Major Impossible: An Author Visit with Nathan Hale

It has been a rainy week in Georgia, which means kids haven’t had recess in a while. Pair that with the full moon, and you have a group of high energy kids. We were already excited about our upcoming author visit with Nathan Hale, but this added an extra layer. If I had known what students were about to experience during the visit, I wouldn’t have worried at all. Nathan Hale is a top-notch author & illustrator and his school presentation is a sight to behold. I don’t want to give too much away about the content, but I will say that he had almost 300 high energy 3rd-5th graders laughing, gasping, and hanging on every word.

We’ve known about our visit since November, which gave us a bit of time to build some excitement. When Nathan Hale arrived at our school, two of our 5th grade ambassadors welcomed him and walked him to the library to get setup.

Once we got him setup, he worked on a drawing of Hangman. He continued working on this as kids arrived and then moved over to draw on his iPad.

I loved that this immediately hooked kids in as they sat down. There was a buzz of excitement as kids chatted and watched Nathan draw.

All Nathan uses for his presentation is an iPad connected to the projector, but don’t let that simple setup fool you. After my quick intro, which included a huge thank you to Abrams Books and Avid Bookshop, Nathan launched right in to his presentation which is a combination of storytelling and drawing on his projected iPad. He introduced the Hazardous Tales books and then crossed them all out.

Since kids can just read those on their own, Nathan told us a new Hazardous Tale about Lewis & Clark. Since some people say that this story is too weird, too gross, and too dumb to be published, it can only be heard in school presentations. And, of course, the students were dying to hear it.

Nathan proceeded to tell us the story of Lewis & Clark and the corps of discovery. His story introduced an evil doctor, York-an African American explorer, and Sacagawea. His story was filled with  sarcasm, danger, gruesome details, and of course laugh-out-loud humor.

As Nathan told the story, he drew everything out on the iPad. He would zoom in at just the right moment, just like we were zooming in to a panel of a comic.

The storytelling introduced students to parts of the Lewis and Clark expedition that they most likely hadn’t heard before. It explained the “Lewis and Clark” is really referring to a whole group of people, and Nathan was sure to give credit to the individuals who played big roles in the expedition.

The story built up to a huge comedic finish that I can’t give away. What I will say about it is that it was so much fun to look around the room and see so many students and adults laughing to the point of tears. No matter what we were carrying with us as we came to the visit, we had 45 minutes of storytelling and laughter.  You couldn’t help but feel good after laughing that much.

One of the things I loved about Nathan’s presentation was that he went around the library before the presentation and pulled books about Thomas Jefferson, Lewis & Clark, York, and Sacajawea. He repeatedly reminded students that the story he was telling them was true and that he learned about the facts by reading books from the library.

He showed each one with his iPad and even turned this book presentation into a comedic event by always zooming in to show Baby Pomp on Sacajawea’s back.

Nathan chatted with students as they left, and then signed a huge stack of books. Every student who bought a book got a signature and a drawing of Hangman.

Before he left, Nathan took time to look at all of the comics that kids had made for the library windows. I loved that he took a moment to see how each one was different and what kids did with a blank piece of paper.

After an author/illustrator leaves our school, they don’t always get to see the miraculous things that happen back in classrooms and home. Kids returned to class buzzing with ideas and retelling the Hazardous Tale they heard. I had reports back from parents that their child couldn’t stop talking about the visit. Some students made their parents take them to hear Nathan again at the public library. Several parents reported back to me that their kids couldn’t put Major Impossible down and some finished it that night.

The next day, I put out a new set of Hazardous Tales and 5 copies of Major Impossible along with the other books Nathan showed at his visit.  All were immediately checked out and there’s already a list of holds on each book. Before Nathan’s visit, we already had some Hazardous Tales fans, but now that students know him, he has developed a much bigger fan base at our school.

Thank you again to Abrams Books for sending Nathan Hale on a tour of bookshops and schools. Thank you Avid Bookshop for supporting our schools with author visits and allowing us to have this opportunity. Thank you Nathan Hale for sharing your talents with us all.

Preparing for An Author Visit with Nathan Hale

One of the biggest blessings of having an award-winning independent bookshop in your community is having authors and illustrators visit our school as they tour to promote new books. Avid Bookshop is our local indie bookstore and even before they opened as a store, they supported the author visits that I arranged at our school. Now, Avid Bookshop pitches to publishers to have authors and illustrators visit their bookshop. Sometimes those visits happen in store and sometimes they happen at our public library. In addition to visiting the store, authors & illustrators usually visit a couple of schools, too.

The Setup

These visits are for one presentation and sometimes have requirements for the minimum or maximum number of students in attendance or are sometimes targeted at specific age groups. We also have a minimum number of books that we need to sell for each visit. Typically this is 40-60 books.  Ahead of the visit, I send home a pre-order form for students to purchase the new book. I have also worked with our PTA to include a line item in the budget for buying books for classroom libraries and students. I use this budget to supplement the number of books to ensure that we meet the minimum number.

