I recently enjoyed a three-day visit to Williamstown, Massachusetts. I visited three schools: Lanesborough Elementary (where we forgot to take photos), Mount Greylock (grades 7-8), and Williamstown Elementary. It was particularly fun to interact with such a large range of grades and interests — from getting down on the reading rug with a small but hearty band of preschoolers to presenting in a large auditorium to seventh- and eighth-graders. The topics ranged from hiccuping elephants to baseball to childhood cancer, from second-grade detectives to middle school bullying. We were all over the place, right where I like to be.
This was the 14th year of the annual “Words Are Wonderful” Literacy Festival (please, educators, click on the link for more information and inspiration). Let me tell you, these fine folks know how to celebrate books, and language, and music, and children — and it’s all done with a lively, happy, infectious spirit. All I had to do was show up. Seriously, it was like they hit the home run themselves and told me to trot around the bases. Um, sure! Even better, I came away with these terrific photos (and more), thanks to my new friend, Jessica Dils. Special thanks must also go out to generous, kind Liz Costley, for providing me with a cozy place near town to rest and sleep. I needed it.
Some faces in the crowd.
This lovely book-lover sat next to me at lunch. And she ate like a rhinoceros.
I love this shot, it’s a classic stare-down.
It’s great when groups are small enough so we can interact. They ask questions and I tell ’em, “I have no idea. Next!”
I am holding one of my earliest known works, Tarzan’s Adventures, once available for only 12 cents.
We were all relieved when milk didn’t spurt out this girl’s nose. She laughed and laughed.
These guys formed their own reading group, and they all read Justin Fisher Declares War. We ate lunch together — and it was delicious.
At Mount Greylock, I did one big presentation in the auditorium, then worked with three different groups in a workshop setting. We all made lamps. No! I jabbered for a while, then they wrote. Enthusiastically, impressively, joyously. Really, these kids were great.
This boy was eager to share his extremely well-written piece about farts. He cracked himself up so much while reading it, he had to pause sometimes for air.
During a break, I chatted with super teacher, Liza Barrett. Liza puts in a lot of work every year to make the Words Are Wonderful literacy festival a success. In five minutes, I knew I was with a dedicated, caring, energetic, compassionate, fully committed teacher. Yet she treated me like I was the star. As if! Here’s to great teachers everywhere.
We slammed about 95 preschool and kindergarten kids into one small space while I desperately tried to keep them amused. Look at ’em. Tough crowd. Scary crowd. Fortunately, I carry extra duct tape — and used it on the more squirmy ones.
I liked this cool guy’s shirt. I offered him five bucks for it. No dice. It’s impressive when you meet a young guy who’ll look you in the eye and have a real conversation.
A quick snap after one of the workshops. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: How lucky am I?