Yankee Girl was chosen as the children's book.
I was thrilled to have my "first born" book so honored, and doubly so when I learned that the adult selection was Kathryn Stockett's The Help (the first time I have been associated in any way with a New York Times bestseller!) Not only do both of our books take place in Civil Rights-Era Jackson, Mississippi, but both of us claim Jackson as our hometown. (Kathryn was really born there; I just sort of adopted it.)
really felt out-of-my-league when I learned that my predecessors in the program include Laurie Halse Anderson, Pam Munoz Ryan and Deborah Ellis!
Luckily, I didn't come upon that information until after the first day of the program. By that time I already knew that the readers and librarians of Winnetka-Northfield Public are the best. I have never had more fun on a multo-day school/library presentation. Because this program has existed for seven years, the whole three days were smooth, glitch-less and stress free for me.
I visited two schools, Skokie and Sunset Ridge Schools, where I talked about the Civl Rights Movement, and the background of Yankee Girl. Snaps all around to the teachers and librarians at those two schools who made sure their students read YG before my visit. One of the schools even conducted book discussion groups for YG before I arrived. As a result of the pre-planning, the students were ready to ask me insightful and cogent questions. When you have been doing school visits as long as I have for YG,
after awhile you know you have been asked every conceivable question. . . twice! These students questions I had never considered, and found themes and nuances I was unaware of. . .and I wrote the book!
Many of these students were also present for a Mother-Daughter Book Dicussion and Young Writer's Workshop that took place at the Winnetka Library after school. By the end of day two, I could remember the names of a dozen kids, because they had attended both programs and at been present for one of the school visits.
At these library programs, I discovered that not only were these students critical thinkers, they are also fine writers. I suspect this is because they are also fine readers. As part of the writing workshop, we did a freewrite exercise in which the word prompt was "bedtime." In only five minutes, and without consulting with anyone (or their neighbor's freewrite!), everyone of those dozen or so young writers had a sequence that involved being told to "turn out the lights and stop reading", followed by continuing to read by some "alternative" form lighting . . .flashlight, night light, hallway light, sneaking into a bathroom. Yes, these kids are my kind of kids! (For the record, I was a hallway light reader....hanging as far out of bed as I could to catch the light, but not so far that I couldn't haul myself up at the sound of footsteps.)
If all this activity were not enough, there was a booksigning and talk at The Book Stall in Winnetka. Not only did I see the same students from the other programs, but for me, there was a special surprise. The brother of one of my father's FBI partners showed up! I had never met this man before, but his resemblance to his brother (who I knew very well) was so amazing, I knew exactly who he was before he introduced himself.
The last event on my agenda was a luncheon with the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood. This time I gave my "adults only" version of the actual events behind YG. I had a great time; I hope my audience did as well.
The week was topped off with visits with Chicago writer buddies, including TA's Marti (aka Carmela) and Esther, as well as with last week's author interviewee, April Pulley Sayre. I arrived back in Atlanta Saturday afternoon, experiencing the same sort of let down you have after a wonderful vacation. Especially since the Atlanta Airport. baggage retrieval and commuter rail were all hour behind schedule. (But then, when aren't they?)
YG in advance. A thank you to the folks at the Book Stall, and the Winnetka Alliance for Early Childhood. Roses all around to everybody at the Winnetka Library (especially Director David Seleb) who became my new BFF's overnight. Most of all, I want to send a truckload of (cyber) roses to the Wonderful Wizard of Winnetka, Head of Youth Services, Bronwyn Parhad who made all of this come to pass. That's Bronwyn with the OBTV display in the library's children's department. Hooray for Bronwyn and Winnetka-Public Library for giving me the best gift a children's writer can receive . . . the opportunity to connect with young readers.
Posted by Mary Ann Rodman
P.S. Alas, my camera was out-of-commission, so I don't have any of my own pictures to share, but it you go to Winnetka-Northfield's Facebook page
you can see how much fun we had.
Browym and her PR team also produced this terrific YouTube trailer for the Yankee Girl part of the TVOB. Just enter my name in a video search, and it will come up.