Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Berkeley kids are clapping for Kekla!! Terrific author visit for 4th & 5th graders

High in the Berkeley hills, kids clapped like crazy for author Kekla Magoon today as she shared her Robyn Hoodlum fantasies--Shadows of Sherwood and Rebellion of Thieves--exciting, modern twists on classic Robin Hood adventures. Fourth and fifth graders wanted to know all about her writing process. They left not only eager to read her books, but also seeing themselves in her stories and as writers.
Kekla Magoon visits Berkeley's Cragmont Elementary School
People always want to know where her ideas come from, Kekla told students, and that isn't an easy thing to answer because sometimes they come when she's just walking down the street. "My ideas come from my experiences--things I know well, like my feelings, my life. But they also come from my questions. What would it be like to live in a different time, in a different place, as a different person?" What if are two powerful words.

Shadows of Sherwood began with these sort of questions: What if Robin Hood was a girl? A teen? Living in a modern city? What if she was biracial? "I loved the way Robin Hood is always looking out for everyone in his community and helping other people," Kekla told students. But I wanted to think about these stories I loved as a kid with a modern twist.

Robin Hood movies clearly are still popular with kids today -- the crowd loved it when Kekla showed images from different Robin Hood movies, and they instantly recognized the Disney version especially. Students also responded to the deeper ideas Kekla talked about.

"Robin Hood is essentially a social justice story about equality and giving people opportunity." Our students connected to the issues of civil rights, and some were surprised to learn that kids played an important role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Fourth and fifth graders definitely think concretely, but they're ready to start considering bigger issues in the world.

"Did you get help writing your stories?" one student asked. "Yes! Definitely!" Kekla told the crowd. But there are different types of writing she does. Some writing is personal, just for herself--in a journal, or ideas she's trying out. Other writing is specifically for others to read, and so she has to think about if it communicates her ideas to other people. That's when she shares it with friends and her editor, so she can see if it's communicating the story and the ideas the way she wants it to.

Kekla ended the visit talking about rain, which becomes a symbol in the Robyn Hoodlum stories. A single raindrop doesn't affect you very much, but when a whole lot of raindrops fall it creates a big impact. That's what happens with social movements and protests, she told us. "Your part may seem small, but when you add all your voices together, they add up and can create a real impact."
Rebellion of Thieves, the second Robyn Hoodlum adventure, was published last week. I can't wait to hear how our students respond to both of these stories. Many of last year's fifth graders loved Shadows of Sherwood--they loved the exciting adventure and could connect to Robyn being such a gutsy girl. It's going to be terrific seeing a new group of 4th and 5th graders share in this excitement.

Many thanks to Kekla Magoon for taking the time to visit our students and share about her writing. Special thanks to her publisher Bloomsbury and our local bookstore Mrs. Dalloway's for making this visit possible. And extra special thanks to my colleagues J. Stewart, the Cragmont Librarian, and Becca Todd, our terrific district library director, who pulled off this visit with energy and enthusiasm! The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Bloomsbury. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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