February is black history month, and my third grade daughter created a giant poster board telling about a famous African American (unfortunately, I let her leave the house this morning before snapping a picture of it for you all to see . . . sigh). She chose to honor the Newbery Award winning author Christopher Paul Curtis because she met him last year when he was standing in our kitchen and scared her silly.
Let me back up a bit here.
I help with the Oxford Conference for the Book, and as part of this conference, we bring in a children's author. The Literacy Council, University of Mississippi, Jr. Auxiliary of Oxford, and Square Books all pitch in and purchase books written by the invited author for EVERY fifth grader in the city of Oxford. The kids read the books in school and then get to go and hear the author speak in person. It is a huge and wonderful event--past authors have included Laurie Halse Anderson, Richard Peck, Karen Hesse, TA Barron, and Sharon Draper. This year on March 27th we will be featuring Trenton Lee Stewart. Jay Asher will also be coming as part of the Conference to speak to teenagers in the community about his best seller Thirteen Reasons Why.
Last spring, I was able to (after some begging) pick up Mr. Curtis from the Memphis airport and drive him to Oxford. Yes, I had Christopher Paul Curtis in my car for a solid hour. If you have never heard him speak, go. Now. He is an absolutely delightful, funny, smart, engaging, mischievous, rock star . . . (okay, you've got it) person.
I loved getting to spend one-on-one time with such a brilliant writer, and I did not want it to end. So, when Mr. Curtis mentioned that he was restoring a 1956 Buick . . . I mentioned that I had a 1956 restored oven that sort of looked like a car.
He was intrigued and wanted to see it.
While he was there, my children pulled up in the driveway with their teacher who was babysitting for me that day (she is also a CP Curtis groupie). Mr. Curtis got a mischievous look in his eye and asked if I minded if he messed with my children a bit. Of course I didn't mind.
My middle daughter walked in first to see a very large man sitting at our kitchen counter. He looked up and in a very deep "big bad wolf" voice said, "WHAT ARE YOU DOIN' IN MY HOUSE!!!???" They all jumped back a good ten feet before he started laughing and I peered around the corner. It was GREAT.
Now, here is where I would gush about how wonderful he was when he spoke at the Book Conference last spring but my friend Mimi did that better than I ever could, so check out her article here--you will be glad you did.
You might even cry. :-)