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.


  1. Joanna, What a beautiful story. I love how the art is such a collaboration and not each page done by just one child. Amazing. I can't wait to see the fully finished project. Are you going to ask local bookstores if they will carry it?

  2. Yes, Nicola's Books, Crazy Wisdom, Downtown Home and Garden and Falling Water have all agreed to carry it. I'm excited. It will be on sale after May 9th, the date of our book launch/auction fundraiser party.