When Paul Volponi was in middle school, he only pretended to read the books the teachers gave him, he told Anne M. Dorner Middle School students during a recent visit. That changed when he got interested in building stories from photos.
Game Seven, his novel about a Cuban teen whose father fled the country to play professional baseball in Florida, started with a photo of Cuban refugees using a 1959 Buick as a boat to get to Florida.
The Queens teacher and author of fourteen books encouraged seventh graders to become writers during several workshops. He was one of three writers and illustrators in this year’s author series at AMD, which the Ossining MATTERS foundation funded.
“Today, you guys are going to be the authors,” Mr Volponi told a cafeteria full of seventh graders. “The next books aren’t going to come from me. They’re going to come from you.”
Each table received a photo and the opening line, “You won’t believe what I saw yesterday.” Every student had to contribute one sentence to the story. Kiran Roye’s table wrote a story off a photo of an armed soldier playing a piano in a deserted forest clearing.
“It was fun. You got to rotate around and you got everybody’s voice in it,” Kiran said. “It was interesting.”
The other two authors in the series are both African Americans. Jerry Craft, an author and illustrator, recently won the 2020 Newbery Medal for his book New Kid. Photographer, author and poet Charles Smith has won two Coretta Scott King Awards, including one for his Muhammed Ali biography Twelve Rounds to Glory.