February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Team Kelly Light | A Whole-School Author Visit

louiseWhat does a whole-school author visit look like? P.S. 110 in New York City’s Lower East Side can tell you. Under the leadership of Principal Karen Feuer, the entire community gets involved when an author or illustrator comes to town.

On a recent wintery day, Kelly Light stepped into the New York City elementary school to be greeted warmly by Feuer, librarian Barbara Moon, art teacher Michelle Binderow, parent coordinator Millie Candelaria, and groups of parents and excited students, kindergarten through grade two. Lining the walls were pictures inspired by the author’s Louise Loves Art (Balzar + Bray/HarperCollins, 2014).

Light’s picture book is both an ode to art (“It’s my imagination on the outside”) and a sibling story. After creating a “pièce de résistance,” the spunky, supremely confident Louise searches for the perfect spot to display her work. Meanwhile, the girl’s younger brother, Art, follows his creative inclinations, making adjustments to one of Louise’s other pieces and fashioning one of his own. The retro-inspired illustrations in gray, black, and brown and splashes of red against a white background are fun, fresh, and filled with humorous details, including an expressive cat whose antics play a supporting role in the story. As School Library Journal’s reviewer noted about Louise’s enthusiasm, “Passion is contagious.”

Making connections

Making connections and observations with Kelly Light’s “Louise Loves Art.” (Balzar + Bray)

At P.S. 110, Team Kelly Light took that message to heart, organizing cross-curricular projects to prepare for the visit. Prior to the day, Moon spoke with the author about the activities taking place and the excitement that was building throughout school, while in the library, she and the students discussed the story and illustrations and engaged in extended thinking around them.

During art class, the students were allowed to be “both Louise and Art,” reports Binderow. As “Louise” they made drawings using black oil pastels. They then exchanged drawings and as “Art” enhanced one another’s work using color oil pastels and watercolors.

One of the unique aspects of this author visit was the parent engagement. Binderow took parents on a tour of the students’ artwork, followed by an opportunity to create their own collaborative “masterpieces” during an onsite class designed specifically for them.

One of the wall displays greeting author Kelly Light when she arrived at PS 110 in NYC

One of the displays greeting author Kelly Light when she arrived at P.S. 110 in NYC

Parents helped facilitate the visit and, among other activities—including an informal chat with Light in the library—they attended the author’s presentation with their children in the auditorium. In addition to a book reading and drawing for her audience, Light began a mural, intentionally leaving it unfinished so that students could add their touches to the piece. What were the author’s expectations for the school visit? “I hope the children [feel] inspired to put their imaginations on paper. To make art! I also ask them to think about what it is they love to do the most, it doesn’t have to be art…and never stop doing that, to hold on to it.”

That message—to never give up on your dreams and that we can all can transform mistakes into masterpieces—resonated with both the children and adults in attendance. Many of the children talked about their goals in post-visit letters to the author, while one teacher said the visit encouraged her to make her dream of writing a book a priority.

Candelaria noted that for many of the parents meeting an author was a new experience, and since that day several parents have reported to her that they’ve been engaged in art projects at home with their children. Another parent, for whom English is a second language, was inspired to create her own art and write about it. As the parent coordinator commented, “You never know how something will impact a child or adult.” Indeed.

Rocco Staino interviews Kelly Light on KidLit TV.

Letters to author Kelly Light from students at  P.S. 110 in NYC

Letters to author Kelly Light from students at P.S. 110 in NYC

Post-visit notes sent to the author

Post-visit notebook sent to the author after her visit to P.S. 110 in NYC

Curriculum Connections

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek dgrabarek@mediasourceinc.com is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.



  1. Any positive contact between an adult and a child is the foundation of our world. Never underestimate the importance of contact with children. Never underestimate the endless impression made by a smile or encouraging gesture. Children are learning in an innocent way. We are learning in a grateful way. Together we create the universe.