My church has been involved with Giffen Memorial Elementary School in Albany for nearly a decade, primarily with tutoring. City School District of Albany families were invited to the fifth annual Author-Illustrator Day event at Giffen on Saturday, April 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., organized by the school and church. “In addition to presentations by authors and a free continental breakfast, Giffen musicians performed throughout the day,” and they were very good.
The authors and illustrators included:
Sharon Flake, award-winning author of books for children and young adults, including “The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street” and “You Don’t Even Know Me: Short Stories and Poems About Boys.”
Jerdine Nolen, award-winning author of a dozen books including “Big Jabe,” “Thunder Rose” (a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book), and “Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life” (a Bank Street Best Book of the Year), all illustrated by Kadir Nelson.
James Preller, award-winning author of more than 80 children’s books, including the Jigsaw Jones Mystery series. His other titles include “Along Came Spider” and “Ghost Cat and Other Spooky Tales.”
Cheryl Willis Hudson, award-winning author of “AFRO-BETS ABC,” “AFRO-BETS 123,” “Hands Can,” “Good Morning” and several other books for children and young adults. She also is editorial director for Just Us Books, Inc., an independent publishing company whose books feature African-American characters.
Folks from the school and the church set up Friday evening. Then there was a reception, where I got to meet the authors. On Saturday morning, the Wife, the Daughter and I picked up the food supplies. I was supposed to help set up the books. Giffen kids got some for free, and others could buy them at a discounted rate. The Green family pile was very large.
My other specific job was as assistant to an author. I had done this in previous years with Joe Bruchac, and as one of the folks helping Lesa-Cline-Ransome and James Ransome; the Ransomes came to the Friday night reception. On Saturday morning, each author is on hand to sign his or her books, and the assistant’s job is to make sure that the the book to be signed was either purchased or given away, and then to print out the name of the persons who wants the book signed.
This year, I was assigned to James Preller, the only local creator, who had also been there three or four years earlier. He was very engaging with the children. He also kept all the names on the Post-It notes, promising to use some of them in future books.
A total of 23 Giffen and 38 First Pres people helped out. The cleanup was faster than ever before, a sign of the fact that we have done this before.
The driving forces behind this activity were Deb and Eric Fagans from my church, who had also created Wizard’s Wardrobe, “providing a free, after school tutoring program for elementary school students in the South End.” For that accomplishment, they received some award at a SUSU Women’s Club dinner that Saturday night, when I’m sure they were even more tired that we were.
Photos of the t-shirt, Sharon Flake, James Preller and Deb Fagens (center) from City School District of Albany