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Sunday, August 16, 2020

International Dot Day

International Dot Day

September 15-ish. International Dot Day.  To learn more, visit The Dot Club. A day to celebrate creativity - for all ages - in school - out fo school. It is a day t think about the words: Making my mark. What does that mean? How will you use your creativity, time and resources to make the world a better place? Millions have joined us for over a decade to celebrate - hope you will too!  

By the way, this dot was one of many I painted - about the size of a half dollar (American). I love scanning small paintings and enlarging. As they enlarge - they reveal details that were once hidden. Imagine this little dot on the side of a building? Maybe I'll try that with a bit fo Photoshop magic. : )

It has been awhile since my last blog post. I think social media took me away from it, but I'm glad all my old posts are still here. My blog serves a different purpose. It is a more reflective space. Feels a bit more like a journal.  I hope you enjoy - and I hope I get back into my blog groove. : ) 

Friday, October 6, 2017


I have teamed up once again with author Susan Verde, my collaborator on THE MUSEUM, YOU & ME and THE WATER PRINCESS.

 "I AM PEACE: A BOOK OF MINDFULNESS" (Abrams Books for Young Readers), is a sequel to the book "I AM YOGA." It celebrates the power of connecting to our inner peace and sharing that positive energy with others to inspire world peace.  It was a joy to splash my watercolor brush with vivid, warm, encouraging colors to help honor and promote this beautiful mission.

The world is in a challenging place, more so in recent years and months. As children try to piece their world together, making sense of it from the information around them, they often must deal with a barrage of traumatic news from the media. The deluge of negative news can be distorted in a child's emerging world view. I am reminded of how, during the 9-11 events, young children were terrified as they watched on television thousands of planes slamming into buildings--not realizing that they were watching the same clip being replayed over and over again. We clumsy adults have to be more careful and also more proactive in helping equip children with the tools to cope in a very challenging world. 

I encourage parents and teachers to dedicate time to helping kids develop ways to keep it all in perspective. I created a poster after the Boston Marathon tragedy to remind all of us: "There is more good than bad in this world, more light than darkness, and you can be that light." 

This book, "I AM PEACE," like most of my work, is meant for all ages. As children try to piece together their world, we too are doing the same.

 The big challenge is for all of us to "peace it together." : )

☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ ☮️ 

For downloadable posters  to print out and share you can visit FableVision Learning site.  Take a selfie or a group shot holding the signs. 
Be sure to use #IAmPeace #WeArePeace when you share with the world.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Thank You for Saving My Life

I saw this photo and it reminded me of a dramatic moment in my life. 

This is what I saw as a child (I am guessing I was about five or six).  I had wandered away from the shore of the lake where my family was camping.  I had suddenly found myself unable to touch the bottom of the lake. I remember looking up--as I slipped deeper. 
Unable to figure out how to make myself rise back to the top. 

And then...
a hand appeared.

 I remember seeing it come toward me--then grab hold of me. The hand belonged to a woman I did not know. She pulled me up and to the surface. She said a few words as she brought me toward the shallower area near shore. I forget now, what she said, but I do remember a smile. After she knew I was okay, she waded away. Life went on. 

Thank you, to that stranger--that angel perhaps--who was thankfully there for me. 

I wonder sometimes how that moment 
could have turned out quite differently.

I have also thought of how teachers 
and caregivers can change lives like this. 
Being there for a child. 
Having that rescue-radar on and ready 
to reach out and lend a hand. 
To be an ear. 
A shoulder to lean on. 

One conversation, even a nod, a kind word, 
can change a life profoundly. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Inside the Mind of a Dreamer

I wrote and illustrated my book, The Dot back in 2002 and it still keeps rolling along with wonderful initiatives like International Dot Day and Celebridots. The book celebrates the power of great teaching. Vashti's teacher notices her student's frustration, but also her determination. She creatively inspires Vashti to bravely make her mark. 

I wanted to remind us that many, many students need more understanding as they struggle to adapt to the rigor and structure of school--especially public schools in the USA. 

I know how tough it can be. 

I was one of those kids. 

That is why I wrote Happy Dreamer (published by Orchard Books an imprint of Scholastic). 
This book is autobiographical-ish. The boy in the book is me-ish. I didn't name him Peter because I wanted the reader to perhaps feel as though I was describing them.

I know what it is like be a free spirit and put in a box. I wanted out. 
 It was was a challenge for me to sit still. 
If my body couldn't wander, then my mind would
Paper, as it turned out, was my window to more interesting worlds. 
I stared out of it and daydreamed--in ink and pencil. 

