“Be Awesome, Be a Book Nut.”

Libraries have been my home away from home since a very long time.

biblio.flersIn one aisle of this castle used to be the library where I spent so much time in middle and high school. In my new novel Chronicles From Château Moines a library and its librarian play a significant role.

 

Yesterday afternoon, I spent a few hours with a delightful group of middle school students in a beautiful library. The kids were curious, funny, lively, and kind toward each other. A dream.

The librarian had set a table in the sunny yard. She had bought cookies and filled water pitchers. It was a perfect fall day.

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The kids’ laughter and after school conversations reached me inside while I was checking my power point presentation. Excitement and a little bit of apprehension churned inside me. It’s not bad, I’ve found out, to be a little nervous before speaking in public. This unsettling combo forces me to concentrate.

If you ever met me in person you would quickly understand that I need an additional introduction to any presentation I do. I wear my French accent like a tattoo. I mean permanent, of course.

So, before questions flood the room, I always use a few slides about France, my native Normandy, and Paris where I lived before moving to the US.

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Kids, unlike many adults, have no issue with accents. As long as I agree to translate for them a variety of words and expressions – the sillier, the better – we are in business. Yesterday was no different.

After complying with their request and even agreeing to say anything in French, I went back to my slide show. Hands popped up as I spoke about writing in another language and about my published stories and novels.

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I had prepared five copies of my first novel Trapped in Paris and highlighted short passages to illustrate my presentation. Having children or teens read excerpts of your book is a good idea as long as the group isn’t too large and you get some volunteers. Yesterday I was lucky, everyone wanted to read.

  • Listening to students read your story aloud is a great experience.
  • They are active and you don’t feel like being a talking head.
  • You can finally let go of the anxiety to fully enjoy the excitement part.

When I visit a library I always end on a slide with a quote from Dr. Seuss:

“Be Awesome, Be a Book Nut.”

Before I know it, I’m finished and always a little sad that it is over. Fortunately, there are questions and comments. And the nicest part is compliments. Kids are like that. They thank you for the chance you gave them to meet you. Really, I thank them for the opportunity.

What I like most when I have guests for dinner is when they linger and that conversations go on and on…

The same is true when I get to meet young readers.

This is when I’m finished that the real fun part starts. I can talk with them, ask them what kind of stories they like, who their favorite authors are, how they pick a book in a bookstore or a library.

You want to know too, right?

This bunch of mostly sixth and seventh grade girls favored fantasy, mystery, action, and graphic novels. They like real life stories too.

Some of their favorite authors are Rick Riordan, Veronica Roth, James Dasher, Gayle Forman.

Pretty impressive list, I know. They also told me that they pick a book based on its title, cover, and back cover, regardless of the author’s popularity. If these elements trigger their interest they will read the first pages and get the book or … not.  The fact that they aren’t only into big names is encouraging. The fact that their choice is made so quickly is not that different from the way adults pick one book versus another one.

They all wanted my book. Sweet. The library copy of Trapped in Paris had been checked out and I hadn’t brought enough copies with me.

“Can you come back next week?” a girl asked.

How do you say no to a pair of big brown eyes? The librarian smiled and nodded. Yes!!!

By 4:30 p.m. some kids were picked up. Some decided to go get a book upstairs. I stayed behind with a group of four girls and we continued our conversation.  About books, of course.

That’s what they said:

  • They don’t care if the main character of the book is a girl or a boy. They don’t care either if the author is a woman or a man.
  • They said that the boys they know read less than they do and favor boy characters. I couldn’t ask, the boys had left for sport practice, but it is a fact that the majority of kids who were at the library were girls.
  • They haven’t read each Harry Potter book (all were born after 2002) but devoured each and every book from the Percy Jackson and Olympians series.
  • They love characters who appear to be regular people – like me, said a girl – but who have special powers.
  • As for books made into movies, most see the movie before reading the book.

On my way out, under very nice thank yous and mercis, goodbyes and au revoirs, one of the youngest called me.

