Wednesday, March 11, 2009

James Preller Visit Day One

From recent posts, you know that author James Preller was here last week. Karen and I have been blogging about author visits and time spent with Jimmy for the last several days and we realized we haven't even written about his time with the kids which was fabulous. So for the next two posts we'll be sharing what happened.

Day one was set up like a typical author visit, however, it turned out to be anything but a typical author visit. Each grade level visited the library for a 30 minute time with James Preller. He shared about his books, family, inspirations and life in general. I was amazed at the comfort level Jimmy exhibited in front of our students. It is clear that he is very comfortable with kids, and in fact enjoys spending time with them.

At one point early in the day, I caught myself SHUSHING the younger students. That's right, the LOUD librarian was SHUSHING the kids!! They were excited about something Jimmy had just said and were reacting. He looked at me and said, "It's all right." and the next thing I knew he had complete control over the room once again. It was at that point, with the first group of kids that I knew this was going to be a great two days.

Throughout the day, Jimmy changed his presentation tailoring it to the age of the students listening. The most difficult group was the last one of the day that was made up pre-schoolers, kindergartners and fifth graders. He also changed it so he didn't get bored with a canned speech. I'm thankful for this since I got to hear something different in each of the five sessions.

The younger kids heard Wake Me in Spring, an easy picture book he wrote. Some of the kids got to act out the hiccups as he read Hiccups for Elephant, both experiences kept their interest, and entertained the audience. I was impressed with how well he went with the flow, and adjusted to his audience.

One of my favorite stories was the inspiration for chapter 2 of Jigsaw Jones and the Case of the Million Dollar Mystery. The chapter title is "Green Milk" and involves Jigsaw hiding his broccoli in his milk. In the end, he is busted by his dad and has to drink the obnoxious concoction, but I was fascinated by the fact that the whole chapter was based on something Jimmy heard on the radio, one of the Car Talk guys saying, "You can't hide broccoli in a glass of milk." I later told the kids that this is the big difference between a successful author and most of the rest of us. He heard that line as a great story starter, and I just thought it was funny.

The day ended in THE PIT. Jimmy paid me the ultimate compliment and asked me to show him how a "pro" would read his brand spankin' new book, Mighty Casey. I chose a fifth grade class that had not heard the book so the reaction would be genuine and fun. We were loud and even broke into a wave as the Delmar Dogs came back to tie the game. It was a perfect way to end the incredible first day of James Preller's visit to Bailey Elementary.

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