I’ve been mulling this post over in my head for a couple of weeks now. I sort of had my own personal children’s literature author extravaganza week, and it started with Kim Baker.
I wrote a little while back about ALA Midwinter, and all the amazing people I was lucky enough to meet there. One of them was Kim Baker. At the time, my class was in the middle of her debut book, Pickle, as a read aloud. We had talked on Twitter often, and email occasionally. And then I got to meet her! In person! And sit and chat about books and kids and fun! It was wild.
I asked her about Skyping when we finished the book. And then she dropped a big one on me. “Oh, sure! We could Skype or, I could come up there.”
This is where I hem and haw like a dope because of course that would be amazing, but wait I don’t deserve that!
But I did take her up on it. We exchanged emails and set up a day for her to come up and visit. I was a little nervous (OK, a lot nervous–but that’s just general I don’t deserve that nerves) about hosting her. We talked about trying to have a whole school visit, but settled on just visiting my classroom. Kim wanted to hone her presentation. And I was nervous about author school visits.
Last year, my school hosted Clete Barrett Smith, the first author visit I’ve ever experienced. And it was just so painfully obvious that my school was very out of practice at hosting an author. I know Clete had a nice time, and he was great with the kids. But I’m on Twitter. I read Mr. Schu’s blog. I know how you’re supposed to welcome an author. Like a rock star. Not like just-your-average guest speaker.
So I was pretty happy to host Kim just in my classroom, where I knew we could really knock her socks off. Where everyone had experienced her book. Where we could decorate and brainstorm ideas and throw a real party. I will work on building up my school to such a standard.
So, my class and I talked about what to do. We wanted to prank her. The brainstorming got a little crazy, but we settled on recreating the birthday prank from Pickle. We decorated the room with streamers, handmade “Class of 2011” confetti, and balloons. We wrote a big “Happy Birthday, Kim Baker!” on the whiteboard. Of course, our prank wasn’t a surprise celebrating for an unknown birthday, like Sienna’s, but a party when it wasn’t Kim’s actual birthday.
On the day, I sent word to the office to hold Kim Baker there until after the pledge. Not the greatest welcome, I know! Cold and unfeeling! Buwahahahaha!
When Kim walked in the door, we started right up singing “Happy Birthday” to her. She was delightfully stunned (the mark of a prank well pulled, I think).
Kim gave a great presentation about herself, her book, and secret codes. The kids were in Heaven. Kim answered a ton of questions. Students shared their writing with her and got random scraps of paper autographed.
And then we had cupcakes! And pickles, of course. The birthday party in the book features German chocolate cupcakes, so I whipped up a Betty Crocker mix. Another student brought in cupcakes his mom made, and for which he had crafted 30 paper pickles-on-a-stick. I got some pseudo-escabeche. We had a grand old time.
And then it was time to go! So sad! I felt at the time that we kind of shuffled her out the door as my students prepared to go down to the computer lab for Technology. But Kim said later that she was kind of floating on a cloud at that point, so that made me feel better about our quick end.[tweet https://twitter.com/kim_bak/status/304332108594282498]
I was so happy to be able to provide such an incredible experience for my students. Connecting them with authors goes such a long, long way toward building a passionate, excited enthusiasm for reading. I am so grateful to Kim for being so generous with her time, and her gas money, to come all the way up to Bellingham. She didn’t have to do that, and we are so, so lucky that she did. My students and I will never forget it.