“There’s that book I just read,” she said. “I loved it and I think you’ll love it too. It’s called Drita My Homegirl. Maybe you can check it out?”

I went to the kids’ floor and got the book. It’s author Jenny Lombard’s first novel.

Like these kids, I always read the back cover of a book before buying it or checking it out.

“…a story that presents in alternating first-person chapters the evolution of an unlikely and difficult friendship – that of a African-American girl from the neighborhood and the unwelcome new kid in class: a girl from Kosovo who speaks no English.”

I smiled to myself. The sixth grader had noticed that Chronicles From Château Moines is also told from Scott and Sylvie’s perspectives. She had also compared the two plots. Scott moves from the US to France and has to adjust to a foreign country, while Sylvie has to accept that this new boy is changing life the way she knew it. The sixth grader had also understood my own challenges when I moved from France to the US.

She’s right, I thought. It’s definitely a book for me.

I always knew that I learn more during a library visit than anywhere else.

 

 

P.S. Chronicles From Château Moines will be released very soon. Stay with me!

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Comments

  1. Congratulations, Evelyne! The book cover is delightful, and I can’t wait to read your 2nd book!

  2. What a great post! Yay you!!

  3. Nice Covers and a béatifié and intéressant post. Thanks

  4. Behind the Story says:

    It sounds like a wonderful experience. Kids are such fun, especially those who are interested in reading.

    • I agree with you, Nicki. I love being with children and teens. They are spontaneous and our future. Their company is also important for anyone who writes for them. 2014 or not, kids have to deal with the same issues: fitting in, finding who they are, making friends, dealing with bullies… It was a delightful afternoon and I cannot wait to do it again soon.

  5. Hi Evelyne. I wouldn’t have thought it possible (because the first post i ever read from you was lovely), but your posts just keep getting better. I can’t tell you how much i enjoyed this one.
    And yes, libraries are special to me too. As a child (about the age of those girls) i felt there was something… mystical in the quiet of a library. It wasn’t like the forced false quiet at church. Nor was it like the draining, dull, dead quiet at home. Library quiet was rich, full, and magical. No wonder they say ‘books are portals to other worlds.’ Huge hugs! 🙂

    • I love your description of the kinds of quiet. There’s a mystical quiet in a library even when you can hear the whispering around the edges.

      • Thank you, Susanna. I like what you write about librairies. I feel the same way. Part of the world written by so many other people and yet away from the loud and busy. See you soon.

    • For a strange reason, I cannot reply directly to you, Teagan. But I hope you will get my comment back to yours. I’m not surprised that you like libraries too! And I am blushing when I read that you find my posts better as time goes on. You know that I started to blog to improve my English, so your compliment means a lot to you. You’re right about libraries being special places. A building filled with books stops to be just a building. It is a safe haven. And this is what the librarian I saw this week wants to do for these kids: offer them a space to feel safe to be themselves. And I think she succeeded. See you soon!

  6. I like that you take time to help children learn through your experience. Those out-of-the-ordinary days are the things I remember from school. The castle library section must have been a wonderful place to relax, learn and imagine. When I was in graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh, my classes were in the Cathedral of Learning and to this day, I cherish that experience.

    • I love being with children and teens, so this is kind of selfish from my part to be with them! All libraries are great, but I have a special fondness for the ones housed in unusual and almost mystical places. My childhood library was very special and yours in Pittsburgh sounds unique too. Thank you, Dan, for another nice visit.

  7. cardamone5 says:

    Very nice!

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

  8. Such a great experience – love this post. Libraries are special places, holding dreams and letting minds wander.

  9. Beverly Broughton says:

    My childhood library was my haven…squeaky wooden floors, a welcoming fireplace, and adventures and experiences to explore on every shelf. You blog always warms my day. I eagerly await your new book. Our first Town Hall event is just around the corner–will miss you, but always feel a memorable connection with your inspiring postings.

