It’s been a joy to be given an opportunity to do a post with Paula Wallace as my guest. This Author/Illustrator just released a new picture book titled CHOOSE YOUR DAYS (Cinco Puntos Press). If you haven’t had a chance to see this unusual and exciting book, here are some reviews to whet your appetite. (My words and comments are in RED)
With the help of Old Bear, Corky lives her life intentionally. Old Bear is the “keeper of time and keys,” and when Corky is born, the big, pillowy-looking old ursine gives the little dark-haired, white child her days, two empty lists (one for dreams and one for things to do), her key, and a simple, whispered instruction: “Choose your days, make them sunny or gray.” She takes it seriously. Waking up beneath a clock with an urgent reminder instead of numbers — “Get up! You have stuff to do. Get up!” — Corky grows, moving from tricycle to two-wheeler, aging and becoming stooped over the course of two double-page spreads back grounded with painterly strokes of aquamarine. Even aged, Corky still wants to pursue “work undone … play postponed … music unsung,” but eventually she must use her key to unlock the door to death, where Old Bear is waiting comfortingly. Wallace’s illustrations are metaphorical and cozy, her pointy-nosed protagonist perpetually clad in red shoes and scarf, striped stockings, and a comfy brown dress. Generous white space encompasses both protagonist and symbols of passing time (calendar pages, the stub of a pencil), giving children the emotional room to contemplate Corky’s progress. This is the kind of book that will stick with readers, a meditation that they may not understand now but that, if digested, could have magical results.
Nebraska-based artist Paula Wallace quietly exhorts readers to make the most of their time on Earth as she follows a girl named Corky from her birth to the other end of her lifespan. Wallace’s language and imagery can be both playful and enigmatic—this is a story that challenges readers to think, rather than hitting them over the head with obvious messages and directives. After Corky is born, she is visited by Old Bear, “keeper of time and keys,” and a deity of sorts. He leaves her with a “calendar for all of her days,” lists to be filled with dreams and actions, and some advice: “Choose your days, make them sunny or gray.” Wispy paintings chart Corky’s growth in a lovely sequence of pages that shows her riding tricycles and bicycles as she ages into an elderly woman with a kerchief and cane. She asks Old Bear for more time, “For work undone. For play postponed. For music unsung,” and while she doesn’t appear to get any additional time, she does eke out a few last adventures. It’s never too late, Wallace suggests, until it is. Ages 3–7. (Apr.)
I had the pleasure of reading this unique book. Here’s my review: It is a tender and hopeful picture book for adults as well as children. Wallace respectfully addresses a topic not often discussed in picture books: Death. It’s simple message is to “make the most of the time you are given, and when the end has come, do not be afraid. Each of us holds a key to how we live our life.” It really resonated with me. Anyone who fears death will find the peaceful and thoughtful message a welcome one.
When I asked Paula to describe how she became an author/illustrator for children, here was her response:
A studio in the Hot Shops Art Center is not so much about the finished formality of art than it is about the sweat and mess of making art. It is a place of collaboration and curiosity – both of which spark my work. My own compassion and sense of wonder are tempered with humor and an earthy realism – a creative and spiritual vision informed by both childhood farm life and grown-up city dwelling.
What enriches my life and art is helping others discover their own creative gifts – be they disabled, gifted, young or old. Service work as a teaching artist with WhyArts or the Girl Scouts in the Omaha area often includes projects with those who are the underserved, hovering at the edges – the very young or the elderly, special needs, at risk, or refugee.
My work as illustrator includes fully illustrated texts, calendars, teaching materials, and many published titles. The art work has been used to illustrate musical and dramatic texts for multi-media performances. My own book, Choose Your Days, is expected in 2016 from Cinco Puntos Press.
As a fine artist there have been exhibits in such diverse settings as commercial galleries in the United States and Italy, schools, churches, the Nebraska Governor’s mansion (2015) and in public collections such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center School of Nursing and School of Public Health. There is enormous gratitude for having work in private collections throughout the United States and internationally.
I use art to help give voice to others. Art is the language of my work: to delight in beauty and to share the human experience are aspects of that language. It is the artist’s duty is to pay attention to the wonders and possibilities of the world and, in particular, to their own mistakes.
Paula Wallace is a working artist, writer and poet whose studio is located in the
Hot Shops Art Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Wallace’s compassion and sense of wonder are tempered with wry humor and earthy realism – a creative and spiritual vision informed by both childhood farm life and grown-up city dwelling.
Wallace, a graduate of the University of Iowa, enriches her life and art by helping others discover their own creative gifts – be they disabled, gifted, young or old. Her service work as a teaching artist with WhyArts in the Omaha area includes projects with Heartland Family Service, such as Youth Links and the Solomon Girls Center; special education programs through the Omaha public schools; the Intercultural Senior Center; Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts; and Service Learning at the University of Nebraska.
Wallace’s work as an illustrator includes Hansel & Gretel for Opera Omaha; African American Pioneers (homesteaders) for Omaha Public Schools African American History e-book series; cover art for Varieties of Personal Theology (David Gortner); Our Journey Together and Home is Our Journey (O’Brien); Nebraska Lawyer magazine; and the 2016-17 Christian Planning Calendar (Church Publishing). Wallace’s work has been used to illustrate musical and dramatic texts for multi-media performances at the University of Minnesota at Duluth, Chicago, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska; churches in Nebraska, Iowa, Massachusetts, California, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas; and for unique settings such as the Josie Harper Hospice House in Omaha, Nebraska.
Because the artist uses her art to help give voice to others, her range of styles may be representational to whimsical with lush color and an evocative narrative quality. Art is the language of her work: to delight in beauty and to share the human experience are aspects of that language. Wallace believes the artist’s duty is to pay attention to the wonders and possibilities of the world and, in particular, to their own mistakes.
Choose Your Days, is due on bookshelves in 2016 from Cinco Puntos Press. firstname.lastname@example.org