February 11, 2009
A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of meeting the fifth grade of Simonds Elementary School in Madison Heights, Michigan. Their teacher is Mrs. Jennifer Vivian, but I will always remember her as Jenny Cupp, one of my friends from high school.
Check out the pictures below — the one on the left is from November 1987 (!!), when I had a bit part in the school play M*A*S*H. The picture on the right is in Jenny’s classroom, twenty-two years later!
When I came to Jenny’s (and her colleague Ms. Putnam’s) class, I thought I’d read a bit from The Order of Odd-Fish, answer some questions, and that would be that. But Jenny and her students had something much more interesting planned. They’d already read the first couple chapters of Odd-Fish, and the students did some amazing drawings from the book! Check out these great pictures of Aunt Lily, Sefino, Colonel Korsakov, and the ruby palace:
You can see a gallery of all the fantastic pictures at the bottom of this post. Great stuff!
Something odd struck me, though. When I was looking through the illustrations for the first time, I wondered why most students colored the hedgehog blue instead of brown.
Then I remembered: Sonic the Hedgehog! Thanks to Sega, blue is now the default color for hedgehogs.
I support this development. I mean, I’ve never seen a hedgehog, either, except by playing Sonic. For all I know, Sega has it right.
Here’s all the students’ hedgehogs–including the odd brown one.
It reminds me of something else that happened when I was back in Michigan. I was invited to speak to a class about young adult literature at Oakland University. The students asked a lot of great questions, but the question I will always remember was from an exchange student from China, who asked, “In your book, why didn’t your characters have blogs?”
At first, I was gobsmacked. I mean, why should my characters have blogs? It’s a fantasy novel, after all! But then I thought that perhaps, for some people, being on the Internet is a kind of default state of human experience. Just as blue is now the default color for hedgehogs. Hmmm.
Anyway, back to Jenny’s class. I had a great time reading to them, answering questions, and telling them how Odd-Fish came to be written. Some of them were particularly interested in The Strange Ship, the homemade book I had written and illustrated when I was seven years old, and recently posted on this blog. During lunch the other day, my friend Margaret Chapman suggested a great idea: that I post the childhood books of my friends, too.
So, if you’ve got a book you wrote as a child laying around — scan it and send it my way!
Below are the rest of the wonderful illustrations of Odd-Fish I got from the students. They had also illustrated my short story The Most Dangerous Beard In Town, bound the illustrations into a book, and gave it to me as a gift! It was a wonderful thing to receive. All you artists out there: if you’re stumped on what to give your writer friend for his or her birthday, do illustrations of your friend’s stories. You can’t go wrong.
Fifth graders of Simonds Elementary, you’re spectacular — and you too, Mrs. Vivian.
P.S. And thanks, Svetlana, for helping me scan these in!