By DAVID CRUMM
“I miss my Penny!” moans the heartbroken, good-as-gold dog Sadie.
That’s the moment in the middle of the new picture book, Sadie Sees Trouble, when many readers make a spontaneous, audible response. My wife Amy, reading the book for the first time, couldn’t resist exclaiming: “Ohhh, poor Sadie! Ohhhh! Penny! Come on! Sadie needs you! You need her!”
The problem is: Penny is a little girl who has become so fascinated with her high-tech tablet that she is giving a cold shoulder to her beloved Sadie!
Here’s how Sadie explains her problem with Penny:
I sit by her on the sofa.
I sit by her on the chair.
But her eyes and hands are on the tablet—
It’s like she’s not really there!
Educators will immediately recognize this story as helping with one of the most important early learning priorities of our time: Reducing children’s “screen time.”
“Because of all of the work we’ve done as educators over the years, we hear from lots of parents and teachers all over the country,” Linda Jarkey said in an interview. “Right now, we are hearing about the problem of technology becoming the baby sitter in so many families—cutting off the interaction with other people that is an important part of early learning. It’s an attractive option: Give a child a tablet or a smart phone and many children will sit quietly while you’re free to do other things around the home. But, very quickly that technology can replace interaction with your children.
“Yes, this is similar to the old problem families have had with too much TV time. Now, many parents are realizing that they need to limit ‘screen time’ on tablets or other devices like smart phones. And, the real challenge is that this awareness does not come naturally to everyone. The message of Sadie Sees Trouble tells this story, not in a preachy way, but through the eyes of this lovable dog Sadie who sees the problem first hand. It’s a fun way for parents to begin the conversation about the balance of technology in a person’s life.”
That’s the first reason you should get a copy of this new book. Educators nationwide are beginning to zero in on this problem in creative ways. Sadie Sees Trouble is on the leading edge of that effort.
How can you get involved right now? The book goes on sale nationally via Amazon in January. If you want to be an early ally in this important project, email us at [email protected] and we will respond to your interest. The author and the illustrator of this book both are veteran educators who plan to crisscross the country in 2018, providing workshops, talks and training events for parents and teachers who want to understand and respond to these challenges. Are you interested in organizing such an event? Email us at [email protected]
A UNIQUE INVITATION:
TURN YOUR HOME INTO A STUDIO
There’s a lot more to this book than the basic message to reduce screen time. This book is a first-ever invitation to jump into the pages of a picture book with your children by turning your home into an art studio. Educators in communities across this country teach literacy to young children starting with building blocks such as colors, storytelling and the arts.
Illustrator Julie Jarkey-Kozlowski is a noted arts educator who, among her many accomplishments, served as chair of the Visual Arts department for the huge Utica Community School District in Michigan. Over the years, Julie and her sister, the author Linda Jarkey, have presented popular sessions across the U.S. and Canada for parents and educators, including workshops, conferences and retreats.
They’ve got a unique idea to share in these sessions: Turning your home into a treasure hunt for art supplies.
“Our idea of coloring this picture book with things you can find in your kitchen really started as an accident,” Julie says about their collaboration.
“We were talking on the phone about this project and Julie was traveling, at the time. She didn’t have her studio supplies with her, but she got so excited about sketching the first illustrations of Sadie that she simply grabbed some things she saw in front of her on her dinner table. The first sketch of Sadie was colored with mustard!” says Linda.
That led to a brilliant idea for these educators! Coast to coast, countless social workers and educators make home visits to families, especially in vulnerable communities, encouraging early learning by using the basic materials found in any home—even in low-income households.
Linda and Julie made it their mission to create everything in these pages from materials families could find at home.
“We turned it into a challenge that springs from the pages of this picture book: Read the story and enjoy that experience. Then, look closely at how we created these pages. What was used to create this color? Or that color? Now, how far can you and your children go in creating new colors with things you can pull off your kitchen shelves? That’s a new way families can experience a book,” Julie said.
In the pages of this book, you may be able to discern the following materials: Strawberries, beets, tomato skins, mustard, food coloring, lawn grass, blueberries, coffee, tea and Worcestershire sauce.
The creators of this book invite you to turn your kitchen into a studio. One of the unique offerings with this book are six black-and-white illustrations from the book that you can download for free at http://SadieSeesTrouble.com to color with children. As a kick-start to your own creative ideas, the download page provides a list of all of the materials Linda used in illustrating the book. Linda and Julie invite you to discover your own color combinations and let them know about your discoveries! The instructions are on the download page.
A LIFETIME OF CREATIVE PERFORMANCE
The sisters behind the Sadie project have been a part of professional arts since childhood. Their father was a performer—best known as a standup comic and later a TV host. Their mother was a professional dancer—head of a Detroit-based troupe of dancers who performed at the landmark Fox Theater in a style similar to New York’s Rockettes.
“Both Julie and I have done a lot of public speaking—and we’ve run a lot of workshops and training events, too. Appearing in front of people has been a natural part of our lives really since childhood,” said Linda. “Standing in front of an audience may seem scary to most people, but it feels very natural to us.
“It’s because we had an unorthodox childhood. We didn’t have a house for our family until I started school, when we settled down in the Detroit area,” Linda said. “When we were very young, we traveled the East Coast circuit with our father and mother, living in hotels and motels where our parents were performing. We spent a lot of our early years on the road.”
On the road, the family packed lots of books for the girls! “Our parents read to us—and we read ourselves,” Linda recalls. “It seems to me as though, even before we started school, we were reading all the time. I still have my Tiny Golden Library. And I remember The Snow Queen and other stories by Hans Christian Andersen, plus Nancy Drew mysteries and so many more.”
Can you imagine the treat of having any story read to you by Harry Jarkey? Longtime Michigan residents still recall the late comedian, who finally settled his family in the Midwest. In 1956, he began hosting WXYZ-TV’s Our Friend Harry, a two-hour morning variety showcase of Harry’s many talents along with friends and guests. Then, for a while, he hosted the original Fun House, a Saturday-morning TV kids’ show packed with cartoons, races, games and stunts. (Want to read more about Harry? Here’s one online profile at DetroitKidShow.com and here is Harry’s 2014 obituary on the MLive news site.)
“And don’t forget that our mother also was a professional performer. Her professional name was Jennie Marchione and she was well known for her dance work at the Fox Theater in Detroit. We grew up surrounded by so many people who really knew how to engage a crowd,” Linda said.
“My sister and I still chuckle about this: In a way we wound up becoming performers. Here’s what I mean: We did perform when we were young. My sister was a dancer and I was more drawn to plays in high school and college. But we understood that real working entertainers face a very hard life. We’d seen our parents’ successes, but we’d seen all the struggles as well. So, we both went into education. Julie pursued arts education; I went into language arts. We’ve devoted our lives to improving education in the many different roles we’ve held over the years.
“It’s true—good educators are performers. You’re in front of an audience all the time. Many educators do five shows a day! Hopefully you’re successful with whatever routine you develop as a teacher. In this new Sadie series—and we really do hope it becomes an entire series—we want to help parents and teachers enjoy working with their children in early learning. It can be fun! That’s the message of this book. You can have lots of creative fun along the way!
“I want people to know that this first book is the start of a journey with Sadie. We are inviting everyone to come along and help us shape the journey.”
Want to suggest a direction for Sadie’s journey? Want to organize an appearance—perhaps a workshop or training event or retreat—with the Jarkeys? Remember http://SadieSeesTrouble.com for all the resources you’ll need to get involved.