Friday, December 31, 2010

The Hall of OddAnimals

Writing and illustrating children's books can be a solitary activity. Sure, there are school, library, and bookstore visits, but much more of my creative time is spent alone at a drawing desk, trying desperately not to be distracted by email, food, or my cat.

That's one of many reasons I'm very excited about my OddAnimals project at the Children's Hospital Boston. Starting this past November and continuing through February of 2011, I will be working with patients, families, and staff of the hospital to create animals that have never been seen before by the human eye. We call them OddAnimals. These newly-discovered species will be displayed in the gallery in the lobby of the hospital. It's being guest-curated by Emily Isenberg and presented by Jessica Finch and her Art for Kool Kids Program.

Anyone can submit their own personal OddAnimal by attending a workshop or filling out an OddAnimal guidebook and dropping it in the mailbox in the Children's Hospital lobby. You, yes you, can even download the guidebook and email your completed form back to me.

"Now, what is an OddAnimal?" you might be asking yourself right about now. Um, I don't know, but through a series of workshops, activities, and conversations, I hope to find out. We've already distributed over 500 guidebooks and have received a bunch of great submissions. I have met incredible kids and awesome families who were excited and willing to help me out with this admittedly weird project.

As always, I am inspired and awed by the imagination of children. In fact, I see my main role in this project as trying not to mess up their perfectly great ideas and drawings. I haven't really even had to explain what an OddAnimal is, and most of the children already have an idea of what theirs will look like as soon as I sit down with them.

To introduce myself to the population of the hospital, we have installed a wall's worth of my artwork, including 2 pages from my Charlesbridge book, A Call for A New Alphabet, as well as pages from some of my other books and some cool, big wall stickers of the letter X and his friends.

Here are a few examples of the work we've created so far:

The Chale by Kaleb
"The Chale is a joyful, ocean-dwelling creature. Its slimy, elephant-sized body resembles that of a killer whale, but its head is closer to that of a cheetah. This playful animal feeds on penguins, krill, shark, cuttlefish, octopus, and squid, and is known for its ability to swim up to 500 miles per hour."

The Hugo by Kelsey
"The Hugo is a magical animal that is roughly the size of an elephant. Its green, purple, yellow, red, blue, orange, and black scales derive their color from the jelly beans that make up its diet. Its main activity is snooping around its mountain habitat in search of other animals to play with."

The Night Night by Brice
"The Night Night is a dinosaur-sized creature that lives in the mountains. Despite its angry nature, this sleepy animal is an herbivore, eating only leaves. It has fuzzy, green skin with blue spots."

Willy by Lily
"Willy is a horse-sized creature that playfully roams the forest in search of blueberries, which it eats with an extremely long tongue. It has fuzzy black and white fur."

And here is what Willy sounds like.

And my interpretation of him:

You can see some more OddAnimals on our Tumblr page or my Facebook page. Or, better yet, come by the Children's Hospital Boston to see the ever-evolving Hall of OddAnimals!

And here's the link to the book trailer for my new book, A Call for a New Alphabet!

Posted by Jef Czekaj, author and illustrator of A Call for a New Alphabet, due out February 2011.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful project! Our hospital features children's artwork every year and it brightens up the halls in a way that no other art can.

This would be a great project for my kiddos. I'll have them read your blog and see what they think.

Again, great project!