Meet the Biographer

Meet the Biographer: Jane Sutcliffe

0076Jane Sutcliffe has penned books for early and middle-grade readers about Barack Obama, the War of 1812, Helen Keller, and Sacagawea. Recently, she published Stone Giant: Michelangelo’s David and How He Came to Be, a picture book about Michelangelo and his famous David sculpture. This week, she chatted with Kidsbiographer about her own encounter with David, the thrill of realizing a creative vision, and the joys of sharing her awe with young readers.

Kidsbiograper: Your author’s biography explains how you became intrigued by Michelangelo’s David during a trip to Florence. Can you talk a bit more about the story behind Stone Giant?

Jane Sutcliffe: I had only seen photos of the famous David and had always wanted to see it “in person,” but I was not prepared for how truly beautiful it is. Entering the Galleria dell’Accademia, where David is housed, is like entering a church: you walk quietly and reverently down a long aisle lined with other Michelangelo statues. At the end, in its own curved niche, stands the David. It is even taller up close than it seems in photographs, and I stood with everyone else in my tour group, our heads tilted back and jaws agape, drinking in all that beauty.

I could not stop looking at David’s face. It seemed to me the whole story of David and Goliath was told in the expression on that face. I could see David looking at his adversary in the distance. I could see him squinting a bit, judging the distance he’d have to throw his stone. I could see him owning that moment, taking the responsibility of the fight. I could see his resolve in the set of his jaw. In cold, hard stone, the artist had laid out the entire story.

I looked at that face for a very long time. So long, in fact, that the rest of the tour group moved on without us. And still I kept standing there, unable to pull myself away. My very understanding husband encouraged me to take all the time I needed. I never did catch up with the rest of the tour.

Kidsbiographer: What was the most exciting aspect of the research you conducted to write Stone Giant?

Jane Sutcliffe: Even with all the staring I had done when I visited the David, it wasn’t enough. I wanted to see more. So I was thrilled to find a collection of photographs of the sculpture by Aurelio Amendola. These were black and white close ups of every part of the sculpture: face, torso, feet. My favorite: a close-up shot of David’s right hand. It is so amazingly lifelike with veins and perfectly carved knuckles. I swear I can see pores in David’s marble “skin.”

Kidsbiographer: Throughout the text, the word giant reemerges in different contexts, referring to the original block of marble, Goliath the biblical character, the finished statue of David, and perhaps Michelangelo himself. Can you describe how this motif evolved during the writing process?

Jane Sutcliffe: The people of Florence really did refer to their big block of marble as a giant—“il gigante.” It was really just a happy accident that the subject of the marble was David, the famous giant-slayer. I also knew that the word conjures up the image of a kind of “fee, fi, fo, fum” ogre, so I used that to play with the reader’s expectations a bit in the opening line of the book: “There was a giant in the city of Florence.” I liked the line, and decided it also applied to Michelangelo’s masterpiece, so I ended the book with the same line. And just like that, a theme was born. I was very pleased that the illustrator, John Shelley, picked up on the theme and showed the finished David as towering over the city like a giant. It’s a very powerful illustration.

Kidsbiographer: One of my favorite parts of Stone Giant is the book’s conclusion. Everyone in Florence is admiring the statue and embracing it as a symbol of their republic. Michelangelo, however, is not elated by the praise he and his work are receiving: “And Michelangelo? He saw his David. He was just as the artist had seen him when he first looked at his enormous stone.” He is not interested in wealth, fame, or even critical acclaim, but merely the realization of his own artistic vision. What do you hope young readers will take away from this part of the narrative?

Jane Sutcliffe: The David is a masterpiece for many reasons. I see it as a triumph of vision. I think we all have moments when we see a path clearly and know what the outcome must be. And then all we have to do is remove whatever will not take us to our goal.

Kidsbiographer: What is the most gratifying response you’ve received from a young reader about Stone Giant?

Jane Sutcliffe: I’ve been privileged to read the book to several groups of children now. Adults always seem to hold their breath when I come to the illustration of the full-length David and wonder how kids will react. But I’m happy to say I’ve never gotten a raised eyebrow, a question, a giggle, or anything other than rapt attention from young readers. Kids recognize the beauty and power of the David and simply accept it.

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

Jane Sutcliffe: I have a picture book called Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk, which is coming out next year from Charlesbridge. The book describes a typical trip to the old Globe Theatre to see a play by Mr. Shakespeare, and is told using Shakespeare’s own words (“because the long and the short of it is this: no one could tell a story like Mr. William Shakespeare.”) And I am so pleased that John Shelley will be illustrating. Together again!




Meet the Biographer: Chris Raschka

9780763658069Chris Raschka has written and illustrated countless picture books, including biographies of jazz icons Charlie Parker and John Coltrane. This year, he published The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra, a picture-book biography of jazz innovator Sun Ra. This week, he chatted with Kidsbiographer about the translating the spirit of jazz onto the printed page and the challenge of portraiture.

Kidsbiographer: How did you first encounter Sun Ra’s music, and what made you decide to write his picture-book biography?

Chris Raschka: I first heard Sun Ra’s music when I was a teen; his music was definitely in the air, even for rock and roll listeners like me, but I didn’t think to make a picture book of his life and music, really, until I got hold of the Evidence release of Sun Ra’s singles, which came out in the early 00‘s. It’s a collection of the many pieces that Sun Ra put out over his long career that became hit records. Each one is a number one hit for sure; only America didn’t know it at the time. Hearing them together made me understand fully what a range of interesst Sun Ra had, and what a truly remarkable person and musician he was.

Kidsbiographer:What sort of research did you perform to write and illustrate The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra?

Chris Raschka:First and foremost, my research consisted of listening to as much of Sun Ra’s music as I could, repeatedly. Also, I read John F. Szwed’s excellent biography of Sun Ra: Space is the Place. And, not to be dismissed, I spoke with my music pals about him.

Kidsbiographer: The narrative has a conversational tone as if a storyteller were regaling an audience of young children with an account of Sun Ra’s life. How did you find your narrator’s voice for this book?

