Meeting Jane Yolen at the Eric Carle Museum

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 told this story to Jane Yolen

She told me that her editor said, “Every word in this story is important.”

I said, “Yes!  Every single word.”

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.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Author interview, children's books, Early Education, Eric Carle, Inspiration, museums, picture books, reading, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to Meeting Jane Yolen at the Eric Carle Museum

  1. AJ says:

    That is so cool you got to meet her!! I love her books for teaching so many concepts in my classroom:)

  2. Ritu says:

    How wonderful Jennie! You are so lucky to get to these workshops and meet these inspiring authors, and glean such fantastic pearls of wisdom from them!
    Thank you for sharing them all with us!

  3. One of my son’s favorite book. I love your conclusion-what beautiful words. You are one, who “turns on the light”. thank you for sharing this beautiful experience.

  4. Sue Vincent says:

    Her adult fiction is worth reading too 🙂

  5. Opher says:

    A great experience!

  6. Great words of wisdom Jennie 🙂

  7. Dan Antion says:

    That sounds like a wonderful experience!

  8. Wonderful post, Jennie! I haven’t heard of this author before but like the titles you shared already and will see if I can get some copies here. The artwork is also amazing and no less important in children’s books. 😊

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Sarah! She is a winner. You won’t be disappointed. Artwork is SO important in children’s books. Her illustrators vary quite a lot. Speaking of art and illustrators, I saw two incredible displays there. More to follow!

  9. beetleypete says:

    That was certainly something to remember, Jennie. You must have been overjoyed.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  10. Darlene says:

    I am sure she was pleased to hear your story and about how her books have made an impact on the lives of your students. AS authors, we can never hear this enough. What a great experience for you to meet this prolific author.

    • Jennie says:

      She was very pleased, Darlene. She used a word that describes just that feeling for authors, and patted her heart as she said the word, telling me it is always a joy to hear. I wish I remember the word. Thank you!

  11. Norah says:

    What a fabulous encounter, Jennie. You know, I think one of the first posts I read on your blog was about that owling night. It made an impact on me too. Jane’s words are amazing. I’m sorry to say I haven’t read that book, or any of hers that I’m aware of. I’ll have to change that real soon. One day I’d love to go to he Eric Carle Museum too. What a wonderful experience.

    • Jennie says:

      It was a wonderful encounter, Norah. I remember writing about this when a former student (now a friend) told me about going owling, and the book, and even making owls in the class. She remembered! Jane Yolen writes for all ages. I discovered many new books while I was there. And the EC Museum is the best. I have more blog posts coming.

  12. Wow… 365 books? That’s amazing. Thanks for this inspiring post, Jennie. Hugs.

  13. What an amazing experience! I loved hearing her thoughts about an author’s ideas and words. I have chills right now imagining your experience. I’m especially glad, too, that you were able to share your story, Jennie. – Susan

  14. So glad you enjoyed the event. It looks like you and Jane had a great conversation. One you’ll both remember for a long time!

    • Jennie says:

      Indeed! It was terrific; her words of wisdom to the audience and our conversation together. Yes, I will remember that for a long time. She did tell me how much it meant to her to hear my story. Now, that’s as good as it gets! I also told her you said hello, and she smiled. Thank you, Marcia!

  15. I am not familiar with this book, Jennie. I will have to track down a copy.

  16. Fabulous story, Jennie. Glad you could talk to Jane.

  17. Jane Yolen says:

    Jennie–I am very moved by your posting. Thanks you. Jane Yolen

    • Jennie says:

      Thank YOU, Jane. I am very glad you enjoyed reading the post. To know that you were moved is perhaps the best thing a writer can hear. I hope our paths cross again. Keep writing and I’ll keep reading. Best to you. -Jennie-

  18. How exciting to meet her! We love, love, love How do Dinosaurs say Goodnight! I read it over and over, and over again for a year when #1 Grandson was 3 to 4 years old. Now he’s good with reading it once a week. We’ve read them all, but only own How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight.

    We’ll have to look for Owl Moon.

    • Jennie says:

      It was the best! And her books are, too. My class loves How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? I’m so glad your grandson read the book. Many thanks!

  19. I LOVED this post. Your reaction to her and the story brought a tear to my eyes. I obviously have never read the book but think I need to take your list of books to the library and sit there on day and just read all the books I missed. Now that just sounds like a “Julia Cameron Artist’s Date”! I shall plan that very soon. We have owls out back of my home. I love listening to them talk to each other. Always at dusk if we are quiet and the bullfrogs are croaking so loudly at this time of year as well. The sounds are delicious! Thank you for sharing this marvelous experience. Hugs.

    • Jennie says:

      That is so nice, Marlene. My favorite part were the photos of telling the story. AND, late last night Jane Yolen herself commented on the post! She read it. She told me that she was moved by my story. Can you imagine? I hope you get a day at the library to read some great books. Yes, those sounds are “delicious.” I love that word! Spring will come, right? 🙂

      • I do not doubt that she loved your post. I always love to meet any author. You’ve inspired me again, you know. Spring always sneaks up on us after the hail. 😉

      • Jennie says:

        Thanks so much, Marlene. It’s a rare treat to meet an author. I’m glad I put a little spring and sunshine into your day. 🙂

  20. ren says:

    Congratulations! I am so happy for you! You (both) gained so much on that day. Hugz

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