Photos from My Last Visit of the School Year


This one cracks me up and sort of terrifies me at the same time. (Somehow, I realize now, that sentence summarizes the middle school experience for every educator and parent I’ve ever met.) I have an 8th-grade daughter of my own, so I’m not completely unaware of the “selfie face” that’s been perfected in middle schools across the land. After my presentation, these excited girls asked if we could take a selfie together. But as the camera pointed in our direction, I suddenly felt quite extraneous, even wondering aloud if they actually needed me in the picture. I sort of faded into the background, standing awkwardly, while they communicated directly with the camera.


Here’s two of my friends at Algonquin Middle School, Rebecca and Colleen. This school is a fabulous place where they really do treat authors like rock stars. All the staff wore the same shirts that day. As a visiting “celebrity,” I demanded only blue M & M’s, and by golly I got them! I demanded ironed carpets, a staircase assistant, and two vases of white roses and by golly I got them, too.  (Seriously, I’m not actually into the “rock star” analogy — I certainly don’t feel like one, and I don’t wish to be treated like Mariah Carey — but it is nice to be respected and appreciated, because by transference the school-wide statement is that they value & respect books and reading. I’m just a temporary stand-in for those higher ideals.)


It’s a relief when the hands go up after I ask if there are any questions, comments, or complaints. The screen shot behind me is probably the least graphic one I use, which is an example of marginalia. I tell young people, “I read with a pen in my hand. Always have. I circle, underline, make stars, write in the margins. For me, reading and writing are physically connected. And, naturally, books are where I steal my best, most original ideas.”



  1. Sharon Conroy says:

    You know you have reached a group of kids when they talk about your book, on their own, without prompting from a teacher. I can’t tell you how many times I had to say, alright I know you liked the book, but can we get back to the lesson I planned! This group loved Bystander, well done!

  2. Colleen Cioffi says:

    The blue m & m’s were a little over the top but the rest was totally reasonable!! Seriously, a great visit. You always engage and keep the students interested. Thanks again!

    • jimmy says:

      To write that, I Googled “outrageous tour rider demands” and got a lot of new ideas. Next visit, only low-watt light bulbs! And a bunny rabbit.

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