On Monday December 6th some amazing readers from Bel Aire Elementary in Tiburon visited our office for a field trip. There were 36 students in grades 3 through 5 (plus 6 adults) who had been selected by the Bel Aire Elementary librarian, Diane Darrow, because they had reached their 100 point reading goal in the Accelerated Reader (AR) system. To reach that goal the kids typically read about 2 books a week. How long were these books, you might ask? Any length, but the longer and more sophisticated the book the more points it is worth. They could read 100 books the length of Ivy and Bean (which are worth 1 point each), or four books the length of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (worth 34 points each), in addition to answering comprehension questions about each book. We dubbed this event the “Amazing Readers” Field Trip to honor their fabulous accomplishments!
The students started the day by browsing in our book store and enjoying their 20% discount.
Soon we ushered them upstairs (it took many elevator rides to get everyone ferried up to our fourth floor).
We started by giving an introduction to what we publish here at Chronicle Books. We talked about a couple of books in each category and about what makes Chronicle’s books distinctive.
We then invited an editor, a designer, and a production coordinator to talk about the process of creating one book: The Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure: Everest. Julie Romeis, an editor, talked about how this new book is a mash-up of the old classic choose-your-own-adventure books and the Worst Case Scenario: Junior Edition series. But, it has cool graphic novel panels and illustrations throughout, making this book totally unique! Eloise Leigh, the designer, shared several initial cover treatments, and talked about how it took a lot of discussion to figure out exactly which shade of blue to use. Diane and the students couldn’t believe we spend our days talking about things like shades of blue!
Steve Kim, the production coordinator, talked about how the printer prints and assembles the book.
Associate Editor Naomi Kirsten then led the group in a discussion on formats and “homegrown” publishing. She had the kids brainstorm about their favorite activities, and how those activities might translate into successful books. The group voted on their favorite ideas. Two ideas tied for first place: a paperback sports series, and a book about nail art.
In the last session of the day, Eloise Leigh and Aimee Gauthier, two designers, led the kids in a cover critique. Eloise presented two possible covers for the upcoming Worst Case Scenario Survive-o-pedia. Aimee presented covers for the Animals! Matching Game, a new matching game from award winning collage artist Bob Barner. Eloise said “it was so awesome and helpful to get feedback from kids who were super opinionated and articulate. When it comes to making decisions sometimes it’s best to just go directly to the audience since they know what they want!”
When planning this event, and again throughout the day, I kept imagining how thrilled I would have been in elementary school if I’d had the opportunity to learn about bookmaking in an environment like this. I remember a field trip I took in elementary school to see my favorite author at the time, Zilpha Keatley Snyder (author of Newbery Honor book The Egypt Game, among others), at a local independent bookstore. In my enthusiasm to meet her and prove my love of her work I bombarded her with so many questions that she had to ask me to give the other kids a turn to talk. I was mortified, especially since I was normally a well behaved (and pretty quiet) kid, and I certainly didn’t want my favorite author to think I was anything less. Looking back I no longer feel mortified, but see it as evidence of how important books and authors were to me then and continue to be for me now. With that memory in mind I gave the kids plenty of opportunities to ask questions throughout the day, something they approached with an enthusiasm I recognized.
The field trip inspired ongoing conversations here at Chronicle about what kids want from books, and how valuable it is for us to interact with kids and hear their opinions directly. We were incredibly impressed with how well they articulated their reactions and opinions and with how engaged and enthusiastic they were. It was a truly enriching experience for us here at Chronicle and, I hope, for our visitors as well.
Editorial Assistant, Children’s