About half way through 1st grade, I moved to a new house and changed schools. After 5th grade I moved to a new state – from Alaska to Colorado – which felt, I will tell you, like moving to a new country! And then I moved again – and then again – after 8th and 9th grade, to Texas and Minnesota respectively.
I didn’t enjoy this, any of it, especially that move to 9th grade during a time when peers and personal friendships had just started to take priority over those with my immediate family. It was hard. It was disruptive. And I felt adrift right at a critical time for developing anchors. Plus, I was powerless to do anything about it — the moving anyway.
That being said, with whatever resolve and optimism that a 15 year old boy can muster, I also eventually realized that I was able to start again. That making new friends was very much up to me, and that through the simplest and most natural of connections, I actually DID have the footing to find my way.
Surprisingly, old friends – the ones I’d left behind and the things we’d done together – those things still mattered in these new places – even if the kids and the setting had changed – because they mattered to me. I began to understand the threads of “self” that could carry over to new places and new experiences – that my previous external friendships were connected just as importantly to my internal needs.
I liked sports and being outside. I liked dogs. I liked ART! Simple things, yes, but touchstones that nonetheless related (and still relate!) to helping me navigate the seemingly scary and more complex dynamics of saying saying ‘hello”. Those “goodbye” relationships and interests, the ones that I was missing so terribly much, might also assist with making new people and situations feel a little more “me” than I’d realized.
OK, so this “awareness” happened in my sophomore year of high school and NOT at the age of your typical picture book audience. But still, this simple realization has trickled down through the years to become the underpinnings of my newest picture book, LATER, GATOR!.
And if I’m perfectly honest, its also great reminder to the everyday adult me of what makes bravery possible for many things – from submitting new stories to editors, to sharing my enthusiasm for drawing with a room full of sixty 2nd graders – or 200 high school students (which happened a few years back in Spokane!) People and experiences, the things we leave behind when we say “good bye” – they matter. They help us communicate. They inform our self expression — whether that’s in the way you kick a soccer ball, write a poem, or draw a picture — and they help you say “hello.”
Thank you to the Online Author Visits community for giving me yet another way to to interact with the world!
PS: I DO like this whole book give away idea. You’ll have to be patient because LATER, GATOR! doesn’t arrive until July 19th, but I would LOVE to draw a name from the comments section and/or from any Skype visit in the remaining 2015-2016 school year and send you a book. Say ‘hello’ below and we’ll make it happen. THE CONTEST ENDS ON MAY 31st! Take care, Polar Bears!
Erik Brooks is the author and/or illustrator of 20+ books for children and their most excellent parents and teachers. Look for his newest picture book, LATER, GATOR! (Sterling Children’s Books) in July 2016.
Erik writes, draws, coaches, and visits schools from his fine little home in Winthrop, WA. It’s in the middle of the mountains, so Skype is an amazing resource for bringing together these far-flung but amazingly interconnected parts of the world! To learn more about booking a Skype visit with Erik, head to the school visits page of his website at: www.erikbrooks.com
PPS: Enjoy the book trailer!