Children’s book illustrator visits


OTISFIELD – Kevin Hawkes took a black marker and began scribbling haphazard lines on a large white sheet of paper.

Scribble, scribble, scribble. He continued as a group of kindergarten students sat in front of him, trying to figure out just what he was trying to draw.

Suddenly one student gasped, “It’s a face!” and several of them squealed with delight.

Sure enough, a face began to almost magically emerge from the black lines as Hawkes continued to draw. His message to the students: Even if something looks like nothing, keep going. Use your imagination and your ideas.

Hawkes, who lives in Gorham with wife, Karen, and five children, has illustrated more than 35 books for children and older readers. His visit on Thursday to Otisfield Community School was funded by the Maine Humanities Council with a $1,000 grant that paid for his transportation and bought some of his books for the school’s library.

Hawkes has a bachelor’s degree in illustration from Utah State University. He also has done illustrations for movies and business magazines. On Thursday, he met with all of the elementary classes to draw pictures, talk about his art, and get the kids to put their imaginations to work.

“I try to encourage them in their art so they keep going and use their ideas,” he said.

He read “Library Lion,” an upcoming book, out loud to the kindergarten students, and showed them his illustrations as he asked them several times to “roar.”

The students dutifully responded with “roars,” or at least growls.

“Soon it will be a book; right now it’s just sheets of paper on my shelf,” he told them.

Other books Hawkes has illustrated include “My Little Sister Ate One Hare,” “Marven of the Great North Woods,” and “Sidewalk Circus.”

He sometimes writes stories and told students to put challenges in front of their characters when they write a story. “Think about what difficulties your characters might have and things they have to do to solve them, and your stories will be more interesting,” he said.

Also attending on Thursday were 26 students from St. Joseph’s College in Standish, all elementary education majors who said they came to observe how Hawkes interacts with children.