Friday, March 20, 2009

Moon Wolf

I'm sitting looking at a printout of the computer draft of 'Moon Wolf', the book that has been put together with a poem I wrote and a number of staggeringly beautiful illustrations created by our children under the guidance of Ruth Marks, Amelia's mother.

I want to ruminate a little on the process by which this book has come together. It has been a journey - one that is not ended yet, although the end is in sight. It started at the Ann Arbor Book Fair last May, with children stopping by the Summers-Knoll booth to make little books for themselves with pictures and stickers and words. Kim and I were staffing the booth, and of course we started making little books too. How could we resist?

Long story short: Kim made some little pictures and showed them to me. I improvised a little story to go with them, and a tiny book was born. But more than that, a seed of an idea was born which Kim nurtured and watered until quite recently. Then she said, 'Why don't you write a book and have the children illustrate it?'

Well, before I knew where I was, Melissa Bruzzano had picked up on the idea, and now I had two of them asking me what I was going to write. What I actually did was take the opening stanzas of a long narrative poem I had written some years before, and I offered that to the children. It was called 'Moon Wolf'.

Ruth Marks, who is an amazing professional artist, agreed to work with our children on the project, and all through the dreary month of February she and the students from the whole school made the winter seem brighter by working on enormous and largely collaborative pieces of art in different media. The K/1 children worked on washes and sweeps of textured color, colors of sunrises and midnights, backdrops for a wolf's journey. The 2/3 class was interested in the wolf's run through New York City, and they worked together on a huge cityscape, with tall buildings, streets and traffic. The 4/5s focused on landscapes: mountain ranges, polar ice, forests. Several of the children of all ages made portraits of my wolf. When everything was done, all the illustrations were taken in a huge pile to James Marks, who worked like a hero to sift through them all for the perfect images to create each page of text. He scanned them, photoshopped them, entered the text, and the book took shape.

Most of the images were developed by several children. When the selections were made, no one knew who had drawn what. Each illustration is a collaboration and a fusion of energy from each class. That is what makes them so special, and makes me so proud of the finished product. I feel as if every child's spirit is represented in the overall response.

There were many, many wonderful images to choose from, and relatively few pages on which to place them. Because of that, we are including a final page with a collage of images that we didn't have space for within the story itself. I hope that everyone will recognize something that they helped create.

The book is currently in to the printer, and we will receive a mock-up copy in due course. After alterations, it will be printed as a bound paperback book. We are selling it as a fundraiser for the school's Scholarship Fund, and the proceeds will be used to support student tuition for those who need it. Melissa has given out pre-order forms, but the actual launch of the book will be at Eudaimonia, our auction fundraiser at the Ann Arbor Art Center on May 9th. This event has really become an art-and-auction event: the children are in the process of making one-of-a-kind collaborative art pieces, Ruth and several other artists are donating unique and original works of art, and 'Moon Wolf' original illustrations will be up for auction too. It is a celebration of the creative spirit of our children and our whole community.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Update on Reusable Shopping Bag Campaign

Some of you will remember that last year, Susan Carpenter and her class of social activists mounted a campaign to educate the community about the negative effects of plastic grocery bags. They put a huge ball of plastic grocery bag trash together and presented it to the Mayor at a City Council Meeting, showing eloquence. poise, self-confidence, and passion for their cause as they made a speech in front of the councilors and general public.

At that time, the Mayor told our students that plans were being drafted to ban plastic grocery bags in Ann Arbor. Then, just the other day, I received information through the Chamber of Commerce about a survey and focus groups that have been set up to gather public feedback on this issue. I have included the information at the end of this blog entry. If you would like to participate in the survey or in a focus group discussion session, the links and contact information are listed below.

I can't help hypothesizing that our fledgling 2nd and 3rd grade activists helped this process along. Our students can be very proud of themselves: they made their voices heard, and helped the decision-makers in our community understand the sincerity and commitment of our young people. Kudos to all of them!

City of Ann Arbor Seeks Input on Shopping Bag Use
Survey & Two Business Focus Groups
Tuesday, March 31

Zingerman's Road House
2501 Jackson Rd, Ann Arbor
8:30am - 9:30am
Thursday, April 2
Downtown Development Authority Office
150 S. Fifth Ave, Ste. 301, Ann Arbor
8:30am - 9:30am
City of Ann Arbor officials are considering policies that reduce the litter and waste from disposable shopping bags and encourage consumers to choose reusable shopping bags. The public is invited to provide input on a range of possible local shopping bag policies through online surveys and business focus group sessions. The comments received by early May will help shape future City Council actions.

· Surveys are posted at through April 30, 2009. Two variations of the survey are provided: one for general consumers; and a second designed for business owners, managers, and employees.

· Interested business representatives are encouraged to attend one of two business focus group discussions to be held on Tuesday, March 31, 8:30am - 9:30am at Zingerman's Road House or on Thursday, April 2, 8:30am - 9:30am at the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Office at 150 S. Fifth Ave., Suite 301. Pre-registration to these free sessions is appreciated. Light refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP to Katie at 734.794.6000 extension 43728 or to

· Requests for mailed copies of the survey and general comments on promoting reusable shopping bags are being handled by Katie at 734.794.6000 extension 43728 and through