Monday, July 23, 2018

Creative Collaboration - Orphan Train Project - April 25

Closing Our Eyes to Envision the Best Cover
As an author/illustrator, much of my work is done alone. However, to create the best possible book, I share my projects with others and benefit from the gift of their reactions, suggestions and ideas.

One of my current projects is a picture book based on a real little girl named Mabel, who lived in a New York City orphanage at the turn of the century. In the early 1900s, Mabel rode an orphan train across the country to a new home in the Midwest.

I have reached the stage in this project where I need feedback from the target audience, young people.

A big "thank you" to Jo Umans, Behind the Book, for arranging a sharing of my book draft with Ms. Amy's 2nd grade class at P.S. 125 Ralph Bunche School, Manhattan, NY, in April.

Before reading the book draft aloud, I set the early 1900's stage, a time when unwanted, homeless and orphan children could be found living on the street. By the 1900's, laws were in effect that these children would be gathered and placed into homes and orphanages. Hoping to leave behind the days when children were left on the street to fend for themselves.

This information prompted students to discuss what an orphan was and to share ideas of what they
would do if they found themselves without parents. I admired their ideas and how they listened to each other and built on ideas and came up with additional plans. It was an empowering situation of coming up with solutions.

Children who rode the orphan trains were the forerunners to today's foster children. Both groups had and have good experiences and bad experiences. One of the classroom students, knowing about what things can happen to children, voiced his concerns about how were we sure that these orphan train children were taken care of. I explained that there were things in place to help with this, but there was no assurance and it couldn't be very thorough, but that we could do things today if we saw something that didn't seem quite right.

This lead to another classroom discussion of who we could trust to report something to if we saw something that didn't seem quite right...we could share our concerns with people that we felt safe with...this could be our parents, or a teacher, or a police officer, etc.

I was so grateful to these students and their teacher for their time, their suggestions and the depth of their compassion and their ideas of taking care of themselves and of others.

Thank you! P.S. 125.

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