This post is not your typical From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors blog.
It does not involve Middle-Grade books.
It is not a review of an up-and-coming release.
It is not an author or agent interview.
But it does involve Magic!
It does involve books.
It does involve those who create them.
And it does involve those who serve as stewards of children’s literature.
Okay, so now that I have your attention, allow me to share an incredible experience at the University of Findlay’s Mazza Museum.
Not familiar with the Mazza Museum? Understood. Even Dare Coulter, illustrator of Kwame Alexander’s An American Story was not aware of this special place.
The Mazza Museum has the largest collection of original artwork from picture books in the world. IN THE WORLD!
Their mission is to Promote literacy and enrich the lives of all people through the art of picture books.
Trust me, after any visit to the Mazza Museum one feels enriched. However, I had the magical experience of taking Dare Coulter to the museum for the first time, in conjunction with her participation in Claire’s Day. I’m sure it will not be her last.
Dare was in awe from the moment we stepped into the galleries. The walls are lined with framed, original artwork from children’s book illustrators. Beneath each piece, a copy of the book from which the illustration came is on display, ready for visitors to explore and connect with.
Even cooler yet, is a plaster mold of the artist’s hand. Not to be confused with the actual hand of the illustrator, as one young visitor thought, Mazza Museum Director Ben Sapp offered.
Ben was so gracious to give Dare and me a private tour, which began with a huge connecting point for Dare.
When she was a young student, Dare’s teacher recognized her artistic talent. Patricia Polacco was creating a mural at Dare’s school. The teacher allowed Dare to miss regular classes and spend time with the famous illustrator and artist.
The Mazza Museum proudly displays Ms. Polacco’s original Keeping Quilt, framed behind glass. The worn edges and tattered cloth reflect how loved the quilt was through the generations.
Dare nearly cried when seeing the quilt.
The three of us walked quickly through the galleries, taking in the nearly 300 original works by children’s book illustrators throughout the history of picture books.
Then, after asking about Leo and Diane Dillon and Lois Mailou Jones, Ben unlocked the secured and temperature-controlled vault. Over 19,000 works are carefully stored and cared for here. 19,000 original works by children’s book illustrators.
Children’s book illustrator Dare Coulter and Mazza Museum Ben Sapp with an original piece from Wanda Gag
Dare with an original piece from Leo and Diane Dillon.
Our visit wrapped with an invitation from Ben to have Dare sign “the wall” in the staff offices. Within minutes, Dare created this beautiful work.
As she turned to say goodbye to Ben, she looked directly across the room, and there, was Patricia Polacco’s signature and illustration.
It was a full circle moment, taking Dare back to her childhood when as a little girl, her teacher encouraged her talent and gave her the opportunity to spend time with the renowned artist at work.
It was not lost on any of us that Dare was visiting Northwest Ohio as a result of celebrating a little girl who was passionate about books.
Just think of the power we all have, as educators, authors and illustrators, library media specialists, children’s book festival organizers, and museum curators, to touch the lives of children through books.
We create Magic.