We normally have the visits in our library, which requires me to move our shelves, tables, and chairs to accommodate 250ish students on the carpet. I book time on our library calendar to make sure there’s time to setup and clean up.

Introducing the Author

When we know about the visit in enough time, I make sure that all students have been introduced to the author. On January 14th, we will host author Nathan Hale for his new book, Major Impossible. We learned about the visit in November, so that gave me time to work on introductions before winter break. The visit will be for grades 3-5.

Our 5th grade was studying WWII at the time, so I worked with the art teacher and 5th grade teachers to put together a project around their Social Studies curriculum and Nathan Hale.

For day 1 of our project, we looked at all of Nathan Hale’s books and read the first chapter of One Dead Spy in order to meet the characters and learn the setup of the Hazardous Tales series.  Next, students had time to browse all of the Hazardous Tales, Rapunzel’s Revenge, Apocalypse Taco, and One Trick Pony. Their job was to enjoy the books but also to notice the style of illustrations, the dialogue, the humor, and anything else that caught their eye. They shared these noticings with partners and the whole group in our closing.

For day 2, students selected a topic from WWII to research. Examples included D-Day, Pearl Harbor, the Holocaust, Rosie the Riveter, VE Day, Iwo Jima, and more. They used resources from our state Galileo database. Students gathered facts onto Google docs in Google Classroom to use in art with Ms. Foretich.

In art, students used their research to create Nathan Hale-inspired one-page comics. These comics would be used to display at the front of our library for Nathan’s visit.

For grades 3-4, I offered an opportunity to come to the library for the same intro that 5th grade had. I also knew that they were overwhelmed with assessments and finishing up units before winter break, so I made a short intro video and uploaded to Youtube for them to watch at their convenience in class.

Contests

Ahead of Nathan’s visit, we held a big reveal on our morning broadcast. I gave one clue each day about the author/illustrator visiting our school and students could make a guess and drop it in a box in the library. I pulled out all the correct answers and held a drawing the give away copies of Major Impossible.

We also held a one-page comic contest for anyone in the school.  5th grade was automatically working on this, but I wanted to extend the opportunity to any students.  The rules were to create a one-page comic in the style of Nathan Hale. Students had to incorporate some event from history.  I provided various blank comic strip pages or students could create their own. Once the deadline came, Ms. Allie, our student support technician, and I went through the entries to select some winners. Again, these students received a copy of Major Impossible.  Every entry was used to add to our window display at the front of the library.

The Visit

Now, we are awaiting the big visit. I made a banner to put above the library door. The window display is created.  Books have been ordered. I’ve created post-it notes to put inside each book for autographing and delivery to students.  Students have been checking out all the Nathan Hale books, so hopefully we will get a few back to have signed at the visit. I love the excitement that an author visit brings. They are a lot of work, but they are so rewarding.

2019-20 Student Book Budget: Visiting Avid Bookshop

Now that winter break is over, our book budget students are back at work.  This week we took 2 separate trips to our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop.  I had almost 40 kids split across the 2 days. Avid Bookshop is located within 1 mile of our school so we can easily take a walking field trip to the store, and most of our students already have a permission slip on file.

The purpose of this trip was to continue to create a consideration list of books that met our purchasing goals.  We already did this with Jim Boon from Capstone Publishers before the break.  When we arrived at Avid, we met with Hannah DeCamp, who manages the Children’s Department. Students sat on the book boat and in the floor while Hannah book talked several recent books that fit our goals.  She even made a personalized book budget handout with books broken down into our goal categories. Wow!

Next, Hannah gave students an overview of the different sections that they might browse for this project: board books, picture books, early readers, juvenile nonfiction, kids graphic novels, and middle grade. Since Avid Bookshop serves all readers, we had to remind students that some books might fit our goals but not elementary-age readers.

Next, students browsed the store.  As they discovered books that fit our goals or books that were of high interest to Barrow readers, they came to my computer where we scanned the ISBN into a spreadsheet and typed the title/price of the book. Again, students didn’t worry about cost at this point. They simply captured all the titles we were interested in.

We also reminded students that Avid can order pretty much any book we would want so students added some books to our list that were requested by students and we couldn’t get from Capstone Publishers.

Some students also brought money to shop so for the last step students made their purchases. Hannah gave all students an Avid bookmark and she sent us away with several Advance Reader Copies to browse back at school.

Before we returned to school, we met together outside and debriefed our experience. One of the things that I shared with students is how important Avid Bookshop is in our community. I reminded students about all of the authors & illustrators who visit our school. Each time those authors/illustrators visit, it is because of Avid Bookshop and every book that students purchase for those visits comes right from this store. We talked about how Avid gives us a small discount as a school, but they give us so much more because they are part of our community and support our school and community by bringing authors and illustrators for us to learn from.

Back at school, students took time to review the Advance Reader Copies of books and we added a few more books to our list.

Next Steps

We’ve reached a very hard part of our project.  Next week, students will meet to comb through our lists and make difficult decisions about what we purchase and what we cut from our lists. I can’t wait to hear their conversations and see their decisions.