Archive for the ‘ School ’ Category

I was thrilled to be invited back to the SOREF JCC Morrow Elementary After Care Program for the third time and to North Lauderdale Elementary for the 2nd time! What a pleasure it was to see some of the same smiling faces and respectful students again.

This visit was extra special because I brought with me one empty chrysalis, from which a monarch hatched in my own garden and another that died naturally and was still in full form. Along with a magnifying glass, the students could see up close what they looked like. The life cycle of the butterfly is so fascinating, there is so much to learn.

Morrow Elementary


How does one get from Miami to San Jose, Costa Rica? Big maps are always a big hit with children.


I’ll never grow weary of all the oohs and ahhs I get from showing the students my watercolor pencils and the  detailed questions I get about how a book is made and bound


With my new poster the children can see my daughter, Rachel, who composed music for the story and my huge standard poodle, Darwin


The adult Morpho Butterfly lives for only about three weeks!

North Lauderdale Elementary


It’s important for children to learn about how writers find heir inspiration


I shared my own photo of the monarch butterfly in my garden right after it emerged from the chrysalis


It’s so exciting to see what the chrysalises look like through a magnifying glass


The students could barely wait their turns to take a look at the chrysalises up close themselvesDSC_0069

The best question of the day by a sophisticated 2nd grader: “What is it that made you want to be an author and what is it about being an author that you most enjoy?”

A big thank you to all the curious students who love Lilly Badilly. I hope you start writing your own stories! Thank you Sharon Schwartz, SOREF JCC Elementary Services Director, Site Directors, Ms. Angel, Ms. Nancy and all to Mark, Travis and Jordan, the friendly, helpful 4th grade students who helped me carry my props to and from the car on a very windy day.

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Recently, I have visited two wonderful elementary After School Programs (ASP) in Dania Beach, with my Reading, Writing and Geography Program. If you’re not familiar with ASP, this Florida grant-based, non-profit organization provides excellent on-site After School Programs in Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier and Orange Counties to more than 10,000 children.

Dania Beach Elementary


Rainforest beetles are so colorful and fascinating!


Leafcutter ants are among the world’s most fascinating creatures!


The magic of watercolor pencils always inspires the children.

Collins Elementary


Learning about the many ways real life experiences inspire fiction writing


No one can resist the rainbow of colors in my watercolor pencil collection.


All children love giant maps, and geography learning is so important!

I wish to thank Janeka Fleurejuste for inviting me to visit these schools and site Directors Renee Lewis and Betty Pierre as well as the staff members who so graciously welcomed me and assisted me with setting up.

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I was invited to bring Lilly Badilly to Lake Stevens Elementary School in Miami Gardens as part of the school’s Literacy Week. What better way to talk about reading than in the school’s lovely Media Center?

The children were fascinated by how the physical book is illustrated, printed and bound and how a CD is recorded. They learned about the biodiversity of the rain forest and how imperative it is that we each do our part to preserve our planet. We talked about life as an author, the many ways reading opens doors to life’s opportunities and how much more interesting a person can be when he or she is an avid reader.

The children demonstrated absolutely perfect behavior and had so many clever questions, making this was one of the best author visits I’ve ever had. One of the second grade boys asked me, “Is it true that mosquitoes make chocolate?” I was unable to answer that question. But following the visit I did a little bit of research, only to discover that mosquitoes are one of several insects that do in fact pollinate the cocoa tree. Who knew?  I love learning from the kids I meet.

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I wish to thank Principal Daniels for inviting me to Lake Stevens Elementary and Reading Coach, Mrs. Dinah Gay-Dorvil for coordinating the event and for welcoming me and hosting this memorable visit. I’ve never felt more welcomed at a school than I did here!


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Today I had a fantastic author visit at the Overtown Youth Center in Miami, FL. Last year some very caring people donated funds so my books could go to children who could most benefit from them. So I was thrilled to be able to deliver 100 books to this outstanding organization.

Since 2003, the Overtown Youth Center has provided a variety of youth enrichment programs to foster learning and empowerment in inner-city children who may not otherwise have these resources available to them. Among their programs, they offer academic support, after school services, summer camps, creative arts, physical fitness and nutrition programs, family activities and more in a beautiful facility in Overtown.

Elementary Program

The elementary school kids learned about the process of making a book, what inspires an author and about the plants, animals and climate of the rain forest.

Introductions by TK Pratt, Overtown Youth Center Community Relations Coordinator

Learning about how we recorded the book on CD

How my grandparents inspired me to create the characters Grandma Nellie and Grandpa Willie in the book

Learning why stick bugs are at risk in the rainforest

It may be gross, but we learn that birds are responsible for planting trees because they poop out seeds they eat!

A group celebration with just some of the many elementary students who each get a free book

Group hug!

