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Barrowman to challenge students' imaginations

Children’s book author Carole Barrowman addresses third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students at Underwood Elementary School on Tuesday.

Children’s book author Carole Barrowman addresses third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students at Underwood Elementary School on Tuesday. Photo By Peter Zuzga

Jan. 22, 2014

The Tosa All-City Read isn't just for adults, and Carole Barrowman will prove it in the upcoming weeks.

Barrowman is the author of "Hollow Earth," the book selected by the Wauwatosa Neighborhood Association Council to be read by children alongside the adult book "Rocket Boys." She will be touring every public elementary and a few private schools until the end of February to talk about monsters, art and the power of imagination.

The two protagonists of "Hollow Earth" have one super power: their imaginations. They can transport themselves into paintings or make their paintings come alive. They frequently paint themselves into historic images and deal with imaginary beasts. The themes of middle-age history, art, writing and the power of imagination are paramount to Barrowman's presentations.

Art and fantasy

On the goal of her presentations, Barrowman said, "I want them to see that the art is alive, and they create the meaning for a piece of art and when they create a painting it's not just flat on the surface, it's multidimensional."

During the book talk, she will ask students what a bestiary is, what they know about ancient paintings and about the artists that painted them. At the end, she'll ask students to come up with their own monsters.

Barrowman gets the biggest kick out of her presentations when students understand the references to paintings and painters in her stories.

For Jenny Keats, Underwood Elementary School principal, the opportunity to have the Tosa All-City Read author visit is practical. She said she was happy that the students will be exposed to a local, professional author and that they will discuss art.

She added that beyond the artistic exposure, the students will gain a sense of community.

"I hope they understand our community is invested in literacy and the enjoyment of reading, and possibly even this might be the inspiration to our students to become authors themselves some day," Keats added.

Students will be given a flier about purchasing "Hollow Earth." While she isn't planning on conducting book signings at any of the schools, Barrowman will sign each copy purchased through the flier.

Born of imagination

The idea behind "Hollow Earth" came when Barrowman and her brother and co-author, John Barrowman, took a midnight drive from London to Cardiff, Wales.

The trip was long and Carole Barrowman was worried about falling asleep on the ride, so she came prepared. She brought a huge bag of a gummy candy.

The two, manic from sleep deprivation and experiencing a sugar rush, started odd conversations during their two-hour drive. The topic eventually came to what kind of super power they'd want. They went through the basic powers such as flying and invisibility until they came upon the power of imagination.

Carole Barrowman, sensing they were onto something, started recording the conversation. Before they were at Cardiff, they had the rough draft of the entire three-story series laid out.

After some workshops involving feedback from children, Barrowman had penned "Hollow Earth."

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