School Visits

"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

"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

School Visit Photo

I do school visits in the New York City area, and sometimes 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 That New 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.

If you want to sell books for me to autograph when I come to your school, I recommend you partner with your local independent bookstore and arrange advance orders -- that usually works best. Please email me with any further questions.

Out of town, prices include travel and lodging expenses.
For Toys books and picture books, or for conference and keynote talks, contact Lisa McClatchy at Random House.
For Invisible Inkling, contact Tony Hirt at Harper.

For more information and ideas for using my books in the classrooms, please have a look at the children's book page, the teacher resources page, and the bio.

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