The entire room was chanting his name as we walked in. For the second grade at the Blackstone Innovation School, Jef Czekaj is a celebrity. Jef, an author, illustrator, and DJ, spent his day with the all five second grade classes at the Blackstone. His visit to the Blackstone, along with book donations to the school library, the second grade classrooms, and each second grade student, was made possible by Wondermore, an organization dedicated to bringing authors into schools. Wondermore partnered with the Blackstone Library, the school’s library managed by St. Stephen’s Youth Programs and staffed largely by volunteers.
The energy in the classroom was high during the entirely of Jef’s visit. The whole class was singing along to the hip hop Jef played as he set up. From there, the Blackstone Library coordinator, Tricia, introduced Jef. The class had lots of questions about being an author and illustrator. The good news, according to Jef, is that the job is fun and he can work almost anywhere, but Diesel Cafe in Davis Square is his favorite. The class was excited to learn that authors can even work in their pajamas! The bad news is that being an author is hard work! Jef explained that he has to put a lot of work into developing his ideas and only a number of his ideas get picked up. With input from the class, Jef had a brainstorming session to develop a cartoon. They first wrote down nouns, then verbs, and finally adjectives before turning the idea into a drawing! In the picture below, check out the dog- cat- giraffe- lion- shark hybrid as he sings, jumps, and dances! Jef told the class he carries a notebook to draw and explore his ideas. He also shared drawings he had done as a child to match idioms his teachers wrote for him.
In each of the three classroom visits, Jef engaged the class with one of his many books, including OINK-A-DOODLE-MOO, a barnyard telephone game, YES, YES, YAUL!, a story featuring a rapping turtle and rabbit named Hip and Hop, and Cat Secrets, a goofy cartoon chronicling a conflict between cats and a mouse. To conclude his visits, Jef encouraged the students to create and explore the creative process and team up with friends to see what they can make when they combine their strengths.
To learn more about events at the Blackstone and the Blackstone Library, the partnership between St. Stephen’s Youth Programs and the Blackstone, or to get involved as a volunteer, contact Maureen, the School Partnership Organizer.