Middle School Program

These kids, who are all interested in writing learned about the difference between traditional and self-publishing, writing inspiration, the importance of reading, geography literacy and how to stay fit and have energy if you want to be a visiting author.

Discussing countries I wrote about, including Madagascar, as a travel writer for cruise lines

Answering questions about what it takes to be an author

Showing off some of the benefits of my hard work as a stair runner

Challenged to do some men’s push ups

Middle school students who love to read and write pose with their Lilly Badilly books

I want to thank TK Pratt for inviting me to visit and welcoming me with open arms. The elementary students helped me drag big maps and five big boxes of books out of may car, and they did all the heavy lifting for me! All the children were so kind and respectful, it was a total pleasure. Also a big thank you to teacher Diana Gibson, who was so supportive of my program with the middle school students. There are some amazing programs available for children in my South Florida community, and Overtown Youth Center is at the top of the list. I look forward to another visit soon!



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This morning started the best way it could possibly start – with an author visit to Kingdom Academy in Miami. When I got out of my car, one of the parents (from Costa Rica!) recognized me from the photo in my book and had many kind things to say about Lilly Badilly. I walked through the front door and was greeted by one friendly staff member after another. And they’re not being nice, just for the sake of politeness – they are truly happy, caring people, and so are the students I met. You know you are at an excellent school when the teachers all have smiles on their faces, are gentle and kind to the students, have a creative and competitive curriculum and the students are incredibly well behaved. Kingdom Academy is one awesome place to be!

Kingdom Academy is housed in a bright, clean, new building and the classrooms are big in size – but the number of students per class is not. I was extremely impressed by all the beautiful posters in the halls with terrific messages the children made!


My presentations were in the cafeteria and it was so refreshing to see all the nutrition posters and healthy eating tips on the walls! It’s so important to educate our children about what they are eating- just as essential as reading, writing and arithmetic!


Let the presentations begin!

My first presentation was to the younger students PreK-1st grade, and they sure had fun dancing with me and laughing at my Lilly Badilly voice. Everyone was wearing a costume of their favorite character from a book, and boy were they cute!

Incredibly polite behavior makes for a perfect author visit. Everyone gets to listen and learn!

Ultra smart 3rd grade class had really creative costumes and questions.

Nothing like a spider to get everyone’s attention!

You can just tell this is a group with perfect behavior! No whisperers or squirmers among the crowd!

What an honor it is to have the children take home Lilly P. Badilly!

Lilly with Curriculum Specialist Elena Navarro

Thank you Elena Navarro for inviting me to your school and for being so well organized, friendly and accommodating! It truly was a special day. Also, thank you to all the welcoming staff, teachers and students. I hope to visit Kingdom Academy again soon just to say hello.


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I visited the administrative office at Martin Luther king Jr. Elementary when I arrived to check in as a visitor and was greeted by Roz, a very friendly receptionist. I told her it was my birthday today, and she and a parent in the office were so kind, wishing me a very Happy Birthday. Roz even sat in on part of my presentation! Thank you, Roz!

Imagine 60 ultra energetic kids singing Happy Birthday (as loud as possible) in a an echo-filled theater. Wow! Pure joy is what I felt as the After School Program students of Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary in Lauderhill, FL did just that for me today. And to top it off, the little ones were wearing Halloween costumes. So cute!

The new cafeteria/theater building at MLK Jr. Elementary is gorgeous – the nicest one I’ve seen at any school.

Learning about the word “inspiration” and how authors come up with ideas for their stories.

We all danced to “Granny Wears a Wig.”

Lots of oos and ahhs about how beautiful watercolor pencils are and how magical it is when you brush water on them.

So many terrific questions! Are insects the most colorful animals? Are there any lions in the rain forest? What gave you the idea for the story? Is an author a real person?

I want to thank Jane O’Connell from After School Programs for inviting me to MLK Jr. Elementary School , and ASP Site Director Ms. Keshia Halls for welcoming me, helping me with my equipment and taking photos. The entire After Care staff were all very welcoming and did a great job ensuring the students were paying attention. There’s nothing better than speaking to a group of curious kids, who are interesting in learning, and the kids here at MLK Elementary are truly awesome. I loved seeing all those smiling faces on my birthday, and the sound of them singing to me will stay with me for years to come. I hope to visit the school again some time in the near future.

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Starlight Cove Elementary in Lantana, greets students and visitors with this awesome artwork

My author visit presentations were held in the cafeteria/theater of the school. Outside the doors was this sign, proof that the students were taking the rainforest theme seriously. I love it when a school uses my visit for creating further learning opportunities. And there is much to learn about the rainforest!

The children made this colorful poster of the rainforest. 🙂

Gotta smile when you see the monkey on stage! Perfectly fitting as we talked about Howlers and how much territory they need in the rainforest

And it’s always nice to receive a special welcome. Thank your for that homemade sign!