Chris Raschka: Well, originally, what I made, and what Liz Bicknell, my editor at Candlewick Press, saw first, was a very impressionistic book, based on a song form, somewhat along the lines of another of my jazz bios, Charlie Parker Played Be Bop. I was hoping to capture something of Sun Ra’s feel and flavor, and teach readers about him and his music, or introduce him and his music that way. However, Liz felt that with someone like Sun Ra, whom the majority of the American public is not aware of, a more traditional biography was required. So I thought, okay, I’ll tell it strictly as I would think that Sun Ra would wish me to tell it, especially to children, that is, that he, Sun Ra, was not of this earth, but came from Saturn. This is what I did, with a little bit of sleight of hand, in that I appealed to a child’s pretty solid reasonableness, suggesting that we all know that this couldn’t really be true—kind of letting the child reader in on the gag—but then going on to describe Sun Ra’s life really as a space traveler, which explains parts of Sun Ra’s life so well, like his genius, his iconoclasm, his outsiderness. But then to be an artist will always put you on the outside. Sun Ra took the outside to outer space. He was way,way out long before the rest of us.

Kidsbiographer: The illustrations you created for The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra are reminiscent of expressionist paintings. How did Sun Ra’s life and music influence your approach to illustrating this book?

Chris Raschka: I tried to incorporate aspects of Sun Ra’s musical creation into my own art creation. For one thing, I made sure the art was ephemeral; it’s painted on tissue paper glued to bristol boar. It’s free flowing; the watercolor and inks I used bleed nearly uncontrollably through the tissue paper. And the whole thing is heavily saturated; I used lots of color and water, and, though each piece was thought through ahead of time, they were largely improvised on the spot. Then once I had a big stack of dried and very wrinkled-up sheets of tissue paper paintings, I chose the bits I liked, tore them down to the size I wanted and then pieced them together sometimes with other bits from other paintings, and glued them onto board.

Kidsbiographer:My favorite illustration shows a young Sun Ra composing music. You use simple, childlike lines and bright colors to depict his face, intent on the job at hand, the musical notes he writes, and the stars overhead that suggest his otherworldly origins. A blank music sheet, complete with staff, forms the background for the entire painting. How did you compose this remarkable picture?

Chris Raschka: Finding the right abstraction of a person, visually, is maybe the most challenging part of any biography. Generally, there are two approaches to painting a portrait of someone: either he or she sits for you, or you work from photos, or both. Sitting for me was out of the question because Sun Ra is back on Saturn. Working from photos is possible, but I feel makes for awkward results because the imagery comes from different times in the subject;s life and from a particular point of view, and through the optics of a camera which is its own abstraction, and really is not the only way we perceive people or our world in general. It’s one way, and perhaps an easier way. But for some things, it isn’t quite right. I prefer to study the pictures of a person, then put them away, and draw and paint until I find something that satisfies me, even if it is far removed from portraiture. It is essential in a picture book that the elements that compose the pictures in the front of the book are the same as the elements in the back and all the way through, so how you proceed must be coherent and create your own kind of vocabulary for telling the story. This is the great trick.

Kidsbiographer: What do you hope young readers and listeners will take away from The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra?

Chris Raschka: Sun Ra was an American musical genius, a social pioneer, and a cosmic visionary. Perhaps having heard his name through this little book, a young reader or two will be just attuned enough to catch his way way outness when those vibrations starting ringing in their ears

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

Chris Rascka:I’m working on a variety of things: a mostly wordless cat book that I’ve been wrestling with for some years; a book about perception, science and art, featuring an owl; a book about a rainy day; a book by Julie Fogliano about a baby and a dog; and a book about an opera, The Magic Flute. Just out is a book that I made with my dear friend Vladimir Radunsky who happens to be visiting me right now from Rome and may walk into this room any minute. It’s called Alphabetabum. It is a collection of wonderful old studio photographic portraits that Vladimir has found in cities all over the world, to which I have attached poetic triplets, imagining the subjects’ names and attributes. The idea of the book is to pay a proper reverence to both the beauty of the old photos as well as to the memory of these people who lived so long ago and may be our own grand or great grandparents. I have presented this book a number of times to elementary students as a springboard to writing poetry about the students’ own found photos or photos of their ancestors. It’s worked quite well.



Meet the Biographer: Catherine Reef

catherine-reefAward-winning author Catherine Reef has written acclaimed biographies of Jane Austen, the Brontë Sisters, Ernest Hemingway, and Leonard Bernstein, among others. Most recently, she published Frida and Diego: Art, Love, Life, a dual biography of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. The book explores the couple’s art, political activity, and famously volatile relationship. This week, Reef spoke with Kidsbiographer about the joys and challenges of writing aboutthe pair’s art.

Kidsbiographer: What was the most intriguing fact or anecdote you uncovered while researching Kahlo and Rivera’s lives?

Catherine Reef: What could be more intriguing than an unsolved mystery? I came across one while doing the research for Frida & Diego, and of course I included it in my book.

It happened late in the artists’ lives, in 1952, when the Mexican government invited Rivera to paint a mural for display in Paris, at an international peace conference. Rivera, who courted controversy throughout his career, proclaimed that he would create a work “dedicated to peace,” but instead he produced what was essentially a communist propaganda poster. The Nightmare of War and the Dream of Peace presented a beaming Joseph Stalin as the world’s peacemaker, inviting other nations to sign the Stockholm Appeal, a petition calling for a ban on nuclear weapons. Beside Stalin stood his partner in peace, a beatific Mao Tse-tung. And if communist leaders offered the dream of peace, then the United States—embodied by a machinegun-wielding Uncle Sam—was the land of greed and lynchings and represented the nightmare of war.

The thing is, it was all a lie. Rivera hated Stalin and his ruthlessness; and despite his lifelong commitment to communism, he adored the United States, its industry, and the opportunities it offered him as an artist. He can only have painted as he did to draw attention to himself and to gain favor with the Mexican Communist Party, which had expelled him in 1929 for his willingness to accept commissions from government and capitalist clients.

Rivera called the mural “the best thing I have ever done,” which is what he often did when a work fell short of his artistic ideals, but he fooled no one. Mexico’s leaders refused to display a painting that in their view insulted the nation’s allies, and the Communist Party declined to reinstate Rivera.

