Geisel-winner Geoffrey Hayes just returned from a cluster of lectures, signings, and readings around New York and Illinois. He engaged audiences across the country with his thoughts on kid’s books and what School Library Journal called his “sweet, delicately colored illustrations.” Librarians, teachers, comics experts, and lots and lots of children turned out to hear Geoffrey speak on the historical divide between children’s literature and comics, and how, after the two genres circled one another for years, the gap between them is finally starting to close.
Elizabeth Graeber, an audience member at Strand Bookstore in New York City, sketched Geoffrey and his Geisel-award-winning book Benny and Penny in The Big No-No! during his talk last week.
She also drew TOON Books Editorial Director Françoise Mouly and Pulitzer-Prize-winning comic creator Art Spiegelman, author of the TOON Book Jack and the Box.
Geoffrey reprised his talk in a presentation at the Graphic Novel Institute at Northwestern University. There, he traced the history of children’s literature from the Brothers Grimm to the present day, his own TOON Books and his brand-new adventure comic Lovo and the Fire Wolf. He spoke alongside specialists like Northwestern professor David Rapp and comics creator Josh Elder, and returned home not only with the flush of pride that came from his rapt audience but also with loads more knowledge about such topics as cognitive processing and the eye’s movement across a page. “It was fascinating,” Geoffrey says. “I learned a lot from the people I was working with that I want to incorporate into my own talks.”
Of course, Geoffrey didn’t spend all his Chicago trip immersed in academia. He also visited schools and libraries, where he drew his sweet-faced characters Benny and Penny in response to the encouraging shouts of young kids.
Geoffrey described episodes from his school visits with delight: “One student said, ‘Can you draw my mom?’” he said, “So I drew Benny and Penny’s mom instead, and gave her lipstick and blush when the students asked. Another group of kids asked me to draw Penny in a dress for picture day!” Even though his travel was so packed with events, Geoffrey isn’t exhausted yet. Reflecting on his drawings and readings, he has to admit, “They really seem to hold people.”