Island Readers & Writers Blog

Cynthia Lord visits Washington County

Woodland Elementary School

You know you’re in for a fun day when greeted at the school entrance by a large poster with drawings of characters from Cynthia Lord’s books and the words, “Cynthia Lord, You are a Hot Rod!” This was our welcome to Woodland Elementary School in Baileyville.

Cindy read her books, “Hot Rod Hamster,” “Hamster’s Birthday Party” and “Monster Truck Mania” to kids in grades pre-K to 1. “Vroom vroom” they called as she asked which wheels they would choose.

She was peppered with questions: “Where do you get ideas?” and “Do you think kindergarteners can write a book?” First grade had created a racetrack for their bulletin board complete with colorful, hamster-driven racecars. Cindy gave them all coloring sheets to work on while she personally signed their very own copies of “Hot Rod Hamster” provided by IRW.

We then entered the third-grade classroom where one little girl exclaimed, “Oh, Hi! Hi Cynthia Lord!” She was obviously excited to meet an author. This class had read Cindy’s chapter book, “Shelter Pet Squad,” created posters to promote donations to Paws Brave Hearts Pet Shelter in Calais along with the second grade. The “Pennies for PAWS” posters were spread all over the school and even the nearby high school. Their brightly colored masterpieces helped raise $500 from this generous community! They even made homemade pet toys to take with them and are planning a trip to visit the animals at PAWS soon.

Fourth graders read Cindy’s middle grade novel, “A Handful of Stars.” She spoke with them about how she gets her ideas for stories. For this book, the ideas came from two places; the idea of a black dog and the blueberry barrens in Deblois. After brainstorming a story together about a kid wanting a dog and all the obstacles to overcome to make it happen, Cindy had them write about or draw a pet they’d like to adopt. They asked lots of questions as Cindy signed a book for each child. A fabulous day was had all around.

Indian Township Elementary School

The next day found us a bit further up Route 1 at Indian Township Elementary School, our newest school partner which has welcomed IRW and our author/ illustrator partners with open arms. The day began with Cindy reading “Hot Rod Hamster” to the pre-K class. Cindy got them all engaged by letting them vote on their favorite car, engine and wheels from the illustrations. While lining up to return to class a young boy, hugging his newly signed copy of “Hot Rod Hamster” to his chest, said: “I’m going to show this to Unk. I’m so esited [sic]!” Calls of “woliwon” (thank you) were heard as they made their way out.

Kindergarten and first grade students made a poster with all the adjectives from the book and another with a list of questions for Cindy. They had the loudest shout of “SURPRISE” as they joined in with Cindy’s reading of “Happy Birthday Hamster.” They were adorable, sitting on the floor with their new books, stroking the pages in wonder. As they left with their signed copies, we heard them exclaim, “We get to have a book!”

Fifth graders each drew elaborately decorated bee houses like the ones Selma and Lilly painted in “A Handful of Stars.” One boy entered the room saying, “This is my favorite book!” Cindy gave a slideshow presentation with pictures of the barrens and the houses in which the blueberry harvesters live. One student said that the boy in a picture looked like an old man and Cindy told him, “That is exactly what I do as an author to get ideas – notice what you see.”

Second and third graders read “Shelter Pet Squad,” Cindy’s book about a group of kids volunteering at a pet shelter. This exuberant crew drew wonderful pictures of their favorite animal while Cindy met each of them and signed their copies of her book.

The third grade already visited the shelter in Calais and had a lot of stories and photos to share. They even got to make braided toys for the kitties while they were there! They were so excited to meet Cindy that their teacher had to explain, “They are not usually like this; this is how much they love this book!” She was also very excited to hear Cindy tell the students that she edits her work five to eight times. We all had a fun day at Indian Township School.

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Anica Mrose Rissi in Washington County

Anica Mrose Rissi lit up the imaginations of kids in Washington County when she returned with IRW to visit Edmunds Consolidated School and Princeton Elementary School in October.

