Monday, May 9, 2011

Chad Solomon - An Author and a Gentleman

I broke the first rule of blogging - be regular. The first week of May was so busy that I didn't get a chance to write. I had plenty to talk about, but not enough time to get it down via keyboard.

Last week, my "family of schools" (a group of schools all in the same neighbourhood and "governed" by the same school superintendent) held its annual Silver Birch Celebration. In addition to our Quiz Bowl competition, we invite an author to present to the kids. This year's author was Chad Solomon, author of "The Adventures of Rabbit and Bear Paws" series of graphic novels. (Chad and I were also both together at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in the kids area.)

Have you ever done something you've regretted later on? I have a list a kilometre long of stupid things I've said, off-the-cuff remarks I've made that sounded obnoxious that I'd love to rewind the tape and do over. (For instance, I'd like to apologize to an audience member at a TCAF panel discussion I was on last year, for answering part of his question with the slimy reply "you'll have to buy the book" > I was trying to rush through the answer and I didn't mean to seem so full of myself; I'm sorry.) One of the things I'm sorry I did was I wrote a pretty negative review of Chad's first graphic novel. There were a lot of culturally significant parts to his comic that I misunderstood as interpreted as poorly portrayed. My friend Maria Martella from Tinlinds invited Chad to meet with our GTA Graphic Novel Club (a book group focused on comics for readers/educators). When Chad explained the grandfather teachings and mythical characters and archetypes to us, I finally understood why things were drawn and told the way they were. Chad is of Ojibwa heritage and consulted with the elders of his tribe before he began this huge enterprise. His books teach a lot about what we like to pigeon-hole now as "character education" - things like respect, love, humility, and courage.

The more I got to know Chad as an author, illustrator, publisher, and businessman, the more impressed I became. He works very hard to promote the graphic novels (his website, is updated regularly) but it's not all about making money. I was reminded of this several times when he spoke with our students. He worked very hard to make his presentation interactive. He brought puppet versions of his characters and consulted with the kids on a group brainstorm on incorporating grandfather teachings into a story and drawing cartoons starting with simple shapes. He also gave away free copies of his books as prizes to the students. His generosity extended into the autograph session. He sold his books at a discounted rate because we hired him as a guest speaker. One of the teachers volunteered to handle the sales while he autographed and to thank her, he gave her a free book. One of my students lost her wallet and he gave her a free book.

Good deeds come back to you. My student found her wallet and insisted on paying Chad Solomon for her book. She wanted to pay the full price, not just the discounted price, for the books, but I told her to just stick to the original price tag. She wrote a lovely note to him to explain why she wanted to give him the money. I'll be giving it to him this TCAF weekend.

Bad actions need to be fixed. Long ago, I wrote a less-than-complimentary book review. I hope this "person review" makes up for the misguided opinions of the past.

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