Three Award-Winning Children’s Authors and Illustrators Visit with the Academy

Three award-winning children's authors, Raúl the Third, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and Sara Varon, visited virtually with Appalachian State University’s Academy at Middle Fork students during the fall 2020 semester. One of the Academy's key commitments is boosting academics through early literacy and engagement. 

The visits were coordinated by Dr. Beth Frye, a professor in the Department of Reading Education and Special Education (RESE), and were held in conjunction with the Anderson Reading Clinic’s Literacy-Casts events. The clinic is housed in App State’s Reich College of Education (RCOE), and the events, which occurred online almost daily, were collaborative, interactive literacy experiences. Participants included:

  • RESE faculty members (Drs. Devery Ward, associate professor and director of the Anderson Reading Clinic; Jason DeHart, assistant professor; Beth Buchholz, assistant professor; and Frye);
  • App State graduate and undergraduate students;
  • Academy students; and, 
  • K-5 students from across the state. 

Two of the events were sponsored by the Uberto Price Endowment for the Reich College of Education Reading Program and Appalachian’s Department of Reading Education and Special Education.

Raúl the Third

Raul the Third

On Sept. 17, Raúl the Third joined in on the Literacy-Casts, where he shared how he generates his story ideas, created drawings inspired by his surroundings, and utilized found materials and objects in his creations.  

In addition to visiting the Literacy-Casts, Raúl the Third spoke to RCOE undergraduate and graduate students, as well as local educators.

Julia Yang, a graduate student in the reading education master’s program and recipient of the Janet Williams Bloodgood Scholarship for Reading and Children’s Literature, said her takeaway from the presentation was, “Create story and characters based on your experiences. Make it accessible! Materials that any child can have at any place.” 

Raúl the Third is an award-winning illustrator, author, and artist living in Boston, Massachusetts. His work centers around the contemporary Mexican-American experience and his memories of growing up in El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Lowriders in Space was nominated for a Texas BlueBonnet award in 2016-2017, and Raúl was awarded the prestigious Pura Belpré Award for Illustration by the American Library Association for Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. He was also a contributor to the SpongeBob Comics series.

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to The Market! is Raúl’s first authorial project, which he wrote and illustrated, and is colored by Elaine Bay. Raúl received the Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor for this book as well.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Lynda Mullaly Hunt visited with the Academy’s fifth graders on Oct. 30. Her visit was arranged as part of a contest win through Twitter. Hunt posted a Twitter challenge for educators who were interested in winning a free 45-minute Zoom visit. With the Academy’s fifth graders in mind, Frye accepted the challenge and was chosen as one of two recipients. She believes it was serendipity since the Academy’s fifth graders were in the middle of reading Hunt’s award-winning novel, Fish in a Tree. 

“It’s the first book the fifth graders read each year as they explore community-building themes connected to identity, empathy, courage, and connection,” said Frye. “This inspiring realistic fiction novel is loved as much by the Academy teachers as it is by the children. The timing could not have been more perfect!”

Hunt challenged the students to be their best, to focus on what matters most to them, and to never be afraid to make a mistake. 

Hunt is an award-winning author of popular middle-grade novels, including One for the Murphys, and New York Times bestseller and winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, Fish In a Tree. Her most recent middle-grade novel, Shouting at the Rain, was published in 2019.

Sara Varon

Sara Varon

Originally scheduled to visit last spring, Sara Varon visited the Anderson Reading Clinic Literacy-Cast on Nov. 5. Students learned how to create characters and draw their favorite animals. Varon shared her inspiration for her most recent picture book, My Pencil and Me. Her rescue dog, Sweet Pea, is a main character featured in the book. Students were treated to a virtual visit with Sweet Pea and Varon in their home office… a definite affordance of the virtual author visit. Varon shared multiple iterations of the book, My Pencil and Me, and emphasized the importance of planning and revision.

Fifth-grader Benjamin Wells shared, “Sara Varon is the best author I met!” 

As Varon read and discussed her numerous drafts and versions of what became her most recent book, My Pencil and Me, third-grader Niasha Branch, commented, “How does she find so many different stories with the smallest change?”

Varon is an illustrator and children’s book author living in Brooklyn, New York. Her award-winning books include: 

  • 2020 My Pencil and Me
  • 2019 Hold Hands – New York Times, one of The 25 Best Children’s Books of 2019
  • 2018 New Shoes – New York Public Library, one of 2018’s Best Books for Kids
  • 2018 New Shoes – MoCCA Fest/Society of Illustrators, Silver Medal for Long Form Comic
  • 2018 New Shoes – Junior Library Guild, 2019 Selection

Book Donation

Graphic novels and comics remain central components of shared readings and collaborative compositions for the Literacy-Cast. To that end, students received a copy of Raúl the Third's book, ¡Vamos! Let's Go to the Market, as well as a copy of Varon’s book, Hold Hands. These books were purchased with the Family Fare Books For Fun Program, made possible through the generous donations from Family Fare Convenience Stores. 

VAMOS Book Donation

Additionally, students in kindergarten and first grade received a copy of the Elephant and Piggie Collection by Mo Willems; second graders received Narwhal and Jelly Collection by Ben Clanton; third and fourth graders received Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos, and fifth graders received Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke.

My Pencil Book Donation

Author Visit Collage
Published: Dec 7, 2020 3:56pm