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It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  245 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
Growing up as an enslaved boy on an Alabama cotton farm, Bill Traylor worked all day in the hot fields. When slavery ended, Bill's family stayed on the farm as sharecroppers. There Bill grew to manhood, raised his own family, and cared for the land and his animals.

By 1935 Bill was eighty-one and all alone on his farm. So he packed his bag and moved to Montgomery, the capit
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Lee & Low Books (first published October 2010)
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Mar 22, 2012 Betsy rated it really liked it
Teaching kids about outsider art feels like a no-brainer to me. Which is to say, why doesn't it happen more often? Perhaps there's a feeling that educating kids on the self-taught is ultimately self-defeating. Can't say as I agree, of course. Seems to me that learning about the great outsider artists could give a kid a kind of hope. This is particularly true in the case of Bill Traylor. Here you have a guy who lived a whole life, discovered an artistic calling near the end, and remains remembere ...more
I liked the writing and the repeated idea that Bill Traylor's art, produced in his later years, drew on a lifetime of memories and experience. I appreciate the sources and quote citations in the front of the book and the author's note in the back. I love that the art in the book reflected Traylor's idiosyncratic style. And of course I love any time a lesser-known figure from history gets a spot on the shelf next to all of the Abraham Lincolns and Rosa Parks.

But man, was there NO ROOM in this bo
Julie Feldman
Text-to-Self Connection: As I read this book I continued to focus on the memories the main character was storing up, ones that he would then draw later in his life. I couldn't help but think of the memories that I am storing up, even ones that I might not be aware of. For example, Sunday dinners with grandma. This is a regular event, but a memory that I will have for many years to come.

Bloom's Questions:
1. When did Bill's family become free to work as sharecroppers instead of slaves?
2. Descri
Mar 20, 2015 Lela rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
1. Twin Text: Seed Magic by Jane Buchanan Copyright 2011
2. Rationale: It Jes Happened is the captivating story of a former slave, Bill Traylor, who became one of the most respected American Folk artists in history. He was born into slavery, and worked long days in the fields picking cotton. His family found freedom after the Civil War, but stayed on the land and worked as share croppers with their former owners. Bill didn’t begin drawing and painting until he was in his eighties, but he was savi
"Bill saved up these memories deep inside"

It Jes' Happened is another fantastic gem, hidden in the shelves of picture books for pre-schoolers. Do not be fooled. This 4th grade level book is filled with historical accounts a daily life of a slave, then former slave, a baby to an old man. It can be considered a biography or even a non-fiction book by me and the Library of Congress.

It is on a 4th to 5th grade level.

AR 4.8
Caitlin C
Sep 15, 2014 Caitlin C rated it really liked it
Don Tate's It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw is a delightful account of the life of African-American artist Bill Traylor. As an artist myself, I have to appreciate learning about Bill Traylor and his emergence in the art world. As a teacher-to-be, I have to appreciate the rich opportunities for learning it provides in the classroom.

Tate writes this book with such a colorful style. It is humorous in parts, sad in others, and lighthearted in others still. I really adore the atten
Lu Benke
Mar 07, 2013 Lu Benke rated it liked it
Fascinating. Pictures tell their own story. I could hear what Bill Traylor sounded like. This book made me want to go online and enjoy his art.
Bill Traylor, born into slavery in Alabama in 1854, didn't begin to draw until he was 85. Yet his drawings reveal all that he remembered, memories long stored in his mind and heart. Author Don Tate uses the phrase "Bill saved up memories of these times deep inside himself." Illustrator Gregory Christie's illustrations accompany the dramatic narrative of Traylor's life. Deep, saturated opaque gouache colors convey a folk art feel reminiscent of Traylor's own art. Traylor used simple materials, pe ...more
Juliana Lee
Readers learn about a little known African-American artist in this simply beautiful biography. Bill Traylor grew up a slave and then a shareholder to a cotton farm. He grew old and saved all his memories deep inside him. As an old man, he moved to the city. He didn't have much but his memories so he started drawing on the street corner. Soon an artist recognized his talent and started providing him with colored pencils, good art paper, and paints. Bill Traylor continued to draw and paint until h ...more
Cara Byrne
Oct 07, 2015 Cara Byrne rated it liked it
A non-fiction picture book introduction to Bill Traylor, an enslaved boy who becomes a free man who works for many years as a sharecropper until his family had moved or passed away. However, his life did not end there. At the age of 81, when he was practically homeless, he began to draw images from his memory and became "one of the most important self-taught American folk artists." Tate's story is well written and Christie's illustrations are perfect for this story of another important black art ...more
Paul  Hankins
A celebration of the oral tradition and the power of early experiences as catalyst for writing or creating artwork.

