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Archive for December 6th, 2017

by Sam Juliano

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach of us more than we can ever learn from books.”           -John Lubbock

In clinical terms the condition is referred to as “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” but what really defines the title character in Carmen Bogan’s exuberant Where’s Rodney? is a youth possessing an orientation for immersion in anything of an alfresco slant.  This is a boy by his very nature who could never achieve his potential in a rigidly cerebral environment.  The independence one associates with the open air promotes self-reliance and a naturalist philosophy that in turn will bolster rather than curtail scholastic advancement.  Legendary botanist and environmentalist John Muir spent years hiking through Western forests and writing impassioned pleas to important politicians, which in part resulted in the creation of the “national park.” William Dickson Boyce, an outdoorsman by nature, is often credited with helping to found the Boy Scouts of America after many years of camping and hiking through especially rugged terrain.  The celebrated  transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau in his defining work Walden detailed his experience in rejecting the city life in favor of a cabin on the edge of a pond.  As these seminal figures have documented, there can never be a replacement for actual experience, for all the study and volumes read.  Bogan reverses the learning process by having Where’s Rodney?’s spirited protagonist absorb the sensory elements first, and then to attach the meaning that is meant to be imparted in strictly didactic terms.  In this sense it would be exceedingly difficult to argue that Rodney or any other young person who redefines academic order doesn’t have a head up on those who can identify or access but not necessarily “feel.”

In conjunction with the Yosemite Conservancy, “Dream On Publishing”, an independent multicultural children’s book sponsor committed towards promoting literacy for children of color was established four years ago by none other than Bogan herself.  Planning a visit to a park within the reach of any school or family unit is the underlying aim of this unique and singular picture book, one of a continuing series that is intended to let all kids know that individually and collectively they count mightily in the larger scheme.  After the brown hued title page replication of a later tableau depicting Rodney at the height of his sensory raptness a situational drama juxtaposing the insufferable claustrophobia of the classroom and the free-spirited exhilaration only made possible without the man made barriers is played out.  Bogan’s illustrator is the acclaimed Floyd Cooper, an inspired choice for this project if there ever was one.  Cooper’s “subtractive” process, distinctive and idiosyncratic, involves color washing and peeling away of layers to achieve the striking grainy texture that emboldens the humanist elements in his books.  A crisp and soulful documentation of profoundly registered unbridled emotions carry along the stories he illustrates far more than any conventional notions of plot. (more…)

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