Then, somehow, this mural, measuring 40 feet long and 10 feet high, disappeared. Stories explaining what happened to it sound like urban legends. One theory has it moldering in a Moscow warehouse. According to another, Rivera presented it to China, and Mao ordered it destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. But we don’t know. The fate of Rivera’s mural remains among the art world’s most beguiling mysteries.

Kidsbiographer: All biographers begin the research process with some preconceptions about their subjects. How did your perception of Kahlo, Rivera, and their work evolve while you wrote Frida and Diego?

Catherine Reef: Spending so much time closely studying Rivera’s and Kahlo’s work greatly increased my appreciation of the pair as artists. Because Rivera painted on such a grand scale, many of us never have the chance to view his major works directly. The paintings of his that we see in museums tend to be his depictions of peasant life, often featuring the rounded human figures and lush bundles of calla lilies for which he is known. These works are lovely and full of feeling, but the splendor and majesty of his murals are missing from them.

Through this project I learned to fully admire—and marvel at—the enormity and complexity of Rivera’s achievement. He covered wall after wall with richly populated scenes of the present and past. In Rivera’s imagined world, Mexico’s early people share space with twentieth-century Californians; peasants rub shoulders with Jefferson and Lincoln; the whole of Mexican history plays out, from the pre-Columbian era through the bloody Spanish conquest of the 1500s and the revolution of Rivera’s youth. He painted optimistically, depicting his hope for the future in the clangorous machinery of modern industry as much as in the quiet lessons of an outdoor country school. Kahlo was right when she called Rivera’s painted world “a great fiesta.”

I had seen Kahlo’s paintings, of course, but upon viewing them in conjunction with a close study of her life, I came to understand how she created a very personal symbolic language with which to depict her inner life on canvas—she was pioneering in this way, really. Kahlo has been grouped with the surrealists, but I wonder if some of her imagery doesn’t prefigure magical realism. Think of the flowers with insects’ wings that hover above her head in Self-Portrait with Necklace of Thorns (1940); the vines that grow from her body in Roots (1943) or the varied images that float on her bathwater like tiny islands in What the Water Gave Me (1938).

Kidsbiographer: What are some of your favorite paintings by Kahlo and Rivera? Why?

Catherine Reef: I am never good at choosing favorites, but I do feel drawn to Rivera’s murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts (1932-33). These twenty-seven panels celebrate industry, which in Rivera’s view offered hope to the laboring masses and made Detroit great. Grinding, turning machinery fills the largest panels. Workers operate drill presses, pull at handles, and seem to step off the walls and into the room. There’s a little bit of everything in the Detroit murals: smaller panels reveal the mineral wealth hidden below ground that made industrial development possible. Mighty hands emerge from the earth, peasants cradle fruit, a titan of industry looks down as if from a balcony, and a child grows in its mother’s womb. What a glorious achievement!

What I enjoy most about Kahlo’s work is her delightful attention to detail. Her style may appear primitive at first glance, but when we look closely we see that the thought and skill she applied to every aspect of her painting were really quite sophisticated. I love the way she painted her pet birds in Me and My Parrots (1941). I can see that she spent a long time studying the parrots’ coloration and character, and the fall of their feathers. She rendered each bird with great care, presenting it as a distinct individual. The fellow on Kahlo’s left shoulder has puffed out his plumage; the way the artist used dappling brushwork to capture this makes me smile.

I like looking at so many details in Kahlo’s work: her flyaway hair in Diego and I (1949), the yellows and pinks of the bright grain that forms a background to Self-Portrait with Monkey and Parrot (1942), and the twining tendrils in Self-Portrait as a Tehuana (1943), to name a few. This close study adds to my appreciation when I step back and view the paintings in their entirety.

Kidsbiographer: Frida and Diego explores the artists’ work and political activity. What was the most challenging aspect of conveying this often complex information for younger readers?

Catherine Reef: Art and politics were integral to the story I was telling, but it was a big challenge to decide how much information to include and where to place it. I was writing a biography, not an art book or a political history, so my goal was to weave these aspects into the subjects’ story but avoid long digressions.

When writing about the art, I needed to show how each subject developed as an artist and found his or her preferred medium and subject matter. I needed as well to provide enough information about the work to enable my readers to understand and appreciate what they were seeing. I also needed to place the work in its historical context: how did it build on the work of artists who had come before Rivera and Kahlo? Was it similar to or different from paintings being produced by their contemporaries? How was it innovative? I found it helpful to focus on major works and paintings that were pivotal in the artists’ development. I described these briefly and explained why they were significant. The fact that Frida & Diego is richly illustrated allowed me to go beyond the text in presenting some of the work; nevertheless, the number of images included is limited, as the book is, after all, a biography. It does contain a list of museums in the United States that have works by Rivera or Kahlo in their collections, and a number of these places make paintings available online. The back matter also includes a list of recommended books on the artists’ work for readers who want to explore further.

Now let’s consider politics. The artists’ long commitment to communism and Rivera’s troubled relationship with the Mexican Communist Party were integral to the drama of their lives. Leon Trotsky had an important role to play, so his predicament needed to be explained as well. I considered what my readers might already know or not know, and I anticipated questions that might occur to them as they read. Never forgetting that I was writing biography, I linked the discussion of politics to my subjects’ experience. For example, I showed the first stirrings of communist thought in Rivera’s mind by having him witness poverty in his youthful travels. When discussing the Mexican Communist Party’s activities in the 1920s, I emphasized Rivera’s role: marching, speaking at rallies, and helping to publish El Machete, the party newspaper. That the couple remained active participants in party activities throughout their lives is made plain by their participation in a political rally shortly before Kahlo’s death.

Kidsbiographer: What do you hope young adult readers will take away from Frida and Diego?

Catherine Reef: I hope my readers will come away from the book with a deeper understanding of two major figures in twentieth-century art. I hope they will have the foundation they need to delve into the artists’ work on their own and to form their own opinions about it. Ideally they will have found, in Kahlo’s paintings and Rivera’s murals, art that will continue to enrich their lives.

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

Catherine Reef: I am always happy to talk about new projects! In summer 2015, Clarion will release Noah Webster: Man of Many Words, a biography for young adults. Webster is known best for writing his great dictionary, so I got to delve into some fascinating aspects of the development of dictionaries and of written and spoken English. He was also an outspoken witness to the American Revolution and the formation of the early republic, so the book presents this part of our history along with his commentary, which was sometimes entertaining and always insightful. But behind the words and politics was a well-meaning if opinionated and socially awkward man, and the book is ultimately his story.

