Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Day of School AND an Author's Visit, Too!!

I know many teachers look forward to this time of year: the first day of school when we get an opportunity to meet the members of our community for the next 180 or so days. Today was that day.

This day came with lots of change for me. I chose to move schools and work in a building whose leader shares similar philosophies about children and literacy as I do -- a wonderful plus. Because of this move, I left a fabulous community of children, parents, and staff (including my amazing team and my blog partner, Bill) where I used to work and am trying to learn more about the community in which I work now -- both a negative (missing what I left) and a positive (looking forward to new communities).

But enough about that. Let me tell you what happened for our 5th graders on their very first day of school today -- Margaret Peterson Haddix came to talk to them about her latest release, Sent!! How cool is that?!! An author visit on the very first day of school!

Haddix's book, Sent (the second in her new series, The Missing), was released in stores today. Her visit to us was a small kick-off for that release. How fortunate we are to live in the same geographical area that she does! In addition to a small presentation for the kids, followed by a question and answer session, Margaret also graciously autographed all the books that students purchased today.

This group of 5th graders might be a new community for me, but I did find out that most of their 4th grade teachers last year had read Found, the first book in the Missing Series, to them. When the kids heard about the visit, they were pumped, and even better, they were knowledgeable about many of her books, including Found.

Margaret Peterson Haddix started her session with a short synopsis of the first book, Found. She did it in a way that wouldn't give away the entire story for children who had not yet read the book. I am always fascinated to hear how authors get their ideas for stories, and Haddix did not disappoint. She said the idea came to her because she had fallen asleep on an airplane late at night, after a very long day and she was incredibly tired. When her plane landed at Columbus, she woke up confused, not knowing who she was or where she was for a moment. From there, a book was born.

Having the opportunity to hear an author read her own work is truly a gift. They read with the inflection and the pacing that they imagined as they wrote their story. So, when Margaret Peterson Haddix read aloud to our group today, I was mesmerized and so were the children and the other adults in attendance as well. She read part of the first chapter of Sent, where it sets up the premise that the kids are traveling through time back to the 15th century.

She shared with the students that she plans to have seven books in The Missing series. The next book in this series will also involve time travel, but she'd like to keep the century a secret (though she was feeling generous and did tell our kids), and the title of the next book is Sabotage. What a great title!!

As a writing teacher, I loved when she told our 5th graders that she likes trying to find the best words for the story she is writing. What a great lesson for our students to hear!

During the question and answer time, she was incredibly patient. All questions had value for her, she answered them thoroughly, and she usually made a comment about how glad she was that that particular question was answered. Talk about an author who can make children feel good about themselves!

For those of you who enjoy Haddix's writing, she shared that she has a couple of other books to look for in the near future:

1) Claim to Fame is due out in November
2) She will be writing the 10th book in the 39 Clues series. I believe she said that she follows Linda Sue Park's part of the series.

Margaret Peterson Haddix in our school on the first day -- that will be something these 5th graders will remember for a long time to come!! What a gift!!!

(And I couldn't call myself a kidlit blogger if I hadn't gotten the requisite photo op with Margaret, Bill, and me.)


  1. Lucky you! AND lucky Bill that he was able to come over and bask in the wonderfulness of it all!!!

  2. I do enjoy a good basking from time to time! I agree, Karen, those kids already have a great memory of fifth grade. Tough act to follow, where do you go from here!?

  3. What a great way to start a school year! I wish you all the best, my friend. Those kids are very lucky!
    I miss you!

  4. What an auspicious start to the year! I love Haddix's books for booktalking (and reading myself!) I got a review copy of Sent and read it on a flight home from New York. I can't wait to get the three copies I ordered into the fifth graders's hands next week. Now I need a few new history books for those kids who want to explore the history a bit more!