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I went to the Rio Grande Valley and all I brought you was this blog post

March 31, 2011

You guys! It’s me, Kari! I know you probably thought I’d been abducted by aliens and enslaved on a ship with a bunch of other writers forced to write exceedingly high quality children’s books for the kids of planet xl932, but that is UNTRUE.

I have been working on my very own books, trying to finish up a new one, work on some other new ones, and still maintain the facade that I am a present and attentive parent.


But ALSO, I have been gallivanting around Texas visiting with librarians and teachers and students. Earlier this week, I spent three amazing days in the Rio Grande Valley as part of the Texas Book Festival’s Reading Rock Stars program.

Gwen Zepeda is on the left, holding her book I KICK THE BALL, and that’s me with MIKE STELLAR.

The program brings authors to economically disadvantaged public schools in the state of Texas. And not just that, each child at a participating school receives a signed copy of the author’s book. During this latest visit, over 4,000 books were handed out!

I joined forces with authors from New York and Seattle and cities all over Texas. Split up between us, we visited 6 elementary schools in the Valley. My schools were Clinton Elementary in Penitas, TX and Kika de la Garza Elementary in Mission, TX.

It was very exciting to visit a school named after Bill Clinton!

Bill Clinton was the first president I was old enough to vote for.

At Clinton, Gwen Zepeda spoke to the Pre-K through 2nd grade kids about her picture book, I KICK THE BALL and then I spoke to 3rd-5th graders about MIKE STELLAR.

Those kiddos could not have welcomed us more graciously if we were JK Rowling and Dr. Suess.

The kids at Kika de la Garza held up signs!

Amazing Mike Stellar artwork by 4th grade students at Clinton

Kika de la Garza, I had the pleasure of visiting the school with author Samantha Vamos. She spoke to the younger students about her picture book, THE CAZUELA THAT THE FARM MAIDEN STIRRED, and the older kids got a crash course on space adventures from me.

Samantha Vamos and I are posing with the Kika de la Garza Millionaire Readers – kids who have read a million words or more. Check out the beauty queen sashes they made for us. AWESOME.

During these school visits I had some of the most rewarding, exciting and emotional encounters with students I have ever experienced. When the kids learned they’d each get a book, the excitement in the room was electric with cheers and squeals. I haven’t given so many hugs and posed for so many pictures since my own wedding, I think!

Presenting to a very attentive audience. Check out the posters on stage!

One very special moment of the trip occurred while I was passing out books. The students line up, and it’s a bit of an assembly line, trying to hand out 300-400 books in a short amount of time. One little guy stopped, though, and handed me a note. He’d been paying close attention when I spoke about my own kids, and told them that my youngest son, Isaac, has a scar on his forehead just like Harry Potter.

“Hi my name is Isaac and I have four scares on my head”

He grinned at me as I read his note, and then I told him it looked like my Isaac wasn’t the only Isaac with a Harry Potter head! Big smiles all around.

I am just so touched to have had this opportunity, and for that I thank Clay Smith of the Texas Book Festival and Blair Newberry, the outreach coordinator for TBF, who organizes the author visits for the Reading Rock Stars program. I also want to thank the amazing and gracious English department at UTPA. Not only are they partners with TBF in bringing authors to the Valley schools, they were wonderful hosts, who drove us around the towns and took care of anything little thing we could think of.

(Special shoutout here to Amy Cummins, of UTPA, who took me and Samantha fourwheeling in her Camry in order to avoid a road closure that would have made us late to our breakfast with the millionaire readers at Kika. She drove us over a yard and through a ditch to get around a wreck. A BEAST behind the wheel, that Amy Cummins.)

And, of course, I want to thank the students and faculty of WJ Clinton Elementary and Kika de la Garza Elementary. YOU GUYS ROCK.

Kids, books, new friends – and of course breakfast tacos. I don’t think a children’s book author could ask for anything better.

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