Flight goggles firmly on their heads, Vermont author and CLiF presenter SS Taylor and New York City illustrator Katherine Roy voyaged to the Newbury Elementary School in Newbury, VT last Friday to give three presentations to all the students from Grade 1 to Grade 6 about the multi-year process they navigated to create their new epic children’s book The Expeditioners. The presentation was part of  CLiF’s Year of the Book in that school.

While a wild cat peered over her shoulder, Sarah walked the young fellow adventurers through the process of coming up with an idea for a book, and then envisioning, shaping and recrafting characters and plot lines innumerable times before arriving at a final version that worked for her, her editor, and her publisher. Her friend Katherine, a graduate of the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, agreed to create the 36 dynamic illustrations that fill the book with visual energy and intriguing details.

The Expeditioners follows the adventures of three siblings who live in a time when computers have failed and electricity is extinct. Their father, a famous explorer, has disappeared, and his children must follow the clues on half a smuggled map, avoid government agents, and find the treasure of the Drowned Man’s Canyon. What’s not to like?

Sarah and Katherine’s presentations in Newbury were interspersed with slides showing the draft manuscript and pages of rough sketches Katherine noodled to help her uncover the look and feel of key characters, scenes and locations. We also saw shots of Sarah and Katherine reviewing and sorting design choices, the evolution of verbal and visual representations of different parts of the book, and then the final versions that now reside in libraries, bookstores, and personal collections across the country. Sarah read excerpts from different parts of the novel, and then Katherine showed her art that accompanied the text.

Students came away from the visits with a much better sense of how stories are born, how written and artistic storytelling unfolds, and how acts of imagination can come to life in the form of a finished book. Teachers came away with many more ideas about how to teach writing, storytelling, and art. And, most importantly, everyone went home excited to read The Expeditioners!

Many thanks to Sarah and Katherine for making their latest voyage.

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