LEHMAN TWP. — John Manders could be a rich man if he just decided to sell his paintings to Lehman Jackson kindergarten students — assuming, of course, they actually have the money they offer.
As Manders, author and illustrator of children’s books, fleshed out an an acrylic painting depicting a happy horse high atop a castle turret sipping soda, one boy made an offer.
“I’ll give you 20 books for it!”
“Twenty bucks?” Manders said with a smile. “You don’t even have 20 bucks.” The illustrator, who was visiting Lake-Lehman School District students all day Monday courtesy of federal grant money, added some dark highlights to create a castle window, then dampened the horse itself before adding a few shades of black.
“Hey, it’s running!” someone shouted.
“It’s running?” Manders responded without turning from his work in the Lehman Jackson multipurpose room. “Well, you better catch it.” After a few of the kindergarten-through-third grade students groaned, he paused, then quipped. “That’s one of my best jokes!”
“No,” one boy said, trying to clear up Manders’ misunderstanding— about what was running, not about the quality of his jokes. “He means it’s dripping!”
Manders began his one-hour presentation by donning a purple and green jester’s cap and reading his book, “The Really Awful Musicians” while projecting each page on a screen. Every time he made the rapid, fluttering sound of the mandolin player, the room erupted with giggles.
The story of cacophonous musicians learning they can sound great if they just play together in harmony obviously had a message of working together, but that was hidden in the humor. In fact, Manders buried enough lessons in his presentation to, well, fill a book.
So while the students oohed as his drawing unfolded, groaned as his puns (“Horses like straws, so they like to drink through straws, right?”) and got a spritz of water in the front row every time he cleaned a brush in a bucket and shook it, they also learned, likely without realizing it.
Manders explained the meaning and use of a palette, palette knife and easel, pointed out a castle turret shape was called a cylinder, and saw how different shades of the same color can create something called “highlights.”
As he put finishing touches on the drawing, a bidding war broke out. “I’ll give you 100 dollars for it,” one student said. “I”ll give you a thousand,” another offered.
Kindergartener Delcia Biscotto, who’s face had shown countless expressions of wonder throughout the presentation, finally chimed in.
“I”ll give you infinity dollars!”
Even in the face of this, the ultimate bid, Manders resolve remained unshaken.
“I”m giving it to the school, so everyone can see it every day.”