Author-illustrator Bill Thomson

Author-illustrator Bill Thomson created my favorite picture book of 2010, Chalk. I'm thrilled and honored he dropped by Watch. Connect. Read. to finish my sentences about his latest wordless picture book, Fossil. I wrote the words in red, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Bill! 

FOSSIL tells the story of a boy and his dog and their discovery of magical fossils in a wordless picture book that blends imagination with science. While hiking, the pair accidentally discovers fossils that magically come to life. While science serves as the catalyst for a fantastical adventure, the story reveals the love, caring, and trust of the two companions.

FOSSIL’s illustrations are painted very realistically with acrylic paint and colored pencils. Because realism is one of my artistic strengths, my books present imaginary ideas and attempt to portray them as completely believable. My hope is that children will forget they are looking at a book and become totally immersed in my story. To engage interest, I also try to depict common settings and activities that children can relate to. By showing things that children know, the illustrations establish a connection before transitioning them into the world of imagination.

Wordless books offer a unique creative reading experience that requires “reader” participation. Informed by their life experiences, young readers observe and interpret the illustrations to create their own stories. These narratives have the flexibility to change with every reading. The stories can be told as a descriptive account or from the point of view of different characters. For example, FOSSIL can be read as a description of the illustrations, or told from the viewpoint of either the boy or the dog. Or for even more challenging narrative possibilities, the story can be told from the perspective of secondary characters like the dragonfly, pteranodon, or fossils themselves. Multiple readers can also take turns adding narration, voices, or sound effects to each page. Wordless books reflect the creativity and imagination of the readers who translate their stories.

I hope that children will enjoy FOSSIL, and that both creative teachers and engaged parents will find it to be a useful vehicle for discussion and teaching. FOSSIL is the second installment of a wordless trilogy that applies imagination to different elementary school subjects. The first chapter, CHALK, explored art, and this new book uses science as the subject of a second visual adventure. Whether used as a book for beginning or reluctant readers, as a writing prompt for older children, or as a launching point for discussions, the ways wordless books can be used is almost limitless. They can serve as a vehicle for honing inference and prediction skills, investigating story structure, or exploring artistic attributes. They can even be the basis for creative activities, like making homemade fossils to better understand how fossils were formed.

School libraries are magical places. Like enchanted doorways, they offer the opportunity to visit exciting new places, to learn interesting new things, and to get to know fascinating new people. But best of all, school libraries possess transformative powers- - the more time that you spend in them, the wiser you get! 

Reading is your gift to yourself. Whether for work or play, reading builds your knowledge, stimulates your curiosity, develops your creativity, improves your writing, and enhances your thinking. Reading is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Picture books are one of the greatest joys in my life. God gave me a talent, and I cherish the chance to touch the lives of children in some small way through my books and artwork. I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about... what my thoughts were in creating FOSSIL. Because CHALK was relatively successful, I wanted to follow it with a companion book that would work as part of a trilogy while standing on it’s own. The butterfly that appears at the beginning of FOSSIL links the two books. Applying imagination to a new school subject, I hoped to retain the best qualities of CHALK, but also challenge myself to include more possibilities for story telling. That way, the reader can choose what aspects are significant in constructing their story. 

For example, FOSSIL may be read simply as an adventure about magical rocks that come to life. On a more subtle level, FOSSIL may also be read as a love story about a boy and his dog. I was interested in showcasing the qualities of love (protecting, trusting, hoping, and enduring), as the boy overcame his own fear to help his friend. Unlike CHALK, the boy actually chases the thing he fears, motivated by love. The dragonfly becomes the boy’s guide and helper, offering yet an even more complex story possibility of both good and evil emerging from the fossils. The dragonfly leads the boy to expose the pteranodon and then aids him in defeating it. Or finally, the entire adventure could have been an unconscious dream resulting from the fall the boy took at the beginning of the story. Whatever children might see in my paintings, I hope they enjoy FOSSIL and have fun creating their own stories!

Thanks for offering me the chance to complete your sentences and provide you with some insight to FOSSIL, Mr. Schu!

I am giving away one copy of Fossil

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 12/20 to 11:59 p.m. on 12/22. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 


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