I spent a recent morning with dozens of young people at Courtice North Public School in Ontario.
Their teachers had included Myrtle the Purple Turtle in their recent studies. Principal Peter Bischoff invited me to visit.
I was nervous!
Writing for your readers is one thing. Hearing them talk about your book — and answering their questions — is quite another.
And though I’d won awards and acclaim for my children’s TV programs in earlier years, it’s been a long time since I visited a classroom.
The first thing I noticed was that Mrs. Murphy, the teacher who introduced me, treated the students with great respect, addressing them as “Ladies and gentlemen”.
When you are nine or ten years old and are addressed as “Ladies and gentlemen”, what do you do? You live up to it, of course.
Wow. What a smart, polite and thoughtful group. Their observations about the book’s key messages about difference, the role of friends, and accepting oneself and others, were sharp and eloquent.
We talked together about why “the mean turtle” behaved so badly toward Myrtle and whether that turtle might have herself been bullied and considered it normal to be mean.
That led us to talk about a sequel.
“We followed Myrtle through her day and saw what happened before she met the other turtle,” one astute young woman noted.
“But we didn’t follow the other turtle before she and Myrtle met. Maybe the sequel could tell us more about what happened before to make her so mean.”
“But the story is about Myrtle the Purple Turtle, so if you (focus on) the other turtle, you’d have to change the title of that book to ‘The Mean Green Turtle'”, a young man observed.
As you can imagine, the discussion was intensive and fabulous. Mrs. Murphy had asked me to talk a bit about the writing process. Discussing the characters and story development for the sequel was one practical way of doing so.
My great thanks to each and all of the students.
To principal Peter Bischoff, and the teachers of Grades 4, 5 and 6 — Mrs. Fedewicz, Mrs. Posteraro, Mrs. Durst and Mrs. Murphy:
Thank you for using my book as a learning tool and thanks for your warm welcome. You made my week!
Thanks to Jennifer Pym-Murphy for the photos.