Whew – I’m on my way to the train station and bound for home at last. Here’s some of what the last week looked like. You can find other shots photographer Noah Schaffer – on my facebook page. (Thank you, Noah!) But this is what I managed with my camera.
I’ve talked about soft censorship of my novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass all over the country: how the book isn’t purchased at all, or is kept with the librarians, or is shared with only a select group of kids. And of course, I occasionally still get comments on my website that look like this: Still, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a full-on challenge that required so much time and advocacy on the part of teachers and school leaders. Last week, I had the pleasure of spending the day at South County Middle School in Lorton, VA, where the entire eighth grade read Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. They invited me as a visiting author to talk with the students about the book. South County Middle School is in Fairfax County, one of the most forward thinking municipalities in my state. The school is basically a little jewel, too. Clean building. Peaceful vibe. Decent kids from all backgrounds. Teachers who get giddy talking about new teaching ideas. Parents who show up for virtually everything. As schools go, it doesn’t get much better. So, it’s interesting to me that it’s also the place where use of my novel was so hotly debated. It was officially challenged by a small group of parents in a fight that dragged on and made its way up through the ranks of the School Board. By the time the English staff took me to dinner, you couldn’t have guessed all…
I took a beautiful ride to Farmville, VA last week to be part of Longwood University’s Summer Literacy Institute. What can you say about a couple hundred teachers, librarians, and library science students gathering in the summer to study strategies for helping people fall in love with reading? These are educators with true passion for books and kids. After the regional authors presented on Friday morning, we had a chance to workshop with the participants on a topic of our choice. (My session was on making zines with kids.) An unexpected treat was seeing how the library science students researched our work and created posters. One of the posters for my work included links to two original trailers for my books. Here are the Vimeo links Melissa Hanes’ trailers for Tia Isa Wants a Car and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Thank you, Melissa! It was fun to see your mini-movies! All in all, it was a beautiful experience, so thank you Professors Wendy Snow, Francis Reeves, Audrey Church and friends.) Big shout out, too, for L.M. Elliott, and Jason Wright, new author friends from Virginia. Happy summer!
I spent a wonderful morning at Good Shepherd Episcopal School visiting with students from Pre-K through the eighth grade. It is so exciting to find schools like this where the students are so obviously honored and loved. Favorite comment: On hearing that my tía Isa was actually a terrible driver: “Your next book should be Tía Isa Goes to the Emergency Room.” Three best questions: Do you ever find that you accidentally put pieces of one story in another story? How do you know if your idea should be a book? (With a worried look.) Is your tía Isa still driving on the streets? Most touching event: Chef Sue (who cooks homemade from organic produce every day for these sweet kids) made me “lechon” (pulled Cuban pork), white rice and black beans, so that I could enjoy un buen almuerzo. We even had merengues for dessert. (A big hit. “Yum! You got this cookie right,” said one of the third graders.) Best slang I taught them: ¡Pin Pan Pun! (rollaway bed) Happiest coincidence: Señora Cardounel, the Spanish teacher, is from Cuba, too. We chatted in Spanish and swapped lots of stories. I hope she’ll visit me soon. Thank you, Ms. Dysart and all the lovely faculty and students at Good Shepherd! If I had to go to school again, I would want to go to a place just like Good Shepherd.
Here’s a little photo-journal of my recent day in Washington with The Open Book Foundation where I worked with Kindergarten, second grade and eighth grade. Who can resist these young people? So bright and sweet! The Foundation arranges with the publisher to have each student receive a free book by the author.