NEWBURGH - Local author and illustrator, Bryan Collier, held up a stained-glass picture in his award-winning book on Martin Luther King Jr. He soon challenged his audience, "What is the connection between this picture and Martin Luther King Jr." The hands and enthusiam immediately surfaced.
"It’s many colors make up the people of the world," said one audience member. "It’s like the parts making up the whole."
It’s those kinds of historical gems that reside in each of Collier’s works. The Marlboro resident was on hand Monday, President’s Day, to share his passions for art, writing and history. Collier could be spotted at Newburgh’s Barnes and Noble, where he was joined by a large crowd of both children and adults, many off for the federal holiday. True to the presidential theme, Collier read LINCOLN AND DOUGLASS: an American Friendship as well as displayed and discussed his #1 New York Times bestseller, BARACK OBAMA: SON OF PROMISE, CHILD OF HOPE. In addition to reading and showing several of his works on such other icons as; Rosa Parks, Roberto Clemente, Muhammad Ali and Booker T. Washington, Collier discussed his writing, drawing, and creative process crafts, as well as answered questions, signed books and even cut the special "book cake" in his honor. Along the way, those in attendance mined an assortment of crafting gems from the veteran artist, who earned a BFA with honors from Pratt University of New York.
"Picture books start as soon as you see them;" explained Collier. "What I really like about them is they make our children really slow down and observe."
Collier himself has done his share of observing...and researching enroute to his literary successes. Weaving historical facts into many of his pieces, Collier takes a hands-on approach to learning the subject matter.
"For me, to write, I have to go to the actual location," explained Collier. "When I wrote about Dr. King, I had to go to Birmingham, Alabama, see it up close to really understand it."
Collier further related history to a "chain," making us all connected. Pointing to his book on Clemente, he related how the baseball player was not only skilled at his sport, but also spent much of his time fine-tuning his political skills, leading the way for progress for his homeland of Puerto Rico.
In addition to his three Caldecott Honors as well as five Coretta Scott King Awards, Colllier was involved in a segment of Sesame Street, an experience he cites as one of his proudest. Yet, for the man who cites art as a "silent gift that jumps out at you when you least expect it," making appearances like the one he did Monday at Barnes and Noble, and interacting with his readers as well as budding artists, holds a special spot all its own.
"I really enjoy coming to these book talks/signings; the excitement of not knowing who you are going to touch is really wonderful," said Collier. "Today was such a great time with incredible energy."
And what does the future book output look like for Collier? In June, 2014, his latest book, MY COUNTRY TIS OF THEE, will be released. It’s subject matter deals with the Women’s Movement. Beyond that, a read on something involving the Hudson Valley is a strong possibility.
"I’ve been walking around and looking in this area," said a smiling Collier when asked about his book prospects on the Hudson Valley. "This area is so rich in history, I’m definitely going to do something on it."