A really great aspect of making children’s books is getting to occasionally interact with the kids. This usually takes place in the form of a school visit. Shelley and I had started doing several school visits in Colorado, talking about our book Little Lions, Bull Baiters & Hunting Hounds. Then, once we moved to Austin, we had to start all over again trying to get visits. We are finally back in the saddle and loving it. We did one together in Round Rock a couple of Fridays ago, talking about Little Lions and expository writing and then last Thursday I did a visit to another Round Rock school, presenting Wiener Wolf and story arcs.
For Little Lions and our companion book to that, Harness Horses, Bucking Broncoes & Pit Ponies, we do a PowerPoint presentation about the writing and illustrating of a book. For Little Lions we use examples of the dog breeds to illustrate that process. Our two dogs, Baron and Millie, the inspiration for our book, make several appearance in the slide show as well. We include props such as an inflatable globe-of-dogs and life-sized Dalmation and Maltese to get the kids thinking and talking about the development of different breeds. After that, we show the students a slide of another dog breed from our book and have them write an expository paragraph about that breed, using us and the slide image as research. We usually end with Q & A with the kids, which usually deteriorates into every kid shouting out what breed of dog their pet is. Kids love dogs! We bring original paintings, sketches, thumbnails, and marked-up manuscripts to display for the students as they file out of the library. This presentation is geared toward third to sixth grades, as is our book.
For Wiener Wolf, I present the book to kindergarten through third grades, sometimes wearing a silly, dachshund-length WW sweater. I start with an intro to myself and to life with wiener dogs, starring our two dachshunds, Baron and Fritz. I then do a dramatic reading of my book. After that, I draw and explain what a story arc is and have the students apply it to Wiener Wolf and The Billy Goats Gruff. I then lead the kids in creating a sequel to Wiener Wolf using a story arc and I illustrate the story as they come up with it. The teachers get to keep the storyboard I made with the kids and everybody gets a bookmark!
Our presentations are typically forty-five minutes to an hour long. We spend down time signing copies of the books that the kids have purchased ahead of time and chatting with the librarians. They are very friendly, fun, and well-informed people who love talking about books, kids, and education. Librarians are the amazing people that make all of this happen. They invite us into their schools, get the kids excited about our books, introduce us to the audience, and take care of the set up and business end of the visit. They are also the ones that spread the word about our presentations to other librarians and get us more school visits! Shelley and I are already filling up the beginning of 2012 with more school visits around Texas. It will be a fun and busy year.