    • I’m happy for you that you had such a library in your town when you were a child, Beverly. I love your descriptions! In many ways they match my own experience. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words toward my blog and work in general. I hope that you will like my new book and suggest it to a child you know. See you soon!

  10. What a wonderful post, Evelyne! There is nothing better than speaking with and listening to young people! You have a many excellent messages to share with them about your worldly experiences as well as your writing! Bravo! I’m waiting in line to order your book for my granddaughters. How have I missed the fact that you have already published Trapped In Paris. Now I must google that and get caught up! À la prochaine!

  11. Merci, thank you, Patricia. Whenever I can I meet with children and teens. My own kids aren’t too old and two are still officially teenagers, so I get to be with young people quite often. And when the library is the place where we meet it is an extra bonus.
    Although we don’t write for the same readers, I admire your journey and wish you the very best with your books as well. I appreciate your support and would love to hear from your grandaughter when she has read my novel. See you soon.

  12. I’ve been that librarian Evelyne. We have a festival here in November – the biggest children’s book festival in Europe, during which lots of children’s authors visit schools and libraries and hold a big gala day at the end of the fortnight. I’ve accompanied authors into schools and libraries and it’s great to see the enthusiasm of the children as they meet a writer and interact with them. This must be the most rewarding part of being a writer for young people.

  13. Oh, Andrea, your festival sounds fantastic! How lucky these authors are to get to meet children and teens in libraries and schools, too. I also enjoy the kids’ enthusiasm a lot when I get to spend time with them. I go home energized and very happy about the future. See you soon!

  14. le contact avec le lectorat, doit être vraiment passionnant, comme il l’est dans l’autre sens, nous avons à apprendre les uns des autres…Ton article me rend nostalgique des échanges avec les enfants…Bel article, j’ai presque tout pigé ! 😉

    • Trop contente que tu me lises en anglais! J’adore être en compagnie d’enfants et ados. J’aime leur spontanéité et aussi leur maladresse alors qu’ils grandissent et lorsqu’on parle livres ils sont honnêtes et c’est important pour quiconque écrit. À plus.

  15. Congrats! Working with librarians and groups of kids like me is fun for anyone I think. We all get the chance to share our love of reading. I’ll have to look for both your books to review them! They look awesome!

  16. P.S. Are they written in French or English?

    • Thank you so much for your interest in my novels. Both are written in English. The second one is just a day away from official release, so I will very soon post about it on this blog. I will be sharing more about the story and also a few words about my up coming projects. One or even two could be written in French, quite honestly based on a few of my readers’ comments, here on my blog. To follow…
      Again, thank you so much for stopping by and offering to review my novels.

  17. I’m rapidly taking notes. I had a library contact me that want me to teach a creative writing class, and a couple of high schools that want me to come by, but I wasn’t sure how/what to say to them. This gives me a lot of ideas.

    And there’s a castle with a library in your next book? Triple excited that I’ve already ordered it!

  18. This is so cool that a library and schools have asked you to come over, Katie. It’s always a little scary but a wonderful way to meet readers or potential readers and also to stay in touch with kids. They are always so excited to meet writers that the initial anxiety fades very quicky to make place to enjoyment. I am sure they will love having you over. Do what you do on your blog and you’ll be just fine.
    The library in my book was my little appreciation nudge to libraries and librarians. Places and people I like very much. See you soon on your blog and thanks again for your support.

  19. What a lovely piece! And congratulations on the new book. As others have said, the cover is beautiful.

    I especially liked that you had the kids read from your book. That must be such a pleasure. And then getting to talk about all the books they’re reading.

    Yes, it’s great to be a book nut, as well as an author. And I agree, libraries are wonderful.

  20. So nice to see you, Winifred! You must be busy with your own book, so I appreciate your visit. Thank you! My library visits have been lots of fun and also touching. Kids are so open and honest that I find the interactions with them always meaningful, even through small things. Hope to read more about your own project soon.

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