by Susan Grigsby
Susan Grigsby, author of In the Garden with Dr. Carver, spent the weekend at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis. She had a wonderful (and windy) experience sharing her enthusiasm for George Washington Carver with the kids.
This past weekend, the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, MO hosted their second annual Train your Brain – Read! event. In addition to all of their regular attractions, the sprawling grounds filled for two days with entertainment for all ages, including car shows and craft tents. All of the children’s activities were connected to books, including (by a wonderful coincidence) The Boxcar Children series.
This was the first big outdoor festival of this nature that I’d been invited to and it was great fun. In the Garden with Dr. Carver is my first children’s book and I learned a lot by participating in this festival. My new Author Visit motto is “Lean into the Wind!” So, here’s some of what I learned:
- The weekend prior to the festival, it snowed four inches. The weekend of the festival, it was 91 degrees and the winds gusted to 44 miles per hour. We could have moved inside, but that would have meant giving up a highly visible spot at the entrance gate. The tent had to come down, but thanks to the assistance of a wonderful museum employee named Jamie, we stayed outside and not a single crayon or paper escaped. We used lots of rocks, dried beans (in the crayon cups), ribbon, and some very snazzy party table weights that Jamie found hiding in a museum closet. Lesson learned: be flexible and creative, and gracefully give up on your hair staying anywhere near where you’d like it to be. Bonus: Kids love a table full of rocks and snazzy glittery party weights!
- Find a connection to the festival you’re attending. When we first met, the museum director noticed the Jesup Wagon in the book. So, we decided to feature Dr. Carver’s moveable school. I made a huge poster which we lassoed down and it drew people that might otherwise not have stopped by. The photos covered the transportation modes of the moveable school over several decades and the old photos caused many to stop and talk about their memories of those times.
- Have a variety of onsite activities and things to take home. The coloring pages, created by the book’s fabulous illustrator Nicole Tadgell, were a big success. We also had activity books based on Carver’s ideas for Nature Study for children and Carver Postcards (again designed by Nicole) that parents, children, and lots of teachers were interested in taking home. And we helped groups to form a food web with rainbow yarn, connecting to the importance of good soil.