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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."