York-based illustrator Jeannie Brett made a special visit to the Frenchboro School on Oct. 11-12. After a short afternoon presentation on the island last year, she returned to spend two full days teaching drawing techniques, sharing her own work and helping with the children’s Maine research projects.

In what could become a more regular fixture in many Down East island schools as the Island Books and Authors Program gets underway, Brett stayed on-island for three days and two nights and became an artist-in-residence at the school. She spent the mornings and afternoons walking the kids through the processes of drawing, from inspiration to creation. She taught them to start small with thumbnail sketches of different ideas for their pictures and to change things and try again.

In conjunction with the Maine Community Fund, Jan Coates of Port in a Storm Bookstores developed the Island Books and Authors Program Fund last year. The fund will enable Coates to bring authors like Jeannie Brett into more schools and libraries in Down East communities and the surrounding islands. Over the next year and beyond, Brett will assist the program in hiring or finding authors and illustrators for further visits to the islands.

“I think it’s a very important element for the kids these days, especially not having it in the curriculum because that’s what’s on everyone’s mind right now, making sure that everything is within the curriculum so they’ll test out okay,” said Brett. “And I think teachers have lost their energy towards teaching creatively. So it’s real nice to be the person coming and saying, “Let’s draw pictures!”

After the two days of art classes, the school had an open house so that families and friends could see the children’s projects and meet Brett.

“She had a lot of good energy,” Frenchboro teacher Erica Davis said. “Jeannie was really good about planning a program that would work for our mixed age range, which is always a challenge because we have K-6 this year.”

Davis found that the immersion into art enabled both the younger and older groups to make the connection between the writing and drawing processes.

“As a teacher, it helps me in teaching them to write,” Davis said. “They get some new motivation out of it, like, `Wow, I could write a book someday.’ So this program shows that there really are people who do this for a living.”

And it seemed that all the kids were in an agreement.

“The best part was being able to work on the art all day,” fourth grader Jesse Charpentier said. “It’s been a nice break from the regular stuff.”

“I hope she comes back soon,” kindergartner Saylor Desgardin said.

The chance of a return trip and further art projects is pretty good, according to Brett.

“I love the adventure of getting out here,” she said.

Donations to the fund can be sent to: Island Book and Author Fund c/o Maine Community Foundation, 245 Main Street, Ellsworth, ME 04605. Questions about the fund or upcoming events should be directed to Jan Coates at 207-244-4114.

Scott Sell is an Island Institute Fellow on Frenchboro.