Confession. I am a real push-over for books written and/or illustrated by children. l don’t care if it is their kindergarten Mother’s Day project or a book, such as The Wild Slide written and PUBLISHED by 8 year old ,Aryanna Khodorkovskaya – from Alfred Station, New York.
The Wild Slide is a very thoughtful and engaging story that in a few pages tells a rather sophisticated tale that includes adventure, friendship and bravery. The reader is brought along with Aryana’s characters to enjoy an exciting “ride”. I found myself also wanting to be part of this cadre of friends and transported in to world where a Wild Slide could offer a great escape.
Illustrated by Michael Stevenson, Jr. – the story reads like a typical early childhood reader. The twist – it has content, including vocabulary, that would be more typical of an adult writer who is creating for a child, rather than a child writing for other children.
Here is another accolade for Aryana – not only does she have a book that is published BUT she holds the record for being the YOUNGEST published author in Western New York!
Related: The Wild Slide on PARENTING.com
Keep in mind that rarely does an author, of any age, become published on their own. In this case – Aryana credits Nicholas Dosch for “generous financial and emotional support.”
She also had the artistic talent of Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. to help add the illustrations that graced the pages of Aryana’s story. I was curious to see how these two teamed up and what role as a mentor Michael may have had with this project.
Here is a short interview with Michael:
How would you describe your artistic illustrations and the inspiration for them in Aryanna’s book, “The Wild Slide”?
MSJr.: The Wild Slide, written by Aryanna Khodorkovskaya, was quite descriptive in nature which provided a more than adequate foundation for creating imagery for the book. One of my favorite lines is “‘Should we do this?’ Violet asked. ‘Yes’ said William. ‘No!’ said Rosie, looking panicked.” Rosie’s demeanor was spelled out for me. Various other elements were laid out for me too, like later when Violet and Rosie gives Zee a necklace and bracelet respectively, I knew I wanted to include those elements in the character design. I also modeled the character of Violet after Aryanna herself, and Rosie after her sister Natasha. Violet calm and composed, delicately dressed, while Rosie has a slightly more ruffled aesthetic, with untied shoes in every scene.
As far as my own illustrative style goes, I have always had a style that closely resembles that of children’s drawings. I like my drawings to communicate an idea without relying on the exemplification of drawing technique. Part of the reason is that I don’t derive intense pleasure or joy from agonizing over details. I want to move on to the next thing. I also enjoy the simplicity of the drawings I do. However, this also serves the nature of my work with young people. They’re always shocked and impressed by what I’ve drawn, as well as how quickly when I’ve done the drawing in front of them. This creates a level of comfort with them, I’m not producing photorealistic drawings, the likes of which they could never produce themselves. I produce work that’s accessible to them both visually and practically as far as their own drawing practice goes.
Question 2 : As an adult, you appear to “slide” into the role as mentor, who was or is your mentor?
MSJr.: Interestingly, most of my work is collaborative by nature, a process that’s been a long time in the making. Much of my work is in direct response to having a series of primarily elder mentors in life and practice inside and outside of the art world. Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the exhibition that The Wild Slide was produced for, was actually all about this dynamic. While I was growing up in Alfred New York I had a series of mentors, a prominent one being Fred Tscheda who taught neon and lamp design at Alfred University.
I also collaborated with Tschida for the Won’t You Be My Neighbor exhibition on a project involving the collection and display of rocks found across America. Fred and I have collaborated on rock based projects in the past and hope to collaborate on more in the future. We still stay in touch even though we’re a few time zones apart. At this point the majority of my practice is one on one or small group mentorship projects with young people.
Read more about Michael and his projects (upcoming and previous) here
And… here is a bit of a side story.
I am not surprised by Aryana’s clever ability for storytelling. After all, her grandmother is writer and singer, Mary Gardner Ruch, a dear friend of mine from Western New York.
Read my Favorite Christmas Themed Interview blog here featuring Mary Gardner Ruch
In closing – please add The Wild Slide to your holiday gift list. Amazon offers it and consider it an investment in the future of this creative writer! Thanks to Aryana for letting us in to the world of her Wild Slide friends! And, thanks to Michael for his responses.