My first session was with Clifton, who has the kindest smile and greets everyone with a hug. I know Clifton from the old art classes, when three instructors juggled twenty or so clients. He painted with another teacher more, but it was clear he has an active imagination and loves to create. I hadn't worked with him for a few months, but every time I saw him in the building, he'd give me a great big hug and ask when we'd have art together.
Sure enough, when I went to his classroom, his face lit up. We relocated the library, appropriately surrounded by books, while I explained the project. "When we made art together," I said, "you'd tell the best stories as you drew pictures. But since you just told them to me, I can't remember them. Do you want to write some down in a book so everyone can read them?"
Clifton immediately began talking about Animorphs, telling me the names and animal alter egos of about five characters, so I knew he had plenty of material for a story. We moved to a table in the cafeteria to spread out the supplies. I laid out paper, pens, markers, colored pencils, and crayons. Clifton selected a green colored pencil to work with; I remember him always wanting to paint with green in art class.
He started by writing a sentence introducing a character, accompanied by a picture of them in animal form. Once he had all the characters done, I asked what should happen to them. Clifton broke out into his trademark smile and described a fight scene between the good guys and the villains. Instead of writing all that, he just wrote a sentence setting everything up, and drew the fight scene himself.
He was smiling and laughing the whole time he drew this page, and his excitement shows. He pressed so much harder with the pencil compared to when he was just introducing the characters. The fight scene and resolution (no spoilers here!) are such a bolder green than the previous pages. Clifton gave me a high five when he finished; "An eight page book!" I kept exclaiming. "You just wrote an eight page book!"
We made plans to get together the next week to design a cover and write an "About the Author" page, but when I saw Clifton again just two days later, he gave me a concerned look and asked "When will we finish my sketchbook?"
I have to say, it was a pretty great way to kick off the project!