There was some magic in the air at Killdeer Elementary School last week.
Maybe it was because it was St. Patrick’s Day. Some of the lads wore green whiskers and derbies while a few of the lassies donned green skirts and shawls.
Their eyes sparkled and their smiles were as wide as a Montana sky as they searched throughout the school for the leprechaun and his magic and pot of gold.
They found the magic in the gymnasium. But it didn’t come from no leprechaun.
The magic came from the fingers of well-known illustrator and children’s author Floyd Cooper. He met with a gym full of those smiling students eager to experience his message. Cooper visited the school through sponsorship by local schools in conjunction with the Dickinson Area Public Library and the Badlands Reading Council.
With his own grin matching that of his young and eager audience, Cooper said: “Look at all these beautiful smiles. I’m so happy to be here with you.”
And with that, Cooper’s magic filled the air, creating and sharing and bringing to life tales, poems and art that detailed African-American experiences. His presentation is part of a continuation of studies related to Black History Month, which is held in February.
With the use of an easel and markers, he magically turned blank spaces into smiling faces.
His message was simple. Goals are worth their weight in gold.
“If you have a goal, reach for it. Don’t let anybody keep you from reaching for your goal,” he said.
Cooper comes from Easton, Penn., and is the illustrator of more than 60 children’s books. He has also provided illustrations for 2,000 book covers. Cooper, a graduate of University of Oklahoma where he received a degree in fine arts, is also the winner of three Coretta Scott King honors.
He said his dream has always been to bring smiles through illustrations, something that started when he was a toddler. His first smile? It was the result of a drawing of a duck on the side of his dad’s house.
“I never let anybody keep me from reaching my goal,” he said.
And now, he has begun adding words to go with his drawings. Cooper is also an author, having recently published “Junteenth for Maize,” a story describing how slaves responded to the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.
“This is pretty neat,” one student said.