:
And our work:
These look stunning mounted on a double bulletin board display.
We read that Melissa fears anything to do with a ladder and decided to think about why.
We thought that maybe she should rethink this fear and look at ladders from some new perspectives. Can you spot the ladder in each picture?
And I am sure she never thought of this one:
When my students from last year heard I was doing an illustrator study on Melissa Sweet, they wanted to participate. Last year The Right Word was part of our Mock Caldecott and they were fascinated by Melissa’s work. They drew all of the bicycles and helped make a number of green things. In Little Red Writing, there were scraps and scraps of red things collected in a basket.
We read that Melissa was maybe not so great at relaxing and so thought we would make her some green things to help her feel calm.
Some things I expected.
Some I didn’t
Some were maybe not so calming!
I brought them all along (108 green things at last count) and gifted them to Melissa so she could relax during her presentation 🙂
If this post weren’t already a million images long, I would share some of the wonderful in Melissa’s presentation. But it is, so I won’t. I leave you with just these words from her:
“The act of drawing is thinking and remembering”
Sounds a lot like the act of writing. Of telling stories. This telling was a visual feast to celebrate the incredible Melissa Sweet!
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March. This is day #26
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.
This is also a celebration post.
Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!
Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.
What a fabulous celebration of Melissa Sweet and the fantastic learning week your students had. Loved all the activities and their responses.
Thank you Bev, it is such a joy to share them here!
Carrie, I’m so glad you shared this presentation. I wish everyone could have heard you give it. It was delightful! My favorite part was rethinking ladders and of course, the snail slime to help her relax!
Many thanks Ramona. Thank you again for finding me so we could connect! That was such a treat! We will be attending next year too – I hope you will be as well.
She is a wonderful author/illustrator gift to us, and I think your students will never forget that time, Carrie. Did you know that she has a book coming about E.B. White? Can’t wait. Like always, thanks for sharing all the pictures. (I could have looked at more!)
Yes! Melissa talked about her new book. It is going to be amazing! So glad you enjoyed the photos Linda!
What a tribute to accompany your lovely introduction of Melissa at the WWUCLC. I’m grateful to see/read/view your students’ responses again, with time to linger over their celebration and inspiration gleaned from her work. Thanks to you and your students for reminding us how Melissa Sweet’s brilliance translates through children’s perspectives.
My pleasure Nancy. It was an absolute honour.
I love that you immerse your students in an author and that last year’s students heard and wanted in on it too. What a way to build a love of reading! And you’re so right about how everything in a book counts with little ones. My toddler notices so much that would slip right past me. He’s teaching me what visual literacy is truly about!
Aren’t we lucky that children give this to us? We just have to really listen.
LOVE love this post. I was thinking throughout it that we stop that way of learning when we are adults. We don’t stop and draw “like” an author or think of things an author might like. I think it might help me write better book reviews if I try to think and proceed this way as well.
I am happy that this gave you something to think more on Kimberley. It was such a joy working on these activities!
Your slice celebration is so full of “Sweet”ness! Loved learning more about her through the eyes and art of your students! I should be arting more often…
“arting” 🙂 Made me smile. We do a lot of art in my classroom!
What a treat to see this – thanks for sharing all this Sweet-ness, Carrie, from the author and from your kids.
A visual feast for a reader’s eyes! What a wonderful presentation! Thank you for sharing the celebration of the learning that happens in your class.
It was a pleasure to share Elsie!
Amazing work you and your students did as you immersed yourselves in the work and person of Melissa Sweet. I loved studying all of it! I especially delighted in the rethinking of ladders. Your students will never just read the words of a book again. You have taught them to savor every bit of a book.
We teach each other! They catch things I don’t.
Thanks for sharing this visit! Love seeing the children’s drawings. Melissa is indeed an inspiration. We also had the privilege of interviewing her on our site http://www.artofthepicturebook.com.
Great interview! And I love you blog. Was thrilled to discover it.
Thanks so much!
What a tribute! Thanks for reminding me how to use mentor texts to build up young artists.
It is really wonderful to immerse a class into the work of an illustrator/author. I lot of rich work comes from it.
There are so many times I wish I could be right there in your classroom. This is a week I would have loved. You created so many great experiences with her books! What a treat for your students. I so love Melissa Sweet’s work.
Me too! Her work is full of inspiration. We just scratched the surface.
Your students look SO PROUD of their work – and rightfully so! I delighted in every word and picture — writers and artists at work!!!
They are! And I am thrilled to share it here.
You are a fabulous teacher, Carrie!
Wow, thank you!
A love affair with Melissa!……your students, you and now all your readers…..totally delightful.
Thank you May! It was a wonderful week.
I so enjoy reading your posts. They are filled with joy! Thank you for sharing so much about Melissa Sweet and all the work and thinking from your kids. It just made me smile. 🙂
I am pleased that the joy comes through!
A wonderful tribute to Melissa! Such creative ideas from you and your students. This post makes me smile!
I am so glad Susan. These kids are SO creative. And Melissa Sweet is SO inspiring!
This is really brilliant, Carrie. I am so stealing! Just reading this post sparked several ideas for things I might do with my pre-service teachers. Thank you!
I am thrilled it provided some inspiration. We had SUCH fun!
I love the illustrations the kids drew of themselves as pencils. I think I’ll try this out with the kindergartners. Thanks for the great ideas.
My pleasure! Have fun!
Can I be in your class? I’m sure Melissa Sweet loved this introduction as much as I did. Thanks for sharing it!
She did love it. She was very gracious! Such a thrill to meet her.