Grace Lin Visits RSS

By Alina Wickham
December 7, 2016

2016 National Book Award Finalist, author and illustrator Grace Lin visited Rodeph Sholom School on November 3, 2016, speaking to 1st through 4th graders about a variety of topics, ranging from “how a book is made” to the provocative question: “are your books real?”
Lin was excited to see how much effort RSS students had put into preparing for her visit, especially the still-life drawings by the 1st graders based on all the "ugly vegetables" featured in her book of the same name, and the art installation in the 79th Street library.
"I especially liked the shapes, where they took mooncake and they mixed it with culture," she gushed. "That's really neat, I like how they did the shape for a pizza, the shape for a flag, all those things."
Lin's books have been integrated throughout the RSS Elementary Division curriculum.
First Grade students use her book, The Ugly Vegetables, to discuss ways in which classmates are all similar and different, while they read Fortune Cookie Fortunes, Ling and Ting, and Where on Earth is My Bagel? to develop strategies for making connections.
In 2nd grade library classes, students read The Red Thread, Dim Sum for Everyone, and Thanking the Autumn Moon, followed by Grace Lin's biography. Afterwards, they search for places where her real life influenced her fiction.
Third graders explore culture and identity via One is a Drummer, Red Is a Dragon and Round is a Mooncake, and discuss the importance of embracing differences, then read Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival in order to compare the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival with Sukkot. 
Finally, the "big kids" in the 4th grade study Lin's coming of age novel, The Year of the Dog, where they use their developing analytical reading skills to look for similarities between Lunar New Year and Rosh Hashanah, and learn about the origins and traditions of different New Year’s celebrations.
"I hope that my books speak to all kinds," Lin said. She hopes that her books – with their diverse protagonists and varied versions of life at home – speak to Jewish children, who are often immigrants or the offspring of immigrants, and sometimes celebrate holidays their friends don't.
She elaborated, “I do a lot of talking about mirrors and windows. A book can be a mirror, where you see yourself in a book, or it could be a window, where you can see a glimpse into somebody else's world. I hope that my books are both mirrors and windows for all kids, where they can see that maybe what my books are about are not exactly what they celebrate at home, but that there are similarities at the same time.”
Lin recalled the first author she heard speak as a child - Avi.
"The funny thing is, I remember thinking his presentation was really boring! But even though I thought his presentation was really boring, I was so jazzed up for his visit, that I read so many of his books, and I was really excited to meet him. It's so neat to think, "Oh! There's a real person that writes this book!" It's nice for kids to meet authors, if only to realize that books are creations by people, not something a machine or a computer put together."

This article was written by Alina Wickham and published in RSS Connect Volume 3, Issue 2.

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