Meet the Biographer: Emily Arnold MCully

Emily Arnold McCully has written and illustrated numerous fiction and nonfiction picture books. This summer, she published Ida Tarbell, her first young adlt biography. This week, she took time to chat with Kidsbiographer about Tarbell’s fiercely guarded privacy, her complex views on the suffrage movement, and her own upcoming picture books. portrait

Kidsbiographer: What sort of research did you do to write Ida Tarbell?

EAM: Tarbell left most of her personal papers and photographs to the library at her alma mater, Allegheny College, in Meadville, PA. I spent time there reading letters, looking at clippings she saved, printouts of articles, notes and so forth. The nearby Drake Well Museum possesses the letters exchanged by Tarbell and her assistant Siddall. I was told, initially, that I was the first to see them – but alas, that wasn’t the case. Still, they were exciting to hold in my hands and conveyed the real excitement both felt as they worked on the History of Standard Oil.

Smith College also has some Tarbell papers, as does the NY Public Library.

{Sam}McClure’s (Ida’s longtime editor and publisher) papers, including many wonderful photographs, went to the University of Indiana.

I read most, but not all, of her voluminous output. The big job was to condense so much material and to select what constituted the heart of it for today’s readers.

I read a great many books on the history of oil, the progressive era, Darwin, Chautauqua and the other themes in Tarbell’s life.

Kidsbiographer: During the research process, we all unearth more material than we use. What the most fascinating fact or anecdote you uncovered about Tarbell that you didn’t include in the biography?

EAM: Tarbell was not totally transparent, because she valued privacy in ways that are fast disappearing today. But there wasn’t much that surprised me, once I got to now her. I believe that I included everything of importance. Her private life was well concealed, but Kathleen Brady quotes a gentleman admirer in New York who was being transferred to Washington. He regretted the “losses,” in his move, including his hope of spending evenings in her apartment “getting better acquainted with…your cat.”

She also socialized with several prominent lesbians who seem to have had cultural influence without being identified as such. (Another feature of the privacy people enjoyed). Tarbell herself seems never to have been attracted to another woman, but other women were attracted to her. These friendships were matter-of-fact and no doubt provided career support. But Tarbell seems generally to have preferred the company of men, which most definitely meant carrier support. She was easy in her affections.

Kidsbiographer: Biographers learn a great deal about their subjects: more, perhaps, than we know about our closest friends and relatives. How did your thoughts and feelings about Tarbell evolve as the book took shape?

EAM: When I began, I knew only about her work as a muckraker. Discovering her profound antipathy toward the suffrage movement and, even worse, her prisspot attitude toward women in a series of articles purporting to analyze their role in society, forced me to try to find ways to understand, if never to sympathize with her views. Tarbell was thought of by her colleagues as “too good.” She was limited, all too human, as it turns out.

Kidsbiographer: Throughout the first half of Ida Tarbell, you alternate her story with that of John D. Rockefeller and his Standard Oil Company, the subject of her History of the Standard Oil Company. How did you conceive this approach to Tarbell’s life and work?

EAM: Since they both started out in the oil regions, it seemed right to introduce JDR when he first showed up there to assess his prospects. Waiting to bring him onstage when Tarbell began writing about him would have required a major interruption of her story to bring readers up to date.

Kidsbiographer: You devote a chapter of Ida Tarbell to her opposition to women’s suffrage, a position seemingly at odds with her own remarkable and unprecedented career. What do you hope young adults will take away from this aspect of Tarbell’s life?

EAM: First of all, I hope that young women will understand what the fight for women’s rights was all about, at least in the period of Tarbell’s lifetime, how hard it was, how entrenched the opposition was, even from other women. The issues are not all behind us today, any more than regulation of business, money in politics and corruption, legal and and illegal, are behind us. Her times brought forth muckraking, which rallied the people to demand progressive reforms. Our times need the same. The fight for an equal place everywhere for women is far from won.

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

EAM: Sure! I’m working on a picture book about the first rhinoceros to tour Europe (for nineteen years) in the 18th century, when rhinos were thought be mythical beasts. She was a beguiling creature. It’s a story of the love between her and her owner, a Dutch sea captain.

I am also near the end of another YA book, a fictionalized life of Sacagawea’s son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.

Two picture books will be published in the next few months: STRONGHEART, the First Movie Star Dog and THE LIZZIE MURPHY STORY, about a girl who played on men’s big league baseball teams in the early twentieth century.

Meet the Biographer: Alicia Potter

Alicia Potter has published fiction and nonfiction picture books, including Fritz Danced the Fandango and Mrs. Harkness and the Panda. Recently, she published Jubilee!, a picture-book biography of bandleader Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore and the peace jubilee concert he organized in Boston in 1869. This week, she chatted with Kidsbiographer about the joys of discovering Gilmore’s work, her own connections to this landmark event, and the role of crowds in her work. On September 19th, she will be speaking about Gilmore and his jubilee at the International Day of Peace in Rockford, Illinois.

Kidsbiographer: Despite Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore’s contributions to American music, he is not a household name. How did you learn about this important composer and bandleader, and what made you decide to write about the National Peace Jubilee?

Alicia Potter: I first read about Patrick S. Gilmore and the National Peace Jubilee in my neighborhood newspaper. At the time, I had lived in Boston for 20 years and hadn’t heard of him or the concert. Mind you, it took place five minutes from my house! I did some preliminary research and was immediately struck by Patrick’s passion, the incredible scope of the concert, and its impact on the world. I discovered photos of Patrick online, and he’s wearing a uniform and white gloves and this neat little mustache, and I found myself thinking of him not just as an important historical figure, but also this appealing character. The history of the Jubilee was ripe for storytelling too. It had this great, engaging hero, strong emotional and dramatic arcs, and lots of quirky details. The giant bass drum traveling across Massachusetts on a flat bed train car to cheering crowds is perhaps my favorite!

Kidsbiographer: What sort of research did you do to write Jubilee!?

