Houlton Region

Children’s author visits HES virtually

HOULTON, Maine — First-grade students at Houlton Elementary School had the privilege to meet Iza Trapani, a successful children’s author, by way of Zoom during a special Oct. 2 session.

“The last couple weeks our poetry and shared reading activity focus was on a couple of nursery rhymes and I decided that my read alouds in class were all going to be nursery rhyme connections,” First grade teacher Jenny Schools said. “My favorite author that does amazing extensions and her own beautiful illustrations is, Iza Trapani.”  

Schools decided to show Trapani reading her books aloud on Apple TV to her class. Due to the need for social distancing in the classroom, students are not allowed to sing, so by watching Trapani in videos the students could hear the rhymes with the lyrics and hear the tune for each song. 

 “I also love her extended versions of the rhymes, as well,” said Schools.  

 Trapani takes a familiar nursery rhyme story and adds more to the ending to give it a new twist.  She has made several videos of herself reading and singing her stories to share with others. 

 “The kids quickly fell in love with everything and it was very rewarding to see them enjoying the songs and rhymes,” Schools said.

Author Iza Trapani shared her love of writing and illustrating children’s books with first grade students at Houlton Elementary School via Zoom. (Photo courtesy of Karen Donato)

 From that excitement, Schools decided on a whim, to try and contact Trapani. She found the information she needed on her website and reached out to her. 

 “I sent an email just asking if she would be interested in saying a quick ‘hello’ and making a video on her own to say ‘hi’ to the kids in first grade for me to share with them,” said Schools.  “Her response was extremely quick and so unexpected.”  

 Trapani did more than just a quick “hello,” she scheduled a time to visit virtually and had everything set up and organized in only one week. She was willing to do a full zoom visit and meeting at no charge. Trapani was able to accommodate five first-grade classes at the school at three different times to meet the schedule. Two classes at a time met via Zoom in their own classrooms and asked questions. This way all students had an opportunity to interact. 

 During the author’s interview, which was set at her home in New York, Trapani showed the students her office where she works on the stories and does the illustrations. She pointed out the drafting table that was made by her husband and the many wide drawers it contained where she could put large pieces of paper with her drawings. Trapani also showed clay figures that she makes and uses to help with the settings of stories. She also decorates her office with toys to keep it fun and inspiring. 

 Some of the questions students asked were: “How long does it take to write a story?” Her reply, “Sometimes just a few weeks or months and other times up to a year.” 

 She told the students that she gets her ideas from her everyday experiences, such as hiking. She likes to write down her ideas with a pencil and then transfer them to her computer. 

 One of the books she shared with the students was “Haunted Party,” after which one student wanted to know how you “bob for apples.” 

 Trapani was born in Poland and came to the United States at the age of seven. At that time whole families were not allowed to leave Communist Poland, so she, being the youngest in the family traveled with her mother to visit her aunt in America. That visit resulted in never going back for decades. She never saw her father again and it wasn’t until after she married and became a United States citizen that she felt secure in returning to Poland to look for her extended family. She learned English from hearing Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes. As a young child her family introduced books, music and art. She often took over the entire dining room table with her writings and drawings. 

 COVID-19 has certainly impacted what people knew as normal, but teachers have been diligent in trying to provide an enriched program under very unusual circumstances. 

 “A simple thought and idea that I never thought would go anywhere, totally surprised me,” Schools said. “It went beyond what I could ever have dreamed of.”

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