The IRW staff had a tough, snowy drive down Route 9 to get to Woodland Elementary School on the day of Rebekah Raye’s visit. But the artist, her husband and her traveling art studio were waiting for our arrival along with lovely sign welcoming us once we finally arrived. The very accommodating cook had arranged bagged lunches for the students to eat in their classrooms as we transformed the cafeteria into an art studio for the day. Rebekah Raye comes to a visit armed with paintings, drawings, photographs, and her much-admired papier maché replica of her beloved pet goose, Goosey Goose. “That’s why there’s a goose in the story!” exclaimed one youngster upon seeing the goose in her mural hung for all to see.
The morning began with Rebekah singing a song about the moon to delighted kindergarten students and their teachers. As they sat on the floor, Rebekah acted out her book, “The Very Best Bed” with her painted, larger-than-life cutouts. She then gave a drawing demonstration of a puppy as one child exclaimed to her teacher, “Do you love that!” and “She’s so good!” While Rebekah signed a book for each student, the kids drew an animal of their choice on a landscape Rebekah had prepared. A lot of rabbits and deer and even a bat were added to this masterpiece.
Grades 1-2 were told about how the original Goosey Goose was born on the same day as her grandson, which made her super special. They looked at her childhood drawings and she told them about when she was a little girl coming home from school to her mother’s microscope. This began her love of science and the natural world. Her father was an artist so she spent a lot of time learning from him, too.
Rebekah drew a cat and mouse, demonstrating her technique of using graphite and erasers. Then they all tried their hand at drawing the Rebekah way. “Don’t ever be afraid of your ideas,” she told them. “We need your ideas.” “That’s the best guy I ever made!” said one happy student. After books were signed, they wanted a group photo and instead of saying “cheese,” they yelled out “Thank you Rebekah Raye!” One student was heard saying, “I’m going to take mine home and show my parents.” We followed these kiddos down the hall to view their animal habitats made with found natural objects. Rebekah sat right down on the floor with them as they enthusiastically shared their creations.
With grades 3-4, Rebekah shared how she met and worked with the author, Alan Sockabasin, and how he wanted the Passamaquoddy language and stories to stay alive. She showed her original art from the book and explained about full spreads and how she had to make sure to keep her important features out of the gutter, the center of the book. The kids had come prepared with a whole lot of questions on sticky notes for Rebekah. “Do you like to make the pictures?” “Are those all your favorite animals?” “What gave you your ideas?” “Do you have to have it quiet when you draw or can you stand people talking?” There’s always a question for the artist about her favorites, but this one stood out: “Which animal do you draw the most, from land, air, or water?”
They did their own drawings after another of Rebekah’s amazing samples (she makes it look so easy!). One young man drew a picture of tall trees in the forest. When we asked him to tell us about it he said, “This really happened in my life.” He went on to share how he had heard a rumbling sound coming from the forest and he didn’t know what it was. He entered the forest to investigate and discovered it was squirrels up in the trees. As he stood there, he discovered that they were dropping acorns on to the ground. They even dropped a bunch of leaves that he put on his head because it looked like a hat. That is the beginning of a wonderful story and we encouraged him to write it.
In the end, as they were leaving, Rebekah did her impression of an owl and it was so realistic that we thought she had brought the real thing with her! Just like the rest of the day, full of nice surprises.