Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Visit from George O'Connor

The other day I stepped into our school library and was greeted by our wonderful librarian, Sara, and my new favorite children's author/illustrator (well, he shares that honor with HA Rey and Todd Parr) George O'Connor.

George had visited us a few weeks ago to share his fantastic books with the students and returned again on Thursday to sign books that were back ordered, thus arriving too late for him to sign the first time. Each book was not only autographed but included a drawing - he was signing books for quite a while. Nice guy.

George's books include KAPOW!, KER-SPLASH!, Sally and the Some-Thing and Journey Into Mohawk Country in addition to illustrating several others. It was through KAPOW! that I was first introduced to his work because during our weekly library visits my students would race to be the first to check out our copy. KAPOW! and its companion KER-SPLASH! were inspired by and have the feel of comic books, which are of great interest to some of my students. It is also very motivating for them, with high interest level and readability.

So when I heard George O'Connor was visiting I was very excited to have my students meet him. I am never quite sure what to expect when an author visits but I was especially hopeful this time that he would understand that his KAPOW! brought an interest in reading to some of my boys who were not usually entertained or engaged in this way. I was hoping that he would honor and respect that in some way. He did.

The plan for his visit was well orchestrated as Sara scheduled classes, giving special priority to first grade since she was well aware of the connection our children had made with his books. In preparation for his arrival Lauren and I invited our students to create a list of questions to ask. They brought their insightful, thoughtful questions with them to the library the day of his visit. Many of them were too shy to ask when the time came but others used their written questions as a support and asked away. George (he was informal, not insisting on Mr. O'Connor) answered all of their questions and encouraged more. He also read from KAPOW! and Sally and the Some-Thing, providing insider information about the background of their development and sharing personal connections with the texts.

He set up his easel and drew characters from his books for us; American Eagle, Sally, and even taught the kids how to draw Bug Lady in a step by step fashion. Afterwards he signed each and every drawing with "Taught by George!". Excellent.

Sara had arranged for several students throughout the school to join George for lunch that afternoon. A few of our students were lucky enough to go (which meant that I was lucky enough to go) and share pizza and salad together. Sara also made a cake resembling the "Some-Thing" that seemed to impress George and tasted delicious.

He tells me that he has another book in the works and I look forward to reading it and sharing it with my students. It is nice to know that the man himself is as bright and animated as his books. If you have not yet done so, check them out.


Joy said...

Can't wait to get my copies!

J. David Zacko-Smith said...

What fun! How cool!

George looks cute, too. ;-)

Sebastien said...

Sounds like great fun for the everyone! Thanks for the heads up on this artist! A friend of mine recently told me about a children's book illustrator the other day, I wish I could remember the name, this artist draws these creatures and scenarios, just too fun, and so beautiful.

George said...

Hey Gary,

Wow, H.A. Rey and Todd Parr! I'm flattered!

Awesome webblog.

I really enjoyed your student's Spider-Man story (just
saw the new movie myself last night). My favorite scene in his book :Eddie trouble, with Spider-Man smashing the camera. Too funny.

I'll be
sure to keep checking back,


Feral Cat Protection Agency said...

I'll have to check this series out.
I will check out Parr too--thx!

Kay said...

Hi Gary,

I just wanted to get in touch to tell you how wonderful your perspective is on education.

What lucky kids you teach to have you with all your great ideas and the ability to carry them through.

I am going to get the books for the library that you suggested. Most of them I am glad to say we had.

saralibrarian said...

It was such an amazing visit. I learned how to look at drawings like shapes. He taught us to draw! And I love listening to the way they (now I am talking about all the author visits we had this year) read their own work. I first noticed that when Nick Bruel came. They taught us how to read aloud! Authors do not realize the lessons they give in such few words, and sometimes even in the way they say one word, think aloud about a picture, or read some bit of text that I would normally ignore with a group. Big thanks to Nick Bruel, George O'Connnor, and Kate Feiffer for their generosity in sharing their gifts with us little guys...Smile. And to you Gary, for having this blog for reflecting and letting the lessons soak deep...


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