Monday, November 6, 2017

IN THE TIME OF JOY AND WONDER


Paul Schexnayder, New Iberia, Louisiana’s artist of note, has created illustrations for several of my books; the most notable being The Kajun Kween, a young adult book that carries Paul’s illustration on the cover and his drawings in the interior. Paul has illustrated many children and young adult books for other regional authors in Acadiana, and last month he came into his own as a children’s book author with The Time of Joy and Wonder. It’s a tale of a King Royal, a Trojan horse, and a blue monkey in a boat. He says that the painting of these characters hung on his wall for some time before he began to wonder about their origins and mission in life.

Readers will find it difficult to believe that Paul is color blind because the characters and landscape in The Time of Joy and Wonder are rendered in vivid blue, pink, orange, and green acrylics on masonite. The illustrations alone will delight young and old, carrying out Paul’s message of joy and wonder in his typically whimsical style. I understand that his “Girth series,” many subjects of which are kings with small heads and billowing robes, was initiated in 2016, and the king in The Time of Joy and Wonder continues this series as a royal person who has become an “exceptional explorer of the day.” The king, Trojan horse, and blue monkey embark on an exploration to find “anything stupendous and magnificent” and discover serendipity — a battered boat that causes them to wonder if it qualifies as a “joy and wonder.” Inside the boat they discover a treasure they decide not to claim and return to their kingdom with only a story that becomes as valuable as the find itself. 

The joy and wonder of Paul’s tale is that, without being didactic, he creates a story ending with an old-fashioned element: a moral. I won’t reveal all of the carefully-crafted tale, but I purchased a copy for my daughter to give to my three youngest great-grandchildren, and I know they will love this colorful narrative.

Paul's art is also displayed at A&E Gallery in New Iberia where he sponsors art classes, poetry readings, author signings, and, in his generous, inclusive way, features the art and crafts of talented area artists. He has been the artist for many state festivals, and his work has gained recognition throughout the U.S., often invoking the question: “Do you own a Schexnayder?” Every Christmas, my gift list includes pieces bearing his imaginative brush strokes. 

I know that Paul has had the desire to publish a children’s book for several years, and I congratulate him on this wonderful expression of his talent and beliefs. Bravo, Paul, and bountiful sales from all your admirers in Teche country! We are blessed to have an artist who believes we still live in a “time of joy and wonder” and wants to convey this message to young readers today.

Available at Books Along the Teche, New Iberia, Louisiana, A&E Gallery, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, and amazon.com.




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