Gary Schmidt visits MDI

Over sixty kids and parents living on Mount Desert Island, Trenton and Islesford participated in the Island Readers & Writers (IRW) Community Book Club last month.

Children living on MDI or attending Mount Desert Island Regional School System (MDIRSS) schools along with a parent or other adult were invited to participate in this free, month-long program.

Each adult/child pair received two copies of “Pay Attention, Carter Jones,” the latest middle-grade novel by award-winning author Gary Schmidt, and were encouraged to read the book together and discuss it at home.

“The IRW Community Book Club is about adults and kids sharing their love of reading with one another,” said IRW Executive Director Jan Coates. “We are thrilled that so many families chose to get involved in this shared book experience.”

Book-related activities leading up to the Oct. 24 presentation with Schmidt helped bring the book and its characters to life, thanks to collaboration with MDI nonprofits and libraries. MDIRSS contributed to the purchase of books.

The Seal Cove Auto Museum invited book club participants to ride in a vintage Bentley, a car that plays a major role in “Pay Attention, Carter Jones,” and free admission to the museum for the day.

“The easiest way to put a smile on someone’s face is give them a ride in an antique automobile, and we were thrilled to provide that opportunity for book club families by tracking down a 1958 Bentley for them to cruise around in, chauffeur and all,” said Jenna Beaulieu, the museum’s curator of education.

The Southwest Harbor Public Library and Northeast Harbor Library hosted book discussions, in which adults and kids delved into the book’s main characters.

The day of Schmidt’s presentation at the Northeast Harbor Library, a butler – just like the one in “Pay Attention, Carter Jones” – served kids and adults from a silver teapot in porcelain teacups, the way the protagonist Carter Jones is served at home. One wide-eyed boy was particularly taken with the English butler and the array of “biscuits” (British for cookies). Program Assistant Lisa Herrington polished her silver and the library provided beautiful ceramic tea cups and saucers. The part of the butler was played by Andrew Simon, artistic director of the Barn Arts Collective.

Schmidt, who lives in Alto, Mich., shared with the audience his path to becoming a writer despite not excelling in school as a youngster, and about his work as a college professor and success teaching writing to incarcerated men. He also discussed the game of cricket, how it is played and why he gave it such an important role in the novel.

Adults and kids were delighted by Schmidt’s humorous and meaningful book, and rapt by his words in person.

“The book was funny to my daughter and me,” said an IRW Community Book Club parent. “It was poignant without being melodramatic. More importantly, Gary Schmidt is a wonderful, funny and engaging speaker. My daughter really enjoyed his presentation.”

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