It’s so nice to receive thank you letters, drawings and comics from the students I’ve taught. Seen in the picture above are hundreds of handcrafted letters of appreciation! This has been a very rewarding year for Hamster Sam and me with school visits, and it’s hard to believe that it’s over and summer is here. Through my assembly programs and comics residencies, I estimate that I have worked with close to 4,000 students this past school year. It is heartwarming and oftentimes amusing to read what these kids have to say. Or ask. It’s the same thing during my school visits; students occasionaly come up with the most unusual- and laugh-out-loud questions for me. It’s like the old TV show, “Kids Say the Darnedest Things!” Now keep in mind, when I solicit questions from students, it is always framed within the context of “making comics”, so I anticipate topical questions. But it seems that some kids aren’t shy about asking questions outside of those parameters. A few examples: A 2nd grader raises his little hand up high: “Can you fix my TV?” Another, “Is it fun being bald?” Ha! And when one courteous but persistent girl was dumbfounded because I told her that I could not give her my cell phone number, she- without missing a beat- replied, “How about your social security number?” I couldn’t make this stuff up! I wonder if there is any precedent for cartoonists being stalked by elementary fans. And a recurring question is always, “Are you famous?” To which I always reply, “Only in my own mind!” Really what it is about for these great kids, I think, is making a connection with someone. Someone from outside of their own little world; someone who makes something that they are familiar with: Books. A constant theme throughout these thank you letters is them realizing that THEY can be successful. “I didn’t think I could draw, but you showed me that I can do it!”, wrote a 3rd grade girl. At a comics making residency in a middle school, an 8th grade boy told me on the first day, reluctantly, that there was no way he could write a comic, because he could not read. He was expressionless and appeared defeated before we even started. This threw me for a second; but I looked at his paper, and noticed that he had started doodling a picture of a stunt man jumping off of a building in a movie scene. I got excited, as one of my childhood dreams was to become a stunt man- even practicing many dangerous (read, “idiotic”) stunts in my own back yard. (that’s a story for another day) But when I shared that with him, we began to talk about movie stunts, and how they’re done. We made a connection. We then looked at his drawing together and talked about what his stuntman character could be doing and what he and the movie director might be saying. By the end of the week, that student, who could not read, succeeded at not only drawing, but WRITING his own comic, complete with a beginning, middle and end. I still remember how that boy’s smile lit up the entire room. Yep, it’s been a great school year.
EXTRA, EXTRA! This summer I’ll be presenting kids comics programs at several libraries as part of the Summer Reading Series, with the theme of “Every Hero Has a Story”. Come see me in Ann Arbor, MI for the Kids Read Comics event, June 20 & 21st. And then I hit the South Carolina coast for visits in July: Myrtle Beach, Georgetown and Hilton Head branches. Also Hendersonville, NC- can’t forget the mountains!
ALSO: Work continues on the next volume in the Hamster SAM series; “The California Cheese Rush” is due out this fall!