Archive for School Visits

When You Enter This Library . . .

I stopped and took a quick snap of this banner outside a library at some point during one of my school visits this past year. Best guess: somewhere deep in the heart of Fort Worth, Texas. 

Still very much hoping to schedule more visits for this coming year. Give me a jingle.

“Cookies and Conversation,” Plus a Great Website for Librarians

On school visits, rather than having lunch with students, I’ve come to prefer (and request) any sort of loose Q & A format — with, of course, desserts. You get the rare kids who’d rather hang with an author in the library than go out to recess. It’s always nice and often the conversation runs deep. Or not! Anyway, this particular librarian created and personalized these passes. She told me she uses and loves CANVA to create posters, etc. Finds it a pleasure to use.

This has been a public service announcement.

 

This Week’s Greatest Thing Ever

In Short Hills, NJ, at Hartshorn Elementary, they sure do know how to treat an author right. Look at that beautiful wall of welcome.

Now let’s zoom in for a closer look . . .

Yeah, I pretty much love this. Note to Self: Get the name of the art teacher who created it so I can thank her properly. Because obviously she’s some kind of genius.

A School with an Idea Worth Stealing

I had a happy experience on a recent evening at Ichabod Crane Primary School in Valatie, NY. I was one of two authors invited to an annual event at the school: Young Authors Night. The other invited guest was the brilliant Doreen Rappaport, who writes widely-acclaimed picture-book biographies. I’d met Doreen before and she’s simply the best; her work is second to none. We were asked to come from 4:00 – 6:00 to sign books. That’s it, just sit and sign. However, no payment — but we were assured that the Ichabod Crane community comes out strong for this event. 

Well, they sure did.

When I entered the school, I passed a large room lined with tables. On each table, neatly laid out, were books written by students. Each class, grades K-3, had its own table of handsomely-produced, original books. (This was the “young” authors section of the evening; Doreen and I represented a somewhat older demographic.) Tonight was the night when parents were invited to celebrate their children’s work. The not-so-young guest authors were stationed around the corner in a small library. Out in the hallway, a famed local bookseller, Rondi Brower, had set up an attractive display of our books. Note to potential idea-stealers: Rondi’s role is indispensable here. Partnering with a local bookstore is an essential part of the evening. (Oh, and a portion of the sales go to the school, so it’s a fundraiser, too.)

Inside the library, I was offered a chair, a desk, and a pen. Same deal for Doreen, across the room. Doreen and I chatted a bit, traded war stories, while the librarian, Alanna Moss, gracefully attended to last-minute details. Frequent readers of James Preller Dot Com may recognize “Miss Moss,” for she’s the librarian who hilariously had herself duct-taped to a wall to motivate end-of-year book returns. At almost 4:00, we took our places. “They’ll start coming in soon,” Alanna informed us.

I hope so, I thought.

Oh, and one other key detail: The school has been hosting this event for many years, always on the day of the school budget vote. Smart, right? It helps get parents out of the house, they visit the school, support literacy, vote “yes” for the budget, all before dinner. Genius. And an idea worth stealing!


I signed books nonstop for two hours. Same with Doreen.

No question that a huge part of the night’s success can be attributed to the aforementioned Miss Moss, who did so much advance work prepping the students. She shared our books in the library, building anticipation and excitement for the “big night,” inspiring young readers to come on out and get their books signed by real (and evidently still live) authors.

“Get ’em while we last!”

I have one last image to share. Because the lines are long and the event is so well-organized, students came to my table with their names neatly printed on Post-It notes. This is extremely helpful and efficient, and it also frees us up to discuss topics other than how exactly to spell, say, MacKenzee. I’d take the note, slap it on the table, sign the book, we’d chat a bit — “What are you doing this summer?” “What was your book about?””Any brothers or sisters?” “Have you read Jigsaw Jones before?” the usual light banter — and move on to the next. Toward the end of the night, my desk looked like this:

 

This is just to say: Thank you, good folks at Ichabod Crane Primary School for letting me share a slice of this special night. It was impressive all the way around, particularly the way the families came out for their children — to support literacy, to vote, to have some family fun. A true community of readers. Well done!

Courage Keeps Walking

A friend alerted me to a recent post on Twitter from a Texas librarian. I’m not on Twitter yet, but I’ve been seriously considering it for more than a year. Slothlike in my cogitations.

Anyway!

32105215_10156344632508633_4580843347173703680_n

This comes from a passage from THE COURAGE TEST. Maybe I had forgotten about it. The moment here reminds me of the initial concept behind the book, which I kind of buried during the writing of it. The iceberg theory of writing, I guess, that 90% is under the water. Still important, just unseen from the surface.

Reading from THE COURAGE TEST on a school visit.

Reading from THE COURAGE TEST on a school visit.

My idea was that Will’s journey, which parallels that of Lewis & Clark, gives him experiences — i.e., lessons — that he will carry home, which he can put to use when he encounters the true test of his strength and character.

In this moment, Will learns about the explorers’ courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. They could have given up. Maybe it was almost reasonable to do so. But no. Courage keeps walking.

It’s interesting. We’re in a sometimes-awkward corrective phase in children’s literature. The diversity movement is making important inroads in our schools and libraries and publishing houses. My sense is that this is not really the moment for old white guys like Lewis & Clark. Heads are turned in other directions. And I get that, I do. And yet! Their story is still worth knowing, still an essential, defining aspect of the American experience, for good and for bad, and very much worth examining through a modern, “enlightened” perspective.

Thank you, Karen, for that sweet tweet!

CourageTestFrontCvr