Terrific Connections With Authors, Illustrators, And Storytellers

Terrific Connections With Authors, Illustrators, And Storytellers

by Toni Buzzeo, Jane Kurtz


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781563087448
Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/05/2000
Pages: 185
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.42(d)
Age Range: 5 - 17 Years

About the Author

Toni Buzzeo is an author and library media specialist from Buxton, ME.

JANE KURTZ is a nationally recognized children's author as well as a lecturer in the English Department, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.


Vision of a Successful Visit

When it comes to adding zing to classrooms and libraries, perhaps there is no power like the power possessed by bookpeople. Authors craft the stories that grab our students, the stories that sometimes hug and console young readers, sometimes intrigue or puzzle them, and sometimes shake them inside out. Illustrators draw the pictures that make students giggle and gasp. Authors and illustrators also create the informational books that turn students into wide-eyed investigators, bursting with curiosity, tingling with the thrills of learning. Storytellers weave gentle webs that enmesh children and whisk them off to other realms where they become one with the characters and situations enacted. What resources! Recognizing those resources, schools and libraries all over the country have been exploring ways to tap into their power.

"I encourage my fourth graders to think of themselves as literary scholars," says Monica Edinger, a teacher at The Dalton School in New York, "going deeper into the books they study with my guidance, often learning more about the authors and what other critics have said about the books they are studying. Occasionally, opportunities even present themselves to make the experience more personal." One of Edinger's best opportunities was with Gail Carson Levine, author of Ella Enchanted. She began reading the book aloud several weeks before beginning her Cinderella unit in the fall of 1997. Edinger says:

We were totally enchanted by the cleverness of the writing and by Ella herself, a most wonderful character. As we came to the final chapters my students all cheered at the penultimate scene! I then suggested that we write Gail because of our magical experience with the book, and because thought that, as a new author, she might quite enjoy a thoughtful letter from a classroom of fans. Indeed she did and wrote back a lovely letter offering to visit when my students had completed their own Cinderella stories. We kept alert to the book's place on many "best of 1997" lists, and when it received the Newbery Honor sent her a handmade congratulations card. Her appearance in our classroom was a very exciting and special event, much anticipated. She was lovely, and the children were thrilled to present their work to her.

Author/illustrator Joanne Stanbridge says that the "coolest" visit she has done so far was to be the guest at a library Mother-Daughter Book Club. Mothers and daughters meet about once a month to discuss a children's book which they've all read. Both times when Jo was the guest, the public librarians had helped choose books in which mother-daughter relationships figured prominently. Stanbridge says:

What I loved was that it was so informal and so candid. I didn't do a formal presentation, although I had some things prepared, just in case--some biographical things, especially about how I felt when I was a girl and also some pictures of the Prime Minister's Residence and the Dionne Quintuplets, which I passed around as we discussed my novel The Leftover Kid. In both cases, the sessions were very interactive. I asked the girls to tell me the things they liked and didn't like about my book, and they did! It was also a great way for me to go fishing for raw material, to find out what kinds of books they liked or hated, what kinds of things interested them, and which things bored or confused them. I noticed that the girls and their mothers tended to equate "liking the book" with "liking the characters," and that was very interesting to me. We didn't talk much about style or craft or what it's like to write a book, but we did talk a lot about the characters, almost as if we were sitting around talking about people we knew. It was warm and funny and sometimes moving. I loved doing it.

During the boom years of children's literature in the 1980s, hundreds and hundreds of talented, funny, earnest, creative new authors joined the ranks of the published. They live in or near to every state, every region, every small community. Though famous authors juggle many demands on their time--too many to accommodate all of them--authors or illustrators who are just beginning their careers are often eager to connect with their readers.

It's such a terrific idea: connecting bookpeople with students. So why the horror stories from the trenches: the silent teachers' lounge where the author eats lunch with nobody saying a word, the conference where the kids lock the visiting author out of the auditorium, the library where someone begins vacuuming during the middle of an illustrator's presentation?

One author laughs ruefully as she tells of getting a batch of letters from students whose assignment was to "tell the author what you liked and what you didn't like about her books." It led to letters like this:

I loved your book. I couldn't put it down. I had to find out what happened next. I read it in two days the first time, then in one day straight through the second time. Now I'm reading it for the third time." Then the next paragraph says something like, "I think what your book needs is more action.

An author who read at her local library for "Read Across America" says, "My part was terribly attended, plus there was no librarian present to help with kid control, and there were some unruly kids. The librarians were manning the desk, and helping patrons, and I was on my own with eight kids, two of whom were screaming and interrupting and who had parents right there, doing nothing."

An author/illustrator tells of a recent school visit during which the children seemed oddly passive during his very animated--and funny--presentation. When he mentioned the unusual reaction to the teacher as he prepared for his next session, she said, "I guess we forgot to mention they don't speak English."

A fourth author tells of a visit to a classroom in which, as things turned out, a dance class was scheduled for the same time as the author. The author sat quietly and watched the dances for an hour. Finally, an author tells of three days in a school where, when she finished, the librarian said, "Oh, by the way, we found out we can't pay you, so here is a bag of cookies to show our appreciation."

We hope you are shaking your head no . . . no, that would never be my school or library. But even when a bookperson connection is far from a disaster, it can still fall short of the joyous celebration of reading and writing it could have been. Here, we bring you the success stories of the schools and book creators who have turned connections into a high art and whose efforts can inspire your own creative thinking.

As Monica Edinger's story helps to illustrate, in these days of phone, fax, web surfing, and e-mail, a school doesn't even have to bring an author or illustrator onto the premises in order to make a wonderful connection. There is a "virtual world" that we all inhabit in our electronic age!

Many authors and illustrators have personal web pages with hot links that allow readers to write personal fan mail or ask questions. We'll show you here how to locate the web pages of authors and illustrators you'd like to contact.

Additionally, many children's authors and illustrators are willing to engage in a variety of custom-designed e-mail projects. Washington State author Mary Whittington tells of being in touch with third graders at Campbell Hall, the parochial school she attended as a child in the mid-1950s. In lieu of a live visit, which would have been too costly for the librarian who contacted her, Whittington offered to make a videotape and communicate via e-mail with any students who wanted to ask questions. Student questions have ranged from "How did you come up with your books?" to "Do you know my dad?"

Publishers are also providing virtual access to their authors more and more often. Authors and illustrators are engaged in real-time chats and teaching writing on the Internet through services such as Scholastic Network and are visiting thousands of students at once through classroom interactive television sponsored by companies such as Education Management Group and orchestrated by Simon & Schuster.

Even children's specialty online booksellers are providing access to children's authors. For example, using a bulletin-board approach, online bookstores allowed customers to post questions to children's author Kathleen Duey. She then was able to respond to the questions in batches.

Duey found this approach to be very simple and uninhibiting for herself and her fans.

Never before have children's bookpeople been so easily accessed by libraries and schools. Whether in person, by E-mail, in live electronic chatrooms, or through interactive television, children's authors and children are finding each other every day, enriching each other's lives.

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