When She Was Little: Rebecca Whipple ’93

By Kristin Sanderson

Rebecca Whipple ’93 has always known who she is. She’s an artist, a writer, a storyteller.

With vivid memories of her childhood, Rebecca recalls her time at Miquon, working on the wheel, doing portraits.

“The art room was a magical place,” she says.

Located at the edge of campus and at the edge of the woods, the art room was a space that symbolized the creative process itself–a literal destination that required a journey to get there.

The physical journey–the walking, the movement required to arrive at the art room, or any classroom on campus, really–opened up new spaces and new possibilities for students, Rebecca says.

As a young person, Rebecca loved all of the creative arts–writing, drawing, and painting. She was inspired by the arts at Miquon and then on to Germantown Friends School, where she studied color theory and trained in composition. After high school, Rebecca studied art, art history, and computer science at NYU. Later, she received an MFA for Painting at SFAI in San Francisco –where she has been based since 2004.

As an artist, “I like to play on the edge of providing just enough information,” Rebecca says. “Like a poem, [in picture books] the smallest alteration can change the whole thing,” she says.

Her new book, When I Was Big and You Were Little, is a beautiful story in which young Pina dreams at night that she is grown-up and her father is a child. Together they travel through tall grasses and down the streams of her imagination together. It’s extremely relatable to children, and chock-full Rebecca’s of whimsical illustrations.

Artwork and text, copyright RS Whipple, 2018. Artwork and text, copyright RS Whipple, 2018.

The tale shows expansiveness and possibilities that are afforded to all of us in childhood. In many ways, the story is evocative of the dreams Rebecca herself might have had as a child at Miquon. Her beautiful watercolor illustrations evoke a sense of place that mirrors Miquon’s woods, certainly. But more than that, it’s the sense of openness of Pina’s mind that was cultivated in Rebecca herself during her time here as a student.

This is something Rebecca felt across all of the classrooms and all of the grades at Miquon.

With a beautiful outdoor setting and amazing teachers, freedom and imagination were welcomed and encouraged, she says.

At the same time, the work was serious. It was made for children, but it was not downgraded or downplayed in her view.

“There was so much creativity in projects we did, an inventiveness. Catapult building, the toothpick bridge competition, the invention show, all of the plays we put on–we did one or two big projects a year. It made me feel empowered.”

Rebecca also says she’s intuitive–something she credits to Miquon as well.

She explains, “I have an idea, and if it feels like it needs to be a book, then I make the book.”

Not only did Miquon espouse in Rebecca the sense that she could do anything, the school also gave her the wherewithal to pursue her dreams deeply. Coming from a Progressive educational program that emphasizes process over product, this is not surprising.

She describes her work writing and illustrating her new book as extensive, with multiple rounds of writing, editing, and rewriting. She worked with multiple authors, editors, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators–all who advised her along the way. She also leaned on her storytelling acumen from her work in animation–an experience that honed her skills, she says, to think about storyline and visual storytelling.

“I love the process,” Rebecca muses. “It takes mind, body, and soul.”

Perhaps even without knowing it, Rebecca is a living example of the impact of a Miquon education for any one person. She’s successful by her own definition, and she’s living her life to its fullest.

When asked, she agrees that no matter what their pursuits–whether serving as a vice president of an international healthcare nonprofit or working to bring nature classroom experiences to children attending an urban Philadelphia charter school, the Rebecca says her alumni contemporaries are strong adults. They’re passionate about what they do. They’re thoughtful citizens.

“[There are] opportunities to grow into different spaces here. It makes this feeling that you can do anything and anything is possible.”

Rebecca Whipple '93 reads her new book, When I Was Big and Your Were Little, to Miquon Kindergartners on May 2. Rebecca Whipple ’93 reads her new book, When I Was Big and Your Were Little, to Miquon Kindergartners on May 2. “Did you make this out of your mind?” inquired one Kindergartner.  “Whoa!” exclaimed another.

Rebecca conducted author visits with the children at The Miquon School on Thursday, May 2.  Up next on the horizon is a prequel to When I Was Big and You Were Little, or perhaps, another book, she thinks.

Either way, the Miquon children say they hope the new book with arrive soon.

You can check out her new book and keep tabs on Rebecca at www.rswhipple.com
(30% discounts are available by entering MIQUON30 at checkout.)