Awesome teacher Ms. Nielsen-Drake and me with the Magic Stick! Note her gorgeous shawl from Chiapas, Mexico-- where part of my next book is set!
I just got back from a fun visit to Steele Elementary in Colorado Springs... the fourth-graders read Star in the Forest and the fifth graders read What the Moon Saw. I absolutely LOVED hearing about all the connections the kids made with the books-- their interpretations and insights-- and most of all, how they took the idea of the Magic Stick (in Star in the Forest) and ran with it! (For those of you who haven't read the book, the Magic Stick is a kind of metaphor for kindness, courage, and strength in the face of upsetting situations.)
Here's Ms. Nielsen-Drake's explanation of how the stick has become a vibrant part of her classroom! (I changed the kids' names to first initials):
L wrote that he thought he needed a "magic stick" like Zitlally's. And then wrote, "Just kidding." I wrote back with, "Done!" And put a beautiful stick on his desk that looks like a bird's head. The stick has ended up with a life of its own in my class. Every time someone is feeling sad or in need of some comfort, he/she either asks L for it, or someone else thinks he/she needs it, and it ends up on that child's desk the next day. E's grandpa died. Someone put the stick on her desk. Today it was W's rat dying because his little brother dropped him, and so Will had the stick all day. It is SOOOOO sweet, the life that this stick has taken on! The other cool thing is that kids notice when someone, other than the "keeper-of-the-stick" L, has the stick and become very considerate and kind of that person. Isn't that amazing?
Me again: How cool is that?! I can't tell you how much I LOVE this! Thank you, L, for starting this tradition, and becoming the keeper of the magic stick. And thank you to Ms. Nielsen-Drake and her amazing students for their kindness and creativity! This is the stuff a writer's dreams are made of!
My whole trip was a treat! I stayed in the Avenue Bed and Breakfast in Manitou Springs (giant thanks to the awesome owners, Randy and Gwen, and Natalie of Black Cat Books, and the Manitou Springs Library friends and Author Fest organizers).
Avenue B n B
Thanks to everyone involved for a refreshing and energizing author visit!
PS -- Some nice news-- The Queen of Water has been selected for School Library Journal's Best Books of 2011 list! Yippee! It's also on the TAYSHAS list, which is an important reading list for students in Texas! Thank you, SLJ and TEXAS!!