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Monday, April 9, 2012

Glitterman, Banksy, Buckeye: Last Seen in the Midwest

Here’s the setting:  Happy Hollow, West Lafayette, Indiana; a small public school.
Here’s the mystery:  how did this school, using my four books, tackle and complete all of these projects? 
Shortly after The Calder Game was published, I visited Happy Hollow for the first time.  I was astounded by what I saw:  mobiles, models, a life-size maze filled with clues and codes.  These projects represented years of bringing the characters and ideas in my first three books to life, thanks in large part to the energy and enthusiasm of Sue Stan, an amazing fifth grade teacher at the school.  Incredibly, Sue’s headfirst dive into the world of my mysteries spread to many other classrooms.
I returned to the school last week.  Thank goodness for cameras, because I can share some of what I saw.  I was welcomed with a message in hand-made, 3-D pentominoes, and when I walked into the gym, where I spoke with the fourth, fifth, then sixth graders, I was surrounded by thirty to forty life-size characters from the books.
There was also a Gas Gazette-inspired collection of portraits with puzzling, in-depth descriptions; renditions of the Robie House; and lots more added to the maze I’d seen years before.  These projects continue to evolve and pieces go home each year, only to be replaced by new clues, challenges and portraits.
This is an author’s dream, a peek at what happens when you become an ingredient in hundreds of kids’ imaginations.   I was also given six glass orbs decorated with details from all four plots.  Suddenly, there in my hand was Pummy, the Lady, all of the pentominoes, the Invisible Man… plus chocolates, spring lilacs from a reader’s garden, a pot of pansies, blue M & Ms galore.  Boy, was I spoiled.  I also have a Happy Hollow quilt sent to me one year, covered with kids’ renditions of favorite elements. 
This all goes to say:  give kids an opportunity and books do come alive.  And when an author has a chance to meet, witness and share delight, well, that is a happy moment.
Here's a glimpse: