* More on “It Jes’ Happened”

Bill TraylorIn a previous post, I reviewed “It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw” by Don Tate.  This book is so visually engaging that I wanted to create a way for a special needs student to experiment with drawings inspired by Traylor. I can share examples of Bill Traylor’s work with my student from online exhibits.  The artwork by R. Gregory Christie in “This Jes’ Happened” is also inspirational.  My student does not have the ability to hold a crayon or paintbrush independently but can select items using eye gaze.  magnetic sheetsI used Avery’s 8 1/2  x 11 printable magnetic sheets to create parts of figures and familiar items, copied from Traylor’s use of basic rectangular and square shapes.  I also borrowed his rich use of primary colors.  Using Avery’s Design Pro (a free download), here’s a sample of the images I’ll print. By adding more shapes plus arms, legs, torsos, and heads, my student can create his family and home.  The program is simple to use and I can save my designs online or on my computer.  Avery 1

I’m excited about using Avery’s magnetic sheets for more projects!

* It Jes’ Happened…

When Bill Traylor Started to Draw.  

Bill Traylor

Author and illustrator Don Tate has given us a rare glimpse into the life of Bill Traylor, a former slave who has become “one of the most important self-taught American folk artists of the twentieth century.”  Traylor lived long before movies were created, but Don Tate has managed to capture Bill’s life, voice, humor, and grief.  It’s a life worth seeing.  Tate uses rhythm and repetition to draw our attention to Traylor’s inner life, while recording events almost poetically-all in a southern accent.  At first I was disappointed that Tate had not illustrated his own book, but R. Gregory Christie paints images with the style and humor of the original artist.

This book could be used effectively from elementary through high school (and beyond).  It would be at home in courses from literature to art to history.  Tate is a gifted writer whose style alone is worth analyzing.  But Traylor’s life is the heart of the book.  What was it like to live as a slave, then a poor sharecropper, and finally homeless in an unfamiliar city?  What emotions drove the 85-year-old Traylor to draw about 1500 images on cardboard and discarded bags?  It’s as though Traylor’s memories pushed their way through his long life, birthed on the sidewalks of Montgomery, Alabama.

Spend some time with this book.  It’s rich in color, meaning, and insight.  I thought I was ordering a children’s book, but I have been delightfully tricked.  Get a copy for yourself and see!

* Don Tate and Poet

Wow.  If you haven’t read “Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton,” written by poet and illustrator Don Tate, you have missed out!  As an added bonus, teachers can also find excellent lesson plans on Don Tate’s website.  Listen to Don Tate read the beginning of his own beautiful work:

George Moses Horton was a slave who taught himself to read, then wrote and even sold poetry in Chapel Hill on the campus of the University of North Carolina. I’ve lived here since 1983 but had never heard of this gifted man until now.  Don Tate’s prose does justice to the talented poet who was eventually freed after the Civil War.  Our children need to read books like this.  Tate not only touches our hearts and consciences about the savagery of slavery, but shares a story of hope and resilience.  This book is a keeper.