Clare Vanderpool with Ella Lewis & Charlotte at the Henry D. Moore Public Library

We always love seeing these smiling faces!

It was like stepping back in time on October 18th when the 5th-8th graders from Ella Lewis and Charlotte came together around the book, “Navigating Early,” by Clare Vanderpool. Walking into the Henry D. Moore Library and Parrish House, our gracious host venue, and hearing Billie Holiday’s voice coming from an turntable while stepping onto the old, wooden floors really brought the program to life, specifically back to the 1940s when Clare’s novel is set. Modeled on our MDI 7th Grade Read, these kids were mixed into small breakout groups to discuss some pretty deep questions about the book, such as: “Both Pi and Jack dream of an encounter with looking into the eyes of a white whale…Are dreams important? What can they tell us about our awake life?” “Sometimes dreams are predictors,” remarked one student. Sometimes the answers weren’t clear and rather than agree or disagree, students said they were “on the fence.” Literature, as in life, can have some gray areas.

Ella Lewis 5th and 6th graders created mobiles featuring passages from the book that stood out to them and images that went with words.

Though time is always our enemy, the shared experience with the two schools, teachers agreed, was really nice. Kids noted that, while at first they were nervous, once they started talking about the book, getting to know each other felt pretty easy.

Small group discussions helped kids think about deeper questions stemming from the book

During Clare’s presentation, she shared her writing process and how, sometimes, a character or an idea just pops into her head and she really doesn’t know where it came from. This surprised at least one teacher who noted that she would have to rethink how she taught writing after hearing this from Clare. Another teacher, who had a very personal connection to the book, got to share that with Clare. It was quite moving to witness. Sometimes the impact of our programs is unpredictable and amazing.

Clare talks about her inspiration for the book.

Some drew their interpretation of the main character Early’s room, which is described in detail in the book.

With the Moore Library right across the street and serving as the school library for Ella Lewis, a few lucky kids got to linger for additional Q&A time with Clare. They begged her to reveal information about her next book but her lips were sealed. Their excitement was truly palpable!

Chatting with Clare after the event.

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