ANDERSON — Seated around large art tables were 42 small authors. Each had a 16-page draft of their first children’s book spread out for inspiration. Studying the technique of local artist and children’s author and illustrator David Slonim, they prepared for the daunting — yet exciting — task of designing a book cover for their new creation.
Giggling at Slonim’s jokes and humorous expressions, the fourth and fifth graders at Tenth Street Elementary School peppered the artist with questions and ideas for his sample work. He has been walking them through the book production process on Fridays in January with the lofty goal of each student crafting a finished book by the end of the month.
“Let the paint tell you where it wants to go,” said Slonim, effortlessly creating a humorous book cover from suggestions lobbed by the students. In no time the white paper featured a purple bunny in a bib and overalls with the title "Farmer Bunny’s Chocolate Bar."
“If you have fun, your audience will have fun,” Slonim said.
“We started this project by telling the students to behave as if Scholastic has come in and hired each of them to author a book,” said Pam Storm, Title One Coordinator. “The biggest benefit is the way it helps kids see themselves as writers. Authoring can be intimidating — looking at that big blank piece of paper. When they are finished, they will each have their own book.”
During past sessions, Slonim has discussed elements such as creating the characters, the setting, introducing a problem, building to a climax and finding a solution. He taught them how to sketch out a book over 16 pages, including both text and pictures.
“I have been impressed with how enthusiastic the kids are,” he said. “They are bringing much more energy to the project than expected. There is a fearlessness in children that I would like to learn. The ideas are great and surprising and un-self-conscious.”