Alicia Potter: The Music Department at the Boston Public Library was a huge resource for me. After the Jubilee, Patrick compiled a 700-page account of the making of the concert, and when I was starting my research, I was only able to find the book in the BPL’s Music Department — except that I couldn’t check it out or Xerox it because of its age. So I did a lot of note-taking over many months there. Patrick wrote with an extremely vivid voice, so I was able to get to know him — his humor and energy and resiliency and tendency to get a tad melodramatic! Newspaper archives and online music resources, of course, were very useful. I also accessed the Michael Cummings Collection of P.S. Gilmore at the John J. Burns Library at Boston College, a special archives of items related to Patrick. It contained the actual tickets and programs from the Jubilee and these fantastic color lithographs of the massive Temple of Peace, where the concert took place. Seeing these items and reading Patrick’s account in his own words really made the concert come to life for me.

Kidsbiographer: Throughout Jubilee!, you emphasize the loudness of the concert Gilmore organized – the sort of volume that would make even live music fans cringe. And yet, your narrative conveys that the performance was “so very, very beautiful.” I can imagine young children delighting in the concept of a big, gorgeous sound. How did you achieve this delicate balance?

Alicia Potter: This was critical, I felt, because probably anyone could have put on a big, boisterous concert. To have it sound beautiful was the real achievement. Early on, critics thought the Jubilee would be this ear-splitting disaster. I even found this funny newspaper article in which the author expressed sincere fear that the Jubilee might injure people’s “tympanums.” The “very, very beautiful” refrain became a way to remind readers of the stakes — that Patrick’s goal was to create an experience worthy of being considered art. Up until the first day of the concert, whether or not he could pull it off was the subject of national suspense. Once the concert begins in the story, I attempted to create sort of a crescendo: the text builds from the “booms” of the cannons and the “bongs” of the church bells to end on a quieter note with the word “beautiful.” My hope is that the unexpected inclusion of “beautiful” echoes the surprise that many felt when the music ended up sounding great.

Kidsbiographer: In your author bio on the book’s cover flap, you mention that you were a member of your high school’s band. How did your own experience as a musician inform your work on this picture-book biography?

Alicia Potter: I took up the flute in fourth grade and continued to play through high school. I played my share of marches (and as this was the mid-‘80s, a Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”), and this connection to the music drew me in to Patrick’s story. It also made me feel the emotion of the event in a personal way. Even though my concert experiences occurred on a much, much smaller scale, some of the moments felt familiar and resonant, such as that dramatic pause before the conductor lowers the baton and the music begins and the sound of all the different instruments finally coming together on the day of the performance.

Kidsbiographer: What do you hope young readers will take away from Jubilee!?

Alicia Potter
: To see themselves in Patrick’s passion and to find inspiration in the fact that, despite many obstacles and much opposition, he was able to accomplish his vision for music and peace — a dream that goes back to his childhood. I’d also like readers to get just how momentous this event was for 1869 America. I have a friend who told me that her daughter actually gasped at the two-page spread of the 30,000 people filling the Temple of Peace. That made me happy to hear that she was impressed! Matt Tavares did such an amazing job of capturing the scope of the event in his illustrations – not easy, I’m sure. And finally, since Patrick has become lost to history, I’d love for readers to appreciate his major contributions to American music.

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

Alicia Potter: I’ll be speaking about Patrick and the National Peace Jubilee as the guest author at the International Day of Peace in Rockford, Illinois, on September 19. I’m very excited for that! And I have a picture book due out from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers in May 2015 — Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats, illustrated by the fantastic Birgitta Sif. It’s a fiction picture book, but it draws on my experience as an animal shelter “foster mom” to many litters of kittens! I find funny parallels between it and Jubilee! – I seem to gravitate toward writing picture books involving crowds, except this time, it’s cats. Lots and lots of cats.



Meet the Biographer: Mary Cronk Farrell

1386116620A former journalist, Mary Cronk Farrell has published both fiction and nonfiction books about strong women for middle grade and young adult readers. This week, she spoke with Kidsbiographer about her latest book, Pure Grit, a collective biography of American Army and Navy nurses who experienced POW camp in the Philippines during World War II.

Kidsbiographer: You were only to able to speak with one of the nurses mentioned in Pure Grit; you interviewed the relatives of others to learn about the women’s experiences during World War II. What was the greatest challenge of working with your subject’s family members during the research process?

MCF: The most difficult thing was finding the relatives! I felt like a detective on the internet following any clues I could find as to the names and locations of the nurses’ children and grandchildren, and then trying to locate them.

Kidsbiographer: Pure Grit contains information not only about the nurses’ experiences, but about the war in the Pacific. What sort of research did you do to learn this chapter of military history?

MCF: To learn the facts of the military history surrounding the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and the following battles, I mainly relied on books. There are a lot of books written on the topic, as well as some articles.

Kidsbiographer: While writing Pure Grit and combing through letters, diary entries, and interviews, you must have unearthed all sorts of interesting – and disturbing – tidbits and anecdotes. What was the most intriguing story that didn’t make it into the final draft?

MCF: One of the stories that had to be cut from the final draft of the book was indeed disturbing. It showed all too graphically the inhumane conditions the nurses endured in prison camp. The prisoners at Los Ban᷈os were slowly dying of starvation, and yet they could see bananas and other edible plants right outside the fence.  One young man had been sneaking out at night to get food. When the Japanese guards caught him returning one morning, crawling back under the fence surrounding Los Ban᷈os, they shot and wounded him. Though camp leaders argued that according to international law a prisoner could not be executed if returning to camp, only is caught trying to escape, the Japanese soldiers would not allow doctors or nurses to give the wounded man medical aid. They held everyone back for an hour and a half while they left the young man bleeding on the ground. Then they dragged him off to a clump of bamboo and executed him.

Kidsbiographer: Although Pure Grit contains plenty of facts, the book unfolds at a clipping pace. How did you structure the narrative to make it as gripping as it is informative?

MCF: Creating the outline for the book proposal was actually the most difficult part of the project, as that is when I worked out how I was going to structure the book. Though I presented the material in a straightforward linear fashion following the historical timeline of events, I wanted the book to have a narrative story arc, which I laid out in the outline. In the writing, I worked hard on the flow of words, sentences, and paragraphs to keep the narrative alive and moving.

Kidsbiographer: What is the most gratifying response to Pure Grit you’ve received thus far?

