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By Lisa Moore
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
Wellesley Free Library’s Wakelin Room was abuzz last week as fans big and small filled the seats or sat crisscross applesauce on the rug for a book reading and artist workshop by renowned author/artist Rosemary Wells. Famous for her over 120 books for children, including over 40 that feature the inimitable Max and Ruby, Wells chose to read the story “Bunny Money.” This book features Max and Ruby as they travel into town to purchase a present for their grandmother.
The story opens with a focus on Ruby’s wallet, which is full of the money she has been saving up. As in many of the Max and Ruby stories, older sister Ruby leads younger brother Max, who always seems to get into some trouble that Ruby needs to fix. In this adventure, the two spend so much money on emergencies that they barely have enough money for Grandma’s gift.
Wells shared her belief that reading aloud to children 30 minutes each day from actual books can bring them peace and serenity. It was clear that both parents and children were enthusiastic about hearing a favorite author and artist give voice to their beloved characters.
After the reading, Wells gave the audience a look into her private art studio, where her ideas are fleshed out, developed, perfected, and brought to life. As an artist, Wells performs daily exercises to help hone her skills, perfect her eye, and focus her. Each day while listening to Navajo flute music, she expertly colors a black-and-white outline from one of her own books. If she makes an error, she starts over with a fresh sheet. Once she is satisfied that her effort is perfect, her eye is sharp, and her hand is steady, she throws out the finished sheet and begins her day’s work.
Wells’ books are cherished just as much for the unique, vivid artwork that accompanies each page as they are for the stories themselves. The author shared her creative technique for adding texture, contrast, and complexity to her pages by using rice, beans, and even Cheerios. She creates one-of-a kind stamps that she uses to add different textures to Ruby’s dress or Max’s bed, for example. This unique style, and the artist’s use of homemade paints, multi-textured paper, and various media including charcoal, pencil, ink, and pastels, create pictures that entice Wells’ young readers to turn the pages, again and again.
Inspired to write her characters by watching her own children from afar and listening to the special conversations siblings share (like her five-year-old daughter telling her 9-month-old brother “how to be”), Wells imbues her characters with a distinct familiarity that is beloved by children and adults alike.
As an advocate for literacy and creative arts, Wells talked about an important skill she learned in school: the skill of revising one’s work. She shared that it might take 10 revisions that take four hours each to create one page of art for a new book, but multiple revisions ensure that when she brings a book to her publisher, it is her very best work.
In addition to the public Young Artist’s Workshop presented by Wellesley Free Library’s Pattillo Family Program Fund, Wells was scheduled to visit both Hardy and Bates Elementary Schools to present her Young Artist Workshop as a part of the school’s creative arts and science programs.
In May of this year, Rosemary Wells is launching her newest children’s book series, introducing new characters Kit and Kaboodle. Written in the spirit of Max and Ruby, “Kit & Kaboodle” gives readers their first look at twin brother and sister Siamese kittens - and a rascally mouse named Spinka - and the mischief the three get in; it is sure to be a new favorite with Wells’ many fans, young and old.