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GVS Welcomes Caldecott Medal Winner




Sophie Blackall is the illustrator of over 30 children's books including "Meet Wild Boars", "The Mighty LaLouche" and the New York Times-bestselling “Ivy and Bean” series of chapter books. She was awarded the 2016 Caldecott Medal which recognizes the most distinguished American picture book for “Finding Winnie”.

During her day-long visit to Green Vale, Ms. Blackall inscribed books and addressed clusters of grade levels in Harris Theater. To explain her process for writing and illustrating a book, she used her latest work “Hello Lighthouse” which follows the daily routine of a lighthouse keeper. Blackall’s passion for her work was infectious as students came to understand the level of planning and research and endless editing that goes into even a simple story book. “I essentially had to become an expert on lighthouses,” explained Blackall. “I was fascinated with why people like them so much. I think it’s about someone keeping watch — something steadfast in a vast sea.”

As part of her research, Blackall studied log books of lighthouse keepers, and noticed that they would sketch whales, ships, and other imaginings in the margins. This made her feel connected with these individuals, as she is a constant sketcher herself.

For the actual illustrations, she showed the initial concepts or “dummies” and how much they differed from the final published product.

Students were further engaged when Blackall enlisted their help in sketching a witch for her in-progress “Witches of Benevento” series. The audience suggested visual elements for the witch (“she should have eight eyes!”) and watched Blackall’s real-time sketch appear on the screen. She also took suggestions for a word that could become  the name of the witch.

In preparation for the visit, 1st Graders drew their favorite scene from “Finding Winnie”. 4th Graders produced “black-out poetry” by creatively eliminating certain words from her prose to create new poetic expressions. It was an honor to share their work with Ms. Blackall in person.