Author Carmen Agra Deedy made an appearance at Stevenson Elementary on Feb. 6.
Agra Deedy is an internationally known, award winning author of children’s literature, and storyteller. She was born in Havana, Cuba; she migrated to the United States with her family in 1963 after the Cuban Revolution. Deedy grew up in Decatur, Georgia; she is married and has three grown daughters and one granddaughter
Agra Deedy started writing in her 30’s with her first book being “Agatha’s Feather Bed: Not Just Another Wild Goose Story.”
My daughter who was five at the time and I were spring cleaning. I took one of the pillows and started shaking it that’s when the feathers came out, Agra Deedy told the students. “My daughter asked me ‘where do feathers come from’ I being a good parent told her from the pillow.”
Her daughter did not believe her and spent the next two weeks asking what other things were hurt to get what they wanted.
Agra Deedy told the student how she was introduced to reading and how she came to love reading when she was seven years old.
The students laughed and giggled as Agra Deedy told her story with much animation. Like many children she did not like to read until one day her older sister dropped her off at a library while she attended ballet class.
That is where Agra Deedy met Ms. Mary McDonald, the librarian, and her love for reading.
“You do not like books because it has not found you yet,” Ms. McDonald told Agra Deedy. “From the minute you were born that book waited for you to grow up… When it knows you’re nearby it will jump off the shelf and leap into your arms.”
At that time she had no idea what the Librarian meant. Until she went into the children’s section of the library, in there she found the walls covered with characters from many books.
As she walked down the isle of book shelves she ran her fingers along the spine of the books. “I was like Huckleberry Fin running a stick against a fence,” she said.
That’s when a book jumped off the shelf and landed next to her foot. “I told the book I’m going to touch you with my foot, please don’t eat it,” she added while the kids in the audience laughed.
That is when she realized what the librarian meant by the book finding her. “I picked it up and started reading,” Agra Deed said. “I had to go back and re-read the pages because I didn’t understand what I was reading.”
She couldn’t put the book down even when her sister came back for her. When Agra Deedy went to check it out the Librarian wouldn’t let her.
The librarian said I was too young for such a book and put on the back shelve. “I protested and then finally Ms. McDonald told me if I can give her a good reason she would let me check it out. So I thought for a moment then I had it “it found me
Agra Deedy read the book on the way home, she read at night under her blanket with a flashlight, she read in the car and finally one day two weeks after she checked it out she finished the book on her front porch.
“While I finished the last page I was crying. Tears were falling on the page and then I screamed Charlotte dies,” she said in here childlike voice.
“I went running from my house all the way to the library as the librarian was closing for the day. She looked down at me and asked why are you crying. Charlotte dies! Why didn’t Templeton die, he’s a rat,” she said tearfully to the Liberian.
Ms. McDonald understanding why Agra Deedy was so upset comforted her. Then lead her back into the library giving her another book to read.
“That’s when I fell in love with reading,” she added.
Agra Deedy finished her story with a song by Jimmy Buffet “Love in the library, quiet and cool Love in the library, there are no rules Surrounded by stories surreal and sublime I fell in love in the library once upon a time,” she sang.
“I have always loved telling stories to my children, I really thought it would be fun to write them down I never thought it would turn into a career,” Agra Deedy said.
Her books, including 14 Cows for America, The Library Dragon, The Yellow Star, and Martina the Beautiful Cockroach have received numerous awards and honors.
“The children were so engaged the entire time. It is clear that they come from families in the community that tell stories,” Agra Deedy said about the Douglas students. “They know how to be an audience, not just a respectful audience but an engaged audience and audience that is willing to go on the trip with you.”
Agra Deedy also visited Joe Carlson Elementary were Sarah Marley and Fares fifth grade students sat and listen to her story on her migration from Cuba to the United States.
Later in the afternoon parents were invited to meet Agra Deedy at Stevenson Elementary were Superintendent Sheila Rogers gave Agra Deedy a certificate of appreciation.
The Douglas Unified School Districts Curriculum and Federal grants department were able to bring her to Douglas.
Rogers said that they invited her to come back and that she plans to spend two days in Douglas sometime next fall.
“She loved not only the children but also Douglas,” Rogers said.