Another Cartersville student has been tapped to draw illustrations for a middle-grades book written by a 10-year-old.
Cartersville Middle School seventh-grader Smith Weaver was one of 19 students chosen to illustrate “Alien Invasion,” a science-fiction comedy by Elias Mask of Mississippi that is expected to be released in September around Labor Day.
Georgia-based Charlie’s Port, the only publisher in the United States whose mission is to publish books written or illustrated by children, selected illustrators from several states as well as one from Dubai and one from India to work on the project.
Two of the four illustrators are from Georgia, and both attend Cartersville City Schools. Besides Smith, first-grader Magnus Smith also was tapped to illustrate the book.
Mary Claire Branton, artistic director of Charlie’s Port, said she sends out notices to teachers across the country as well as to art schools and programs to “be on the lookout for talented students” and also posts announcements on social media.
“If they have any talented or precocious students that stand out in their classes, I ask teachers to have those students’ parents contact me,” she said. “Then I communicate with families about proper submission protocol, our organization, our process, etc.”
Branton said Smith’s parents, Season and Ginny Weaver of Cartersville, submitted his artwork to her when he was a sixth-grader.
“Smith’s artwork came in, and it was really fun,” she said. “Among artists his age, he was advanced, and I could tell a lot of passion went into his drawings.”
As she often does, Branton asked Smith to “draw a few additional images for us.”
“When those came back, they were exactly what we asked for so we knew he would be able to collaborate with us,” she said. “Thus far, Smith has been so professional in our Zoom meetings and eager to do the work. We love working with him.”
Smith and his parents signed a contract that made him a professional illustrator during the week of Thanksgiving.
“The decision on whether to sign it was completely up to him, and we are grateful he is taking advantage of this unique experience,” Mrs. Weaver said. “His father and I are very excited for him and really thrilled that he has an opportunity to display his talent in this way.”
She also said her son is a “very special young man, and we have always known that,” but sometimes she thinks his talent is overlooked because he doesn't have as many opportunities as other kids to display his gifts, which include singing, playing saxophone and piano and participating on the CMS academic team.
“But above all of that, what we most love about him is that he is a kind human being,” she said. “He wants to always include everyone and shows grace and humility to everyone that he meets. We want him to know that he is an amazing young man, and we could not be more proud of the decisions he makes to use what God has given him.”
Smith, 12, said the chance to create drawings for a book was “very surprising” to him.
“I never thought that I would be a children’s book illustrator, even in the slightest,” he said. “I thought there was an opportunity to help illustrate a book, and it would be a unique experience. I really like to draw.”
The young artist, who had his work displayed at the Booth Western Art Museum when he was in elementary school, said he loves art for a couple of reasons.
“Art can be very complex like Renaissance paintings, but also it can be very simple, like doodles in my notebook,” he said.
“Whatever difficulty level the artwork may be, I always find it fun and enjoyable. It never seems like a chore or task I have to do but something that I want to do. It is something that I always enjoy doing and am never bored with it.”
Smith’s mom said she thinks he is an “outstanding artist.”
“I am not good at drawing at all, but when he was little, he would draw elaborate and detailed pictures that were truly amazing to me,” she said. “I often thought he was copying the drawings from a book, but they were his own.”
Mrs. Weaver, a middle school assistant principal for Georgia Cyber Academy, said she learned about Charlie’s Port from being friends with Branton and from having one of her former students, Mikayla Lowery, publish a book through the nonprofit.
“I began to follow Charlie's Port on social media and receive updates to keep up with Mikayla,” she said. “It was during one of those updates on social media that I saw the 'all call' to submit children's artwork. Because Smith is so very talented, it was only natural that we submit his work. After submission, we didn't hear anything for a while and were just OK with the experience of submitting artwork to a real publishing company.”
But they did finally hear that Smith had been chosen for a project.
“We were truly thrilled to receive the contract in November of 2020 and particularly with this publisher, as they only publish books that are written and/or illustrated solely by children,” Mrs. Weaver said.
Smith, who wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up to combine his love of science and animals, has been contracted to draw a minimum of four illustrations for the book and will be paid by the drawing.
“Currently, I am in the process of meeting with the author and other illustrators to work on what the author wants the book to look like,” he said. “Sketches have been made, but they are only ideas at this point. I have been tasked with drawing a walkie-talkie, space helmet, skateboard and a TV with a video game on the screen.”
While he uses all materials for his drawings — he especially loves the detail and clear lines he gets from Sharpies — Smith said the illustrators “have been requested to do pencil drawings on white paper for this particular book.”
Mrs. Weaver said her son’s original deadline for submitting his illustrations was the end of January, but shipping delays had to push it later.
“Because the book is a collaboration of children's artists from all over the world, some of the art supplies that were sent to work with have been delayed due to the issues with the U.S. Postal Service,” she said.