Linda Sue Park's eyes tap-dance as she explains the spur-of-the-moment decision to give her Newbery medal for A Single Shard to her dad at the ALA awards ceremony in 2002. The auditorium went from noisy to dead silent as I walked to the edge of the stage to hand Dad the medal. "I'm thinking to myself, why is it so quiet?" and wondered if the audience didn’t like the gesture so I joked at the podium, “Dad, you had better leave that to me in your will.” Later she found out it was quiet because people were so moved they were crying. She laughs and adds, "I heard Bruce Coville blew his nose in the tablecloth." Some time later, Linda Sue’s mom called to complain that her dad was “out-of-control,” still showing everyone The Medal. Linda Sue told her mom that it was okay and the excitement would soon wear off to which her mom said, “No Linda. You don’t understand.” A dramatic pause filled the space before her mom's exasperated voice rang out, “He just showed the UPS man your medal!”
This is just one of many unforgettable stories Linda Sue Park shared at a recent visit to our school where she inspired kids to read and write. This master storyteller drops tidbits of history like breadcrumbs, such as when the Japanese kidnapped Korean potters who would not share their trade secrets around the 1600's, or the Thousand Crane vase that inspired her to write, A Single Shard; a vase that is privately owned by a museum that is open two times a year (but not on permanent display; it is only shown during a ceramics exhibition - so your chance of seeing it is next to nil), or the surprising production of her book, When My Name was Keoko, (based on the Japanese invasion of Korea) by a well-known Japanese theater. All this after 24 hours of being with her. I have a fun rest of the week to go!
The week is just about over and Linda Sue Park's messages to students to help others, read to make the world a better place, and write or rewrite as she laughingly corrects, has been nothing short of inspirational. Park changes her talk for all ages even tossing in a tactile game for kindergarteners that is a clapping game played by Koreans. Grade 5 learned about the Sudan and the difference it makes building a well in a village. Children can go to school when there is water; otherwise, they must collect water every day for survival. Park represents what we teach our students: how to be responsible, kind, courageous, and good citizens in the world. If you are looking for an author visit, I can't say enough good things about her. A definite home run.