The Forgotten Girl: A Visit with India Hill Brown

Thanks to Scholastic Book Fairs our fourth and fifth graders were introduced to debut author India Hill Brown.  Her new book The Forgotten Girl releases in November, but it is a featured book on Scholastic’s fall book fair allowing readers to enjoy it well in advance of release day.

The Forgotten Girl is about 2 friends, Iris and Daniel, who leave their home one night to play in the first snowfall of the year. They sneak away into the woods to get to some fresh snow and to be out of sight. Iris decides to make a snow angel, and when she gets up, she realizes she has just made a snow angel on top of a forgotten grave. This action awakens a ghost named Avery, who needs help being remembered. Iris and Daniel launch into a research project to remember the deceased members of the segregated African American cemetery and to have the area cleaned up. However, Iris is put in some dangerous situations due to her new ghostly friend.

Our local Athens history has some interesting connections with this book. We invited local expert, Fred Smith Sr, to speak to students ahead of our visit with India. He shared the history of segregated cemeteries in Athens, including the slave burial grounds at the University of Georgia. He also shared how UGA moved some of the remains as well as built on top of the burial sites. Fred Smith Sr has been active in the process of acknowledging and honoring the forgotten graves.

He then shared about our 2 black cemeteries in Athens that were created after slavery ended. The Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery is where Harriet Powers is buried. She is well known for her Bible story quilts which now hang in the Smithsonian and the Boston Museum of Art. I brought in my replica of her quilt for students to see.

Scholastic sent books for pre-ordering ahead of the event, so we were also able to read the first chapter before the visit.

Our library windows transformed into the cover of the book with a the title sign, trees, and tombstones representing some of our Athens graveyard residents.

India Hill Brown spoke for about 30 minutes to our 4th and 5th graders. She shared some of her favorite books as a child as well as her love of writing from an early age.  She also surprised us by sharing that she really doesn’t like scary stories. However, she said one way to get over your fear of something is by doing it or by turning it into art.

 

India showed us pictures of the cemetery in her own community that inspired her to write the book. She wanted to weave in the history of forgotten cemeteries with a ghost story. We always love it when authors share the creative process of a story, and India showed us how the story went through multiple revisions and edits to reach the final version. I loved how she explained the different kinds of changes she made from the content of the story to spelling mistakes. Students are always surprised how long the entire process takes. Even though the first draft was done in about a month, the entire process of creating the finished book took over a year.

Students had a chance to ask India lots of questions about writing and her favorite things in life.  I even got to ask a questions about any ghostly happenings she has encountered in her own life.  After her talk, India took time to greet students as they exited. I loved seeing students making connections with her and even doing chants and hand clapping games with her.

Many times when we host and author, they are in a hurry to get to their next event. We usually do signing without students and then deliver books. India wanted to greet her readers, so we had students wait in the library and get in line for greeting and signing. I loved watching students glow as they met her and shared their excitement about her book.

Now that the visit is over, we have 5 copies of the book in the library and all 5 have already been checked out. Every classroom also has a copy in the classroom thanks to our PTA. I have a feeling many students who missed out on pre-orders will want to purchase the book at our fall book fair.

Thank you Scholastic Book Fairs for bringing India to our school.  Thank you India Hill Brown for sharing your historically important story with our readers. I can’t wait to hear the conversations that take place as students read this book.

How Our Library Space Supports Book Fair and an Open Library

We've had great success displaying our teacher wish lists on a three-dimensional display.

We’ve had great success displaying our teacher wish lists on a three-dimensional display.

Book fair is such an important part of our library.  I love seeing the energy that book fair brings to our teachers, families, and students.  Everyone loves to come and see what new books are at the book fair each time.  It gets new books into the home libraries of our students, and our wonderful PTA helps make sure that every student who wants a book gets one.  Book fair also extends our yearly budget.  Our student book budgets, 3D printing supplies, author visits, and many other things are supported by the funds raised at our book fairs.

In the past, book fair pretty much shut the library down as far as student checkout goes.  Because of our space being smaller and not flexible, the book fair cases blocked the shelves of our library.  Since I had a paraprofessional in the past, I continued to teach classes, but checkout stopped for a whole week.

Now that we are in our new space, our library is 100% accessible to students, teachers, and families thanks to our flexible design.  Our class schedule does slow down during book fair week since I pretty much run book fair by myself without a paraprofessional, but our wonderful parent volunteers step in and help when there are classes and projects that I need to continue with during book fair week.

Here’s a look at how our space transforms during book fair.

1.  Our circulation island stays completely accessible with storage underneath for books that need to be shelved.

book fair space (17)

2.  The circulation area becomes a space that gets decorated with the fair theme.

book fair space (8)

3.  The purple counter with attached case becomes the dividing point for our library.  Turn left and you enter the book fair.  Turn right and you go to the books, computers, instructional space, and lots of cozy reading/working spots.

book fair space (14)

 

4.  Inside the fair, our rolling Fusion Flip tables push together to create larger tables.  Our smaller student desk tables push together to make larger tables, too.  Single desks are used for things like our book plate and flyer display.

book fair space (16) book fair space (3) book fair space (2)

 

5.  Our purple counter becomes the cashier station and the attached case makes a great place to display posters.

book fair space (5) book fair space (6)

The back of the case remains accessible to our graphic novels and holiday books.

book fair space (7)

6.  Inside the fair, we leave a space to get to the equipment room and our ipad cart can easily be rolled out the side door to go to classes.  We also leave a space to enter the room with the 3D printer and studio equipment.

book fair space (15) book fair space (4)

 

7.  Since pretty much every table in the library is used to display the fair, there are a lot of extra chairs.  Those are all stacked in the corner, but not in the way at all.

book fair space (20)

 

8.  The book fair is in the spot where our fiction and 2 iMac computers usually sit, so those have been moved to one of the 2 instructional areas of the library.

book fair space (12) book fair space (11)

 

9.  Some of the nonfiction shelving is circled up to create a little more space for large groups to sit in front of our projection area.  During book fair, we had an author visit with the entire 2nd grade and we will Skype with an author on Thursday as well.

book fair space (9)

 

Some of our green cushions have been pulled over the projection area for small groups to sit and work with the projector.  They get pushed out of the way for larger groups.

 

book fair space (10)

 

10.  Our everybody picture book section and nonfiction are in their usual spots.

book fair space (19) book fair space (18)

12.  The book fair is completely closed in by the cases and the purple counter with case.

book fair space (13)

 

13.  Even without tables, students use the remaining furniture to find places to work.

IMG_2480 IMG_2479

Flexible was the most important word that we kept coming back to in designing the space.  I wanted as few fixed pieces of furniture as possible.  This maximizes our space and allows it to grow or change on a daily basis if needed.  As we have progressed through the year, I’ve learned new ways of using and arranging the furniture each time I’ve moved it.   I’m sure there are tons of possibilities that we haven’t even discovered yet.