Edmunds Consolidated School

To kick things off at Edmunds, the whole school gathered in the library for a reading of Anica’s picture book “The Teacher’s Pet.” Mrs. Calder, the 5-8 grade ELA teacher, was a hoot to watch as she reacted to the story. “I’m so worried,” she said when Mr. Stricter got eaten. Giggles erupted upon hearing, “He farts for show and tell.” “You are a very fun audience!” Anica declared.

During the Q&A session, a student asked if he could name the hamster, the  new class pet at the end of the book. “Write me an essay arguing your point,” Anica said, and reeled off her mailing address. Speaking of writing, she told the kids to pay attention to the voice inside that says,  “Oh, that’s interesting to me,” when writing.

Grades pre-K to 4 were participated in writing workshops with Anica and they had done some impressive work preparing for her visit.

Pre-K and kindergarten students students wrote their own book, “The Class Pet,” which Anica read aloud. They also got to hear a reading of “Watch Out for Wolf,” Anica’s most recent picture book.

First and second graders created profiles of their dream class pets. They adorned the walls of the hallway and were vibrant and creative: a giraffe named Lila, a leopard named Mr. Putty, an elephant named Violet and more. They also created pets they thought their teacher, Mrs. Garnett, would like. A spooky live pumpkin named “Auto bot” was one example, because he could help kids on the bus. Or Sunshine because she is cute and can cook her own food. Oh, how we love the imaginations of kids!

Third and fourth graders came armed with questions about “Anna, Banana, and the Friendship Split.” “Have you ever had a friendship split before?”, they asked. After sharing how a real life friendship split helped her write the story, she got the kids asking their own questions based on title prompts so they could write their own stories. The title “The Day My Sister Came Back,” drew out some pretty wild ideas of where that sister had been. Taking note of the friendship theme, the kids created a friendship chain that was displayed outside their classroom with lots of messages on how to be kind and inclusive.

Princeton Elementary School

Next up was Princeton and the IRW team drove towards the blood orange sky in the wee hours of the morning to get there bright and early. After arriving, a middle grade teacher with a sparkle in her eye told Anica, “Because of you my kids want a komodo dragon as a class pet!”

Princeton students had great questions during the Q&A with Anica:

Why the name Bruno?

What breed is your dog?

Do you like snakes?

Does the teacher even realize he’s a hippo?

How could a hippo fit through the door? (Anica suggested they figure that one out in science class!)

After that, it was off to workshops and discovering what rich research had been done by the kids.

Grades pre-K and kindergarten joined the first grade class where the kids had chosen pets they thought were appropriate for each class in the school. They had posters explaining their logic. Again the questions flowed with excitement with a preschooler asking, “Why did the hippo eat Mr. Stricter?”

Anica surprised the kids by asking “Would you like to be the very first kids to hear my newest book?” It was a real treat to hear her read an advanced copy of “Love, Sophia on the Moon.”

Grades 2-4 participated in creative story workshops where they brainstormed ideas using several titles pulled from a hat. Let me tell you, these stories got wild and Anica had the room in stitches as she brilliantly remembered each little detail and retold them in dramatic fashion. Anica knows how to get those wheels spinning to generate fun and silly stories that delight her young writers. We hope they had as much fun as we did!

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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.”

Posted in: Author visit, Community program
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Looking up with Annette Cate

Whiting Village School

IRW brought Annette LeBlanc Cate back to Maine this fall to work with two Washington County schools using her award-winning book “Look Up: Bird-watching in Your Own Back-yard.” Scott Johnson, principal of Whiting Village School, asked if we could arrange for his kids to go to the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park and we were thrilled to make that happen. We’ve worked with Ranger Mackette before and knew she’d help us put a good plan in place. We weren’t disappointed!

Arriving on a gorgeous sunny day (before a torrential rain and windstorm that night!) kids in grades 2-8 piled out of the bus and into the Moore Center to learn about the special place they were visiting. These kids were familiar with the idea of “Leave No Trace” and one young fella noted, “We’re in a museum in a way.”

Annette got them excited about birdwatching using a handmade, brightly colored poster. Caring about the birds and their healthy habitat here in your own backyard helps you make connections to the wider world, she said. You think about where they go when they leave and wonder if their habitat is healthy there as well. Besides, birdwatching is fun and good for your brain.

