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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!)





Friday, March 13, 2015

Flying by the Seat of Your Pants



I found this little looped animation in my archives. 

I had forgotten all about it, but I was delighted by this image of a young person hovering--looking slightly perplexed--and possibly delighted at the position they're in. 

I looked up a definition of the idiom 
"flying by the seat of one's pants." 

To use one's judgement, initiative, and perceptions as events unfold in order to improvise a course of action without a predetermined plan.

In other words, to "wing it."

It's a great skill to have. Creative people are very good at it. They welcome the blank page, the surprise, and the sudden stage. 

If classrooms were allowed to go "off-script" more often, students would get practice thinking for themselves--and rather than be perplexed by being thrown into unfamiliar situations--they would be:
 delighted. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Personal Quest



I'm not sure when exactly this "personal quest" emerged, but it was probably about 30 years ago.  I was in a boat and I looked at the water and saw the dancing and flowing patterns and wondered how I would ever be able to capture that undulating wonder on paper.  

It haunted me-- for decades. Still does.




Almost every time I would see water, whether the ocean, a lake or a pool, in real life or in a photo, I would think:

"How can I capture this?" 

Strangely, I have made very few attempts to tackle drawing water.  Instead, I have put my energy into seeing water. I am comforted with the thought that it might be more important to actually SEE--and appreciate--than to "capture" it.  In my book, ISH--the last scene shows Ramon savoring a spring day and instead of "capturing it"--he instead "simply savors it." 

Having said that, I am still on a quest to make a painting of water.  Staring down the patterns that nature creates. Breaking it down. Translating the shapes. Mixing my paints to  approximate those shapes.   

There is something wonderful about having a challenge teasing me. Perhaps it is better not to tackle it and just have it coax me along... to keep my eyes open and really see this beautiful world we're blessed to be living in. 






Monday, March 2, 2015

Our Haiku-llaboration


 I noticed a tweet from a classroom in Colorado. 


I'm incredibly busy these days with a pile of projects, but I enjoy little distractions to help my brain stay engaged and inspired.  Writing Haiku is fun, so I was eager to dive in and get started, but I noticed that the Sixth Avenue Elementary students had directed the request to Sharon Creech as well. 

The idea of a collaboration popped into my head.

A "haikullaboration!" 

I messaged Sharon Creech, who happens to be one of my favorite authors and, I am lucky to say, a friend.  I asked Sharon if she'd like to start a haiku for me and I would do the same for her. We'd take turns writing the next line--and I would illustrate the results.  

So... I sent the first line to Sharon.

"Please, dear, sit with me." 

She added the next line, sending it back to me to finish it up.

Here is our first haikullaboration:




Sharon then sent me a line: Glass bottle of ink." 

I closed my eyes and imagined a bottle of ink--a familiar item to me. I saw it in my studio--ready and able when the time was just right.  I added my line and sent back for Sharon to add that lovely last line to make our second haikullaboration.


On Monday March 2, 2015 at 11am EST, we tweeted our illustrated poems out to our friends at Sixth Avenue Elementary School. 

On another haiku note, I illustrated a book with Bob Raczka called "GuyKu" (Haiku for Guys) and we developed a fun site to explore this whimsical form of poetry. 

I hope this post inspires your own creative collaborations!



Sunday, February 22, 2015

HELP WANTED














"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

Do you remember that question from when you were a student? 

Imagine if we help kids broaden their choices and think bigger? I created this "classified ad" page to get kids (and grown up kids) pondering their futures in more creative ways. 

Often kids will name a role: Firefighter, police officer, soccer player, teacher, author. Why not get them to dig a little bit deeper?

How about a firefighter whose mission was to fight as few fires as possible because their mission is to promote safety in their communities? 

How about an author whose mission is to get kids interested in the environment? 

The North Star (or Polaris) is part of the constellation Ursa Minor. You can think of your future in the same way. Your North Star might be your guiding role--but you have other "stars" in your constellation that--if you see the connections and weave them in--which will guide you on a much more meaningful journey.  

In 1997, I wrote a book called The North Star to inspire creative thinking about crafting a meaningful future. It grew out of my own personal experience and working with educators who wondered out loud with me about what they wanted their students to leave their classrooms with after 180 spent with them. It sparked an array of answers which--when I looked at my notes--appeared to be a constellation. It also sparked a lot of questions and creative ways to inspire mindful thinking. 

I created The North Star as a picture book for all ages. 

Here's are two "North Star" ways of asking "What do you want to be when you grow up?":

"What will your mission be when you grown up?" 

"What kind of person would you like to be when you grow up?" 

"WANTED: WONDERFUL NEIGHBOR. Should be generous, kind, and respectful. Willing to lend a hand, a ladder or supply a cup of sugar.  Being active in the community is a plus."

If you or the young people in your life have ideas for additional "job listings" - send them my way and I will add to this "constellation" of career possibilities! 


