Meeting Readers in Massachusetts
by Durga Yael Bernhard
Yesterday I presented my books at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. This unique little museum, located on the campus of Hampshire College, is a real gem. After visiting the galleries, I gave a special reading in their library, a cozy room with an impressive holding of picture books. Most of my readings are done in schools, so it was nice to see kids with their parents on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
I started by reading In the Fiddle Is a Song, my lift-the-flap book of hidden potential. “Potential” is a big word, and a big concept, for young children. We discussed the meaning of the word before and after I read the book, which shows examples of creative potential in both humans and nature, ranging from the potential future tree hidden in an acorn to the potential weaving in a basket of yarn or pottery in a lump of clay. Kids have a lot of thoughts about that, and love to share.
Children love to lift flaps! For every page I had a volunteer to come up and lift the flap to see what potential was hidden underneath. One book did not satisfy their urge to discover, so I read While You Are Sleeping next. This is another flap book that explores a single moment all over the world. Each flap is a window into another culture, and shows a clock that teaches about time zones.
I also shared excerpts of Around the World In One Shabbat, another multicultural book that follows the cycle of a single Sabbath all over the world; and A Ride on Mother’s Back, which shows baby-carrying customs around the world and what babies learn as they are carried through each day. Several elementary school librarians who were visiting from Virginia were especially interested in this book, and bought copies for their libraries.
After the reading and book signing, I was ushered into the museum’s beautiful art studio, a large sunroom with long tables stocked with art supplies for kids. Visitors to the museum are encouraged to do “free drawing” with pencils, markers, or paints. The paints are premixed in colors that are more interesting than the usual primary colors found in children’s paint sets. I was immediately drawn to a basket of sentence fragments written on scraps of paper, intended to get children’s imaginations going. I closed my eyes and picked out “a long-tailed firebird” and “stole a fish from an octopus”. That was a challenge! So I set to work on a spontaneous illustration, with no preliminary sketches. I don’t work in magic markers very often, and enjoyed the change of medium and the spontaneity of the moment. Before I knew it, the studio was about to close and I had to hurry to finish my drawing.
What a wonderful environment for spontaneous creativity! The bookstore is amazing, too. I wish I lived closer to Amherst – I’d be there every day! If you are in the five-college area of central Massachusetts, I highly recommend a visit to the Eric Carle Museum.
My daughter Sage did a beautiful drawing, too: an imaginary meditation room, complete with incense burner and sun-shaped pillows. It was a great day overall! Thanks to the wonderful staff at the Eric Carle Museum for hosting me. We had a great time!
Please request my books at your public and school libraries. Many librarians will honor such requests.
Thanks for reading my blog and thanks for supporting my books!
Durga Yael Bernhard
Author / Illustrator of
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING- Charlesbridge Publishing A Childrens Book Council Notable Book
AROUND THE WORLD IN ONE SHABBAT – Jewish Lights – A Sydney Taylor Honor Book
GREEN BIBLE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – written by Tami Lehman-Wilzig – Kar Ben
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – written by Emery Bernhard – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt –
An American Bookseller Association Pick of the List
– and more!
About Durga Yael Bernhard
Durga Yael Bernhard is a fine artist, illustrator, children’s book author/illustrator, and mother of three children born at home. She has published over thirty picture books, including fiction and non-fiction, natural science titles, concept books, and multicultural subjects, including A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK: A Day of Baby-Carrying Around the World. Durga is especially known for her mother-and-child artwork. She is the creator of Mothering Magazine’s 25th anniversary logo, and has been published in Mothering numerous times. Please visit her website, picture book blog, and webstore at http://durgabernhard.com