Out on the trails, with binoculars provided by the park in hand, kids got a first-hand look at both woods and ocean habitats. IRW provided each child with their own mini sketchbook for taking quick notes and making drawings of their observations. While at the shore, a boy asked, “Is it unusual to see an eagle on the beach?” When Director of School Programs Alison Johnson went to reply, an eagle coincidentally flew over the ocean, dove for a fish and flew off over the trees. Nature answered his question for him.

Along with an eagle, some lucky students saw a loon, gulls, a few cormorants, and a pod of porpoises! After lunch, IRW broke out art supplies and the kids created wonderful pictures of birds they had seen or ones they imagined. Loaded on the bus heading back for Whiting, Annette and Alison waved goodbye and even the big kids in the very back waved, too. So sweet!

Milbridge Elementary School

On the second day of Annette’s visits, the weather was not so cooperative. With 70 mph wind gusts and driving rain, the prospects of outdoor birdwatching went out the window at Milbridge Elementary School, where Annette worked with kids in grades 3-6. Unfortunately, Hazel Stark from the Maine Outdoor School had a downed power line across her driveway could not join us as planned. But the wet weather didn’t dampen our spirits.

The whole school gathered for Annette’s presentation as she shared her background and love of birdwatching. When drawing, she noted that “When you draw things it makes you think about them in a different way. You pay attention and begin to understand their environment.”

The kids asked Annette some good questions during the assembly:

Is a roadrunner a real bird?

What about an ostrich?

Did you know that bald eagles can dive at 90 mph! (They’d done some research!)

Great projects were prepared in advance of our visit, including a scavenger hunt based on the book made by third graders, a Birdmon (similar to Pokemon) card game developed by fourth graders. Fifth and sixth graders had done some cool and informative scientific bird biographies. Annette was impressed that they illustrated the birds themselves. They also had nature journals and had done sound maps. The Maine Outdoor School had worked with both third and fifth grades on their Thursday Forays and they all got to visit Birdsacre in Ellsworth the week prior to our visit. Thanks to the Maine Outdoor School for helping to bring Annette’s book to life! It was obvious these kids had spent some time thinking about and researching birds.

During workshops with Annette, they all got to create bird-inspired art using water color pencils; they were a talented and focused bunch! “My mother told me I had a talent inside me,” a youngster noted while showing his work, “but I never believed her. I never knew I could do something so big.” Keep drawing, kiddo!

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Russ Cox and “Faraway Friends”

Author/ illustrator Russ Cox kicked off our fall 2019 programs with visits to Charlotte Elementary School, Pembroke Elementary School and Trenton Elementary School in mid-October.

Charlotte Elementary School

While discussing ideas for Charlotte’s fall visit Principal Peggy White said, “Let’s do something different.” This is just the challenge we love here at Island Readers & Writers and Russ was equally excited. As Charlotte students are experienced book creators, (last year they wrote and published, “Moosehorn Secrets,” available for purchase on Amazon), we knew they could rise to the challenge when Russ suggested they take turns writing, illustrating and coloring a short story in pairs.

The day was dedicated to Russ and IRW and we were welcomed into their morning circle to start the day. The whole school walked in wearing their homemade space helmets inspired by “Faraway Friends” with their new art teacher. Once settled, younger kids were paired with older students, allowing for mentoring and they traveled through three stations together throughout the day. In the first station each pair wrote a rough draft of a story. Next, they switched places and illustrated a different team’s story. The third switch had them adding color to the illustrations of yet another team’s story. The last station was back to their original work to finish details.

At the end of the day, we shared each story and reflected on the day. Finished stories included “The Potty Monster” and “Jimbo, the Tree of Life” and “Beach City Bad Girls,” to name a few. Letting go while someone else illustrated your words proved challenging to some but this is how the world of publishing often works, as Russ reminded them. The students liked writing and the creative process, making up characters and illustrating. One teacher noted how fun it was to see how illustrators’ interpretation of the words could be so different than the writer’s intention.

