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Author-illustrator Amy June Bates shares the art of storytelling

Friday June 11th, 2021

Amy June Bates

Dauphin County Library System proudly announced its first Author in Residence program this summer, deepening family interaction with books as they meet accomplished Carlisle-based author and illustrator Amy June Bates.

In four virtual, interactive sessions, Bates will share her journey as a book creator, explain how books are made, and teach the fundamentals of drawing.

Participants in the first session will receive a copy of The Big Umbrella, which Bates co-wrote with her then 11-year-old daughter, Juniper Bates. In the last session, they will make their own book!

“Visiting with and meeting with an author can be so impactful,” says Library Youth Services Director Hannah Killian. “Kids realize there’s a person behind the books who is writing them and helping us think about our lives. Meeting an author can go a long way in helping kids read and love books.”

Kids – and adults, too – are invited to ask Bates questions and draw along with her in four virtual, interactive Zoom sessions.

·      Meet Amy June Bates: June 12, 10 a.m. Bates will share her story, lead a drawing session and offer a peek inside her home studio.

·      Draw with Amy June Bates: June 24, 10 a.m. Bates will talk about her drawing process and gives some tips, tricks, and instruction.

·      Color with Amy June Bates: July 21, 6 p.m. Bates will explore conceptions of color and how to “paint what you see versus what you kind of know in your head.”

·      Make a Book with Amy June Bates: August 19, 6 p.m. Publishing a book can take years, but participants in this session will use materials found around the house to make their own book in 45 minutes. Bates will offer prompts and tips to help young authors take their stories from beginning to end.

Sign up to join the sessions by going to dcls.org/events or calling (717) 234-4961 and choosing option 6. Attendees will be emailed a Zoom link. Registrants for the first session will be able to pick up their copy of The Big Umbrella at their local library.

The acclaimed book originated on a rainy day in 2016 when Juniper Bates was distressed about the meanness and fighting at her school. Walking to school and talking about inclusiveness, Juniper said their umbrella would make a cute character.

“She’s always designing characters,” says Bates. “When she came home from school, she’d drawn some pictures of it.”

The Big UmbrellaThe smiling red umbrella became a metaphor for inclusiveness, big enough to shelter everyone. In contrast to the drawn-out process of finalizing When I Draw a Panda, the mother-daughter team had a publishing contract for The Big Umbrella in five days.

“It’s a metaphor that worked,” says Bates, “and we had a lot of fun.”

Bates will also join the teen Art Club’s June 28 session to share her insights on building narrative through pictures, whether in children’s literature, manga, or graphic novels.

Two objects together can make a story, Bates notes. Standing in her home garden, she spotted a watering can and a flower pot – a relationship with story possibilities.

“Now you have an event that is going to happen or could happen,” she says. “It’s how we as people interpret the things we see. Narrative painting is speaking without words. There is this visual language that we see as humans every day that we use to interpret the world around us through stories.”

Bates grew up out West and says she always knew she wanted to illustrate books. After working for an educational software company, she started freelance illustrating around 2001 and has made it into her career.

She began writing around 2016, when she felt the need to say things that required a different form of expression. Completing the manuscript for When I Draw A Panda took many years of back and forth with editors. Finally, they found the right tone for Bates’ story of a girl whose imperfectly drawn panda comes to life and immerses her in creativity.

“Writing is about learning confidence and learning to listen to your voice,” Bates says.

Bates has been an artist in residence at Shippensburg High School and has visited many schools where she talks to children about “what makes a story. There’s a way to do that with writing, and there’s a way to do that visually.”

The Author in Residence program is The Library’s latest initiative to help parents encourage their kids to read. Parents can read When I Draw a Panda with their children and say, “I know this author,” says Killian. “They’re making that connection between the books they have in their house and the person who actually wrote and illustrated it. It’s bringing that book into real life.”  

Bates has three children, ages 20, 16, and 13. Her husband teaches Japanese literature at Dickinson College.

For The Library, Bates envisions fun sessions for the whole family and might even help adults break free from their fear of drawing. When she asks kindergartners who likes to draw, “absolutely everybody raises their hands.” By sixth grade, that response is down to one or two hands. When she tells adults that she’s an illustrator, the most common answer is, “I can only draw a stick figure.”

Her sessions will explain the use of shapes and lines, giving the power of drawing even to those stick-figure scribblers.

“I hope families will come and ask questions and be prepared to draw,” she says. “Nothing fancy. Just a pencil and a piece of paper. It doesn’t even matter if the paper’s got something on it. Any pencil. Any old piece of paper.”

If your family is ready to draw and explore storytelling with Amy June Bates, you can sign up by visiting dcls.org/events or calling (717) 234-4961 option 6.


Christina Lauver

Marketing & Public Relations Manager


The above piece represents the views of the author and is meant to inspire dialogue and increase understanding and a sense of community. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of The Library. Members are welcome to comment below or contact us privately by using our online contact form >