We were thrilled today to host author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom thanks to the community connections of Avid Bookshop and the generous publisher, Boyds Mills Press. What a great time to have an author visit during National Picture Book Month! This visit was exclusive to our 1st and 3rd grades. We began planning the visit a few weeks ago, when Avid Bookshop emailed me to see if I was willing to host a visit. I’m seldom one to turn down the support of a published author/illustrator because I know the kind of impact it can have on student enthusiasm and productivity in reading and writing.
All 1st-3rd grade classes came individually to the library for an introduction to Suzanne Bloom’s books. We visited her website and learned a bit about her life. One of the things that sparked the most conversation was how she wasn’t allowed to play with blocks and trucks when she was in Kindergarten just because she was a girl. This led to other books in our library that break away from gender profiles. Students were also curious about her messy desk and talked about how how messy writing and illustrating can be sometimes. We laughed together as we read the Bear and Goose books and made connections to Mo Willems’s Elephant and Piggie Series.
Today during her visit, Suzanne shared some of her earliest drawings from when she was in Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 4th grade. For the students, it was validating that Suzanne’s work didn’t start out as the polished drawings that we see in her books today. She had to practice, practice, practice in order to develop her skills. Students also heard how each of her books has a bit of truth in them such as how Piggy Monday is really about her son’s Kindergarten class and how A Splendid Friend, Indeed came from a conversation she had with her dad while working on her writing. Suzanne also took time to read aloud to students and do a quick sketch. She immediately molded into our participatory culture by having students select the crayons from the box that she used and having students give details and topics for her illustrations. All along the way, she encouraged participation through sounds, comments, questions, and more. She honored every student’s voice and tried to make as many connections to her audience as possible.
I was also impressed with the conversations I had with her outside of the presentations. I learned how she overwrites her stories and then cuts away at the words to find the very best language. She looks for language that feels and sounds right while it is read aloud. What seems like a very simple text, actually has a tremendous amount of thought poured into it to create just the right effect in readers. I even learned that she was a contributing author/illustrator to the Picture Book Month celebration which started last year!
Suzanne Bloom was a delight. Many thanks to Avid and Boyds Mills Press for allowing this visit to be possible. I know our students’ writing and illustrating lives are enriched because of her generosity of love for sharing her words and illustrations.