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Artist inspires kids to give life to ideas

Artist/illustrator Michael White of Atlanta, Ga., breathed life into a half dozen imaginary animal characters while entertaining a record 110 kids at a summer reading program class at the William Bradford Huie Library in Hartselle Wednesday morning.

Hanging behind him on a wall in the children’s reading area was a collection of the characters he created the year before, compliments of Librarian Emily Love. They were named “Chicken of the Sea,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “Justin Beaver and “Frost Bite,” among others. Also displayed on an adjoining counter were four children’s books containing his art illustrations. His latest,” Library Dragon,” was a 4-year piece of work and will be in libraries and on bookstore shelves within the next three months.

White began his presentation by turning to a clean sheet of writing paper and inviting his listeners to take a sheet of paper and a crayon and follow his lead.

“Let’s draw a chicken and start by giving it some eyes,” he said. “You do the same thing on your sheet of paper. Now let’s give it some wings, legs, a beak and a comb.”

He then turned to his airbrush and gave its plumage bright splashes of red, yellow and brown.

“Not that’s a weird chicken,” he volunteered. “We could calls this a story of a chicken who dreamed of making it to the big leagues.”

White them turned to his students and invited them to show their own drawings of the chicken, complimenting several of them as he moved around the room.

This procedure was repeated for drawings of a bee, bear, lion and eagle

“I didn’t know teaching kids is something I’d be doing until after I illustrated my first book,” White pointed out. “The book’s author suggested that I take my art to school and libraries and share it with children. Now, I feel this is something I was born to do.”

White said he started drawing at the age of three and spent a lot of the time he was in school sitting at the back of the class doodling with a pencil and pen.

“I was fortunate to have had teachers who appreciated my creativity and allowed it to be expressed in words and drawings,” he added.

White said he has made presentations in over 1,700 schools and libraries during the past 19 years.

“I love to get the kids involved in what I’m doing and create a spark of ideas,” White pointed out. “That how all books get started.”

The summer reading program, “Dream Big,” will continue on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. through July, except the Fourth of July.