Pembroke Elementary School

Q&A sessions after an author/illustrator presentation at Pembroke are always EPIC! These kids are curious. Russ shared his path to writing and illustrating children’s books, a bit about his studio (including a cat that sneezes on everything- ew!). The questions came fast and furious.

“What companies have you illustrated for?”

“How long does it take you to finish a drawing?”

“What type of tablet do you draw on?”

After answering as many questions as possible, we moved into the classrooms. Pre-K and kindergarten kids had read Russ’s book “Faraway Friends” and created little globe galaxies and gave one to Russ to take home with him. We nearly bounced out of their room on the energy they had!

Grades 5-8 participated in a sketchbook workshop in which Russ asked them to break out their new sketchbooks given by IRW. Eyes were held wide when they saw the things Russ does to break in a brand-new sketchbook. “Make it your own,” he encouraged them. They drew all kinds of silly things to get warmed up and began to fill the pages with a chili pepper with a bad attitude, a lemon snorkeling in a bathtub, and more.

Grades 1-4 had fun drawing with Russ – but not in the “normal” way. “Draw a scene above the line of your paper,” Russ instructed. “Now switch hands and draw the same thing below the line.” “What???” they replied. “Now use both hands on your pencil and draw.” Giggles and excited sketching ensued. Their favorite activity might have been when Russ scribbled a line onto their paper and told them, “Turn it into something.” The results were impressive; a hand saying, “Yum, yum, yum,” a unicorn, a dinosaur with a hat, a tiger covered with eyes.

Trenton Elementary School

It was an alien invasion as kindergartners arrived to Russ’s presentation wearing alien headbands. It’s a good thing Russ came prepared with his space helmet. It was an active and vocal group and when he asked if they knew the book, “Faraway Friends,” the response was a loud and clear, “YESSSS!!!” One youngster told Russ that she wanted to be an author or illustrator when she grows up, to which Russ replied, “Good, you can put me out of business.” “Ok,” she said.

It was another fun-filled day of drawing. This time when Russ went around scribbling on each kids’ paper there were astonished cries of, “What are you doing???” But they quickly caught on and turned those scribbles into a thumbs up, a sled, a fox-bunny creature, an alien turtle and more. Russ then let them draw a creature as a group. They each had 10 seconds to draw before handing the marker off to the next in line. The results were hilarious.

Then, Russ started a creation based on the kids’ instructions but they couldn’t look until he was done. These were their instructions:

-signature cute eyes

-dog head

-puppy ears


-witch nose

-scary teeth

-huge fat lips

-a rippy dress

-bushy eyebrows


-tattoo on the dress

-arms with spiders on them

-crown on the head

-spider earings

-old raggedy sharp clawed hands.

How’d Russ do with his creation?

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Bentley rides with Seal Cove Auto Museum

Thanks to the Seal Cove Auto Museum, part of Gary Schmidt’s middle-grade novel “Pay Attention, Carter Jones” came to life for participants in the IRW Community Book Club!

Kids and adults in the book club had free admission to the museum and took a spin in a real, vintage Bentley, just like the one Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick drives in the book (except this one was dark blue, rather than “eggplant”). The car plays a significant part in the book, which touches on themes of family, friendship, courage and the game of cricket.

Special thanks to the Seal Cove Auto Museum and to the generous owner of the 1958 Bentley, who brought it down from Washington County for the occasion.

Posted in: Bringing books to life, Collaborations, Mount Desert Island

“Books as Bridges” with Anne Sibley O’Brien

Site Coordinators from our Washington County partner schools gathered at the Downeast Salmon Federation office in East Machias for a day of professional development around the topic of “Books as Bridges.”

Author/illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien joined IRW staff to provide two days of professional development workshops for our partner school Site Coordinators before the start of school. She facilitated discussions around her “Books as Bridges” presentation which focuses on a celebration of differences, building positive cross group interactions, the complex issues of identity and racism, and how books can be used to facilitate a change in attitudes. Anne has been working with and writing about diverse books for children for over 40 years. Teachers were able to share their personal experiences in their own communities and draw on the experience of others around the table. We learned how to talk about this difficult topic from Anne and were given resources for finding diverse books with different viewpoints. It was a great two days of sharing.

