Award-winning poet and artist Calef Brown is seriously whimsical.
During the first three days of February he visited three schools with IRW, where his passion for imaginative wordplay and bright, funny illustrations sparked the excitement of many children in grades PreK-8.
With three of his most fanciful books, Flamingos on the Roof, Boy Wonders, and his most recent How to Hypnotize a Tiger, Calef set sail on his maiden IRW voyage with a ferry ride to the elementary school on Vinalhaven, then Downeast to Milbridge, and finally south to Deer Isle – Stonington.
At all three schools Calef gave a dynamic all-school presentation in which he shared a slew of his many illustrations, interspersed with some daily life images of what has influenced his artwork over the years – his childhood books, pets (a.k.a. models), and trips to India that spurred his fascination with elephants.
Students in workshops got to try their hand at using free association and creating ‘word maps’ of themes and categories that help build stories using poetic prose. The artwork they created represented imaginary combinations such as Allicatter and Gatorpillars.
They had interesting questions for Calef related to “the writer’s life,” such as how long he’s been writing (about 20 years – although he showed pictures from the First Thanksgiving book which he wrote at about age 10), how long it takes to make a book (sometimes as short as a few months to write, but way more than a few to illustrate), and where he gets his ideas from (EVERYWHERE!). He compared drawing with a pencil to thinking, while the finished painting, he feels, is more like speaking.
Students shared the impressive work they had created in anticipation of his visit and he enjoyed taking pictures of THEIR work – short, silly poems based on his book Flamingoes on the Roof, lively doodles that had been created by Calef which they colored in, and variations on his self-portrait as an elephant.
During his presentation, Calef shared with students the fact that Maine is near and dear to him since he has visited and spent time here during almost every summer growing up and still has family living in southern Maine. Weatherbee’s Diner is one poem in which Calef honors Maine and associates weather with food items as an ode to his mother’s saying of “cooking up a storm”.
Calef likes to say that he puts together words, ideas and animals. We like to say that we put together authors, illustrators and kids – in Calef speak, “authstratorids” – and based on the past three days, it’s a winning combination!