Guest post by Deborah Hopkinson
I’m passionate about learning about the past. Almost all my picture books, middle grade historical fiction, and nonfiction titles are about people and events in history. As I enter only my second year as a full-time author, I’m discovering that one of the best parts is having more opportunities to meet teachers and librarians and share my own love of history with elementary and middle school students across the country.
My author visit presentations are full of visuals! I love to demonstrate how authors and artists do research, how the revision process enhances both stories and illustrations, and how primary sources can inspire us to discover the past, whether in far-flung places or in our own towns and neighborhoods.
Although I’ve developed different age-appropriate presentations for various grade levels, almost all of them include historical photographs related to my books to help young people imagine what life was like in other times.
I’ve found that children (and adults too!) are fascinated by seeing historical photographs of workers balanced high in the air during the construction of the Empire State Building for Sky Boys, the gigantic propellers of the Titanic, for Titanic, Voices from the Disaster; or the actual street and the pump at the center of the Broad Street cholera epidemic in my historical fiction middle grade novel, The Great Trouble. (I write more about using The Great Trouble with students at the University of Arizona’s World of Words blog at: http://wowlit.org/books/deborah-hopkinson/ )
Even with large groups, I aim to make my sessions as interactive as possible. Visual images provide perfect opportunities to ask provocative questions to help enrich a reader’s understanding of a text: How would it feel to come to a new country in a crowded ship? What do you think it would be like to work long hours in a textile factory?
I’m especially looking forward to sharing with students many of the dramatic photographs that appear in my forthcoming nonfiction book, Courage & Defiance, Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in WWII Denmark (Scholastic, September 2015).
Talented Scholastic book designer Phil Falco has created a powerful cover which captures the intensity of the struggle Denmark and her people faced after the Nazis invaded in April 1940. As I criss-cross the country in schools from Oregon to Missouri and from Virginia to Vermont (and Skype with students as far away as Mongolia!) I’m eager to share what I discovered about some of the young men and women who helped lead the resistance and rescue more than 7,000 Danish Jews from deportation.
Even though most fourth and fifth graders tell me they love fantasy best, I hope when they hear about Courage & Defiance they’ll think about reading more nonfiction and historical fiction – and maybe even writing some of their own.
Deborah Hopkinson is the author of more than 40 books for young people. Her award-winning titles include Titanic, Voices from the Disaster, a Sibert Honor and YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Honor book, Sky Boys, a Boston Globe-Horn Book honor, Apples to Oregon, which garnered the Spur Storytelling Award and SCBWI Golden Kite for picture book text, and The Great Trouble, A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel, winner of an OCTE Oregon Spirit Award, finalist for a 2015 Oregon Book Award, and a nominee for a children’s choice award in five states in 2015-16.
Her forthcoming books include a nonfiction title Courage & Defiance, Stories of Spies, Saboteurs, and Survivors in WWII Denmark, a picture book, Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig, and a middle grade historical fiction, A Bandit’s Tale, The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket. She lives with her family in West Linn, Oregon.