The Author Visits!

I’ve been counting down to the end of the school year with some of my favorite memories from my time at Saint James School. This is it. The final one. The last week of school has come, somehow, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to this place. Here’s my final “favorite memory” of STJ.

One of my favorite days from every school year is author visit day, and I couldn’t just pick one. They are all always special and unique in their own way. I thought I would just recap them all.

2012-2013 school year- Matthew Kirby.

I contacted Matthew Kirby before I was officially working at STJ. He was fresh off of winning the Edgar award for his book Icefall, which I had really enjoyed, and was a relatively new author at the time, and he was happy to fly down to Alabama to talk to my 3rd-5th graders about the writing process and his books. I was a good day.

2013-2014 – Shelly Moore Thomas

Because Matthew Kirby was only able to speak to my 3rd-5th grade students in 2012, I really wanted an author in 2013 who could appeal to both my preschool, lower elementary and upper elementary students. Shelly Moore Thomas’ novel The Seven Tales of Trinket had just come out, and I loved it. She was already well known for her beginning reader series that started with Good Night, Good Knight. She was a perfect fit for our school that year, and she was amzing. She is a master story teller, and really knows how to put on a show for kids. She brought puppets and everything!

2014-2015 Mac Barnett

What can I say about Mac Barnett? If you know me well, you probably know about my relationship with Sam and Dave Dig a Hole. I won’t speak about it more here, but it is my favorite picture book in the world.

Mac is one of the best out there when it comes to presenting to kids. Every person, in the room, whether they are an adult or a kid loves Mac. He has this energy about him and he is genuinely hilarious. You can’t believe a word he says, but he’s amazing. He was so good we had him back this year, virtually.

2015-2016 School Year- Greg Pizzoli

Greg was a Mac Barnett recommendation. I was already a huge fan of The Watermelon Seed and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, so I didn’t need much convincing. Mac promised me that Greg would be an awesome author visit, and he was right. It was our first experience having a really good author/illustrator in the house, and it was a very good day.

2016-2017 Bob Shea

Bob Shea is a really cool guy, and my students loved meeting him. I don’t have a lot of photos or written memories from this visit because the committee I was serving on the time kept me from sharing things or talking publicly about kids’ books, so I was unusually silent on the internet about this visit. It was a fun one, though.

2017-2018 Laurie Keller

Laurie is another author that I cannot recommend enough to schools. She is so fun and personable, and not only is she a great illustrator, but she gets the kids drawing too, which I hadn’t seen before in an author visit. Every kid, even those who forgot to purchase a book to get signed, had a drawing to take home to remember Laurie Keller by. Also, I got to dress up like a big donut.

2018-2019 Matthew Cordell

This year we had out first hiccup in terms of getting an author here. We had a visit scheduled and planned, and then a month before the visit, the author had to back out because they had accidentally double booked themselves.

This left me without an author and very little time to plan. Caldecott medalist Matthew Cordell who I had met at a conference and gotten to know through social media, graciously agreed to come. He is so kind, and loves speaking with his kid readers, and as a lot of you know, he’s one of the best illustrators out there right now. I’ll never forget any of these visits, but I will always be grateful when I remember how Matthew came all the way down to Alabama with his busy schedule, on such short notice, fresh after winning the Caldecott medal for Wolf in the Snow. It was such a good visit.

2019-2020 a Virtual hodgepodge

I had an author planned for the Spring of 2020, but COVID happened and the world shut down. I was doing my story times virtually on YouTube for the last part of the school year, and I wanted to find an author who would make a video for my students to substitute for the author visit we didn’t get to have.

I put some feelers out, and immediately, four authors responded, and said they would do it. I couldn’t pick one, so I just did them all!

Matthew Cordell spoke to my kids, encouraged them while they were learning from home and read Baby Clown to them.

Travis Jonker read his book The Very Last Castle, and gave them some good words.

I read one of Josh Funk’s books to them, and he talked to them about being an author.

Laurie Keller gave us a super special treat and read her not-yet-released Hello, Arnie! and then played the banjo! I got to play along with her! (You can watch it here) and THAT will forever be one of my favorite memories from the pandemic. I got to play a ukulele/banjo duet with the author of Arnie the Doughnut. It still blows my mind.

Covid was terrible, but the generosity of these authors gave my students something to look forward to for a few weeks, and spread some light in a dark time.

2020-2021 school year- Mac Barnett (virtual version)

We were back in school, in-person this school year, but we weren’t ready to have big gatherings, and my principal and I decided that a virtual author visit would be the best way to go.

We wanted someone who had enough energy to really come through the screen and engage with our kids, and we knew Mac Barnett was the person for the job. We had warm memories of his first visit to our school, and all of the kids who would remember his first visit had moved on to middle school. He delivered the goods. His virtual visit was almost was good as his in-person visit.

Skype visits-

Over the years we’ve had a few authors visit with us virtually in addition to our yearly in-person visit. Josh Funk, Jenn Holm, Lauren Tarshis and Travis Jonker all Skyped with us for free just because I met them at a conference or over social media and told them that my kids would love to meet them.

I want to take a moment to say thank you. Thank you to all of these authors who gave their time and energy to engage with my students. I’ve been entertained by you, I’ve learned from you and I’ve become friends with several of you.

Thank you to my students for always representing our school well, and for always being so excited to meet these authors. Your enthusiasm is what made these visits so fun.

Finally, thanks to Saint James School. Without your funding and support, of course, these visits would not have been possible.

Published by Benji

I am an elementary school librarian in Montgomery, AL.

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