Sunday, July 12, 2020

Jenny on Christian Robinson's School Visit - You Matter!

You Matter.

These two simple words give Caldecott Honoree Christian Robinson's new picture book its title, but they also send an important message to readers: We are all connected, and we all matter. At the beginning of June, Boswell hosted the final school event of the semester with students from Elmbrook and Glendale / River Hills elementary schools, and Christian visited us virtually from his home in California. He started the conversation by telling kids that he wanted to say 'you matter' with words but also show it with pictures.

Christian has illustrated books by many authors, but only recently began writing his own stories. The result is a book filled with empathy for others, from the giant T-Rex who can't scratch his mosquito bite to an astronaut looking down at earth, far from home. The collage artwork is bright and cheerful and does a beautiful job capturing emotions familiar to all of us.

Through writing You Matter, Christian had a lot of fun finding his own voice. He went on to tell kids about his love for drawing and creating art, and how right now, with so much anxiety in the world, his studio is his happy place. next, we all got a virtual tour so we could see his paper for sketching and working his ideas out, and the pictures pinned to his wall that give Christian a sense of how a project is coming together.

Click this sentence to follow its link and watch a short video clip of Christian working on You Matter in his studio.

Christian told students about his background. He was born in Los Angeles in 1986. His grandmother raised Christian and his brother in a tiny apartment they shared with two cousins and his aunt. With all that family crowded around, there wasn't much room to call his own. Christian loved to draw pictures, and art was a way of creating his own space. On the page, he was able to have some say over what the world could look like. Now he lives in Sacramento with his boyfriend, John, and their cute but sassy greyhound, Baldwin.

Christian read his delightful book, You Matter, to the audience, too!

Then he talked about using a storyboard to create a book, because he likes to start small, with pictures drawn on Post-It notes. He doesn't worry about getting everything right in the beginning. The little notes are perfect for making lots of mistakes. He spent two years working on this book, writing and rewriting. He loves working with different materials. For his collages, he uses construction paper and glue.

After his presentation, Christian took the time to answer questions from the students. They had lots - a total of 1806, in fact! No, he didn't get to them all, but here's the first great questions he answered:

Q: What book are you working on now?

A: Christian just turned the illustrations for Milo Imagines the World (Coming in Feb, 2021!), a new book written by Matt de la Peña about a boy and a girl on a train who are going to visit their mother in prison. The boy imagines stories for all the passengers, and one of those stories has a surprising ending. Christian thinks, and I agree, that it's really important to tell the stories of kids going through all sorts of things.

Christian ended his presentation with a drawing demonstration and a reminder to kids everywhere that they matter. You Matter is now a New York Times bestseller! Follow Christian Robinson on Instagram and on Twitter.

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