On May 4 Newbery Honor author Rodman Philbrick visited Lincoln Academy, where he spoke to about 100 students from Lincoln Academy and AOS 93 middle schools, shared a themed lunch, and signed books for all students who participated.
Philbrick, who has published over two dozen books for teens and adults, won a 2010 Newbery Honor for his young adult historical novel The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. He joined Lincoln Academy’s Books and Brunch to discuss his recent young adult novel The Big Dark.
Cathi Howell, Director of Library Services at Lincoln Academy commented “I am so pleased to continue our tradition of wrapping up our Books and Brunch program for the year by bringing yet another award winning and engaging young adult author to our campus. By providing the books ahead of time so that our participants had already read the featured book, Rod Philbrick was able to engage in a lively conversation with us, driven by the students’ questions and comments.”
In addition to discussing the plot and characters in The Big Dark, Philbrick shared with students his own experiences as a writer, and some of the the realities of being an author, including rigors of the editorial process on a manuscript, which, he said, “changes dramatically from draft to draft.”
When a student asked him if he had ever considered any other profession, he answered, “all the time! Whenever I walk by a Help Wanted sign I think about walking in and applying for the job. I wouldn’t have to deal with editors and publishers, I could just be standing there greeting you at Walmart. But no–I have been a writer for such a long time I can’t imagine doing anything else.”
He continued, “both of my parents would have liked to be writers, if life had been different for them. So I have always been grateful for the opportunity.”
Another student asked why so many of his characters seem to have lost a parent. “When a limb falls from a tree, the wood that grows around the break is even stronger than before,” he answered. “People are like that after a tragedy: they grow stronger after they have suffered a loss. It is a trope among writers that if you kill off a parent early in the story, interesting things happen.”
Nobleboro Central School seventh-grader Alden Hunold commented, “I think his backstory was very interesting and, of course, the food was good.” Hunold said he especially enjoyed a story Philbrick shared about attending the Hollywood premiere of the movie The Mighty, which was based on his novel, Freak the Mighty. During the movie premiere, the singer Meatloaf sat next to Philbrick and asked for his autograph.
A South Bristol School student said, “it was an amazing day because I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t a good student (like me) and that maybe I could become an author in the future.”
After sharing a themed lunch with students, Philbrick signed books for over 100. The lunch that included crepes with maple syrup and cinnamon sugar, bacon, eggs, home fried potatoes with onions, was prepared by LA’s Chef Anderssen and his staff and was based on a breakfast that Charlie, the main character, was served by an elderly couple who came to his aid. Dessert featured a cake decorated to resemble the cover art of The Big Dark, much to Philbrick’s and the participants’ delight.
Howell commented “It’s a great feeling to be able to put such a fun, thought provoking book into the hands of so many readers, across so many grade levels and ages. This truly exemplifies our Books and Brunch program.”
Philbrick’s visit was sponsored by the Lincoln Academy Library as part of Books and Brunch. Author visits have become a tradition in the LA library, which has now hosted award-winning authors including Lea Wait, Jean Kwok, Gary Schmidt, Phillip Hoose, and Shannon Parker.
Kate Kastelein, whose daughter Maggie attended the event with students from Great Salt Bay School, shared the following program feedback: “thank you so much for putting together this series for the kids. I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to engage more deeply with the books they’re reading. It is also creating a greater sense of community between the local school districts and Lincoln Academy.”
A goal of Books and Brunch, according to Howell, “is to support literacy and the love of reading in the community, and this shows that we are accomplishing this through our annual author events. It’s a great feeling!”
Books and Brunch will continue in September, when the featured book will be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of its publication.