My love affair with picture books began with the birth of my first child, 25 years ago. Starting with the purchase of that very first board book, one by one our picture book collection grew. By the time my third child was born, we had acquired enough picture books that we probably could have rivaled the collection in our small town library. It was with a heavy heart that I packed them away in cardboard boxes and stored them in the basement, with visions of using them again with grandchildren. After all, it was time. My youngest was then in Junior High.
Then one Autumn, we had a heavy rain that lasted for 10 days. The always-dry basement of our house filled up with half a foot of water. It was not the floating kitty litter box or the possibility of the ruination of our washer, dryer, freezer and treadmill that distressed me. It was that those precious boxes of picture books were soaking up the water like sponges. As soon as we got the water pumped out of the basement, I dragged the books upstairs along with many other items that were destined for the trash heap.
Any sane person would have just tossed those books out with the rest of the now water-soaked debris. But not this crazy lady. I hung those books out on yards and yards of clothesline, over trellises, lawn chairs and anything else that would supply some modicum of ventilation and sunshine. I cheered them on for days, encouraging them to dry. Fortunately we lived on a semi-secluded wooded property so the rest of my family didn't have to be mortified by the interesting lawn ornamentation I had created. I didn't care that the board books had swollen or the pages of the other books were now wavy. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, the wear was a sign of love. Once dry, I packed them away in Rubbermaid tubs packed with silica gel. Unfortunately, a good number of them still mildewed.
Now that could have been the tragic end to this love story, but it wasn’t. I was invited to create a toddler program for our town's recreation department and decided to structure the classes as an introduction to the arts for toddlers ages 2 ½ - 4. I began each session by reading a picture book and used the books to inspire the art projects. The books became alive for those little guys as they constructed their very own Hungry Caterpillar or Rainbow Fish. Then, when I had ideas for art projects for which I could not find picture books, I started writing my own. The spirit of my lost books lives on in my newly written ones. Love never dies!
If you would like to assist a child or a group of children in making their own picture books, you can go to my new blog at http://funartprofessor.blogspot.com [now at http://www.funartprofessor.com/]. In the posting, Make a Picture Book, I share the text from my Thanksgiving book, I Say Thank You, along with simple directions and ideas for creating a personalized picture book.
Judy Cooper has been teaching arts enrichment classes to children
for the past seven years. Judy has refined the fine art of creating fun art with children.