Twenty years ago, while vacationing with her family in La Jolla, California, Todd School Teacher Librarian Tara Phethean visited a well-known local bookstore where she saw strangely-shaped wooden pieces hanging on the wall behind the register. The pieces, which displayed signatures on them, were originally part of a wooden table where all authors who visited the store signed their names. When the table fell apart, the pieces were hung on the wall as a display. Mrs. Phethean was inspired by this and hoped to do something similar here at Todd Elementary.
Her husband suggested making wooden plaques in the shape of books, and a local trophy store suggested that the high school “shop” class –- now called industrial engineering –- might make them with the help of the teacher.
“Michael Diamante, who is now retired, created these wooden plaques, together with his students,” Mrs. Phethean said.
Each time an author visits the school, thanks to the generous support of the PTA, they sign a wooden plaque, often adding their own drawing to it. The plaques are displayed in the Todd library and are currently displayed in a glass case outside the library, in a special exhibit called “Author Visits That Last Forever.”
“Students love pointing out their favorite wooden books to friends and enjoy taking a walk down memory lane,” Mrs. Phethean said. “The authors are always willing to step up and create something special for Todd students, who now eagerly await each author’s wooden book, post-visit.”
According to Mrs. Phethean, the artistic creations have been extraordinary.
“Many wooden books feature well-loved characters, such as Alyssa Capucilli’s Biscuit.
Some wooden books have special messages such as Dan Gutman’s character A.J.: “Read like crazy!”
“Last year, we hosted Newbery-Award winning author Erin Entrada Kelly, who drew a stunning illustration of her character Marisol Rainey,” Mrs. Phethean said. “Last spring, Caldecott-Award-winner Juana Martinez-Neal created a gorgeous illustration displayed here as well.”
There are now more than 60 wooden plaques in the library’s collection.
“These wooden books truly capture a moment in time,” Mrs. Phethean said. “The author’s visit has now turned into a visual memory, with these one-of-a-kind mementos. I look forward to welcoming three authors to the school this year and I can’t wait to see their wooden books,” Mrs. Phethean said.