Doesn’t Anyone Play the Didgeridoo Anymore?

Michelle Houts is blogging this week from The Mazza Museum’s Summer Conference. The Mazza Museum is located in Findlay, Ohio and houses one of the largest collections of original art from children’s literature. The museum also hosts authors and illustrators throughout the year. Stick around to see who shows up this week. You won’t be disappointed!

It’s Thursday morning at the Mazza Museum and Elisha Cooper is on stage with a ukulele.

Really? Doesn’t anyone play the didgeridoo anymore?

Elisha Cooper – you know him from these treasures:

cooper farm cover                                                Cooper Farm                                                       beach_cover

He grew up in Connecticut on a small farm with dairy goats and a pony, drawing the animals that surrounded him. He loved sports and dreamed of playing football at Yale.

And he did.

I’m pretty sure Elisha’s the first Yale wide receiver to take the Mazza stage. Later, Elisha traded footballs for Frisbees and became a member of a champion ultimate Frisbee team.

Deeply connected to the nature world, Elisha prefers to sketch from life. When living in Southern California, he ventured out to cattle farms for inspiration. While in Chicago, the DeKalb County farmland inspired him to draw every aspect of modern agriculture. When it came time to create the animals in his newest book, titled 8: An Animal Alphabet Book, Elisha knew he couldn’t travel to the Serengeti, so he headed to New York’s Natural History Museum to draw from the life-size dioramas there.

Sketching captures moments, Elisha says. He works very quickly, capturing movement and shape and line. And his pencil has no eraser.  “You have to go on your gut,” he says, ” and when I have to pull out the eraser, it’s not working anymore.” Inside these sketched moments live Elisha’s stories. Real and authentic. Natural and  true.

Elisha left the Mazza audience with a challenge to nourish the children we love with a balanced literary diet, to think about the books we provide for their consumption. Do we feed them all fiction? Are all the animal characters anthropomorphic? Are some of the stories literary, classic, real and beautiful? As teachers, librarians, parents, grandparents, authors and illustrators, we’ll think a bit more about what we’re feeding our children. We don’t mind being challenged to dig deeper, to contemplate this world we call “children’s literature.”

And, we appreciate being nudged to do so, especially when the nudge comes from another deep thinker. Who else names their cat “Mouse” and creates shirts like this?

cooper shirt

And that was Thursday morning.

Come back. Adam Rex is sure to play the ukulele didgeridoo this afternoon!



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