If you might have asked Bill Traylor why he started to draw, he might have responded, "It jes' came to me." When the folks from the Traylor farm died, Bill's wife died, and his children had moved out and moved on, Billy Traylor wandered toward Montgomery, Alabama, an eighty-one-year-old about to embark upon a whole new journey.

Lee and Low Books presents the story of 85 year-old, sel
Melissa Mcavoy
Bill Traylor started drawing at 85. Between 1939 and 1942 Traylor, an emancipated slave, produced over 15,000 works, many of them while homeless on a street corner in Montgomery Alabama. Today he is widely regarded as one of the three most important American self-taught artists. Tate’s biography focuses on the impetus behind Traylor’s painting and the efforts of a white artist, Charles Shannon, to facilitate his work and get him some recognition. A series of reminiscences introduce readers to pr ...more
Morgan Forrest
Jul 07, 2012 Morgan Forrest rated it liked it
Genre: Picture Book, Biography
Reading Level: 3rd Grade
Age: Primary

It Jes' Happened is a true story about the life of the self-taught American artist, Bill Traylor. Born a slave in Montgomery, Alabama, Traylor may not have led a glamorous life, but he had plenty of vivd memories. After slavery was abolished, he became a sharecropper. Eventually, his wife died and his children lived away and he became homeless. It was not until then, in his 80s, that Bill began to draw pictures of his memories. Mo
This book is a New Voices Award honor book.

This book tells the story of Bill Traylor who started to draw when he was 85 years old. His life is detailed from his birth to his eventual death at 95-years-old. Bill never planned to be an artist and was very humble about it when people bought his artwork or put it in a gallery for display. He was just a hard-working farmer filled with images that he started to draw when he was too old to farm and had time to let those images come out.

The illustration
Jul 13, 2012 Cindi rated it really liked it
A recent children's picture book celebrating the work of folk artist Bill Traylor will appeal to those who are fans of folk art and anyone interested in the history of art in America.

The story of Bill Traylor and his simple, yet moving artwork is the subject of "It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw" by Don Tate and R. Gregory Christie. In images reminiscent of those created by Bill and accompanied by a smooth and flowing text, the story of how Bill's art came to be appreciated and
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
I just love these stories about self-taught folk artists! Bill Traylor reminded me of Grandma Moses, who suddenly began to paint when in her late 70s. Bill, a former slave, began his artistic career even later in life--he was 81! He drew on old pieces of cardboard or paper bags or whatever scrap he could get hold of, using first a pencil stub and later a few colored pencils and paints. His drawings were simple and reflected his memories of times past. What I especially liked was that the illustr ...more
Jim Erekson
Feb 11, 2013 Jim Erekson rated it liked it
This book joins others in an effort to lend depth and breadth to the African American biography selection. Biography of vital yet less mythical figures is an important movement in historical fiction. Traylor's outsider art is an obvious inspiration for Christie's folk art style. Christie avoids mimicking Traylor until he starts to draw the story of Traylor drawing.

Interesting peritextual detail: The author's note, sources, and quotation sources are at the beginning of the book, but still with a
3 starred reviews (7.23.12): SLJ, Kirkus, Booklist

"...Traylor’s tale demanded an illustrator that could replicate his near two-dimensional style. Christie delivers. In this book the characters in Traylor’s memories walk and dance and pray in ways similar to those found in his art. Christie simultaneously creates something lively and fun while paying a kind of homage to the book’s subject..."--Fuse #8.

