She began by talking to the kids about how she didn't set out to be a writer. She was a teacher, and she loved it. But one of her more challenging students told her that if she was going to make them write, maybe she should do it too, and he handed her an application for a writing contest. Well, she rose to the challenge, won the contest, and the rest is history.
The first book she talked about was Out of My Mind, a story about Melody, a girl who is brilliant but trapped by a disability without speech or movement. For those of you who loved Wonder, Out of My Mind is your next great read, I promise! Ms. Draper brought up a student on stage and quizzed her on some questions, which our student got all correct. Then, she whispered some instructions to her about not being able to move or speak and asked her the same questions. She was not able to say the answers and prove that she knew them. Some giggles broke out, which quickly subsided when she said that kids laughed at Melody too, and it hurt her feelings. She explained to the kids how frustrating it would be to be so smart and unable to communicate her thoughts to anyone. You could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium as the students thought about that.
Ms. Draper then moved on to tell us about her newest book, Stella By Starlight. The story of Stella, a young black girl growing up in rural North Carolina during the 1930s, is loosely based on her grandmother. Stella is a fantastic character, and in a conversation with Ms. Draper before her talk, she told me that she always starts with a character and the story kind of develops around that character. My kind of book! So, while Stella By Starlight is a historical fiction book, it is very relatable, and the history takes a backseat to understanding the characters and their challenges. Ms. Draper read us a few passages from the book, and after the last one about Stella trying to help her mom after she has been bitten by a snake, I heard murmurs run through the students: "I want to read that book!" and "That books sounds amazing!"
She ended our session by answering some great questions from the audience. Everyone seemed very interested in the fact that she is writing a new book for kids this age about "a boy that is really messed up." But she promises that by the end of the book, he'll be better.
Kids AND teachers were so excited by her visit, that we sold out of all of our extra copies almost immediately! I highly suggest going to see her tonight at Little Shop of Stories at 7:00 PM! You won't be sorry!