PDS Imagines the Possibilities with Laurie Halse Anderson and Sophie Blackall
PDS Imagines the Possibilities with Laurie Halse Anderson and Sophie Blackall

It has been an extraordinary week of creative excitement on campus with the arrival of two Imagine the Possibilities guest artists, author Laurie Halse Anderson and author/illustrator Sophie Blackall. Each visitor spent two days sharing their work and engaging in hands-on workshops and discussions across every grade level.

Anderson and Blackall are both remarkably prolific authors. Anderson has written 41 books, including picture books for young readers like Independent Dames, historic novels like Chains, and young adult novels like her debut book Speak and her latest, Shout. Both Chains and Speak were finalists for the National Book Award. Blackall has authored four books and illustrated 45, including the Ivy and Bean series, Caldecott Medal winners Finding Winnie and Hello Lighthouse, and even Missed Connections, a collection that brings hilarious and charming personal ads to life.

Each artist exhibited a pitch-perfect sense of her audience during interactions with PDS students from PreK to Upper School. In expertly tailored sessions, Anderson and Blackall discussed their creative process and the subjects of their books with students who have read, discussed, and even emulated those books, in art and writing exercises, for the past several months.

April 8-9: Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson

For Lower Schoolers, Anderson emphasized resilience and the importance of revision. She recalled the rejection letters she received early on in her career, and connected this theme with her story Thank You, Sarah. The book tells the tale of Sarah Hale, who wrote countless letters and mobilized many others to do the same, in order to preserve Thanksgiving as an American holiday. For an audience of Middle Schoolers who had recently studied Chains, Anderson drew parallels between the Revolutionary War era events depicted in her novel and injustices in today's society, and insisted on the humanity and heroism of black Americans whose stories are rarely included in history books. The author delivered a powerful presentation to Upper School students, who had read Speak, about gender norms, sexual violence, and the importance of "informed, enthusiastic, sober, ongoing, and freely given consent," and joined an 11th grade English class for a discussion of the novel. See a Flickr album of Laurie Halse Anderson's visit »

April 11-12: Sophie Blackall

Sophie Blackall

A group of Third Graders worked with Sophie Blackall to create an "exquisite corpse" collage using cutouts from magazines, inspired by her celebrated New York City Subway poster. In assemblies for Grades PreK - 4, she shared her artistic process from study to sketch to a roughly illustrated book dummy, and even showed a time-lapse video of a painting. Blackall's forthcoming title takes the form of a letter from a young boy to would-be guests from outer space, telling them all about life on earth, so as an exercise she drew an alien using parts and attributes suggested by the group like three "lollipop eyes" and five "puppy dog feet." The Middle School Book Club was treated to a look at the history and research that Blackall invested in Finding Winnie and its sequel, while Upper School art classes learned a technique using frisket film to create negative space in a watercolor, as Blackall did for the lighthouse in Hello Lighthouse against a backdrop of water and sky. See a Flickr album of Sophie Blackall's visit »

Thank you to both of our incredible guests! Imagine the Possibilities is made possible by the John D. Wallace, Jr. '78 Memorial Guest Artist Series Fund, and has been coordinated since 1995 by Bev Gallagher. Learn more about the history of this signature PDS program and the guests we have welcomed in the past 24 years.

Wallace Family

From left: Imagine the Possibilities Coordinator Bev Gallagher, guest artist Laurie Halse Anderson, Happy and John D. "Jack" Wallace, and PDS Third Grade teacher and Director of Service Learning, Margie Gibson.