Award-winning children’s writer coming to Bellingham – The Bellingham Herald
An All-Star of childrenâ€™s literature will speak this week at a special Western Washington University event for fifth-graders, and will appear in a free public talk at Bellingham High School.
â€œThe Crossover,â€ a joyous and captivating story about twin brothers who play basketball and have a warm relationship with their dad, a former pro player, also won a triple-double of other honors â€” including a Coretta Scott King Honor, Charlotte Huck Award Honor and the Paterson Poetry Prize for Young Peopleâ€™s Literature.
In some ways, Alexanderâ€™s use of sport in â€œThe Crossoverâ€ is aimed at luring reluctant readers. But basketball is merely the setting for a larger story about family, sibling rivalry, and the insidious power of denial.
â€œI think kids enjoy storytelling. Who doesnâ€™t enjoy a good fireside chat?â€ Alexander said by phone from his home in a suburb of Washington, D.C. His next novel, â€Booked,â€ which is due in spring, continues that tradition, he said.
â€œItâ€™s about a 12-year-old boy who loves soccer and hates books.â€
Thatâ€™s the opposite of Alexanderâ€™s upbringing.
â€œMy parents were reading to me from a very early age. I was immersed in literature in general and poetry in particular at an early age,â€ he said, adding that he began writing poetry in childhood and eventually studied poetry at Virginia Tech.
â€œI knew that I wanted to share my love of reading and inspire people, to allow books to open a world of possibilities and preach the gospel of poetry,â€ Alexander said. â€œKnowing how to make words dance on the page became my best friend.â€
Alexander wrote several works for adult audiences before he turned his attention to children, mostly because he became a father. â€œAcoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Bandâ€ incorporates another of Alexanderâ€™s loves â€” jazz. â€œIndigo Blume and the Garden Cityâ€ is about a girl who teaches environmental consciousness.
In addition to his writing, Alexander visits schools and classrooms to encourage youngsters to put their thoughts on paper and to share them with a wider audience. Through his Book In A Day program, he teaches how to assemble the creative content, design a cover, and find a publisher for student works.
It grew out of a three-day teaching and speaking engagement that was reduced at the last minute, he said.
â€œI had one day to go there and teach them,â€ Alexander said. â€œThey did the work, they designed the cover, they set up a publisher. It helped them become authors and to take ownership of the publication process. Itâ€™s remarkable. The process opened up a world of possibilities for them. It became a metaphor for achievement in the classroom and in life.â€
In Bellingham, many fifth-graders are reading â€œThe Crossoverâ€ in preparation for Alexanderâ€™s visit, said Sylvia Tag, a WWU associate professor and librarian and curator of the universityâ€™s Childrenâ€™s Literature Interdisciplinary Collection.
Alexanderâ€™s visit is sponsored by the Western Libraries and WWUâ€™s new Poetry CHaT Collection for children and teens.
â€œHe is touching a broad swath of our community â€” and we are so grateful,â€ said Tag, who was a member of the 2015 Newbery selection committee.
Reach Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Tweeting @BhamMitty and @goMittygo.
Kwame Alexander discusses â€œThe Crossoverâ€ and other topics free from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 21, at Bellingham High School Performing Arts Center, 2020 Cornwall Ave. Poetry performances and exhibits by local students are from 5:45 to 6:20 p.m.
Copies of Alexanderâ€™s books will be available for sale after the event. He will be available to sign books.
â–ªÂ Learn more about Alexander at bookinaday.org