Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Bliss of Harry's Visit!

What a treat! My second graders and I had the opportunity to visit illustrator Harry Bliss at the Williamsburg Library on Thursday morning. It was a perfectly gorgeous day outside, and all the kids could talk about on our way over was how excited they were to see Harry and that they hoped he was as funny as his illustrations were in Diary of a Spider and Diary of a Worm. I told them that they were so lucky to be able to visit the library during school time, just a block away. I love our school's location! Anyways, Harry was a delight! He was humorous and appealing, and started off my drawing pictures on transparency sheets on the overhead, and he started each picture from a simple random squiggle drawn by a chosen volunteer in the audience. Having the students engaged like that really drew them in, and the anticipation of guessing what he would draw as it unfolded was a lot of fun for the crowd! Afterwards, Harry showed a slide show of the storyline and some of the illustrations of his best book hits. He shared about books such as Countdown to Kindergarten, Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, and for Fall 2007, Diary of a Fly. He shared about dummy books and how he begins to think of his illustrations which complement the story and extend the humor of the text in his signature, understated witty way. My excitement was peaked when he announced that he would share with us his current working dummy book for his current collaboration with Kate DiCamillo! How exciting! My Colin turned to me with big saucer eyes, mouthing to me, "She wrote Winn-Dixie!" I returned the excitement right back to him with equally big eyes and a head nod! (He just finished Winn-Dixie, and we love to make connections in our class of all sorts!) Well, needless to say, for a few of the kids, their favorite thing that Harry Bliss did was one thing he drew on the spot while the crowds were coming. It was a huge dripping nose with a little man underneath yelling "HELP!" and running for his life. Oh well! They did get his main message at the end, which was about making mistakes. He told the kids that it's important to make mistakes and to not get down about them. He said that you want to make mistakes because you learn from them and will make less in the future. When I came back, I typed it up (on a Publisher template - love that Publisher, makes things look jazzy in a heartbeat.) I posted it, like I have done throughout the year when we study authors and illustrators. The kids kept referring to it, with one saying this week things like, "Well, Ms. Melzer, I made a mistake. But you know what Harry said, I better make those mistakes now so I won't make them later!" ;) (Yes, I my face broke into a smirk.) Another one came in with a sheet of math problems that her dog had taken a bite out of the next day. (Yes, her dog tried to eat her homework!) She said, "You always tell us honesty is the best policy, and it was an accident, and that's a type of mistake. But, I noticed that the bite was in the shape of a heart, so I drew the heart outline around it to remind you that you are special." I KID YOU NOT! :) Do these kids have to leave? I've taught them everything I know about literature and how to be funny! Humor is a great form of intelligence! :) If you ever have a chance to visit his website, do so! There's information on his drawing life, from kid picture books, to a Converse sneaker TV commercial, to his New Yorker covers, and his syndicated cartoons. A diverse and very witty illustrator! The link to his site can be found by clicking on his name under the "author and illustrator" section on the right side of my blog page here!

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