"...Christie’s acrylic and gouache illustrations nod toward Traylor’s own style, with bold color
Aug 24, 2013 Carol rated it liked it
Bill Traylor grew up as a slave in the cotton fields of Alabama. His family stayed on as sharecroppers after slavery ended. When Bill was 81-years-old he decided he had lived on a farm long enough and moved to the city. However, finding a job was difficult in the 1930's for an elderly ex-slave who had no education. Bill couldn't even read or write. He was determined and spunky and despite suffering from rheumatism was able to find odd jobs now and again. Unfortunately the jobs didn't pay much an ...more
Aug 16, 2012 Tasha rated it really liked it
This picture book is a beautiful tribute to a legendary folk artist. Bill Traylor grew up a slave in Alabama. Born in 1854, he worked in the fields as a child. When the slaves were freed at the end of the Civil War, his family stayed on working as sharecroppers on the same land they worked as slaves. As things happened to him throughout his life, from hunger to parties, Bill Traylor remembered it all. When he finally left the farm and headed to the big city of Montgomery, it was those memories t ...more
Jun 12, 2016 Sonya rated it really liked it
I just found out about this artist by checking this book out and I loved this cute book about his life and art. the illustrations are fantastic and the story is fun and educational.
Dec 21, 2015 Felita rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Enjoyed this quick biographical picture book. It was intriguing to read about Bill Traylor an Alabamian. The memories that were stored in his head, came alive through his art work.
Oct 02, 2015 Westerville rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids, biographies
A fascinating story. - Robin, Youth Services

Reserve a library copy.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Dec 08, 2012 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it
Bill Traylor was eighty-one years old when, out of the blue, he began to draw. He'd saved up memories of a lifetime, memories of Sunday morning church services and swimming in the river with his friends and picking cotton on the farm, and he suddenly began to draw little pictures of fighting cats and men in tall hats and hunters on horses. A show was arranged for Bill and he had a chance to share his memories with the world.

I love this beautifully written story of a simple man who suddenly becam
Jan 31, 2014 Jesse rated it really liked it
While I enjoyed learning about a self-made artist, including his past and why he chose to draw, illustrated by a fellow folk artist, I just can't fathom how his story can be told without his own illustrations. I wish they'd at least been included, if not used to create the pages themselves. Other than that, this books tells it like it is; slavery is mentioned as a fact of life, and I like that it doesn't gloss over it. This would be a great book to share with children who feel like they are hind ...more
Bill Traylor was born into slavery, but will be remembered for his artwork. After his farm is gone and most of his family passes away, Bill finds himself missing pieces of his past. To combat the pain, he draws the images in his mind and is remembered today as one of the most important self-taught Anerican folk artists.

The writing traces Traylor's life in a poetic way, each paragraph ending with the same refrain: "Bill saved up memories of these tiems deep inside himself."

Illustrations are rende
Apr 13, 2015 Matthew rated it really liked it
Bill Traylor is hardly a household name when it comes to art, but this was a nice book. It describes Traylor's life and his art, though his life as an artist strikes me as strange. He seemed to be an older man who'd developed a drawing hobby. I don't have a problem with that, but I keep thinking that I know a lot of people that like draw a lot. Still, I have no real understanding of the art world, so I don't know what I'm talking about. I liked the book though. It was an interesting portrayal of ...more
Aug 15, 2014 Michelle rated it really liked it
I liked the book, but wanted to see more of Traylor's art in the book.
Sep 24, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Historyical Fic - Civil War through the 1940s. Biography of Bill Traylor - artist.
New Voices Honor Book
ALSC Blog post from the author, Don Tate:
Betsy Bird from A Fuse#8 Production: She notes an alike book in Dave the Potter.
Miss Pippi the Librarian
Bill Traylor spend his entire life farming. When his family passed away and moved away, he moved too. He made his way to Montgomery to live where he discovered a hard way of life, but also a new beginning - in art.

Themes: history, memories, art
Characters: Bill Traylor, Charles Shannon

Artwork: acrylic and gouache
Author's Note: A tiny paragraph in the opening book information section about the title/quote. One page afterward about folk art and rediscovery of Traylor.

Reviewed from a library copy.
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Don Tate is an award-winning author, and the illustrator of numerous critically acclaimed books for children. He is also one of the founding hosts of the blog The Brown Bookshelf - a blog dedicated to books for African American young readers with book reviews, author and illustrator interviews. Likewise, Don is a member of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, a grassroots organization created to addr ...more
More about Don Tate...

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