Mr. Lincoln’s Way by Patricia Polacco is a sensitive book that talks about the importance of the role a teacher plays in a child’s life. How being a good teacher does not only entail having the knowledge of once subject but the ability to guide and unfold the abilities of a child rather than trying to mould her/him.
This is an excellent book about an elementary school principal who takes the time to help a troubled child. It addresses racism, bullying and teasing, and it’s also great for bird lovers.Though the story touches upon the issues of bullying and the harm that it does, but it highlights another very important factor, the conditions that cause a child to become a bully in the first place. Mr. Lincoln’s Way draws the connection between what a child learns at home and what he does at school. The story encourages us to ask whether it is really the child’s fault that he is a bully.
Polacco’s illustrations add to the story as she has meticulously detailed her story with people of all ethnicities, which makes the story relatable to all. She has marvelously captured different emotions, moods and gestures through her watercolour and pencil illustrations.
Read the book to find out how Mr. Lincoln helps “Mean Gene” become his true self “Eugene Esterhause”.
Tushar Joag, our mentor for the month of October, is a well-known name around the Indian art scene. He studied at the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, and the Faculty of Fine Arts, Baroda . He has done a residency at the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam, in 1998-2000. Joag is a founder member of the artist’s initiative Open Circle Arts Trust, Mumbai. He has participated in several shows and received multiple awards. He lives and works in Mumbai.
His project, as part of the Master a Partner program with us, revolved around the significance of looking at our city from different perspectives. I mean how many of us have ever shut our eyes just to hear all the different sounds that can be heard at various times of the day? To know more about how the workshop went, read on…
Hi Tushar. Give me a back story on how you became an artist.
It wasn’t anything dramatic. I was interested in art. I used to draw all the time. My father wanted me to become an engineer like him but once I passed with merit on the entrance exam to J.J school of Arts he was happy and recognised I was good at art.
Were you excited to work with children?
I was very excited. Working with kids makes you think about your practice. You can’t explain to kids if you yourself aren’t clear about your ideas, they keep you on your toes. They always come up with fresh, new angles that perhaps we don’t notice as adults. So yes, it was great working with them.
Sometimes it’s difficult for younger students to understand the idea behind installation art. How did you simplify it for them?
The whole idea was to create a space that can be entered. Like a sculpture, it is 3 dimensional, unlike a sculpture though, it has an inside and outside. Once you enter you can become a part of the installation. It’s a different experience.
What was the idea behind the project you designed for them? And why did you think of it?
My work deals with the city. So I decided to make the kids look at the city, because everyone sees it differently and has different experiences and notions. I started the session by reading from and referring to excerpts from the book ‘ Invisible Cities’ by Italo Calvino. The description is such that the cities seem almost like surrealistic cities. It captures the manifestation of the experience of the city. The book is very visual but taps into the readers other senses as well. Similarly I wanted it to be more of interpreting a city in a different way. So i wanted their interpretation of the city. The most common thread was the recollection of journey to school from home and vice versa, and we built up on that. They wrote a text which describes their journey. Then I asked them to pretend to experience the journey again but this time with eyes shut and concentrate on all other senses. There were students from various backgrounds so I made groups so that were would be a conflict of ideas; which is something every city has. Can two people’s ideas accommodate each other’s vision? We used cartons, glue, Velcro and paint to build our cities. The insides became the outsides, in that they painted and animated outdoor scenes like buildings, construction sites and forests on the inner walls of the cartons. It makes you change how you think and break away from the apparent monotony of city life.
Did the project turn out like you had expected?
More or less yes. The kids could have done so much more but unfortunately we had very little time. Even though a few weren’t focused they were really quite bright as a group. The age group was good because this is when kids are the most vibrant and they experiment and start formulating their own ideas. It was quite a brilliant experience.
After talking to Tushar, the concepts that he had wanted to show us through this project became clear as I had missed the first session. When I compare the work we did to what I learned from the program, the link is lucid. Even though we couldn’t add sounds and smells to our mini cardboard city-scapes, we tried to portray what we saw on the roads on the insides and what is usually seen in the interiors of houses on the outside. Tushar asked us to do this so we could move away from the boring and mundane, but I realised that this was also lead to a dialogue of introspection. What if for a day I let go of my facade and show the world who I’m inside? What if I for a day turn myself inside out? How would I see the world then? How would I see myself?
Who would have imagined that a few sweaty hours of stitching, gluing, painting, crumpling and sprinkling while also laughing and playing could lead to questions like these?
Written by Trisha Salvi
At the Sanjay Gandhi National Park we were excited as one can be because we were told we were going to be cycling. We were riding to the Kanheri caves and were absorbing the greenery as not much is seen in the city. The cycle ride definitely made us all closer and broke the ice even further, as even though Archana was our 3rd artist we were all still getting used to each others company.
We crossed streams that made us want to jump in them and have a good swim. We heard tribal music that made us realize how important it is to save dying tribes and what culture would be lost if tribes die out. And just as every outing has some action ours was quite unfortunate when Rhea fell off her bike. It was sad but Tanya and I couldn’t help laughing at the way we ran to Rhea when this happened. It was a very filmy scene as we dropped our bikes and ran in slow motion towards Rhea to rescue her and to avail her injuries. It was even greater when she showed us what a sport she is by shaking it off and continuing the bike ride. We were enjoying, racing in short stretches and figuring out things as we cycled on.
On reaching the Kanheri caves, we were taken aback by the beauty of the place and looked around at the monkeys who searched the small crowd for any sign of food. We then sat in a cave and discussed what we saw along the journey and shared the importance of our senses and using them well. What I learnt from the conversation was that one usually doesn’t realize how important our senses are. They must be used and the beauty around us observed. Taking sight as an example of a sense, we often use our eyes to look but we don’t actually see. One must not only keep their eyes open but also their mind open to see.
Exploring the caves while using our senses changed my vision because I now saw things with my mind. It made me notice more things like the sculptures and made me wonder about the times when they were made. I found more beauty because my mind didn’t decide what it was seeing but actually allowed me to show it, how there was more to everything.
Once our visit was over, the story we wrote had to involve the Kanheri caves. So, Simran and I, wrote a story about a treasure and one man and his nephew coming to the Kanheri caves to find it. They encounter a sea monster and escape it’s clutches with the help of the giant Buddha statue coming to life. It was a joy to write the story as we added our own twists and had fun writing it. We then changed the story into a storyboard format and took turns in drawing out our image of the scene. It was interesting to do so as we used what I had seen and wove a story around that setting.
The mentorship program is a delight as it’s changing the way we look at things. It teaches me how there’s always more than what meets the eye and we must make use of our senses and not take them for granted. Magic is in the utilization of the entire spectrum of the senses- it empowers us, expands our vision.
Rheea Razdan, 14years, Oberoi International School, Mumbai