Friday, August 21, 2015

Mac and Mitali

We had a wonderful last week of our summer program, complemented by not one, but TWO author visits! Two wonderful local authors came to talk to our kids and get them excited about stories and reading.

Harbor House got a grant from Oakland Reads 2020 that provided a book for every child in our program, along with some food for an end-of-summer celebration. I let each child choose from one of Mitali Perkins's or Mac Barnett's books and told them that they would actually get to meet the author who wrote that book!

Mitali Perkins, a friend and supporter of Harbor House, came to see us on Monday of that week and talked to the older kids, as she writes fiction primarily geared toward upper elementary and middle school students. She talked a little about writing her first book and how many rejections she received - the kids couldn't believe that a real published author would have received rejections and had to rework her book!

The kids picked up on the delight with which Mitali talked about "story," and the stories we all have and relate to, and followed her talk raptly. She pointed out that stories are all around us, including in songs, and that all a story needs are "people, place, and plot." Many of the kids chose her newest book, Tiger Boy, about a boy in India who is going up against poachers to save a tiger cub. She was gracious and let the kids and teenage staff take pictures with her, which they loved.

On the last day of our program, Mac Barnett stopped by for his second visit to Harbor House. He talked to all the kids, as he writes books for both younger and older children. Mac read a few of his picture books, and his charming humor pairs incredibly with the talented illustrators he's worked with. All of the books were hits, but the most exciting one was his as-yet-unpublished book Leo: A Ghost Story, a sweet book about a misunderstood little ghost who wants to make mint tea and honey toast for his friends. The kids loved it and couldn't believe they were hearing a book that wasn't even in stores yet! He signed the book and left it for us under another pile of books so that I found it while cleaning up.

I wasn't sure how many of the younger kids would appreciate having their books signed, but they were thrilled. They basically mobbed him and he didn't seem to mind, but talked to each of them, listening intently when they had something to tell him. It was clear that he genuinely enjoyed his audience and connected to them in a very meaningful way.

Both authors made the world of writing and publishing more accessible to the children. The kids (and the staff!) were starstruck and felt so special to have these guests take time out of their busy schedules to talk to them. This is incredibly important for kids who often feel (justifiably) that they are overlooked and ignored. I know how generous it is for authors who must have to charge for most appearances to do this pro bono for us. We look forward to continuing our relationships with Harbor House's two favorite authors.