Author, young illustrator reach out to second graders

Ron Bryant

Moby Pincher dared not show his face until Dee Scallan was ready.

And even when she decided she was ready to introduce her big, red Louisiana crawfish to the world, Scallan realized he still didn’t have a face.

Not really.

Oh, her words were enough to create pictures in children’s imaginations.

Still, where would a children’s story be without pictures?

So, she turned to Daniel Myers. This is where Moby’s story really gets interesting, because Myers wasn’t a typical book illustrator. He’d had no artistic training. He’d had no experience in book illustrating. And his only true life experience was being an 8-year-old kid. Which was perfect for Scallan, for who better than a kid to create illustrations for kids?

“Daniel loved to draw,” she said. “And what I found most interesting was that he didn’t have to look at anything in order to draw it. He just drew it.”

Myers is now 15 and a freshman at Dutchtown High School. He was a student at Scallan’s school, Miss Dee’s Montessori School Preschool in West Monroe when he first met the author.

But even Myers didn’t know he was being taught by an author.

“I wrote these books, then I stuck them in a closet for 25 years,” Scallan said. “I wanted to find different ways to help kids learn, and I came to understand that by using many different paths, I was able to help them comprehend and retain what they learned.”

She uses some of those paths on this particular day at the Louisiana State Museum’s first “Get Caught Reading” program.

This day’s program is designed to reach out to second grade students in East Baton Rouge Parish. Another “Get Caught Reading” program at the Louisiana State Museum system in New Orleans coincides with this one.

But it’s here where Scallan stages a song and dance routine based on her stories of Moby Pincher, where children act out the stories that teach them about Louisiana’s culture, history and environment.

And where, in an upstairs conference room, Myers teaches these same students how to draw Moby,

“I always start out like this,” Myers said, drawing a line with a slight squiggle.

The squiggle turns out to be Moby’s smile, which paves the way for his face, then claws, then crawfish tail.

“I always start out with his face,” Myers said.

Which is totally understandable, because Moby’s personality is founded in his smile. It’s how a kid would imagine a crawfish living in the imagined fantasy of Louisiana’s swampland.

“I’ve been drawing since I was 2,” Myers said.

He was still drawing when he entered Miss Dee’s Montessori Preschool. And Scallan remembered Myers’ artistic ability when parents began asking her where they could buy her books.

She began sharing her stories of Moby Pincher with the children in her school, using the tales as she does at the Louisiana State Museum’s “Get Caught Reading” program – to teach kids about the states culture, history, agriculture and environment.

Trouble was, there weren’t any books at the time. Moby Pincher was still living on a shelf inside a closet at Scallan’s home. So, she pegged Myers to draw Moby and his friends when she finally decided to publish the books in 2004.

“When I first saw the illustrations in the book, I was pretty proud,” Myers said. “Miss Dee asked if I could go to workshops with her, and the kids would act out the books.”

And Myers would show the kids how he draws Moby, just as he does here.

There’s just something about a kid making a presentation to other kids. They connect, and an audience of children isn’t afraid to ask a peer, “How?”

How, exactly, does Myer go about drawing Moby?

“I saw some potential illustrators in these sessions,” Myers said. “Some were able to draw Moby really well. A lot of them didn’t ask questions, though, because they were too busy watching what I was doing and drawing on their own paper.”

Myers is joined by his mom Tammy Myers in this session. She remembers how her son really wasn’t sure how he’d draw a crawfish at first.

“We showed him a crawfish, and he knew how he would draw it,” Tammy Myers said.

Myers’ family also brought him to New Orleans’ French Quarter to help him develop illustrations for a Moby Pincher adventure in the Crescent City.

Scallan, meantime, continues teaching through Moby. She and her husband have purchased a motor home, which allows them to easily travel throughout the state presenting Moby Pincher programs and promoting writing in schools.