corn-rain-smallOn a cloudy Thursday morning, the skies opened up, and I promise you, the corn lifted its leafy arms to the heavens and said, “Thank you!”  Here’s a picture of the happiest ear of corn I’ve ever seen. 

I know you’re asking yourself, “what does this have to do with art from children’s picture books?”  Well, I could actually make quite a few connections, some more abstract than others, but here’s one that is quite concrete.  Yesterday, I had a pleasant conversation with Mary Higgins Clark’s husband.  He was sincerely concerned about the state of our crops, having noted their drought-stricken condition as he and Mary traveled from the airport in Detroit.  When I told him how desperately we needed rain, he didn’t miss a beat.  “I’ll pray for rain,” he promised.

Wow! That man must have friends in high places.  Bless you, John!

Loreen LeedyInside the Mazza Museum, the outlook was sunny.   We had a great day in store, beginning with a keynote address by Loreen Leedy.  Loreen is the author and illustrator of more than 40 picture books, most with strong curricular ties.

Shortly after finishing art school, Loreen had the opportunity to meet Olivier Dunrea, who inspired her work and helped her make a life-changing connection in the world of children’s literature.  Seeing Symmetry is her most recently-published book and likely the first picture book devoted to the concept of line and rotational symmetry.  Loreen, who has always seen a very natural connection between mathematics and picture book creation, says writing a book is like solving for X – the unwritten book is the unknown until you’ve created it.  Whoa, Loreen.  I’ve always been quite comfortable with the notion that as long as I remained a writer, I could leave my tragic algebraic past far behind me.  So, I say – better you than me!  More power to you, Loreen!

David DiazAfter lunch, the persistent July sun made a repeat appearance.  And, much to the delight of all in attendance, so did illustrator David Diaz.

The Caldecott Award-winning artist (whose books have also garnered a Newbery Honor and no less than four Pura Belpre Awards) shared his latest projects and dicussed some of his favorite techniques and media. Then the multi-talented multi-tasker took audience questions while drawing and painting an image he conceived after hearing a passage from Andrea Cheng’s middle grade novel, Marika.

David Diaz

Always the encourager, David even took time to deliver a simple how-to lesson, instructing each of us to follow his lead and draw a face on a piece of paper.  Here’s how mine turned out:


Not bad, huh?  Looks just like David’s drawing, doesn’t it?

Okay. So, that’s not mine. What gave it away? The Home Depot door it’s painted on?

Oh, well.  So here’s what I learned today:

Leave the math-related picture books to the talented Loreen Leedy.

Leave sketches and painting to the charming David Diaz.

And send all weather-related requests to the well-connected husband of Mary Higgins Clark.

There’s one more day of Mazza magic yet to come.  See you tomorrow.

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