A Bookish Adventure

I started this blog to document an extended trip to the US and UK in 2012, introducing children to my Alice-Miranda series. It's hard to believe that it's just on four years since we launched the first Alice-Miranda title - and now there are nine books out in Australia with another five still to come. When I first came up with the idea of this precocious seven and a quarter year old, I had no clue that she would take me on such an amazing journey, not only in Australia but also across the world. I visited 37 schools while we were away in 2012 and gave over 80 talks - it was fantastic. In 2013 I've been on lots of new adventures in the UK - visiting schools from London to Southampton, Lancashire, Scotland, Newcastle and back to London again. After that I headed off to meet readers in Singapore. In Australia I've been to Melbourne, Perth, Albany, Alice Springs and Brisbane. There's a new series too - about a gorgeous little girl called Clementine Rose. She and Alice-Miranda don't know each other yet, but they will soon.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chicago Day 1

So far the windy city hasn’t lived up to that title at all but it is cold.  Today’s high temp reached about 12 degrees Celsius and we’ve just been out for dinner and I’d hazard a guess it’s now hovering around 5 degrees.  It feels more like London in winter. 
Chicago is pretty.  There are flower beds full of tulips all along the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) and the architecture is gorgeous.  Art deco on every corner and evidence of the great architects, Frank Lloyd Wright and Daniel Burnham among a slew of others who have made their mark on the city.
We travelled out into the suburbs today to Washington Elementary in Wheaton.  Our driver Adrian lives in Chicago so it was great to have explanations of things and learn more about the city.  Wheaton is full of pretty houses, green grass and tree lined streets.  The welcome was wonderful – my name was on the sign – totally unexpected and a real thrill. 

The librarian, Krystn Wiesheit was so friendly and had prepared the children really well for my visit.  I talked to about 210 Grade 1-3 children in the library which was airy and bright and had a fantastic mural. 

Once again the children had great questions about Australia and were a very attentive audience.  Some of the teachers recommended places we have to see in the city.  One of them said we should try Giordano’s which has the best deep dish stuffed pizza in Chicago.  But more of that later.

The second school we visited was Steck Elementary in Aurora.  Again it was a picturesque suburb and we received a warm welcome from the librarian Julie Hatcher.  She had made a display in the library of various Australian things including currency, boomerangs, a slouch hat and several toy marsupials.  I loved that in the car park there is a special spot reserved for staff member of the week.  I wondered if my boss might like to make her spot available for such an honour!

The library was the hub of the school, with classrooms accessed from the internal perimeter.  On the mezzanine level above, the hallways all looked down onto the library too.  It really felt like the heart of the school.

I talked with Year 3 – about 110 students in three classes. They were well informed about Australia – and once again the thorny devil came up.  Who knew they were so popular with little boys in the US!  The children told me about the deserts and the droughts.

Once again it was a pleasure to work with the group.  I had my most interesting interpretation of a boarder to date.  ‘Does it mean she was born on a board?’  Another little girl explained that it meant she went to boarding school.

After the session finished a little boy called Brian came up and asked me if I could help him with a story he was working on.  He explained the plot in some detail and it was amazing.  What an imagination.  On the way back to the city I received an email from Brian’s father thanking me for inspiring his son – it absolutely made my day.
We popped into Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville – a huge shop with a fantastic selection of books and toys and games.  It was great to meet the staff and particularly Jan Dundon, the children’s coordinator.  I am working with them for the rest of the week and looking forward to it.

We returned to the city, via a freeway network and headed out for a walk.  Unlike San Francisco the stores here seem to close at more regular times so it was just a look.  We found Giordano’s and had our first taste of deep dish stuffed pizza.  Delicious but too much!

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