I like to tell the stories of real individual animals. To capture their personalities rather than their traits. To chronicle real animals' personalities with my paints and words. I find my stories everywhere. My favorite stories I experience. Others, people tell me. Some come from the internet and some I read. Like the one about the ram and the llama who escaped their pasture and spent a Vermont winter living in the woods.
For more on this story and to see the first fantastic selection of artwork and stories by the first and second graders at the Lilja Elementary School click here.
That story is from Brad Kessler's Goat Song. In Brad's book he describes how his neighbor's sheep, about ten in all, were being picked off, one by one, by a pack of coyotes. The ram got so nervous he stuck to the llama like a velcro attachment. He was often seen peering out from under the llama's belly. The llama was so freaked out he decided to split and hide in the woods. Of course the ram split with him.
The two somehow made it through a whole snowy Vermont winter on their own. Eventually they were spied in the spring, along side a road, and brought back to their old pasture. There, they escaped one more time before settling back in.
Recently, I visited with two classes of first and second graders from the Lilja Elementary School. I asked them for some of their help chronicling the lives of real, individual animals in words and paint. Each week starting this week, I am including selections of their work.
I am wowed by the power of their paintings. I feel a strong urge to go back to a “kid” style of painting. There is something alive and fantastic in their renderings. Something more captured in their bold application of paint. I have tried to go back but can't achieve what they do so naturally.
Please enjoy these very special works of art and their accompanying essays. I'd love to see the Vermont ram and llama painted by the Lilja first and second graders. It would render paintings as fantastic and worthy as the tale itself.
A Ride - by Ronan, age 8
Floodwaters come in and flood the city in India. A mouse is stranded, but catches a ride on a passing frog. Holding on tight, it is carried to safety. Normally mice don’t ride on frogs!
Sunset Cheetah - by JJ , age 7
I chose the cheetah because they are my favorite animal. They live in Africa in the hot sun. They run super fast.
Fantastic Cow #569 - by Ben, age 8
One summer in New Zealand, on a dairy farm where there was a flood, the owner was bringing some cows out to milk and they got caught in the water. The cows swam away and left the owner behind. The owner would have drowned if cow #569 had not come to the rescue and carried the owner to dry land. I thought it was interesting that a cow saved the life of the owner from the flood. It seems like cows are just like normal animals and they wouldn't try to save someone in a flood, they would just try to save themselves. I thought they would get scared, but sometimes cows can be heroes and come to the rescue.
Surprising Swordfish - by Truman, age 8
I chose this swordfish because I notice it had a very long sword on it. I really like fish. It uses its sword to attract a mate and eat.
Alexa's Friend - by Emmett, age 8
At the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio, a cheetah named Sahara and a pup named Alexa became friends. They have been friends for more than 8 years! They prefer to live on their own but when they come together for a zoo program, they always lick each other in saying "hello". When they were little, they did everything side-by-side. I picked this story because it's surprising that a dog came together with an African wildcat. I would think the cheetah would attack the dog, thinking it is prey, but sometimes unusual animals can end up being friends.