Last week a Grade 4 Kent elementary school student named Daeton was at a bit of a road block.
More specifically, it was a writer’s block: his manga-style story was at a standstill and he needed inspiration.
Lucky for him, well-known B.C. children’s book author Jacqueline Pearce paid a visit last Thursday to talk to classes about her books.
“For me it’s great because mostly I’m working in isolation at home on my computer, so it’s really good to come and talk to the kids and get some feedback and see whether they’re enjoying the books,” Pearce said after giving Daeton some much appreciated advice about where to take his story next.
One of Pearce’s titles is actually about magna, but she was in Agassiz mostly to talk about another book: Flood Warning.
Taking place locally during the big 1948 flood in Agassiz, the story focuses on a fictional boy based on a real-life hero who saved his family’s herd of cows from the overflowing Fraser River.
“The school invited me because they have literacy month and because a lot of the classes had been reading this book in Grades 3 and 4,” Pearce said before her first afternoon presentation. “The kids are doing full studies of the flood. Some of them have visited the graveyard and have looked at old photographs of the flood scenes.”
It’s the first time the Burnaby-based writer has been in Agassiz since she did her original research for the book at the former location of the museum.
Though she can’t remember where exactly the idea for the book came from, many of Pearce’s titles are about local history and are written with an educational goal in mind. Once she had found out about the east Fraser Valley mid-century disaster, she was on her way to creating the 2012 book.
Giving a slide show presentation in the school library, it was difficult for Pearce to get through the illustrations of the book and photos of the historic flood because of the metaphorical flood of students’ hands waving for a turn to ask questions.
One student said her grandfather has told her stories from that great historical event.
“Something about [the flood] intrigued me,” Pearce said. “I think I was interested also because a lot of the kids were evacuated by train when the flooding started.”
And those who stayed and camped on the graveyard with their dairy cows watched as the rising flood waters turned their makeshift camp among the gravestones into an eerie island.
That’s a part of the story that gets the kids’ attention, Pearce said.
Writing about history, contemporary stories and even tales set abroad, she knows a thing or two about capturing young minds and turning ideas into stories.
So Pearce likes to show students where those ideas come from and how to get started turning them into creations.
But it’s not just about the students.
“I like to know whether or not [my books] work in the classroom and if it works for teachers to integrate them into the lessons,” Pearce said.
And though he didn’t get a chance to see her present, Daeton got a personal lesson from the visiting author.
“It was really exciting [to meet her],” he said as the bell rang and he raced off with his writing in hand, freshly inspired.