However, not all teachers appreciated my doodling. I was asked to stop many times. 

"Eyes up front."
"Do that on your own time, Mr. Reynolds."
"This isn't art class."

I wish I could go back in time and tell them that I was actually in training for my future career as an artist, writer, and filmmaker. I would also show them my studio, FableVision where we make drawings come to life through animation. 

And I would read aloud my book 
Happy Dreamer. 

My hope is that Happy Dreamer will give educators a new perspective on dealing with creative kids, kids with wandering minds, and kids who have that extra power-pack of energy. The quirky ones. The  ones who, as the famous Apple campaign said, think different

I also wrote this book for all the parents out there who worry about their kids coping in school and the world. They lose sleep worrying how the world will understand and appreciate the amazing spirit and mind of a child that they know better than anyone else. Happy Dreamer is there to reassure them that their children will be fine--especially if they are loved and their unique brains are appreciated. 

I wrote it too for the kids who are labeled early, often diagnosed with ADHD. I wanted them to smile as they hear the initials and say to themselves, "Amazing, Delightful, Happy Dreamer." 

For a great perspective on ADHD, check out the great work by Dr. Ned Hallowell. As he shares on his site, "As I see it, ADHD is neither a disorder, nor is there a deficit of attention. I see ADHD as a trait, not a disability. When it is managed properly, it can become a huge asset in one’s life."

Friday, October 14, 2016

Omran... #ThisIsStillAleppo

Omran Daqneesh

It has been weeks since I drew this image after seeing the heart-wrenching news footage. I saw this little boy, covered in dust, dazed and confused, rubbed his head as blood flowed from a wound. He looked at his hand and then rubbed the blood onto the orange seat of the ambulance. Perhaps it resonated more deeply because I have a son about the same age and I couldn't imagine him having to go through the same experience. I was so grateful to the first responders, The White Helmets who risked their own lives to rescue this boy 

Tragically, the bombing continues as of today. I have been devastated by the continual news reports coming from Syria, but also inspired by  Omran Daqneesh, the 5-year-old boy in Aleppo, Syria remains a symbol for all those in need--especially those who do not have a voice. A good overview of ways we can help... #childrenofaleppo #childrenofsyria 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Rare Moments

I painted this in Bologna, Italy. April 2016. I love my Bologna time... the book fair happens each spring.... the week gives me a chance to put the brakes on and spend a week quietly listening to myself think.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Going Home: Playing from the Heart

It's always a dreamy day when I finally hold the first copy of a book I've created. Playing from the Heart, released this week on April 12th,  is extra special to me. I'll share the behind the scenes details of how this book came to be later, but today I wanted to share a letter that illuminates the spirit of the book.

My friends, Ann Crewdson and Linda Erst visited me in Boston a few months ago. I happened to have an advanced copy of my new book, Playing from the Heart which I read aloud to them.

Here is Ann's letter:

Dear Peter,

Linda and I had the honor of hearing you read PLAYING FROM THE HEART out loud to us. Your character, Raj's story reminded me of my father-in-law who played the clarinet for years. He was a music major, but after serving in the military in WWII, he decided to be a dentist. 

He had lost touch with music for decades until my daughter, Victoria picked up the violin as an instrument.  He attended every single concert and I could swear he lived through her violin playing, vicariously.  He attended almost every single one of her Seattle Youth Symphony concerts until he couldn't do it anymore due to infirmary. 

Before he passed away, one of his last wishes was to have my daughter play "Going Home" at his funeral with her violin. 

It was in this moment that I connected your book with my memory.  

It brought me to tears.

And that is what I meant when I said the book is about "going home"
to your talent and the persistence of the human spirit.  

My father-in-law lives on in my children.

Kindest regards,

I asked Ann if I could share her connection to the story and she kindly allowed me to share it here. While my book is about music, about connecting deeply to the joy of expressing your spirit, it is also a book about what connects us all: love. 

It is my hope that my book will inspire others to "go home" to the place where joy lives--to perhaps a time when it flowed more easily--and to "go home" and rediscover the "chords" that keep us connected. 

Playing from the Heart is published by Candlewick Press who also published The Dot, Ish, The North Star, So Few of Me, and Rose's Garden.

Monday, January 25, 2016

"Who are you?" The North Star Questions

I created this image in 1998--inspired by The North Star book that I published the year before. Once I started thinking about the journey--it was hard to STOP thinking about it.  

 Where had I been? 

 Where was I now? 

Where was I going?  

