Bookishness, Mamaishness, Teacherishness

The Day I Met an Artist at the Mall.

Bear with me for a moment, while I tell a semi-involved story involving a bit of crazy behavior on my part.

A few weekends ago, we ended up at one of Atlanta’s less thriving retail venues, North DeKalb Mall. My husband was occupying the girls on the sort of riding toys that want you to put money in them. (We don’t put money in them; this is a family tradition.) I rushed to one more store, trying to find something specific, and almost didn’t pause when I saw this bright white space completely unlike anything else in the mall.

Fortunately, one of my favorite books was in the window: Richard Wright and the Library Card.

Richard Wright and the Library Card

Seeing this book made me stop and look around. There was a newspaper article framed in the window that told me that the space in front of me belonged to R. Gregory Christie, children’s book illustrator extraordinaire. I went into the store, and there was Mr. Christie in the flesh. He looks like this:

Gregory Christie

Y’all, I acted like a twelve year old seeing One Direction buying food at the grocery store. I think maybe I didn’t even tell him my name, I just kept shaking his hand and blathering about how I loved his work and used Richard Wright and the Library Card with teachers. Fortunately, he didn’t seemed fazed by my nutty self, and we had a great conversation. I eventually rounded up the family, and dragged them in, as well.

Mr. Christie uses the space to sell his own books (and they are plentiful and fantastic), teach art classes to children and adults, and complete current work. He showed Bethany and Clara the paintings he’s finishing for his own adaptation of Aesop’s City Mouse and Country Mouse. We bought a few books, and he signed them, and I can’t wait to go back and behave like a crazy fangirl rational adult.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had missed my really, really, really big chance to act like I’d taken leave of my senses, because Mr. Christie is also the illustrator of a book that I consider to be in the top three for teaching social studies at any grade level: Dear Mr. Rosenwald.

Dear Mr Rosenwald

I have put this book into the hands of every educator I can. When I train teachers, or talk to groups, I find a way to work it in, if at all possible. It deserves its own post, which it will get soon, but I need you to understand the depths of my shock when I met the man: I DID NOT EVEN MENTION THIS BOOK. It’s sort of like meeting Stephen King and forgetting he wrote Misery. HOW? HOW? HOW?

Here’s the point: if you are at all local to Atlanta, get thyself to North DeKalb and stop by Gas-Art Gifts. Meet the artist, and be inspired by his passion and talent. (He’s got loads of both.) If your little people are five-ish or older, consider taking them on Saturday afternoons for a drop-in art class. If you’re not local, it might be worth the plane ticket. Seriously.

In the modern era of e-publishing and giant booksellers, Christie’s upside down methods of self-promotion and community building seem like something from a history book. Instead, I think he’s providing an invaluable service to our Atlanta community and to the children’s book world at large. What is more inspiring than watching an artist create the images that make stories come alive? Not much, if you ask me.

Obviously, I am a terrible blogger, because I didn’t even get out my phone and take pictures. I’ll remedy that soon.

{Those book links are affiliate links if you live far away from Atlanta. If you’re local, go into the store and support the man himself! Plus, he’ll sign and personalize your books, and give you a little tour of what he’s got going on in the store.}