We've been incredibly blessed in this endeavor to meet and work with some amazing people. A short while back we got to meet one of the most talented children's books illustrators in the business, Lea Lyon (her first name is pronounced Lee).
This weekend we are heading to a conference in Sacramento, and one of the books that has sold incredibly well there is Leah's amazing "Playing War." So, since I was thinking about her as I packed our boxes for the conference, I thought I'd take a few moments to celebrate her and the incredible work she does. The theme of this story? Simple. Sometimes it takes just the right image to help someone find their voice.
The image to the left was created by Lea as a gift to President Obama. Here's a little bit about Lea from her biography on her web site:
Lea Lyon is an award-winning children's book illustrator, painting teacher and portrait artist who has made a childhood dream come true.
Lea loved to draw and paint as a child. She took art classes from a tiny white-haired artist who had converted her garage into a magical children's painting studio. Lea graduated to oil paints when she was 11.
And - she wanted to be a children's book illustrator when she grew up.
But life, as it often does, got in the way; College, raising a family, running a small doll and puppet business, then back to school for an MBA and into the corporate world.
Now, at long last, Lea is a children's book illustrator.
She is an active member of The SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.) Her illustration portfolios won awards twice at SCBWI National Conferences. As the Illustrator Coordinator of the San Francisco region of SCBWI she coordinates events for Bay Area illustrators.
Now, let's celebrate some of the wonderful books Lea has illustrated and which we sell here at Reach And Teach!
When we decided to launch Reach And Teach we went on the lookout for books that would help adults talk to children about war. One day as I was riding on a Palo Alto bus some kids sitting near me were making the bang bang bang sounds of play war and talking about how neat it must be to drop bombs on a place and watch them explode. Having spent time with a small boy who had nearly lost both arms and legs to a cluster bomb in Afghanistan, I knew what it was like for real children in real wars. That's why when I discovered Playing War I knew it had to be one of our products. This amazing book written by Kathy Beckwith and illustrated by Lea Lyon tells the story of a lazy Summer day when a group of kids are bored and decide to play war. What they don't realize is that one of their newest friends has been through a war, and he has something to teach them all about what it is really like. The tough thing the boy faces is finding his voice so that he can tell his story. It takes quite a bit before he finally tells them, and then it is up to them to find the courage to hear it all.
Not heavy handed at all, this book opens the door to discussion with children about what war is really like, and why "playing war" might seem like fun, but is an all too terrible a reality for many across the world.
We've sold over 100 copies of this book and have been told by many people how valuable it was for them to be able to find their voices, to share their feelings about war with a child in their lives who loved playing war. No, not all the kids stopped playing war, but some did, and at least folks in their lives felt like they had started down the path of truly sharing their values and concerns with someone they loved.
Bullying is one of the most serious problems children face and "Say Something" has been one of our favorite recommendations to teachers, faith-group leaders, parents, and others who want to provide some tools to help children deal with bullies in their midst. Even adults can learn something from this book! How many times have any of us been faced with a situation where someone is being hurt, but we don't know what to do? We all need to find our voices and if we had this kind of lesson early enough in life, perhaps we wouldn't have as much trouble as adults standing up for what is right.
Finding your voice can be especially hard when you have a disability or special needs. In Keep Your Ear on the Ball, everyone wants to help Davey, who is blind, but Davey keeps refusing their help. He doesn't know how to tell them what he really wants. This story reminds me of something I learned in Afghanistan and El Salvador. Many people live by the Golden Rule, which we intepret as "do unto others as we would like them to do unto us." The problem with that is that everyone is not the same as us. We had all kinds of ideas for what Afghans or Salvadorans might want, or at least we knew what we would want if we lived in the places we visited in Afghanistan and El Salvador. But I've come to learn, for myself at least, that the Golden Rule should be to get to know others, understand how THEY want to be treated, and then treat them accordingly. Do unto others how they would appreciate you doing unto them, and hopefully, they will get to know you well enough to do nicely unto you!
Well, Davey, in this story, didn't want people to help with all the things they thought THEY would want help with if THEY were blind. But as the story progresses, the children around Davey finally do learn how to help Davey, so that he can be INCLUDED! This is a great story, beautifully illustrated by Leah Lyon. We haven't sold nearly enough of these books because at first glance people think it is just about being blind. It isn't. Once again, it is about finding your voice.
One of the greatest things we learned early on with Reach And Teach was the power of picture books to help people find their voices. We've had Middle School, High School, and even College teachers tell us that they use picture books because of the powerful way images can evoke emotions and launch profound discussions. We've seen that in action ourselves, as we've worked with children and adults in classrooms, workshops, and at other events.
So, as we head off to the Home Schooling Conference in Sacramento, we want to celebrate the role of picture books in helping to create a more peaceful, inclusive, and green world and thank you to Lea Lyon for her incredible contribution to those efforts.
Oh yes.... I almost forgot! Lea's latest book (which we'll soon carry), is called The Miracle Jar, and it is all about Hanukkah, connecting past and present and the continuing potential for miracles. We at Reach And Teach feel as though we've had our share of miracles, including the opportunity to meet and work with Lea.
Here are some more of the picture books we offer at Reach And Teach.