Last night I went to one of the most enjoyable book events I have ever attended. Author and illustrator Kadir Nelson came to Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor and gave a wonderful talk about his art and his writing.
|I can't stop staring at this stunning book cover
But please don't assume that because Kadir writes and illustrates picture books that they are only for kids. Pick up a book like We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball or Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans, and you will quickly realize that his work transcends age groups.
The first thing one notices about Kadir when he walks into a room is his calm and gentle demeanor. Someone jokingly asked him during the Q&A portion of the evening if he ever freaks out about anything because his presence is just so serene. His response was that it's more comfortable to be peaceful. How apropos that he illustrated Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech since he and King appear to be kindred spirits. He further adds to his serene persona by imploring the importance of choosing a career path because you love it, not because it will make you the most money. He shared his story of beginning college as an architecture major, and even though he loved to paint and draw, he chose architecture instead because he felt like that would lead him to a "real job." Since he wasn't a fan of starving, he didn't think being an artist was a practical career path. But architecture proved to be a path that was clearly not meant for him, so he decided to follow passion rather than practicality. That was clearly the right choice and one that continues to make a solid case for doing what you love instead of doing what will make you more money or doing something just to make your parents happy.
It's amazing how with some authors I can go up to and immediately strike up a conversation and with others I can't seem to find any way to get my mouth to open to articulate anything remotely intelligent. When I went up to get my books signed yesterday evening, my reaction to Kadir was unfortunately the latter. I didn't know what to say other than "When I look at your work, it moves me to tears." Even though I wanted to, I couldn't say anything else. I was just so dumbstruck. I was thankfully coherent enough to ask if he would be so kind as to take a picture with me and my friend Kaitlin who came with me. She thankfully could articulate her admiration much better than I could, declaring that her students love Heart and Soul and are equally as dumbstruck as I apparently am by the beautiful artwork inside.
|My friend Kaitlin and me with Kadir Nelson: our admiration knows no bounds