It’s not every day that a two-time Caldecott-Honor-Winning author and illustrator visits your school. Second and third graders at Todd Elementary prepared for the author and illustrator Brian Pinkney’s visit in various ways: They read and discussed several of his books with teacher librarian Tara Phethean, including his book about Ella Fitzgerald; they tried his swirl painting technique with art teacher Paul Villanueva; and they learned about scatting like Ella with music teacher Jenna Stufkowsky.
After all this preparation, it was time to meet Mr. Pinkney in a virtual visit that was generously made possible by the PTA.
During the visit, Mr. Pinkney was able to show the students his studio and his own artwork that he hangs on the walls, as well as some of the tools that he uses for illustrating books.
He began the meeting by talking about his own father – acclaimed illustrator Jerry Pinkney – who illustrated over 100 children’s books. Mr. Pinkney also shared stories about his childhood and how he used to pose wearing different costumes so that his father could illustrate him for his own books.
Mr. Pinkney discussed his background – he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art and has so far illustrated 60 books and written about 10. He wrote his first book at age 30 but had been illustrating books many years before that.
Many of Mr. Pinkney’s books have been written by his wife, Andrea Davis Pinckney, and he shared how they come up with ideas together when they collaborate on a book.
Mr. Pinkney also shared some of his writing techniques and drew a sketch, while also discussing his scratchboard technique.
His book “Max Found Two Sticks” is about a boy who likes to play the drums, and Mr. Pinckney had the students do a bit of drumming in class. He also mentioned a book that his wife wrote and he illustrated, “Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa,” and had the students practice scatting.
Later in the meeting students were able to ask Mr. Pinkney questions.
Students wanted to know if he wanted to be a book creator when he was a kid, and Mr. Pinkney responded that he did not and that he was more into comic books.
He described himself as an illustrator first and a writer second. He said that when he writes a book, he thinks visually, so he illustrates first, and then the story comes to him. He then adds the words to go with the pictures.
Several students wanted to know who his favorite author was, to which he replied, “my wife.”
His favorite book that he didn’t illustrate is “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” while his favorite book when he was a child is “Where the Wild Things Are.”