Stephanie Higgins, grades 1-4 teacher at Whiting Village School, shared these words with us after the workshop:

“Anne’s workshop was one of the most useful and important workshops I have had as a teacher during my 15-year career. The issues of celebrating diversity, reducing prejudice and creating empathy are so critical at this point in the United States and our global community. I have been shocked into the realization through recent conversations with my daughter and participation in Anne’s presentation that there are many things I have not been aware of because of my “majority identity” as a white person in America. Anne explained how we can change our ways of viewing ourselves and the people around us. She provided resources and tools I can take back to my classroom and use right away. She allowed time for discussion as we grappled with these important issues. I am so grateful to have had the chance to see my attitudes, and the world differently through participating in Anne’s enlightening presentation and learning about her ongoing work in this field.”

Posted in: Professional Development, Site Coordinators

Story hour with Anne Sibley O’Brien

In late August, author/ illustrator Anne Sibley O’Brien delighted 25 kids from Step by Step Day Care in a story hour at the Henry D. Moore Library in Steuben as part of IRW’s Getting the Right Start initiative. Drawing on the Whole Book Approach to reading picture books with children, Annie engaged this lovely group in deep conversation about the artwork and their visual interpretation of her book, “I’m New Here,” a 2016 Maine State Library Cream of the Crop choice. Children were so engrossed in Anne’s descriptions and questions about the cover of the book that they didn’t notice the book hadn’t been opened until Anne said, “We just learned all that information without even turning a page!”

After story hour, Annie personally-inscribed a copy of the book for each child. As they waited their turn, kids showed off their artistic talents with paper and markers.

IRW’s Getting the Right Start program aims to improve literacy skill development, connect reading with art and promote a love of learning to help pre-K children get the right start in school. The Moore Library is one of five sites where programs will begin to take form over the coming months.

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Ben Bishop visits Beatrice Rafferty and Indian Township schools


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Graphic artist Ben Bishop was the star of our final visits of the semester at Beatrice Rafferty and Indian Township Schools. Ben shared his personal story of determination and persistence and caught the attention of students and teachers alike by showing that disappointments can be overcome if you just keep trying.

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Ben’s early love of Marvel Comics and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” led him to write a letter to Marvel at age 11 asking for a job. They declined his request, but gave him some good advice: keep practicing his art and grow up a bit. Ben did both, and after a few life changes he made it to Maine where Downeast Books discovered his self-published graphic novel, “Nathan The Caveman.” It sat on their shelf for nearly six years, but when they decided to dive into the comic book world they knew just who to call and asked him to illustrate the book “Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness,” the story of Donn Fendler’s survival on Mount Katahdin, co-written by Donn and Lynn Plourde.

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During the workshops, Ben shows students his early work, which includes a book he wrote while in second grade called “Turtles.” It’s all about his childhood pets and how they died. It was a grim tale, but he assured kids he was a good pet owner now. He showed in great detail how to condense words into pictures, and how as the illustrator you get to be the one “behind the camera,” choosing the perspective that tells the story best. He shared techniques he uses for quick first drafts and the importance of doing many drafts to see how your art will improve with each step.

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Beatrice Rafferty students had many questions for Ben such as, “What got you interested in comics?” “How do you add the colors?” and “Have you ever climbed Mount Katahdin?” They also wanted to know about the newspaper articles at the beginning of each chapter, how he made it look old and if the words were really from “The Bangor Daily News.” He shared that to make pages look like old clippings, Ben dyed the paper in tea, wadded it into a ball and sat on it for hours while drawing other pages.

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Indian Township had a science fair going on at the same time as our visit and the fourth-grade students chose to use “Lost Trail” as a springboard for ideas for their science projects. There were survival equipment lists, shelter building demonstrations, maps and models of Mount Katahdin and habitats of animals found in Baxter State Park made of clay and cardboard.

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Ben’s story of ups and downs, highlights and disappointments, comes full circle as he shares how he now does the illustrations for the new “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” comics and is working with the originator of this series, Kevin Eastman, on other projects! After watching Ben’s drawing demonstration from sketch to finished panel, kids and teachers were very impressed by his speed and exceptional skill. “It just goes to show,” one student said, “practice does make perfect!”

