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Mountain View Students go wild for Dave Eggers (3/15/19)

The letter sent from Dave Eggers. Mountain View students go wild for Dave Eggers

What started with a read aloud of The Lifters turned into a personal correspondence between some Mountain View fourth graders and author Dave Eggers.

“It’s a middle grade novel with a strong theme of hope and belonging,” said their teacher Heather Rader. “ My students were very taken with this book and begged to hear it each day. When we finished they decided they needed to try and convince him to write a sequel and tell him how much the book meant to them.”

Rader did some teacher sleuthing and found an address for Eggers, sending him some compelling handwritten letters from her students.

“To be honest I voted for the other book when we chose because I didn’t love the cover, but after Mrs. Rader finished the first chapter, I was hooked.” - Ava

“Our class LOVED your book The Lifters. My favorite character is Catalina. She might be a little rough, but I still like her. One of the things I love that you do as a writer is when you stop at the most interesting parts of the book and we are surprised after we come back.” - Chloe

“My favorite part was when Gran wet his pants. Because when I visualize that I have a very humorous picture. Also I love it when he believes he can run into a wall. Those parts made my whole class laugh a lot.” - Adriel

Apparently their persuasive writing skills worked! Eggers not only replied with his own handwritten letter and some of his other books.  “It was such a pleasure to get your wonderful, thoughtful, funny and creative letters,” wrote Eggers. “You’re careful readers and inventive thinkers and I’m profoundly honored that you all read and enjoyed The Lifters. I tried to write the book I wanted to read at your age, so it makes me feel so good to think I succeeded to some degree.”

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, Eggers also sent the class an original “Max” costume from Where the Wild Things Are (Eggers wrote the screenplay based on the beloved picture book classic by Maurice Sendak). “The students lost their minds!” said Rader, who took a photo of each student wearing the costume to share with Eggers and post on their classroom door. While the costume has traveled to New York, Massachusetts and Chicago, the Mountain View students are the first students in Washington state to wear it.

“When I was younger my Dad had a Wild Things stuffed animal and gave it to me, so that was very special,” said Ava, who wrote her own persuasive piece to Rader in an effort to be the first in the class to try on the costume.

The things Dave Eggers sent them, including the letter. If all that wasn’t enough, Eggers also invited the class to give him feedback on his newest manuscript, titled Faraway Things, as part of the Young Editors Project. The new book is about a boy who finds a sword washed up on the shore which ignites his adventures with sea captains and some tough choices!  “It was a very cool opportunity,” said Adriel, who annotated his copy of the manuscript and gave word choice suggestions. He also appreciated a part in the story where the main character cuts the sun in two pieces. “It’s a funny book.”  

Other students also had questions for Eggers about Faraway Things which they shared during their Morning Meeting time:

“Why was the pirate so nice?”

“Why is he called Segundo?”

“Where on Earth is it located?”

“Since this experience, I have noted that they feel like they now belong to the publishing world, referring casually to Dave as if he’s a friend of ours,” said Rader. One student, Alyssa, recently shared that she wants to publish a book at age 20 with each of the chapter representing a year of her life. The class is currently reading a book by Jason Reynolds and the students already have plans to write him letters too.  No doubt this rubbing elbows with a real author has made a lasting impact on Rader’s class. “I always tell students that language has power and this project has showed them that reality.”