Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1969, from a young age Thomas Yezerski loved the art of illustration. He took his first art lessons in the third grade, became an Eagle Scout at 14 and played xylophone in the school band–these passions reflect in Tom’s work and his school visits, where he teaches kids that their current interests can translate into a wonderful career, life and intellect. In fact, Tom says, if you’re a kid who loves drawing or writing, you are already an artist. He stuck with his passion for drawing, earning his B.F.A. in illustration from Syracuse University in 1991.
His author and illustrator work focuses largely on family, as well as meticulously researched stories from out of the past, with beautifully “soft and inviting” illustrations that introduce a unique world to readers. In addition to gripping the reader, his author/illustrator work always challenges kids with new perspectives of the world. His first book, Together in Pinecone Patch, combined his beautiful illustration with a unique perspective on human understanding, telling of two immigrant children who eventually unite in a world of struggle.
In his work, Tom assumes the intelligence of his readers with elegant wording that still remains clear and easily understood. He carries this philosophy over into his school visits, where he makes sure never to talk to the kids, but with them. He engages their interest and delivers, as one teacher put it, “the most inspiring, comprehensive, and understandable presentation that I have ever witnessed.”
Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story
Thomas F. Yezerski
Located in New Jersey, the Meadowlands is an estuary created by the Hackensack River. For centuries the 20,000 acres of marshland has provided a home to many different plants and animals as well as humans. Native Americans used the land to hunt, fish, and gather; but when Europeans settled the area in the 1800’s it began an era of degradation and pollution. By 1960 the Meadowlands was a garbage dump overflowing with trash and toxic waste. Today, through the efforts of conservationists and the state government, the Meadowlands is slowly rebuilding and repairing itself, once again providing a home and food for many different plants and animals. Yezerski’s passion for the Meadowlands comes through in his writing as he describes the shameful abuse and pollution of the area as well as its rejuvenation. Through Yezerski’s striking watercolor sketches readers can see for themselves the unfortunate side effects of industrialization and the hopeful perseverance of Mother Nature. The story of the Meadowlands will inspire any budding conservationist and make children aware that our actions sometimes have unintended consequences. 2011, D&M Publishers, $17.99. Ages 5 up.
Mimmy and Sophie: all around the town
Thomas F. Yezerski
Cohen and Yezerski team up, as they did for Mimmy and Sophie (1999), to relate six more vignettes in the life of the two sisters who live in Brooklyn during the Depression. The girls find buried treasure in the form of a can of Cracker Jack toys half buried under an alley bush, visit Coney Island and, unbeknownst to their parents, earn some money tap dancing on the boardwalk, get separated from each other at a Shirley Temple matinee, and shed their winter stockings. The quiet stories are permeated by sisterly squabbles and love, especially when they are challenged by a too-bossy neighbor child or the younger Sophie becomes lost at the movies. Yezerski’s ink wash and line art are generously featured throughout each chapter and flesh out period details of Cohen’s timeless stories and any new reader who appreciates gentle, loving family stories will enjoy this easy chapter book. 2004, Frances Foster Books/Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.00. Ages 6 to 8. Reviewer: Susan Hepler, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
Mrs. Muddle’s Holidays
Laura F. Nelson, Illustrations by Thomas F. Yezerski
Katie is sure that her neighbors on Maple Street celebrate all of the yearly holidays in the usual ways. Then Mrs. Muddle moves into the neighborhood, and she soon has the children observing many unusual holidays. With the arrival of the first robin in March, Katie helps Mrs. Muddle bake peanut-butter-and-birdseed cookies. In April, on the day of that month’s first rain shower, Katie and Alicia join Mrs. Muddle in umbrella dances. Katie and her friends become part of Mrs. Muddle’s observance of “Earthworm Appreciation Day” in May. And so it goes throughout the remainder of the year with “Garlic Jubilee” in August, “First Fire of Fall” in October and “Ice Spectacle” in January. The children want to thank Mrs. Muddle for all the fun she has provided, so they come up with a plan to surprise her. One day in late June, everyone begins preparing for a party. Confused Mrs. Muddle is sure there is no holiday on this particular day. How pleased she is when the boys and girls announce that the celebration is “Mrs. Muddle Day” to honor her! Beautifully executed watercolor with pen-and-ink illustrations perfectly compliment the story and add to the fun. Whether used in a group setting or individually, this is sure to be a big hit and belongs on the first purchase list. 2008, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.98. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Sylvia Firth (Children’s Literature).
Tom visits schools to engage children and to help them realize and become the sort of person they want to be. By discussing his passion for writing and illustrating, he builds in the children an understanding of what it is to be passionate about a life goal, and to be succesful at reaching it.
Tom can work with all different sizes of group, ages and expected attention spans of the children. The ranges of his program are 10 to 300 students, grades K to 6, from 40-60 minutes.
- Tom tells his story, and asks the children about their own reading, writing and drawing interests.
- He discusses the path to success in art or in any passion, and teaches them that they are already on their way there.
- Goes into more detail about the process of writing and illustrating, and showcases his draft work.
- If time allows, a Question and Answer session will follow.
When you request a visit, Tom will send a media kit including a photo of himself, bios for younger and older kids, information about his books, guides for teachers to use his books in the classroom, worksheets, author visit guidelines, book ordering information, and a contract. Please try to book his visit 3 months in advance. For a more detailed look at his presentation and what the school should provide for his program, visit this link. His pricing is as follows:
- $1200 for a full-day visit, including 4 presentations.
- $1500 for a full-day visit over 80 miles from Rutherford, NJ, or 10 miles from South Whitehall, PA (includes all expenses except airfare).
- $800 for a half-day visit, including 2 presentations. A half-day visit must be concurrent with a full-day visit and finished by noon.
To learn more about Thomas Yezerski and his publications please visit www.thomasfyezerski.com.