The First Drawing

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Overview

Imagine you were born before the invention of drawing, more than thirty thousand years ago.

You would live with your whole family in a cave and see woolly mammoths walk by!

You might even see images of animals hidden in the shapes of clouds and rocks.

You would want to ...

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Overview

Imagine you were born before the invention of drawing, more than thirty thousand years ago.

You would live with your whole family in a cave and see woolly mammoths walk by!

You might even see images of animals hidden in the shapes of clouds and rocks.

You would want to share these pictures with your family, but wouldn't know how.

Who would have made the world's first drawing? Would it have been you?


In The First Drawing, Caldecott Medal winner Mordicai Gerstein imagines the discovery of drawing...and inspires the young dreamers and artists of today.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this playful account, Caldecott Medalist Gerstein (The Man Who Walked Between the Towers) suggests how and why drawing was invented, imaginatively drawing from an archeological find of cave drawings and a nearby child’s footprint. Second-person narration immediately pulls readers in: “Imagine... you were born before the invention of drawing.” A shaggy-haired modern boy, colored pencils in his back pockets, and a dog stand in front of a blank canvas. Opposite, the boy is transported. It’s 30,000 years earlier, and he has a wolf at his side. When he encounters a woolly mammoth, the boy shares the experience, using a burnt stick to depict the giant animal on a cave wall. Gerstein’s mixed-media spreads feature a mostly blue and brown palette, and thin, rainbow-hued brushstrokes add texture and vividness. The power and intrinsic reward of making art is revealed as the boy animatedly draws his mammoth over several panels—to the fear, then fascination, of his family. Artists see the world differently, but Gerstein suggests their true gift lies in allowing others to share in their visions. Ages 3–6. Agent: Joan Raines, Raines & Raines. (Sept.)
Booklist
"The line, acrylic, and colored-pencil art, which fills up each spread, has the buoyant feeling of discovery and is clever in the way it turns imaginings into pictures. A way to think about the start of art."
From the Publisher
*"In this compelling picture book, Gerstein invites children to travel back in time more than 30,000 years to a cave in what is now southern France....Gerstein's illustrations of rocks, clouds, and shadows cleverly conceal animal shapes that both readers and the protagonist are compelled to discover."—School Library Journal, starred review

*"Gerstein's mixed-media spreads feature a mostly blue and brown palette, and thin, rainbow-hued brushstrokes add texture and vividness....Artists see the world differently, but Gerstein suggests their true gift lies in allowing others to share in their visions."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Gerstein's acrylic, pen-and-ink and colored-pencil mixed-media illustrations create depth and a sense of the past, as well as imparting liveliness and possibility...Solid storytelling, satisfying narrative circularity, and masterful, creative illustrations make this an inspiring story for young artists."—Kirkus

"The line, acrylic, and colored-pencil art, which fills up each spread, has the buoyant feeling of discovery and is clever in the way it turns imaginings into pictures. A way to think about the start of art."—Booklist

Children's Literature - Kathleen Karr
Gerstein's marvelous story was inspired by the discovery of paintings more than 30,000 years old in Chauvet Cave, hidden in the mountains of southern France—and popularized by German film director Werner Herzog's recent 3-D documentary film. A contemporary young artist (with hound) imagines how his prehistoric counterpart (with wolf) might have created the first drawing. The imagining is evocative: How can "Child Who Sees What Isn't There" convince his clan to visualize wildlife as he sees it? Cloud shapes do not work. His extended family cannot picture the bas relief bumps on its cavern's walls as moving, breathing, game animals. In total frustration, the young man grabs a charcoal stick and outlines what he sees...Ahh. The magic is revealed to all. Gerstein's evocative approach to how man made the transition to really seeing renderings of reality is evocative, and quite believable. His illustrations done in acrylics, pen and ink, and colored pencil on paper complete the illusions well, creating another must buy for real library and pre-school and lower grades use. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—In this compelling picture book, Gerstein invites children to travel back in time more than 30,000 years to a cave in what is now southern France. Using thickly applied acrylics and rough strokes of black ink, he creates a prehistoric setting complete with a community of early humans, giant woolly mammoths, and one inquisitive caveboy. Told in second-person narrative, the text asks readers to put themselves in the mindset of the boy surrounded by wide-open skies, plush drifting clouds, and a great diversity of flora and fauna. A true artist, the child sees more than the surface appearance of his world. Gerstein's illustrations of rocks, clouds, and shadows cleverly conceal animal shapes that both readers and the protagonist are compelled to discover. At first, the other cave dwellers are dismissive. Then the youngster does something unprecedented: he picks up a burnt stick and begins drawing on the walls. For his fellow early humans, this first taste of art is scary and disconcerting. "Magic!" the boy's father exclaims. It is, in fact, the world's first drawing. An author's note provides background on the real-life drawings in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave and the discovery of a human footprint belonging to an eight-year-old child. Pair this title with Emily Arnold McCully's The Secret Cave (Farrar, 2010) to extend the lesson and learn about the 1940 discovery of the caves in southern France.—Kiera Parrott, Darien Library, CT
Kirkus Reviews
Who made the world's first drawing--and why? Caldecott Medalist Gerstein gives his own imagined answer to this question in a polished tale of a boy living 30,000 years ago with his pet wolf and his very extended family. Using narrative direct address ("Imagine… / you were born before the invention of drawing") to effectively bridge the gap between prehistoric times and the present, the story follows the boy on his fanciful discoveries of wooly mammoths in clouds, bears in stones and horses galloping on cave walls. The boy tries to show his family what he sees, but they see only a cloud, a rock and a cave. Gerstein's acrylic, pen-and-ink and colored-pencil mixed-media illustrations create depth and a sense of the past, as well as imparting liveliness and possibility to what could easily have become simply flat drawings. Like the boy in the story who finally, in frustration, picks up a charred stick and draws on the cave wall to make what he sees in his imagination plain to his family, readers may discover that they see pictures of their own within these layered illustrations. Solid storytelling, satisfying narrative circularity, and masterful, creative illustrations make this an inspiring story for young artists. (author's note) (Picture book. 2-6)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316204781
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 9/10/2013
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 113,054
  • Age range: 3 - 6 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Mordicai Gerstein

