Local illustrator and author duo provide books for Garnet students
CHESTERTOWN — Chestertown author and illustrator duo Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr visited H.H. Garnet Elementary school to talk about the process of making books and to give away copies of their recent releases, “The Real McCoys” and “Everywhere, Wonder.”
Swanson and Behr gave two assemblies. The first, for the third-, fourth- and fifth-graders, focused on their novel “The Real McCoys,” an illustrated comedic mystery about Moxie and Milton, a sister-and-brother team who must work together to overcome their individual shortcomings and figure out who stole their school’s beloved mascot.
Swanson and Behr used the book as an opportunity to talk about the power of collaboration, both how it works in their own author and illustrator partnership and how it can be useful in completing projects or solving problems.
The second assembly, for pre-kindergarten- through second-graders, centered on “Everywhere, Wonder,” a picture book that urges young readers to notice and share the grand and small wonders in their worlds, and to use them to shape their own stories.
Swanson and Behr’s daughter Alden and son Kato, who are Garnet fourth and second graders, respectively, introduced their parents at the start of each assembly.
Behr visited each of Garnet’s 19 classrooms to answer questions and sign and dedicate a free book for every student and teacher.
They were joined by Kent County Youth Services Librarian Natalie Lane, who gave short presentations about the library’s free programs and resources for children, including the annual May the Fourth celebration.
The donation of 370 books was made possible by the contributions of more than 60 individuals and organizations who contributed to an online fundraiser.
“We couldn’t believe how quickly we were able to raise the money,” Behr said. “People are eager to support our schools and understand the value of kids having a book to call their own.”
According to Garnet Principal Brenda Rose, “the assemblies, classroom visits and the books themselves have created considerable excitement at Garnet in the weeks since the presentation.”
Rose said, in their classes and on their own, students have been reading and discussing the two books, and many have decided to write, illustrate, and create their own books.
“It just shows the power of books to stimulate creativity and promote learning,” Swanson said.
Swanson and Behr plan to sponsor another fundraiser in the fall with hopes of raising enough to purchase books for each student and teacher at Rock Hall Elementary and Galena Elementary.
“The idea worked so well at Garnet,” Behr said. “We’d love to extend it to the entire county.”
Robbi Behr, right, and Matthew Swanson, top left, smile with Garnet Elementary School students.
Matthew Swanson, second from left, smiles with Garnet Elementary School students. He and Robbi Behr gave away copies of their books “The Real McCoys” and “Everywhere, Wonder” to third, fourth and fifth grade students.