Where was that I wanted to be going

That last question was THE big North Star question. Just making a few degrees change to the course can land you in a very different place eventually. Ocean navigators know this well. 

Oddly, during my school journey, we rarely seemed have much time for "North Star" thinking. I DO remember being asked:  "What did you do on your summer vacation?" It was the standard, back-to-school chestnut which at least asked me to share a bit about me beyond the classroom. There were, to be fair, a number of teachers along the way who did care about me, but it was rare that the curriculum supported them being able to get me thinking and writing about who I was and what was going in inside my head.

The North Star Interview

I rounded up a few North Star questions for you.  There are plenty more. You'll probably start thinking of them yourself once you get rolling. Your answers will help create a great snapshot of who you are--who you are becoming.

1. What is something important to you?

2. What special talent do you have?

3. What place has special meaning to you?

4. Who has helped you find your way?

5. What do you hope to do someday?

6. What do you need to be more happy?

7. What is a big dream you have--if reality wasn't an obstacle?

8. Who have you helped along the way?

9. If you wrote a book about your life up until now what would the title be?

10. If you wrote a book about your future what would it be titled?

Your answers will lead to more reflection and perhaps writing, drawing, painting, and singing. It might help you choose the next book you read or film to watch--or film to make! 

It's totally up to you. 

Your path. 

Your journey.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Rescued Poem

I found this in my studio among my journals. A road-weary little journal. The cheapest kind you can buy in a drugstore. This page had obviously been almost washed away by rain. Or melting snowflakes--seeing that it was a Boston winter of 2003.

It took some effort to decipher:

There will be
stretches of goodness,
like rivers of wheat fields,
and occasional
storms, sudden
and angry

Words. A moment in time. 

Almost lost to rain or snow.

The result looks tears-ish. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

How to Recharge Your Spirit in One Easy Step

How do you charge your creative "batteries"? 

Well, for me there is one easy way: connect with kids.  

On most days, I am busy in my studio creating books and films--but when I am lucky enough to break free and venture into schools--I experience the joy of "connecting the dots" with my audience. (Well, half of them anyway, as I try to create my picture books for all ages.)

Schools usually have me do several assemblies where I speak to a few hundred students at a time which I enjoy immensely, but it is after the "big show" is over when I get to connect with kids in an informal way. Some teachers let their kids linger a bit and they get a chance to connect. They bubble with enthusiasm, rattling off comments and asking questions. Timid kids get their chance to share with me. Their insights always delight and inspire me. It is amazing what they pick and what resonates with them. It is a reminder to me that kids are philosophers and deep thinkers. Some are comedians. They are creatives. Idea generators. Poets.

I was at St. Peter's School in Lincoln, Nebraska where the photo above was taken. I was swarmed with kids and tried to connect with each student the best I could. One student asked me:

"How old are you?" 

I paused trying to think of a clever answer.

A bright eyed lad named Nicholas jumped in to answer for me.

"You are as kind as when you were a child, as nice as you are now--and as wise as you will be in the future." 

Stunned--I just smiled--and said, "Yup--you guessed it." 

Batteries: recharged. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Can We All Get Along?

It has been almost a quarter century since the Rodney King incident. 

His words after the ensuing riot: 

"People, I just want to say, can we all get along? Can we get along?"

As poignant as ever.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Queen Mum

In honor of Mother's Day this weekend...

I salute "Queen Mum." 

We are blessed to still have our mother with us--alive and well-- full of sparkle. 

Hazel Etheldreda Gasson Reynolds. 

Born in London in 1925, Mum is celebrating her 90th year on the planet. 

Hazel Gasson survived the bombing of London during World War II, went to work at Lloyd's bank of London where she met bank customer, Keith Hamilton Reynolds who had just finished his seven years of service in the Royal Air Force. Wedding bells. Andrew born. Jane born. The growing family moved to Canada. Peter and Paul born.  Then on to America where she and Dad raised their five children--Irene rounding out the group.  

I could--and should--write a book about Mum. I smile because if I did, Mum would want to rewrite the whole thing. She is famous for saying:

"Now... what I would have said...."  

"Now... what I would have done...."

My book, edited by Mum or not, would share how she made growing up an easy and joyful experience. Bumps and challenges along the way, of course, but she made the journey smoother with her love, her twinkly energy, her hard work, her staunch defense of anyone not supporting or understanding her kids. 

Her smile, her care, her laugh. 

