By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD — If you could have one super power, what would it be?
This thought-provoking question was asked of two classes of second-graders at the Greenwood School yesterday at the beginning of what was to become a fun and humor-filled hour of learning about the world of children’s book author and illustrator Marty Kelley.
Kelley’s presentation was all part of Greenwood’s annual AuthorFest, a week-long literacy program designed to motivate children to write their own stories — and sometimes illustrate them, too.
Some children said they would like to be able to fly, while others said they’d like to travel back in time. One student said he wished he could move at turbo speed.
Kelley’s initial question led to more questions about having a super power: What would you do with a super power? How would you practice using your super power?
The questions had a purpose — to get the kids thinking about what it takes to write a super story.
Kelley’s presentation was held in a basement classroom at the school, a room filled with all things creative just like the author, himself — brightly colored artwork, crayons and construction paper, scissors in red, green and blue and a display of Kelley’s books, including “Summer Stinks,” “Fall is Not Easy” and “A Cape!”
Kelley told the children about his life as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. He has 10 to his credit and when he’s not working on one of his own, he’s illustrating for other authors, most of whom he said he has never met.
Kelley has worked as a children’s author and illustrator for the past 17 years and will visit 55 different schools this year.
He imparted bits and pieces of wisdom and advice for the budding authors in Michael Swift’s and Melanie Ricupero’s class when considering their super powers:
• What will you do with your super power?
• What will you do to practice using your super power?
• How will you look good when you use your super power?
• What will you name your super power?
• What will you do to share your super power with the world?
Kelley then moved on to “how to write a super story.” He talked about how to generate ideas for a story and how to craft it. He told the students how he writes a messy first draft and then writes even more drafts, which are even messier, until he eventually creates a “dummy book.”
Like many authors, Kelley said he uses a storyboard as a guide to a book he’s writing and changes it as often as he needs to.
The book he titled “A Cape!” started out with a simple title like “Super Kid.” Then, he changed it to “Boring Dad” to reflect the Super Kid’s father. Then “Super Kid vs. Boring Dad.”
But he knew intuitively he had not hit his mark until he came up with “A Cape!”
The story is about a boy who finds a red pillowcase in his mother’s linen closet, a cape he turns into a “power cape” like the one worn by Superman. The children embraced the concept and were given an exercise at the close of his presentation.
Daniela Doto later came to the head of the class when she decided to become a villain who can become invisible. She called her character “Miss Disappear.”
While she stood in front of the other second-graders, Kelley drew a likeness of Doto cartoon style, much to the amusement of the other students and Doto, too.
Kelley closed with a phrase the students can carry with them throughout their lives: “Imagination is a Super Power!”
Other authors participating in this year’s AuthorFest included Judith Jango-Cohen, who specializes in children’s non-fiction and photography, and Jacqueline Davies, a children’s picture book author and novelist.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Stephen K. Zrike weighed in on AuthorFest and said it was “a wonderful experience for students to hear and learn directly from these talented and passionate authors. They are truly masters of their craft and we are hopeful that this inspires our students to be more voracious readers and writers.”