Imagine having the chance to meet the author of a biography you were reading, and the person the biography was about, too? That’s what happened for a group of Grade Six students in Vancouver on the last morning of my Book Week tour.
When I asked Cornelia Oberlander (about whom I wrote in Love Every Leaf) if she’d like to join me in meeting an audience of adults or young students, she did not hesitate for an instant in choosing the students. If there’s one thing she’s more passionate about than the environment and her profession, it’s sharing her passion with young people who might one day become landscape architects. (Cornelia is herself one of Canada’s leading landscape architects, born in pre-Hitler Germany, and still active in her profession.)
I had hoped, when the Canadian Children’s Book Centre gave me my first choice as to which area of Canada I would like to visit, that there would be an opportunity for Cornelia and me to do something to promote together what we’ve come to think of as “our” book. But I never imagined what a fantastic time we would have doing it.
Staff at Crofton House had introduced the girls to Love Every Leaf with the reading of several excerpts in the days before our visit. I got our session started by asking Cornelia a few questions, then turned it over to the girls for theirs. Each girl, their teachers said, had a question for each of us, and were coached to preface their question with, “I have a question for Kathy,” or “I have a question for Cornelia.”
And such intelligent and thought-provoking questions they asked; they really didn’t need me to get things started at all. They asked about the effect on project plans of tough economic times like we’re experiencing now and about being female in a male-dominated profession. They asked about the challenges of writing biography and how the writing of various genres differed. Cornelia and I could have happily spent the whole morning with this avid group of bright young students.
We signed lots of copies of Love Every Leaf for the girls before Cornelia had to leave for another appointment and another group came into the library (to hear and talk about the Our Canadian Girl, Marie-Claire books). I have no doubt that more than a few Grade Six girls will have left Crofton House that day inspired to consider a career in landscape architecture – or perhaps in writing. I hope that some of them (or their teachers, or Jane Green of the BCSLA, who was also there) will see this post and be inspired to comment on this memorable visit! (And maybe post a photo? I know there was at least one camera there.)