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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The First Drawing, written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2013. $19.00 ages 4 and up

"When collecting stones
for spearheads and knives,
you think some look like
animals, too.
"Mama, this stone looks like
a bear!"
"To me," says your mother,
"it looks like a stone."
You wonder,
Why can't they see what I see?"

What a truly beautiful way to help celebrate Picture Book Month...another glorious book by noted author and artist Mordicai Gerstein! No one sharing this book can doubt the love he feels for art and the work of artists throughout history. It is an homage to all who came before him, and who will follow.

"Some of the oldest drawings ever found were made more than thirty thousand years ago in a cave in southern France. In that same cave is the footprint of an eight-year-old child. Alongside it, the footprint of a wolf."

At the site of one of those first paintings of a woolly mammoth we see a young boy, drawing supplies in hand and faithful dog at his side. He is impressed! In the next image, that same boy and dog are at the zoo, observing an enormous elephant and ready to get started creating his own personal impression of it. What will he draw on the large piece of white paper he is attaching to the wall?

Inviting us to imagine what might have happened in that cave so long ago, Mr. Gerstein moves his story back to the stone age when a wolf might just be a boy's pet, when the boy shows his interest in watching the animals that are so plentiful near his home, when his vision of the world differs from those around him. He shares his visions when the family gathers in the flickering firelight.

 In his dreams he sees what others do not see. When he tries to tell his family about the animals, they are confused and wary. So, he draws them on the cave walls, and only adds to their apprehension. His father insists that he stop what he is doing:

"He aims his spear at the wall.
Everyone huddles in the doorway,
the wide-eyed children clutching
their parents' legs.
"I can see it," gasps your father.

In fact, it truly is. And, the young boy knows it!
Had you been there thirty thousand years ago, you might have witnessed the boy who invented drawing!

What a truly stellar story about creativity and communication! Mordicai Gerstein reminds us that art has a magic all its own, passed down through the ages to entertain, delight and chronicle history. He uses acrylics, pen and ink, and colored pencil to create the excitement felt by the young boy who shares his gift so selflessly with those he loves and perhaps, with those who follow in his footsteps. We, as the audience, are there every step of the way as he describes just what might have happened all those years ago.         


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