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Illustrator schedules school visits

In honor of National Library Month, area elementary schools willhave a special guest on Wednesday and Thursday.

Children’s book illustrator Scott Cook, who figured out hiscalling when he began painting pictures of the sculptures made bychildren he taught art, will be on hand both days to show childrenhis work and to talk about his profession.

“It’s a tough field, and I’ll be honest about it. The computerworld and the celebrities that have come to the field of children’sbooks are making it really competitive for those who have giventheir lives to children’s books,” he said. “But I really enjoy theopportunity to show the kids how I do my work.”

Amy Valentine, librarian for Brookhaven Elementary, said part ofCook’s being here is to expose the children to the idea ofillustrations as a career.

“It’s a great thing he’s here,” she said. “Most children willnever have the chance to be exposed to a book illustrator, and thisgives him the chance to let them know how he got into it.”

Cook will be at Brookhaven Academy on Wednesday at 10 a.m. OnThursday, he will appear at Brookhaven Elementary at 8:15 a.m. and1 p.m., at Lipsey at 9:45 a.m., and Mamie Martin at 11 a.m.

Cook said he likes to set up displays that show the wholeprocess of his art, which involves making models of characters andthen painting them into the stories.

“I set up a large display of original drawings from the booksand I created these multimedia sculptures of the characters,” saidthe illustrator. “I try to create an atmosphere to help draw theminto my message about children’s books. I feel like these daysthere’s a lack of appreciation for books in general.”

And he learned some of the greatest lessons he’s trying to passon to the children he meets from someone who mentored him and lefta lasting impression.

“Eudora Welty always talked about the feel and the smell ofbooks,” said Cook, adding that the books really do seem to have alife of their own. “That’s something I came to believe in early on,that real people help create books. Hopefully this helps thechildren connect with books to be able to see the people behindthem.”

Cook also said part of the responsibility for encouragingchildren both in reading and in the arts goes to teachers and otheradults. He said there was an art class he took as a child that hestill remembers vividly.

“I remember this slide of a showboat that we were drawing andthe two teachers were very complimentary,” he said. “I stillremember it. It’s amazing how much positive reinforcement stickswith a child. Here I am, 54 years old, and it’s still vivid in mymemory.”

Cook, who has roots in Brookhaven, said he is in the area to bea part of a children’s book festival at the University of SouthernMississippi, and that spending time in area schools is always animportant part of trips like this.

“It’s been years since I’ve been to Brookhaven,” he said. “I’mreally looking forward to it.”