I’m an unusual author — hey, let me finish the sentence before you start nodding your head! — in that I write across the board for grades K-8. That means I regularly get invited to elementary and middle schools. In general, elementary schools are warmer, fuzzier. The kids are more outwardly excited, more likely to come up and hug me around the knees. And they buy more books.
Whereas middle schools tend to be a bit colder. You don’t get the same level of excitement and energy. There are all sorts of reasons why. The biggest, I think, is that it’s easier for an elementary school to get everyone on board. Whereas in middle schools, it’s every teacher for herself, everyone doing his or her own thing. I realize that’s a big generality, and there are exceptions in both directions.
At a recent visit to Algonquin Middle School, I enjoyed so many kind, warm, one-step-beyond-the-norm moments. All those little things contributed to a truly positive visit. Here are a few . . .
Ha, ha, ha. Will the real James Preller please stand up? These guys, along with their entire class, met me first thing in the morning. Hysterical and a little frightening.
A display in the main hallway that featured student artwork.
Cake. Yes, cake! The book won’t be out until October, but we’re excited about it already. I even ate lunch with a handful of students.
This young man, James, was really excited to meet me. He claims to have read all my books. Even my mother doesn’t go that far. Obviously, he’s some kind of a genius. A really nice guy, too.
One of the sweetest photos ever. I’m signing books, and this girl, Kath, is looking back at her mother; the shivery excitement is real. Forget that it’s me. Plug in any other author. The point is: this student, this young woman, quietly thrilled to meet a real, live author. To go home with a signed book, eager to read.
Another bulletin board in the library featuring more of my books.
And best of all, the energy and enthusiasm of young readers. They wouldn’t stop reading. None of it happens without the incredible dedication (and preparation) of school library media specialist Rebecca Ekstrom and the support that comes from the school principal, Mr. Messia, whose presence was felt (and appreciated) throughout the day. He cares and he models it for teachers and students. Thank you all, so much.