An hour after carrying his No. 2 pencil and yellow legal pad into the Severna Park Library last night, Chris Latimer, 6, had filled every page with drawings of Mickey Mouse, dinosaurs and elephants.
Chris was one of about 300 first- through sixth-graders at the library who learned from Baltimore cartoonist and illustrator Jim Sizemore how to create cartoon animals using simple shapes.
"It was pretty interesting to see how even people like me can make cartoon characters using squares and circles," Chris said, as he looked admiringly at his Mickey Mouse drawing. "I didn't know you could use such simple things to make a Mickey Mouse."
Mr. Sizemore has been a professional cartoonist for 30 years. His work has been published in The Sun, Maryland Family magazine, Saturday Evening Post and Reader's Digest. He teaches cartooning workshops for three weeks during the summer at Bryn Mawr in Baltimore.
Mr. Sizemore shows various cartooning and drawing techniques, such as how to contrast images, use squares, circles and ovals to make cartoon figures and how to combine images and words to express serious or humorous ideas.
"You don't have to be able to draw well, you just have to have good ideas to do cartooning," Mr. Sizemore said, as he shaded in a picture of two fish chasing each other.
He has done his cartoon demonstration at 15 county library branches for the past four years in conjunction with the Summer Reading Program.
"It's a lightweight program to get them to understand a little bit of the cartooning business," Mr. Sizemore said, as he autographed a drawing of an elephant standing on a ball for a child. "I don't get to teach them as much as I would like to, but I can use the cartoons as a way for children to communicate
through pictures and then show them how words are added to it and, that way they get the whole picture."
Cartoon books have the highest circulation among children's books in most county libraries, said Betty Morganstern, a county research librarian.
"Kids love to draw and use their imagination because they're not inhibited by any creative thoughts like many adults are," she said. "Throughout school, kids are encouraged to express themselves. This is an opportunity for them to learn from an expert."
Mr. Sizemore's demonstration was one of eight special programs given as part of the Summer Reading Program.
"The programs give kids and parents something to do during the summer evenings," said Danny Decker, 29, of Arnold. "When you have kids you really don't get to go out much, but interesting programs like this give you a safe, fun and educational activity to do with your kids."
According to Ms. Morganstern, about 10,000 children have participated in the reading program, which runs through Aug. 20. The program uses a dinosaur theme to encourage preschoolers and children entering grades one through six in the fall to read.
Each child is rewarded with a prize for completing a specified number of books. Youngsters can earn coupons for pizzas, ice cream and other treats at local fast-food restaurants.
"We're competing with a lot of other entertaining toys, like Nintendo, CD players and televisions, to get children's time these days," Ms. Morganstern said. "We've got to do everything we can to get children to read."
The libraries also are offering a trip to Busch Gardens for a family chosen through a countywide drawing of children registered for the program. Each library will hold drawings for 60 tickets for the B&O Railroad Museum and 200 tickets for the Babe Ruth Museum.