Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mazza Museum Summer Conference Day 3

Our day began with Michael Hall (My Heart is Like a Zoo) speaking about his books.  Michael had a fun presentation style, sharing pictures of the women in his life—his wife, daughters, agent, and editor, all of whom came into his story as the presentation progressed.  After a while I decided that, despite his classic looks, he reminded me of Bob Newhart, so I’m now dubbing him the Bob Newhart of the kidlit world. Bob—I mean Michael—showed us some of his design work, and it’s easy to see how he went from that to the books he And he did. Brilliantly!
does. One logo was a pelican. “I would never draw a pelican,” he said, “there are people who do that much better than me, but I would try to find a pelican in a few simple shapes.”
Michael also shared that he was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 8. I can’t help but think that this “disability” might be the driving force in the kind of artwork he excels at. He takes simple shapes and flips them, rotates them, and moves them around the page until he has created something else entirely. He also works a great deal with negative space—more divergent thinking.
Toward the end of his talk, Michael shared his 2014 release, It’s an Orange Aardvark. Cute stuff!

Michael is a quiet man with a story of hope for all the kids out there that struggle with any type of disability. As much as these things can be a struggle, they can also be something that kids grow into in a way that makes them unique, and uniquely abled.
Michael commented, “Brokenness is the source of all beauty,” followed quickly by “we are all broken.”

Next up was Ed Young, illustrator of nearly 90 books, one of which won a Caldecott.  Ed, who was born in China but has lived nearly 60 years in the U.S. considers himself to now have a mostly American mindset. Yet what I heard from Ed rang with a deeper, more philosophical tone than I normally encounter.
Ed was transparent in his generous sharing of his life story. He spoke of a time when he left an entire book of final art in a taxi cab and could not recover it. This happened at a time when his wife had just been diagnosed with cancer.  He promised his editor that he would recreate it, but he wasn’t sure when. His wife died two months later, leaving him with two preteen daughters to help grieve and heal. After a time, Ed left his daughters with friends for a week and went home where he worked on the book from 6 am until 11 pm. In a week’s time, he had “most of it down,” (and he feels the second version is better than the first.)

Ed feels that losing something, while stressful and unnerving, “is not the end of the world. It’s the promise of something more.”

Ed went on to tell us about growing up in China in a house his father built, (The House Baba Built). He shared artwork from the book at various stages, and photos, as he told stories of his family. He even told of the Jewish German family that came to live with his family at the end of WWII. With them, he said, was a blonde-haired little girl name Jean, whom he referred to as his "Jewish sister, and me, her Chinese brother." To our surprise, he asked a tiny woman in the front row to stand. It was Jean.

Ed was warm, funny, and sensitive, letting us take in a peek of his fascinating life, and I think we could have listened to him all day!



  1. I'm enjoying your summaries. This seems like a really cool conference! Are you part of SCBWI? If you ever go to the LA conference, you can stay at my place since I live so close.
    Kids Math Teacher

  2. Thank you, Lucy! I am a member of SCBWI and would LOVE to attend the LA conference someday! Thanks for the offer!