Monday, December 16, 2013

Robert Paul Weston visits to talk about The Creature Department (ages 8-12)

Last week, our students were so excited to visit with Robert Paul Weston, the author of The Creature Department and Zorgamazoo. Over 60 fourth & fifth graders came to have lunch in the library and have a live video chat with Mr. Weston. You see, he lives in London but he wanted to share his fantastic books with us. Once I showed my students the videos from The Creature Department website, they were hooked!

I invited a good friend Shannon Miller and her students from Van Meter Community School in Iowa. Friends LOVE sharing books they're excited about, something I always model for students!

Kids crowd into the library at lunch to visit with Robert Paul Weston

The Creature Department is a fun adventure fantasy book that's getting great early reviews from our students. Elliot and Leslie, two kids who see themselves as outsiders at school, end up having to save DENKi-3000—the world’s eighth-largest electronics factory. But it isn't just that DENKi-3000 has come up with amazing inventions like wireless breath mints; Elliot and Leslie discover that DENKi-3000 is home to The Creature Department, a group of fantastical creatures who are as wacky as they are creative.

My students love all the different creatures in the book, like G├╝gor, "a creature that resembled a muscly eight-foot salamander—if salamanders grew sloppy dreadlocks, walked around on their hind legs, and had enormous knobbly hands." One of their favorites was Harrumphrey Grouseman. Weston described coming up with his name from the way he always says "harrumph" and grouses about complaining.


Weston actually created his creatures in tandem with Framestore, the amazing special effects studio behind movies ranging from Gravity to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Framestore animators created some of the visuals for the story brainstorming with Weston as he was writing. Usually, authors complete their work before illustrators are ever involved. Weston talked about how this made the process so much fun, but also a little challenging managing a story with so many characters.

Over 60 kids came in during lunch!
At our visit, Weston shared how he loved listening to audiobooks as a kid (he laughed with great appreciation when my students told him will still have a big collection of books on tape, yes cassette tapes!). I piped in that I think this really shows up in his writing, because it is great to read aloud.

Students asked many questions, ranging from how long it took Weston to write his books to what stories he liked reading when he was their age. They wanted to know whether he went to college (yes!) and what he studied (film studies, among other things), and whether he likes learning about real life animals as well as fantastical creatures.

Big smiles as kids chatted with Weston

Most of all, I think our students liked connecting with an author. Many kids wanted to come up to to share the Japanese they've learned with their Dojo at their martial arts classes. They wanted to say HI! They loved knowing that the books they love are written by real people who struggle with writing each day, just like they do in the classroom.

Many thanks to Robert Paul Weston for taking the time to connect with our students and spreading the love of reading. So many kids are clamoring to read his books now. Hugs to Shannon Miller and all her students at Van Meter for joining in and sharing their love of reading. If you want to learn more about video chatting, definitely check out Skype in the Classroom or Google Hangouts.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Penguin Young Readers and Razorbill. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Mary Ann, it was my pleasure! Great to meet both groups of students.