Sunday, July 14, 2013

She cried "MO! MO! MO!"

 The Pigeon has been trying to drive the bus for 10 years.

Wow.  That means I was running the kids' section at Borders 10 years ago because the day that book came out, I read it for story time to a group of pre-schoolers who loved yelling, "NO!" when the pigeon just begged and begged to drive the bus.

It means little Chesley isn't so little anymore... particularly since he's a college graduate.  The book took on a whole new meaning for him after a bus driver in Poland let my son drive the bus - and the pigeon should know it's not all it's cracked up to be and it's more at the same time.

What can I say beyond what interesting and creative children I have.  Chesley has discussed his idea of a children's book in Latin, See the Bee Fart, with Norton Juster of "Phantom Tollbooth" fame.  He discovered he and Chris Van Allsburg have similar views about Dali and squirrels in a conversation.  The first time he met Eric Carle, the poor boy was tongue tied and, years later, has had some rather eloquent conversations with Eric about some odd subjects.  He and Mo Willems have joked about how he is one of a couple of dozen people who used to watch "The Off Beats" and "Sheep in the Big City." And that's only the beginning of how my children have been positively molded in unexpected ways.  All this has happened because of one magical place - the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Out in Amherst, MA, this hidden gem of Pioneer Valley is on the edge of the Hampshire College campus and always has a variety of events that inspire us to hop in the car and drive out from Boston on a regular basis.  Right now it's the exhibit "Seriously Silly," an exhibit of Mo Willems work, mostly his picture book stuff.  It coincides with the release of "Don't Pigeonhole Me" - a rather large book containing 20 years of his sketchbooks including the early versions of the book "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus."

What I loved were a million little details - the scavenger hunt to find the different color pigeons and the little bits of art around the bottom of the gallery at a kids' eye level.  It shows the process with sketches, detail and a short video of how an idea goes onto the page of his sketch book to being roughed, inked and then scanned to be cleaned and colored.

In the art studio, kids can create the pigeon and the bus as well as other things.   All in all, this is a wonderful little exhibit that reinforces the idea that rarely is art "perfect."  Something kids need to remember as they grow older.  Too often we see the finished product and not the process.  This is a delightful way to see the process and the product all together.  While this exhibit will be there for a while, the other two will not.

The Eric Carle gallery's "Feathers, Fins and Fur" is up until September first.  It's a wonderful chance to see not just the picture book stuff but also some of the tools Eric uses to create his art and some different mediums for him.

The small gallery in the middle has Robert Zakanitch's "Garden of Ordinary Miracles," a lovely A-B-C walk through a garden complete with a case of things like sticky notes with sketches and thoughts and ideas that runs through November.

When you're done there, there's always the Basketball Hall of Fame down the road in Springfield and the Dr. Seuss sculpture garden in Springfield, home of Ted Geisel.  I should also recommend a trip to the R. Michelson galleries in Northhampton, which have the original "Don't Pigeonhole Me" sketches as well as some original Dr. Seuss work and a whole slew of other children's artists as well as photos by Leonard Nimoy and beautiful artwork from many, many others.

I admit, if this little pocket of loveliness were on the coast, I would have moved there years ago but I'm just not a mountain girl... I'm an ocean girl.  At least I can hope in my little bug and head on out there to enjoy, and you should too.

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