On Wednesday, December 4, 2019, Half Day Students and staff had the good fortune of welcoming Newbery Honor winning author and Caldecott Honor winning illustrator Grace Lin. Speaking of good fortune, did you know that the number of whiskers on a Chinese dragon's beard indicates the type of fortune you will have? Grace explained that six whiskers means peace or ease is coming your way. Eight whiskers means fortune or money will be yours, and nine whiskers means you can expect good health and a long life. Grace shared all of this as she taught us how to draw a Chinese dragon. That's definitely good fortune!
As we prepared for Grace's visit, students read her books and noticed connections between the characters and Grace's real family. During her fourth and fifth grade presentations, Grace explained which parts of her books are directly from her real life and which parts are purely fiction. Everyone laughed after hearing that her first published book, The Ugly Vegetables, was about Grace and her parents, but when her two sisters read it, they made her promise to include them in her next books. They didn't want to be left out any more so from then on, any of Grace's books that had three sisters would be about her own family.
One time a publisher made Grace change a fact to fiction. Her book now says that Pacy won $400 in a writing contest because the publisher thought no one would believe the actual amount she won which was $1000 for fourth place. Grace said that years later she was curious about the winner of that writing contest which convinced her to make writing her career even though she was still a young girl. It turns out that the winner of that contest was none other than the future author of the Captain Underpants series, Dav Pilkey! Grace said that if she had to get fourth place, she didn't mind so much because the winner also became a well-known author.
Third grade students heard more about the steps it takes for a book to go from idea to published work. Student volunteers even got to take on roles for some of the many people involved in making that happen. Some lucky fourth and fifth graders also got to be part of the presentation as they were chosen to act out scenes from Grace's books which are based on Chinese folktales and stories that Grace heard while visiting her family in Taiwan.
Although she didn't learn to speak Chinese when she was growing up, Grace is learning now. She taught us to say thank you (xie xie ) and good-bye (zai jian) in Chinese. We are grateful for the lessons Grace Lin shared and want to say xie xie for inspiring us with your talent and tales!