November 7th, 2008

Caldecott or Newbery?

Last night I took the kids over to the gym. Syd did boring repetitive things with weights and T. and I chatted in the hot tub. In order to get to go to the gym, T. got his homework done, a lot of it while hanging out in the car waiting for Syd to be finished with his rehearsal. When there isn’t a lot of homework, we get to read during that time, but we didn’t get to yesterday and had to postpone until after the gym. Our current book is Inkheart. The chat in the hot tub started with that book, and, as our conversations do, wound around to other books and eventually to T.R. asking a very interesting question: Which would you rather win, the Caldecott or the Newbery?

I said I’d rather win the Newbery because it’s a writing award. T. couldn’t decide which he’d rather win, but he said to me that I should want to win the Caldecott because I already write well and if I could win the Caldecott it would mean I had also learned to draw well. Sometimes he says the nicest things!

He also talked with me about the essay he’s working on for class. His thesis is that drawing helps with writing and he uses his own work on his fantasy book as an example. I haven’t read the essay, but I have observed his writing process and I would agree that drawing does help him along, particularly with character development. Once he has the villain properly drawn and armed and accessorized, he then feels able to describe him (they’re all male at this point) in lovingly gory detail.

Based on my experience this week, I’d say that drawing helps my writing process, too, but in a different way. In order to draw at all, I have to bind and gag my critical self. I have to tune out the distractions around me in the room, but especially in my brain, so I can perceive what I’m drawing well enough to execute some kind of copy of it. It brings me to a childlike place, a place where there was no guilt involved in coloring for hours, using up sheet after sheet of paper.

And once that kid in me is awake, I find that I can write much more easily. So by playing as if I could ever win the Caldecott, I might help myself toward winning a Newbery some day. If not, at least I get to have fun and I have a smart kid who is writing a perceptive essay to talk with.