Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Fabulous Visit to Syracuse Arts Academy!

Last Tuesday I got to visit Syracuse Arts Academy! Illustrator Will Terry and I were scheduled to do a joint assembly in the morning, then break into workshops throughout the rest of the day. As soon as we arrived there were huge banners with our names, welcoming us to the school. Then in the entry the children had made “books” out of cereal boxes and had created them based on the themes of our books. I was just sick that with all my equipment I had forgotten to bring my camera. Before students filed into the gym, we quickly hooked up my laptop to the school’s projector and got the screen image centered, etc. Then Will and I were introduced, to thunderous applause. Wow, what a treat.

Weeks earlier, Will and I had emailed photos back and forth and created a PowerPoint “How-well-do-you-know-Will-and-Kristyn quiz show.” In the assembly we had the students raise their hands and guess which one of us played piano as a child and which played cello, which one had seven kids, which one was addicted to chocolate (answer: both) and other trivial facts that we hoped would make us a little more personable. Then we talked about how a picture book is made, from both the writer and the illustrator’s perspective.

The rest of the day Will and I were in separate rooms, giving workshop presentations to students and teachers. I focused on the rhythm of my books and had the students use rhythm sticks to find the beat in various types of picture book verse. Then I had them create a “Swamp Symphony” of rhythms to my book, BEDTIME AT THE SWAMP. Some kids were splish-splashers, some were rumba-rumbas, bim-bammers, and BOOMERS, all with instruments that mimicked the chorus sounds. The kids loved the instruments and we had so much fun!


At lunch, we were able to sit at two “special” tables, and kids with all their homework finished entered a drawing to sit with us. I got to sit with about twelve students, and some of my favorite questions or comments were:

“You know how your books are kinda jazzy? Well my cousin’s name is Jasmine.”

“ Will you autograph my backpack?”

“What is your favorite animal?”

“How many years did it take you to write your books?”

“I’m writing my own book, about a walrus.”


I can’t tell you have terrific it was to have a school visit go so wonderfully. It’s due, in most part, to the staff who prepped their students for the event and got them excited. An author (and/or illustrator) visit to a school gets kids enthused about reading. And I’m so lucky to get to be a part of that kind of enthusiasm.

Play the video below to see Will at work. He is SO talented. (Go, Will, GO!)

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