MCF: The most gratifying response has been from relatives of the nurses who have loved the book. In addition, I received a wonderful compliment from a man whose father had been one of the men captured in the Philippines and spent the war in prison and slave labor camps.

He wrote: “You tell the stories, particularly your use of short, simple sentences, much like the diaries of the noble souls who wrote in small characters on small pieces of paper when time and ink and life itself was starved of all beauty and abundance.  Yet there is beauty in your narrative because it is the same beauty that remains when life is starved of everything: the beauty of faith and hope and charity, the beauty of courage and determination. Most people will never have an opportunity to converse with someone who endured the ordeal you have written about, but the tenor of the captives’ experience and the way they usually describe it (when they can bear to talk about it); indeed, the way they also survived the ordeal of life after liberation resonates through your narrative.”

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

MCF: My next book, its working title Fannie Never Flinched, is due out in February 2016.  It’s another amazing true story about courage and dedication, this time a biography of one women, Fannie Sellins, who was an incredible labor organizer in the early 1900’s garment industry, coal fields, and steel mills. Like the POW nurses, her strength was imbued by her compassion. Unfortunately, she did not survive, but died in a hail of bullets on the picket line of a Pennsylvania coal strike.

Meet the Illustrator: Cátia Chien

9780547875071_hresCátia Chien illustrates picture books and paints in her studio in Southern California. This week, we discussed her work in A Boy and a Jaguar, conservation biologist Alan Rabinowitz’s picture book about his struggles with stuttering and his passion for helping animals.

Kidsbiographer: A Boy and a Jaguar contains depictions of the Great Smokey Mountains and Central American rainforest. What sort of research did you to paint these landscapes?

Cátia Chien: It was very simple actually, I researched online and found great images that helped me understand the look and feel of the Great Smokey Mountains and of the jungles in Belize.

Kidsbiographer: The picture-book biography’s spreads show the animals in Alan Rabinowitz’s life. They appear friendlier than most of the book’s human faces, a direct reflection of the ease and acceptance young Rabinowitz felt in their presence. However, you achieve this effect without descending into anthropomorphism. How did you find this balance?

Cátia Chien: I don’t think it is ever necessary to use anthropomorphism to create animals that are friendly. An animal’s eyes and body posture can say a lot about how they feel. In the book I made the animals friendly by giving them softer eyes and a friendly stance.

Kidsbiographer: You employ different styles of illustration throughout A Boy and a Jaguar. Although most of the spreads use a more approach, some flirt with surreal or expressionist elements. For example, when the text describes what Rabinowitz did to control his stuttering, you show young Alan, his expression pained, his mouth open. Letters, some distinct, some nebulous, some upside down, float out of his mouth and hover in the reddish background. How did you compose this remarkable and unsettling picture?

Cátia Chien: I knew I wanted to frame in his face without distraction because it was such an emotional moment in the story. I also knew that I wanted the painting of him to convey a feeling of being overwhelmed by words. So, in the end, it made sense to have a profile of him with unintelligible words streaming out. The color red suggests a sense of frustration.

Kidsbiographer: In the book’s most climatic spread, a now grown-up Rabinowitz faces the jaguar who has been following him through rainforest. However, he does not look like the successful biologist he is or even an adult. In this beautiful moment, he becomes once again the little boy who marveled at the jaguar at the zoo. Can you describe how you composed this spread?

Cátia Chien
: I love your interpretation. It gives this page a whole new meaning! I didn’t intend Alan to look young, but can see how he can be seen that way. I composed this spread with a couple of things in mind: I wanted the eye line of the jaguar and Alan to be at the same level to express respect. I also wanted there to be a sense of openness to reflect how both Alan and the jaguar were in the moment. This I expressed by using light and space with trees, creating a halo around the characters on each side. Lastly, I wanted a sense of ease, so I had the jaguar sitting facing Alan: the ears are soft and not pulled back. And Alan is painted here smaller in comparison to the jaguar. In this way, by making these specific decisions, I wanted to, in the best way I could, create an image that truly captured the moment Alan shared with the jaguar – a mutual sense of awe, respect, and gratitude.

Kidsbiographer: What is the most gratifying response you’ve received so far about A Boy and a Jaguar?

Cátia Chien: The most gratifying response I’ve received is to be told that by my editor and art director that my images do justice to Alan’s story. It is truly an honor.

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

Cátia Chien: I’m finishing a picture book called Things to Do and a comic book story for an upcoming anthology. I’m also writing and illustrating a new picture book and creating a series of paintings for a gallery show later this year.

Meet the Biographer: Sy Montgomery

sycheetahA prolific author of books about animals for adults and children, Sy Montgomery has delved the secrets of tarantulas, pigs, tapirs, snow leopards, and kakapo parrots. She has also penned a biography of animal scientist and autism advocate Temple Grandin for young readers. Recently, she published Chasing Cheetahs, a book about the Cheetah Conservation Fund’s latest research (CCF), its founder Laurie Marker, and Montgomery’s experiences at CCF’s center in Namibia. This week, she took time away from her latest research to discuss her encounters with the world’s fastest cat.

Kidsbiographer: Chasing Cheetahs isn’t just a collection of stunning wildlife photos; it contains complex information about ecosystems and genetics. What sort of background research – apart from visiting CCF’s center – did you do to write the book?

Sy Montgomery: Most of the research for this book, as with our others, was actually done on site, largely because we are documenting science as it is actually being done and it’s often the first of its kind! We spent about 2 weeks in Namibia with Laurie Marker and her staff, feeding and exercising their resident cheetahs, tracking cheetahs with radio telemetry, and mounting camera traps to capture images of wild cheetahs. Our visit included several afternoons and mornings in CCF’s genetics lab while geneticist Janine Fearon and master’s student Lucia Mhuulu were analyzing samples we had collected with the help of cheetah scat-finding border collie, Finn. We also had the pleasure of working with CCF chief ecologist Matti Tweshingilwa Nghikembua, accompanying him on an animal survey during a game drive, and a survey of “play trees” from which cheetahs survey their surroundings and leave messages for one another in scent. Nothing could have better illustrated the dynamic ecology of the area and how any change in the animals, plants or human activity profoundly affects everything that lives there. Happily, I was well prepared for our trip to Namibia, with a broad working knowledge of how ecosystems and genetics work from my 30 years of writing about this stuff. But it also helped that before we showed up in Africa, I read a number of books and articles on cheetah biology, conservation and genetics as well as both scientific and popular articles about Laurie’s seminal work. I list some of these in the bibliography in case readers or their teachers want to know more.

