Thursday, August 12, 2010


When I was thirteen my parents sent me to Buck's Rock, an overnight camp in Connecticut for dreamy artsy kids who weren't especially great at sports. The camp didn't advertise itself as a place where campers wouldn't be chastised for running in terror from a descending kickball, but I was a pretty typical camper, so...

I loved Buck's Rock. I was only there for one month when I was thirteen, and another when I was fourteen, but I loved every minute that I spent there (except for that time that I was giving a tour to some visitors and accidentally walked them through a hornet's nest, that was not a good time). But Buck's Rock was the sort of place where a kid could weld a sculpture or put out a publication or act in a Shakespeare play and be taken seriously. I credit those two months for really helping me with my self-esteem and social skills and life-view and love of the song "Brown-Eyed Girl", so I'm a big fan of good summer camps.

Yesterday I traveled to the wilds of southern New Jersey to do a presentation at Mountain Meadow, a two-week overnight program for kids and teens from LGBTQ families. I was invited to give a talk because Julie, one of the main characters in The Popularity Papers, has two dads.

Okay, here's the deal with Julie's two dads: Julie has two dads. That's pretty much the deal.

After doing a cartooning workshop with a smaller group of kids, I found myself in the main dining hall of the camp in front of all the campers. I didn't take any pictures because I wasn't sure about putting photos of kids up on this blog without their parents permission. I also didn't take any pictures because I totally forgot to bring my camera. Bear with me, I'm still pretty new at this blogging thing.

After talking a little about The Popularity Papers and doing a short reading, I answered some questions from the kids. They were smart and great and attentive, and then...

I started to draw.

A couple of months ago I was in DC for the American Library Association's Annual Conference. As part of the festivities, I was invited to participate in the "Drink & Draw", which is an event where a bunch of cartoonists drinking white wine stand in front of easels with big pads of paper. An audience full of people who are also drinking white wine yell out suggestions for 1) A character, 2) a setting, and 3) an activity. The cartoonists then furiously try to draw this character in this setting doing this activity and then the best drawing is chosen by a round of applause. I'm very happy to report that I won the first round by drawing Sarah Palin baking a cake in the Grand Canyon.

It was a great time, so I thought it would be a fun thing to do with kids at book events. Up to this point I've gotten some fairly easy drawing assignments; A bird in a castle singing, Lydia in a forest jumping over a hurdle, that sort of thing. So I said to the Mountain Meadow kids, "Who can think of a character?"

Hands shot up, and I picked the boy in the corner. In retrospect, I probably picked him for the amusingly wicked glint in his eye, and what followed was my own fault.

"A platylo," the kid said.

"A what?" I asked.

"A platylo."

This has to be some kind of manga thing that I just don't get, I thought. "And what is a platylo?"

The kid looked at me like I was the dumbest girl ever. "A cross between a buffalo and a platypus." Duh.

DON'T YOU CHALLENGE ME, INSOLENT CHILD! My brain screamed. My brain sometimes thinks it's in a Ridley Scott movie. "I DON'T LIKE YOU!" I yelled at the kid. The other campers cracked up and I began to draw.

The original drawing is still at Mountain Meadow, so I drew this one for the blog. And so that I can gaze at it in wonder of this awesome kid's brain.

I've never wanted to be a full-time teacher. I'm a cartoonist, and I'm happiest when I'm coming up with stories and drawing them, but I really enjoy the things that come out of kid's brains. I don't know Platylo Kid's name, but rest assured, this is just the beginning of his creation.

Heading over to Haverford, PA tomorrow for a program with the Main Line Art Center and a signing at Children's Book World, one of my favorite bookstores in the Philly area. This time I will take my camera...

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