Let me tell you a secret. The character of Arthur (Art) started off as a bear-like creature in its rough draft and evolved into a lizard! David Wiesner, a master in the art of visual storytelling, starts his stories with illustrations first. Like writing, his pictures go through rough drafts, and this is what his editor first looks at! When his illustrations are finalized he then adds his words.
His latest book, Art & Max, was released in the fall of 2010. Mr. Wiesner uses multiple media within a single text to tell this story of creating a work of art. Arthur knows how to paint and can’t wait to share it with his friend Max. Except that Max doesn’t know what he’s in for, and you’ll find yourself in the same position! Included in his illustrations are a phonograph and an old style vacuum of which ACME is the brand. (Remember the Road Runner cartoon bombs?) He uses antiquated objects such as these to open up conversations with children. The ending is an expected, but happy one.
I was fortunate to attend the Children’s Literature Assembly Annual Breakfast at the NCTE in November which featured author David Wiesner. He shared his approach to art and storytelling, which I think are very practical strategies that you can share with your child at home. First, have reluctant writers draw first reminding that adding details are important. Second, each name in the title (Art & Max) is done in a different font. The character’s dialogue is differentiated in this way, which makes the story easy to follow. Third, using one line text (ex. “7:38AM”, or “One Month Later”) on one side of the page with the facing page including the illustration adds to creativity.
You’ll also find that the jacket and book covers are different in Art & Max. A last detail to note is the original title was “Bob & Stan”. Mr. Wiesner wanted to have a contrast in the names – one more formal than the other.
Fun! Don’t you think? Other books by the same author include Hurricane, Tuesday, The Three Pigs, and Flotsam, three of which were Caldecott Medal winners.