Every time I open up our copy of Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals, I smile at this perfect dedication page.
I did not, to my memory, know Emberley’s books when I was growing up, but when I discovered them in my 20s, he instantly became one of my heroes.
I not only love his books, I’m inspired by the way he and his wife Barbara collaborated on classic books like Drummer Hoff and The Story of Paul Bunyan, all while raising their kids, Rebecca and Michael, both of whom grew up to become illustrators and now have creative families of their own. (On the family business, Rebecca remembers, “Our parents would say ‘Think up something you can make and sell it.’”) I used a quote of Ed’s in Steal Like An Artist, and a few years later, Rebecca sent me of a snapshot of her dad reading it. I framed it and hung it on my studio wall and I look at it whenever I feel worthless.
Now that I have my own marker-wielding boys, I leave the Emberley books out for them to find. My son Owen, who’s about to turn 5 this month, likes to copy out of the Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains, although he also likes to skip most of the steps and copy the final drawing.
Here’s one from The Big Red Drawing Book:
“Most children are at least as creative as adult artists are until they get to first or second grade,” Ed says. “Your job is to bring them back.”
I try so hard to provide the life I always wanted for my boys, and I want so much for them to enjoy the things I love, to see me working, and to work alongside me. But I’m always mindful of Andrew Solomon, who wrote in Far From The Tree, “Perhaps the immutable error of parenthood is that we give our children what we wanted, whether they want it or not.”