Author/Illustrator Interview: Cathryn Falwell

Cathryn reading to a group of kids at a library story time in Lawrence, Kansas.

Cathryn Falwell is the author/illustrator of more than 26 children’s books.  She is also involved in the StoryWalk project- a program designed to encourage kids to get up and move around while they read a story.  I’m happy to welcome her to The Lupine Librarian!

What was your favorite picture book as a child?

I was quite fond of The Golden Egg Book, by Margaret Wise Brown (under pseudonym, “Golden McDonald”) with magical illustrations by Leonard Weisgard. I also cherished a wonderful volume of Robert Lewis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses illustrated in charming detail by Gyo Fujikawa.

You used paper collage to create the beautiful images in Pond Babies.  Personally, this is one of my favorite art mediums.  Is it yours as well?  What are some of the challenges and benefits of working with paper?

I’ve used collage for all of my books, and really love the medium.  I like the immediacy of the color, the textural possibilities, and the flexibility of changing things easily. In addition to cut and torn papers, I also use bits of cloth, bark, leaves and various other things.  I love introducing collage to kids, too.

Your website (www.cathrynfalwell.com) has a great section called Fun for You.  Can you tell us more about these interactive activities that correspond to your books?

Teachers, parents and librarians are busy people, so this section is an attempt to help them extend a book with various projects and creative ideas. I’m sorry that there aren’t more projects on the site, but I’m a little technologically challenged! On the home page of my website are links to free downloadable event kits that I developed with help from my terrific marketing specialist, Kirsten Cappy of Curious City. These kits have everything a caregiver needs to produce  fun and easy games and activities that extend two of my books. We’ve had a lot of great feedback on these, so I’m hoping to develop more of them.

Many of your books add another element to reading by encouraging kids to get up and move around.  Can you explain the importance of “kinetic literacy” for young readers?

I am increasingly concerned about the sedentary life style of so many children. A larger concern is the disconnect so many have with the natural world. We have made the outdoors a “dangerous” place—a very sad situation indeed. Many of my books focus on encouraging children to explore nature, and to nurture their natural sense of wonder. And of course, this means they need to move! Healthy bodies mean happy kids. I’m fortunate to be part of a wonderful project called StoryWalk. Developed initially by a woman in Vermont, this program involves presenting the pages of a picture book on sequential signs through a park, playground, library grounds, or nature center pathway. Kids can run, skip, jump and wiggle their way from one sign to the next as they move their way through a book. Several of my books– Scoot!; Turtle Splash; Gobble, Gobble and Pond Babies have all been turned into these book trails. Families love this active way to read a book, and teachers have told me that they have been especially successful for reluctant readers.

Info here: 

http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/shelftalker/?p=5999

What is your favorite thing about living in Maine?

Having the wonders of nature be a daily part of my life is such a gift. I also love that I can sit by our pond and watch the turtles, and then, not that far away, experience great restaurants, wonderful museums and art galleries. I feel very lucky to live in Maine!

Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?

The pond behind our house, Frog Song Pond, continually inspires me. The resident frogs, turtles, ducks and other critters give me ideas all the time. I’m also inspired by the children I meet in schools and libraries when I present programs about books, creativity and imagination.

Thank you, Cathryn!  For more information about this author/illustrator, please visit her website.

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