Kidsbiographer: Which aspect of cheetah conservation was the most challenging to write about for middle graders?

Sy Montgomery: Middle graders are so smart and fun that writing for them is not very difficult for me. But I suppose writing about the genetics lab was the most challenging. The stuff they do in that lab is so cool that it wasn’t hard making it interesting to young readers. But I did have to explain it so they understood. Because my readers are just as smart as I am, sometimes it’s easy to forget they don’t have all the same background knowledge that I have accumulated during my 56 years. Occasionally I have to remind myself to fill in the gaps for the readers who haven’t lived as long.

Kidsbiographer: Visiting Namibia and CCF’s center must have been a memorable experience. Can you discuss the most interesting experience you had there that didn’t make it into Chasing Cheetahs?

Sy Montgomery: I could have gone on and on about how great it was to walk into an enclosure full of cheetahs and feel them purring all around me. I did describe this in the book—it feels like an ocean roaring in your chest—but I didn’t convey the sense of peace and wellbeing I felt while with these beautiful animals, bathed in their own contentment, engulfed in the sound of their breath. Just seeing them every morning was a thrill. Imagine: In the mornings, Nic and I would wake up in the bottom floor of CCF’s guest house, and just yards from our beds, cheetahs were pacing the perimeter of their large, fenced enclosure. Then along our walk to the dining area, we’d get to see more cheetahs. Everywhere you looked, there was a huge enclosure with cheetahs in it. And they were more than just beautiful, powerful cats. They were individuals who we came to know and recognize, and to a small extent, communicate with. Cheetahs, like smaller cats, purr when they are in the mood for social interaction. Those closest to our guest house—Tiger Lilly, Peter, Senay and Kaijay—would often purr at our approach. What a way to start the day!

Kidsbiographer: Chasing Cheetahs includes a chapter that constitutes a short biography of Dr. Laurie Marker, the head of CCF. How did you integrate the story of her life with information about the species she works to protect and the organization’s current efforts?

Sy Montgomery: Laurie’s life has been inextricably bound with the fate of the cheetah ever since she met her first cheetah cub when she was working at a wildlife center in Oregon three decades ago. Her story is a blueprint of how we save what we love. Laurie only took a job at the wildlife center to raise money for the organic winery she had hoped to create. But the cheetahs stole her heart. In recounting Laurie’s biography, readers learn the scientific facts behind the cheetah’s near extinction as she was discovering it, and share, I hope, her insight—and perhaps her passion–that something had to be done to stop it—even if it meant abandoning all her previous plans and possessions and any hope of financial security. Laurie felt the animals were worth it. And today we know she was right!

Kidsbiographer: What do you hope young readers will take away from Chasing Cheetahs?

Sy Montgomery: I would hope that readers, when confronted with a terrible problem that somebody should solve, would look in the mirror and realize, as Laurie did, “that somebody was me.”

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss a current or upcoming project?

Sy Montgomery: Oh, I’d love to! Last summer, I took my book research under the sea. Working with underwater photographer, Keith Ellenbogen, I traveled to the waters of French Polynesia for another book in the Scientists in the Field series called The Octopus Scientists: Exploring the Mind of a Mollusk. We worked with a scientific team headed by an octopus psychologist. We even administered personality tests to octopuses (writing on a plastic dive slate underwater, of course!) And this summer, Keith and I will be working on The Great White Shark Scientist. Our research will include scuba diving in a shark cage so we can get inches from these powerful but shy predators for super-close up views! I can’t wait.

Meet the Illustrator: Gerald Purnell

Bunny Cover-thumb smllGerald Purnell has illustrated picture books as well as twenty covers for the Bluford series, a set of young adult novels set in an inner-city high school. Last year, he illustrated A Home Run for Bunny, a picture book about a baseball team from Springfield, Massachusetts who defied segregation in the 1930s. This week, Purnell opened up to Kidsbiographer about engaging today’s readers, composing complex illustrations, and communicating with young artists.

Kidsbiographer: What sort of research did you do to illustrate A Home Run for Bunny?

Gerald Purnell: Because there were only a couple of photos of Bunny, and not many photos on-line about the subject. I began buying old baseball books, and checking libraries for reference photos. I then brainstormed rough ideas and made multiple sketches for each page. Most are a composite from different photos.

Kidsbiographer: In this book, you use a few different styles of illustration. Some spreads have a collage-like effect: readers see Bunny excelling in different sports, and he seems to have different texture than the illustration’s backdrop. In one picture, he emerges, in color and holding a football, from a black and white newspaper photo. Even without the text, readers understand that Bunny’s talents were undeniable. How did you conceive this approach?

Gerald Purnell: As compelling a story as Bunny’s is, I felt that my challenge was to create a picture book that’s visually engaging and fun. I used color and contrast to make Bunny pop out of his background. All pieces were done in soft pastels on paper; no over ays or computer enhancements were used.

Kidsbiographer: Later in the book, when Bunny and his teammates attend the tournament in North Carolina, the illustrations become visibly darker and grimmer. The boys and their coaches confer in beige and dark grey hotel rooms that mirror their troubled minds. How did you compose these spreads?

Gerald Purnell: I thought that a traditional approach, where all the paper is of one or two colors, and all pages maintain the same look, while that might be functional in telling the story, with all of the media, games, 3-D movies of today, that would lack excitement and surprise, so I wanted to be a little out of the box in the telling of this story.

Kidsbiographer: A Home Run for Bunny’s front and back inside cover contain illustrations as well. The inside front cover depicts African Americans, including Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson, who changed American life in the decades that followed the events discussed in the book. The inside back cover contains a poignant image of memorabilia from Bunny’s American Legion team: a group photo, a glove, a ball, and a small framed picture of Bunny himself. Can you describe how you composed these images?

Gerald Purnell: Thanks, I love this question. Both were done on tinted paper, which I used as the mid-tone, meaning that I drew the black of the shadows, and used white pastel pencil to draw the highlights. The desired effect was somewhat like an old photo. The inside back cover is a composite of images that I layered to look like one old picture.

