When celebrated Battle Creek artist Richard Schlatter came to St. Joseph Elementary last Thursday, it wasn’t as the ArtPrize 2017’s grand prize winner, but as a storyteller.
“One of my ministries is visiting elementary schools, reading my book to second-grade classes, and then giving each student a signed copy of my book,” Mr. Schlatter said in his ArtPrize biography. “It is one of my ways of giving back to the community.”
One of the schools he reached out to after winning ArtPrize was St. Joseph.
“He actually contacted my mother in law to see if the second-grade class at St Joseph would be interested,” Aimee Downey, preschool teacher, said.
Mr. Schlatter read “The Old Man and the Tree” to Barbie Carrier’s second-grade class – a book he wrote and illustrated.
The story begins with a young man planting a tree in his yard. Over the years, the tree becomes a friend. He takes care of it and the tree offers him shade. Eventually, the man grows tired of pulling seeds out of his gutters and raking his yard, so he decides to cut the tree down.
“He can’t bring himself to do it because he thinks of the tree as a friend, so he hires someone to do it,” Mrs. Carrier said. “He is very sad afterward.”
The old man finds a maple seed on the ground, which he plants and cares for, hoping someone will enjoy the new tree as much as he did his old friend.
The story is not a work of fiction. It was Mr. Schlatter’s own experience, which he shaped into a story for his granddaughter.
“One of the students loved that the story he wrote was based on him and was a true story,” Mrs. Carrier said.
Mr. Schlatter shared the artistic process of creating the book with the children.
“He showed them his original sketches and then the sketches after he had colored them with colored pencils,” Mrs. Carrier said. “[The students] loved being able to see both the before and after. I feel like it gave some of [our students] inspiration.”
Thanks to the generosity of Marilyn and Ralph Calladine, friends of Mr. Schlatter and our BCACS, each child received a copy of the book, personally signed by Mr. Schlatter, who had the children make a vow.
“I will never cut down my friends.”
“Our second-grade students were so fortunate to learn about the writing and illustrating process first-hand from Mr. Schlatter,” Cathy Erskine, BCACS enrollment director said. “The positive message his book conveyed about friendship and caring for one another is especially meaningful.”