Author’s Day at Somers Intermediate School Celebrates Town’s History

Students wait in line to get copies of their books signed by the authors on Author’s Day. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
The “Super Sleuth” contest winners: Joseph Dwyer, 11, Honza Jares, 11, Peyton Linares, 10, Meghan Coughlin, 10, and Ken Behling, SIS librarian and media specialist Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
James Bruchac shows SIS students a moose track, as he discusses the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Native American tribes that inhabited the area long ago. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
PTA members: Raquel Grippo, Karen Ferreri, Lynn Cukaj, Louise Ehrmann and Tiffany Leitner Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
Illustrator, author, and SIS alumnus Chad Wallace Credits: Gabrielle Bilik
Author Jo Pitkin chats with students during her book signing. Credits: Gabrielle Bilik

SOMERS, N.Y. - Each year, the Somers PTA and a committee of teachers bring three authors to Somers Intermediate School to give students an additional glimpse into their favorite library books. For the silver anniversary (25 years) of the event, organizers folded in another layer, and chose authors whose works reflect the town’s rich history.

This year’s authors were James Bruchac, an author, storyteller, animal tracking expert, wilderness instructor and guide; Jo Pitkin, a Somers historical author and poet; and Chad Wallace, an illustrator and author who was inspired by the event himself as an SIS student many years ago.

Carol Haber-Cohen, who co-chairs the event with Ken Behling, SIS librarian and media specialist, said the authors for this year’s event reflect the continuum they and the PTA wanted for this year’s event.

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Through Bruchac’s knowledge of Native American culture, Pitkin’s insights into the birth of the great American circus, and Wallace’s modern day success story as an SIS celebrity, students were taken through the ages during a series of presentations and activities.

“Hopefully it excites the kids to want to read and understand a little bit more about the writing process,” Bruchac said.

The organizers create a lot of buzz around Author’s Day in the weeks leading up to it. Students submit original artworks for a badge contest, for instance, and the authors wear the winning submissions on their name tags throughout the day. In another contest, students submit interview questions and the winners are selected for a one-on-one interview with the authors.

Pitkin’s book was also used in the library’s “Super Sleuth” activity, where students used the library skills they’ve learned to discover answers to a questionnaire based on her book, “Cradle of the American Circus: Poems from Somers, New York,” which includes information about Hachaliah Bailey and Old Bet. The four Super Sleuth competition winners received three rewards each; they met the authors, worked with Behling for the day to help run the event, and got seats at the VIP Author’s Day lunch, where they dined with the authors.

Each fifth grade teacher and the SIS art teacher chose two students from each class to participate in special workshops throughout the day as well.

“I think it’s really an honor to do this,” Pitkin said. “I still can’t believe I’m a grown up and I write books.”

In addition to being a Somers student herself, Pitkin’s parents were educators in the district, which, she said, made the day even more meaningful.

Wallace, who was also enjoying his homecoming, was inspired by an author when he was a student at SIS. His success story represents the notion retired SIS teacher Kay Staplin, who still attends the event each year, had when she established Author’s Day 25 years ago, and Wallace relayed the importance of the tradition.

“You can never underestimate how much influence that you have,” Wallace said. “I like children’s books because they’re very noble, very innocent, and I think I like being a part of a positive message.”

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