Kwame Alexander Visit
Kwame Alexander Visit

by Elisabeth Abarbanel, Head Librarian, East Campus

When Kwame Alexander's booking agent reached out this summer and asked if we could be a stop on his book tour, at first I hesitated. Will our students like his newest book? Will teachers add a young adult novel to the curriculum? What if I plan a 6th-12th Grade Assembly and it fails? What if I can't sell the 150 copies of the book, Swing?

Then I researched a bit about Kwame. I knew he was a Newbery Award-winning author for his book Crossover, and I knew the Lower School loved hosting him a few years ago, but I knew little else. I listened to his poem called "Taking a Knee," I watched his TED talk called "The Power of Yes," and finally I got to read a preview copy of Swing (now a New York Times bestseller), which I devoured and highly recommend! As I grew into being a huge Kwame fan, I decided to learn from him, take a risk, and say yes. With urging from Lower School Librarian and Kwame fan, Yapha Mason, and Middle School Librarian Jessica James, got it done and even found a wonderful student—Cameron W. '20—to introduce Kwame and his musician Randy Preston. Thanks to the team effort, we had what I would call a successful author visit (and we sold most of the books!). I am so glad I took Kwame's advice and said Yes!

Here is a sampling of comments about Kwame and Randy's visit:

"That was the best assembly we have ever had!"

"I enjoyed the assembly so much, can I still buy a book?"

"It was such a special assembly for the kids. I would not be surprised if some of them become poets because of it."

"His use of music and his methods of storytelling were extremely intriguing."

"He was the best storyteller we have ever had during a Brentwood Assembly."

"The way he interacted with the school and the kids was fantastic and he continued to keep the crowd on the edge of their seats the whole time."

"Kwame Alexander's speech energized the audience. It was current, catchy, and motivating. I found myself chanting his positive phrases throughout the day. I'm excited and eager to read his new book."

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