The visit included two presentations. The K-2nd graders of this group asked some of the best questions ever presented to me:

  1. “How do you actually start writing a book? I mean, how do you choose your first words?”
  2. “How is a book cover actually made and how do the pages stay together in there?”
  3. “Does being an author make you rich?”

Notice the rainforest leaves lining the stage

The older students were quite taken by the fact that the Rhinoceros Beetle is the strongest animal on earth, able to carry 850 times its weight on its back. “If you drop a brick on it, will it survive?” one asked me.  Well, I suppose it’s possible. They also loved hearing about leaf cutter ants and were shocked when I told them how huge the queen ant of a colony can be.

I always seem to look pretty silly when singing in my Lilly Badilly voice

Showing the students my grandfather’s paintbrushes which are more than 35 years old

Several students came up to me after the presentations to tell me they cannot wait to write their own book and paint with watercolor pencils. They all seem to love the magic of how the pencils turn into paints with just a little bit of water. One boy told me maps are his favorite things, so refreshing to hear!

I so appreciated the terrific, respectful behavior of these students. There were no interruptions, so everyone got to hear what I was saying. I am excited for these students to read my book, listen to the CD and continue to learn about Costa Rica and the rainforest. The after school program at this school was so well staffed and the children here are so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn something fascinating and fun after school every day.

I’d like to thank After School Director, Christian Carerra for inviting me to the after school program. Also, I received a warm welcome from Ms. Gabby, who helped me bring my bulky, lightweight props inside in strong winds, which is no easy task. Ms. Shelby helped me lug them back out to my car and Ms. Jennifer assisted me with the book signing. Thanks to all!

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I learned something interesting as soon as I walked into Binks Forest Elementary School in Wellington, FL. The school and the area surrounding it got its name “Binks,” because it was the nickname of the man who used to own the land there. I also couldn’t help but be impressed with how helpful the staff was as soon as I opened the front door. Several smiling people helped me drag my books and props in and out, and they couldn’t be any friendlier.

Well to say the least, this was a very special author visit, as I did two presentations with 500 students in each group! Talk about an energetic crowd!!! You never know what will get kids going, and every author visit I do is different. Well, when the 2nd-5th graders learned that many trees are planted by birds because they poop out the seeds, this caused a hilarious uproar that lasted some time. Naturally it put a huge smile on my face.

With the school’s terrific technology I was able to show my animal posters on a big screen so the crowd could see them better. I was asked some terrific questions about those animals, and one 4th grader let me know he had just been to Costa Rica, where he saw a Howler monkey!

One of the highlights of this visit was telling the children that the paintbrushes I used for my illustrations belonged to my grandfather, and I’ve kept them for 30 years. They sure do love watching the magic of watercolor pencils blending with just a touch of water on a brush.

The students are always shocked when I give them statistics on how “Geography Illiterate” Americans really are. I encouraged them to ask for a wall map for the holidays or their birthday. They’re very affordable, and oh so fun to look at and learn about the world.

Media Specialist Sharon Wedgworth absolutely loves her job and it shows! Her library is big and inviting and the students are welcome to browse the shelves at various times throughout the day. She works with readers of all levels and comes up with creative ways of motivating reluctant readers.

Tell me you wouldn’t want to linger in this library for a few hours! Notice the pile of Lilly Badilly books on the table I autographed.

Binks Forest Elementary’s music teacher, Devon Heinrichs has an incredible music program and provides the children with live performances from every genre of music. His classroom is full of interesting instruments, and his students are so fortunate to benefit from his passion for music. It’s teachers like Mr. Heinrichs who can inspire a child to master a musical instrument or sing like Broadway star. And we all know how much music ability and math success go hand in hand.

Music is not the only wonderful part of the Fine Arts classes at Binks Elementary. Check out these impressive painted self-portrait tiles made by students a few years back.

There are many aspects to being a children’s book author that make it so fulfilling. Without a doubt, one of the best parts is visiting a harmonious school, where the teachers truly care, the parents are hands on, the students are curious, and the resources are abundant. Binks Forest is one of those schools, and how lucky these students are to have the privilege of attending!

Thank you Mrs. Wedgworth for inviting me to your school and putting together such a well organized event. Thank you, too, to all the teachers I met, who were so kind and welcoming.  And of course, I must express my gratitude for 1,000 beautiful, smiling, giggling children, who were eager to learn and who told me how much they enjoyed the visit.


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Pure joy = being hugged by a group of 40 happy K-1st graders who have all made me gifts!

Yesterday I was reminded that being a children’s book author is a privilege to be treasured. I visited two After School Programs Inc. 21st Century Community Learning Centers in SW Miami-Dade. As I stood before all those smiling faces who had been reading Lilly Badilly and listening to the CD for a few days before I arrived, I could feel their excitement and eagerness to learn. Kids are indeed like sponges waiting to soak in the world around them. And when they read my book and listen to the CD before I arrive, it makes the author visit all that more special.

