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.