Heidi W. DurrowHeidi W. Durrow

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Portland Public Schools Recap

I have been talking so much about my two days visiting Madison and Cleveland High School, I had forgotten that I hadn't written about it here!  Let's just say the experience was AMAZING!  Thanks to two enterprising librarians Nancy Sullivan and Theresa Quinn, the generous support of Marian Creamer's foundation, Children's Literature Alive!, and the fund-raising efforts of the two schools' PTAs, the high schools adopted The Girl Who Fell From the Sky as a high school wide read! 

I couldn't have been happier about the news, but what was even better was the response from the students.

At Madison High School I met with about 300 students over the course of three class periods.  Most of them had read the whole book and the rest had at least read some.  I was impressed by the lovely introductions the students gave me at the beginning of each talk.  And I was impressed by their questions.  One student stumped me when he asked why I hadn't included chapters from Grandma Doris' perspective--and went on to list a couple of reasons it could have been important for the story.  Good question, right?  I was moved to hear that kids related to Rachel--not just young biracial women, but young women and men of all nationalities and races.  Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugAnd I think the students embraced the book because the teachers did--One of the teachers (Glenn) was my teacher back in the day!  And another Kelly Gomes --well, she's an awesome teacher--if you're thinking of teaching The GIrl -- Kelly's got the best ideas!  And then essentially, I think the book spoke to them because it's about growing up and the hardships of that--it's about being labeled and trying to figure out how to forge an identity.  I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet with the students.

The next day I visited with two classes at Cleveland High School.  The seniors were first up.  They were smart and asked engaging questions.  But I have to admit, I was most jazzed about meeting the young woman, Olivia, who introduced me.  I swear she was my younger twin!  It was the coolest thing!  And she was so sweet--the first thing she said to me was: "You wrote my life!"  Could there a better compliment to a writer?  She is half-Swedish and half-African-American and just a doll!  Olivia, if you're reading this, please be sure to keep me posted on what you're up to, okay?

The seniors made these amazing photo collages in response to the book--I've posted a couple here.  The artwork is amazing, but the thoughtful words to explain the collages are even better! I want to post them all as soon as I have time to scan them! If you can't see the captions below, check out the photo gallery where I have posted them and you should be able to see the captions there!

You'd think the freshman class I visited next would be a little quiet--but they were lively, and wiggly, and interested.  The students had done silhouettes of each of the characters and then written passages from the book either inside the silhouette (things that identified the character) or inside the silhouette (things that influenced the character).  Pretty cool, huh?  BTW: many of them agreed that if the book became a  Will Smith family production, that it would be pretty good.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFinally, that night I did a reading for the community at large and it was packed!  Honestly, I was kind of freaked out by the turnout.  Who were all these folks?  Well, whoever they were students, parents, community members--they were divine.  I left the library that night just floating about 1 inch off the ground.  Thank you Madison, Cleveland, and all the folks who made this visit possible.  Much love! And here's a video of my visit!


Heidi, your presentation and the student’s preparation and interest in your writing was remarkable - a connection rare to many students and adults.  You are a talented author, dedicated and articulate.  Kudos to you, Nancy Sullivan and students at Madison.  Students were prepared and you didn’t disappoint them.  Although I attended only your afternoon at Madison, it sounds as though your entire visit was a success.
Glad to be a small part of an excellent program.  Great post program production, Heidi!  Hope that you have time to write your next novel as we all anxiously await its publication and your return to Portland.

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