Part of the experience of being an author is going on school visits. I went to a school visit in New Mexico recently where the students welcomed me with great enthusiasm, and had prepared art, music and theater projects on the themes of my books in celebration of my visit.
My second novel, CAMO GIRL, is about a girl who doesn't fit in at school and only has one friend. She's self-conscious about her appearance, since she has a skin condition that causes her face to have dark and light patches of skin on it. Mean kids at school tease her about it, which only makes maters worse. Her best friend, though, accepts her for who she is, and she him in return. They sit alone at the outcast table at lunch.
The themes in the book--things like friendship, peer bullying, and self-acceptance--resonate with middle schoolers, and they sit quietly in their rows while I talk about my own experiences of feeling left out as a kid, and how badly I wanted to have lots of friends.
It was especially touching to see the wall of art these particular kids had created in anticipation of my visit. They had read and discussed the book, and they created a collage mural with the main characters' names and decorated an entire hallway to reflect the settings of the book. My favorite piece, though, was the wall of faces they labeled "If you saw me with your heart instead of your eyes." The students decorated a series of identical cut-out faces by putting another, hidden, layer behind them and writing in things about themselves that you might not know by looking at each of them.
I found myself choking up looking at these faces, because it was such a beautiful tribute to the book. And also, because the idea of looking more deeply into people before judging them had been introduced to these young sixth-graders. I hope it's a lesson they will carry with them throughout their lives.
|The original hardcover|
|The new paperback cover!|