“Z is for Moose!”
“Z is for Zelinsky!!!”
Paul O. Zelinsky, Caldecott-winning illustrator and writer of numerous children’s books, and once upon a time the dad of students at PS 8, came to speak to second and fourth graders at the Lower School on November 25. Zelinsky spoke for half hour to the second graders about Z is for Moose, and another half hour to the fourth graders about Emily Jenkins Toys Go Home, which he illustrated. He read from his work, asked the students questions, and also talked about his own life.
So who is Paul Zelinsky?
He started drawing by age three, and never stopped. He traveled as a boy to Japan and fell in love with its visual imagery. In high school he drew caricatures of his fellow students. In college he studied fine (abstract) art, and –
“WHEN ARE YOU GETTING AROUND TO MOOSE? WILL YOU SPEED IT UP ALREADY?”
(The irrepressible, impatient Moose from Z is for Moose was irrepressible and impatient during Zelinsky’s PowerPoint presentation too, and jumped in at several points.)
– and took a course on illustration of children’s books with Maurice Sendak, which made him think that maybe he could make a career in the field. Which he did, starting with illustrating a book for Avi (Emily Upham’s Revenge), and then Beverly Cleary’s Ralph S. Mouse. For Cleary’s book, Zelinsky decided he needed to take photos of actual fourth graders since he wasn’t entirely certain what they looked like. So he went to the neighborhood school, PS 8, and took photos. Third-floor, corner classroom.
“That’s our classroom!” (Excited fourth graders, right side of the auditorium, as you face the stage.)
“The room back then was a mess,” says Zelinsky.
(Teacher and students look at each other and laugh; is it still?)
Getting back to Avi: “Which Avi books have you read? Avi went to PS 8.” Mild buzz. PowerPoint image switches to Rumpelstiltskin, which Zelinsky adapted and illustrated. “Also Rumpelstiltskin went to PS 8. He skipped third grade.” Gales of laughter.
Zelinsky then told the students something about his work habits: he works all day in his studio and doesn’t say a word for hours on end. He uses both the computer and the brush. The creative process for Z is for Moose (Zelinsky’s first alphabet book) alternated between computer graphics and watercolor painting. Zelinsky then gave a brief drawing demonstration, drawing a realistic moose (“tight drawing”) and a more goofy, comic moose (“loose drawing”). Z-Moose was loose, and on the loose.
Then, some professional advice: Toys Go Out is the first book in a four-book series by Emily Jenkins. Jenkins originally intended the first chapter of Toys Go Out – which takes place completely inside a dark backpack – to be a stand alone picture book. The publisher pointed out it might be a little hard to sell a picture book without any discernable pictures. But what if Jenkins were to expand Toys Go Out into a chapter book? Well, she did, and the rest is history.
Finally, Zelinsky told us there will be a sequel to Z is for Moose! A shape book, Circle, Square, Moose. Good news, good news.
Paul O. Zelinsky is the final participant in the First Annual Great Author and Illustrator Reading Series, presented as part of Celebr8 Reading. Previous participants were Fiona Robinson who spoke about Whale Shines: An Artistic Tale and The Abominables on October 25, Sophie Blackall who spoke about The Mighty Lalouche and Ivy and Bean Take the Case on November 7, and Adam Gidwitz who spoke about The Grimm Conclusion on November 14.
PS. Yr fthfl crrspndt cnnt wrt wth mch dtl rgrdng prvs spkrs, but he can transmit reactions from the student on the street (well, hallway) regarding Ms. Blackall. To wit:
You know that picture on the subway with the man dressed up like a bear and there’s a person with a guitar? The bear [Blackall] actually saw it in real life, so she wanted to make a picture!” Audrey
“It was very colorful and it was very interesting because you got to learn about her life and her two brothers and about the process of how she made her books.” Numa.
“I thought it was really fun, then it was fun to watch the videos, and I like how she told the little stories that you didn’t know that existed.” Hadley
“I liked seeing the messy office and where she went in Africa.” Cyrus
“I agree with Hadley. I think it was really nice to see all the things that I had never seen before. She had so many books. I thought it was really nice.” Evia
“I thought it was cool that she came to our school and showed us her notebook and she signed some books for some people.” Sam
“I thought it was a great experience because you got to see new things that you never saw before and I never knew that people in Africa have to color their pinkies purple.” Faith
“It was so cool. You got to learn about her life. All her new books and especially how the illustrations came about. It was really interesting.” Cole
“She did very good drawings with the Chinese ink and the Lalouche book about the postman who becomes a champion boxer was really good, though all the books were cool.” James
Paul O. Zelinsky. O? Is O for Otter? For Oscar, Ocelot, Octavius, Oddsbodkins, Ophthalmology, Oecumene, Ourobouros, Oviraptor, Oshkosh, Omphaloskepsis, Onomatopoeia, Oz, Ozymandias, or Ompelstiltskin? The first student to guess correctly will receive a bucket of gold.
By David Randall
Photo credits to Celeste Joye
Where can a PS 8 parent learn about estimation, number lines, unifix cubes, analog clocks, doubles facts, and patterns galore? In Kristen Hochleutner‘s second grade Bridges Math Workshop! That’s where I was last week, along with about 20 other second grade parents and their kids. During the hour long workshop, Ms. Hochleutner introduced the parents to a new way of thinking about math. The kids are already well on the road to looking at math problems very differently than most of us did as kids. 28 plus 34? No more adding 8 plus 4, coming up with 12, and carrying the 1. Instead, students add 20 plus 30 and then add 12 to that total. Same answer, different thought process. According to Principal Phillips, that is how “math people” think. While the second graders and their parents were with Ms. Hochleutner, the kindergarteners, first graders, and their parents were learning about the Bridges curriculum with Ms. Long, Ms. Field, and Mr. Levy. What an intriguing way to spend an hour on a Tuesday night!
In the time we spent with Ms. Hochleutner she was able to give us only a taste of what Bridges offers our kids. There is a lot more to learn — you can start on the curriculum page of our website.
By Amy Appelbaum