Barbara O’Connor’s Visit to Inly

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As soon as Barbara O’Connor arrived at Inly, small heads began to peek around the corner to catch a glimpse of the well-known author. Every time I looked up, there was another 10-year-old child looking for an excuse to come into the library and say hello. O’Connor could not have been more welcoming. She was as warm and delightful as her popular novels for middle grade readers. O’Connor’s visit was the culmination of our 4th, 5th and 6th grade summer reading program. The students selected from How to Steal a Dog, The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis or The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester – and some kids read all three!  O’Connor met with each of the groups, answered lots of questions and talked about her writing process and her new book.

O’Connor’s 10th novel – On the Road to Mr. Mineo’s – will be published next fall. The new book, O’Connor said, has been the most challenging of her career since it includes nine points of view. Her novel, Greetings from Nowhere, was told from four points of view and remains one of her favorites.  When I asked her about authors who have inspired her work, she said that Cynthia Rylant’s Newbery-winning novel, Missing May, is one of her favorites and helped her to find her voice. She also admires the work of Kate DiCamillo, Richard Peck, Katherine Paterson and Louis Sachar, among others. 

One particularly cool feature of O’Connor’s presentations is that she brings personal items that play a part in her novels. For example, she showed the kids a music box of a little bird sitting on a nest of flowers that is exactly like the one in Moonpie and Ivy. It’s a great way to make the books come alive, and for a few aspiring young writers in our group, I could just imagine them thinking about how to use their own treasures in a story.

“We have enjoyed Barbara’s creative stories, poems, and plays,” Barbara’s teacher wrote on her 6th grade report card. That bit of foreshadowing could not have been more accurate. Today, kids – and their teachers – continue to enjoy Barbara’s magical stories.


A Strange Monday!

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I feel like a character in a time travel novel today. At lunch, I had to go to Michaels and pick something up – and a colorful Christmas display caught my eye. Just as I was thinking that it was too early to think about Rudolph, I heard a voice over the loudspeaker, and it wasn’t Santa Claus. It was Martha Stewart reminding shoppers that “with summer just around the corner, now is a good time to stock up on….” I have no idea what she was telling us to buy, but it was a strange sensation to be thinking that maybe I should get started on my Christmas shopping and then wondering if another school year had flown by already.

When I returned to school, a student visited the library to ask me about Barbara O’Connor’s visit to Inly tomorrow. He wanted to know if he brought books for her to sign, if they had to be written by Barbara O’Connor. Wow!  I wonder how she would feel about being given a stack of books by different authors.  Strange day…

But I’m so excited about tomorrow! Look for an interview with the amazing Barbara O’Connor, author of How to Steal a Dog and The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester, in this space soon.

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor


Luckily for me, 2011 began with a winner. The first book I read this year is Barbara O’Connor’s The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester.  Over the past few years, O’Connor has written a number of charming and adventurous novels for the 3rd through 6th grade reader, and this one is terrific. In fact, the reason Owen Jester moved to the top of my to-read pile is that it was named one of School Library Journal’s Best Books of 2010. 

Owen Jester lives in Carter, Georgia and at the beginning of the book he has caught a big bullfrog that he decides to name Tooley Graham. But that’s just the beginning. Soon after catching Tooley, Owen hears the sound of something falling off a train which turns out to be a submarine – the Water Wonder 4000…and Owen can’t wait to share his secret with his two best friends. Of course, the boys want to put the submarine in the water, but when Owen’s nosy neighbor, Viola, learns what they are up to, she wants to be part of their plans. It’s a really fun story, but it also feels old fashioned in the best sense of the word. Owen and his friends are outdoors rather than playing video games or texting one another.  Actually, I felt like Owen’s adventures could have belonged to Opie from the Andy Griffith show!

Spending a few hours with Owen and Viola was a gentle and delightful way to begin 2011…