Kwame Alexander makes friends quickly.
The twelfth annual Karla Harry Visiting Author spent yesterday with students from all three divisions of the school.
By his side was his best friend, musician Randy Preston, who was his foil, accompanist and duet partner throughout.
The two of them had the youngest students jumping.
They had the oldest ones singing.
They had teachers rhyming.
They even had the librarian rapping.
And the students in the middle age range - third, fourth and fifth grades, the sweet spot for much of Alexander's work - were content to sit and hear him tell stories.
The power of the visiting author program - like the Britt Nelson Visiting Artist program - is not in the spectacle, though.
It's in the experience of spending time with a professional creative person, learning more about their process and, maybe, starting to identify with them a little.
Each group asked him what had inspired him to write.
The answer? His love of words, a passion that was on display throughout the day.
With the older students, he also told stories of self-doubt, rejected drafts and facing the blank page.
One seventh grader asked him what the hardest things about writing were for him.
His response was full of wisdom about the importance of stubborn persistence.
It was exactly what all of the seventh graders, deep in the process of writing their own first novels, needed to hear.
But it also resonated with at least one sixth grade inventor; writing about the novel The Boy Who Harvested the Wind in last night's homework, she wrote:
When reading chapter twelve, William’s creativity continued to inspire me.
Everything that William has discovered and made, he made out of recycled materials with no instructions.
I think that it’s moving that a kid can do something so big by looking at a book and using materials they have around them.
Even though termites ate through the beams in William’s ceiling, It just makes him find a way to improve his original design.
Quoting Kwame Alexander, “Dribble, fake, shoot, miss. Dribble, fake, shoot, miss. Dribble, fake, shoot, miss. Dribble, fake, shoot, swish.”
This quote shows that you may have to try something a few times before you get it right.