Nathan Hale, an award-winning children’s book illustrator, presented Wednesday, Dec. 5, at BYU about his new comic books that make history interesting for pre-teens.
Hale presented the History of Comics lecture in a unique way. Instead of doing a PowerPoint presentation, he drew pictures that correlated to the stories he was sharing. Hale used an app that enabled him to display his drawings from the app onto an overhead projector screen for the audience to see.
“I liked watching him actually illustrate on his iPad app. He made things in four seconds that I couldn’t compete with even if I had an hour,” said Chelsea Davis, an elementary education major at BYU who attended the lecture.
Hale was invited to speak by the BYU Reading Council, which is a local section of the International Reading Association.
Terrell Young, a professor of children’s literature at BYU and a member of the BYU Reading Council, invited Hale to come present.
“The student officers thought it would be good to bring authors and illustrators in. … I had interviewed him for another article, and I was really impressed by the art he has done so I thought he would be a great one,” said Young. “And another great thing is that he is local; he was born and raised in Provo. He has a really neat personality, so I knew he would do a great job.”
Hale went to Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle and studied illustration. Currently, his focus has turned to the illustration of history. However, his work is not the standard illustrations in history textbooks. Hale is one of seven or eight illustrators in the U.S. who draws picture books that accurately depict historical tales for later elementary and middle school students.
“My son is the one who really got me interested in history. When he was seven years old, he knew all the Pokémon, he knew their powers and weaknesses, and he knew everything about Pokémon, then one day he asked if Hitler was still alive,” Hale said.
Hale realized his son knew a great deal of information but lacked knowledge about important historical events. He wanted to find a way to present history in an entertaining fashion.
“This experience got me thinking that there are a lot of interesting things in history that kids don’t know about. And there are a lot of interesting things in history that I don’t know about, so I am still learning as I go,” Hale said.
Creating these historical comic books for students is rewarding for Hale. When he was illustrating children’s books he found it difficult because he had to find the balance of pleasing both the audience who would buy the book (parents) and the audience who would read the book (children). He feels that he can target his audience much better through this avenue.
“I want readers to enjoy how interesting history is and to show that it is not boring, but it is crazy stories that happen to real people. It is stranger than fiction. My goal is to create an army of history buffs in sixth grade,” Hale said.