Thursday, October 20, 2011

Karma Wilson, picture book goddess

Sunrise will happen, yes, it will! at 7:35, sunset at 6:12.

It is still dark at 7, still too dark to type without a light to diffuse the blue screen effect.

It looks like fall! Gray skies, wet air, yellow leaves, and just a tiny bit of wind out there. I have to get out and clean up the yard, the pea plants need to get out of the pots.

I spent yesterday with Karma Wilson going from school to school and then ending up at the Ravenna store for a signing.

What an amazing presenter- she had the kids completely intent, she would get them noisy, quiet them down, get them noisy again. She read her books out loud and used a gruff voice for bear, a little squeaky voice for wren, and stuffed icky things into the Frog in the Bog's puppet-y mouth.

Someone really should offer a class in how to have a school visit. Karma walked in and owned that library, she spoke to almost 300 children at the first school and between 150-200 at each of the others, and she let the students know who was in charge from the very beginning. She was very clear and using simple instructions told the children what she expected from them. She used the teacher's quiet signs (a rhythmic clapping for two schools that got their attention and focus) and told the children exactly what she wanted from them before they got started.

She introduced herself, told them she drove here from Montana where she lives, and told them what she does, that she writes books but doesn't illustrate and then explained about book art and had the kids talk about different ways a book can be illustrated.

And then the fun began. She read The Bear Snores On, telling the students exactly what their role was and when they needed to snore. A little practice, a nod from Karma, and we were under way!

After the first book, she asked for questions and she was so good about this part. She said, "We have time for 5 questions. Before we start, I am the storyteller today. I get to tell you stories, you get to ask me a question. If you have a story to tell me, you will need to put your hand down." and down went many hands, and the kids had stories they could write later.

She asked them questions, too: Where do stories come from? (What if...comments start many of hers.) What is an illustrator? Who can be a writer? What is a bog and will you ever forget what it is? Why didn't I use the word SWAMP in the book Frog in the Bog, instead?

She had a nice ending, too, she said it was time to re-cap the day and asked them the questions from before, giving everyone a chance for success. Then she asked the kids to raise their hands way up, put them down behind their heads, and then give themselves a nice pat on their backs and applaud themselves for being a good audience.

It was a good lesson in being polite and giving your attention to someone. It doesn't hurt that Karma is a really good storyteller and that she's funny. Her patter works well for the age she writes for and her rhymes are perfect, setting children up for memorizing and a little reading.

We sold a lot of books, still have a lot of books in the back of the Jeep, and now I'm on my way to another round of school events with Mark Pett! I understand that he draws and juggles!

Our Ravenna store has books available signed by Karma- They will make great holiday gifts for families with children ages 1-7.

PS someday we'll talk about the after hours with authors, the talk that happens after the kids go home.

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