Dragons and other mythic Chinese creatures captivated young imaginations at Rosa Parks Elementary School on October 5th when award-winning author/illustrator Grace Lin provided an illustrated journey through the fabulous tale in her newly published book, When the Sea Turned to Silver.
Eager hands went up as soon as the author asked for Readers Theater volunteers among the third, fourth and fifth graders gathered in the school Cafetorium. Four students donned costumes to portray various characters, while Lin narrated the story with projected slides of the book’s illustrations. To top it off, Lin taught the entire audience how to draw a mythical Chinese dragon – right on the spot. Every student had a piece of paper and a drawing tool, and the results were striking.They also learned that the number of whiskers they put on the dragon is believed to influence their fate, with each number linked to a different outcome.
Lin told the students about her own childhood in upstate New York where she and her sister were the only Asian kids in the school. Not wanting to be different, she resisted all her mother’s efforts to impart an appreciation of her Chinese heritage — until her mother hit on the idea of bringing home books of Chinese fairy tales.
“Grace Lin’s work is imaginative, inspiring and incredibly beautiful,” said BUSD Library Coordinator Becca Todd, who organized the visit. Lin’s appearance was an ideal complement to two reading-focused initiatives launched by BUSD this school year: the Mock Newbery Book Club and The Year of the Reader.
Lin has published more than 20 books, many of which have won honors and high praise. Her Where the Mountain Meets the Moon was awarded the 2010 Newbery Honor, the most prestigious literary award for children’s literature in the U.S., and was a New York Times Best Seller. And she has just learned that her new book featured at Rosa Parks is a National Book Award finalist.
Grace Lin’s visit concluded with an inspiring message to the students after one of them asked her how long she’d been writing. Lin answered, “I’ve been writing my whole life — since I was in third grade.”