"A third grade boy told me today that your visit was 'the best day yet in the entire school year!' And this is from a boy who is not easily pleased....Not a book of yours is on our shelf -- they are all checked out, with waiting lists." -- Ann Haefele, Librarian, Park Road Elementary School
"Today, I met with several classes you spoke to yesterday. They all talked about your 'seed' imagery, 'strong feeling' and 'throwing the stick' requirements for a good story. You do a fabulous presentation that stays with the kids." -- Barbara Shostal, Librarian, Hunter College Elementary School
I do school visits in the New York City area and farther afield. Contact info is at the bottom of the page. Below, I describe five basic presentations, but really -- it's all flexible, depending on your school, its population, and what books you want your students reading before I arrive!
NURSERY SCHOOL AND PRE-K CHAT, for children under five. I talk about my job as a writer and then I read two books: usually Lemonade in Winter and Water in the Park, with discussion of how those books come to be. I also often read Daffodil, Crocodile which is fun for rowdy groups as it gives the children a chance to participate and call out repeated phrases. It's also a good one for a post-read analytic chat (yes!). The presentation invites children to share or ask questions after each story. 30 - 45 minutes or so.
PICTURE BOOKS: SEEDS OF STORIES, for K-3. This classroom presentation is for slightly older kids but it still involves reading stories aloud and is suited to small groups. I read stories that each have an interesting "origin or "seed" " -- most often Skunkdog, Daffodil and That New Animal. I begin by telling a story from my own life connected to each book; then I read the story and ask the children to notice how I exaggerated and fictionalized a true event to turn it into fiction. I talk about how strong emotions are very often useful story seeds, and connect that idea to the texts I am reading. There's a question and answer period at the end. 45 minutes or so.
SEEDS OF STORIES: TOYS GO OUT (library or auditorium), for K-5. This is the presentation I'm most often asked to do on school visits. It's a slideshow presentation about my writing process and the origins of my books, Toys Go Out, Skunkdog and ThatNew Animal. It's for a large group of kids. The talk has the same themes as the one described above, but includes includes images and is designed for a much larger audience. I don't read aloud from my books but instead focus on how stories begin with a seed idea and develop over multiple revisions. I discuss the elements of strong storytelling: emotion, problems, action, and so on.
BUILDING A CHARACTER: INVISIBLE INKLING (library or auditorium), for K-5. This is a slideshow presentation starting with a discussion of ways authors build characters, as well as how I gain inspiration as a writer from observing my Brooklyn neighborhood. I talk about my own childhood and favorite books, making connections between my emotions and those of the hero of the Inkling books, Hank Wolowitz.
Book sales: I recommend you partner with your local independent bookstore and arrange advance orders -- that usually works best.
Travel: Out of town, prices include travel and lodging expenses.
Inquiries: Speaking engagements and school visits are booked through the Penguin Random House Speaker's Bureau. Click the link for more info. Contact Christine Labov at the bureau: firstname.lastname@example.org.