See more photos in our Facebook albums!

Beatrice Rafferty Elementary School

Indian Township Elementary School

Posted in: Artists, School Visits, Uncategorized
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Anica Mrose Rissi visits Ella Lewis School and Milbridge Elementary

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The final two days of Anica Mrose Rissi’s four-day tour with IRW were full of excitement and surprises, as there were so many amazing projects made by students on display. Anica was overwhelmed by all the creativity. (At the beginning of the week, Anica visited Jonesport Elementary School and Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School.)

Ella Lewis School

Upon entering the Ella Lewis School in Steuben, teachers, custodians and Principal Joanne Harriman were putting final touches on the hallway displays as we entered. Some wore dachshund-themed socks and scarves in honor of Banana, the dog from Anica’s book, “Anna, Banana and the Friendship Split.”

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We filed into the gym where Anica shared one of her earliest books, “Anica’s Book of Poisonous Things,” showing kids know that they, too, are writers even at a young age. She read aloud “The Teacher’s Pet,” to pre-K and kindergarten students and five kids visiting from Step By Step Daycare.  Some students were wearing adorable handmade hats and masks of animals that “may or may not” make good pets.

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The hallway near the first and second grade classroom featured a life-size hippo that certainly got Anica’s attention. She discovered she is the exact same size as the average teacher! On the classroom door, the giant hippo head complete with a mouth that opened was also a big hit.

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In her grades 1-4 workshops, Anica used story titles as jumping off points for brainstorming a story that they created out loud. As kids shouted out suggestions, Anica’ prodded them to go deeper with questions such as “Where are they?” “Who are they with?” “Why do they feel that way?” There were a lot of clever ideas that came from the title, “The Day My Sister Came Back.”

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The fourth grade students created dioramas of scenes from “Anna, Banana,” complete with tiny details such as a little jump rope and broken pencil. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day came when we entered the third grade classroom where, in the corner of the room was a dachshund book nook the size of a sleigh that could fit two adults quite nicely. Anica had a chance to try it out while she read to the students. It was a magical day.

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Milbridge Elementary School

At Milbridge, the same spirited enthusiasm was palpable across the school. Hallways were filled to the brim with creative and clever projects using themes of Anica’s two books “The Teacher’s Pet” and “Anna, Banana, and the Friendship Split.” Teachers and students were even wearing orange and purple because the character, Anna, loves those colors!

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This day began in the fourth grade classroom where we learned that these students had read all of the books in the “Anna, Banana” series! Through Anica’s presentation, we learned that she became a writer in part because she likes to boss people around. In the workshops, she began the “brain dump” of ideas for an oral story that began with the title, “The Happy and Sad Giraffe.” Anica asked questions beginning with “Where?” “When?” “How?” and “Why?” to expand on their story. The giraffe, we found out, is bathing in a chocolate fountain. He is happy because there are strawberries, but sad because everyone is watching him. This silly and fun start is only the beginning to a clever story that Anica tells back to them with out missing a single detail.

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During the read aloud of “The Teacher’s Pet” with the younger students, Anica asked how they would get the character, Mr. Stricter, out of the hippo’s mouth if they didn’t know he was allergic to plants. In true, Downeast, Maine, fashion one answered, “Give him lobster!”

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The day ended with a gallery walk of the amazing hallway displays and Anica was impressed by all of the kids’ hard work. The students came out from their classrooms to discuss and share their work with Anica. There were pet rocks, clothed and placed in habitats by pre-K and kindergarteners. The first grade had made posters of what Bruno, the hippo from the book, ate and compared that to what real hippos eat. Second graders made a giant crossword puzzle and acrostic poem. The third grade shared photos of their “friendship tea” event. They also made “friendship haikus” and jump rope rhymes while fourth graders made posters of Anna’s emotions with photographs of the children depicting each one. What an amazing day and fun-filled week!

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See more photos in our Facebook albums!

Ella Lewis School Album

Milbridge Elementary School Album

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