Bill Traylor is an ex-slave who, after growing up on a plantation and working alongside sharecropping parents, found himself homeless. In his 80's, he began to draw his memories of growing up on a plantation and his life along the way. He ended up with a massive collection of drawings on scraps of paper, cardboard boxes--anything he could get his hands on to draw. Ultimately the right person took notice of Traylor's work and facilitied Traylor's position among America's most important artists.
My first time learning about him was when my good e-buddy, fellow Austinite and local artist, Don Tate announced that he was publishing his first book as an author instead of an award-winning illustrator. I figured the art in the book would be that of Bill Traylor, but the brilliant R. Gregory Christie had that honor. I am so grateful for this book and the impression it has made on my four year old son. Zack was fascinated that Bill Traylor was a real person. After reading this book, Zack wanted to read even more books about "real people that are dead but were alive in books". So now my four year old is looking for the chilcren's biographies when we visit the bookstore--just in time for Black History month! How cool is that?! The realness of the book is even more special to Zack since he shook Don's hand at the Texas Book Festival last year and got his copy of the book signed.
My son is no artist, but after our first two reads of 'It Jes Happened', which occurred one immediately after the other, my son announced that he would "draw all the pictures from the memories I saved up deep inside myself", as was said repeatedly about Bill Traylor in the book.
This book is a gem. The author is a hero. We are excited to see what he writes next. Learn more about this book and the author here.
Check out the book trailer: