It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw by Don Tate and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie is a fascinating picture book biography about a former slave who became a prolific folk artist after he started drawing when he was eighty-five years old.

It Jes’ Happened

The story of Bill Traylor is compelling. Not only did he start to draw at a ripe old age, but his drawings were an outpouring of all the things he had observed in his life. Before long his art caught the attention of a much younger artist who had gone to school to study art. He liked Bill’s drawings so much that he started to bring him art supplies and buying some of Bill’s art. He eventually made sure that Bill Traylor’s art was appreciated and displayed in art galleries.

Don Tate is an artist himself. This is his first book as an author, and it is a wonderful debut effort. He mentions in an interview in the Teacher’s Guide that none other than author Diana Aston suggested the idea to him, and it seems like it was a good fit.

It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw is jes’ plain captivating. It will be perfect for lessons in history, as well as art.

This book cries out to be accompanied with hands-on art activities.

Activity 1:  Assemble of personal memory collage.

Because Bill Traylor recorded his own memories and thoughts, have the students create a memory collage using photographs, images cut from magazines, or their own drawings.


  • Large sheet of paper
  • Images: photographs, magazines to cut up
  • Materials to create own images and words:  colored pencils, markers, paint (optional)
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Have the children brainstorm about things they remember. Create or search for images that represent these memories. Arrange the images on the large piece of paper and glue them down.

Specific idea:  how about a memories of the beach collage?

Activity 2: American Folk Art

Explore American Folk Art at NGA Kids

American Flag

Reading level: Ages 6 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Lee & Low Books (April 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 1600602606
ISBN-13: 978-1600602603

Book was provided by publisher for review purposes.

Nonfiction Monday is a blogging celebration of nonfiction books for kids. We invite you to join us. For more information and a schedule, stop by Booktalking to see who is hosting each week.

This week’s round-up is at Swimmer Writer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: