PATERSON, NJ- Continuing to celebrate its recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School, Superintendent Eileen Shafer welcomed award winning author Joe Brown to Public School 28 on Tuesday.
Held in the school’s library, the event was an opportunity for more than 50 fourth and fifth graders to hear Brown tell his story of transitioning from a Chicago lawyer with over 50 years of experience to children’s book writer following his retirement from the legal profession 14 years ago.
“I was telling a couple of my grandchildren a story that I had made up,” Brown recalled. “One of them asked me to repeat a story I had told the week before. I couldn’t remember it, so I decided to start writing all my stories down.”
That moment led to a career of authoring books, traveling, and reading his stories to children across the nation, and worldwide, including in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Brown, whose books are printed by iconic publisher Scholastic Inc., said that he has spread his joy for writing to urban, parochial, and urban schools.
Brown chose his work, The Flights of Marceau-Race to the Rescue, for his Tuesday reading. The mesmerized students sat enraptured listening to the story of a New York City taxi driver who imagines himself participating in amazing, visual adventures. Illustrated by Stephen Marchesi, animals featured in Race to the Rescue include a cheetah, a camel, elephants, a hippopotamus, zebras, and a rhinoceros.
Telling them that Dr. Seuss was turned down 28 times before his first book was published, Brown stressed that success comes by learning from mistakes, while also encouraging his young listeners to strive to become authors,
“You can write your own story,” Brown stated. “Even if it is only one page, it is a story. I encourage you to write and read books every day.
Getting published, he said, leaves a legacy.
“When you write a book and it is published, it will be there long after you are gone.”
After his reading was completed, Brown was peppered with questions from the eager pupils.
Comparing the book writing process to “a jigsaw puzzle you have to put together,” Brown answered several question on the topic by saying that he starts by thinking and writing things down on a pad of paper.
“Then I read it over and over and make corrections and changes. Eventually, I send it to my editor. I tell my illustrators what pictures to draw,” Brown elaborated.
“It take me about six weeks to write a book. It takes another year to have it published.”
Brown responded to student’s question about how he comes up with book ideas by inviting them to play a game he called “…and then what happens?”
Challenging the students to follow Brown gave the first sentence: “Three children are walking to school, a boy and a girl.” This was quickly followed up by a student who suggested that “they went into the school library to read their books,” where, according to a classmate “a dinosaur smashed into the wall of the school.”
The final pass of the baton was met with loud giggles from the young participants, “and then the extinct animals came, even the dodo bird.”
Asked about his writing technique, Brown said that he employs rhyme in all of his books.
The author drew appreciative laughter when he responded “not enough,” to one inquisitive student who asked “how much money do you make writing a book?”
“You are something special being in this school,” Brown told the young learners following the questions. “You are here because you get good grades and are nice. You are good listeners.”
“This has been a great success and honor for our students,” Castro stated saying she was thrilled with the afternoon’s activities. “Today’s presentation will encourage our students to become future writers and authors, and to use their imaginations.”
Each student went home with a free copy of the glossy covered and fully color illustrated, The Flights of Marceau-Race to the Rescue.
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