Great and creative minds think alike, and so the diorama at Edmunds greeting Elizabeth Atkinson in the school lobby was a reminder of the great art talent in Washington County that brings stories to life. Art teacher Sarah Myrick had worked with students to recreate The Island of Beyond — complete with water raft, tree house, “Martinville,” and even the accurate summer constellations as seen in Maine from the story!
Students were definitely immersed in the book and excited to ask Elizabeth specific questions, about which they felt very passionate i.e. “ Why a pet raven and references to Poe throughout the book?”, “What about Martin’s dad’s attitude (which we didn’t like)?” To this Elizabeth explained that she “didn’t necessarily want the dad to change (they/ adults usually don’t), but wanted to show Martin’s transformation.” ELA teacher Molly Calder was just as enthusiastic about the book and about reading, and her excitement clearly rubs off on Edmunds students!
And – of course – the ever present question about a possible sequel or movie, because students desperately wanted to know what happened to Clam, a character in the book, to which Elizabeth responded, “Well, what do you think?”
Elizabeth shared just a hint of her work in progress, and then students did the same – after some writing workshop time in which they worked on Protagonist, Antagonist, and Characteristics. One boy said that he thought the whole island could be the protagonist in the story! They sketched their stories, and developed the feeling or mood through description.
7th & 8th graders also had an opportunity to share their completed and in-progress Powerpoint presentations they had developed about the book. While some were more high-tech and others more traditional, they all followed a format for sharing the story summary, the characters, highlights, conflicts, and what resonated the most for them. All were creative, thoughtful, and truly impressed Elizabeth in their beautiful recapturing of her story.
A closing session allowed Elizabeth and the students of Edmunds to acknowledge that Martin was dealing with many emotions as he grew that summer on the Island of Beyond, about himself, about relationships and about what is possible – not so different from the young people growing up in Edmunds.
Principal Trudy Newcomb wrote in the school newsletter later that week, “Mrs. Atkinson was very appreciative of the time and thought students had put into their projects, and noted to me her overall enjoyment of her time in our school and how impressed she was with the students here. Her thoughts echoed my own, as I am very proud of the work and attitude of kindness the students here at our school show me every day.”
IRW is proud, too – of our author partners, the teachers and principals who partner with us, and the students who let us in to their wonderful, creative worlds!