Mordicai Gerstein is the acclaimed illustrator of more than forty-five books, many of which he also wrote. His books are frequently awarded ALA Notable status, and he is the three-time recipient of a New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year honor. In 2004, Mordicai was awarded the Caldecott Medal for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Mordicai lives in western Massachusetts. His website is www.mordicaigerstein.com.

Biography

Mordicai Gerstein has always been an artist. As a child, he enjoyed painting and eventually graduated from art school in Los Angeles. He continued painting in New York City and supported himself and his family for 25 years by designing and directing animated television commercials. He says, "I had always loved cartoons, especially Bugs Bunny, and I found I enjoyed making animated films. Even a 30-second commercial involved drawing and painting, storytelling, not to mention actors, music, and sound effects."

During the 1960s, Gerstein made several films that received critical acclaim. In 1966, The Room won the Award of the Film Clubs of France at the International Festival for Experimental Film, and in 1968, The Magic Ring won a CINE Golden Eagle.

His career took a dramatic turn when he met children's author Elizabeth Levy in 1970. He has illustrated her Something Queer Is Going On chapter books ever since, and it was Levy and her editor who encouraged Gerstein to write a book on his own. His debut came in 1983 with Arnold of the Ducks, the story of a young boy who gets lost in the wild and is raised by ducks. The New York Times hailed Gerstein's freshman effort as one of the year's best children's books, and he went on to write two more volumes exploring the theme of feral childhood. In 1998 he released The Wild Boy, a picture book based on the true story of a young 18th-century French boy who was found living in the woods and was put on display as an oddity, only to escape and be captured again years later. That same year, Gerstein released Victor, a young adult novel about the same boy.

Gerstein tells the story is of a Tibetan woodcutter who is given a choice between reincarnation or heaven in The Mountains of Tibet, which received the distinction of being one of 1987's ten best illustrated books of the year, according to The New York Times. Although the book is written for kids around age seven, Gerstein approaches the subject of death with a bold, sensitive plot and elegant illustrations. Spirituality is a major theme in many of Gerstein's books. He has interpreted tales from the Bible in Jonah and the Two Great Fish (1997), Noah and the Great Flood (1999), and Queen Esther the Morning Star (2001). Other titles such as The Seal Mother (1986), The Story of May (1993), and The Shadow of a Flying Bird (1994) also express Gerstein's reverential awe for the world.

Young readers can also stretch their imaginations with Gerstein's more playful books. Vocabulary is fun in The Absolutely Awful Alphabet (1999), where the letter P is actually a particularly putrid predator! Bedtime Everybody! (1996) has a young girl's stuffed animals planning a bedtime picnic. Behind the Couch (1996) takes readers on an exciting caper into an unknown world of grazing dust balls, Lost Coin Hill and the Valley of the Stuffed Animals. In Stop Those Pants (1998), a boy is forced to play hide-and-seek with his clothes as he gets ready for the day. Gerstein pays tribute to American composer Charles Ives in What Charlie Heard (2002), the story of a boy's unique talent for interpreting all the sounds of daily life.

Another biographical picture book, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2003) tells the story of Philippe Petit, the daredevil who walked across a tightrope suspended between New York City's World Trade Center towers in 1974. The book won the Caldecott Medal in 2004, and parents have praised the book as an invaluable tool for talking to their children about the events of 9/11.

Many of Gerstein's children's books are destined to be classics. His style of writing and illustration brings each of his stories to life, shows a passion for adventure, and relishes the joy that comes from understanding the mysteries of the world.

Good To Know

Despite a successful career illustrating children's books, the first book Gerstein wrote, Arnold of the Ducks, was turned down by seven publishers. Eventually, The New York Times called it one of the best children's books of the year.

Gerstein was inspired to write The Mountains of Tibet after reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

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    1. Hometown:
      Northhampton, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 25, 1935
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      Chouinard Institute of Art
    2. Website:

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Kristie Ingerto for Readers' Favorite The First Dra

    Reviewed by Kristie Ingerto for Readers' Favorite

    The First Drawing, written and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Mordicai Gerstein, is a beautiful book about life for a young boy before people created drawings and how he taught his family to see pictures and draw. This young boy lived in a cave with his family and would see things in the clouds, in the shadows, in everyday life, but no one else could see what he saw. One night he draws what he sees on the cave wall and suddenly his family is able to see what he sees. This boy teaches his family how to draw and the magic of drawing is discovered and shared, and to this day drawing is still magic! 

    Mordicai Gerstein based his children's book on the discovery of drawings on a cave wall in southern France. When these drawings were discovered they were found to be older than all of the other drawings that had been found at this time. Gerstein created this story as how he imagines the drawings to have been made and how drawing was begun, based upon the discovery in this cave. Also, there is an excellent message for children in this story as well: the boy did not give up on trying to help others see what he could see, even though no one encouraged him or believed him. 

    This is a well-written and well-illustrated children's book that will have a child's imagination running wild as he or she imagines life without art, without picking up a pencil and drawing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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