His favorite teachers, the intersection of art and science, and more
There are many wonderful children’s authors, but Peter H. Reynolds holds a special place in my heart. You probably know him for The Dot, which is perhaps his most well-known creation – and my first grader’s all-time-favorite book. (Granted she’s only six, but it’s held the top spot for months, which is a big deal!)
Even before reading The Dot, though, we stumbled upon Sky Color – and were immediately hooked on Reynolds’ work.
My daughter is uber creative, so her experience (and mine) with Sky Color went far beyond its gentle messages about not allowing obstacles to deter you, and letting inspiration be your guide. She and I were mesmerized by Reynolds’ use of color – and, in some cases, the absence of it.
My personal favorite, Going Places, is another masterpiece. The book beautifully shows how far you can go when you toss aside cookie-cutter instructions, and rely on intuition and inventiveness instead.
It reminded me of my son’s passion for engineering, as well as my daughter’s many forms of creative expression.
Going Places also provides an excellent example of why we should be open to others’ view points, and what you can accomplish with teamwork. (Again, none of these messages are in your face; Reynolds simply leads us to these conclusions as we get to know his characters.)
I also love how Reynolds approached the illustrations for Going Places; many of the layouts were unexpected in one way or another. Both the story line and the mixture of visual perspectives keep readers guessing. The ending is fantastic, too.
Find your “twin”
I asked Reynolds himself about the people and experiences that have influenced his books. He said that although, growing up can be tough sometimes, it’s important to keep looking for your “twin.”
“I was born a twin, so I’ve had someone by my side since birth,” he said. “Pretty lucky, eh? Even if you were born alone, though, there’s at least one person who will ‘get you’ and support you. And that’s all you need. Some people have thousands of social media friends; true friends are rare. Take care of the ones you have. Also, be your own best friend.”
The intersection of art, math & science
I also asked Reynolds about his thoughts on the intersection of art, math and science, which he so brilliantly shows in Going Places.
“Story is art, and beneath every great story is a ‘spine’ that holds it all together. That spine is logic, and logic is the foundation of mathematics,” he explained. “Math and science are intertwined, too, so I see creativity as the fuel for all scientific discovery.”
A great teacher can change everything
I also was curious about the teachers and mentors who have influenced his work – and life. (From Sky Color to The Dot, Reynolds dedicates each book to one of them.)
“It’s a special privilege to thank a mentor or teacher with a book dedication,” he said. “I have a teacher who changed my life in seventh grade. His name was Mr. Matson and he noticed I loved to draw and doodle through class, so he challenged me to use my art, storytelling and imagination to teach math.”
Reynolds said he created a comic book with this goal in mind, and when he brought it to school, Mr. Matson pointed out that what he’d created also was called a storyboard – a tool that filmmakers use to plan out their films.
“So, at age 12, I made my first animated film to teach math!” he exclaimed. “That moment changed my life. My teacher not only connected math to storytelling; he did something even more sublime and powerful: he noticed me. How poetically simple. Me. I mattered. That is powerful. There are so many children waiting for a similar moment. To be noticed. To have their potential seen and discovered.”
I couldn’t agree more, Peter. Thank you for taking the time to share your insights with me. I am truly honored.