Last year, local 6th graders received copies of a new young adult novel and had the chance to video conference with its author. On Wednesday, the now-7th graders received the sequel.
Each student received their own copy of “Unseen Magic” by Emily Lloyd-Jones last school year to encourage literacy. “Unseen Magic” is a story for middle grade students about self-discovery, and of course, magic. And it was all coordinated by grandmothers.
Jane Gullet, the grandmother of 7th-grade student Giannaleah Gullett, is good friends with the mother of Lloyd-Jones, the book’s author. Last year when Gullet found out that Lloyd-Jones was releasing a young adult novel, she was excited to collaborate on something that would benefit her friend’s daughter, and Cordova students, including her own granddaughter.
Krysta Williams is the current Cordova High School S.T.E.M. teacher, but was the 6th grade teacher last year when the students met the author. Williams has all the same students in a science class this year, and was looking forward to handing out the new copies of “Unspoken Magic” this week to the students.
Gullett said that she has often bought Lloyd-Jones’ books to support the daughter of her close friend. Last year, while FaceTiming with her granddaughter over spring break, she learned about how the 6th graders in Williams’ class would read in class once a week. This started her wheels turning about how she could combine those things. Gullett had already purchased copies of “Unseen Magic,” but after getting the approval of Williams, she coordinated with her granddaughter’s other grandmother to purchase and donate copies of the book for the then-6th grade class.
Gullett said that she and her friends — like her granddaughter and herself — are avid readers, which made this project even more meaningful. She said that after the last three years of the COVID-19 pandemic with students out of school learning virtually, she wanted to do something to build literacy and classroom connection.
When Gullet told the author they were planning to donate the books, Lloyd-Jones was excited. Because of this, Gullett and her friend — the author’s mother — started talking about having Lloyd-Jones connect with the students. Lloyd-Jones has done this for a few other classes, so “there was a precedent set,” said Gullett.
“Students seemed excited to talk to an author,” Williams said about the call with the author. “They had a chance to read the book and prepare questions to ask before we met with Ms. Lloyd-Jones, and I was impressed with the questions they asked. Many revolved around her inspiration and decision-making processes.”
And the book exchange didn’t just benefit the students. Williams said that in the first book, there is a setting of a tea shop that magically appears in different parts of town. One of the students asked if that tea shop was going to start someplace new in the sequel. Williams said as she understands it, Lloyd-Jones hadn’t written the second book that way, but was inspired by the student’s questions to make that change before the books were printed.
The author, Lloyd-Jones, is originally from Oregon, but now lives in northern California.
Gullett said sending the students the sequel this month was “such a great follow up” to what they created last year.
She calls the project “Book Ends,” and is hoping to expand the initiative. She said she was excited how involved everyone was in the process and called it a “group success.” She said Book Ends is “worth its weight in gold.”
“It doesn’t take much to purchase a book,” said Gullet, who said that while it wasn’t costly to do, she and her partners were able to see many benefits and give back to her granddaughter’s school.
Williams said that Gullet is excited about this endeavor to promote literacy and hopes to encourage other communities to adopt the idea.
“It’s just so important,” Gullett said. “Kids are our future. This is a way to give back in a way that is relatively easy … you’re actually seeing the results of your efforts.”