Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Whole World in Our Hands

"Wake up, Rafael!" the alarm whispered. "It's 5:30 AM and you are about to dazzle 80+ third graders in a little town in upstate New York." And dazzle he did.  The kids loved him (you know because they listened and were attentive).  The teachers adored him ("He was great!" "That was amazing!" "When is he coming?") and all I could think of was the chant we will recite when he does visit. (I'll give you a hint: It's very similar to the one we sang for Matt Cordell.)

Prior to dialing, we read the book together.  Wait, back up a minute.  Way prior to his visit, like the night before prior, I baked 90 cupcakes.  C'mon.  What's a party without cake? And what's a party about the beautiful diverse children in this world working together to take care of our planet without CONFETTI cupcakes?  Not one flavor but all of them sprinkled throughout the batter.  We talked about author's purpose.  We were informed of illustrator's purpose. And now I'm sharing that even a librarian has purpose.

Rafael was energetic, inspiring and didn't give us a single hint that he'd rather still be in bed.  I had mailed him a package earlier in the week with coffee, chocolate covered espresso beans, some upstate apples and biscotti.  I felt terrible about scheduling a before sunrise Skype, but Rafael kept insisting that it was ok.

He showed us some of the early sketches from the book, talked about the process and even gave us a tour of his studio.  We asked a few questions including, "What's your favorite color?"  Purple and orange but he also likes black since black has all the colors.  He had us hunting for the Eric Carle book, What's Your Favorite Color? because of course, we wanted to see immediately how he creatively included color in his gray octopus.

Even though we were celebrating We've Got the Whole World in Our Hands, my students still had questions about The Day You Begin.  "Why did you feature the ruler throughout the book?"

Every time you open my books I want you to discover something new. [I like to include] symbols that mean something or send a message. The ruler sends a message to kids to think “How am I measuring up to other kids?”

Wow.  That's deep.  The teachers were all nodding in amazement.   Of course.  I shared with Rafael and the students that we are always thinking of "author purpose" but consider this--the illustrator has purpose, too.  You can bet I'll be asking that now!

"What inspired you to make this book?"

I wanted to make this book with the message about coming together, diversity, being kind to each other and acceptance. It’s not about me or you but about us. My inspiration is that the future is in your hands. Take care of the planet.

Finally we sang "Happy Book Birthday" took our leaps and then said farewell.

I promise you that if I have it my way our salutation was a very weak goodbye paired with a strong "see you soon." Don't you want to hear 500 voices chant RA-FA-EL-EL? I thought so. Hasta la vista!

Who could resist not seeing these kids in person? 😉

It's like it was practice picture day!
Ms. Martin and Mrs. Hannah's class

Mrs. Pryde's class

Mrs. Yager's class

Mrs. DeMassio's class
Thank you for dazzling us my friend.

PS-Rafael has illustrated many books since he began in 2004 (a fun fact we learned today).  I don't have as many as I wish I did in the library. Don't worry, when he comes, I will have all of them!  But I did pull out the ones I have and Mrs. DeMassio's kids were thrilled to be able to check them out. 


Monday, October 1, 2018


My last texts to him were kind of salty.
"I'm fully entrusting you that this will all be great," I wrote.

My thoughts were saltier.
This just better be good.

He was making an announcement and wanted to Skype with my 5th and 6th graders.

Everyone had their theories.
He's announcing a new book.
He wants to put your picture in a book.
He's decided to film The Crossover movie in Castleton.

But why have Jason [our superintendent, former principal] involved?
He's giving him an award.
He just likes him and wants to "see" him.

None of the theories sounded like good enough reason to pull 150 kids together, out of their schedule, for one Skype.

That morning I had a thought...
Couldn't be...
So I opened up Facebook.  Nothing even close to upstate New York.
When I told a colleague my thought, she suggested I ask him to send me his location.
I was too busy setting up a Google Hangout lunch with fifth graders in Texas,
Sharing a book about mistakes to first graders and
Making sure the technology was working to worry about pinning his location.

The Communication guy showed up with his camera.
The IT guy sat near the computer.
My principal asked me if I was nervous.
"Heck yeah.
150 kids and all these busy people with
No clue what it's about."

Kwame and Randy in our "Kwame Room"
He assured me.
Will it?

And it was.
And there they were
A whole new crop of unforgettable Kwame STARS walking out of school elated.
I cannot wait to see them on Monday and
Relive the whole experience.

I was surprised at my bridal shower.
I was blown away when I won "Teacher of the Year."
And I went into shock when Kwame showed up at school on Friday.

Yeah, so sorry for being salty.
Thank you, my friend.

You know life is good when you have matching leggings with a first grader AND Kwame visits!