School Visit (Brooklyn School of Inquiry)
Generally speaking, art is a way to encourage the process of thinking in an innovative way and art-related activities have been proven to boost a child’s self-image by instilling a sense of pride on the self-directed project. And, yes, sure open ended creative experiences are a great way to touch a child's heart...but (!!) there is a big difference between been absolutely certain that art is a way to encourage reflection, innovation& creativity and having the guts to present an art-focused picture book (quelle horreur) to gifted and talented 7-8 year old second graders in love with Pokemon and Minecraft.
In equal parts apprehensive (never met a kid who would pay a fake compliment or shield you from her unfiltered opinions) and excited to present a picture book with a new concept (never met an incurious child, either) I spoke to them about Here Comes Ingo, which tells the story of Ingo, a scarlet macaw who while nursing her eggs in the hole of a dead canopy tree drifts off to sleep and dreams of flying about into the lush evergreen forest she calls home. Ingo's dream is a beautiful visual story that exemplifies a progression of thinking leading towards love, kindness and inclusion because the world needs more empathetic, understanding and tolerant children.
Attentive during the whole presentation, eager to ask questions (some more than others if I have to be perfectly honest) and at ease with the familiarity of the subject matter, their faces lit up when I told them that my main purpose in creating Here Comes Ingo is to offer children an opportunity to switch seats with the artist. How (?!) Each page of the book is meant to serve as the starting point for a new "picture story" via process-oriented art, art that is based on exploration and allows different outcomes, rather than emulating a preconceived finished product. What if Ingo were to wear a hat? Wouldn't it be great to have another macaw keep company to Ingo? How about spotting all the animals from last visit at the zoo?
Incredulous at first, they couldn't believe that I was encouraging them to draw, paint, write ON the page and add stickers, glitter, glue etc to their hearts' content in order to make each illustration come to life in whichever direction their imagination took them. Once they made sure "on the page" really meant "on the page", no strings attached, they had a blast. Happy to report that an unexpected high percentage of boys used pink crowns to decorate Ingo while a few girls told me in no uncertain terms that my next book should feature "strong, tough birds". I see a book series in the making...