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It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw
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It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  154 ratings  ·  51 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 by his own family and cared for the land and his animals. By the time has was 81, Bill was alone on his farm. So he moved to the city and began drawing the people, p ...more
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Lee & Low Books (first published October 2010)
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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
"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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
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
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
I liked the book, but wanted to see more of Traylor's art in the book.
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.
Jeanne Williams
The folk art illustrations echo the drawings that Bill Traylor began to make when he moved to the city after eighty-five years on a farm as a slave and sharecropper. The recurring theme of the book--"Bill saved up memories of these times deep inside." --sets the stage for the drawings that well up from his past after he moves to Montgomery. The text covers the span of Bill's life and admits that why he began to draw so late in life is still a mystery. Great support for the elementary art curricu ...more
Fascinating story of folk artist Bill Traylor, who lived as a sharecropper, a freed slave, and farmed until the age of 85, then when living hand-to-mouth in Montgomery Alabama began to paint his memories, on any scraps of cardboard or canvas he could find. Guy from Cleveland Institute of Art discovered and displayed his art and he found a following. Beautiful art in this book, in the style of Bill Traylor--simplistic, colorful, flat (dimensionally speaking).
I absolutely LOVED this book! I love this story because it is not shy. Its dialect and slang realy makes you feel there down south about 100 years ago. I love this story because it's about a self taught artist. It's a great book to show kids that if you really love something, no matter the circumstances, you'll be good at it in your own special way.
Kris Odahowski
Biographies have a great way of opening new parts of world to their readers. I had never seem any of Bill Traylor work before I read this book, illustrations in the book hint of folk art style. The strength of the book is it's ability to interest the reader in further exploration. This book is available for check out at the Gadsden County Public Library.
Judy Desetti
A historical view of what life would have been like during the lifetime of Bill Traylor. Bill Traylor is a self taught American folk artist. He started drawing at age 85. He drew from memory about how he had grown up and lived from 1850's thru 1949.

An additional selection

viewed by BMj but not a good selection for nomination.
Sharon Lawler
Born a slave and then surviving as a sharecropper after the Civil War , Bill Traylor did not become an artist until he was 81, when he moved to a street corner in Montgomery AL. He drew from his memory and he drew what he saw on the street and became one of the USA's most important self taught artist. Gorgeous illustrations!
I won't say anything about the story, but that it's a couple different kinds of beautiful and you should read it. Yes, YOU. You who is 10 and you who is 19 and you who is 50.

It made me reflect on one thing in particular, the compulsion artists get to create, and the journey that happens because of it.
Mary Ellen
Another "hidden treasure" from our picture book shelf, this is the account of a former slave, sharecropper, and self-taught American folk artist. The illustrator and the author, himself an acclaimed illustrator, celebrate Bill Traylor's life in lively words and pictures.
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