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Award-winning illustrator David Small visits Greenville today

Kids who enjoy drawing or writing will have the chance to get advice straight from a Caldecott Medal-winning author and illustrator when David Small and his wife, fellow writer Sarah Stewart, make a stop today, Thursday, April 28, at the Upcountry History Museum – Furman University in Greenville.

Small and Stewart will give a joint talk about writing and illustrating books during their appearance, which begins at 6 p.m. Thursday. Small will also give a drawing demonstration and both will sign books. Tickets are $15 for reserved seats and $10 for general admission. Reserved ticket-holders will be the first in line for the book signing.

The April 28 event is part of the museum's current traveling exhibit, "A David Small World," which features 70 original works of art by Small, including the Caldecott-winning children's book, "So You Want to Be President?"

Small said by phone he was looking forward to visiting Greenville for the first time and chatting with Upstate children about drawing, something he has loved doing since he was 2 years old. He encourages families with artistic or creative children to come to the event and say hello.

"It certainly wasn't clear to me as a child, but it was clear to anyone who knew me as a child that I was always going to be an artist and I was destined for something in the arts," he said. "Sarah, too, has been a reader and a writer since she could hold a pencil."

His talk won't be a lecture or lesson, he added.

"What we present is not a lesson in any way," he said. "We don't write lesson-y books, and we don't give lesson-y talks, but I think if there's something to be learned from it, it's that art is good medicine for everybody. Those of us lucky enough to have it as a career are among the most fortunate people on earth."

"A David Small World" exhibit is timely given the current election season, he said. It also features his books "George Washington's Cows" and "My Senator and Me," which offers an inside look at a day on Capitol Hill.

The exhibit, organized by the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature, opened in February and ends May 1.

Small has some simple advice for kids of all ages who enjoy drawing and writing.

"Have fun," he said. "Draw. Paint. Do crafts — whatever is pleasing to you. Hard study will naturally come if you really love a subject. You'll naturally work at it, and if you love it, it won't be hard work at all."

He said parents often ask him for advice when it comes to children and art.

"Young kids should just be having fun with it," he said. "So many parents ask me at events like this, 'How do I encourage my child to be creative?' I say, 'Buy him crayons. Buy her paper. Buy her whatever she wants, and encourage it.' Then they ask, 'Well, shouldn't I send her to art classes?' Not necessarily. Kids are already going to too many lessons for this and that. To me, art has always been a very private thing. The main thing is that they have fun doing it, first and foremost."

Small, who lives in Michigan, is a learn-as-you-go illustrator who first received won the 1997 Caldecott Honor and The Christopher Medal for his book "The Gardener." In 2009, he wrote an autobiography, "Stitches: A Memoir," in which he discusses his problematic youth. His books are available at the Upcountry History Museum – Furman University store.

Elizabeth Gunter, director of programs and marketing for the museum, said tickets to the event can be ordered by calling the museum at 864-467-3100 or emailing Tickets will also be available at the door.

"The Upcountry History Museum – Furman University is thrilled to be bringing David and Sarah to the Upstate," she said. "Literacy is a key element of learning history and a major focus of our work here at the Museum. Books like those written by David and Sarah bring to life a larger world for children, exposing them to new places, ideas, and cultures. The event on April 28 is a wonderful opportunity for the community to celebrate literacy and meet two great authors in one night."