Friday, August 14, 2015

Road Trip to Toledo by Charlie Barshaw

Thursday June 25, 7 am, and I try to rouse Ruth. As usual, she’s stayed up way too late, this time finishing the dummy for a picture book she’s worked (off and) on for almost two years and sending it to her agent. Ruth asked for another half hour of rest.

So, we set out for our road trip to the Toledo Library close to an hour later than planned, but still managed to meet two of our loose-knit party in the underground parking garage. There we met Kirbi Fagan (an SCBWI-MI illustrator) and her college drawing professor, Anne Garavaglia. Soon afterward, just inside the building, we met Susan Zonca, and once on the second floor in the children’s wing, we met up with Kara Marsee and her two sons. It was Kara’s original MichKids post at the end of May that sparked the idea for this day children’s art and camaraderie.

The Toledo Library Main Branch is a cathedral to books. A docent on the first floor pointed out where the original library used to end. The outside wall now stands as an indoor monument, and the ceiling windows flood the interior with natural light, even on a rainy day.

Different size doors, charming art and sculptures at the library

The children’s wing on the second floor abounds with clever touches: doors of different heights line the walls, and 3-D sculptures of dinosaurs and Greek masks on the endcaps. The noses of two vehicles emerge from the walls, one a gold Cadillac from a book of the same name by Toledo native Mildred D. Taylor . The other is the front half of a Jeep, with three startled sheep sculpted (in baa-relief, says Ruth) on the wall behind, to celebrate Nancy Shaw’s classic SHEEP IN A JEEP. In both, young riders (and readers) can pose for photos.

Quick-draw Barshaw draws Nancy Drew

Lining the walls, donated artwork from many Michigan illustrators brighten the room. RA Leslie Helakoski’s FAIR COW graces one wall near artwork from Lori McElrath-Eslick. Wendy Anderson Halperin, Mark Crilley, and many other familiar names invite you on a treasure hunt of discovery.

Kirbi Fagan wears the same color palette as Lori Eslick’s painting next to her

We set out for the Toledo Museum of Art at lunchtime and dined in the four star-rated cafeteria. (Tasty food, low price.) Afterward, we made our way to the second floor (kid’s books seem to end up on the second floor in Toledo) where we found a room dedicated to animal artwork on loan from the Mazza Museum.

The museum exhibit ended in July, but Mazza, on the campus of the University of Findlay, exhibits children’s book art year-round, and is well worth the trip.

We each drifted off then, back to our daily lives, but for a few magnificent hours, we bathed in the magnificence of children’s book illustration.

We still have a few weeks of summer left. If you have an idea for a fun road trip, mention it on the MichKids listserv and SCBWI-MI’s Facebook page. It just takes one spark to start a creative fire.

Charlie Barshaw is a writer who devotes considerable time and energy to our SCBWI-MI chapter. He coordinates conferences and meet-ups, and frequently contributes posts for the Mitten blog. 

At the moment, he's recovering from a health scare that landed him in the hospital this week. Have no fear, he's back home and on the mend and surrounded by a swarm of loving friends and family. He doesn't know his blog post is being published today, but we thought it'd be a welcome surprise.

Surprise him some more by sharing your well-wishes and appreciation in the comments.

Kristin Lenz


  1. It looks like a great place, Charlie. Thanks for sharing the experience with us. And get well soon.

  2. That looks like a great library! Get well soon!

  3. What a wonderful place! Thank you for the great description and for letting us know how our Michigan authors and artist/illustrators are represented there! Keep feeling better and stronger, Charlie!

  4. Wonderful, descriptive posting--really made me want to visit the library! Thanks for sharing, Charlie, and healing thoughts coming your way!

  5. Baa-relief--not baaad, Ruth! Thanks for the report, Charlie!

  6. Betsy McKee WilliamsAugust 17, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    Thanks, Charlie, for this great account, and for all you do for SCBWI. Best wishes for a full recovery.

  7. Thanks Charlie - we enjoyed your travel tips! We want to make the trip too.