Kidsbiographer: What’s the most gratifying response to A Home Run for Bunny you’ve received from a young reader?

Gerald Purnell: That would be from a smart and talented young man named Gillis MacDougall, age 9. Not only did he write me a heartfelt letter of appreciation and call me one of his heroes; he also drew, in color, his interpretation of one of my painting.

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

Gerald Purnell: This is the third picture book that I have done; the first two, Am I A Color Too? and God’s Promise, together won ten national and international awards. I have also illustrated twenty bookcovers for The Bluford Series, which have sold over ten million copies. Now I’m ready for a new publisher or art rep to take a look at what I’ve done so far and challenge me with new work. I may be reached at .






Meet the Illustrator: R. Gregory Christie

R. Gregory Christie1R. Gregory Christie has illustrated over fifty books for young readers, many of them award-winning,  including It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw. A successful commerical illustrator, he is also the proprietor of Gas Art Gifts, an independent children’s bookstore in Decatur, Georgia. This week, he chatted with Kidsbiographer about his work on his most recent publication, Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom.

Kidsbiographer: Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom’s illustrations depict settings as varied as pre-Civil War plantation life, the foundries where Reid worked, and the Washington D.C. building where his expertise saved the Statue of Freedom. What sort of research did you to do to illustrate this array of images?

RGC: The research for such a book starts with putting the historical figure’s name in a search engine. Then figuring out the ages of the characters during specific key dates. When illustrating historical books, you must concern yourself with the fashions, hairstyles, architecture, species of plants and animals indigenous to specific regions and the day-to-day protocol and interaction between the book’s characters. The process further moves in to sketches that I’ll show to the editor along with notes questioning the historical accuracy of what I’ve drawn.

For instance, if dealing with slavery and more specifically skilled trade slavery, I want to render the art in a historically realistic manner; I feel that it’s a disservice to everyone not to do that.

I wondered if Mr. Reid had overseers when doing skilled labor? Did he have used equipment or the best available? Did he have better clothing than a field slave? Did he work alone, outside or indoors, What was the average height of a man during this time period? I would need to know people’s height so that I could render that in proportion to the statue’s height. All these questions go in to the illustration sketches before I can move to a final piece. So these days I use the internet, public library, editors, and the author of the project to be as historically accurate as possible with the visuals.

Kidsbiographer: One of my favorite illustrations in the picture-book biography is the one that shows young Philip Reid and his mother outdoors framed by a doorway. The green horizon suggests the freedom they envision, while the grey doorway reminds viewers they are still enslaved. How did you compose this remarkable painting?

RGC: Wow! I am happy to know that you picked up on that. I really wanted to have a visual balance to the written word, but often I break away from the literal interpretation in to a more symbolic one. I think that it is ironic that Mr. Reid, an enslaved man, was pivotal in saving a statue symbolizing the country’s bravery and freedom. Also in that spread, the author’s words touched on a woman speaking to her child about excelling in life, but both were still enslaved. I imagined that this conversation was in secret, perhaps in hushed tones and I wanted the viewer of this image to almost be visually eavesdropping on these two. The viewer’s vantage point is from inside a dark place, looking through the main figures and even past the green fields in to the true subject matter, the unseen world beyond those trees. It’s the same world the mother probably had never has seen, but believed in enough to speak about it to her child.

Kidsbiographer: Some of the book’s most striking illustrations depict the foundry where Reid worked. The liquid bronze glows in the dark room. Despite Reid’s enslavement, these images are exciting and convey something of the passion he brought to his work. Can you describe how you composed these illustrations?

RGC: I had to look at old Renaissance paintings of Hades and artwork from the Industrial Revolution era in order to figure out how to paint illuminated rooms of soot and stone. I’ve mostly painted art in books showcasing objects from a sunlit light source. If it were anything else, my semi -bstract style made the nighttime sky or candlelit room plausible through color over tone and proportion.

This particular style was reminiscent of my illustrations in William Miller’s Richard Wright and the Library Card. In both cases, I was more impressionistic with the paintings as I leaned more towards realism. If speaking about the foundry, then the orange and yellow you see in Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom’s hues have to serve as a directional device but, I feel, can’t overpower the sentiment of a gritty and grime filled foundry. Not even, the permanence one would see in the withered and charred stones surrounding a team of stalwart workmen from that time period.

Kidsbiographer: You created a number of visual characters for  Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom. Which was your favorite and why?

RGC: I really loved painting of the old man that taught Phillip about clay. Again my interpretation of Mr. Lapham and Mr. Walton’s words is metaphorical and symbolic in its meaning. You are there with the two slaves as they are sharing a peaceful moment in a dark place. Although the two are confined , the only reality is the work in front of them, and the interaction that they experience.  It’s not only commenting on them and the work that they must do, but it’s also more specifically, it’s them and the work that they must do; it’s a man who’s lived the scope of his life without much to look towards other than the rest of peace and a young boy facing dual aspects of his future, the one set up for him and the uncertain possibilities beyond that path. That’s why I chose to have Philip facing the window and the older gentleman facing his task on hand.

Kidsbiographer: What do you hope young readers will take away from the book?

RGC: That there’s a lot more to our book than a quaint story and pretty pictures. The irony of this book screams for a discussion and revaluation of our typical lesson plans. Our history, as it often is, can be seen all around us. Our history as it often is, can be seen all around us. Historical visuals like the Statue of Freedom help to teach the stories of “how, why and who” along with the “when”. It’s not just all about numbers and dates, there’s humanity in our history and when we can be open enough to reevaluate these stories, maybe even relearn our history, it can help to bring some balance and humility for our future generations.

Kidsbiographer: Would you like to discuss any current or upcoming projects?

RGC: Fortunately there’s always been illustration work since I’ve graduated art school (I’m knocking on wood). These days there are at least therebooks coming your way via my art table. However, the latest project is Gas-Art Gifts, my small bookshop at the North Dekalb Mall in Decatur, Georgia, which offers art classes, signed children’s books, community outreach, and artwork. It’s my own way to fight the implicit sentiment that our technology wins all. It’s not been easy and has not been lucrative, but I know it’s a very important direction for me, and the right thing to do.