A Simple Wish Becomes Reality for a Todd Fifth Grader

Chris Grabenstein Zooms in to Todd

Last year, when she was in fourth grade, Todd student Sabrina DeRose emailed one of her favorite authors, Chris Grabenstein, with an answer to a puzzle challenge from one of his books, and was surprised that he wrote back to her!

She asked Todd Teacher Librarian Tara Phethean if the school could invite him for an author visit. Fast forward to today – and with the help of the PTA’s Author Visit Committee – Mr. Grabenstein conducted a virtual visit with both the fourth and fifth grade classes at Todd.

“We always pay attention to our students so when Sabrina approached me, I thought it was a great opportunity, also because we have had Mr. Grabenstein on our radar since he is an excellent author whose star has risen in the last few years,” said Ms. Phethean.

Prior to the virtual visit, each student in the fourth and fifth grade was gifted a copy of Mr. Grabenstein’s book “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” and the fourth and fifth grade classroom teachers also received a set of several books each – all sponsored by the PTA.

The virtual visit included a presentation by Mr. Grabenstein, in which he spoke about his childhood and his writing experience as a fifth grader, as well as his writing experience for his middle school newspaper, when he was a little older. He also discussed how he got into writing as an adult, after spending 20 years writing commercials.

When the presentation was complete, Grabnstein told the students that he had to persevere as a new writer because his manuscripts were repeatedly rejected by publishers. He also shared the inspiration for some of his stories.

Students had plenty of questions for Grabenstein. They asked which book was his favorite, how long it takes to write a book and how long it takes to get a book published. He told them his favorite book was “Shine!” which he co-wrote with his wife, J.J. It takes several months for him to complete a first draft of a book and a year to a year and a half to get a book published.

Sabrina had a question of her own. She wanted to know how often students email answers to his challenges and how many get the answer right. He said that he receives approximately 20-30 emails per day and almost everyone gets the right answer.

Sabrina, who aspires to become an author or basketball player, felt inspired by his visit.

“It was great to see him,” she said when the meeting ended. “He is one of my favorite authors. He was really funny and I enjoyed the visit very much.”

Ms. Phethean was grateful for the opportunity as well.

“We are so fortunate to have the strong support of the PTA for our author visit program. Students relish meeting working authors and illustrators. It makes their writing and art-making process, and their amazing books, really come alive,” she said


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