Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dear Darren Shan

Dear Darren Shan,

I had the pleasure of attending a Little, Brown breakfast preview at ALA Midwinter, in Seattle (I think). You were the super secret guest that LB previews are known for and you talked about your newest series, Zom-B. We all received finished copies and I waited on line for you to sign mine.

Now, I must say, horror is not my genre but I read it from time to time in order to have something to recommend in Reader's Advisory for my students who love horror. I read the first five books of your Cirque du Freak series and always have at least one student fly through all twelve books each school year. I read Zom-B and though it was a bit creepy for me, I knew it would appeal to some of my students so I booktalked it. Sure enough, it went out and was returned with a request for the next book.

Thankfully, you planned to drop a new one every six months so my students did not need to wait long. I need to make a confession here. I lost track of the series. Fans must've graduated and I must not have had students asking for horror so I stopped at five books. That changed this September. 

Early this school year, the two eighth grade language arts teachers who co-teach the BSI (basic skills instruction) students came to me to schedule a booktalk. They had a goal for the year. They wanted their students to not only read, but develop a love for it. They asked me to compile a list of books to hook reluctant readers. I put Zom-B on the list. It went out immediately and generated a waiting list.

The first boy to read it, flew through it and asked for the second, then third, then fourth. When he checked out the fifth book, I realized that I had better get the sixth and seventh. I wasn't ready to commit to getting the rest that were available yet; but within a few weeks, I needed to run out to Barnes & Noble one weekend to grab them. When I gave him the eleventh book in early November, I told him that book twelve wasn't due out till spring, he hung his head and groaned.

At that point, the series was clearly a class favorite. Hoping to capitalize on the enthusiasm, the teachers asked me if you Skyped. Thanks to Victoria Stapleton, I was put in contact with someone who knew that you did! Not only that but your visit was free! You may remember the emails flying back and forth across the Atlantic because we had a hard time securing a date on our side. You may remember because we were your last Skype visit before your holiday break. You may remember because we were all wondering what the intermittent thundering noise was.

Our visit was amazing! We learned so much about you and the the series and that there was a secret Zom-B title (Zom-B Circus) available only as an ebook. (Of course, I put the order in post-haste.)

The students were so energized! They talked about it for days in and outside of their language arts classes. Other students began asking why they couldn't have a visit. I can't begin to thank you for what you did for them. They identify as readers thanks to you. 

They didn't all get into the series but they loved hearing from a real author. They don't all read as quickly as your #1 fan, but more than a few are doggedly working through them. A second boy just checked out Zom-B Bride. I offered a high-five and proclaimed, "You have read eleven books this so far this year!" He is so proud.

I was reminded to check the publication date of Zom-B Goddess. It just released last week. There's no money left in my budget, but I'm springing for it. I spend a fair amount of my own money on books for my collection - usually books I have to have NOW, like Zom-B Goddess. I don't mind. These two boys NEED to read it before they leave middle school.

I am so lucky to have these teachers as colleagues. They never gave up on their goal to help their students love reading. I am so honored to have helped them. They are the best. I love my job. I get to share my love of children's literature with a community of young readers every single day. But moments like these, watching the enthusiasm of these students who didn't call themselves readers before this year and your books - it doesn't get better.

So, thank you sir.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for that beautiful post -- it brought a happy tear to me eye! I'll share this link on Twitter and Facebook, as I always like to flag up the brilliant work that librarians and teachers do. Cheers, Darren.