Saturday, February 11, 2017

Travis Jonker: Creating Unusual Books Outside The Boundaries

Travis Jonker is a K-4 elementary school librarian in Michigan. In 2007 he started the kid lit blog, 100 scope notes (hosted on School Library Journal). He co-founded "The Yarn" podcast with his friend Colby Sharp, where they interview creators of children's books. (The Jason Reynolds, Mo Willems and Gary Schmidt episodes are among his favorite.) He's also part of The Creativity Project, a book of writing prompts (and responses) from about 40 children's book authors. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal, and was a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee.

Travis is our guide to books that push boundaries, with the hope that it will spark something for everyone attending.

He recommends 100 Great Children's Picture Books by Martin Salisbury, about the history of picture books. Why? Travis quotes Martin,

"The very best work comes from a mixture of respect for history and a healthy disrespect for convention."

Travis shares his "six most experimental Caldecott winners of all time":

The Little House: Her Story by Virginia Lee Burton - dares to just show the one scene for much of the book, and how over time the countryside changes.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - dared to show child protagonist with faults, changed perceptions of how

Tuesday by David Wiesner - surrealness, wordless,

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - hundred of pages long, meshing illustration and text in new way

The Three Pigs by David Wiesner - laid groundwork for lot of meta works that came after

Black and White by David Macaulay - so complex - telling four stories that intertwine

He breaks down the three main ways books break boundaries (Format, Subject Matter, and Convention), and shares many examples of each, talking about each and what make them unique. A few examples from his presentation:

Format (physical nature)

Robo Sauce by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

The Onion's Great Escape by Sara Fanelli

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier

Subject Matter (what it's about)

Samira and the Skeleton by Camilla Kuhn (a little girl who's freaked out that we all have skeletons inside us)

Baa Baa Smart Sheep : Warning! Contains Mischief by Mark and Rowan Sommerset (a sheep tricks a turkey into eating… wait for it… poop.)

The Unofficial Holy Bible for Minecrafters: A Children's Guide to the Old and New Testament by Garrett Romines and Christopher Miko (The Bible for kids. Pixelated. Minecraft-style.

Convention (way things are normally done)

Press Here by Hervé Tullet - groundbreaking

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis - invented language

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, pictures by Matthew Myers

Travis challenges each us to take elements of three books that were outside the boundaries to come up with something new.

The session is inspiring -- Travis not only loves these unusual books, he's able to convey his excitement to us all!

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