"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."


Friday, October 19, 2007

Robert's Snow: Jeff Mack and the Pensive Pig - Poetry Friday

Robert's Snow was founded by children's book illustrator Grace Lin and her husband Robert as a fundraiser to benefit Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The story is a touching one and you can read all about it here.

I first heard of Robert’s Snow while doing my daily reading at 7-Imp, one of the blogs I read religiously. Eisha and Jules had a fantastic idea, get the kidlit bloggers to pitch in and feature an illustrator or two or five to drive traffic to the Robert’s Snow Snowflake auctions. The response was terrific (who wouldn’t want to pitch in?) and I eagerly threw my hat in the ring.

My first illustrator/snowflake feature landed on a Friday and I was torn. I couldn’t miss Poetry Friday! I love Poetry Friday and I loved the idea of featuring an illustrator. I was committed to the feature and determined to have my Poetry Friday cake too. But how? At 7:15 a.m. just before running out the door to work, an answer landed right into my laptop with the name Roald Dahl. I know! You’re mystified. Well, stay with me and you’ll see what I mean.

My illustrator today is Jeff Mack. Born in Syracuse, New York, Jeff Mack spent most of his childhood drawing monsters, writing horror stories, and building haunted houses in his basement.

Having spent five years as a full-time muralist, he began illustrating children's books in 2001, starting with Linda Ashman's Rub-a-Dub Sub, a Junior Library Guild selection and Bill Martin Jr. Award nominee. Since then he has illustrated thirteen picture books, including James Howe's Ready-to-Read Bunnicula series and Eve Bunting's Hurry! Hurry ! He has also written and illustrated Hush Baby Polar Bear to be published by Roaring Brook in 2008.

Now at home in the high peaks of Western Massachusetts, he continues to write and illustrate books, paint murals, and talk with school groups about his work.

Jeff is currently in Buffalo, NY visiting elementary schools but he still managed to take time from his busy schedule to write me a nice email about Robert’s Snow and a bit about his snowflake.

I chose Jeff’s snowflake for the title alone – Pensive Pig. Anyone who reads me here at AmoXcalli knows my granddaughter Jasmine has a thing for pigs. Together, we occasionally review books about pigs so when I saw a snowflake with a pig in the title, well I just had to choose it. When I saw it, I wanted it for Jasmine. I’ll be bidding but I hope I have lots of competition. Here are Jeff’s own words about his snowflake and Robert’s Snow below his very Piggerific snowflake.

About a year ago I heard someone on the radio talking about the structural similarities between pig and human brains. I starting imagining pigs using their brains to have some of the same moments of epiphany that humans sometimes have (like the ones pictured in old Renaissance paintings). I made a few portraits of pigs involved in deep concentration. When the snowflake project came along, I thought that the snowflake may someday be used as a Christmas gift. So I decided to put one of the thinking pigs on the snowflake to remind the receiver that "it's the thought that counts".

What brought me to Robert's Snow was meeting Grace Lin at the Smith College Campus School Book fair in Northampton, MA. We talked about illustrating books, and she asked me if I'd like to be involved in the snowflake project.

You can find out more about Jeff Mack’s work on his website. I’m especially fond of his murals.

When I read this email from Jeff this morning and his words about the thinking pig, I remembered that Roald Dahl wrote a very dark little poem about a thinking pig and that’s when I knew I had not only a post about Robert’s Snow, but my Poetry Friday post as well.

The Pig

In England once there lived a big
And wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn't read.
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn't puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.
What was the reason for his birth?
Why was he placed upon this earth?
His giant brain went round and round.
Alas, no answer could be found.
Till suddenly one wondrous night.
All in a flash he saw the light.
He jumped up like a ballet dancer
And yelled, "By gum, I've got the answer!"

Read the rest of the poem here.

The round up is over at Kelly Fineman’s today. Thanks for hosting Kelly! This post will also post on Cuentecitos.


Sara said...

That pig is not only adorably elegant, but wise and witty too: "It's the thought that counts." How about a whole book of this pig's pensive musings? I want it!

TadMack said...

Hah! I don't know how you found such a great poem to go with the picture. The pig is totally thinking of the meaning of life, you just know it!
Great post!

Mary Lee said...

"It's the thought that counts." LOL! The back stories on these snowflakes make me want EVERY one of them!

Cloudscome said...

You are so clever remembering that Dahl poem and pulling this all together! I love the thinking pig.

jama said...

What a great poem! So very "Dahl-ish." Wonderful tie in and feature of Jeff Mack's snowflake.

jules said...

Gina, this is GREAT! I recently reviewed his illustrated Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting. I love his art work in that.

And I not only love how you tied it in to Poetry Friday, but I love that Dahl poem. I'd love to read that to a group of kids.

That snowflake really is great, too. Good luck bidding on it!

LindaBudz said...

Geesh! At first I thought you were joking about the poem being "dark." My bad!

Great snowflake ... that pig is nothing if not pensive!

Hey Teach! said...

How great to tie in the snowflake and poem. I LOVE the poem. Dahl has always been a favorite author but somehow this one passed me by til now.

Anonymous said...

I went to college with Jeff Mack! I am thrilled to see how successful he's become. He was always very talented and a super nice guy.