Tag Archive for James Preller Author Visits

“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.


Three Things

Today I concluded a presentation to a group of students, grades 4-6, with this quote (because the kids are always clamoring for more Henry James):

First Review for “Home Sweet Horror,” Book #1 of SCARY TALES Series

Question #1: If your friend writes a review of your book, does that negate it as an objective critical assessment?

Question #2: What is friendship, anyway?

I first “met” Franki Sibberson through her blog, A Year of Reading, co-written with Mary Lee Hahn. (You can read about them here, from a nice piece at possibly the world’s greatest children’s literature blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.)  If I recall correctly, Franki suggested that a character in one of my books, Miss Lobel in Along Came Spider, might be included in her ever-evolving list of 100 Cool Teachers in Children’s Literature.

In response to that, I believe that I bought Franki a car. Or maybe commented favorably on her blog. Something like that. Time passed, as time does, and last year I was given the opportunity of attending the fabulous 2012 Dublin Literacy Conference. You know, the one that’s not in Ireland. On that happy sojourn, I arrived at Franki’s school as a visiting author and we had a great day.

I always say that authors don’t do school visits — schools do author visits. So if that day was indeed a success, I owe 90% of that to Franki, the teachers, administrators, and students who put so much effort into the visit before I even arrived with my loud demands for more fluffy pillows, oscillating fans, belly dancers and blue M & M’s (and only blue M & M’s)

So, yes, I confess: We became friends. But not the hugging kind, mind you, since . . . Franki Don’t Hug. Got it? Okay. So just back it up, fella. One more step, good. Our friendship is on a firm handshake basis. Anyway, we are friends. That sometimes happens when librarians and authors meet and get a chance to hang out. Today, of course, I deeply wish that I wasn‘t friends with Franki. Wouldn’t her kind review of my new series be more valuable if, say, we hated each other? If only we were mortal enemies somehow — a long enmity passed down through generations! — and Franki Sibberson despised everything about me! — and yet still, even so, felt compelled (reluctantly, bitterly) to write a nice review of my book?

That, my friends and neighbors, would be a review worth chirping out!

Anyway, I’m rambling & my stomach is rumbling & I’m afraid I’m not making sense.

So, there’s this: Thank you, Franki, for your kindness.

Here: a fist-bump across cyberspace.

To read the review in full glory, click like a maniac on this link. If not, here’s the intro:

I felt like I won the lottery when I was handed an ARC of James Preller’s new book (the first in a new series–HOME SWEET HORROR (SCARY TALES SERIES).  I had heard about this series as I am a huge James Preller fan  (because he is one of the best author visits ever). But I didn’t know the arcs were available yet.  So I was thrilled to get one when I had asked for books appropriate for 4th grade at his publisher’s booth at NCTE.  This was the first on my stack that I read when returning from NCTE.  I actually took it out of a child’s hands so that I could read it over Thanksgiving break.  And I loved it.

Come back next week for another impartial review . . . from my mom!

Photo Dump: Three Days in Williamstown

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?

Reviews for Mighty Casey

I’ve got a plane to catch today, hoping to meet up with Bill and Karen at Literate Lives for a two-day school visit. I’m really looking forward to it. When my kids were younger, I really didn’t want to leave the area. But now that they’ve more or less stabilized, I hope to make longer trips, conquer new frontiers. For those interested in author visits, the key for me is that I need at least 2-3-4 days of work to make traveling worthwhile and affordable for all concerned; I can’t go to Texas for a day.

As for today, it’s snowing lightly, but steadily, and the travel plans  are up in the air. Or exactly the opposite — not up in the air. Fingers and toes are crossed.

In the meantime, Matthew Cordell and I just received two nice reviews for our new picture book, Mighty Casey (Feiwel and Friends, March,  2009). Here’s a tasty excerpt from Publishers Weekly:

Set against ample white space, Cordell’s endearingly geeky kids take center stage (mid-game distractions include tree-climbing, a bee sting and a bathroom break on the left field fence). It’s hard to envision a reader who won’t take to these underdogs. Ages 4–8.

And here’s a yummy excerpt from an upcoming School Library Journal review:

When the score is tied, and bases are loaded, Casey comes up to bat. Does this sound familiar? The ink and watercolor drawings vary in size and are full of energy and movement as the players engage in different activities. The faces are expressive and fun to look at. This is a great baseball book for all those T-ball and Little League players out there.