Wide eyes in all shapes, sizes and colors, big smiles (some with missing teeth), listening ears eagerly awaiting the first word, and a touch of awe at meeting an author. That's what I witnessed last week as each class entered the Sacred Hearts Academy Lower School Library. It was a week I will never forget!
The excitement had been building for me since November when Ms. Taylor, the Lower School Librarian, and I began making plans for my first school visit. My daughter is a senior at that very special school where students and their families feel a genuine love. I figured that if I made any mistakes there, I would be among family and friends. They would surely forgive me, hug me, and help me get back on my feet.
Even knowing that, I wasn't sure what to expect and, I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. Is my book good enough? Will the students laugh at the funny parts? Are there actually funny parts, or am I imagining the whole thing? Is the story right for their grade and reading level? Am I a good read-aloud reader? Is that "so-so" review I received a few days ago right? What was I thinking?
Finally, the day arrived. No more time to ask questions I couldn't answer.
As I walked into the school office to sign-in and get a visitor's pass, Ms. Ching greeted me with open arms. She had actually been expecting me and was just as excited about me being there as I was. What a great way to start the day! She showed me to the library where I met Ms. Taylor and Ms. Maggini-Mackay, the Library Assistant. Smiles and hugs came my way! I thought that maybe we should just stop right there. It couldn't possibly get any better than that.
My nerves returned for a split second. Again, I questioned myself, my book, my being there.
Then, Ms. Taylor told me how much she and the children had enjoyed my book. The students had been engaged in the story and had laughed in all the right places.
I asked myself, "This is a dream, right?"
Well, yes, it was a dream. Not a black-and-white, fuzzy dream whose details escape you as soon as you awake, but a full-color, every-detail-etched-in-your-mind-forever kind of dream.
I read A Reel Cool Summer to six classes of smart, sweet, curious, silly, beautiful girls in three days. They listened carefully to the story, making mental notes of each detail. They laughed out loud as the characters in the book did, and said, harebrained, ridiculous, funny things.
More fun was in the works when students dressed up as the characters in the book and reenacted the movie scenes from the story. Those very simple costume pieces I had purchased and made brought out the actor in each child. One became a pirate who doesn't really like broccoli, another turned into a princess who gets help crying from an onion, two squeaky girls transformed into cute guinea pigs who turn out to be mean, evil aliens, and, finally, an artistic visionary stepped into the role of movie director shouting, "ACTION!" and "CUT!" at just the right times.
The students asked questions and told me their favorite parts of the book. One told a story about making a silly movie with her dad and brother. Another student talked about important things to remember when writing her own book for a class assignment. "Always start a sentence with a capital letter and finish with a period or a question mark," she reminded herself and her classmates.
Pictures were taken and hugs were given and received. The beautiful crocheted and fresh flower leis, the delicious cookies, and the adorable handwritten notes are treasures I will always cherish... although I must admit the cookies are already in my tummy. So yummy!
It was a dream come true. The pesky questions that had been floating around in my head finally got their answers.
As the children left the library at the end of their time with me, they repeated lines from the book and talked to each other about their favorite characters. I had just spent three amazing days surrounded by sweet children and the terrific adults who work every day to encourage them to read, write, explore and wonder. What more can a children's book author ask for? Nothing, I say!
There really aren't enough words to express my gratitude to the students, faculty, and staff of Sacred Hearts Academy for their warm welcome, wonderful smiles and great hugs. They will always have a special place in my heart. They will always be "reel cool" in my book!
Until next time... stay cool!
P.S. I also want to thank my daughter, Jacqui, and her friend, Jhunette, for joining in the fun and reading to two classes with me. You're the best!