Jane Yolen spoke to teachers, librarians and writers yesterday at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. She has just published her 365th book. Really. Sold out event. I knew I had to be there because of Owl Moon. It was the first picture book that exploded for me when I read the story aloud to my preschool class. It opened the door for far more than the story and the words in the book; it opened the door for teaching, and connecting. I remember it well.
Children were spellbound. Their silence and wide eyes told me I had to do more, and I did. We went on a nature walk to collect all the things necessary to make an Owl Moon mural. First the children drew with pen, then painted in watercolors. It looked just like the art of the illustrator. We added our nature pieces to make trees and the owl. It was magnificent.
We went owling at night, parents and children bundled in the cold. There are woods beyond the playground at school. That night, we heard an owl answer our call. Children and parents still talk about going owling at school to this day. And that was nearly thirty years ago.
I was on my knees. Nobody else did that. It was the right thing to do, the right way to meet this author. The long line behind me must have been surprised. Stunned is a better word. They were silent and watching the tremendous conversation.
The event at the Eric Carle Museum was a discussion and presentation with Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi EY Stemple. Heidi asked the questions and Jane answered. It was engaging and informative. Really fun.
At one point, Heidi talked about Owl Moon, and how the story came about. Owling was something her father always did. Sometimes she went along. I realized that she was the little girl in the book. I interrupted and said aloud, “That was you!” Heidi smiled a big smile and said, “Yes.”
The series of dinosaur books that Jane Yolen has written are very popular. Children in my class love them. Their favorite is How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?
Great writers say important words. Jane Yolen said:
“Writers have ideas. It’s what they do with them that counts.”
“We need teachers to turn on the lights for us. It’s hard to read and write in the dark.”
“The author isn’t important. Their writing is.“
“Don’t write down to children. They will know and remember the words.”
Words of wisdom. Thank you, Jane Yolen.