Monday, February 17, 2014

The Upshot to NOT Being Told "Yes"

Earlier this month I was working online from home (snow day) and decided to take a break and scroll through Facebook.  As I follow several illustrators, I enjoy seeing their updates appear in my newsfeed from time to time.  Sure enough, a beautiful illustration of lions caught my eye as I was skimming through statuses.  Pamela Zagarenski had updated her cover photo, and it immediately inspired me to ask her for permission to use it in my classroom.  Our next letter-of-the-week was going to be Ll, and I thought her wonderful lions would be the perfect focal image to be used as wallpaper on my SMART Board.

Being respectful of her rights as an artist/illustrator, and aware of copyright infringement, I messaged her to ask if I might be allowed to copy the photo and use it in my classroom.  I explained that I wouldn't photograph the image or distribute it; I simply wanted to discuss lines, lions, lionesses, like and love with my Super Stars over the week.

Ms. Zagarenski replied, and it wasn't with a resounding "yes."

I was disappointed, but understood.  As we so often tell our students, we can ask, but it doesn't mean we'll receive the answer we're hoping for or want.

Then Ms. Zagarenski asked if wanted a lion print for my classroom and asked me for my address.  Pleasantly surprised, I gave it to her.  Thanks to additional snow days and the inevitable delayed lesson plans and let's-get-back-into-the-school-groove routine once we returned, my interaction with the wonderful artist  slipped my mind.

Until last Friday, when this arrived:

Excited to show my kindergartners Ms. Zagarenski's lions, I opened the tube to find that a narwhal and a tiger had also been sent to us:

There were audible gasps from my Super Stars as I unrolled each print, and then oohs, whispers, giggles, exclamations, and discussions about animals, artwork, colors, letters, books, painting, and letter sounds continued on throughout the day.  "So that's what a painting looks like when it's not in a book" and "I like how she puts crowns on people and animals 'cause I like crowns too" were some of the comments the Stars shared.  Then, another lightbulb moment:  "Mrs. Sommerville!  Mrs. Sommerville!  That's the same picture from our book!"  And so it is:

Later in the day, I shared the story of how I had asked Ms. Zagarenski if I could use a picture of her lions on my SMART Board, and how she hadn't really said "yes."  Asking my Stars if I should have thrown a tantrum, or used the picture anyway, they replied "no" and reminded me that we "don't take things without permission."  Two students also reminded me that we should say ~thank you~ to Ms. Zagarenski, for sending us her wonderful illustrations.  The Stars decided that we'll write her a note and make a gift of gratitude this week for her.

As art brings color to our lives in our homes, galleries, museums and outdoor displays, so too does it enrich our classroom and school environment.  Ms. Zagarenski, thank you for sharing your art and gifts with us.


You can purchase archival prints and cards by Ms. Zagarenski at her ETSY shop, Sacred Bee.


  1. What a beautiful reminder! What a great lesson we all need to learn and remember!

    Terri Izatt

  2. That is such a wonderful story to remember- and what a fabulous message for the children- even better than you had planned! Thank you for sharing that! How exciting.
    Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together


As always, thank you for your comments, tips, suggestions and questions!