Saturday, September 7, 2013










DOT IN SPACE

As I sit here in my studio watching the number of participants of International Dot Day 2013 soar, (984,000 at the moment) it seemed appropriate to share this image of  my book "The Dot" which soared up into space aboard the Soyuz rocket last December tucked into the kit of Commander Chris Hadfield

In November of 2012, I noticed that a Canadian astronaut had begun following me on Twitter! I was curious why.  How were our "dots" connected?  Well, we are both Canadians. And we have incredibly fun jobs and missions. And... well, I was about to discover that we had only just begun to connect our dots. 

I was in my bookshop The Blue Bunny in Dedham, MA, when the phone rang. Our staffer, Cheryl picked up the phone and handed it to me with wide eyes. 

"There's an astronaut on the phone for you." 

There was indeed.  Chris explained that he was working on a children's book and had hoped I would want to collaborate. I was very curious and excited to sit down to explore the idea with him, but he said that he would be busy for the next six months as he was flying into space to command the International Space Station. 

"I'd love to go with you! Someday, I'd love to fly into space," I shared.

"Well, I might be able to get you one step closer."

Chris said that if I sent a book to Houston overnight, his wife, Helene might--just might--be able to pack it in into his personal kit being sent in the Soyuz rocket in only a few weeks time. It would need to be scanned by NASA and approved. 

I rushed a copy of The Dot to Texas. 

Months went by and I watched with the rest of the world as Chris shot into space and began his five month command, regaling us all with beautiful photos, an amazing Twitter account of his adventures, and of course, his now famous Space Oddity video

The phone rang in January and I did not recognize the number on my cell phone. It was Commander Hadfield! He wanted to just check in to say hi and see if I was still noodling that book idea. He spoke quickly--noting that the ship would soon be out of range of the satellite he was using to call me. I forgot to ask if the book had made it aboard. I had to wait until he landed and came to Boston to visit me to find out. 

The Dot had, in fact, travelled into space. 

The book had floated in the cupola of the ISS where he snapped this photo. My book, written 10 years ago, about a girl on a journey to discover her bravery, creativity, and compassion, had orbited to Earth 2,500 times and had been flown back to the planet with the Commander. 

International Dot Day, celebrated on or about, Sept 15th each year has gone global - and now it has gone galactic! 
 
To follow Chris on Twitter: @Cmdr_Hadfield

You can see the book on display in our bookshop, but it will also be going on tour at some point.  




Tuesday, September 3, 2013


MIND THE GAP



Children start out on a creative roll. 

Drawing, splashing, singing, dancing, building, exploring, playing. 

Many though, slow down as they get older and, by the age of ten-ish, leave the creating to others. Not just art, but creative thinking, original ideas, bravery, and sharing one's voice. 

I call it the "switching yard." 
Quite a few trains get rerouted. 
Decades of tracks laid out in a straight, safe, and predictable route.
For some, it can be boring and frustrating. 
For many others though, it can be quite productive and pleasant, 
although often there is a lingering sense 
that something was missing 
on that journey. 

A curious thing happens when people retire: 

They get brave again. 

It is interesting to note that one of the first things many folks 
do is to take an art course - or some other creative endeavor. 

That "gap" of five decades was valuable time not being used 
to practice thinking creatively, being brave, exploring original ideas, 
and sharing one's voice with the world. 

Anything we keep at -- gets easier over time. 

So... please. 

MIND THE GAP.

: )

For those not familiar with London Transport's  "MIND THE GAP" - here's a bit of background.




Saturday, August 10, 2013



The Lost "Me Book"


While at a church fair in Dedham during the winter of 2012, a children's book caught my eye: "MY BOOK ABOUT ME" by Dr. Seuss and Roy McKie.  My "radar" is always  looking for tools to help kids discover who they are and who they hope to become.  My book, The North Star (Candlewick Press) explores self-discovery using the metaphor of constellations as a guiding map.  After reading the book, I have kids (and grown up kids too) create their own maps with stars representing their talents, skills, interests and dreams. The map becomes an open-ended journey guidance system.  Great educators, parents and caregivers know that the better you know the learner, the better you'll be able to connect, encourage, inspire the learner. 

I flipped through the pages--delighted to see that the owner of the book--a young girl named Lauren--had filled in most of the pages with answers to the book's many question and drawings including a tracing of her foot! It was a wonderful glimpse of who she was at the time.  I wondered where Lauren might be now. How old was she?  What she was doing now? 

It seemed a bit sad that this treasure had been tossed in a box to be sold at on the "White Elephant" table on a cold winter morning.  I felt lucky to have come to the book's rescue. 

So I took the "MY BOOK ABOUT ME" home with me and eventually to my children's book studio--placing it on my "Wall of Inspiration." I took it down recently and flipped through its pages. 

I noticed a page with Lauren's address.  A bit of detective work and I discovered that her parents still live at that address. 

Would it be strange to return this orphaned book? 

Was it Lauren who tossed it in a donation box? A parent in frenzy of spring cleaning? 

I am just too curious not to "re-connect the dots." 

