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Tommy Greenwald delights MMS crowd

Tommy Greenwald, author of numerous children’s books such as the Charlie Joe Jackson and Crimebiter series, visited Millbrook Middle School on June 9 to talk with students about what it takes to be a writer and the stories behind his books. 

After struggling to get his three sons Charlie, Joe and Jack to enjoy reading for over 10 years, Greenwald started writing children’s books. He found that the only other books about a main character disliking reading were more serious and not relatable to younger children.

“Since I couldn’t find this book, I had an idea – I’m going to try and write this book,” Greenwald said. “It’s very frustrating to get kids to read if they’re determined not to read.”

The book “Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading,” named after his sons, had to pass what Greenwald calls “the book store test,” that appealed to a nonreader with eye grabbing text like, “Now with 25 exclusive non-reading tips.” Greenwald hoped this would lead children to read more. 

“Before they know it, they’ve forgotten that they originally picked it up to avoid reading,” the author explained. “They’ll have had an experience with a book that wasn't horrible.” 

Greenwald made the talk interactive by showing slideshows of a bland story about a child liking French and one with more engaging language. These essays emphasized the importance of rewriting a story to make it better. 

“It doesn’t matter how great an idea is; if the writing isn’t good, you guys aren’t going to read it,” Greenwald said. “I can’t rely on a first draft.”

Both middle schoolers and visiting students from Alden Elementary School enjoyed hearing Greenwald’s talk, roaring with laughter and applause as he presented.

Sixth grader Maryellen Meyer especially enjoyed how Greenwald based many of his books on moments from his life. She expressed interest in reading them, including the sports-centric “Game Changer.” 

“I think they’re really interesting,” Meyer said. “I’m not super interested in sports, but even the sports ones sound pretty interesting.”

Fifth grader Kevin Agbenui first learned of Greenwald when Library Media Specialist Ellen Bosan read one of his books prior to the talk. He especially appreciated Greenwald’s sense of humor.

“It was nice,” Agbenui said. “I’m going to try and read one of his books.”

Greenwald was pleased to hear both Bosan and MMS Library Media Teacher Cathie Morton had students read his books ahead of time so they were familiar with his work prior to the talk. He was also treated to a live reading of an excerpt from “Game Changer” by 8th graders Kate Ashong, Adileen Francia and CC Grey.

“I think it’s so much more beneficial for the kids if they have some working knowledge of the kind of books I write,” Greenwald said. “I’ve really appreciated this school and what Cathie and Ellen have done.”