Peter Reynolds and His Presentation-ish


Photograph by T Strouse

Reynolds signing books

Produced by Karen Davis for Spartan TV

The CFA stage was set. It stood equipped with an easel of giant Post-It notes and an army of colorful Sharpies laying in a container underneath. In the corner, a laptop stocked with a presentation of words and illustrations- mostly illustrations. Pink cowboy boots, wide eyes and giggles, and their parents gradually filtered into the theater. 7:00 p.m. had arrived. With it arrived Peter Hamilton Reynolds, a self-proclaimed “grown-up child” and encourager of happiness and dreaming who claims to have a middle name based on the smash-hit Broadway musical.

Peter H. Reynolds is a Canadian illustrator, animator and author of children’s books, which Reynolds refers to simply as “picture books” intended for audiences of all ages. In addition to being an author and illustrator, Reynolds is also the software designer of a program to teach children animation. A tutorial of how to operate the program, aptly named Animation-ish after Reynolds’ book called Ish, led to many “ooh’s” and “ah’s” from his adoring fans in the audience.

Reynolds began his presentation by stating how glad he felt while walking through the Miami Country Day School campus and being met at every turn with art, either professionally made in the Franco gallery or student made in the CFA. He went on to reveal to the audience that we are all artists, whether we are aware of the fact or not. “Not only are they making things here, but they’re thinking,” Reynolds, an avid supporter of thinking, continues. Reynolds promotes dreaming, both at night and during the day, in a society where there are “so many TV screens and computer screens and iPads and iPhones and everyone’s got their head down looking at these things.” As I sit hunched over my computer typing this article, I begin to understand Reynolds’ message.

The common thread in each of Reynolds’ picture books is that each focuses on a kind and imaginative character because, according to Reynolds, “dreaming is a wonderful thing” and “the most important thing is to be kind,” especially to yourself. After a few brief anecdotes and a reference to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Reynolds went on to read his works The Dot and The Word Collector to a very attentive audience. Reynolds also expressed his belief of removing the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and cognitive challenges, including ADHD, which he was described as possessing certain attributes of as a child. ADHD, in his vernacular, would stand for “amazing, delightful, happy dreamer,” which prompted his writing of Happy Dreamer in 2017.

Before opening the stage to a panel of hard-hitting interviewers all under the height of five feet, Reynolds presented a series of questions that left the children in the audience confused, much less the adults, utterly stumped. The questions were as follows: Who are you? Where have you been? Where are you now? Where are you going? Where would you like to be going?

While pondering those simple yet heady questions, Reynolds ended with a reminder that the world needs your voice and needs you to be brave.