In that spirit, I will send Lauren's book back home to her. Perhaps I'll add a copy of The North Star with a hope that she has followed her constellation to a stellar place.  : )


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Make More Light - Inspiration from Boston Marathon Week




As the tragic news broke on that sunny day in Boston--the day of the Marathon, Diana and I sat glued to the television trying to make sense of what was unfolding. My twin brother, Paul was texting us a block away from the finish line. 

"EXPLOSION"

Then the texting stopped. 

The feelings I experienced during 9/11 came flooding back.  

It was not only the horror of what was happening, but even more so--the not knowing. 

What was next? 

Looking at our son, Henry, who was napping peacefully, I silently made a wish that he did not have to wake to a troubled world. 

I then realized that when this little boy DID wake up--the world would automatically be a brighter place with his energy and spirit added to it. That thought was very comforting to me. 

Grabbing some paper, I quickly jotted down a reminder to him. The message was for me and my family too. And friends. Why not share it with the world? And so I did. On Facebook and Twitter. It was immediately shared by tens of thousands--reaching over a million people in a week. 

It was clear to me that we all needed the reminder: There is more good than bad in this world, more light than darkness--and that WE can make more light. 

Proceeds from the 11" by 14" posters "Make More Light" are being donated to The One Fund Boston - and are available from www.bluebunnybooks.com




Saturday, January 26, 2013

Start small. Think big.


I'll keep this short in the spirit of the "start small." 

Getting overwhelmed by a project, a plan, 
a New Year's resolution, an idea can often short circuit ignition. 

Instead, just take a simple step forward. 

A quick dash in a notebook might be the start of an eventual novel. 

Sharing your brainstorm with a good friend might lead to the 
opening of your own not-for-profit group to help others. 

Cleaning up the cellar might help you rediscover 
a dream tucked away for far too long. 

These thoughts came to me last week, 
so I grabbed some paper and made this sketch. 
Today I had some time to share and 
add a bit of my thinking to it. 

Peter 



Sunday, May 13, 2012












Our Mother, the Human VCR's, 
and the "Dark Shadows" Storytelling Academy

I am writing this on Mother's Day, remembering how our mother, Hazel Reynolds enrolled my brother, Paul and me into an unusual storytelling "academy." That daily dose of intensive, group-storytelling help set the foundation of what became a lifetime of story-crafting and story-sharing. Mum helped plant the seed 40+ years ago that lead to the creation of our trans-media company, FableVision and my career as a children's book author and filmmaker.

 In 1966, a new soap opera, Dark Shadows, debuted on US television. Looking back at what television was offering back in those days, it is hard to believe that Dan Curtis pitched this Gothic series packed with vampires, witches, and werewolves - all set in a New England town - and got funding and made it a hit show for five years. 

Our mother was one of those "bitten" by the addictive charms of this spooky, smart, and elegant show. Paul and I were five years old when the show began, and I imagine my mother thought she could watch the show without us paying much attention to her "soap." However, we did watch Dark Shadows -- daily. The Collins family became part of our extended family. Barnabas was like an uncle- a quirky uncle who happened to be a 175 year old vampire.

Our family of seven lived, at the time in Chelmsford, MA on Samuel Road. We were the ranch house with the elaborate TV antenna on the roof, often being adjusted by our father, Keith, in his suit and tie and a pipe tucked in corner of his mouth. Both Dad and Mum were accountants and being a big family, Mum would work part-time for various companies, sometimes in the mornings, but some jobs had her working as late as 4 in the afternoon. 

This caused a dilemma. 

By the time she would get home, "her show" was over. Remember, this was pre-VCR days with no way to record the show. (By the way, the first home VCR was introduced in 1965, but it wasn't until 1975 began its way into most American homes, four years after Dark Shadows went off the air.)

So, if you weren't in front of the telly - you missed it.

Mum, being a problem-solver and motivated by her crush on a vampire, employed her twin sons to "record" the daily episodes by watching the shows and "replaying" them when she came home from work. We became her human VCR's and watched the show with mission-driven intensity. 

We had a job to do. 

We had to get the latest happenings of Collinswood to Mum. When we saw her car roll up the driveway, we would quickly put the tea kettle on and prepare for her to sit down at the kitchen table which transformed into the "story roundtable." These storytelling sessions lasted at least as long as the episodes, and usually longer as Mum and her story crew began "connecting the dots" in the show, pondering motivations of  characters, and making predictions about what tomorrow's episode might bring.

It was not until very recently that it occurred to be how powerful our "Dark Shadows Storytelling Academy" had been in our lives. Not only did we learn a lot about how to tell a story, but we shared incredible bonding time with our mother. These tales became a "campfire" to gather around and share the most important gift: Time together.

Note: We are blessed that Hazel is still with us, and at 87, lives on the Cape -  is still an amazing storyteller and still is smitten by a vampire named Barnabas. Our father, Keith seemed not to mind her infatuation. After all, Barnabas was 130 years older, very pale, and with an odd set of teeth.




A few years ago, we bought Mum a paver on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston. Here she is with Paul proudly inspecting her tribute!