I love it when the kids are eager to ask questions and share personal stories, and the behavior of these kids was PERFECT!

For starters, After School Programs, Inc serves thousands of children daily in Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier and Orange Counties. I instantly felt connected to the local Program Director Nikki Watkins, who hired me to do the author visits. Her energy, dedication and vision for educating the many children in the After School Programs is to be highly commended. She travels through Broward and Miami-Dade Counties from end to end every week, ensuring that the teams have what they need to thrive. She is a wealth of terrific ideas and realistic solutions. Likewise, the Site Directors, Ms. Moorley and Ms. Clark, running the programs at the two schools I attended, were wonderful too. The grant-based resources the organization provides, offers children in our communities opportunities that may not be available otherwise to learn and thrive. I love the fact that 21st CCLC After School Programs uses their time with the children to educate them beyond the general school day, yet in a ways that are also entertaining and enriching.

The children love it when I show them the paint brushes, given to me many years ago by my late grandfather, I used for my illustrations in the book.

I’m disappointed that there’s more negative than positive information in the press about education in Miami-Dade in general. From where I stand I see dedicated, caring and patient teachers and aides in our schools, camps and after care programs, who work tirelessly to educate our children and ensure their safety. Teachers and administrators obviously cannot control the home environments of the children, but they can and do work miracles; I see it all the time. If only our residents could experience what transpires where children are being educated, they too would be more appreciative of those who care for them on  a daily basis and discover that there is a whole lot of good out there.

Highlights of the day included dancing and shaking our booties, being asked by a 2nd grader how I got so famous (I wish!!), being given stacks of hand drawn thank you notes and Costa Rica illustrations by the students and being treated to an excellent performance of one of the songs on my CD by four children. I also had an opportunity to share some ideas about how to read more and practice writing, in creative and fun ways.

I was presented with piles of thank you notes and illustrations I will cherish for years to come!

A proud student shows me her special thank you card.

Four darling students perform a song they learned by heart from the Lilly Badilly CD entitled “I’m on my Journey.”

So this is why I get out there, dressed as a millipede and do author visits whenever I can. These kids are our future, and I’d say our future is looking bright.

Many thanks go out to to Nikki Watkins for inviting me to visit the After Care Programs, to Julia Banks from West Perrine Park for recommending me to the After Care Program, to Principal Wright and Site Director, Ms. Moorley from R. R. Moton Elementary and Site Director and teacher, Ms. Clark at Beckford/Richmond Elementary. Thank you so much for  making me feel so welcome and giving me the opportunity to speak to your wonderful students!



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Lilly Badilly had the pleasure of visiting Patriot Elementary School in Cape Coral, FL yesterday. I was invited by first grade teacher, Joanne Pavese, who got the entire school excited about my visit and interested in learning about the rain forest before my visit.


Impressive rain forest mural created by the students of Patriot Elementary along with the help of teachers Mrs. Pavese and Mr Lyons


Wow! What a school! It was built about 5 years ago and is one of the most beautiful schools I’ve ever visited. The library is huge and gorgeous with an extensive collection of books. Equally as impressive was the art room, which looks like a real artists studio. I’ve never seen an art room like it at any other school, public or private. The incredibly talented and friendly art teacher, Mr. Lyons gave me a tour and showed me the projects the impressive students were doing.

The beautiful Media Center was the perfect spot for the younger students to gather to talk about Costa Rica

I started my day as a guest on the school’s morning news! Principal Burgess introduced me, and we had a lot of fun. I felt welcomed by everyone and had a great day.  I was asked some terrific questions. A kindergartener wanted to know how books were physically made. A second grader asked me if spiders have teeth. Yes! A fifth grader asked me if I wrote the book in one draft. Nope. Writers must do many drafts to get their writing right. Everyone giggled at Lilly’s cartoon voice. The behavior of the students was tops.

Lilly Badilly and Principal Burgess

I’ve been to enough schools to know a really outstanding one when I see one. Patriot elementary is one of the best. And it’s not just the extraordinary facility.  It’s the administration, the teachers and the students that make this school special.   I’ve been to schools where the principal is rarely seen, and this is not the case here. Principal Dave Burgess is hands on, involved, energetic and so positive. Many of the teachers made comments to me about how much they respect him. Other crucial signs of a great school are happy teachers and respectful students with good behavior.

Everyone loves to learn about the animals of the rain forest

Any student who is lucky enough to attend Patriot Elementary is sure to receive the strongest foundation for his or her education. All children in the world deserve an education like the students get here.

Thank you Mrs. Pavese, Mr. Burgess, Mr. Lyons and all the teachers and students who made me feel so welcome.


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