Before heading off for a weekend writers’ retreat, I spent Thursday talking books with more than 400 kids spread over three schools in two states. First thing in the morning, I visited with middle schoolers at Northern Adirondack Central School to talk about my Lake Champlain historical novels, Spitfire and Champlain and the Silent One. Here are two of my brave volunteers, trying on 18th Century outfits.
Then I hurried next door to the elementary school for two presentations. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders had terrific questions about the American Revolution on Lake Champlain and the encounters between Native Americans and French explorers and fur traders in the early 17th Century. At the end of my presentation, there was a rush to sample the hardtack!
Not one lost tooth this time!
I also talked with the NAC kindergartners, 1st, and 2nd graders about the process a book goes through to become a book, using my upcoming chapter book, Marty McGuire, Frog Princess (Scholastic, August 2010) as an example. The kids had lots of questions about ideas and words and illustrations when we talked about picture books, and I showed them some photos of the snowshoe trip where I got the idea for my upcoming picture book, Over and Under the Snow (Chronicle Books, Fall 2010). The students helped me out with a quick puppet show to illustrate the animals that live under the snow and those that cruise over it, searching for prey.
There were wonderful questions about book-making and books in general. One girl asked me which books she should read in order to be smart. I suggested that she read whichever books she loves the best — and lots of them! Another student asked if I ever have to go back and change things for an editor. (My editors are likely having a good laugh over this now.) She was amazed to hear that Marty McGuire has been through 13 drafts already! One girl raised her hand and recommended to me that if I’m reading and I don’t know a word, I should try "tapping it out," and I promised her I’ll add that strategy to my toolbox. All the kids had great questions and thoughts to share, but I have to say one of my favorite moments of the day came from this little guy.
His librarian did a drawing to give away some of my books after the presentation, and when his name was called, I’m not sure he understood exactly what was going on, but he came up to get his book signed. While I was signing and he was waiting in line, I overheard this conversation:
Boy-who-made-my-day: You mean this book is mine? I get to take it home?
Awesome librarian: Yes! And the author is going to sign it for you in just a minute.
Boy-who-made-my-day: And I get to keep it for the rest of my LIFE??
I’m going to remember that for the rest of my life.
After school, it was off to South Burlington to meet with a terrific group of kids who read Champlain and the Silent One in with their library book club at Chamberlin School.
Talk about thoughtful questions! I was temporarily stumped more than once. The kids also had a beautiful craft project waiting for me when I arrived.
The students loved how the characters’ names in the book grew out of their histories and personalities, so they made puzzle pieces — collages with images and words that reflected their own personalities.
After we talked, I tried guessing which puzzle piece matched each student. (I got at least a few of them right!)
Many thanks to these friendly book-lovers, Marje Von Ohlsen (left) and Cally Flickinger (right), as well as NAC librarians Jessica Gilmore and Jamie Gilmore, for arranging all this book-magic. I had such a wonderful day with your kids!