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Review 5.25: And Why? With author/illustrator: Michel Van Zeveren

Held at the Critic Bookshop, The Place.
Author/Illustrator: Michel Van Zeveren
Book: And Why?
Time: 15:00 – 16:00pm
Date: 25-05-2019
A bright, beautiful ambience and two little marker boards. Michel Van Zeveren, Author and Illustrator subtly announced his presence before the event began. The children present had already familiarized with the environment as they could not resist throwing themselves on the playful cardboards that decorated the venue. Parents and visiting guests sat behind, ready to be thrilled by Michel’s session today.
The event began with a welcome from the translator of the day, to all young readers and guests at the 4th EU China Festival. She gave a brief introduction of the festival stating that over twenty-eight renowned authors from all over Europe were present through the three weekends from May 17th to June 5th to share their works with the people of Beijing and interact with other accomplished Chinese authors. By way of introduction, she introduced Michel as one author who has immense experience in both authorship and illustration. Michel said his job was to write and draw children’s books. His agenda for the day was summarized
Michel’s activity for the day was to draw and open the floor for more questions. He was in for a huge surprise. One of the children who was fascinated by Michel’s work could not hide his excitement as Michel read his book. He kept interjecting with his childhood exuberance and excitement while Michel read the books, asking questions and sharing his most genuine comments about the story to the delight of all the attendees.
Michel’s love for writing books is displayed in the number of works he has done so far. He has published close to forty books. Unlike many authors who are not ambidextrous when it comes to writing and illustrations, Michel is an illustrator and doubles as a writer as well. According to Michel, his first book he published was a book called ‘Fish’ which he brought along. He showed other books he had written to the audience, one of them being ‘I live here’, a book about a hunter who had to live with wolves and ghosts in the same house.
About inspiration, most of his books, he said, were written from his personal life experiences. His book, ‘That’s Mine’ he said was written because his daughter, about three to four years old was saying often “that’s mine” and he put that into a book. Another book inspiration was from his daughter’s cousin who kept saying ‘it’s okay’. She kept doing silly things, breaking things around the house and her response will always be ‘it’s okay’. He takes these experiences and develops them and creates these masterpieces that are read all over his country and in other parts of the world. Other books he wrote came from his childhood experiences with his siblings. One book about three gorillas, he said, reminded him about his childhood and his relationship with his two other siblings.

Michel said that before his identity as an author and illustrator, he also is a father who has a daughter who he takes to school every day. He let the audience into his workspace. He said he worked in the attic of his home. He’s transformed the attic from the stereotypical attic where people keep old things, with spiders moving around into this magical workspace where he writes. He has a big table, clean windows where he has all his tools for writing.
Michel took the audience through the power of creating a story. He described the power of writing and creativity as a gift to everyone. He said for him, all he needed was a magic wand, as held a marker in his hand. He said each idea slowly and gradually builds up as you continue to write.
One of the most powerful perspectives Michel shared was the difference between a good drawing and beautiful drawing. As an accomplished illustrator and author, he said that we are often challenged to create a beautiful drawing, whereas all we need is a good one. What’s the difference? Michel asked. A good drawing is a drawing you could recognize. If the drawing is that of an elephant, it should convey that message and not an elaborate drawing that people fail to recognize.
As Michel touched the marker to the paper board, audience were blown away with his mastery of his craft, the ease to which he created his drawings and the strong narrative influence of his illustrations. He used the illusion of an elephant from Africa his uncle gifted him ages ago to provoke the thoughts of his audience to describe the ability to create a story from anything that comes to mind. He did this beautifully with his audience, both parents and children.
The event was many things in one. It presented an amazing opportunity for audience to relate with the original inspirations that an author who doubles as an illustrator uses to create books and stories. It also gave the children the opportunity to undergo a lesson on how to write and create their own stories. It also presented the children with two beautiful books from Michel which all had amazing story lines.
The session ended with attendees interacting with Michel who obviously had been enlightened and entertained with his stories and great artwork. Michel spent time autographing books parents purchased for their children.

Report by
Robert Chireboah-Ansah