|Photo by Jeff MacMillan|
"She said to me, 'Peter, that is an excellent drawing," he said, adding that he was surprised but obviously pleased by her praise for his picture. The teacher was particularly taken by the fact that Peter had drawn in "one-point perspective," showing a road going off in a "vanishing point." It's a pretty complex artistic concept for a young artist, but Peter said that "I was doing it without even thinking about it."
Basking in the teacher's praise, Peter then was jolted when she told him that "this drawing is so good, I need to show it to the principal." As Peter noted last night, he was momentarily worried that he was going to be in trouble. Instead, once the principal saw the drawing, he agreed with the teacher that Peter should immediately be put in advanced art classes, jumpstarting his career as an artist. Added Peter: "Maybe that wouldn't have happened without my grumpy teacher."
Putting those two things together -- the fact that he saw some teachers as monsters and that one of them actually was nice and helped him get his start in art -- Brown was inspired to write My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not). The book begins with a young boy named Bobby attracting the ire of his teacher, Mrs. Kirby, for throwing a paper airplane. Bobby thinks of Mrs. Kirby as a monster because she "stomped" and she "roared" and she says: "No recess for children who throw paper airplanes in class."
So Bobby is aghast one day to find Mrs. Kirby sitting on a bench in his favorite park. As Brown writes: "Bobby wanted to run! He wanted to hide! But he knew that would only make things worse." So he sits down on the bench next to Mrs. Kirby. It's awkward for both of them at first -- one of my favorite moments is when Bobby raises his hand to talk to Mrs. Kirby, who tells "Robert, you don't need to raise your hand out here." But the ice is broken when a gust of wind blows Mrs. Kirby's prized hat off her head and Bobby is able to rescue it.
From that point on, the two become more at home with each other. Mrs. Kirby tells Bobby about how fun it is to quack along with the ducks in park's pond (that's when Brown led us all in quacking last night -- a highlight for the kids). Bobby, meanwhile, leads Mrs. Kirby up to his special spot high in the park's the hills. Their out-of-school friendship seems secure, but at school, they are still teacher and student, as Brown shows in the book's hilarious finale.
Clearly, the story is one that will particularly resonate with kids, as it did when Brown read it -- via the big screen -- at last night's program. And the kids got it right away, as Brown's illustrations, which initially show Mrs. Kirby as a green hippo-sized monster, soften into showing her in a more human shape as the connection grows between her and Bobby. As one young participant eagerly shouted: "She's not a monster anymore!"
|Photo by Jeff MacMillan|
Brown's illustrations for the book were done in India ink, watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper, then digitally composited and colored. Some pages show two-page spreads, while others show numerous smaller illustrations where Brown uses speech bubbles, as in comics. It's a great combination of approaches that works just perfectly for the book, as does the fact that Brown leaves lots of white space, which further highlights the changing relationship between Bobby and Mrs. Kirby.
After reading the book, Brown then headed over to an easel, where he showed everyone how he drew Mrs. Kirby. Everyone was fascinated to see how Brown took some simple shapes (and a few not so simple ones) and put them together to create a truly memorable character.
Overall, Brown's presentation was a huge hit. As folks lined up to have him sign their books, one adult told me, "That was awesome!" And so it was.
|A perk of my job is introducing talented folks like Peter Brown.|
Thanks to my friend, neighbor and professional photographer, Jeff MacMillan, who came to see Peter, a fellow alumus of the Art Center College of Design, and took the wonderful photos you see on this blog. Finally, thanks to Peter for such an inspiring and entertaining evening!