IRW spent four, fun-filled days days with children’s book author Anica Mrose Rissi, a native of Deer Isle. We first met Anica last summer at an event at the Chase Emerson Memorial Library in Deer Isle and were thrilled when she agreed to work with us! She visited Jonesport, Deer Isle, Steuben and Milbridge with a program around her picture book “The Teacher’s Pet” and “Anna, Banana” chapter book series.
Jonesport Elementary School
Anica kicked off her school visits with us at Jonesport Elementary School, where pre-K teacher Jeanna Carver had just been announced as the Washington County Teacher of the Year! Her classroom was filled with science projects inspired by “The Teacher’s Pet,” in which a tadpole turns into a hippo, an unlikely occurrence. But the kids took the opportunity to study life cycles and were busy hatching salamanders, salmon and even ducks!
Anica led story time with pre-K and kindergartners with “The Teacher’s Pet,” which the kids had read in class and loved. She also had time to read her newest book, “Watch Out for Wolf,” a spin on the classic tale of the Three Little Pigs. She uses Visual Thinking Strategies during her story time, a similar method to the Whole Book Approach, so that kids can pause to take in the art and what it might be telling us about the story. After story time, Anica took in the life cycle posters the pre-K kids had created out of recycled objects and other media. There were some very creative life cycles!
Grades 1-4 participated in small group workshops with Anica in the cozy library. Anica shared the book she wrote and illustrated at the age of four as a child growing up in Deer Isle called “Anica’s Book of Poisonous Things.” It contains great advice such as, “This is dirt. Do not eat it!” She said she was always creating stories and had a great interest in both animals and birthday parties. Those interests led her to her first book, “The Teacher’s Pet,” and then her popular “Anna, Banana” chapter book series, the first of which is about a birthday party gone wrong.
After her presentation, the older grades, who had read “Anna, Banana and the Friendship Split,” came up with stories out loud. Anica gave them a prompt and then continued to ask questions about what a character did, where they were and why they did what they did. It is a great exercise to get kids thinking about how stories flow and what questions a story needs to answer. There were some very silly and creative stories from Jonesport kids and fun was had by all.
Deer-Isle Stonington Elementary School
Although the school has moved to a new building since Anica was a student there, it was still a wonderful homecoming as Anica knew many of the teachers with whom she attended school and are now educators there!
She was able to connect with the kids by sharing how she got her start writing right there in Deer Isle and that many of the kids likely pass her childhood home on their way into school each day. It was wonderful to have Anica model for these kids that writers come from everywhere, including small islands off the coast of Maine.
First up was a visit to the first grade classroom, where the kids enjoyed a read aloud from “Watch Out for Wolf.” As Anica signed copies of “The Teacher’s Pet” to each child, the kids illustrated a story they had come up with aloud together about a lost kitten.
In the grades 3-4 workshops, Anica read from a book in her “Anna, Banana,” series as the kids had read the first in the series, “Anna, Banana and the Friendship Split” in class. Anica handed out three book titles and the kids took turns creating stories that would go with the titles.
Kindergartners enjoyed a story time and then as Anica signed books, the kids split into two groups to illustrate animals they might see in a zoo. So many bright colors and shapes were used to create fun scenes!
In the last workshop of the day, second graders came up with a crazy story — another one involving a kitten — and then illustrated a scene from the book. Anica then left for the day, but said she hopes to see some of these new faces around Deer Isle, where she will be for the summer!
Up next, Anica’s visits to Ella Lewis School and Milbridge Elementary School.