Her creativity. By day, she was a book keeper for various companies. A manufacturer of reflective decals for locomotives, a lumber company, a cable TV company, and The Association of Independent Schools of New England

She would get home in the afternoons, make a cup of tea, sit at the kitchen table with us and ask us to re-tell, in detail, the full episode of her favorite soap opera which she often missed due to work. Not your typical soap, but Dark Shadows--a show about a vampire. This was years before a VCR could tape the show- so she resorted to us "taping" it in our heads and sharing. (I wrote a blog about this.) This was great fun for us, a unique bonding experience, but also some seriously good training for storytelling--paving the way for a future of storytelling and story sharing.

With so much on her plate already, Mum still had time for service to her community. She was active for decades in the Scouting program in England, Canada and the USA. She taught religious education--doing so in wonderfully creative ways--using music an art to help kids connect with the messages. Again, Mum was an amazing role model for her children. 

And she still is!

Mum lives on the Cape and is still going full steam ahead. The kettle is always ready for tea. The photo of Queen Elizabeth hangs on the wall, but our Queen Mum reigns royally in our lives. She has created an amazing kingdom. We are blessed to have her continue to guide us, inspire us. 

Happy Mother's Day, Queen Mum! 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dare to Innovate

I am busy working on several new books, but I like taking a break now and again to either just sketch whatever comes to mind in my journal or to get my my mind noodling on a small project. This "breather time" helps me relax, get recharged, and feel that rush when you get something done.

I was asked by MassCue (Massachusetts Computer Using Educators) to create a conference logo based on the theme, "Dare to Innovate." The theme is definitely my cup of tea. Rather than anything too futuristic, I wanted a whimsical image showing a group of kids collaborating--fusing interests and strengths. My twin brother, Paul and I explored this theme in our book, Going Places. We are big fans of STEAM (Adding the A to STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), hence the dash of design and music. For more info about the conference which is only 20 minutes from my home studio, check out the conference page.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Wonder Spaces, Wonder People

I painted this at a peaceful sunny breakfast sitting outside on a terrace in Carmel-by-the-Sea while partaking in the Wonderspace event created by Richard Tavener. A dreamy place to paint. I was having breakfast with my brother, Paul and our amazingly brilliant friend, Amy Robinson. Hanging out with inspirational people--in inspirational places helps get the creativity flowing!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Show Them What You're Made Of

I made that sketch a few years ago to capture a thought.  The initial spark happened just before I was to speak to a few thousand teachers in Nebraska. I looked out at the sea of faces before me. I wondered who they were.

A classic piece of sage advice when public speaking: Know Your Audience. I can usually cobble together a general profile, but I suddenly thought: "I wish had an hour or two to speak to each one individually to find out a few things about them." 

Here's what we'd talk about:

What grades do you work with? 

What subjects do you teach? 

If you could add something that you'd like to teach (not necessarily part of the official curriculum) what would that be? 

What inspired you to become a teacher? 

Who were your favorite teachers growing up? 

What interesting fact about you do few people know? 

What would you still like to learn? 

What is the most challenging part of teaching? 

What has been the best part of teaching?

And so on.

My quick estimate of how long those conversations would take was about 167 days (building in some downtime to sleep and eat - although I do love dinner table conversation too!) 

Well, I only had two minutes of extra time before my talk began, so I'd have to ask my audience a few questions as I went--and hopefully find connections with my audience about  learning, creativity and personal navigation. 

Without having had my "one-on-one's" I was confident that the room was filled with very interesting human beings. While I didn't have the luxury of getting to know each of them, it occurred to me that their students had about 180 days to get to know them. It also occurred to me that--at least in public schools in the United States--we don't build in much--or any --time for teachers to share with students who they are. 

Imagine if students knew the answers to the questions above? (They could skip the first two questions--hopefully--if they are paying attention.)

I have forgotten the names of quite a few teachers my own educational journey. (The ones that took us chapter by chapter through the issued text book.) The educators I DO remember shared who they were. Their own stories. Their own adventures. Their questions. Their frustrations. Their passions. Their service to others. Their lives beyond the walls of the school. 

One of those funny "aha!" moments when I met my third grade teacher, Mrs. Smith in the local supermarket buying pineapples.

"What is she doing out of school??"

"She eats pineapples?"

It began to dawn on me that teachers were allowed out of school and that they actually had a life beyond those walls.

I feel strongly that students benefit from knowing more about the amazing teacher there to inspire them. Discovering that your teacher is an interesting person, is curious, isn't perfect, has talents, has hobbies, has dreams, and is still learning. That is a powerful lesson.

So, go ahead and show them what you're made of. 

(By the way, this goes for parents too!)