Author Spotlight: Nancy Carlson
Last week at this time I was sitting on the floor with a group of kindergarteners, including my daughter, listening to Nancy Carlson talk about her books. She was visiting to share First Grade, Here I Come with this group of soon-to-be first graders, but she talked about many of her books, shared all sorts of interesting bits of information with us, and showed us how to draw her characters.
Here are a few highlights:
- The Harriet books were the first books she both wrote and illustrated, and they were all based on real moments from her childhood with a few added twists from her imagination. As Nancy drew Harriet the dog, she shared that she forgot Harriet’s tail in all but one of the books. She encouraged the kids to find the book where Harriet has a tail the next time they are at the library.
- A little girl asked Nancy why most of her books feature animal characters doing human stuff, and Nancy explained that people have been using animal stories to teach about ideas and values for a very long time. I had never considered the connection to fables or folktales when reading Harriet the dog’s mishaps or Henry the mouse going to school, but it makes a lot of sense since Nancy’s stories always share a gentle lesson or help kids understand a tough topic, usually with animal characters.
- Nancy showed the kids how she draws some of her characters starting with simple shapes, and she encouraged the kids to make “a doodle a day” all summer long like she does on her web site. She told them that if they drew every day all summer that they would get better at drawing and exercise their imaginations. She showed some pictures of her kids when they were younger and some of their family pets to show where she got some of her inspirations for her doodles and characters.
Nancy’s newest book, Armond Goes to a Party, is a collaborative effort with middle school student Armond Isaak. Nancy’s colorful art (with human characters this time) and the straightforward story creates a kid-friendly look at autism spectrum disorders that will help kids, parents, and teachers understand those with ASD and be better friends to them. I expect this book will be a welcome teaching tool for many classrooms, and I appreciate that Nancy Carlson took on this issue with her usual gentle and affirming style. (9781575424668. April 2014. Gr. 1-3)
Ms. Carlson has over 60 books to her credit so far, and she assured the kids that she was planning to keep going for as long as she could. I look forward to what she does next!