I must start this post by saying that my two boys, like millions of others, are HUGE graphic novel readers. Graphic novels fill a reading void for so many children and adults. My soon-to-be 11-year old son is finally starting to branch out into reading fantasy novels, but until fairly recently, he mostly read Big Nate, Avatar, Babymouse, Squish, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and the like.
So when I recently got the chance to have Matt Holm, illustrator of many graphic novels that my boys have devoured, visit our school, I absolutely was not going to let him pass us by. Matt happened to be in our area of China for only a few weeks, and we booked him to come spend the day with us at school.
My soon-to-be 11-year old read all of the Babymouse and Squish books in kindergarten. He has reread a sprinkling of them since. My 8-year old has read all 7 Squish books, and since Matt's visit, has been working on the Babymouse books. We sold these titles and others in the week leading up to Matt's visit, and we collected more than 16,000RMB (over $2500) in sales. Matt signed all of these books (all of them!!!), and even drew pictures for each one. Seriously, his hand must have been about to fall off!
Matt's most recent book, Sunny Side Up, was a huge hit with middle school students, particularly the girls. I bought 5 copies for our library, and they are all checked out with a hold list right now.
Now, authors and illustrators as school presenters can be a bit of a gamble. Sometimes, they are not effective speakers. They may write books well, but they do not always know what to do or say with children. Sometimes, they are not engaging, and the students get bored. Sometimes, they are not interactive, and the students get antsy in their chairs. As our Matt Holm visit crept closer, I prayed that Matt would not be one of "those" presenters.
And he wasn't! He did four presentations at our school at all grade levels. Each presentation was different, tailored to the age of the audience. He spoke slowly and clearly and was cognizant of our many English language learners. He talked about his sister, author Jennifer Holm, and how they started working together to create graphic novels. He had students come up to the stage to help him create and draw a tailor-made Babymouse cartoon. For the middle school presentation, he discussed storyboarding and character and setting and plot, and our English teachers were raving about him afterwards. For our 10th-12th graders, he did an art workshop with students who are in IB or Pre-IB art. The art workshop was my favorite part of the day because Matt made these sometimes-too-serious students laugh and get "into" the presentation.
|Matt Holm with my boys after dinner|
We ended the day by going to dinner with Matt and his lovely wife Cindy, an experience I know my boys won't forget. We went to a Chinese restaurant where no one spoke English. The menu was entirely in Chinese, so we used our Google translate apps to try to figure out what things were. If you've ever used Google Translate with Chinese words, you know that the translations are not all that accurate. For example, we had no idea what "green pea mud" might have been, so we gave it a whirl. It was split-pea soup, and it was delicious! As our food arrived (in China, food is served family-style, so the table shares all the food), we had fun trying to figure out what each item was. Everything was very tasty, and we had a great time.
So thanks, Matt, for a memorable experience for all of us, myself included. This Shoutout is for you!
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