Dana Sullivan Draws a Roar!
Welcome to Library Lions interviews. Author/Illustrator Dana Sullivan is stopping by to share his books, art, and Library Love. Take it away Dana!
I write and illustrate picture books and also teach picture book and graphic novel making at local art centers, colleges and LIBRARIES. I absolutely adore libraries. I live in Newcastle, Washington, where we have a fairly new library with a sod roof. I keep suggesting they introduce some goats up there to keep the grass under control, but so far, no luck. I also love school libraries and the librarians (and volunteers!) who run them. And, of course, the kids who visit them.
Funding for libraries, especially school libraries, is currently under threat. As an author and illustrator, what are your thoughts about that?
This is a tragedy! I already hate that my library is closed on Sundays, when I really want to go. My library has reading time for toddlers, craft making, language lessons, free wi-fi and lots of community resources. Oh, and did you know they have books? All kinds of books on all kinds of topics. I spend most of my time in the picture book section.
When I want to know about something, the picture books are my first stop. They give me info in nice, small words I can understand with lots of pictures. I usually end up moving to the adult section to learn more, but the picture books get my interest piqued. Where else are people going to go to learn, meet people and read good books if the library is closed? Plus, librarians are the toughest when it comes to keeping books from being banned! Go librarians!
Library Love When You Were a Cub
When I was little I wanted to be Maurice Sendak
I’m not Maurice Sendak but I make picture books.
Author/illustrator: Ozzie and the Art Contest, Sleeping Bear Press, 2013
Illustrator: the Digger and Daisy early reader series, Sleeping Bear Press; Bob Books, Scholastic. More picture books here
My library had summer reading contests when I was a kid, just learning to read. I remember lugging home a stack of books in a bag and sitting on my cat’s tail so she couldn’t run away while I read to her.
I’ve always loved books and stories, but I’m not sure Suki ever really got into books. I think she was more of a graphic novel kind of cat, before there were graphic novels.
A Lion’s Pride of Programs
At school library visits, I read my book, Kay Kay’s Alphabet Safari, and show slides.
Kay Kay’s Alphabet Safari, Sleeping Bear Press, 2014.
I also tell them about my life and family, where I get my ideas and how I always wanted to be a children’s book author and illustrator, but came to it fairly late in life. Kay Kay is based on a real school and orphanage in Kenya, so I show a lot of pictures of Kenya, the kids and school. It’s a revelation to them to learn that there are places in the world without running water, school desks and electricity. They also get to learn how to say “my brother picks his nose” in Swahili.
When I visit the public library as an author, it’s usually to do a story time with the toddlers.
They can be a scary crowd, because I get instant feedback on how well I’m holding their attention. But if they’re into it, they just keep inching closer and closer (sometimes I hear the theme to Jaws in my head) until they’re in your lap or hanging over your shoulder. That’s the best. School and library visits are the coolest thing about my job, because I get to interact with kids and get ideas from them.
More Library Love
I will be presenting Graphic Novel Making workshop at various King County libraries this fall, through their Maker Culture Series.
These are mostly for middle school tweens and teens, but I’ve had some kids as young as five participate (and they are good!).
It’s a two-hour workshop in which we share our favorite graphic novels, followed by a drawing demo and discussion about how dialogue, sound effects and emotions work in comics. Then they create their own one-page graphic novel, starring their hero (or themselves). The great thing about graphic novels is that they can be goofy, like Big Nate or Phoebe and Her Unicorn, or scary and dark like… um, I don’t read those because they scare me. But the kids come up with some seriously cool comics and graphic novels! They don’t have the same fear adults do about not being the best artists in the world, so they just tell great stories.
This past weekend I played in a trio on the porch of the Newcastle library, which was a blast. I play drums with two friends who play stand-up bass and guitar. Nobody ever says “shush” at libraries anymore, which is good, even though we were pretty quiet. But the whole day was filled with art, music and singing. I love our library!
Roar For Librarians
Two librarians I particularly love are Vicki Heck, librarian for at my Newcastle public library and Joyce Boewe-Wiczulis, librarian for Hazel Valley Elementary in Burien, WA. They have not only been so supportive of me as an author/illustrator, but they are innovative and so involved in their communities. Vicki brings new offerings to her library in the form of music, arts and public forums and Joyce gets her kids so enthused about reading through any means possible, including having them make their own comics starring themselves as super heroes. Joyce also gave me one of my best read-aloud tips: take the book jacket off before you start reading. It just keeps slipping and gets in your way. (Thanks Joyce!)
Thank you, Dana for your terrific Roar and all the fun illustrations!!
Note to Librarians: If you’re a Youth Librarian working in a school or public library we’d love to hear about you and your library. Email Janet on the Contact page on this website for an interview.
Note to Authors: If you’re interested in Roaring for Libraries on this blog, contact Janet.