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Book brought to life as author pays visit
Book brought to life as author pays visit
By SUE HOFFMAN
Principal Jack DiCello, of Kenston Intermediate School in Bainbridge, had no idea how one teacher's suggestion would evolve. He couldn't have foreseen the full-school celebration of literacy that would be inspired by one book and a visit by an author and an illustrator.
That extravaganza was in full swing last week, when children's author Kate Klise and her sister and book illustrator M. Sarah Klise visited the school. Some of the staff members were dressed as storybook characters, and the drums rolled as all the students entered the pep rally in the gymnasium. The entire school was decorated with book-inspired art and research, and the cafeteria was turned into an Italian cafe, complete with red checked tablecloths, an ornate fountain and pasta on the menu.
Last summer, Bonnie Bernstein had asked her incoming students to read the Klises' book "Regarding the Fountain." "I wanted them to get enthused about going into fifth grade," she said.
The comical, award-winning story, told in letters, memos, newspaper clippings, postcards and telegrams, follows the adventures of Mr. Sam N.'s fifth-grade class as they attempt to replace a drinking fountain at Dry Creek Middle School. The students and Mr. N. correspond with Flo Waters, of Flowing Waters Fountains Etc., who encourages their ideas on the new fountain's design. Hilarious hijinks ensue between the creative Flo Waters and the conservative Dry Creek Board of Education.
Like Mr. N., Mrs. Bernstein had her students write letters to Flo Waters with their ideas for a new fountain. She sent them to the publisher.
"The author wrote back individual letters to every child," Mrs. Bernstein said. The teacher was so impressed that she approached Mr. DiCello with a proposal of sharing the story with the entire school. After reading the book, the principal was hooked on the idea. All of the classroom teachers in the school read the story aloud to their classes during Right to Read Week last month.
Mr. DiCello set up a school visit for the Klise sisters and challenged all the fourth- and fifth-graders to transform their school for the visitors.
"Each class has their own project, inspired by the book," he said.
Mrs. Bernstein's class read the next book in the series, "Regarding the Trees." Some classes decorated all of the drinking fountains and the large one in the "cafe," while others wrote newspapers, exhibited a variety of correspondence, conducted research and more. The school presented the Klise sisters with 450 unique designs for drinking fountains.
The Italian eatery was modeled after one in "Regarding the Trees" as a way to engage students to read the book, Mr. DiCello said.
"It was a collective effort which piqued the interest of some reluctant readers and writers and built community," he said of the projects.
Students welcomed the visiting author and illustrator with a pep rally. Kenston School Board President Anne Randall was there, dressed as Dry Creek School Board President Sally Mander. Physical education teacher Jon Hall took on the role of Dry Creek Principal Walter Russ, teacher Becky Stephanadis was Flo Waters, and secretary Karen LaRosa was Mr. Russ' secretary, Goldie Fisch.
The band played, classes chanted and cheered, and "Flo" and "Walter Russ" had their final exchange. The book stresses the importance of communication in resolving differences, students were told.
Students introduced the special guests. Kate Klise has written 17 books and is a correspondent for People Magazine. She resides on a 40-acre farm in Norwood, Mo. Sarah Klise has a studio in Berkeley, Calif., and teaches art in San Francisco's Chinatown.
Throughout the day, the Klises conducted workshops on writing and illustrating books. They told about the day when, as young children, their mother turned off the television. Kate Klise started writing books, and Sarah Klise started drawing.
Showing photos of themselves as children, they told how they turned Kate Klise's terrible haircut into a humorous story about a girl who is mistaken for a boy when she enters a boarding school in England.
In a discussion of summer activities for the students, Kate Klise said, "I want to plant a seed today. Why don't you kids write a book, write a screenplay, write a TV show or an opera or a video game."
The Klises gave the students other tips in becoming successful authors, from moving on after their work is rejected to writing many drafts and letting a story unfold on paper. "When I sat down to write a story, I only knew this much," Kate Klise said, pointing to one point on a circle.
Mrs. Bernstein received a professional teacher grant from the Kenston Foundation to support the cost of the visit.
"I liked it," fifth-grader Spencer Zak said of the celebration and the book. When Sarah Klise asked students for ideas on where she should draw a rabbit, Spencer suggested an airplane. Many of the other students liked the idea, and Ms. Klise showed them each step in completing the illustration.
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