The book is done.
I have a big stack of bound, colorful books waiting for distribution next week.
I am so pleased with the way the book turned out.
The art transferred beautifully, and our local UPS store,
who does our printing, knocked themselves out with
the quality and accuracy of the colors.
My top two tips for someone who would try a project like this:
-Find a printer who cares and will work well with you.
-Bind the book yourself, if at all possible.
I've found that the price of binding a book at a copy shop
can be almost as much as the printing. Most stores charge
$3 or $4 for binding, and this isn't fancy binding,
it's the same comb binding most schools have the
equipment to do. I figure that the hour I spent in the
closet of the school library punching and binding saved us
$140, which becomes profit.
(Honestly, I wish there were more things that paid that well.)
As Little e was reading the finished book for the first time,
she said, "Hey, this actually came together well!"
There was a certain amount of surprise in her voice,
which could show a certain lack of faith in one's mother,
except that the pages created by the class vary wildly.
The stories they wrote range from teachers eating ice cream to visiting planets inhabited by banana eating spiders.
Organizing the book, finding a rhythm that will
hold the book together, and discovering a story arc,
can be challenging.
This is the part of the project where you have all
of the puzzle pieces, but not the box cover that tells
what the picture looks like.
When you come home with all of the raw art
it doesn't seem that scary, you're excited.
But, when it's all been scanned, cropped, compiled,
and had the student's writing added,
there is a moment when it stares at you.
I come to this same point when making quilts with children,
and there is always a little flurry of panic.
I make a list of the children's topics, and I group them.
With quilts I group by color or shape,
in this case, my topics were: travel, profession, home,
and fantastical. Once I have the pages in groups,
I play with order. Where to I want to start and
where do I want to end?
Once I find my beginning (a fishing trip in this case)
and an ending (writing children's books),
the rest of the pages begin to fall into place.
Another challenge that came with this particular project
was finding a voice for the book. Our teacher wanted
the students to have a writing project as part of the book,
so they wrote about their illustrations.
As wonderful as this was, it did leave me with a dilemma.
How to include the writings and still have a continuous voice?
My solution was to use the children's words as artist's notes at the bottom of the illustration, so a reader can see their art and hear their individual voice.
At the top of the page is a simple dialogue linking the pictures together into a story, so the book can be read straight through like a traditional picture book.
The first page has an introduction about our teacher retiring and wondering about what she'll do, then the story begins with these two pages:
It took over half an hour for our teacher to read the book to the class for the first time. The students were so excited to see their images in print and hear their words, that there was a discussion with each page.
The best part (for me) is that each child has the chance to bring this project home. (I've said this before, and I'll say it again.) The tragedy of the traditional auction project is that only one family gets to keep the final project. Seeing how excited the class was to work on this project (they'd chant when I came to class (really!)), how would I have been able to tell them that only one of them would get to keep it?