Tuesday, September 20, 2016

My biggest audience in Illinois

On 9/14-15/16, I had the pleasure of speaking at three schools in District 300 in Illinois, less than an hour outside of Chicago: 

  • Westfield Community School in Algonquin
  • Carpentersville Middle School in Carpentersville
  • Dundee Highlands Elementary School in West Dundee

I loved all three.

Westfield welcomed me with a trio of trumpeteers who played the theme from Superman: The Movie.

This has happened before but it's so special that it felt like the first time again. I was especially impressed that the three student musicians all volunteered. It can be intimidating to perform in front of your peers, particularly in the social upheaval that can be middle school. Thanks again, guys!

Some Westfielders also gave me (but really Bill Finger) a standing ovation, which speaks highly of these kids. I give their empathy a standing ovation right back.

Carpentersville…the student body is divided into groups named for superheroes. I have encountered countless capes on my school visits but this was a first.

Another first, or perhaps more accurately, a record: the assembly included the whole school…1,250 kids.

 That's not a tubular ghost. 
That's the glare of the LCD projector.

I am fairly sure that is the largest crowd I've spoken to. So of course this was the one day in recent memory on which I had a ragged throat, but a bit of mind-over-matter and a steady supply of Ricola kept my voice workable throughout.

Dundee Highlands was such a sweet capper to the trip. The kids were impeccably behaved and engaged and one of the staff told me a wacky story afterward that I hope to cover here soon…pending photos she provides.

Thank you again to all three schools. Hope to be back before long!

I consider speaking in schools a perk of the author life, and a perk-within-the-perk of hitting the road is discovering what history is nearby. Earlier that week, I spoke in Pennsylvania and learned only once there that I was less than 30 minutes from both the location of the Johnstown flood (which I wrote about light-years ago) and the field where United 93 crashed. (The day of my talk happened to be the day after the 15th anniversary of 9/11.) Unfortunately, I did not have time to visit either memorial site.

However, in IL, I discovered I was a picturesque 20-minute drive from a town called Woodstock, which boasts an eclectic threesome of pop culture attractions:

  • the 1993 Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day was filmed there
  • Dick Tracy creator Chester Gould lived there
  • an orchard constructed a Batman-themed corn maze (which was closed for the day by the time I got there)

I had a blast hunting the idyllic town square for the various commemorative Groundhog Day plates.

 Toward the bottom of this photo, on the sidewalk,
you can see a small plaque. The next two photos
get you closer.

 Squint and you can see a sign on the building in this and 
the next picture, then close-up in the picture after that.

Oh, speaking of Groundhog Day

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