Saturday, October 6, 2012

Day SIX: 31 DAYS: the one where I reveal my author crush on Lois Lowry and talk about exciting Lowry news!

I didn't come to know Newberry Award-winning author Lois Lowry in the usual way -- through her famous YA The Giver Trilogy .  Instead I found Lowry in a way more familiar to me.  I found her through a picture book.

In 2010, I was hired to illustrate a very special children's book.  Klinger, A Story of Honor and Hope , was crafted as a gift for every military child who has lost a parent.  Klinger is a real-life horse who serves as a soldier at Fort Myer and offers dignity to our military families on a daily basis as he participates in honor funerals at Arlington National Cemetery.  The book, written by Betsy Beard for TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), exudes honor and hope through loss and disappointment.  As I prepared to create the artwork, I searched for children's book inspiration with a similar tone and spirit.  I only found one that really spoke to me.

It was Crow Call  by Lois Lowry.

In Crow Call Lowry beautifully depicts a day in her own childhood, a day when she and her father tenuously attempted to reconnect after his return from war.  I instantly fell in love with Lowry's storytelling skills. The strain between father and daughter was palpable, as was the yearning.  It's beautiful, simple and slow.  In all the best ways.  And the illustrations are perfection.  Bagram Ibatoulline, of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane fame, captures the gorgeous fall day in paintings that feel a bit like old photographs.  Official book crush for me.  Whenever I needed inspiration, I poured into Crow Call until the proper hush settled within me, and then I worked on Klinger.

This year I've expanded my Lowry library.  She is an amazing storyteller, no matter what she writes.  With so few words she says so very much.  Number the Stars is one of the most precious books I've ever read.  I can't get it out of my mind.  If you have a child 9 or above, read this with them.  Whatever age you are, read it for yourself.  Lowry tells a snippet of World War II not well known, and beautifully triumphant.  I cried my eyes out, and can't stop thinking about it.

My first grader and I are currently reading Lowry's Gooney Bird Greene , a hilarious chapter book with a completely different feel.  It's a great book to introduce your child to story writing skills and a one-of-kind, quirky girl named Gooney Bird.

In addition, this year I finally read The Giver , followed by Gathering Blue and Messenger .  I've already written a lot about my experience reading them {here}, {here}, and {here}.  Even if you don't read the other two, I can't recommend The Giver highly enough.  Lowry's carefully sparse and carefully crafted words left me with a deeper appreciation for life -- in all its color, sound, and even its trouble.

I was overjoyed today to read that, after 20 years since The Giver's first release, Lois Lowry has crafted a final novel in the series.  The book is simply entitled, Son .  The trilogy is now a quartet.

For those who have read the series, this one centers around Gabe and his birth mother's search for him.  Click {here} to read a Good Reads interview with Lowry about the release of Son .  The interview mentions that Lowry lost her own adult son in Iraq and some of those feelings found their way into the story.  Lowry is a master of words, and a master of the heart.

If you are interested, you can read about my lessons from Klinger {here}.  Working on this book was life and perspective changing.  I will never forget these kids, or my walk through Arlington on Memorial weekend, the memorial service I attended, or a special son named Brad.

Click {here} to read Day SEVEN and find out why I have a crush on an illustrated reptile.  Or click {here} to read the 31 DAYS series from the beginning.

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