It’s obvious that Jerry White “gets” kids. He’s a third grade teacher and the author of The Thickety, the first installment of a new middle grade fantasy series, and during his visit to Inly yesterday, it didn’t take long for the kids to look at him like a rock star. He was engaging and funny and talked about how fun it is to be scared! I haven’t read The Thickety yet, but Arna Lewis, the co-owner of Buttonwood Books and Toys was at the event, and she said it’s creepy in the best way. “Being frightened builds character,” White told our students. The kids couldn’t wait to get the book, get a flashlight, and dive under the covers!
Interspersed into his presentation was a series of questions. White asked for a show of hands to vote for which is scarier:
an abandoned hospital or an abandoned amusement park (our kids voted for the park)
spider or cockroaches (spiders won)
the dark or clowns (clowns by a landslide!)
He talked to the kids about how much reading affects his writing. As a child, he loved A Wrinkle in Time, The Wizard of Earthsea and novels by Lloyd Alexander. White also emphasized the importance of reading short stories. That’s cool. I couldn’t recall another author talking about the often-overlooked short story. But, as White said, most students begin by writing stories rather than novels and stories by writers like Ray Bradbury are essential to understanding the structure of stories.
Like all teachers, I was happy to hear an author talk about the value of editing. Kids are never happy to hear these words: “Let’s take another look at this.” I totally get it! But it’s part of the school/work package, and hearing the message from someone talking about spiders and clowns is powerful. White showed the kids a picture of a page of text as he submitted it – and then with an editor’s marks – and then with a copy editor’s corrections. “The lesson,” White told them, is to remember that “the criticism is about the story, not you.”
To learn more The Thickety, here’s a link to the official book trailer: